Saturday, February 28, 2015

59/365 The Gift of (Not Wanting to Be) Yourself

I picked up this book last week, an old castaway from part of a summer class Josh took while studying for his Masters. I think I teased him about the title when he first brought it home. "The Gift of Being Yourself." Because, how psycho-babble, modern-day, me-loving does that sound? Of course I knew nothing about the book. And I didn't bother to look then either.

I don't know if it is just the time of life I am in or the circumstances surrounding it, as is often the case when a book really comes alive to us, but as I slowly started to work through the pages of each chapter (there are only six), I found myself eating it up, severely challenged, comforted, smacked in the face again, and then prodded, like a little child hiking up a steep mountain trail with someone's hand to their back supporting and urging them on through the most difficult parts.

The Preface had me at hello, comforting me that maybe this wasn't what I had flippantly judged it to be. 

"It is a profound irony to write a book promoting self-discovery to people who are seeking to follow a self-sacrificing Christ. It might well make you fear that I have forgotten-- or worse, failed to take seriously-- Jesus' paradoxical teaching that it is in losing ourself that we truly find it. As you read on I think you will see that I have done neither." 

He was right. In fact, the entire premise is really leading you on a path to see that in order to know God, we need to know ourselves correctly, truthfully, honestly. And that is plain hard. The only hope for knowing ourselves in this way, is to know God, and to know ourselves as we are created in and known by God. This seems obvious enough if you have grown up around this kind of talk at all. But it is so easy to be dishonest, inaccurate, and absolutely not authentic. So somebody walk me through this please. 

"You are more flawed than you ever believed, yet at the same time you are more loved and accepted in Christ than you ever imagined." ~Tim Keller

The trouble is, we are full of all kinds of false selves. Ways we want others to perceive us. Values we hold dear to so that they define us. Pursuits that make us feel special and important. These may all start as good, even God-given parts of our personalities. But sly as we are, we quickly make them into all-important definitions of who we are. And then we become slaves to them. So the the false selves need stripping; they need to be shown for who they are and how we cling to them or create them. 

False selves are tricky little things to unmask. There were some helpful and practical tools given to help with this process though, a mixture of perceptive traits to think over, coupled with prayerful reflection and scriptural meditation. I had never heard of the Enneagram before and (being ancient apparently) it seemed a refreshing take on the ever popular personality test categorizations, the focus on which often drive me absolutely crazy. The Enneagram list seemed more helpful, in identifying the core values that you have defined yourself by, and how that translates into the sin you are most tempted by. As well as, how that leads you to be irritated by or struggle with the things you see in others. 

Working through this has been a challenging part of the Lent season for me, and I am hardly finished. I think it's a bit like Eustace though in Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where the only way to become a boy again after his treachery has turned him into a hateful dragon, is to let the Lion scrape the scales off with his claws. Painful. But hopeful, and good.

Friday, February 27, 2015

58/365 Gray But Green

It was grayer than gray and spitting drizzle outside on this day, but I was seeing green. And for every fight and whine and bad attitude, we had some fine moments too. We had a cafe going for breakfast run by the kids, and it was pretty darn good. We had block creations that were a little out of the ordinary but inspiring to my color hungry eyes. We had a kid duo washing dishes and they looked even some kind of pretty lined up on the counter top. We had pizza for dinner, crusts made by my boy who is cutting his hand at dough making these days. and that makes a gray day seem pretty bright.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

57/365 Craving

Craving green. 
Craving growth.
Craving a new day, a new season.
Craving life instead of death.
Craving renewal.
Craving signs of hope, a shoot, a bud, a possibility, anything.
Craving strength. To make it through these last days of the dead beats.
Craving something outside myself, a power that makes all thing new, that makes stinking tomb linens fresh and white like snow.
Craving something like a resurrection.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

56/365 On My Own

Days on my own, with no questions to answer, no tugging hands, no meals to prepare, no tidying up, seem like they should be carefree and easy. But all those hours in a row make me feel frantic and grasping, with a list a mile long of all that I could do, that I would love to do, on my own. In the end, it's often something soul nourishing that I choose, because everything else seems like it can wait, but the right now and later on needs me to be grounded and flourishing and ready to pour out. 

So it was a morning filled with words and light and the sunrise and coffee on the rooftop, and then walking the streets, looking and praying, letting each inform the other like a conversation. Then more coffee and quiet and writing. 

Strange, how a heart can be weighed down and lifted up all at the same time. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

55/365 Chinese New Year ~ Last Supper

As the holiday draws to a close, we had our final dinner with local friends this Chinese New Year. In cluded: My favorite one year old in China. Wonderful food. Sweet conversation. And building on traditions now several years in the making. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

54/365 Cousin Camp

Our turn today to have all the kids, so it is cousin camp part two for the next 24 hours. We had a tea party, thrown together with bits I barely had lying around, and more my style, which is plain and rustic and not very girly. But they loved it to pieces and were so pleased and that is all you can ask for. 

The number one son made brownies for dessert and his interest and growing confidence in the kitchen is so much fun to watch. This week alone he has made breakfast almost every day, which has included scones, french toast, and omelettes. I cannot complain.

53/365 Day Long Date

Just me and him. Roaming the countryside. Soaking up sunlight, dirt under our feet, unknown trails, uninterrupted conversation, the comfort of quiet. And lots of Chinese doors.