C'est La Vie: The Magazine | Issue 2 January 2016

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C’EST LA VIE: THE MAGAZINE

ISSUE 2 - JANUARY 2016

“To embrace and love who we are,

WE HAVE TO RECLAIM AND RECONNECT WITH THE PARTS OF OURSELVES WE’VE ORPHANED OVER THE YEARS. WE HAVE TO CALL BACK HOME ALL OF THOSE PARTS OF OURSELVES THAT WE HAVE ABANDONED.” – Brene’ Brown, “Rising Strong”

P.02 LETTER FROM THE FOUNDER

P.06 GRITTY GRACE STORIES

“God invited me to an ordinary life ... not fearing my life isn’t good enough or that it needs fixing or tidying up -- just to Come and Be.”

TAKING THE LEAP: CLOSING THE GAP ON FEAR AND SELFRIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE CHURCH

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P.32 INTERVIEW

THE VISION BEHIND C’EST LA VIE “It’s a really freeing beautiful thing to let people see a little beauty in the brokenness.”


C’est La Vie: THE MAGAZINE

C’EST LA VIE: THE MAGAZINE

ISSUE 2 - JANUARY 2016

Raw life. Real worship. Life, as it is.

Brain, Soul and Heartbeat AMY HUNT : FOUNDER + VISION LEADER

Supportive Spine, Hands and Feet MELISSA ALDRICH : VISION FACILITATOR CHELLE WILSON : STORY EDITOR CLARESA SMITH : STORY EDITOR

HEATHER SCHIEFER : MASTER CREATIVE CINDEE SNIDER RE : PHOTOGRAPHY ARTIST

PG 02 ... AMY HUNT

PG 19 ... CLARESA SMITH

Letter from the Founder

Growing Pains : When God Uses Our Children to Redeem Us

PG 03 ... CHELLE WILSON

PG 22 ... NASREEN FYNEWEVER

How to Let Your Baby Go with Grace

Within the Shadow of Suicide

PG 07 ... HEATHER SCHIEFER The Fear in Faith Gritty Grace Story Part I

PG 26 ... AMY BREITMANN

PG 13 ... MELISSA ALDRICH

PG 29 ... SARAH BESSEY

The Ministry of Presence

The Love of Christ Gritty Grace Story Part II

Harvesting Abundant Life

PG 32 ... INTERVIEW WITH AMY HUNT

PG 17 ... CINDEE SNIDER RE

The Vision Behind C’est La Vie

Awakening to Life

PG 35 ... A MANIFESTO Choosing to Live

mission

A sprawling declaration of real worship through raw, gritty, undisputed, fully-human storytelling, C’est La Vie: The Magazine celebrates no-limits grace that frees and unleashes all of us to unwrap life, as it is . . . and ourselves, as we are.

Connect with C’est La Vie: The Magazine Facebook | E-Mail 01


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Letter from

the Founder

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or so long I had lived fearful to be Me, which is really no kind of life.

God AMY HUNT

gave me a passion to see people unleashed from their idea that they are too much or not enough. So I dared to consider:

I was angry for crippling myself with unrealistic expectations and exhausted from misguided assumptions of rules and standards.

What if I step out of my cave where I think I’m safer and share my story?

I forgot the essence of life, itself. So I prayed, “what-ever you want from me”.

What if I consciously remember that I’m not alone in my struggle?

God responded with an invitation for me to consider a simpler, less complex way of living and to trust that He takes my holey-mess and makes it Holy-blessed.

What if I embolden others to consider what it means to actually LIVE?

I began to consider that being my real self might actually be the heart of worship, His most desired offering from me.

I want all God’s people to LIVE -- freely and lightly.

I want every one of every gender and every race to know they are treasured.

I want us all to rest and believe that we have permission to embrace our life, as it is, and ourselves, as we are.

I don’t have to fear my life isn’t good enough or that it needs fixing or tidying up, I have his permission and urging, actually, to Come as I am and rest from the try-hard life. God steered my attention away from trying to fix all that was broken, and helped me to redefine “Strong” as bravely believing that there is beauty in me now. I learned to grieve my idea of what life is supposed to be like as I stepped out on the proverbial water in trust that I really am good enough and this life that I have is, too.

AMY HUNT FOUNDER AND VISIONARY (Brain, Soul, Heartbeat)

What I saw was remarkable:

Follow Amy.

I saw brokenness reflected as beauty.

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Grace

How to let your Baby go with

CHELLE WILSON

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e were not prepared -- financially, emotionally, etc. -- for our daughter to go to college. It would make all the sense in the world to be afraid, sending our firstborn away amidst a series of unknowns . . . and letting go of the baby for which we prayed. Yet, the time came, and I felt no fear.

THOUGH THE FIG TREE DOES NOT BUD AND THERE ARE NO GRAPES ON THE VINES, THOUGH THE OLIVE CROP FAILS AND THE FIELDS PRODUCE NO FOOD,

My daughter and I had never spent more than a few days apart, but college was going to take her a state or two away. Many people asked how I felt about her imminent departure. How did I feel? I felt like commencement and my daughter’s college move were anticipated inevitabilities. You can be angry at gravity, but things still fall.

THOUGH THERE ARE NO SHEEP IN THE PEN AND NO CATTLE IN THE STALLS, YET I WILL REJOICE IN THE LORD, I WILL BE JOYFUL IN GOD MY SAVIOR. THE SOVEREIGN LORD IS MY STRENGTH; HE MAKES MY FEET LIKE THE FEET OF A DEER,

A recent and well-timed sermon taught that the seventh century prophet Habakkuk’s short book of three chapters in the Old Testament is mostly a complaint to which I can relate. While he is unhappy with his circumstances, he never fails to acknowledge a Sovereign God who remains present even when things are not going well.

HE ENABLES ME TO TREAD ON THE HEIGHTS. HABAKKUK 3:17-19 (NIV)

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Presence. In His Presence, I am absent (great) fear.

With fear and anger out of the way, I embraced and enjoyed the experience. I found myself coaching my daughter far more and “mommying” her much less. Following the advice of a loving mentor, I also embraced her move and started seeing each return home as a visit. As we changed, our relationship changed.

This has been a season of growing and letting go for me (not necessarily lightly). When the plans I had for my life turned out differently than I could ever have imagined (and not in a good way), and whatever illusion of control I believed I had over those things “YOU CAN was revealed as a falsehood, I BE ANGRY AT had two choices: get angry and GRAVITY, BUT pout and throw tantrums at God THINGS STILL . . . or embrace His Sovereignty FALL.” and acknowledge that fear is appropriately human and reasonable. By turns, I did both.

Our new relationship was a beautiful gift, but not without its tests. There were “credible threats of violence” just two weeks after my daughter moved on campus. She called, and needed to hear direction in my voice about how she should respond. I bless God that I felt His presence and thereby conveyed NO FEAR. She channeled my calm and made swift and right decisions, validating that fear is not only human and reasonable, but it can also be chief motivator of prudent decision-making.

I spent a good deal of our daughter’s senior year of high school mad. Mad at God, like Habakkuk for failed harvests. I was mad that things weren’t better or easier, and frustrated that everything I tried to do made little to no difference. It was exhausting, not only physically but spiritually and emotionally.

There were also conversations about whether some of her decisions were correct. Instead of responding out of fear (of change?), I listened patiently, explaining that I was her sounding board. The reward? Our relationship improved, and she started calling me daily. Despite where I am in so many other areas of my life right now, here I am in a good place.

Thank God for the fellowship of words. Studies show that people who are able to spend time writing through difficult circumstances have better outcomes and less depression. At least there is that. Historians say Habakkuk was the first man to question the “fairness of God’s management of the world”. Finally, a prophet speaking my language. What a blessing finding myself and my perspective in an ancient text. It gave me permission to articulate my anger and frustration alongside my praise. Soon, I realized I was no longer mad. I was absent anger, and absent fear.

While I have made peace with my fear in general, it is never the boss of me. I can be afraid, but I refuse to let it paralyze me to the point of inactivity. I have things to do, a husband and a family to love, and children to shepherd into their own destinies. In other words, I have a whole lot of living to do.

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Through an ever-expanding relationship with God -- one where He continually inhabits more of me -- I have a new understanding of how the Lord is a refuge . . . a stronghold in times of trouble. So, what has come of the absence of great paralyzing-like fear? This I know: nature abhors a vacuum. Where once there was fear now resides Trust. Trust that despite failed harvests, despite Habakkuk’s fields that produced no food, I rejoice in the Lord. I am joyful. I don’t need to be strong, because He is my strength.

I CAN BE AFRAID, BUT I REFUSE TO LET IT PARALYZE ME TO THE POINT OF INACTIVITY. I HAVE THINGS TO DO, A HUSBAND AND A FAMILY TO LOVE, AND CHILDREN TO SHEPHERD INTO THEIR OWN DESTINIES.

“...HE MAKES MY FEET LIKE THE FEET OF A DEER, HE ENABLES ME TO TREAD ON THE HEIGHTS.”

Even through my sojourns in the valley, I am never alone. I write my pleas and my prayers, talking myself through my fear using my faith. I do not believe that Christians are never afraid, but know that we are given resources to walk through our fears to the throne of Grace, to find rest and refreshment and refuge there.

(HABAKKUK 3:19)

Copy Editor. Woman. Wife. Mother. Writer. Liturgical dancer. Tolerater of minimal bull. I clutch inherited pearls while tossing my dreadlocks. What’s on my playlist as the rhythm of my soul? Hymns, anthems, jazz AND jazz vespers, hip-hop, Gospel and Gregorian Chants. Follow Chelle

CHELLE WILSON STORY EDITOR

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GRITTY GRACE STORY

Special Feature

C’est La Vie: The Magazine reminds us that grace and redemption is an everyday thing and our greatest offering is to unwrap the grace to simply be – raw, real, as. we. are. Serving as a hostel of sorts, C’est La Vie is a place of refuge, a safe respite for the fellow sojourners. Our commitment is to provide nourishment and shelter from the storms of life with a bounty of love and acceptance. Everyone is welcome here, every gritty storyteller who is willing to stand in the arena of truth, in spite of fear. Even, and especially, the questioners like us. Speaking directly of redemption and grace in the midst of chaos and confusion, gritty storytellers tackle the question: What are you learning about Him now, in the midst . . . while this story is unfinished and incomplete? This issue is one we couldn’t tackle without hearing from two people, presenting two different stories.

Taking the Leap:

Closing the Gap on Fear and Self-Righteousness in the Church

In this two part Gritty Grace Story, we look at how a church’s response to the hurting souls God may be drawing to Himself can change their view of God and His people. These are stories of fear and love each issuing a challenge to consider the stories of others walking among us, and what love looks like. 06


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A PREFACE: When I was approached to write a piece for C’est La Vie: The Magazine I panicked just a bit wondering which of my fears I should write about. I wrote about my anxiety and fear in a post on my blog shortly after receiving Amy’s email asking me to contribute more than layout. “This didn’t come to me all at once. As a matter of fact, the night I received the email we watched “The Man of Steel” and the next morning in the shower the quote by Father Leone kept playing over and over. When Superman asks him how he can trust the people of Earth not to turn on him he responds by telling him, “Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith first. The trust part comes later.”

Part I:

That was it! You have to jump, despite your fear. You have to trust the people you feel are right, you have to trust your God. It’s scary, for lots of reasons. But isn’t it the whole basis for religion and faith? Following and loving without proof?”

The Fear in

Faith

I’m not quite there yet, but this is my leap. Speaking to the believers, the ones I feel slighted by. The ones I wish could just love for the sake of loving.

HEATHER M SCHIEFER

HEATHERMSCHIEFER.PHOTOGRAPHY

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biological children, largely on her own, and was a safe place for many more.

he people I come from are not unfamiliar with fear. Branches from both sides of my family have endured illnesses of the mind and body; alcoholism, abuse, long histories of making the same mistakes. Yet they always reach to the sky, seemingly oblivious to their obstacles and hardships.

On the other side, a grandfather suffered the loss of his young wife, turned to alcohol and surrendered his five children to foster care. A good man, afraid of failing his children, he did what he could; what he knew.

On one side a grandmother, my Nana, raised up in a Catholic home where the words tolerance or diversity were probably never uttered, who navigated a life of physical and emotional abuse and alcoholism in a culture that devalued women and minorities, eventually losing one husband to suicide and another to divorce. She wasn’t perfect and I’m sure she was afraid many times, though I never saw it. I saw an unwavering faith in God and an unquestioned purpose. She raised four

These grand-parents, children touched by heartbreak and abuse and addiction, all who battle their own demons make up my family tree. Two of those children, a little broken and a little worn, found one another at a VFW home in Michigan in the 1970’s. Since the age of thirteen, my parents have ridden the waves and weathered the storms only to come out the other side -- still fighting, though less

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broken and more healed, by faith in one another and faith in the future. They’ve used that faith, from wherever it comes, to teach love and patience and tolerance to their own family.

My Catholic Nana used to take me to church. I would sit quietly waiting for her to ask me. Absolutely vibrating inside, anxious to dress up and accompany her to the enormous, gilded cathedral. The ritual was beautiful and the people always appeared so welcoming and sweet to a pretty, freckled red haired child. This, of course, was before we were “those people”. This was when we were blanketed in a cloak of “normalcy” -- one that kept me from feeling the fear I feel today.

My immediate family is comprised of three living biological and many, many foster and adopted siblings, all younger than myself. We are black and white, gay and straight and transgender. We have been members of the lower and middle class, taking advantage of public assistance at times to supplement hard work.

As time went on and I realized why my mother never adopted her mother’s faith, I also started questioning the church as an establishment. After all, any group given enough perceived power, has the potential to twist something as beautiful as faith in a loving God and steer it in a direction it was never meant to go. Not all of these churches are this way and I know this. I can’t help but fear them though, the way they fear us.

WE ARE “THOSE PEOPLE” -- THE ONES WHO DON’T QUITE FIT THE DEFINITION OF “NORMAL”, THE SO-CALLED LIBERALS, FAGS, FREAKS, SINNERS AND WORSE. WE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO MANY IN THIS TIME FEAR. I got pregnant at 17 and briefly considered abortion as a reasonable solution. Marrying at 18, separating at 19 and living as a single, dating mother until divorcing at 30 to remarry the same year, I, myself, have been judged, shamed and hated for my circumstances.

I BELIEVE IN ALL PATHS TO

GOD

Even to others who have come to settle on our family tree, we find ourselves having to defend who we are, the choices we make, and what we believe and why. None of us have given up. We continue to push against what is deemed “morally” right by “The Establishment” -- leaders whose fear manifests in bigoted outrage. Those people so often abuse the privilege of leadership and use it to spread their opinions crafted of ignorance, fear and hate. These bleed into society and then flow down into our family roots.

HEATHERMSCHIEFER.PHOTOGRAPHY

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catapult us headlong into a fire that will burn us all. I fear that many of them choose the latter.

If you ask those who find intolerance a reasonable solution, they will most likely quote you some scripture from a book that may as well be a million years old. Our God’s Book, our Christian foundation! The words we continue to live by all these eons later. Did they really intend to inspire fear? I am not sure. I do know that those parables of old, held high by those of the Christian faith, have been analyzed and interpreted by men so often that they could be twisted to mean anything. These days, that is a common practice.

I haven’t been to a church service, save my own wedding, since Mother’s Day 1996. I began to see the hate. The fear. After all, hate is just fear unquestioned. With politicians and community leaders speaking out against tolerance -- tearing down immigrants, Muslims, the LGBT community and anything else that makes them uncomfortable -- my fear is that without a dialog we will become full of fear.

Do not tolerate different faiths, cultures. Fear people who are a part of the LGBT community. Hate. Be afraid. This is often the message I hear behind their pretty words.

If those leaders, in our government, our churches, and our community don’t question themselves, they will lead those masses who just follow them into a Hell that they can’t even imagine. The ones who will suffer will be “those people” -- my people. We will be left to fend for ourselves without the fellowship afforded to those who believe in the “right” brand of Christianity.

My grandmother, a devout Catholic her whole life, found space in her beliefs to welcome grandchildren who weren’t her own into her heart. Easy it was not. She struggled with the different races, backgrounds, and sexual MY FEAR orientations of these children. IS THAT In the end though, she saw no My upbringing was one without other alternative than to accept WITHOUT A a church, but was not without and build up her transgender Christian values. Love your DIALOG WE grandson. She, alone, gave me neighbor, treat others as you WILL BECOME hope that others could also find would want to be treated. Be good FULL OF FEAR. tolerance in their faith, rather and be kind. And because of my than judgment and exclusion. parent’s open minded upbringing After all, if an old Catholic I have been free to adopt my own woman of nearly 80 could do it, why can’t the brand of faith. I don’t believe in a sanctuary as rest of the world? necessary and I no longer practice the ritual of the rosary as I did when Nana gave me mine My fear isn’t that the critical ones are right, at 13 after realizing, finally, I would never be or that perhaps God is on their side. My fear confirmed. I believe in all paths to God. lies in their power -- the power to use their faith to either boost us up on the branches of I believe in love and patience and tolerance, their church family trees to be together, or to 09


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place to judge them. Even if God says that it’s a sin to be gay, is it your sin? Is it a sin to comfort that person in this life on Earth? Is it your job to judge them or His?

if you can’t afford acceptance. I believe in worshiping within your community or in solitude. I believe in being good and being kind. Still, I do understand uncertainty and fear. I also understand the necessity of questioning. Asking yourself, however uncomfortable, why you fear something.

For me, God is a direction.

I pray, I wish and I hope. I talk to God. For me, God is a direction. He is a faith in myself and in others. He is the potential beauty within all people.

The one thing I took from my childhood experience in those gilded Catholic cathedrals was the perceived love I felt. The love that I later saw was only a mask for fear and intolerant rhetoric. What if that perceived love was real though?

Christianity is largely about love. Is it not? Is it not about fellowship and being together and praying for one another and helping one another? Is it not beautiful? Is it not tolerant? Did Jesus not forgive? Did he not spread a message of love? Did he ever say to fear a gay couple or that they were less than you? Did he ever say that a woman should give her body over to men to be governed as property? Did he ever say that we should shun those of other faiths or races? Did he ever, even once, say that people should die to abate your fear?

If we only open ourselves enough to question ourselves I believe He will provide answers. Are you afraid they might not be the answers your church told you they would be? HEATHERMSCHIEFER.PHOTOGRAPHY

It’s not about what the Bible says is morally right anymore. You can believe in those writings, if it’s in your heart. It is your right, here in America, to believe and to practice your faith -- the faith that fills you with hope and light and love for others. Shouldn’t that hope and light and love be passed on to those who are most in need?

You can quote me a thousand Bible verses, hours of scripture, and I’m only going to shake my head and feel scared for you. Why you? Because you, the unaware follower, will also suffer for this fear.

My people might not be your people. You might not love the lives they live or the faith they follow -- that doesn’t mean it’s your

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I thought when I started to write I would be talking about my forgiving the church I loved as a child for twisting love into fear, taking a leap of faith and considering my uncertainty surrounding organized religion, trusting the church to lead us to love rather than fear. Instead I’m asking the Church to take that leap for me and for my people. To trust us the way we have trusted you, even when you taught us to fear. To have faith in our ability to love.

and work together to stop the fight? How can you trust them if you continue to fear them? If you have no faith in them as humans? If you can’t love them as they are? I fear, not only for my many siblings and their partners and their children … but for my children, and for your children. When they are grown and they are searching for themselves will they be free to find themselves? Or will they fear themselves? Will they fear those they love? Will they fear us, parents, and leaders?

Leaders, the ones who feel driven by God to lead those masses of people in need of faith, I am asking you to question your fear. What are you afraid of ? Why do you feel that my people need to be saved or changed or eliminated? Why do they scare you? They are human, after all. Skin and bone and blood. They love and they fear and they struggle with hate, just like you.

What we do today ripples into their future. What we teach will echo through time. What I want religious leaders and churches to ask themselves is simple:

”WILL YOU SPREAD A MESSAGE OF TOLERANCE AND PATIENCE AND LOVE SO THAT NO ONE HAS TO FEAR FAITH? OR WILL WE COVER OUR FUTURE IN A DARK BLANKET OF FEARFUL FAITH SO THAT NO ONE IS EVER FREE?”

Many of them will be leaders like you too. Will you be on opposing sides or will you reach out HEATHER M SCHIEFER MASTER CREATIVE

Heather is a freelancing, work-at-home mom of a 19 year old and a 4 year old. A glutton for punishment, she also cares for two chickens, two dogs, two bearded dragons and a parakeet. She and her husband muttle through this life, just striving to be enough. As a creative graphic designer and photographer, Heather is no stranger to the fear of failure and the overwhelming curse of not knowing when to say “enough”. As an occasional writer she is often rambling and less than eloquent, but enjoys it when it goes well. With the help of coffee and periodic long weekends she continues to amaze herself with her resilience and ability to push forward and grow every day. Well, most days.

Follow Heather on Facebook Read her blogs and view her portfolios at HeatherMSchiefer.Design and HeatherMSchiefer.Photography

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SOMETIMES, YOU HAVE TO TAKE A LEAP OF

FAITH FIRST. THE TRUST PART COMES LATER. FATHER LEONE, MAN OF STEEL (2013)

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To lay down our self-righteous Pharisaical porcupine selves, and do what Jesus did.

Part II:

The Love of

Christ MELISSA ALDRICH

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so unlike.

hen I read stories of people who have been wounded by the Church, I feel two immediate responses:

My family tree is full of colorful history. One grandmother constantly leaving one abusive relationship for another. Divorcing and single mothering in an era where this was not the norm. Another grandmother whose husband cheated on her. She drank herself to death, literally falling drunk from a tipped chair to her end.

1. The Self-Righteous Porcupine. I feel judged, along with the Church as a whole based on the outspoken outliers. I see hate posters offered up instead of a love that seeks to bring Jesus to the hurting.

2. The Fellow Patient. I understand those

If the creation story is true, children are born expecting to have perfect parents. And it is not going to happen.

who have been wounded by the Church. I have been, too. Let me toss aside the self-righteous porcupine and speak patient to patient, wounded heart to wounded heart, sinner in need of grace to another sinner in need of grace.

My grandmother moved into our house around the time I began kindergarten. Yelling and chaos being her normal, she created that when she arrived. She wanted my sister and I raised Catholic. I still remember the beauty of my first communion: the lace on the dress,

As I recall the stories of the wounded and my own story, I consider that perhaps we are not

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church and home so both of us launched into perfectionism. I focused on grades and spent a whole year of school striving to make the President’s Physical Fitness List. In my spare time, I chased down all the boys begging them to love me. My sister stopped eating in 7th grade and did not really start again until the 10th. We wanted to play the part. We wanted to be enough.

the high heeled shoes, the taste of the wafer and wine, and the smooth rosary beads. In third grade, I was uprooted from my public school and placed in Catholic school. But this was like sticking a bunch of square pegs into a round hole. My parents only attended service when we were singing in the choir. We were not wealthy doctors, lawyers, or businessmen. But worst of all, my sister and I entered a class of 30 peers who had been together since kindergarten.

I remember a few brave souls who sought us out -- a teacher here, a classmate with a tender heart named Richardson LaBruce, a parent there. But for the most part, we were vulnerable and the church let us down.

If you study human development, you’ll find that 5-9 years of age is the time when a child looks to their peers for acceptance. Our classmates greeted us with curiosity, but then went back to their friends. At worst, we were teased for our differences. At best, we were ignored.

We moved into a whole new sea of people when we had to leave Catholic school and go to high school. And we found some respite there, in the sheer number of kids who had similar interests. Yet, before our sophomore years were finished, both my sister and I had been sexually assaulted, been in manipulative

At home, wars were being waged. Grandmother and my mom, used to chaos, began to create it (a temptation I still struggle with). Grandma pitted my mom and dad against each other. There was deception and lies about the tight finances. There was gossip and backstabbing. Yelling at the children. Huddling in closets, where I would tell my sister -- just 18 months my junior -- that our parents wouldn’t get a divorce. Parents telling us round-cheeked little girls, that we were “blimps” and if we continued getting bigger that no man would ever love us.

JESUS WAS A GOD THAT WHISPERED,

“COME. I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW. EVEN YOU.”

And there in the Catholic church and school, where we should have heard the message that we were welcomed as God began his transforming work in us, my sister and I were shunned by peers and felt as though we had to clean ourselves up before anyone would even like us. We felt unworthy and unwanted at

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or abusive relationships, and suffered from clinical depression. God reached me at sixteen. I was dating John Sullivan. He was stable and nice and he brought me to church with him where I worked with babies in the nursery. Too wounded for service or the youth group, the babies were safe and fun. Yet, the women who worked with me in the nursery were even more of a gift. They saw me. They saw the wounds and accepted me in the process. They advocated for me to receive a scholarship to youth camp. There, I heard the Good News for the first time. My heart was primed to receive it because of the love from those women.

The walk of faith and healing is hard.

At that youth camp, the preacher whispered that I did not have to be enough for God. I could come. I was wanted. I could leave my shame, confess my failures, and receive the forgiveness that creates acceptance. Jesus wasn’t the God that I had imagined in Catholic school wanting me to do better so that I could serve him. No, Jesus was a God who whispered, “Come. I make all things new. Even you.”

would never be like her.” Self-righteousness becomes the new sin of choice as new Christians (and even in some entire Christian circles). I grieve that sin deeply now. Wasn’t it the compassion of a group of church ladies that opened my sinful heart to the forgiveness and grace of Christ Jesus? Wasn’t it Jesus whispering, “Come, just as you are -- I died for all those sins you struggle with because I love you,” that drew me to Him?

I hurtled down that youth camp aisle seeking redemption. Seeking to be made new. But the walk of faith and healing is hard. So many old habits, sins, poor emotional reactions, and unhealthy relationships are cut away with the work of the Holy Spirit. The surgeries seem never ending. And, worse still, when I come through one of those Holy Spirit surgeries, I am tempted to a new sin: selfrighteousness. “Look,” I want to say, “at least I am no longer like the unsaved. I don’t sleep around. I am not tempted to homosexuality. I would never murder my unborn child. I

My sister is a lesbian now. The sexual violence from teenage boys, the rejection of her physically soft body as an adolescent, the wounding of never fitting in drove her easily to that lifestyle that the Church believes is sin. Just as those same things daily drive me to the sins of protecting my image at all costs, including destroying relationships, slandering, lying, and tearing down my children when they fail to perform in a way 15


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that makes me look good. Last year my sister and her partner had a baby. This coming year they will wed. I love my sister and am active in her life.

it will always be superseded by “but she loves me anyhow.” It’s that balance that drives the Gospel of grace into wounded hearts. You see, faith is taking the leap between the seen (“I am a hot mess”) to the unseen (“But God, through Christ, loves me. He will forgive me and transform me by grace to be an instrument of His love and grace to a hurting world.”)

When she was pregnant, I organized a baby and card shower for her at my church. Because we are pro-life and believe that God is sovereign, we recognized that God gave my sister her son. Our job wasn’t to judge their choices but to love. To whisper, “You don’t have to be lovable because you are already loved. Release the burden of sin and shame, accept readily offered forgiveness, and let Him heal the broken places.” For without knowing that she is irrevocably loved, my sister (or anyone) will never come to the cross.

Church, let’s be those instruments of grace that invite the sinners, the messes and the downright crazy right into our homes to receive love -- because love is what calls hearts to have faith through His transforming grace.

My sister cried over those cards. Having heard from other people of faith that her lifestyle was “ruining our nation” and “an unpardonable sin,” she was caught off guard. These church ladies were brave enough to write notes to encourage her in early motherhood, confess their sins as young mothers, and share the scriptures that helped them walk through the darkest days. They loved her right where she was.

THIS IS THE LOVE OF JESUS: TO LAY DOWN OUR SELF-RIGHTEOUS PHARISAICAL PORCUPINE SELVES, AND DO WHAT JESUS DID. To sit at tables with the wounded, the tax collectors, the sexually trafficked and assaulted, the abused, the homosexual, and the sinner just like us. To sit at the table and love.

Melissa Aldrich rarely has it all together, but she knows the One who does. She encourages others (admittedly mostly herself) to see the mess in daily life as real, beautiful grace. With three children born within 25 months, including a set of twins, there’s a lot of mess in her life that needs to be viewed with grace. Melissa is a wife, disordered housekeeper, sometimes writer, dreamer, and newborn photographer in Greenville, SC.

There will always be a tension. The tension of “she believes what I am doing is wrong.” But 16


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“THE EARTH HAS MUSIC FOR THOSE WHO LISTEN.” REGINALD VINCENT HOMES

Awakening to Life

Photography by Cindee Snider Re

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CINDEE SNIDER RE PHOTOGRAPHY ARTIST

Cindee Snider Re is a photographer seeking the exquisite in the ordinary – one breath, one heartbeat, one moment at a time -- wife to an amazing man, mama of five world-shaking creatives, follower of Jesus, lover of words. Visit Cindee on Facebook, Instagram, and at BreatheDeeply.org.

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Growing Pains

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When God Uses Our Children To Redeem Us CLARESA SMITH

I

Feeling worn from the day, I listen to my watch my little girl run around the dining daughter giggle as she slowly dizzies herself room table, her feet pounding the hardwood and my mind journeys back to the days when floor and her curly ponytails bobbing as she our home was mostly quiet. No girlish squeals picks up speed. I laugh as I glance down at my or shuffling of little feet. phone nearby. Noticing we’re minutes away from bedtime, I hurriedly put down my fork I can’t believe that was more than and quickly cover any food still two years ago. left on the table. I make my way to the stairs, repeatedly calling She’s grown a lot since the day my daughter’s name and asking she surprised my husband and Now, motherhood her to come with me. I finally me by arriving two weeks early constantly reveals give up, grab her before she and in a hospital wheelchair. I starts a new lap, and walk her up remember lifting her to my chest the murkiness in the stairs. as she took her first breath of air, my thoughts. while nurses frantically wheeled I know she’s sleepy, but the It exposes me. me to an available delivery room. nighttime frenzy continues -She felt so small in my arms that even after I dress her for bed. I day. And boy, does she have a lot lose patience and sit down in the more growing to do. white wooden glider in the corner of the room while my husband tries to calm her down. But truth be told, I have a lot of growing to do I rest my feet on the matching footstool. as well. 19


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sit in a crowded restaurant and my girl insists she can’t sit still for another minute, I pick her up and scurry off to the nearest restroom. Other times I prefer to hide, not wanting to venture out at all.

However, these growing pains won’t be the aches that come from stretching limbs; they come by way of a bruised ego and hurt pride. Before I ever considered having children, I thought I had myself figured out. I thought I knew my struggles, my weaknesses, and my strengths. And I thought I could put them all in the best light to make my glaring imperfections unnoticeable. In my mind, I had to have everything under control and have it all together -- or at least look like I did.

Each day, I find myself smiling through the fear of being judged and being perceived as exactly what I am: A first-time mom who has no idea what she’s doing, and worries about God’s call on her life as a parent.

Now, motherhood constantly reveals the murkiness in my thoughts. It exposes me.

A recovering “do-gooder” who gets mad at herself because she hasn’t figured out how to take control and “be good” at every aspect of the mothering thing.

Whether I’m frazzled, tired, or feeling insecure -- it shows.

A sinner who even on her best day needs God’s help.

In those moments, I feel weak and out of control, and I want to disappear. Many times I try. When loud screams come from the child in my shopping cart, I leave or duck into a lonely aisle, hoping no one spots me. When we

This is an ugly part of parenting: when God uses our children to reveal our unclean places and insecurities, and challenge us at every turn to show who we really are, keeping us humble. Some days, it’s easy to catch ourselves dwelling in the midst of that ugly, while comparing ourselves with others and complaining. But do we really want to stay there? I don’t think so. We have to learn to trust the work God is doing in us, truly feel our weaknesses, and acknowledge the fact that we are not in control.

THESE GROWING PAINS WON’T BE THE ACHES THAT COME FROM STRETCHING LIMBS; THEY COME BY WAY OF A BRUISED EGO AND HURT PRIDE.

It is there God shows us grace and helps us grow in the knowledge of His Ways. We also see the beauty of parenting as we realize we’re never really alone.

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In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul says the Lord told him His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness. Because of that power, we find a Shepherd who will walk with us in the murkiest mess, a Healer who strengthens us in our frailty, and an Everlasting God with a plan that will always reign supreme. Now, as I spend each day with my daughter, I try to find peace in that -- knowing that although God works to redeem us, He still works in spite of us.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about

Claresa is an experienced journalist who is the wife of a science-fiction loving artist and illustrator, and mom to a spirited baby girl. She is committed to finding inspiration for better living, and encouraging others to do the same with her blog.

my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Visit Claresa.

2 Corinthians 12:9 21 HEATHERMSCHIEFER.PHOTOGRAPHY


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ASK, LISTEN, TELL, BELIEVE

Within the

Shadow of Suicide

NASREEN FYNEWEVER

T

the clenched hands on their laps, swirled dramatically in the room. Their breathing met an edge of fear of the unknown or worry of blame. I recoiled internally with my own fear of speaking of a student suicide. This was not the first time in my teaching tenure that a young life was shortened by the dark grip of hopelessness. I needed enough poise to get through the day and yet enough real to show the raw wound placed upon my heart.

he room fell to a hush. Truth was, it was never too loud to begin with. But today the shuffle of feet and the sliding of book bags felt especially clamoring, in the absence of words. Within this, there was noise enough that an unsteadied voice whispering, “Dear Creatives” was enough to halt movement and volume both. The voice was mine and the room, it held grief, fear, and wonder for all. A blending of eyes wide with expectancy for life and wisdom from their teacher and the grief, which simultaneously lowered their gaze to

I rarely get nerves to jilt and jolt for the

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anticipation of speaking. I find energy in speaking words aloud to move messages and missions forward, calling for lives to hold the vibrancy and honesty they can. This moment, however, seared through my typical calm and left the tense chill of fear. We all dreaded the conversation, but this was the opportunity laid before me: to state that uncomfortable and painful conversations should not be cowered away from.

mind saw the message I was going to deliver as weak and lacking meaning. It would not return life to the girl gone too soon. How was I supposed to walk into another auditorium full of youth and ask them to fight for life? As I stood in front of my class, a late student walked in and my mind returned to the room abruptly. With a quiet voice, I announced what most of the students already knew: that a young man had taken his life over the weekend and the tragic loss had to be felt by us all, whether we knew him or not.

I had wanted this very conversation when I was in high school. I had wanted this conversation a month earlier when my own mental health invited worthlessness and death to be bedfellows with my spirit. We needed this conversation to happen a week earlier, with a real person willing to voice the plea for life to win.

I did know him. I was one of the last adults to speak with him that day. I looked into his eyes. I noticed his wide-smile. Though I felt our time was too swift, and chided myself for letting responsibility push me past someone who stood with words to say.

In this thought, my resolve stumbled about. I I had been that teenager. I had been that slipped out of the present tragedy and let my adult. Feeling far too different from those mind traverse the past. It scanned the faces around me. Feeling smothered by the limited of youth who had sat in my class, listened to ways out of depression. Feeling sorrow for my speeches, or passed by me in the hallway. not belonging when I craved a place to stand Their images held power and conviction. One with pride. I had words to say half my life ago. young lady was blurry in my mind; she was I had words to say as an not from the school where adult. And yet, I believed I taught. I had spoken that speaking of wanting to her school’s student RELEASING THE FEAR OF to die could not meet the body about being “hope DISCOMFORT FOR THE air or be heard in a real chasers”. But the setting OPPORTUNITY TO MOVE conversation. was not intimate enough AWAY FROM DEATH AND for me to see her eyes or This should not be so. I carry any of the weight of believe we need to hold the her journey. The news of ridiculously uncomfortable her sudden death met me conversations before people SHARED TOGETHER IS while I reflected in a car stumble into despair. I WORTH EVERY OUNCE outside another school believe we need to speak OF NERVES, TIME, several states away. My poignantly -- even in CONVICTION. energy dropped out and my moments of grief -- that

into life

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Tell

suicide is not the answer. We must not let one another believe that we can become so alone that no one would reach a hand towards us if we spoke. We must learn to listen to the words, those uttered and those silent, but screaming out from eyes and actions.

• Tell students they matter. • Tell people they are seen and heard. • Tell friends they are goodness.

I have resolved to move through the following steps to help those in the shadow of suicide -to be a light, present and accessible:

• Tell struggling women that they hold beauty and purpose.

Ask

• Tell people “I will check back in a few days” (and do so) to keep them accountable and quietly confirm their stability.

• Tell them about professionals and resources that connect to their needs.

• Do you value life? • What makes you answer that way?

• Tell others about the vulnerable corners of my life that are filled with shadows.

• Do you have someone you can turn to or ask for help? • Do you feel like you are seen/known?

Believe

• Do you know that _____________ and I are options? We care for you.

• Things can get better.

• Is it okay if I connect you with ________________?

• Our current situations are not the only things that define us; we get to live into the person we are becoming.

Listen

• The hope that faith brings can also bring healing.

• Listen for the overt questions/cries for help.

Can I, or those whom I encourage, do the same? Can we follow this prescriptively? No. But there is space to let more grace, mental illness awareness, and movement towards being a light be a goal of classroom conversations, late night coffees, carefully penned emails, timely blog comments, quiet letters, dynamic small group meetings, and our daily lives. Releasing the fear of discomfort for the opportunity to move away from death and into life shared together is

• Listen for the story they want to tell. (Take note of their eyes and whether their speech pattern quickens) • Listen for the non-verbals, such as body posture, work ethic, day-to-day choices, and air of loneliness.

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worth every ounce of nerves, time, conviction. Chase hope and light with me -- one shadow at a time to reduce suicide one conversation at a time. *For more information about mental illness and how to find support, visit the website for the National Alliance on Mental Health.

I HAD BEEN THAT TEENAGER. I HAD BEEN THAT ADULT. FEELING FAR TOO DIFFERENT FROM THOSE AROUND ME. FEELING SMOTHERED BY THE LIMITED WAYS OUT OF DEPRESSION. FEELING SORROW FOR NOT BELONGING WHEN I CRAVED A PLACE TO STAND WITH PRIDE. Adopted from Bangladesh, raised in Michigan, and now chasing hope in Minnesota, Nasreen Fynewever brings the message and challenge for people to practice presence, breathe deeply, and know they belong. She spends a portion of her time instructing creative writing students and teaching a college preparatory class at Mounds View High School in Arden Hills, Minnesota. Nasreen also consults as a freelance writer and strategist, garnering experience in conference production management, author support, business development, as well as speaking appearances at schools, retreats, and conferences. Follow @nasreenalive or read more on LinkedIn

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WHETHER IT’S GRIEF OVER CANCER, OR AN ENDED MARRIAGE, OR A LOST CHILD, PRESENCE IS THE ONE THING WE DESPERATELY NEED DURING THE DEEPEST VALLEYS.

The Ministry of Presence

AMY BRIETMANN

S

eventeen years ago I sat in a blue leather chair watching chemotherapy drip slowly through a clear tube and into the needle in my right arm. I could taste the metal of the platinum-based drug prescribed to kill the parts of me that weren’t behaving. I was too tired to cry and I didn’t eat that day.

like a foggy memory now, but living in the days after Cancer I have learned things I didn’t want to know, and yet there have been gifts in the getting on with life. I clung to Hebrews 11:1 in those days, and still do. I still carry some side-effects with me after all these years later. My ears ring some days from a drug that was used to kill the Cancer. Even today: a smell, a needle, an oncologist’s name, a cell phone ring unleash pain. When I tell my story, people still have questions and many still want somewhere to place the blame. It didn’t make sense that a young woman would face the birth of her child and the diagnosis of Cancer in the same week.

That night my hair fell out in clumps and tears finally streamed down, mixing with the warm shower water. I stepped out and wrapped my scarred body in a towel. That was the evening my husband shaved my head. I was twenty-nine years old with ovarian cancer. There are scars that run the length of my abdomen and they tell some of that story. But they don’t tell the whole story. Surgery took parts of me and chemotherapy sapped my energy in those early days. Most of it seems

Today, if you don’t know about that time in my life, you might wonder why a tear streaks down my cheek in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. It’s a routine visit, after all,

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and needles are only used now to draw blood to test hormone and cholesterol levels. My reaction might make you think that I have too much anxiety; I am being ridiculous, I am overreacting. You would be wrong. I am reacting to my truth and my pain and my story, which includes Cancer.

words when we don’t understand someone’s path. In ministering, I learned that my experience with Cancer and my story is not hers, even if our diagnosis was the same. My experience and story will not be her fate; Cancer may take her home, while I remain in remission. Her story is hers alone: her diagnosis, her reaction, her emotions, her treatment team, her family.

Some days I have survivor’s guilt. I worked for years in ministry, walking alongside other women with Cancer. I spoke at funerals and whispered assurance to women in hospital beds. I clung more tightly to Hebrews 11:1 than I had during my own battle. I asked for healing and peace. I prayed for a faith greater than the bodies NOW FAITH IS THE we were given. I came to SUBSTANCE OF THINGS appreciate forces greater HOPED FOR, THE than cells that multiply quietly inside our bodies, EVIDENCE OF THINGS silent and deadly.

NOT SEEN.

I learned to feebly try the things my best friend did during my horrible bout with Cancer. I grabbed hands and squeezed them hard. I took women to get favorite meals. I looked them straight in the eye, not looking away or manufacturing words. I showed the Ministry of Presence.

I don’t think about Cancer HEBREWS 11:1 every day. If you did not know my story or about my days in ministry you would not know that it was a long, brutal chapter in my story. I can hide the places of my body that hold my scars and I can wear the painful truths I’ve learned on the inside; I can cover it all with clothing and makeup and a smile.

Whether it’s grief over Cancer, or an ended marriage, or a lost child, presence is the one thing we desperately need during the deepest valleys.

Some side-effects have been gifts: sometimes it’s only in facing the possibility of death that you begin to really live.

So when a walk to the mailbox is all she can muster, we can have a card there waiting. We can whisper the truth of scriptures promises into the darkest of days. We can give her some of our hope the face of her fear.

We can show up in a hundred different ways because grief in all its forms is a scary thing to stare down alone.

We all carry stories and scars and it’s important that we offer more prayer and less

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I AM A CANCER PATIENT

I’ve learned that we each have desperate days where fear threatens to overtake our faith. We don’t always have to offer words -- only our hand.

I AM A CANCER PATIENT. I AM ALSO A MOTHER, A WIFE, A SISTER, A FRIEND. I HAVE FEARS AND UNCERTAINTY, AND DAYS OF BOUNDLESS JOY AND DEEP EMOTION. I AM A CANCER PATIENT. I HAVE A CAREER AND GOALS AND A PAST FILLED WITH MEMORIES. I HAVE DAYS I WONDER WHO WILL CARE FOR MY CHILDREN IF I AM GONE -AND DAYS I AM CERTAIN I WILL LIVE FOREVER. I AM A CANCER PATIENT. I AM ALSO A SURVIVOR, AN INSPIRATION, AN ADVOCATE. I HAVE HOPE AND COURAGE -AS WELL AS NIGHTS OF RESTLESS SLEEP AND DAYS OF FIERCE DOUBT AND DEEP RAGE. I AM A CANCER PATIENT. I AM EXPERIENCED IN ENDURING MEDICAL PROCEDURES AND TREATMENTS AND FEELING EXPOSED TO TOTAL STRANGERS IN WHOSE HANDS I LAY MY FUTURE. I HAVE MOMENTS OF COMPLETE CONFUSION AND SOME OF TOTAL UNDERSTANDING. I AM A CANCER PATIENT. I AM SKILLED AT DISGUISING MY PHYSICAL SIGNS OF ILLNESS WITH WIGS AND HATS AND MAKEUP AND SMILES -BUT DO NOT BE FOOLED. . . I AM AFRAID. I AM A CANCER PATIENT. I ENJOY PEACEFUL MOMENTS AMIDST THE UNCERTAINTY THAT IS MY LIFE. I AM VIEWED WITH PITY, WITH AWE, AND A CERTAIN MISUNDERSTANDING BY THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SHARED MY JOURNEY. I AM A CANCER PATIENT. I LIVE LIFE LARGER THAN MOST BECAUSE I AM ACUTELY AWARE OF LIFE’S PRECIOUSNESS. I AM A CANCER PATIENT. I AM A PRODUCT OF A TENUOUS AND DIFFICULT CHALLENGE. THE SIDE EFFECTS HAVE HELPED ME BECOME A BETTER MOTHER, A WIFE, A DAUGHTER, AND A FRIEND.

(I wrote this poem in 1998, in the middle of my cancer journey):

Amy’s name means “Beloved” and she’s on a quest to believe it. Her boots carry Midwest soil but now she kicks it up in the south where she weaves marriage, ministry and motherhood together. As a cancer survivor, she was the Co-Founder of The Lydia Project, a ministry which holds hands with other women facing cancer. She now serves as the Vice President of Vi Bella Jewelry, empowering artisans and communities in Haiti, Mexico, and the U.S. She is also a lost-sock finder, a keeper of secrets for the best cheesecake recipe, and gets grace in the ordinary. The words that tumble out on her blog Beloved in Blue Jeans are balm that the Spirit speaks to quiet her soul. Find her on her blog, Facebook or Twitter.

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SOMETIMES CONTENTMENT FEELS LIKE A

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE. IT’S AS IF I AM RETRAINING MYSELF TO

SEE BEAUTY.

Harvesting Abundant life

SARAH BESSSEY

O

I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”

ne of the greatest gifts my children have given to me is the restoration of wonder to my life -- the ability to marvel over simple joys and pleasures. They have helped me to find great value and significance in sunrise and sunset, growing vegetables, bugs and trees, music, friendship, rocky-bottomed lakes, changing seasons and small rituals. My children have restored a sense of abundance to my life.

Those words have always stuck with me – mainly because I knew I wasn’t there. I always

In Philippians 4:12, Paul writes: “Actually,

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not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Now that makes sense to me. How can you have contentment without gratitude? And gratitude comes from filling your heart, your mind, your life with the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

When I set aside the bucket lists, when I didn’t care much about money or power or career or being the Big Evangelical Hero anymore, something odd happened:

Then when I set aside the bucket lists, when I didn’t care much about money or power or career or being the Big Evangelical Hero anymore, something odd happened: I began to feel wonder again. In the oddest places, in the simplest things, in the most ordinary and mundane moments. In the heft of a baby on my back, in the work and release of giving birth, in laughter over shared jokes, in madeup nonsense. I felt wonder in the kindness of people who love the Gospel towards “the least of these,” in singing at church, in the night sky, in the black lace of the pines etched against a fading day, and in going for a walk. Again and again I discovered wonder -- in a good book, in laughing at my husband piling leaves for the tinies to leap and jump for an entire morning, and in millions and millions of other moments.

I began to feel wonder again. felt like I was striving for something more, needing more. In our western world, in our culture, even (especially?) in our churches, we live lives consumed with acquiring stuff or experiences that make us feel valuable or successful or powerful or loved. For me, it’s never really been about money or stuff. I wanted to travel, wanted to see things, wanted to accomplish “big things” for God. I wanted to cross items off of bucket lists to feel like my life was “well-lived.” I don’t care about the bucket list so much anymore. I mean, it’s great and all but it’s just not the focus anymore. At all.

Sometimes contentment feels like a spiritual discipline. It’s as if I am retraining myself to see beauty , retraining myself to remember that I don’t need HDTV or a new car or a trip to London or a frosty rum beverage on a white sand beach (right?) or a new pair of shoes to be joyful. It’s a discipline to refocus my heart and I confess I don’t do it well, learning even to be content with who I am and the woman I’ve become, the places where my feet are right now. I walked with God and look where I have wound up for now, surely that matters.

I used to read about Paul and his contentment, no matter his circumstances, and think it was unattainable, something for the truly sainted. It only took me 15 years of following Jesus to finally lift up my eyes and read the words that immediately preceded that very verse: “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful,

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The true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, and gracious aren’t usually found at the mall or Amazon, they are unable to be bought or sold.

“Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything

And the discipline of contentment – with my choices, with my temperament, with my calling, with my experiences, with my home, with my family, with my own journey – somehow gives rise to a simpler way of life, then to gratitude, and now there is wonder again because there is abundant life in the smallest moments of a life.

personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”

Sarah is the author of Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith and Jesus Feminist. She is an award-winning blogger and writer who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia with her husband and their four tinies. You can find her online at SarahBessey.com or on Twitter at @sarahbessey.

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GETTING TO KNOW

the Vision Behind C’est La Vie: AN INTERVIEW WITH

FOUNDER, AMY HUNT God put you on a journey from a try-hard life to start CLV. Can you tell me a little bit about your journey? Life wasn’t how I thought it ought to be. I assumed I could fix all the brokenness, so for a long time I tried to be a fixer -- of situations, circumstances, problems, and even people. I lived a lot of my first 35 years as an anxious person who tried to control every single thing in an attempt to have everything and everyone as I thought it should be, expending an inordinate amount of energy pursuing a highly unlikely outcome: perfection. Acutely aware of my own imperfections, my whole way of being was centered on trying hard to grow and improve, frantically living each day in a futile effort to one-up the previous day. No matter what I did, I couldn’t fix all that I saw as broken. I wrestled long and hard, fighting to live with such intensity to prove my worthiness, only to crumble in a heap of exhaustion. For so long I wanted to be seen and known as I am, yet fear kept me portraying a “tough girl” who seemed fine on the outside, but never allowed herself to admit her true thoughts and feelings or receive true, conditionless love that isn’t earned or lost. The story I had created didn’t consider that some of the circumstances of my life weren’t about anything I had or hadn’t done. I compared myself with people around me and tried to hide as much of my true heart as I could because I didn’t measure up to the image that I imagined I was expected to be. Slowly, I discovered that there aren’t rules to life and my imperfect self is beautiful -- as it is. I am fully accepted and adored -- as I am. God has already determined the ways He has for me to grow and

A

Amy Hunt lives in Central New York with her groom and their two boy-men who she says remind her daily that she is accepted and beloved, as she is. As a full-time major gift officer for one of America’s first liberal arts colleges, Amy is responsible for developing relationships with alumni and helping advance the school’s philanthropic priorities . It is a line of work she finds passion in, mainly because she can personally connect with such a wide sphere of individuals, and be a part of effecting positive change in the world. Amy is also an early morning riser and selfprofessed “sky-adorer” who runs hills simply for the view. She mostly writes in her journal to process her own messy-beautiful story and occasionally shares her thoughts on her blog.

VISIT AMY’S BLOG

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develop. After seeing the ways goodness and beauty have rippled through the seemingly worst times of my life, I realized that I can trust Him to lead me and love me all along the way, as uncertain and stormy and scary as it may seem at times. I started letting my true self be seen and the voice of my heart be heard, and you know what? I didn’t die! My worst fears didn’t come true. I was most surprised seeing each head nod and hearing every “me too,” affirming that I belong and my thoughts and feelings matter. I learned that we can’t simply extinguish fear and doubt and sadness. Emotions are given to us and I can’t escape or ignore or boss them a certain way.

I DISCOVERED THAT THERE AREN’T RULES TO LIFE AND MY IMPERFECT SELF IS BEAUTIFUL -- AS IT IS.

God “chased” me long and hard in those years to trust and rest in His love for me; meanwhile, He taught me to chase hope in the fog and mist and storms of life. I finally chose to give in to who I am and accept my life as it is. What I found is safety; I am held, treasured, loved – as I am. This is life, as it is. I can be afraid of it, ashamed of it, and angry about it. Or I can simply embrace it, be attentive to it with kindness and patience, and rest in peace.

C’est La Vie embraces men and women who are willing to “go there” . . . everyone willing to share their raw, real stories. I’ve chosen to accept myself and others as complicated, mistake-prone humans. I’ve chosen to live by faith and not by attention from others. I am leaning into grace for all of us. When we give ourselves and each other permission to simply and fully be, we live as the Warrior who He called us to be. Together we are chasing hope in His glory. This is our worship.

You didn’t want to do CLV. Tell me how you moved from living the CLV life to where you are now, leading people to live it out in community. Seeing beauty unfurl out of the broken places of my heart gave me a passion to encourage others to hope in the midst of all they think should be different in their own lives and the lives of those around them. We all have something that leaves wide, gaping holes in our hearts where we crave to be made whole. None of us is any better than another and I constantly remind myself of this truth when I am tempted to compare my story with someone else’s. We all ache to be healed and to see beauty where there is brokenness. When we’re so afraid of what the other person might think about us and we act out in anger or shame, we are not reflecting trust in the One who created us. I have a passion for seeing men and women released from fear and set free to live their real lives and rest in peace. C’est La Vie: The Magazine is a vision I tried to resist and nearly missed out on being a part of. Yet in spite of all my trying, I couldn’t shake it. C’est La Vie: The Magazine reminds us that grace and redemption are everyday things and our greatest offering is to unwrap the grace to simply be -- as. we. are. Talking about all issues surrounding race and gender,

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What are the far-reaching effects of CLV? One person reads an article, what happens next? C’est La Vie speaks to those who quietly long to be superheroes, yet quietly wonder if they are enough. God tells them: “You. Already. Are.” C’est La Vie provides a steady drip of truth as each story is presented as a broken offering in trust of God, brought into the coffee shop where we selflessly sneak in a date with our spouse or a friend, facing each other and the truth of how life really is, and even brought into the mini vacation spot of our bathrooms where we need just a few minutes alone to know we’re not alone in our struggles. C’est La Vie speaks to and supports views from the perspective of both men and women, as it serves to open the lines of communication and develop a better

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C’EST LA VIE: THE MAGAZINE

ISSUE 2 - JANUARY 2016

thing for me. It’s nurturing. It’s life-giving. I look at my infant son when he whines and part of me wants to say, “Oh, stop, you don’t have to do that.” Then, I’m reminded of how I hush myself, and how well-meaning people sometimes do the same thing when they seem annoyed by me and my issues. God is asking me if I will receive this part of me that is developing instead of hushing her. He is asking me to love her by curiously asking about her feelings and exploring who she is right here and now. He is asking me if I will love the part of her that is prone to muck up, whine, make a mess, and be irritating or annoying. He is asking me if I will choose to be kind and gentle to her, instead of labeling or criticizing or trying to change something about her. I don’t love the behavior and I don’t like what she does, just like I don’t always like what my babe, or especially what my older tweenage son does. Their behavior can be annoying and moments can feel uncomfortable, but that does not change my love for either of them. I am in the process of developing this same gentle nurturing within myself. God is teaching me to rest in the love within me -without trying to find assurance of love outside of me and without waiting until I am better than I would like to be, or until my fears are subsided. He is showing me His “unforced rhythms of grace” and teaching me what it means to “live freely and lightly,” just as Jesus spoke about in Matthew 11:29 (MSG).

understanding of the other. A hostel, of sorts, C’est La Vie is a place of refuge that feeds and shelters those from the storms of life with radical unconditional love and acceptance from a community and serves as a safe respite for the gritty storytellers who are willing to stand in the arena of truth, in spite of fear. C’est La Vie invites the reader to “Come and be” and says “You’re safe here, as you are.” It encourages the reader to practice living rest, courageously laying down expectations, demands, and comparisons to freely live. C’est La Vie reminds us God is real, encouraging the reader to trust He is in every detail and that grace and redemption is an everyday thing. Where, ultimately, do you see CLV going? What’s the wildest dreams vision? I would love to see C’est La Vie: The Magazine dethrone the typical, glossy magazine -- the ones that tell the reader how to have the perfect body, children, house, marriage, sex . . . the perfect LIFE . . . suggesting that her (or his) life isn’t good enough -- while reminding readers that our greatest offering is to unwrap the grace to simply be, as we are rest in the truth that God purposes and refines us, for His glory. The ultimate vision for C’est La Vie is a printed compilation of stories lived real and bold, featuring writers who reflect on the process God allows in His making of us, much like the process of creating art. The purpose in printed copies is for the reader to sip and to savor . . . to contemplate and consider the shared and very real, gritty, messy, broken, shamed, and fear-laced human stories . . . to get away from the sometimes noisy, distracting, busyness. Beyond a printed publication or a website, I hope C’est La Vie becomes a part of mobilizing people to encourage and hold each other up. I see communities talking about real issues of the heart and choosing to “go there,” to where many dare not go in conversation. Community will be developed around “the real” in big life issues, bringing the hard stuff to the surface and snuffing out shame. Talking about all issues surrounding race and gender, a light will be shined upon the outcasts and the shunned, and all people will be invited to share their stories: of privilege, naiveté, anger, disgrace.

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“SEEING BEAUTY UNFURL OUT OF THE BROKEN PLACES OF MY

HEART

GAVE ME A PASSION TO ENCOURAGE OTHERS.”

What “gritty grace” story is going on in your life right now and how is God using that to grow you?

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God is developing my courage to love me right here, as I am right now. This is such a profound

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A MANIFESTO

ISSUE 2 - JANUARY 2016

choosing to live. AMY HUNT

I am done with performing and pretending to be what I am not. I want to reclaim me. I want to get better at LIVING. I want to make room in my heart for me as I am. I want to bravely accept my story as it is instead of based on my ideals. I want to breathe confidently and at rest from the try-hard life. I want to open my awareness to the ways God meets me where I am. I want to be at home in me. I want to keep showing up to who I am now. I want to accept my mess and the imperfect love in my midst. I want to make friends with me. I want to care more about being kind to me than mistakeproofing me. I want to be comfortable in my own presence and in the midst of others. I want to detox from being strung-out on the pursuit of approval. I want to be captivated by the beauty of me. I want to no longer hang my head low in shame for my slip-ups. I want to feel the jolt of joy revive my nearly asphyxiated soul. I want to LIVE freely and lightly, not bossed around by the hot iron of control. I want to be kind to my fears and pay attention to what they have to say. I want to cease from unrealistic demands for my fears to simply shut up. I want to live curious and attentive to what discomfort and fear tell me. I want to be tenderhearted toward me. I want to give myself permission to be in constant practice. I want to accept that I will not “arrive” as long as I am this side of Heaven. I want to believe that I matter as I am. I want to remember that I was chosen to be an image-bearer of God. I want to trust that I have permission to be me as I am now. I want to live in surprise and awe, unwrapping each moment. I want to be led by love, not the religion of performing. I want to believe that living as I am is the heart of worship.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me -- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

May we come. May we receive ourselves, as we are, and others -- as they are. May we awaken to life, in awe. May we find that to simply Be is sacred. May we discover that to rest is holiness. May we rest, and LIVE -- freely and lightly.

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