Ashes In My Hair

So, it is lent.

Besides the infamous question that generally follows that proclamation (what cha’ gonna give up?!), what the heck does lent mean to this Christian, Quaker-loving, Evangelical tradition, spiritually seeking girl? Well that, my friends, is a great question.

This week, I received a big ash cross on my forehead. And I remember my first lent, two years ago. I had never heard of lent from any Christians, I heard of lent from my friends who wanted to lose weight so they assumed lent was a good time to kick that sugar/meat/dairy/bad food habit. I mean, really, what else does lent mean to the rest of the world? Two years ago I walked into chapel, entering into a completely new journey of faith, and thought, hey, I should do this lent thing, because, well…why not?

Good intentions and all, I had no idea that lent has a powerful tradition and a powerful purpose besides taking a break from coffee. Lent has nothing to do with what we give up, and everything to do with what we remember.

I wish that someone would have told me this years ago. I wish that someone would have helped me to recognize much earlier the value that lies in tradition. For many, lent, and most spiritual disciplines I tend to categorize as “traditional” for that matter, are not mindless actions. The reason that they uphold these traditions is that they are bound to a greater community than those who are presently alive. Lent brings us into a season of sorrow, mourning, remembrance of our own brokenness and need. If we didn’t have these seasons, we might fall into the fatal falsity that life and our faith is only about us. Tradition reminds us that we are deeply connected to one another, and we experience the emotions, seasons, rhythms of life together even when we as individuals may not be in that season.

Honestly, lent is coming at a deeply painful time in my own life and faith, so I am fully embracing this remembering period of my brokenness and the reality that I too will return to dust. And in 39 days, I will remember the sweet taste of resurrection with my community. I will enter in to a time of joy and celebration in Christ’s conquering of death even when I may still feel aches of death in myself.

Because that is tradition, community, and this deeper understanding of our spiritual rhythms than any individual can find for themselves.

I am not giving up anything for lent this year, because right now I need only add some time and space so that I can remember who Christ is, remember His promises, remember that He relentlessly pursues my heart. And I will gather with my community to be reminded together, and to wade through the seasons of life, whether we as individuals are personally experiencing them or not, as one body, not separate bodies.

Lessons in (Naked) Yoga

As a young Christian woman there are two words that certainly should not come out of my mouth, especially in connection: naked yoga. Yoga has been a challenging concept for many of my Evangelical predecessors and I have even heard some interesting comments made towards my “taboo” practice of spirituality. And nudity…well, it will take more than a few centuries to work through that issue.

I am proud to proclaim that I regularly do naked yoga, and I am a better person because of it. I love yoga, I am a fitness fiend and have found yoga to be a very practical way to exercise and de-stress  It is a place of safety for me and accomplishment that I am proud of. This past summer I spent countless hours (nearly everyday) getting into my yoga practice. All through online videos, I learned to downward dog my butt off and namaste my way to mental release. When I arrived in my new home in Newberg this past September, I decided to take some liberties in my room without a roommate on a hot summer day, and forego clothing during my yoga session. And suddenly, something inside my heart began to click.

The weather has since changed to muggy rain and freezing days, but I still regularly practice naked yoga. When the world is constantly revealing images of what and who you should be, sometimes we forget the beauty of the individual we are created as. Body image is a journey most of us must wade through, and I probably will for most of my life. But I promise you that taking happy baby pose without any clothes on doesn’t leave much to be revealed. I am forced to examine my heart and mind in yoga, and in naked yoga I am forced to recognize and accept my body’s capabilities and unique design. There are folds on my tummy and hair on my legs, but God says it is good. When our standard of beauty is God’s finest creation of our own bodies, how much more blessed are our lives? When we recognize that no fad diet or crossfit workout will give us more worth, how joyful and free are our hearts able to be?

I am passionate about caring for our bodies because I believe in good stewardship. I believe in healthy eating and regular exercise. But even more than that, I believe that I am Jake’s standard of beauty, I am my own standard of beauty, and I am God’s standard of beauty too. This gives me the freedom to see my imperfections very clearly, and realize that they are marks of a unique design, not a mistake. 

Naked yoga may not be for you. Maybe sometime, in the privacy of your own home, you can take sometime to recognize the pattern of design God has made that is called your body. He says it is good, and you should too. Be free when you recognize that you have nothing to compare to, and that the gentle curves or the harsh lines are landscapes of divine beauty, and Christ would not have you any other way. 

In the beginning…

Well, we all must start somewhere, right? So I guess this is where I start. March 2nd, 2 months and a day before my college graduation, 2 months and 2 weeks before the day I get married, almost 3 months before the day I turn 22, and 3 days before Lent begins.

I am at a sweet transitional moment in time. A moment from singleness (legally, at least) into marriage, a moment from education into career, a moment from life known to completely unknown.

But the irony is these moments, this feeling of transition, it does not necessarily ever fade. It seems that we are stuck in transition most of the time, feeling burden by our past, and fleeing to a future that holds hope and brightness.

But I long for presence. And that, is partly, where we begin here. Yes, life is “crazy” “busy” and “overwhelming” (words that have all sucked up my vocabulary for the past few months); maybe that misses the point. I am, instead, marking my journey in faith, my journey in marriage, my journey in social work, and my journey in life as a time to be grateful, present, and to understand the ways of being Beloved.

If you are a Henri Nouwen fan, you may be familiar with this term. “First of all, you have to keep unmasking the world about you for what it is: manipulative, controlling, power-hungry, and, in the long run, destructive. The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting belief,” (Henri Nouwen). I am journeying through a lifetime of trying to grasp the nature of a God who calls me Beloved, and I hope to find ways to understand that more over these next few years.

There is not a particular significance to starting a blog now. Part of it is to practice gratitude during this season of Lent. Part of it is to document this wild transition in my life. But most of it, as the title reveals, is understanding where a majestic God plays into the ordinary aspect of life. How can I see my beloved nature and God breath His way into the simplicity of my daily patterns? I’ll never be able to answer that question to the full capacity I would hope for, but I can say that I am ready to experiment with my faith and life and see where God shows up.