What Happens in Our Fields of Gold

13899866064_f32103f2bd_oUnless you’re driving to Wilmington or Charleston, there is no Interstate that takes you directly to the coast of North or South Carolina. Instead, you have to choose a back roads route. This drive to the beach is always one I enjoy because the smaller towns offer vignettes of life you can watch as you drive by. Be careful not to speed, though. The cops love to catch beach traffic speeding through the 35 mph zones.

This house in the photo above sits on SC-38  right after crossing over I-95. Those yellow fields are straight out of Oz, as if the poppies and the yellow brick road had a baby. I had to take a picture because of course.

While we were at the coast during our short spring break, I thought a lot about the place in life where we are now. The end of April marks 10 months since John left his job at the church. Part of the fog I’ve talked about lately is I’m sure because of this time of transition we’re living in. It’s what we wanted and in many ways what we hoped it would be, but in my eagerness to leave the parts of the job that were taxing on my husband, I forgot to grieve leaving the parts that were good.

One of my own personal struggles is a temptation to always look ahead to the next thing, idealizing the other-ness of what is not rather than embracing the essence of what is. That’s not always bad, but it is a delicate kind of learned art to be able to look ahead while also celebrating now, to imagine what could be without discounting what is.

As I’ve been reading in the gospels lately, I’m reminded of how personal, present, and local Jesus was when he was here on earth. He didn’t teach about roads he hadn’t traveled on or cultures he didn’t live among (even though as all-knowing God of course he could have). Instead, he chose to sit with neighbors in neighborhoods, to walk with them in celebration and in grief, to eat meals and use the stuff of meals – bread, salt, wine, fish – in his conversations. He spoke of the future because that’s why he came, but he didn’t do so at the expense of the present.

Curious once we got back home, I looked up the yellow-brick-road poppy field house on google maps. Here is a screenshot of what I found:

house on hwy 38

Maybe the woman who lives in that house looks forward to those yellow flowers blooming every year. Maybe that field is the first thing she looks at when she walks outside no matter what time of year it is, remembering the beauty that was before and the promise of beauty to come again. Maybe “beauty” is a terrible word for what I’m trying to say here. Maybe she doesn’t divide it up like that at all – the beautiful and the not beautiful. Maybe I don’t get to say what’s beautiful since I don’t actually live there.

As a traveler with a curbside view, I notice her house because of all the pretty color, snap a photo and that’s all I see. But it doesn’t always look that way and the people who live there know that. They embrace the yellow when it comes but they don’t leave with it. They continue to live there, among the brown fields with their golden memory, beneath the sky when it’s blue and when it’s gray, within the little white house on the vast green lawn at the end of the gravel driveway.

Home isn’t either beautiful or not, happy or sad, full or empty. Home is both and home is and, whether home is church or family or a cul-de-sac. Home has good parts, hard parts, marvelous and miracle parts. Home is where we celebrate and where we grieve, where we are broken and healed, hurt and made whole again.

 And if this is your house? Please tell us about the fields of gold in spring and how it feels in winter, about the distant tree-line and living on highway 38 and if you always have that Sting song in your head. Or this Eva Cassidy version (thank you Katie Reid!):

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For Your Weekend

morning - chatting at the skyOn this day set aside to remember the death of Christ, this day of waiting for his ressurection life, this day of awareness, may I confront my desperate need for him. May I breathe out my own hopelessness, my own weakness and snobbery. May I admit the cups I cannot fill, the hands I refuse to hold, the eyes I dare not gaze into. May I see my own reflection and remember why he had to die.

In this, may I allow myself to be rescued, to hear the promises he has made, to feel the strength with which he searches for me and see the delight on his face when he finds me. May I let myself be seen, found and loved so that I may see, find, and love in return.

In his mercy, by his grace, and because of his great love.

 

for your weekend

emily freeman - chatting at the sky

May I not despise small beginnings even if they lead only to small endings. When I seek to grasp for bigger and wider, may I remember how much I treasure smallness, simplicity, and soul space. If I begin to work hard to carve out a sense of myself, may I turn – again and again – toward the presence of God.

And may I ever remember that no one gets to tell me who I am except my Father. Any commentaries about my identity, either out there or in here,  may I let them gently go.

Enjoy your weekend, friends. Here are a few good reads along the way:

Sharing a Secret and an Invitation (!!)

“Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts the most. You need to remember that when you find yourself at a beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up.”

Hope Floats

This past fall when I first announced plans to host an event with my family, I heard from many of you from all over the country expressing interest in coming. We wanted to keep the gathering small and somewhat intimate to allow for conversation and connection so we limited the number of tickets.

barn at The Nesters

As it turns out, those tickets sold out on the first day with many others putting their name on a waiting list. Beyond that, I know many of you wanted to come but couldn’t manage a trip all the way here to North Carolina.

One week after our barn event, our family gathered together for Thanksgiving. As we talked over turkey and pie,  I realized planning and hosting that event for you with my family was one of the most fun and meaningful afternoons I had had in a long time.

I wanted to do it again. And again.

And we plan to. But we just don’t have a barn ready yet.

Still, our desire to do something together — Myquillyn and Chad, Mom and Dad, Me and John — is strong.

We want to figure out a way to offer hope-filled encouragement for anyone, not just those who can travel to an event. We want to figure out a way to share our own journey of finding grace, embracing imperfection, and holding on to hope as a family in the middle parts of life (and the endings and beginnings, too).

We want to figure out a way to offer what we hold in our collective hands and see if the offering might be a daily grace for someone else – maybe for you.

hopeologie family

Because of those desires, ever since our first barn event in November, we’ve been dreaming and planning and preparing something together to offer to you. It’s unlike anything any of us have ever done. And today is the day we finally invite you to join us in it – right where you are.

(!!!!)

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Dad, Myquillyn and I are all different in the ways we communicate and the things we write about. But the one place all of our passions point is toward hope.

Dad writes about family – grace and forgiveness and what it means to embrace the family you have right now even if it’s not the family you always thought would be.

Myquillyn writes about home – acceptance and imperfection and what it means to love the home you’re in right now even if it’s not the home you always dreamed of.

I write about the soul – courage and faith and what it means to walk with Jesus as the person I am right now rather than the person I wish I were instead.

While we’ll continue to write about these things on our individual blogs for free, we’ve created Hope*ologie so that we can move beyond the blog post to partner with you as we intentionally turn toward hope in the simple places where we are right now – in our homes, our families, our own souls.

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We’ll have podcasts (with my sister!), videos (for DIYs and interviews!) printables (to make your own Hope*book!) a monthly hand-lettered print from one of our favorite artists, Annie Barnett, (I can’t stop with the !!) and much more.

We haven’t talked about it online at all and are admittedly sneaking in the back door of the internet with this one, whispering an invitation to any hopers who may feel alone or in need of renewal in your family, your home, or in the quietness of your own soul.

The best part? The first month is available right now for anyone who chooses to join Hope*ologie – including a lifetime discount for joining the first month. To read all about what you’ll receive as a member of Hope*ologie, visit hopeolgie.com and join us for hope in the middle.

for your weekend

for your weekend - chatting at the skyThis weekend, in the regular rhythms of home and play, of work and washing, of listening and slow conversation, may I see God even though I don’t see God. May I not demand a spectacle, a miracle, or a sign. May I simply, quietly, be still and know.

Enjoy your weekend, friends. Here are a few good reads for this Sunday afternoon:

for your weekend

chatting at the skyThis weekend may our minds be filled with peace from constant questioning, wondering, feeling our way in the dark. May the light of Christ spread out like gold, liquid from the hot light of truth. May he seep under our doorways and into our dark rooms, covering every inch.

As we sit in our Christ-room, may we have the courage to see our reflection and remember the words of Barbara Brown Taylor, that “Jesus was not brought down by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion.” (from Bread And Wine: Readings For Lent And Easter)

May we remember not to elevate our defenses and reasoning above everything else. May we see people as human rather than walking issues; ourselves as guilty even as we are loved. May we know Christ and the power of his miraculous resurrection, and may this life who lives within us make an actual difference in the way we move into the world.

May we take some time to be still and quiet and loved even as our hearts are breaking.

for your weekend

chatting at the sky

This weekend, may I not be surprised by my own ability to mess things up. May I refuse to be shocked by my own, jealousy, stubbornness, impatience and indifference. May I stop trying to find my own way out.

Instead, may I be surprised by grace, delighted by God’s presence, and comforted by his unrelenting acceptance of me.

Enjoy your weekend, friends.

Have you taken the 8 question Chatting at the Sky survey yet? It takes about 2 minutes. Would love to know your opinion. Also, a reminder that next Friday March 28 we’ll share What We Learned in March. I hope you’ll join us for one of my favorite posts of the month.

My Husband the Pastor

John graduated from seminary and got a job working in youth ministry right before our wedding. For the next twelve years, he took the trips, led the studies, planned the games, taught the lessons, scheduled the concerts, met with the parents, baptized the believers, prayed with the doubters.

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He celebrated the graduates, grieved with the dying, and sat with those they left behind.

A lot of the job was hard. Some of it was life-giving. The best part for John was the people – his fellow pastors, the students, the volunteers.

That’s the part we miss the most.

Eight months after John left his job, I’m sharing at (in)courage an update of where we are now, along with two important lessons no one ever thought to teach us. Join us there?

for your weekend

learning to listen and see

May this weekend be one of seeing the true state of my silent soul and hearing the words beneath that remain unspoken. May Christ be my security when I care too much about the small things and my salvation when I care too little about the big ones.

May I have the insight, discernment, and humility to know the difference.

Enjoy your weekend, friends. Here are a few good reads along the way:

Why I Want to Know You and Also Avoid You

“‘You have come from dust, and to dust you will return.’ In other words, ‘You are going to die. And here are some ashes to remind you, just in case you’ve forgotten.’”

- Mark Roberts, on Ash Wednesday for Patheos

ash wednesdayWe got our first desktop computer during my senior year of high school. We were living in Detroit and Dad set the computer up on his brown L-shaped desk in his study. I sat at that computer for hours late into the night, but I wasn’t surfing the web – no, no. In fact, when a guy at my school that year mentioned something about one of our favorite bands having a ‘web page’ I was all, What on earth is that? You can’t have a page on a computer. Duh.

It was 1994.

Instead, what I was doing on the computer was typing all of my thoughts and ideas and dreams into a document I had saved there under the file name “emily.” (Sneaky. And also secure.)

I typed out all of my innermost and then printed out each entry, slid the page into a plastic protector, and collected them all in a white two-inch binder with a cool title page I made from super rad clip art.binderThat next year I took the binder to college with me, continuing to add to it as well as read from it when I wanted to remember. My roommate, Faith, asked me about the binder one day, wondering if I ever expected or wanted someone else to read the words I wrote in it. Maybe she thought the only reason why her quiet-ish roommate would have a diary the size of our Western Civ. textbook is if she intended on sharing the words with the world one day.

Her question surprised me. I didn’t write to be read, I wrote because writing helped me know what I thought about things. But her asking made me think about it and a small part of me, secret and hidden, liked the idea of sharing what I wrote with someone.

It felt like somewhere deep within, sharing the writing would be the most honest thing I could do. It represented what was most alive within me, and to imagine sharing that with someone else was a compelling thought. Risky, impossible, crazy. But compelling.

My desire to be known was stirred.

“Much of our isolation is self-chosen . . . This self-reliance has many attractions. It gives us a sense of power, it allows us to move quickly, it offers us the satisfaction of being our own boss, and it praises many rewards and prizes. However, the underside of this self-reliance is loneliness, isolation and a constant fear of not making it in life.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen, Here and Now

On the right-hand corner of my desk, right next to the books I’m currently reading, sits a small envelope holder. This is where I keep notes friends have written. I didn’t plan for it to become a prominent place, but every time I’ve received a note from someone in the actual mail, there it goes, right on my desk where I can see it everyday, a reminder of my inability to do this on my own – this living and working and moving through life.

on my deskFor the past several months I’ve been reading Thomas Merton’s autobiography of faith, The Seven Storey Mountain. (It’s a long book, but I’m also a slow reader.) He writes in fascinating detail of the time he spent as a student at Columbia in New York, indulging in all of the things young students in the late 1930s could indulge in, resulting in “confusion and misery.”

“Yet, strangely enough, it was on this big factory of a campus that the Holy Ghost was waiting to show me the light, in His own light. And one of the chief means He used, and through which he operated, was human friendship.” – Thomas Merton

Sharing life and friendship with a few peers at Columbia was in important part of a long journey Merton was on toward finding faith. When I read those words, I thought of the role human friendship has played in my own life, how I have both craved and feared vulnerability, how I have sought connection but also denied my need for it.

Nothing causes me to face my own humanity, frailty, and weakness than when I am in communion with others. Nothing causes me to see myself as I really am, to admit I’m not as great as I think, or to face my perceived entitlements than when I am in the midst of other people.

I am easy to live with in a room by myself. Lord, I don’t want to live in a room by myself. Except for when I do.

To know and be known is both compelling and repulsive to me. Do I even know what that means? Truly? I don’t know if I do.

Today on Ash Wednesday, I acknowledge my hopelessness apart from Christ, my anxiety outside of his presence, my certain death if not for his sacrifice.

I acknowledge I have come from dust and will return to dust again. But more than dying one day in the future, I have already died with Christ. I acknowledge my need to de-tatch from the obsessions and addictions that convince me my old man is still alive and re-attach to Christ as my only hope.

I also acknowledge that the way God moves on earth is through the hands and eyes and feet of people – both the ones I’m naturally drawn to and the ones who get on my nerves.

I am hopeless without Him.

I am hopeless without them.

“No matter how sad, wounded, neurotic, or needy we are, that may be exactly what some other person needs us to be at that time. We don’t know the ways we comfort and save each other, not only in spite of our wounds, but also in some cases, because of them.”

-Heather King, Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux

I did not grow up in a church that observed Ash Wednesday. In the past few years, I’ve started to learn a little more and have found the Lenten season of deeper reflection to lead into an even more meaningful celebration of the resurrection at Easter.

For further reading: