Wednesday, October 17

Beauty in Death

Things are quiet around here.  Recently I had a friend ask "How are you?? Busy these days I'm sure..." (This kind of banter about being busy seems to have taken over as a general greeting).

But no, I'm not all that busy. On Saturday I sat on a bench and stared at a beautiful orange and red tree, in all its fall glory. I thought of Jim Gaffigan's sketch about foliage and chuckled to myself.  He jokes about how our favorite season is fall- watching leaves die.

Death.  I forgot about it for a moment.  Thinking about death is hard. There are days of grief, but sometimes just moments.  My dad's cancer is spreading faster than the doctors can keep up, and it's been a relief to him to make the choice to begin hospice care instead of more chemo.  He's losing weight, upping pain meds, and is low on energy all the time.  Our family has been in connection daily, assuring him of our support, our love, and saying all the things you want to say to a loved one.  This little season is a gift of time.  No one thinks they want to die slowly, but what happens if you do?

You get to see beauty unfold.

The beauty of Kenny making sure he tells my dad what a good father he has been to me.

The beauty of asking my dad about his faith, and him giving me assurance of his eternity with Jesus.

The beauty of reminiscing with pictures and memories of days long gone by.

The beauty of foot rubs and shoulder rubs- a Broyles family favorite pastime.

The beauty of unselfish love unfolding before my very eyes- my mother's love for my father.

The beauty of my dad expressing his love for his girls.

Our nuclear family has been together several times this last year.  What a gift. I wish my dad wasn't suffering with pain and nausea, but I wouldn't wish our time away- ever.

"Joy is not happiness on steroids.  It's the unyielding belief that sorrow and loss do not have the final say." -Stasi Eldredge, Defiant Joy

You are so right, Stasi. Sorrow and loss do not have the final say in this family.  Cancer does not have the final say in this family.  We shall overcome.  One day, Jesus will come to restore all that has been lost, all that we grieve now will be restored a hundredfold.  This is the hope that is the anchor for true joy, even when death comes nearer and nearer.

-Chelsea


Fall 2016




Thursday, August 23

Numbers


Often numbers consume our thinking as women. What I would like to offer here is a talk I gave to a group of women last May about our culture of shame about body size, and how God can speak to our hearts about our beauty.

Click here to listen.

For more on this topic, check out Captivating by John and Staci Eldredge.
The prayer exercise at the end comes from Cheri Snyder with Ransomed Heart Ministries.  You can check out her talk here.

May you have eyes to see your own beauty,
Chelsea




Wednesday, July 11

A Life Without Social Media

I said I was doing an experiment in soul care: turn off all social media for... well, I didn't know how long.  I knew I felt the need to deactivate. So on January 1, that's what I did.  Here's a bit about my experience, and why I turned it all back on.

Initially, it was hard to switch off my mind from narrating my life with what I would post about.  Like when you think of something witty to go along with your latte, you take a pic and post it to the world, right? Or when your child is doing something insanely cute, you capture the moment in time to share with your friends and family who would obviously appreciate the moment as much as you.  Our lives are narrated by posts, pics, and tweets.  When I realized that I didn't have an audience waiting to share my moments with, my brain almost didn't know how to narrate my life anymore.  I would begin to craft something witty about the moment at hand, and then realize there would not be a post about this.  No comments or likes about my life.  This is when initial isolation kicks in.

Then something began to shift.  As moments and life went on, without a narration on social media, I slowly began to stop crafting witty banter in my mind about what I would write about this moment.  As I stopped the internal narration to no one, I discovered the moments lasted longer.  The cuteness goes on (or whatever I stopped to capture), long after I give it 140 characters.  The comments and likes actually take away from the moment, because when we stop the moment to craft what we would say about the moment, we've lost the moment. We often imagine a post or tweet instinctually instead of being fully present. By crafting to an imaginary audience something others would enjoy, I robbed myself of fully enjoying it.  By stopping a moment in progress to artificially connect with others, we lose the connection of the people you were in the moment with.

The FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) sets in as well.  My friends and family are narrating their lives via post, and here I am, missing it.  Missing something.  But something interesting happens.  Your real friends, the ones who know you aren't on social media, call.  They text you the funny thing that happened.  My nuclear family (Mom, Dad, Addie) and I have a group text that's been going for months.  We share our day, pictures, funnies, all those moments worth sharing- but it's more intimate, intentional, and doesn't get interrupted with comments from your coworkers from 10 years ago.  The FOMO got replaced with more special moments with a few people.   Now, if there's a song I want to share with one person or a picture I'm really wanting my sister to see, I'll just send it directly to the person.  What a concept, right? I began to realize blasting on social media sometimes takes away the specialness of whatever it is you wanted to share in the first place.  This is one of the biggest reasons Kenny and I never really use social media to do shout outs for birthdays or anniversaries.  It's for us, not for you, and that's the way it should be. 

The hardest part about not being on social media was the revealing of how much I checked out from my hardest parts of my life.  Stress? Scroll for 20 minutes- you'll feel better.  Anger? Watch that news recap and get angrier about something else to cover up whatever you were angry about. Sadness? Those pictures and stories sure are beautiful, funny, or at least, distracting. Before I knew it, all my negative emotions were rapidly rising to the surface, without anywhere to chuck them.  I actually had to stop and process why I had negative emotions more often than positive ones, and I ended up seeing a counselor to help me out.  He was extremely helpful, and I don't think I would have gotten into these issues that I needed to process without getting off social media.  Was that part of deactivating relaxing, relieving, and restful? No way.  Was it soul care? You bet.

One last anecdote: I noticed when I was with friends, stories and catch-up time began in the middle.  Let me explain. "Did you see the picture from ____? Yeah, that was fun." or "Did you see little _____? I can't believe he's so getting so big!"  It's like we all are conversing in shortened recaps and highlights about our experiences because we've already heard about this experience on social media.  We've already seen the pictures from our computer.   As an outsider to any posts during this 6 month time period, I didn't see what they were talking about. Yes, that's right, you have to tell me the story, from the beginning, you have to show me your pictures, personally.   How fun it was! How much more authentic connections happened because we had to actually tell each other about our lives!  No, my 915 friends on social media didn't know I went to Slovenia.  But the six who came to my house to see pictures and hear stories did.  We laughed and I shared about this trip face to face.  It was glorious.

So why come back?  Simply put: to share.  I truly, truly, believe everyone one of us is creative. And writing, or doing any creative endeavor, begins when you have something in you that must get out.  Something in your soul sits there and you come back to it again and again.  That's how these blog posts even get started. An idea I can't shake, a story that must be told.  It can't just stay inside. It's like painting a picture and then putting it in a closet.  The pull to share became strong.  As the creativity continued with As We Are, I knew I had reached my limit of not sharing.  To be a writer and a sometimes-teacher without a platform to share feels like being harnessed.

So here I am, not posting my moments from life with a line to make you smile, but I'm here to share my work, my writing, or anything else that needs a platform.  Boredom breeds creativity, so my encouragement to you is to go, get off social media for awhile and become bored a little.  Create something, then get back on here and share it.











Sunday, June 17

Loss and Hope

I could still smell the puppy on my hands as I got the phone call.  The phone call that said Dad's cancer lit up the scans, again.    I had just left the breeder's house with hearts in my eyes.  Suddenly, I had hope, joy, sorrow and loss, all at the same time. The previous week his pain seemed to lift, and I had been hopeful that a good season was coming.  The clouds began to roll across the sky as I drove home.  It began to rain.  It was as if God was shedding some tears with me.

As I removed myself from social media 6 months ago, I began to notice anger rising more and more to the surface.  Either anger or anxiety marked most of my interactions throughout the day.  I realized as I no longer checked out from stress constantly, I was allowing myself to feel emotions that had been there since the previous summer, but I hadn't begun to process.  Turning to the outside world- to a newsreel, to an article, a funny video, or just mindlessly scrolling gave me relief, release, and it felt so normal.  I needed to simply feel, and I thought I was, but I didn't realize how much I was stuffing grief.

I came across a definition of grief that included the phrase "feeling loss of an ideal." I knew anger was a part of grief, but I didn't think my anger was grief.  I mean, my dad is still alive.  But feeling loss, just loss of time together really, explained how grief doesn't start when a loved one passes away.   Grief begins when you know something will never be the same.  Grief over my grandmother's death is hidden in there too, a feeling of death as an undoing of life as we know it.

Another ideal that I lost at this time was a career in teaching.  I quit last year and I don't regret that.  But it's another loss of an ideal.  I thought teaching would be IT for me.  The thing that I would do for my adult life.  But it's not going be- I no longer want it to be.  But what now? This season has been one where I have begun to dream and let myself feel grief over this loss of my ideal job for the last 15 years.

Jesus has come for my heart in so many ways to bring hope. Hope has come in the way of remembering one of the truest parts of our objective reality that we often forget in our subjective experiences: the renewal of all things.

Matthew 19: 28-30
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Revelation 21:1-8
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.


All things will be made new.  This is the hope that has come for my heart. Now. Not when I die. Now.  I don't need a bucket list. I will have opportunity and time unending for all these things that feel like such loss now.  Time lost.  Opportunity lost. Physical loss. Emotional loss. Can you feel it? All the feelings of "never again" transform to "not yet." Can you see what a paradigm shift this is for today? The hope of heaven speaks volumes to life on earth, now.  As John Eldredge writes, "Nothing is lost.  If you will just let go of your anger and cynicism for a moment, just allow it to be true for a moment, well then- your heart is going to take a pretty deep breath."

 If you begin looking for restoration, you see the promise of it everywhere.  If we remember that Jesus said he will make all things new- a new Heaven, a new Earth, and that we inherit all these things- we will be gifted with more hope than we could have ever imagined.  The hope of heaven, for me, is not, "Oh, one day I'll go to heaven and then there won't be any pain." The hope of Heaven is more like, "We can't explore southern Utah this summer with Dad? That's ok, when all things are made new, we will have many adventures together." What are you going to do in this Kingdom? Where will you explore and visit that you've always dreamt?  It's such a relief to me to get to be a part of the Kingdom of God.  Why would you ever not want to be a part of this?






Tuesday, May 22

Real Beauty

1 Peter 3:3-4
3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.


The way to beauty does not come how we imagine.  This is so like God to give us a dichotomy of terms to wrestle with.  To save your life, you must lose it. To be first, you must put yourself last. To become more obedient, give yourself over to God’s grace. To be beautiful, don’t try to be beautiful (on the outside).


Oh how we long for beauty.  It’s our deepest question as women, married or not.  “Am I enough?” “Am I beautiful?” In our deepest desire, we long to radiate beauty.  This is a truth as deep and as old as the very first story, when Adam first saw Eve. In other creatures God made, the male usually displays beauty.  A male duck has coloring, a male lion has a full mane, a male peacock has a brilliant display of feathers. But not with humans. Females display most of the beauty as a reflection of God’s beauty. Her beauty, our beauty, is actually a reflection of the beauty of God.  I think this is why we long for it so deeply, because it’s truest, purest form, it’s God beckoning us to Him, being made in His image, in His likeness, so we can know him, eternally, intimately, like no other creature in creation. When we long for beauty, we are actually longing to connect with God as his image-bearing creation.


There’s a smile that comes over my heart when I read that something is very precious to God.  The scripture says its when a women makes herself more beautiful, or adorns herself, with inner beauty, the “hidden person of the heart.” This “imperishable”- cannot be taken away, lasts eternally- type of beauty- comes from a gentle and quiet spirit.  


I must confess this verse has not been one of my favorites over the years.  I often thought: That just another measure of beauty that I’ll never attain- “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” Often we get this picture of the gentle and quiet spirit that is completely unrealistic for most of us. Like Melanie in Gone with the Wind. “Oh Scarlet... I wish I could be like you...” she coos.  Melanie is gentle, quiet, and just plain wonderful the whole movie.  I’m more like Scarlett when the going gets tough, saying exactly what I’m thinking, without thinking.


I’d like us to consider the gentle and quiet spirit in another way.  It’s not a voice that’s literally soft spoken, or a shy demeanor, although those personality traits are not bad or better.   I’d like to propose that when we take the deepest, most hidden parts of our hearts- our shame, our feelings of inadequacy, our deepest pain and hurt, our deepest longings- when we begin to see ourselves as God sees us, there’s a shift that happens in our spirit.  When we begin to trust what God says about us entirely, there’s a softening and a quieting that happens to us at the heart level that isn’t tied to our personalities.


What does God say about us? How does he see us? God says that we are worth the death of his Holy Son, even in our worst, most sinful moments.  God says he not only loves us, he wants us in his family.  He adopts us at salvation, granting us a full inheritance as his sons and daughters.  He miraculously infuses his actual, Holy Spirit and gives us a new heart at salvation, to be able to walk in step with him, to actually speak with him, because he longs to be loved by us.


Zephaniah 3:17 says,
“he will rejoice over you with gladness;
   he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. “


You bet he rejoices over you, this verse says he sings over you.  Loudly! When this type of loves comes over your heart, your striving for love and acceptance in this world can be quieted.  You can trust this love so deeply, your anxiety and worry can be calmed. Knowing your beauty as a woman comes from this beautiful, loving God can settle our up and down of feelings of beautiful and ugly.  Which can give every women hope for actual, real beauty that never ends.
My own story of actually feeling beautiful began when I first read Captivating, by John and Staci Eldredge. As these truths about beauty, and how our beauty is attacked at a spiritual level, began to penetrate my heart, I began to actually perceive myself to be more beautiful.  On the outside. I got a tattoo of the word “beauty” on my back, so I would not forget the shift of believing I am beautiful. There’s almost this audacity to say to God, “I’m actually not beautiful.” What? You, created to be the incarnation of the beauty of God, created by the most talented artist there every was or will be? You? The object of his love and affection, especially in your most sinful moments? You- the one he sings over? Actually, you are beautiful and it’s time you started believing it.


Like a raging river, all our fear, shame, guilt, and worthlessness comes barreling into our hearts and from our hearts.  This comes to a halt when it comes to the reservoir of God’s love. This is real beauty. This is the inside beauty- so sure that my heart is furiously loved I’m not longer brutally striving for love, so confident in my worth that God gave me on the cross, that I’m not longer hectically stuffing my mind things that give me worth in this world.  Gentle. Yes. Quiet. Yes. In God’s perfect love. Yes, it is precious, and it’s not going to sag or fade with time or lack of willpower. Thank God.


Friday, December 8

A Pickle Prayer

A Prayer for “Pickling” in the truth of who you are and what you are worth:


Dearest God, holy and victorious Trinity, you alone are worthy of all my worship, my heart’s devotion, all my praise, all my trust, and all the glory of my life. I love you, I worship you, I give myself over to you in my heart’s search for life. You alone are Life, and you have become my life. I renounce all other gods, every idol, and I give to you the place in my heart and in my life that you truly deserve. This is all about you, God, and not about me; you are the Hero of this story, and I belong to you. I ask your forgiveness for my every sin. I renounce my sins. I ask you to search me and know me and reveal to me where you are working in my life and grant to me the grace of your healing, deliverance, your holiness, and a deep and true repentance. I come to you now to be restored in you, renewed in you, to receive from you all the grace and mercy I so desperately need this day. I honor you as my Sovereign, and I surrender every aspect and dimension of my life totally and completely to you. I give to you my spirit, soul, and body, my heart, mind, and will.


Father, You are the great I AM.  You are God the Father from whom are all things and for whom I exist. All of creation came from your mind and heart.  You are full of mercy, grace, and unfailing love. I was made in your image, inwardly and outwardly. You are my Father, and you have declared me your child. You know everything about me.  You are familiar with all my ways. Not even a hair drops on my head that you don't know about. I consider you and call you Abba, Daddy, my Papa. You are a father who gives good gifts, perfectly designed for me.  Rather than being distant and angry, you are the complete expression of love. You will never forget me. I am your treasured possession. You are my greatest encourager. You lavish me with love and delight. You lavish me with grace.  You love me with an everlasting love. You rejoice over me with singing. You are sometimes speechless in your love for me, Father. You dance over me with shouts of pure joy. You will NEVER, EVER leave me or forsake me, period. You demonstrated your love for me by giving your only begotten Son.  Even if I lose my faith (active trust) in you, you will never lose faith (active trust) in me. You delight in me, even as you delight in your Son, Jesus. I am invaluable to you; worth the death of your Holy Son. Make your love my abiding and comfortable home. When I was at my worst, you strategically chose that very moment to demonstrate your delight in me.  Nothing can separate me from your love.


Jesus, You are God the Son.  You are the Alpha and Omega, who is and who was, and who is to come.  You are the only begotten Son of the Heavenly Father. You have always existed with the Father and Holy Spirit.  You, Jesus, are the exact expression of God the Father’s character and personality. You are the very expression of truth in the flesh.  You are the sum of God’s redemptive plan, works, and business methods. You are the revelation of God’s mysterious plan for mankind. You became flesh, walked, ate, drank, slept, laughed, cried, listened, rejoiced, and suffered just like me.  You are the first born of the Trinity. You are not religious, loading people down with heavy religious expectations. You are easy going, relaxed, and refreshing to me. You are not pushy with people. You are humble at heart. You are extremely patient.  In you is found an abundance of grace, active trust, and love. You are God’s visible expression of His love and acceptance. I consider myself right now seated between God the Father and You in Heaven. I am the ongoing, beautiful poem that You are personally writing.  Your love for me is deeper and more vast than I could ever imagine. You want to give me life abundantly and cause my cup to overflow. You willingly gave your life for ME, with no feeling of obligation whatsoever. You gave your life as payment for my adoption into my new Heavenly Family.  Your love for me far surpasses any previous experience I’ve had of love. You desire your love for me to be the foundation of all my thoughts and activities. Let your steadfast love for me be my new obsession, controlling my thoughts and emotions. I know nothing will ever separate me from your love.


Holy Spirit, Thank you for coming.  You have clothed me with power from on high, sealed me Christ, become my union with the Father and Son.  You are the Spirit of truth in me, the life of God in me. My counselor, my comforter, strength and guide.  I honor you as Lord. Love flavors every action and thought you have. You bless me with freedom from unhealthy compulsions.  You give unmerited gifts constantly. You are so gentle, never pushing me around. You help me release and not relive past relational hurts.  You show me what peace and trust really is. You help me feel the affection from the Father. You bring contentment and inner peace, and are deeply moved by suffering in my life.  You constantly reassure me of God’s presence, love, and care for me. You teach me rich, healthy, pleasurable emotions. You reveal all truth and the hope of a greater future, when all things will be made new, to strengthen and stabilize me.  You understand my emotional weather, and motivate me with love, not shame or fear. You do not keep score, you look out for me. You value my uniqueness. I am no longer alone, You help me feel and know that I am embraced by my new Family forever.
In Jesus’ name, amen.



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x

Adapted from UTK “Immerse Yourself…” scripture sheets and the Daily prayer from Ransomed Heart Ministries.


One thought in Untying the Knots of your heart is pickling. Untying the Knots of your Heart is a 22 week small group experience to dig into who you are- really, and who God is- really.  Just as a cucumber doesn't become a pickle by being dipped into vinegar a few times, so we do not become whole-hearted until we soak and soak and soak in the truths of God's word. I offer this prayer in a first person form from the scriptures gathered from material printed by Aphesis Group, which is the ministry that puts together the curriculum for this class.  New classes are starting in January.  I would love to tell you more about this experience.


Monday, December 4

A Lesson in Love From My Morning Smoothie


It's hard to write about the sweet side of love this morning.  I have had a rough morning with my kids.  Nash ran out the door and I didn't know where he was for a few minutes.  June could not accept that we weren't going to her friends' house ASAP upon waking, and we fought about it.  She's mad at me as I write this.

Love is simplicated.  It's like a smoothie- it's not all sweet, but it's all good.  Good for them, and for for us. It's good for us to have to give love when the child cannot say, "Thank you" or "I love you" back.  It teaches us unconditional love.  It's good for our pride to have to put others before ourselves. It's a good thing for our children to learn that love means I will keep you safe, and that means I must say no sometimes.  We learn, we grow, together.

But it's bitter when it's plain. hard. work.  "In pain you will bring forth children..." (Genesis 3)- I don't think this means just the child birthing part.  My children test me, and I have to give far more physically and emotionally that I thought possible.  It's plain hard work to be patient with a three year old who just threw his vitamin down the vent and screamed "NO" at you. It's nearly impossible to get June to go to bed or obey the first time. It's downright painful when Nash wouldn't nap and then grumpily smacks you in the face as you wrestle him into a new pull-up before bedtime.

But the sweet part is this little person, looking at you, loving you, giving you kisses and laughter.  The sweet part is when your 6 year old starts (trying) to tell knock knock jokes.  It's sweet when you get kisses from a little boy who leaves extra slobber on your cheek and you get to wipe it off with a smile.  The sweet part is when they finally say “Thank you, I love you.”

As this day went on, Nash told me he loved me.  Twice. I could cry just remember his soft little voice saying it.  Part of our Saturday night Sabbath ritual is saying something good we remember from the week.  It's kind of like high-low, except we leave out the low, at least on Sabbath.  I want to remember the sweet right now, relish in it, for at least... 20 seconds. Before Nash refuses to eat his vegetable soup.

My Morning Smoothie
1 cup frozen fruit
1-2 cups spinach or BABY kale
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tbsp chia seeds or flax seeds or something, ya know, hippie dippie
1 banana (if I have one)
1 cup liquid- juice, almond milk, or just water

Blend, sip, adjust if too bitter, repeat, enjoy.  (Also an excellent recipe for motherhood)