don’t give up

don’t give up

There were weeks following my father’s passing in November when I didn’t feel like doing anything.

I didn’t want to think about the food I ate.

I didn’t want to think about whether I exercised or stepped out into the fresh air.

I didn’t concern myself with how late I stayed up at night or how long I remained under my duvet. 

Those were not the days to be concerned about goals or “should’s”. 

Those were the days to walk tenderly through each moment tightly gripping grace and my Maker’s hand.

However, even in the midst of this necessary time of being gentle with myself, I knew this new liturgy of living didn’t feel like me.

On the last day of November, I decided to do one thing.

I pulled out my nearly expired bottle of multi-vitamins, poured them onto my kitchen counter, and counted 32 pills. There were exactly enough vitamins to usher me through 2020. I set the bottle next to my chair in the living room as a visual reminder. My reward upon completion, other than adding a bit of health to my insides, was to order a more “fun” vitamin. 

I decided to take the most minuscule action to assist my health during an emotionally depleting time. But an even more powerful reason was the vision I have of my mother. During the first weeks of living into a new existence without the love of her life, I watched as she sat at her counter assembling vitamins and supplements in her daily pill box compartments. It was in stark contrast to the disposal of my father’s no longer necessary medications. 

Consuming and disposing, two such opposed actions, but to me, I was witnessing a small act of resistance. This was my mother’s gentle way of declaring her presence in this life. She was continuing on in the face of prayers answered differently than hoped for, yet remaining resolute, one day at a time. 

A vitamin a day whether morning, noon, or before my head indented my pillow, became my act of resistance as well. When my vitamin bottle began to rattle at the end of December, I marveled because although this small habit didn’t yield a single visible change, emotionally it anchored my consistent desire to not give up. 

Don’t give up.

No matter what mountain seems unscaleable, take one small step today and repeat it again as long as you need. 

Smile.

Take a shower.

Phone a friend.

Take a few deep breaths.

Listen to a favorite song every day.

Borrow a prayer from the Psalms.

Drink a glass of water.

Buy a bouquet of flowers.

Walk around the block.

Read a poem.

Make a list of favorite movies and watch one weekly.

Look for sunsets even on cloudy days, especially on cloudy days.

Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.

~Jim Valvano

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The photo above is of my new fun care/of vitamins . I planned to share the link for those interested but perhaps there is “someone” always listening because, on Sunday afternoon, I received an email with a referral code to share an offer for 50% off first-time orders.  However, if you would be so kind to click this link, take a short quiz about your personal health needs, I will earn a few points towards my future health.
No purchase necessary


“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

II Corinthians 4: 16-18 (The Message)

pause

pause

Friends.

We are not even two weeks into 2021 and there has already been
such trauma inflicted into our days.

Late in the week, I tapped a few paragraphs on my laptop and then deleted them. None of my words seem important at the moment or necessary to pile more to the many you have heard or read this past week.

However, the part I could find relevant from that elusive post was my intention to share the word I chose on my birthday last August. This is the second year of selecting a word for my chronological year versus on January 1st. In the weeks to come, I will share more about my rationale. But today, I want to encourage you to borrow it. 

Interlude: inter [between] ludus [play]

a period or event that comes between two others and is different from them

It’s easy to go through our days as being a collection of before’s and after’s.

I will take a walk after work. 

I will read a book before the children wake up.

I will have more time after I retire.

Life will go back to normal after the pandemic. 

Taking a moment to reflect on the space between before
and after is important but it’s often avoided or rushed past.

May the word interlude, be your whispered permission to pause. 

Take a break from watching the news or scrolling social media.

Schedule time in silence to consider your beliefs and the effect of the past week.

Number the losses of 2020 and don’t allow your soul to completely
reside in 2021 without taking a moment to honor each one.
Don’t forget to marvel at how much courage, strength, and perseverance you possessed.

The gift of an interlude, as with music, is how the longer composition is enhanced by its presence.
An interlude or reflection doesn’t need to be lengthy or performed only once. It’s simply designed to bring meaning and depth to our lives. Interludes can instruct, reveal and heal us.

This week, I plan to take a deeper look at the past week and year. So often I am anxious to wish away time instead of remaining in the moment or mulling over the details later. Sometimes this wishing comes in the form of polishing shiny new year goals, an attempt to push away the harsh parts of life in favor of what I believe will ease away past aches. I am going to continue to grieve my deep losses but also look out for strains of evidence pointing to life, like the nasturtiums and herbs in my terra cotta pot which refuses to obey winter.

“We are like common clay jars that carry this glorious treasure within, so that the extraordinary overflow of power will be seen as God’s, not ours. Though we experience every kind of pressure, we’re not crushed. At times we don’t know what to do, but quitting is not an option. We are persecuted by others, but God has not forsaken us. We may be knocked down, but not out.” 

II Corinthians 4: 7-9 (TPT)

breathing room

breathing room

I have been working through a list of ten questions to ask at the end of the year courtesy of Laura Tremaine.
You can find all ten questions here. I enjoy using the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day to consider the past year and to set intentions or rhythms for the next year and these questions have been extremely helpful to me. In one sitting, I answered the first eight questions but let the last two questions linger and returned to them a day later.
The ninth question is:

What am I removing to make more space?

Initially, this question felt rather difficult because this year has been about removal to the core. As I sat with this question a little longer I wanted to share a few of the “things” I want to remove:

  • Saying “I am sorry” so often.
    This year, I have learned that I can trust myself, make good and wise decisions, and hear from God correctly, especially if I wait instead of rushing. I want to stop apologizing for possessing the mind and heart I have and leading from the place of Helen. This year yielded ample opportunities to practice making the right decision and as someone who can become paralyzed to make the right decision especially when the stakes feel weighty, I hope to never believe my compass might point south again.
  • Believing busyness, hurry, and crammed calendar boxes are the currency of worth.
    I know my worth is not dependent on extending my arms out for others to see my planner but I often live in direct opposition. I hope to continually reach for a slower more intentional life, one that is more curated than mindlessly stuffed with anything and everything. The days of living for gold stars are history.
  • It’s perfectly fine to admit when I am tired.
    Perhaps this an anecdote for incessant apologies and reaching for the busyness badge.
    Who isn’t tired? Some seasons bring greater fatigue than others. Listen to your life, your body, and your soul.
    Take a nap, go to bed earlier (preaching to myself) and get some regular sustained rest.
  • The belief of a mythical finish line.
    On a text thread a month ago, I wrote how I was going to stop living as if there was a mythical finish line.
    Especially related to my body, I tend to believe when I reach a certain number or mile marker, then I will have arrived. I think many of us are gripping tightly to a desperate wish that simply by landing with feet solidly in 2021, we will wipe the sweat from our foreheads and tears from our eyes and all will be well. As I wrote a couple of posts ago, there is no magic eraser for 2020. Hooray for the passage of this year in particular but many hard parts will remain. I am not trying to be a big-time downer but this is the reminder I am whispering to myself as to not be incredibly disappointed in a few days’ time. My prayer is to live each day and not try to live them in advance by gazing toward that flapping tape.

My husband and I have been consistently unburdening our storage rooms with items accumulated over the many years we have lived in our home. Some items are broken, out of date, were useful at one time but no longer. Our needs and intentions have changed over the decades. Every bag filled for Goodwill or to be recycled, not only clears physical space but also space in our souls. Often we look at each other and shake our heads unable to determine why a certain item exists upon our shelves. We declare we will never allow other people to give us their “discards”! The bullet list above is very similar to the physical items placed in the trunk of the car.

Sometimes it is necessary to remove what has been collected from others.

Sometimes it is time to remove what is no longer useful or serving a worthy purpose.

Sometimes its time to trash what is broken.

Sometimes it is simply about ridding your life of too much stuff to allow space to see yourself clearly.

May you approach this new year by removing what no longer fits and discovering breathing room.

*****

I set an intention for 2020 to dust off this blog and be present more often.
Writing consistently and connecting with so many of you has been one of the richest gifts this year has bestowed on me.
I am forever grateful for the time each one of you took to click a link and read the words placed on my heart.

Joy be yours in the year to come,

Helen

my year in books

my year in books

There were some inquiries about the book I referred to in my last post.

Unfortunately, the link wasn’t as visible as I hoped. You can view the book in question here. I thought it might be fun to compile the books I enjoyed the most this year.  There’s nothing I love more than a “best of” list and if there was ever a year to list them, this is the year. I am not going to describe the books as the links will accomplish this better than me but I will add a comment next to each title.  Find book links by clicking the title listed.

Disclaimer: My tastes may not be yours.  I had a text exchange a few months ago with a fellow book lover.
We talked about the books we had been reading. I mentioned a book I LOVED and she proceeded to return my text with “I HATED that book!” It made me giggle. We all have different tastes, be advised.

The books I enjoyed during 2020:

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue-This book was a welcome companion to transport me to another world when my current reality was not where I wanted to reside. 

The Midnight Library-What if you were able to make different decisions over the course of your life? Would the change in direction yield greater contentment? Hmmm.  This was a delightful reading experience.

The Starless Sea-To be honest,  I wasn’t always sure what was happening in this book for quite a while, but by trusting the author and patience, it proved to be beautiful, immersive, and richly satisfying by the end.
This was the first of two highly anticipated books by favorite authors of mine. 

The House in the Cerulean SeaI read this book during the summer and it made me laugh out loud many times. I found it deeply original, touching, and emphasized the power of creating a family.

The Glass Hotel-My other anticipated book and one that crosses my mind from time to time. I couldn’t stop reading this book. The author has a way of hiding details without making the reader overly anxious. I simply curled up and let the story unfold. 

GreenwoodI especially love family sagas when they are not bogged down by too many details. This book caught me by surprise by being a page-turner. In part, it is about trees and it was particularly timely as I read while smoke wafted into our home from all the wildfires.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the HorseI had this book on my radar for such a long time and it made its way to my home once our library allowed hold pick up. But it wasn’t until I returned home after my being away much of November that I exhaled, sat down, and discovered the wait was a worthy one.
It’s the kind of book deserving of a hug after finishing. 

The Ruthless Elimination of HurryThe first book I completed in 2020. It paired so well with the word “slow” I had chosen the previous August. Slow became the centerpiece of this blog for the early months of the pandemic. 

Honest AdventI love Advent. I have since being a child. As an adult, I have such high expectations and often reach too high. This year I chose only a few resources to use: Christmastide, Sacred Space, my church’s Advent resource, and Honest Advent. Scott Erickson has a profound gift of being able to combine artistic images, our common language with the Divine. It was a pleasure to open the pages each morning and will be revisited again and again. 

WinteringThe perfect book at the right time. Not only because of the season but as we all deal with personal winters. This book possesses the rare quality of making me feel understood in my current season but also very hopeful. I learned a lot about myself and this precious world we inhabit. I read this on my Kindle but may splurge for the paperback when it is released, it has the most gorgeous cover. Click and see.

At year-end, I should have a grand total of 35 books read. It’s not as many as I would have liked but my goal at the beginning of 2020 was to read 12 very good books. I will remember these ten the most. I have many partially consumed books as my mind was not steady once the pandemic hovered over our lives.
It is definitely not lost on me that many of these titles are fantasy in theme as are more not listed.
I am simply grateful to be reading.

What books make your favorites list? 

I would love to know!


May you end this year fully captivated by a great book and a hot mug filled with your favorite drink.
Bonus points if you are in front of a crackling fire.

stacking memories

stacking memories

Last summer I preordered a book set to release in October.

I kept stumbling upon advance reviews that were mixed.

I canceled my order.

Then I remembered my resolve to resist being easily swayed by public opinion as it doesn’t necessarily make it mine.

I reordered the book for this reason and because I knew a bit of fantasy in my life was welcome.

Autumn arrived as did a book porch drop and upon pulling back the dust jacket, fanning the pages, the attention to detail, inside and out was impressive.

As many readers during the pandemic have struggled to stay focused on the page, I have found myself in this camp as well. I would read a few chapters, grateful for the brevity of each one, a small respite from weighty thoughts circling my mind.

Last week, I closed the last page, not before a few audible sniffs.

I reopened the book to find a blank page at the end and did something I never have done before.

I wrote the date and a long paragraph about why this book was important to me at that very moment as well as noting a few pages with sentences I wanted to remember. 

This book had been stuffed in the back pocket of my purse, kept me company while waiting in a car when a virus prohibited entering beyond the sliding doors. It had been packed in a suitcase, barely touched during my father’s final days. A book, present even when closed tightly.

A book can invite a reader into a journey. This book led me to other places when life was inescapable.  But I dare say I etched a path upon the pages of this book as well. 

They say books find us at the right time. In the past, I have been remiss about documenting how a book found its way into my hands or its lasting impression. This was my attempt to stack memories about a reading experience and how it intersected with my surrounding circumstances.

Last week I also uncovered a print from the early days of marriage. Instinctively, I turned the pastel frame over to see a yellowing taped card bearing words of “farewell for now” and deep affection from one of our first friends as newlyweds. In an instant, I was 24 again and saturated with reflections and stories. 

This year has been steeped with difficult and anticipated memories blotted out by various speeds.

There is a summer photo of my family I intend to frame. It’s a selfie in all it’s non-professional glory.  Yet a glance of this captured moment will be a reminder of togetherness, fun, and the beauty of the outdoors. It will also be a hushed nod to all that we didn’t know in the months ahead.

No one ever knows what a given day will contain but 2020 has heightened this awareness. 

I am looking for any opportunity to embrace joy by stacking memories. 

Will you join me?

Frame a silly photo.

Leave a Sharpie note inside a board game telling the tale of an epic game.

Write in the margin of your books or on the last page.

On the back of that one million piece puzzle box indelibly record the names of the conquerors.

Name a favorite beverage or concoction to evoke the positive aspects of this past season. 

Start a new tradition or embrace an old one. 

Blow bubbles on New Year’s Eve.

Create an anti-despair playlist. 

Don’t wait until the new year to be a caretaker of your memories because even with all the hope we can spare, the stroke of midnight on a new year is not a magic eraser. 

Start stacking today. 

May we seek not to erase the excruciating parts of this year but rather allow all the good patches of life to come alongside the rough and raw terrain, bringing comfort and hope for the future.
If we have been given a future, we can be grateful for each added memory.

treasure

treasure

From an August 2016 Instagram post:

It is the very nature of being human to want the best seat, the highest and clearest vantage point.
I am slowly learning the gift of simply clinging underneath.
Underneath the umbrella of His care, comfort, and protection.

I don’t have to see everything coming.

I am grateful for all the ladybugs that have landed on me or crossed my path over the past four months.
If God designed ladybugs to bear spots, I know He undoubtedly covers my life.

/////

I had to pause for a moment to determine the significance of four years ago. 
It was during the days following my husband Carl’s cancer surgery and the diagnosis four months prior. 
Despite his family history whispering a warning for a decade, we didn’t see it coming.
My Dad was diagnosed with cancer a year later, we didn’t see that coming either.
Nor did we envision his passing before his birthday which always escorted us to Thanksgiving, if not a shared date. 

Reflecting on these social media words caused me to exhale my abiding belief in these words and discover them even truer today.
It is easy and tempting to post platitudes and shiny sentiments only to discover their elusiveness when life is revealed as tender, fragile, and raw. Now in the midst of feeling tender, fragile, and raw, I know God’s covering is beyond what I hoped or could foolishly attempt to conjure. 

/////

If you know me or have read this blog for a length of time, you are aware of my love for ladybugs.
If there is such as a thing as spirit insects, then the ladybug is mine. Ladybugs have always landed within my sight during times when I needed to be reminded of God’s presence. It’s been the sweetest wink from heaven to me. Maybe I have just gotten good at spotting ladybugs but I will counter by saying if you don’t look, you won’t see.

One chilly morning, I swept away golden and brown leaves that had found their way into the warm confines of my parent’s entryway. It’s a chore that needed to be done but it was also a way to keep busier than my mind which continued to replay a loop of Dad’s final days.  It seems I can’t fully access my memories until my mind fully absorbs the speed of his decline. The word whiplash becomes a common descriptor during those early days of loss. I donned headphones to listen to a podcast, another distraction tactic and in my attempt to capture debris within a dustpan, a speedy messenger came my way.

I grab a paper towel to keep my visitor in the frame of my phone camera. I think better of trying to swoop up my red dotted friend and run upstairs to show my Mom because I doubt my ability to contain it. 
I quickly texted this blurry photo to a friend who recently asked about why ladybugs were important to me.

We marveled.
 
In the midst of the mundane, God broke through spectacularly. Despite ground hardened by snow and grief, life remains, bearing the tiniest of imprints. A small insect sought refuge from the cold and warmed a daughter in the process. 

/////

I am not the first to express that there is the thinnest thread between the natural and the spiritual, between heaven and earth. Even on days when a veil of tears is present, I am treated to the precious gift of new sight, looking equates to trust.  Perhaps this vision has always been present and simply ignored. Or perhaps when we are the most greedy for a sign our eyes open wide enough to experience wonder. 

This past week, Carl and I began the second season of His Dark Materials. Later in the evening, I opened my Kindle to read a few pages of a book called Wintering. I have nearly a half dozen books I am “reading” right now and although I prefer paper to screen I chose this one. I hadn’t read very far when the author begins writing about The Golden Compass (one of the books in Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series of books) and many of the characters. Abandoning my chair, I head towards the kitchen to read the passages to Carl while he fills the water reservoir for the next morning’s coffee.

We marveled. 

Is this a coincidence?

A phenomenon we do not know about?

Or is it simply a reminder of how God enters our days and nights in seemingly insignificant ways?

But it isn’t insignificant. He knows the skin in which I dwell and how my heart swells with joy and bleeds in sorrow. 

He helps me not feel as if life is full of random occurrences but actually fraught with divine connecting points. 

I will keep looking as if attempting to uncover treasure plunged to the deepest depths.

I will also leave room for all that is designed to be hidden from my view.

Because I don’t have to see everything coming. 

Lord, help me to always rest in Your marvelous covering whether fully sighted or not.

Always.

the images of a month

the images of a month

I am sitting in my usual place at the dining room table next to our picture window. The sun is shining and there is a gentle breeze. The streets have returned to their charcoal grey after a brief morning shower. If it were not for the leaves of our maple tree glowing in shades of yellow, green, and emerging red, I might think I had transported back to the swirl of late spring with the early inklings of a virus grabbing a hold of our lives.

It’s been over seven months and still, we remain. Are the months passing quickly or slowly? This is the question ventured when idle chatter is offered as a distraction from the truer and deeper ones which loom close or lurk from a distance.

I scrolled through my phone’s camera roll for the month of October. I would invite you to do the same. It might illuminate the beauty and ordinary parts of the last 31 days.

Meet Ramona. She is not our family cat. However, she spends plenty of time hiding under our blueberry bushes and “bird watching”. I spied her recently on our porch. I am not sure there could be a more fitting image of what 2020 has felt like.

I live in a place where trees abound, the ocean or the mountains can be reached by a relatively short car ride. But it wasn’t until leaving my birthplace nestled in the rolling hills of the Palouse that I recognized the beauty of this terrain.

I spent a week with two huge sections of my heart. My heart still resides there even though I am back home. My mornings looked different waking up in the coziest bed but God always knows what we need, wherever we are geographically or emotionally. This devotion read one morning was the champion of my heart that week and still today. I started to write my last post called true while in Pullman. But I found using a phone was not the best writing device. I didn’t know when I first started writing this post that I would be returning to those hills a couple weeks earlier than planned. But God is not surprised or caught off guard. He loves to hear our prayers and I would welcome them as well for our family.

Due to Covid-19 precautions, I was unable to accompany one of my daughters beyond the curb to have a medical procedure. I was tired from traveling and was anxious to use the time to read, journal, or even recline my seat to slumber. One day I will write about my word for my birthday year. It is a play on the word interruption. I am calling this the year of interludes. Interlude sounds kinder than interruptions, don’t you agree?
It became crystal clear, way before the pandemic, how I react to interruptions. Exhibit A: my side mirror reveals a man who decided to pace back and forth next to my car and talk loudly on the phone. Did I let this display bother me? Did I feel my plan was interrupted? Why, yes I did and snapped a photo to have my other children share in my misery.
Most assuredly, I am a work in progress.

I voted. I took my ballot to the library, returned a few books as well as retrieved a couple more. I miss going to the library. It was such a vital part of my weekly routine. I would walk to the library and return home with the elevated hopes of finding my new favorite book. But on this day, I didn’t plan well, it was dark and so many people were capturing photos of themselves voting. So I opted for the good ol’ car passenger seat photo.

Speaking of books, this pillow is a nice reminder. During the last week of October, I participated in the Instagram challenge called #onedayhh. It is a way to document your ordinary day hour by hour. I have done this challenge several times and I am always surprised by the small spark of joy in opening up the window of my day to others. You can follow me on Instagram here.

I spent three mornings last week soaking in wisdom about prayer via Zoom.
Two favorite quotes from Brian Zahnd:

“The primary purpose of prayer is not to get what we want from God or ought to do but to be formed properly.”

“To be properly formed we must not only be praying our own words. This limits us to our present form, a fearful person prays fearful prayers, an anxious person prays out their anxiety, a prideful person in their pride. We must not pray out of spiritual pathology or malformation.”

I grew up with liturgy, rejected liturgy in my younger adulthood, but over the last 15 years, it has been a huge piece of the anchor helping hold onto God. When I utter prayers that have echoed across the centuries or are contained within the folds of a Bible, I feel completely at home.

The branches from our blueberry bush may obscure each important word on this sign. I hope you don’t miss my little finch friend who landed and remained throughout my trials of taking the perfect photo while balancing on my couch. I failed but my hope is we will not fail in making our world a better, safer, and more loving place for all.

Tomorrow is election day and I hope each one of us will be gentle with one another. The only absolute as I see Tuesday is many will rejoice and others will be downcast. What I do not know is who to assign to each emotion. May our country take steps towards unity and peace.

Here is a worthy liturgy and benediction to carry us through this week:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

true

true

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true,
noble,
reputable,
authentic,
compelling,
gracious—
the best, not the worst;
the beautiful, not the ugly;
things to praise, not things to curse.

Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
‭‭
Philippians‬ ‭4:8-9‬ ‭MSG‬‬

A few weeks ago, I received a communication that led me down a road called jumping to conclusions. I presented the words to Carl, he grabbed a backpack and joined me on a joint trek towards despair. Our thinking was faulty as it lacked the full context. A few hours later, our assumptions proved incomplete. What has remained with me, a constant reminder of sorts, is how quickly and easily it was to heap insufficient evidence onto an already difficult reality. I moved from a place of sorrow to wading in the depths of despair because I was poised to leap. Because my mind was weary and fragile, it was easy to assume the worst. Even more baffling to realize how much relief was derived when we were able to back up to our original source of grief. The mind is incredibly powerful and can lead us astray if we are not vigilant in what we allow it to contain.

Assumptions are easy to make, based on what is heard or read, but even information beyond earshot can follow this same dangerous pattern.

At the beginning of the year, I spent time reading the Gospels. When I arrived at the parable of the Prodigal Son, I couldn’t help seeing new aspects. For those not familiar with this parable, a man has two sons. The younger son decides to ask his father for his inheritance in advance, which the father relinquishes. The son sets out on an escapade of wild living and squanders his inheritance. He is destitute to the extent the pigs’ food looks appetizing. He returns to his senses, realizes his foolishness, and that his own father’s servants are living better than he has found himself. He decides to return home, beg for forgiveness, admit his unworthiness to be called a son, but instead his father’s servant. When this scene plays out, the father will have none of this scenario, embraces him, puts a ring and robe on his son as befitting his position, and calls for a feast.

As the feast is ramping up, the older brother returns and hears the sounds of merriment and inquires about the happenings. He is informed of his brother’s return and the father’s call for a party. The older brother is furious and when his father finds him to discern why he has not joined the festivities, the brother lays into this father by pointing out his brother’s poor behavior in contrast to his own. He is irritated his father never let him celebrate even in a small way with his friends. The brother calls the prodigal, “this son of yours”, distancing himself. The father explains to his eldest son how everything he has is his “but how can we not celebrate because this brother of yours was lost but now he is found.” He draws the sons closer.

What occurred to me while reading this parable was considering the point when the older brother entered the scene. One might say he was late to the party or more importantly, late for his younger brother’s entrance. He missed his brother’s harsh world living appearance, confession, and request to be considered a servant, no longer a son or a brother. It makes me wonder if he might have also been moved to compassion had he witnessed his brother’s state and contrition? But instead, he responded with the evidence he had been mulling over in his mind since his brother’s departure.

I wonder how often I am prone to a tirade based on long-held beliefs that no longer prove to be accurate?

I am endeavoring to pause before I wander down a road paved by my own imagination. During this particular time, my mind can quickly move from hope to despair, from life to death, from peace to fear, and from truth to falsehoods. Most importantly, when ugly and evil words are uttered, I will not allow them a corner of my mind, heart, or soul. Even when they are fact-checked and deemed as truly spoken.

Questions for this week:

What are you allowing to fill your mind?

Are you meditating on what is true?

Who or what is the dominate voice in your life?

What pieces of information are missing to complete an accurate picture?

What tools could you assemble to help your mind land in peaceful places?

*****


May we make it our aim to fill our minds with what is true and beautiful.

May we stop, look and listen before we leap in a faulty direction.

May we ever be in awe of all we don’t know or see, but yet God does.

May we be quick to listen and slow to speak or to be angry.

______________________________________________________________

Two tools helping me daily:

Lectio 365

This devotional classic

supposing

supposing

Have you been bolstering up that soul of yours with the idea that your circumstances are too much for God? Put all your “supposing” on one side and dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. Deliberately tell God that you will not fret about that thing. All fret and worry is caused by calculating without God.

~Oswald Chambers~

I ran into this quote this past week. When I say ran into, I mean with the force of slamming into an invisible plate glass window. I have felt dazed and bruised by the words ever since.

There are so many scenarios I suppose about which aren’t true. Even with concrete facts to add to my suppositions, I am often wrong. I can spend a lot of time making a case of “what if’s” when time would be more beneficial trusting in the great I Am.

It’s tempting to harbor hard places close to the heart and deem them untouchable, impossible and maybe impenetrable. I want to learn to dwell in the shadow and not in the scorching heat of my trials.

I think the evidence of hiding under the shelter of God’s care might resemble the flowers above. The petals crinkled and a bit faded but if you look closely, the flower still retains its beauty, maybe additional character. In fact, birds will take great delight in feasting on its seeds.

There is a lot to fret and worry about during this current season. I am going to deliberately tell God as many time as I have to that I will not fret about all the things which occupy and are contained in my mind. I will whisper and shout it as often as needed but mostly I will listen as to not crowd out His voice or presence.

I will remember my calculations are often misleading.

God excels at higher math than me.

May we be aware of all the places of fretting and worrying.
May we live and move and have our being with God.
May we dwell under the immense shadow of God.
May we land on the right side of our cares.

battleship

battleship

When my family reached the last weekend in August, I could feel their weariness. This wasn’t the usual fatigue from trying to lasso every bit of sunshine and recreation. It was a lethargy from repeatedly navigating and bracing for changing conditions and parameters during a typically care-free season.  

We had loosely planned a family outing but as the day drew closer, a quick family pulse revealed the previous intentions were neutral. If one person had been enthusiastic, the others would have rallied. This signaled a need to pivot because embracing time together was our priority. I suggested a board game tournament followed by a nacho bar, enthusiasm was instantly restored.

The weather was a sweet spot, not too hot or chilly. Caleb and I arranged our patio table with games ranging from age-old favorites like Trouble, Rack-O, Battleship, and Connect-Four. We played in pairs, set a ten-minute timer, rotated opponents, and added other games as necessary. Each round was scored according to which player won the most games or was in the lead if the game was not completed. Once tabulated,  the top winners had a Jenga showdown. Everyone was able to pick a movie sized candy in order of their finish. Then it was time for each of us to create nacho masterpieces.

When Carl and played Battleship, the only words spoken were a location, hit, miss, or the dreaded,  you sunk my battleship.

As the buzzer sounded, I was declared the winner by achieving the most hits and sunken ships. By positioning my ships alongside the corners of the board, my strategy to keep out of sight and danger proved successful.

I have employed this same strategy in life as well. I’ve lived trying to either remain hidden or outrun the potential assaults of life.  But I never could ignore the whisper reminding me to brace for being caught. This mindset does nothing to perpetuate the gentle, slow, and peaceful life I crave. 

It’s demanding, exhausting, and chaotic. 

I have been reflecting on the hits and misses of my life, and especially over the last six months. When considering the list of misses, I am flooded with gratitude. However, the hits require effort to exhale from the remembrance of what was given permission to invade my life.

The hits and misses are two-sided markers, etched upon my life history, one part relief and the other a wound at varying stages of healing.  But whether the hits landed or missed the target of my life, these events don’t define me nor are my identity. 

They don’t get to decide if I continue to carry joy or love or hope in my heart. 

They can hurt me but they don’t get to destroy me.

They don’t get to wave a banner over my life proclaiming defeat.

I am determined to pursue peace, not surrender, despite the pieces of shrapnel that remain lodged close to my heart and mind.

I  will live in the reality that it is possible and necessary to hold the bitter with the sweet. 

It’s commonplace to laugh and cry nearly simultaneously.

Our circumstances no matter how difficult cannot strip away our true identities. 

+++++

How is the condition of your vessel today?

Has your life felt like a target practice?

Has the constant barrage of hits robbed your joy and peace?

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Remember your identity.

You are strong.

You are courageous.

You are someone who perseveres.

You possess everything needed to traverse the waters of trials.

Sometimes you write a list to remind yourself.

Sometimes you share your life hits with another person allowing them to bear witness that your battleship has not sunk.

*****

May our identity not be founded in the hits and misses of this life.

May we reaffirm our belief in our ability to hold harshness and sweetness in unison.

May we recognize the battle is not ours alone.

May we always remember we don’t fight as those without hope.

*****

 “And this is why I am suffering as I do. Still, I am not ashamed, for I know (perceive,  have knowledge of, and am acquainted with) Him Whom I have believed (adhered to and trusted in and relied on), and I am [positively] persuaded that He is able to guard and keep that which has been entrusted to me and which I have committed [to Him] until that day.”

II Timothy 1: 12 (Amplified)