Ask Not For Whom the (Alarm) Bells toll

14633172_10154420402990867_8734817113299342239_oI am fresh off a weekend retreat with fifteen wonderful women. We read scripture together, we worshipped, we prayed, we crafted, we ate 7 blocks of cream cheese..

I am fresh off a weekend talking about the simplicity Christ models for us in his relationships. How we are each designed to be ourselves and nothing more, that we need not add to our to do lists, but look at what we are already doing in our lives and welcome him in.

I am fresh from last night’s Bible Study, talking about Ephesians 4, and briefly recapping prior weeks. In these few weeks of teaching and discussion, I have leaned heavily on calling, that above all else we are called to be children of the light, to be followers of Christ, to be of the King. God sets no hierarchy in the work he has assigned to each of us, he has set a whole body in motion and each has their part to play.

So why was my alarm set at 4am today?

I discovered a new blog the other day. A woman who has been writing a book for two years, a frazzled mother of babes, who realized this summer that the hard wrangled book had to be set aside for the book the holy spirit was leading her to write. So, you can now buy her advent book wherever books are sold. It looks amazing and I cannot wait to dive in.

And yet it comes with a heavy dose of the “why not me’s,” a rousing rendition of “now I’ll never get to…” and a big scoop of “I’m doing everything wrong.

In Ephesians 4 Paul tells us not to be angry and then goes ahead and tells us how to correctly deal with our anger. He assumes that as frail human creations, we are going to be angry again. Even when we know we shouldn’t, we’re going to go there anyway.

I may not struggle with anger, but my frail human conditions reared their head this week, despite having so recently taught other women, encouraged other women, led other women in confession, to let it go.

So what did I do with that information? I decided that instead of continuing to be me, I would try being her instead. One aspect of her journey this year really stood out to me was that she was so singularly spirit focused on this work, that she would get up at 4am because she couldn’t keep the words in. I have long felt awkward that my desire to write has not been matched in my ability to set aside time for it. So I set my alarm for 4am, and here I am.

photo-on-10-21-16-at-5-21-am-2

It is 5.30 in the morning. I listened to the alarm sound from 4 till 5, then I got up. I am cranky, I am tired, I have probably irritated my husband, and I feel no spirit led-creativity-inducing-burden for the book(s) I am working on.

So I turn to the reading I am currently enjoying over at Shereadstruth.com

Psalm 27: 4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

One thing I ask. One thing. Last night as we dove into Ephesians 4,we spent a lot of time looking at his use of the word one, how it really focuses that call to be children of the light above any other thing we might seek to do for his name. cough cough.

Psalm 45:1:My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king.

I am reminded of Eric Liddell, the Olympic runner from the film Chariots of Fire “I believe that God made me for a purpose… When I run, I feel his pleasure.”

When I write, I feel God’s pleasure. When I get up at 4am attempting to be someone I’m not, I don’t.

Message received.

 

The Weight of Presence

IMG_9479She crawls into my lap and puts her head down, I gently stroke her hair. Her little body curls up and relaxes into mine.

She wakes in the morning with a cry for me, I walk in with calming words, but it is as I pick her up, as the weight of her body becomes absorbed into mine that she calms.

She sits in her play area drinking her bottle, but as I pick her up and she points to the light, smile on her face, I feel the weight of her body pressing down on me, completing me.

My daughter is one year old and I love her more than I thought it possible to love anyone. Each new experience in mothering has brought something new to the table, or refined something that was born in me with the previous child. But with my baby girl, who is sitting dancing in her high chair as I type, I have been humbled by the presence of God. As I picked her up this morning, to bring her over to join me with her pumpkin bread as I studied, I was struck by how my heart both raced and settled as the weight of her little body joined with mine. As her limbs wrapped around me, and the weight of her entire being was absorbed by the enormity of mine. As her little tushy nestled onto my hip, and everything that was supporting her faded, and became me.

Presence.

You can do a lot for a child with presence. When M is in my arms she is content and I feel whole. With my middle child, all he wants is for me to be with him, “Mummy I just want to be with you!” he cries. He wants me to look deep into his eyes when I am talking with him, wants me to see and hear his words. My eldest son wants me to come alongside in what he is doing. Wants me to play Lego with him, play Video games with him, read with him, sleep alongside him.

Presence.

They don’t care what kind of breakfast I give them, homemade muffins or pop tarts. They don’t care what we do on Saturday, whether we go to a hay bale maze and do some apple picking or stay home in our pajamas reading books.

Isn’t that what God wants of us too? He doesn’t care if we can recite the book of Job, he just wants to be near us. He doesn’t care if we know who wrote the book of Ephesians, or when, or how it pertains to the current political clime. He simply wants the weight of our bodies to press into His. To feel our existence dependent on His. To feel the weight of our presence like a mother feels a baby.

Sure, all that stuff is good, all that stuff is wonderful. It’s enriching and life affirming. It builds us up and makes for a richer, deeper relationship.

But nothing beats that first few sweet minutes of the day, when I pick up my daughter, take her weight into my own as she melts into me. When we look at each other with sleepy eyes and feel I am my beloved’s and she is mine.

Forgiveness, can you imagine.

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable
They are standing in the garden
Alexander by Eliza’s side
She takes his hand
It’s quiet uptown
Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

These words from Hamilton go around and around in my mind. Not just because this song soothes M when she’s fussing. Not just because the song makes me cry and reaches me in places I don’t want to think about.

There is a grace too powerful to name. Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

I spend a lot of time thinking about grace, trying to pin it down. To identify it in my life, to look for times when I can show grace to others. But grace goes hand in hand with forgiveness, and I like to hold on to things.

Just the other day, someone made a comment about birthday presents and I responded with something witty about my 21st. My remark showed Ben that I had not forgotten a mistake he made over a decade ago. A mistake he sorely regretted, and has made up for a thousand times over just by being him. I saw the look on his face and I had no way out of it, because I can forgive a thousand times over, or forgive once and move on. But memory is a tricky beast and not so easily tamed.

How often I wonder, do we lose some of the forgiving in the remembering?

Once upon a time I came home from an evening out. It wasn’t a fun evening out, it was an obligation I was fulfilling for the both of us. I had spent all week cleaning up each evening, and when I returned home from this obligation, stopping at the grocery store on the way home for pot luck supplies, for the potluck I had to put together before bed, the house was a mess. There was food on the floor, the living room looked very lived in, and the laundry was still piled high. And Ben was in bed.

I wish I could say I took the high road, but I didn’t. I was angry. I tried to pray. But I couldn’t. And when I say couldn’t I mean I didn’t want to. I tried to forgive, because I knew there were reasons I didn’t know. But I couldn’t. And when I say I couldn’t I mean I didn’t want to. I held onto that anger.

I wanted to pray because I knew it would help. I didn’t want to pray because I knew it would help.

So instead, I channeled my inner Carrie Underwood, threw my hands in the air and let Jesus take the wheel. Not literally of course. I put the groceries away. I prepped the pot luck. And then I started to tidy up.

I ignored the coffee pot watching me from the corner of the room. The one I liked to fill at night, so that Ben could stumble in at the sound of his morning alarm, hit a button and have tasty coffee.

He makes bad coffee in the morning. Really bad coffee.

I tidied and I cleaned. I sorted. I filled out some paperwork. I tried to fall asleep on the couch then got up and tidied some more.

And the coffee pot watched me.

And as I tidied something happened to me. God forgave me my stubbornness, showed grace to me in my anger. buffed away the scratches to my exterior. I can’t identify when it happened. There was no flick of a holy spirit switch. I just know that I started out angry and ended up not, and somewhere in the middle was God.

I made the coffee.

cup-of-coffee

After two hours of cleaning and prepping and laundry and other assorteds. I wasn’t angry anymore. I went to bed, held my love close and fell asleep. When we awoke the next day, I remembered why I had been angry, but the memory had faded. The reasons seemed unimportant, the anger seemed momentary. Time and grace had dulled the gut reaction, and the memory of it only served to remind me that God had shown me grace, and I in turn had made coffee.

There is a grace too powerful to name. Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

Unfinished Projects

120313_2Thessalonians3_13a.jpgI started a project two weeks ago. I am hand writing First Thessalonians on a big canvas. It’s therapeutic. I like seeing the script lying around my kitchen, the open bible next to it. I got to thinking about repetition and oral histories, how monks would write out the same scriptures again and again taking years over the ornate typography. How the words would seep into their being by the sheer act of writing. Well I don’t have years or fancy handwriting, but…

I thought I would be done in three days, but it lingers.

I have three small children so everything I do lingers.

But for once I don’t feel the need to make excuses to myself, for myself, about things I’m doing simply for me. I’m not sure when that happened. Up until recently I was feeling guilty about the unfinished projects lying around, especially when they were for someone else. Yet with this scripture project, which is awesome in so many ways, I have let go of the guilt.

At the moment I am writing it on craft paper I have stuck to the canvas, then, when I know it fits, I will start actually writing it on canvas.

So really, I haven’t even started the actually project yet, I’m just testing it out. And still, I don’t feel guilt about an unfinished not-quite project.

The letter opens with “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So this work I am doing is produced by my faith certainly, and is a labor of love, and I am enduring in it instead of wallowing in the guilt of it’s speed, and every time I look at it I am hopeful for the day it is done and hanging on my wall.

I guess the words are seeping into my soul.

 

Ruth 1

RuthI always come back to Ruth.

It used to be that I would go through “a dry spell,” “a valley,” I’d get the spiritual humdrums and just stop. everything. Then eventually something of the spirit would speak it’s way back into my heart, and I’d find myself walking the road from Moab to Bethlehem once more. From a seemingly godless land of plenty, to that holy city that had not yet seen it’s full glory come to pass.

In the days when the judges ruled,[a] there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.

Talk about obedient wife. Naomi knows where they are, she knows that this is the land of plenty, despite the famine. She knows that this is the place of God, that this is where they are supposed to be. Elimelek knows it too. But he allows his daily circumstances to dictate his everything. And so, they pack up everything and leave God behind, to find food and shelter in a land free from God. To get a good picture of where they were going, just think about who the original Moab was. The product of the drunken incestuous night that Lot was tricked into by his daughters. We are leaving the promised land and moving to Reno baby. and Naomi knows this. Everything that we learn about her, everything we know about Jewish homes back then, they were so acutely aware of who God was and where He was, and still Elimilek said go, and off she went.

What do I think happened there? Did Naomi lay down her case for staying in front of her husband? Did she throw her hands up in the air, lament this husband of hers and swear he would be the death of her? Did she call out to God and say even now in this I know thy will be done, I will follow this man you have sent me, and trust that you will lead us through as you have before?

There are so many words I could put into her mouth. So many scenarios I could concoct out of thin air. And as much as I like to speculate on this relationship that set so much in motion, I think there is so much beauty  in the simple statement; So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.

Together they went.

To live.

For a while.

Now the together I’m on board with. “Doing life” together, I get, though I abhor that expression. But “For a while,” I stumble there. So often I make decisions or start down paths thinking that it’s forever, thinking that once I’m locked and loaded there’s no way out. I start to worry that I’ve set in motion the wrong thing. That God can’t redeem me from the wrong path chosen.

Lies people.

Some things in my life are going to be permanent, some in fact are going to be ever lasting, but most of the things in my life are going to be for a while. And Naomi knew that. She knew a great God with a great plan, who had seen them through many things. And she knew that this time in Moab would be for a while. Now had she known it would kill all her menfolk, I’d like to think she would have had some misgivings, but she didn’t kick up a fuss about leaving her hometown, her friends, her family, her extended family, her life. Because “for a while” you can do anything.

My kids are little. They are all under 6 and life is crazy. Even when we don’t have plans and are at a normal baseline, we are exhausted and life is just crazy.

But I can do anything for a while. And the things I’ve laid aside for these wonderful years with my kids, they are only aside for a while.

The dreams that come and go with my seasons, might only be dreams for a while, there’s still time for that while to become the rest of my days.

This time with my kids is only for a while and I will cherish it and rail against it, adore them and tear my hear out until it is done.

Together they went for a while.

I need Lin Manuel Miranda to set that to music.

 

Lift

Five MinWhen I think of lifting up, I think of so many artificial things. I think of an elevator rising, especially the kid with wrought iron doors and a man specifically employed to operate it. I think of the kind of shoes they used to make for short people who wanted height. I think of the shoes they used to make for Spice Girl fans. Chuckies on steroids. And yes, I had a pair. I think of the energy drinks my husband drinks. An afternoon pick me up. A boost to that long car ride.

And when I am done exhausting my list of artificial lifts, I sink bank into my thoughts, find that comfy spot, and find the lift in my soul. Words and silences that come from deep within. Words that speak of a never ending love, of an in-exhaustible love, of an unoppressive love, of a love that never dies, never fades, never changes with my state of mind.

I find my lift in a cup of coffee and protein bar in the morning certainly, but more so in what lies behind it, what it represents. It means five or six minutes, alone sometimes, but more often than not by the side of a child munching on toast, five or six minutes of stillness. In which I am not multi tasking, but focusing on the prayer at hand, the book at hand, the scripture at hand, the five minute Friday prompt at hand. The coffee and protein bar are outward symptoms of what is actually going on.

And now in the distance, my coffee long gone, my empty wrapper on the table, I hear the distant voice of Lamb Chop singing:

…This is the song that doesn’t end, yes it goes on and on my friends, some people started singing it not knowing what it was and we’ll continue singing it forever now because…

And the parenting doesn’t end. The coffee pot doesn’t end. The laundry certainly doesn’t end. But neither do the giggles, the love, the buttery toast faces, the welcoming husband. And that lift in my soul, that lift that is the basis of my life, that seeps into everything I do, everything I am, well that never ends either, and we’ll continue singing it forever now because His is the love that never ends…

All The Books

TeachingI received some wonderful encouragement from a friend when I started writing again. I was lamenting the fact that Elyse Fitzpatrick had already written all the books I want to write, and she said “no one has written all of the books.  There is always room for more…and your words are greatly valued and appreciated, unique to your story and like no one else’s.” I want this on a T-shirt. #allthebooks.

I feel deeply connected to God when I write, always have. From my baby Christian days writing poetry feverishly, through my first blog, through 365 days of poetry. So whether or not the books have already been written, Imma gonna write more.

I listened to Jamie Ivey’s 100th podcast this week and I get the feeling she is probably currently writing the book I want to write, and I can’t wait to read it. To see how it complements my own story, to see how God weaves his way through our different lives. To get inspired to keep writing, scribbling away, making sense of all these words and thoughts I have.

Then I discovered a new podcast by the lovely Christy Nockels, and in her first episode she talks to Annie F. Downs. Annie is my soul mate. She doesn’t know it, but she is. I passed by her at If:Gathering, just inches away, I regret not talking to her, because she’s so wonderfully everyday. I may go back to Texas next year, just to stalk Annie. Like Beth Moore is your fancy get up, but Annie is your workaday writer. She just gets it. So I’m listening to Annie and getting so encouraged and so lifted up, and they start talking about how everyone always seems to write about the same things at the same time and how that’s okay. She says that when people are coming up with the same things, it’s because God is breathing a theme into his church. God is telling thematic stories through his varied people. So we end up with all kinds of books about appreciating the little things, and not sweating the small stuff, and saying the best yeses. And I am sitting at work listening, pounding on my desk, saying a silent Hallelujah in my best southern voice. All ready to go home and start work on the book that’s been permeating in my mind for the last week.

Then the bubble bursts as dear, sweet, Annie says that in late 16, early 17, we’ll be seeing a slew of books about friendship, because that’s what the Lord is doing right now.

And I just about bust open, because that’s where my heart has been this week. In my friendships, and my people, and how different they have all been, and how they have affected me, and how I’ve wanted to give up, and where God has injected life. And I am torn apart in a split second because Angie Smith is going to get there first, Jamie Ivey has it down, Ann Voskamp is calling the shots, and there is of course no room for my voice among the angels God has set among us.

And my friends, THIS IS A LIE.

Because no one has my voice. No one has my stories. And no one else is going to write this. And when they write their story, and I write my story, and we all write each other’s stories, we breathe life into this God sent message. And the more voices yelling this into the world, the more chance the world will listen.

So, now what? I will still bum out that my book will be slow to write, and one of many, because bumming out is a spiritual gift of mine #blessed. But I’m going to write my stories anyway. I’m going to tell of my God, and tell of my friendships, and tell of my family, and my kids, and my soul, and how He saved me. And if no one wants to read it, I’m going to print it and give it to my friends, so they can hold my heart in their hands and know they are loved, and know that they have improved my life and my soul.