On Death and Resurrection

Newness always seems to inspire me. If you follow me on Instagram (I’m @colibri_homestead and you can see pictures here even if you aren’t a user), you’ll know we bought a used RV and fixed it up enough to take our first trip (to the Oregon Coast!). We had to come back mid-trip for a saline infusion (I talk more about that on a recent Instagram post if you’re curious to learn more), and decided this morning it’s better if we skip the second part of our trip. There was relief there, and sadness too. All these things together inspired these words from my heart. Cheers to embracing that which we are taught not to embrace!

Physical suffering.

It can literally bring you to your knees.

Deeper than your knees. Sometimes in a deep, deep pit where there’s just the smallest glimmer of something that’s not your body’s pain and the messiness spinning out from it.

It can bring shame or embarrassment:

At the parenting you cannot do.

The relationships you cannot maintain.

The independence you lose.

The doing you cannot do.

 For me, the toilet in my bedroom and “grandma” diapers in my closet that   yes, can be used by those much younger too.

        For others the very cane, walker, wheelchair, shower chair, grab bars – the            things that can bring freedom if you don’t listen to the shame of your pain.

I had a wise friend share what she had learned from another wise friend about chronic illness: Sickness can be a good teacher if you let it.

And I let those words sink in. Even at their first reading they feel immediately right, and my seeing – it started getting bigger too.

She says somewhere in that conversation: Illness is a chance to practice forgiveness and grace over and over for the things people say or the ways in which they unwittingly cause pain when trying to be helpful.

I now see it as a chance to practice grace for myself over and over too.

A once-avid gardener and backpacker, I look around me and back to what I know best: the ground beneath my feet. And all I see is death and resurrection. And I think: that’s the key. There’s death, but then from that death resurrection pushes up, like scrappy weeds growing from cracks in the ground to that beautiful unfurling into its fullness of the rhubarb. Even in the forest at darkest night, there is still life swarming all around, like the nematode my son just caught; a great dark-time surprise. My, what I – what we – can catch in the dark! Because there’s its own kind of beauty in the dark and in the dying too.

And I am brought to my knees, with pain still, yet a hope: All the earth’s deaths and resurrections and all the seasons of my suffering – my own little deaths and resurrections, bring me close to him, the One who was present at creation, who lived in an earthly body with its pains, and is the very archetype of dying and rising again.

So now when pain hits and brings me to my knees for days or weeks or months or minutes, I remember to listen and learn and bring with me all that I have gathered along the way:

To fall into death and remember it is always followed by resurrection, even if it is just a small enough break to empty that toilet by my bed.

How all those little resurrections build and they build and they build until they outstrip my fear of death; my fear of that pit.

How now, all that pit holds is the potential for new life.

And then the pit loses its death grip on me. And I am brought closer and closer through this dying and resurrecting that my physical pain brings to the One who embodied it resulting in deep, deep union. Ah, that sweet, sweet union. Union that only the co-knowers know.

And I realize all along what the Beatitudes have told me: that those things that look more to the world like un-gifts are really the greatest gifts of all. And I do the impossible, or what some would say is imprudent, foolish: I somehow embrace my physical suffering. Pain then becomes gift, even as you both wish it away and somehow rest in it.

 


 

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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.)

Praise & Forget Not

This is post 7 in the Suffering Well series. See all of the previous posts here.

I’ve been absent from this space and this series for a bit. And it’s because I’ve been a plain old hot mess (with a capital H and M, if you’re wondering – just ask my people). The suffering I’m experiencing – poor health – is a nearly every day, all day reality in my current life. Not to say that all is bad or hard, because that’s not the case! Here’s my place for pretty life and garden pictures to prove it.

It’s more like I’m just currently walking through it all, and suffering isn’t easy or straightforward or without its share of messiness. Sometimes I feel ankle deep in it, and sometimes up to my neck (or eyes, or honestly, even over my head). My health effects nearly all aspects of my present life and days – how I feel, what I can do, my capacity for clear thinking, the energy I have to parent, be a wife, be a friend. I’m not writing this series in the past tense, and certainly not because I’ve got how to suffer well (or anything in life) fully figured out. I offer these writings up not with a neat bow tied on top, but from a place of vulnerability as I work it all out. Some level of suffering is my current reality, and that’s just the way it is.

So, no need to worry, but truth is it’s just been a harder twist in this journey. I’ve been in my health margin and unable to get out, and that generally results in stuckness in other areas of life, like my emotions and ability to see the forest through the trees. I’m starting to come out of this overall stuck place, for which I am most grateful. I thought I came out of it last week, but isn’t progress often more like a one step forward, two steps back kind of thing? And that’s okay, because I’m moving forward again!

One thing that’s helping me this week is Psalm 103’s reminder to praise & forget not. It starts:

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits –
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like eagle’s.

Nothing helps me in harder seasons more than stopping to praise, because praise helps me find and keep my bearings! Praise is my anchor, my lifeline, to the God who loves, the God who is present, the God who cares, the God who comforts me and you.

And this reminder to forget not – oh how I love it & need it. Every day! But especially when I’m stuck. God is all of those things – forgiver, healer, redeemer, lover and satisfier – when all is well, and when all feels not well. It helps me immensely to think on that & to run through a list of the ways that God has been there for me in the past, to specifically remember how he’s been present for me throughout this season of hardship, and to look for him, God with me, today. Because he doesn’t and hasn’t stopped being with me, even when I’m feeling stuck. Looking back and looking deeper helps me know it to be true.

Being stuck for me is more like a loss of perspective, a place of needing to find my footing again and to remember the solid ground on which I stand. A place of needing to think bigger than myself and the circumstances I find myself in. Praise and forget not, praise and remember – I’m going to be doing a lot more of both, and invite you to join me. Because it makes a difference, when all is good, all is hard, and all the in-between. It roots me, and I pray that it roots you just the same!