For those of you wanting to know a little more about our next move you can learn more here at Meet The Dancauses! [and you can watch a fun video of our family!]
Some prayer requests for those who would lift us up:
That our house would sell smoothly and without issues.
That Steve would find a place for us to live while he is in PA [April 6-10].
Peace for Imogen during this transition.
A new home for our kitties here in Michigan.
The right job for Steve in PA.
Rest for me to prepare for this new role.
Time and space to celebrate and say farewell to everyone here in MI.
All of the details of relocation [moving, packing, travel etc.]
Thanks for all the shows of support, encouragement, and love during this transition.
Thursday, March 05, 2015
"Thin places are transparent places or moments, set apart by the quality of the sunlight in them, or the shadows, or the silence, or the sounds—see how many variations there are? What they have in common is their luminosity, the way they light an opening between this world and another—I’d say “between this world and the next,” but that makes it sound like one world has to end before the next one can begin, and a thin place doesn’t work like that. It works to make you more aware of the thin veil between apparent reality and deeper reality. It works to pull aside the veil for just a moment, so you can see through."
-Barbara Brown Taylor
For Lent this year I am doing a new practice. I am reading 1 Corinthians 12v31-13v13 in four different translations throughout the week. If you have ever been to a wedding you have probably heard the words more than once - even if you're not one who reads the Bible. They are lovely words and fitting for an occasion where two lives are being joined.
However, they took on a new meaning the other morning when I was reading them aloud to Steve - and while I was reading them Imogen was pitching an all out fit. She was stomping between the living room and her bedroom, upset about something I cannot recall. Our morning went something like this:
Me: "Love is patient and kind."
Imogen: [stomping in] You're mean Mom! [then stomps away]
Me: "Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable..."
Imogen: [stomping in again] I will NEVER be your best friend! [stomps away again]
Me: "...and it keeps no record of being wronged..."
Imogen: [stomping in] And you can't come to my birthday party! [stomps away]
Me: "...It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."
Imogen: [stomping in again] You guys can never play with me. And I'm telling! [stomps away]
[more stomping and screaming ensues...]
Me: "...When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things..."
At this point Steve and I started cracking up - simply because the contrast was so evident. This image that Paul gives leapt off the page at me and struck me as more true than ever. As Steve and I talked about it later I remarked, "You know, when I think about this definition of love, Imogen is not capable of it yet. This is more than affection or goodwill, this is a choice." It was a profound moment - to see that these beautiful words were calling me to something that does not come naturally - it is something we have to work at - and it is HARD work.
Well, the next morning was a very different story. Imogen had been up on and off throughout the night, and Steve and I were exhausted. Our family is still recovering from the flu and none of us has felt well in weeks. I was cranky and irritable. Imogen, also exhausted, was whiney and on the brink of a meltdown all morning. And as she continued to whine, cry, and demand I felt my patience wearing thin. You parents know what I am talking about...that particular pitch our children are able to hit that creates a streak of pain right down the middle of your brain...
And then I just lost it.
And I mean COMPLETELY lost it.
I started to yell and lecture and demand...I said I had had enough, it needed to stop, and I couldn't take anymore. I can only imagine how frightening I must have been - because the look in Imogen's eyes was one of shock and then sadness - which of course was followed by an epic meltdown.
She went off to daycare and I went off to work - both of us in tears. As I was driving and reflecting on how poorly our morning went I heard the words echo in my mind:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
And there is was, clear as day - I too had failed to love. I was confronted with the reality that love is a choice, and I had chosen differently. And while Imogen is a child and does not have the wisdom or skills to make that choice, I am an adult - and I do. And how will she learn how to respond with love if I do not show her the most excellent way?
And yet I wondered how I do this. I know to respond in love is a choice - but the truth is I am worn thin. Between sleepless nights, and whining, and tantrums, and battles over appropriate clothing, and getting us out the door on time, and cooking meals, and cleaning up the constant mess, and trying to teach life-skills, and...and...and... I am simply worn thin.
That is when I started to think of this concept of Thin Places. In the Christian tradition, thin places are these special spots where you can feel the glimmer of heaven. Where the veil between the world we see and the greater reality is, well, thin. And for a moment you can feel the presence of God, heaven, the kingdom...it is a tangible reality.
Often thin places are spoken of as a place of abiding peace, almost magical. They glimmer and sparkle and shimmer with glory. In many ways they bring to mind the scene where Jesus takes three of his disciples on top of a mountain, and suddenly Moses and Elijah show up and Jesus is transformed into dazzling white - so white it is blinding. And the disciples are in awe of their ordinary teacher revealed as someone extraordinary.
But I am beginning to wonder if we might think of thin places in another way. What if the places in our lives where we are worn thin, frayed, exhausted, stretched out, over-extended, at our whits end...what if these are also thin places. Places where we have access to the glory of God in a special way. Places where the veil between this world and the next is, well, thin. Where God's presence is more tangible than in ordinary moments.
See patience, kindess, protection, perseverance, trust, hope, delight...these matter most when they are hard to muster up. And as I reflect on this image of love more and more it becomes clear to me that I can't simply do this in my own strength. Much like Imogen, I am not capable of love without some serious help. I can be affectionate, warm, and inviting in moments of peace and calm...but love matters most when you're on the line.
Nothing has stretched me more than parenting...that is the honest truth. The other day when I yawned Imogen asked me if I was tried, and I look her straight in the eye and said: "Imogen, I have been tired for four years." [She's four, in case you didn't get it]. The mundane of parenting grates at me - the daily dying to myself, and my own selfish wants, so that I can help shape this small person. Putting her first, even when all I want to do is jump on a plane and take a tropical vacation. This has worn me thin.
But in this thin, worn out, frayed state - perhaps it is an opportunity for God to teach me how to love. It is in my own weakness, my own inability to take one more whiney demand with grace, that I can access a grace, a kindness, a patience that is beyond understanding. That I can respond not out of my own strength, but to allow God's strength to carry me.
And love is not about whether I feel affection towards her. It is hard to feel affectionate to someone who is yelling and screaming and grating on your nerves. Love is about responding - even in my thinnest moments - in a way that builds her up and cares for her.
So these thin places - where my energy is worn thin, my patience is worn thin, my kindness is worn thin, my temper is worn thin, my body is worn thin, my mind is worn thin - these are the times when perhaps the veil between my world of mundane challenges and the glory of God is shimmering with possibility. And if I recognize it, perhaps there is a peace even in these moments - the moments when I am at the end of myself, where I am about to lose it - that I can find the kingdom of God is right there, ready to break in, and that God can teach me how to love beyond my own ability.
But now I want to lay out a far better way for you.
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. [The Message]
Saturday, February 28, 2015
"But the wind, yes the wind keeps howling...
Time in time out I know when it's time to leave."
-"Shake," The Head and The Heart
Change is in the air for Team Dancause. Months ago I started to feel a stirring, a challenge, an invitation that God had something new for me. But at first I resisted...I was all changed out. I wasn't looking for something new...my plan was to settle in.
But God had a different plan. In fact, God brought the change to me.
A church in Pennsylvania reached out to me over the summer about a new position they were considering...someone had mentioned me to them, and they wanted to see if I was open to a transition. I wasn't. I had a great conversation with them, was super encouraged about their church, but in the end did not feel like it was the right time to make a move.
But the conversation stayed with me. And as I continued to pray about it I felt God's gentle challenge to open myself up to what could be. But again, I resisted. I was comfortable here. I was in my zone. I was doing good work and building a name for myself...and that was where God finally got my attention. I realized I was scared to let go of everything I had built. What if someone took it over and it grew without me? What if someone else changed the direction? What if someone else got all the credit?
And then I heard two clear as day challenges from the Spirit:
1. Whose kingdom are you building - mine or yours? And I quickly realized that my fears were about letting go of my kingdom - trusting that God's kingdom is bigger than my vision, gifts, talents, and abilities.
2. If you cling to these things, you will shrink. Jesus tells us "If you cling to your life, you will lose it..." The words cling and shrink have the same derivation. And I knew it to be true as soon as it was whispered to my soul...to play it safe, to hunker down, to not take the risk...I would feel safe, but my soul would shrink.
Not because settling down is wrong - in fact God wants us to put roots down when the season is right - but because my motivation to settle down was out of fear, not trust. I had prayed when I came to Michigan - "God, I'm here. And I will be here as long as you would have me. I will not look for another job while I am here, so you'll have to bring it to me."
And so when this church reached out, even in the wrong season, it got my attention. And then the season changed, and when we got back in contact it felt right this time. Things had momentum, and Steve and I knew that change was coming.
And so here we find ourselves again, a new path laid out before us. The challenge of leaving a path that I have grown very fond of. Leaving something you love is much, much harder. It has been the challenge of our lives to leave well - with all the heartache, disappointment, and sorrow that comes with it.
So, here it is - our time here in Michigan is coming to an end. In the next couple of months we will make the transition from Mars Hill - which I love and adore - to another church. I will be stepping into the role of Teaching Pastor at Carlisle Brethren in Christ in Carlisle, PA. Once again, only God could send us to Pennsylvania...I keep asking for Southern California...wrong direction.
I am sure there will be more to share about this journey - ways to pray for us for sure. The logistics of it all are overwhelming - but we keep reminding ourselves that God goes before us and behind us in all things. So, we step forward in faith, trusting that whatever is ahead will expand our lives in Christ.
Change is the one constant...that's for sure.
Friday, January 02, 2015
How silently, how silently,The wondrous Gift is giv'n!So God imparts to human heartsThe blessings of His heaven.No ear may hear His coming,But in this world of sin,Where meek souls will receive Him still,The dear Christ enters in.
So my Christmas reflection comes a little late this year...but we are still technically in the season of Christmas for three more days, so I'm gonna roll with it.
I love Christmas. Love. And I LOVE presents. Do people actually admit that these days? Most people try to be coy about getting gifts...it's better to give than to receive...yada yada. Don't get me wrong - I love to give a good gift. But as for me, receiving is always better. I love gifts. They are my love language [for real]. It doesn't need to be huge, but a thoughtful gift brings life to my soul [feel free to send gifts in response to this...seriously.]
Over the years though Steve and I have not been able to really give one another gifts for Christmas. One year we actually were in the midst of a year-long shopping fast, so we asked for no gifts at all. But more often we just have not had the extra money for presents. This year we were able to do something small for one another - but gifts have not been the center piece of our Christmas time. I know that should be the way it should be...but for me it has been a bit of a loss...because I love gifts!
As we started to think about what we would want or need - not much came to mind. I mean big ticket items like a tropical vacation [I would argue a need...but probably a want...] or a new camera or new computer...but none of these things did we desperately need. In fact, we realized that we have plenty of stuff, we are not in need. For that I am truly grateful.
Yet this Christmas I received a new gift...a much overlooked Christmas song. "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" - I have heard it many times before, but this year it was my greatest gift...and lucky me, it talks about getting a gift! The line that really stayed with me this Christmas was this:
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.
In the midst of a noisy season, this is profound wisdom. There is so much to distract us during Christmas...and they are wonderful things! Parties, decorations, pretty presents, food...celebration! Christmas does not come on quietly in our culture...it is announced months in advance with bright lights, shiny papers, and aisles of toys. In the midst of all this, it is easy to miss the silent gift of God.
Another line from this song that I keep reflecting on:
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
This silent gift is easy to miss in the midst of all the loud distractions, but it is the gift I need most. This gift where my hopes and fears are met. The older I get, while I still LOVE getting presents [keeping it real here people], I also realize that I am in need of something much deeper than a vacation or new gadget. I am in need of a peace that I cannot give myself. I am in need of a hope that can sustain me through the most trying of circumstances. I am in need of a love that frees me to love others. This is not a loudly given gift...but it is the gift that is available in this Christmas season...should we get quiet enough to recognize it.
This past year I have noticed how afraid I am. Specifically around whether others will accept me or not. And this fear creates social anxiety for me...and hiding...and isolating. I realized that I am not at peace within my own soul. And while a new pair of jeans can help distract me from this fear - it does not heal it. And I have come to a point in my life that I am tired of all the distractions. I would rather risk hoping and being disappointed than to live hidden, barricaded, and alone. I need a gift that will meet my hopes and fears.
So this Christmas my prayer has been this:
God, give me the gift of your peace that is beyond all understanding.
It's not something you can wrap up under a tree, it's not something you can put on an Amazon wish list, and it is not something you can show off on social media. It is a gift that only God can give...and you have to pay attention to even see it at work. Someone once told me spiritual growth is the slowest growth of all. It is a gift that is unwrapped over time - but it is a gift all the same. And it is there, available to all of us, should we humbly receive it.
So, while I will always LOVE presents under the tree, I am growing to value this other gift far more. I am seeing the value in a life lived in freedom rather than fear. I am growing to be more comfortable in my skin...and inviting others to be comfortable in theirs. This silent gift is the greatest gift.
Thursday, January 01, 2015
Here we are, another new year. 2015. New Year's Day is a strange day for sure...and I am not quite sure what to do with it. I'm not one for resolutions, though I do like the idea of starting off a new year with a blank page of possibility.
However, this year is a little different for me. See, I have noticed a pattern in my life that I think needs to be addressed. So in some ways, a resolution might be exactly what I need. On the other hand, a resolution can contribute to the problem.
So what is this pattern that causes such a conundrum? It is the constant need to be improving - all.the.time. I have come to see that there is not a natural 'finish line' for me in any area of life. There is no maintaining or coasting or arriving. I live in a constant state of striving. And frankly, it is exhausting.
One particular area where I see this is in my physical fitness. I came to fitness later in life, and it has been very life-giving for me. I enjoy working out - for the results but also for the release it brings. It is something I desire to make time for in my life, and sacrifice other things in order to make this a priority. But I have also seen that I do not have a level of fitness that feels like an arrival...I have this unrealistic expectation that I always need to be reaching another level, dropping another size, meeting another accomplishment...
And I see this in all sorts of other ways in my life...the relentless pursuit of improvement. So, as I come into this new year, how exactly do I address this? By making a resolution to improve my constant need to improve? Perhaps. But I don't know how helpful that will really be.
Instead, I am thinking that I need to live into a life-value of mine...which is developing an attitude of contentment and a theology of enough. To know that I am already enough - that the work I have done is enough - that I have enough. And to grow in contentment. These are things that striving can't really accomplish...can you strive for contentment? Though it may be hard work - I think it requires something else. Something a bit more gentle.
I think the key to all of this for me is recognition and appreciation. Recognizing the gifts and blessings all around me - and taking the time to appreciate them. Whether that be the physical possessions in my home or my physical body...my relationships, my work, my accomplishments, my times of rest...to take time to pay attention and soak it in...and to say enough is enough.
So, yes, I do hope this new year brings a new me...but not a reinvented me, not a me that I have to resolve to become...instead a more peaceful me, a calmer me, a more grateful me...the me that is already here if I would just stop striving to become something else.
So here's to a new year, and a new you...or maybe just more of the real you.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Imogen turned four this month, and to celebrate we threw her a party at a local kids gym. We went back and forth as to whether we should spend the money, but Imogen really wanted to invite all her preschool friends, and we caved. The place was awesome - a giant padded indoor playground where the kids could just run around and have a blast.
But the highlight of the birthday extravaganza is the birthday dance party. All the kids are called to the lit-up dance floor in the center of the gym, and then they announce whose birthday it is and how old they are. Then, they turn down the lights, bubbles fall from the ceiling, lasers lights shoot out on the walls, and a guy in a frog costume comes onto the dance floor [I swear, I am not making this up!] Then the song of choice comes on and all the kids get to sing their little hearts out.
When it came to Imogen's turn she was SO excited. All her friends surrounded her, they called out her name, and then when the lights went down and the bubbles fell from the sky - Let It Go blared from the speakers. And her face...oh my. I teared up [and still do each time I think of it] - her face was worth every penny spent.
Here's a little taste of how glorious it was:
I have been reflecting on this moment quite a bit - because it was more than just a sweet parenting moment. It was what we call a Kairos Moment - a moment when the Kingdom of God breaks into ordinary time to call attention to something bigger.
As I have thought more about why my soul was stirred I realized that in this moment Imogen was her True Self - completely open, unguarded, vulnerable. She has not yet been so wounded by the world that she has created defenses to protect her from rejection, cynicism, criticism. She was simply herself - totally abandoned to a moment of sheer delight.
Unfortunately, this will not last. I wish it could - but it can't. It is just not the way of things. The human journey involves wounding - because this is a broken world. Innocence is lost at some point, and defenses get put up. I mourn that already on her behalf. To see this completely open, delightful, and joyful little girl is to witness how we were created to live - what God's highest aim is for us. I think Irenaeus had it completely right:
The glory of God is humanity fully alive.
This is the aim of all living - to be fully alive. This is the work that I do with adults, to help them along the journey to rediscovering that True Self - who can walk onto a lit dance floor and sing their little hearts out, completely lost in the moment, because that is what they were created to experience.
But to get here we have to 'Let It Go.' We have to take down our defenses, take off our masks, and risk rejection, wounding, loneliness, abandonment...all the reasons why we have these defenses in the first place. We have to risk being seen, being known, being exposed. And most of us would much rather die...
Unfortunately we are getting our wish. Many of us have deadened our hearts and desires because they require this vulnerability. We settle for bigger houses, faster cars, better bodies, fancy clothes, bigger degrees, bigger offices, talented children, attractive partners...the things that keep us distracted from the fact that we all want more from life.
Watching Imogen in this completely unmasked moment challenged me to live my life with more intention - to risk it all - to bear my soul, even if people don't appreciate it. This is all easier said than done...to return to True Self takes a lifetime. That is the highest work we can do as human beings - to live fully alive.
I am tempted to put a mask on Imogen - to protect her, to warn her, to guard that precious, vulnerable self from the messages of the world. When I see her so open, my first reaction is to tell her to hide. But instead, God is trying to call me out of hiding - to remind me that I too am delightful and precious - and that while these masks make me feel safe, they don't give me life.
So while the rest of the world may be sick of this song - I am hearing it as a calling, an invitation, a reminder:
The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation,
And it looks like I'm the queen.
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn't keep it in, heaven knows I tried!
Don't let them in, don't let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
Well, now they know!
Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door!
I don't care
What they're going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!
It's funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can't get to me at all!
It's time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I'm free!
Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You'll never see me cry!
Here I stand
And here I'll stay
Let the storm rage on!
My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I'm never going back,
The past is in the past!
Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!
Thursday, December 11, 2014
It has been a long time since I have ventured to this space. It sits atop my search engine - and each time i have tried to click on it, I just can't seem to do it. I want to write, but I have nothing to write. That is how it has felt for a long time.
And then today I finally found the space within my soul to click...and here I am.
Anne Lamott's words on writers block have been true for me. She says when we find ourselves in a place without words we are not so much blocked as empty:
“The problem is acceptance, which is something we’re taught not to do. We’re taught to improve uncomfortable situations, to change things, alleviate unpleasant feelings. But if you accept the reality that you have been given…you free yourself to begin filling up again.” Bird by Bird
This past year the word God has been speaking into my life is margin. He has brought to my attention how I live with a lack of margin, and what it produces in my life. While I am highly productive, and even some would argue quite successful...I had reached a point where it was no longer fruitful.
I have had a hard time accepting the limitations that come with the current season of life I am in...and the unique circumstances to my life. Mostly, this season of having a small child has wrecked me. I know, we're not supposed to talk like that as parents...at least not publicly. But I am someone who tries to live as honestly as possible...and this season has been tough.
Part of what makes having a small child so hard is that you learn how little you can control another person. I am not in control of when she sleeps, IF she sleeps, how long she sleeps, how well she sleeps...yet it impacts my sleep. And that is one factor of parenthood. The truth is, for the first 10 years of my marriage I was able to be flexible, available, spontaneous...I could hang out, and had emotional space to care for others, and was able to host parties and other gatherings...I had margin.
Then, Imogen turned 2...and that margin faded away. And while I didn't have much choice in the matter, I also didn't take seriously the season of life in which I was in. I continued to hold myself to the expectations [social, emotional, physical, spiritual] that I had in the prior season...and yet I could never meet them, so I felt continually discouraged. It seemed I was failing at life.
But what really needed to happen was a change in perspective...an acceptance of a reality that a wise woman once told me:
"You can have it all...you just can't have it all at once."
I, my friends, was trying to have it all at once. And it burned me out. I spend a great deal of my ministry helping others live an intentional and fruitful life...yet I had been burning the candle on both ends in my own life. So, for the last few months I have been saying no to a lot of things. I have been asking myself "Is this essential? Do I really have space for this? Is this going to increase or deplete my energy?" I have found my impulse to say YES is more often than not driven by the fear of being left out, left behind, left unseen.
So, today I see some fruit from this season of saying no, of cutting back, of accepting my limitations...because here I am, writing. Nothing profound, nothing soul deep...not yet. More of a report, less of a reflection. But my soul wants to reflect again...and that is new.
It is probably no small coincidence that here I am the day before Imogen turns 4. She is a delight and a blessing...and she is also coming into a season that is a little easier for me. Less physically demanding, a little more rational, much more independent...her new season of life frees up some margin in my own life. And I am excited about that.
I feel myself coming back to myself...I know that may sound strange to those of you who never feel like you lost yourself...but I have felt a little lost these past two years. Toddlerhood blindsided me in many ways...revealing weaknesses and limitations I didn't know I had...and also bringing about values, understanding, and skills that I wouldn't have without it.
Like all good reunions, I am excited to catch up with myself and hear what I have learned, how I have grown, what I hope for moving forward, and what gifts I received that I wasn't aware of. I am excited to hear how life has been these last two years...and I am glad to have enough margin to have space for the conversation.
I feel like I am ready to be filled again after a season of emptying out...and I am looking forward to seeing what I discover in this next homecoming.