Chasing Joy

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

this will do

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sitting on the back porch the welcoming sounds of birds mixes with the edgy sounds of man and machine.  windows open mean the sounds will follow me inside-even the bird songs make it through, soft as they are.  the tea whistles and i cringe in fear i’ve ruined my quiet.  i laugh a bit at the irony of the thought.  but the birds and man and machine do not belong to me, nor do they require anything from me.  it’s both voluntary and hidden, my response to their presence.

June is here.  school has ended. mornings have slowed.

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my front garden is wild with columbine and pansies that i didn’t plant.  well, that’s not entirely true.  when we first moved here i had planted pansies in a pot for the front step-they grew well there so i repeated the process the next year.  but the squirrels and their constant overturning and digging and dragging them off finally had their way and i stopped altogether, throwing out the pots, now chipped and cracked from all the abuse.  a few years back i received a columbine plant as a mother’s day present.  waiting a bit too long i did nestle it in the ground, a lone beauty in a sea of unkempt attempts at making something of the plot of land i’d been handed.

but this year, my columbine, she has sisters galore.  they stand tall towards the back as though they are watching over their young pansy charges.

their beauty invites me in to pull up all the thorny weeds and dandelions.  i’ve been pining for a real landscaper with a real eye for composition and real knowledge of planting to come and give me something to work with, to joy in, to welcome me home.  last night, for the first time in the 7 years we’ve made our way here, i walked the path to the door gazing at this bed freshly weeded and breathed;

this’ll do.

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my soul is weary from a long winter.  spring arrived out the windows and moved into summer, yet my soul struggled to take notice or nourishment.  aware of the bone deep fatigue all the while life buzzes around i have been paying attention.  “this is why missionaries have furloughs” i tell myself.  “you are not that type of missionary” i respond.  and there is truth to those words.  but the need for a ‘furlough’ of sorts is real along with the understanding that it will look its own way.  so i’ve been sitting with myself, stealing moments when they come, gently requiring nothing of the time.  no figuring things out.  no formulating plans for a different way of living.  instead letting the anger pour out, the sorrow, the loneliness, alongside the amazement and joy and beauty.  allowing repentance to do it’s lovely work and security to come from being seen by the One who knows my frame.

      I have always imagined gratitude as a kind of discipline.  It is a practice.  A choice.  I still think this is true.  However, I begin to glimpse a long-buried and misguided assumption.  I have believed that the practice of noticing good gifts in my life would widen some sort of divine exchange.  As if noticing the gifts and giving thanks for them could bring me more of what i noticed.

These days are dark, and I sometimes think I glimpse floodwaters rising.  Yet because of November’s emphasis on gratitude, I cannot help but lift up my eyes to the mountains (Ps. 121:1)

What if gratitude is more about seeing the face of God?  Of locking our eyes on his and remembering where our help comes from?  Perhaps gratitude is not only a discipline but also a gift, one we are given in special measure just before we pass through the door to suffering.

Christie Purifoy; Roots & Sky-A Journey Home in Four Seasons

 

hope for the unsuccessful

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it is a difficult thing to be entrusted with living breathing small humans, tasked with the job of guiding them into adulthood.  this morning after yet another rough dialog i find myself in a place of needing to do some work, of not having time to waste, and yet being so full of all the emotions that i can’t focus or move forward.  tears cloud my vision, discouragement and despair threaten to take over.  teenagers are complicated as are middle aged adult women (such as me).

i find it so easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees these days.

IMG_3403two weeks ago i prepared a training session for a group of women who lead school age students in bible study.  the remains of this session spill from my pile of papers. but of course, i sigh as i kneel down to pick them up.  providentially one of the papers catches hold of my tear-filled eye and i pay attention.

i’d given each group a piece of paper with a line down the middle and the words successful and unsuccessful at the top.  the instructions were to list off things that make them feel this way in their classrooms.  then i gave them a fill in the blank sheet to complete as i recited the following truths:

Looking to God’s purpose vs. a personal sense of success.

i…prefer things to go smoothly, and feel more comfortable when i’m in control.

God….often works through human weakness and failure, and invites me to yield to His control.

Being prepared and purposeful is important and necessary.  It is good and nice to have a classroom run smoothly….

yet…

The struggles i face do not represent failure, but opportunity for growth…and to see God do amazing things through an unlikely vessel such as myself.  it is more important that God is glorified than that i feel successful.

it is more important that God is glorified than that i feel successful.

True success is allowing God’s higher purposes to prevail.

in light of all of this…how will my inner dialog change?  how will my prayers change?

 

IMG_3545i prepared that lesson, i read those words out loud two weeks ago.  today it’s as if i’m seeing them for the first time.  choosing to reject the mocking of myself about that and instead letting them wash over me afresh, in this moment, after this particular argument, with this particular child.

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methods and mothers may fail (guilty and guilty)
children may falter and fail

God’s love never fails.
God’s higher purpose prevails.

 and that right there brings me such a depth of hope and a settled calm.  my inner dialog does change, and so do my prayers.

maybe you too?


to draw further in:  meditating on Matthew 11:25-30, Hebrews 2-4 and what it means to make every effort to enter into the Rest/Easy Yoke of Jesus.

 

a feeble fasting

 

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i pray for victory and it comes in the form of sheets on my couch instead of admittance into a facility staffed with skilled folks.  believing instead that the enemy still has the upper hand in the life of one who longs to be free from his grip, the 5 of us make space in an already tight and cramped home.  we spend the mornings on the back porch with tea and cigarettes.  she sees me on the floor scrubbing the bathroom, she excuses herself when words are tense between a parent and teen.  she joins us in gut laughter at the dinner table over some joke a middle school boy tells.  she wakes to this same boy fixing her tea and toast while his parents are at their early morning bible study.  this is our junk and our joy.  and victory from the One who knows her frame looked like sending her to spend 3 weeks with us, regardless of what i believed.

pain and heart longings were often the topics of our back porch discussions and today as i sit for the first time alone back there, i find myself missing the morning moments of clarity and healing that my Victorious King brought to my doubting and hurting heart through our discussions.  i miss being a witness to an enemy who is ruthless and a Mighty God who never lets go, never lets go, never lets go.

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there was a day early in februray that marked the beginning of lent;  that season of fasting.  i had spent time pondering what, if anything, i’d give up.  but then a phone call and i forgot all about it as life took it’s own turns and bends and shape.

is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter?

a call to love and be a hope bearer from the One who promises those who hope in Him will not be disappointed. except that i am prone to disappointment, discouragement and such doubt.  it grieves me so to admit it.  i need His help to overcome my unbelief every. single. day.

i wrestled hard in prayer for this one sleeping on my couch, prayers yes for the Lord to have victory, but cries too that i would believe and not doubt that it was so.  that i would carry hope instead of the real hopelessness that i actually felt.  and one day she says to me; “you gave me hope.  when i didn’t have any hope in myself, you did.”

then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the LORD will answer, you will cry for help, and He will say: Here am I.

the journey for both of us is long and there is no guarantee it will ‘all turn out ok’ as we might think.  but there is a God in Heaven and He gives hope to a weary one through a doubting one.  Who is a God like our God?  able to do the miraculous on a dry and splintery back porch?

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and hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

i never understood this verse before.  but today i see, the only reason hope does not disappoint is because of the Holy Spirit-He does His work through us who are all weakness.

The Strength of our hearts will do His work through us who are all weakness.

take heart, I have overcome.  I am the Root, and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.  Yes I am coming soon.

amen. come Lord Jesus.  and may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  and when your trust waivers?  may He strengthen your frame and satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land.


to draw further in:  Isaiah 58, John 16:33; 1 John 5:4-5; Romans 5, 15:13, Revelation 12:11; 15:3-4; 22

hope for the hopeless

dener rescue mission

about an hours drive from here there is a place that offers hope and healing for those facing homelessness and addiction.  their newsletters remind me of the possibility, remind me that Jesus Saves.  i need to be reminded….often.

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in the morning light the sky is grey and cloudy, my little city full of contrasts.  the deep red of the train car and the yellow lights of the mini school bus stand against the snow that has become grey and black.  the colors of the houses seem muted with the grey empty trees that tower above them.  but as i drive further out towards my son’s middle school i get a glimpse of the mountains.  those mountains have ministered to my heavy heart before and today is no different.  the entire mountain is shadowed and deep blue…but the snow-capped peaks are glowing.  somehow the sun is breaking through the clouds just enough to shine on those peaks.  my son’s school is only 2 miles from our house which sits right in the middle of town,  yet from that vantage point 2 miles out i can see those sun kissed peaks.

my heart is heavy today over someone i have grown to love caught in the web of addiction and homelessness.  the small hope from last night has been crushed under the weight of the phone call this morning.  getting a glimpse of those peaks as my son and i wait our turn in the drop off line causes me to catch my breath and  i quickly call out ‘l love you, have a good day’ as the tears begin their release.  half of me has been listening and engaged as i make the pb&j and get my kids out the door, the other half has been in the depths of prayers reminding myself and my God of His sole Ability and Power.

but truth be told, my heart is full of doubts and hopelessness.  i begin to listen to the wondering if Jesus is able to save, if He is able to rescue, if hope is even possible?  as i drive back home, those peaks begin to be hidden behind the tall ancient trees,  i catch glimpses of them only because i now know to look.  but by the time i reach home, they are completely hidden from my view.  This world is grey and dark, shadows of addiction and sin and a myriad of problems we all know so well hover.  but somewhere the Sun is shining on the mountain peaks.  whether i can see it or not.

Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
and calls them each by name.

Because of His great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.


 

to draw further in:  Isaiah 40:26; Romans 7:21-8:39; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 12:10-11; all the ‘To Him who is Able…” verses.

 

dominoes

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they line them up oh so carefully, pleading with everyone near to “please don’t stomp and keep the dog out!”  if they can keep their hands steady, the dominoes snake around and about for a long long way.  if it all goes according to plan, one tap on the first tile will bring about delight and wonder.  if not, well, they re-position and try again.

my boys love this activity.  so much so, one boy bought the other boy a complete set dedicated to just such purposes.  no number dots on these ones, just wooden rectangles that can be stacked and wound around for hours on end.

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obedience is like dominoes i think…..except i don’t really believe it.  at least when it comes to me and especially the things that are hard to obey.  i behave based on what makes sense to me, the problem is the places where my thinking is off.  the places i’ve concluded don’t matter, except that they actually do.

remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in…the face of suffering.  do not throw away your confidence, it will be richly rewarded.  you need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised…we are not of those who shrink back.

i’m talking about all the things.  doing the dishes types of things mostly.  the lie is it doesn’t matter, the truth is it does.  it matters if i show up vulnerable and authentic to a conversation, it matters if i take a deep breath and pray and then pursue my child i just wounded…or my child who just wounded me.  it matters if i do the dishes…or don’t depending on the need of the moment.  and it matters if i follow my Shepherd into the places He’s calling me.

the tiles -they are strategically placed and tap-taping along. removing myself from the path brings the whole thing to a halt along with the reward of delight and wonder.

i believe You Lord, help me overcome my unbelief!


to draw further in:  Hebrews 10, quoted above vs. 32-39;  Mark 9:14-24; Hebrews 12

 

Kingdom Come/things i learned this first month of 2016

writing has been so very hard this month of new beginnings.  thoughts mingle with beautiful sentences inside my head, but when pen hits paper or fingers touch keys they fly away like ornery fireflies, refusing to be captured.  snippets here and there, but nothing of length and so what better way to persevere than to gather the threads up and bring them to emily’s month end gathering.  it seemed hopeful to me to do so, and doing something hopeful feels a little like winning don’t you think?

caroling, cancer and first and second things.

someone we love was too weak from her cancer fight to make it to Christmas eve services.  when i heard the news the first thought that entered my ordinary small brain was this; “we should go caroling to her.”  always so quick to deem my inner thoughts silly i left them there, but the Spirit had His way with another and the message made its way among the congregation.  after worshiping in our church building, we took it outside and drove over in the dark to her front door to bring ‘tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.’  singing to one so very weak and frail assaulted all of my senses and through tears i lifted my head up to heaven and cried out; “what is in fact the point of this?  she will still have cancer in the morning.”

a few days later i’m stirring chicken soup on her stove listening to her family share how much the caroling ministered to their very souls.  he says he will remember our singing for the rest of his days….days that will soon be spent learning how to live life without his dear beloved wife.

january 1st she  went home

and the One who welcomed her into His arms whispered to my soul; “curing cancer is a secondary thing.  ministering to the spirit of My beloved?  that is a first thing work.  singing at her door those tidings of comfort and joy brought My Kingdom Come.  child, keep learning to trust Me.”

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the parable of the merciful servant

he’s next to me in the car telling it all.  “my friend wanted something i had.  i said no.  my friend was mad.  my friend choked me and my neck got stuck in my zipper. ”

he keeps saying; “my friend, my friend.”

i know this ‘friend’ without my son ‘naming names.’  i am familiar with his ways.  my son’s choice of words gives me pause, i know he means what he says but i don’t understand.

two days later i’m standing on the playground watching  boys playing at football.  my son waits for this friend of his to be open and throws the ball to him.  i know it is intentional.  he’s shared many a time how he just wants this boy to have success.  to make a play, score a touchdown, have something to celebrate because he’s so often in trouble.  he misses the ball and my son calls out encouragement and building up words.  to the boy who choked him.

and the One who bled for these boys whispered to my soul “Kingdom come.”

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who do you think you are?

there has been this inner struggle that i’ve not been able to put a name to.  the One who knows my frame knows it, and knows just how to open my blind eyes and help me to see.  i saw that emily freemon was hosting a webinair on how to write a book proposal and i was drawn to it which didn’t make any sense at all.  i’m not writing a book or a book proposal.  i signed up anyway.  when she spoke the words naming a writer’s real fear; “who do you think you are?” the tears flowed freely.

one piece of the current struggle-not just in writing, but in being fully myself in the presence of others -has been exactly this.  a subtle accusation whispered and payed attention to.  what now, now that i see it?

well, the prayer went like this:

Lord, i still can’t do it, i still can’t write.
it doesn’t flow,
i still feel stuck.
kingdom come.

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a study in hope

Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it.  I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave-that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful.  It allows us to be generous, which is another way of saying exactly the same thing.

Marilynne Robinson | Gilead: A Novel

There is a way in which the jesusy folk tend to write (I do it, too), and that way feels so disconnected from my real life that I could scream. I don’t feel disconnected with my Jesus, no, but I do feel disconnected with the pull inside me to sound this way or that – or with the pull of what others are doing so successfully to point to the kingdom of God. Maybe some perspectives are done; they’re processed, cooked up, and plated well. My perspective is still raw. I’ve barely cleaned these veggies.

Amber Haines | An Uncooked Story

People will tell you to put down your books and join the real world, for heaven’s sake. They will remind you that you live in a university dorm or an apartment reached by only a sliver of light or a temporary rental and do not even think of wasting time or money on land you do not own, but you would do well to smile and say nothing. Go on. Read. Read your books and dream your dreams. You are storing up treasures in heaven.

But after I tucked them in bed and in between her sobs and up the stairs and down, ushering children into jammies, I prayed a new kind of prayer. Prayer was no longer discipline, I was desperate. Tired and needy and confused. And weak. Really weak. There were no books to tell me what to expect from my child, with her particular history — her cocktail of losses and grief, who was wedged into our particular family. Even the best parenting strategies were not sufficient. I needed Him.

We were the kind of weak which many Christians spend their entire lives training themselves to not be.

Sara Haggerty | I Think I’ll Choose Weak, Today

 


thank you dear reader, for your gift of time spent here.  let’s continue on in hope, shall we?

may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

romans 15:13

 

Christmas-where you belong

the boys are out watching the new Star Wars movie, my girl and i are staying in to watch the Book Thief. i have my doubts, the book being a favorite i expect the movie to disappoint.  but we’ll give it a go and see.  across town a friend is battling hard against cancer and another dear one is waiting on a new prescription to ease his suffering, praying for sleep to come for the first time in months.  wives are waiting on husbands to fly home, children are spending their first Christmas split between families.

it’s a mixture of the reality of joy in a Savior come down and sorrow in a world waiting redemption.  as i prepared a card for my friend with the cancer, the words the Lord has been ministering to my heart are all i had to offer.  it’ what i offer you here.  it’s where a weary and burdened soul finds rest.

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oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, oh tidings of comfort and joy

May you and yours know both the comfort and joy that Christ Himself gives this season and into the new year, whatever it holds, as we wait for home.

for when you are waiting for health

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A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…..

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The drive has been long in the night.  She pulls in tired and weary, she glances back at the slow and peaceful breathing of her sleeping ones.  resting her head on the steering wheel she breathes deep.   “Oh Lord, please make something out of this mess, somehow redeem these years, restore these hearts.”  she rests her eyes but is unable to rest her thoughts.

they tumble out of the car, the kids running free after being cooped up for the hours of driving it took to get there.  the family pile out the door with smiles painted on and arms out wide.  the expectations linger thick in the air as she braces herself at the trunk, breathing deep and praying for strength to endure.  one last breath and she gathers up the presents and bags and faces the music.  everyone else has already made their way inside, she enters, sets things down and joins the others around the dinner table.  the conversation stays where it always does, all the elephants packed neatly on the shelf and smiles all around.  “fine, fine fine”  echoes like the seagulls on finding nemo.  she smiles to herself at the picture as everyone shares all the ways they are ‘fine.’ 

she tries to play along, it’s only a short visit after all.  but when she looks in the eyes of the sulking teen and the toddler pulling for the hundredth time on his mama’s sleeve, she sees deep into the un-fineness of it all and something breaks.  the tears start slowly, and she tries to hold them in and look away.  it’s awkward and uncomfortable, first one set of eyes catch hers, than another.  the dam breaks and before she can excuse herself discretely, the room grows silent as all eyes rest on her.  broken under the weight of all the brokenness sitting around this table, she lets the grief flow.

she receives a pat on the shoulder with; “now dear it can’t be so bad” and someone breaks the tension with a request for potatoes.  the room fills up again with conversations about great aunt myrtle’s oysters and that time it snowed so hard no one could come for Christmas.

she looks up and glances over again at the teen and toddler.  the toddler happily plays with his cranberry sauce, the teen moves her food around.  she stares around this table of brokenness.  she wonders about hope.  

This is what the sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.”

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the above words are a work of fiction, my attempt to paint a picture.  the realities are stories too close, too painful to share.  the levels of dis-function and unhealthy patterns of relating that we have been walking alongside this month seem to have reached epic proportions. it is magnified on all sides i think because these holiday seasons are the times when time with extended families increases.  i have been battling against despair,  against loosing hope.  as far as the eyes can see health is not appearing.  repentance continues to be rejected and all the striving and excuses and “fine, fine, fine” remains the norm.  my heart grieves.

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
He rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

The reality is that the Only One who can bear the weight of my hope is Jesus Himself.  The Holy One of Israel who longs to be gracious, who rises to show compassion, who is a God of justice; it’s His light which shines in the darkness.  it’s just the darkness has not understood it.  a hope that thrills is this:  yonder lays a new and glorious morn.

For today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you, He is Christ the Lord.

He is a Wonder of a Counselor, a Mighty God, the owner and ruler of Peace.  we are all weakness, yes, us who want to love well, who want to bring the light of LIFE that is real living, but God….our God who is able to do immeasurably more than we can even fathom, He is the strength of our heart and our portion forever.

in the waiting, i remember ^^.

in remembering, hope appears.

when hope appears, peace descends and along with it a release of the outcomes into the capable hands of a Father who is good.

with release, i can show up again….from a place of health.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in HIm,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.


to draw further in:  Isaiah 30, quoted above vs. 15 and 17, John 1, Isaiah 9, Psalm 73:26,  Romans 15:13, O Holy Night.

for when you are waiting for relief

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are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?

a year ago i prayed with an intensity that can only be explained as a movement of the Spirit.  i prayed for a “hope that wouldn’t mock, but pull you up even just a little out of the pit you are currently in.  oh, it is so despairing, dear Lord, please grant Your Beloved some relief.”

i shared this prayer of hope with the ones it was for and all day long i carried around faith of a child; expectant and excited to see how their Ever Present One would succor their weary hearts that day.

turns out it was one of their most hopeless days ever.

blessed is he who is not offended in Me

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the logical fallacies that seem so, well, logical, fall like rain and gather in pools in my mind.  doubt becomes a dog at my heals that refuses to leave.  i’m walking with the limp of one whose boot is engulfed in mud.  this is how prayer feels now, heavy and weighted down.

But we know our Father. We know His character.  Somehow, somewhere, the wrong must be put right; how we do not know, only we know that, because He is what He is, anything else is inconceivable.

For the word sent to the man whose soul was among lions and who was soon to be done to death, unsuccoured, though the Lord of Daniel was so near, is fathomless:  “And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me.”

-Amy Carmichael Rose from Brier, emphasis mine

one of the errors in reasoning is that the more i fumble in prayer/doubt the quicker i’m tempted to quit.  ‘your prayers cause more harm than help’ the dog growls, they reveal to you a God who is cruel.

the argument is rendered invalid because i know that God is not cruel.  Mysterious, yes.  Wild and Big and completely Other, yes.  i do know His character.

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There is only one place where we can receive, not an answer to our question, but peace–that place is Calvary.  An hour at the foot of the Cross steadies the soul as nothing else can.  “O Christ beloved, Thy Calvary stills all our questions.”  Love that loves like that can be trusted about this.
-Amy Carmichael

tho in my limp i lack courage to share my prayers with these dear ones still suffering; i’m still praying.  praying for moments of laughter, the kind that takes their breath away and does the work that only laughter can do for a soul.  prayers hoping in Stephen’s God to ease their suffering with a tangible glimpse of His nearness.  and when the words get stuck in my throat, i lift up these:

O Lord, we bring Thee him for whom we pray,
Be Thou his strength, his courage, and his stay,
And should his faith flag as he runs the race,
Show him again the vision of Thy face.

Be Thou his vision, Lord of Calvary,
Hold him to follow, hold him fast by Thee,
O Thou who art more near to us than air,
Let him not miss Thee, ever, everywhere.

LORD, Thou hast suffered, Thou dost know
The thrust of pain, the piercing dart,
How wearily the wind can blow
Upon the tired heart.

He whom Thou lovest, Lord, is ill.
O come, Thou mighty Vanquisher
Of wind and wave, say, Peace, be still,
Eternal Comforter.

-Amy Carmichael

but even if You do not, oh Eternal Comforter,  You Who sang of John’s greatness; doubting, imprisoned John longing for relief–  steady us at the foot of Your love poured out, remember us with an overshadowing of Your still small voice;

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   I am your Abba, and you belong to Me.

to draw further in:  Matthew 11, Daniel 3:16-18, Amy Carmichael’s book Rose from Brier

those pictures of the green leaves and pink flowers growing out of the largest thorns i have ever seen were taken at the San Diego zoo.  i think we stopped and marveled at this fascinating plant just as long as we did the pandas.

*logical fallacy= a flaw in the structure of a deductive argument which renders the argument invalid/an error in reasoning that renders an argument invalid.  when your kids enter high school they use phrases that you are supposed to know, having gone to high school once yourself.  i had to look it up too.

for when you are waiting to be seen

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“so what do you do?”

there are people who are able to put a nice boxed up title around what it is that they do.  i am not one of them.  and feeling a bit lost in my identity just plain goes with the territory, boxed up title or not.  i know that my identity is in Christ and not in what i do, yet what i do is deeply connected to who i am.

here in this tiny little corner of the big wide web i write.  there are other small things i do in my brick and mortar life, but my answer to the person who most recently asked this question were these two words;

“i write.”

“oh!  what do you write?”  she responded, genuinely interested in me and my mysterious life.

“uh….i don’t really know.”

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i’ve questioned the time i spend blogging, we aren’t a family with large resources and it would not hurt for me to get a j.o.b.  one will be heading off to college in the near future and the other two following close behind.  who am i to think spending time on this writing is adding value to anyone?  the voice of my college creative writing professor rings loud and clear-he said i had no talent.  it was ok, i was in school to be an engineer anyway.

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 There is a lost art of studying the works of others to find your own style. All of the “masters” were first apprentices. The apprentice sat beside the “masters”, listening to their process, paintbrush in hand, mixing paint, creating strokes that told a story, and stirred their creative spirit.

Jeanne Oliver Studying Under the Master’s Art course*

my painting daughter has a large oil painting that was due last friday.  the professor gave everyone an extension for monday.  she painted all. weekend. long.  yet only half of the stone church sits below the glowing sunset above it.  she brought in what was done and her professor’s words stand in contrast to mine; “hannah, you are one of my most talented students.  many painters spend a year on a painting like this, you can turn it in whenever it is finished.”

the point is, dear hannah, to keep painting.   keep studying the masters and their process. grow and shift things around when needed.  but by all means, don’t quit.

we don’t live in an apprentice culture anymore, but the concept has value to me when i let it.   my perception of an apprentice is one who works long and hard hours without pay, status, or tangible outcomes.  they are behind the scenes, unseen.  they do the work because of a hope for what is not yet, but will be.

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unseen.  hope for what is not yet, but will be.  apprenticing.  the slow process of growing into a truer version of myself.  this is what the writing life is for me.  it’s still unseen and in process.  it takes an immense amount of courage and patience to do the apprenticeship work, to believe that the One who knit me together has value to add to this world through words i compose.  small work is challenging in it’s hidden-ness no matter what form that work takes i think.  but there is One who entered the world He created through the smallest way possible-who arrived as an ordinary baby, in a tiny little corner of the big wide world.

He is the God who both sees and knows what it is to be unseen.

the point is, dear me, to keep writing.  let it take years if it needs to.  but by all means, don’t quit.


*Jeanne Oliver’s Creative Network is free to join, and the costs of the courses offered vary.  even though my art does not involve paint, i’ve taken a couple of her courses and had the privilege of meeting her when my daughter took one of her classes.  she is inspiring, delightful, and such a gift to the art world.  i highly recommend visiting her site no matter what kind of artist you may be.)

i’ve found paying attention to other artists and their process to be extremely valuable.  most recently i joined hope*writers, a community of fellow writers hosted by author’s that i trust:

A community of people who write about hope, who value encouragement and practical advice about writing as craft, business, and calling.

The community is called hope*writers. We believe we do our best work when we have good support. We want to help you skip the learning curve we’ve had to struggle through.

-the hope*writer’s team

 

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