A Story on Mother’s Day

Today was the first time in a decade I haven’t spent Mother’s Day, feeling like an abandoned aircraft hangar, with rickety falling off doors, loose tin and rats in the corners. It’s a victory to instead feel like a busy, well-lit clearing house, processing little boxes of love and sending them right back out the door.

The difference is, lately I’ve been telling the truth – a lot – to people who are also knee-deep in the messy and glorious body of Christ. And I think it is totally remarkable how the Lord moves his followers to drift and sway together like seaweed does in the tide. Especially, when life is painful.

The reason I walked away, ten years ago, from a faith I didn’t understand, was a bad story with a faulty premise.

A failed attempted at motherhood weakened my superstructure of tepid Christianity, belligerent politics, pride, loneliness, judgment and fear. After it all fell down, I sat for years at the bar nursing one bitter cocktail after another and barfing that story all over everybody.

Today, I don’t even recognize that girl, because I straight up repented – in the most literal sense of the word – I turned and walked the opposite direction; away from the bitterness that was poisoning my life and into the arms of Jesus and his people.

Crazy. Wise. Choice.

That choice forced me to look hard at the stories I’d always told myself. The sanctimony. The loneliness. The fear. Then I had to admit it, so people could help me replace those stories with new ones about who I am and what I’m doing in the world God so desperately wants to redeem.

And in that process, God made me a mom. A spiritual mom. A mentor mom. All day today I’ve received calls, cards and texts from women who said I’ve mattered to them in some way.

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Living as a follower of Jesus has brought me people who cry in my office, my car, my living room about a thousand topics, including the children that they, like me, cannot have. It has brought me mentors who tell me to read Isaiah 54. It has brought me daughters who tell me they do something now because they watched me do it.

Unimaginable. Couldn’t have written that story alone. Impossible.

And the only difference between now and my bitter barfly days is Jesus.

It takes courage to stare down the stories we have told ourselves for years, to dismantle them and begin to write new ones. Mostly because without Jesus as the first and last word, we’re still trying to save ourselves.

And that’s just not the whole story.

Christmas Crying – A List of Probable Causes.

I drove home from a friend’s last night in tears, which is not a big a deal except I can’t identify exactly why. It started when I was praying, which happens, so ok, but I don’t really do basket case – except at Christmas and sometimes Mother’s Day – so I thought I’d make a list of probable causes.

And since I’m reading Brene Brown on vulnerability, I thought I’d write it here, in public. Lovely.

Photo Credit: Hebi65

Photo Credit: Hebi65

Probable Cause #1 – I could use more safe space to write the crazy shit in my head. Even writing that exposes “safe” for the illusion it is because that isn’t the problem. Caring what everybody thinks is the problem. In some of my circles it’s a little sketchy to admit I still say shit from time to time. I work daily on not conforming to the patterns of this world but sometimes, in certain circumstances, my word demons insist that shit is absolutely the correct word. Refusing to use it or just muttering it because I’m trying to look holy, is disingenuous. So I think I’d rather be a Jesus-following, recovering potty mouth than a churchy sweetie pie who says shit only when people who don’t care are around.

Ultimately, I am working to erase the line between my secular and sacred lives so you can expect the same person no matter where I show up – an objective, I think, worthy of suffering occasional profanity. However, if it offends you let me say, I am very sorry and wow, you should have met me five years ago.

Photo Credit: Hans

Photo Credit: Hans

Probable Cause #2 – I can’t find my wooly socks and my feet are cold, which is a distraction I don’t need. Also, because I am a woman of a certain age, I seem to be growing a beard and developing weird ailments in my feet, which cause me to perform yoga poses incorrectly while I’m teaching, so my feet don’t cramp. My hippie friends say my fear of stepping forward into my best life is manifesting in my metatarsals, and if that’s true, it scares me. My friends who aren’t doctors but watch a lot of Grey’s Anatomy think it’s tendonitis. If that’s true, it sounds expensive.

Probable Cause #3 – I used to read three newspapers a day. In the past four years, I haven’t read three newspapers in a month. It’s a totally selfish, defensive measure prompted by my disgust for corporate media and the mouthy outrage it provokes in me. To this day, if you want to talk immigration, please please only use the word “illegal” as the adjective it is – not the pejorative noun or personal pronoun favored by certain Americans. Plus, as I was learning to follow Jesus I couldn’t handle the behavior of some of his followers, so I shut everybody out. But since there have been 100 school shootings in the two years since Sandy Hook and each week a new unarmed black man is killed by police, sequestering myself so I don’t have to be outraged and discouraged, seems like a cop out. So, if you need me I’ll be reading and praying.

Photo Credit: Hans

Photo Credit: Hans

Probable Cause #4 – I love Jesus but Christmas wears me out. The solstice, however, resonates. December 21st is the shortest, darkest day of the year and, as it happens, the anniversary of the worst day of my life. I realize I’ve only written about that in kind of oblique ways, and maybe someday I’ll write it because if it helps you it’s worth it. But for now, if you’re trudging through the season, dutifully stringing garland on your mantle (yes it’s pretty when it’s done) and shoving a nine-foot tree into a room with eight-foot ceilings, I say, notice the trend. Maybe it’s time to consider different traditions. Some churches host solstice services where you can light a candle, acknowledge the darkness and anticipate the lengthening of days.

Photo Credit: Geralt

Photo Credit: Geralt

It’s clear to me now, this is all Christmas’ fault, but if you love the season, ok. I’m happy to to come sit on your couch, with my socks on, in front of your fire, to admire your mantle and drink eggnog, but I might cry on the way home too.

And maybe that’s just the way of things.

On Life Dismantled.

Four years ago, it was impossible that I would sob in a bathroom, at work, flanked by three women praying to Jesus on my behalf. There was exactly zero chance I could be that humble, that submitted to any authority but my own. It was a point of pride for me to reject a biblical worldview and everything I thought that meant.

But dangling from the end of your rope, is a REAL. DANGEROUS. PLACE. And deciding to read the Bible and follow Jesus like I mean it, is the smartest thing I ever did. It has rearranged my furniture so thoroughly, in such dramatic and interesting ways, I regret not doing it sooner.

Photo: Kristin Jack

Photos: Kristin Jack

My new life at Mercy Ships is a good example of the massive remodel God has in mind.

Based on Youth With a Mission’s five-month Discipleship Training School, “Gateway” is the Mercy Ships training program I will soon help lead. I’ve been a student of it for the last five weeks, and it has proven a wonderful place to be dismantled by God, in public.

And maybe that sounds horrifying, which it is, until you realize everyone else is doing it too – Parsing messy childhoods and sticky father images, jettisoning baggage, and getting down to the way things are. Tomorrow, somebody will surely throw open a long-chained closet door that conceals the terrible-awful and let the light shine in. Then they will cry in the bathroom.

This is some of the hardest evidence I can offer for the value of following Jesus.

When I was working the American dream like a boss, making a bunch of money and waking up each day in a dead panic, my life felt like a carnival game. The objective seemed to be, learn the rules, avoid the rigged ones and play better than everyone else. That’s it. Without eternity, who really cares what you do here? Of course, sometimes I’d win a stuffed banana, and that was nice, but who wants one of those anyway?

What I wanted was joy. I wanted to feel the love of God move from me, to someone else and back again; to know I am so thoroughly loved that all I really must do is manifest, to see people around me for the weary travelers they are, thirsty for love.

I have that now in ever-increasing measure. It’s my new American Dream. And the only thing I did to get it, was humble myself and surrender to a brand new worldview, one wherein Jesus is the center of everything.

I’m living proof. It works.

The Gateway Gang. Fighting Fires. Photo: Kristin Jack

The Gateway Gang. Fighting Fires. Photo: Kristin Jack

And so on Thursday morning, this group of people, who’ve held my hand as God threw open my broom closets, will board a plane for Point Noire, Congo. Many of them will spend the next several years there following Jesus right into the beating heart of Africa, where his beloved poor live.

My prayer for them is this:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanksto the Father, who has qualified youto share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Colossians 1:9-12