When Doing Leads to Undoing

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I’m learning to crochet. Is that dorky? I have a feeling what the hipsters do with yarn these days is knitting. But I’ve heard that takes two needles which is completely intimidating. So for now, it’s crochet.

The girls and I took a class at a local craft store, and after three hours we learned one stitch — if that’s even what you call it. We make rows over and over again in a line, turn, and make another line.

It’s too narrow for a blanket, too wide for a scarf, and it doesn’t matter anyway because I don’t know how to read a pattern or do anything, really. So far I’ve worked the yarn through Mr. Bean’s Holiday, one episode of American Pickers, and lots of conversation.

I want it to be relaxing, but so far I mainly work tense. I hear that shows up in the yarn. Of course it does.

Of all the things on my to do list, crochet doesn’t show up once. But maybe it should, as I’m learning sometimes I need to engage in an activity for the single purpose of disengaging from productivity. Today I’m writing about the importance of making an undo list over at (in)courage. Join me there?

The Importance of Following Clues

The sun went down laughing last night, leaving behind evidence of a beautiful exit. I never saw her directly, though it wasn’t for lack of trying, let me just tell you.  But she had her path and her timeline and she kept to it, no matter if I could find a good perch to spot her from before she slipped away for the night. Still, it was obvious she’d been here.

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The trail of beauty left behind points to a source beyond itself.

And you know what? Burdens leave a trail, too.

 “The soul was not made for an easy life. The soul was made for an easy yoke.”

John Ortberg, Soul Keeping

Since my soul wasn’t made for the easy life, I know hard circumstance aren’t my problem, not really. My problem is in how I carry them. When my soul feels downcast, it starts to show evidence that I’ve taken in the burdens of life in a way I’m not meant to – anxiety, overwhelm, frustration, defensiveness. These are signs of the heavy yoke. Burdens don’t come without leaving clues.

I’m writing more on what your soul really needs you to know today at (in)courage. Join me there?

One Thing My Soul is Begging Me to Do

Early last week I sat down to write my post for (in)courage and managed to finish it in less than an hour. I found a few photos to go with the post, titled it, saved it in drafts and didn’t think again about those 500 words.

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Days later, I get an email reminding me my (in)courage post is due and would I kindly let them know when it’s ready? I got that dread in my stomach that comes after writing on the internet for nearly 10 years, the memory of words written, words lost, and words having to be found again.

Sure enough when I checked the drafts, the post had disappeared, no trace remaining. Turns out the (in)courage site had a little hacking incident last week and some drafts and comments were lost.

And y’all? I couldn’t remember one word of what I said. Not a photo, not a topic, not a drop of memory. Can I tell you how losing those 500 words dug into my soul like I can’t even explain? Even while the world is still reeling from tensions in Ferguson and New York, with the sorrow in Sydney and Pakistan, with people all over the world and in my own city starving and cold and sick – I was hot and bothered about losing 500 words for a post.

What bothered me most was how bothered I was about it.

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In the past I would move from here into a place of shame. I would recognize that I was being ridiculous and try to shame myself into different behavior, never taking the time to recognize why losing the post bothered me so much to begin with.

But knowing how Christ came so we could be free, I hesitate to move so quickly to shame these days. Even in something small like this, I think he wants to keep company with me. It was in the midst of that tension that pieces of what I wrote about began to come back to me. I remembered I used this quote:

“One of the most important lessons I have learned over the past few years is how important it is to have time and space for being with what’s real in my life — to celebrate the joys, grieve the losses, shed my tears, sit with the questions, feel my anger, attend to my loneliness.” – Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms

That’s just it. I think the reason losing that post bothered me so much was because I hadn’t spent much time with what was really going on beneath the surface. And so the lost post landed like a heavy burden in my soul.

I don’t think we pay enough attention to the silent cares of the soul. We ignore her for long periods of time and then when she starts to flail within us by becoming overly emotional, getting frustrated too easily, or being bothered in an otherwise neutral interaction, we try to shame her into better behavior.

I’m not saying we should allow ourselves this bad behavior. I am saying we need to pay closer attention.

That’s when I remembered Tuesday was the day the post was set to publish. Tuesday is where we live our ordinary moments in our regular lives, the kind of moments that sometimes carry small irritants in our souls that we overlook because they aren’t “real” problems. It’s true, in comparison to the heartbreak in the world, they aren’t a very big deal. But Tuesday reminds me the importance of being with what actually is even if it feels minor.

Tuesday reminds me to attend to the footnote irritants that linger beneath the surface so they won’t later turn into headlines. Tuesday gives me permission to bring those irritants into the presence of Christ so I can ultimately release them into his care.

Recognize the fluttering anxieties as they come. Don’t give them a place to land. It seems simple which may be why I so often overlook it. But taking some time to “celebrate the joys, grieve the losses, shed my tears, sit with the questions, feel my anger, [and] attend to my loneliness” creates space in my soul.

A spacious soul makes room for others. A week before Christmas, I can’t think of a better gift to give.

By the way, I finally re-wrote the post and I would love to invite you to read it over at (in)courage. And then, let’s unwrap our Tuesday gifts together.

Jesus, Good Timing, and the Ministry of Mums

emily p freeman

Often I remind myself of the importance of speaking out and writing words, not because they’ve never been spoken or written before but because our saying or writing them may be the first time someone finally hears them.

I recently heard two simple sentences that had a deep impact on me, not because I’ve never heard anything like them but because I’m in a season where I needed to hear them now.

A few words Preston Yancey recently spoke came at just the right time for me, so right that when he said them, I had to block out everything that was happening around me until I could dig my phone out from the bottom of my purse, fumble with the notes app, and type frantically on the tiny phone keyboard these words, only partially remembered.

I’m sharing those words today at (in)courage.

For the Days that Feel Gray on the Inside

For When you Feel Like Creation is Over

Even if all your glasses tend to be half-full, if you lean toward Pooh and away from Eeyore, if you tend to be the first to spot the silver lining, there is a cloud that can descend upon you that you did not choose and cannot escape no matter how much you may try to reframe it.

Maybe it comes from running a little too hard for a little too long. Or from small discouragements that add up to one big gloom. And you wake up in the morning and realize the hopefulness that usually dances around you just isn’t there today.

This was me last week. I’m sharing about what to do when it feels like creation is over at (in)courage today. Join me there?

One Reason Why Rest Takes Courage

“Prison,” she said after sharing with me how desperately tired she was, “is starting to sound really good.”

She wasn’t in danger of being convicted of anything, unless exhaustion is considered a crime. But she was so tired that even the idea of prison didn’t repel her if it meant she could be on a mattress and read a book alone.

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Seems to me there are easier ways to get time alone than prison (Maybe a hotel? A lock on the bedroom door? Something that doesn’t involve bars?) but I knew what she meant. We laughed, shook our heads at ourselves, promised to never reveal those words to anyone because prison.

When desert islands, hospitals, sinus infections, broken legs, and jail start to sound like a vacation, you know you need to take a rest on purpose.

Today at (in)courage, I’m talking about why rest takes courage. To finish reading, join me there?

Sharing the Right-Now Stories

Yesterday I told you about that time I was terrified of sickness. It was a fear-filled time in my life that I am now able to look back on in an almost puzzled kind of way, wondering how I could have gotten so worked up for so long.

sharing the right-now stories emily p freeman

It’s easy to say that seven years later. What isn’t so easy to consider are the places I’m walking through right now, the ones that maybe aren’t so easy to talk about because I’m still in the middle of them. It’s important to tell the stories we’ve lived and come through. It’s also important to tell the one’s we’re living right now. But these aren’t as easy to find words for.

Today over at (in)courage I’m attempting to find the words where I am at present - hanging on to hope when the fog rolls in. You may read it and think well you still didn’t tell us much about where you are right now and to that, I will agree and simply say that is one reason why it’s hard to share the present, especially when the present involves fog. Because it’s not only hard to see where you’re going, it’s also hard to see where you are.

But writing helps. Hope*ologie helps. Routines and breath prayers and stillness helps. Spring break will help (starts tomorrow!) And hearing from others who are in similar places helps, too. Hope you’ll join me over at (in)courage.

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?

half thoughts on a snow day

porch snowOne thing I have learned in February so far is that it’s impossible to measure snowfall with a tape measure. Ask me how I know. We don’t have a ruler in our house so I can’t tell you how many inches of snow is sitting in our yard right now. It’s a lot though, which I realize is relative depending on where you live. For our kids, it’s more than they’ve seen at once in their lifetime.

snowingI bought that yellow jacket in Maine on our honeymoon nearly 13 years ago, never imagining when I picked it out on a cool day in July that my daughter would grab it on her way out the door to play in the snow, certainly never imagining it would fit her. And time stands silently beside me, leans over only to whisper a soft mmmm-hmmmm and a faint look at her now.

My eyes linger long on this photo, evidence of my little ones growing big. I’m nearly overcome until I notice my house in the background – wait, is my house crooked? 

The moment is gone. Oh well. It’s a snow day.

Here’s something I can hold onto today – I’m sharing six life lessons I learned while in Uganda today over at (in)courage. Join me there?

Yesterday I sent out February’s newsletter where I shared six meaningful books I read in 2013. If you would like to receive next month’s newsletter, you can sign up here for free. As a thank you for subscribing, I’ll send you a 65-page ebook I wrote called Seven Little Ways to Live Art. Thanks for reading, and stay safe wherever you are!