Square Pegs, Round Holes & Feelings

I’ve been back in therapy for two years. I say, “Back in” because for the past 20 years, I have found myself on a therapist’s couch on countless occasions. For those new to my story, mental health has long been a challenge for me. Depression was always clear, but as I have navigated through many providers and professionals, labels and diagnosis have followed me like looming shadows. I really hate the labels. Like haaattteeeee them. And it’s not because I don’t believe the labels, it’s that I don’t think anyone can put their finger EXACTLY on what my mind and hormones and chemistry are doing with any concrete knowledge – except me. And there is no amount of 50 min sessions and co-pay filled specialist appointments that can give you a clear picture of the reality of someone’s world. But I show up. In my closet. Or car. And bring my tissue box and journal every week.

This season of work has been excruciatingly hard to navigate. Imagine taking the most “supportive” systems in your life and digging deep into dependence and worth and meaning to find that your stool legs are hollow and many of your well held truths no longer fit. Be it calling, career, parenthood or relationships, asking the question of ‘Is this making me a whole person?” has transformed and wrecked my world. My pegs just don’t fit like they once did.

You know the game. In the 80’s it was wooden and the hammer was, too. We didn’t think about nursery harm and anti-bacterial surfaces back then. Side note, these moments made me tough. But that toughness also made me unaware of the many aspects of that square peg. That peg is tired at 46. That peg has been smacked so hard with that wooden hammer that she (in so many ways) has used the force of the impact to literally try to shave off the corners of the square to try to fit. Decades of this work has created an unfortunate reality. Squares are just squares. They were never meant to fit in any other hole. And the really mind-blowing reality is that WE DON’T HAVE TO.

For me that means that I get to quit trying to manage all the other shapes. They get to be circles and stars and ovals and even pesky triangles. And it’s not my job, or more importantly my responsibility, to pound them into another hole. They are fine. They don’t need my help. And I am ok, too. Just like I am. Because I’m not just a square. I’m some sort of weird shape. One star point. Two 90 degree corners. And of course, a rounded edge, too. I’m weird. I look outwardly bizarre because I don’t fit a mold. And that hurts and heals in the same breath.

This week, we have had many new faces helping at work. It’s Valentine’s week and I work at a florist. We cray. But as we have cleaned 6,000 (not one exaggeration) roses, and prepared for more than 200+ deliveries, we have chatted about life. In a bizarre moment of awakening, one of the women said, “I overheard you the other day and have a question for you as a ‘person of faith’.” A new thing happened in that moment. I realized I wasn’t that shape anymore. Not in the way she meant. She wanted me to use my knowledge of churchy things to defend and back her stance on a human rights issue. One that when I am honest I feel very passionate about. But in that moment, this was not an issue conversation. It was a stake in the ground. *I will not be anyone’s reason for anything.*

So much of my soul exhaustion is communal. I’ve become absolutely depleted in my attempt to make relationships fit and people ok. For some of you that know me, you think this is a facade. Boss bitch is my go-to and warm fuzzy and caring is not my normal mode. But you need to know that for Enneagram 8s, there is nothing that we feel more than someone we love not being loved well. We will fight like we have just been offered a top bill of a MMA fight. And those on the other side of the pain will leave bloody. And while that feels horrific to so many of my empath friends, for those with the scars of abandonment and betrayal, having someone love you enough to go to the mat for us is better than getting a trip to Europe, a new tattoo and a 1967 retro RV all at the same time. (And sure, those are my things, but I’d give up all of those asks for the knowledge that someone is ready to go for the sake of my peace.) All that to say, this kind of fight can exhaust and paralyze. Especially if it is offered too freely.

I’ve spent much of my 2022 hours in therapy revisiting being safe in my own crazy shaped self. With no labels. With no judgment. (I’m trying.) And most importantly with a curiosity to see what my new stool legs might look like. I’ve tried on a few for size. I’ve even learned that good legs hollow if you don’t take care of them. And perhaps, the biggest feat, is that I’ve stopped fighting so hard.

Sleep has been very illusive the last week. I’ve really had to spend some intentional time choosing me. That’s about as counterintuitive as it comes for someone who spent her entire life with the weight of the world’s eternal damnation resting on her shoulders. So when I look back, I give myself credit. I’m not where I want to be yet. Today, I’ll probably still feel like the wolf in sheep’s clothing who is inauthentically present. Because this is new. And terrifying. When you have spent your whole life trying to beat that peg, it is no wonder we feel splintered and ready to quit.

To those that bravely send texts to their people that lovingly admit the hard. Continue.

To those that don’t understand mental health challenges and yet show up in ways that we can’t articulate their worth. You are a blessing.

And to those who find themselves uncomfortably fighting feelings of square-ness, please let your unique shapes be enough. Because we are.

2022: Embrace

A year ago, I sat on the porch at the home of my dear friends and tried to smile. There were dogs and children and pre-teens hanging from yoga ropes. We laughed. We told stories. We sat by the fire and tried to piece together the things that had beed destroyed in the previous 9 months. Everything changed in March of 2020. Places that had been safe were no longer. Relationships that were sufficient were destroyed with masking and distance and deviating beliefs. In December, the last of “my things” was removed from my life. I had spent the last 20 years of my life serving organizations that I believed in. That has meant different things in different seasons, but by this time – by choice or by force – this was the last tether to the life that I had built in my suburban paradise. Two decades. My entire adult existence was birthed and gave birth and buried and grieved and fought and loved on 312 Sunset Ridge in League City, Texas. Here is the funny. I never wanted to be in League City. I tried to escape in active attempts through the years. At 45 years old, the only things that I had known to be stabilizing communal forces went. That included the city that I never intended to love and the many people that had woven their way into our lives.

Lucas and I made a decision (like we have for many years) to lean into our own understanding of what was best for our kids. After trying to think outside of all of the boxes, it was decided that the best opportunity was to move to our lake house in Austin. In a matter of weeks, I moved with my daughter to a small community on Lake Travis. A house on the lake? What a wonderful way to reset. A natural life pause after a trying year? Lovely. Just days into this solo experiment, the freeze of 2021 hit Texas and I was immediately reminded that I am ill equipped for wells and deer and ice and ice. I also found out that living in the Hill Country means that I have to kill scorpions and handle all the spiders. I have seen snakes and Texas sized centipedes. I now drive back roads that are written about in country songs…to the grocery. That was all before April. And then a new sadness set in.

By April, I was hemorrhaging grief. I was lonely and alone. This season has given me a respect that I will never lose. One that no one can convince me otherwise about. SINGLE PARENTS ARE MY HEORES. I have the best of rocks in my spouse. Steady. Sure. And completely incapable of parenting long distance. I don’t think this is a skill one should strive to master, because the cause is always painful. Instead, we fell into a rhythm of weekend Dad bringing the fun. This might be the only thing harder than single parenting. I was the nagging bitch all week and Dad came to be wake surf buddy on Friday. Not exactly a joyous mother-dream Hallmark moment. Motherhood is so hard in every stage and season. And this one is no exception. I thought I would love these years. Wise voices have reminded me that I have been set up for pain in launching thanks to COVID. The most import observation from the spring and early summer was…exhaustion.

Something unexplainable happens when you go through struggle and pain with others. They become the scabs on your open wounds when you can’t heal. They remind you of your worth when you have forgotten. They drag you out of the mind gutters and (especially in my case) annoyingly position themselves not to intervene, but to be the pillow that you can come home and cry in when things just make you want to hide in bed. That’s what my lifelines have been this year. This small band of humans have saved me from myself. And in the process, through many tales of treachery and unplanned nonsense, they are the ones that have encouraged me to finally own my life. MY life. Not the one that was handed to me through birth or culture or religion. One that says what I mean and means what I say. To live, from every pore, the most true life that I can create. Today.

So, I went outside more. I started fishing. I camped. I flew to the coast alone. I drove out of a city in a car without RESERVATIONS. I saw so many places I had never seen. From the California coast to the shores of the east. From the small creeks in Austin to the oceans. I stayed in a bus one night. A bus. As a house. I played. I loved. I started to dream. The stinging pain of the last 6 month began to wain. I began August on a new mission. What if? What if this next season of my life was about the things that I have always thought that I could never do – and I fucking do them? As I began telling my people about what I could only explain as a required new birth, they said GO. My people said I could do it. Even things that others would laugh about. Even things that would take me so far out of my comfort zone that I would fail. They believed that I was worth all of it. ME. A middle-aged mom who had given her life away to everyone but herself.

Just as I began to feel the legs underneath me again, a new wave of hard broke open with a painful swell. I lost my Dad. September was brutal. The last days, while in retrospect were few, felt like they would never end. And then people. Because of COVID, we had been so careful around my dad. The number of face-to-face human interactions that I fostered in the previous 18 months were few. The day Dad died, I found myself in a room with 30+ people for the first time in what felt like forever. I never thought about the fact that after the long detox, I might not ever want to return to peopling. Going from nothing to being together with alllllll the faces during one of those days when I just needed safety, changed something. I wanted small. I wanted still. I can’t hear in the noise of people anymore. My soul whispers. And as I have learned to hear her, I also know that her voice is intentionally quiet. She wants me to be in an environment of simple to work on the complex healing. I am not privy to some sacred spaces unless I provide myself sanctuary from the world.

I was supposed to be on one of my adventure trips the weekend we lost Dad. The friend that I was planning to travel with supported me though the funeral and when all was settled, I was gifted a modified version of the planned trip. I needed those days of stillness in ways that I cannot articulate. I was given space and most importantly, we went outside. We cried. I wrote. We cooked and ate. We even stopped for chargrilled oysters as we sped through Louisiana. The gift of allowing people to really know you is that they know how to support you. I didn’t need “normal” that week. I needed the most abnormal days, as compared to my daily grind. As we wandered hills and chased the sun, we also began to think and dream.

I’m not the only one that lost all that was normal this year. The number of life tables that have been turned upside down from the pandemic are many. One of those most impacted in my life was my best friend. So in those heartbroken raw days, we sat on rocks and threw sticks for dogs to chase. We also began to think about happiness. Not a business plan. Not a 10 year plan. HAPPINESS. I have never once in my life walked into a decision with the majority motivator being MY happiness. I’m horrified to say that, but the value of investing in my own happiness has never been a priority. That changed in the weeks that followed. In my most fragile, sad, broken spaces, I have seen that the only person who knows the things I dream about is me. And I can only make those dreams a reality if I demand (to myself, mostly) that things have to change. So, I did.

My final adventure of 2021 was to a goat farm. South of Sanity was the name. And there was only one person that had caught the craziness of my vision enough to want to come along. Something sacred happened on that farm. Healing began. Philipp played all day with the animals. He slaughtered chickens while I wrote. I studied goat products and quizzed the owners about anything that they would share. This was it. I wanted a farm. A goat farm. With land and space and soap making and egg harvesting and wild chickens that chase big dogs. I could feel the aliveness that I thought was dead. Somewhere between hanging out in the rabbit reading room and playing with the fearless diaper wearing youngest child of the farmer, I realized that the next season would not be in a city. I would not be loud. It may not even be in Texas. But I wanted that. So I said it. Out loud. And every time I did, I fell more in love with the idea.

I came home and announced my big dream. That was on November 10th. For added fun, my new farm partner and I had 829 miles between our current residences. Philipp lived in Georgia, after moving to be closer to his son. Having worked together before, we know our natural strengths. Let me organize. Finances? Got it. Manure hauling? I’ll do it, but he will love it. So, we drew a 2 hour circle from Atlanta and began to look. He had been searching for a permeant home, but this big idea, the fully sustainable, agro-tourism farm was a new level of land exploration. It was all we did. We obsessed over the perfect spot.

By mid-December, the land had been purchased, and the name established. For Christmas Lucas gave me 35 chickens and 4 goats. (Of course, being the stellar man that he is, that also included the same through Heifer International.) I didn’t walk on it before closing because it all happened so fast, but the day we decided to make the offer on this land I quit looking. I deleted the real-estate apps off my phone because I knew it was the one. But I’ve now been there and I can’t hold on to my excitement any longer. It is all that I could have ever asked for. Every dream that I’ve thought about can all happen on our 22 acres. All at the same time. Let me introduce you to my next season…

After mowing for a few hours…I know.

Advent: 2020

Happy New Year. Here we are…again.

If that opening sounded flat and empty, yep. That’s about where 2020 has left my ability to rose-color anything. For those that follow my writing, you know that Advent has historically been one of the two most important seasons in my journey to find spiritual connection. I have explained the historical significance before. I have also written extensively during Advent in 2018 and 2019. This has always been a digging in season. One that produces good hard work. One that pulls me back to the story that is familiar and brings comfort. And yet here I find myself, sitting on the bathroom floor on this first Sunday of Advent with little certainty, no familiarity and a wicked rebellious streak that tells me that I need to sit this one out. But I can’t. So, what now?

In case you have missed the 2020 journey of chaos, let me catch you up:

I picked RELEASE as my word of the year. Stupid.

My journey into my undoing (that’s what I’m loving referring to this season as) met the words of my blog for the first time.

I tried to let myself question many things during Eastertide. And it ended here.

What no one really understood until recently, was the depth of the journey. I’ve been doing the hardest work.

Just rereading those 4 posts makes me emotionally want to hide. Well, physically, too. But that’s a conversation for another time and place. This is what I drag into Advent today. I drag doubt and pain and mistrust and disgust. I bring hurt and jealously and irritation. These are my starting points. And in year’s past, I would write that today is about Hope. And I would confidently know that Hope is coming in just weeks. And waiting is so good. But instead I write things like this to people in my life:

“I’m struggling. Advent starts on Sunday and for the first time in my life, I have no connection to the Church and little desire to focus on the “reason for the season”. I don’t know what I believe about Jesus. I don’t know if his birth really matters the way that I always have. But there is something that keeps calling me to to Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. What does it look like to embody those words in my soul?….This Advent looks so different it hurts. I can’t rest on what I’ve always done. I can’t read the daily devotion on the Advent internet sites because it doesn’t fit anymore. I can’t even really wrap my mind around what I need, so I’m sitting in the middle of the chaos. I feel like a teenager that just wrecked her room in raging fit and now has the choice to clean up the wreckage or burn the house down.”

I have never feared the real. And I write these words today as a warning as much as anything. I don’t know what this Advent brings. I don’t know what I might have to say in the coming weeks. So, if it is discouraging or hard for you to read about doubt or loss of faith or even hear the wrecked honestly of my foul mouth, you may want to skip my Advent ramblings this year. But if you want to hear about how in the midst of faithless-ness, I have chosen to sit and wait, let’s go.

What If: I Cannot Trust My Inner Voice?

There is a voice inside of you
that whispers all day long,
‘I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.’
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
or wise man can decide
what’s right for you – just listen to
the voice that speaks inside.
Shel Silverstein

As a kid, I was not a lover of words. I did not read. I did not enjoy writing. There was one exception to this rule. I had a handful of books that spoke. Their words lept off the pages to give feelings and meaning to my very confused thinking. As a pre-teen, Go Ask Alice was one of my favorites. Dark and twisty should have been a life label for me in 7th grade. As a younger kiddo, Where The Sidewalk Ends was a favorite ‘I’m pouting in my closet’ read. There seemed to be an understanding of mutual head dwelling with these authors. As I have worked to understand my own inner life, I came across this 1996 poem from Shel Silverstein’s children’s book, Falling Up. The line that had me hooked was “a voice inside of you that whispers all day long.” Two things struck me. One, the voice is whispering so I have to quiet my mind to hear it, and the voice speaks all day long.

One of the single greatest impediments in my ability to listen and trust my inner voice is a very real fear that my own voice is not trustworthy. I grew up with a foundational understanding of my sinful nature, an understanding that I could not escape from, an understanding that I was not able to overcome it. And while I cannot recall a specific conversation where I was told that my intuition was not trustworthy, I developed that belief and I certainly don’t think that thought pattern was ever discouraged. Even when I began to shift to a creation narrative that was founded in a place of goodness, the presence of Original Sin in our world penetrated the ‘goodness’ of my own voice.

I can honestly say that I cannot name one time, not one single time, that I have trusted my intuition and inborn voice 100%. For four and a half decades I have continually told myself that self-revelation was not of God. Sure, I could wrap it in the correct words like ‘Holy Spirit’ and ‘God’s gentle voice,’ but I have feared that the whisper was my own…forever. As I have worked to try on new models of faith, I have defined some aspects of this thought insanity differently, especially as a parent. I remember the first time that one of my girls said, “I just get this weird feeling, Mom.” I almost cried. They heard from themselves and BELIEVED. I’m sure I dork-factored this simple statement by vomiting words of encouragement at the revelation. Many times since then, I have (in so many non-chill ways) told both my children to TRUST THAT VOICE OF KNOWING.

Even when I have been unable to listen to my own voice, I have worked so hard to develop in them a belief that their intuition and whispers are trustworthy. When I think back on the most devastatingly painful moments of my life, I am able to identify that so, so many of them could have been avoided if I had just – for even a tiny second – trusted my own internal voice. I could have challenged my self-inflicted shame of “good girl” choices. I could have stood my ground and not gone or done or felt obligated. I could have stepped out of relationships and into good risk. Perhaps, in some weird way, I could have lived the life that the Divine intended for me all along, instead of avoiding the preconceived judgement that I knew would come if I ever trusted.

A wise soul said something the other day that flat threw me for a loop in the best way possible:

"There is no process or system that is better to trust than the deep loud internal discernment God gave me." -my friend Kim

With these words, I began to unpack my fear. How do we start trusting? If you want to learn from a middle-age Kindergarten level truth seeker, here is my wisdom. I can’t hear if I don’t stop talking. Listening is not possible if I am constantly making noise. So the very first thing I need to do is shut my hole. While I am quiet, I breathe. My only “words” or “prayer” in breath is to breathe in Goodness (or the Divine, or Knowing – whatever you invite to teach you) and breathe out fear. I have so many fear voices, so I have to give them a swift kick in the ass to be able to hear my own truth. And then I sit. Sometimes in the silence. Sometimes as I drive. Sometimes as a listen to some music. And as the thoughts and words come, I don’t fight them or their origin or their “truth.” I listen. And then I listen some more.

What I know about growing and changing thought patterns is that it’s takes work. I cannot un-learn years and years of conditioning without years and years of new practice. I’m sitting here today, as I type on my porch, smelling the tomatoes and basil of my garden and listening. And what I hear is good. It’s my voice. It’s my truth. Me. Mine. Goodness.

What If: The “Rules” of Church are Outdated?

This question is a loaded bomb. I love it and I hate it all at the same time. Like so many other things in the world of the Christian Church, there are many layers to the “rules” that people associate with the Church. For the sake of giggles and conversation, I did an interesting experiment: Google. Literally, I searched for the rules of the Christian Church. I wanted to vomit. Instantaneously. All of these things were listed in articles and writings on the rules:

  • Never allow someone to embarrass your morality, your essence, your innocence.
  • A man has the right to lead his woman in life.
  • Look casual and modest but attractive enough.
  • To come to church you should wear clean and appropriate clothing, as required by the holiness of the place. Women should exercise Christian modesty and decency.
  • To derive spiritual profit from going to church, it is very important to put yourself into a prayerful mood on the way to church.
  • Read your Bible daily.
  • Be a wholesome Christian. Our lives and appearance should commend the Gospel and make it attractive to others.

What I want to do at this point is give you a sarcastic commentary on all of the above. It is actually taking all of my restraint not to be a complete jerk, cause you know I could. Let’s try and talk about this without the attitude. Of course, people that think in terms of rules and black and white-ly defined circles will always fall on the more extreme ends of this conversation. But, can we just be really honest? These rules exist because these people exist. Even in some very openminded, thinking and searching spaces, you will find these rules. People with this approach to faith can be found in most Christian circles today. The core of these rules are valuable to many modern Christians and that single fact is the reason that so many of us look at the Church today with, on our best days, irreverence and on our worst days, disdain.

The saddest part of this entire conversation is that the rules, the tools by which the Church would like to help define people of faith, are the very things that push people away from the possibility of connection. In my years of stumbling around the heart of the Church, I have found the ability (or maybe I should say stubbornness) to ignore most of the rhetoric. I have worked hard to define for myself ways to hear the words to the rules and reshape them to fit the heart of the God that I understand. Let me give you an example.

Most of us that were brought up in the last 30 years of Church culture have been taught to believe that the tangled web of purity and chastity are some of the most tightly held rules of the Church.

“Purity culture” is the term often used for the evangelical movement that attempts to promote a biblical view of purity (1 Thess. 4:3-8) by discouraging dating and promoting virginity before marriage, often through the use of tools such as purity pledges, symbols such as purity rings, and events such as purity balls.”


Not only did I come of age at the beginning of the purity culture, with so many confusing and convoluted messages, but I was a youth pastor in the height of the movement. To say that every area of my faith was impacted by the rules of sexual behavior is an absolute understatement. I wore the ring. I grieved the mistakes. I tried to define “good” and “boundaries” to gain approval from a rule imposing God. I drank the Kool-aid. What happened over the last 30 years of my life is an excavation project of the soul. As I began to look at the bizarre (and ridiculous) tools by which we tried to teach love and fulfillment, I have come to understand that we failed. In every way.

But, here is the interesting thing about purity culture. It did not come into existence in a vacuum. Like every other “rule” of the church, it was a reaction to something that no one knew how to put in a box. In the 90’s, the children of the 60’s came of age. For many of our parents, finding a way to prevent unplanned pregnancies and protect us from the AIDS epidemic somehow morphed into a bizarre attempt to develop rules to ground a “biblical” understanding of sexuality. Do you remember our conversation about the mess that we make of the church? Yep. Exhibit A.

So, are the rules outdated? I’m not sure that’s the right question. I think the better question is What If: The Church Didn’t Have Rules? I think human rules are some of the greatest mistakes of the modern church. What if rather than making rules and trying to tell people how and what to do, we used that energy to listen – to people and more importantly to the Spirit? Behind the rules are always attempts to avoid pain, misguided as they may be. I wonder what would change if instead of telling others how to do things or how to be, we instead placed before them the desired end goal? Instead of giving me rules and shame to define sexuality, what would have happened if a trusted adult had instead said, “Lacy, I want you to be whole. I want every part of you, even your physical body to be deeply connected to the heartbeat of God. What feels whole to you?”

I’m guessing I would have spent much less on therapy. Just saying.

What If: We Have Messed Up the Church?

If there was ever a question that just needed a one sentence response, it is this one. We have messed up the church. The WE that is the clear cause of the problem is humans. All of the humans. Anytime that humans try to control and give order to and manipulate the work of God, it is absolutely going to be messy. So messy, in fact, that sometimes I do not even recognize it as the work of the Creator.

The next 7 days of “What If” posts are about the Church. We are going to tackle things like the “rules” of church, the role of church and the need for church in the world. I am going to be as honest as I can, and that honesty comes through some well earned Church scars. But before we dive in, I need to invite you into my own church journey.

Year ago, I wrote about my formational years in Church. As a young child, this is the Church that I saw. My heart for and love of the Church began by watching a group of my parent’s friends be Church to each other. Here is a piece of that story:

I never felt shamed. I always knew I belonged. I believed that I was included. I saw the adults in my church give of their talents and time and sleep to impact our lives. This happened in the church building on Wertheimer Rd., but it also happened in my living room and in the back room at Los Tios restaurant. It happened in the car on the way to camp and as we were jumping off cliffs in central Texas. I don’t remember a single “Jesus said not to…” lecture. If you have been around the Church very long, you know that not every experience is this much fun. There were rocky roads ahead. But when I look back on the formational years of my life, I have no doubt that the preparation for my calling and love of the Church was rooted by a group of 30-somethings that said that they needed Jesus and each other to get through life.

In the mid 2000’s I experienced my own moment of adult discovery as I once again was reminded that the Church has never been defined by a building, a program or a leader:

We all realized that the bread and the cup and the conversations that we shared were more life-giving and hope inducing than conversations about cutting budgets and evangelism and debt payments and attendance numbers. For each of us, coming from very different denominational backgrounds, we found the story of tradition-breaking Jesus to be a breath of fresh air. One Monday night, over dessert, laughter and I’m sure some tears, someone said out loud what we all had been thinking. This IS church.

The road is long. My love story of falling in and out of love with the Church is treacherous. I have a firmly cemented belief that attaching an unrealistic expectation of human performance to the work of God through the Church is a dangerous step. On many occasions, I have been a part of messing up the Church. Anyone who has lead would be lying if they said differently. And even as I recall beautiful moments of deep personal and Spirit connection, I need you to know that that the road of Church life has not reached a tidy happily ever-after. I still fight to find my place. I still wrestle with connection and belonging.

I ask myself, daily, if I still feel called to participate in or if it time to step out of connection to the Church. I hope I never stop asking these question. This is one of the most honest conversations that I have with God today. Letting go and not being in control do not come easy for me. With the experience of ups and downs in Church life, these have become key components of making peace with where I need to experience personal resurrection inside the Church. I hope that God will always open doors for me to find connection to the people of God in moments of good conversation, around dining room tables and as we care for each other. That’s what the Church is to me in its very best form.

What If: I Can’t Say That I’m a Christian Anymore?

When I asked for questions for this series, I received such a beautiful array of topics. Because most of my blogs have a spiritual undertone, I fully expected that many of them would center from this space. It was clear as I started curating questions that there were a handful of themes that dominated, but there were two that seemed to need some thoughtful unpacking. Clearly, my sphere of influence had some big questions about the Christian faith the Church. This was no surprise to me, but I was honored that I was trusted with some of these questions. While I am doubtful that I have sufficient answers, I have thoroughly enjoyed the personal exploration that I have been gifted in this process.

Today’s question has so many layers. The only way I know to begin is to start on the outside and work inward. First of all, the wording has implications. “Anymore” implies that there is a basis for understanding the word Christian though the questioner’s life experience. I hear from this word that at some point in the past, the word Christian has been a marker of identity. Assuming this is true, we open up an entirely different level of question. A textbook definition of “Christian” is not applicable to those that have been personally woven into the faith. With the experience of embracing faith comes beliefs, rituals, direction and dogma that is not universal to every experience.

There is not one way to “be” Christian. Even within the faith, some define it as friendship, some a relationship, some a Baptism and others a mystery. At the core of all of these expressions is the rooted belief in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The way that Christians express, pray, talk (and just about everything else) are as different at the people themselves. This has caused splits and separations in the Church for centuries. The varying insights, truths and experiences are vast. So vast, in fact, that some inside the circle have a steep sense that claiming the name alone is not sufficient. The laundry list of do’s and don’ts is vast. The proving ground to gain entry is ever growing. Ultimately, the meaning of this word is loaded from every angle.

With that as the foundation, I hear this question and I immediately hear wounds. I hear the weapons of exclusion and the judgement of faithfulness. I hear the preconceived ideas that ______ is not enough to be considered in the club. I hear a struggle to reconcile all of this person’s being to the presentation of Christianity that has not fit. I get it. I really do. This is such a deeply personal seeking that I must dig deep for the response. I ask myself this question on the regular. I can do Jesus. I can read and study the Gospel accounts of the life of Christ. I can see the deep well of compassion and grace that embodied his life. I can rally around the Jesus of the broken and poor and women and sick. I can feel acceptance in his welcome. CHRIST is the not the problem with this word. It’s the -anity section that causes me to stumble flat on my face.

I have been out of youth ministry for years. Most of the teenagers that I served are in their 30’s…some at the upper end of that decade. They have lives and families. They have joined churches (or not) for themselves. They have had real pain and struggle and many have lived to tell about it. But some have not. Because life is real and foundation rocking and gut punching. Not long ago, I was at my house when the doorbell rang. One of my former youth was at the door. I had not seen them in years. We talked for quite some time and in the midst of painful truths, they asked, “Lacy, are you a Christian?” The sure-fire Sunday School answer was coming out of my mouth when I stopped. My mouth froze and their eyes met mine. With all of the truth that I could muster in that moment, I said, “I’m not sure that we agree on what that means these days. I can’t answer that question in one word. The automatic response that I have always given doesn’t work for me anymore.”

To say that this only further confused this conversation is an understatement. What they needed in that moment was the assuring, neatly packaged “yes” that I would have gladly passed out with cheer in years past. What they got that day was a historical and practical conversation about love and welcome. They were reminded that a label is not diagnostic. For the first time, to one of the teenagers for whom I had neatly packaged all the things, I had to unpack the ways that I still have faith in the person of Jesus but cannot claim the label of Christian most days. I can tell you all the things that I honor and treasure about so many aspects of faith. What I can’t do is honor and treasure a word and movement that has sought to divide, politicize, weaponize and defend the very things that Jesus stood against. The camp of Christian just feels like a pair of jeans that no longer fits. On some days, this is freeing. On other days, I am heartbroken. Either way, I’m choosing honesty in the process and worrying less about the label that I don’t want to wear, and more about the connection with the Divine that I need to develop. I think Jesus would be just fine with that.

What If: I Never Feel Spiritually Fulfilled Again?

I have a text saying that friends have recently received from me excessively. No commentary, no explanation, just “GOLD.” When this question appeared on my screen last week, I wanted to send back my favorite response. In the realm of truthful, hard, beautiful ‘what if’s’ for the spiritually seeking, this is GOLD. I’m going to do my best to unpack this gem, but before I begin, I need to place myself in the posture of learning. This is a question that I share with the asker. Regularly.

When you grow up in a tradition that is known for promoting and loving the experiences of faith that exude emotional responses, you have a warped “experience” of faith. As I have moved though different seasons of growth and tearing apart and construction, I have come to understand that my moments of greatest connection do not come when I FEEL spiritual. I falsely equated feelings with connection to the Divine in my younger years. As I have endured pain and struggle and grief, I discovered that the moments when I feel the most distant, even cold or uninterested, that God is actually working and shaping me into an entirely new spiritual shape. But these moments do not feel full. They actually feel quite lonely and empty.

When I first began to see these as holy moments, it was painful. I struggled because they did not present themselves as moments of fulfillment. They hurt. They made me question. And then I would walk a few more steps and I would realize that my soul felt stronger. Not because I was happy or had answers, but because I found that my grounding was secured with experience and reflection. As I learned in high school theology class, these are the very roots of faith. When we walk, one heavy foot in front of another, and realize that we are trusting that the God of the universe is at work – in spite of our undoing – we find our faith. A faith that is deeper, and more real and more full of questions. Instead, a faith that will be trustworthy when faith FEELS inadequate and incomplete.

One more thought that may give another dimension to this question: For those of us that have grown up with a context for faith that is wrapped in a handed down expression of spiritual connection, we often reach a moment(s) that require us to choose a different path. Do you remember the Pick-a-Path series from childhood? I think they were also called the Adventure Series. In these stories, you would reach a moment of the plot and choose a direction to continue. If your experience of faith is anything like mine, you have reached these moments multiple times in your faith life. Sometimes the path was obvious. Sometimes more hidden and nuanced. No matter the circumstances, taking the first step down the chosen path is the hardest part. But an amazing thing happens as I embrace the adventure. The weight of the situation shifts from the choice to go or stay or believe or deny, and transforms into the beauty of the journey. I’m not saying this is easy. I would actually admit that it is one of the hardest things that I have experienced in life. But a shift in the path is not a destruction, it’s simply an opportunity to change course. Honoring the journey is one of the most spiritual things that we can do. Allowing ourselves to honor the journey rather striving for a feeling allows us to be present all along the way.

What If: Religion is not Spiritual

Over the last decade, I have had countless conversations with friends that would label themselves spiritual but not religious. This posture is a growing trend. Almost without exception, I find myself coming back to the same conclusion after these conversations. We are all wired to explore. We all experience things in life that we cannot explain. For so many people, the awareness of powers at work in the world can be attributed to a divine source. There is interest in conversations about ancient texts. There is a natural desire to understand healing and forgiveness. But these questions hit a road block when the point of view shifts from God, to the way humanity organizes to express their faith.

This is the point in the conversation that things get tricky for me. I am a church girl. I was baptized as an infant. I was in the pew every Sunday. I was a youth group officer, a retreat leader and a religious drum beater. Then I went to seminary and became a youth pastor. These are usually not interesting talking points for non-religiously interested humans. My life experiences define the things that repel them.

A fascinating thing has happened as I explore these conversations. The more relationships that I have built with non-religious people, the more I have seen God – in their questions, in their seeking, in their faith. There is a lack of fear in saying things that many of us have been taught were off limits. There is no such thing as a bad or wrong or too stupid question. There is not an preset belief about what you should or should not believe. From that space, the most seeking, pure, holy questions are asked.

So, back to the original question. What if religion is not spiritual? I don’t think it is. Religions are belief systems. Religions contain rituals and moral codes. Religions are rooted in culture and history. Religions are humanity’s attempt to communicate the experiences of the supernatural and organize those moments into a road map for living. Religion is not bad. But it is not fundamentally good, either. Religions, all religions, have failings and shortcomings. They have ways to communicate with followers that push them toward more devoted lives. But there are plenty of religious expressions that fall short of connecting followers to life giving strengths like love and peace.

I fully believe that the Divine Mystery of God is best celebrated as just that, a Divine Mystery. When we take the questions and wonder and expansiveness and beauty out of our practice, we drift far from Spirit and rally around expressions of uniformity. It is in these moments that religion becomes dangerous. When religious communities become about conformity and rule following and power, they lose the delicate connection that is rooted in listening and responding. When I think about religious communities that have traded their process of discovery for the lie of security, I often witness an obvious disconnect with spirituality. In these religious expressions, division and exclusion thrive. Unfortunately, these are the religious communities that attract the attention of the world. They are loud. They are politicized. They are machines of culture. And in mixing these things with the name of God, most un-religious seekers are not only uninterested but completely turned off.

For the sake of good, honest, ‘what if’ kind of living, may we shed the labels and the pre-programmed questions and answers long enough to listen and hope and ask. Together.

What If: This Season Changed the Way We Do Life?

How is your household holding up? Is anyone else tired of trying to sift through the entire book of emotions (all of which have probably been felt at some point) to put your finger on the pulse of today’s crazy? I have not driven a car in more than a month. I have not been in a building that was not my home in 36 days. My two big “outings” have included riding in a car with someone else driving too remind myself that, in fact, the world has not ended. To say that I am on the crazy making roller coaster is a serious understatement. Some days I am completely content to have my simple schedule. Some days I am ready to claw the eyes out of all of the people in my path. Today may be one of those days…

For all the Enneagram lovers, I was quite fond of this accurate description of people like me:

“This type is mad. They’re mad they can’t protect or provide for everyone. They’re mad that people they think are incompetent have the power to restrict their movements. They’re certain if they were in charge they could do things better than everyone else. And they’re especially repelled by what they perceive as weakness in the people around them.”

One of my greatest struggles has been my inability to control the irresponsible actions of other people. I am the person that sees your Snapchat picture with your “one best friend” and judges you for being in public. That’s me. I realized that part of my struggle is that I am completely uncomfortable with anyone except for me being in charge. I hate it. And I would really be much happier if I could control ALL the things. But I can’t. And I can’t see my mom and dad. And I can’t watch my daughter graduate and go to prom. And I can’t hang out with my friend. While my go to is anger, the root is sadness. I am sad. This is hard. So, very hard.

On the days when I can find some clarity of thought, I try to be mature and wise and thoughtful and ponder these types of ‘what if’s,’ but you must know, this is not my natural posture. But for the sake of this question, here are 5 things that I have picked up from this bizarre and challenging time:

  1. I need my people. My people are more important than I thought. I have loved the time that I have shared with my husband and daughters. We have cooked and laughed and yelled and worked puzzles and had movie marathons. I love these 3 with all of my heart. But, GOOD GRIEF, I need the other people. I need the ones that talk to me in different emotional languages. I need the ones that sit at coffee with me for 3+ hours…something that would be painful for the current occupants of my home. I need the ones that like to challenge my thoughts rather than my instructions to load the dishwasher. My other people are necessary.
  2. I need to adventure. I miss getting in my car and driving with the windows down and the radio loud. I know what you are about to say, “you could still do that.” But if you have ever been around me, you know that my drives include big boujee drinks and frequent bathroom stops. Neither of these are stay-at-home friendly. I would also be the jerk that has a wreck joy riding…and I would NEVER hear the end of it.
  3. I need to have a better rhythm. I resist being told how and when to do things. But one thing that I know that has to change after this season is that I must build into my life rhythmic time for walking and thinking and soul stillness. I can know these things are necessary, but until they are thrust upon me I don’t appreciate them. And even then, no one is making me do them now, but there is so much down time that in my boredom I have done the things that I really need. I have seen these moments transform my quarantine experience. I don’t always enjoy what these moments expose, but I treasure truth. Rhythm is gold for people like me. And I hope I can continue to see the value when the schedule fills again.
  4. I need to say “no” more. I like to be needed. Because I know that I can do all the things, I tend to take the reins of projects that should not be mine in the first place. This season has taught me that it is healthy to step out. I am not responsible for all the people. I am not able to control the people or the things. So, dear Lacy, know your role.
  5. And here is the big one: I don’t need to go to Target, Marshall’s and all the other places like it is my job. I miss wandering. I miss being lost in a moment of dreaming of new and exciting. I have traditionally found that in shopping and buying. While I have purchased things on the internet, I have honestly not missed wandering in a store. I find wandering in my neighborhood walking trails has produced a similar experience with less debt and more wisdom. I’m not saying that this won’t ever happen again, but I do think this new awareness has been insightful and challenging. I’m looking forward to finding new places to wander and dream when I explore again.