Chasing Joy

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

Author: mel (page 1 of 24)

no security, only rest

come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…

we are standing on the shore, my boy and i.  watching his brother and dad out in the water….struggling, struggling, struggling.  time has slowed and we fear help will not come in time.

we are staring death in the face and it is terrifying.

we are powerless.

some teenagers in their fishing boat arrive first.  then the firemen, paramedics, rescue/dive team.   they carry my youngest boy onto the stretcher and into the ambulance, then my husband.  Their bodies so weakened by hypothermia, they are  shaking shaking, my boy looses consciousness, then comes back talking gibberish, crying out in pain.  my older boy and i, we watch, we speak strengthening words to them, we pray.  we make decisions-will we ride in the ambulance with them or follow in the car?  which hospital?

we are all well cared for, the doctors do their jobs.  the boys all begin to recover, both the ones in the water and the one standing powerless on the shore.

after a few days, when everyone is back to school and work, i sit in the quiet….

….and wail.

men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury.  and the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied.  the more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured…

screwtape to wormwood -cs lewis

it is not strange these painful things that happen.  i know, i know.  the injury on this particular day was pointed, specific, cutting deep into a desire and felt legitimate claim.

and so i lament.

lament would provide a bridge back to the safe presence of God….only someone engaged in life can lament.

a sacred sorrow -michael card

gravity is a law of nature, a reality of life.  it cannot be thwarted, controlled, denied.

i am lamenting many things, but the main thing is; the absence of security.  like the presence of gravity exists, so does the absence of security.  i have no power or control over the outcome of a planned day.  i cannot lay claim to any expectation of smooth waters, joy-filled experiences, or long days with the ones i love.  in an instant it all can be taken.  all. of. it.

+++

for the past 3 years i’ve been memorizing Romans chapter 8.  it’s taking a long time.

i think i’m reciting to myself to help get thru these days following tragedy, where the rug has been pulled out from under me and i’ve discovered there is no floor.  i think i’m behind because it’s taking so many years to memorize this one chapter.  i think lots of things that are merely a shadow of the reality of a God that is near.

…hope that is seen is no hope at all.  who hopes for what he already has?  but if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

i weep and wail at these words.  i confess that i no longer know how to pray.  standing on that shore, i cried for help only, reasoning that my boy and husband in heaven with their savior was to their gain and my loss.  wondering how to move forward with a heart of flesh instead of stone.  knowing that i can plan and dream and create, but i cannot control and am given no guarantee that fun or rest or simple monotony will follow.  i am promised trouble, and joy.  i don’t know how to expect both.  i don’t know how to pray.

…in the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express…

Michael Card is on to something.  as i lament, as i weep and wail and honestly express all the things i’m thinking and feeling, the One who translates it all crosses over the bridge and engulfs me with His very safe presence.

Young gives the meaning of rest as “rest again, cease from, rest thoroughly.”  Rest again is the word for today.  We are not promised smooth roads, but rough.  When things are smooth we should look up in delight and thanksgiving, thinking of them as breathing spaces rather than as the normal condition of things. Rough roads make it certain that we shall often come to our Lord for rest.   Our dear Lord will never be surprised by our frequent coming.  He will never tire of resting us, and in the rest He gives His strength.  His invitation stands sure:  Come unto Me and I will give you rest, rest again.

-Amy Carmichael

He is in me.  He is for me.  He is with me.  He is my hope.  it is enough.


to draw further in:  a playlist for times of lament.  Stars by Skillet.  Never let go by David Crowder.  Fierce by Jesus Culture.  I won’t let you go by Switchfoot.  It is well by Bethel Music.

again running

and so she woke up
woke up from where she was
lying still
said i gotta do something
about where we’re going.

-U2

been running again.

december 26th found us at our local rec center purchasing the family pass.

december 26th also found us beginning what would be our new daily routine.  everyone goes, like it or not.

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Children tie the mother’s feet, the Tamils say….We knew we could not be too careful of our children’s earliest years.  So we let our feet be tied for love of Him whose feet were pierced.

-Amy Carmichael

she’s leaving, my beloved oldest girl.  for 3 months overseas.  knowing this time would come….should come, i set aside some things to have more time her last semester of high school.

the end of this season begins in 2 days.  changes ahead for sure-changes in her, changes in us here back at home.

i’ve fielded lots of questions about how i’m feeling.

everyone has been home for Christmas break-boys went back to school only this week.  and the days have been filled with holiday engagements, those trips to the gym, errands upon errands to help our girl prepare for this trip.

so i let my feet be tied.

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every time i run my mind writes.  the trouble is that putting pen to paper is impossible while running.  so i make cryptic notes in my phone.  there are 16 ideas there fleshed out a bit while my heart rate beats fast, recorded in hope that an hour or two will one day come to craft an essay or two that matters.

it’s 30 minutes of untied feet.

something else is happening in this running.

peace, clarity, perspective.  right there in the crowded gym, this one who spends so much time in her head is able to release a bit.

which ushers in a stillness.  a connection with the One acquainted with all the ways i’m feeling.

and my gaze shifts up.  as my thoughts tumble out there is  room for Him to speak.

+++

how am i feeling?

well, it’s hard to say really.  overwhelmed with all there is to do.  carrying a sense of urgency to make the most of this time.  tired from the early morning routine yanking us away from the restfulness of slow days.  amazed and delighted at who my daughter has become and is becoming.  excited for this gift the Lord is handing her.  aware of and grieving my daily failures; the little ones like handing my son a still frozen breakfast sandwich…in the car…on the way to school.  it’s ok mom, he says, and attempts to eat it anyway.  and the big ones that leave me in tears for hours when i should be sleeping. cause sometimes repentance is a long process.  wondering what the latest letter home from my oldest’s school means.  apologizing to my younger boy again that his violin string broke because of my idea, sorry son, maybe you won’t play any G notes today????  discussing late into the night with my man about whether we should replace our windows, how the budget shaped over the course of last year, and how we feel about where we’re all going. which is what led to the daily visits to the rec center.

these are the laces tying up my days.

but there is also the running.

singing ha, ah la la la de day…
ha la la la de day
ha la la de day
she’s running to stand still

-U2


so, friend, what is it that quiets your head and heart?  may you persevere in the finding of it, the executing of it, the embracing of it.  and in the process, the finding of Him, the embracing of Him, the being stilled by Him.

I will sing of the lovingkindness of the Lord forever.  To all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth. …Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!  They walk, O LORD in the light of Your countenance.  psalm 89:1, 15

 

pondering with Mary

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And coming to her, the angel said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  But she was greatly perplexed at what he said, and kept carefully considering what kind of greeting this was….The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

Highly favored, that’s what the angel told her; she had found favor with God.

“While they were [in Bethlehem] the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

i’ve been pondering Gabriel’s words, coupled with all that lie ahead for Mary; all the loneliness, the misunderstandings, the rejections…. it would have been a long and exhausting 9 months.  then they arrive in Bethlehem to discover no room for them.  As Mary set up camp in that barn, did she grumble and stomp;

is this the way the Lord favors?

how many days did they stay there before the ‘time came for the baby to be born?’  a week, two?  uncomfortable and very pregnant, was she able to sleep?  did she snap at Joseph-had he tried-really tried- to find them somewhere else to stay?  the baby would be coming soon-were they to have him here?  Had God completely abandoned them?  were they so very alone?

He was despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and pain and acquainted with grief; And like One from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or esteem Him.

as the ones chosen to carry this Savior to term, to then love and parent him….did Mary and Joseph bear this same fate?

as a follower of this Savior-as one in whom He dwells….is this my story too?  when loneliness, fatigue and rejection set in, when the condition of my home is frustrating me, when the contrasts of this world seem to weigh heavier on the dark side…. will i grumble and stomp;

it this what it means to be highly favored?

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And if we are His children, then we are His heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His spiritual blessing and inheritance], if indeed we share in His suffering so that we may also share in His glory.

maybe for Mary, when she began to set up camp in that barn it went this way instead;

huh…this is not what i thought it’d be like in Bethlehem.  thank you Joseph for trying your best to make my bed of hay comfortable.  the baby will be coming soon.  let us pray for the strength we need.  Gabriel said i am highly favored.  God will be present here.  He will provide help.  we are not alone.

 

maybe for me too,  setting up camp in this life, it can go this way instead:  “He has said he is enthralled with my beauty, He keeps track of the stars, He dearly loves me.  God will be present here.  He will provide help.  i am not alone.

For I consider [from the standpoint of faith] that the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us!

 

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Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth Peace to men
on whom His favor rests

May you experience His assurance of His delight and deep deep love for you this Christmas season.  


To draw further in: Luke 1:28-38; Luke 2; Romans 8: 17-18 amp; Philippians 3:9-11; Isaiah 53:3; Isaiah 9:6; Psalm 45:11

 

a study in contrasts

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the pictures scroll through randomly as my screen saver.  a boy with a stick and a tire amongst the red dirt of Uganda.  my two boys hugging tigger at disney world.  snow on mountain peaks.  the sunrise over the train tracks near my house.  it stops me sometimes as i walk past-these are all photos taken by me, grouped randomly by my computer-a study in the contrasts of my existence.

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i sat to think about the intensity of the last 24 hours.  pausing for quiet, to recover, to be restored, redeemed.  my mind moves back a day, back a day, back a day.  the intensity of the last month….year….5 years….

i breath.  in.  out.  pray prayers without words.

“if you are tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”

+++

Alleppo has fallen

refugees are making sleeping bags for refugees. 

the grey house with the green door on the corner of 7th boasts flashing lights “porn!” “Live girls”  a marajuana leaf, a car missing it’s window

my neighbor is remodeling.
her house looks beautiful,
i so appreciate it’s beauty.

one of my neighbors’ house caught fire on election night.
it was in the attic.  now there are keep out posters on the doors
due to asbestos

i stood and watched the firemen do their thing.
with smoke pouring in next door, a neighbor steps away
to close her windows
and get a cup of cold water for the one who was in the house
when it caught fire

this little house of ours is overflowing with art projects,
christmas projects, school papers, children fighting,
a broken dryer, piles of dishes,

 the heat and plumbing are working,
children are also laughing,
scheming surprises for one another.
christmas lights will soon shine their joy
into the dark of night.

one minute i lament,

the next i praise

+++

i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
dear god
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water

.later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere

-Warsan Shire

+++

i’ve been praying too.
prayers that look messy
full of stuttering, absent of many words.

i walk through these days
gazing at the world travelers
i whisper
where is the beauty?

worldsbeauty

they answer

everywhere
everywhere
everywhere


instagram: fingerprintofgod; theexodusroad; natgeo; solehope; tiinautti;theexodusroad;
there are many more expressions of beauty i’ve found on instagram.  my list is  here.

to draw further in: Isaiah 40, 58; Psalm 91, Romans 8, Matthew 4:12-17; O Come O Come Immanuel

remembering while we wait

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we are waiting…
we have not forgotten.

-Christmas Canon

it’s been cold these last couple weeks.  following an unseasonably warm fall, we’ve leaped off a cliff from 60 degrees down to 2.  wind whips while this mother and her son run across the parking lot dashing into the warmth of the auditorium.  shortly i’ll watch my boy dutifully put on his band concert-yawning and looking around as his stick keeps time on the cymbal.  he’s frustrated and bummed that his favorite teacher of all time took another job this year, leaving him behind to yawn his way through with one who yells at him if he attempts to jazz things up a bit.   “maybe things will be better next year in high school,” i offer-the only consolation i can think of-wondering if it sounds as lame to him as it does to me?

~~~~

she turns the  6 month chip around and around between thumb and finger, “i don’t understand why i would be tempted now?  i KNOW there is no life there, so why these urges to use again?”  this friend of hers fumbles through a prayer, hoping beyond hope that the One who hears will tend His little lamb as the Shepherd that He is.

~~~~

one of them sits comfortable and warm, in her fancy house with her fancy car and faithful servants to come and care for her child and clean her house.  another sits in a church, homeless and alone, but a warm bed and a home cooked meal greet her each evening as she and her toddler enter.  their lives seem so vastly different…..yet so very much the same. they battle their guilt and shame, deflecting off on to any inanimate object, seeking absolution from a statue made of wood.  her mind says it’s working, but her heart knows no release from the misery of living under shame’s heavy hand.  i wonder if there is any hope?  the only remedy i have to offer is left behind with the dinner as they each leave their respective table.  “thank you for coming.” says one as i gather my coat.  “thank you for giving me a comfortable place to rest.” says the other as i make the rounds to lock up for the night. tonight one will lay her head on an air mattress, the other a feather pillow.  tonight both will sleep with their souls crushed under a weight they cannot lift.

~~~~

type, delete, type delete.  i struggle to pray.  struggle to find words.  my tounge feels tied.  fatigue weighs heavy, thoughts swim around and around and around.  i had words yesterday when worship overwhelmed me.  i come faithfully to meet with the Object of yesterday’s worship, to draw on His strength, to find my words again.  just as i cannot force Him to appear in a way that i can grab hold of, so i cannot force words to flow in a way i can grab hold of either.  this advent i longed to offer more here.  but this is all i’ve got.

~~~~

we are all waiting.  my boy who is finding the class he used to love the most to be the one he likes the least.  my friend longing for the day when the urge to use is truly forever gone, never to catch her off guard again.  the two ladies i shared separate meals with, one homeless, the other affluent, both needing release from themselves.  and me, fighting for words to come, waiting for them to flow when i am able to receive them, pin them down, and share them here.  we are all waiting…..

rejoice! rejoice!
Immanuel
will come to you
o Israel.

in the wait…..i

have

not forgotten.

race pacing

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8th grade students sit awkwardly with anxious and overwhelmed parents.  parents stare at their phones while students look around to see if they can spot someone they know.  the guidance counselor takes the stage and from behind a familiar looking podium (they’ve all had to watch the debates for social studies after all) he begins to enlighten and inform of what it will take to graduate high school.  the slides on the screen are creatively composed as signposts along a long and curvy road.  credits and requirements and pre-ap/ap and electives and carreer pathways and magnet school within a school and the arts and sciences and three tiers of diplomas and pick your breakout session next and don’t forget these important dates and deadlines.  seeing the slides up close makes my head spin.  but the camera pans out and we are given a birds eye view of the entire road before the next slide fills the screen.

we are there to gather information.  we stand before a sign with two options-both which apply to our boy.  it is hard not to wonder what would have happened had we turned right to the library instead of left to the cafeteria.  would what we had heard there altered his course?  we are overwhelmed, our son is confused.  after the breakout sessions we are all re-grouped and herded into the gym.  a mother and father and son standing in the middle of a noisy crowded high school gym-set up with tables and tired teachers standing at the ready to answer 100 questions.  what questions do we need answered?  what information do we need?

as we slip out the nearest exit i remember that birds eye view of the road.

birdsinsky

Whether it’s because of your personality or your season of life, your pace is your pace and that’s okay.

-emily p. freeman

i have a girl about to graduate high school at the age of 16.  she has been able to define her Art since she was 8.  she has visited the one campus she is interested in and is only applying to that one school.

i have a boy just trying to make it through the 8th grade.   he dreams of playing soccer with the pros-but didn’t know that till he tried it for the first time only 2 years ago.  he is gifted at turning 88 keys into soul-stirring music and making any item into a drum-it’s how he tends his soul and has no desire to make it a career.  he really had fun building a bridge out of toothpicks and thinks maybe engineering or architecting would make a good back-up job if the professional soccer thing doesn’t work out.  this is new from last week when he was quite excited about what it would look like to be a lawyer or FBI agent.

 one thing we know about this boy is that he needs a lot of margin in his life.  he needs a slower pace to get all those credits in.  is that really ok?  our girl needed a faster pace.  is that really ok too?

every runner knows bad pacing can ruin a race.  i have been running, i know this well.  that birds eye view of the road to graduating high school is the only information we needed.  the rest we already know.  no one else can help us with the questions we need answered.

can i embrace the shape of my child’s heart, cheer on their courageous attempts to live out of who they really are?  can i be willing to do the next thing with freedom and courage even tho it may not work?  can i celebrate their individual pace in freedom?  can they?

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Art is what happens when you dare to be who you really are.

-emily p. freeman

Let us run with endurance the race marked out for us….

the wilderness

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Elijah was hungry for an experience of divine Presence, and even the public display of God’s power in the fire that consumed the altars of Baal could not fully satisfy that hunger.  He had some inkling of where to go to find what he was looking for, and he was willing to walk faithfully and resolutely in that direction.

-Ruth Haley Barton Invitation to Solitude and Silence

i enter the building for the first time this year,  my prior absence purposeful.  the greetings are warm and expressions of being missed do not carry any subliminal motives or guilt.  should i return i will be welcomed back.  should i not, care for my person overshadow the real and felt needs that remain.

this is a gift.

i’ve traversed the wilderness before-but before i’d trek in and back out again, in and back out, in and back out.  keeping up with obligations that i lacked courage to shed along with real and necessary responsibilities (motherhood sleeps for no man.) this time the invitation has been different.  the hunger and longing unable to be satisfied by short trips.  i too have an inkling of where to go to find what i’m looking for, the question of willingness answered by my intentional withdrawal from people and places near and dear to my heart.

On top of this willingness to walk away from the peopled places of his life, places that had a bit of definition, Elijah had an even deeper willingness:  he was willing to walk into the emptiness of the wilderness in order to find what he was looking for.

-Ruth Haley Barton Invitation to Solitude and Silence

as i’ve traversed this mysterious place, respecting my desire enough to keep walking tho still not having found what i’m looking for, a few things have become clear:

the alter of ‘definition’ is a strong temptation.  living in the unexplainable, undefinable mystery is uncomfortable.

stating clearly expectations for myself during this time has been life giving.  my daily docket has 4 items; walk or run, silence, create needed atmosphere in kitchen/living room, be available for my teen girl.  it’s not that this is all that happens, it’s that this is where my primary focus is, the bare necessities if you will,  giving me a filter for my inner dialog and external opportunities.

there is power in patience and courage in support.

-being misunderstood remains a constant companion.  recognizing where this is a result of my lack and where this is due to another’s issues makes all the difference.  God is dealing with me, He can deal with them in His way and His time.

-the process of deep soul work releases art.  In this wilderness, while withdrawn from previous work-some projects have begun to take shape.  i’ve given them respect and weight, allowing them to exist without clear definitions.  Nothing tangible may come, but my soul will be more alive and that alone is worth it.

help comes just when i need it by the God in heaven who keeps track of the stars.  a chance glance at the library leads to a timely book.  a small conversation outside the grocery store, an online course or blog post. the bird call that draws me outside for a needed walk. He knows my frame, and tho i daily flounder, He has not left me alone to find my way.

Elijah walked through the emptiness of the desert for forty days and forty nights until he settled into a cave on the side of Mt. Horeb, and there he waited for a visitation from God.  He probably had no idea when, if or how anything even remotely meaningful would happen, but he was willing to stay in the wilderness until it did.

-Ruth Haley Barton Invitation to Solitude and Silence

when i entered that building for the first time this year, i was afraid.  i hesitated for a long time when the short request came to fill in for a friend.  i was afraid that i would self-sabotage my willingness to stay in the wilderness.  but i didn’t.  i received the warm welcome and responded in kind.  i completed the task-and then i left-not seeking to explain my absence or guiltily volunteering to give more.   this was an “now I know that you fear God….” moment.  revealing the growth that has been happening underground.

for i still haven’t found what i’m looking for.

and i this time it appears i actually am willing to wait here as a true friend to my soul until i do.

Your true friends will be willing to sit with you in silence not for a week, but for as long as it takes.  Your real friends will encourage you to keep talking, crying out to, arguing with God.  And when you would be tempted to despair and quit the dance floor, saying that you simply lack the strength or the faith to go on, it is only your real friends who will have the love to leave you all alone with the One who desires, above all, to finish the dance with you.

-Michael Card  A Sacred Sorrow


to draw further in:  Genesis 22-especially vs. 12; 1 Kings 19:1-19; David Crowder’s Let me Feel you Shine; U2’s Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For; Need to Breathe’s Through Smoke

learning to rest while choosing to stay

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He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  -Jim Elliot

the details are long, but the short of it is that we could leave now.   the market has shifted in town and this little run down house could be sold for 4 times what we still owe.  elementary school has ended for us and the middle school years are just plain hard.  especially here.  we could retreat.  sell this house, and re-locate.

it is true that i need rest.  i have responded to the Lord’s invitation into hiddenness with a wholehearted; “i am willing, show me the way.” the danger has been in the timing of the real opportunity to leave it all behind.  it would seem logical that if the Lord is inviting me to ‘a solitary place’ that leaving the noise of the city for the quiet of the mountains would be precisely the solution.

except that it’s not…..not exactly.

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we didn’t move here to start a ministry.  we didn’t even move here to love our neighbors.  we moved here in the midst of a real trauma, doing the best we could with what we had.  it was the God of the Samaritan who had a ministry in mind for us, a church, a school, and neighbors to love.   the only thing that has shifted now is the financial freedom to choose a different location.  couldn’t we relocate and love those we’re called to love from afar?  put a little distance between us and the constant visible needs of those around us?

the reality is, the reason i have a bus schedule on my fridge to share with the friend sleeping on my couch is because we are familiar with utilizing the city bus.  i cannot love well from afar.

it is costly, this way of the Samaritan, this daily dying to self, this obedience.  He’s not asking me to stop obeying in order to rest, but into a deeper obedience.

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“A decision to release the world and our fate to God runs contrary to everything within and around us.  We have been had by a system of behavior that was here before we were and seeps into every pore of our being. “Sin,” Paul tells us, “was in the world,” even before the law came.  it forms us internally and pressures us externally.  Hence we must learn to choose things that meet with God’s actions of grace to break us out of the system.  These things are the disciplines of life in the Spirit, well known from Christian history but much avoided and misunderstood.  For those who do not understand our desperate situation, these disciplines look strange or even harmful.  But they are absolutely necessary for those who would find rest for their soul in God and not live the distracted existence….solitude and silence are the most radical of the spiritual disciplines…”  -Dallas Willard in his forward to Ruth Haley Barton’s Invitation to Solitude and Silence.

what i’m being asked to do is walk the path of entering His rest, of withdrawing by myself to a solitary place, setting aside the needs of those around me for communion with Him….while at the same time moving out with compassion for those who come my way.  it’s complicated, it’s messy, it takes discernment to know when to set aside my plan for the day for the need of another and when to shut my door and turn off my phone.  it means knowing full well that i am in a season of stepping back from actively serving in order to tend to my soul, yet making a bed up on my couch to ‘provide the poor wanderer with shelter.’

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it’s trusting Him to provide what i most need.

He knows the way that i take.  He’s walked this same road of compassion and self-care.  He shows me the way. He says there is more for me here in this little house, that it is not finished.  i believe it’s more of Him.  more of learning the disciplines of life in the Spirit through staying the course, persevering, lifting my eyes up to the hills and remembering where my help comes from.  there will be days of retreating up to the mountains for a time but more often there will be days of taking a walk by myself through my neighborhood to pray.  i have much to learn and a patient Teacher.

 i’ve counted up the cost, oh i’ve counted up the cost…
            and You. are. worth it.
-Rend Collective

to draw further in:  Matthew 14; Isaiah 58; Hebrews 4

underground

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As you wait upon the Lord, you learn to see things from His perspective, move at His pace, and function under His directives.  Waiting times are growing times and learning times.  As you quiet your heart, you enter His peace: as you sense your weakness, you receive His strength: as you lay down your will, you hear His calling. When you mount up, you are being lifted by the wind of His Spirit…When you move ahead, you are sensitive to His timing, When you act, you give yourself only to the things He has asked you to do.

–Roy Lessin

i entered summer bone tired and weary from a long season of care-giving and loving of others.  the One who knows my frame made it clear to me i was to step away from certain ministries i’d been a part of for a very long time. since obedience is better than sacrifice, i obeyed.  it really wasn’t that difficult at the time, there was the natural end of the school year which always put these things on pause coupled with having my children home for the summer and all of the hidden work that comes from where we live and move and have our being.  a couple of weeks before my youngest’s last day of school i penned these words in my journal:

i’ve heard it said that as swimming is to fish so is loving to a Christian.  does a fish ever get fatigued from swimming?

my heart is struggling with fatigue, yes, but something else has taken root, something subtle, yet it feels a bit ominous.

maybe its time to go underground for a while.  to hide away with my savior and work through what it is that is threatening my heart:  a growing resentment for those who sleep ignorantly peaceful in their beds while the whole world is hurting.  a resentment for not having control over being inconvenienced when it comes to strangers….or a call to love. an anger at being so alone in our way of living.

i’m finding it hard to be in the presence of others.  i am aware of my inner pulling away….
                something is wrong here.

i walked through summer with this sleeping dragon in my heart.  my Wonder of a Counselor and i have been getting to the root of things and it has felt messy.  and very difficult to explain.  the light and warmth and fun and slowness of summer has been a nice companion, but community remains challenging.  there have been conversations that have set my heart to churning and made plain the reality of my aloneness.

i’ve longed to write here as i live and process through this season.  but have felt a quiet nudge to allow these stories i am living and struggles i am feeling to remain hidden….for a time.

and so i wait.

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the voices of our day call out; “show yourself, show yourself, make your story known!”  they are loud voices, constant voices, overpowering voices.  so to find myself in this underground and hidden place, well i have felt this need to rush.  to hurry up and learn what i need to learn; grow and process through, and then get back to work.  for goodness sake, the time is short and there is no place for waiting or hiding, the investing of time in the inner man needs to be minimal, and the work that flows out of that needs to be made known.

but there are other voices.  they rise above the noise.  it is important that they do.  because without the courage to speak of another world, another type of King, another Life, those of us traveling the narrow road lose our footing wondering if maybe we have made a mistake.  i have numerous drafts written regarding this season of hiddenness, unpublished because i’ve been unsure. could i really declare this as holy work?

and then one ordinary day i am given the gift of these words:

One of the reasons that hiddenness is such an important aspect of the spiritual life is that it keeps us focused on God. In hiddenness we do not receive human acclamation, admiration, support, or encouragement. In hiddenness we have to go to God with our sorrows and joys and trust that God will give us what we most need.

In our society we are inclined to avoid hiddenness. We want to be seen and acknowledged. We want to be useful to others and influence the course of events. But as we become visible and popular, we quickly grow dependent on people and their responses and easily lose touch with God, the true source of our being. Hiddenness is the place of purification. In hiddenness we find our true selves.

Henri Nouwen via Shawn Smucker on the Importance of Hiddenness

waiting and hiddenness-i do declare it to be a wild and holy work.  i am learning to see things from His perspective, more than ever going to Him with my sorrows and joys and learning to trust that He will give me what i most need.  as i choose not to rush through this season, accepting what comes as direct from His hand, blurred lines are coming clearly into focus that it is He, the God of Israel, who calls me by my name.


to draw further in: proverbs 1:20. Isaiah 45:3; the hymn Be Still My Soul

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

 

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