How in the world I am sitting here snuggled in my jammies on a giant king bed, far away from home in this North Carolina ocean shore town enjoying way beyond the comforts of home to reflect and finally share these words with you, I truly do not know.
I'm not kidding you, I dreamed it up, made a couple phone calls, scrounged around in the basement for my wragged cut-offs and t-shirts from 10 summer's ago in hopes to maybe, possibly pull together a spring break for my kid and her friends, and here we are.
It fell into place like dropping a wet towel in the laundry.
I work for months to plan much simpler endeavors, yet this epic vacation took a notion and a thrown together hour or two. Funny how that is.
I'm all for planning and such, but sometimes we just need to act on a whim.
Were I to tell you how it all came to be, you wouldn't believe it.
Anyway, this blog isn't supposed to be about that but it bears telling as a backdrop for what I want you to know.
Last week, my 40 day Lenten journey culminated with an obsession to be in church.
Not just any church.
I wanted as Catholic as Catholic could get.
You know, vestments on Cardinals and altar boys processing in with wooden crucifixes, and sweet incenses and candles surrounding the Holy Bible, covered in ornate gold.
For me as a protestant, it's not that I need all that to believe, I just wanted to make a silent departure from my faith tradition in hopes to find more quiet, more focus, more stillness.
I find when I stay in known places and traditions, I get on auto-pilot and miss what's important.
Out of my head, my analysis, my familiarity (that so often accompany me in the sacred spaces I frequent)... I simply longed for emptiness of the modern distractions that constantly distort and threaten to steal my gratitude.
And not that the Jesus I know exists in stained-glass windows and shiny statues, I just wanted high ceilings and marble floors and the company of strangers... the ones who teach me stuff without knowing it, the ones who let me freely experience individual worship so I can concentrate on what God might be trying to say to me.
I wanted mystery and a bit of stretching; even the kind that makes me a little uncomfortable. In that fidgeting and nail biting question and ache phase, I'm going deeper still.
That's where it all gets good.
In all the years I've been loving Jesus, these last 40 days tenderized me in ways I never thought possible. How can I be more raw, more dialed-in, than I already am?
I find myself often crying, extremely tender-hearted about something extraordinary God's doing in the world, and in me.
Isn't that enough?
How much more can I take?
I literally feel my heart beat differently with each passing trip around the sun.
Have I not felt and seen and tasted enough of the unfathomable goodness of God?
Nevertheless, I still wanted to be with the people of the "earliest" church, watching them, being near to their practices, their hearts.
The story we both believe is one I simply wanted to share in their presence.
I wanted the Stations of the Cross, the creeds, the cantor, the reciting of scriptures, the liturgies I've heard but certainly can't recite like they can, and even all the confusion of when to stand and sit and kneel and bow, and how funny I might look if I do it "wrong".
So, I researched "Catholic Churches in my city" on a bunch of websites, zeroing in on one and decided to experience the depths of the Paschal Triduum (the three high holy days leading up to Resurrection Sunday) as a simple protestant girl longing for yet another layer of knowing God and "acquainting myself with His suffering."
I watched the priest wash feet on Holy Thursday, walk us through the Passion on Good Friday, and lead us into Resurrection on Easter Vigil Saturday.
And then... something happened. Something unexpected, unplanned, unbridled.
I found more love.
My heart got bigger still.
My mind stretched.
My tired patterns, interrupted.
I saw His face.
I heard His cry.
I felt His pain.
For each of you, I simply longed for you to know what I know... to see what I see.
That his beaten, mocked, and crucified body was laid bare for you.
You were on on His mind.
You were the reason.
His eyes met mine on each waking moment of these hours leading up to the glorious sunrise of Easter, reminding me that His grace really is that amazing, His forgiveness; that abounding, and His love, that enduring. And whether or not you believe it, or Him, or me... it's true.
I wanted you to know.
I was very specific this Lent in my prayer life, my practice, my love.
I wanted more of Him, more knowing, more assurance because I want to be there for you when your hope runs out, when your last dream shatters, when your plan fails.
I can't be there for you on my own.
I have nothing to give unless I am in a perpetual state of seeking
quieter.. all in a humble hope that I might tap into the resource that God can be only in those places, filling my well to fill yours.
And beloved friend, in my seeking I found.
In my restrictions of food and speech and small worldly pleasures for a mere 40 days, I tasted a new God, a new reservoir of provision, an abundance of unlimited resources.
Just like I had hoped for, a new peace, a sense of greater understanding showed up.
A fog lifted.
This peace might have been there all along, but my eyes were newly opened to see wider, to expand greater, to taste sweeter.
The miraculous Spirit of God is moving, speaking, inviting.
I can feel it.
I want you to as well.
How did I get to this seaside retreat, relishing in the respite of ocean breezes and sun-kissed noses on giggling teenagers? Not sure really, but perhaps because I got super serious about shutting off noises and limiting a few conveniences for a few weeks, so I could actually see and hear what's been in front of me all along.
Gifts present themselves.
We don't notice sometimes.
We're too busy listing what's missing.
My 40 day withdrawal gave me new legs to stand on, new mindspace for exploration, fresh feelings for the God whose been holding me tight, even as I've wandered.
A few births and lifes and deaths and resurrections had to cycle around for me to calm the hell down and notice what's already mine so I could tell you what's already yours.
It came for you in the washing of feet, the serving of the bread and wine, the scorging and crucifying of the body, the three days in the tomb, and then the rising.
Christ the Lord is risen today!
He is absolutely and completely risen right now, right here, for you.
Happy New Life.