Thursday, January 27, 2011

Being Friends with C.

She drew her knees to her chin and tilted her face in that way she had of inviting you in. Her eyes smiled gently as she relaxed into the telling of my story. And when I had spoken it all, she listened even longer. This is how things always begin with her.

Her turn to share was on her and she knew it, but seemed somehow reluctant. As she began to tell about the thing that had developed, the news she'd had to bear, she became vulnerable and delicate to me. Her strength was obvious. Her trust could not be overlooked. Her faith was immovable. She began the journey of this diagnosis, this label, this new life, with all of the hallmarks the woman of faith I know her to be. But in this moment, I only felt her delicate vulnerability.

My friend C, is one of the strongest people I know, but the strength she possesses is unlike the kind I have definitions for. She's the kind of listener most people never have the advantage of experiencing. She's the kind of loyal you wouldn't understand unless you knew her. She's the kind of love you didn't really believe existed outside of fiction. She's like that.

What's going on in her life is, to once again steal my friend Carolyn's phraseology, is "blowing all of my categories". See, for most of us, maybe all of us, the kind of news she and her husband received would be devastating. It would be the kind of news we couldn't imagine ever adjusting to or finding a way to deal with. But for them, for her, the word that first came to my mind as she shared it was, beautiful. We're talking about a diagnosis that is at once painful, debilitating, limiting....and yet beautiful. SO BEAUTIFUL!

You don't get to know many people like this C. in a lifetime. People who don't just fight to see beauty but naturally seem to have a sort of tunnel vision for it. It's like somehow the other, the darkness of a situation, isn't even on their radar. But don't misunderstand me. It's easy to think of people like this as somehow less smart, less savvy, less .... just, less. But I know C. I know how painfully aware she is of the darkness. And while she doesn't necessarily have to work to push it out, she isn't too stupid to see it either. It's a gift she has and one her husband shares. To be near them is to be near, not just Christ, but somehow, heaven. Sometimes the promises of heaven are a juxtapose for us. They are just too good to be believed. I wish you all could know her. Because to experience her is to begin to understand the juxtapose, the paradox. And you would know it's truth, too good as it may seem, because of the way it's standing there, in the concrete, right in front of you.

Thanks C, for being heaven on earth for your little N. and for the rest of us too!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

And Then There Were Two

I've been working my way through Genesis. It always seems like a good book to read in January... when everything is new and starting over for the year. As I walked through the fall of man and the great flood, I was reminded of how just the God we serve really is. Having this sense of justice forefront in my mind I came to the story of Jacob and Esau and the stolen blessing.

"And His Father Isaac said, "And who are you?
"I am your firstborn, Esau."
Isaac started to tremble, shaking violently. He said "Then who hunted game and brought it to me? I finished the meal just now - before you walked in and blessed him. He's blessed for good."
Esau, hearing his words sobbed violently and most bitterly and cried to his father, "My father, can't you also bless me?"
"Your brother came here, " he said, "and he falsely took your blessing."
"Haven't you kept back any blessing for me?"
"I've made him your master and all his brothers his servants. I've lavished grain and wine on him. I've given it all away. What is there left for you?"
From Gen. 27

Genesis 28 goes on to describe how God makes Himself known to the heart of Jacob in a real and meaningful way. Jacob begins a journey of response and we know he goes on to grow in faith and love for his God.

I just don't get that.

Here's what C.S. Lewis had to say on this passage.

" What can you really know about other people's souls - of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands. If there is a God, you are, in a sense, alone with Him. You cannot put Him off with speculations about your next door neighbors or memories of what you have read in books. What will all that chatter and hearsay count (if you can even remember it) when the anaesthetic fog which we call "nature' or "the real world" fades away and the Presence in which you have always stood becomes palpable, immediate, and unavoidable."
From Mere Christianity

I guess I'm not the only one who struggled for a bit with the fact that Jacob's deception turned into blessing for him. I mean, here we are hip deep in the justice of God, post fall, post flood and it comes to this; a moment when mother and son team up to deceive, and the God we've come to know as wholly and totally just blesses it?

Leave it to good old "Jack" to wrestle it down and pin truth on it. Mr. Lewis tells me, I can't really know Jacob's soul or struggles. I can only know my own and be responsible for them. In the end, my not "getting" someone else's stuff, or the fairness of a certain situation, or why something was allowed or not allowed to happen in someone else's life won't distract God from the conversation He wants to ... needs to have.... with me.

So, if it's not distracting God, what is the point of letting it distract me? I mean, He goes through alot of work to get me here in this place alone with Him. He really doesn't want to spend it talking about everybody else. Hmmm....that might be nice I guess. :)


On a very seperate and annoying note....does anyone know how I can remove that weird photobucket icon patch that keeps floating around on my blog?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Real Me

Some days I'm stuck just being the real me. Most days I'm not. Most days I have an ideal of who I'd like to be and I can at least muster up an attempt at being "that guy". What's interesting to me is that who I want to be changes from day to day. Some days I want to be a sweet and gentle and my demeanor shows it. Other days I tend toward smart and witty. There are days I wake up trying to be goal oriented. Those days I am focused and I work to achieve. Sometimes I am the encouraging happy face on every one's day. But there are days, days like yesterday, when I don't seem to have it in me to try to be anything or anyone other than just me.

I'm the type who likes variety. If you know me well, you know that I change my furniture layout at least once a month (usually when I'm vacuuming under things anyway). My clothing choices never seem to fit into any certain style category. I'm eclectic with what I wear. I work part time at a job where everyday there are differing responsibilities and tasks, most of which tend toward the creative. I love people. I love all kinds of people, even the people who drive most other people crazy, just because I think it's fun to be around someone new and different. If you were to try to get a glimpse of who I am by my DVR schedule you might think you'd happened upon a schizophrenic. The flip side to all this is that I very quickly grow tired of things.

One of the things I grow tired of fastest is me.

Okay, don't freak out and start posting about how wonderful I am and telling me how much I have to live for. I have never been, and I have a feeling I never will be, one to struggle with the darker, lonelier mentalities. I am not depressed and I don't have tendencies toward it. And to be honest I'm not really even being that hard on myself. I'm just saying that I very quickly grow tired of the same old thoughts that knock around in this same old head on any given day. I guess that's why I choose to try to reflect the ideals of who I would like to be so often rather than settling for boring old me.

Yesterday, the day I didn't have it in me to be anyone but me, people kept asking if I was okay. At first I would try to come up with something. I thought about why I might seem "off" and came up with several options. "I just started my cycle." " It's the second snow day in a row." "My coworker is driving me crazy." All of these were true, but I also quickly realized that the biggest issue was that I was just being myself, so when the next person asked me if I was okay I asked a question in return. "Sure. I'm fine. Can I ask though, do I seem unhappy, or upset, or crabby somehow?" She replied kindly, "No. You're just.... different. You're..... quieter I guess."

It was shocking to me. If you know me in real life you know that quiet is not how most people would EVER describe me. I'd like to think of it as "effervescent" or "lively". But the truth is most days I border on too much. This day though, I was basically being told that to be myself was to be quiet. Now, sometimes I am quieter on the days I'm feeling crabby; mostly because I don't want to rip any one's head off, but I wonder if being quieter isn't also just more the real me than anything else.

I think to some extent or another we all have an ideal version of ourselves that we at least attempt to bring to fruition from time to time. I think that's okay as along as we're drawing from an authentic place. I mean, to some degree we all have the basis for lots of moods and demeanors inside of us. Developing those traits we like best about ourselves is not, in and and of itself, a bad thing. But if we get to the point where we don't even recognize our truest selves, perhaps we've gone too far.

I'm not sure how much of who I am from day to day is real and how much is just me trying to be the best I can be. And at some point perhaps the struggle of that is the most real version of myself.

For that matter I'm not sure how much of the quiet me I can really handle either. But it might be interesting to find out.

When it comes right down to it though, I have a sense of peace about all of this. Because in the end I'm really just a reflection. On bad days, good days, loud days or even quiet days, I'm a reflection of glory. I don't have to do it perfectly or "be" anything because He'll use it all. Yes, He's that powerful.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Time Traveling

"It's time for letting go ... of all of our if only's cause we don't have a time machine. And if we did. We would really want to use it? We would really want to go change everything? Cause we are who and where and what we are right now. And this is the only moment we can do anything about breathe it in and breathe it out... listen to your heartbeat...there's a wonder in the here and now. It's right there in front of you and I don't want you to miss the Miracle of the Moment."

I woke up today with this Steven Curtis Chapman song playing in my head. I don't remember hearing it recently so I guess I have to assume that it wasn't just something stuck in my brain. It was something God wanted me to hear today.

I don't know if I'm unique in this, or if it's something all of us do but, when an ugly situation rears it's head I tend to look for all the things I may have done wrong or even just differently than I could have. I quickly set in with the "if onlys" and find myself time traveling for better results. It doesn't work like that though. We don't get do overs in the real world.

I've been trying to get over that lately. I've been trying to stop time traveling. Mostly because I know it won't produce any of the results I'm looking for. It only ends in blame, which really doesn't help matters at all anyway. So I've been working to not allow satan to accuse or condemn. But until this morning, with Steven's words floating around in my mind I didn't really get why. I didn't get that there was more.

God doesn't want us time traveling not just because He's already forgiven and forgotten but also and more importantly because He's busy with a miracle this moment that He doesn't want us to miss! That's so amazing to me! See in my life right now and in yours He is doing something incredible. He's ALWAYS doing something incredible and so no, He doesn't want us going back and trying to change things because then He won't be "right here in front of us"....." in the wonder of the here and now"..." working it all for our good."

To God, as the song goes on to say, even the future is history. So it's really important that we stay in the moment if we want to get in on all of His glory. If we want to experience the miracle.

I have five teenagers and one precious little boy waiting in heaven. If you're a parent you understand when I say that I have ALOT of opportunities for time traveling if onlys. But giving the devil that kind of power in my life will completely rob me of my chance to see what God is doing right now.

You're right Steven, and thank you for not wanting me to miss this moment's miracle!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finding the Stillness

I've taken a bit of a hiatus from blog land. I needed it. I need it every once in a while. I get tired of hearing my own voice. The same thought patterns reaching the same cadences about the same things. I am the one person I really cannot escape, even when the last hours of night are growing thin and even the silence of sleep eludes me.

What I need is a vacation, but I want to take this vacation without myself.

Okay. Obviously that won't work.

This is how I found myself on a hiatus from blog land.

Have you ever tried to still your own mind, or at least ignore the parts of it that take voice? It isn't easy. The thing that works best for me is to fill it up with other things. My mind's voice is not easy to cover up, like maxing out your ipod at a rock concert, but realizing you can still feel the thump of the speakers in your belly. I read A LOT! I watch A LOT of my favorite DVR'd TV shows, and I do A LOT of listening without entering in to conversations.

Does it work? I don't know. I guess. A little.

Monday morning I had some things to think about. Some things that I knew would not be okay to tune out. I went to my favorite fair weather spot, those bright teal blue Adirondack chairs that sit just outside the doors of my dining room on the slab of broken cement. The spot of our "someday" deck. With the wind whipping my hair and the sun warming my face I was still. I just sat. I sat and I prayed a little and just was... still.

It was interesting because I'd expected my usual barrage of thoughts and voices. The ones I'd grown tired of and had been working so hard to ignore. I was dreading their return and I had braced myself a bit in that anticipation. My ears heard only the rushing wind though, as my mind stayed still. I walked out onto the lawn and did the thing I love to do when arriving back from a long jog down our quiet country road. I sprawled out in the grass and opened my eyes beneath the towering canopy of trees, watching as airy clouds passed through the swaying leaves creating a moving landscape of incredible art. This had the effect it always had. I felt small. I felt the goodness of being small. Not inconsequential, just small.

With my mind still and my heart small I began to hear. It isn't really what He said that is important. It's that I could hear. And I could hear clearly, without all the other stuff, or my own voice trying to compete with His. I could hear and I could listen.

I needed a vacation from myself. I tried to accomplish something of the sort. But on Monday I realized that if I let down all my defenses and just sat still and small refreshment would come in a different form. Refreshment would come in the listening.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It might be Hope

Someone asked me the other day what exactly I mean when I talk about Hope. She asked me "What do you feel when you say that Hope is what matters most in your life? What does Hope mean?" I use the word a lot and I suppose I haven't always realized that Hope means many different things to people. I had a hard time that day describing Hope. Of course I was able to articulate that Hope is the certain knowledge of our eternity with Christ, where everything is beautiful and nothing painful can ever touch us again. But sometimes when you're in a bad way, that description is too far off for impact.

Spring fever.

Wiapedia describes it as an increase in energy and vitality.

I go through it every year. The clocks tick at double time for an hour in the middle of March and the combination of that time change along with the seasonal transition to warmer, longer days forces my body clock all out of rhythm. Usually a light and slight sleeper I become infatuated with sleep. It's all I want all the time. For a couple of weeks I dread the alarm and during usual waking hours find myself drawn to my couch and ottoman with unyielding desire. It's somewhat torturous for an active girl like myself who is accustomed to actually enjoying both early morning workouts and a late night movie. Often both in the same day. And it's not just the lack of energy I grieve. There comes with it a certain sadness. A sense of things just being not right somehow. I truly have come to "Beware the Ides of March" and to know that for me that sense of exhaustion and foreboding lasts for a least a few long weeks.

The last couple of days however I've noticed the effect has begun to lessen. I've been able to wake before the buzzing alarm begins it's annoying lament. I find myself opening windows and drinking in the fresh green scent that only spring can usher in. Today the lonely dirt road just past the intersection outside my house beckons and I can hardly wait to lace up my shoes. Spring Fever.

I know things are only going to get better from here. I can feel my energy level rising. The sunlight that floods through my kitchen and living room makes me want to do crazy things like, wash windows and clean cupboards. These things get done in anticipation of long summer days when there will be so many better things to do. Soon fishing with the kids and taking them to the beach will trump any domestic duties on the perfect sunny day. And even the normal, the mundane and everyday, will be accompanied by brighter happier moments. The drive to work becomes something better when the windows get rolled down and the radio turned up. The sometimes chore of making supper brightens when you can do it standing outside in the late day sun over a smoking grill. Evenings are spent in leisure on the deck of a good friend with a cool, frothy drink in hand. (Last year we discovered mojitos...perhaps something new for summer 2010?) I could go on and on.

Late last night I sat in a pool of bright moonlight in my favorite chair and reflected on the last few days. I thanked God for reminding me that my energy level will fully return and for how much I have to look forward to with this change of seasons. And suddenly I realized... this is Hope! Hope is this sense that even though right now I'm just so tired and I'm still trying to come out of that December snow there is something so bright just around the corner. In the midst of March I usually forget that it's there. I can actually convince myself that spring won't be coming this year. But then a stray breeze wanders across my face or a patch of early morning sunlight on my pillow changes everything and even if I can't feel it yet, I know what comes next. And that moment right there... that's what Hope feels like for me.

Hope looks different for different people though. And I know for many of you it isn't as sunny as all this. But you still know Hope. I'm interested to know.. how do you describe Hope?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Making History

I once had a pastor who was fond of saying "World History always serves Church History." As in; the history of the world is really story of God growing, teaching, stretching, strengthening and increasing His people.

Economically, politically and religiously our country is in a very unstable place. It's easy to panic. It's easy to live in fear. I find myself asking questions like, "How much will we have to suffer Lord?" And worse still, "How much will my kids have to suffer?"

I think about World History and what some have gone through in the name of Church History, and I don't rejoice. I cringe. I don't want to have to do that. I know that God is always and only good. But, if I'm being honest, I don't really want God's goodness to be hard to understand or see. I like the kind of goodness I understand.

But, there is something about that statement that calms my soul at the core level. There is stirring in it that speaks of a Something and someOne so much bigger than even our country's social, moral and economic decline. And in that, there is Hope. Yes, World History may be painful, even torturous at times but Church History makes all that pale in comparison. Church history points to a Hope that does not disappoint.

Like the baby that is born of a ghastly intense labor and delivery to a mother delirious with the joy of his birth, if we could ask the saints who've gone before us about their trials, I can only assume those trials would be nothing as we spoke, basking in the light of our Jesus.

Lord, make us faithful. Make us strong. Stretch us and multiply us and give us courage. Keep our eyes fixed on Hope and convict of It's assurance. Help us to see the bigger picture of Church History and want to be counted in that number."