Monday, January 20, 2020

A Gentle Beginning

Deadlines complete. Christmas boxed and stored. Easing into a new decade. It was my desire in 2019 to be more intentional. Was I? Yes and no. I intended to write and post this blog at least 2 times during the month of December but I have intentionally let myself off the hook. It was a big year for us. There were big celebrations and we were in crisis. And yet we were carried and changed.

While there may be more in review on the past decade for now I would like to share some of my favorite podcasts, books, etc from 2019.








The books that spoke to my heart in 2019:


Back Roads to Belonging, Kristen Strong

Run With the Horses, Eugene H. Peterson

Interior Freedom, Jacques Philippe

Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren

I also enjoyed reading Gennine D. Zlatkis’, Birds in Watercolor, Collage, and Ink. It was delightful and her colorful art is inspiring.

I read mysteries for fun and Charles Finch mysteries were some of my favorites in 2019.

The highlights this year:
  • Spending time with my family celebrating my 60th birthday in a variety of ways. It was precious.
  • Growing together in hardship. Some may think that strange but it is no small thing when two people face crisis and grow together. It is a gift.
  • Discovering a deeper satisfaction with the life I have been given.
  • Emile and Isaac’s wedding and all the wonderful family time included in that event.
  • Seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time in years. It was marvelous. Can’t wait to go again.
  • Collaborating with Pastor Jeff Love and Alive Church Tucson in writing discipleship lessons for children. It was a wonderful privilege and a learning experience.
  • Spiritual Formation retreats in Chicago.
  • New friendships emerging out of the Spiritual Formation program.
  • Writer’s Workshop with Leanna Tankersley.
  • Speaking at a women’s Christmas event on the Presence of God.
  • The wonderful and challenging ways God is making me new.

For those who read this blog, I am grateful for you. It is my heart’s desire to bring hope and encouragement as well as invite you to look around at the good in your own life. What is God’s invitation to you right now at the beginning of this new year and new decade? One of the things God is inviting me to do is nurture friendships and make time for play.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Consenting to My Life

 









The month of October slipped by without a word from me. And November is trying to make an escape as well. I can tell you I have truly missed meeting you here. It has been a season of:


  • Weddings
  • Trips with family
  • Writing deadlines
  • Trips to the doctor – Jim is just over half way through the 35 radiation treatments
  • Celebrating a significant birthday (#60. Ouch!) I started celebrating early.
  • Conflicted interactions with 4 kittens who have chosen our back yard for a part-time home and litter box
  • Lunches out with Jim’s Dad and my Mom
  • Reading and preparing for the next Spiritual Formation retreat
  • More than the usual amount of dental work.

I have been so busy and challenged in other ways that I find myself moved to tears by moments of beauty. It is good to pause and appreciate beautiful moments, places and people. And just a few things going on in our lives. Every year I think I will slow down in October and November to enjoy the changing of the seasons, though not too noticeable around here. But nearly every year in the fall, life gives me a shove and sends me sliding downhill into Christmas. Not ready for that at all. I love the season of Thanksgiving. I prefer not to rush it. But it was October as usual for me after all, with a few extras woven throughout.

Here are some highlights of October. It was such fun dancing with my Aunt Janice at my niece’s wedding. This was the first time dancing with her since I was a kid. She taught me how to dance years ago. We still got it! Several family members got up and danced to the group dances. It was shocking when the list included the father of the bride. The day trip to see the Grand Canyon before heading back home was wonderful. The vastness and beauty of the Canyon were more than I could absorb. It was like trying to swallow a whole meal in one bite. Impossible! I had to savor what I could and accept a return visit will be necessary. My Mom came home with us after the wedding. We had fun shopping, drinking coffee and working on projects together.

 

A deadline is pulling time out from under me and I scramble to keep up. I am being challenged by His Spirit to face each day differently – from a place of acceptance and trust. When so many wonderful gatherings are crammed into little squares of time, I feel overwhelmed; I am learning to consent. What do I mean by that? I am saying “Yes” to the life I’ve been given at this moment and to trust God for grace and strength. I don’t mean I resign myself to this messy life but I consent to it. I am truly a beginner in understanding what this means, but in the words of Jacques Philippe, writer of Interior Freedom, I discovered an invitation to let go and trust in a way I had never considered before.

The ultimate difference between resignation and consent is that with consent, even though the objective reality remains the same, the attitude of our hearts is very different. . . . That act of consent, therefore, contains faith in God, confidence toward him, and hence also love, since trusting someone is already a way of loving him. . . . First of all, the most important thing in our lives is not so much what we can do as leaving room for what God can do. The great secret of all spiritual fruitfulness and growth is learning to let God act. . . . Yet one of the most essential conditions for God’s grace to act in our lives is saying yes to what we are and to the situations in which we find ourselves. That is because God is ‘realistic’. His grace does not operate on our imaginings, ideals, or dreams. It works on reality, the specific, concrete elements of our lives.”

Still there are boundaries to be set with people. This is all part of consenting to who and what has come into my life, and then praying how I am to respond. What are my responsibilities? My little experience has given me a hint of the freedom I can have when I let go of control and take a pass on wishful thinking. Accepting and consenting to the reality of all God allows in my life requires me to trust Him more and depend on Him to guide me to make wise decisions. I consent to the things the Father allows into my life. This is a doorway to freedom and contentment. I don’t always remember this but it is my desire to by way of saying a prayer of consent each morning. This prayer includes the things I know about and the things I don’t know about. It is a prayer of consent to the person He has created me to be, as well as consent to the wonderful but painful journey of being transformed.

So what are you learning? What is currently filling the days of your life?




Saturday, September 21, 2019

Joy is Found in Joining


Ideals and expectations can be killers of joy. Yet sometimes I have a hard time letting go of what seems ideal to me. There is often a guilt-laden wrestling match before I lay down the stress-filled version and take up the lighter and more joyful way. I don’t know exactly why that is – maybe some influence of days gone by or books read filling my head with perfectly carried out plans. But life happens.

We have just gone through months of stuff – the kind of stuff making it difficult for me to remember what I did last week. The months have been intensely focused but I am learning to choose the simple way and release the guilt. We recently returned from a beautiful but tiring trip only to bump into making time to celebrate my husband’s birthday. Before the trip he couldn’t decide how he wanted to celebrate and I had nothing planned. Torture; we are both planners.

So I found myself, one week out, wrestling with myself over whether or not to prepare a birthday dinner for the family or go out to eat. It seemed right and ideal to cook and have everyone over to our house where it’s quiet and we could hear one another talk. Looking ahead to the best evening for celebrating, I realized we were also attending a memorial service earlier that day. My overwhelmed self went to war with my ideal self.

Thankfully my husband decided on a restaurant – a new eating establishment experience for the family – and I made reservations. I made dessert and after dinner the family gathered in our home for coffee, dessert, gift giving and conversation. It was a lovely evening and I was able to enjoy it with minimal stress. I forget how simplifying things can result in some of the best experiences. It’s not so much what we do but the coming together that truly matters.

I need to take cues from my my daughter, Emile. The aforementioned beautiful but tiring trip had been for the express purpose of attending Emile and Isaac’s wedding in Vermont. A destination wedding can be expensive. Emile and Isaac wanted to bring their families together for a beautiful celebration without breaking the bank. The focus on relationships paid off. Staying focused on what really matters helped them simplify and cut costs – eliminating ideal for a sweet and meaningful experience.

I recall all the months spent looking at venues, photographers, florists and bakers. Thousands of decisions sifted through and let go – releasing trends and some personal ideals – for the simple beauty of relationships mixed with a little DIY. They could not have had a more endearing and beautiful wedding if they had been given the best florist and a high end wedding planner.

Floral preparations evolved into 8 buckets of fresh cut flowers and 8 women scurrying about to make bouquets on Saturday morning, the day before the wedding. It was a big, beautiful noise of creating and collaborating. Maid of honor, sister Laura, and bridesmaid Meredith put together the bride’s and bridesmaids’ bouquets. All were delicately placed in various refrigerators in the rooms of wedding guests.

Antique jars were given over to Grams, cousins Hilary and Gabby, Aunt Roni Kay, mother of the bride and friend Monique to make mixed arrangements for the reception tables. Instead of paying several hundred dollars for flowers, Emile purchased flowers from a local grower. The end result was the making of a memory: creative chaos with family and friends and amazing, lovely bouquets. And Jim came in after cleaning up all the scraps of stems and petals.

The morning of the wedding all of us, plus a few other family members and friends, met in the reception hall and decorated tables. Flowers, greenery and candles were purposefully positioned on each table. There were plenty of flowers leftover so the maid of honor and a bridesmaid created a floral wreath to hang behind the bride and groom table. The overall effect was as naturally beautiful and celebratory as a fancy English picnic. There was such freedom and fun without rigid ideals. I believe I understand Daphne du Maurier’s idea for bottling memories...

If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”


Better yet, I need to have a built-in reminder to focus on what matters most – people and leaving a little room for creativity – the kind that lends itself to great enjoyment. When I consider this and all the times I have not opened my home to others because I didn’t have a plan, it’s rather disheartening. Nothing too deep here but just a reminder to me and maybe to a few of you:

  • Life is short
  • Relationships matter most
  • Beautiful celebrations can be simple
  • There is freedom when rigid ideals are left behind
  • Creativity awakens in the freedom
  • Memories are made – and people are drawn together when included in the process

Monday, August 19, 2019

Wishing Away This Season

One day last week, a sudden urge to give into daydreaming about Autumn came over me. I started thinking how midsummer is the time when those of us who love Autumn begin wishing away summer and longing for cool, crisp days. This is a strong urge, one I have experienced every year since I was a little girl. It hits about the time Christmas overtakes the shelves at the craft stores. Who cares about Christmas in July? I am longing for sweater weather, bonfires and golden leafed trees.

I have learned one thing through all these years of wishing away the present for what comes next; what I wish for isn’t always better than what I wished away. Actually the wished for something rarely lives up to the longing stretched–out–thin and reaching til it tips over and spills out into a future time. How many summers have I wished away only to land in a square space on the calendar claiming the Vernal Equinox has arrived, and then discovering it’s just as hot and miserable as the day before?

There are often long, hot Indian summers. And sometimes there are dry Autumns where the leaves on the trees brown the color of mud and blow away without any glorious, golden moments. There have probably been more disappointing Autumns than not. I have experienced enough glorious Autumn days though to recognize when Autumn isn’t living up to the its overblown reputation. All this to say I decided to reign in my Autumn thoughts and find something to enjoy about summer.

But what about when the things I wish away are more difficult to endure than a hot summer passing by? On the way to get frozen yogurt after my third oral surgery this year, I found myself wishing I wasn’t going through all this dental drama. Instantly I realized we are all going through something and my wishing away one challenging season could lead me into worse trouble. Not because this is how God works, but life is a revolving door of good and bad. Wishing away isn’t like mail order – we can return it for something better. My wishful thinking is a lack of acceptance that life is often hard, and there are all kinds of hard. In spite of my current challenges I have much to be thankful for today.

Some of us may be willing to admit wishing away isn’t just a seasonal activity; it has become a habit and is a result of discontentment or entitlement. I cringe, but yes I said entitlement. I recognize that when I think I should have it easier than others I am acting entitled. I keep bringing this up in my writing because it is a real struggle for me at times. And just maybe it is for you too.

Christine Valters Paintner writes, “Contentment calls for a release of our resistance to what life brings us. It can be a very subtle opening. . . . Contentment doesn’t mean we are always happy about life events or deny the reality of pain. We cultivate contentment by cultivating the inner witness who is able to respond to life from a place of calmness, peace, and tranquility. It means we honor that what is given to us in any moment is enough. . . .the call is to celebrate the sufficiency of what one already has. Contentment is closely connected to the practice of gratitude . . .”

How often have I missed the glory of God in my difficulties by attempting to tear this chapter from the story of my life? How many wonderful moments have I missed when I was poised on the edge and gazing into the future? How much of my life has been exchanged for an imagined ideal – a dream unable to hold all the expectations and hopes poured into it. POW! It bursts like a water balloon.

I have been through greater difficulties than oral surgery, and I have experienced God’s goodness when I was willing to turn toward Him in the midst of hardship. He has gifts for me each day when I pay attention. He longs to hold me and soothe me when I am hurting. I cling to the truth of Zephaniah 3:17.

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

I believe Him when he says He will never leave me or forsake me, but my wishing even one day of my story away exposes the doubts. I want my belief in Him to stand up strong in the midst of my struggle, instead of wavering in faith through wishful thinking. I am not judging your wishful thinking moments. We are human, we have weak moments, and we forget we don’t have to do this in our power. I am convicted by those who live through great hardship with exceptional faith.

My friend went on a mission trip to Jamaica. There she met a woman in extraordinary poverty. This woman had several children and was raising them alone. This Mother told my friend about a time when God provided food for her starving children. She had taken a pot of water, a limited and valued resource, and put it on the stove to boil. She prayed in faith that God would bring her food to put in the pot to feed her children. The water evaporated as she prayed, but her faith did not vaporize. She filled the pot again with the last of the water and prayed believing God would fill the pot with food to feed her children. While the water evaporated a group of people made their way to her door bringing food. I was moved by her faith in the midst of dire need. And here I am just wishing away Autumn and challenging dental drama.

How can I take the energy I use for wishing my days away and pour it into a fervent prayer of faith? Romans 5:2-5 in The Message comes to mind when I think of holding my difficulty or disappointment before God and living expectant of His care right here, right now.

Romans 5:2-5 (The Message)

We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.
There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

In the uncomfortable places of life I must turn to God! And in everyday gives thanks; He is more than enough. How is God making himself known to you in a place or experience you had been wishing away?

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Our Home: A Roost

Last month our long time friends Bob and Sondra stayed in our home for a night. When asked if they slept well, both said it was the best sleep they’d had their whole vacation. I was pleased. Roost comes to mind. I know a roost is a supportive place where a bird can rest. Sometimes I can be stingy about sharing our home but I desire for people who come into it to find a place to let down, just be and rest. After they left I thought about the things people can count on when they come to our house. A little ditty popped into my head and I wrote it down in my journal.

At our house there will always be coffee.
At our house there will always be creamer.
At our house there will always be chocolate chips.
At our house there will always be hugs.
At our house there will always be toilet paper.
At our house there will always be conversation.
At our house there will always be books, clean towels, fans, extra toothpaste and toothbrushes, prayer before meals, plants, something blooming, peanut butter and oatmeal.

I could go on. Some things not listed that I truly want people to always find at our house: the love of Jesus, comfort, encouragement, prayer support and laughter. I have no need to be considered a great hostess. I am rarely comfortable hostessing but care about what people experience and what they go away with when they are in our home. It is important to me they are ministered to whether it be with prayer or clean towels.

I want people to know they are seen and heard in our home. And Father, forgive me when I am wrapped up in my own junk and don’t see or hear the person sent through the front door of this place you have given us to call home. But aren’t these qualities of home something we carry about with us like a hermit crab’s shell – a walking home? Edith Schaeffer wrote in her book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking, “...whether we choose to be an environment or not, we are. We produce an environment other people have to live in. We should be conscious of the fact that this environment which we produce by our very ‘being’ can affect the people who live with us or work with us. The effect on them is something they cannot avoid. We should have thoughtfulness concerning our responsibility in this area.”

This is not only about the place I call home. I am not just speaking here about an invite to an event. This is an invitation to a Presence, His Presence. These are the things people need to be able to count on whenever I am present. Not because of me but Jesus in me. As I move about my day and interact with people here and there, the environment of me has an impact on the environment of whoever crosses my path. The things I want people to experience in my home should also be experienced in my presence wherever I am: the love of Jesus, comfort, encouragement, prayer support and laughter.




Can our home be a roost? Can we offer a place for others to find support and solace? What does that look like? Could it be we first offer it to one another in our families? A created support of rest for our own people can release a warm fragrant invitation – here is a place to be heard, to be seen, to find support and peace, to be loved. People are drawn to restful environments – to places where they are embraced and loved. How can you and I become a roost for others?

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Gifts of Encouragement for You

In June, on our wedding anniversary, Jim gave me a notebook filled with printouts of all the blog posts I had written. He offered up the page count and said, “See, you can write a book.” From the very beginning my motives for writing was to encourage you and be a reminder “You are not alone.” For my own good it was to process my life journey and practice my craft – a gift from God.

Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)
Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

We are to encourage one another in a personal way – in relationship. In my writing I attempt to be personal by exposing my own humanness and remembering the things that are true of all human beings, no matter how deeply buried in our messes. A blog post is encouragement from afar. One of the ways I love to encourage people is by resourcing them. Today I want to share with you some resources I found helpful recently. Under each topic you will find the links for these resources. I hope you find your hearts lifted and eyes focused on Jesus.


Friendship: I have found, when listening to others, people are lonely. People are struggling in this social media driven age to figure out how to have real life friendships. Jennie Allen's four podcasts titled Made For This has healthy, Biblical teaching on friendship. She also offers a free downloadable Friend Guide.


Decision making and finding direction: I am sometimes better at making big decisions than small ones. But not always. There are times when making a decision is torture. I am not talking about where to eat tonight, though that can be a challenge too. I am talking about decisions like: What is God’s will for me? Who am I supposed to invest in at this time? Do I need to change jobs? Should I go back to school? Emily P. Freeman does an excellent job of gently walking us through the winding road of decisions. The Next Right Thing podcasts are generally short (12-20 minutes) but packed full of wisdom and encouragement. When I listen to her podcast it is as if a heavy backpack has been lifted off my shoulders. Emily also wrote a book called The Next Right Thing. I have listened to every one of her podcasts and still found the book helpful.

Grief: I have spent a lot of time listening to people and discovered that one of the most neglected feelings is grief. The normal human journey of grieving loss is avoided by most people; it’s painful and uncomfortable. But buried grief resurrects. Grieving eventually frees us to move on, otherwise we get stuck. Leanna Tankersley and Elaine Hamilton talk about their grief in Life After Loss: You're Still You. They share what healthy grief looks like, what is normal and how to care for yourself in the process.

Books: I want to share the titles of two more books I am reading. Walking with God, by John Eldredge, is an honest and profound book on deepening intimacy with God through prayer. This book is so helpful that I am reading it a second time. I shared this book title with a friend; recently she told me many people in her life have been helped by reading this book.

Run with the Horses by Eugene Peterson may be my favorite Eugene Peterson book. This is a book about Jeremiah the prophet of God. In his writing about Jeremiah, Peterson delivers a powerful personal connection. “If we are going to live appropriately, we must be aware that we are living in the middle of a story that was begun and will be concluded by another. And this other is God.”

Though God has gifted me as an encourager, nothing comforts, soothes, fills, encourages and restores like the love of God. My wholeness is dependent on where I have placed Him in my life. Deep restoration and repair happen when I get alone with Him. I hope you are finding time for quiet and rest this summer.

If you are willing to share with others your resources for growth, healing and encouragement leave a comment below. Or maybe you are in a hard place and need prayer. If you feel comfortable leave a message sharing your prayer request so others may pray for you. Right now I am praying for all of you to know you are being held in His love.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Here But Not Present

Attending – being present to – is much more important than I am sometimes willing to admit. Attending means I am, not only present physically, but engaged. This requires both discipline and effort. It’s work. But I am being challenged to pay attention to my thoughts and attitudes toward others and toward the landscape of my life. I have been reading about community – the Body of Christ – and what it looks like to live a generous life. I have been asking myself some hard questions.


In Romans 12:13 Paul writes, “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” What does being attentive to the needs of others look like? How am I creating space for community and building relationships in the Body. In Acts 2:42-47 Luke describes the early church as people who “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship . . . They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” I am nettled by these words.

I confess familiarity with this passage but have not been attending to it’s message. In the details I discover a group of people forming a powerful attachment to one another as they cultivate roots in the kingdom of God. Daily they were devoted to attending to the of the Word, to nourishment, and to worship. This resulted in new people becoming followers of Jesus every single day.

Here is what I notice in my own life and attitude concerning the community we call church – followers of Christ; often I am looking for something instead of bringing something. Can you relate? I may look like I am attending church on Sunday morning – fully present – but I am often thinking about what’s missing or what could be done better. Forgive me, but it’s true.

It is so easy to show up, greet, check in with a few people, and warm a pew during worship and the message. But to really engage with the Body of Christ, to fully see and hear someone’s story and make space to get together with them requires a lot more from me. And my poking holes in the fabric of the doings of the church where I see things wearing thin isn’t productive for increasing the kingdom of God.

The attention given to the landscape of my own thinking on this requires something of me. I must be willing to see the truth. I can continue to ignore the fact that I see needs, and maybe even problems, but I am unwilling to be a solution. Or I can put into place some practices or disciplines to calibrate my heart. The first thing required of me is to confess and repent. Second, I need to seek the Holy Spirit’s leading as to how I am to be present and what I am to bring to the church fellowship which I attend.

How can I attend – be fully present? Here are some specific ways I am working on changing the way I do church. These are things I am practicing. I say practice purposely; I don’t have this down. And I do not mean this to be a form of getting praise for what a good girl I am. I share as a way of confession and a renewed commitment.

  • I am making it a practice to pay more attention to the women on the fringes, and to make time for them instead of seeking to be seen and heard.
  • I am making it a practice to disciple others. This has been one of the most rewarding things I have done; Jesus is changing me as a result. For years I have noticed the lack of discipling in churches. Why did it take me so long to see I am part of the solution. We are all called to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • I am making it a practice to recognize someone else’s contribution is not a threat to mine. There are many gifts in the Body and many needs. The diversity means more people and needs are tended to when everyone is using their gifts. This is not a threat to me; it strengthens the Body. I am making efforts to resist the scarcity mentality. When I compare what I am doing or not doing with what someone else is doing or not doing, a divide is created. We serve a God of abundance and when I recognize the work or gift of another does not annihilate the work or gift God has given me, I am walking in abundance.
  • I am making it a practice to spend time with other believers in vulnerable conversations about how God is working in my life.

For so long I desired significance instead of attending and serving. I am a work in progress but here is my prayer. “Let me die to the desire to choose my own way and select my own cross. You do not want to make me a hero but a servant who loves you.” (A line from a prayer by Henri Nouwen, A Cry For Mercy)



Do you find yourself wrestling with attendance at church without being fulling engaged? It is so easy to practice detachment instead of forming attachments. We come to church tired, burned out, overstimulated and full of our own needs. Is there one small practice you can put into place – something that opens your heart to the people you worship with from week to week?

I would love to hear how God is revealing Himself to you concerning community. Do you relate in anyway to my struggle with finding fault and withholding myself from being part of the solution? Do you long for meaningful attachment within your church fellowship? What is one small step you can to take to move toward connection?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Tending to All Things Life Giving

My husband will nurture a plant until is has absolutely proven itself dead beyond measure. Our backyard is a rescue mission for struggling plants. We are even willing to buy plants at a discount when we discover them on the “Help, I am barely thriving!” rack at the nursery. Jim worries I will throw him out when he is old and not so lively anymore just because I am more apt to say, “The plant is dead and won’t revive, I am tossing it.” I am discouraged by dying plants, where my husband is inspired to pour more love into them. I may desperately want them to live but I am tortured watching the struggle. And lets face it, a dying plant isn’t pretty.

Thriving plants and beautiful blossoms are life-giving for me. Little vases scattered about the house with snippets of blooms from the Hydrangea bush, finally filling out after 8 years of an inordinate amount of tending, bring me joy. Though vases filled delight my husband as well, he is inspired just as much by the efforts of nudging life into a plant determined to die.

When we walk around the yard to see how the plants are doing, we are delighted by a few overcomers. We thought we were losing the Kangaroo Paw, but this year it has blooms stretching up to the sky. The Sweet Pea shrub I bought Jim last year in honor of his mother has recovered wonderfully. I like to plant things in pots and it just wasn’t having it, so we put it in the ground. I thought it would never recover from the transplant. And so, on it goes. We celebrate, after all the extra care, when a plant recovers from a near death experience. We mourn when one is lost.

While we may not always be in agreement about whether or not a plant is worth saving we both share the same desire to come alongside people to encourage and mentor. So many people are feeling the great gap between being followed on social media and being known. Jim and I both feel privileged when being trusted with another person’s story, and everyone has one. We want to hear how God is working in a life that had once been on the “Help I am barely thriving” rack. People need to be seen and heard. This is the life-giving encouragement they need.

I have felt the Holy Spirit pressing me to make more space for people – inviting them into our home. This seems like an inconvenient time; Jim is tired from the current treatment and we don’t know from week to week what doctor’s appointments will open up for him. Planning is done loosely. But still my heart tells me to tend to relationships and make space for people and their stories. Maybe this draw to fellowship isn’t just about others, but about tending to our own need for meaningful fellowship. We all need to have friends, as well as be a friend.

I for one want to surround myself with a few people who will actively be in relationship with me. Gordon MacDonald writes in A Resilient Life, “There is a certain ‘niceness’ to a friendship where I can be, as they say, myself. But what I really need are relationships in which I will be encouraged to become better than myself. Myself needs to grow a little each day. I don’t want to be the myself I was yesterday. I want to be the myself that is developing each day to be more of a Christlike person.”

We don’t do life well alone, nor were we meant to. Jesus calls us into relationship, first with Him and then with others. In order to have strong, healthy relationships we must be intentional and invest in them regularly. We can build relationships by taking time to linger over a meal or a cup of coffee, really listening to one another and praying together. To know and be known. These kinds of friends love us when we are strong and when we are weak. An intimate friend holds you accountable and encourages you to become your better self. This type of relationship happens with only a few. This type of relationship doesn’t just happen; it is tended and nurtured until death do us part.
  
I believe the nudge for me currently is two-fold: make space for others and encourage relationship building by seeing and hearing, as well as investing in intimate relationships. The intimate relationships nurture life through being known to one another, challenging one another, listening to and praying over one another. These close friends are the people with whom we laugh and cry. These are the people who do life with us.

When I walk out my front door I bump into the roses hanging over our entry and every time I have forgotten about the bees. Often by jostling the rose I disturb a bee sipping nectar. He buzzes around my head in frustration as if I just woke him from a nap. We are on good terms. He doesn’t sting and I don’t swat. Almost no time passes before he has buried himself once again in the delicately scented blossoms. Relationships can be that simple – we are on good terms or they can be an act of service – giving value to another human being by seeing, hearing and giving a helping hand. We need a bit of both, but we all need the one or two or more who are truly known by us and by whom we are truly known. These are the friends who don’t give up on us even when we are wilting.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Uninvited Guest



Heavy, gray clouds weight the sky. No rain. Even on a sunny day in our southern California home there would be a lingering bit of gloom; an uninvited guest has taken up residence and we don’t like it. By mid-March trees and flowers had been blooming for weeks. The beauty all around us was incongruent with the news my husband received from his doctor. It’s prostate cancer but the biopsy (Gleason numbers) marked it aggressive. Weeks and months after changing insurance, before we knew, left us in long periods of waiting for a new primary doctor, urologist, biopsy, scans and finally an appointment to see the surgeon next week – all this after waiting for another scan that never was approved.



We do our chores, we eat our meals, we go to church, we chat with friends and family. Life looks normal, but it is now a cover for the invisible alien in our home. We work around it as we wait for its removal. Others have had worse – we know some of those brave souls – but this is our journey. We are hopeful but nervous. Thankfully we know who keeps track of our days and has all the details of our lives in His hands – our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

It is a reminder our lives on earth are temporary. It is a reminder that we do not know what tomorrow holds. It is a reminder to be clear about how you want this day to be lived. It is a reminder to be grateful for the people in our lives, the life we’ve been given, and the simple things this ordinary moment holds.

We finish an ugly, difficult puzzle that has taken too much real estate in our house since Christmas. We watch episode after episode of The Great Interior Design Challenge, lunch with Dad Joiner, hem curtains, weed flower beds and take walks. Because, what else can you do when cancer silently creeps in and only makes itself known through your blood work?

You keep living and working, that’s what you do. You link arms with everyone you know and you pray. You trust God. If we truly believe all we say we believe about Him, then we can trust Him with this demand on the flesh. No amount of waiting on insurance can change God’s plan.

We make plans we know we may have to change when a surgery date is set. We look forward to sunny summer days, barbecues, and my daughter’s wedding. We celebrate significant birthdays. We will slow down for a bit while healing happens, but we live our lives the best way we know how, even in limbo. Isn’t it true we are all in between something – waiting. So it’s a good idea to live the best we can today. Though we are sometimes anxious not knowing, this is just a chapter in the narrative of our lives; it isn’t how the story ends. For that I am deeply grateful.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Waiting

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

Waiting. We are waiting. We have been in a hold for several weeks – waiting for important results and directions. Aren’t we all waiting for something? We go in and out of periods of waiting. In the waiting I recognize I have a preference for how I want things to turn out. I also recognize I have a choice: make demands or express my desires and release my preferences to the One who knows best. In the waiting I often find myself doing battle with anxiety, not resting in trust. It’s like catch and release fishing. I release my desires and anxieties to Jesus, reel them back in, only to release them again. There are times when this goes on all day long, and at the end of the day I am worn out from the struggle. And there are better days – days when I don’t allow my longings to be cast out and hooked into anxiety; I rest in Him.

When I am in a spot of waiting, I would rather be in a position like Pooh Bear stuck in Rabbit’s hole. His friends came and read to him and kept him entertained while he waited. And so sometimes I find myself scrolling social media to forget my anxiety – to avoid the struggle of releasing – I go face down and numb out. But when I surface I meet my anxiety waiting at the top; and in addition, I’ve gathered a gloomy fog from boring into an unsatisfactory escape.

Unlike Pooh Bear who is shrinking while he waits in order to be released from Rabbit’s hole, I am enlarged in the waiting. “All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain through out the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarge in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along.” (Romans 8:22-26, The Message)

As difficult as it seems, much good comes from waiting, particularly if I don’t allow waiting to paralyze me. What have you learned from waiting? What do you do while waiting? It certainly depends on the type of wait as to what I will do. If I find myself waiting for an appointment, I read. If in a long line I may talk with people around me. My husband has been weeding like crazy while waiting – getting things caught up.

Here in this place of limbo, I cling to what I know to be true of God the Father. Nothing gets past Him and He is bigger than the wait. Worry says, “Things will grow worse if the wait is too long.” The Spirit reminds me no matter how long the wait, what God determines will happen; no wait will change God’s will for us. And so we wait trusting the news we receive will be what He planned all along, and He will make us able to persevere and glorify Him in the process.



I found these words from Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s book, Invitations From God, helpful on the topic of waiting: “Waiting is how God’s people develop the conviction, humility and longing to know they need saving and that only God can save them. . . . To wait is not to sublimate or repress desire. God tells us to voice our desires. But expressing what we long for is different from demanding that God or someone else give it to us. Between desire and demand there is a space – a transformative space of waiting. This space is a litmus test of what’s in our hearts. Do we trust God’s goodness over the long haul, admitting that we don’t always know what is best for ourselves or others? . . . The space between desire and demand is a risky waiting place. It is the place where we go to wait with God and let go of control. The place between desire and demand can hold longings, disappointments, loss, unmet expectations, joys and deep gratitude. It is the place where we learn to attach ourselves fully to God’s will rather than our own so we can wait with open hands, and with hope and trust. . . . (Ps. 62:1-3) . . . waiting is not an empty moment but a moment in which a strong and comforting God dwells. . . . Waiting is that holy place where my heart can be converted, my character honed and hope focused.”

May you find yourself more fully attached to God and your heart enlarged in hope eternal as your wait comes to a close.