friday joy (transitions edition)

 

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I believe joy is always present.

It’s just that during roll call, joy frequently chooses to respond inaudibly.

But joy is there.

Even when it has to be dug up from the depths.

Sometimes joy hides.

Or we push it away and simply don’t have or want

our line of vision adjusted to spy it.

Joy can seem like a fickle companion cloaked in mystery.

You might feel all frowny, out of sorts and then without warning

joy lands as unexpected as a dragonfly lighting in your midst.

Joy is a direct hit to the soul, like shouting,

“You sunk my battleship!”

Except even if your vessel takes on water,

you win.

Your soul has been saturated with an ocean of joy.

          *****

I skipped last Friday’s joy post.

Last week, was an exceedingly difficult one for several people I love.

So many dear ones have been in long and short holding

patterns of waiting for the deepest sorrow to land.

Friends waded into the crashing waves of grief as

they said goodbye to a precious 2-day old baby,

a brave husband and a dearly beloved mother.

I am sure if I took a poll of readers, you could offer

your own version of pain or sadness you experienced.

It seemed hollow to write about the joyous wonders of

ice cream or a favorite pen.

It’s important to mourn with those who mourn.

I am praying  each family will discover joy hasn’t

abandoned them, it’s pressed down during this

time of weeping and reflection.

I haven’t witnessed the dragonfly landings of last summer.

But I know dragonflies exist.

We might not always feel joy.

But joy exists and quite remarkably can

coexist with sorrow.

(If you don’t believe me, take yourself to see the
movie Inside Out immediately….brilliant!)

Joy came and is coming to me in two ways this week:

Ocean Joy

Honestly, I am kind of cheating as I write this post.
(see what I did?)

But by the time, you read these words, we will be on

a beach, enjoying cooler weather and my soul will

be drunk with joy and rest.

I love the Oregon coast for so many reasons.

I feel the presence of God in every thunderous clapping of waves and

each cycle of foam skimming my toes.

 I hear Him in the wind that inevitably destroys my

hair style yet rebuilds my frame.

It’s where I first knew without wavering,

I loved Carl and we told

each other those three huge words.

Don’t let anyone convince you to believe

“I love you” are three little words.

Our time on the coast will look quite different as

there will be three in attendance.

You may have noticed, I didn’t use the word “only”.

It’s obvious I want our family of five to always be together,

especially at the beach, but I am learning when I use

the word only, it minimizes the number and members.

The word only can kind of have an attitude and I am fighting

this with all I have.

There will be three of us at the beach and we will

build sand castles of joy right beside a couple of missing footprints.

Life verse of joy

I paraphrased a verse to a friend in an email this week.

It caused me to reflect on how this verse has given me

not only peace over the last decade but it also has established

joy in the midst of trials.

“and that is why I suffer these things.
But I am not ashamed,
because I know the One I have believed in
and am persuaded that He is able to guard
what has been entrusted to me until that day.

II Timothy 1: 12

Our family is dealing with growing pains.

I suppose this is the right term for this patch of time.

The only way I can express this season is to say if our family were

a piece of elastic, there has been gradual and rapid stretching away from

the hands who have held the elastic.

And just when our hearts settle into acceptance of this newly created space,

this new dimension, the elastic snaps back into place with a ricochet of hugs.

The elastic remains but changed.

No longer can you run your hand across its smooth surface as

it now possesses ruffles all along its length.

So when there are days when I feel the stretching as well as weeks

of slack, I remember that really in all things but especially regarding my children,

I know God will guard them as I continually entrust them to Him.

I wouldn’t entrust them to anyone but I am confident I can hand

them to their Maker because I know whom I have believed.

I know He remains tethered to me and my family.

I know He is the fullness of joy, because He is the

Designer of dragonflies and oceans and sunsets.

On sad or happy days,

He remains my joy.

*****

Book Joy

Finished: Wild in the Hollowssuch an incredibly honest and transparent memoir. I loved it.

Beach Reading: Big Little Liesbecause I am going to the beach and it was on the Lucky Day shelf at the library.

May joy curl up beside you this weekend and bring you comfort.

And if it’s too hot, may joy come waving a fan to cool your body and soul.

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tables

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system:

  • an organized set of doctrines, ideas, or principles usually intended to explain the arrangement or working of a systematic whole 
  • an organized or established procedure 
  • harmonious arrangement or pattern

There are systems in place which govern our lives.

We may not be aware of how many established systems ground us.

Many are not of our choosing like the traffic system full of

stop lights and rules of the road.

Others we decide how we would like to arrange our

time and space:

make the bed or don’t,

drink coffee or endeavor to  be caffeine-free,

partake in daily breakfast or obey stomach

pangs by mid-morning,

exercise regularly or not.

These daily tasks are part of a routine, a pattern

which makes up a life system helping to

bring order and rhythm to our moments.

On Saturday Carl and I sat across from one another at our table.

He had showered after his Saturday morning basketball game,

Caleb had bid farewell to a sleepover pal and I slept as long as possible

and made the bed 🙂

We sat with cups of coffee and tea.

I tend to need more stuff and scattered before me were

a Bible, a study, a journal,

a few other books and lots of pens.

Carl had the huge book you see pictured above.

theology: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience;
especially :  the study of God and of God’s relation to the world

We have sat at this table hundreds of times.

We have consumed countless meals but regularly

we have come to this

table to spend time in God’s word,

to be anchored in our faith,

to find guidance,

comfort,

to learn lessons

and to seek truth.

When I snapped this picture, Carl was unaware because

he was immersed.

He was recalling and recounting his theology.

He was allowing himself to sit before God and

gather his system of beliefs at eye level.

Because some days hope seems a farther reach

than a week ago.

A week has passed since Carl’s sister Vickie died

so swiftly and without a whisper of warning.

We sat at the table to recover our systems and cling

to our theology.

The system we have surrendered our lives to is belief

in God,

the Creator,

the Sustainer of life

and the glue who tightly adheres all our crumbling bits.

We have learned to keep our hearts and ears open this week

and discovered abiding comfort.

It’s been found in the “crowd sourcing” of Facebook.

We’ve seen it in the way family and friends love us in their

own special blend of thoughtfulness.

The pages of Scriptures where we landed

these past days have encouraged us that one day Christ will

wipe away every tear and there will be

no more death,

no more caskets,

no more sickness

and no more crying.

(One day.)

We heard words declared from a video describe the

sounds of the cries of death in a hospital.

We remembered.

(God knew.)

Last Sunday we exchanged our church seats for ones in a hospital

but this week we resumed our  pew dwelling  and these were the

first words uttered by our pastor:

“This week, you might be facing a scary time.

It could be the day before a memorial service or a graveside service…”

God knew sitting in pews could never protect us from last Sunday.

But He promised to remain no matter where we sat,

be it a table,

a pew

or even a hospital.

So we rose from our pew

and sidled up to the Table filled with the knowledge that

Jesus bore all our sufferings.

We chew and sip at the Table’s edge because He

is acquainted with sorrow and joins us in our aches

and pains.

Each table has become a place where God hears the

splash of tears upon our cheeks and dispatches

His comfort and often it is through others.

We all have systems.

Whatever system you have in place,

I hope it is effective when life quakes.

I am realizing it is very simple,

there is belief and disbelief and each

is a theology.

Whatever your theology,

I pray it brings comfort

and hope in any season.

This week has shown me when

hard events come we still brush our teeth (good thing),

we make our beds,

we make French toast, steal an extra

piece of bacon, pet the dog and

clean up our messes.

Mostly.

We also hug and kiss a little more.

We say I love you and catch ourselves when

we realize our system has been to rush past

each other in a blur so instead

we stop,

capture one another’s eyes

to affirm our affections

and glory in our mutual comfort.

 

of superheroes and ladybugs

I rescued a ladybug last week.

Since I am confident I won’t be featured in any upcoming

superhero blockbuster, I will share the details here.

While driving home from completing my last errand,

I noticed a small orange hump on my hood.

Naturally I slowed my speed to ensure a safe ride for my hitchhiker.

Once securely parked in my driveway,

I inspected the front of my car.

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A ladybug had hitched a ride and the landing appeared to be less than ideal.

I was positive it perished at impact yet when I ventured a poke,

the ladybug’s legs were catapulted into motion.

She split her polka-dotted shell in two and prepared for lift-off only she remained

hood-bound.

After several attempts at flight, I decided to coax her onto a leaf.

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Slowly the ladybug began to cling to the leaf.

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There she remained as I cradled ladybug and greenery in my hand.

The corner of the leaf was just enough stability.

Well as much as I adore ladybugs, I needed to move along.

I placed the ladybug and the leaf on top of a bed of leaves.

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I left my sweet little ladybug passenger to find its way home.

I went inside because I had things to do and one rescue a day met my

minor league superhero quota.

Several hours later,I surveyed the garden and

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ladybug, ladybug flew away home.

Now I may joke about having even an ounce of superhero blood in me,

but I am well acquainted with a true Rescuer.

He is the who has found me on those days when I have taken a nasty spill

or even when life has hit me squarely in the jaw.

When I have grown tired from keeping a death grip against whatever happens to be

moving my life at warp speed,

He rescues me.

He bends close and assesses the damage.

He tenderly hold me in the warmth of his hands

and deposits me in a bed woven by his security and protection.

Unlike me, He is not so wrapped up with worldly things that he

abandons with merely wishful thinking.

I never escape his watchful gaze.

He waits with me until I have strength to sit,

stand or

even fly.

Without a camera, the trail of the ladybug

from my car hood to plucked leaf to hand

to bed of safety might simply be a cute story.

Perhaps a different lens is needed to color

in our life stories.

Each day there is an invisible thread stitching a trail from the Father to you.

Look for the thread.

Witness the Rescuer.

He is the all-powerful one who tethers you to himself

when you lose your grip.

His rescue abilities obliterates quotas.

Aren’t you glad?

Let yourself be rescued.

Allow him to fly you home.

doggone fear

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Three things you need to know:

  1. We have a dog who sheds constantly.
  2. We vacuum endlessly.
  3. Our dog is afraid of the vacuum cleaner.

Most days I will wait to vacuum until our dog Hazel is outdoors.

Otherwise, as soon as she hears the door to the hall closet open, she

assumes her position under the dining room table.

There are other places she could go.

Although stairs are a bit of a challenge for her these days,

she does have the option to move farther away from the object of her

fear but she does not.

We have attempted to lead her by the collar to safer rooms but

she will not budge.

The other day, a friend stopped by and I didn’t hear the door bell or

the knocking because I was (can you guess?) vacuuming.

Hazel barked from her huddled up position under the table and this

was the only reason I happened to look through the arched

glass of our front door.

Once I opened the door and welcomed our visitor inside,

I apologized for not hearing him sooner.

I pointed to Hazel, our indoor doorbell

and then laughed as I realized she was

not going to leave her spot to greet him.

I explained Hazel’s fear of the vacuum and was

positive despite her tail was wagging, she wouldn’t come

to inspect him as the vacuum was still in plain sight.

We laughed and to my surprise, Hazel slowly cowered

her way the length of the table, keeping her eyes on that

tall black thing which makes all that noise.

Suddenly, the tablecloth made a tent over her head

and she took her eyes off the vacuum and looked up at

our friend.

She trotted over and gave her customary licks, sniffs

and best wagging performance.

It is hard to take our eyes off of fear isn’t it?

It is always lurking behind a closed-door waiting

to pounce upon its intended victims.

Often we rehearse our fears or at least we have

a great deal of practice bowing down to them.

Hazel hasn’t known another way to conquer her

fears other than to hide under the nearest solid

structure.

My fears have become so familiar, I have been lulled into

believing I will always exhibit

the same response whenever

released from the confines of the dark closeted

places of my mind.

In my estimation the fears expand

exponentially  with each encounter.

How does one conquer fear?

One way is making the decision that

being free is better than being a captive.

This sounds quite simplistic, I know.

Hazel decided to risk being in the presence of

fear for the sake of doing what she loves to

do, namely greeting.

It has taken Hazel nearly 13 years to stare

down her fear.

Several years ago, I was asked to speak about being

a mom.

Public speaking has never been my sweet spot.

A quick answer was required and I fretted.

I was walking to our van at the time and I “heard”

God ask me,

“What are you so afraid of?”

I answered,

“I just hate getting so nervous.”

God asked me.

“Can you risk feeling nervous for 5 minutes for me?”

When it was put this way,

I was undone.

I realized that in most cases, not all for sure,

fear can last for such a short time,

when we face it and then remove our eyes

from fear’s grip, we can walk in freedom.

I did speak and I did get nervous.

Surprisingly I also had fun.

Fear and faith stride along one another.

We don’t have to let fear drag us by

the collar or make us assume a crouched position

under the closest table.

We can shift our gaze and

allow God to make a tent over

our heads.

He longs to greet us in the midst

of our fears.

I know you have heard or read this before but in

case you haven’t or you need to be reminded,

“Do not fear or be afraid” is quoted in the Bible

366 times.

Fear is a real thing and God is fully aware.

There is enough of God to get you through

fear, even during leap years 🙂

Take the risk to trust him in the midst of fear.