Wednesday, May 20, 2020

parenting yourself: Mental Health Awareness Month


Pre-quarantine, back in the days of yore, my husband and I went to a dinner party. I had been battling on-going physical and mental health issues and learning how to deal with panic attacks. We had jumped through some hoops to find childcare so that we could spend an evening with adults, but Anxiety didn’t care. I had been up most of the night with one of my kids, and my anxiety was through the roof. We were sharing a babysitter with several other families, and all the kids were at our house, so I didn’t want to cancel even though I knew I wasn’t in a good place to socialize.

I spent the whole evening battling panic attacks while  trying to appear to be fine. I knew what tools to use and how to talk myself through my anxiety, but it was completely exhausting. Instead of a refreshing time with adults, it was a terribly difficult evening. I spent most of it fighting the urge to run away, to get some space, and to breathe through it all in a private place.

As someone who has struggled with depression and continues to live with anxiety disorder, I am passionate about sharing openly in order to help #breakthestigma around mental health issues. This is Mental Health Awareness Month. I wanted to say something beautiful and inspiring, but all of the beautiful things feel a little disingenuous right now. Instead, I’ll say what’s true for me about my mental health right now: it is exhausting. I have learned so much and have a lot more tools at my disposal now than I did a few years ago, and for that I am grateful. However, I’ve been thinking about how much energy I expend in trying to re-parent myself when I am anxious. Perhaps because of the quarantine, I am more acutely aware of how difficult it is to parent my children when I am also trying to parent myself. 

When I became a mom, I had no idea how hard it would be. As hard as motherhood is, I have discovered community with so many other moms who have the same struggles. However, I find it more difficult to find the same solidarity and validation in the journey of mothering myself. I just wanted to say that if you are doing the good, hard work of parenting yourself in the midst of the craziness that is 2020, I see you. You are not alone.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mothered by God



In the beginning, God hovered over the Earth like a mother bird preparing her nest. A baby grows within a mother’s body and then emerges with the mother’s DNA, like the mystery of Jesus’ “I in you and you in Me.”  When new life arrives, mothers nourish and nurture. They remain deeply in tune with and protective of their young but also lead them through the beautiful, painful process of growth and maturity. 

So it is with God. In my own spiritual journey, I’ve been recognizing the ways that I have been mothered by God. The affirmation of Imago Dei in me, not despite being a woman but because I am a woman, has healed me in places I had not recognized were hurting. Whether we give literal birth or not, we are all like God as Mother any time we give birth to, nourish, or nurture another person, a dream, an idea, or a creative endeavor. We give of ourselves for the protection and growth of the thing that is both of us and separate from us.

Joy and grief both arise out of the vulnerability of loving deeply. Motherhood is wrapped up with so many intense emotions. This day finds deep gratitude and grief sitting side by side. Whether you are joyous or grieving or both, I am rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. May you find yourself mothered by God.

Thank you to all of those who have mothered me. You have helped me become who I am and give me glimpses of who I will be. 
Blessings to you all on this Mother’s Day.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Quarantine queries, #4: how can I talk back to my shame?



We are coming to the end of week 7 in quarantine. Every day I am grateful for many things, but today I felt Not Ok. I’m learning that when I struggle, the struggle itself usually pales in comparison to the shame that is close on the heels of the initial problem. Some days, it whispers and I can dismiss it without too much effort. Today, it was loud and insistent.

Today’s quarantine query is: How can I talk back to my shame?

Shame says, “You should be better than this.”

Love says, “I’m so sorry you’re hurting.”

Today was a really difficult day in the O’Connor household. For seven weeks, I’ve ridden the ebbing and flowing waves of anxiety and mostly felt like I was handling life well enough. Today, the illusion was gone. My child’s shame spiral fed into mine and they played off of each other like a dizzying tangle of slinkies. I had one of those moments in parenting where I had no idea what to do, other than to be present, despite the emotions I could not hold in.

After a physically and emotionally draining day, I saw a sunny post of a mom with her happy children, and the shame hit hard. “Your kid is not ok because you are not ok. You should be better.” This is what shame says, but I’m learning to talk back.

I reached out to someone who loves me very much because that’s the first step in exposing shame for the lie that it is. My loved one helped return me to myself. As I criticized myself for “checking out” and not engaging more with my children, he said, “Dissociating is a sign of trauma and stress. What can you do to take care of yourself?”

And then I wept. I wept for the little girl in me who is struggling more than she thought. Shame had said I should be better, but when I could step outside of myself and gain a new perspective, I could love myself by saying, “I’m so sorry you’re hurting.”

So if this is you, if you are struggling with “not enough” or “too much” or the terrible burden of both, I just wanted you to know that you’re not alone. Shame says you should be better, but I see you, and I hope you’ll let me help you talk back. I just wanted to say that I’m so sorry you’re hurting.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Quarantine queries, #3: Where will I belong?

As a 6 on the Enneagram , I am aware that I tend to give too much weight to authority figures and systems. A year ago, when I was praying and discerning a big decision, I pictured myself with tons of cords coming from my body, plugged into many outlets representing systems that I’ve trusted more than I trusted myself. I pictured God telling me that God was working on gradually unplugging me from these external systems until one day, all that will be left will be the two of us. 

We have a tendency to become overly attached to the gifts God gives, forgetting that our first love must be the Giver, not the gifts. I got sad news today, that the leader of our beloved faith community is being called elsewhere. I felt overwhelmed by another big change when I’ve had so, so many in the past couple of years, and right now, the whole world is changing so much. At first I kept thinking, when everything changes, where will I belong? Our pastor gave me a place to belong when I felt spiritually homeless. She made a place for me and affirmed, supported, and made a place for my calling when she really had no reason to do so. She showed me what a woman in a position of top leadership could look like in a faith community, which I needed more than I had realized. It is such a loss.

And yet, though she has been such a gift, she is remaining faithful to her calling, and I trust that God will continue the unfolding of mine. God is the one who gave me this place to land when I didn’t belong anywhere, just as God was the one to provide so many other gentle spaces for me during a big faith transition. I don’t know what the Lord is doing now, but when I look back, I can see that God was always enough. When everything around me changes, the Lord is steady, extending a hand and inviting me to take hold as I fix my eyes on God’s and try to “bear the beams of love.”

Instead of deliverance from trials great and small, I now pray for God to give me eyes to see divine provision in the midst of them, and what I now see is that God has always been enough. When everything changes, I belong to the Holy One, who affirms my fixed place as the apple of God’s eye and always makes provision for me, usually in a way I never would have known to ask for. Instead of asking God whether I will be taken care of, I can watch in anticipation to see HOW I will be taken care of. The ways we are held in different seasons are far more creative than anything I could dream up, and God rarely provides the same way twice. In the midst of change, the one thing that has remained and will remain the same is that God is always enough. As our pastor says, “So may it ever be.”




Sunday, April 5, 2020

Quarantine Queries, #2: How can I stay centered?

This week's quarantine query:"How do I stay centered amidst all the uncertainty?"

I find that during this anxious time filled with a steady outpouring of information that is constantly changing, I am leaning on spiritual practices that I have been introduced to over the past couple of years. My practices are inconsistent and very imperfect, often interrupted by the other people in my house, but they are still helpful. God can do so much with our imperfect offerings.

These days, my emotions and mental state are a roller coaster--I feel fine for a few hours, the better part of a day, and then suddenly anxiety surfaces. Recently I took a moment to sit quietly before God and was amazed at how immediately I felt God's presence. I realized that I need this spiritual discipline (centering prayer) in order to practice allowing my body and heart to remember what my mind knows: God is with us. When I struggle to trust the information coming from my mind, perhaps I can learn to trust my body and heart. I'm answering this week's quarantine query in the form of a poem because sometimes writing in verse helps me to get out of my head and into my heart and body.



Epidemic

I know the signs by now.

Help!

Bring me back to myself, 
I pray.

The swirling uncertainty within me 
is now mirrored by the world without.

How can I go outside of myself 
to get what I need,
when outside of myself 
is just as tumultuous?
Noise, news,
pain, panic,
story after story after story so textured,
they bleed together liked watercolors and 
fill in the rough sketches of my mind
as it effortlessly paints detailed pictures of 10,000 what-ifs.

I should stop inhaling the stories, right?
But then how will I know what’s coming?
How can I prepare for 10,000 what-ifs
without reading 10,000 stories?
I can’t stop myself from reading them.
I put them on like clothing, 
placing myself within them 
to see what I would do.
Could I stand the suffering?

Of course, I knew he was essential,
but now Dallas county does, too.
To my husband as he leaves for work:
We have Tylenol, right?
They’re saying not to use Ibuprofen, 
though the reports are conflicting.
And we have cough medicine?
And nausea medicine?
And Gatorade?
And chicken soup?
And a thermometer?
And a teledoc?

and, 
and, 
and…
Sanitize your groceries
Disinfect your doorknobs and light switches
Dispose of the outside packaging from Amazon
And letters from loved ones
whose love might be tainted with infectious disease.

Wash your hands for 20 seconds.
I pretend it’s a thousand massages a day for my fingers—
they’ve never felt so loved.
Let the counting add some rhythm to the dissonance.
Wipe down your screens,
Stay 6 feet apart—but only if you must go out—
Wear a mask,
Wear gloves,
Wear goggles,
And cover every part that makes you human.

Stay at home,
Hop on Zoom for the tenth time this week,
FaceTime with the grandparents
and remind them of these simple 
Rules for Staying Alive.

Sanitize your life
so that you will be safe, safe, safe
Safe safe safe safe
safesafesafesafesafesafesafesafesafe

Stop.

Breathe, 2, 3, 4,
And out, 6, 7, 8

Someone 
is here with you, 
waiting to be remembered.
My head remembers, always—
You were ingrained in my thoughts from the beginning.
My mother and father sang of You to me
before I drew my first breath.

But this body, 
my body,
Forgets.

My jaw clamped shut,
Shoulders drawn up,
Stomach churning,
Muscles burning—

This body 
forgets.

My heart leaps forward
to go get what it thinks I will need
out there.
Feeling judgy feelings about my anxious body,
tense as it is.
Body and heart at war with my mind,
as it is rationally explaining irrational thoughts.

I used to dismiss you, body,
Or try to reason with you
Or blame out there
for in here.

I’m so sorry.

Now I know you were only giving information,
just like my feelings were doing—
giving feedback
to help me to survive. 
But it’s ok now;
I’ll listen.

Close my eyes,
Breathe again…

You’re here.

Emmanuel.

I feel You enshrouding me with Yourself,
closer than the air I’m breathing.

Jaw relaxes,
Shoulders drop,
Stomach stills.
When I stop
my body remembers.

I check in with heart:
Do you remember?
I wait.

Peace.

My heart remembers.

When we all remember
that You are here,
I can finally finally finally say
It is well with my soul.

Help me— body, heart, not-just-mind—
Remember
as You re-member me,
putting me back together,
returning me to myself
until all that’s left is 
love,

Love,

Love.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Quarantine Queries, #1: What do I do with my anxiety?

I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart…
And to try to love the questions themselves, 
as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.
Don’t search for the answers,
which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then,
someday far in the future,
you will gradually,
without even noticing it,
live your way into the answer.

-Rainer Maria Rilke


During this global pandemic, the whole world seems to have turned upside down. The city I live in has issued a "shelter-in-place" through April 30th. People everywhere are figuring out how to deal with something no one living has ever experienced before. As we all fumble our way through this temporary but drastic challenge to business-as-usual, we have so many questions. As a 6 on the Enneagram, I am an expert question-asker. I thought I would start a blog series based on some of the big questions that arise during this uncertain time.

Question #1: What do I do with my anxiety?

Last night, during our virtual gathering with Greater Love Collective, my dear friend shared this quote from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke and guided us through the practice of lectio divina, which involves repeated readings (or listening) of a passage accompanied with meditation and response to the words. On the second reading, the phrase “have patience” leapt out at me. I sat there at my tiny desk, before a computer screen full of 16 other participants on the Zoom call, my eyes closed. I allowed myself to be enveloped by the love that is expressed through having patience with myself during this hard, weird time when I am not always responding to anxiety and (appropriate) fear as I would like to do.

I had been lamenting the difficulty of trying to steal a moment alone to make space for my thoughts and feelings without being interrupted by my children. Today, between interruptions, I felt God leading me to a particular page of a devotional called Jesus Always, by Sarah Young. I opened to the passage for March 4, as I felt directed, and was shocked when I saw that the very first sentence spoke about waiting patiently on the Lord. I was so relieved to find that when I stopped and paid attention, I knew that I knew deep in my spirit that God was paying attention. 

How interesting! I thought. I had assumed that I needed peace in the face of my anxiety, but God is inviting me into patience. And then I realized that peace does not come when I am impatient, scrambling to fix, move on, plan, and make things happen. Peace is not a thing to go get, but rather a thing to allow. It is ever available, though we often need help receiving it.


I am a little rusty on spiritual lessons in crisis, but I am remembering from my postpartum depression days that God can do a whole lot with the briefest of moments when life does not provide the time I wish I had to linger in God’s presence. So for now, in the midst of homeschooling, teaching classes online, mediating conflicts between my children, and generally trying to figure out how to carry on my regular duties during “shelter at home,” I am seizing these brief moments to notice, in the words of the wise Reverend Joseph Stabile, the secular infused with the sacred.

For the first time in the past week, I was able to quiet my mind long enough to relish unhurried time outside with my children, read a book, and lie on my back to look up at the trees. I noticed the shades of green tinted by sunlight and shadows that created a watercolor palette of spring colors. I closed my eyes and listened to the wind rustling the branches above me, felt the breeze move quietly across my face, and let myself be supported by the ground beneath me. Patience with an unprecedented global crisis, absent the need to do anything to fix it in this moment, made room for peace.



When the whole world is telling us that we must scramble and panic and “go get,” may we remember the sacred, ancient practice of allowing. When we allow, we release the temptation to make ourselves responsible for even knowing what we need in a given moment. Instead, we open ourselves to receive the very best that God has to offer us in that moment. Grace and peace to you, my friends.


*I'm much better at updating social media than I am at blogging! Find me over at:
Instagram: @shamelessbibliophile
Facebook: Rooted in Love
Twitter: @LindsayLOconnor

Thursday, October 3, 2019

on Botham Jean and forgiveness: justice and mercy are not mutually exclusive



The unjust, unprovoked murder of Botham Jean is a symptom of the communal sin of white supremacy. The idea that whiteness is superior is so baked into our society, none of us can be unaffected. If we do not actively work to dismantle it, we are upholding it. Though Amber Guyger was convicted, she is but a representative of communal sin that we must acknowledge and for which we must repent.

The same Jesus who taught us to forgive our enemies “70 times 7” also caused the transformation that led Zacchias to confess his sin, turn away from it, and make it right by paying back what he had wrongfully stolen, plus added interest. The same Jesus who uttered, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” also criticized the Pharisees for neglecting “the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matt. 23:23). Jesus’ commands with regard to mercy and justice are not mutually exclusive. *

Brandt Jean displayed amazing grace in forgiving his brother’s murderer, but I fear that white Christians are too quick to grab onto this fact while ignoring the horror of the injustice that preceded it. When we focus on Brandt’s forgiveness, we are prioritizing white comfort and allowing ourselves to dismiss the white supremacy that killed Botham Jean. We are excusing ourselves from having to sit in the discomfort of our complicity in a system that regularly kills innocent black and brown people. No less important, we are setting ourselves up to uphold Brandt’s forgiveness as a standard for all black people, invalidating and dismissing their need and right to process lament, anger, fear, etc, before jumping into forgiveness.

To my black brothers and sisters, I am so sorry. I am sorry for your daily reality that makes this horrible occurrence all too common. I’m sorry for the system that devalues your lives and for the ways I have been complicit. I’m sorry for the responses of white folks who refuse to validate your anger and sorrow. I pray for your protection and comfort in grief. I lament with you and pray for the courage, energy, and endurance to dismantle white supremacy with my co-laborers in Christ, for the healing of us all.

Friday, September 20, 2019

why lament?: how suffering precedes joy

Photo by nappy from Pexels
Great joy often accompanies birth and resurrection. I find it interesting that birth precedes death, and death precedes resurrection. Joy and grief, or life and death, are inextricably tied together, and we can’t fully appreciate one without the other. Expressions of greatest joy in the Bible are often found in stories with themes of birth and resurrection: the resurrection of Lazarus and the little girl in Mark 5; the birth of babies, particularly to barren women (barrenness is like a death that precedes birth); and then of course, the birth and resurrection of Jesus. To be joy-filled people, we have to reckon with death. When we have a joy problem, we likely also have a grief problem. 

Last night I attended an event put on by a local organization called Threaded. Threaded helps people, churches, and other organizations with issues related to racial reconciliation. Once a quarter, they have an event called “Reconcile,”where people from all different churches, denominations, races, and ethnicities come together to practice listening to and sharing diverse perspectives. They provided guiding questions that we used in our table discussions. Among other principles, they have a step based on the ideas of lament and confession, but the goal at the end is that it would all lead to rejoicing. Rejoicing is a natural byproduct of reconciliation done well. This is an example of lament as a necessary precursor to rejoicing, just as death is a necessary precursor to resurrection.

We usually think about grief and lament as the result of a loss of a loved one or the loss of some thing, which is certainly not wrong. However, we also need to make space to lament that life is not as it ought to be.* In the case of racial reconciliation, this is an important idea — the acknowledgement that things are not how they were meant to be or how God intended. The book of Genesis describes the garden of Eden, before sin. Revelation 21:1-5 says, 

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” 

With Genesis and Revelation, we see these bookends in the Bible of the way things are meant to be. The world started out the way God intended and will eventually be restored and made new. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has set eternity in our hearts. Deep down, we have a sense for the way things are supposed to be. It’s easy for us to be aware, even if subconsciously, that the world is broken, along with other people and ourselves. Lament is the appropriate response to the discrepancy between the reality versus the picture we have in the Bible and in our own hearts of how God intended for things to be.

As Christians, and especially in the western Evangelical Christian world, we focus heavily on salvation. Individual salvation is exalted as being more important than anything else in the Christian life. This is problematic because it leaves out a full, wholistic picture of the Gospel: way God created the world to be, the fall and the brokenness, and then the eventual restoration when God creates the new heaven and earth.**

Jesus talks a lot about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven and says that it is not some distant future but is now:

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
--Matthew 4:17

I used to be confused about what that meant. Even in the Lord’s prayer, we pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I’m realizing that the Kingdom of God right now points to our work as believers: to allow God, through us, to restore things to the way God intended them to be. That restoration won’t be complete until God creates the new heaven and new earth. However, God uses the time we are born into, our experiences, resources, talents, strengths, and weaknesses to position us in a place where we can be restorers here and now, in very specific ways. That might look like restoring relationships, broken and oppressive systems, physical health, mental health, the environment, or restoring dignity to people who have been marginalized and oppressed. 

The specific ways we are called to be restorers are often tied to the areas of our lives where we have experienced the deepest pain and lament. The things that grieve our hearts the way that they grieve God’s tend to be the areas where we get to be restorers for other people. These are the places where we have the greatest empathy and compassion for others. 

Consider when we hear testimonies from people who have been in really hard places. Maybe they have experienced compete healing and freedom, or maybe they’re still in hard places but have learned how to walk through it with Emmanuel, God with us, and have learned to find joy in the midst of suffering. Sometimes the greatest joy we’ll hear these people speak about is when they get to a point that they are healed enough spiritually (maybe circumstances haven’t changed but they have been healed spiritually) that they get to be restorers and compassionate helpers to other people who are walking through similar trials. Ultimately, acknowledging and working through our own deep pain and suffering can lead to the greatest joy and fulfillment because that’s what we were made for. We were made to be reconcilers, just as Jesus reconciled us to Himself.

*...and yet, undaunted by Paula Rinehart and Connally Gilliam is a brand new book that explores this idea further. You can preorder it on Amazon here

**The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons was hugely instrumental in walking me through this idea and what it means to be a restorer.

Questions to consider:

  1. Where have you been? Think about times of your greatest joy and greatest pain and notice the timing. Do joy and grief seem to go together or is it more of a cycle? Do you see any patterns?
  2. Where are you right now? Are you experiencing joy, grief, apathy? What has put you in that place?
  3. How have you experienced healing, if you have?  
  4. OR what’s hard about right now? If you’re in the middle of it and it’s still raw, make space for yourself to be in that place.
  5. What is the healing that you have experienced and desire most for other people to experience?
  6. What do you notice in the world that grieves you the most?
  7. What are some specific places where you see that? In yourself, a friend or family member, a community? How have you been or could you be a restorer in that situation?
  8. What has given you or would give you the greatest joy with regard to this pain?

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Guest Post by J.E. Berry: Why is Identity So Hard?


I am so excited to introduce you to my guest blogger for today, J. E. Berry! We know each other through an online Christian writers' group, and J.E. shares my heart for mothers. She is the author of a brand new book called Set Free to Be Set ApartYou can order it on Amazon here, and you can check out her website at JEBerryspeaks.com. You can find her on social media @jeberryspeaks The issue of identity is near and dear to my heart, so I am pleased to share her thoughts about why it can be so hard for us to grapple with our true identity. 


Why is identity so hard?


Who we believe ourselves to be, is the jumping point for everything we do. It determines what we do, how well we do it, and why we do it. However, if we have no grasp on who we truly are or are meant to be, no matter what we do we will lack fulfillment.
As a kid and young adult, I was so busy managing feelings and trauma that I had hardly any time to figure out who I was. I was recovering from childhood traumas as well as self-inflicted traumas. My identity was based on how I coped with life. It was so unstable. I couldn’t focus on finding who I really was because I was so busy just trying to maintain life in general. Though I had met Jesus as a child, so many things led me away from who I was in Him. Trying to name myself and live by my own rules simply kept me swerving off the path to truth.

Knowing who we are seems to be more farfetched for most of us than we would like. For the first third, half, or even most of our lives we can spend grappling with truth and lies of who we are. Growing up we tend to spend a lot of time imitating and feeling our way through life. Wondering through traditions, habits, what we have been taught, and examples set for us. It can take a life time for us to figure out exactly who we are if we are searching in our own right. The problem with the search for identity is that we usually start in the wrong places to begin with. We typically look to ourselves, and sometimes others. Both tactics are a waste of time and irrelevant when we take into consideration that our identity can only be found in the One who identified us in the first place. The Father. He created us and identified us as His own from the very beginning of it all. Without Him, we have no identity at all. We were made in His image and for His purposes. God knows who we are. We’re the ones playing catch-up. 
But, why is identity so hard?
It’s hard because we are inundated by an adversary who actively wants to label us everything other than what we have been called in Christ. When we struggle with identity, there is only one culprit who has anything to gain from us not knowing who we are. Our enemy, Satan. He knows that when we are unsure of who we are and whose we are, we lack the confidence we need to be effective in the Kingdom of God and in our personal lives. He knows that once we are sure of our heirship in Christ, we are certain to take the authority that comes with our re-born birth right. Identity is hard because we have an enemy with a distain for who we are. He wants to chain us to deception. He has a permanent assignment against our life. However as much as he pushes to keep us wrapped in false identities, we have a God who is an issuer of grace, revelation, and security. He is where we start.
Just like when we are born into the world, our birth in Christ comes with an issuance of identity. Not a job title, not a talent, but a declaration of who we are. Before Christ we are identified as lost, sinners, slaves to sin. Upon relationship with Christ we are identified as heirs, children of God. Everything we consist of is a continuation from that truth. We are who God says we are. Not what people say, the enemy says, or even who we say we are if it doesn’t align with what the Father says about us. We can only be found in Him. All else is a striving for the wind.
We combat false or confused identity by way of an infusion of the Truth. An infusion and continuous meditation on the Word of God. Scripture is the sword that cuts down every lie and strong hold that seeks to separate us from our identity and purposes in Christ. In Scripture, we are equipped with everything we need for us to walk in confident identity and fully purposed. However, if we do not intentionally devour and apply God’s word to our lives, who we are will be a continuous wonder. 
We have no need to wonder. 
Grab a hold of the Truth. Be freed in your redemption through Christ. Walk with your shoulders back, head high, chains off, crown on.

J.E. Berry
J.E. Berry is the author of Set Free to be Set Apart Now available for purchase !

Meet J.E. Berry

J.E. Berry is author, speaker, and singer/song writer. She is a beloved wife and mother of five children. J.E. has a heart for missions, mothers, and seeing people come to know freedom and purpose through a relationship with Christ Jesus, specifically those who have yet to see their God given destiny because of lingering bondage. As an author and speaker, she explores things that hinder us from moving forward in our walk with Christ. She carries this same passion into her worship.

Friday, May 31, 2019

something to hang your hat on


If you’ve been reading my writing or had any in-depth conversations with me lately, you know that I am in the wilderness territory of deconstructing and decolonizing my faith. This can mean different things to different people. For now, I’ll just say that I am trying to learn how to separate out my culture from my faith and am re-examining long-held beliefs. I feel so assured of Jesus and His love for me because of the undeniable ways He has broken into my life, but everything else is up for re-examination. I have thoughts and opinions, but I’m learning to hold them all loosely in order to leave room for growth and transformation. 

At first, it felt like the bottom fell out. Feeling unsure of things I thought I knew for so long was a bit unsettling. I felt like I shouldn't let go until I knew I had something else to hold onto. However, I don’t feel anxious about being in this place anymore because even in the middle of it, I see the richness of the treasures that can only be found in the intimacy of a God who condescends to wrestle with us. He is my solid ground when everything else is shifting. Sometimes it’s a lonely place to be, though. It feels like I woke up one morning and all the furniture was suddenly the wrong size. Nothing quite fits anymore, but everyone else around me carries on as though nothing has changed. Though God has provided people along the way to serve as oases in this desert of not belonging, I still struggle sometimes to know where I fit. 

All of these feelings were particularly strong one Sunday at church. After the service, instead of going to Sunday school, I found a place to sit by myself. After a meditative sit (centering prayer), I came away with the question, “What DO I know?” When things feel uncertain or challenging, sometimes it helps to start with what I do know.


After journaling on one side of a little card I had found to write on, I flipped it over to the back. I asked God, “What do You know about me?” Immediately the answer came to me: “You are Mine.”

I asked myself, “What does it mean to belong to God?” The first thing that came to mind was this passage from one of my very favorite books, The Little Prince. In this passage, a fox is speaking to the little prince:

“But if you tame me, my life will be filled with sunshine. I’ll know the sound of 
         footsteps that will be different from all the rest. Other footsteps send me back                            
         underground. Yours will call me out of my burrow like music. And then, look! You see 
         the wheat fields over there? I don’t eat bread. For me wheat is of no use whatever. 
         Wheat fields say nothing to me. Which is sad. But you have hair the color of gold. So 
         it will be wonderful, once you’ve tamed me! The wheat, which is golden, will remind 
         me of you. And I’ll love the sound of the wind in the wheat…”

I thought about God loving me like that. In the book The Creator Revealed, physicist Michael G. Strauss explains how, despite the vast size of the universe, “our universe is about the smallest a universe could be and support life.” God created all of it—the planets and stars and sun and moon, all of it— to prepare a home for us, like a mother who is nesting in joyful anticipation just before the birth of her baby. He is so taken with us, with me. I felt as though He were enfolding me in His embrace as He showed me that everything reminds Him of me.

This made me think about how many times the Bible uses the word “remember.” I researched and found from Bible scholar Chad Bird, who says that the Hebrew word for remember, “zakar is to employ your hands and feet and lips to engage in whatever action that remembrance requires." The concept of remembering in the Bible is a body activity, not just a head trip. Bird goes on to give example after example in the Bible when “God remembered” someone and then immediately followed the remembering with a saving action on behalf of that person or community. Bird says, “We are those remembered by God. We are the object of His active, saving, incarnating, remembering mercy in Christ.”

So many issues in the Bible are more complex than I used to think. Gone are the days of comfortable, easy faith. Sometimes I grieve those days when I thought I could just read the Bible and come to an immediate, clear understanding of something nuanced. A responsible interpretation of scripture requires an understanding of the cultural context and language, as well as an awareness of the cultural lens with which I am reading the passage.

The not-knowing can be overwhelming, but this is what I do know: God is absolutely smitten with us. He can’t get us out of His mind, and for Him, remembering employs a perfect balance of mind, body, and heart. His affection, thoughts, and actions toward us are in perfect alignment with His great love for us. In a world that seems so topsy-turvy, that truth is something I can hang my hat on. I feel at peace not knowing where I land on all all the hot topics up for biblical debate when I am centered in the truth of His love for me. This peace opens me up to hear from Him more clearly about the things He wants me to know. I must trust my own experience of God before I can tackle the other issues, and He is faithful to show up and be to me exactly what I need.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
—Matthew 22:37-40