freedom

you CAN do a lot of things...

“You don’t HAVE to do anything, but you CAN do a lot of things.”

She was 16-years-old and said it with a comical grin, referring to my dilemma over whether or not to feel obligated to patch a small hole in my favorite skirt.  She’s a free spirit.

I have never been as free as I want/could/should/will be.

Her hair changes shape and color frequently.  Her opinions are strong, independent and well-supported.  She sees through people and things.  She was intimidating to adults when she was only 14, though she was almost always laughing, smiling, and teasing.

She had no idea that such a small, impromptu comment would linger and replay in my mind over the years. She probably had some idea that I have never really believed it.

What I've really believed is:  “I have to do a lot of things, and I can’t do just anything.”

I'm not talking about thoughtlessly following every impulse without concern for motives or how our choices affect others.  I'm not saying it's a bad idea to seek wise counsel...on things that matter.  In his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson writes:

"Freedom is the freedom to live as persons in love for the sake of God and neighbor..."

But good grief, we put a lot of silly expectations on ourselves (and others) that have nothing to do with love...or anything.  We value things that have no value.

Apparently, I do not need to ask anyone's permission to wear that old skirt or to change my hair.  In fact, no one really cares, not even my husband, who says: "I don't care if your hair is long or short as long as you stop talking about it."

You do not need your friends to agree with your choice in music or college or parenting style.  Go ahead. Do your own thing.

I don’t even have to choose one approach to writing or one genre to work in or one way to interact with people.

I can be free to think my own thoughts without apology, make up my own mind and even CHANGE it later.  We can be free to (gracefully) disagree with each other.

How great is that?

In her song, "Conversations," my friend Sara Groves sings,“The only thing that isn’t meaningless to me is Jesus Christ and the way He set me free…”.

Because of this, I can wear the skirt with the hole and leave it that way.  Or fix it.  Or toss it.  I'm free to not think about it, to not waste a second worrying about what someone might think.

There are very few things that truly matter. Who I am is safely rooted in the fact that God loves me because He loves me.  With all my holes and tears.  As is.  Since that's secure, I have nothing to prove, nothing to earn, nothing to lose.

Because we ARE free; we should act like free people.  You don't HAVE to do anything, but you CAN do a lot of things.

 

Letting Herself Go

And by “she,” I mean me.

Or I.

Whatever. That’s the point.

I’m turning less young this week, and I've been learning…slowly..painfully slowly… the art of letting my SELF...go.

Before I ever again look at a woman and think “sad how she’s let herself go,” I’m going to lean in (which, granted, might cause her some alarm) and see what’s behind the eyes.

I’ll look for things like...

The sparkle of joy that comes with freedom from obsessing over fashion trends, from running a politically-correct check on every syllable, from conforming to cultural ideas of cool (which are, by the way, initiated and enforced by our youngest members, who are gloriously creative but who also have way more time on their hands than they ever will again - no offense intended, young friends).

The laughter of a person who has stopped trying to pretend she didn’t just trip (literally or figuratively) and just enjoys the humanity of it all. Chuckles at the past, because what’s done is done. Smiles at the present because imperfect is more interesting, and good & bad both pass quickly. Sideways grins at the future because it’s a mystery, and mystery is fun.

The boldness of an artist who doesn’t have time to waste or words to mince, but has something to say, to share, and is determined to be about it.

The courage to walk a different way, to risk being misunderstood by her peers, criticized by the peanut gallery, laughed at by the young, or condescended to by the old.

The  inward peace of a soul who knows her destination, and

the wisdom of one who recognizes the silliness of our performing.

When I observe these things in a person, I know I’ve met someone who has made some real progress in letting go of SELF-ness and all its derivatives: self-consciousness, self-pity, self-centeredness, self-reliance…

And, ah, it is so inspiring to meet free people!

Here we are in the presence of GREATNESS as we walk across this magnificent stage, but don't we completely miss the show when all we can think about is whether or not our make up is still in place (applies to men, too, figuratively), or whether people are watching or approving or laughing or not?

May we grow free as we grow older.  In doing so, we will actually grow younger, because bondage accelerates aging.

As my friend and worship director said from the pulpit recently:

You are not nearly as big a deal as you think you are. :)

On the other hand, you and I have the potential to leave a serious footprint here for the kingdom of God, if we can just keep ourSELVES out of the way.

In her right place...

I didn’t grow up with my hands in the dirt.  I never planted anything in any of the yards of any of the houses we called home over those years.  It was Grandma, who lived with us, who set roses in the beds.  Grandma on her knees in the same old paint-stained brown jeans she loved, with kneepads strapped on as age made bones tender.  One year, I bought her a little green garden cushion for those knees, and that was the extent of my awareness of garden life.

As young marrieds in Indiana, in that first house of ours--the yellow 1917 bungalow on E. 10th Street—some nurturing instinct kicked in, and we covered the chain link fence in blue morning glories.

Transplanted to the east coast, I dug a flat circle in the center of the sunlight, between towering pines, sewed seeds for a cutting garden. We love trying to call up blueberries, tomatoes, rosemary from this Carolina clay.

So these past weeks, we’ve celebrated the Great Return, the re-emergence of things buried months ago.  And I kneeled yesterday like Grandma did, thinning out and relocating perennial offspring to empty spaces elsewhere.

Sometimes I find myself standing there with dirty roots in hand, stalled by indecision…shade or sun?  Drought tolerant?  Deer-tolerant? How big will it get?  If I put this here, I can’t put it there…will I regret it?  Will it hate me for moving it?

(Not known for my decision-making skills.)

Eventually, I make the call and…hope for the best.

And my heart digs too, these days, at the bulbs of decisions made along the years.  The garden we’ve been working at since we met…the merging of two from before.  How exactly did we get to this particular place?  Is this what we expected to come of us?  I don’t remember why we made that choice.  Do we love it? Does it matter?

It’s true that some plans were uprooted here and there.  Some preferences changed along the way…certain climates turned out more or less pleasant than we’d thought they’d be.

One spring we blossomed blue instead of raspberry. Surprise!   Five offshoots. Surprise!

Some seasons we prepare for shadows, then find ourselves in 8 hours of sunlight a day.  In others that same sun beats down til our heads droop low.

Maybe you find yourself in the middle of a Home & Garden layout.

Or not.  Maybe instead you are one of those tucked back under woody branches, and the prospect of rescue looks bleak.

Do you seem to always be on the outside of the “Editor’s Choice” circle?  The one where all the "popular" flowers (zinnias!) are?

Maybe you said “yes” to something which meant a sad “no” to something else, and you felt loss...

My friend Karla has, as long as I’ve known her, has had her hands in the soil, adding to the beauty of earth with a little texture here, a bit of color there.  I long hoped some of her magic would rub off on me.

One day, it did.

She said:  I don’t worry about the arrangements too much.  I don’t have any kind of master plan.  I just dig a hole and throw in some dirt – if they don’t work, I move them later.  Mostly trial and error.

Crazy how much that freed me.  That bit of wisdom alleviated a great deal of pressure: just try something.

Why not try and see?  It's okay.

But I am further comforted to know that GOD doesn’t operate that way.  He knows in advance and He knows completely. The season of shadows will serve His glory and my good…which are permanently interwined.

The season of light also will serve His glory and my good…which are permanently intertwined.

And the elusive show gardens we stand outside?  Merely flats of topsoil carved by human hands…a far cry from the multi-dimensional-ever-blooming land of primavera we (His children) are destined for, and to which we (His children) already belong.

The gardener knows the soil.  He is a gardener on his knees, setting every rose in her right place.

IJM: 5 Weeks for Freedom - Nashville

(Me, IJM Staffers Daria Wilson and Amy Lucia, Sara Groves)

I've been hearing about International Justice Mission for a while now, primarily in association with my friend Sara Groves who has been a passionate supporter and contributor to IJM.  Interestingly, we had just recently talked about IJM and the possibility of my contributing at some point, when I got a call from the coordinator of the Nashville 5 Weeks for Freedom event, asking if I could participate.  This was just a couple of weeks ago, and the event took place on Saturday (July 10).  It seemed meant to be, and I was excited to be with them and learn more about their work.

I am still shocked by the numbers and the stories...more slaves today than during the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade (four centuries!)??!!?  How is this possible?  Why don't we hear more about it?  Young children (like yours and mine), women (like you and me), tricked and trapped into brothels, violently abused every night.  Widows and their children forced off their own land, left to wander without provision or shelter.  This is happening.  Right now it's happening.

There are laws in place, laws that prohibit slavery.  IJM's investigators, attorneys and social workers are entering into the gap and not only rescuing and rehabilitating the victims, but going after the source of corruption and bringing oppressors to justice.  They are currently at work in 13 developing countries around the world and have brought thousands of people out of slavery It's no small thing.

There are lots of ways to be a part of this good work.  You don't have to be famous or rich or available to travel.  Check out the numerous possibilities...all you really need is to care enough to act.  To do or share what God puts in your hands to do or share.  In the face of tremendous need everywhere in the world, we can become paralyzed and do nothing, since we can't do everything.  Doing nothing can't be an option for people who have been given everything that is needed for Life.

By the way, a super easy way you can join in right now:  Grab your phone and TEXT "FREEDOM" to 20222...$10 without even having to put a stamp on an envelope.  Could we together ask 100,000 people to do that once this summer?

(My sister Mandy played & sang with me.)

I gave a few songs and it's not enough to save even a small village. But if we pass out the bread God has entrusted us with, can we not trust God to make it matter?

you can do a lot of things...

“You don’t HAVE to do anything, but you CAN do a lot of things.”

She was 16-years-old and said it with a comical grin, referring to my dilemma over whether or not to feel obligated to patch a small hole in my skirt.  She’s a free spirit.

I have never been as free as I want/could/should/will be.

Her hair changes shape and color frequently.  Her opinions are strong, independent and well-supported.  She sees through people and things.  She was intimidating to adults when she was only 14, though she was almost always laughing, smiling, and teasing.

She had no idea that such a small, impromptu comment would linger and replay in my mind over the years. She probably had some idea that I have never really believed it.

My functional belief has been more like:

“I have to do a lot of things, and I can’t do just anything.”

I'm a follower of Jesus Christ, and I’m not implying we should follow every impulse without concern for our motives or the effects on others.  Freedom doesn't equal self-indulgence.

But wow, we put a lot of bogus expectations on ourselves (and others) that have nothing to do with the pleasure of God.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10, NIV)

One of the works to which I’ve been called is the creation of music.  Simple.  At the same time, I’ve been entrusted with a rather large family, as well as church and neighborhood communities.   You have been entrusted with works, good gifts, and responsibilities.

If you'd take a second to name them and then scroll down your mental list of expectations you put on yourself within each category...my guess is that most of us have too many things on that list.

We bury the beautiful, simple purpose (simple: make music, share music) in extraneous details and become passive participants in our own daily lives.  We aren't choosing anymore. We're swept up in a current of amplified priorities and task lists that come largely from what we think the rest of the world thinks we should be or do.

Because of the current, I forget to play the piano...

I forget to look my family members in the eye and listen...

I forget to give thanks...

I forget to laugh...

I forget that God is sovereign over my vocation and that drivenness is not a fruit of the Spirit.

I forget that as far as this life on earth goes, the present moment is really all we have.

Here's the truth.  There is no one right timeline for bringing a baby home, or releasing a record, or posting a blog, or running a half-marathon.  I don’t have to choose one approach to writing or one style of music or one way to interact with people.  We don't have to make anything happen.

There is no “right” house size or style of decorating.  It doesn’t matter whether my mother likes the color of my walls (LOL sorry, Mom) or whether my countertops are formica or granite.  There is no condemnation for having zero functioning towel rods hanging in my house.  It.doesn’t.matter.

In her song, "Conversations," my friend Sara Groves sings,“The only thing that isn’t meaningless to me is Jesus Christ and the way He set me free…”.

Because of this, I can wear a skirt with a hole in it, and leave it that way.  I'm free to not think about it.

I am free to do (or not do) a lot of things.