Terrific and Terrifying Life Transitions

I’m the kind of person who is loyal to the end, often to the end of myself. I’m not the typical “Cruiseamatic.” I’ve gone to the same non-denom church for 30 years, lived in the same area almost my entire life, and would have been happy to work at my job as an Executive Director of a small Christian non-profit to the end of my days. But God had other plans…and that makes my dig-in-your-heels-until-the-end-of-time personality VERY uncomfortable.

So, here I am, picking up my proverbial pen again. Something that I had convinced myself that I had no time to do while immersed in the nonprofit world. I’ve let my writing persona crumble and, like Nehemiah, I’m looking around at the ruins of my blog, my novel and a few other projects of unfinished business with no idea where to start. Where does one even begin to repair broken dreams and things left to the destructive forces of life’s storms?

Oddly enough, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the upheaval in my life. Last year, without even asking, the Lord gave me the word “transition.” I can’t think of a more terrifying word to receive when one is pretty happy with every part of her life. As I sought the meaning of this command, I left no stone unturned. I continue to allow Him to change things that, at one time, I thought were non-negotiable. As each of these dark corners in my life reveal a change by His direction, I will gladly share with you. For now, I can only say that, like Bilbo when questioned where he was off to, “I’m going on an adventure!” The kind of adventure where I am trusting God to take me to a safe and prosperous place that I know not of. I understand that such a place is unavailable without setbacks, surprises and battles. I also know that the character, growth and relationships built along the way will make the whole process more than worth any struggle seen along the way.

Quiet: The Soundtrack of Heaven

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The dog sighs, rolls over and snores. In out, in out, inhale exhale, inhale exhale. My left ear hums its never ending song.

Quiet only means that I hear things usually covered up by the noise of demands surrounding me. Dinner must be made. Television blaring, phone ringing, all screaming for my attention. But tonight, while everyone sleeps, I hear the tired train moan deep, and I wonder, What other sounds do I miss in the business of everyday?

Wind chimes tinkle Amazing Grace…how sweet the sound! All at once I realize that it is grace I fail to hear when pressures roar their angry lion heads at me. “You will not ignore me!”

His still small grace voice of a breathing dog, a trailing train, and yes even the hum in my left ear beckons me to follow deep and deeper still into steep stillness.

Quiet and powerful is His voice. Full of grace. Yet Demands demand that whisper-dreams shut up, or at least become drowned in the underlying strings of stress playing the tensing muscles taut.

Grace beckons beyond cacophony band to the world of deaf ear ringing and all the other sounds of still voice that I ignore as background noise. Refrigerator purrs, full of food and air conditioner writes songs of comfort on a muggy night. The toilet fills the empty bowl and I am filled again. Filled with wonder in the Silent Night.

Grace burns brilliant in the silent night-holy night. All is calm…all is bright.

No matter how dark the night, the birds bring balance to the universe in morning with cheerful chirps. I am sure their song brings healing, even if we don’t consciously acknowledge their part. They know the secret…the one about Abba Jireh…the Providing Father.

I determine to slow down enough to listen to the music heaven plays as a soundtrack to life. Just like a movie, it is meant to provide mood behind the story.

Resting In Him – #OneWord365 Post

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Resting isn’t always about taking a nap, or taking it easy. It is also about where I choose to land, or settle.

Google defines rest as:
2. be placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position.
“her elbow was resting on the arm of the sofa”
synonyms: lie, be laid, repose, be placed, be positioned, be supported by
“his hands rested on the rail”

I am like a weary worn bird returning to her nest during a wind storm. I place myself in His more than capable hands. He supports me in this journey which is sometimes difficult and painful. Yet when I take the time to remember that I am in His Presence, it is a joyful journey regardless of the terrain. I choose to nestle into His arms. He holds me up when I would otherwise fall down.

January till now has tested my rest promise…You know the one found in Isaiah about peaceful dwelling places, secure homes and undisturbed places of rest?

There was an act of vandalism on my block…a bird in my house and now one of my gutters hangs by a thread resting on the electrical wire bringing power into my house.

Coming home this month has felt more like something to be avoided or dreaded. Perhaps an experience even coupled with a little fear. Then I would remind myself of His promise. Peaceful dwelling places, secure homes and undisturbed places of rest. And now there’s February’s meditation:

Exodus 33:14 says, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

His Presence is here amidst flapping wings and gutters, potential power outages and vandalism. He is where I land, where I take refuge. Not my couch.

And so here I am where He is. And He is where I am.

I rest not because my circumstances are ideal. I rest because He is with me.

Rest Versus Escape

imageRest is so different from escape. I can rest right where I am without having a palm tree or beach. When my heart swirls around like so many towels in the dryer, I can stand still and hear a tiny voice. I don’t need to watch a movie, read a book or imagine away my fears. Sure the temptation is always there like that box of Christmas chocolates beckoning from the pantry, but just like a broken fast or diet the gratification only lasts for the moment and then I feel worse than before.

No, rest is found in admitting, “I am not enough. There is not enough of me to go around.” And then waiting…waiting for that voice so small that it is only heard in stillness. It reminds me that He is more than enough, and when I am found weak, He is found strong; when I am found foolish, He is found wise; when I am found overwhelmed, He is found sufficient.

This is my peaceful place, my safe home, and I trust Him to lead me to green pastures…and guess what? He does.

My comfort food is His Word and it satisfies. He is the high tower to which I escape and find rest…and now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…He is able to keep me, and in that promise, I rest.

In Pursuit of Him

Sharing over at the High Calling Community.

He is the One great Love of my life. The One Who has absolutely never failed me. He pursues me endlessly and relentlessly. The truth is: I can never pursue Him enough. I want to know Him more, but I get busy. Many times with His business. And I forget that one of His greatest pleasures, as is true of any parent, is to merely sit and “be” with Him.

You see, I prove my pursuit of anything with the amount of time I am willing to give to it. My time with Him doesn’t always look the same. Sometimes, I read His love letters to me. And I weep for the love He has lavished on this broken life. Other times, in between back-to-back appointments at work I whisper His Name, light a candle and breathe deeply a moment. He rushes to my side. Peace comes. Even in the midst of a storm.

I try to spend time outdoors and walk daily. Occassionally I will lament that I am not a runner like many of my friends. In fact, I do not even walk fast enough to raise my pulse. I’ve tried, but I always seem to see Him and, “Be still my heart!” time slows and stands still and I know that He is God. It might be in a piece of lace poking through pavement that stops me in my tracks, or a field of gold or an emerald hummingbird drunk on nector. He offers presents in His Presence. I blush for His goodness to me.

I pursue Him in quiet. Not the kind of quiet my ears can hear, but the kind my heart enjoys. This quiet can come in an echoing gym full of loud children, or in the back of a screaming ambulance. I only need to close my eyes and let Him quiet me. And He stills my jittering insides. Time and space melt away. The sounds of this life grow distant. He is here and now and all that matters, and Heaven’s perspective comes to my momentary reality. Suddenly, I can do anything for He strengthens me.

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I pursue Him in community. I can not become so enraptured in His love that I isolate myself from this world. Though I am not of this world, I am in it. And I am in it, in this time and place for a reason. For such a time as this. I am His Body. Not exclusively, but collectively. I am His Bride in part, not in whole. I must not forget what He loves and pursues. For God so loved the world…

That might mean changing diapers and wiping snotty noses. It might mean doing more than putting a few coins in a homeless man’s cup, but taking him to McDonald’s and listening to his story. It might mean, and this is the hard place, revealing truth and setting boundaries and hoping that the receiver will allow truth to bring freedom. My love for Him drives me to love what He loves.

So there you have it. My heart runs hard after Him and not hard enough. Time, quiet and community. For me, in this holy trinity He is found. When I pursue even a little, He pursues me greatly. My mustard seed becomes a great shade tree; protecting, feeding, bringing life to my hungry soul.

“I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain.” Ps. 143:6

…and I chronicle His grace

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Caring for Yourself Is Really Caring For Others

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Constantly spending energy without replenishing leads to a definite breakdown. It’s rather a matter of math. Cars can’t drive great distances without refueling. Bank accounts can’t sustain repeated withdrawals without deposits. The same is true for you. The demands for your time and care will leave you on empty, unable to keep caring. It was a dark day for me when I realized that I had used up all of my strength on others and hadn’t taken care of myself. Ongoing care for yourself is the only way to prevent a breakdown and keep caring for others.

Would you care to join me at Family Fire?

Passport of Peace

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I didn’t tell you the whole story. I wanted to understand what all of it meant first, and though I am still unsure, I think it is time to share more of the story — at least in part.

Maybe it is pride, but I hate that even for a moment it has to be about me. My life’s been poured out, a drink offering…and I am spilled out faster than I have refilled…and the cup has been found bone dry. Ann the Counter says, It’s a startling thing to witness: a breaking heart can break down a whole body.

My arms have reached toward Heaven and Father and my cry has been that of a toddler, “Up! Up!” Arms that have reached toward others and the same others over and over and over….now reach to Daddy God that I might be (en)raptured.

The other day I dreamed a dream. You may have read about it, I wrote about it here. I don’t usually remember my dreams, but occasionally I have a different kind; different than the kind that makes sense while you are sleeping, but not so much when you’re awake. You see I had a dream of fleeing to Canada, to a heart that understands pain. A heart that I only know by her words illuminated on screens of many sizes, and a little yellow book begging me to count. I know her by heart, you could say. But in my dream I couldn’t get across the Canadian border because I had no passport. And she was disappointed because she had wanted to soothe my heart with ordinary beautiful things. And then I woke up. It was then that the miracle occurred. You see, when I scribbled my heart in bleeding words that day, I hadn’t read her words on her graffiti wall. This is when I knew it was no ordinary dream, for her words that day were all about forgotten passports and grace to enter in anyway.

I felt like the double rainbow guy with , “What does it mean?”

I determined that my passport of grace was the invitation to count again. I was rusty. Out of practice. No longer could I see on my own. Hands trembling, I put on Ann’s rose colored glasses, her calendar of prompts. A pinprick of light shone bright in the dark of my storm. And now she writes these words straight to my stormy heart,

“Sometimes God will calm the storm for you, but sometimes God will calm you for the storm. Sometimes God calms the storms — and sometimes the storm stills swirl and He calms our fears.”

And then today these words, “…and in You, Lord, there is always the relief of a quiet retreat — the relief that Peace is a Person, not a place: “You’re my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your Word to renew me.”‘ Ps. 119:14 MSG

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I need not rock in Ann’s chair on her front porch, for we share the same place of retreat; His Words. Because Peace is a Person, not a place. He is my retreat, my Destination, and all I need is a passport of grace.

Still counting…

Three things full
32. My day was very full!
33. My stomach
34. My fundraiser is getting full of participants!

35. Thankful that He has made even my enemies be at peace with me.

Three things smelled
36. Fragrance after the rain
37. Peonies laden with dew
38. Stuffed peppers given as widow’s mite

39. Left overs from senior’s group
40. Wet screens

A gift unexpected, unwanted, unlikely
41. Lunch brought by client

…sharing a playdate with Laura:
and at a new place for writers Unforced Rhythms of Grace.

and with beautiful Jennifer Dukes Lee…{\rtf1\ansi\ansicpg1252
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And with my dearest Emily…

Wishing Upon A Tree, Embracing the Cross

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I am only left with what is worst in me.
Replete of You,
filled up with me.
Yet I have chosen.
I have chosen crucifixion with You.
No longer alive to the ugly stone heart of me
…but fully alive to the beautiful soft heart of You.

I stumble to the base of the cross.
A sure foundation.
The bedrock on which I build my life.
My arms wrap around coarse wood.
This is what I’ve become.
A hugger of that bloodied tree.

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There is a Celtic cross
where it is said
those who can reach around
fingers touching
will receive their wish.
But my only wish is to know You.
To hear your voice say, “This is the way, now walk in it.”
My wish is to fulfill Your wish.
To love like you love,
whether cradling children or turning tables.

And this is what I’ve become,
a hugger of that bloodied tree.
Emptying me of me.
Until there is nothing left of me,
inside of me.
And I think Your thoughts,
Dream Your dreams.

This is what happens when one wishes upon a tree.
When one wraps their arms around a cross.
Embracing His loss
For gain.
And this is what I’ve become,
a hugger of that bloodied tree.

counting…
5. Peace in my home.
Three things funny…
6. The dog refusing to go out…too wet and windy
7. I dream about Ann inviting e to her place, but I can’t go because I don’t have a passport, and then she posts this.
8. “Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don’t have film.” FB status.

Three gifts from conversations

9. Colleague telling group that I do “everything.”
10 Best friend called me strong.
11. Reassurance from church leaders.

Three gifts found in Christ

12. Security
13. Peace
14. Wisdom

A gift of peace, hope, love

15. Diamond Studded screen

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16. Few days at moms
17. Misty mornings

18. a balanced budget
19. sons changing plans to protect sister and mom

The Ugly-Beautiful
20. Reckless stairway to nowhere

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21. Well worn Bible

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22. my heart

Three things that make me really smile

23. Sandhill cranes

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24. Coffee with my girl

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25. Devotions on the patio

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A Gift at 8, 12 and 2
26. Safe arrivals
27. Naps at home
28. Sweet sleep

Three gifts painted
29. Knobby desk

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30. Great Granny’s chair

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31. Dresser done duo

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…sharing a playdate with Laura:
and at a new place for writers Unforced Rhythms of Grace.

and with beautiful Jennifer Dukes Lee…{\rtf1\ansi\ansicpg1252
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And with my dearest Emily…

Show Me Your Glory…Even Though I’m Afraid

I love this song.
It is the cry of my heart.
…except for one line. “I’m not afraid.”
because I am afraid.
and shouldn’t I be?

His voice makes the earth tremble.
He is the Great Judge.
He holds Life and Destruction
and considers them like a chef considers which spice to use.
He says that no man can look upon His face and live.

That’s frightening.

I only know that God longed to show His people His glory
long ago
in a desert far, far away.
But they were too afraid.

And it made Him sad.
I don’t want to make Him weep over my rejection of Him.
Is my fear essentially rejection?
It was for those desert travelers.

I wonder what it takes to be a Moses?
To be chosen to commune with God in a deeper way than the masses?
But did God choose Him, or did He choose God?
Moses, with his asking?

Do I only have to ask?
and then have the courage for the answer?
It is true, I am afraid,
but I think I’d risk that fear to see His glory.

Jacob saw God in the face of His brother Esau.
He saw glory in a common relationship.
He risked death and unforgiveness to see glory there.
Am I willing to seek Him in the face of another?

Jesus saw the glory of Solomon in lillies,
And David has directed us to the stars.
Saying that the heavens declare His glory.
Because the stars sing, you know.

And their song declares His glory.
Does my song declare His glory?
For I am reminded by my sister that I sing because I have a song.
Not because I have the answers.

And my heart cries, “Show me your glory!”
And my Love answers, “My glory is all around you!”

…sharing a playdate with Laura:

 

A Letter To Ann Voskamp

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Dear Ann,

Last night I had a dream that you invited me to stay at your farm for a welcome retreat from the battles I face. You were so excited to share healing with me, and I was overwhelmed by your generosity and nurture. But sometimes Ann I look at your pictures, even of your messes, and think you don’t understand pain. But I know better. I’ve read your book. Purchased several copies to share. Counted to 300 something. And even though I know your life has been harder than most, you’ve decided. Now I decide. I decide to see beauty in struggle as my ugly caterpillar self waits in quiet darkness for what comes next. For my embryonic state only declares to me that new birth is coming and I can choose, if I dare. I can choose to be content in the warm and safe place of His arms, trusting His hand to craft wings of color to my worm body.

I can choose as my heart breaks in two for the desperation of others to see my most prized possessions: two bushes ablaze with beauty, one with lilac and the other with pearly peony.

I can choose to be relieved that my cocoon is dark because then I can not see the scalpel performing surgery on my broken pieces.

I can choose to see hope in the hard, singing in the sad, trust in the trial and love for the lost.

And you know what? It’s my choice, not anyone else’s. I can choose to be grateful. No one can take this from me. Because as you have so beautifully said, “when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.”

So I’m starting my list over and this time I won’t stop. I will come to the place you’ve created as a retreat for me and other weary travellers. And I will rest on the front porch rocking chair. Back and forth, back and forth, to the rhythm of His heart beat. I can not walk this road alone, so I will re-learn gratitude, with your beautiful list, a respirator of thanksgiving, I breathe in, out, in, out. Breathe out thanks, breathe in gift, breathe out thanks, breathe in gift. I will learn to spirit-breathe again, but I might cough and sputter a little, because I have allowed my air to be polluted with death wishes and dream killers. So let the breathing treatments begin. And Ann? Thanks for the invitation.

1. For the invitation to really see… herehere

Three things orange?
2. #2 pencils scratching on lined notebook paper
3. Daughter’s orange scarf peeking out of basket.

.

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4. Splash of orange cheer on my Dunkin

…sharing a playdate with Laura:
and at a new place for writers Unforced Rhythms of Grace.

and with beautiful Jennifer Dukes Lee…{\rtf1\ansi\ansicpg1252
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And with my dearest Emily…