Sunday, July 20, 2014

She Went Wahoo

Catherine Boyd: You took Albert Einstein for a ride on that thing?
Ed Walters: Sure.
Catherine Boyd: Well, don't ever do that again!
Ed Walters: Come on. He loved it. He went Wahoo.
Catherine Boyd: Wahoo?
Ed Walters: When's the last time he said Wahoo?
Catherine Boyd: Well, I'm sure I don't know.
Ed Walters: When's the last time *you* said Wahoo?
Catherine Boyd: Well, I'm *sure* I don't know.
                                          -I.Q. movie

Earlier this year we traded in my beloved SUV that was dying for a car. I have been a little unsure about this car. (I was unsure about the SUV at first too. I don’t like change, people!) We chose this kind car for the safety. I have to take large hills to work and this has AWD to get me where I need to go.

Beyond the practical, I admit it’s fun to drive. It has lots of gadgets, seat warmers, and a sunroof. Beside our home, it might be the loveliest thing we own.

But it’s hard for me to think of owning nice things. Isn’t being excited about tangible things a sin? Most days, when I get in the car, this is where my mind goes: It’s just a car, Becca. It takes you where you need to go.  Don’t be happy about it in any way.

Something happened to me last Friday though. I was coming home after working from Panera Bread, and I decided to open the sunroof all the way. I turned up the music and started singing at the top of my lungs. I was inches away from sticking my hand straight out of the sunroof at a stoplight. I sounded ridiculous, and I looked ridiculous (at least as it goes in my book).

The light turned green, and I hit the gas pedal. The engine revved, and I felt my heart swell. I heard the Voice. My God saying, “Drink deeply of the joy, my child.” Even now, thinking of that moment leaves me breathless.

I don't drink deeply.

I let fear, pride, and confusion wrestle joy out of me over and over. I don’t ever use the word happy. Ever. But some moments just lend themselves to happiness. It’s not meant to last forever but just. Enjoy. The moment.

Tell God "thank you." Kiss your loved ones. Throw your hands in the air and say, “Wahoo!” Sing Weezer’s “Pork and Beans” song at the top of your lungs. Move your hips side to side if you want to. That’s what Kyla did at two years old, when she heard a Weezer song.

God is not absent in these moments. He’s there too. Why can’t we picture Him smiling with us? He might even be singing along too. We know that He sings over us. Revel in His delight in your delight over His gifts and His presence.

This is all part of the abundant life. And it’s really not about the things. But it is about our acknowledgement that every good and perfect gift, whether it’s a need fulfilled or something just plain for the fun, is from God. It’s not earned. It’s given. We are beckoned to take and receive and rejoice.

A few months ago my brother posted a link about common wrong views people have about God. I said something under the article about how freeing the article is. Well, a woman who is an acquaintance of mine got on there and CAP LOCK YELLED at me. She hollered about how all we talk about is God’s love and what about His wrath and His justice? To which I replied that she was accusing us of focusing on a couple of God’s attributes while she was doing the same, and that of course God is so much more than that. The article wasn’t meant to be exhaustive related to who God is. More CAP LOCK YELLING ensued to the point where I was informed that God’s favor came upon Jesus at His baptism because of what He did when He was a child, not who He is as the Son.

I ended my side of the conversation then. And….commence closing laptop now.

Nope. God doesn’t gift us because of what we have done. He gives freely with no prerequisite and no expectation afterward. But when we see who He is, what He has done, we can’t help but worship and respond to Him out of those things. We even learn more about who we are and where He is working in our lives. He does all of this for us.

When He said, “Drink deeply” that morning, He loosed the chains on my heart. He set right the lies I believed. He brought the gift of joy and His truth to replace wrong beliefs. He put me at ease.

He has and is doing this in many other ways in my life. In broken places I never thought could be put back together this side of eternity. In ways I never, ever thought could happen.

Yet, here He is speaking. Loving, reveling in me and with me.

Our (parent church) pastor’s wife asks over and over, “Who gets to live like this?” She’s not asking this because her life is rosy. She’s asking because God has awakened her to His presence and His gifts in the midst of difficulties. I happen to know some of her difficulties. It’s not all sunshine and roses. But it is God giving joy and hope in dark, scary places.

This is the good news, friends. Eternal life—true, abundant life—is a gift and it starts now. Not when Jesus shows up again and “rewards” people for what they have (or have not) done. That is in the Bible but that’s not all we have. It’s not all we cling to in the day to day. We don’t have some day, some later time when we’re allowed to be happy. He’s not telling us to wait until the end of this age to actually enjoy something.

He’s giving us moments at stoplights. He’s giving us little baby giggles that piece my heart back together after loss. He’s giving us ooey-gooey, fat-filled s’mores, drives into the mountains, and moments of throwing our head back in an all-out belly laugh. (I once got shushed for laughing like that on a camping trip. Apparently, it wasn’t refined behavior for a godly woman.)

I’m going “wahoo.” I’m throwing my hands up and letting the Wind—the Spirit—blow past me on the open road.

When was the last time you went “wahoo?” Have you ever?

This is your permission. As a child of the One who gives “wahoos,” I want you to know you can take and drink deeply of His joy today. Who gets to live like this? We do.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Wear I Am

"Children raised in cults do not have any identity to return to when they leave. 'Trying on' different hair-dos, colors, and clothing is normal." -Elizabeth Esther

I turn left. Then right.

The door is less than an arms length away. I want to escape but the growing lump in my throat keeps me in my place. Maybe the emotions caught just below my chin will go away.

One more glance in the mirror and then a quick lift up of my heels.

I ask myself, Hmmm…with a cardigan?

A shake of my head and I look at the growing pile of rejections.

I trudge to the salesperson. Throat lump still there, I mutter, “These didn’t work.” I hold out the handful of hangers as walk to the door, eyeing the selection of shoes before escaping again.

I come home and set a bag from Ross and one from Target onto the kitchen floor.

“You found clothes?!” Jeff asks.

“I’m taking them all back except for a shirt,” I snap.

His face falls. “Okay. Why?”

My eyes fill with tears.

“I just don’t know how to dress.”

This same scenario has been happening for years.

I don’t know how to dress because I have been dressing like someone more than twice my age for two decades.

A quick glance of my old photo albums and you will spot a girl who dressed in long sleeves at summer camp.

You will see me in knee-length shorts that look like men’s dress shorts and a men’s large sized t-shirt. My favorite dress as a fifteen year old was denim, wide at the waist with gathers that helps it flare away from my body, not toward it. In truth, it looked like a maternity dress.

(Click photo to enlarge) Here I am at summer camp (on right). Similar style to my denim dress, only this one is head to toe floral. I look like a garden threw up on me. Also, I'm wearing pantihose under that dress. (Summer 1996)

Capris and Bermuda shorts weren’t in style in the 90s. If one of us happened to spot a knee-length set of shorts that looked even half-way cute, we all bought a pair. One summer it was a wide-legged set of overall shorts from Mervyn's. These were acceptable for camp, mission trips, and leading VBS. I was extra popular that summer because I spotted them first and let the other girls knew where to find them.

This is what I was taught is right. This is what I know.

It’s still my main mode. Over the years I‘ve been told I dress frumpy, plain, and boring. I have to work extra hard when I go shopping for clothes to find what is an expression of me that also fits my body shape. Most importantly, I have to tell myself over and over that it’s okay to even ask those questions. It’s enough to induce tears in the dressing room and a quick flee from the store.

My husband has been so good to me in this particular part of my journey. In fact I have a decent wardrobe now with enough things to put together. Only trouble is I can’t wear about half of them due to the arrival of our sweet baby boy this last year.

And with only half a wardrobe, I’m faced with the prospect of going back to those questions about what fits my (new) body shape and finding more items to express myself.

I begin again.

It’s enough to paralyze me.

In truth, I am a pretty practical lady. I do know that much about me. My favorite outfit of all outfits is a white shirt, jeans, brown shoes (sandals or boots, depending on the season). I have a cardigan obsession, which I’m pretty sure is a result of wanting to emulate the timeless look of fictional bookshop owner Kathleen Kelly. I also love scarves and hats.

As I think on these accessories, I wonder if they are not just practical but my attempts at trying convey myself within the confines of what I know is acceptable.

More layers? Yes, please. Are layers my choice of “armor” designed to protect me somehow? Probably.

But I don’t know any other way.

Adding to my confusion is the fact that I work in a creative environment. I can wear a t-shirt and jeans but I do like to dress up. I like to show what I’m capable of doing for the company by what I put on in the morning. I want to exude the confidence I have in my calling by what I wear when I walk through the doors.

I never thought I would be faced with all of this confusion in my thirties but it’s a pretty crazy mixture at this point. For all the soul-searching I’ve done since escaping fundamentalism and the strong beliefs I have about courage, this area of how to dress pierces me and weakens my confidence in no time.

Turn left. Turn right. Which way is me? I don’t know.

I’m stepping out again this summer. Trying not to run for the exit too soon. Sometime this month, I’m taking a friend with me to go shopping. She’s going to help me. I showed her my “Fashionista” board on Pinterest and she seems to think I do have a particular style.

We’re going to try to find it in a store.

I’m not going to give up. It just may help to have someone with me to block the dressing room door and say, “Try again, Becca. Try again. It’s okay.”

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What I Will Not Put Up With

One of the first times I interacted with Jeff, he told me he planned to be a youth pastor.

“Be nice to the kids in your youth group, okay?” was my reply.

At the time I had no idea why those words were my reaction. A quizzical look crossed Jeff’s face. He promised me he would be nice to the kids in his youth group.

This conversation took place just weeks after my leaving home for college.

I had a pretty good family life growing up. My dad worked hard to put my brother and I through Christian schools. My mom was always around and took an interest in our likes and dislikes. In the few years we homeschooled in between Christian schools, mom took us all over the state to visit museums and parks.

We spent our Sunday mornings going to church and then to lunch as a family where we caught up on what happened during our week. Dad was often working a second job, which was also a favorite hobby of his, on evenings and Saturdays. So Sunday dinners were a good time to be together to talk. I felt loved and understood among my family.

Such was not always the case in my church. My dad desired for my brother and I to know the Bible well. I believe this is the reason I do know it and love it so much today. Because of his desire, we not only attended Christian school, we went to a church that taught the Bible verse by verse.

I received many good things from my church. We had a steady community of friends I was able to grow up with and I received opportunities to attend summer camps and participate in mission trips for many years. Our church was also good at putting children front and center. We served alongside adults at outreaches. As a teenager, my friends and I got to run the VBS while the adults were the secondary volunteers.

Many of my days at my church were good days. I have some fond memories.

However, much of the difficulty began when I entered youth group.

The summer before entering seventh grade, we received a stern talk. I remember what I was wearing that day. A pink t-shirt with flowers in the front and flowy, flowered coulottes that matched. They were a couple inches from hitting my knees. That night we found out that any shorts above our knees were immodest and now against the rules.

I remember shame washing over me. From my head to my toes, I felt dirty and sorry for something I would never have even known was a problem a few hours prior. I was still young enough that I had never even shaved my legs and here I was with this tremendous guilt over a pair of flowered coulottes.

The push regarding purity continued. That fall our youth pastor launched a series on dating. My best friend Amy and I sat on the front pew each week. We were the perpetual good girls. We wanted to do everything right for Jesus.

We found out that if a guy has a bad thought about us, it’s our fault. We vowed to never kiss a boy before being married. We giggled on the phone about such things. But deep down I think we were trying to process thought patterns that were outside our age as well as the unhealthy focus of male and female relationships placed on us for years. That was only the beginning.

Other confusing messages followed. Don’t listen to music that has a beat. It’s Satan’s tool because drums cause your heart to race to a certain pattern and then the Holy Spirit no longer has control over your life.

Another youth pastor came and he made rude comments to kids who played sports. As mentioned in another post, he told me God would make me break my ankle if I continued to play volleyball because it was my “god.” I just liked playing. That’s all. It was fun. I played while maintaining a place on the youth group leadership team. He did not like that I had not been able to attend a retreat because I had practices that week.

When my parents separated during my junior year, this particular pastor accused me of “not having enough faith.” He did this in front of the whole youth group during Sunday School.

That familiar sense of shame found its way from my head to my toes again that day. The whole group turned to look at me. I fought back tears and looked at the floor until I could run out after we were dismissed.

I ran to my dad in tears. He took me our Senior Pastor, who I believe did have a heart of compassion for us, even though he could sometimes be strict about things like women staying in their place and the fact that he didn’t like the college I attended. He didn’t hold back his opinion regarding those things.

All of these experiences welled up deep inside of me. And so when Jeff said he was going to be a youth pastor, I responded in what must have seemed like the strangest response imaginable.

I was afraid that this guy I was beginning to fall for would end up mistreating young people in the church and I couldn’t let it happen as far as I could stop it.

Through college and beyond, Jeff and I managed to stay in more non-denominational congregations that did not hold so tight to rules about music and dress and a woman’s place.

We experienced even more freedom when we entered the particular church we’ve been attending since Kyla was about three years old. With an emphasis on who God is and what He has done for us, rather than what we should do or not do, we realize that we are free to respond to His leading out of those things. Not out of obligation.

The spirit of shame is far from those pews and those doors. It gives me hope. I feel as if I have a healthier path to walk out my calling.

But I remain concerned about leadership in the church.

You see, believe it or not, our parent church is on the opposite end of the same street as the church of my childhood.

I find this poetic.

Being in my hometown means I run into people from my former church. I see the building from time to time. I have even attended some events, such as weddings, there in the last few years. Sometimes my heart gets confused and I am taken back into those moments of shame.

Adding to the confusion is a phone call I received a few years ago. The message I heard that day took me by surprise. I almost couldn’t breathe.

You see someone I have known most of my life was abused by a person in my former church. It was serious.

I wish I could say that the leadership acted appropriately in handling this issue once it was brought to them. But they did not. They re-victimized this person and tried to cover it all up. They tried to convince the abused that it may not have actually happened.*

This has been the turning point for me. I cannot abide the type of behavior that covers up abuse. I will not put up with it. This is beyond a youth pastor who wants control, a church leader who says terrible things to teenagers that embarrasses them in front of their fellow friends, or someone who uses shaming language to get their way.

When the news broke about the abuse, my childhood church was already going through a difficult split and the most recent senior pastor was on the verge of leaving. I get that the board was under a lot of pressure. However, I have been left wondering if I was ever really safe there? I don’t know. Probably not.

See these tendencies to want control over a congregation are not harmless. They breed an atmosphere where it’s not okay to bring sin to the light. And sin in the light is the only way for there to be healing.

The same year that this information was brought to my attention through a phone call, Jeff and I moved to another state. It was hard to be in a new faith community where I was unsure how our family would be treated. It was also hard to watch from afar as people I love began hurting from a pastor leaving and a leadership coming unraveled. Hurtful words and actions were exchanged. More terrible secrets came out about people I respected for decades. It was ugly.

It hurt.

During that time it was also difficult not to have the regular support of our parent church anymore, the one that had shown us freedom. They had walked alongside us and, whether they knew it or not, had aided in a lot of my healing. They taught us that true leadership means shepherding and a shepherd does not harm his sheep when they wander off.

Control and abuse are not God’s best. This is not how He desires for His people to live. I will shout it from the rooftops. I will join others in singing a new song. I will strive, as far as it be with me, to allow for the truth to be a part of our faith communities.

No more children with shame washing over them. No more victims being abused and then re-victimized over and over again. I will speak. For there has been silence long enough.

I pray on many days for the survivors of abuse in the church. I pray for their healing. I pray that current leaders can shepherd, truly shepherd, in ways that build up the people in their congregations. In ways that strengthen all of us in the church.

May it be so, Lord. We are Your people. We need Your help.

*My childhood church has since made some appropriate decisions regarding this situation. Damage was done, but I’m glad they did not continue on this same path of mistreating the victim.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Our Song

I open my Book to look for words for a blessing but quickly have to turn the page. I am unable to handle the black ink spelling out Galatians 6:7.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

I cannot bear the words. These are not words of blessing for me. For they were used time and time again as a way to control and shame. I have to take God’s own words to Him and cry out for help. His story, His song, is meant for freedom. But it has been abused.

We have been abused.


I don’t know when I stumbled upon her blog. The first time I dismissed the posts as being rants from a slightly-angry, perhaps even bitter, girl who can’t move beyond her past.

However, within a short amount of time, I found my way back. One times, two times, even three.

Soon, I realized that the words found on these electronic pages are me. I may be the slightly-angry, perhaps even bitter sometimes, girl with a past full of hurt.

My story is not Esther’s story. But I know what she is saying. As if I am about to take my part in a chorus where I know what comes next. I know the words because I lived them. I know the tune and the tone because I have practiced them over and over in my head.

I know something else. I know there is a wrestling that comes with finding new words and new tunes. I know that there can be freedom to sing and to mess up too. It’s called practice. One is not perfect from the first measure.

And there are others joining this new chorus. There are others taking the hymns and the verses played over and over in our heads, who are changing the tune. Some of it just a bit. Other times we’re rewriting with barely a trace of the original song there.

We are stepping up to the high risers, just a bit closer to our God, who has been there all along. It’s just now we can see Him.

We are standing side by side.

We are shouting when it is necessary. From the bell towers, with the potential to ring. We know we were once locked there. Now we have some of the keys.

We are shedding those awful, frumpy choir robes. The ones that helped us conform. The ones that protected our modesty. Because apparently that was their job. They gave us the robes. We are leaving them on the steps as we take our true places in the church. Sometimes it is in the pulpit, when we were told to stay in the nursery.

Our voices grow louder. Others can hear it in the hills.

We say come. Sing with all you have, in your own way, in your own timing. It’s okay.

And there is prayer. Oh so much prayer in between the songs. When the music stops, we listen. We listen for the Savior, our true Director. And not the enemy.

We pray for healing. We pray for hope. We pray for one another.

We are together. One chorus. We will not go away. We will not be shamed. We will not grow quiet, unless The Director tells us to.

We hold hands sometimes. We walk in faith. We trust there is goodness in the words and the tune, always has been in His song, even when we didn’t know it.

We will take our places in the pews when it is necessary. Sometimes it’s the back row. And that is good too.

For all places in the Church are facing the same cross. We are fixed on Him. On His suffering. His own lamenting tune, growing into a chorus of hope. We gather bells. But we do not ring them. Not yet. For though we know there is a coda, we see the right repeat signs.

Some days we are back at the beginning. At least we know we can make it more than a measure.

We think.

And the music plays on. We are not deceived. We know there is a way forward. We are learning to live the Songwriter’s tempo. His rhythm. His way. We’re singing His words one note, one page at a time.


Dedicated to those who have the courage to begin singing the new tune. Here are the names of a few. I know there are others. Perhaps it is you.