Thursday, June 27, 2019

Awake and Present

I don't know about you, but I have an extreme love/hate relationship with my phone. Somedays I love it, I need it, I cannot live without it. And in the very same breathe, I hate it, I want to restrict it, I can't get it out of my face fast enough. Please tell me this isn't just me?!

I personally was late to the iPhone game, holding out an extra year or two with my simple texting phone, until my second Mother’s Day, in 2013, when I was gifted my first iPhone. At the time, I relented hesitantly, already observing the way people shifted their eyes constantly toward their screens and feeling like life held enough distractions as it was. 

Now don't get me wrong. I loved the convenience of my phone right away! I used my first iPhone to capture lots of cute baby pictures and to get myself back in shape after over two years straight of being pregnant and/or nursing. But as time went on, my phone became more and more a part of my life - both by choice and by necessity. I started an online business and managed sales and customer relations while out and about from my iPhone. I started a blog and collected ideas and photos for writing during park playdates. I got bored at home with two little kids and used social media to stay connected and Pinterest to spark inspiration to curb the boredom. And then, we began the adoption process again, and I used my iPhone to connect with other adoptive families and gather necessary information. Within a year or so, I had joined the ranks of avid iPhone users, daily, regularly, sometimes constantly on my phone for texting, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Blogger, Gmail…the list could go on.  

The truth is, my phone was bringing a lot of value to my life. It was literally helping me pay the bills through my online business, it was allowing me to stay connected during my transition to being a stay-at-home mom, and it was providing a platform for me to process some big life stuff and do some much needed emotional work through writing. All-in-all, the good seemed to far outweigh the bad. 

So why, then, did I feel this constant angst and tension about my phone? 

For me, this love/hate relationship with my iPhone has lead me to do all sorts of things. Like social media breaks, iPhone Sabbaths, Instagram fasts and the like. I’ve set restrictions for myself about certain rooms that are “Phone Free Zones” and have tried to take a day a week to do a full digital detox every now and then. No phones at the table. No phones outside. No Facebook this month. Phones off on Saturdays. You get the picture. 

Every new rule and effort to limit my phone usage has been birthed from this place of unease, from this nagging feeling that my phone isn’t truly bringing me joy. The detoxes come on days when I wonder if maybe in all of my phoning, I am missing something else. If maybe the good doesn’t always outweigh the bad. If maybe more of the value and beauty of life is experienced without a screen, and I am missing it all by not just letting go. 

As I write about all the different rules and detoxes I’ve tried to put in place over the years for my iPhone, it dawns on me how clearly and humorously this is exactly like dieting. I am restricting one thing or another, sticking to it as long as my willpower allows, and then sliding right back into unrestricted usage afterwards. 

I guess I have to face the facts: I’m a yo-yo phone dieter. 

I am compelled by guilt, by yearning, by need, by all sorts of feelings that compel me to restrict my relationship with my phone, to try to clear my mind of unwanted distraction. But sooner or later the urge to be on my iPhone takes over. I justify it because, of course, I need my phone (just like, of course, I need good food to survive). I always fall back into unrestricted phone usage in that slippery slope kind of way, where one thing leads to another, and before you know it, I am mindlessly scrolling Facebook (with a donut in the other hand.)  

And maybe this is the crux of the whole thing. Not the iPhone itself. Not the donuts or the pizza. Maybe the crux of the whole thing is mindfulness: How conscious am I of the decisions I make throughout any given day? Am I making thoughtful decisions about my life, or am I letting my life just happen to me? What would it look like for me to be present to every decision in my day? 

To be honest, it looks exhausting. It looks like information overload and another failure waiting to happen. It looks pretty darn close to impossible. 

It also looks exhilarating. It looks like living. It looks like a life where I experience each moment and am fully alive to each sensation. It looks like something I deeply desire.

But what scares me is this: between the dishes that pile up every other second of the day and the money to be made and the kids to be schooled and the errands to be run, I don’t know if this kind of mindful life is possible. I don’t know how being present to every decision in my day integrates with every other To Do already on my plate. I don't know how, or maybe if, mindful living really works.

What I do know, though, is that my power has a wonderful way of surprising me. And that being awake to the minute details of this life - from when I pick up my phone and why, to what I put in my mouth for breakfast and how fast, to how I respond to my children and my neighbors on any given day - these details are the “little things” that truly make up life. They are the decision that matter and that build upon one another to make our lives meaningful. And I want to be awake and present to them.

Pin It Now!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Good Job, Mama

Dear Mama,

You are incredible. You really are. I know your kids drive you crazy sometimes and I know the house is a mess the second you get it cleaned up again and I know you are tired and it feels like there are never enough hours in the day...but you are incredible. You care, and you keep showing up. You love. You are there. And that's what matters.  

I was reminded of this the other day. That showing up and being connected to our kids is what matters more than anything else - more than all the healthy meals and the academic achievements and the sports and the special events. More even than the moments we lose our tempers or the days when everything seems to fall apart. What matters most of all is our connection to our kids. Do they know we love them?

I want to tell you a little story. The other day I was sitting in a car with cigars everywhere, ashes in the air and an older man to my left. Before you get the wrong idea, I work with a seasoned psychologist a couple times a month to assist him with administrative needs while he is on the road. He happens to love cigars, almost as much as he loves talking to people. During our four hour drive, our conversation hopped from jazz music to previous patients to little league sports, and then he asked, How are your kids?   

He is familiar with our family, but what he didn't know was that the day before our trip everything seemed to go wrong. Like one of those days where you really start to wonder what the gods have against you.  Like one of those days when your oldest spills an entire box of cereal all over the back seat of the car seconds after you remind him to be careful. One of those days when your daughter, while helping unload the car, drops a watermelon and shatters it all over the driveway. One of those days when your kids leave the chocolate they begged you to eat as a snack in the car, on the hottest day of the year, and it melts everywhere. 

Yeah, one of those days. 

I spent so much time barking instructions and correcting craziness and rolling my eyes in complete irritation that day. I may have even used the "bad F word" (as my kids call it) a time or two. I went to bed at 8:30 because I was so over parenting and all the messes and never getting a minute to myself. I was tired and quite honestly, deflated and defeated.  

I am telling the psychologist I work with about this day - about how miserable I felt as a parent and as a person, and how I announce to the family that I am heading to bed while my older two are still awake reading books. I am telling him how I sulk up to bed, flop down without even changing, and roll over exhausted and ashamed. 

When I roll over, I find my older two children waiting to tuck me in. They have followed me upstairs and want to know if I need anything before I go to sleep. My daughter asks to sing me a bedtime song, which she then makes up about love and koala bears and the best mommy ever. My son pokes the covers under my legs nice and tight, just the way he likes it when I tuck him in at night. He says goodnight and gives me a dozen kisses all over my face. I think to myself, "If only you had been this nice all day long, I wouldn't need to go to bed right now!" Their kindness is salt on a wound, and I close my eyes feeling more ashamed than ever. 

The psychologist listens and then says, "Those kids know they are loved. You realize that, right?" 

And then he says, "All guilt is good for is making you feel like shit. You've got to stop beating yourself up. Nobody is perfect." 

Then he repeats, "Those kids know they are loved. They feel connected to you. That connection is all that matters. You are doing a great job, Mama."

To be honest, I am completely taken aback by his response. I expected him to judge me. I expected him to dissect my behavior and to psycho-analyze how I am strategically screwing my kids up on a daily basis. I expected him to find fault, and offer tips for improvements, the way I find fault with myself and come up with plans for improvement almost every day of my life. 

I do not expect grace, but I get it anyways. In fact, I get far more than grace. I get truth. I get a total shift in perspective. He offers his words of encouragement, not as a gift, but as an observation of reality. He is not trying to make me feel better. He is calling it like it is.  

His version sees straight through my perfectionism and self-beat up; straight through all the mama guilt and the need to be everything for my kids always. His version sees a woman loving her kids, connecting with them day in and day out. He sees children that are so secure in their connection, they can offer love and support in return. But my version of reality focuses on spilled cereal and melted chocolate and all the ways I have messed up by yelling and correcting and having any emotion other than joy in a day. 

My version sees mistakes, failures, lost tempers. His version sees a family working their way through an imperfect day, and finding themselves connected and secure in their love for one another at the end. And suddenly I realize, I have a choice to accept his version of reality, or my own. 

Mama, please hear me. We do have a choice. Today when the box of cereal spills everywhere, or when the watermelon shatters on the driveway; today when the toddler throws a fit for the tenth time, or when your daughter has decided at six that she is capable of navigating the world alone; today when there are more piles of laundry than hours in the day, or when your instructions go completely ignored from dawn to dusk...Mama, remember, you are doing a great job. Your kids know that you love them. You are connected and yes, you are imperfect, too. Yes, you lose your temper. Yes, you use the bad F word every now and then (okay maybe that is just me!). But here is where your power comes in. You have a choice in these moments. You can choose to beat yourself up and curse every little imperfection and interruption and put yourself to bed guilty and defeated. Or, you can see a family that is learning to work together, that is learning to give and take, that is navigating an imperfect world with an anchor of love and connection. 

Mama, you are incredible. You are not screwing your kids up. You were never meant to be perfect, and neither were your days. Mama, remember: All guilt is good for is making you feel like shit. Today, let's choose the reality that we are doing a good job and that our kids know they are loved.

Friends, I invite you to use these simple tags to acknowledge a Mama in your world. You can simply print a card and write a little note, or use it as a gift tag and attach it to a small gift. Either way, let a Mama know she is doing a good job today! (Click on each image and it will direct you to a downloadable version).

Pin It Now!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Hard Things

I am watching her shine. She is smiling and conversing and sparkling and shaking hands. She knows all the right words, all the grown-up things. She is confident, connected. She flows from one topic to the next, effortlessly and flawlessly, as though she was made for this moment. As though adult conversations and freshly cleaned hair and unchipped nails are all she has ever known.

She is so alive, and I feel so, so small beside her.

Me. I have done my best to style my hair despite the many months that have passed since trimming it or touching-up overgrown roots. I am trying to keep up with who's who, but my mind is so used to bouncing from laundry to snacks to screams to laundry again that extended adult conversations are testing my intellectual endurance. I feel like a fake, a fraud, lost in this world of grown-up things.

The truth is, I have spent the past two years home with three young children, one of whom spent much of his days screaming. In anger. In fear. In confusion. None of it, or all of it, I do not know. But screaming for hours a day - hating life, hating home, hating me.

I have spent the past two years unlearning all I thought I knew about adoption and fairytale endings and forever families, and relearning the realities of traumatized children and post adoption depression. I have spent the past two years reminding myself that I can do hard things, reminding myself I am a good mom, reminding myself this won't last forever. I have spent the past two years trying, desperately, to believe.

I have watched myself sinking in guilt, searching for answers, desperate for hope. I have gone to support groups. I have taken medication. I have attended therapy. I have slept a lot.

And now I'm here, at this grown-up event, with grown-up conversations and fresh hairstyles, taking a step back toward to life. Taking a step back toward being awake and alive again. It feels so good to be out - to have lipstick and perfume and hope. And yet, I do not recognize myself. I have forgotten how to talk to grown-ups. I feel irrelevant and alone in a room full of people. I feel small. So, so small.

I endure that evening, and confide in my shining friend about how it felt to be in her presence and feel so disconnected from myself and from the world. I cry and cry, and she listens. I tell her I am ready to take my life back.

Slowly, I do. Not perfectly. Not immediately. Not in one fell swoop, but little by little by little. 

I start to find myself again. 

I start by committing to giving myself one sacred hour a morning just for me - no interruptions, no excuses, no agenda. This immediately becomes my holy hour and my saving grace. This is where I start to write again and unload all the months of anger and guilt and sadness that have built up since adopting our son and putting the rest of my life on hold. This is where I slow down enough to listen to my own heartbeat and hear the sound of my breath - in and out, in and out. This is where I sink into a regular yoga practice and start to unearth what my soul is saying to me through mediation and silence. This is heaven on earth - this one precious hour where I get to follow my heart's desires and set the intention of how I will show up each day.

Little by little, I find my way back to self-care, to occasionally dressing up, to feeling at home talking to grown-ups again. I find my way to life-changing leadership trainings and to making new friends and to owning my power in the world. I find my way to hope, to confidence and to joy. 

Little by little, I find my way back to myself.

And today, still, when I inevitably get lost or forget where I am going, when the to do's are too many and I lose sight of what it means to be alive, I know that my sacred morning hour is waiting to help guide me back. I know there I will reconnect with the truth that there is always hope, that there is always a new day and a fresh start and that I am a powerful, joyful presence in this world. I know I can find my back to the truth. I know I am alive. I am real. I am relevant. 

And I am so, so grateful.

Pin It Now!

Monday, May 20, 2019

What are We Creating in the World?

The other day started out like any other: Crazy-haired kiddos wandering into my room as the sun rose, sips of coffee in between flipping eggs and finding shoes and packing lunches, high hopes of what the day would bring, or rather, of what I would bring to it. 

I am creating joy today. 

I am creating laughter and presence. 

I am creating connection and belonging. 

I say these intentions to myself a couple times through, and then carry on with the hustle and bustle of a new day, three kids and piles of laundry. We make our way into the schoolroom and play with maps for a while…where is Germany? How about Japan? Ooo, who can find Egypt?! It is light and fun and I think to myself, “This is how learning should be! I’ve got this!”. I am nailing being a mom right now.

We move on from maps to writing, a historically challenging subject in our home. The kids get out their notebooks and review where we left off last, while I take a minute to check in with texts and emails. Later I realize, I should have stayed present and used those precious minutes to prepare myself for this transition. I could have recited my intentions a few more times instead of busying my mind with more to do's, but hindsight is always 20/20.

I multi-task instead, and within minutes our dreamy morning is slipping through my fingers. The harder I squeeze, the worse it gets. The kids resist every instruction, forget weeks of learning and spend more time fidgeting with anything and everything within reach than they do writing in their notebooks. I am now Sergeant Commander, stern and firm and short-tempered and easily-annoyed by the need to repeat the same instruction for the four hundredth time. Will you just listen the first time?!?! My kids are befuddled, agitated, shutting down. I do not course correct. The current of the assignment has carried me along with it, and we continue to flow in our frustration until finally we reach the end. I think to myself, "I am a terrible mom and such an impatient teacher."

We make it through our lesson, not unscathed, and then look out to the bluest sky we’d seen in days. The sun is shining and the breeze is rolling through our front tree, and I can almost hear the ripple of water lapping at the shore on the lake near our house. When the water calls, I go. 

I am creating joy today. 

am creating laughter and presence. 

am creating connection and belonging. 

So we load up kayaks, gather lifejackets and oars and sunscreen - clearly we all need a break from the soured suffocation that is now our school room. We paddle and play and I am so grateful for this opportunity to reset. I am so grateful to be exploring the shoreline on a gorgeous day in May, free, healthy, happy. I smile inside. I am not just creating joy and presence today. I am living it. I AM joy. 

The youngest fades first and is ready to paddle back to our car, just as the oldest and I are warming up. We slowly make our way back, fighting the slightest current and enjoying the light wind on our face. I tell the kids to play on shore while I dry-off the kayaks and load everything back up. I tell them to go play. I’ve got it, kids! I get one kayak propped on our van and wiped down. The second is less cooperative, and now I realize how wet my pants are and that the light breeze is starting to feel like a freezing gale. My arms are exhausted. My back aches from the workout I did the day before. I overhear a sibling squabble about who had that rock first, and I remember the pile of laundry I left in the laundry room, still dirty. 

And just like that…you know where I’m going. I am angry and everything is my kids’ fault and why don’t they ever help and I should have just stayed home and done the laundry and I’m not going to take them on special outings if this is how they repay me and I hate myself for getting so angry so fast. I sling blame on my kids and insults on myself. I can’t even remember what my intentions for the day are right now. I just want control, a clean house and dry pants. {Sigh}. 

The truth is, on any given day, I do this dance over and over again…two-stepping toward joy, waltzing my way to worry. Stumbling and falling on my face with perfectionism gripped in one hand and self-hatred firmly fisted in the other. I fall SO many times a day - there are endless opportunities to just stay on the ground, where at least I feel in control of what comes next. I am almost comfortable down there, beating myself up for another failed attempt. Almost.

But here is the key: I always find my way back to joy, to laughter, to presence, to connection.

Yes I fall. Over and over and over again. I’m so stinkin’ imperfect it hurts! I get tired and angry and annoyed just like you. But I refuse to stay there. I refuse to let each failure define me. No matter how long it takes and how hard I have to fight to get back up, I return to my intentions. I return to creating the life I want and the life my family deserves. Because in the end, I know that I alone am responsible for what I create in the world. My kids aren’t responsible. My circumstances aren’t responsible. The busy days and the endless lists and the million-things-gone-wrong aren’t responsible. I am. 

am creating joy today. 

am creating laughter and presence. 

am creating connection and belonging. 

The truth is, we get to create what we want in the world....for ourselves, our families and our communities. We are that powerful. That resilient. That creative and free. The only question is: what do you want to create today?

Pin It Now!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

My Offering

This saying has been rolling off my tongue more often than usual these days, and it’s one we are all so familiar with: Time flies! I find myself believing it and living it more and more lately, and wondering, Is it just one of those things that becomes more true, the more we embrace its truth? All I know is, today I looked up and realized it had been 3 1/2 years since I pressed pause on my writing. 

Three and a half years since I shifted my attention from writing and creating, to home and to making our youngest a part of it. Three and a half years since I shut my businesses down, closed the books, and stepped unknowingly into the greatest challenge of my life yet: integrating a complete stranger into our family.

And yes, those years have flown by. And yes, those years have felt long and full and tedious and TOUGH. 

Some days and weeks felt longer than I could possibly endure. Some started out so hard, I wanted to crawl right back into bed and just skip the day altogether. Some started with gentle kisses, with hot coffee at the break of dawn, with new routines and renewed hope. 

A couple months ago, I stumbled across a beautiful podcast called Mend: Life at the Seams. The title caught my attention because of my own connection with using threads and weaving and tapestries as symbols of what we are all attempting to do in this life. Weaving some love. Threading together some meaning. Creating a tapestry of truth and family and hope. 

As I listened to a recent episode on a run last weekend, the host, Amy - with her soothing voice and soulful shares - reminded me just how precious each of our threads are to the overall tapestry. She reminded me that when we weave with love and joy and justice and presence, we never weave in vain. 

Her words re-awakened something dormant in me, something I put to rest three years ago. I was reminded of my story, and of yours, and of this humble e-space that has provided a valuable, meaningful platform for us to share them within. I was reminded of why I ever started writing in the first place, and why I spent so many hours making that writing public: Because I knew that even though my thread is tiny and my weaving is flawed, it mattered. I knew that even if only a few people read my words, even if only one person found solace here, that was enough. That was my offering, and it was good. 

And so, with no extra fan-fare or grandeur about what’s to come, here I am, writing again. Here I am letting my soul spill out through the keyboard, reflecting on life and parenting and friendship and spirituality, one tap at a time. Here I am, offering myself as only I can, to a world that won’t be the same without me. And I invite you to join me.

What is the thread you stopped weaving because it felt too small or to frail? What is the work you believed in but burnt out on and have never found your way back to? What is the offering that only you can make to this world? 

I promise you, you matter. Your weaving matters. Your offering matters. Your words matter. 

You matter, and you get to show up as ALL of you today to a world that will never be the same without you. And friend, I will be here plugging away alongside you.

Pin It Now!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

In 2016: Simplify

I have written this post in my head a dozen times the shower, trying to fall asleep at night, driving home the day after Christmas with sick kids. Every time it starts and ends a little differently, but the essence is this: Simplify. This word has been rising up in my heart for months, maybe years now. Simplify. Focus. Be Present. 

In May of 2014 I joined the world in owning an iPhone. Framed as a Mother's Day gift, it was a practical purchase aimed at assisting me in running my online Etsy business, helping me keep up with this growing blog, and allowing me to train for the half-marathon I was planning to run later that summer. A year and a half later, I can say that in many ways my iPhone has done all those things, and perhaps even well. I completed the half marathon as well as a triathlon, I have paid our mortgage most months through my business and I have published a book birthed from this blog and the community surrounding it. 

But I quickly learned that my iPhone did one other thing best of all: It beckoned my attention 24 hours a day, creating stress and a lack of focus in life.

I realize it's probably not fair to shift so much blame onto an inanimate object. I mean, it's just a tiny electronic device, right?! And so I have tried to establish better boundaries, drawing wisdom and motivation from Safford's book, Hands Free Mama. I can own the fact that it is ultimately my relationship with my iPhone and the boundaries (or lack thereof) that I enforce with it that are the real issue. And yet, for me, owning an iPhone has been a stress-inducing, distraction-creating, presence-sapping existence. It has been like having a large, flashing To Do box always at my side, incessantly waiting to be checked. And being a list-maker and a list-checker, I am drawn constantly to the need to check - check my email one more time, check my blog comments one more time, check my social media feed one more time. 

And so I check. And then I feel guilty for being "sucked in" to this distraction yet again. I ask my kids to wait while I send a quick email, hush little mouths in order to post a photo to social media. I try to keep my business and blogging and social media plates all spinning at all times, and frankly, I do it pretty well. But there is a cost, and for me it is the health of my soul. Because I cannot seem to find a boundary that allows me to own this device and remain present in life. 

If this whole journey into telling my story has taught me anything, it is to offer myself and others far more grace and flexibility than any hard, fast rule could ever allow. And so, as I head into 2016, eager to find simplicity and presence in my days, I am not setting any New Year's Resolutions, I am simply setting my iPhone down. I am walking away from this blog for a season, signing off of social media for a time. I am turning off the flashing To Do box, maybe even leaving it at home for a day. Not as a hard, fast rule; not as a strict, forever boundary, but as a means to creating distance between myself and the distractions that are keeping me from peace and presence. I am simplifying.

Telling my story here at NBrynn has really given me back my life. It has brought me back to myself and allowed me to journey through so many hard seasons and difficult emotions that I would never have been able to do without the written word. I will forever be thankful for the platform of this sacred space in allowing me to tell my story. May you find such a sacred space in your life, and may we meet someday, face-to-face.

Pin It Now!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

From Fundamentalism to Fuller Faith

I've been snail-mailing with a relative lately - good 'ole fashioned letter writing. We've been talking about our faith journeys, spanning nearly a century, and all the ups and downs and wonderings and wanderings involved in so many years of trying to understand the Divine. In a recent letter, I found myself writing this: "The truth is, if I had to summarize the past five years of my spiritual journey, I would say I have gone from fundamentalism to fuller faith."

At first I felt silly saying this. "Fuller faith" hardly seems like an accurate description of someone who stopped attending church, walked away from traditional religion and gave free reign to all questioning and exploration a few years ago. Someone who swung open the door on "acceptable books" and started reading veraciously from all traditions. Someone who now honors mystery as holy and sacred; questioning as a supremely spiritual act. 

It's true, faith has been a messy, constantly moving target for me in recent years. And yet, the more I think about this little saying that flowed up from my heart, out through my pen - from fundamentalism to fuller faith - the more I resonate with it. In my book, One Slender Thread, I have a chapter titled, "The Fundamentals" and there I write this:
At the ripe old age of twelve, I began to fret constantly about the eternal state of my soul. Having heard almost weekly for the former decade of my life about heaven and hell, those "in" and those "out," I was growing increasingly uncomfortable about not knowing for sure that I was "in." One night, attending an evening revival service with my best friend and her family, I listened attentively to the yellow-haired, charismatic preacher. I listened to words I had heard many times before, but for the first time, it seemed my cognitive maturity had finally caught up and the words started to make sense. I was a sinner, born depraved and with an evil nature. I would live and die in this state: sinful, flawed, stained in the sight of the perfect God who made me, forever banished from His presence - unless I confessed that all these things about me were true and that Jesus was my only escape. Unless I prayed, with sincerity, that Jesus come live in my heart, cleanse me of my sinful nature, and help me live a life pleasing to God. Then I would be allowed in heaven and God would welcome me as his child. Then God's grand love would fill my heart and make me good. Then I could call Him Father.

I walked down the aisle when the yellow-haired preacher asked if anyone wasn't sure where they would go when they died; when the yellow-haired preacher asked if anyone needed someone to save them from their sins and present them as perfect before God; when the yellow-haired preacher asked if anyone wanted to invite Jesus into their hearts and start a life in the Love of God. I walked down the aisle of that old Methodist church, with it's creaky wooden floors and crimson pews in neat rows, tears streaming down my face, cheeks burning with tween emotions. I walked down the aisle, desperate to guarantee, once and for all, that I was “in.” Desperate to be made good. Desperate for a loving Father. 
Immediately, I started attending youth group every week and followed a reading plan to get through the Bible in a year. I was passionate, excited, committed - what we called “on fire for God.” I spent the next several years doing everything in my power to “fan the flame” - attending weekend conferences, leading Bible studies, showing up at church every time the doors were open. My skirts got longer and my shirts looser, I threw out all my old CDs and replaced them with Barlow Girls and Jars of Clay. I kissed dating goodbye, went on missions trips and attended See You at the Pole. I did prayer walks around my high school, tried to memorize all the right answers and share them with my friends, organized church potlucks and parades. I sat in the front row and took notes throughout the sermon each Sunday. 
After my senior year of high school, I moved to Texas for a yearlong Christian leadership experience. During my first week, I was handed an enormous, dark green book called, How Now Shall We Live, a book explaining all the ins-and-outs of a Christian worldview, which I studied diligently and thoroughly. I learned why Buddhism was flawed, why evolution was wrong, why only those who believed in “Biblical Christianity” were right and therefore going to heaven. I soon was convinced that there was in fact an answer to every question, and that I was on the winning team that knew them all.

Rachel Held Evans describes my decade as a Christian perfectly when she writes in her book, Faith Unraveled: “I used to be a fundamentalist. Not the Teletubby-hating, apocalypse-ready, Jerry Falwell type of fundamentalist, but the kind who thinks that God is pretty much figured out already, that he's done telling us anything new. I was fundamentalist in the sense that I thought salvation means having the right opinions about God and that fighting the good fight of faith requires defending those opinions at all costs. I was a fundamentalist because my security and self-worth and sense of purpose in life were all wrapped up in getting God right - in believing the right things about him, saying the right things about him, and convincing others to embrace the right things about him, too." 

See, all those years that I was "fanning the flame" of my faith, I was also running from insecurity, hiding in certain answers, trying to control a scary, broken world with my religion. I wanted to belong, to be whole, to be right, and I found a system of Christianity that told me I could be all those things, no questions asked. But there are questions worth asking and there's a wholeness that all the hiding never allowed me to discover. 

Today, I am much more willing to acknowledge mystery. I'm willing to say I don't have it all figured out, that I am still learning and growing and discovering all the time. And saying that I have gone from fundamentalism to fuller faith resonates as truth... 
Because I used to see God as a Finite Father that only embraced those who prayed certain prayers and read certain books, but now I see a God that is limitless in His love.  
I used to believe that truth was limited to one ancient text, and more than that, to one way of interpreting that ancient text. Today, I see that the Creator has hidden truth in all of creation, in each one of us. 
I used to say that Love was ultimate, but I lived in a world that cast constant judgement on those that were "out," those that were "other." Today, I honor the humanity of all people and embrace the "other" in my own home.
Yes, it's true. My faith has changed a lot. And for that, I thank God everyday. 

Pin It Now!
Design by Small Bird Studios | All Rights Reserved