Writing on

Hi, friends! It’s been a while since I’ve been in this space – since most of Advent, then Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and how is it already Pentecost?! For now, I’m back. I’m not sure for how long, how frequent I’ll write, or the things I’ll write about (like if I’ll finish the Suffering Well Series). What I do know is that I’m here today, and I am in a deeper practice of taking each day, each moment, at a time. I want to soak all of life in deep. And writing helps me with the noticing, the appreciating, the learning.

Since January, I’ve had some new neurological symptoms. We’re still in the thick (but hopefully latter part) of figuring them out. So far, it seems like some kind of movement disorder is at play. I thought that my diagnoses/limitations so far had made me so grateful and less likely to take even the littlest of things for granted. But now that I’m rocking a cane and walker more than not and shaking my way through large parts of the day, I realize I haven’t hit the depth of what I have to learn about gratitude and joy in all circumstances. Can you ever lean too deeply into Christ? I haven’t hit the end of his goodness. It feels bottomless yet, even and especially when I hit the end of myself.

I feel like I lived well in this blog writing absence, and also lost some of myself in the hard. Isn’t life always a bit of this and that? I process a lot by writing, by getting my thoughts out in the middle of the messy and beautiful and looking for Jesus there. So here I am…writing on…in public again and not just in many full little notebooks and on scraps of paper and 3×5 cards. And today, I just have encouragement to share that touched my heart; encouragement that I’m going to hang onto tightly myself as I proverbially look at my list of things I’d like to do, and do, hopefully with joy, what I can (Pleeeeeease yes to going to a school event with my boy…!! Begging now over).

I’m sure I’ve mentioned my love here before of Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours and fixed-hour prayer (you can access The Divine Hours here free)? Here’s why I love it so (from Phyllis’ introduction):

“The Divine Hours are prayers of praise offered as a sacrifice of thanksgiving and faith to God and as a sweet-smelling incense of the human soul before the throne of God. To offer them is to serve before that throne as part of the priesthood of all believers. It is to assume the ‘office’ of attendant upon the Divine…Other prayers may be petitionary or intercessory or…, but the Liturgy of the Hours remains an act of offering…offering by the creature to the Creator. The fact that the creature grows strong and his or her faith more sinewy and efficacious as a result of keeping the hours is a by-product (albeit a desirable one) of that practice and not its purpose.”

When you’re happy: praise and give thanks. When you’re hurting: praise and give thanks. When you just…are: praise and give thanks. I can find no better practice for my own heart and life than to regularly practice praise and thanksgiving as an offering; to just be attendant upon the Divine. It is how I abide in Christ; how I hitch my vine to his branches. How I get my focus off of me and onto him. And you know what? My faith does grow more sinewy as a result; I end up not only more in love, but also more encouraged. More ready for life. So, here’s my encouragement about who God is for us (how great is our God?!) from today’s Midday Divine Hours, and then I’ll end with the lyrics to a hymn. And I can’t promise I won’t ramble, because verbose is kind of my thing, for better or worse. Wherever and however you find yourself today, may you be encouraged dear ones!

O God, you know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from you. Answer me, O Lord, for your love is kind; in your great compassion, turn to me. (The Greeting from Psalm 69:6)

How have you experienced the kindness of his love? His great compassion? I have a long list to be grateful for here. The biggest being that he is so tender with me in my weakness (so not the judging, perfection-seeking God I “knew” in my youth).

What god can compare with you for pardoning guilt and for overlooking crime? He does not harbor anger forever since he delights in showing faithful love. Once more have pity on us, tread down our faults; throw all our sins to the bottom of the sea. (A Reading from Micah 7)

Do you feel him delighting in you? How have you experienced him showing you his faithful love? Can you feel him? You are not alone, even in messes of your own doing. He’s treading down our faults and throwing ALL our sins to the bottom of the sea. Hot dang! ALL. I ask again: Do you feel him delighting in you? I’m trusting that He delights in me even when I am struggling this week to delight in myself (particularly my body and what it can and can’t do). I see my inability, but I remember He sees something He made and declared good. He delights in us. He delights in you, and in me.

For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken. In God is my safety and my honor; God is my rock and my refuge. Put your trust in him always, O people, pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge. (The Midday Psalm from Psalm 62)

I am a big fan of letting it all out – feeling it all, because it all ain’t good or pretty – BUT THEN praising God nonetheless because God IS. And he’s got us, oh how he’s got us. Whatever you’re going through or see coming down the pike that feels unstoppable and like it’s going to hit you like a ton of bricks and you’re just waiting for it…he is your stronghold. Put your trust in him always (baby steps totally cool; or as I like to think of it, always is an act we don’t make once but over and over again). Pour out your heart, the good, the bad, the ugly, the reverent and irreverent, to him. He will be your refuge. I told a couple of my closest people, one of them a pastor friend, that this last week I wanted to go the ocean – the place I feel closest to God. And I wanted to wrap up in a blanket and let the salty wind hit me in the face. Then I wanted to swim in deep water while simultaneously eating pizza, chocolate and a peanut buster parfait and screaming FUCK YOU as loud as I could. I didn’t know to who or about what, but I just wanted to yell it. Loud. And more than once. And forget that I can’t drive or eat pizza or chocolate, or do all of those things at once (how many arms and mouths did I think I have?!). Or that F-you isn’t really a thing polite folks, especially religious ones, are supposed to say (I have a lot I could say about that too). And you know what? This pastor friend met me with love, and God met me with love. We feel shaken, we do. I was shaken up big time this week (think: ER visit and hospital stay and that peek into the craziness of me losing my ever loving mind). But God, in all of my brokenness, wanting to eat the world and swear, fear for my future and exhaustion – he was unshakeable for me. And he steadied me and still is. Also: I ate pizza and chocolate AND a peanut buster parfait this week. The hospital gluten free chocolate chip cookies were the bomb and I ordered them with every meal and as a snack because it was listed as a snack and I’m good at obeying. I’m sure my doctor won’t mind… And my sister gave me grocery store turquoise hair because sometimes you just need to shake things up in a good way.

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A song:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Refrain:

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Love to you, dear ones! If you’re sinking, I’m likely right there with you. And he’s strong friend. He’s solid for us, and he loves us even in our sinking and no less for our sinking or the way we sink. May we cling to him together as our hope and stay. May we remember his goodness and see it even in the hard places.

(Also, I tagged this “real life is hard”. I make myself laugh. And I really have no idea how to do this tagging thing. Feel free to help a girl out.)

Encouragement from my favorite time of year

Advent – right now – is my absolute favorite time of year! If you’re curious about Advent, you can read more about its meaning and how we celebrate here. I also love the list of Advent info and resources compiled at Sacred Ordinary Days. For those who celebrate, I’d love to hear what your family does in the comments! Like my friend Charity, who created an Advent activities calendar for her family (she includes a free download!).

Encouragement from my favorite time of year | Colibri Homestead

As a family, we are reading through Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift for the 25 days leading up to Christmas. The message of hope, the message of Advent, contained in its pages is just what our hearts are needing. These simple and deep words from yesterday’s reading, the reading for December 3, were so beautiful I wanted to share an excerpt with you.

Talking about Adam and Eve in the garden:

“An enemy of God, Satan is like a wily snake that slithers in at the corner of everything and entangles around you. If he can trip you with a lie so you fall away from closeness with God, he can snatch your happiness, steal God’s glory, swipe away your love for God, and leave you robbed.

So that snake sneaked up to Eve, wrapped his own lie tight around her, and hissed his poison right into her heart: ‘God doesn’t really love you. God doesn’t really give you good-enough things. God doesn’t really give the gift of love all the time.

Eve fell for it.”

How am I falling for it? How are you? Are you feeling what Ann writes is the “painful loneliness we call the Fall”? “When you trip, you can fall off the path and end up lost in the long grass.” Don’t we all feel a bit lost at times? Or sometimes a lot lost?

And here’s the promise of Advent, the promise of the Bible, the promise for you & for me right here and right now:

“When we’ve fallen, and when we’re lost, God comes with one question. Not the question ‘Why did you do that?’ Not the question ‘What did you do wrong?’ The very first God-question of the Old Testament, of the whole Bible, is a love question howling out of God’s heart: ‘Where are you?’

God’s love never stops looking for you, trying to find you and gently draw you back close to him.

…Your God looks for you when you’re lost. Your God calls out for you when you’re ashamed and broken and hurting. God doesn’t run down the rebel. God doesn’t strike down the sinner. God doesn’t flog the failure.

Whenever you fall, whenever you fall short, whenever you sin, your God whispers to you with a love that wraps around you like a gentle arm: ‘Wherever you are, I will always come find you. Whatever you’ve done, I will always keep looking until My eyes see you, till My hands of healing reach you, till I can hold you close again to My heart.’

… And what was the very first question of the New Testament of the Bible? The very first question of the New Testament of the Bible was that of wise men asking everyone after Jesus’ birth: ‘Where is He?’

Really wise men and women never stop looking for God. And because your really wise God is love, He never stops looking for you.”

Can you feel Him looking for you? The Advent season invites us to look for Him. And it’s not to late to join in!

May God infuse fresh hope in your life and in your heart and in our world this Advent season! May we feel His love meeting us in all of the places we fall and fall short. May we remember, above all:

“No matter what the day holds, no matter how the season of your life unfolds, God holds you and enfolds you.”

Mmmm. Just sit with that for a bit and let God’s love wash over  you. You are loved!

Happy Advent!

(And thank you to Ann for your words!)

Filled with hope

I started volunteering at a local day center for women and children experiencing homelessness a couple of weeks ago. My friend suggested it when I was looking for a place to volunteer as part of my plan toward returning to work with the help of the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. I have the joy of doing “Guest Relations” work, which basically means hanging out, being a listening ear, sitting with, just being with the women. How lucky am I?! Oh, and we play Bingo and color together. Yesssss!!!

My husband texted me to ask how my time went yesterday. I sent him this text back:

“Today was great. The house was packed because of the rain and cold. It was fun to do my activity with the women*, and more are trusting me with their stories the more they see me and get to know me. I got to watch some Price is Right with some of them. They have male models now. (laughing crying emoji) A woman came in angry that she couldn’t get services til January 1 (she somehow did something to lose them), and when she blew out of there yelling that she was calling the police, etc. the ladies all stopped and prayed for her and her kid. They are broken and beautiful women.”

I see myself in them, my own brokenness. Many of them are dealing with health challenges for example. One woman talked with me about how she started losing her vision, was blind for a time even, shortly after finishing all of her formal art education. She was devastated and wondered what she was going to do with all of her passion and learning. She has since joined a tactile art group with other people experiencing blindness, has had a piece make it into a juried show, and was telling me where I could find her collaborative sculptures around town. What resilience! She pushed through the literal darkness to find joy again. What perseverance for me to learn from.

And I can see ways that I have much to learn from them, these beautiful, beautiful women. I mean, think about your girlfriends. If I’m being totally honest, if I were with a group of mine and we witnessed someone lose their cool and create a scene, I’m knowing that our first collective thought wouldn’t be mercy, grace and to start praying. Ouch…! These women have beautiful hearts! One said under her breath, “I know how I’ve gotten to the place where I’ve done that before.” Humility and a vulnerable “me too” – I need to drink down more of that!

I get to watch the small ways they care for each other every time I’m with them. One woman shared yesterday that she is going to use her little money to buy a soda and a candy for a friend from the day center Saturday; they have time planned to hang out, and that is what good friends do, they share and they give. One woman spent 3 hours yesterday scrubbing down the kitchen until it shined. It is normally a chore that two women do together. I offered to help her twice, and both times she’d say something pretty much along the lines of: “You just go have fun, I’ve got this; I enjoy doing this, it’s my way to give back and take care of others here.” The second time I decided she was for real. When is the last time I’ve cleaned up after 30 other people for 3 hours hand washing dishes with nothing but joy & gladness in my heart? Ummm…never. One woman had her headphones in her ear all day, and spent an hour singing loudly enough that you could hear her throughout the upstairs of the house (and you know how no matter how great of a singer we are, headphones in our ears are not our friends). The only comment I heard was from one woman: “She must have her headphones in still. Just listen to her praising God and doing her thing.” These women are all so different, but one thing they share in common is making space for and actively showing grace for one another. They truly knock my socks off every time I’m there. They spur me on to see the best in others too, and to grow in grace and love and mercy. This is a place where the fruits of the Spirit are alive and well. Not what you thought about a homeless day center? It’s seriously like church sometimes up in there!!

In these last going on two years, I’ve spent a lot of time mostly by myself at home. I’ve spent a lot of time with me. It is so refreshing to be back out in the world with other women on a regular basis. Women who, like me, are broken and beautiful. Women who challenge me to grow in love and faith and perseverance. Women who think different than me and the same as me, but who’s graciousness cover over all our differences. There is laughing and crying and joking and silence and talking and all of the good stuff of life. I read the news and my heart breaks. I look at my Facebook feed and my heart breaks again. But I spend time with these women, and I see God’s goodness all around and am filled with hope. Hope that God’s people can be a people of love and light. That we have the capacity to lift each other up and be salt and light to each other no matter the hard circumstances of our daily lives or the junk of the person in front of us or beside us. I am grateful for the love these women show me, for the love they model to me, for the love they have for each other, for the love that I get to witness and be a part of when I am there. For how that love follows me out the door and helps me see that things can be alright in the world if we’d just take our cue from these women.

Find yourself some people like this!! Find a place to be love, receive love, be a part of love. Ooooh, I am filled with hope! This is God’s upside down kingdom at work, and I am ever grateful for these women.

*we watercolor painted Scripture cards (and faces and tattoos and all other kinds of stuff)