2017: My Year to be Unfettered

So, a few years ago, I came across writer Alece Ronzino, who also loves Jesus, has been involved in ministry and has gone through a difficult divorce, and who started OneWord365. This is a concept where one may meditate, pray and have intention for a specific word to stand out to represent, color and be part of the lens for your coming year. Last year mine was Foundation, and I think, somehow, by God’s grace, there’s actually more foundation around me and under my feet than before, but the process was (like any foundation-laying) slow and painful and unglamorous. And this year, my word is Unfettered.

Unfettered, to me, is a word that has already been influencing my thoughts, intentions, decisions. Will this choice demonstrate that I believe I’m unfettered? Is this increasing my burden or filling my tank?

I was browsing for Scripture that spoke of being unfettered, I immediately came across the perfect one in The Message paraphrase: Matthew 6:26, which says, “Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to Him than birds.” I love this so much because I have always been the Songbird (my sister used to complain when I was a bitty baby and we shared a room: “Mom, Jana’s humming herself to sleep again!”), and have loved birds (um, thanks Portlandia), and maybe more than either of those things right now, the idea of being “not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God”—that absolutely fits where I am. I have multiple roles right now, not enough income, a billion passions, low energy and high ideals. It’s a weird combination, to be sure. I have felt overwhelmed for quite a while, and I know that doesn’t always change overnight, but my mindset is being shaped and transformed with this new theme: unfettered.

(photo by my sweet Daddy, Don Detrick)

I used to believe that it was my job to ignore my own feelings and needs in order to serve others. I still have every desire and intention to serve and be a blessing to others, but now, I want to be giving out of a different place. Nobody can drink from an empty well. Or as the brilliant Frederick Buechner put it in his powerful book Telling Secrets (an excerpt of which I was assigned to read for my Master’s Program, then I bought the whole book over break and am almost finished): “”Mind your own business” means butt out of other people’s lives because in the long run they must live their lives for themselves, but it also means pay mind to your own life, your own health and wholeness, both for your own sake and ultimately for the sake of those you love too. Take care of yourself so you can take care of them. A bleeding heart is of no help to anybody if it bleeds to death.”

As a pastor’s daughter, turned pastor, turned pastor’s wife, (now ex-pastor’s ex-wife, but don’t worry, that won’t go on my business card) it was understood that it was my duty to always be tending to others, to be in the spotlight, to be “on” and sensitive to the needs of others. I’ve been through a lot of loss, and in that, I have learned how I used to be so interested in what was happening with everyone, and wanted to gossip and know everything, but not so much anymore. When one goes through a major personal crisis, hopefully, we become tempered and want to learn to tend to our own lives and understand our own stories more, as this is the thing we are most responsible for and can control.

I’ve been tied down to job descriptions that were handed to me, or that I bridled myself with, and I’m here to tell you: no more! I’m not as interested in meeting the expectations of others as I am in being authentic to what I believe God has designed me for and is doing in me. Part of that work is what Buechner touched upon: my own health and wholeness. This will be an interesting journey, because as I mentioned it’s unfamiliar territory, but the longing and pull towards liberty and wholeheartedness is stronger. It’s a new season, and I’m ready to live into the word “unfettered” and allow it to bring healing and maturity, kindness, and ultimately, more hope, peace, joy and FREEDOM.

What about you? Do you have a word for 2017? Let’s do this, y’all—the world needs us to be our truest selves; there’s no replacement for you! P.S. My friend, it is NEVER too late to become free.




An Unquiet Beauty

I saw this hanging sign at Mount Rainier National Park at Paradise in the visitor’s center that says “An Unquiet Beauty.” It struck me and brought me pause. I resonated with it and liked it a lot, because I know there are Bible verses that talk about a woman being gentle and quiet, but those have never been my strengths. An unquiet beauty to me, doesn’t seem that it needs to be brash or abrasive. Instead, the unquiet beauty is the one that listens well and speaks clearly and passionately about important things.

This is my desire: to be here, in the mess of life, reminding us all of the unquiet beauty, that is often hidden in ordinary days. The world has seemed to almost fall apart this year, and many of us have faced our own personal nightmares with losses of love, hopes, loved ones, jobs, God only knows all of it. And my heart aches for the precious lives of Aleppo. What in the world can we DO? Well, for one, pray, and then also SPEAK UP against injustice in our world, and take action locally and globally-find causes to get behind and ways to surprise our neighbors with love.

So I, for one, feel like maybe more of a mess than ever this year. After my marriage fell apart last year, I threw myself into the fulfilling and meaningful work of a Chaplaincy Residency, then after that, jumped immediately into grad school this fall for Counseling Psychology, and took a high intensity job doing per diem Chaplaincy at Harborview. It’s somehow taken me a year and a half to realize, I haven’t dealt very well with my own grief, and you can’t outrun your pain. I read this yesterday from Rumi, “The cure for the pain is in the pain.”

So, here I am, instead of trying to fix everybody else, I’m trying to learn maybe for the first time what I need, how to apply self-care, how to mourn my life’s losses . . . and I feel a bit like a helpless infant or a wobbling toddler. But, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that sometimes being “unquiet” can help someone else feel less alone- at least I know that’s how I’ve been encouraged so many times when I was struggling, aching, lonely. Someone telling me some of the “ugly parts” of their story unlocked a freedom, a permission to feel the sadness, and actually became so deeply beautiful. But first, I have to go quietly into this unfamiliar rumbling and bleak territory of my own pain and be willing to sit there, somehow to learn to be with myself when I feel all squirmy and would rather get up and run off.

Will you join me on a new journey? I’m learning to speak up and share, and to sit and listen, and inviting you to come along with your brave and scared self. Maybe this right here is where the beauty speaks for itself: it’s found when we bring who we really are– and it just can’t stay silent.