04 June 2017

unflappable God

The faithfulness of God astounds and overwhelms me.  On the one hand, how can I be astonished?  It's GOD.  I AM.  On the other hand, may I never lose the wonder of this all-consuming God whom I follow.  He is breathtaking.

Doubt.  One of satan's handiest tools, he nurses the seeds with a religious fervor.  I need a story for my writing course, and I have no ideas.  I've always thought my best stories have the ring of God's voice, and so I decide to pray.  God, I need a story.  If you're calling me to this writing thing, it's up to you.  In the waiting, I speak my doubt to Brant:  "What if I'm not a writer?  Will you think it's been a waste for me to quit my job and pursue this if nothing pans out, if I never publish a thing?"

"No."  My husband says it unequivocally, with a small, unperturbed smile.  I supply my arguments:  I don't know if I'm a writer.  I don't know if I have anything to say.  I'm not sure people want to read anything from me.

"You sound like every other writer out there," he reminds me in his practical way, because I've told him about Francine Prose, Stephen King, Margaret Feinberg, Jonathan Merritt, and others whom I've read in recent months, and he knows even successful authors often hear the same song.

Yesterday I ran an errand to my current favourite CD, Elevation Worship's There is a Cloud.  As I drove and listened, I couldn't help but throw my hand out in worship (eyes open!), and I thought about the changes God has wrought in me, the freedom with which he's gifted me.  A crystal picture struck me, of a little girl with vines wrapped around her wrist and with the clarity of a "God-thought" I heard, "There it is, there's the story."  In tears and laughter, I marveled once again at his sweet habit of whispering my mustard seed into growth. So faithful!

Only hours later, I flounder again...how will I write this story, God?  I can't think of how to make it flow.  Was that really you?  Can I be sure you gave that to me?  Ah, my humanity...frustrating and humbling and necessary.  I pick up a book I've slowly been working through, I read about praying for and trusting God for the impossible, and in what can be no coincidence, a reference to Peter hopping out of the boat to walk on water to Jesus - that recurring theme he's been speaking to me.  I read about the waiting and hard work that can accompany a call from God.  I remember the journey I've been on and his unflappable faithfulness on the road.  With more tears, I acknowledge my utter dependence on his grace, surrender myself to his forgiveness, and settle in to wait and pray some more.

23 September 2016

pursuit in the wandering

I saw a quote by Lisa Bevere the other day:  "His pursuit is greater than your ability to wander."

For some reason it brought to mind Psalm 139: 5-6, "You hem me in, behind and before, you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain."  I chose these as my life verses when I was baptized at 18; little did I know!

To be hemmed in or enclosed (NASB) could lead to feelings of entrapment and claustrophobia.  But oddly, as I traveled the long valley toward healing, it fostered a feeling of shelter.  I remember feeling terribly afraid that I was beyond God's hand.  There was so much wrong with my grid:  I was terrified of God; I thought he was standing over me just waiting for mistakes; I pictured him as an angry and capricious deity; I was sure he planned harm for me; I didn't believe he cared about me as an individual; I didn't trust him; I didn't believe in his goodness; I feared being known by him.  But at the same time, I loved him so desperately; I longed for connection with him, and a deeper, richer, living relationship with him.  Somehow, those verses spoke of God's pursuit in my wandering - that he had set boundaries in place for me and that I wouldn't ever be able to go far enough to overstep them.  I discovered a curious feeling of safety, of having permission to step outside my rigid set of man-made, me-made rules and expectations for Christian living and see if I could truly taste and see Jesus.

In comparative terms, I didn't step out very far.  I didn't go off the rails in behaviour, didn't do anything wild or crazy.  Rather, I gave up pursuing the God I knew, abandoned my empty Christian living, and waited.  It wasn't a sedentary hold; I wrestled furiously with God in the tarrying.  I threw my rage at him in buckets, and accused him with my pain over and over again.  I stopped praying, singing, reading scripture.   I prepared to abandon Christianity completely.  For a terrified perfectionist, my valley was a dizzying, panic-inducing walk on the wild side!

But God pursued me faithfully, relentlessly.  He loves completely and is not willing for us to live in our brokenness, but longs for us to find healing and freedom in him.  He never left me in my wandering, and I suppose, in the end, his fiercely gentle pursuit of me is what drew me into the Real.

He loves me.  I'll never be the same.

09 September 2016

ripples

My dear friend,

I just need to tell you...I'm not sure I can find the words to describe the beauty of the thing that's happening.  It's just how God means his family to work, I think.  It's amazing, and I'm so, so thankful.

So many years ago, you saw the raging anger in me, saw how lost I was in it, and you spoke into that chaos.  You spoke of your own journey through anger.  You told me I was allowed to be angry at God.  You told me he was big enough to handle it and that he loved me and that he wasn't going to strike me down for just getting into it with him.

Then you hung on, walked beside me in the terrible, ugly, painful, long process, and you didn't give up.  You didn't judge me; you loved me in my ugly state.  You didn't preach to me that I would eventually need to repent of sin, but prayed and trusted God to bring me there; you just let me be where I was and stayed beside me.  In relational breakdown, you were quick to meet in reconciliation - not just in person, but in spirit...and you waited and prayed for what, a year? until I was finally able to come back to true relationship.  You have been a faithful prayer warrior, battling for me continually.

Lately, I find myself walking with friends who are where I was:  angry, hurting, shattered, broken-hearted, disillusioned with God...and I'm telling them things, like "God can handle your anger" and "God's grace for you is huge" and "he loves you, right here!"  Like me with you, they know enough of my journey that I am credible.  Like you with me, I try to listen, to love, and to send them back to Jesus.  Their journeys are different from mine, just as mine differed from yours.  But somehow, God so beautifully knitted yours and my way together through our individual experience with the same Lover of our souls, himself.  Now here he is, in the ripples, doing the same thing, with me on the other side this time.  I guess I don't have to explain, you'll be able to see the beauty in this.

I wanted to show you this ripple of you, and Christ in you.  You are dear to my heart.  I am so thankful for you.  I love you.

27 August 2016

a quilt

Years ago, as my son began to grow out of his soccer shirts, I started collecting them, with the grand idea of one day making him a t-shirt quilt when I was no longer a soccer momma.  The day came for his last game, and I decided to make the quilt for his high school graduation.

He graduated two years and 3 months ago....

My quilting and sewing friends would choke if they had seen my process.  First I hacked up the shirts; and when I say hacked, I'm being pretty literal.  There was no measuring, no templates, no planning...just the shirts, a pair of scissors, and me.  Then, overwhelmed and a little discouraged, I put them in a bag in a closet for awhile...a long while.  I had an idea of what I wanted but no real idea how to accomplish it, or even how to describe it to one of my quilting friends who could help me.

Sometime later, I pulled the bag out of the closet and managed, with the help of my mother (God bless her, she didn't laugh or look horrified at what I had done), to get the pieces looking presentable and ready for quilting, which I then did, a little at a time, on my sewing machine.  Quilting on a sewing machine is tedious and awkward and not recommended (I see you quilters and sewing geniuses nodding sagely and rolling your eyes).

So, today I finished this quilt.  It was probably a four year process, all told.  It comes complete with blood - those straight pins are really sharp! - sweat,  and maybe not tears, but I confess, a few swear words.  How did I keep going?  Well...the heads of the straight pins were so colourful and shiny!  Also, an occasional glass of wine....

Up close, it isn't pretty.  There are puckers in the fabric.  There isn't a straight seam to be found.  Multiple seams were ripped out and resewn - still crooked.  A work of fine art, this quilt is not.

But it is a work of another kind:  a work of memories, of closure, of learning, of perseverance.  It's a work of the heart, of concern, prayers, and a momma's affection for her boy.  It's a work full of a mother's pride, hope, wishes, and dreams for her son.  It's a work of abiding love.

I hope he likes it.

17 August 2016

goodbye to the girl

I said goodbye to the girl today.

I remember when the realization struck me that I was carrying, not just another baby, but a completely unique individual in my womb...I was awestruck.

As an infant...so serious; she was an observer, a thinker.

As a toddler...her huge brown eyes would well up with a mere look; even then her heart was soft, and a look was often all she needed to mend her ways.

As a preschooler and elementary student...she strove for peace with all her dear sweet heart, seeking to forge relationship and connection; bewildered if her efforts failed.

As an adolescent and teenager...always marching to her own drummer, she sought out the unpopular, refused to be bound by cliques; she reached across lines to offer friendship to everyone.

She is confident enough to sit by herself in a coffee shop...to wear all kinds of hats...to colour her hair outrageously (blue, red, purple)...to enter a group setting alone.  She carries such empathy, feels things deeply, and loves others well.  She gives of herself thoughtfully, freely, generously...ah, she's beautiful.

I said goodbye to the girl today...my sweet, courageous, fabulous girl. It's with our beloved Jesus that she goes, safest in his hand; and that is how I can let her go.

Oh my heart...be brave.

30 July 2016

goodbye to the boy

I said goodbye to the boy today.

I surprised myself with private tears...I'm surprising myself still.  I'm the mum who smiled and waved him into the building on the first day of school without so much as a mist.  I built into him a fierce independence - some by purpose, more by life circumstance - readying him for the leaving.

I thought I was ready.

When he was little, we held hands while we drove in the truck.  As an adolescent, he draped himself on my lap often, saying, "I love you, Mummy...." in his sudden, startling baritone.  As an early teen, he began to call me "Momma" instead of "Mummy", as he leaned across my shoulders from behind.

I was always told, "Oh, you'll miss this!"...but they were wrong.  I cherished each stage, but never missed it when it was over.  I loved him always, and embraced him with my arms and my heart, wherever he was.

Today, he put his dear arms around me, this man-child of mine, and pulled me into a hug - not the quick, pat on the shoulder, side hug, but the full-on, arms-wrapped, hold on for as long as you want kind.

Oh, and I wanted to hold on longer!  Maybe forever...but after a minute, I told him I loved him, and I let him go.

23 January 2016

community and value

If I was 'theme' kind of a person, I'd have to call 2015 "The Year of Community."  Having found myself almost completely isolated for a year and a half to two years prior, in January of 2015, my church began a sermon series on biblical community.  I was glad to see the series end, honestly, because even if I wanted to (and I didn't), I didn't know how to enter back into community, or where to put myself there. But I soon found out that even though the series ended, the siren call to community was just beginning.  Everywhere I looked:  books I picked up, articles I read, conversations I found myself in, Facebook posts, sermons...COMMUNITY was the word.

It has been, and continues to be a long process, this re-entry into community.  During my months of solitude, I came face to face with just how little I understand or believe in my worth as a person. People who have known me for a long time:  my husband, a few close friends, these I view as having known me in the "before", when I perceived myself as valuable because of the things I did, and so in my mind, they stick around out of loyalty or habit.  But this road has built a new fragility in me, and I am quite often unable to "do"...so where is my value now?  And so, I find myself terribly afraid when I think about pursuing relationships in this stage of my journey, with brokenness and little else to offer, and yet I am sure I am called by God to community.  Even if you don't believe you were created by God, designed for relationship with him and people, it's hard to deny the evidence that human beings are social creatures.  

So because I love God and want to follow him, I make tentative forays into the scary realm of biblical community.  I am seeking to understand what biblical community even looks like - the same for everyone?  unique to individuals?  all-inclusive?  large?  small?  responsibility?  fit?  requirements?  And it's awfully hard.  

It's one more process.  And in the pursuit, I find myself immersed in another process:  seeking to understand my TRUE value.  I realize that I have no living idea why people would choose relationship with me; I don't expect it, I am surprised every time I hear of someone wanting it.  I am devastated to find that I have hurt others, because in my inability to believe I would be worth relationship, I have held myself aloof and been unapproachable, leaving people wondering why I wouldn't want to be their friend.

Here is Truth, friends.  We are not valuable because of what we offer to the people in our lives, or because of what we do.  We are valuable because we are created and loved by God.  I speak this truth to myself as much as to anyone reading, because so far, I'm not very good at believing it!  If I could truly rest in the assurance that I have worth because God says I do, I suspect that everything would change.  I suspect that my doing and giving would be freer, more open, and filled with joy, less tainted by selfishness and insecurity.  And what is really exciting is that, having seen God's faithfulness in bringing me out of such a long, dark valley in the past, I know he is leading me to a new place of being able to believe in my worth because I am his daughter.  So while I struggle to believe I am valuable right now, I have faith that someday, I will know it.  And my prayer is the same for you.