Chasing Joy

"I am guiding you on the way of wisdom and I am leading you on the right path." Proverbs 4:11

An Unexpected Journey-looking back

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i take the time to ponder my surprising response to those who deemed my choices foolish.  and i realize the gift the broken car and sick child and sick me gave.  all of that shifted my perspective very quickly to the reality that i have no control over anything.  and the natural stress and fatigue that they brought with them shifted my energy. no longer did i have energy to spend self-editing, self-doubting, self-focusing.

i marvel at the One who takes the bad and creates something good from it.  satan’s plans are thwarted.  God is still glorified, light shines in dark places, and i become more free.  and i have nothing to do with any of it.  all there is to do is soak in the Wonder.

there is so much joy in freedom.

there is so much freedom in understanding who i am and Whose i am and Who He Is.

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looking back i see the beautiful work of a Father, moving this daughter into the world and creating Art with the way:

i keep talking even tho my words aren’t being understood
i keep deciding even tho i don’t have all the information
i reject analysis of my time with the car and with family. i let Him fight for me and once strengthened i join the fight for hope. i rest in the truth that Christ is in me-and He will come out. it is the hope of glory. it is glory’s only hope.

i take the risk and go on the hike. i speak honestly my frustration about being left behind without food and water, but don’t condemn. i listen to the journey my husband and son took with interest and share in their joy.

i pay attention to the fact that the words don’t stick. i marvel at the way fatigue and stress and sickness remove my ability to absorb another’s opinions. i recognize that not only is joy worth the fight, but avoidance of pain is not worth the absence of joy.

once we return from all the travels, i breathe deep the days of sleeping in and stop apologizing to the people in my imagination about the laundry not started and the groceries yet to get.

i accept the new definitions (travel mercies; regretless days).  i move forward looking at the last two weeks as defining moments in becoming more fully at rest with who i am and Whose i am.

i show up here and write it all down

“Perhaps the most beautiful work you can do today is to begin to accept your creative inheritance from God and learn to become yourself in the presence of others, moving into the world as the person you fully are no matter where you are, who you’re with, or what’s gone wrong.”

-The Art of Your Work by Emily P. Freeman

 

it is for freedom
that Christ as set us free.

Stand firm, then,
and do not let yourselves be burdened again
by a yoke of slavery.

galatians 5:1

An Unexpected Journey-headed north

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hope has been restored and that is a big thing.

We’ve left the Dear Ones in the South that i come from, and head to the North to Dear Ones on the other side.

We’ve traveled from the heat of the desert to the cool of the mountains.  i’m physically fatigued-but spiritually restored and that makes all the difference.  still, i’ve caught the older one’s sickness.

because, of course.

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the choice is presented for a 6 mile hike and really it’s foolish to even consider. this cold, or flu, or whatever it is, carries with it a cough and shortness of breath as it is.   but-we’re at a family reunion-and we’re in S. Dakota.  and there are all the people.  and i just think that it seems we are sick every time we travel and so i could stay in bed and rest to get better or i could go and do things i can’t do at home with people i very rarely see.

so i go.

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and since i have one son who can run a mile in 7 minutes and it takes just the glimpse of where we are going for him to loose awareness of anything else but that-he starts hiking.  Jeremy,  working to keep up with him, calls back to me and my youngest that he’ll keep track of this one if i keep track of that one.  it makes sense, i’m sick and the one with me is our slow and steady one.  but …. in the haste we forget that Jeremy is carrying all of our water and food.

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and i wonder if i will make it.

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it is glorious. and so worth it.

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of course when i get back to camp i limp over to our camper and crash.  and now it is plainly obvious to everyone that i am sick and getting sicker.  and there are a few naysayers who call my choice the foolishness that it is.  the words don’t stick.  a day without regrets has been redefined.

An Unexpected Journey-headed south

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the heat of the sun soaks into the broken van.  stuck there at exit 49 along the Colorado River and the kids aren’t quite sure what to think or say-so they sit there with big eyes and quick obedience.  i cry and pray that the tears will stop once the phone does find a signal and i am required to communicate clearly where we are and what we need.  i drain the car battery trying to keep the dying phone alive.  my phone’s charge lasts long enough to connect with roadside assistance, and there is nothing left to connect with my husband who is all the way back home.

Howard the tow-truck driver is on his way.  the kids help me pack up the car and get ready.  i tear my favorite pants on the guard-rail.  i answer their questions as best i can; -the tow truck is coming-he will get us to the nearest city.  some Dear Ones –who were adventuring themselves and aren’t too far away-are coming to help too.

after dumping the van-Howard drops us off at a dairy queen to await our coming help.  i breathe deep at the sight of the elementary school across the way.  we get our ice cream and walk over to wait.

and i am thankful for the elementary school playground and ice cream.  and for Howard who was so very kind.  thankful for the exit 49 so i could be off the highway.  thankful for the husband on the phone who is so very kind too.  thankful for the finding of a hotel-a fancy shmancy hotel-for cheap.  the term Travel Mercies is being redefined.

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still, here i am

with all these decisions to make.  lots and lots of decisions.  i have this complex and difficult history with decisions that adds to the struggle.  i’ve begun to understand this about me.


i wake in the night to hear her tossing and turning.  the thermometer reads 102.  she says her throat hurts bad.  i’ve nothing to offer for relief and no transportation.  i do what i can to make her comfortable, taking her cot and giving her the bed.  the boys sleep soundly through it all, it’s all a grand adventure and these detours are nothing to lose sleep over- to them.

i flex and make a new plan for tomorrow;

    1. pick up rental  go to urgent care
    2. pick up rental
    3. stop at transmission shop.
    4. sell car to the junk yard.
    5. get back on our way?  or just go home?

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we all decide that continuing on is the wise choice.  there are cousins to connect with and a new cousin to meet.  the kids have no idea how hard this all is.  all these decisions made with limited information and limited sleep.  they are good sports and enjoy themselves regardless of what i choose.

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 the sick one spends her days in bed while the boys and their cousin play in their fort.  grandma stays behind, because though my sick one is 14, i won’t let her be sick on her own.  we girls, as we’ve been called for years and years, spend rare hours together.   the ruts in the road are well worn and try as we might to forge a new path these ruts are deep, compounded by distance and lack of time for tending.  i realize this as we have time for talking, brief moments to share from our hearts.  i tread lightly-testing the ground as i go to see if it is safe to move forward.  sometimes it is and i share deeply.  sometimes it isn’t and i hold back.  sometimes i forget about the testing and self-editing and realize after the places that cause discomfort for them and for me.  there are moments to ponder that these are the ones who have known me the longest….yet, in some ways, hardly know me at all.

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 my prayers are reduced to groaning.  i’m losing my footing and beginning to forget what i know.  i’m spending time with family by day and tending to a sick teenager by night. the fog creeps in and my body shifts into survival, physical and spiritual fatigue takes its toll.  the One who knows and understands everything, He breaks through the fog and gives strength to keep going and keep loving and keep engaging.  to listen and seek to know, without seeking to be known.

 “in times like these,” He encourages, “it’s no longer about being in the word every day.  it’s about living the word every moment.”

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 still, despite the personal victory won of remaining engaged, other hopes fade and begin to die out.

i take a risk and share with a friend;

 “it’s just hard to see any hope of anything else but this ever.”

he replies;

 “Don’t give up hope.  God is big.”


as our travel shifts to the North, my eyes and heart begin to take in hope.  those words spoken by a fellow traveler are life giving.  the fog lifts if only a little.  my eyes catch glimpses of hope in unexpected places.  i grab the camera and my pen, because i want to remember both the bigness of my God and the way He speaks.

I AM your feast, in the presence of enemies...” (via jon foreman/psalm 23)

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 a tree-growing out of the rock.  planted and tended and grown by the Only One who could.

words that press in just the right places:

Oh child, I have searched and known you!
I know when you sit down and when you rise up;
I discern your thoughts from afar.
I search out your path and your lying down and Am acquainted with all your ways.
Even before a word is on your tongue, behold, I the LORD, know it altogether.
I hem you in, behind and before and I lay My Hand upon you.
(psalm 139)

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He is big.
Bask in the hope of His Bigness
Behold it.
Bask in the Wonder of being searched, known, and treasured.

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and then, seriously, i’m walking under Mt. Rushmore’s hall of flags and i look up and see this!! It’s Rhode Island’s flag, in case anyone wants to know. the 13th state. Admitted to the Union in 1790

 “And this hope is an anchor to our very soul, because He who promised is Faithful.”

 

Things i learned this summer

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slipping in here for a linkup with Chatting at the Sky.  Monday i will return with ‘An Unexpected Journey’ as promised.

Here are 11 things i learned this summer:

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1.  This 190something train depot will be moved to another town to serve as a gift shop for their railway museum.  Apparently the current railway company planned to tear it down, but someone in the know found this other solution.  i am sad.  this is one block from our house and i happen to like the building.  now all we will have at this intersection will be train tracks and fields of gophers and goat-heads.

2. After 15 years out of the workforce, creating a resume, introduction letter, and appearing for an interview would be a process worth going through.  not getting the job will be a nice souvenir.

3. just ten years ago taking your phone with you to dinner was not so common.

4. taking my getsalongwithallthepeopleandnoneofthedogs Saint Bernard camping and to a baseball tournament would prove good for everyone.  She got more practice with being out and about and i got better at the whole anxiety thing (she did attack a little dog once and it cost thousands of dollars to save little dog’s life so i’d been avoiding public places with her)

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5. there was a scandal over cheating and test scores in Georgia.  i find all of the information fascinating and am still taking in the tragedy these tests are subjecting our kids and teachers with.

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6. in South Dakota there is this tower that looks like a castle and it is only a 3 mile hike to get there and totally worth it even if you happen to be sick at the time.

7. there is a Dairy Queen nicely placed next to an elementary school (playground!) near a transmission shop somewhere in Grand Junction, CO.  Howard the tow-truck driver will know this, but what he doesn’t know is that it will be just the mercy and therapy we all need and i will be strengthened for what is ahead and overcome with gratitude.

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8. stressful travels will all be worth it when you see your boys in their ‘discovered’ fort near grandma’s house and hear one declare to his cousin; “this is way better than screen time!”

9. the nester finds feathers.

10. i don’t have to have previous knowledge about numbers 6-8-God will show them to me moment by moment, showing Himself to me in the moment by moments.  i find feathers too….just in a different form.  this summer i learned how to find the feathers.

11. making a deal with my son that he could earn 5 minutes of screen time for every 10 minutes of reading a book that is not Calvin and Hobbes would lead to this every. single. morning.  Note his cup of tea.  he would thoughtfully fix me a cup too and place it next to my bed.  unfortunately, by the time i awoke it would be cold because he was waking at 6 (!) and i …..wasn’t.   i will miss this summer morning routine.

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An Unexpected Journey-prologue

“Perhaps the most beautiful work you can do today is to begin to accept your creative inheritance from God and learn to become yourself in the presence of others, moving into the world as the person you fully are no matter where you are, who you’re with, or what’s gone wrong.”

-The Art of Your Work by Emily P. Freeman

 

i didn’t intend to take a blogging break this summer.  and i didn’t see the light posts and potholes along the path of moving into the world in this way that Emily describes.  but light posts and potholes they were, and as i found myself unexpectedly spending a week without internet or phone but with my laptop and time, i began to see it.  i began to see the unexpected journey i was being taken on and the threads of freedom that would weave themselves into that ‘beautiful work of accepting my creative inheritance and learning to become myself in the presence of others.’

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and so at hand is the challenging task of putting it all into words that make sense for a reader who is not me, written by a writer who is me.   i’ll be back here with those words on Monday, August 4th.   till then, may the journey you find yourself on be full of unexpected joys along the way.

 

on looking out into the great unknown and being afraid

it is truly wonderful to know He has the blueprint and is following it to the dot….He knows what is best and will work it out.  if we want our way we not only spoil the plan but in gaining, we lose.

There is nothing better to calm our spirits and keep us on the way of duty (when we are tempted to an indirect course for our own relief) than to hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.

-Arthur Matthews

 

On second thought, ignore this letter. Tear it up and pitch it. The road you’re on is the one marked out for you and it’s a good one. No matter which way you go, it’s a train wreck that God puts back together his way. I don’t want you to miss a thing.

Your friend,

Gary

 

these quotes bear a weight to me within their context.  the first, from Arthur and Wilde Matthews.  in January of 1951 the China Inland Mission had given the call for all of their missionaries to evacuate communist China.  for two years Arthur and Wilde and their little girl Lilah were ‘held by the cold and cruel elements of the Red Regime which deliberately tried to starve them.”    -from Green Leaf in Drought by Isobel Kuhn

the second is from Gary Morland.  it’s from a letter he wrote to his teenage self.  He has also written an ebook;

I drank three quarts of beer a day for fourteen years. From Beer to Eternity awakens hope for anyone who has experienced discouragement and loss of faith because of an addiction (your own or others).

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today, i am alone in my house.  and there is quiet and time to sit with my fears.  there is time to cry before the One who knows everything.  the truth is, i am afraid of the changes before us.  i’ve had lots to ponder over the last few weeks.  to introspect at what really it means to live a life that has been blessed by the Lord.  to take to Him my wants; be it a new floor in my kitchen or a daughter who does not lose herself in the presence of others.

we’ve had all these school decisions to make.  and we have multiple graduations to attend this weekend of young ones that we love dearly and want for them too to not lose themselves in the presence of others.   want for them to know the depths to which they have been loved by the One who knows everything.

 i sit here and i know how powerless i really am.  i know full well the train wreck that lies in wait to suck the life out of the ones i love.  i want to avoid the wreck, not learn how to deal with the wreck in a whole and healthy way.

in my parenting, i want there to not be stuff.  rather, what i have instead is the call to deal with the stuff that there is in a whole and healthy way.

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when i mention the high school that my oldest has chosen to a friend the gasp is audible.  it’s a big school.  it is public.  it is full of knuckleheads.  she might just lose her way.  she might.

right now she is at a very small school.  it’s technically public, but it’s a charter school and appears ‘safer’ to the onlookers.  but sometimes i fear she’s lost her way already.

the God of the Universe, who placed the stars in their places.  Who set the Earth precisely where it must be for life.  it is truly wonderful to know that He does in fact have the blueprint and is following it to the dot.  to know that though we all may have completely lost our way and it just may be a train wreck-He will put it all back together in His way.  and so in losing we will gain.

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que the hymn….
be still my soul
the Lord is on Thy side
bear patiently the cross of greif or pain
leave to thy God
to order and provide
through every change
He faithful will remain.

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i did spend a couple of days pondering over what a life blessed by God really looks like.  and these are a few things that i discovered in my studies:

is comforted
inherits the earth
is filled
is shown mercy
sees God
is called a son of God
possesses a great reward in heaven.
is forgiven
has his sins covered, his sin the Lord will never count against him
has a hope that does not disappoint because
                and only because
                   God has poured out His love into our hearts
                      by the Holy spirit, whom He has given us.

this God who blesses in this way; He is the God who knows everything.  He is the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

in my powerlessness-my soul is stilled.

He faithful will remain.

 

to draw further in:  Matthew 5; Romans 4 and 5

on leadership

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One of my volunteers standing in the kitchen says to me;

“shall i put the strawberries in the fridge?”

“uh….sure?”

And i walk away shaking my head at the both of us.  If she thinks the strawberries should go in the fridge, then just put them there-why ask me for permission?  And me?  Why when the question comes my way do i find myself stuck completely unsure of the answer?  It’s the simplest question ever.  But, of course.  i must begin thinking about how i just discovered that tomatoes are better if not refrigerated…hmm…is that true about strawberries?  i don’t know.  What. In. the. World. Is. Wrong. With. Me? Just pick an answer-yes or no-it doesn’t matter! It’s just strawberries for crying out loud!

There are bigger decisions to make this week and bigger areas of leadership than the strawberries.  And i seem to fumble along the same in all the scenarios. It’s all a bit much.

Driving home i ponder who’s brilliant idea it was anyway to put me in charge.

Oh yeah
It was Him-the One who names the stars.

if you are obeying only when it makes sense, you’re refusing to admit the wisdom differential between you and God.  That’s not obedience, that’s agreement. -Gary Glover

When i’m asking Him to make sense of the assignment, i want to both understand the wisdom in it and see tangible fruit in the outcome.  To get to really see that it ‘worked!’

And this is a joy-sucker

Because there are way too many variables in life to insure or predict outcomes of anything.

And if my satisfaction and joy come solely from results?  Than the lack there-of will suck the joy right away.  And if results happen?  Then my joy will be resting on shaky ground.

And as to making sense of the assignment?  That for me often means agreeing that i am the one for the job.  and if i lose sight of my dependence, then my joy will be resting on shaky ground.

And anyway, the words the Lord continues to whisper to me day in and day out are these:

You don’t know. You don’t need to know.

He’s not asking me for agreement; He’s asking me for obedience….He’s asking me to Trust. Him.

becuse this Trust of Him
is a link to Joy.
To the Joy of simply having obeyed.

How?

It boils down to that whole wisdom differential-
trust of the One who does really know everything.
trust rested on the solid ground of Who God Is and What He has Promised.

For He who promised is Faithful.

And that’s really all i need to know.

on pretending

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Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
from the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness –
only wounds and welts and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil.  -isaiah 1:5-6

 

When we talk there are slight hints, but i miss them.  Later i stumble upon things as they actually are.  And my heart breaks for the child who is broken and hurting and there is no one who will acknowledge that something is wrong.  And i think about the legacy of pretending and the damage it causes.

i was given this legacy too

We had talked about how important it is to be personally journeying towards wholeness.   And the “I know, so right!” came with the unspoken denial…”so right for you….I’m doing fine, we’re all doing fine.”

i’m calling it the lie that it is.

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Alcoholic families do this pretending thing well.
and abusive ones too.
and then there are the upstanding moral going to church families.
i’ve seen some masterful pretending there too-equally damaging.

As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “if you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace….How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate.”  -Jesus

It doesn’t have to be this way.

i learned a long time ago that honesty precedes repentance which precedes love.

And so its not a far leap to see that pretending is not loving-its selfish-and peace crushing.

And lest i get comfortable with the finger-pointing.

i see the pretending in the above situation.  i see the hurting child.  Will i love?  Will i expose?  i have been praying over this ever since.  How can we come alongside?  It’s been years of seeing truth spoken into the lives of the grownups-and the patterns remain.  Is there any hope of freedom?  Is it too late for the child?  Will anyone be willing to be gathered under the wings of the Only One who carries with Him the salve needed?

i don’t know.  Once again, i’m “driven to my knees in prayer by the overwhelming conviction that I have nowhere else to go.”

…on the Sabbath day He went into the Synagogue, as was His custom.  And He stood up to read.  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him.  Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the Year of the LORD’s favor.”

Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down…..and He said to them,
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  – Luke 4:16-21

This is why He came;

…to comfort all who mourn….to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. -continuation of isaiah 61

Why is it so hard to face our sickness?  Pretending that the infection isn’t really growing on a wounded soldier’s leg is stupid and may cause the loss of the entire leg.

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Let’s not be stupid.

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Let’s be healed

for when i forget what i know

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For you created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

He came to her as she meditated on His knitting.  He came to her with joy and assurance as her belly grew.  as she and her first born looked at all the photos of the stages of a baby being formed-and marveled at His work.

until……

“i wish i wasn’t me” -zeke age 5

what about when the knitting needles missed a stitch along the way and one is left with a broken body?
when your 5 year old is speaking words that sound too much like suicide?
            what then?

He came to her with His words

“not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord Almighty”  -zech 4:6

and He came to her with a song in the dark hours of those hard days
            (because He knows how the songs work for her)

the Love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell….

and she believed Him.

and He strengthened her.

and He made her to believe His love was in fact greater and deeper and beyond the body that was broken.

and it never occurred to her
not even once
to pray for healing.

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last night it occurred to me, that it had never occurred to me to pray for healing.

and now that it had
would i pray?
knowing all the ways we’ve known His deep and great love
         as a result of
this broken body that belongs to zeke?

he’s 11 now.

and weeks before this most recent insight, i was given another.

how of all my children-this one has the most freedom to be fully himself in the presence of others.

and i’ve pondered that for a while-perplexed a bit at how in the world that came to be true?  and how in the world can i help my other 2 along the path?  

but last night as i listened to the question that formed (inside my head) with it’s accusations; “why did you not ever pray for him to be healed?  do you not have faith?  even through a year of studying all the ways Jesus healed in the book of Matthew-it didn’t come to mind then.  why?  what does that say about you?  what does that say about your love for your son?”

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there are a lot of lies mixed in with doubts mixed in with perplexity at the initial questions.  and as i sat there clueless.  the piano began to play the familiar words that would come to me all those years ago…

oh Love of God
how great and pure
how measureless and strong….

Who is this God?  who hears the thought churning inside my head-that no one else hears?  who moves the hands of a pianist to play the very words that my heart understands.  words that only He could know would soothe and remind of what is true?

 

the longer i live, the less answers i have.

but one thing i have come to understand is this

God’s love is real.
it’s measureless
it’s strong.
it’s constant
and is not expressed in the way that i think so much of the time.

i praise You because zeke is fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
i know that full well.

my frame was not hidden from you
when i was made in the secret place.
all the days ordained for me
were written in Your book
before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!  -psalm 139

 (please don’t misunderstand, i in no way mean to imply whether or not prayer for healing is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. i still don’t know why we never thought to pray for healing for my zeke, or if we will begin praying for this.  it’s not really about that.  this post is about being settled -yet again- in the midst of doubt and confusion-and attack.  being settled-yet again- into the love of a Father who knows everything.)

dying for me

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