If you know me at all - you know I write - a lot. There's 1000's of pages of journal entries. On top of that I write stories - boiled stories, mashed stories - stick 'em in a stew stories ... or something like that. I've even started writing poetry these days. Words - rarely fail me - and yet when it comes to succinctly and clearly laying out the origin story for the grace habit - my head is a blender-full of whirling syllables and images. Not helpful.
So - what follows is far from a thorough origin story - which kinda bugs because man do I love thoroughness!! But because I like you - I will not torture you. I've had several people tell me I should really put the whole thing into a book but my efforts to put this to words at all has made it clear that I just don't have that level of clarity - yet. So ... here we go
After decades of pursuing Jesus full on - I broke my life. I wanted so much to do so much good - that I got carried away building up and sent all the little pieces of my life toppling over when I pulled that one jenga piece out ... you might have seen it ... Here I am - balancing my over-stretched life - and trusting Jesus will make everything okay.
Just for fun let me name a few of those jenga pieces ... the tanking economy, burn-out, exhaustion, my mom's passing, joint injury after joint injury, insomnia, friends who did precisely what friends shouldn't, my church community struggling, student run-aways, more loved ones passing, JC's struggling, worse insomnia, the economy getting even worse (how??), a nasty round of H1N1 + pneumonia, God seemingly put me on hold with bad muzak, mis-diagnoses, more insomnia, more joint injuries, still worse insomnia, lousy friends unlocked a horrible-ness achievement and attain super powers of dastardliness, playing round after round of "hey - look who else is on Facebook Messenger at 3am!" - and all of this coated in shame while I scrambled to "fix it".
I tried all sort of miracle "murican" cures like restoring all the things through the pursuit of fitness (read: more injuries) and the healing power of traveling to Las Vegas. Everything in the last 3 or so paragraphs took place in about 9 months.
It was literally breathtaking - in every single possible wrong way. All "solutions" were horrible. Behind door #1 - dive into the deep end of medical ignorance - but they were already torturing me with horrible meds, misdiagnoses and worst of all: disdain. (which kinda stinks because I know a dumb amount of stuff about health and am not actually dumb). Behind door #2 - quit the ministry ... I mean - seriously - this was a hard season. zero fun potential ... yet JC's is my calling. Or door #3 - quit my job ... which was also zero fun and zillions of stress. Of course - my job did give me this stuff ... you might have heard of it ... money ... and health insurance.
Naturally - I picked door number three and quit my job - cuz' you know - who needs a stable pay-check and insurance when you've got Jesus?
So - to all the above jenga blocks o' fun - I added a nifty block called: fund-raising. It took forever - because I was a hot sick sleepless mess and already working enough hours for a couple of people - but hey - this was my magic door - right? It felt good to focus. Except ... strange things kept happening ... for-instance - I kept getting sicker, sleeping less, and those darn friends - it's like they were reading straight out of the book of Job. So - while I was sure I'd picked the right door - it felt a bit like that box thingy up there and to the left ...
It took forever - but finally - the pieces were in place - I had fund-raised enough to quit ... there was still more fund-raising to do - but I could stop working myself quite literally to death. It was beautiful.
You know this doesn't end well - right?
Literally upon arriving home after my last day at work - more joint injuries, donors bailed, and Jobs 3 friends showed up to make sure I knew that this was all because I was a horrible lying person with zero faith. *sigh*
I wish I could say that this is when things got better. They only got better in the sense that now the plot thickened - and the suspense deepened ... it was kind of like when you're Samwise and you're thinking - oh thank goodness - we made it - Frodo just has to drop the ring over the edge ...
This was the point at which I became frighteningly sick. I didn't advertise it - after years of illness - my feet were swollen they hurt, I was covered in sores, I smelled sick. Apparently I wasn't fooling pros though - as random health professionals would give me their business cards - I was really sick. Scary & awful things were going wrong with my body and essentially no one knew. No one really knew with what. I had horrible insurance. No community. I was on the verge of losing my house. I made peace with the idea of never getting well ... this was the darkest time of my life and it dragged on for years as I got sicker and sicker and sicker. I did not delude myself for one second into thinking that God would let me croak - and then show up when I was four days dead to resurrect me. He merely seemed "pleased to crush" me.
Making peace with living sick in my case looked like living life sitting down - which was a necessity because I had zero energy. I budgeted my energy tighter than my actual budget. If you know me - you know that's saying something. I gave up backpacking - and took up learning church history. Kayaking was traded in for quilting. I started having the longest times with God you can imagine ... because God seemed to be back - and this was the only thing that filled my tank. I desperately wanted to live in a world where God saves the day - and I am fully committed to letting God be God - free of boxes - and in faith gave over more and more because - after all - who am I to tell God what a saved day has to look like. I believe walking by faith means we follow where God leads.
Some interesting things did start to happen in this "make peace" phase though. Really interesting. Like God began putting new friends in my life - and old friends in a new way - and this community - this new circle of friendships - well they flat out ran circles around the old ones even in the best of times. But I also learned that as hurt as I'd felt - as abandoned as I'd felt by God - I couldn't make good on walking away from Him. I just don't have it in me. In fact - I came through that part of the storm with an ability to grip Him and hang onto Him - that just slays me. It's not me. It's Him. Trust me on this one.
Also - I don't seem to really have it in me to give up on health - so this became what I ate - and I thought - there has to be a way to sleep again. So began at least 18 months of experimentation - which when you can't breathe (read: you're living with oxygen deprivation) and insomnia (read: sleep deprivation) means - you forget all the things all the time!! So I'd mow my lawn - rake it into a bowl - and eat it without dressing - it tasted like hate and anger - but it paired well with mountains of little rubbery supplements.
I also don't seem to have it in me to give up on my calling - so I planned a big 'ol camping trip. Obviously. Backpacking might have been out of the question - but I was going to go into the desert and sit on a rock - and square things away with Jesus.
So this is the season that the Grace Habit was born into - and I'll finish bringing this story home with Part 2 - next Wednesday.
Praying you all have a wonderful and lovely Mother's Day weekend and Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful mothers out there!