Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Tiniest of Testimonies

I was invited to give my testimony at church. I agreed. And then, in typical Blair fashion, I realized I had double booked my calendar, so I backed out. (I consistently score high marks on the Flake chart. Administration. Not my gifting. Bless my heart.) 

But it got me thinking... (cause I do)... Testimony...

We all have them. Some are more "flashy" than others. Every one's testimony is fascinating to me, because I am a person totally in love with Story. Tell me a story! I will eat it up like candy. But... a testimony is kind of a bad story. It would make a bad book. Because there's no beginning/middle/end thing. Nope. A testimony is a moving picture. There's no place to stop and put your finger down and say, "There's the end of that chapter. That's the moral of that story. There's the tidy conclusion at the end of that bumpy road." It's just not that neat.

Random Morbid Example:
Woman gets cancer. Woman gets treated. Cancer goes into remission. Woman has victory!
The end?
Nope. Maybe Woman gets cancer again... and again...
Maybe woman gets hit by a car and dies in a seemingly senseless way at a seemingly senseless time?
Maybe woman goes on to seemingly waste her life... and the cancer event was kind of the highlight?
What happens to Testimony then?

What happens to testimony when it isn't linear? When it isn't neat? When it doesn't build to a resounding crescendo of strength! Or a deplorable defeat? When it's hard to tell if the main character in the story is a good guy or a bad guy? When everything is kind of... grey? What happens to Testimony when the story... just... meanders? When it does the "ups and downs" thing? When it quietly wanders in obscurity without a tidy "The End" to inspire others?

Every once in a while something MASSIVE happens. Some pivotal event irrevocably alters the way I tell my story, the way I see my story, the way I step into my story... but that's rare.

A year after my son was born, the fabric of my entire life's work/identity/focus/way of living/goals/dreams/sense of worth/etc had been shattered. All my dreams for myself had been taken from me. I had failed all my systems for measuring my own success. All my vision had been smothered. I literally couldn't see my way into the future.
Every day seemed like an eternity because I had no hope... no where to fix my vision...
Every night I would sob raggedly because I had no life left inside me to give to the next day.
I wanted to die.

That was a staggering place to be.
That was a pivotal time.
That was massively story forming.
That shaped me in ways I am still uncovering two and a half years out.

BUT... Most of the time Story is quiet and daily.

Most of the time Story is simply us walking through the fall out of those bomb shell moments... navigating the detritus of identity and trying to see the links in the paragraphs, however hazy they may be. Trying to understand... What is my testimony?

Sometimes I think I can put my finger on it.
1. There was my failure.
2. There was my victory.
3. There is my Testimony.
Then my weaknesses and idols rear their heads yet again and I realize, "Oh, dear little sister, you have not come so far at all." Here are my failures. Here are my victories. Here is my Testimony.

Can we take Testimony back from the Hollywood standards of story telling?
Can we embrace our lives as Odysseys (with all their meandering, rising, falling) rather than expecting Oscars?

At the end (if we even see it coming at all) there may be things left unsaid, victories left unclaimed, character still unpolished. There may be storylines that never found tidy conclusions. There may be identity that hasn't coalesced. There may be conversations still unfinished. (If that doesn't irk your OCD, you're a calmer person than I.) But the Finish Line of this life is no ending at all. Only a chapter. A chapter full of paragraphs, full of sentences, full of lovely words full of nuance. Each day has a tale to tell. Each week has a drama unfolding. Each year brings another season. But it doesn't have to be linear to be blessed. Because the Lord of Story doesn't require polished manuscripts! He delights in the potential of rough drafts.

One day I will get my calendar properly organized and share my testimony before my Church family.

Maybe I'll go after someone with one of those raw and shocking tales that make you shake your head and say, "What a miraculous redemption!"

Maybe I will stand up next and suddenly my little drama (which seemed so big to me) will seem small and simple and easy by comparison?

I would like that... my little drama is small.

And yet, His eye is on the sparrow.
As it dips in the sky and turns its wings to the wind.
As it hoards seed and is buffeted by shifting weather.
One little life. Full of punctuation... weaving a narrative which is never done until it's done.
His eye follows this... The tiniest of testimonies. And it follows mine. And whatever story is written, no matter how incomplete, is blessed because he read it and smiled.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Lent. The Ugly Step-Sister Season.

Lent... It's not Christmas, that's for sure. It's not a season when we're hanging the holly and lighting the tree, twinkling and throwing gifts around like confetti and singing carols to strangers. It's not a season that glitters. It's a season that begins with a smear of ashes. With the words, "Remember that you will die."

Ho ho ho. Bleh.

It's only Friday... I've only been fasting for three days. Not very well, I might add. I eliminated Facebook... but then added cake... because there was a void in my soul that needed filling. (If I skip cutting it into slices and just eat the whole cake with a fork, it's only one piece, right? Right. I have eaten one piece of cake in three days.)

Anyway... three days... and already it's becoming clear... my joy and stability is mostly founded on a carefully contrived system that I tenderly guard to preserve myself from suffering. And it has begun to quaver. I took out one little piece of the scaffolding that holds me together on a daily basis and the foundation of my tenuous joy is already wobbling. Already I have been forced to remember what a dry, dusty foundation my life stands on. How fragile is my joy. How easily blown to bits.

Now, I'm not one to say, "Oh, well, if I can just stuff enough Bible into the Facebook void I'm going to find true joy." Come on, now. Don't play. If you've walked a long, enduring Christian walk, you know it's not magic. Not poof. Not instant fix. It's a longer, quieter road to righteousness.

And, really, I don't think that's actually the point. The point is not to look at my quavering knees and think, "Ah ha, I will do more things and be stronger." Lent has a different call, if we'll listen.

Lent doesn't call us to see that the halls are bare... and deck the halls.
Lent doesn't invite us to recognize that the foundation is weak... and choose trappings and tra la la.
Lent calls us just pause and to look at the empty house... to be present and reflect on its meager state.

Lent calls us to repentance.
Ah, look. How paltry is my joy.
Ah, look. How feeble is my devotion.
Ah, look. How anemic is my faithfulness, how emaciated is my courage in Christ, how misguided my values, how misplaced my sense of meaning.
Ah, look... How deep is my need for Jesus.

Because fasting is not a form of Christian calisthenics to muscle up to the bar of God's favor. It's just a more honest reflection on the truth of our state of being. It moves us physically, toward a more stripped-down place... so that we can see and understand the unvarnished truth about ourselves more clearly. So we can realize we were never truly happy. Never fully satisfied. Never actually complete. Not on our own.

Lent. Sigh. I'm not a huge fan.

It makes me feel exposed. It makes me feel vulnerable. I work hard to patch up the limping, gaping holes in my nature (to bandage rather than heal my hurt)... to cobble together as much happiness as I can rend out of life's stones. And Lent, darn Lent, comes in and shines a light in the corners and shows that the house I'm living in is all paper mache.

Remember that you are but dust... Remember that you will die...

Lent calls me to turn toward something greater than contrivance... something more enduring... something that will last and stand... something that will not blow away...

The stakes are high. And the battle cannot be won by decking the halls.

Thank you, Lent, for being the season when Honesty is king. When the Hall Decking must be put paused and the barrenness of our place without Jesus must be reckoned with. You will never be my favorite. I like your pretty sister, Christmas, much better. But I appreciate you. You turn down the static music on the radio dial and you make me listen to the empty air waves so that I know that what I really long for is a full symphony... and in doing so, you make the promise of Easter more clear, more poignant, more perfect. More deeply to be desired.

Thanks, Lent. I guess.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lent for Depressed People

Last year I wrote this as a Facebook Post.... I'm posting it here again this year for posterity. ;) Posterity. haha.

It’s Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras. For the average American it means hurling beads and partying into the night. For those of us who observe the liturgical calendar of the church, it’s the day before the season of Lent begins. We party into the night eating up all our soon-to-be-forbidden foods… goodbye sugar in my coffee! I’ll miss you so. 

Lent: it’s a gloomy season when we reflect on the brokenness of the world and the corrosive, degrading, cancerous rust of sin within ourselves. Last year Lent arrived, for me, on the heels of an epic nervous breakdown. Postpartum depression had wrecked me. My mental health was shattered. I had descended into a nearly catatonic state of dark joyless exhaustion with life… and then Lent came. I was supposed to give up something and reflect on the aching imperfection of the world. Just when I thought I couldn’t go lower, Lent came to crush me a little further down. It was too much.

This year Lent finds me in a new place. After a year of healing, I’m feeling whole. I have a spirit of expectation and hope for this season… but I remember the desperation I felt last year. So I wanted to write a word to those who might be entering this season with depression in the mix.

1 - Lent reminds us we’re not perfect. Take advantage of that. Don’t worry about fixing you. God adores you where you are. Isn’t that the whole point? Weak and small and quavering, you are richly adored and accepted. You don’t have to stand up. You don’t have to struggle. All mercy is available to you just the way you are. Give yourself grace.

2 - Lent reminds us of our need. You’re already in a place with a lot of need. You don’t need to manufacture it through fasting like “the happy people.” Rather than giving something up, practice asking for help and accepting love. Acknowledge your need by reaching out for the loving hands that are ready to support you.

2 - Lent is a time of reflection… so reflect on hope. Take it as an opportunity to meditate on the coming of Christ’s light. Hope is on the way. Easter is coming. You’re not alone. You are not forgotten. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isaiah 42:3). Meditate on the hope that Jesus promises will come to us even when we are in a place of darkness.

I think I could keep going… but let’s keep it simple. Three points are enough for today.

Take this as a season of peace, not sorrow; a season of hope, not despair; a season for loving yourself even while you may feel broken, because that’s how the God of the universe loves you. The Light will come no matter how dark the darkness.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27