Finding Freedom

I was sitting in my spot a couple of mornings ago, asking the Lord how this time and this journey towards freedom would affect my kids.  Would they remember when mom went through CRAZY cycles between legalism to all out rebellion?  I mean, this is how it has been.  I have swung back and forth all the while landing in more and more freedom.  Some days I fight for the discipline and schedule and some days I want to be totally free.  My kids have to be confused.  They have to wonder what Mom really cares about.

Three years ago God began to shift my heart.  And honestly it started with a really hard experience at church.  And all that did was allow space for me to realize that I had made my current church an idol, and man, did that idol disappoint.  It’s like finding out someone you really admire is doing drugs, and you’re not really sure how you missed it.  I want to say that anything that is good, even really good, that serves as an idol in your life, needs to be dealt with ~ even church. I went through a long process of recognizing that my church was, in fact, not the only way.  It was not even, dare I say, the best way.  (I will also say that I’m not convinced there is a best way.) But I had lived like it was the only way to Jesus and the only way to really experience Him.  So now I was disappointed, not only with my idol, but also myself.  Idols will do that to you… Funny thing is that they are kind of set up to disappoint. Even funnier is that my idol was made up of lots of people, and we all know that people can disappoint. If you could have just left them off their pedestal, you wouldn’t be so blown away when they come crashing down.  Sin could just be sin, and hurt could just be hurt.  But when your whole heart is wrapped up in something, other than Jesus, it’s deeply grieving to your spirit when that something totally screws up.

So I began to question things. Everything. Really, systems and the culture of systems was the hardest part for me.  I had the crazy realization that not everyone is after the same thing.  Though, I love a good system. I love knowing the expectations and even the suggested ways to meet those expectations.  That’s why I love a good mom conference or workshop on anything.  But the Lord was doing a new thing.

About the same time that my idol fell, I had been learning to bring discipline into my life in a big way.  I had been learning to make my bed every day, eat food that would honor my body, put my make-up on before I left the house (not in the car while driving), do house chores specific days, etc.  Because I found that in following this discipline, I actually felt more free.  I created space to actually hear Jesus more through practicing this discipline.

“And Christians, or some anyway, are raised to ignore their own bodies, their own pain, their own screaming souls, on behalf of the other, the kingdom, the church. It has been tremendously helpful to think of myself as a part of the kingdom, a part of the church. I am not building the kingdom if that work is destroying this member of that kingdom.”   Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect

In 2014 my idol fell…hard. We started taking adoption classes and then got pregnant with our 3rd beauty. Things began to shift at my job with schedules and such. I watched and walked with friends that left the church. My best friend and I had preemies and our lives were turned upside down for a bit. The year 2015 was hard, and then 2016 was the aftermath of hard with some of its own hard thrown in the mix.  And I’m not sure what happened to all that beautiful discipline, but it was gone gone gone.

And I was left knowing only a few things:

God cares deeply about community and the people we walk the life out with. People are eternal.

God is in every part of your story.

God just really, really wants to have relationship with you.

A friend/big sister/mentor (she really is all these things) had suggested I read Larry Crabb’s The Pressure’s Off.  That was 2 years ago, y’all, and I’m still reading it.  I can only take a chapter at a time and really digest it.  And it is amazing.  It speaks to every part of the system that I have always loved and found “life” in.  It is incredibly convicting and equally freeing. He talks about the Old Way and the New Way.  The Old Way wants a Better Life (this was me) and the New Way wants a Better Hope.  It is all about relationship with our Maker.  There is so much more that defines the Old Way and the New Way.  I recommend reading the book.  But it has given so much language to this journey towards freedom.  It’s about being WITH HIM, and that this life here is not all there is.

Last year I also read a book called Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton.  What I loved about this book is that it wasn’t about the legalism of discipline.

“The kingdom of God is here now, if we are willing to arrange our life to embrace it.” Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms

She also writes, “I cannot transform myself, or anyone else for that matter. What I can do is create the conditions in which spiritual transformation can take place, by developing and maintaining a rhythm of spiritual practices that keep me open and available to God.”

So I began to study and practice the rhythms she introduces: solitude, scripture, prayer, honoring the body, self-examination, discernment and sabbath. And then, of course, I told Ross about it.

Side note: The funny thing is that my husband may be one of the most free people I know.  I’m not sure who to give the credit to.  He has never idolized a church or system. He cares very little about what others think, yet cares greatly about what God thinks. He loves people, deeply and well, but I’ve never known him to idolize anyone. He doesn’t spend much time at all getting caught up in culture or the present day distractions.  It’s important to note that he just got a smart phone a little over a week ago. This is real.  The only place I don’t find my husband living in freedom is cleanliness. He has HIGH expectations in regard to order and cleanliness.  I am the exact opposite.  It’s easy for me to idolize movements and churches and people. I care a lot about what others think sometimes. I really like some of the new ways of living and our present day distractions (particularly Instagram). I love my phone. He hates his.  And when it comes to cleanliness, I’m okay with the mess for a bit in the midst of life.  So we’re good together.  And I’m much more free than I was 3 years ago.

This practice of rhythms as opposed to discipline was so helpful to me.  She wrote this statement that set me so free in regard to children. Barton writes, “Our rhythm of spiritual practices also needs to be ruthlessly realistic in view of our stage of life.” Thank you for that.  THAT was helpful to read and live by.

I also read Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect.

“It seems to me that Christians, even more than anyone else, ought to be deeply grounded, living a courageous rhythm of rest, prayer, service, and work. That rhythm is biblical, and it’s one that Jesus himself modeled. It seems to me that Christians ought to be free in meaningful and radical ways to bow out of the culture’s insistence on proving and competing. Again, like Jesus. It seems to me that Christians ought to care more deeply about their souls than their bank accounts and pants sizes. But I am a Christian, and I’m guilty of all of these.  My faith has not failed me, but I think maybe I have failed it.” Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect, emphasis added

Do you see a pattern?  My freedom has come in learning to be WITH God, not do things for Him or even do things that are all about Him (which I am also drawn to do).  There’s that word ‘rhythm’ again, too. Reading all of these books has helped me realize that I am not alone in this journey. I actually believe there is a movement happening, and it’s a bit counter-cultural.

A huge part of my life in the last several years has been IF:Gathering.  If you are not familiar, Jennie Allen began this with several other prominent Christian women in 2014.  It has been a beautiful experience every year.  I began by leading an IF:Local in my home in 2014 with 7 other women.  It was amazing.  The next year we all travelled to Austin attend the larger event live.  Another beautiful experience.  Later that year, we decided to pitch the idea to our local church and we did a RE:Live event that September (immediately following the birth of my 3rd baby) and then hosted a larger IF:Local at our church in 2016.  It was great, and I love and thrive off being in one room worshipping with a large group of women.  If you had asked me three years ago, I would have told you that it was dream come true to lead that moment.  But my heart has been changing. And while I always dreamed of leading masses of women and teaching them, that is not my dream anymore.  My dream is my living room with a small group of really honest, really raw women and all that comes with them. So this year, in February, I hosted another IF:Local in my living room.  We had around 18 girls total over the weekend. It was life-changing for me. Not to mention that the IF:Gathering itself was incredible.  (I would encourage you to listen to these women.) Their heartbeat this year lined up with mine and where I think I’m headed with the Lord… I posted this about the weekend, and it’s my heart…

I finished 2016 with Beth Moore’s recent Bible study, Entrusted: A Study of 2 Timothy.  And here I found my heartbeat with the Holy Spirit and His leading in my life ~ His leading me towards freedom and TRUTH.  And we know that Truth sets us free. And you can see in the picture below that The Joy of Less by Francine Jay is in the mix.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1

I find the most freedom these days in the small, the raw, the quiet, the seemingly insignificant, the being with Him.  Finding this freedom is the only real way I can actually be fully here {for now}.

Y’all, there is so much more I could say and write, and I will.  But I am right, smack-dab, in the middle of

finding freedom…