This column, Barefoot & Preaching, is also published biweekly in print by The Prairie Messenger.

The gentle effort it takes to let myself be carried

The gentle effort it takes to let myself be carried

After we are small children, it is rare that we are carried.  Perhaps for a joke or dare, a photo op at a threshold, or in the case of injury, or in certain situations in old age?  My baby is big enough now I rarely carry his full weight unless he is asleep.  He lifts his own head and leans in the direction he wants to go.

I was always way too worried about getting into trouble or getting hurt to allow much play carrying.  My marriage is too egalitarian to take a photo unless there is a way to depict us carrying each other, which gets complicated.  I have not aged to a point where physical transfer is necessary, and none of my physical injuries have been serious enough to require a stretcher or wheelchair. Thank God.

I do not want to be carried. And this resistance is a weakness.

It has been a long season, nearly two years now, of not having the resources or capacity to do everything for myself or my family. My body has not needed carrying, but pretty much every other area of my life has been picked up by others for at least a time. The cooking. Childcare. Laundry. Kids’ activities. I have gotten better at asking for help and receiving it.

During the last six weeks, we have been walking through the slow court proceedings and respective return into grief and trauma following my sister’s violent death. Even with all the rational legitimacy of my need for support in this difficult time, I feel like there is a measure of acceptable carrying. The line is wherever I am even the least bit capable of doing it for myself. I feel guilty about receiving, worried about being a burden.

My head knows how many people have loved us, how they have longed to ease the burden, and been grateful for every time we reached out to ask for assistance. Still my heart feels unworthy at some deep level. For all these long months, God is carrying me and I’m trying to leap out of his arms to do it myself.

I spent many years building the fortress of my own independence. I stored up my value in doing it all. Like an infant resisting sleep, I would have to be unconscious to really let myself be carried completely. And then it would not have any spiritual benefit.

This is the invitation before me for this part of the journey: to let myself be carried into a most difficult part of my story. To invite the help and support of others, to release anxiety and worry, to face only one moment at a time, without clinging to the way I want things.  I have so little experience being carried.

Practicing is tedious.  I am not aware of all the ways I reach for the ground and try to load up my arms with my share. Cue another sixteen opportunities to be wrong and then feel bad about it.

I pick up my little guy and I notice that relaxing into rest is a process for him.  He begins restless and distracted. Resistant and irritable. And as I walk with him gently, going about the tidying up at a snail’s pace, he slows too. The stuffed moose gets wedged in beside his face by a sibling and he makes space for its calming familiarity. He begins to stare of into space, forgetting the effort of willing another way. Ever so slowly, his head finds the cradle of my arm. He smiles sleepily. I look away, not wanting to distract his work. He drifts off, and my heart and face are filled with the joy of being his resting place.

I want to rest, fully and completely.  To will myself to be carried, awake and at rest, by the loving care of my people, and in the unwavering foundation that is God.  And I need so much more practice.

I built a wall around my heart so that I couldn’t feel the love that carried me, in spite of myself. I am finding a few practices to bore holes in the bedrock. It is like preschool for this senior perfectionist.

First, to breathe, deeply and often, as a silent prayer. In with the air I need to breathe – that I did not provide for myself, and out with the lie of not needing anything. My need is the opportunity to receive the gifts of others. God is breathing life into me in every moment.

Next, I am stopping several times a day to sink into the things that are supporting me physically. The ground beneath my feet.  The chair holding me from falling. The arms of my husband and parents, siblings and extended family. I am trying to let them hold me a little longer.  To rest there.

Finally, I am praying surrender for myself and with my people. Moment by moment, I whisper release. I want to be good at this but for now, I will glory in the desire to let God be God.  Maybe in the quiet, while God is busy tidying things up slowly, I will start to stare off by accident, and be carried into rest for even just a few minutes. It takes effort, but a gentle effort, an oxymoron I am learning to embrace.

I am going to try to rest. If – when – I try to get up too quickly, could you carry me back again? I have a feeling that the practice is still going to take awhile.

An Advent Prayer

A few years ago, I was looking for an Advent prayer that my small kids would find easy to memorize that we could use when we lit the Advent wreath.  Finding nothing, I wrote my own. Several family have taken the little cards we wrote it out on home with them. ...

Allowing it to be well with my soul

Things are well at our house, at least when it comes to cupcakes.  Every fall, our family picks coloured leaves, sharpens pencils, and gets ready for the first of two clustered birthday seasons.  We make a little banner for the kitchen, tie balloons to the appropriate...

Lost is a place, too…

I am lost. The weird thing about this lost, however, is that I am lost in the most familiar places – my home, my relationships, my life. One thing has changed, but that one thing has changed everything. Lost is a place too, a place of feeling unsettled, disoriented,...

Tending to the wounds of a broken heart

Wounds are strange teachers. Ten days ago, I sliced through the tip of my left ring finger trying to pry leftover ice cream cake off the cardboard. (Don’t worry; I assured my inquiring brother-in-law that the cake was unharmed.) The sting was worse than the blood. And...

Tracing the Shape of the Dark

My sister had an old dead tree tattooed on her arm. She always meant to have dark clouds filled in behind it, but she didn’t get the chance. I asked her why a dead tree and not a living one; she said it was because she had seen the dark and the dead and gotten through...

An Obituary for my Sister…

With broken hearts, our family shares that Abbie Diana Speir was taken from us at her home in Yellow Grass on April 20, 2017 at the age of 33. Abbie was born at Royal University Hospital on September 29, 1983. She spent her school years in Elrose, loving her friends...

On Being Barefoot…

Before the burning bush, God asks Moses to take off his sandals, to notice and reverence that he walks on holy land. This holy land continues to burn before me, before us, signaling God’s presence before we arrived rather than because we did. This life we are living was holy before we existed in it. This land and creation we call home is the first book of revelation, God’s love letter to us, bearing witness to the Creator of it all.Our lives and the moments that make them up are the stuff of sainthood, our invitations to participate in Divine life to be swallowed up and fulfilled by God. At the grocery store, in the false solitude of our cars and commutes, in our laundry rooms, and over text messages. My shoes run the risk of “protecting” me from the sacredness of this naked moment. And how I love shoes, and how my sensitive toes resist the prickles of grass and the mess of sand. But barefoot is how my spirituality works, daring to live an embodied and earthy love of Jesus who took on flesh. I’m wandering through this life, yearning to let go of my shoes, to walk reverently and with deep attention to what passes under my feet and to what isn’t yet my path. Barefoot is how I write, how I speak, how I work. Experience shored up against an insatiable thirst for knowledge; direct honesty honed by sensitivity; and vulnerability chained to a commitment to competency. And an unapologetically barefoot tendency to speak it as I feel it, which leads me to…

…and Preaching

I’m a preacher without a pulpit, with words that burn until they are spoken ~ aloud or on a page.

My ministry is one of colliding words and ideas, reaching out to find a connection with God’s amazing people.

The world seems to me to be spilling over with grace and we seem to be people who, all too quickly forget that all of this is pure gift.

When I’m driving, eating, visiting, resting, cleaning, working, playing, and almost everything else, I’m frequently stunned by the pure miracle of what simply is.

It’s not all promised joy and ease, but it is all presenced and remembered by the One who gives it. And I can’t stop talking about it, proclaiming it, preaching this good news that we have not been forgotten or forsaken in any moment of this life.

For reasons I don’t quite understand, my words seem to be given to encourage and inspire. In a world where women and girls are still too-often silenced or secondary, I’m barefoot and preaching because my soul won’t rest any other way. If my words can be a gift to you, then that is a gift for me.

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