There are few things as comforting in my life as the rituals of Sunday afternoons, evening bedtime, phone calls that exist between work and home, and rites of passage to welcome a new seasons in the year– be it from the first day the winter coach is ditched, and warmer still, to roll down the windows of the car, greeting summer’s hot breath, to the first cup of coffee utilizing it primarily for warmth, and going back in the recesses of the closet to pull out the trusty winter coat. It is the unconscious rhythms in my life, trip after trip around the sun that remind my tired, freaked out little brain that while I’m living every day in a new territory of life, it still holds precious familiarity. These rhythms remind me of God’s determined faithfulness to us all, that I can find something recognizable and steady in every season. I suppose whether you’re a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person probably determines if the word “season” means welcomed traditions or unaccustomed change to you. Or, if you’re like me, you wonder where the glass came from and how long the water has been sitting out and wildly bounce between loving changes and despising them. But lately, I’ve been grateful to cling to the small rituals that each season has held for me since my move to Arkansas.
Tomorrow marks my one-year anniversary at Saving Grace, as I am finishing out my last ‘new’ season back in Arkansas. There’s been a hint of dread surrounding this date, mostly because of a self-imposed standard that after the year mark, I should have this transition down. I should know how to do my job well, have obtained scores of friends, and generally speaking, should not be spinning my wheels. This, of course, is crock. But it’s a nice thought that in three hundred and sixty-five days anything can be conquered, it quiets the voices that keep you up at night that relentlessly scold, “You need to figure this out because your life is a disaster and you’re a fraud.” I just calmly tell myself “It’s okay to not know. You’ve only been here six months. That’s like nothing.” But with a year squarely under my belt, I’m reexamining the time line and realizing it’s doing me no favors. It’s bad logic and needs to go. I struggle to know how to measure who I am and how I’m doing in life, two things I probably shouldn’t do in the first place. For the first time probably ever in my life, I’m at a loss for words. All year I’ve felt totally incapable of expressing what this past year has meant to me.
It’s not that there hasn’t been a desire to share. I can’t think of a week that’s gone by this year where I haven’t been driving home and a wave of thoughts rise over me so quickly it feels like if I could get them all, it would be Tolstoy length tale. But there’s a ginormous surge of insecurity that seems to sop it all up on the heels of it all. So I’ve waited and listened and sensed, hoping that my words would return. The term “coming up empty” perfectly summarizes my life at the moment. Every experience feels new. I have very little to compare it to; I’ve changed so much in the last year, I look back at my life before moving and I feel so far removed from that person. When an old friend asks, “What’s been going on lately?” it’s one of the most impossible questions for me to answer. I’ve lost a lot this year; I’ve gained a lot as well. It hurts to unpack that so I gravitate towards my little rituals that I cling to. I’ve been thinking about these things for a long time; they aren’t new but they’re new to me and have significantly reshaped my life and given it direction this past year.
I say I love you
God has given me 22 little women this year that have utterly changed who I am and what I believe about human beings. I’ve always held those three words very tightly to me, very afraid to use them and unsure exactly what that meant until this year. When someone leaves my office or I’m locking up for the day, I catch myself saying, “I love you!” and sometimes if I’m lucky (and usually I am), I hear a sweet voice that rings back, “I love you too.” This wasn’t something I just decided to do, it’s just the overflow of the heart, when you catch yourself saying and doing the things that might make you look silly but you can’t help it. Those little women are part of my crew now. Life is way too short to not let those people know how you really feel. I worry about them, we disagree, we laugh, we celebrate, and we work hard together. There really is no greater joy of my life than to see brazen, gracious women walking in the truth of who God has made them to be.
I cry so much that it’s just become the office go-to activity. “Go find Bri and show her this, it will make her cry.” –they even TELL me this before and it still gets me. But it’s not just at work; it’s at the movies, at church, in my car, in the shower. In a house with a mouse, in a box with a fox, here or there… I’ll cry just about anywhere, to paraphrase Dr. Seuss. Why am I admitting this to you? Great question: I’ve learned so much this year about being authentic and for the first time in my life I’ve realized how much I protect myself by stuffing my feelings. Things don’t hurt as bad but they also don’t land as sweet. I’m more honest with myself than I’ve ever been and it’s been a privilege to bear witness to so many stories, to have my heart broken and overwhelmed with the stories God is writing in each of our girls lives, and in the lives around me. The thought of vulnerability is so awful, but placing myself there has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this past year.
I ask for forgiveness
This goes without saying, but I’m the worst. I say and do really dumb and hurtful things. I’ve learned I try to make people laugh at the worst possible moments in crisis. Why, Bri? Why?? This has leveled me with a sledgehammer but also brought in the beautiful practice of introspection, humility, and asking for forgiveness. And you know what? It’s not that bad. In fact, it’s been so freeing, that I feel like it’s given so much more courage to try to do the hard and right thing. This would normally be impossible for me, except I’m surrounded by some of the most gracious and kindhearted human beings. I hope that the rhythm of asking forgiveness continues to transform my life and make me more like Jesus. I’m so thankful that God has given me the courage to practice this a lot this year. It’s painted a more poignant picture of grace for me.
That’s not to say I haven’t prayed before this year – I’ve prayed a TON. But they were whiny and hurried, distracted and unsure. My prayer life went from stagnant last year to absolutely desperate. In my desperation for guidance and wisdom and justice, God began to show me the steady rhythm of communicating with him. It’s by far the most precious, sacred thing in my life and has flourished so much in such a short amount of time. For the first time I’m not as self-conscious, I’m free to speak and listen, unhurried, and excited. If anyone out there wants that for their life, in my experience, God had to get me to a place where I had no ideas or plans, to get me to stop talking and really sit in his presence. It feels yucky to be in that place, but like all things in the Kingdom, it’s upside-down and backwards, and it’s actually the best place in the world to be, at the end of yourself. Prayer this year has woken me up to all kinds of realities about God’s glory and kindness and it has unleashed a love unlike anything I’ve experienced. My heart is learning to trust and to lean entirely on the Lord.
These are my rhythms of life here in 2017. I say I love you, cry, ask for forgiveness, and pray. I don’t have a clue about the rest of it. I know fast food destroys my body, but here I am scavenging the dregs out of the waffle fry sleeve. I know life is supposed to be lived like a revolving door but I’m still trying to keep everyone packed on top of each other in the same revolving wedges so no one can fall out. I know social media is bad for me generally but yet here I am. I’m easing into more changes but clinging to my rituals.
It’s been a tough and beautiful year. I’m thankful –not in a formal way- but the sloppy overwhelming thanks from my heart to a God who has never left me, who has claimed me as his, who sits with me in my grief, who shows me where the joy and good lies, who lets me lead a simple life and gives it purpose and adventure, who pursues me when I have nothing left to give. I’m thankful that the one who meets me in my little rhythms and rituals is my strength; he makes me as surefooted as deer and makes me able to tread upon the high places.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.” – Habbakuk 3:17-19