dreaming, faith

On birthdays, and seeing myself as I am.

May 4, 2015
Birthday Fireworks

I had my birthday early last month. For many years, I was ambivelent at the least, and occasionally super hostile when my birthday rolled around. I’d not enjoyed growing older, and birthdays brought out my worst securities and fears of not being liked or loved. I rarely planned parties for fear that no one would come (it happened once as a teenager) or leave early (also happened). And I spent the day anxiously watching Facebook messages come in, analysing each one for it’s sincerity and any scrap of affirmation or affection I could draw from it.

I know. This is a sad picture.

Happily, I’ve done a lot of heart and soul work the past few years and I am in a much stronger place emotionally. I still struggle with insecurities but they no longer exercise the same overt control over me that they did (although the work of digging out the subtler forms of insecurity in my life is just as hard).

And I’ve reclaimed birthdays! I realised it first last year, when I turned 30 and had one of my best days of the year. I woke up at the home of my best friend, to the sound of her son coming in and proclaiming loudly “it’s a dinosaur birthday!!” (the best kind, in case you are wondering). I spent the day being spoilt by friends. Oh, and I raised over €3000 to help to Ugandan women study at University. It was a pretty amazing birthday.

This year was more relaxed. Rasmus, Kaya and I went to our new favourite restaurant here in Luxembourg for all you can eat Japanese food. Baby Girl decided to pick that afternoon to take her first steps. And then I went out for dinner with seven of my closest friends.

We laughed so much that evening. Time flew by and it was about two hours later than I thought by the time we walked out the near-empty restaurant. I felt good. The next day was regular chores and mama-baby routines, but I was on a continued high from the day before.

At some point in the afternoon, one of my friends sent me a photo she’d snapped during the evening. I’d ordered the panna cotta for dessert and it had arrived complete with rather impressive firework. The photo catches me right then, surprised and a bit embarrassed but hugely happy.

And I think I look beautiful.

It feels almost arrogant to write that out, like I’m not allowed to assign that label to myself, I must wait for someone else to say it.

But I do. I think I look beautiful. When I first opened this photo on my phone, I gasped.

I think it’s because I’m glowing. Not just from that crazy firework, but from the love. From spending a day surrounded by people who know me and see me and like me. And suddenly agreeing with them.

In the past, I’ve been so dependent on other people’s affirmation. I crave encouragement. I once told a potential boss in an interview that it was my weakness and that I would need a lot of positive feedback to stay motivated! (She was amazing though and actually did it – I got positive feedback for every cup of coffee made, every policy documented summarised, every meeting minuted).

But here’s the difference. I’m starting to tell myself what I need to hear. I’m learning how to see it for myself, to see my strengths and successes and gifts, and to speak the affirmation to myself. To accept it and embrace it as true.

It’s an incredible feeling.

That photo took my breath away because it was the visual representation of what I have experienced recently, that when I own who I am, when I stand in the fullness of everything I was created to be and say “this is me”, it is incredibly beautiful. It feels strong and courageous and true.

And oh I am not done yet. I still slip back into unhealthy neediness and self-criticism. (I mean that kind of thought process that is so destructive, not the important self-awareness and growth process of dealing with areas of weakness).

But I keep sneaking peeks back at this photo and whispering to myself, “this is you. this is you. you are glowing. you are beautiful.” And in those moments I feel ready and I feel dangerous. It’s those moments I feel the Spirit do a little dance of excitement, see Her clap Her hands in delight as She sees me get it. This is who I was created to be. And this woman, finally agreeing, rises and begins.

things I like

Right now – April 2015

April 29, 2015
Copenhagen Bikes

This was the month my baby stopped breastfeeding and started walking. Can we just take a moment to let that sink in because I keep looking at her and doing a double take at how much little girl she is where before she was all baby.

It’s been a busy and fun month. My brother in law married his beautiful fiancee on the 1st in Copenhagen (no April fool!). I spent a wonderful day in Brussels seeing some of my best friends there. And we got to spend a whole week in the UK with my family which was a special time. And in between? Easter, my birthday, countless afternoons in the park and a sermon preached the week after Easter. April, you were good to me.

This month I’ve been…

reading.

Well, not so much. I’ve hardly cracked open a cover and I miss that. I have started reading The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, by Sue Monk Kidd. I’m only about a chapter in but it’s really interesting. Also a great one for leaving lying around for when your slightly-more-conservative Christian friends come calling!

I did love being home because my parents get the newspaper delivered every day. Every day!! Such a joy to eat my breakfast with the pages spread open in front of me again. I remember how much of my news these days is in short form – the quick BBC updates mostly. But every issue is more complex than 700 words can represent, and so it was great to get to dig into some stories a bit further for a week.

watching.

With my parents I watched The Hundred-Foot Journey, about an Indian family who open a restaurant in a small French village opposite a michelin starred restaurant. It was a fun story but the film felt too long, like it could have been told much better if they squished out half an hour’s worth of scenes and pushed the emotional drama a bit more. Like I wanted the two older characters to address the fact they were both mourning their loved one.

Rasmus and I also finally finished watching How I Met Your Mother, which has accompanied us through the last few years of marriage. I sobbed most of my way through the last season. Something about all the changes and the growing up and the relationships and babies… I guess it touched a nerve!

myemotions

listening.

Krista Tippett’s interview with Greg Boyle for On Being this month was profound and inspiring. I listened on a walk through the park with my sleeping baby but had to relisten once I got home so I could jot down thoughts and quotes. Really worth a listen.

Easter Feast

eating.

Well I ate moss. (see below)

But aside from that, I made Indian Butter Chicken for the first time and it was delicious. Also this Mexican Grilled Chicken salad, and this Asian Chicken salad (I guess I’m trying to be healthy?).

I also accidentally invited 14 adults and 3 children to lunch on Easter Sunday. So we borrowed plates and chairs, roasted four chickens, made my mum’s amazing chocolate lime cheesecake, and had an absolutely wonderful celebration.

travelling.

Henrik Natalie Copenhagen Wedding

We spent the first week of April in Copenhagen, for my brother in law’s wedding. Proving they are the cool ones of the family, the reception was in a bar on the oh-so-trendy Jægersborggade with a pile of doughnuts in place of wedding cake. And then the family had dinner at Mielcke & Hurtigkarl, an innovative gourmet restaurant. Oh my, we ate well. Also I ate moss for the first time. Not too bad; kinda like kale.

Then in the middle of the month, two good friends from my Brussels days were flying back in for a wedding, so Kaya and I made the day trip up to say hi to them and some of my other closest friends there. It was gloriously warm and sunny, I had multiple moments of stranger-kindness as I negotiated getting my girl and her buggy there and back on the train. And is there anything better than having quality time with friends who’ve known you through some of your most formative years?

Finally, we spent a week in the UK staying at my parents. I also got to see my sister, my old flatmate from my Brussels days, the wonderful Naomi Williams, and my Grandpa. Kaya went paddling in the sea for the first time (it was COLD!) and we managed to stop her eating too much sand so win!

loving.

Getting to spend time with so many dear friends this month. It always does my soul good to reconnect with people who have been significant influences in my life or are becoming them!

The British seaside. Complete with chain ferry across the harbour, fish and chips, and adorably retro beach huts. Sandbanks, we liked you.

Copenhagen brunch. Seriously. It’s my one important tip for you if you ever visit Copenhagen. Go for brunch. Every day. They do it soooo well. (We tried Cafe Taxa in Nørrebro this time and it was surprisingly good value for the normally expensive city).

The transition away from breastfeeding. It seems like not the done thing to admit this, but even though it was easy from the start, I never really enjoyed it much. I’m glad I was able to for this long, and I did have a day of nostalgia when she was ready to stop, but overall it’s been such a relief.

Buffer, a social media app my husband introduced me to. For time-starved people like me, it’s pretty wonderful. It basically means if you follow me on twitter, you won’t get 20 posts from me in ten minutes and then nothing for three days… and it’s EASY.

Birthdays. I went for all you can eat Japanese with Rasmus and Kaya for lunch, and then out for Italian with seven of my best friends in the evening. Aside from eating incredibly well, I felt so amazingly loved that day. It was something of a revelation moment as I step into this next year of life.

//

I think that’s about it for the month. What have you been up to?

As always, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer. It’s always fun to read through some of the other posts for inspiration and recommendations.

faith, women

Rising to new life each day – an Easter sermon

April 28, 2015

Loving Us Back To Life

The pastor Nadia Bolz Weber calls Mary Magdalene the Patron Saint of Showing Up.

On that dark Friday, when Jesus was hung up on a cross on a hill outside of Jerusalem, his body broken and bloody, the life seeping out of him, Mary Magdalene showed up, when most of his followers had scattered. She stayed through to the bitter end and even beyond. Together with the other women, she watched him die, she accompanied his body as it was taken down from the cross and placed in a borrowed tomb. She saw the stone rolled across the entrance.

In the time of greatest loss and despair, when it seems that there is no hope left, Mary Magdalene shows up. She rises before dawn and makes her way back to the tomb, to do what needs to be done.

I wonder, how might you need to show up to today?

//

“Mary”, Jesus said. And she turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!”

It was when he spoke her name that she recognised him.

“The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out… he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” John 10: 3-4

She knows him, she recognises him. And he knows her.

We recognise the risen Jesus when we hear our names called, when he speaks them to us.

The beautiful thing about this moment though is not just that she recognises Jesus, but I believe she also in that moment is able to recognise herself. Her true self. The way she was created to be. The way she can now be.

Resurrection is so entirely confusing and bewildering. The church is still today trying to figure out exactly how and why and what happened that Easter Sunday morning. It is unprecedented, astonishing.

But even while we stand there in the garden with Mary, our eyes wide in surprise and confusion, we sense that something has shifted, something has changed eternally, in the world, and in me.

“God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of our humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over.” – Nadia Bolz Weber

Resurrection is not just something that happened to Jesus one Sunday two thousand years ago. It’s not just a hope we have for some day in the future when we might live again after our deaths. It’s also something that is happening in us every single day of our lives when we hear our names called and turn and recognise the risen Jesus.

Where do you need to experience resurrection in your life today? Where has death entered and made its home? What do you need to leave in the tomb today so that you may rise to new life?

We experience resurrection in a hundred small and powerful ways every day. And it all begins when we stop to listen, and hear our name being called by the risen Lord.

Jesus’ continued presence in the world became his Spirit working through us to bring healing and resurrection to the world. It starts with us. In us. Bringing life to the places in our hearts and minds where there is death and rotting.

But it goes beyond us, overflowing into the world around us.

“This resurrection life you have received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we are: Father and children.” Romans 8, The Message

Is your life adventurously expectant? Do you recognise the risen Jesus when he stands and calls your name? Are you regularly asking him, What’s next Papa?

//

This is an extract from my sermon on 12 April, on John 20, when the risen Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. You can listen below to a podcast of the whole talk, given at All Nations Church of Luxembourg (or listen on the church website or on soundcloud).

 

Interested to hear more of my sermons? I’ve gathered the links to available podcasts on my Speaking page.

I’ve recently finished reading Nadia Bolz Weber’s brilliant book “Pastrix”, which is why she snuck in to my sermon this week. I highly recommend the book. (In the UK it’s published under the title “Cranky Beautiful Faith”).