August 30, 2011

Treasure These Things

Mary's Heart
"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."
Luke 2:19

Mary knew the Lover of her soul.

Did you ever have a question so long in the asking, and then one day the answer came with a smack across your forehead and a loud, "Duh!!"? I had that happen recently. I was watching my son behave precisely according to a secret his Creator revealed to me while he grew in my womb.

Mary Treasured These Things
Every time I read this passage about Mary, I would ask the same questions.

What does it mean that Mary treasured these things in her heart?

How did she navigate raising a boy with such a monumental destiny?

Mary's Burden
Didn't it feel like a great weight sometimes to be raising the Son of God?

Mary watched Jesus, knowing who He was and what He would ultimately do for mankind and the world.

Did she tell him the prophetic words that were spoken over him?

Wouldn't they have proven to be a burden to one so young?

Baby in Hands
Having received many prophetic words for my son while he was growing in my womb and after he was born, I again began to ponder these same questions about Mary's experience. This time, the questions took on even greater import as I held his tiny body in my giant trembling hands.

Do I tell him who he is?

Is it even my right to tell him his destiny?

Shouldn't he have the same privilege to choose as the rest of us do, without pressure from me?

Prophetic Destiny

Do I really know how to explain it all anyway?

Some days it did feel like a burden; a tremendous responsibility...

Until the day Mary's secret dawned on me, the secret of treasuring all these things in her heart. That day, the slow and gentle rhythm, the gentle crashing of God's great love for me washed upon the shores of my anxieties, finally breaking through my fear and doubt. This gentle washing by His love eroded away the sands of my own human efforts to care and provide for my son a foundation I had no idea how to lay. As more and more of the grains of sand blew steadily away, I saw beneath them my Anchor, my Rock, my Lover, my Friend, holding me AND my son upon the bosom of His love.

It was then that I realized how Mary did it. She had no fear as she beheld her Son, the One who would save the world. The one difference between her and me was that before her boy was born, was that she knew intimately the One who loved her more completely than any other could. When He overshadowed her and impregnated her with His Life, all of her fear vanished. She was no longer alone, and she never would be again.

Knowing Smile
She was the Beloved, and when she "treasured these things in her heart," she was not alone in those moments. When she caught glimpses in her small Son of the Man He would become, I bet her lips turned upwards ever so slightly and a twinkle formed in the corner of her eyes as she gave a silent nod of assent to the Lover of her soul Who highlighted the truth to her. And in these moments of sharing secrets, I imagine that He comforted her with His gentle assurance of His constant presence in their lives.

Stewarding my son's destiny has taken on a whole new meaning since I had this revelation. I, too, have been overshadowed by His love and impregnated by His Life. I am not alone in raising my boy. I was chosen specifically to be his mother. We are both secure in the loving embrace of our Creator, and one day we will both look back and realize that we always walked firmly in our destinies.

August 18, 2011

Living in Tension

Dan Grayber, sculptor
The other day I was inspired to read ahead in my devotional book. My son's birthday is August 19, so I read his day's reading. Of course, it spoke to my soul and inspired me once again to consider the beauty of tension. Having had physical and emotional conditions in the past that caused deconditioning and resulting chronic pain syndrome, I understand the importance of tension, balance, and strength working together to support the physical body.

I have firsthand knowledge that having strong core muscles in concert with the healthy tension created between muscles and ligaments in balance with a healthy spine can allow us to live and move and have our being without pain or discomfort. I have firsthand knowledge that being able to live in the tension of joy and sorrow that floods any given day allows us to live and move and have our being without depression or hopelessness.

Dan Grayber Sculpture
The other thing I learned from my life experience is that there is a major difference between healthy tension and unhealthy stress. In fact, it was chronic stress produced by fear, perfectionism, and avoidance of emotional pain that led to my condition in the first place. Chronic stress floods the body with fight or flight chemicals, and the chain reactions these chemicals set off within our bodies have a profound physical effect (which I dare not try to explain here).

What I can explain is the emotional effect. Pain in every fiber of my being, so exquisite that a simple touch to my arm or leg would cause me to cry out. Constant and chronic, the only relief came from the mind-numbing effects of a brain on overdrive and anti-inflammatory-enhanced sleep. Sleep that was never restful, but welcome only for the escape it offered from a life of unfinished business. Housework piled up around me with only physical agony in store if I tackled it and self-hatred if I didn't. A vicious cycle of pain and misery.

Dan Grabyer, Sculptor
I hid it well, being a sunny optimist and a cheerful lover of all manner of people. But inside I was dying, and my body seemed to be matching step for step the death march my soul was intent on making. I know this may seem dramatic to you, but if you've ever lived with fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome, you'll know I'm not exaggerating. It is impossible to explain, and most people either compassionately offer whatever help they can or they avoid the sucking sound I made when I walked into a room.

I remember the day when things started to change. It was easily three years ago, maybe four. I was standing my kitchen staring at the counter and the floor, and I said to God, "My life is not a testimony to your goodness. I am a mess, and I do not exhibit any of the fruit of Your Spirit that the Bible talks about. I am depressed, irritable, and downright crazed sometimes. I'm always in pain, and I have no energy. I want off this carousel. Please help me."

Dan Grayber, Sculptor
Things got worse before they got better, but slowly and steadily my mind began to be washed with the refreshing water of His Spirit. At first the message came through lots of static, and it seemed like my behavior actually got even worse as I noticed more and more the muck I was drawing up from the dirty well that had become my heart.

Over time, the message become more powerful. I was even able to begin giving it away, but I still didn't believe in my very core that what He was telling me was true. Today, four years later, the message has sunk to my core and I now draw good clean water from the well of my heart. My muscles are still rebuilding, and my soul still has some work to do, but my spirit is strong and the chronic pain is gone. The pain I experience now is the same as anyone else who is building up strength or who sits in the same position too long (like at the computer).

Life is Beautiful
What is the message?

It's simple.

God really loves me.

Hazel Eyes
Not because He has to...

but because He made me wonderful.

And who am I to argue with God?

Dan Grayber, Sculptor

Grayber Scultpure
His work is astounding, and his philosophy is refreshing. "Dan Grayber creates mechanical objects that are intricately designed to resolve their own problems or shortcomings."

"Objects are invented in order to satisfy particular needs, specifically, human needs. With my sculptures I investigate the concept of need when the human is removed from this equation. I do this by replacing the human with the object itself. My sculptures are invented only to sustain themselves, functioning as self-resolving problems.  The result is an object that has been invented only to compensate for the complications created by its own existence. The piece alone represents the need and the resolution."

"Many of my pieces are small, spring loaded, mechanical objects.  They are intricately designed and fabricated to accomplish one of the most simple, yet most essential tasks that an autonomous object can.  This task, this need, is that of holding itself up.  In most cases, my pieces accomplish this by actively attaching themselves to specific architectural features and individual objects."

Green Swirls
My own thoughts on the topic: When we attach ourselves to God through His Son Jesus, then we become autonomous, "able to resolve [our] own problems, able to compensate for the complications created by [our] own existence, representing both the need and the resolution."

Link for pictures of Dan's work:

Sorrow & Joy

Sorrow & Joy
Here are some excerpts from the August 19 reading:

"Sorrow was beautiful, but his beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the woods. His gentle light made little pools of silver here and there on the soft green moss of the forest floor. And when he sang, his song was like the low, sweet calls of the nightingale, and in his eyes was the unexpectant gaze of someone who has ceased to look for coming gladness. He could weep in tender sympathy with those who weep, but to rejoice with those who rejoice was unknown to him.

"Joy was beautiful, too, but hers was the radiant beauty of a summer morning. Her eyes still held the happy laughter of childhood, and her hair glistened with the sunshine's kiss. When she sang, her voice soared upward like a skylark's, and her steps were the march of a conqueror who has never known defeat. She could rejoice with anyone who rejoices, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to her.

A Garden Piece (May Morris)
"Sorrow longingly said, 'We can never be united as one.' 'No, never,' responded Joy, with eyes misting as she spoke, 'for my path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom when I arrive, and songbirds await my coming to sing their most joyous melodies.'

"'Yes, and my path,' said Sorrow, turning slowly away, 'leads through the dark forest, and moonflowers, which open only at night, will fill my hands. Yet the sweetest of all earthly songs--the love song of the night--will be mine. So farewell, dear Joy, farewell.'

Altar Frontal (embroidered by May Morris)
"Yet even as Sorrow spoke, he and Joy became aware of someone standing beside them. In spite of the dim light, they sensed a kingly Presence, and suddenly a great and holy awe overwhelmed them. They then sank to their knees before Him.

"'I see Him as the King of Joy,' whispered Sorrow, 'for on His head are many crowns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory. And before Him all my sorrow is melting away into deathless love and gladness. I now give myself to Him forever.'

by William Morris
"'No, Sorrow,' said Joy softly, 'for I see Him as the King of Sorrow, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of terrible agony. I also give myself to Him forever, for sorrow with Him must be sweeter than any joy I have ever known.'

"'Then we are one in Him,' they cried in gladness, 'for no one but He could unite Joy and Sorrow,' Therefore they walked hand in hand into the world, to follow Him through storms and sunshine, through winter's severe cold and the warmth of summer's gladness, and to be 'sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.'"

~Excerpted from Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman

August 16, 2011


Loose Ends
So, I am in a season of tying up loose ends. I'm going back in my files and finding posts I started, but never wrote. I'm really looking for articles I can actually submit for publication, but I'm also closing down a long season in my life while I do it.

I found this post that I never published. I wrote it on April 8 of this year, and so much has happened since then, but it still speaks of the ongoing revelation that God is bringing to my life. Rather than change it, I'm just writing this brief intro. It's no longer spring here, so it is very warm here now. That's really the only thing that's no longer "true." Hope you enjoy reading it!

Loose Ends Tied Up
(04/08/11) It's been awhile since I've written. My life has been full of organizing, decorating, loving on my kids, and enjoying the warm sunshine and the sound of playful laughter. It's cooler here this week, as a cold front has moved in. So instead of playing outside until naptime, my daughter and I read a couple of stories on the couch.

One of them, "Quick as a Cricket," inspired me to write this post today.

Quick as a Cricket

Here are the last few lines of the story:

I'm as tough as a rhino,
I'm as gentle as a lamb.
I'm as brave as a tiger,
I'm as shy as a shrimp,

I'm as tame as a poodle,
I'm as wild as a chimp.
I'm as lazy as a lizard,
I'm as busy as a bee,

Put it all together,
And you've got ME!

Embracing Yourself
I have been pondering for many months now the habit I have of labeling aspects of my personality as good and others as bad. It seems that the Holy Spirit keeps whispering to me, "When we made you, we pronounced you good."

This flies in the face of many teachings I've heard about the deceitful wickedness of man's heart. I know the verse. I'm sure you do, too.

It's found in Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." I've heard many messages that hinge on this verse which leave me wondering if there is any hope for mankind.

I've been suspicious of my motives and those of others, and I've begun to label parts of myself as sanctified and parts of myself as fleshly...wicked...hopeless.

Unsanctified (Narcissus)
Lately, though, I've been hearing some other messages; messages that tell me I am sanctified, that I am perfect, that what Jesus did on the cross finished the work. These messages are coming from inside of me when I read Scripture, and when I'm alone with my God.

I was taught that Jesus' death on the cross just started the work, but when I read the Bible, especially Revelation, I am beginning to understand and see more clearly that His death finished the work.

I'm beginning to see myself from a whole new vantage point. I am less inclined to call myself names like Stupid, Bumbling, Loud, Overbearing, and Selfish. I have begun to recognize that I don't know everything and that I don't always know how to achieve every result I desire.

I have begun to recognize that although being loud in the prayer chapel isn't maybe the best attribute, being loud on a busy street when you need to get your kids' attention is a very good thing. It has occurred to me that being bold and brassy may put some people off, but when I need something I am able to persevere until my needs are met. And finally, I have begun to recognize that taking care of myself is not the same as being selfish.

Is my heart deceitful? I don't know. I know that sometimes I'm deceived. I know that I have deceived others in the past. I know that I'm not always certain of the purity of my motives. But I have to say this about the matter...Jesus died for my sins, including the deceitfulness of my heart; He is the cure.

Is My Heart Deceitful?
Verse 10 of Jeremiah 17 says, "I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."

And Luke 6:45 says, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart..."

I don't always have control of my motives, but I always have control of what I do and what I say.

Embracing Yourself

August 11, 2011

Unless We Become Like Children

Tabula Rasa
This week has been an interesting mix of filling space and allowing for the space. I know one thing, space creates a ravenous hunger which I've been filling with a lot of reading material, research, and time with my family. We watched Star Wars Episode IV as a family the past two nights. I forgot how good and cheesy that movie sappy Mark Hamill was as Luke Skywalker and how stunning Harrison Ford was even in his first movie. By the way, did you know Luke Skywalker played the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series!?!? That is growth indeed.

Luke as the Joker
In fact, that is a perfect segue to something I've been pondering the past couple of days. I'm a writer...a fairly young writer in the scheme of things. When I put my thoughts down in these blogs and then send them out to all of you, sometimes I feel like I'm really hanging out there. In fact, I would say that this is one of the deadliest foes I face in writing these posts.

When I look back on my journals from ten years ago, I see a naivete and idealism that can sometimes bring me to a full on blush, which is no small feat these days. I read what I wrote about myself and about God, and I shake my head in wonder at how far I've come. This is a great thing when it's me reading my own journal entries ten years later. It's a bit of a different breed when you're talking about writing for public consumption, wondering what people are going to think ten years from now about the things I wrote about, what I'm going to think about what I wrote.

Tabula Rasa Door
This new perspective on writing as an art form has given me so much more grace for leaders in all spheres. I have had so many transformational experiences in the past two years that I definitely understand that I must allow within myself and others the possibility for growth and maturity and a change in perspective.

This is the focus of my prayer life this week. That I would learn to live in the grace of accepting everything about today's reality while at the same time leaving plenty of space for tomorrow's reality to come forth from the seeds that I planted yesterday. Tightrope walking is a skill I am going to master in my life. Here's an excerpt from a book I'm reading about this very topic.

Childlike Faith
"One of Jesus' favorite visual aids is a child. Every time the disciples get into head games, he puts a child in front of them. He says the only people who can recognize and be ready for what he's talking about are the ones who come with the mind and heart of a child. It's the same reality as the beginner's mind. It's so hard to go back, to be vulnerable, to say to your soul, 'I don't know anything.'

Everything Belongs
"Try to say that. 'I don't know anything.' We used to call it tabula rasa in Latin. Maybe you could think of yourself as an erased blackboard, ready to be written on. By and large, what blocks spiritual teaching is the assumption that we already know, or that we don't need to know. We have to pray for the grace of the beginner's mind. We need to say with the blind men, 'I want to see.'" ~Everything Belongs (Richard Rohr, 1999)

Everything Belongs
Yes, I am embracing my inner child today, allowing myself to make mistakes, to write things I won't believe in ten years, to wax eloquent and stand on my soapbox about issues that won't matter to me later, to ponder the hard questions and allow them to answer themselves in a kazillion different ways over the remainder of my lifetime. To find and encourage you to find "the safety, the spaciousness, and the scary freedom to be who we are, all that we are, more than we are, and less than we are, [and thereby learn to understand that it is] only when we live and see through God can 'everything belong.'" ~Everything Belongs

In Peace & Joy,

For photo credits, click the links below. The captions represent the search terms I used to find the pictures on Google Images.

August 4, 2011

A Blank Canvas

A Blank Canvas
Hello friends,
I'm back from my trip. I've been thinking of writing for the past couple of days, but haven't known what to write about. I decided that writing about what I'm thinking about is the best place to start. What I'm thinking about is space...not the black stuff with the stars and planets (though that is something worth a post at another time). I've discovered that space comes in seasons. I know I've given in to the discomfort of these seasons before. Rather than allowing the space to remain, I've filled it with activity, drama, or depression.

Thankfully, regardless of how I've stewarded past seasons, a new one always comes around. 'Tis the season for me now. This means that my most painful season of transition has finally come to an end. As such, I gladly welcome this space and have put forth my best attempts not to fill it with too much activity or drama. Depression is no longer a friend, so he doesn't even have an invitation to this party.

Wide Open Spaces

So, I have a few specific thoughts on this topic. First, that "home" isn't what I thought it was. I went "home" on my trip, but it no longer felt like home. When I returned "home" to California, I realized it doesn't fully feel like home either. Does that mean I'm homeless?

Second, that space is meant to be enjoyed and not always filled. I have read countless books, blurbs, and posts about the value of stillness, living in the moment, and practicing silence. It is my hope that all of this reading will translate into a rich practice in my life of living in the here and now, living with internal silence and peace, and living intentionally out of contemplation rather than reaction.

As a writer, one of my favorite treatises on the importance of space refers to the white space on a page which allows us to read a book. Without margins and spaces between letters, it would be chaos to try to read. Have you ever done those puzzles where you have to determine where the spacing goes? Believe you me, we wouldn't want every book to be one of those.

My final thought is that the space itself creates a type of void that wills to be filled. It is my hope and prayer that I will resist the urge to fill all the space and that what I choose to fill this time will be filled with the best that God has for me rather than the good, mediocre, and poor that I've had a penchant for choosing in the past. To that end, I am moving slowly toward filling the space.

Abide in Me
As for the question of home, I've decided home is not a place. Here are the verses I've found to help me wrap my mind around this concept.

Colossians 1:19
"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

John 15:4-5, 7
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you."

I'm getting ready to start asking, but this time I'm going to ask more carefully!

In Peace & Joy,