Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Soaring looks easy from a distance.
Ornithological cruise control.
The trick is to trust the rising thermals to invisibly carry birds from here to there. People find this more challenging--like walking in mid-air without a net. God proves trustworthy and sufficient each time we step out in faith. We rise each day with the chance for a fresh start--a new way of orienting ourselves to our circumstances and to God.
How do we put away what is past and step into this new day, confidently trusting in God's Presence to accompany us into the decision-making that the day demands?
As we focus on God-with-us, we gain a different perspective. We need greater vision than our limited view allows.
To have hope in God is not wishing something were so, but is trusting...having faith in...waiting on God as God leads--a very different thing indeed.
The way of the world is wishing.
The way of wisdom and faith requires the active verb, trusting.
Nothing soft or passive about it. That kind of trust takes all we can bring to the task.
I have heard it said, "It was not my plan, but it is my portion..."
It takes great courage and strength to live into our portion. That's the taking flight part. It's not running away, but living into a life of faith.
Spirit-empowered wings of eagles veritably beat the air in surging bursts, giving flight as we rise above our circumstances. Can you hear it?
Only then do we soar.
May we trust God with this day as we receive grace for the journey.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
- Isaiah 40: 29-31
Your mercies are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
- Lamentations 3:23-26
Hawks fly in a kettle, geese in a flock, and we need one another. Whether it is for aerodynamic advantage or support from others on the journey, it helps to have a journey partner.
I find inspiration also from Ann Voskamp and friends who share on a holy experience and Walk With Him Wednesdays.
Photo by Rob Kiser, red tailed hawk. Used with permission.
(revisited from April 28, 2011)
Monday, August 29, 2011
Are you ready for our adventure
or should we have our tea first?
This quote, seen in the window of Mrs. Robinson's Tea Shop in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, this summer makes me smile.
Sometimes we get started off on each day's adventure--no matter how mundane--without properly fortifying one's self for the day. I do this far too often: just strike out.
No breakfast? No problem. I am woman, hear me roar. (Until I run out of steam...) No time for prayer and best intentions for devotional reading? I'll 'catch up' later.
I don't want to live life playing catch up. Picking up the pieces I left behind in a rush. We only have one shot to begin today. Why not give each day's beginning our best--with a cup of tea or coffee in hand if desired?
Today's Sarah Young's Jesus Calling, a simply beautiful little book, reminds me:
Demonstrate your trust in Me by sitting quietly in My Presence. Put aside all that is waiting to be done...When you need to take action, I will guide you clearly through My Spirit and My Word...When you spend time with Me, I restore your sense of direction. As you look to me for guidance, I enable you to do less but accomplish more.
See Luke 12:22-26, Ephesians 6:12 and Proverbs 16:3
Thursday, August 25, 2011
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9A word for today and everyday.
That package called grace is grander, bolder, more encompassing than we can imagine. It can take a lifetime to live into the truth of this statement above.
I find myself repeating it during the day as an auditory reminder of God's limitless love. Live in the power God offers each day to meet our deepest needs. This grace is ample. Satisfactory.
And even when we--unbelieving--doubt it, it is more than enough.
Art credit: Rhymes Stabler
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Sometimes we need a little help from our friends.
Reframing our circumstances--literally--gives us a new perspective we need as we try to practice gratitude as a way of life. And a fresh take on beloved scriptures keeps the inspiration before us in a colorful, visible way, if that creativity speaks to your heart.
Jen created and offered this rendering of a beloved text free for copying and framing on her site at http://theloganfamily.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/free-art-print-psalm-374/ . Thank you for that!
I contemplated this text previously when considering that sometimes it is--I believe--mistakenly interpreted to mean "God will give you what you want."
I have had to re-frame my thoughts on it.
Let our love be genuine.
Let our heart's desire be fully centered on God, and not on manipulating our thoughts or actions in any way.
For more on my post regarding this text:
Delight yourself in the Lord, and you will receive the desires of your heart. That was how I recalled this verse from memory, even writing it down that way recently in a journal. It would be easy to loosely translate this statement, "If you act like you are delighted in the Lord , then you will get what you are hoping for." That approach is even preached in some churches. However, when I went to the source to find the cite for Psalm 37, I found that it was not written as I had recalled.
"Delight yourself in the Lord,
and He will give you the desires of your heart."
Are you out of love? God can sow a fresh desire for your spouse or loved one when you think there is nothing left to breathe life into. Out of resources? Let the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and created all that is show us how to manage or create in another way. Out of time? God does His best work in tight spaces. It is only the 11th hour to us; God has all the time in the world!
Our part is to 'delight ourselves in the Lord' and leave it to God to give us the desires of our hearts. I believe it is then that a circle of sorts completes. We may find that we desire the things of God....that we delight in the things of God....and discover a unity of Spirit and purpose as we live life with the Spirit of Truth abiding within. (See John 14 for more on the Spirit.)
(excerpt from http://meditationsinthenightwatch.blogspot.com/2010/11/fret-not.html )
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Words of affirmation have the power to satisfy thirsty souls. Like dipping water from a cool spring to parched lips, such words refresh and revive our spirits. But there are other warring words within...
Voices of insecurity cast a spell over us. They nearly hypnotize us with their deceitful whispers of doubt. We doubt our value, our abilities.
They can paralyze us into inactivity.
We stop trying.
We start believing the lies:
"I can't do this."
I am reading A Confident Heart by Renee Swope and look forward to this fall's discussion group centering on this guide to understand 'how to stop doubting yourself and live into the security of God's promises,' as the subtitle records.
There is a movie scene I saw last night that plays into this line of thought. Aibileen, lead role in The Help, serves up food for the soul. She practices speaking words of affirmation into the little heart and mind of Mae Mobley. Not empty flattery or comments about her appearance or her clothing, her words go straight to the character of the child, repeatedly addressing her kindness, intellect and importance or value.
This mantra is intended to inculcate a sense of self confidence. They also become her parting words. We don't get a second chance to make a last impression, so we give it our best shot.
What would it be like to have someone in our lives repeat those words into our ears?
Would it help us live up to the highest standards of behavior, exhibiting selflessness, generosity, kindness, courage, forgiveness other virtues in our relationships?
Would we grasp that we are loved for who we are and not for what we do?
Just knowing that someone believes the best in us gives us a huge head start. Mothers, parents, teachers and others who are in positions to convey this powerful gift of the blessing, cannot imagine the extent of the ripples of their words. Our words have the power to cripple and have the power to heal. Words expressed cannot be un-spoken.
God's words for us on the subject of our value stand ready to pour like blessings over our heads.
You are precious and honored in my sight...and I love you. Isaiah 43:4Say it again.
Such words stand as a counterpoint to the daily whispers of doubt that emerge within us, challenging us to strain to hear the still, small voice of One Who loves us with an everlasting love.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Gratitude is contagious.
Like a benevolent airborne pathogen, it spreads from one person to another, changing hearts and filling empty spaces. I continue to discover its capacity to change our attitudes and re-frame our circumstances.
Gratitude is a sleeper in our culture. We do not know its power.
Practicing the art of noticing--the first step in learning to give thanks in all things--can be tough for busy folks in the fast lane.
Look others in the eye.
Be fully present in the moment.
Take a moment to give thanks.
Shared experiences of gratitude fuel one person's day and then overflow into the lives of others. Such was the case with Kelly's beautiful call to savor the moment published this week. I have heard from so many of you about the impact of her words in your lives.
Hear this snippet from a wise and busy mother who, after reading Kelly's post, shared her moment with me:
It completely changed my attitude as I lived the day. And, because of that shift, [my little boy] and I shared a very special moment - one that I NEVER want to forget. It was something that he said to me - AND I STOPPED being busy and I LISTENED!! He said - "Mommy, watch me dance!"
And, I did and then we danced together!
Isn't that what we tell our children - dance! And then when they do, we are too busy to dance with them!?!
I say wise, because she knows all too well that the days of dancing in the field are numbered.
She will never regret taking a moment to make a memory.
I had the chance to make a memory with my grown girls this summer, and we still find delight in playful antics. One is pictured above dancing in a dreamy children's garden on the stepping stones etched, "Merrily...merrily...merrily...merrily...Life...is...but...a...dream."
Offering bright moments in someone's life need not be expensive or time-consuming. Giving thanks for a simple act fits in any budget. And noticing is the first step.
I believe as we live lives of gratitude, we will live with fewer regrets. It's just a hunch, mind you, but I'm willing to bet the farm on it.
Go make a moment or find one somewhere today, and pass it on. Catch a good case of gratitude!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:1 ESV
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Ephesians 1:16 ESV
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15 ESV
Monday, August 8, 2011
Life's interruptions give us the opportunity to press the reset button. We can draw courage and inspiration from others who experience setbacks and refuse to let it destroy their spirits.
Today's night musing is a treat from a young friend who has just returned from Johns Hopkins after summer brain surgery with a very good prognosis and an inspiring outlook beautifully expressed in her words below. With her permission, I'm delighted to share her words with you. She was pursuing her doctorate in English when her plans were interrupted. I'm thinking there is some writing in her future still!
I love the way she puts it! We may say we believe that we don't find happiness in our external circumstances, but we reveal our true selves when we keep living frantic lives desperately seeking after an elusive happiness somewhere else. I hope her words lift your spirits too! Have a beautiful day!
Another Midnight RambleSo many people on the highway just go too fast.
And so many people also speed through life too fast. Or at least that is true of me.
Having brain surgery certainly forced me to slow down and live more in the moment.
I’m still a very active and motivated person. That has not changed. I even started a new job this past Monday! Simon and I are having so much fun caring for and playing with another little boy a little younger than Simon. They are becoming good friends already.
When I was strolling these sweet boys around the neighborhood the other day, I ignored the heat and humidity and thought about times in my life when I have spent so much time racing around, being too busy, thinking about the next item to check off my to-do list, and I have not stopped to be in the moment or really think about whether my actions were making me happy.
You see, I had a bad habit.
I would tell myself lies.
I will be happy when I buy this outfit.
I will be happy when I graduate from college.
I will be happy when I get married.
I will be happy when I have a baby.
I will be happy when I find my ideal job.
I will be happy when I make a certain amount of money.
And I found myself doing it this summer, too.
I will be happy when the brain tumor is out.
I will be happy when I am finally home.
Hmm, not cured.
There is a problem with this kind of thinking. If happiness is entirely based on the exterior circumstances of my life, then I probably won’t find lasting happiness.
Now, I should say that my life keeps getting better the older I get (Turning 30 next month suddenly doesn't seem quite so scary after my recent experiences). I am so happy as a wife and as a mother. But my lasting happiness shouldn’t depend entirely on two people. And what a hard burden to place on those two people I love so dearly!
So I started to think about some things that make me happy in the moment. Here’s what I came up with off the top of my head:
Being helpful to others
Breathing the salty air at the beach
Feeling the sea breeze on my face
Swimming laps at the pool
Sipping iced tea on a screen porch
Picking apples at an orchard
Cuddling under warm quilts with my husband and son
Walking around neighborhoods full of historic homes
Getting absorbed in a novel
Reading stories to enthusiastic children
Eating chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven with cold milk
Going on dates with my husband
Talking around a campfire
Waking up in a tent to the sound of birds
Listening to Simon laugh
Visiting new places and trying new things
Wearing clean pajamas
Eating lazy pancake breakfasts
Taking hot showers
Washing dishes after a dinner party with friends
Browsing used bookstores and libraries
Finding treasures at yard sales or consignment sales
Drinking hot tea
Holding human babies (and animal babies)
Singing anything from hymns to silly songs
Being a passenger on a country drive
Pulling on warm socks in winter
Riding on trains
Contemplating Italian Renaissance paintings
Experiencing new children’s museums, zoos, and aquariums (and old favorites)
Opening a new box of crayons
Listening to Simon talk
Camping in the mountains
Putting words on paper
Wandering farmer’s markets and natural grocery stores
Watching Simon play with wooden toys that will last for his children
Receiving letters in the mail
Being awake in the early morning before anyone else is up
Decorating real Christmas trees
Cooking for my family
Sewing practical things made from beautiful fabric
Listening to street musicians
Capturing my family's life on film
Eating picnics by the water
Lying on a blanket, looking up at the trees
Drinking fresh orange juice
Many of these are very accessible joys, but sometimes I am moving so fast that I forget to be in the moment and truly appreciate them.
This past week has been a bit stressful. We received the extraordinary gift of movers to help us move to help minimize our stress. And yet, lots of various things have gone awry. The moving van didn’t fit all of our belongings. The moving van wouldn’t go into our driveway. The renters didn’t leave our house in pristine condition. The air conditioning needed multiple repairs. The bookshelf wouldn’t go where I wanted it to. We couldn’t find our modem. The foundation still needs repairs. We have multiple stacks of bills that need to be paid and letters that need to be answered, and I don’t know where all the stacks are anymore. There are boxes everywhere. I still owe a lot of people thank-you notes, and I am not even sure that my list is complete. I am not sure that I know where my stamps are. My old computer with lots of important files on it didn’t survive the move. The windshield on my car is cracked, and the rearview mirror fell off. There is a mouse living in the wall.
I could go on.
But I won’t.
My physical and emotional endurance are still slightly lower than my pre-surgery self, although they are greatly improving every day. I have had so many insights about my life these past months, but that doesn’t mean that I always act on them. I am a normal person. Sometimes stressful things are overwhelming to me, even when I put them in the perspective of having had brain surgery several weeks ago.
Every once in a while, I just feel tired, and I want to crawl into a hole.
Most of the time, I keep calm and carry on.
It is true that I do feel so much happier now that we are finally home and I am able to be increasingly independent and active. I am happy to be working and spending time with Simon and settling in and reconnecting with lots of people.
That’s not the point, though. The point is that I need to savor each day, regardless of what that day brings. I need to live more in each moment.
Even on the day of my brain surgery, there were joys to be savored. Laughing along with an incredibly kind and funny nurse who put all the nervous patients in the pre-op room at ease. Waking up and being able to see. Soothing my throat with a popsicle.
That is one of the great wonders of spending time with very young children, watching them experiencing joy in the present moment, without much thought for the past or the future.
For the record, I have experienced at least 19 of the joys on my list already this week, and it is only Wednesday. I must be doing something right!
In the meantime, I have stayed up way past my bedtime, and none of this makes any logical sense in my head anymore. We had a very productive evening after Simon went to bed, and now the majority of the rooms in our house are liveable, organized, and lovely. So now it is time to sleep.
(Photo a delightful sight of mine: farmland in the Amish country of Pennsylvania)
Friday, August 5, 2011
Living with zeal to savor the moment and find something to be grateful for in everything has its challenges in soaring August temperatures during this heat wave of 2011.
My savoring yesterday was the unexpected delight of having an afternoon off, so I went to the old farmers' market, bought bags of summer veggies: fresh tomatoes, squash, cucumbers for marinating, okra and peas. I came home with boxes of freezer bags, fresh produce and an enthusiasm that surprised even me in the sweltering 102 temp my car had cooled down to on the gauge from 103.
What was the source of this burst of energy--this nesting in the kitchen in August?
I donned my coolest, lightest whites like a summer camper, tied on my favorite lavender-blue apron, and got to work. Looking for all the world like a double for Ethel in an old "I Love Lucy" episode, I was fully present to the task at hand.
Pulling out my big bowls and pots, I mentally assessed if I actually could wash, cook and put away all the peas I had lugged into my kitchen. You know when kids' eyes are bigger than their stomachs? I was that kid at the farmers' market! I bit the bullet and bought the -- what are they? 10 pound tubes ?-- of bulging, shelled lady/cream peas and pink-eye peas. With a small fortune invested, I had to make good on the challenge.
And it worked.
I slaved over a hot stove, tackling more peas than ever before in my life, and I found some perverse delight in being able to do so. Call me crazy.
With summer on its last leg, it might have been my last chance to earn my stripes in the kitchen doing something our Southern women forbears could and did do each week. And with a new-found interest nationally in canning and such (I don't know how to do much, I confess) I felt downright up-to-date in my pursuit!
And as I rinsed, cooked and cooled peas (did I mention there were LOTS of peas?) in my kitchen, I felt anything but alone. Revived and energized, I felt my brain synapses firing rapidly and displayed an industriousness that belied the deadly heat outside. It was a kitchen extravaganza to be sure.
I get these bursts from time to time....this consuming zeal to get in the kitchen and turn out some good food. And then I go for days or weeks dulled by the routine of meals. Such is the case for my spiritual life, I realize.
Sometimes I bolt out of the starting gate of each day with enthusiasm and vigor and a commitment to abide in the Scriptures for that day's sufficiency. Other days, I am not as fervent, and find myself coasting through, as though I can dip back and draw from the reserve tank of last season's spiritual fuel to carry me on the journey.
Like manna in the wilderness, God provides for us daily. All that we do can become acts of gratitude. Or, we could become hoarders, seeking only to promote our own comfort and convenience through our own efforts and fail to acknowledge the giver of all gifts.
I'm thankful that the Lord's provisions are vastly much more dependable than my own initiatives. God doesn't operate in fits and starts, in on-off bursts as I do in my kitchen.
God's grace is always operating to draw us unto the Father of all mercies. God's mercies are new every morning and the table is always set with a feast before us!
O, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who trusts in God. Psalm 34:8
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville, S.C. was a new discovery for us last weekend. My friends, Tish and Leslie, bike all over the world and may know about this 13.5 mile stretch along the Reedy River connecting Greenville to Travelers Rest. I want to ride it one day!
In a Southern Living reference to the delightful trail, one sentence stood out: "It's hard to get lost."*
Getting lost....A memory surged forward when looking back.
As a child, I rode bikes with my friend, Gina, who lived in what was known as New Town, a grid of maybe four streets criss-crossed by four or five perpendicular streets creating a modern neighborhood in the 1940's - 50's of our small town. New Town offered smooth asphalt roads with no painted lines needed and little traffic--a biker's paradise to me back then. I lived on a highway and enjoyed the security of riding in a neighborhood.
I loved to get lost in New Town. We would ride for what seemed like hours over the same little streets until I found myself unable to know the way home to Gina's. (So maybe I've always been a little risk-averse. The race car-driving/plane-flying gene did an end run around me, I confess.) There was some amusing delight in being lost-but-not-really.
Gina knew her neighborhood, and I was never really lost when riding with her.
I have learned that whether biking or living, we can be lost while still very close to home.
We can lose our way in our relationships. We can lose our bearings and get turned around in a direction we never intended to go. We can live in lost-ness and not even be aware of it. No one is immune from the perils of the human condition.
Rather than judge harshly with condemnation when others take what appears to be a wrong turn, what if we strode up alongside and offered a way out of and through the confusing grid life presents to us?
When we are in the midst of a maze, we cannot see clearly. We need the company of one who knows the neighborhood. One who has been around the block before, so to speak. And one who is at home facing the challenges and frailties life offers.
And when we are the little lost ones, let us remember that we are never really alone. We may feel alone, but we are not alone. There is One who desires to be our guide, to offer direction, to redeem the anxiety and panic we experience when we've lost our way, and to set our feet on solid ground when the wheels stop spinning.
The LORD says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you." Psalm 32:8 NLT
There is something beautiful in that trail to Travelers Rest....and something peaceful and satisfying in reaching the destination in the company of fellow companions on the journey of life!