FRAGMENTS

“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.” ~ Anais Nin

On Life and the Pathway to Joy

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It’s hard to explain how I’ve been feeling of late. Work is intense. Hobbling around on a broken foot is exhausting. My son Lucas turning eleven is overwhelming. It’s emotional and brings on waves of nostalgia. I remember the day he was born as though it were yesterday. The feel of his tiny little hands against my breast. The baby smell and the wonderful way he had of snuggling up with me and how Emma would come and shove her fingers in his face in awe and big-sister-excitement.

There’s also something desperately sad about things right now. Going through a divorce is the most difficult thing I never wanted to go through – and here I am right in the middle of it. I’m sure that’s part of it. Actually, I know it’s a lot of the emotion of what I’m feeling – failure, shame, sorrow, and a sense of finality. But around and in and through that are other feelings. I have a new sense of gratitude for my family. An overarching sense of thankfulness for my mom and dad and for my mom’s husband, Wayne. They’ve each been present and kind to me. Also for my sisters and for my sister’s husband, who have been a constant balm of love in myriad ways. I also have a new sense of gratitude for friends who quietly watch and love me, and understand the nature of life enough to give me room to live this season out in all its precarious and tenuous emotions.

Life is filled with beauty and wonder and grandeur and also overwhelming loss. There are things that happen we don’t recover from. We make our way through them into something else. We walk through the valley of the shadow of death and can’t possibly stay the same. I feel like I’ve been in this long season of shadow, of hiddenness and heartache, and finally decided to step into a more honest place, and the consequences are overwhelming. And yet, there is a specific kind of strength that comes from telling the truth about ourselves.

My daughter has wanted her own horse to ride for as long as she’s been able to use complete sentences. It’s been the secret and public prayer of her heart. I’ve been at a loss as to how to help her with all the changes in our lives, except to tell her over and over to talk to her grandpa and see if there’s anything he can do to help her. (He’s a horse trainer and has lots of friends in the horse world.) And recently my dad found her a horse to ride. He’s been picking her up on the weekends to take her to the barn, where she gets her fill of all things horse.

Lucas starts Lacrosse today, something he’s wanted to do for months. I got him all signed up and he’ll be off. All to say, they’re growing up, moving into more, finding their way to joy day by day and learning to bear the unbearable with a kind of grace I find remarkably admirable. I feel like I’ve been asking them to bear the unbearable for too many years of their young lives. I’ve asked them to deal with moving countries, with changing schools, changing languages, moving houses, and now …  the separation of their parents.

How much is too much?

My good friend is sick with cancer. Another friend’s husband was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. Another friend of mine has had to fight like hell to see his children. Another friend has a sick child. Each one of us has circumstances that require us to bear up under the unbearable and somehow find a way through. Which is what we do. We find a way through.

Some of us must bear up under our own horrible decisions. We’ve made mistakes and can’t undo them. We’ve hurt people and can’t unhurt them. Others of us have hurt ourselves, or we’ve been deeply wounded by loved ones or by broken systems and institutions and can’t find the way to relief. So we go on our way and tell ourselves it doesn’t matter, that it will be okay. But deep down, in the dark places of our hearts, it does matter and sometimes it’s hard to sleep at night. We worry and deal with anxiety. Our hearts race. Our stomachs turn over. Our bodies get sick and can’t seem to heal and we wonder if this is really what it’s all about. Is this as good as it gets?

Yes. It is. This is life. It’s filled with wonder and awe, with beauty and mystery, with love and hope, and also with crushing disappointments and death. But always with new life. 

It’s how we approach it that makes the difference.

I don’t have magic solutions. But I do have this … Gratitude is the pathway to joy. And real friendships, honest intimate relationships, heal us. My friend Lupe always says, “We are wounded in community, and we are healed in community.”

There is magic is opening our hearts to our loved ones and letting people into our lives. There is magic in asking for help, in sharing our secrets, in letting people love us. And there is a certain kind of magical restoration in choosing to love someone else, in putting their needs before our own. It breaks the back of loneliness and isolation.

In my favorite novel, Gilead, the Pastor John Ames says God usually gives each of us someone we can honor. To parents he gives us our children. And to children he gives us our parents. It is in honoring the other, the different, the one not like me, that pulls me out of myself into something more.

And it is in giving thanks that the mysteries of life are put in proper perspective and we learn how to somehow bear the unbearable.

 

On Taking Care of Our Souls

BoardwalkEmma, Lucas, and I sat in my car a few days ago before school; the rain came down so hard we had to concentrate to hear one another. The car was still cold so we were shivering, tired, still stuck in the morning fog of slow movements. I was wishing we could escape the on-rushing day of responsibilities and obligations.

I pulled out my Book of Common Prayer and read to them. It happened to be Psalm 62. “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.” Verse 5 says, “For God alone, o my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.”

The Psalmist talks to his soul, speaks to his innermost being and tells himself what he needs to do. Wait on God. Wait in Silence. There’s this sense of relationship that David has with his soul, with his heart.

About five years ago a good friend of mine was diagnosed with a debilitating disease. We spoke of it off and on, and I knew it was overwhelming beyond anything a person should ever have to bear up under. I was powerless to help her. There was little I could do to alleviate her burden. This was her story, her journey, and though I loved her, almost as much as I love my own life, this was her life and she needed to work it out with God.

Months later, she called me and said she was doing better. I asked her what happened, what made it so she was better. She said she had spent a number of months trying to escape her pain. She didn’t know how to deal with it, so she ran from it. And then she woke one day and realized she couldn’t feel her soul. She didn’t know where it was… She couldn’t talk to it, because she couldn’t find it. So, in desperation she got up and started doing the work of taking care of her soul, again. Of living, of enjoying her life, of setting goals, and dreaming … for though she had been diagnosed with a debilitating disease, she was not dead. She was alive.

In my car that day, I asked Emma and Lucas about their souls, if they knew how to access their hearts in such a way. They both pondered for a moment. Emma stretched out her arms and said she feels her soul when she runs free on a horse. This made me smile, because for a twelve-year-old-girl, she knows exactly what she’s talking about. When I run care free on a horse, I also feel my deepest self, my soul, in a tender way.

Lucas told me, “My soul is tired.” And then he yawned. This made me smile too, because when our bodies are tired, it takes a toll on our souls, doesn’t it? Although, there are different kinds of exhaustion. One can work all day outside in the fresh air or go on a gut-wrenching hike and come home exhausted, and also feel a deep kind of soul rest. Or one can work and work, toil and toil, and feel as if his or her soul is disappearing – disintegrating and have no idea how to find himself again.

When I returned home from Chile last summer, I was tired and afraid, overwhelmed by the reality of life. I didn’t know what I needed. I could hardly read. Church frightened me. I didn’t want anyone to ask me questions, or tell me how to fix my life. I worked at Costco for a few weeks and recognized so many familiar faces. Some of them threw solutions at me in rapid fire as I filled their carts with food. Though they meant well, I didn’t want to hear more clamor, more trivial chatter about how to fix the hard things. Sometimes us Christians can be the most trivial people around, filled with superficial solutions. God isn’t filled with superficial solutions. But sometimes, his people are. 

So, in a moment of desperation, I decided to go to hot yoga. I’d never done yoga. In fact, many years ago, I actually taught against it! However, my reasons for being against yoga didn’t seem to be all that important anymore, so I purchased ten visits to a local studio that had a promotion going, found a yoga mat, and started.

It was there, on my mat, where I began to listen to my own heart speak and take heed. The teachers were kind and spoke with a tender authority. They invited me to be present, to attend to the moment. There was a silence in the studio that offered me sanctuary. I needed silence. I needed to hear my own heart speak and then, slowly, bring it to God and ask for his help.

Something happened at each practice. At one point or another, big alligator tears would spring and I’d have to pause, return to child’s pose and let the emotions of my life overwhelm me. At one point, we were in tree pose, standing tall, and the teacher said, “Something good will bloom from this dark time.” A well of emotion lurched out of me and it was all I could do not to burst into tears. The nice thing about hot yoga is that everyone is sweating, so my salty tears blended nicely with the room.

I’m not going to tell you yoga is what you need. It was a means of grace for me. It might be the exact opposite for you. But all of us need to find ways to tend our souls, to nurture them, and strengthen ourselves in God.

How do you nurture and tend to your soul?

 

How Do We Help, Then?

Picture of someone helping another

In response to my recent post on people-pleasing, a good friend made a thoughtful comment to me about how it’s hard not to want to help, especially when we see someone in a difficult situation. My friend is right. It is hard when we want to help someone and they don’t seem to want or need us. We can feel powerless and frustrated, and left out. While it’s true that people need room to live their own lives, there must be something we can do. We were made to be in relationships and we want to help people we care about. I do think there are a few things we can do…

We can pray. This might seem trite. I don’t mean it to. There are times when we desperately want to do something and have no idea how to help and we end up batting about back and forth trying to fix people’s problems. Right now, I have a couple of friends who have cancer. While it’s true that they need some honest to goodness assistance, and personal attention, it’s also true they need prayer. Cancer is beyond me. My friends need more than I could ever offer them. They need light and life, love and hope, comfort and grace. Things God is able to give them in caring, and personal ways. Sometimes, we have friends who need practical, obvious help. Maybe you have a friend who needs money for groceries this month – instead of praying for them to get groceries, maybe you should simply buy them groceries. However, maybe that friend needs a job and has needed groceries every month for a year. Them getting a job is probably more than you can do. We are not all-knowing, all-powerful people. And many times our friends need more than we could possibly do for them. Maybe you have a friend with an addiction, or you have friend with cancer, or a friend who can’t get a job, or a friend who is going through a painful season of life. It may not be helpful to offer solutions and advice. But, it is always helpful to pray for them. When we talk to God about our friends, we place them in good hands, in knowing hands, in loving hands … and God’s light shines. He hears and helps.

We can ASK if there’s something they need. When I’ve been in seasons of overwhelming need and pain, the best aid has come when friends have asked what I need. They don’t presume to know what it is I should do with my life, they don’t presume to think they could possibly understand my particular set of circumstances. We always have freedom to ask if our friends need anything … and on many occasions, people will tell us what they need. It’s still good to love people even if we don’t have all the details. We can still hope for their good and lend a hand. We may not have the solution to their big burdens, but we might be able to help carry the load.

We can affirm them and communicate we want their best. There is a tendency to think that if I affirm someone, it also means I agree with everything they’re doing. That isn’t true. I can tell someone I love them without needing to qualify it. People need love. And they need friendship even when they’re doing something I may disagree with. People are on journeys and are finding their way. It doesn’t help to disapprove of them. It only alienates us and creates distance.

We can assume the best. People are generally trying to be good people and love their families and do what is right. People are also searching for God, trying to find their way to live an honest spiritual life. It’s gracious when we give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re doing their best.

We can be patient. Sometimes people need time. Jesus says don’t throw pearls before swine … In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard writes about this and I was forever altered by his teaching. Willard explains that when we go around throwing our pearls, our “good things” at people, our “solutions” and they aren’t ready or looking for our solutions, they get annoyed, and eventually turn and devour us. When we push people, or coerce people to do what we think they should do with their lives, we are overriding their will and trying to control them. Personal choice is paramount to living an authentic spiritual life. It’s not good to try and solve people’s problems for them, even in an attempt to “fix them.” They need to seek life and ask for what they need. If we wait and pray, over time, they may come to us and seek our counsel. And then, we’re invited into a relationship of loving friendship rather than coercion.

I hope you’re having a good Monday. I broke my foot … so my day is one of hobbling!

Much Love,

 

Tina

 

On People Pleasing

IMG_1582There’s this verse at the end of Romans chapter two that has me thinking. It’s one I’ve been pondering over the past few weeks because I’m a classic people pleaser. I want everyone to be happy. In particular, I’d like to them to be happy with me.

There’s at least two problems with this. The first is that nobody but God and me knows the exact nature of my circumstances. We have no idea what people are going through, what they’ve gone through, or how they’ve processed their life circumstances. We do not know what happens behind the closed doors of people’s private lives and what secrets they’re harboring. There’s no way people can agree or disagree with me on every little thing because they don’t know everything. We see in part. We know in part… But through a glass dimly. 

There are, of course, some people who know more than others, who are privy to our personal lives and have insight into pieces of our stories, and are able to make certain judgements because they’ve seen and know things. We may invite them into our personal lives because they have a quality we appreciate or a kind of moral compass we admire and we tell them our story in search of help or advocacy, perhaps even justification or for correction. There are also people with a certain level of discernment who see circumstances and can relate to them because of their own lives, and therefore have a compassion that becomes a great gift. But for the most part, each of us is a little bit alone with God in our life circumstances. This can be quite isolating. However, with an honest relationship with God, there can be great comfort in knowing God sees us and understands our hearts. That he alone knows the whole story and loves us just as we are in the middle of it.

The second great obstacle in receiving approval from the masses is that people are judgmental. I tend to be the worst among them. I have judged and evaluated situations and people that were none of my business. I usually realized afterwards that I was wrong, that there was more to the story and that a wee bit of mercy on my part might have proved beneficial. As my own life has come into scrutiny, I’ve come to the conclusion that when I dare to presume what someone else needs to do with their life, it’s a sure sign that I should probably take care of my own problems instead of being overly concerned with someone else’s. Make it your ambition to live a quiet life …


Anyways, this is the verse I’ve been mulling over:  
“No. a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.” (Romans 2:29)

A person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.

I’ve been part of the Christian culture for most of my life. We are notorious for being the most judgmental, arrogant bunch around. We love telling people what is right and wrong and how they should live their lives. It’s one of the things we do best.

Please don’t misunderstand me, there’s a place for asking people what they think and seeking counsel, for soliciting advice and getting help outside ourselves. There’s also an important place for public teaching. There’s just not a place for over-stepping one’s boundaries and giving counsel where it’s not invited. If someone wants to know what you think, they’ll usually ask. And if they want your help, they’ll ask for it. 

For those of us who are hopeless people pleasers, for those among us who want everyone to be happy, and long to feel justified and approved of by every Tom, Dick, and Harry – our cause is hopeless. The closer you walk with God, the more creative and unique your life will become and the masses will judge you. They will tell you you’re making mistakes. They will point their finger and shame you. They will point out that you should do it differently, and offer all kinds of advice you never thought of even wanting … They will sometimes be right and they will also sometimes be wrong. 

If you’re a stay-at-home mom, people will tell you to get a job. If you are a working mom they’ll tell you to go home and take care of your family. It you homeschool, people will tell you to put your kids in school, but if you have your kids in public school, some will tell you to pull them out and teach them at home. If you drink alcohol, some will say you shouldn’t. If you have chosen to refrain from watching rated R movies, there are some who will tell you that you’re being legalistic. If you watch Game of Thrones there are those who will tell you it’s pornography and you’re  being entertained by immorality. If you read Harry Potter to your kids you’re opening a door to the occult. If you don’t read Harry Potter, you are keeping them from the real world. The list could go on and on … There will always be someone with an opinion about what you should do with your life and they’re usually more than happy to tell you what it is.

Here is a promise: If you choose to build the foundation of your life on what people think of you, you will constantly be tossed and thrown about by every ridiculous notion that comes your way. However, when you know God and have a relationship with the One who made you, you have the freedom to seek your praise and your approval from Him and build your life on the Audience of One.

The lie we’ve been told by many is that when we live for God’s approval, it’ll be easy. That just isn’t true. It wasn’t true in the Bible narratives and it isn’t true today. Following God is always risky business. He won’t ever ask you to do something contrary to his nature, but … He is also no respecter of your reputation, either. And God sees long into the future and understands how to weave things together when we simply see part of the past and part of the present. Faith is required for us to do what God is asking of us … and not everyone is going to understand. Why should they? It’s not their life. What looks like faith to some, may seem like disobedience, or unimportant to others. This is the nature and complexity of walking with God. It is not for the faint of heart. But no one said it was. 

Much Love,

 

Tina

 

On Scandalous Redemption

re·demp·tion
rəˈdem(p)SH(ə)n/
noun
  1. 1.
    the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.
    “God’s plans for the redemption of his world”
    synonyms: saving, freeing from sin, absolution

    “God’s redemption of his people”
  2. 2.
    the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.
    synonyms: retrievalrecovery, reclamation, repossession, return More

    It has occurred to me, of late, that redemption is messy business. I have finally concluded that God goes about redemption in scandalous ways. Consider Mary and Joseph. Those of us who believe in the virgin birth believe Mary got pregnant in a miraculous way through the power of the Holy Spirit without having sex with a man. We have chosen to believe this by faith. The story is 2,000 years old, which means we’ve had 2,000 years to come to terms with this miracle. Many of us have read the narrative dozens of times. I believed Mary was a virgin before I had any idea what a virgin even was.

    However, I’d bet most of the people around Mary at the time of the miraculous conception did not believe she was a virgin when she announced she was pregnant with Jesus. Many people probably thought she was crazy when she announced that an infamous angel visited her. And most people probably thought she’d simply gotten pregnant outside of wedlock, and was spinning some tale to make herself feel better.

    We also have no idea how much ridicule Joseph endured because he stayed with the girl and married her – something he did not have to do. In fact, I’d bet Mary and Joseph dealt with ridicule and scorn for most of their lives … I’d also guess that Jesus heard things about his mom. How she was impure, or that she gotten pregnant out of wedlock, and no one knew who his true father was. People are mean. And they say mean things to kids whose parents choose to color outside the lines and push the boundaries of acceptable behavior in society.

    Many of the stories in the Bible do not follow traditional rules of life and church and religious righteousness. The story of Jesus coming to us, born of a young Jewish girl, who wasn’t married when she got pregnant, is downright scandalous.

    Why in the world didn’t God follow the rules of the religious code at that particular time? Why did he choose to begin the Jesus story in such a scandalous manner?

    I have no idea.

    The whole story is riddled with difficulty and scandal and nobodies who recognized the beauty of what God was doing, and important people who missed it because they didn’t have eyes to see or faith to believe in a God who works in the middle of the mundane and ordinary. They couldn’t fathom a God who redeems the world world through a baby boy born of an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances.

    There are many things about God I don’t understand. But, I do know God redeems. Sometimes slowly, sometimes painstakingly, and sometimes scandalously. But the point is, He redeems. He takes what looks like a big fat mess and works and tills – helping us forgive, helping us come to terms with our circumstances, giving us grace to accept our lives just as they are. And then somehow or other helps move us on and makes new somethings out of our old and shattered should have beens. 

    While all of this is truth I’d stake my life on, one of the things I find difficult about being a Christian is that we are called to forgo our need for external approval from people and become content with believing God sees us and approves of us. In Christianity, God asks us to let go of our need to look good to the people around us and live for God’s affirmation and love alone. If we say yes to a life of faith in Jesus, there will be moments and times in our lives when no one understands what we’re doing, or why we’re doing it. There will be seasons when you have to believe He is doing something underneath the surface, even if you can’t see it with your eyes. Now Faith is being sure of what we don’t see … We fix our eyes on what is unseen …

    The story of Christmas is partly a story about a baby who was born at a time when the people of God had given up hope and many believed God had forgotten them. Jesus didn’t come to the kings and the princes and the important people. He showed up in the mundane and ordinary things of life – right at the heart of a census in the middle of dusty dirty Israel and breathed hope into tired hearts … and also gave a young girl and a young man courage to believe it would somehow work out and that God would weave their story together and lift up the low.

    Some of us need courage today … and so I pray for courage, and also for faith to believe in scandalous redemption.

    Much Love,

    Tina

What I Want My Kids to Know about God

IMG_3093For several years now, I’ve been reading the Book of Common Prayer. It has a Psalter that is divided into two daily readings. If you read both morning and evening, you’ll go through the entire book of Psalms every every month. I find this quite grounding and very comforting, particularly during seasons of great transition.

Lately, I’ve been tucking my Book of Common Prayer under my arm on my way out the door with the kids in the morning to go to the bus stop. As we wait in the car for the bus to arrive, I’ve opened the Psalter and read a few verses to them before they go into their day. It’s simple and probably not enough, but it’s something. And right now something is a whole lot more than nothing. It’s also an authentic something. It’s coming from my heart and I’m pushing through the awkward eye-rolling and trying to lead my kids into a deeper sense of spirituality.

On the thirtieth of November, the verses I read to Emma and Lucas came out of Psalm 146… The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous; the Lord cares for the stranger; he sustains the orphan and the widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked. 

The bus pulled up right when I was finishing the verses and Emma opened her car door, threw her backpack over her shoulder, and kissed me on the cheek. “Got it,” she said. “God sustains the orphans.” She slammed the door and bolted toward the bus. I watched my daughter, her hair flying in the wind, as staggering emotions filled me. She climbed the stairs and disappeared into her day. If she really did get that truth, we’re well on our way to a solid theology.

I once read that what we believe about God is the most important thing about us because by it we shape our lives and make our decisions. All of us believe something about God. Even if we choose to not believe, that’s still believing something.

There are a few important values I hope to instill into my children. We talk daily about kindness, about watching out for each other, about sticking up for kids and using our own voice when others are too afraid to speak. We talk about truth and the importance of what we look at with our eyes. We talk about belonging – that they belong and are loved. We also talk about inviting God into our dark places and into the hurting parts of our hearts, and about being whole truthful people – not showing one face to some people and another face to others.

All of these are important values to teach our children. We want them to be kind and honest and grow in fortitude. But if someone asked you, what do you want your kids to know about God, how would you answer? We can teach our children, and be examples to our kids, but we can’t make our children believe anything. Belief is personal. Our task as parents is to share with our kids what we believe and hopefully share it in such a way that the truth resonates in the core of who they are because we’ve lived out our beliefs in an honest way.

I hope Emma and Lucas see that I live my life with a singular dependence upon God. That if you took God out of my life, the entire fabric of who I am would be meaningless and have no substance. God is not the icing on my cake, he’s the table my cake sits on. I would like my kids to know that I believe God is kind and warm and gentle and also powerful and wild. That he doesn’t force them to love him, but invites them to come to know his ways and do life with him as their companion and love will inevitably grow because God is good. I want my kids to know that God does care for the orphans and widows. I’d like them to believe that God is near, that he’s not far off and distant, but close and with us – that he’s accessible in the daily ordinary events of our lives. I want them to believe he’s strong and able. I would also really love for my children to find that Jesus is a person to be trusted and that he is significant in the world we live in.

I’d love for them to believe all those things. But, If you were to ask me, what the one thing is that I desperately hope they’ll come to believe, as in actually make their decisions with this belief before and under them, sustaining them – it’s pretty basic. I want them to believe that God loves them. That he loves them with a radical, counterintuitive, ever watchful, tenacious love. God loves this whole world. And my beautiful children in particular. He loves you, too.

Much Love,

 

Tina

 

On Embracing Our Humanity

What do you do when you find yourself at a desperate junction or in a place you never wanted to be? When what you thought you were trying to do, turns out the exact opposite of absolutely everything you were planning?

Six months ago I was living in another country on thirty acres, heating my home and cooking my food over fire. I lived down a five mile dirt road, homeschooled my children, and spoke Spanish all the time. How in the world do I make the transition from there to here? And there are so many more devastating pieces that make it difficult. The bigger question I’m dealing with is how do I let everything be absolutely different than anything I ever imagined and dreamed for my life? How do I sit in the rubble of ruins and still find hope?

If I know something about life, I have a hunch I’m not the only person who feels this way. I’m not the only one who has had to look round about themselves and take a big deep breath, wipe the alligator tears from their cheeks, let out a sigh, and say “Yeah, so this isn’t really what I was hoping for.”

We weren’t planning on still being single at thirty-six, or getting divorced with two kids, or being this financially poor and needing food stamps. We didn’t plan on the market taking the turn it did, or on that one investment going sideways, or the person of our dreams becoming our living nightmare. We didn’t plan on not having enough money to send our children to college, or for our kids to live so far away we’d never get to see our grandchildren. We didn’t think the cancer would come back, or on having to have a double mastectomy, or on battling an life-long auto-immune disease. None of it was was part of the plan …

There is no magic wand. There is no simple solution or three points that you should follow so everything will turn out better. Despite what all those self-help books tell you. There is no fairy godmother who is going to fall out of the sky and turn your pumpkin into a carriage and your little tiny mice into gorgeous horses … and there is certainly no incantation that is going to deliver the prince to your doorstep with the glass slipper.

So what do we have if we can’t believe our fairy tale dreams are going to come true?

We have each other. We have good and loving people all around us who are good gifts. My children are wonderful and smart and full of life. I have great parents and awesome sisters and kind friends who love me just as I am. Each of us has someone or many people we can choose to honor. People who will pull us out of our crushed dreams and remind us that we matter. When we choose to honor another person, we also honor ourselves and step into our own human dignity.

We have prayer.  The singular path to joy is always through the winding labyrinth of gratitude. When we choose to be thankful we aren’t denying our problems, we’re simply not letting them define us…

And we always have the power and ongoing invitation to askAsk and you shall receive. It’s never too late to start talking to a higher power, acknowledging that you didn’t make it all happen and you certainly can’t make it all better … and maybe you could use a little or a lot of help. Ask for help. Ask for clarity. Ask for wisdom. Ask for strength and courage, for love and hope. When we ask in authenticity, we’ll get authentic answers.

We have Christmas. For Christians Christmas is about how God became human and suffered and felt the weight of this world. Christians believe God came to us as a human so that he could be present with us in our suffering, and help alleviate it through friendship with himself, and somehow do a great big rescue. Pretty much the whole of Christianity is built on radically counterintuitive truths that require just a tiny little bit of faith on our part. The idea of God becoming a baby and Mary being a virgin and delivering Jesus in a manger or some kind of cave in the middle Bethlehem with all the angels and shepherds … well, let’s face it, the story is slightly absurd. It’s also a great source of comfort for me.

It comforts me because it means that God is not far away from my broken heart and he doesn’t expect me to be fine about my shattered dreams. He understands that our dreams get crushed and life hits us on every side and leaves us in rubble. He understands because he was here … Is here … and he meets us dead center with his radical love and gentle presence and somehow gives us courage to face the most stark truth of our lives and also endow us with the grace to embrace his.

What is His truth? God’s truth is sort of beautiful, actually. It’s quite simple: He’s the master of remodels. He takes great big messes and over time, through gentle tending and radical methods, somehow turns them into something good and meaningful. God IS creative. And he is always whispering, always beckoning me to open my hand and invite him into my rubble, because he knows exactly what to do with it. God’s truth is that my story isn’t over yet. He’s right in the thick of it, present and tenderly calling me to believe …

Much Love,

Tina

Changes

I’ve been back in Seattle now for almost three months and finally feel like I’m at a place where I’m ready to share something important about my life with the people who read this blog. It’s a public place, but still affords me my privacy and an ability to control the content of what is shared.

Fragments started over three years ago, on the cuff of an international move to Chile. I shared my daily life, many of my intimate thoughts, and some of my writing journey. I’ve been careful not to over share, or create the sort of environment where my life becomes food for crowds to chew over with passionate zeal. Perhaps, in some ways I’ve been too careful. I’m not sure. But, after consideration and the advice of a few close friends, I’ve concluded it’s time to tell you what’s going on in a more specific way.

So here is what is going on… 

When I made the decision to leave Chile several months ago, it was multi-faceted and had various shades of shadows accompanying it. It was not a decision to simply leave a country or a piece of land I’d grown to love, or to abandon a dream that had consumed my heart for much of my adult life, but I made the difficult and painful decision that I needed to return to Seattle alone.

There is no easy way to talk about these matters. There is no simple way to tell a story that is shared between two people and intertwined into one, while still holding separate individual sides. Marriage, no matter how beautiful or how painfully broken, is always sacred, because it deals with two lives that somehow, mysteriously become one.

I do not think it wise to share all the nitty-gritty details of why and how and what happened to bring me to this conclusion. These are private matters that belong to me, and also to Rodrigo, whom I want to honor. And because of how deeply I care for him and what we have lived through, I’d like to remain silent for now.

There are, of course, many people who know large portions of what has transpired, and there are friends and family who are giving me invaluable support and unwavering love, but  I’ve decided not to splay my private life all over the internet for everyone to pick apart and make judgements about or evaluations thereof … I will say that I’ve made my decisions under great travail and have spent long amounts of time with friends and family from both cultures and in the presence of God, in silence and in all severity, trying to make the best choices I can for me and my children under the specific circumstances I find myself in.

The last thing I want to do is over-spiritualize an incredibly human situation — but I do want to share that I have sensed God’s nearness to me in a different way these past few months than I have in a long time. Some of that is probably the nostalgia of being home and among people who have a long history with me, but I think there is also something in God being near to the brokenhearted and the hurting, and somehow proving himself faithful even in all of this mess. He is the God who is near … even when we fail and are no long able to hold to our promises or stay in a painful relationship with the people we vowed to love. He’s God even in that.

I’m thankful God loves me with an unfailing love, that he calls me by name, and invites me to a closeness with himself, just as I am.

My life has been in the public eye for most of my adult life … I only ask that you show discretion and care in how you proceed with this knowledge. Rodrigo’s life is his own, and he gets to choose with whom and how he wants to share it, despite the public nature of our circumstances. My children are dealing with profound change right now and we’d like to provide them with as much stability and love as possible, which means that if you see us in a store or at the mall or at a church, we’d prefer not to answer questions in front of them.

Thank you for being the sort of people who have stayed with me through many changes … I realize some of my readers will probably decide this is more than they wanted to know … I understand. For those of you who remain, thank you for your love and your friendship. I covet your prayers.

Much Love,

Tina

 

On the Tenderness of Friendship

IMG_1777How does anyone make their way across thousands of miles of terrain, new continents, and different languages in one piece? I don’t know if I’ve done it in one piece, but I do know it would have been impossible without the steadfast love of friends and family.

For those of you who read my blog on a fairly consistent basis, you will know that I’ve been strangely silent – for many months. I blamed it on writing my novel, then moving back to Seattle, and then the pressures of transition – which are all a part of the truth and none of it answers the whole. Honestly, I’ve gone underground, and let my roots draw deep into the dark earth. I’ve needed to grow quiet and listen to my heart, and tune my ear to God’s gentle whispers. He doesn’t shout, does he?

My kids went off to school today, I started a new job, made a menu for tonight’s dinner, (I’m making tacos) and came upstairs to my room where my computer is and thought … I so desperately want to write a blog post. So here I am at the keyboard, putting words to what’s inside.

This is part of what’s inside… Friendship is the most beautiful thing I know right now. Its tender fruit has fed and nourished me in such reliable ways these past few months. It was with gorgeous and overflowing friendship that I somehow got up and made it out of Chile and said good-bye to a beautiful land, a culture I had grown to love, and a language that holds significant pieces of my story. And it was friendship that ushered me home to Seattle – picked me up at the airport, brought me Starbucks coffee, loved on my children, loaned me cars, sat with me during long hours where I cried and shared, and swore like a true Osterhouse. It was friendship that offered me a place to live, gave me job referrals, and genuinely took me in just as I am, which I am convinced is the greatest gift we could ever give anyone.

Authentic friendship gives courage and makes us brave, it speaks truth, and knows when to be silent. It knows when to pour another glass of wine, and when to come over with new clothes for a job interview. Friendship knows how to hear confession, and how to be God’s voice of absolution and also of gracious rebuke. It hopes on our behalf, it believes on our behalf, and it understands, without a demand for explanations, when it is time to accept loss and bow our heads in silent acquiescence.

When I moved to Chile three years ago, it was the loneliest time I have ever known, but slowly as I made friends and found kindred spirits, (They are everywhere.) loneliness ebbed and new people made their way into the fabric of my life. When I arrived back in Seattle, I wondered if I would feel that empty barrenness again. I haven’t. There is too much history of love and acceptance here, and even though my heart is tired, I’m home.

Three years ago, Fragments started out as a blog searching for truth, documenting significant findings, and sharing my thoughts in a real and authentic way. It certainly isn’t anything new or startling that I value my friends … but for what it’s worth – the fragments of my life are made up in great part of all you and you make my life good and rich and bring meaning to it, in every season … I love you all.

Eucharisteo,

Tina

 

An Ordinary Love – A Novel

An Ordinary Love_edited-1 copyAbout four years ago, I got this idea about a series of books that take place around a Bed and Breakfast on the San Juan Islands. I’ve always loved small towns, I love bed and breakfasts, and I adore long series of novels where I get to know the characters, their quirks, their personalities, and settle into a place as if I actually know the people in them. As a girl, I read Trixie Belden, I read the Mandy novels, Little House on the Prairie, I read every Janette Oke novel I could get my hands on, and always loved the idea of writing a long series with characters that became my friends. This is much harder to do than I thought! However, I began working with the idea of the novel, thinking through where I want the characters to go over the years, and started writing a daily word count … and eventually, I had a rough draft. I sent it to critique partners and worked through their feedback, and over time, my agent shopped it around.

Around that same time, I moved to Chile… and Christian publishing went through some very big changes – in particular to their fiction lines, and my agent just couldn’t get it sold. We shelved it for a while. And I think in the midst of a large life transition to another country, I decided to let it go. But then, it emerged again in my mind because I had an idea for the sequel and it wouldn’t let up. It’s hard to write a sequel if you don’t think you’re going to do anything with first book. Eventually, I had an editor read the manuscript and she had such kind things to say, I decided maybe it wasn’t quite ready for the back file on my computer.

I started working on the sequel, still trying to figure out what I was going to do with the original novel, and got stuck. Horribly stuck. Evening traffic stuck. I got to about 140 pages, and couldn’t write another word. I’d stare at my computer and see a graveyard of manuscripts and maybe a graveyard of dreams … (Have I mentioned moving countries is stressful and hard and sometimes overwhelming?)

So, I closed up my computer and started to go on long walks around my property in the mornings, with the fog and the cool air on my cheeks, and all my writing dreams dormant from too much change. I’d walk to the back of my land, around to the side, up and over the hill and stand on the peak and look out into the lush green valley and the rolling hills and the volcano in the distance, and then I’d walk down the hill with my dogs at my side and I’d think, and think, and then I’d get to a place on my walk where the silence and the solitude and the cool air calmed me enough to settle into the quiet and my tired mind and heart would find repose.

Eventually, the creative well filled up again, and the energy to write and to create came at me with hurricane force. I’m just finishing up the rough draft of something new. Of something that makes me proud and vulnerable and terrified… And along with that has come a renewed desire to share what I’ve written, to let my friends and dear readers see what it is I’ve got tucked up inside me. Writing is such a solitary thing, but the purpose of it is to give something away, to offer a piece of oneself to the world regardless of the cost, and when I shelved An Ordinary Love I shelved a piece of me.

So the other day, I wrote my agent and decided to follow up on a potential publishing opportunity and here we are!

An Ordinary Love is the first of what I hope will be several novels about a feisty red headed woman who runs a bed and breakfast, a shy doctor who lives next door, and a pastor who is trying to accept that God is more mysterious than he’d originally thought. I hope you like it. It certainly came from my heart.

Much Love,

Tina