dear you — you don’t have to have all the answers

Dear You,

I know. You see it there with its soft layer of dust and you want to gently wipe it down, pick it up. But it’s hard isn’t it? There’s always something else vying for your attention. There’s always another book to read, instead.
Maybe you manage to pick it up and open it, and then you glance beside it to your phone, and your world is there instead, so you open that, scroll through and are left… well, empty.
Maybe you’re like me, and you want to read, and you want to understand but gosh, so much just does not. make. sense.
Why does Jesus want to keep His miracles a secret? (Mark 5)
Why did Jesus always talk in parables? They’re riddle-like, and what if they don’t mean what you you think they do? (Mark 6)
What does it mean when it says the disciples hearts were hardened? (Mark 6)
Why does Jesus refer to the Gentile woman as a dog?! (Mark 7)

And not understanding frustrates you, and makes you feel foolish, I know. Me too.
We frown at these ancient texts and we try to squeeze them to fit into our modern culture and when they don’t fit, we throw up our hands and leave the whole book to amass a fresh layer of dust.

But you, like me, need to know this:

You don’t need to have all the answers.

There’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of faith.
The Bible isn’t written in stories and parables to keep us out, but to draw us in.
It’s written to lead us to the good questions, the big questions, the hard questions.
It pulls us to conversation, to going around and around and asking each other, what if? What if it means this? Today, it spoke to my heart this way.
It asks us to imagine; imagine walking dusty roads to Jerusalem.
Imagine walking up stone steps to the temple, or piling stones along the way to remember what was behind you, and hope for what lies ahead.
The Bible calls us to imagine what mercy and justice would look like in our time, in our day, and to walk that out humbly with our words, our actions, our service.

Ancient poetry moves us towards the bigness of God—the one who keeps the sea in its boundaries, the moon in its place, the sun rising another day. It grounds us into self-reflection, the reality of our own human failings, our messes and mistakes; and then shows us a God who is kind, in a Son who walked the earth teaching us to love our neighbours.

Dear You, why don’t you find a quiet place today. Retreat. Open the book, flick through it’s fine pages. Rest in the Psalms, or land in the gospels and follow Jesus through Israel as He sought to show us how to lift our eyes to an invisible kingdom. One where friends lay their lives down for one another, one where the stranger crosses the street to help another who looks and speaks differently to himself. A kingdom where hustling puts you in last place, but allowing others to go first is what wins the prize.

I found Him this week in the Gospel of Mark, calling a woman who’d been bleeding for a decade, Daughter. I found him, asking the blind man, What would you like me to do for you? and then restoring his sight to him. I found him getting hungry, tired, grieving, compassionate. Human.

Along with the questions and the lack of our understanding, I’ve had glimpses of this Jesus and the band of imperfect, often faithless men who followed him, hungry for all he had to teach them. And I saw myself in those disciples too; often getting it wrong, often full of fear not faith, yet still hungry for all He has to teach me.

Dear You, don’t worry if you don’t have the answers.
None of us do, but it won’t stop us from looking.

xx

PS reading through the gospels this September with Hannah Brencher and a whole bunch of girls all around the world and it is good.

Six months of Instagram: how we became friends again

It’s been six months now since Instagram and I became friends again.
It was ‘the great Instagram break-up’: you can read about it here, and my thoughts after a little while away from the grid here.

Our relationship has always been complicated—love/hate, I suppose they’d say. Really I didn’t love it’s hold on me. I didn’t love feeling like it’s slave, drawn to my phone in all of those unconscious, mindless ways. I didn’t love not being present for others.
I hated not being present to myself.

And I did not love the way I felt after I scrolled. Feeling small.
It know that my shrinking wasn’t the fault of the highlight reels, of the shiny families I’d see, of the exotic holidays, successful businesses, and beautiful influencers. I can’t blame any of them for my shrinking. The smallness I felt came from inside of me; they weren’t hemming me in (my favourite verses, 2 Corinthians 6:11 in The Message). But the comparison was making me small and I couldn’t hear myself amongst all the noise.
So I deleted my entire account. Thousands of followers, a beautiful community that had been built – gone.
I needed to quiet the noise, I needed to stop seeking created things and find space to hear my Creator.

At first it felt the way it does after you leave a concert: after the assault on ears and eyes, the hot mass of bodies, the sudden cold night air prickles your skin and the ringing, pulsing in your ears is disconcerting. Too quiet.
It was just me. An ocean of me.
Then I was echoing Nemo’s dad, “A fish can really breathe out here.” Smile.

In the early days I reached for my phone more times than I could count. But when I did there wasn’t another world to get drawn into anymore. No more interesting lives, or profoundly shared quips and ruminations. There were no more exquisitely dressed children, or expensively decorated living rooms, or stories to drown myself in.
Now, there was just me.
Me and the people in front of me daily, and weekly.
Then, I knew what it felt to be a slave to my phone.
Now, I know what it feels like to breathe free—to stare out of train windows, to study my daughter’s freckles, to chew on Words that bring life; He has a thousand ways to set you free, you are truly the poetry of God—his very handiwork, They will fight you but they will fail.
I know what it feels like to fold bread dough and to watch it rise, smell it bake and hear the crackles of the crust as it cools on the bench. I know what it is to look at each other over a giant slice, leaving butter at the corners of our grins.

I know how to witness beauty and really see it, instead of the rectangular version through the lense of a camera.
Then, after 10 months, I re-entered the ‘gram. Tentatively, intentionally.
And now, I’ve been there six months.
The world is much bigger than my grid of squares; 94 photos cannot possibly sum up the richness, the suffering, the beauty, the laughter, the tears, or the growth of six months of life. I know what it is to seek that beauty. To forget the world of squares, to be here in this one wild and precious life, to seek after what is True and Eternal.
But, it’s nice to try to capture and share some of that sometimes too. To share the beauty, and reveal our truths, and find those who say, ‘What, you too? I thought I was the only one’ (Thanks CS Lewis). To see and feel connected to other worlds, and lives and stories. To wear our hearts on our sleeves, in the hope it helps someone to no longer hide. To give our book recommendations, record the quirky things our kids say, to breathe deep at the ocean while saying, ‘look at this! Is it not magnificent?!’ while trying to pan the glory in front of us.

It’s okay to be there, but be right where you are too.
It’s okay to scroll and smile and watch, but clink glasses on a Friday with your besties while your phone sits at the bottom of your bag.

We can learn how swing our legs deliciously through linen sheets, taking note of our bodies, reclaiming our thoughts as we wake slowly to our day. We can learn how to leave our phones in other rooms, forget their existence.
We can discover what it feels like to read after the house has long gone to sleep, immersed in story until our eyes hurt, just one more chapter until we flick off the lamp, letting the story continue in our dreams.
We can experience the frustration of learning new things, like knitting, and the elation of completion.
We can sit on the porch without a to-do list, and crunch celery sticks slathered in peanut butter, listening to recounts of the world of our kids, remembering what it was like to be allowed to sit next to your best friend in class, get your pen license, run in a race.

We can be here and there. We can both/and. Successfully.

So Instagram and I are friends again, and I’m going back to who I was, who I am.
Just Em. Inside and outside the squares, but mostly just not worrying too much about inside the squares, just inside me. A whole ocean of me.

xx

Keep moving forward

My face is still red, hot from my run.
I’m buzzing with endorphins—the ones that come naturally from moving my body, from pushing through despite the stitch, and from my feet pounding (shuffling, maybe) the paths that wind around our seaside peninsula. Then there’s the happy knowing that I achieved a small goal, a determination to reach 5km again in my running. So my face is red hot, but I’m smiling and kissing my kids like a loon when I get home sweating.
I find myself singing aloud while I’m making my breakfast, and the smell of the sourdough baking has made me euphoric.
It’s a good morning.

It’s good because I chose it that way.
It’s good because it’s a contrast to others that haven’t been. The ones where I couldn’t wake up, where the covers were a weight and I cursed the sun for rising too soon.
It’s good because I know that wherever I am, and whatever is swirling around me, God promises to keep leading us forward.
It was this morning’s Psalm.
Psalm 28, and the very last verse.
“Keep protecting and cherishing your chosen ones; in you they will never fall. Like a shepherd going before us, keep leading us forward, forever carrying us in your arms.”

Keep leading us forward.
I think God is concerned with our stuckness. That if he can’t lead us forward, if we’re stuck, He’ll just carry us.
My prayer lately is that I am not stuck.
It’s easy to to fall into the trap of replay, of going over and over something in your mind, of being stuck in the refreshing of the same hurts or emotions or thought patterns.
Oh God don’t let me be stuck here.
He promises to lead us forward.
I think one of the keys to moving forward is to acknowledge where we’ve been stuck, what it is we’ve been stuck in—give it a name, give ourselves permission to feel it and then we can be lead forward.
Isaiah 48:18 says this:
Stop dwelling on the past.
Don’t even remember these former things.
I am doing something brand new, something unheard of.
Even now it sprouts and grows and matures.
Don’t you perceive it?

In Philippians 3:13 Paul writes about the importance of letting go:
“I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead.

It’s easy these days to dwell. Isolation has forced is to slow down, and we can’t avoid ourselves. Even in our social connecting across platforms like Zoom or House Party or FaceTime, we’re faced with an image of ourselves right there in front of us too.

But this time of quieting our souls and really living with ourselves can be just what we need to acknowledge what it is we might need to let go of.
And it might be painful.
I may have run 5 kilometers, but during the last two I had a sharp stitch in my ribs. I wanted to give up and walk but I didn’t. I stuck my chest out, I breathed more deeply through the pain, I grimaced and tried to stretch out my ribs, my lungs but the pain continued.
So I kept my eyes ahead. I pressed forward, fastening my heart to the finish line.
Because even through the pain He promises to carry us. Forward.

Keep moving. xx