life:filtered

…learning to live a life filtered by the truth of the gospel.

callings August 27, 2015

Filed under: musings,seriousness — Stephanie @ 1:00 am
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I’ve never truly admitted to myself that I want to be a writer. But I do. I want to be a writer. And maybe I already am. But I hesitate to apply the term to myself. I always say, “I write.” Not “I’m a writer.” Maybe because it sounds too arrogant or too grandiose or something like that. Maybe I’m not brave enough to call myself out like that. It’s a pretty loaded statement. There’s no turning back once you declare something like that. You’re either all in or not. To me, it feels like there’s no halfway to it. Oh wait, I lied. I’m not a writer after all.

The truth is though, I feel like I’m called to be a writer. I honestly believe that God has gifted and called me to write the same way he calls some to preach and others to serve. And that sounds conceited to my ears. Do I even have the courage to agree with him? Can I allow him to make that claim on my life? Where do I take this call? But God lays claim on everyone’s life…and I guess, no, I know, that this is his on mine. It has been mine since I can remember, even when being a writer was just a childhood dream. And then in high school, people started telling me I was a good writer. But I didn’t believe them, not really. I doubted myself then as I doubt myself now. I question not only my call, but my ability. No matter how many times I’m told that I’m a good writer, I still question it.

And why write? What is so important about words that God would call some to be writers? In the Bible (words), God calls Jesus the Word made flesh. God used words to make his truth known throughout the history of Israel. He inspired Moses to write down the history of creation and slavery and freedom. Without those words, we’d likely know nothing about our God and our heritage. The songs of praise and adoration from David and the other Psalmists. And look at Paul’s letters. He used words to express God’s truth to the gentiles. Words are everywhere. And I think God calls some of to write his truth still—through non-fiction and fiction, because truth is everywhere if you look for it.

So here I stand with a call, pondering my next move. If I agree with God and say I’m a writer, then I’ve got to write. And writing is hard. Sometimes words flow and sometimes it’s like dragging them out of hell. But God never said it would be easy, he just said to do it. So I am trying. Trying to write, but more than that, trying to be faithful.



©stephanie g. pepper

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Have a little faith August 23, 2015

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 4:04 pm
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“The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty.” –Anne Lamott

We said the Apostle’s Creed this morning in church and it was a good thing. I have been struggling with doubt lately and the corporate confession of what we believe was good for me to hear and say. Faith is hard and admitting that mine is riddled with doubt is even harder. It’s a tough thing to admit, that I’m a doubter, but that’s what I am. But I’m in good company, it seems. Peter doubted as he walked on water. Thomas doubted as the resurrected Jesus stood before him. Elijah doubted after he called down fire from heaven. And I doubt, even though I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. Sometimes I doubt every word of the Apostle’s Creed. I doubt that God exists, I doubt that Jesus was who he says he was, and I doubt that the Bible is true. It’s an ugly thing to say about myself and I wish it weren’t true about me. I wish I could believe blindly and never once question. But that’s just not my experience.

I have to be honest. And being honest means this confession is a part of my life. The question is this, is doubt the enemy of faith? Or could it be as Paul Tillich says, that “doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it’s an element of faith?” Could doubt be a part of faith? Could they be bound together? My doubt implies that I have faith. It means that I wrestle with my beliefs. That I care enough about it to think it through, even though thinking it through means that I question the things that bring me life. I think it makes me human.

So why confess my doubt? Why open myself up to shaming and judgment? Because I care enough about my faith to struggle with it. I care enough to bring it out into the light and let God deal with it there instead of hiding it in the darkness where it festers and grows and eventually consumes me. I believe there is no condemnation for me because of my doubt. I believe God delights to meet me in my doubt. That it affords him the opportunity to show off, like he did this morning, and give me all the more reason to believe.

Doubt is faith stretching out. Growing wings and taking flight. And my faith is stronger with each season of doubt.

And so with Dostoevsky, I say, “It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.”

I believe; help my unbelief! (Mark 9:24)

©stephanie g. pepper

 

forgetting what lies behind August 7, 2015

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 10:57 am
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But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead… (Philippians 3:13)

Regret.

I pack a lot of that around. It is a near constant companion it seems. It looms large in my mind. And while I have regrets in a lot of life’s places, it is most noticeable when it comes to my boys. I regret that I have not been the mother I always hoped I’d be. I have let time slip through my fingers and now the littlest boy starts school in a week. And my mind is full of regret for the time that I’ve let pass by. Have I cheated them out of what I owe them? What will my children remember me for? Will they remember the mother who took them to the zoo and the playground? Or will they remember the mother who couldn’t get off the couch? Will they remember the mother who pushed Matchbox cars around on the floor or the one who was too busy doing nothing? And honestly, I did do the good things once in a while. It wasn’t always a peanut butter and jelly and Caillou. Some days I did the good things. But more days, I didn’t.

And so I stand here at the end of a chapter and I am filled with regret.

I am hard on myself, I know. I beat myself silly over the time I’ve wished away. The days that seemed so long that I couldn’t wait for them to be over, to climb in bed and be done for the day. I beat myself over the head with regret, never giving myself the grace to fall down, yet falling down so often. And shame creeps in sidling up with regret to pull me down even further.

But bad days aren’t every days. There are good ones mixed in there too; those days we played Battleship or passed the football in the yard. When I used to push them on the swings and catch them at the bottom of the slide. The ones filled with laughter and smiles. Days when I loved them well. These are the days I remember and hold on to, though I wonder if they will.

To be fair, I have struggled with mental illness their whole lives. That’s a reason but not an excuse, though I have used it as an excuse. An illness that left me debilitated, not able to leave the bed. One that left me a raging machine, unable to find anything but anger in the messes and tears. I have found no grace for myself in those moments. Only shame and regret. And in that shame and regret, I lug around a lot of baggage. The “should haves,” the “oughts,” and the “might have beens.” They are like weights on my shoulders, pushing me into the ground.

What do I do with the “should haves?” Can I pay them back for all the “might have beens?” God knows I have tried. Tried with trips to McDonald’s and Krispie Kreme. Tried with ice cream cones and slushies. Tried with things, not time. And time is what they crave. What they long for. And I had it to give, still have it to give. Will I?

Regret dies slowly and shame even slower. And I want to know, is there time left to redeem my motherhood? Is there grace enough for the loss? I can never live up to the standards I place on myself. I’m not sure anyone can. There’s always some regret, some way it could have been better, even for the best of us. But we aren’t our worst days any more than we are our best days.

And there is hope born in the ashes of my failure. Which means that I don’t have to live in the regret. I can forget what lies behind. Tomorrow can be a better day. I can live richly with my children in the todays and tomorrows and redeem the time I’ve lost. That time is gone for sure, but the future still lies ahead and that is the part to strain for, to hope for. I’m more than a little sad for the loss, for the time that is gone like water down a drain. But there is hope. A hope that comes from God. It comes from him saying that I am enough even with my failures. I don’t have to live in the shame of what I haven’t done. Shame and regret are tied together like a thick cord. And how do I untie that knot? By resting in the knowledge that I am loved perfectly my Father. And he loves my boys perfectly, too. By knowing that where I have failed them, he has never and will never fail them. I don’t have to live in regret and shame because I am forgiven. Because I am loved.

So there is still hope for me. Hope for football games and soccer matches. Tee-ball games and violin recitals. For driving lessons and first dates. For regular days too; lazy days and crazy days. I can be present now and that is enough. The past is gone. The now is all I’ve got.

And what if this thing that feels like an ending to me is actually a beginning?

©stephanie g. pepper