How to Embrace the Sacred Now

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I’ve been wanting write this piece for some time.  I don’t usually write about my ongoing health issues because, well, truthfully the less mental real estate they take up, the better.  But sometimes the hardest won silent battles are the things that shape us the most.

Let me be really clear.  I do not EVER believe God sends sickness or tragedy to teach us a lesson.  That’s like saying it would be OK for parent to hold their five year’s hand down on a hot burner to teach them a lesson about obedience.  That’s not love.  It’s abuse.  But I do believe God never wastes our pain, the challenges of a broken world, the tragedies that split lives and families open wide. 

Four and a half years ago I came back to the USA from Africa with my health unraveling in almost every direction.  I was looking to hopefully find some answers that would put me back together.  While here, I had a routine dental check up from a former dentist who was substituting for my then regular dentist.  I had one questionable iffy spot so he suggested filling it as a precaution.

He did an old-school silver amalgam filling, right next to a molar with a gold crown.  That began a descent into hellish amounts of pain.  He unwittingly created a battery in my mouth and refused to fix it.  For three weeks, I had current running between those teeth.  I called and called in agony as the galvanic response was frying my trigeminal nerve.  First they told me to eat boiled eggs.  Then they stopped taking my calls at all.  Finally I found a new dentist who knew exactly what was happening and immediately switched out the filling for a non-conductive porcelain alternative.

But the damage had been done.

The second branch of my trigeminal nerve was fried.  A few weeks later I was in the ER after almost collapsing with the pain in a department store.  And this monster got a name.  Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia. a.k.a. the worst chronic pain disorder known to medical science.

Almost five years later, my mouth still feels like it has been scalded with burning hot coffee, some of my upper teeth still feel like they are abscessing and often it feels like I have an electric cattle prod jabbing my cheek.  Sometimes all at one time.  My face has fits and flares and there are days all I can do is take one moment at a time because that is all I can handle, and that barely.

And yes there are days I am angry.  Angry at the injustice and the arrogance that left me with yet another thing to deal with.  Frustrated that there was no legal recourse because our state laws seem to protect doctors more than patients.  There are days I want to pound my fist on the ground and rail against the pain and the fallen, broken cosmos that let it happen and trite platitudes thinly-veiled in spiritual veneer.

But fortunately that’s not most days.  I have to make a decision every moment to trust in God’s absolute goodness in between the now and not yet.  To focus on the beautiful unfolding around me. To stake my very existence on a radical stance of gratitude.

To choose to let that pain for as long as it is there drive me deeper into what I’ve started calling the sacred now.  Tomorrow has no grace.  Next week and month and year suck the grace and joy and strength out of today.

But by His strength, I choose to stay grounded in the sacred now.  Because present in this moment, in Him is an eternity of grace.  And I am learning that is enough.

Do you know the present is?  It’s a gift.

Staying present to the gift unfolding around me is one of the most profound journeys Jesus and I have ever taken.

“Now” sparks, burns brightly and then is gone. It is fleeting, frail and fierce all at the same time.  It is the gift of the sacred, infinite and yet so very fragile.

For me, it is no longer a question of what will I do with my one and precious life.  It is a question of what will I do with the only moment any of us ever truly have?  This one precious moment. This sacred now.

What will we do with the present we are given?

I want to unwrap it, savor its marrow, explore its depth, capture it in pixels and letters and learn every lesson it can teach.  To live boldly with no space for regrets.  To live fully, not frantically.

So that my friend is my prayer for you.  That in the middle of this moment you find the ocean of love and grace found in His eyes.

You who walk with chronic pain of any kind.  I’m still standing for healing for both of us.  You are not alone or weak or in any way less than.  You wage a silent war every day and all of heaven cheers you on.  And so do I.

Always remember. No matter what.  You.  Are.  Loved.

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The Power of Being Named

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There is power in being named and naming.  Names call forth identity and purpose.  Names can also shut down the same.  When critical seasons of change happened in the ancient world, often the person’s names changed as well because names and identity were understood to be inextricably entwined.

When I lived in South Sudan I had the honor to name quite a few little ones.  It was always something I took as a high privilege because it was a chance to call forth meaning, identity and purpose in profound ways.  Being named has power.  With our words we call forth things that are not into being and set boundaries for our lives.   With our words we speak life {or not} into those around us.

Words and names are holy, sacred, powerful things.

You who have been with me on this journey across continents, seasons and years have likely noticed seasonal re-namings of this place.  You can trace my seasons with their changing names From the Unpaved Road became Bravely You which became Illustrated Grace and maybe a few things in between.  These names have been a litany of mile markers on the journey deeper into His heart and to live more fully out of my own.

What you likely don’t know about me is that Michele is actually my middle name. My first name is Diane. My mom is also named Diane and she loved her name enough to pass it along to me. For years it was just the name that got filled in on legal documents and that I had to correct doctors offices from calling me.  I never went by it and it didn’t really feel fully mine.

But that has been changing.  Mom and I were chatting about what address I could use in social media land that was uniform and simple seeing as the obvious MichelePerry was taken and she off the cuff suggested, “Why not DMichelePerry? It’s how you sign your name anyway.”

I came home and did some digging to see it was universally available.  I started switching everything over and suddenly Diane had new meaning for me.  It was no longer the name I never used, it became a beautiful gift from my Mama that I get to carry with me always.  And it was the one letter that allowed my worlds to be aligned and tied together and completed.

Diane means a number of things, but a little research turned up some beautiful truths.  Diane can mean heavenly.  It can also be a reference to the top sail of a sailing vessel, which is the primary forerunner sail that drives the boat forward. Di– means double and Anne is grace so from a little more creative perspective it can also reference double grace.   And it is all grace.  Every little bit of it.

This site has been a travelogue of me finding myself. Owning our names and our story is one of the bravest things any of us will ever do.

Naming is a powerful thing.  And the most powerful name of all is the name God calls us.  Beloved.  Be Loved.  Be the Loved.  And no label or name of man can ever cancel out the purposes and promises of God written over our lives by His love.  His love is too powerful for that.

And so this site ceases to be about grand poetic themes, and has become about simpler, deeper moments that are as I am:  Here.  His.  Yours.  D. Michele Perry.

{But I still go by Michele… in case you are wondering. 😉 }

The Thing With Trees

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It has been a wild week in these parts.   This online home has been with me since I first set foot on the red dusty earth in Africa.  It has been through a litany of name changes as diverse as the twists in the path of my journey.  And we both have emerged stronger and more refined because of that process.

It’s my prayer that this place while honoring my past seasons, will become a community gathering place where I continue to spill words and heart about the deeper life lived in grace with Jesus looks like.  I find my heart turning toward talking more openly about confronting spiritual abuse; cultivating holistic, organic church expressions and celebrating the journey deeper into His heart.

I know some of my friends who join us here are in very different places on their spiritual journeys.  And I want you to know you are always, always welcome here regardless what you believe about church and faith and Jesus.  If you want to hang out with me here, then the door is always open.  The kettle always on.

I believe we are in the middle of another reformation that is changing the landscape of what it means to be a Jesus follower and what it looks like to build authentic, organic, healthy communities of faith.  I think I’m going to be writing a good bit about this in the coming months.

You see… the thing with trees is that the tree never looks like the seed.

Many of us have had dreams that seemed to die and some of us are still mourning their loss 10-20-30 years later.  Sometimes what we think is the dream, is actually only the seed.  And unless the seed dies, the dream will never grow into the fullness of what it is meant and created to be.

Fifteen years ago, on Good Friday God asked me to take all the scriptural studies I had worked on writing and researching hours a day for almost two years and literally dig a hole in a friend’s yard and bury them.  And that’s what I did.  I piled everything in a cardboard box and buried it.

Walking back inside after watching years of work disappear in the dirt, Holy Spirit whispered: You think you are burying a dream, but you’re not.  You’re planting a seed.  What is now needs to die so what is not yet can come forth.

Now, a decade and a half later the things that were sown into me as I dug and researched and developed and dreamed in a little apartment in Colorado at the foot of the Rockies are coming forth.  Here certainly, but even more in the content that is getting developed to mentor creatives, leaders and entrepreneurs.  The promises are unfolding but looking completely other than anything I imagined.

Be encouraged. The thing with dreams is a lot like the thing with trees.  No dream looks like its seed.

I wonder. What dreams have you mourned as dead and gone, were actually just the seeds for the life that has been growing within all along, looking different than you expected?  His promises are always yes and amen in Christ Jesus.  But that doesn’t mean they look like what we think they will.

I so appreciate you.  Friends who have been here for over a decade and those who have just arrived.  Thank you for being you, being here sharing life and words.  You are loved.

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