Rachel Heath

Intentional Living: learning to be fully present

Archive for the category “Spirituality”

Sometimes

A few months ago, a friend asked me if I liked being a mom. I hesitated for a moment – just a split second – before offering the answer I knew was correct, the expected answer.

Yes! Yeah, I love it. It’s wonderful. Being a mom is great. A challenge, but really wonderful. Of course. It’s great.

I heard myself repeating the same words over and over, frantically racking my brain for something specific. The truth is, in that moment, I really didn’t. I’m supposed to adore motherhood, but that day, I didn’t. I left the restaurant troubled by my response, and over the last few months that little piece of conversation has come back to haunt me at every one of my lowest parenting moments.

You’re a terrible mother. You couldn’t come up with a single reason you enjoy being a mom! Why did you even have children? 
It’s certainly no secret that motherhood has been a difficult adjustment for me. Sleep deprivation, kind to no one, I think does an especially hard job on me, and neither of our tinies were (are) good sleepers. Isabella would wake infrequently but it would take us close to an hour to get her back down, and she didn’t sleep through the night till she was 1. Barrett had awful colic for 5 months, and at 13 months old, he is still waking up 6-10 times a night.

The night before Mother’s Day (of course) was a very rough one for Bear. After he woke 5 times between 10pm and 1am, Stephen finally gave in and got him up. I was too worked up to sleep, so I got up too. We sat on the living room floor in our robes, Barrett playing quietly between us, and had an awful conversation about our big doubts, disillusionment with God, and disappointment over unanswered prayers (the middle of the night is obviously the best time to talk about these light topics).

“If I had known what this would really be like, I never would have had kids,” I muttered, refusing to let the hot tears surface.

The desperation and rage when it’s 2:30 am and I can’t get baby to calm down and fall asleep; the trembling fear of finding out just where my line is and how close I can come to it in the dark hours of the night.

The inability to walk out of a room, or even move from one spot on the floor, without my child wailing because I am leaving.

The chronic sleeplessness, the chronic feeling that sleeplessness is making me a shitty parent.

The look of fear on my child’s face when I suddenly snap and lose my temper; the satisfaction of losing my temper; the immediate rush of guilt afterwards; the many broken items in my wake.

The loss of identity, loss of autonomy, slow death of untended relationships, sacrifice of career.

The constant demand for attention, the always being-needed.

The frightening realization of just how easily I can be worn down by whining, complaining, and backtalking.

The surprise of just how much a 3-year-old’s careless and ignorant words can hurt.

The tiredness in my very bones.

Being confronted by the ugliest parts of my heart; my need for control, my anger, my deficit of Every. Single. Fruit of the Spirit.

Yes, this is part of my parenting reality… but it’s not the whole truth. I got the chance (bless my husband) to go sit by myself at a coffee shop on Mother’s Day, and I took the time to write in the journals we keep for both kids.

God began to show me that I am indeed a different woman than I was before I gave birth… and that’s exactly how He intends it. He helped me see all the things I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t have kids.

The incredible gift of growing and birthing new life.

The indescribable feeling of being the one and only source of nourishment a newborn baby needs.

20 unbelievably tiny toes; 20 chubby fingers; the pattern the blood vessels make on the inside of Isabella’s ears; the faint birthmark on Barrett’s side.

Nursing smiles.

The glorious feeling of a baby breathing deeply, sleeping soundly, wrapped on my chest as I sing and worship.

The sweet feeling of a small head resting heavily between my shoulder blades, riding on my back as I hike.

Seeing eyes light up or arms flap happily, hearing gleeful shouts of “Mommy!” when I walk into a room.

First steps, first words, first everythings.

Hearing my daughter cheerfully, and of her own volition, recite to me the little incantation of love I have always said to her, “I love you higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, and bigger than the skies!”

The surprise of just how many beautiful, clever, hilarious, stunningly insightful things a 3-year-old says during the course of a single day.

Cooking dinner to a backdrop of the loud, joyful chaos of giggling, shrieking, chasing, and playing; a home full of wild happiness.

Being confronted by the ugliest parts of my heart; my need for control, my anger, my deficit of Every. Single. Fruit of the Spirit. Dealing with it, and allowing it to change me. Where I was inflexible, closed off, and stubborn, I am softening, opening, yielding.

Isabella and BarrettHad I not had children, I would never have had to deal with the tough stuff… but I never would have known the beauty I was missing, nor the power to become better, become transformed. The truth is that parenting is hard. REALLY hard, and messy. It is also dazzling and magnificent and FUN. Like any journey worth taking, parenting is made up of many small moments. Some of them suck. Some of them are amazing. Strung together, they are the stuff life is made of.

I suppose if I had the chance to answer my friend over again, I would say:

Sometimes. Usually I like it… sometimes I love it, and sometimes I don’t.

And that’s ok.

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On the Seven Year Slump and the Year of Jubilee

Last year Stephen and I lived what we called “12 Months of Simplicity,” focusing on simplifying our lives in a different way every month. I blogged about it for a while but then Baby Bear came along, and I turned my attention away from writing for many months. Even so, we simplified during 2013. A lot. We had to. 2013 threw a lot at us and we pared down out of necessity. We’re exhausted from all the changes of last year.

One big change was our church move. After 18 years at Bridgeway (and 9 for Stephen), we felt God asking us to do the thing we never, ever expected: find a new home church. It was simultaneously heartbreaking and exhilarating, but we were obedient. We’re now building relationships and settling happily into our new church, appropriately called Jubilee.

The first Sunday of 2014, our Pastor mentioned that historically speaking, this is a Jubilee Year. A year to celebrate, to take back what’s yours, to live in freedom.

seven years of marriage, jubileeIn the bible, the Israelites would cancel their debts and free their slaves every seven years. Then, in year 49, a year of Jubilee was declared. After seven cycles of seven years, Jubilee was “a time of freedom and celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families.” – Leviticus 25:10.

This April, Stephen and I will celebrate our 7th anniversary. After reading a blog post the other day titled “5 Ways to Secure Your Happyish Ever After,” (which was, in my estimation, a somewhat grim depiction of marriage) I couldn’t stop thinking of all the bleak, discouraging things we heard about marriage before we tied the knot. We decided we wouldn’t live under those expectations, and up to now, we’ve kicked ass at this Being Married thing. I often wonder if we’re doing something different than the couples we know whose marriages have failed, or if we’re just really different people. Probably both. But I will say without shame that Stephen and I are really good, and always getting better, at our relationship.

However, one thing has hung over me like a cloud, especially through this last year: The Seven Year Slump (or The Seven Year Itch). People talk about it like it’s inevitable. I’ve read pop psychology papers about how it’s actually physiological. How you’re bound to get bored, settle into parallel lives, simply coexist, build more and more tension, succumb to infidelity, etc., etc. I’ve lived frightened of this idea since we got married almost 7 years ago. Will this fated crisis be the one to do us in?

But like the rest of society’s predictions, we’ve decided that we’re just not going to do the Seven Year Slump. In true Jubilee spirit, we’re going to have a Seven Year Celebration! I’ve always wanted to write about our marriage, but I rarely do. I always thought I didn’t have enough experience to bring to the table (which is silly- we can learn loads from newlyweds). Stephen and I also guard our relationship carefully and I’ve never felt comfortable sharing much of the inner workings with people.

I realize that 7 years may seem like the blink of an eye to some, but I’m tired of waiting. I love being married, I love marriage, and I believe there’s a real need for people who have a positive perspective on it. As I write about the things we’re celebrating, the ground we’re taking, and the freedom we’re increasingly stepping into, I’m going to focus on marriage.

What good – or bad – things have people told you to expect about marriage? Married people, has it come true for you?

On My Most Urgent Prayer

Parenting is my crucible. How immensely rewarding and reworking and relentless it is. How huge is the responsibility of tending two tiny humans, day in and day out, again and again, without stopping, like the waves upon the shore.

I stand in The Here and Now, keenly aware of how my words and actions will ripple through days, months, years, decades, as these small people grow into big ones, complex and independent, with relationships and big plans and influence of their own.

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And I tremble at the massive weight of this. I live in fear that my lack of constancy should teach them more than my rare glimmering moments of self-control. After all, children remember what we said less that how we said it, how we lived it.

Oh, I tremble.

So when the baby is screaming, the toddler whining, the pressure building, when I feel trapped by the tedium of it all, this is my prayer:

Thank you, thank you, thank you for trusting my slipshod self with this beloved girl and beautiful boy, and help me, help me, help me do this right.

Though I feel laden, they are no burden; caring for these little hearts is a privilege.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Help me, help me, help me.

On Living in the Trenches

Our baby boy arrived on April 15th, nearly 5 weeks ago. It feels like yesterday, it feels like eternity ago, it feels like he’s been here the whole time. Our family feels complete, and my heart is full. Isabella taught me how to love unconditionally, and now I love without struggle.

Everything is so different this time. Where the first 6 weeks with Isabella were a fog of numbness and depression, I’ve felt (mostly) happy, present, and balanced this time around. I’m head over heels in love with this little boy.

So it’s hard to explain why I’m still ticking off the days till the baby stage is over.

When I go out with the kids, Isabella walking by my side and little Barrett snuggled on my chest in a sling or a wrap, people notice. And I grit my teeth every time they do.

I avoid eye contact with the little old lady at the grocery store who slowly wanders my way. I keep my eyes straight ahead on walks, ignoring the woman who looks towards me with congratulations on the tip of her tongue. I pretend I don’t hear the  bank teller’s hushed-but-loud-enough-I’m-obviously-intended-to-hear-them comments, “What a cute baby!” and “Aww, so tiny!”

Usually the well-meaning interluders are older women who miss having little ones, or younger women whose children are just old enough that they’ve forgotten the hard parts about having a baby. Or, maybe they just genuinely loved the baby stage. It’s been well-established on this blog that I am not one of those women.

When people look at me knowingly with a smile on their face, I think most of them are imagining that my day-to-day experience (though challenging, certainly) is an idyllic baby paradise that looks just like a Johnson & Johnson commercial, where my infant and I stare deeply into one another’s eyes and smile and bond, and soft light pours in through a window, and I have showered within the last 7 days.

But this is what it’s really like:

I’m living in the trenches. It’s warfare, and I’m just keeping my head down and trying to make it through the day. And yeah, it’s been a while since I bathed. At least I’m alive.

Don’t get me wrong- I couldn’t possibly love this little dude more. I’m crazy about Barrett and Isabella. Before I had kids, I didn’t know you could love someone – someone so little and helpless who can reciprocate nothing – so damn much.

Parenting babies is my refining fire, a blaze I cannot put out. It makes me better, stronger, yes. But the process brings my every heinous imperfection to the surface. It’s valuable but it’s also painful, ugly, and really, really hard.

We fought for a noble purpose in World War II, but the reality on the ground was muddy and bloody and perilous.

 

I genuinely appreciate congratulatory comments from people who actually know me, even if they don’t understand what it’s like for me. But what I appreciate even more is when fellow soldiers say “hang in there,” or “me too, mama.” I love when veteran parents tell me “you’re doing great,” and “keep fighting, it’s worth it, I promise.”

I don’t need pressure to enjoy every single second because it “goes so fast,” or stories about how much worse it will be when they’re teenagers. I need validation, commiseration, and the assurance that it eventually gets better.

I can’t be the only one. Caring for a newborn, working a terrible job, getting through the semester, going through counseling… Who else is in the trenches with me?

We’ll get out eventually. We will.

On the Midnight Hour

At the altar of my couch

in the temple of my living room,

I am saying the only words that ever seem enough;

You are good, You are good, You are good.

I can hear my daughter’s sound machine

drifting through her door.

The sound of rain that just keeps falling and falling and flooding and flooding

and yet I am saying

the only words that ever give me an umbrella in the downpour;

You are good, You are good, You are good.

My familiar places seem alien in the shadows and the silence,

and the things I take for granted are suddenly unknown.

But I keep on saying the only words I’ve ever known,

You are good.

In this midnight hour, the most honest of moments,

when there’s no one to hear me say it

and no one to see me scared,

I find my heart has not stopped saying

You are good.

You are good.

You are good.

On Lent

I grew up evangelical. One could even call it charismatic. (I do go to a church with two separate receptacles on either side of the stage just to hold the multicolored flags.)

Lately, I’ve been inexplicably drawn to the liturgical tradition. The world of liturgy is completely and utterly foreign to me. Many people grew up following the traditional church calendar; I had never heard of it until this year but the Lord is inviting me to experience life in what I’ve always written off as antiquated and dull.

Last December, my iPhone Bible app suggested I follow a reading plan for the Advent Season. I had an idea that Advent had something to do with Christmas, which sounded appropriately merry, so I followed it and enjoyed it. That was my first introduction to the liturgical calendar, and it was an easy one to get my feet wet with.

A couple weeks ago, my Bible app had another suggestion for me: a Lenten reading plan.

Basically all I know about Lent is that it starts with Mardi Gras with a lot of boobie flashing and drinking and craziness, and then everyone brags about giving up TV or caffeine for a month and a half. Another dead tradition, a spiritualized second try at one’s New Year’s Resolutions.

But, drawn to something very old, motivated to look past our culture’s bastardization of everything beautiful (and inspired by an article I read on HuffPost Religion), I decided to choose a reading plan and find out what God wanted to say to me through Lent. I was a day late and missed Ash Wednesday. (I cried.)

“… we can become desensitized to our needs – the real hungers –  in our lives. Observing Lent can help us wrestle with the reasons behind our perpetual consumption… [Lent] invites us to voluntarily jump off the hamster wheel of consumption and experience the pinch of abstaining from continual, thoughtless indulgence. It has the potential to give our frenetic, material selves a much needed break.” -Eileen Button, Hollow Sacrifice

When I read this quote from one of the devotionals in my bible reading plan, I knew instantly why I had felt so compelled to observe Lent, albeit in my own way.

I’ve realized that I’ve become desensitized to my real hunger, that I consume (in so many ways) without thinking or tasting or appreciating. My frenetic, material self needs a break. After all, that’s what this whole Simplicity thing is all about: Slowing down. Tuning into my actual needs. Rediscovering my deep desires. Making room for the truly valuable in my life. Exchanging that which does not last for that which lasts forever.

Lent isn’t just about giving something up, or even about living simply (as nicely as it dovetails with our family goals this year).

Lent, as I understand it, is about preparing yourself to celebrate the resurrection of Christ on Easter by spending 40 days in penitence. It’s a season to be reminded of our own humanity, our brokenness, and our great need for a savior.

Because I run in the Bethel crowd, I know plenty of fellow believers who don’t do Lent because it’s viewed in our circle as unnecessary and even a little blasphemous.  I am already justified. It’s done, once for all. I don’t spend my life asking for forgiveness or dwelling on my brokenness, because I’m already forgiven, and I’m no longer broken. I see myself as God sees me, as He sees Christ: whole and pure and worthy to come directly to Him. My nature is changing day by day as I look into God’s face; I live not in shame but in grace and joy and fullness. Spending a full 40 days lamenting about my sin and defectiveness seems a little silly in light of the truth of my redeemed identity. We don’t really do penitence.

But we do thankfulness. Because, justified as we are, we have a lot to be thankful for. Not just salvation, but for ongoing relationship with the only one who can save me from myself. We get to live in Heaven, here and now.

In fact, this Lent, God is reminding me that I don’t live under the law, but under grace.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” -John 1:17, ESV

“For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)” -Romans 4:15, NLT

So this Lent, I’m not giving something up so much as I’m adding some things in: thankfulness, intention, and freedom.

On Fences, Walls, and the Kindness of Jesus

wall around city around wall I don’t know if it’s still a thing, but when I was in high school we had Age of Empires for our family computer and I honestly can’t even come up with a ballpark figure on how many hours I wasted on that game. I was addicted. But my favorite thing was never the actual game. Instead, I loved creating my own scenarios, many of which I never even played. I spent hours making perfect, giant kingdoms, surrounded by miles of highly complicated fences and walls and bridges and moats and guard towers with soldiers and knights strategically placed throughout. Seriously intricate. Then I would make my enemy’s kingdom tiny and stunted in comparison, congratulate myself on an afternoon well spent, and wonder why I wasn’t enjoying the vibrant social life of my peers.

My life is like Age of Empires.

wall in front of gateOver the years I’ve carefully constructed a complex and elaborate system of walls and gates, many layers deep. My ability to create boundaries is something for which I’ve even received compliments and commendations. I’m profoundly skilled at protecting myself. The problem is that, like my perfectly crafted imaginary scenarios, I rarely take the risk of actually playing the game.

I do think boundaries are healthy, and there are certainly seasons and circumstances which call for them. I was abused for many years as a child and pre-teen. I was constantly bullied and alienated by my peers. I was deeply wounded by a few key friends as a teenager. Each of these major events caused me to create a healthy boundary to protect my heart. But each time I sustained an even minor offense or trespass, I added to those healthy boundaries.

Over the course of 27 years, I’ve nurtured and cared for those walls as they’ve spread like weeds and rooted themselves deeply in the soil of my heart. Every time I’m hurt, it simply confirms the necessity of my boundaries and encourages me to add to them. Pride and fear shaken together is a powerful cocktail, making it virtually impossible for anyone to really get to know me, and keeping me from meaningful relationships. I easily recognize guardedness in other people because I’m the most guarded person I know. I think it comes off as condescending but I’m really just scared of what everyone will do to me or think of me.

This September, I asked God to teach me how to live fearlessly. Every day, I feel the pull towards it. I hear the invitation repeated.

Live Fearless.

Live Unrestrained.

Live Open.

Live Free Indeed.

Last Sunday Jesus said to me clearly, “It’s time for real freedom, Rachel. Will you take my hand and walk into it?”

“God is kind, but He’s not soft. In kindness He takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life change.”

Romans 2:4, The Message Translation

One of the things I’m learning about Jesus is that He isn’t harsh. He’s gentle, but He’s firm. Good, but not safe. I was scared of what He would say about my behavior, that he would demand I make impossible changes in my life. But over the last few months, He’s lovingly revealed my need for Him. He’s tenderly led me to examine my behavior. He’s quietly begun to soften my heart. In fact, this Simplicity project is a product of my journey towards Jesus.

He has asked me to make some impossible changes, and they’re happening simply because I’m allowing myself to be moved, the same way a physical therapist works with an patient. He guides me in the work but I have to say yes to it and, often, endure the discomfort.

So I’m saying Yes again, I expect I’ll have many chances to choose Yes over the coming months, I’m allowing Jesus to tear down those walls. Bit by bit or all at once, I have no idea, but they’re coming down either way and everyone is going to see what’s really behind them.

On 2013: Finding Simplicity

For several months now, I’ve had a growing desire to simplify my life. I have felt overwhelmed by deadlines, overrun by housework, and overcome with tasks and meaningless activity that keeps me from doing what I need and want to do:

  • Be with my husband and daughter
  • Build meaningful relationships
  • Pursue the real Jesus
  • Complete my work on time and grow my business

balanceAnd for several months now, I’ve contemplated doing something – anything – drastic. I’m feeling the need to make major change. I’m feeling the need to overhaul my lifestyle in order to make room for my destiny and desires. I thought of doing something for a year, like a grand experiment, but I didn’t know how or what.

Then I read a book by Rachel Held Evans called “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.” It challenged me as a woman in the Kingdom of God, but it also delivered the inspiration I needed for how to structure my experiment.  In her book, Rachel explores what it means to be a “biblical woman” by taking the bible literally in her life. Each month, she chooses a different womanly biblical virtue and lives it to its literal extreme. I highly recommend it. I loved every word of it and can’t recommend it highly enough, but that’s worthy of another post.

My grand experiment began to take shape in my mind as I read Rachel’s book. A year, broken up into 12 different mini-experiments, is perfect for what I’m trying to learn and accomplish. Stephen and I started talking about it in October and have been brainstorming ideas since.

I’m excited to announce that: 2013 will be 12 Months of Simplicity for the Heath family. I will be blogging regularly about it here, and I’m guessing Stephen will write a few on his blog about the financial side of things.

We’ll be taking a close look at how we spend our time and energy and money, examining our consumer habits, thinking about how to reduce our waste, and figuring out how to organize our daily lives. We’re cutting back in some areas. We’re pouring into others. Mostly, we’re thinking about what we could change in order to make more room in our home and our lives for the most important things.

Our goal here isn’t to make you feel judged or impose some set of values that I believe to empirically better than yours. Our goal is to motivate you to an examination of your own lifestyle. I invite you to join me in asking: “Do my choices reflect my values?”

I’ve got plans for several months outlined (I’m not giving anything away yet!), but I’m still developing my ideas and am open to your suggestions. I posted a question on Facebook the other day asking what distracts or unnecessarily complicates your life. I received a lot of insightful and honest answers that I’m considering, and would love to hear more!

On Going Where Jesus Goes, but for Real

Most of us American Christians would like to think that if we lived in Israel back in the 30s AD, we would have been one of the ones who got it. Surely, we would have recognized the Christ, even though He flew in the face of everything we were expecting, everything we were taught, everything we wanted, and everything we were comfortable with.

And maybe you would have. But I don’t think I would have.

Rachel Held Evans wrote in her 2010 book Evolving in Monkey Town,

“When I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that the people I most identify with in all of Scripture are the Pharisees. Like the Pharisees, I know a lot of the Bible and am familiar with all the acceptable –isms and –ologies of orthodoxy. Like the Pharisees, I am skeptical of spiritual movements that don’t conform to my expectations about how God works in the world. Like the Pharisees, I like to try to cram the Great I Am into my favorite political positions, theological systems, and pet projects. Like the Pharisees, I judge easily, crave attention, and fear losing my status as a good believer.”

Yeah. That hurt a little bit. We always talk about how Jesus never spoke harshly to anyone but the religious elite of the day. We, or at least I, say that as if I’m not one of the religious elite, but I’ve been wondering lately…

If Jesus showed up in Denver, would I recognize Him? Would I even be able to find him? Because I have a feeling that He wouldn’t be spending much time at our small groups and bible studies and church services.

I’m not saying there’s something wrong with Sunday morning service or Wednesday night bible study. I’m just asking myself this question.

Where would He go? Who would He hang out with?

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17

Back in the day, Jesus spent His time with prostitutes, tax collectors, and all manner of social outcasts. He talked a lot (a lot) about caring for the widows, the orphans, and the generally disadvantaged. The first people that heard about His birth were a bunch of shepherds. The first person He revealed His divinity to was an unmarried Samaritan woman. He gave most of His affection to children. He touched the unclean. He violated the Sabbath. The first people who saw Him after He rose from the dead were women. He broke all the rules.

This is why the Pharisees missed it. To quote Rachel Held Evans again, “Jesus didn’t fit the mold… His theology was too edgy, His friends too salacious, and his love too inclusive.” In every way, Jesus’ life revolved around the Least of These, the powerless and destitute and marginalized. And this is who I would find Him with if He showed up in Denver today.

He’d be on Colfax, having a face-to-face conversation with a prostitute, without a shade of condemnation in His eyes.

He’d be under bridges and on street corners laying hands on the homeless.

He’d be walking fearlessly into 5 points, fearlessly confronting gangbangers with the power of Heaven.

He’d be in City Park telling hundreds of gathering people that the poor will be blessed, those overcome with sorrow will laugh, and the persecuted will inherit the Kingdom.

If He came to church on Sunday morning He’d probably answer questions with more questions, tell seemingly random anecdotes, and offend religious sensibilities. Or, as one of my Pastors often says, he’d probably head straight to the kid’s church, and we’d have to go back there to see him.

One thing is for sure: wherever Jesus went, he left a trail of healed and liberated people behind Him.

I don’t see that in myself. I’d like to think that the people in my wake aren’t wounded by my interactions with them, but they aren’t usually changed. And everyone- every single person – that met Jesus was changed.

Living like that sounds hard. But it wasn’t hard for Jesus because He was overcome with selfless love and constantly “moved with compassion.” Everything He did, He did as a man, filled with the Spirit and empowered by God. That means I can do it too, but it doesn’t work if I don’t love.

Going where Jesus goes is hard and ultimately meaningless if I’m acting out of obligation rather than compassion.

 

On Reading Stories About A Stranger

So, I recently realized that I don’t know Jesus.

… I know, that’s a pretty surprising statement. Let me explain:

I know God the Father, and I know Holy Spirit. I couldn’t explain the mystery of the Trinity to you, but I do know what my Heavenly Father’s face looks like when He’s proud of me, when He smiles at me, and when He expects better of me. I know the sound of His voice, both The Still Small and The Audible.

I know how it feels when Holy Spirit whispers to me, urging me to do something that’s new for me; how it feels when He comforts me; how my heart thumps out of my chest when I know He’s giving me a word or a song to share.

But Jesus?

I guess I know some stuff about what the Bible says about Him and what other people say about Him; I know the Sunday School Answers. I know that I feel an aching jealousy when I hear people talk about Him like he’s a real person that they really know. I know that when I read the gospels, I feel like I’m reading stories about a stranger, and I know that I feel guilty about this, all of this.

I can’t put my finger on exactly when or why I noticed, but over the course of the last two months, a hole has been growing inside me; the unshakeable feeling that I’m missing something important has been weighing on me like cement around my feet. It dawned on me that I pray in His name, I speak of His deeds, I sing songs about His beauty, but Jesus is far less real in my life than Gandalf or Sherlock or even Michael Scott. He’s little more than a character to me.

I believe that Jesus is the Christ, my Savior, who loves me so dearly He died for me. I’m just not sure that I could have a conversation with Him.

Here’s the thing. Jesus scares me.

I’m scared of what He would say about my life and my heart and my priorities, and of what He would ask me to change. I do know enough about Jesus’ life on earth to know that He made a habit of turning reality upside-down and challenging people’s theological boxes, their perception of right and wrong, of personal responsibility, and of the real-life workings of love.

On my birthday two months ago, I asked God to teach me to live fearlessly this year. Wouldn’t you know, this whole Jesus Thing is how it seems He’s decided to answer. Absolutely every voice, influence, and circumstance in my life is pushing me toward Jesus, as if I had been carefully picking my way down a slope of loose rocks when the very ground beneath me began to give way and rush me uncontrollably into him. I can’t slow down. It’s at once terrifying and exhilarating.

God’s spoken to me about the next season of my life and about what the next 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months hold for me and my family, and I’ve said yes. Yes, let Jesus make me uncomfortable and let the Bible make me squirm, yes, let me be scared and challenged and completely out of my element.

I just have to know this crazy man for myself.

As always, I’ll be sharing every gory, uncomfortable, wonderful detail here as I careen headfirst into… well, whoever Jesus is.

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