Tag Archives: identity

Who Are You?

who are you 1

I’m so excited to tell you that today Erika Morrison’s new book Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Self releases!

I haven’t read it yet, but everything I’ve read and heard about this book put it solidly on my TO READ pile — near the top. I love the excerpt that Erika is sharing here, and the notes about figuring out who you are — at your truest, deepest levels. It’s something I need some guidance on, so I’m looking forward to reading this book.

Read this beautiful invitation to exploration…and then order the book here!

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“In July of 2000, when my husband and I got married, I was the ripe old age of nineteen and he was a seasoned twenty-four. Six months later I found out there was a baby in my belly, not on purpose. Then shortly after, another baby got in my belly not on purpose; then even less shortly after another baby got in my belly not on purpose.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: somebody needs to check the date on her birth control! But I promise you that nothing short of a medieval chastity belt with a rusted-shut lock could keep this Fertile Myrtle from getting pregnant. I don’t even trust the vasectomy my . . . never mind, I digress.

When our last boy was born in the left leg of my husband’s pajama pants (I should probably mention I was wearing them) while we rode the elevator up to the labor and delivery floor of Yale-New Haven Hospital, I had just birthed my third baby in three years. I’ll go ahead and do the math for you. I was twenty- three years young with a three-year-old wrapped around my thighs, a sixteen-month-old in one arm, a newborn in the other, and a godforsaken look of “Help!” writ across my face.

It was about this time that […] our marriage dove headlong into mess, we lost our income for too long to hang onto our home, and we experienced religious restlessness and a whole heap of other life challenges. Those early years redefined my own terms for what it meant to be drowning in the lifeblood leaking from every pore on my body. My internal equipment just wasn’t mature and qualified enough for my external reality, a reality that was demanding more of me than I could bear

What happened to me is what some psychologists call an identity crisis, a term coined in the early 1950s by Erik Erikson to refer to a state of confusion and unhappiness over one’s sense of self. If anyone had thought to ask me “Who are you?” in my good and lucid moments—which were few and far between—I could’ve answered with just about nothing.

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt the pain of not knowing who you are or if you feel that pain right now, but what can easily happen in that place of ache is that you start looking at other people, extracting the qualities you like about them, and injecting those qualities into your person as a substitute for what you don’t understand about yourself.

This is no bueno and that was what I did. In my naivete, I saw the people around me as more inherently gifted than I was, so I decided that self-fulfillment meant adopting their God-given gifts as my own. I looked at this person’s way of socializing and that person’s version of hospitality and another person’s artistic expression and began mimicking their nuances. Before I knew any better, I had squeezed my shape into several different ill-fitting molds at once, while cramming my own personhood into a tiny, overlooked corner in the nether regions of my body.

What I didn’t realize at the time was how devastated my spirit would become under the influence of everyone else’s borrowed qualities. Other people’s gifts and character traits are designed to enhance, enrich, and complement our own, but never act as substitute for them.

A healthy sense of self-identity seemed to be a luxury I didn’t have the currency for . . .”

(Excerpt from Erika Morrison’s book,
Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul.)

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The cardinals make it look so easy. The honeybees make it look so easy. The catfish and the black crow, the dairy cow and the cactus plant, all make being created appear effortless. They arise from the earth, do their beautiful, exclusive thing and die having fulfilled their fate.

None of nature seems to struggle to know who they are or what to do with themselves.

But humanity is the exception to nature’s rule because we’re individualized within our breed. We’re told by our mamas and mentors that–like snowflakes–no two of us are the same and that we each have a special purpose and part to play within the great Body of God.

(If your mama never told you this, consider yourself informed: YOU–your original cells and skin-print, guts and ingenuity–will never ever incarnate again. Do you believe it?)

So we struggle and seek and bald our knees asking variations of discovery-type questions (Who am I? Why am I here?) and if we’re semi-smart and moderately equipped we pay attention just enough to wake up piecemeal over years to the knowledge of our vital, indigenous selves.

And yet . . . even for all our wrestling and wondering, there are certain, abundant factors stacked against our waking up. We feel and fight the low ceiling of man made definitions, systems and institutions; we fight status quo, culture conformity, herd mentalities and more often than not, “The original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out of all our other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.” ~Frederick Buechner

So, let me ask you. Do you know something–anything–of your true, original, shimmering self?

I don’t mean: Coffee Drinker, Jesus Lover, Crossfitter, Writer, Wife, Mama.

Those are your interests and investments.

I do mean: Who are you undressed and naked of the things that tell you who you are?

Who are you before you became a Jesus lover or mother or husband?

Who are you without your church, your hobbies, your performances and projects?

I’m not talking about your confidence in saying, “I am a child of God”, either. What I am asking a quarter-dozen different ways is this: within the framework of being a child of God, what part of God do you represent? Do you know where you begin and where you end? Do you know the here-to-here of your uniqueness? Do you know, as John Duns Scotus puts it, your unusual, individual “thisness”?

I can’t resolve this question for you, I can only ask you if you’re interested.

(Are you interested . . . ?)

Without being formulaic and without offering one-size-fits-all “how-to” steps, Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul is support material for your soul odyssey; a kind of field guide designed to come alongside the moment of your unfurling.

Come with me? And I will go with you and who will care and who will lecture if you wander around a little bit every day to look for your own and only God-given glow?

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If you’re interested, you can order wherever books and ebooks are sold. (Click here to buy it from Amazon, here for Barnes and Noble, and here to buy it from an Indie Bookseller.)

Or, if you’d like to read the first three chapters and just see if Bandersnatch is something for such a time as the hour you’re in, click HERE.

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erika morrisonErika Morrison is a writer and speaker, a visionary and life artist. With an unconventional approach to spirituality, she paints bold, prophetic portraits of Kingdom-come. Erika makes her home and invests her heart in the Yale University town of New Haven, CT along with her husband Austin; their sons Gabe, Seth and Jude; and a female pit bull named Zeppelin.

 

Why I’m Coming Back to Blogging

Why I'm Blogging

Last Monday morning, I dropped my youngest off at a friend’s house, went over to my favorite coffee shop, and finished the second major revision of my book.

I have been working on my second book obsessively since I got home from Armenia in March —  every day, working through paragraphs, restructuring sections on card stock using Post-Its, crossing out and underlining and inking big green questions on my draft: What are you really trying to say here?

Writing. Deleting. Writing. Deleting. Getting a refill of coffee. Deleting, deleting, deleting. Yes, Pandora, I AM still listening.

Writing in this way doesn’t allow much space for the very different work of writing blog posts — at least for me. At least now — with small kids still around most of the time, still needing so much from me, still climbing on my shoulders while I sit at the kitchen table, writing.

So I let myself off the hook for the last several months. For most of the year actually. I wrote a post here and there, but mostly, I let myself be pulled under into the depths of this new work.

But on Monday morning, I finished that second major draft. Hopefully the next batch of edits will be smaller, simpler. Hopefully the deep underwater work of this story has been completed.

I closed my computer and brought my empty coffee cup to the counter. I wanted to tell someone, but the baristas were all in the back, and the counter was empty. The two old farmers who have coffee next to me every morning weren’t there, and neither was my pastor friend, Rick. So I just grabbed my stuff, slung my purse over my shoulder, and quietly made my way back into the world.

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I gave myself a week away from my computer. I cleaned and went to IKEA. I learned to use a drill, re-did my kids’ new shared room, and made Liam’s old bedroom into (gasp) my office. (We’ll see how long this lasts, but I’m beyond excited. I’ve never had an office.)

I had a last-day-of-school water fight with my family, spent a few days at the beach, washed the windows, and read novels on the deck. I closed my eyes and paid attention to the summer breeze and watched the baby ducks trek up, single-file, to eat seed from our bird feeder. I went to sleep early and slept in as late as the boys would let me and didn’t worry about wasting writing time.

I sat in a sand chair at the edge of the Lake George, and I let myself brainstorm essays I might want to write, new writing projects I might want to pursue, new blog posts I might want to share.

It was a good week.

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The first post I read when I logged back into the Internets yesterday morning was an insightful article by Amy Julia Becker at Christianity Today about “Why Bloggers are Calling it Quits.”

Becker’s points were solid and familiar. I too, struggle with what she calls “tyranny of the present” and the pressure to “to remain beholden to the constant information cycle of blogging and tweeting and posting photos online.”

I get that. There is nothing that stresses me out quite like a Major Cultural Event and the sudden, intense response of the blogosphere — a thousand megaphones shouting at me from my Facebook newsfeed, demanding my outrage. It makes me feel like a failure when Facebook reminds me that I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve never figured out, really, how to be “awesome” on social media, and that stresses me out.

And yet, at the same time, the blog world is still where I get my favorite book recommendations, my favorite recipes, my best IKEA hack ideas.

The Faith and Life blogs that I read regularly have a way of helping me to orient my heart around what matters. Where else but the blogosphere can you read something called “Go Forth and Be a  Little Jacked Up” by Glennon at Momastery? Where else can I read along as  Micha gently processes spirituality and motherhood and as Leigh works through life transitions for herself…and for all of us who find ourselves in transit?

Where else can I get glimpses of insight into things that I don’t understand…but want to?

I click over to Humans of New York and read the small, enormous stories of regular people. I read Emily Freeman and find permission to be unremarkable. I read Brené Brown and find permission to be vulnerable.

Where else is there such a powerful reader/writer connection — a conversation, a call to interaction, a buffet of topics and ideas and thoughts and insights? It’s an invitation into the living, breathing, fighting, wild, loud, raucous international family of humanity. It’s the coolest thing.

Listen — I believe in the long works. The memoirs and novels and essays and collections. I am passionate about them…and I’m a mom in her Tired Thirties, so I barely use the word “passionate” to describe anything in my life.

I just finished that second draft of that second book, and I am grateful for the time I spent away from the Internet, letting my mind orbit around the  questions I was asking, letting the words and sentences stretch long into places that I didn’t think I was going. I love writing books. I hope that I will continue to write them (although I’m about ready to take a break from memoirs, because holy smokes.)

But also, I love the experience of blogging. I never thought I would, but I do.

(Granted, I’ve never been one for writing about stuff that is newsworthy or relevant. I’ve had very few posts go “viral.” I don’t touch “hot-button issues” with a six foot pole. But still.)

It turns out that I actually like being a Blogger. Who would have thought.

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There is a verse in the Bible about how God is working, all the time, in us. About how, in light of that, we should continue working out our salvation. (Philippians 2:12).

I don’t really know what that means, but I think this is where I do that.

This is where I take hold of the edges of my ever-changing faith and hang on tight.

This is where I write it out, where I find people who get it, where I feel less alone, where — sometimes — I even feel God in that way that we always hope we will. Where, when I don’t feel God, I can still find a way to engage, to move forward, to write toward the wholeness I so desperately want.

And I hope, somehow, that this blog does some of that for you too.

Anyway — all this to say, I’m back. It seems a little like I’m walking back into a room that everyone else is leaving. But I’m back anyway.

Talk to me.

Why I Am Made Right [Guest Post]

Ashley Linne is the author of a new book in the Inscribed Studies series called Inseparable: Who I Am, Was, and Will Be in Christ…which officially releases today! (Congrats Ashley!)

If you’re curious about the book and the rest of the Inscribed Studies series, you can download a free chapter from three studies, including Ashley’s, here. (No email required). In the meantime, let’s welcome her here to this space today!

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc
photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

I always considered myself a good Christian kid.

I never really rebelled as a youth. I always called home if I was going to be out late, and my mom always knew who I was with.

I always went to class and tried to make straight As. I never tried drugs or alcohol, and I didn’t have sex. I didn’t cuss; I didn’t listen to “secular” music. I didn’t even see a rated-R movie until I was seventeen. And for all of this, I was pretty proud of myself.

But I still didn’t feel right or good or happy.

All these things did very little to convince me that I was in good standing in God’s eyes and did nothing to make me feel that I was worth anything. I lived in constant fear that if I didn’t thank God for something, even my ability to see or walk, it would be taken away. I was afraid if I made one mistake, it would condemn me to the fiery pits for all eternity.

God was very important to me, but I didn’t yet have any real concept of His love or grace. My carefully constructed sense of security was founded on my own efforts. I was living the very definition of legalism.

Even though I didn’t sin in the “usual” youthful ways, I was still missing the mark right and left—I was mean to my sisters; I held grudges; I gossiped. I think we’ve all done a few things we’re not proud of.

For some of us, our lists of ugly moments might be longer than we care to admit. We’ve got skeletons in our closets, bad habits we can’t seem to break, and a list of things we wish we could do but just can’t seem to get right.

Many of us are grateful we can’t out-sin God’s grace, but we simultaneously hate ourselves for having to draw on it as often as we do. Others live as though we’ve forgotten that we’re supposed to live differently than our “lost” friends. Maybe some of us get drunk most weekends, have a one-night stand here and there, throw a co-worker under the bus when we need to look good, or tell a lie from time to time. But we’re all still Christians … right?

Others of us are so scared of “getting it wrong” that we spend our lives calculating our every move, over analyzing our every thought, and don’t know how to just be at peace with ourselves or God.

We are quick to point out the shortcomings of another, if only within our inner monologue, and are grateful we don’t struggle with that sin. We go to church every chance we get, we are in multiple Bible studies, we live by checklists and schedules. We would never admit it, but our obsession with being right and busy is just a cover-up for our belief that God will turn His back on us if we aren’t.

Whether we lean toward legalism or we lean toward licentiousness, we’ve forgotten who we are. We wallow in guilt, when we’ve been cleansed of all unrighteousness. Or we waste God’s grace, when we’ve been set free from sin. If we knew who we really are in Christ, our lives would look different than they do. More of us would be living in unwavering obedience to God because it wouldn’t be a burden; we’d simply be acting like who we are.

The truth is, if I’m in Christ and He’s in me, Jesus has reconciled me to God. It’s been done. There is no way any of us could ever make amends with God on our own, and we need to allow ourselves to enjoy the freedom that brings our souls when we’re in Him.

I have to work daily to cooperate with God as He reshapes me and cuts away the things about me that He doesn’t want to define me. I also have to work daily to cooperate with God and learn about resting in Him and enjoying life in Him. My prayer is that I live like I know who I am—that I’m His.

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” (Romans 8:1-2, NLT)

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Ashley Linne CroppedAshley Linne is a wife and mom who loves to write, sing, and travel. She is passionate about discipleship, mentoring, and sexual abuse prevention. She has been leading small group Bible studies for over 15 years is the author of Inseparable: Who I Am, Was, and Will Be in Christ.

Ashley lives with her husband and son in Bellingham, WA.

If You Feel Far Away From God, Guess Who Moved?

photo credit: Nena B. via photopin cc
photo credit: Nena B. via photopin cc

I was on fire for God during my high school years, and people knew it, defined me by it, admired or discounted me because of it.

I was spending hours “in the Word,” waxing poetic in my prayer journal, jotting down insights to share with my accountability partner or at the Tuesday night, student-led Bible study in the church foyer. At the local youth church every Saturday night, I stood with eyes closed, arms raised to God, feeling the energy of the room and of the song, feeling near to God in every way possible.

The Christian life, for me, was a heady mix of emotion and romance. Jesus was the Prince and I was the Princess and I was blissed out on Him, feeling that rush of fire in my bones, ready to go to the end of the earth to spread his name.

It was a Christian experience that pleased the leaders and pastors all around me. They made me a student leader, gave me a small group. I, in turn, started summer Bible studies and school Bible studies, drawing the core of my identity from my nearness to God.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you, James 4:8 promises, and during those breathless, impressionable years, I heard it reinterpreted into this trite quote again and again. “If you feel far away from God, guess who moved?”

You, of course, is the unspoken answer, left hanging in the air, and I agreed with it then, lambasted myself if I didn’t “feel God” on a particular day, figured it must be that something was wrong with me. If only I read my Bible more, prayed more fervently, stopped pining after that guy, stopped watching so much TV…then I would feel God.

You are not enough, that pithy little phrase seems to communicate. You are not doing enough. And I swallowed it all the way down, a painful hook, tying me always to that brutal master, Performance.

Years later, I stopped feeling God for days. Then weeks. Then months.

In those dark days, I did everything I knew to draw close to God. I woke up early, read my Bible, wrote in my journal. I went to Bible studies and prayer groups and I wrote answers in fill-in-the-blank workbooks.

Nothing worked.

Every morning, I sat in the buzzing silence of the Caribou Coffee where I came again and again, hoping to meet God, and I felt utterly abandoned.

I was drawing near to God. Why wasn’t he near to me? How had I moved? How did I get back?

These questions only highlighted my own inadequacy, my own failure, my own unworthiness. The girl who had defined herself, always, by God’s presence began to define herself then by his absence. By the fact that nothing I did seemed to bring me near enough to feel his breath, to hear his whisper.

I wonder now what that time would have been like if I’d heard that verse interpreted differently.

If it hadn’t been about scrambling toward God, but rather that powerful, unbelievable truth that God is near. That even when you can’t feel Him, he is still there, always there, never leaving or forsaking, his love big enough to span even the distance of your wandering heart.

I want to say now what I wish someone had said to me then:

If you feel far away from God, maybe it’s possible that no one moved. Not God, of course. But maybe not you either. Maybe this is just a normal part of the long work of faith.

Maybe the silence of God is not a punishment, but an invitation to a new kind of trust. In a world that is so loud and constant, where we are talking on social media even when we’re not using our voices, always saying something, always conversing and communicating…we’ve forgotten about the layers of Silence. The richness of it. The power of it. We’ve forgotten that God has a habit of going quiet with his people.

If you don’t feel God right now, if you don’t hear him and you desperately want to, be still. It’s possible that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Rest in the quiet certainty of your own Belovedness. Stay where you are.

You are found. You are always being found.

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