Chasing Joy

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

Category: wholeness (page 2 of 3)

life | when you’ve really screwed up

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he took something that didn’t belong to him.  when caught he lied.  when sent to the principle’s office he got scared and confused and went back to class instead.  i discover this last bit on the way home and turn the car around and walk beside him as he reluctantly faces things.

this 12 year old is having a very bad day.

this mother of a 12 year old is having a very bad day too.

the problem is that the thing he took is lost.  somewhere in his room.  so he’s tasked with cleaning, looking as he goes.  after dinner i decide to join the hunt, only to discover how my boys have been cleaning their room.  you know, grab a handful of stuff and shove it under or behind or i know, these dirty socks and odds and ends will disappear nicely into this empty Lego box.

now there are 2 boys having a very bad day and one mom who needs a time out.

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while the boys clean their room like they’ve never cleaned before, i pray the prayer that never fails.

Jesus, i need help.

He leads me beside still waters and i sit with His words and let them soak and settle in.

gathering the boys to my side we kneel to pray- the thing we should’ve done in the first place-regarding the lost toy.

the first offender begins, and i hear the words he’s been telling himself all day.

he wants to be a better person.  he wants to be responsible.  he wants to think before he acts.  he wants to want to return to school instead of dread it.

underneath those words i hear the self-loathing that i know full well.

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i move toward him, i cup his head in my hands and look straight into his red puffy eyes. he tries to look away.

“son, look at me.”

our eyes lock

“you are my son and I love you.  this does not change that.”

he melts into a puddle of sobs

i rub his back and speak the words that give life.

words of Jesus seeing over the span of time to that day last week when this all began.

words of His deep love.

words of the cross.

words of a standing that is secure.

“you are His son and He loves you.  this does not change that.”

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 yes, the wages of sin is death.  oh don’t we all know it?  haven’t we all felt it?  especially when we’ve screwed up?  screw-ups of the 12 year old sort and screw-ups of the beenwalkingwithJesusalongtimeandknowbetter sort.  the weight of the death feels heavy on the chest.

and we want to be better, more responsible, think before we act.

and it’s easy to slip from real sorrow and repentance down down down into the self-loathing.

that’s a sorrow that leads to more death.

there is another way.  a locking of red-puffy eyes with the eyes of a Father who knows it all.

and breathing in His words….

you are my child and I love you.  this failure cannot change that.

….His words that bring the dead to life.

a series exploring the concept of life- what it is and what it means to have it.

a series exploring the concept of life- what it is and what it means to have it.


to draw further in, Isaiah 53, Psalm 32, Romans 6-8

 

 

life

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the moon, venus (my guess) and man’s light seen from my front porch

The Lord said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering  They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them.

They took the very gift God gave to them and used it to reject Him

In Moses’s song he describes it this way:

  The Lord….He found, He shielded, He guarded, He hovered as an eagle, He carried, He led, He fed, He nourished.
Israel’s response to the God who made him, the Rock his Savior….. he grew fat, he abandoned, he rejected , he deserted, he forgot.

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daily sights-this one, my favorite barn on the way home from dropping hannah off at school.

for the past 9 months i’ve journeyed along with these people.  beginning with the Mighty One’s rescue from slavery in Egypt, His salvation through the red sea, His care in the desert, all to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey-to give them life.  and yet, the very gift of life becomes the means by which they reject.

He knew this beforehand.  and He gave them life anyway.

selah….sigh…

i know this is my story too.  this is my story too.

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this one taken by my daughter hannah

Before the Lord God made man upon the earth, He first prepared for him a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. In the Genesis account of the creation these are simply “things”. They were made for man’s use, but they were meant always to be external to the man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him.

But sin has introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul. Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and things were allowed to enter. Within the human heart things have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk, stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne.

…..The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development, never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.

-A. W. Tozer from The Pursuit of God

church next to the bus stop, across from the downtown Safeway where the homeless and addicted congregate. 3 blocks from home.

The Ever Near One sustained me with personal and specific truth during all those sick days, those 54 perpetual sick days. now that He has released me from my sickbed, he’s weaving together in my heart some new things.  Jesus said; “I came that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  won’t you come along and explore this topic with me?

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to draw further in, Deuteronomy 31 and 32

a death by which glory comes

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Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.  Then he said to him, “Follow me!”


as the kids are getting older the parenting is getting more complicated.  or maybe it’s just me and the way i strive and think and wonder and fear…

in any case my need for the God who is so very Wise continues to grow, it seems so opposite of what i would think.  most jobs, the longer you do them, the less help you need as you become efficient and capable.  that’s how it was for every job i had before this one.

we’ve got one teen and 2 more following close behind.  and i would be lying if i said it wasn’t hard. and i would be lying if i said i’d become efficient or capable.

i’ve always known that the best gift i can offer my kids is my own mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.  the more healthy i am the more free i am to love them well, and in a healthy life giving way.

but what i didn’t know was that loving in a healthy life giving way would feel like the very death of me.

This is not a time in which motherhood is reveared or respected.  It is not a time of recieving gratitude from the child.  Nor should it be….

-The Mom Factor by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, on adolescence-emphasis mine

i bow to the idol of knowing, i question and question; “am i being unreasonable? ….too lenient?  am i not taking their sin seriously enough?…to much?”  on and on it goes.  there is One who knows the answer to all my questions, and i must listen to Him…..and that requires the deeper trust i’ve needed all along.

It is a difficult process. And it is even more difficult because mother bears this process within herself.  She is the laboratory for the child to become an adult, and it takes its toll on her.  The good mother gets her needs for love, affection, and respect met by God and the safe people in her life.  Only in this way can she altruistically and sacrificially do the best thing for the child, who desperately needs safe passage toward adulthood.

-Cloud/Townsend

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Jesus said that for Peter, there was a specific death that would glorify God.

so too with me.  being a conduit of safe passage towards adulthood-that is a kind of death. and it’s the death assigned to me as their mother.  a daily cross to take up with a command to follow the One who knows the hairs on their heads and loves all of us perfectly.

it is a death that promises life-life in me and life offered to them.  it is a death whose only outcome can be God’s glory.  my strength indeed is small, but my God is big and i love them and they are worth it.

I’ll chase You through the pain
I’ll carry my cross
’cause real love
Is not afraid to bleed

Jesus
Take my all
Take my everything

I’ve counted up the cost
And You’re worth everything

-Rend Collective The Cost

To draw further in: John 21:18-22; 1 Corinthians 13; Philippians 1:1-6; Ephesians 4:17-32; the stanzas in the hymn Jesus Paid it All

Good Will Hunting and the story i want to live

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some time ago i watched a romantic comedy i’d seen years ago that i thought i liked.  this time though, i didn’t-not in the least. the language was clean-i don’t recall a single swear word or vulgur comment, but there was something about the story that left me more than dissapointed.  this keeps happening to me with romantic comedies – i don’t know, i guess after all these years of marriage, after walking along side so many whose marriages struggle deeply, i’ve begun to see the stories in a different light.

and the stories matter to me.

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more recently i watched the movie Good Will Hunting.  oof… the language is foul and vulgur.  the story, however, is…..beautiful.  it’s really beautiful.

if you’ve not seen it, or it’s been a while; there is this boy, this very smart boy from the wrong side of town.  this boy who is an orphan, who has his loyal tribe of buddies, and has figured out how to manage his pain and his world to keep himself safe.

i mean, can’t we all relate to that?  surely i’m not the only one.

so this professor at a big important school sees the boy’s genius and wants to ‘help’ him clean up his act so that he can reach his full potential….potential as defined by said professor.  enter psychologist Sean Maguire played by Robin Williams. he wants something different…..

if you can handle a bit of profanity, see for yourself.

 

Sean Maguire;  he wasn’t after cleaning Will up so he could make something of himself….straightening him out so that he could be useful and productive for society…..teaching him how to play right and toe the line so that his intelligence wouldn’t be wasted.

no, Sean saw a boy who was a mystery, a broken, hurting, arrogant mystery.  and he was willing to know more-even though it might open up wounds of his own.  he was willing to go to all the dark places to bring truth and healing and perspective.   but he won’t force Will to let himself be known.  i think that is beautiful.  he puts forth an invitation…and lets Will choose.

 

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i guess i could waist my time on movies with clean language but crappy stories like the romantic comedies of late,

just like i can waste my time on religion-and its clean language and recipes for clean living-lifeless and without risk.  predictable and controllable lacking mystery or story or life or breath or movement.

apparently i’d rather have the foul language and beautiful story.  not because the foul language is beautiful, it’s not.  it’s the authenticity that’s beautiful. it’s the heart of stone becoming a heart of flesh.  i’d rather breathe in the smell of the Sistine chapel than read about it in a book.  i’d rather look over at the man laying next to me and hunger to know more of him, than watch unrealistic and plasticy packaged love acted out on a screen.  i’d rather play in the ocean than stay on the shore.

“it’s coming to peace with the darkness in me that allows the true light inside to shine.” -kendall payne

 

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my taste for the stories i watch has shifted i think beause of the story i want to live.  like Sean Maguire; i want to risk being affected by the person next to me, willing to process through the painful places they may cause to rise up, and then willing to extend an invitation to know them in their own depths.  Like Will Hunting, i want to accept the invitation to be known, to have the wounds and welts cleansed and bandaged and soothed with oil- both by the One who knows everything and the Sean Maguires who come my way.

that seems more like a Love Story to me.
it’s more like the Love Story that i’ve been given…..the one that is currently being written by the Author and Perfecter of my Faith Himself,

who for the joy set before Him endured the cross scorning its shame.

 

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He’s invited me to let Him into the foulness of my soul-so that together we could uncover what was there, and like Will and Sean-we’ve laughed together, we’ve cried together, and He is teaching me what it means to live a good story.  to truly live a good story.

so let it go, we are still far from home
tho you try and try to escape
to live and to love will always be dangerous,
but it’s better than playing it safe.

Kendal Payne-from the song Ups and the Downs.

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*i just have to put in a disclaimer-it is a favorite movie of mine-but it is not one yet that my kids can watch.  i was 24 when i saw it the first time. this post isn’t really about what to watch or not watch, it’s about the story i want to live.  personal discretion is advised.


to draw further in:  Isaiah 1, 40, and 61; Hebrews 12

5 things i learned about myself in 2014

As the calendar takes a turn to the new year, it feels apropos to reflect back on all that this year held.  unless i make myself write it all down, anything i learned will float about in the air and i will forget and whatever it is will be lost in space.  when i force myself to do the work of organizing my thoughts and writing them down, i am more likely to remember.  and when i forget, i can look back and be reminded-and eventually new found freedoms stick!

Here are some things i learned about myself in 2014 along with a few of my favorite pictures from the year!

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 1. The idol of being understood is not worth its price.

it is a breath of fresh air to be understood and quite painful to be misunderstood.  this isn’t really news to me, but the awareness of how much energy i waste on anxiety, fear, and stewing over it along with other sins i commit because i’ve made being understood into a god was a new area of learning. i’ve decided it’s not worth it.

Harney Peak, S. Dakota

2. I can be the boss of our money.

i learned some new lessons on being the boss of our finances rather than the victim of them.  just like it is in the management of my time, saying no to some things means saying yes to others.  This year we more fully owned some of our choices to be frugal and thrifty in some aspects of our budget so that we could be extravagant in others.

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3. I have tendencies towards recipe living and series writing.

my eyes were opened to ways i’d reduced prayer to a recipe.  somewhere along the way i bought the lie that if i could just fine the right ingredients i could control the outcome.  once i saw this i began to see other ways i’ve applied the recipe principle in my living.  catching thoughts like; “i thought if i loved them well, my children would grow up secure.” when i hold that thought in my hands and turn it to see all of it’s sides, i get to the bottom of things and can speak to myself what is true; “loving them well is important, but they will still need God.”  Because raising children and living a life of faith and prayer, etc. etc. etc. is colorless when reduced to a recipe, i’m pulling away from that and entering instead into the Love Story life is meant to be.

i also began to notice how often i find myself un-intentionally writing a series-one that i did not plan.  the only time i plan a series is when i’ve taken on a 31 days writing challenge.  those challenges stretch me-not just because it’s writing everyday, but because it is writing within a planned series.

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4. I enjoy the company of other writers.

there are things about me that i never knew were a part of a writer’s make-up.  when i attended the Writer’s Barn Event there was a lot of; “What? you too?” moments.  There were so many parts of that Barn day that will forever enrich my soul and this was a big one of them.

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5. I don’t have to pick a word for the year for there to be one.

i didn’t pick a word for the year.  i’ve never picked a word for the year.  But the One who has engraved my name on the palms of His hands chose one for me, and i didn’t even know about it until just this week.  As i spent time looking back, there bookending my year was the word Wonder.  I began the year writing a series on Wonder.   And i ended the year doing the same.  i didn’t connect those dots.  The One who chose the dots for me did the connecting.  that sense of Wonder that i longed for is no longer lost.  at least not today.

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Goodbye 2014, you’ve been a Wonder-ful year!


 i am thankful for the community link-up;  What We Learned in 2014 over at Emily Freeman’s place, it’s just the thing i needed to follow through and do the work of remembering!

for understanding | pursuit

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Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
    and for their children it will be a refuge.

 the door slams and i start washing the dishes. the tension is thick and i think to myself, no one is feeling very safe or very loved right now.  how can a fortress provide refuge if the battle is inside its walls?

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 i stew in all the ways that i am right and have been offended.  as is often the case with these dishes of mine, the Spirit begins to stir within and i’m told to pursue.  to seek out.  to walk the path to where she is hiding out.  and i’m reminded of all that i do not know and all that i long for our home to provide to it’s inhabitants and all the ways it doesn’t.

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and so i walk the path and do not expect the tears i find.  we walk the path back together with dad (who is so logical and steady) and talk it all through and at the end we have come to understand each other (related to this particular issue anyway) and it makes all the difference.

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i too am hiding away in my pain and grief related to this season and all the ways we’ve failed eachother.  and He pursues.  He walks the path towards me and together, my Steady One and i talk it all through…..

i’ve attempted all the things, but all the things appear to be no match for the wounds from without or the wounds from my own sins.  my misjudgments (read misunderstandings), my leanancy when strictness was called for and my strictness when tender mercy was called for.

You have said i’ve been redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to me from my forefathers.  -1peter 1:18

and i resolved not to hand down an empty way of life to my kids.  but deep within i fear that is the very thing i’ve handed down.  which leads me to wonder;

what is it that makes a life empty?
what is it that makes a life full?

it is not perishable things that redeem, it is only the blood of Jesus and i too am helpless in the handing of  that down…..except for a demonstration of my own neediness for it, of our neediness for it.

this is what these teen years have been revealing to me-the wounds have not been covered by all the things, even the good and obedient things.  they can only be covered by Christ’s blood. 

oh Father, that she would…..that we all would …feel safe and feel loved…

in You.

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……and i begin to understand the One who Pursues. …and this One who Pursues provides understanding.

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days later we’re all crammed together working at this workhorse of a kitchen table.  with papers strewn between us, this Pursuing One breathes hope and i am overcome with perplexity and gratitude.  in this moment, amidst this mundane, she grasps my true heart towards her and speaks it forth.  in her words, i grasp her true heart towards mine and my heart swells with the joy found amidst papers and assignments and drudgery.

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oh my Lord-

i have beheld Your Glory.

for understanding | charactor

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Sifting through the pains of my recent influx of misunderstandings, i am becoming aware of the sting related to having my words misinterpreted from a deficient knowledge of my character.
and then there is the deeper pain of having my character misinterpreted because of misunderstanding my words or my actions, my absence of words or my absence of actions.

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i’ve found myself in some difficult passages of scripture lately and this is how things went the other day;

me: ranting and raving about how what i’m reading seems so cruel.

Christ-do you see how you are misunderstanding Me?

me: oof….sigh

here i am allowing my confusion to lead me into questioning the Faithful One’s character.  and so it goes with everyone else.  i do this to others and they do it to me and it hurts.

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some source this quote to Plato, others to Ian MacLaren (http://quoteinvestigator.com)

the Word made flesh has invited me to view His word through what I know of His Character rather than view His character through what i’m struggling with in His word.

and he’s offering me salve for the wounds i’m carrying; that pain when people think bad things about me because I’ve made their favor my goal.

Come now, My love. My lovely one, come.
Come to Me, My weary, My burdened one, come.

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your soul.

to draw further in: Isaiah 43; Matthew 11:28-30; Song of Songs 2:10-14(NJB)

for understanding | composition

Her eyes give away the anxiousness mixed with anticipation.  in her thoughts she reminds herself that her God is both good and sovereign and can be trusted with what He gives and where He leads.

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Photo taken at a Quilt Show in 2011. I do not know the artist’s name.

composing  those words and this picture amidst a scene of other excited travelers embarking on a wonderful week-long artist retreat in Normandy France  would carry the statements about God into a specific place in a receiver’s heart.

composing those words and this picture amidst a scene of bomb-destroyed rubble and other weary and frightened travelers embarking on a long journey to a refugee camp would carry the statements about God into a very different place in the receiver’s heart.

same words, same picture.  different understanding.

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the places that the Lord is inviting me- you know, those places of feeling inept, the pain of being misunderstood, of struggling with communication.  i have become aware of a myriad of ways this is playing out in my life these days.  Providentially showing up it seems everywhere i turn.  and so my Father has my attention and i am seeing various places for tearing down idols and building up strength in Him.  so here i am with another unplanned series.

today is a lesson in composition.

i have mastered enough of the English language to effectively use words to communicate.

however, that composition thing-the way words filter in through the composition of a person’s life and land where they will within that– Jesus alone is master of the skill of weaving words perfectly and personally, getting to the individual heart of things.   He is also the master of the skill of giving enough detail in such a way to gain understanding.   me-i am inept at all of that.  and so if anything i say is to be understood the way it is meant to be understood-He will have to intervene.  and if anything i say is to be understood the way HE means it to be, He will have to intervene there too.

…”for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

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and so the Master Communicator invites me to pray over my words….

….and then release them into His capable hands.

growing quiet

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i sit amongst a group of folks and attempt to share a glimpse of hope from my tender Father.  the response is clear-they don’t get it. in fact what they hear is completely opposite of what i am actually saying.    it’s important to me, so i try again.  i give it a third go.   driving home, sifting down the frustration  and i can name it-misunderstood.

i resolve that i must be inept and unable to communicate.  and so i grow quiet. everywhere.

later, i’m back amongst these folks and 4 people, yep 4, share the very glimpse of hope i was attempting before and everyone, yep everyone gets it.  i resist the temptation to declare (read shout) “That’s exactly what i was saying!”  but i don’t.  instead i write in my journal-what am i going to choose to do with this?  What are You inviting me into here?

i am very well aware of the churning and battle going on that is specific to me and there is no coincidence here-this pain of misunderstanding, this awareness of my lack in communication-it is purposeful and i know the Lover of my Soul is inviting me into something other, something new.

so i do what makes the most sense for thinking deeply and processing through what is going on in my heart…..

i clean odd and random places; the drawer under the stove, the top of the fridge

i dash outside facing off that wind blowing the fall out and winter in and rescue a few branches with leaves on them…you know to decorate with.

i sit down and read one of the Anne of Green Gables books.

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Gilbert had finally made up his mind that he was going to be a doctor.

“It’s a splendid profession,” he said enthusiastically.  “A fellow has to fight something all through life…..and I want to fight disease and pain and ignorance…..I want to do my share of honest, real work in the world, Anne….add a little to the sum of human knowledge that all the good men have been accumulating since it began.  The folks who lived before me have done so much for me that I want to show my gratitude by doing something for the folks who will live after me.  It seems to me that is the only way a fellow can get square with his obligations to the race.”

“I’d like to add some beauty to life,” said Anne dreamily…..

-Anne of Avonlea p.53

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me too, Anne, me too.

 

 

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

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