• Faith

    Thinking on this lately…

    The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of contemporary violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.

    – Thomas Merton   (emphasis mine)

  • Faith

    On Perspective…

    I was reading Elizabeth's post on the 'yucky' side of life'. LL's post on silence. Ann's post on spiritual journaling. Couple of other articles saved in my Reader folder….

    I've been quiet.

    Of course, the reasons have been pretty obvious…

    Hospital visits and breathing scares. Late pregnancy. Kids who've gotten way off of normal schedules- a bunch of other 'typical' yucky realities of life that I wouldn't dream of detailing here, because, well, you don't need any more negatives in your life, and I want this to be a comforting, enjoyable, safe place to read, a place that encourages. Peaceful.

    I've been thinking.

    Have I learned to suffer well?

    Anyone who's read here for a small length of time could probably detail the nearly soap-opera-ish roller coaster that has been my life this last year and a half- a cancer scare, a job loss, a miscarriage, nearly losing my life, a new pregnancy, extended illnesses in the family, my husband being hospitalized for four days. A mess. I mean, you look at it bald face and you almost laugh at the could have been written for the movies story-line….it's sort of ridiculous. But the reality is that it has been my life this year. I couldn't have made it up if I tried.

    Someone asked me the other day how my faith was holding up, how God and I were these days. And in a way, it felt like the person was sort of searching for an answer, a confession, something, that I couldn't give them.

    I can't blame the person for the question. We want answers. We want an easy solution to a problem, we want to see the end from the beginning. We want reasons.

    Sometimes there just aren't answers.

    I'd love to be able to say, well, this is why this happened, this is why my husband has gone nearly ten months now without a job, why the economy crashed, why every one of my children and my husband have been so very ill the last few months, and on and on….but there isn't an answer. To some extent I think I want to join Job's friends and assign reasons for things when God clearly states later to Job that sometimes things are just plain beyond our ken…it's not for us to know.

    What I do know?

    Remember.

    Remember all the whispers along the way of this year, places where God came through in mighty ways, where His steps were sure even as mine were faltering from weariness and exhaustion. El Roi- the God who sees me in my need, Jehovah Jireh, my provider. Notebooks scribbled full of stories of moments that undeniably came from the hand of God at the very minute it was needed.

    Rest in the knowledge that He did not call me to an easy life, He called me to His way, and His way is a path of suffering, not a life of ease.

    And that His strength carries me through.

    No matter where the next days and weeks and months may take me, I cling to that perspective. In the good and in the bad, He is here.

    And all is truly Grace.

  • Faith

    Peace and community…

    What a quiet, peaceful Easter this Sunday. I confess in times past I have been so frazzled by preparations and the like that I have not really been able to slow and enter in to what Easter was all about. David woke very early Sunday morning- I think it was 4:30 am…just wide awake and babbling, and managing to rouse the other children from rest. We slipped downstairs and the other kids slipped back into slumber. That half darkness of "o dark thirty" (as my dad used to call it) tipping into sunrise- it was so beautiful and peaceful.

    I enjoyed the Easter service at our church. We had what is called "Cardboard Testimonies"– on one side of the cardboard was a reality in their lives, and the back side was what the Lord had done in His mercy and grace. (Click on the link to see another church that did this, to give you an idea of what I experienced.) Different members of our church community shared- most of whom I knew in one way or another. I knew the personal testimonies of a few deeply, and still it brought tears to my eyes to see them witness to God's goodness- and others, it was such an amazing thing to see revealed how truly God had transformed lives- things you would never have imagined. By the time it was done, there were few dry eyes left in the house, I can tell you. I couldn't help but think of the wider community of believers as I watched this- stretching across both home and abroad, from tip of hemisphere to tip of hemisphere. I thought of stories I knew through blogging- stories of loss, reconciliation, restoration, triumph, brokenness, healing…what a testimony to God's amazing mercy and grace resides in the Body! Why do we not tell these stories more often, why do we not share the glory of God's movement in our lives every chance we get? I thought of my own story of this year- from loss and death of a child, from sickness into health, to the miracle of the heart beating beneath my own. Truly, we serve an amazing and gracious God. I feel so blessed to be a part of the global body of Christ. I know when I am falling, hands will reach out in prayer and fellowship to carry me, just I have reached out to them in their times of need. I was so profoundly reminded that we serve a Living, risen God, who lives and moves and breathes through His Spirit within believer's hearts. He is not dead, He is not deaf, He is not mute. He lives, He hears, He speaks. Praise be to the Gracious and Holy God!

  • Faith

    Naming, seeing, and knowing…

    The tangle sometimes is all too obvious- twisted and turned, jumbled, disconnected. The solution, the straightened cord- rarely ever shows itself clearly. And immensely frustrated, we began to just pull at the knots, rough shod. But when we slow down, when we really see where the cord twists and turns, only then can we gently pull the cord through, in and out and up and down, until the mass of tangles straightens one by one. It requires patience and careful focus, two things that often seem in short supply when angry and frustrated.

    How often has my life resembled that tangle of knots? A conflict with a friend, a misunderstanding, a disobedient child…all seem a mess, and not easy to fix, and so rarely do I actually stop and pay attention to the problem at hand, pulling vainly, and making larger knots than before.

    Slow down.
    See.

    If there is one lesson I have learned this last year, it is quite simply, slow. See. Thank. One can slow down and see the problems and tangles, but it is only in the looking outward, in the gratitude, that the tangle becomes apparent, or dissolves all together. Ann has said so many times and in so many eloquent ways that one of the only ways to get a Kingdom prescription in our earthly glasses is to put on gratitude. I believe that her Spirit led advice is right on the mark, praiseworthy and true.

    I confess, a year ago, that I felt Ann a bit of a crack pot. A beautiful, inspiring, lovable crackpot, mind you, but her gratitude community? Come on. I live in the real world. The real, dirty, messy, tangled world. Saying thank you for the little things seemed a bit whimsical, a bit too Polly-anna-ish for my cynical, bitter tastes. Could a gratitude journal, a counting of blessings, could it really make such a difference?

    The proof is in the pudding, as they say. The stretch of the last twelve months has pulled and pushed myself and my family into some very uncomfortable territory, very troublesome territory. It would be perfectly normal for me to be upset and discouraged at what has happened. And some days, I confess, I do have those moments. Shadows do fall, the darkness creeps about.

    But I cannot look at this last year, or even these last two weeks of sickness and trouble, and not see our gracious God. My agnostic friend accused me a month or so ago that it drives him nuts that I "see God everywhere" and I couldn't have thought of a better compliment. I've joined the crack pot brigade and I couldn't be happier. It saddens me that God had to strip everything away before I would
    listen, before I would hear, but at the same time, how glad I am that
    He loved me enough to do so!  I would rather walk in brokenness and
    devastation, instability and need, and know the Father's voice, than
    all the riches in the world.  I never thought I would say that, and
    mean it, but I do. I do!

    Moses says:
    Teach us to number our days aright,
           that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
    {Psalm 90:12}

    and David testifies:
    Sing to the LORD, you saints of his;
           praise his holy name.

      For his anger lasts only a moment,
           but his favor lasts a lifetime;
           weeping may remain for a night,
           but rejoicing comes in the morning.
    {Psalm 30: 4-5}

    In Hebrews it says:

    Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. {13: 15}

    In 1 Peter it says:

    But you are a
    chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to
    God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of
    darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
    {2:9-10}

    The blessings, the counting of days, are more than meets the eye. Certainly, it is fulfilling the Lord's own commands that we praise Him. But there are other benefits. Kingdom sight, for one. Perspective. An untangling of knots. The crooked made straight.

    Oh yes, the dirty, messy world is still there, squalor and heartache waiting. But gratitude allows us to begin to see 'around the edges', to see the bigger picture, to see the living, breathing, active movement of God within and through even the messiest and darkest of days.

    So we slow. We count. And we praise.

    Join me, and the rest of Ann's gratitude community. I promise you won't regret it.

    ——

    Related:

    Naming the Face We Face , Ann Voskamp, Holy Experience

    Taking Back the Day, Elise Hooper, A Path Made Straight

  • Art,  Faith,  WIP Fridays

    Love is a work in progress…

    IMG_3665

    Friday came and went on this one. I started it earlier in the week, but then couldn't get back to it until the weekend. In the olden days, I would have grown discouraged and not finished, but I am really committed to trying to complete one of these each week. I am beginning to make space for this little adventure, even if it means that I'll have to stay up later taking care of the laundry or what have you- it's a sacrfice I want to make. I've been working through The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer, and I am slowly growing used to the idea that these little attempts are a form of worship. (See link in side bar for more info on this book). I think I have often separated "art" from "life" and certainly "art" from the "spiritual journey", a sort of divided kind of thinking that I have talked about before. I think this is a disservice. I think of friends whose talents are varied and numerous: one paints with words, another with pictures, still another by painting, and so often, these are extensions not only of themselves but also a reflection of the Creator that made them. I am beginning to believe that art is not just for "art's sake" but as a way to consider the journey. The ATC this week is clearly influenced by what has been going on in my journey with Christ, but also with others within my community, and when I started this one, I knew exactly where the end result would lie. The background, which is metallic watercolors using a Heidi Swapp damask mask, is directly related to the background of the slides used in worship at church for the last six months. You can see an example here. The verse, which was both hand written and stamped, was from 1 John, which our church has been studying since September. I chose The Message version because I was so caught by "love has the run of the house" phrase…this is truly my prayer, that love would have the run of the house, both within myself and within my home, my life. As I worked on this card as I had a little snippets of time here and there, I was struck by the process. Each layer of the background had to dry before the next layer could be applied- first gold, then the mask with a custom mixed purple, then the ruby over top of it all, the careful lettering. So often I try to rush love, to push things through, to rush sanctification. But it is above all, a process, careful, considerate steps on a narrow way. I don't think I'll be able to look at this card and not think of it…this has to be one of my favorite cards so far.

    Products: Lowes Cornell Watercolors (metallic ruby, metallic gold, red, blue), Heidi Swapp Damask mask, Ranger Industries Andrionack Paint Dabber (Lemonade), Elmer's Paint Pen (white), Basic Grey Rubons (bird), Pens: Sharpie (Berry), Creative Memories (Brown), ATC: Strathmore.