Green peas & the truth they help tell.

Green peas and the truth they help tell.

Wednesday evening, I chanced dinner with a new recipe involving peas—one of the few foods I've always firmly disliked. I was on a time crunch to get this dish prepared before Bible class and couldn't think of an adequately swappable vegetable before marching out of Publix. Plus, I'd polled my housemates over text and they all liked peas, so it was decided. Half an hour later and I'm in the kitchen, slicing an enormous amount of mushrooms and microwaving the spherical veggies in question. Y'all wouldn't believe it. I am now perfectly pleased by peas.

For maybe a week now, I've been rethinking the role of writing in my life. Before work, during church, past bedtime. All that evaluation and here I am, with 96 words on the serendipity of green peas. Try the recipe and thank me later?

Truly, though. I'd like to give some notes on my writing lest you think I've suddenly become a food blogger transforming Picky Nickys of the world.

Another person tells me I'm inspiring. They've clicked a link and read my words. After decomposing dozens of sentences, it's those words I've chosen to make public and with them, I've aimed to be truthful. Please God, I don't want to be inspiring. Not anymore.

I entered vocational ministry when I was 18, writing newsletters and Facebook posts chronicling my stay in Mozambican villages and beyond. I traded the traditional route of college for it and my friends back home began to say...

I could never do what you're doing. 
It takes a special kind of person to do that.
Only 18? I wish I was like you at that age.
You're so brave!
So inspiring.

They had elevated my choices and I'll admit, it made me feel good for a few years. In 2015, I left the missions organization and returned to the U.S. mainland. Since then, God has thrown out and ironed flat many wrong beliefs—as he does with all his growing children. I can see how this expectation to be only inspiring or spiritual began to develop 7 years back and an ocean away. I'd unconsciously made a god of myself. Many areas have been touched by this faulty expectation, writing included. I wish I could easily crumple up that darn lie.

When in its proper role, writing aids the life I'm living off paper and screen. It helps me call to mind what God has done and challenges me to make better observations of his gifts around me. I know something is whacky when I write to resemble someone I'm not. That's not hard to do, you know. I decided about a year ago if I'm not experiencing or interacting with God and the world apart from parchment and pixels, there's nothing to say. I'm here for sincerity, not make believe.

Here's the truth: my day to day life is not reserved to only depth or passion or grief, though they are present. It's more ordinary, practical, and amusing (the stories are endless!) than it appears. And I love those parts, too. If my writing is an extension of all I'm learning from God and his creation, then I want to do so more freely. 

I've done you a disservice by writing from an obligation to remain "inspiring." It might've been a self-imposed expectation, but I'm through with it. Bob Goff wrote this brilliant line in Love Does, "I used to think rules were made by someone else, but now I know we get to make some of our own." 

These are 5 new rules I'm giving myself on this little patch of internet-land:

01. I will write when moved by passion, brokenness, discomfort, and joy. But sometimes I will feel none of those things, and yet God will still lead me here, to the screen and to the keyboard, to keep up with the practice of writing faithfully even when I'd rather not. I will write even then. 

02. I will write to collect and share memories. This means I can celebrate sometimes, mourn other times, and delight often in the ordinariness of life without feeling shame.

03. I will write earnestly about what I'm learning. As an outcome, I hope readers might actively join me in seeking God and his upside down ways. I hope they don't sit and think, "Inspiring. Could never do it." 

04. I will write as a way of exploration. With words, with topics, with humor, with art, with my voice. It's okay to not get it right. It's okay to merge my altruistic personality and quirkiness and inner dork together here. 

05. I will write and welcome others to come along. And I will also always give permission for someone to click away, to stop reading, and to choose to spend time elsewhere. 

There you have it. Accidental rules on writing because somehow I formed a mantra on peas when I meant to have an essay on loneliness. (now that's a mouthful!) I won't feel poorly over it, either. Rule 02 exists because I need reminding even our most ordinary days have something to delight in. I could've been inspiring but today, I chose sincerity instead. 

I'll write onward—with those rules like lampposts lighting my way.

Behind-the-scenes of a perfectionist writer.

I am allowing myself an hour to write before I hit publish.

Only a handful of people know the following confession: it takes me three hours to write one paragraph on here. My desire for superiority irks me.

I've never attempted to write a book aside from "Esther's Extraordinary Life" in 4th grade, but I imagine if I did, then perhaps 180 minutes per paragraph would be acceptable.

But I'm not writing a book, and even if I was, I would hope to not make every sentence a rigorous case for perfection. If that happened, there would be no joy in writing and I might as well quit the task altogether.

And I'm not ready to quit.

From an early age, I have tried to make life look as effortless as possible.

Being in the arts industry, it was second nature to me—this performing and masking. As a ballet dancer, the goal is to move with such grace, ease, and strength that the long-rehearsed steps would appear painless and simple to an audience. The more we practiced, the easier they could be convinced. Sadly, this belief did not just remain in the realm of ballet for me.

My last performance onstage was in 2010, but the critiquing and rehearsing on some studio version of myself has not ceased.

I learned a lot about determination, craft, and team work in those years, but one thing I wish to unlearn is the fear of being myself.

If you know me, hopefully you know I am an advocate for honesty, truth, confession, and repentance. I don't set out to hide who I am—but I do need direction on how to be myself, unabashedly.

We all want to be ourselves.

We want to know those selves will be accepted, loved, and welcomed in. 

Our lives are not painless or simple. They are complex, profound, painstakingly beautiful, and worth something good.

They will not fit into 90 minutes of choreography or be illumined with soundtracks and bouquets and applause. As long as we are here on earth, these lives will not be devoid of glitches. Sin, hurt, and brokenness have been part of the deal since Genesis 3. At some point, we have got to get honest with ourselves, our people, and most importantly, God.

We cannot make it our goal to prove how our practicing finally attained perfection.

We'll never achieve it.

I don't know about you, but I am so tired, friend. I am tired of carefully curating struggles, tweaking and editing words, withholding thoughts and opinions due to fear, and being ashamed with what goes on behind-the-scenes.

During that final 2010 performance, I was in intense amounts of pain. I sobbed backstage and skipped warm-up because of the injuries. Once the music began and I got to the stage, I put on a smile and played the part.

Isn't it so easy to do that in our lives? We play the part, because that's what we believe is both expected and accepted.

Writing and sharing about living with sickness is not difficult for me. It seems brave, and I like that feeling. But it's not.

The day I get brave is the day I confront my unhealthy attachment to food. My struggles with body image and weight. The crippling fears I have of loved ones taking their lives or being sexually abused. My thoughts on the church or theology. My desperate pleas for the world. Or that "d" word called depression.

I still desire perfection. I don't like mistakes.

There are certain sins, insecurities, and lies I am tempted to make you think I never wrestle with. But here's the thing—I am not always going to get it right. I cannot hold a pose forever.

As the Holy Spirit guides and exposes, I am taking stock of wrong belief systems, thought patterns, and heart idols. I am going to believe, every day, that although God could have made someone else, it's us that He chose.  

My "hour" finished up awhile ago, so I will finish here.

I want to walk away from this staged way of living, and live well behind-the-scenes. If that means brokenness, questions, or doing the hard things, so be it.

I want to be myself. I want to be bent and spent for the glory of God.

Will you join me there?

A portrait poem.

This week at the journaling for healing class, we introduced a simple way of self-identification and self-commentary. It's intriguing what we can discover about ourselves by following a basic structure of a portrait poem.

Co-leading this class and doing the exercises alongside the women has been a very life-giving experience for me. I am learning right with them. Getting to hear the truths, the questions, and desires of each person is always an honor. 

The poem below is what I scribbled in my journal during Tuesday's 20 minute in-class assignment. I was surprised by what came from that time. Although I wrestled to find characteristics I believe I am, victory was stamped onto my heart as ink touched the page, making the final statement.

When I lifted my left-hand up from the journal, I smiled, because this is the woman I am.

The woman God has created me to be. 

i am. . .

I am a tender-hearted and brave woman.
I wonder why they can't find answers.
I see a life without physical pain.
I hear the laughter of a life fully lived.
I want to live with that freedom now. Because I can.
I am a tender-hearted and brave woman.

I pretend I have this all figured out sometimes.
I feel an expectancy rising in me as I know there is more.
I touch my body swollen by inflammation and am reminded.
I worry I will make too many excuses because of illness.
I cry when I experience the endless grace of God even in this.
I am a tender-hearted and brave woman.

I understand nothing is wasted.
I say God is still good. Because He is.
I dream of dancing again to tell a story of redemption.
I try to choose thankfulness no matter how much it hurts.
I hope of a day where I can see the world transformed by Love.
I am a tender-hearted and brave woman.