Ancient Practices

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I find myself drawn increasingly to the ancient trappings of Christianity. To the things that my protestant forebears discarded, rejected, even lambasted. And yet…

I find, as with most things that a little goes a long way. The thing you use only becomes a problem when it surpasses the purpose itself.

I was speaking to a friend the other day, and felt the call to pray for her. To actively pray for her, to accomplish something, to reach to the heavens. I recalled a portion of Sarah Bessey’s new book in which her Pentecostal self remembers reaching out to liturgical practices as a way to see God anew. And so I found myself lighting a candle. And as I lit, I prayed. And as the flame rose, I prayed. And every time I saw the candle, I prayed. And every time I saw the candle, I was reminded of it’s constant burning, taking my prayer up to God in the minutes I was not making an offering.

The candle burns, and like sweet smelling incense my prayer is carried beyond my lips, beyond my heart, and into the world around.

The candle burns, and I am drawn back time and again to that same prayer. To offer up my sweet friend to our Lord.

The lighting of the candle only becomes a problem when I feel that the candle is the link between myself and God, when I forget that Jesus destroyed those barriers, that I may now come freely to him.

I will not say, “I will light a candle for you.” But I will say “I will pray for you,” and now that may often involve a candle. The prayer is the thing.

So I will light my candles. I will offer up my prayers. I will feel connected to those who have prayed and lit candles before me. And every time I glance that way, I see the candle, and lift my voice and heart in prayer.

Wasted Time

IMG_9156.JPGI have had three months at home with my baby to ponder this. To think about how I spend my time. To spend my time differently. Going over the things I enjoy, the things I have no time for, and the things that can wait.

I have struggled through all three of my babies with the work or not work dilemma. Ask anyone who has walked with me through these tiny years and they will tell you I am a virtuoso yoyo expert on this. Sometimes I pray that God will make me (ha!) quit my job and stay home. Other days I thank him for the chance to be part of a wider community at work. Some days I am thankful for the security and comfort of a good job. Others I rail against the lack of time and the uselessness of it all.

As I stand on the precipice of a return to work and I look back at three months with my baby, I feel like I should be saying “that wasn’t enough time” or “that went by fast” or some such platitude about not wanting to go back. I find myself elsewhere however. Sure, I’d love to stay home with this snuggly bundle, but I don’t hate the thought of going back. I feel a “not enough time” on my lips but my heart just isn’t in it, because the time we’ve had has been wonderful and full of wonder.

At the beginning of my last Bible study, a friend said that when she spends time with Jesus she always asks him to take the small time she has and make it so much more. This is how I feel about these three months, like I’ve had a whole year of living in them. A whole year of snuggles. A whole year of baby smiles. A whole year of hand sewn dresses and after school crafts. A whole year of reading Sarah Bessey and Deidre Riggs and Jen Hatmaker with a baby in my arms. And yes, a whole year of binge watching on Netflix and too much Facebook feeding.

Staring at my Christmas tree tonight is like staring at my life. Some portions are laden down with ornaments that are within reach of little hands that were so eager to help. Some are completely barren. Some have nothing but the simple lights glowing. Other areas hold precious and delicate ornaments. Each section is different, and when taken on it’s own can seem to be the only thing about the tree, and that can be overwhelming. But as a whole, when you take in the barren spots, the overflowing and the simply lit, it just works.

To everything there is a season, a season does not balance you, but the whole year does. No time is wasted.

Baby Love

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This week my third maternity leave comes to an end. In this last week, I have spent more time than usual just staring at my baby, holding my baby, keeping my baby from the arms of others.

For the first few weeks, it was all about me and her. I was healing, she was learning how to live, I was learning how to nurse for the first time. It was a whole universe in which she and I were the sole occupants. Others circled us, making sure we were fed, and rested, and the other children were alive, but mostly it was just us.

Then I got used to my body, she got used to the world, and we settled into a rhythm. I started to get things done. Laundry was put away, sometimes. cookies were made with the boys. Little dress patterns were worked up, and little dresses made. And all of a sudden here we are at the end of my leave.

On Monday afternoon, she fell asleep in my arms and I sat just looking at her. Her skin, her eyelashes, the grooves of her head. Not too long after she closed her eyes, I fell asleep too, but before I did I felt a word from God about my love for my newborn.

While watching her I was pondering how nothing was getting done, and that I didn’t care. We weren’t being productive, I was just loving her and she was letting me. We weren’t accomplishing anything, I was just watching her and she was being watched. We weren’t learning new things together anymore, taking new steps, I was simply absorbing the wonder of her, and she was letting me.

It struck me that in all my Christian machinations, organizing events, leading Bible Studies, desiring to write on this blog even, all God wanted to do was love me.

I take pride in not over-reaching, I have learnt the art of saying no and saying the good yeses. Yet everyone has their spiritual checklists…

In that moment with my baby in my arms, I understood that I am loved as a newborn baby. That if all I were to do were to lie sleeping in His arms, it would be enough. The joy and love I felt for my newborn, were but a shadow of the love He feels for me.

I reflected back to a time six years ago, after the birth of my first son. My spiritual walk changed when I became a mother, not because I became a mother, not because I now had kids, but because I had a different understanding of time and how my time was going to be occupied, where my time was going. One afternoon, with a fussy four week old boy asleep on my bed, I felt that urge. To shower, to eat, to do laundry, to read my Bible, what to do with this time. And the Lord whispered to me, “You need rest” So I invited Him to be with me as I slept, to bless my weary body, and be with me as I napped. That nap is a core memory for me in my walk with Jesus. The moment I realized that he would meet me right where I was, exactly where I was, even if where I was wasn’t where I would normally meet Him.

We don’t have to invite God into a food drive, or a bible study, or a conference. We can invite God into something as simple as an afternoon nap. It’s the invitation itself that He wants, and He doesn’t care what it’s for, as long as it’s with you.