Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

         

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: loss

Found Wanting: Bronwyn Lea, "The prayers of my youth were filled with desire."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’”

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:

“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing."

Today, Bronwyn Lea writes her story of desire.

-----

I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house. The prayers of my youth were filled with desire, and I wanted those things with a guilty need.

The prayers of my adulthood still carry echoes of my youth. In truth: I still pray about men, opportunities and friendships. However, I find that life as a mom and friend in a sin-soaked world is leading me to pray a host of different prayers of desire: “Please, I want it to be better; let it not hurt anymore.”

I remember clearly the first tsunami of pain, which made me pray that prayer most fervently. Our family was devastated by violent crime, and we had no answers, no balm. Instead we had questions, the most oppressive of which was this: “Why would a good God let this happen?”

We desire good things from the one who “gives people the desires of their heart” (Psalm 37:4).

That particular suffering challenged my faith significantly, but even in the absence of finding intellectually satisfying answers to my heartbroken questions, I still found myself drawing closer to God rather than pulling away from him.

Again and again I was drawn back to John 6, where the disciples challenge Jesus with his teaching, saying, “This is hard to accept!” Jesus challenged them in reply: “Will you leave me also?” Peter’s reply rang in my ears for weeks: “To whom else shall we go?

In the wake of our trauma, I considered my options: I could deny there was a God, (not an option); I could choose Islam (but Allah seemed so capricious) or Hinduism (but I wasn’t persuaded, and the pictures gave me the creeps.) It was Buddhism, though, which finally pointed me back to Christianity.

The four noble truths of Buddhism teach: • All is suffering (dukkha), and • Suffering is caused by desire. • If one can eliminate desire, one can eliminate suffering. • Finally, the Noble Eight-fold Path can eliminate desire.

My soul rebelled. Far from helping me find peace, Buddhism made me angry: it was simply NOT TRUE that we were suffering because we had a wrongful desire not to suffer.

I needed someone to say that the suffering was wrong. I needed to know that longing for wholeness was good. I needed someone to say that ‘good’ was, in fact, good; and that ‘evil’ was truly ‘evil’. I needed to know that my desire for things to be right was not a denial of my truest spiritual self, but in fact a deep expression of my truest spiritual self.

In Jesus, I found someone who did just that. He wept over death. He “set his face” towards the things he wanted to accomplish. He grieved over the bad, and gave his own life “for the joy set before him”. Someone who acknowledged and affirmed that both my desires for joy and relationship and my desires for pain and suffering to end were good things. And more than that, they were things he desired for us too.

The timeline in which those desires would be met still needed some negotiation.

But the desires themselves were good and God-given, even in the valley of shadows.

The prayers of my adulthood are filled with such prayers.

-----

Bronwyn LeaBronwyn Lea loves Jesus, writing, ice-cream and the sound of children laughing. She writes about the holy and hilarious things in life at bronlea.com, where she also hosts a faith and relationship advice column. Find her there, or say hi on Facebook or Twitter @bronleatweets.

Find grace in unexpected places: Tell your story

jenmichel@me.com

In less than two weeks, we move. And as I’ve willed myself to finally admit this, I’ve begun to organize the house. Thankfully, we will have a crew of movers to pack and load our stuff, so there isn’t much else I need to do – at least for now. And because the house we are currently renting will be torn down in a matter of months, it’s not as if I actually need to clean it before we go. Nonetheless, even if it’s only the tedious task of sorting through closets and drawers, I figured an audiobook would make the work easier. Yesterday, I downloaded, Cutting For Stone. If you remember, I’ve set some ambitious reading goals for the year. And you’re wondering how I’m getting along? Um, let’s just say that I’m making slower progress than projected.

So far, I am loving this book. I am a sucker for great prose and great stories. And this book is both.

The narrator is an identical twin, born to a nun who died in childbirth. No one had even known she was pregnant, and certainly no one had ever suspected it.

In the prologue, the narrator declares why he is in search of his story, the one that died with his mom in operating theater 3.

“What I owe Shiva [my twin brother] most is this: to tell the story. It is one my mother, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, did not reveal and my fearless father, Thomas Stone, ran from, and which I had to piece together. Only the telling can heal the rift that separates my brother and me. Yes, I have infinite faith in the craft of surgery, but no surgeon can heal the kind of wound that divides two brothers. Where silk and steel fail, story must succeed. To begin at the beginning. . . . “

Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

Stories heal.

To begin at the beginning. . . .

In the beginning. . .

I have to remind myself of the redemptive weave that a story spins. It takes so much courage to live wide-eyed in the midst of our own stories. There are things from which we would rather run and hide. There is pain and hurt that we’d rather bury.

Stories heal – but often, not before they wound.

I’ve told you this already. It’s been as a result of blogging that I’ve reconnected to my stories of profound loss. Those stories have been hard to tell, but in the process of telling them, of re-opening wounds I thought had long ago healed, a greater healing has come.

But there are other stories to tell. Some of them stories are of personal failure and profound regret. Tomorrow, I will be telling one of those stories more publicly than I ever have before.

Why?

Why tell stories that wound, that confess, that spill our guts and leave others standing over the mess?

Why not pretend and playact?

Because that is never possible, least of all from God. “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Psalm 51:6

What's more, the world needs our stories. That may be the only way that they begin to connect to Jesus; maybe it’s through our stories that they start making sense of some of the abstractions we call faith.

Tell your story. To a friend or neighbor. To someone you bump into at school drop-off. To an acquaintance you’ve met at church.

Tell it, even to yourself.

Let yourself sit with your narrative, the novel of your life. Find God there, even in the chapters where you might have thought yourself alone and desolate. Find God in the scenes of your own sin, when you worked hard to reject His good for you.

Because that’s where we are always meant to find it:

Grace.

 

 

Celebrate Advent: Make room for joy. (Matthew 2:1-12)

jenmichel@me.com

I pick up books to have conversations. And I reread those same books (the really good ones) when my questions are different and I'm in search of new insights.

Recently, I'm having a second conversation with Joan Didion, author of the The Year of Magical Thinking. This is perhaps one of the best books on grief out there. It's not linear or logical, but what woman is when her husband of forty years falls from his seat at the dinner table, dead?

She describes experience of grief as the "vortex." In the year that follows her husband's death, she imagines a thousand alterations to the script. The year of magical thinking. How could she have prevented his death? And logically, there was absolutely nothing different she could have done to prevent what the doctors called his "sudden cardiac event."

She describes herself as one of the people who "shared a habit of mind usually credited to the very successful. They believed absolutely in their own management skills. They believed absolutely in the power of the telephone numbers they had at their fingertips, the right doctor, the major donor, the person who could facilitate a favor at State or Justice. The management skills of these people were in fact prodigious. The power of their telephone numbers was in fact unmatched. I had myself for most of my life shared the same core belief in my ability to control events. . . Yet I had always at some level apprehended, because I was born fearful, that some events in life would remain beyond my ability to control or manage them. Some events would just happen. This was one of those events. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."

How is joy possible when life feels so fragile and unruly, refusing our every impulse to make it compliant?

Another book has been teaching me to answer that question.

This is a book to buy and to read and reread slowly. This is a conversation to have. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

"The dare to write one thousand gifts becomes the dare to to celebrate innumberable, endless gifts! That initial discipline, the daily game to count, keeping counting to one thousand, it was God's necessary tool to reshape me, remake me, rename me. . .The discipline to count to one thousand gave way to the freedom of wonder and I can't imagine not staying awake to God in the moment, the joy in the now.

But awakening to joy awakens to pain.

Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumpes through all those who don't numb themselves to really living. Pages of the gratitude journal fill endlessly. Yet I know it in the vein and the visceral: life is loss. Every day, the gnawing. . ."

Advent, the only answer to this life of haunting uncertainties. Jesus, our only joy.