Monday, November 12, 2012

My Confession to Ann Voskamp (and the rest of the world)

First let me say that I love Ann.  You are a shining light in this dark world and I love how you wield words and speak right into the spirit of a person.  I'm thankful that I got to meet you as a real live person with skin on and tears on your cheeks.  You pour out your whole self into a person and it was beautiful to watch you do it with such grace.

I have followed you since the beginning, when the comment box was open and Shalom was still tucked inside you.  I remember because my Elizabeth was still tucked inside me.  And there's a pretty good chance you'll never read this but that's okay, because someone else needs to hear this.

I think I found you and 'sparrow' because of A Child's Geography, you gave me a copy but we didn't do so well at it, I think my kids were too young at the time to attempt it, or maybe it was me, but that's beside the point.  I identified with you because you were on a farm, had six kids, homeschooled, loved Jesus and loved words AND you were Canadian. And 'sparrow' and I, well we had some pain in common and we have formed an alliance that I treasure.

I started counting when you did, right along with you and it was a lovely thing back then.  But something changed in me and that's why I'm writing this because I'm guessing someone else out there may be in the same struggle and I want that person to know what the struggle is.  That there is a reason that there isn't any joy in the counting, even if they've filled up pages and pages trying.  It's taken me awhile to figure it out.

My heart has been in turmoil since Allume, trying to make sense of all that I heard and took in and understand it all.  When you said, "Who wants to be standing before the throne with the applause of men ringing in their ears and all of heaven silent."  My flesh stood right up and said, "I do!"  I was appalled at my flesh and that realization sent me spinning.  And I've been spinning until a day or two ago when the revelation came.

I've been reading Grace for the Good Girl and it is like reading my life on the pages.  I have so long struggled with affirmation, perfectionism and trying so hard to get this life right.  I have been a mess.  Then I read a post about how a lovely woman was changed so radically by counting the gifts and I was MAD.  I was angry as I stood at my sink washing the endless parade of dishes and I didn't quite get why I was so mad.  Why wasn't I changed?  Why couldn't I see any difference, I've been doing it so long?

I vented to my farmer/pastor giving him all my frustration and demanding answers to my questions.  Why had all my counting not resulted in any lasting change?  I've counted for years, there are well over 2000 gifts on my lists, I did it right, so why wasn't it making a difference?  I have given away so many of those books with a counting journal and pen to encourage others on the road.  I've spoken on the importance of giving thanks, I had done it all right, hadn't I? Why does my flesh work so hard to be noticed?

and he said, "because maybe you're just counting."

And I wept more and I wrestled with God because I needed to know what that meant.  And I kept reading and working through the book on grace and pleading with God for revelation for my broken heart and finally light broke through.

I was counting like I might count silverware or books or signs along the highway.  I was counting to fill in lines on a page not the spaces in my heart.  There was no joy because there was no eucharisteo (yes I have the word hanging in my hallway and I love it), grace, thanksgiving, joy.  Three in one, just as the trinity is three in one, you can't have one without the others.  I tried to memorize Colossians and I only did one chapter.  I kept trying and kept failing.

I had become a Pharisee somewhere along the line, my heart hardened to grace, living a form of faith but lacking any power or life.  I had become legalistic and my counting of things was doing nothing...there was no grace....therefore no thanksgiving...therefore no joy.  I had begun living a 'try hard' life somewhere between the first thousand and the second.  There was no joy, only conviction and condemnation for not doing it right ringing in my ears.  I stopped picking or even looking for the 'flowers' that had got me started writing this blog in the first place.  There was no fresh revelation and I wasn't looking for it.

Somewhere I decided to just do things 'for' God instead of 'with' God.  I would be the perfect pastor's wife, I would be the perfect mother, I would gain the applause my flesh longed for by doing it all right.  And I was empty.  In a desert with no oasis in sight.

Then I went to Allume and my spirit realized the dryness that it was in and I soaked up every piece of heaven that I could and my eyes kept flowing and wouldn't stop after I got home, because there was so much water needed to make that dry place fertile again.

I pounded on the gates of heaven for answers.  Then I read this post from a beautiful young woman that reminded me that my mind needed to be renewed continually.  That I needed to set my affections on Him alone.  I read that my flesh will always be at war with my Spirit no matter how good that flesh looked because that's what flesh does, it sets itself up against the Spirit.

and I had to repent

Then the song of redemption started singing in my ears, softly at first, and then louder and louder.  I didn't have to try so hard to get it right, grace was mine and had been all along, I didn't HAVE to fill in lines on a page to get it right. I don't have to try to be strong, because I'm not.  He isn't going to GIVE me strength, He IS my strength.  He isn't going to give me love, He IS the love and He loves me whether or not I get it right.

All is grace and grace is all I need.

So I get to give thanks in the congregation and in my home and in my heart, because I can.  I can give thanks, not to gain anything but a joyful heart.  My legalism did not bring any joy to me or anyone else.  It drained the very life from me and sapped my energy right out and strained relationships.

So that's it, I refuse to walk in a kingdom of legalism any longer, my heart can dance in the fields of forgiveness, free in His grace  and I can count on!

So dear one, if you're the one this is speaking to, know that His grace is yours, too.  You don't have to try so hard to get it right, because you can't and the harder you try the more miserable you'll become because all you'll see is failure.  There is a wide open place in His kingdom that allows you just to be...I'm kinda new here and would love some company...wanna join me?


Amanda S Conquers said...

So much hard honest truth here... and yet it's so beautiful. Yay! Freedom! This part especially resonated with me: "Somewhere I decided to just do things 'for' God instead of 'with' God. I would be the perfect pastor's wife, I would be the perfect mother, I would gain the applause my flesh longed for by doing it all right. And I was empty. In a desert with no oasis in sight." I can so relate. Ann's word: the WITH instead of FOR so cut me to the quick too. I just want Jesus. Emmanuel--God WITH us. Not to find others approval.

Lizzie Branch said...

SO wish I could give you a great big hug and a kiss on the cheek. I am traveling this path with you friend. Leaving the legalistic life of try harder and embracing His grace. It is all we truly need. Thrilled to be able to call you sister, friend, and fellow sojourner. Love you!

Lorretta at Dancing on the Dash said...

Dance, dance....DANCE with me on that beautiful "dash" between then and now and tomorrow. God is good!

Katharine said...

I wish you were here. I would hug you, except that I am likely to get your lovely clothes wet with tears...But I am standing with you in that wide open place, and I have only been here just a while, I'm just learning. I am crying for the joy that knows your heart and knows and feels the places you walk...

Mandy said...

Oh, how He loves you!!! And so do I, sweet sister! I am over here rejoicing at how He drew you close and broke you free from those chains! Keep on dancing in grace and freedom, Lani:) I am too thrilled for words at your redemption story. Thank you for your heart and your story...and your kind words:)

Anonymous said...

"REJOICE in the Lord always...and again I say...REJOICE!" Now those words applied to the revelation that work is no longer needed! That He accepts you as you are on this journey of life and that there is nothing to PROVE nothing to attain...only HIM!
"My legalism did not bring any joy to me or anyone else. It drained the very life from me and sapped my energy right out and strained relationships."
OH how I know those feelings...the bondage of it day after dreary day...asking/begging God to tell me WHY am I not able to find joy? Why can;t I feel the peace I was working so hard to attain---can you see the paradox there???
I am praising God with you...I def wanna join on your road to being healed from that burden of legalism. It is so easy to fall prey especially when our goals feel so noble! *Who* doesn't want peace? *Who doesn't want joy? Yet He wants to do it all for free so there is nothing to *DO* but yield and let Him have His will.
I am so so thankful to have met you at Allume! I am going to pray that God will continue to pour our more grace...up grace...upon grace! He WILL do it you know...when you leave that all behind and start with FRESH flowers of His mercies that are new each day! (((((((((((HUGS))))))))))))) What a blessing...I am overjoyed and I think what I am typing might seem a bit "much"...but I KNOW that moment of seeing legalism for what it is...yeah, there are tears that seem to engulf...but JOY comes in the morning when we realize we CANNOT do it all!!!
YAY! We cannot but HE CAN! WOOT WOOT!!!
And i still battle the desire for "people praise". I find myself many times a day rebuking it because it is a chink in my armor the enemy knows and works hard at stabbing!
How awesome this Internet thingy is! How else would we all be able to offer cyber hugs and tears and rejoice with ya!!!???
Okay...I am moving on with a smile on my face and a prayer on my breath for you!

Jen said...

I'm the wrote this for me. Thank you. Tears.

fragrantroses said...

Wow Lani. This is pretty amazing. I found myself sandwiched in some many of your sentences. I have to reread this and try to figure out how to live in my life. Thank you.

aurie good said...

Sweet friend - this is such an amazingly honest post. Thank you for sharing your journey, struggles and all. I pray that you are filled with more joy each and every day!!

Nancy said...

Dear Lani, wait for me! Some days start out full of Grace and promise, some days just start. Some days close with Grace and promise, some just close. What an emptiness those "just" days are. Tears do indeed water our souls and it's been a long dry spell over here as well. The Living Water breathed over us is what we all need and is what we were made for-not the rules, not the list of accomplishments in His name, not the accolades of self perfection. Not the expectation on my part that the world would read my pitiful poor words and see them as extraordinary. What a gift you are to me!

Anonymous said...

Lani...I SOOO get this! More than a year ago I stopped counting publicly because I was doing just what you write of...just counting. Recently I tried to go back to posting on my blog, but it was short lived. When I am really seeing the beauty and the joy things are good...but for me,it is so easy to get bogged down with making a list. You write such beautiful words here...thank you. It is good to know that I am not the only one that has felt this way.

I remember sitting by you as Ann glad I got the chance to meet you!

Lani - the flowerlady said...

Oh I'm so glad I pushed the publish button! Huge blessings to all of you!

Monica said...

Thank you so much for writing this! I, too, have gotten caught up in just counting...legalistic and meaningless counting for the sake of counting, and have lost sight of the joy that is in truly giving thanks for all. It is a continual process for me to come to Christ seeking grace and accepting grace from Him as I humbly give Him thanks for the abundance He has given to me.

Julie Anne said...

Oh, Lani, I feel it... all of it! just the counting to fill a page instead of to fill my heart. And I may have thanksgiving but I struggle so much with the grace and joy of eucharisteo and I just want to read this post every morning to remind myself that it's not just about counting and numbers!

I miss you and your bright smile! :)