Messy Middle (Day 8)

The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens. Brené Brown.

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two… The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:21-23)

Have you ever found yourself pulled into an adventure, and by the time you realize how hard it’s going to be, there is no way out? You are as Paul writes: hard pressed between living and dying.

Childbirth was one such adventure for me. In 1988 I accepted the call to parenthood when (you guessed it!) I became pregnant. The pregnancy was exhilarating… I loved the doctor visits, the childbirth classes and the baby showers. I also did a lot of throwing up. But I still felt like Ares, queen mother of the Amazons.

Even the labor was fun at first. We checked into the hospital, and the nurses and doctors were impressed with how this Ares was handling the steady and effective contractions.

And then everything changed—fast. Instead of the contractions seeming like powerful, painful ocean waves, they began imploding inside me like bombshells. My whole body began to shake, partly from the pain and partly from the power, but mostly from the bone-chilling FEAR.

I drew upon every ounce of physical and emotional strength that I had cultivated in my mind and body for 23 years, and it was wholly insufficient. I started crying out for help. Dave had never seen an Ares of the Amazons act like this, so he RAN for help.

The nurse bolted in the room and assessed the situation. And then she spoke the words I will never forget: Katie you are in the transition phase of labor. It’s horrible AND effective. If you can trust this process, your body will carry you and your baby safely to the other side.

I love words, and sometimes words save me. And this nurse—Marge as I remember her—saved me with her words. With her permission, I stopped trying to rise, and I surrendered to grace. I don’t remember much of the next 45 minutes; only that we made it to the light.

The Transition Phase of Labor is how I understand the “messy middle” of a struggle. The messy middle is when we’re drowning in uncertainty about the future, and we’re not sure which would be better—fighting on or going home to God.

And the hardest thing about the transitional messy middle, is what Brené Brown learned from the Pixar team and the Apostle Paul wrote about from prison:

Experience and success don’t give you easy passage through the middle space of struggle. They only grant you a little grace, a grace that whispers, “This is part of the process. Stay the course.” Experience doesn’t create even a single spark of light in the darkness of the middle space. It only instills in you a little bit of faith in your ability to navigate the dark. The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens (Brené Brown, Rising Strong).

When have you walked a dark passage, and then (by grace) pressed on into the light? What role did human or divine connection play in your salvation?

Starter Prayer and Practice

God of Salvation, help me slow down my story and observe us walking through the messy middle together. Give me eyes to see the magic; and give me a bit of faith in my ability to navigate the dark.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are heading into week two of this 6-week study. The focus for week two is Chapters 3-5 of Rising Strong. The topics are: Owning our stories, reckoning with emotion, and an introduction to the rumble.

Psalm 1 For the Brave and Brokenhearted (Day 7)

There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers than those of us who are willing to fall, because we have learned how to rise. Brené Brown, from Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted

Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
Psalm 1:1-3

I love the lyric of Psalm 1. It speaks of God’s creativity flowing through us as we choose the path of life and light over the path of hustling our way in the darkness. It also reminds me of Brené Brown’s Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted at the end of Rising Strong.

Here’s the mashup I’m hearing in my head:

Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the fearmongers,
or walk in step with the cynics,
or sit in the cheap seats with the critics;
but their delight is in the Law of Love,
and on this law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

Those who misuse their power are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore, their influence will not survive the judgment of Love,
or stand up in the presence of the wholehearted;
for the LORD of Love watches over the brave and brokenhearted,
but the false use of power will perish.

Starter Prayer and Practice

LORD of Love, keep watch over my brave and broken heart, and lead me in the path of wholeheartedness all of my days.

Read all of Psalm 1 aloud. Print out verses 1-3, and read them over, morning and evening, during this second week of the Rising Strong™ study. We’ll be back in Philippians tomorrow; but the Psalms are powerful prayers, and Psalm 1 is the kind of meditation that works it’s way through your soul over time.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are finishing week 1 of this 6-week read along. The focus for week 2 is Chapters 4-5. The topics are: Owning our stories, reckoning with emotion, and an introduction to the rumble.

Going Back Into the Arena (Day 6)

I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time. Brené Brown.

I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:19-20)

In the introduction to Rising Strong, Brené Brown writes about two counterfeit versions of courage that are overused in our day: ‘gold-plated grit’ and the ‘badassery deficit’. You can google these phrases or read about them in Rising Strong.

Continue reading Going Back Into the Arena (Day 6)

Integration Leads To Influence (Day 5)

Men and women who rise strong integrate the key learnings that emerge from the rising strong process into how they live, love, lead, parent, and participate as citizens. This has tremendous ramifications not only for their own lives, but also for their families, organizations, and communities. Brené Brown.

I want you to know, dear friends, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:12-14)

One of the great rising strong Bible stories is Joseph’s story– the second youngest son of the Old Testament patriarch, Jacob. 

Continue reading Integration Leads To Influence (Day 5)

All You Need is L & W (Day 4)

The goal of the process is to rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes, and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives. Brené Brown. 

I pray that you will overflow with love for others, and at the same time keep on growing in spiritual knowledge and wisdom… May you be filled to overflowing with the fruit of right living that shows you are a child of God… Philippians 1:9-11

This week I am on spiritual retreat with a group of women exploring their purpose and calling. I guess you could say they are asking the question: “What is my arena? Where in the world do I want to show up, and be brave?”

Continue reading All You Need is L & W (Day 4)

Partners in Grace (Day 3)

You have me in your hearts, here in prison as I am, working to defend and bolster up the gospel. You are my partners in grace, all of you! Yes: God can bear witness how much I’m longing for all of you with the deep love of King Jesus. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:7-8)

This journey belongs to no one but you; however, no one successfully goes it alone. Brené Brown.

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Courage Transforms (Day 2)

Once we fall in the service of being brave, we can never go back. We can rise up from our failures, screwups, and falls, but we can never go back to where we stood before we were brave or before we fell. Courage transforms the emotional structure of our being. Brené Brown.

 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:6)

Many summers in early September, Dave and I make pilgrimage from Bear Lake to Grand Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a 17-mile “day” hike over the continental divide.  Once you’ve set out on a journey like that, there is no point in stopping halfway. 

Continue reading Courage Transforms (Day 2)