Feeling A Little Restless?

Isn’t it amazing to watch somebody take a blind, flying leap into a brand new life? To watch them decide the fear of not leaping is greater than the fear of what’s below?

Does it make you a little jealous?

IMG_5184Meet Ashley, one of the founders of Love Dinner, a woman I met two years ago on a trip to Zambia. Yesterday, after two years of planning, she landed back in Lusaka.

We all returned from Zambia different, but Ashley came back destroyed. She was restless and pacey like a dog on a chain. All she talked about was going back and how she felt sort of foreign and aimless in her American life.

Don’t you know that feeling? It nags like heartburn and makes you ask everybody “What am I doing with my life? What am I doing in this job? Why did I marry you? Who are these obnoxious kids? Blah Blah Blah.”

What happens next is a matter of choice.

You can handle that pacey dog feeling in spazzy, damaging ways like I did for years: Taking up with bad men or throwing my things in the back of my truck at midnight and heading west. I’m super good at that.

Or you can sit with it like a grown up, surrendering to the possibility that it’s holy discontent, put there like a treasure map to guide you toward something that’s actually kind of precious.

That’s what Ashley’s doing. She’s not running away, she’s running toward something she believes God buried for her on the windy plains of southern Africa.

So what is it for you? What is making you pacey? Chances are your life’s work is hidden in it somewhere. Don’t go leave your wife or buy an expensive car just to assuage it. Sit with it. Surrender it to the God who’s likely using it to get your attention. It’s not up to you to figure out HOW to do the work amid your other demands, leave that up to Him.

GreenOliver

Want some evidence of God working out the how?

A month ago, I stood on the aft deck of a big, white, ship in the Indian Ocean and giggled about the course of my life for the last five years.

Let’s see…Sam and I moved to Texas and bought a cattle ranch, which five-minutes later dried up in a 100-year drought, so we sold our cows at a loss, moved to France and went broke. Then I followed Sam to a swamp in East Texas and joined a maritime NGO I’d barely heard of, which sent me to Congo, to Haiti and Madagascar where I, among other things, ate alligator, planted corn and swam with orphans.

Really, how foolish would I be to take credit for writing a plot line like that? Certainly, I participated but I didn’t plan any of it. It happened, I think, because I quit running from one amusement to the next and stared down the restlessness.

And I picked up the Bible and learned who actually God is – not who people say he is.

After a couple of months of reading I quit asking, “What am I doing here?” “What am I doing with my life?” Not because I had a bunch of clever new plans, but rather, a big, shaky hope that someone else did – somebody big, powerful and faithful.

That hope is amazing, but IT IS NOT FREE.

Ongoing humility, surrender and commitment are unpopular practices these days, but they signal that you are probably, finally, running toward something that matters.

The reward for all of it is the person you get to become. It feels like surfacing from a deep green lake, looking up as you swim toward the air, not seeing too clearly through the water but knowing exactly where the light is.

On Letting Things Go

IMG_0332-0.JPG

People keep asking me if we’re going to sell the ranch. My answer is always, “Yes, definitely, I mean I don’t know, probably maybe not, no, no way.”

This little ranch in Gorman Texas, is the dirt on which Sam and I landed after we took a flying leap out of our careers and lives in Colorado, minutes before the 2009 US recession and an historic Texas drought.

That ranch still mesmerizes me in the same way newborns mesmerize their sweaty, worn out mothers.

I forget, every time I come here, I have to scrub mouse poo out of my kitchen cabinets, and wash the silverware because – little known fact – mice don’t have bladders, so if you see mouse poo, guess what you don’t see? I know. Gross. You’re welcome.

I also forget that August in Gorman feels like July in Haiti, except Sam is there at six every morning, staring at me from the edge of our bed saying, “You ready?”

What he wants me ready for is the next nine hours during which I will scrape and paint the exterior of our 100-year old house, crawl around underneath it with the coon skeletons and snake skins or maybe just relax in the million-degree attic and watch for sparks among the old copper wires and cedar shakes.

Owning and restoring an historic home is so romantic when you’re married to an uber wealthy oil dude from Dallas – I assume.

But watching dusk fall last night, from two plastic chairs in the back of our old red barn, Sam said, “Are you sure you want to sell it?”

“No, are you.”

“Uh uh, ” he said kicking dirt that we’ve soaked with our own sweat.

This is the last place I saw my cousin Kelly. She galloped our grey mare Belle to the highest spot on the ranch with a morphine patch on her arm, one day after chemo. Six months later, she was gone.

This is the place with the oak trees, from which Sam hung a garden hose with a sprinkler head, so he can shower butt naked outside every day, like, you know, real men do.

This is the 60 year-old barn that held ten shivering horses during the hardest, coldest snowstorm we’d ever seen – not just in Texas, anywhere.

IMG_0324.JPG

I learned to farm and sweat and weep here, and how sometimes getting everything you say you want can be the best and worst thing that ever happened to you.

Right now, I’m sitting in the room where Jesus introduced himself to me as the rock in rock bottom. For months, I sat here with the Bible in my lap, watching the West Texas sun rise, alternately daring and begging God to show up and be real.

He did, just like he promises. He poured through those tall, old windows like the yellow prairie light, and spoke in whispers and explosions that went off in my head and settled into my heart, layer upon layer like red sandstone in the desert.

How else could I respond? I spent the next year in this room, this chair, writing a 60,000-word love letter to thank him.

I’m marked and worn and striated by this place, and it’s hard to put a price on that.

IMG_0709.JPG

This Is Love Dinner – Want to Come?

Love Dinner“When did we quit living the Bible and just start studying it?”  – Jen Hatmaker author of 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.

I hope she forgives me if I misquoted her, but I read 96% of Hatmaker’s book 7 while traveling around Zambia, then I left it on the plane.

She’s right, we do spend a lot of energy studying the Bible, which is a good idea, but how much time do we spend actually doing what it says?

Stuff like this:

Do not be quick in spirit to be angry or vexed, for anger and vexation lodge in the bosom of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9

The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives. Proverbs 18:7

For if you forgive people their trespasses (their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment), your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:14

There are a million little pearls like that, but I picked those for a reason.

At one time, my mind was like a smouldering fire barrel. Every day I stoked up my grievances and burnt heaps of mental garbage. Not surprisingly, some of that toxic smoke billowed out of my mouth and into my environment, where other people wound up charred and sooty.

Now I’m sure that’s just me, you…would…never…

Then I started reading the Bible, and all its talk about renewing my mind, shutting my mouth, forgiving people, not being arrogant and judgmental started to sting, and I realized I could put the fire out if I wanted to. I just had to figure out how.

Luckily Jesus boiled it down to two things: Love and Love.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:35-40 NLT

I’ve spent the last three years studying the Bible and changing my mind, and today my life is different. But as Hatmaker suggests, is it even about me? Or is that just phase one in a grand design?

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

candles

(Photo credit: rogerglenn)

So what if I quit making excuses and got down to loving God and loving others like I mean it – every day in practical, biblical ways? Would my own lingering broken parts heal up as a result?

And what if, rather than going it alone, I teamed up with seven girlfriends (and a few hundred online friends) once a month, over red wine and dinner? What if there were taper candles and chocolate dessert, good coffee and long communal prayers?

What if we picked one scripture that fulfills Jesus’ mandate and spent the next month just doing that? Forgiving? Submitting? Loving the unlovely? What would that look like, especially over time?

To me it looks like Love Dinner and it’s starting at my house next month.

Want to join us? Like Erin Kirk – Writer or follow this blog by email. Then let me know you’re here in the comment section.