So, wow. August is almost over. Summer is behind us and Autumn is ahead. As this summer comes to a close, so does our time in Bend. Sometimes I can hardly believe we’ve been here nearly two years. It has flown by.
As a lot of you may know, Shawn lost his job back in May and has been relentlessly, yet fruitlessly, hunting for new employment for the duration of the summer. I can’t think of another season in our marriage that has been more stressful and exhausting. I’ve never spent so many nights just ugly crying, with a dark, hopeless cloud hovering over us.
But as I look back on this past summer, I am now able to see more than just the stress and tears. I’m able to see my relationship with God shifting again. I’m able to see that alongside the stress of unemployment came the freedom for Shawn to spend more time with Nora and me, and to pursue a path he truly desires. I’m able to see that alongside the exhaustion came a resting place in the wide, open arms of I Am.
This summer has been filled with hard and holy work. There was more tension between Shawn and I, but there was also more passion. There was so much fear and anxiety about work and finances, but there was also a brilliant revelation in our family that ALL WE NEED IS EACH OTHER.
Our little tribe of three has become stronger than we imagined we ever could be, considering one of us is only nearly seven months old. But let me tell you something about my daughter. She is mighty. She is intuitive and sensitive and hysterical. She knows when we need the tension broken, and does something silly to make us laugh. She knows when we are feeling hurt or broken, and she reaches out to us for hugs and kisses and face caresses.
This summer we purged our house, home and hearts of excess and vowed to be more responsible with our finances, our purchases, our health and our footprint in this world. (I am a huge advocate of ethical shopping and have found the Art of Simple’s Ethical Shopping Guide to be an invaluable resource.) This summer I have grown in ways I am fiercely proud of.
I’ve become part of Fearless Tribe, which is a group of women, mostly yogis, passionately determined to break off the burden of competition, eviscerate body hatred and shaming, and rebuild a community/planet of strong women who will acknowledge and own their beauty, as well as encourage and call out the beauty in other women.
I’ve worked hard on my mat to grow my personal yoga practice and have made exceptional progress.
I’ve also walked through some extremely dark days, personally. My heart has been shredded through the pain of my family falling completely apart. However, my youngest siblings as I have found a strength together we hadn’t known until now.
I experienced more judgement and criticism from the church when I thought I’d moved beyond it. If you or your family is moved into a season of being away from the church, I can tell you it is the most painful, gut wrenching, rewarding and freeing season you’ll likely ever experience. I’m currently reading Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey. She writes briefly about the time she and her husband spent away from the church and it was so incredibly similar to our current experience that it brought me to sobs.
“CRASH….And that is exactly what happened with my crammed closet of doubts and questions and hurts. Crash. I know nothing for sure. Is God even real? What about my Bible? Church? People? Life? Meaning? Loss? Grief? Disillusionment? Soul Weariness? Goodness? Evil? Tragedy? Suffering? Justice? Women? Equality? Politics? I know nothing, nothing, nothing. …‘You can’t be a Christian by yourself’ writes Sara Miles. Me? I tried. I tried to be a Christian by myself. And in my deepest hurts from the Body of Christ, it did help to cocoon away in the in-between space for a while. It helped to step away from the institutions of church in a self-imposed blackout from the programs, from the self-perpetuating machine, from the politics, the religion, the expectations, the behavior modification, the CEO-style leadership courses, the unstable pedestals for pastors and the way that the grind of modern ministry life seems to chew up and spit out again, and the easy consumer spirituality. The wilderness transformed me in a way that no “spiritual high” or certainty or mountaintop moment had ever done. I shed a lot of performance anxiety in those “in between” years. I reconciled what I believed and why. I embraced the glorious kaleidoscope of God at work in the global world. And most importantly, the wilderness was the birthplace of my intimacy with God.”
I have never been more certain that our decision to remain away from “the church”, however long that may be, is undoubtedly the healthiest choice for us. I have experienced the sweetness of Jesus and His love more pure and raw than ever before. I have learned to lean into the pain, pressing through to His embrace.
I share all of this with you to say that, though our time in Bend has been short, it has been filled to the brim with learning, loving, laughter, pain, tears, fear, joy and ecstasy, especially in these past few months of summer. Nora was born here in Bend. Shawn and I have grown to be an unstoppable team. We have come to the edge of hopelessness and darkness, only to have the Spirit breathe life back into our marriage. We’ve met some amazing people and made forever friendships. (We’re looking at you, Benefields.)
While I am emotional about leaving this place that has taught us so much, I truly look forward to what’s ahead. It’s still a bit fuzzy right now, but I smell the hope in the air. It smells like fall.