March 30, 2011

The Call of My Heart

A Divine Calling
I'm reading a great book, "Callings," by Gregg Levoy. It is speaking to the deepest part of my core about how to navigate the next season of our lives. I just wanted to share an excerpt that struck me as especially relevant to my walk today.

"Patience is the missing link in the discernment process, in the search for clarity of calling and readiness of heart, and in the waiting for events to unfurl and talents to ripen. These things seldom burst into being all at once. They accrete like the shells of oysters, bubble up and cool like lava, adding layer by layer onto the armature of themselves. Drumming our fingers won't make events move any faster.

"We suffer from the cultural misapprehension that waiting means doing nothing. Great fanfare, for example, usually attends the moment of inspiration, the aha, the eureka--Sir Isaac Newton's revelation upon the apple, Archimedes' bathtub epiphany about specific gravity, Samuel Coleridge's epic poem "Kubla Khan," which is said to have popped into his consciousness whole. Little notice, however, is taken of the usually lengthy period that precedes it--the period of observation, meditation, experiment, uncertainty, frustration, fits and starts; the period of asking the questions over and over, of sleeping on it and pitching in our sleep. We love the answers and suffer the questions. We worship the flower and ignore the soil. We covet the diamond and overlook the pressure it took to make it."

When I read these last sentences, I wonder if this is some of what Jesus was talking about when he said:

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:28-34)

The absence of worry in my life has always been marked by patience and surrender. I am seeking His kingdom, hoping to find it within the recesses of a quiet soul and a grateful heart. I am seeking to live in the moment. There were a few moments in the middle of the day, on a hike with my family through the woods, when I was fully present. I set aside the arguments of the morning and abandoned myself to the beauty and serenity of a walk through the woods with my curious and delightful children and my nature-loving husband. The arguments began again shortly after getting back into the car, but tonight I'm remembering that moment and realizing that although I have a long journey of learning ahead of me, I'm beginning to get the hang of living in the moment.

Despite the fact that a few minutes ago I was frustrated with my children, and raised my voice in an effort to keep them in their rooms (why do I never remember that it won't work???), I am grateful that it is still today. I have taken these few minutes to take stock of what is important, and despite the fact that my husband has also thrown his hands in the air and told me he's just going to close the door on them and let them wreak havoc in there, I have turned my heart toward God. I can feel Him gently working on my heart, bringing me peace and comfort, letting me know that it's going to be all right, and letting me know that the day is not over yet. I can still turn my heart toward Him and ask Him for His mercy, His grace, and His solutions to the problems of this day. And He will meet me, and I will go to bed in peace. Thank you, God.

Go In Peace

March 26, 2011

Riding on the Clouds of Hope

Life Can't Survive Without Hope
I've had my own earthquake to navigate through recently; an earthquake of a more spiritual nature. In fact, it is our very relocation that left me reeling in a foggy type of aftermath last week. Granted, it is an earthquake of our own choosing; nonetheless, it is still tumultuous.

Nearly two weeks ago, my husband, children, and I said goodbye to our dearest friends and our wonderful families and embarked on an adventure of epic proportions (for us, anyway). We landed in a "small" Northern California town. (I put small in quotes because it's still bigger in population than the town we moved away from, though it actually feels smaller).

We came seeking a change in weather (and other things), only to find that the rainy season isn't quite over yet. The rain here is big. The wind is wild and raging. There have been thunder and lightning storms and even some hail...all in one week! Night before last, the wind was making noises I have never heard the wind make before. And yesterday, with a clap and a crack, lightning made our power go out!
I can't tell you how disheartening it is to be sitting here wondering if we made the right decision. Everyone who finds out we're new here asks us if we've ever been here during the summer. When we say no, they tell us gravely, "You know, it gets up to 115 for a couple weeks every summer." We knew this before we moved here, but the gravity in their tone sends my mind spinning with the question, "What have we done?"

To make matters even more interesting, I don't really want to go back to Washington. Our home here is beautiful. It is at least three times as large as our last home, and I relish the feeling at the end of the day that I've gotten a workout just walking around and keeping things tidy! Our neighbors are wonderful, and we have some wonderful friends here that I'm excited to spend more time with. Also, I'm looking forward to connecting to one of my favorite churches of all time (one of the main reasons I moved here).

As I told my friend, it all seems very surreal right now. We aren't sure what we're going to do here and even whether or not we're going to like it. However, we don't want to go back to where we came from. We are in transition--still. I'm beginning to wonder if transition ever actually ends this side of heaven. Anyway, there will definitely be aspects of living here that we don't like, and this leads me once again to the topic at hand:

Flickr of Hope
 Deuteronomy 33:26-29
There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
who rides on the heavens to help you
and on the clouds in his majesty.
The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
He will drive out your enemy before you,
saying, "Destroy him!"
So Israel will live in safety alone;
Jacob's spring is secure
in a land of grain and new wine,
where the heavens drop dew.
Blessed are you, O Israel!
Who is like you,
a people saved by the Lord?
He is your shield and helper
and your glorious sword.
Your enemies will cower before you,
and you will trample down their high places.

Reading this again today, I am in awe of the promises that lie within this passage. I'm asking you to indulge my childlike imagination for just a moment...God rides around on the clouds in all his majesty. I have always wanted to know what it would be like to ride on the clouds. When I was a kid, before I knew they had no real substance, I used to imagine how soft and fluffy they big and cozy they must be...and oh the view you would have! I imagined myself floating around on them, singing softly to myself, enjoying the view.

But this passage says God rides on the clouds in His majesty. That sounds like a wilder ride than I ever envisioned. And I know the God of all Comfort and all Joy must enjoy that wild ride on the clouds. In fact, perhaps it was Him out there making all that noise, whooping it up while I was worried that the roof would fly off my house. (I did ask for your indulgence in my imagination). So, anyway, regardless of whether my imagination has any weight or not in this case, it must be some kind of serious business for Him to be displaying His majesty upon the clouds.
Hands of Hope
Yet, He stops and reaches down his everlasting arms to scoop me up into His lap so that I will no longer be afraid. He says to me, "Stop fearing the storms, and come up here where I am so you can ride them out with me. You are safe with me. I may be huge, I may be frightening to some, but to you I am Daddy. I am the source of all your life and all your being. If you remain in me, I will carry you through this life from the tops of the clouds."

Then there's the part about Him driving out my enemies. Goodbye fear; goodbye insecurity; goodbye self-hatred; goodbye loneliness; goodbye depression; goodbye strife and stress. And good riddance! He is shouting at these things to get their bloody hands off of me. I am His, and none of them can have me! Yeehaw!! That's enough to let out a whoop and a holler for sure.
Hope Does Not Disappoint
But it doesn't stop there. He assures me that I will live in safety. Even in the land of earthquakes? Yep, even then. I will harvest new wine and grain, which symbolize joy in life and abundance of harvest. And I love the part about heaven's dew dropping. Even in the hot of summer, I will remember that the dew of heaven falls upon me wherever I am. He refreshes me. He cools me. He will show me how to walk in joy and abundance even if I'm sweltering in the heat.

He is my shield and my helper; my sword for battle. He is my armor. He is the One who protects me. He is the One who fights for me. I will not lose. I will triumph over my enemies.  They will cower before me, because I am clothed with Him. When they look upon me, they see Jesus Christ raised from the dead. They see their worst enemy in human flesh over and over again. They see this when they look at you, too, if you know Jesus as your Savior. What is true for me is true for you, my friend! Remember, it says that we must just resist the devil, and he will flee from us. We can resist him in silence and confidence if we know with whom we are clothed. We can resist him in peace and security if we know with whom we are fighting.

Come, recognize your victory and trample some high places with me. I'm tiptoeing through the dew of heaven, riding on the clouds with my Daddy, and wondering what it was that frightened me in the first place.

March 23, 2011

Earth-Shattering Hope

Tenacious Hope
Though I've felt the tremors of the earth shaking and have lived through my fair share of fruitless school earthquake drills, I have never been in a devastating earthquake.
I have, however, lived under the threat of earthquakes much of my adult life. Some of you will know what I mean when I talk about the "Big One," which was always lurking when I lived in the Puget Sound area. This is the One that purportedly will cause Seattle to slide into the sound. I used to live in a suburb of Seattle, and many days I would drive on the freeway cloverleafs, with layers of road and cars towering over me, praying fervently that the Big One wouldn't strike that day. 
Thankfully, we moved to an area less densely populated, and I slowly let my fear of the Big One slide into the sound along with many other fears that ruled my life for far too long. This doesn't mean I don't get afraid sometimes. It just means that I choose not to allow myself to be governed by what could happen. And now, I don't have to worry about the Big One, since I've moved away from the Puget Sound. Of course, you will laugh when I tell you that I moved to California. Ha! I'm laughing too, but I'm still not afraid.
Hope Tree Installation
Here's one reason why:

Psalm 33:17-22
 "A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose HOPE is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.

We wait in HOPE for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord.

Plant Growing in Ash
With these posts on earthquakes and HOPE, I am gently calling you to pray with me for those who are suffering in Japan and New Zealand. I am praying, not in fear, but in HOPE. I pray that the eyes of the Lord are upon the ones who have perished and those left behind; that none are truly lost. I pray that those of us who can will come to their aid in physical and monetary ways. I pray that our hearts will not be callused by ideas of judgment and justice, but rather that our hearts will be filled with mercy and compassion.

I pray that those who are coming to the aid of those in need will be richly rewarded and that those who are being helped will receive what is offered. I pray that the God of all comfort will embrace all who are mourning and that the light of life will shine upon their hearts during this dismal time. I pray for the safety of all who are in the path of radiation; particularly I pray that further disaster will be thwarted.


March 21, 2011

His Name is Hope*

Flickr of Hope
Though I'm not one for keeping up on the news, there are certain things that do not escape the attention of even the most cut-off. Of course, I'm talking about the devastating earthquakes that have rocked New Zealand and Japan.

It's my hope and prayer that each person affected, both directly and indirectly, would be delivered completely from trauma and fear. I hope and pray that family members left behind will have closure and be able to say final farewells to their loved ones. I hope and pray that each of us who only see the news footage or hear nth-hand stories about the loss and tragedy would find solace in the stability of our homes and lives.

Fear is our enemy. I despise and abhor fear mongering, which is the primary reason I choose not to watch or listen to much news. As much as my fingers are itching to start a conversation about the media and the sale of "news", I'm going to refrain and redirect my thoughts back toward the subject of

Hope Does Not Disappoint
This week I have needed HOPE, and God has delivered. I will share with you the flavor of His message to me in the coming days. To start with, here is the verse that has been resonating in my mind for the past week.

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have PEACE with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained ACCESS by faith
into this grace in which we now STAND.
And we rejoice in the HOPE of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character;
and character, HOPE.
And HOPE does not disappoint us,
because God has poured out His LOVE
into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.

*a line from John Mark McMillan's song, "Between the Cracks"

March 8, 2011

Comfort & Joy

Saying Goodbye
Today is the last day I will be writing from our little house on the Lake. I say that with sadness. Tonight is the last night we will spend the night in our tiny little house that has been home for four years. We have raised our boy here, and our little girl has never known anywhere else as home.

This community has enveloped us and has given us a sense of safety, security, and joy that I've never known anywhere since living at home with my parents. I am going to sorely miss the friendly faces, the little store, and our wonderful, kind, and generous neighbors here.

Saying Goodbye
Yesterday, I took all our precious cargo back to the library. I went by myself since I wasn't going to be checking anything new out, and I have to admit that I cried when I walked out. It was so unceremonious. I left the books on the counter with a librarian I've never met before. I resisted the urge to go and say goodbye to the children's librarians.

Now I'm wishing I hadn't been so quick to leave without saying goodbye. The Mount Vernon Library has the most wonderful staff, especially in the children's section. I'm really going to miss their friendly smiling faces each week. I'm grateful that my friend was there with me to witness the moment, hug me, and encourage me to feel the losses this week. I know this is an important step in saying goodbye.

Saying Goodbye
There will be many more moments of surprise like that as we finish up our last week in this community that has become our home away from Home. I can't say I have a heavy heart exactly, but I suppose it is heavy like a cloud is heavy with rain.

I will cry. I will laugh. I will maybe even yell (because I'm stressed, and I just might lose it at least one more time this week). But that's the good news! I will feel it all. This is what I have learned feel my feelings, to accept my process, to be at one with myself. I will not deny myself the tears, and I will not deny myself the great mirth I feel at the thought of being somewhere new.

And of course, my wonderful Friend and Savior had some words to share with me in the quiet of this morning. I will share them with you and hope they bring you as much comfort and joy as they brought to my heart!

Job 36:16 (NIV)
He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.

A Spacious Place Free From Restriction
Jeremiah 31:12-13 (NIV)
They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord--the new grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old alike. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

I will see you on the other side. Until then, I pray for the peace and comfort of the Father of all compassion and all comforts to rest upon you and your families.


March 4, 2011

Running in the Night

Running in the Night
So today was one of those days. Dark, murky, hard to see my way. I wandered around the house...grumpy, distracted, not knowing where to begin. I wanted to hide, so I tried to take a nap with my children. I chose the wrong location, and instead of resting I became an "under cover" dictator, trying to control things beyond my children.

Yep, I'm one of those people who deal with stress and anxiety by trying to control the things around me. I knew I was doing it. In fact, I knew how it was going to go before I even laid down in my bed. But I did it anyway, hoping that it would be different just this one time.

(Have I mentioned that I'm very excited about my new three-bedroom house????)

Noise in my Head
Anyway, it was a bad feeling...knowing that not only did I not get the rest I so desperately needed, but I wasn't the mom I wanted to be in those moments. When I finally threw in the towel, my daughter was asleep (phew!), and my son was playing in the living room by himself, desperate for some time with me. But I was a hollowed out shell...nothing to give him. And it was truly, terribly awful because I just wanted solitude, and he just wanted to be with me. Two people...valuable, beautiful people...struggling because the only other person in the room couldn't meet their needs.

I tried to spend time with the Lord. I tried to hear His still small voice, but it was drowned out by the noise in my head yelling at me that I am a terrible mother, a terrible person, that I will never change. Funny how the lies seem so real in those moments, isn't it? I know these lies. They are familiar to me. In fact, I know they are lies! These are not the words my Lord speaks to me. I know the truth about myself, and it is not that I'm a bad mother.

Thankfully, I had the courage to reach out and call a friend and tell her the truth about how I was feeling. As I talked with her, I heard the cry of every mother's heart in my own words. I will never be as good as I hope to be, but that's because I'm not meant to be. Those prototypes in the recesses of my soul, the ones that seem to govern my expectations of myself; they are not from God.

There are just days like these when our job is bigger than we are, when what is asked of us is more than we can give. It is these days, that we must call upon the grace that is available to all of us. It is these days that we must remember that we are all children, even those of us charged with the responsibility of raising our own children. My friend wisely reminded me that by being human in front of my children, I am teaching them how to be human. Yes, I make mistakes and they will too! So even in my weakest moments, I am still being a good mother!
Paradox of Perfection
She also reminded me that the point of this life is that it's a journey...the joy comes from realizing that I'm farther along than I was a year ago, and a year from now I'll be farther along than I am now. And then she told me she heard me. I don't know if you've ever felt the true relief that comes when you know someone has heard you. Not only did she listen, but she heard and she understood! And from her understanding, she could pray for me in a way that was a balm to my weary soul.

Slowly, the haze began to lift. I was able to do the next thing on my list, and as I made progress I made adjustments in my expectations and in the expectations others had of me. I shared my needs with those who could help me, and my husband picked up pizza for dinner and another friend came over to help me run errands and pack things in my kitchen. We made so much progress, even after being away from the house for an hour or so. It more than made up for any lack of progress I was feeling earlier in the day.

And then I heard this song...another Jars of Clay song from The Shelter album. This one is called "Run in the Night (Psalm 27)."

The first verse reminds me of what I know, even if I forget it sometimes:

I know who I am
Once I was nameless,
alone and you found me

You formed my knees to bend
You call me Beloved,
I am perfection

All my failures won't condemn me
Or leave me paralyzed and bound
When I'm at my worst
Your Love, it finds me first

I love that part that says "I am perfection." You know what that means to me? I am my own standard. I know...that could be a dangerous statement to make, but I think there is a deeper truth in that. After all, aren't I a snowflake? There's no one like can I measure up to anyone other than me?

Night Horses
And the chorus calls to the depths of me:

for by You I can run in the night

What does it mean to run in the night? Running without care...not worrying about what you're going to stumble over or fall over. Not being able to see your destination, but going for it nonetheless. Freedom!

Then there's the second verse, the cry of my heart:

For I am such a [wo]man
Seized by the power of a great affection
No matter where I am
Peace spreads below me in every direction

When evil sets the war upon me
I won't stumble, I won't fall
Though they do their worst
Your love has found me first

And then the my bridge was the phone call to my friend, my shelter in the storm:

Hide me in the shelter of
Keep me in the cover of
Lead me in the light of
Your Love
Hide me in the light of
Your Love
No matter where I am
Whom shall I fear
Lead me in the light

March 3, 2011


A Shelter from the Wind
So I've listened to this song about six times today. 
Jars of Clay, "Shelter."

It speaks volumes to me of where I'm at and where I hope I'm heading. The first verse speaks to me of where I've been.

To all who are looking down,
holding onto hearts still wounding
For those who've yet to find it,
the places near where love is moving
Cast off the robes you're wearing,
set aside the names that you've been given
May this place of rest
in the fold of your journey
bind you to hope,
you will never walk alone

A Refuge from the Storm
So many times we are told that God is our refuge and strength; the source of our rest and our perfect shelter. Often I dream of resting quietly under His great wings, as a chick nestles under the wings of its mother on a cold spring morning. I have found Him to be a great comfort to me. This is the first step...knowing that He loves me beyond all measure...that I am His greatest delight and treasure...not that I'm better, but just that I'm the only me!

But this song calls to a deeper longing in my is the chorus:

In the shelter of each other,
we will live, we will live
In the shelter of each other,
we will live, we will live
Your arms are all around us

Streams of Water in the Desert
Isaiah 32:2 says:

"Each man will be
like a shelter from the wind
and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
and the shadow of a
great rock in a thirsty land."

This verse has been my companion for the past several weeks. I came across it in my quiet time one day, and every time I'm with a friend I realize I am their shelter. I am their drink of living water. I am their shadow in a dry and parched land.

Here's the second verse of the song:

If our hearts have turned to stone,
there is hope,
we know the rocks will cry out
And the tears aren't ours alone,
let them fall into the hands that hold us
Come away from where you're hiding,
set side the lies that you've been living
May this place of rest
in the fold of your journey
bind you to hope
that we will never walk alone
We must all believe, 
our lives are not our own, we all belong
God has given us each other,
and we will never walk alone

A Great Rock in a Thirsty Land
At a time when I am moving away from some of my dearest friends, this gives me such a feeling of safety. I will be physically separated from them, but these words are still truth. In moments when I feel all alone, I will only need to take a minute to close my eyes and picture their face, their arms, and their strong voices saying, "You can do it. You will make new friends. You will succeed. You will prosper. I believe in you."

I guess you could say that I'm feeling the shelter of those who love me, and it really does give me wings to fly.

Just a note, the entire album (The Shelter) is amazing, and in Dan's words,

"It's just a record that celebrates what it means to try to love people well."

The Album Cover