On loss and gain

Do you ever feel like you are losing so much and gaining so much at the same time? It’s a strange feeling.

We used to identify solidly as homesteaders. That’s half of the name of this blog after all! At one point (but not all at the same time) we had two gardens, rabbits, bees, chickens, our beloved dahlia row, fruit trees, suburban turkeys (ha!) and chickens. We used to preserve and make, make, make and even fed four different families. And slowly we’ve opened our hands and let those things go as we’ve made room for the time caring for my body well takes: First the rabbits, then the bees, then the preserving (except for drying herbs). This year we’re saying goodbye to the chickens, letting our hard-working garden of 11 years go fallow for a year or two (it’ll be so good for her too), and just growing some potatoes, easy flowers, herbs and maybe some dye flowers in the new bed. We’ll still be here making, but it’ll be different. Our hands will be less in the dirt, in the clay.

I asked my husband the other day: Can we still call ourselves homesteaders if our homestead is…gone? The bones are still here. The fruit trees – which will still flower and fruit and grow, and garden space, and a place to have our chickens and bees again one day (for what one of us knows what the future holds?). A lot of our herbs and medicinal plants will just grow back on their own, as will our wily dahlia row. I’m sure we’ll have lots of free lettuce with a mind to grow on its own. We have hearts that will still try to make more than we consume, like our lip balm made with a friend pictured here (and as a prelude to below, a surrender to the fact that the picture just won’t load and that’s a-ok, a link will do just fine anyway, plus you’ll get the lip smacking details!).

One part of our identities isn’t going away – our homesteading hearts are still there – but we’re turning down the knob to turn it up on other things. On a level of openness and slowness that will allow us to jump into our new (old) camper for trips on the go, we are hoping no matter how my body is faring. We are turning up space for more quiet making. Dan, with some help from Ash, just built a beautiful workbench to do more knife making and leather work on. Tomorrow I start a class on The Franciscan Way through the Center for Action and Contemplation and have a knitting and sewing queue a mile long. This feels like a time where I’m investing in my reading and learning and growth and all of us in our little hobbies that get lost in the bigger running of a homestead. It’s like our quiet winter season, where the death of the garden and the rains keep us knee deep in these other things, is being stretched longer and wider.

This year I’m embracing the word surrender. Have I already shared that? My memory has been a challenge lately. But instead of pushing it to remember – or to go back and look – I am just going to risk repeating myself. Ahhh, another small way of surrender in action… But surrender to not look for all the health answers and try, try, try; surrender to focus more in on the living and moving and breathing and doing what we can and want but won’t push us farther into our margin; surrender to accept my body for what it is and what it can do on any given day; surrender to embrace and feel the losses and embrace and feel the gains.

Life feels strangely good. Psalm 18 has always captivated me; the depth of despair that we all feel but hardly admit to ourselves and especially others (find your people and do it!!), and full of the awe-filled power and the fierce, mighty glory of God even in the midst of our seeming destruction. There’s the promise of things big and small, like drawing us out of the water, setting our feet securely on uneven places so they don’t slip, helping us feel like we can scale the walls in faith that his strength is under, over, and all around us, and my favorite: him bringing me out in a spacious place simply because he delights in me.

Maybe this year is more about surrender, and surrender being that spacious place whereas before it looked more like our happy, homesteading, live simple lives, but now is getting to a smaller but bigger place of delight; delight in a life marked by unpredictability and disability, delight in the spaciousness that having to slow to such a level brings, delight in the goodness that still surrounds and fills me and inside. Just some midnight (or later) musings. Surrender and delight, you are welcome here. Change, you are welcome here. Lord, have your way in me. Take me from the miry clay. Set my feet upon the rock. I put my trust in you. I trust you. You are in the depths with me, and you have a spacious place for me and for us.

When Ash moved in, I used to sing to him before bed. His favorite and most requested song: Jesus Lover of my Soul. It feels apt to end with its words.

Jesus, lover of my soul
Jesus, I will never let You go
You’ve taken me from the miry clay
You’ve set my feet upon the rock
And now I know
I love you
I need you
Though my world may fall
I’ll never let You go
My Savior
My closest Friend
I will worship You until the very end
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On thanks despite circumstances

I appreciate these words today from Shauna Niequist: “…when life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”

I find life is more a mix of the two, but yes, the response to God can always be thank you. For example, #disabledmamalife (my new, humanizing and humorous hashtag on Facebook): Physical healing? Thank you. No healing? I praise and thank you yet. For are the sick, broken, poor, weak any less beloved? Oh no! And the Sermon on the Mount calls out the mourning as blessed. There’s a thanks to be experienced and lived and uttered even there, in those hard places.

It got me reading and thinking about Scripture: Paul’s thorn in the flesh, the charge “to give thanks in *all* circumstances ” (from 1 Thessalonians 5:18), and remebering Jesus’ suffering.

(This popped out to me too, from 1 Thessalonains 4:9-10: “Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. *Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.*”

There’s a call to more love and more thanks ringing in my ears and pounding in my heart tonight, and I’m listening. Do you feel the pounding rising in you?

And for those in the bitter-sweet more than the sweet-bitter, oh how Psalm 13 (BUT I trust in your unfailing love) and Psalm 18 can be our encouragement and reminder: “The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the Lord…but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me…Exalted be God my Savior!” For there is spaciousness even in the suffering. I’ve experienced it to be true. It’s what Psalm 23 talks about – that even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God has me lie down in green pastures, leads me beaside quiet waters and *restores my soul.*  And as my friend Shannon Evans said: “A life that bears suffering is not what we should most fear – our Lord modeled that for us Himself.”

More tidbits come to mind. Call this my suffering stream of consciousness…

A prayer from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals: “Lord, as the seasons turn, creation teaches us of grief, patience, and renewal. Make us good students of these rhythms that we might not hurry the work of grief but receive the gift of your presence in our time of need. Amen.”

And words from a sister in Christ, @wildrootsparable: “To be sure, holding the griefs of the world in one palm and the joys of God’s providence in the other is a heavy burden; do you feel it too? But there is grace yet, my friends. And laughter. And peace. And beauty. If anything, these sacred gifts from our Creator shine brightest when found where they hide, tucked into the icy corners of the world’s darkest corners.”

And Cynthia Bourgeault on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “The haunting prayer woven into Teilhard’s (T) reflection of faith in The Divine Milieu makes clear that it is no cheap optimism that T is dispensing here, but a wrenchingly honest acknowledgment of our human predicament and an unfailing fidelity to seeing God in *every* aspect of the earth, even in our human suffering.” A final “prayer” by T himself:

“Ah, you know it yourself, Lord, through having borne the anguish of it as a man: on certain days the world seems a terrifying thing: huge, blind, and brutal…At any moment the vast and horrible thing may break in through the cracks – the thing which we try hard to forget is always there,  separated from us a by a partition: fire, pestilence, storms, earthquakes, or the unleashing of dark moral forces – these callously sweep away in one moment what we had laboriously built up and beautified with all our intelligence and all our love. Since my human dignity, O God, forbids me to close my eyes to this…*teach me to adore it by seeing you concealed within it.*” – Amen

I’ll let my stream continue on in my head as I drift off to sleep, suffering but held close by my intimate Abba Father. Or maybe I’ll focus in on the words to this song, one of honor and thanks, that just came to mind (my brain, friends, it never stops…!):

Holy, holy, holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are filled with your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

If you aren’t feeling the sweetness now, in your life or when you look at the world around, grace and peace yet to you. May our mouths be full of thanks, wherever we find ourselves in 2018. We’ll get their by walking with Christ, our Suffering Servant, who is our “me too” gets it Saviour and friend. We’ll get there by looking for him in our bitter-sweet, with a spirit of thanksgiving, heart remebering his past faithfulness and his promises, and eyes wanting see.

“I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart; I will enter His courts with praise. I will say this is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice for He has made me glad.”

Peace and love, friends.

(And clearly I’m into the oldies but goodies of songs). All stream of conciousness responses welcome on the comments. 😉

Surrendering over and over

Things are so, so good. And things are so, so hard. Maybe you feel that way too? Our hards are all different, yet they can feel in us and do in us the same.

Right now, my hards have been giving me a spirit of fear. Do you ever feel it too? Sometimes starting in your toe and creeping up your leg; a little pest? Sometimes sitting hard on your chest, or filling you to the top of your head, filling you to overwhelming?

Yet I am reminded – by myself, the Spirit of God in me, those in my life (thank you!), by Scripture –  that I need not have a spirit of fear, because instead I have one of sonship/daughtership. Scripture reminds me that the Spirit helps me – helps us – in our weaknesses, that if God is for me – for us – who can be against us?, and that nothing can separate me – separate us – from the love of Christ (Read Romans 8; it’s powerful stuff.)

So what do I do when the unwelcome companionship of fear hits? I recognize it in me, and I ask my people to pray for me. They listen to my fears, and they remind me that I am a beloved child of God and he is FOR me. One speaks a word over me; a powerful reminder to surrender to what my body is doing and to find God there. The Holy Spirit reminds me of Mary’s willing prayer: Let it be to me according to your word. And I’m reminded of what I read about St. Francis in The Road to Assisi:

Joy had returned to Francis. During a night of sleeplessness he heard a voice saying to him, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you would say to this mountain, ‘Be removed from here,’ and it would move away.” Was not the mountain his sufferings, the temptation to murmur and despair? “Be it, Lord, according to your word,” Francis replied with all his heart, and immediately he felt that he was delivered.

Francis might have perceived that the mountain had not greatly changed its place, but for several days he turned his eyes away from it and had been able to forget its existence.

And after a day’s break from fear, it rolled over me again. And someone again prays for me. And these words roll around in my heart and in my head until they roll bigger and louder than the fear: I surrender. I surrender. I want to know you more. I want to know you more.

So I will repeat those words. I will turn them into my anthem. I will keep calling on the comfort of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of my community. I will trust what Romans 8 says: that the Spirit helps me in my weakness, that the Spirit intercedes for me through wordless groans. And I will turn my eyes from my mountain – my suffering, and turn my eyes to Jesus instead. And I will do it as often as I need to put the mountain of my suffering’s existence in its proper shadow – that of Joy and Love and Peace himself.

Do any of you suffering want to share this anthem from Hillsong with me?

Here I am
Down on my knees again
Surrendering all
Surrendering all

Find me here
Lord as You draw me near
I’m desperate for You
I’m desperate for You

I surrender

Drench my soul
As mercy and grace unfold
I hunger and thirst
I hunger and thirst

With arms stretched wide
I know you hear my cry
Speak to me now
Speak to me now

I surrender
I surrender
I want to know you more
I want to know you more

I surrender
I surrender
I want to know you more
I want to know you more

Like a rushing wind
Jesus breathe within
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

Like a mighty storm
Stir within my soul
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

Like a rushing wind
Jesus breathe within
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

Like a mighty storm
Stir within my soul
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

I surrender
I surrender
I want to know you more
I want to know you more

I surrender
I surrender
I want to know you more
I want to know you more

(YouTube video here)

So here I am. Surrending. Over and over. As many times as needed. Saying Lord have your way. I don’t know why. I don’t understand. I don’t know how long this will last. I don’t know what the next moment holds. But I can see beauty here, even in this. I maybe even see you here, most in my suffering and in the suffering of those I walk with. Lord have your way. I surrender and I want to know you more. I surrender. I want to know you more right here where I find myself.

Sing with me?

I picture us – the broken, the suffering – holding hands and singing and surrendering together, and it is a beautiful picture. May God hold you tenderly in your fear and may the Holy Spirit be your comfort. May you be able to yet praise, and if not, the Holy Spirit groan praise within you.

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(Gems from the Internet on illness and withstanding suffering here and here. Art from one of my favorite and local artists Nikki McClure, currently on my wall, reminding me to praise and keep praising.)