words for the weary

 

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We never put ornaments on our Christmas tree last year.

What I remember most about last December was being weary. I can point to any number of segments of 2016 bearing legitimate reason for fatigue, but last December doesn’t have any claim to fame other than it was simply December and we were tired.

Carl and Caleb found the most exquisite tree which extended to the very top of our ceiling. It didn’t have a bare spot needing camouflage by a handy corner and the fragrance was unmatched. Carl and I decided to string the lights while Caleb was out for the evening. We opened the box and I questioned, “Who put these lights back in the box like this?” Sadly it wasn’t a rhetorical question. We plugged the lights in and several strands had burnt out bulbs. We started to place the lights on the tree and disagreed with the proper method. I thought the tree needed more lights and Carl thought it looked fine. The tree trimming halted with Carl putting on his coat and driving to Walgreen’s for more lights. I am positive neither one of us heard the faint Christmas songs in the background but I will respond to what you are thinking. Yes, I am most definitely a treat to live with.

Upon Carl’s return, we finished lighting the tree mostly in silence. We stowed  the ornament boxes in the dining room to allow Caleb to join in our merriment on another evening. We kept meaning  to hang the ornaments, we talked about it but we never opened a single storage tub. In fact, Caleb deemed the tree perfect simply with lights.

I suppose our souls felt as bare-boned as our Christmas tree and  yet it was beautiful.

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During 2016, it seemed to be a weekly line-up of news stories which shocked, saddened and drew out weariness.  Wouldn’t you agree?  I can pinpoint the places in our family’s life but as I close the chapter on 2016, I am not sure I have ever experienced such a prevailing, unmovable level of every dimension of exhaustion. When added to the election season, the residue of fatigue seems to coat my soul.

Days after the election results, I wrote a quick post on Instagram which I also shared on Facebook. A collection of my raw emotions, the Sunday after the election. Then I closed my phone and other than the writer in me fighting editing what I wrote or adding to what I had omitted, I  forgot about it until my phone started to vibrate with responses and direct messages embodying a collection of thoughts and sentiments. Overwhelmingly, the responses not seen on my page were an outpouring of love or understanding and for the few that were on a different page, I felt shards of grace. I could sense that in my honesty and brokenness, I represented a person of safety and it would be damaging to quickly assemble a fence of opposition. If we don’t allow each other to speak our words out loud to someone who experiences the world differently, how will we see how those words singe the air and the other person?20161209_163015.png

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Will you indulge me with quite a simplistic metaphor?

America has been a tall and expansive tree decked out in sparkling lights and crammed full with ornaments. Every attempt has been made to conceal the bare spots and not reveal the decaying network of branches. We can’t overt our gaze from the deeply ingrained problems of our nation.

America has been stripped bare. We have witnessed this fact and the whole world in tandem. It is quite easy to feel quite downhearted and hopeless. I mean, if after 30 years of marriage, Carl and I still can’t agree how to untangle lights, how can I envision our States being united or it’s people softening their clenched fists towards one another?

We are not a people without hope. I believe there are still lights sprinkled all over America. I think it’s you and me, doing whatever we are called to do during the years to come. Some may write letters and others may have conversations. I think the most powerful words we can utter to one another is “I didn’t realize…”. Some will look at the landscape of their relationships and see only a single hue or experience or class or culture and seek to change this fact. Others will help us see places of injustice and oppression and wave a flashlight over an unseen truth. I hope all of us will seek to have our vision adjusted even when it feels unbearably painful.

We need everyone. No one should be discounted. I  believed during the course of my life, if I simply walked into any situation being myself, leading with kindness and friendliness, even if I didn’t resemble anyone else, leading with love would be enough to change a multitude of people’s minds. I am not sure where I stand on that belief today but what hasn’t changed is my desire to love, be kind and extend grace. Perhaps a more important tenet is to remember and believe is that God is the changer of hearts, not me.

Today I say to you, go forth and be the light you are designed to be in this world. Be one of the strand of lights encircling the framework of the tree. Be the hope that will encompass our country and our world. We all may feel as if we are only one tiny bulb of light, but not when we stay connected and patiently untangle all our knotted emotions.

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That was heavy. Allow me to tell you a few things which are helping mend my mind, my heart and my soul. When we are weary, we need simplicity not complicated ideas.

Several months ago, I realized my reading material was weighing me down as much as perusing the threads on Facebook. I always have a huge TBR list but any title with heavy subject matter is off-limits for now. I re-read Anne of Green Gables in a weekend and how can your rib cage not expand when you read of Anne’s delight over tasting ice cream for the first time? I could walk to any number of gourmet ice cream or donut shops. I want to lasso wonder in my life. So many ornaments in my life, crowding out simply joys.

I joined an online book club (that is called an introvert’s dream) and the first book was Beyond Loneliness: The Gift of Friendship with God. No one wants to admit to loneliness as those around you may feel they need to fix it or believe they have failed or are not enough. If we are honest, most of us are lonely in some way.Social media and technology has given us distant connection and not across the table fellowship.  For me, there is no one who can touch those areas other than God and until I admit to this realization, He can’t tend to those broken places.

I hardly ever give books I haven’t read. But last Christmas, and this past November, I gave a widely praised book. I finally read A Man Called Ove last week and tears spilled onto the last few pages. Not to mention how much I laughed out loud over the course of the book. The themes couldn’t be anymore applicable to our world at the present. Laughter and tears are both wonderfully important components in healing.

When life feels heavy, I tend towards quiet. I forget about music. Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to get lost in attending live musical performances and it will be a lifelong priority. I was late to Hamilton fever. I knew about the Broadway musical but didn’t take the time to listen. There are not enough adjectives other than to say, it is brilliant and I find it prophetic for these current times. If you don’t think it’s your thing, watch the PBS’ Great Performances Hamilton’s America and you might change your mind. Also the entire soundtrack is available on Spotify.
Although sadly, I can’t find the PBS special online at the present, it had been on YouTube just last week. I will keep you  posted. PBS has been quite stingy with it…just my opinion and they know it 😉

Josh Garrell’s Christmas offering The Light Came Down is getting heavy play time currently. There is something about his tone and the haunting quality of his voice that smooths out the crevices in my heart, this one took me by surprise.

The family has been battling squirrels and watching birds. I continue to love watching the birds at our feeder. It allows me to exhale and consider simple creatures. It reminds me about the importance of provision. We provide food to nourish and it creates a rhythm and an expectation for the birds. I lament whenever forgetfulness causes the supply to run low and yet I see the smallest of birds, rubbing their beaks along the empty suet cages, willing to be satisfied with the memory of seed. How thankful my Father’s supply is without end.

Lastly, I am resting and saying no more often. When I am tired, it’s a mistake to attempt to crowd out the exhaustion with busyness, it is the perfect time to strip away the non-essential and take a nap. Perhaps take a stroll outdoor and then curl up under the comforter.

What is your weariness remedy?

*** I couldn’t crop the top photo any closer because I hadn’t realized that our sweet
Hazel’s paws can be seen. Her favorite place, close to the tree. We miss her immensely.

/////

He took our humanity, just as it is, with all its wretchedness and ugliness, and gave it back to us just as his humanity is, transfigured by the beauty of his living, filled full of his joy. So that no matter what suffering we meet, we can meet it with the whole power of the love that has overcome the world.

*****

God intimately and silently shares all our secrets, no matter how hidden we may keep them from other people. God knows our hidden selves and still God is pleased to be one with us. God rejoices in our private triumphs and shares the pain of our unspoken sorrows–all in complete and undisturbed solidarity with us. Christ’s humanity remains the point of connection between our human lives–however seemingly petty and small–and the veiled, ineffable and eternal life of God.

~from A Child in Winter (beyond grateful for your recommendation Tonia)

 

the upside of anger

 

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I am slowly learning to make peace with posting my thoughts infrequently. Perhaps this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When the beginning of posts remain hidden in the draft pile, it’s easy to consider them as discarded thoughts. Now I see them staying unearthed because they haven’t finished percolating. Often the person I am at the time of pressing publish is not residing in the same place as when I first tapped along the keyboard. The words remain true and I don’t want to bury them because although I have taken a few steps further on the path, it is only a few feet.

*****

Early in April, I hired Caleb to help me deal with the weed issue in our yard. Carl was committed elsewhere and I needed some built-in accountability and company.

I suppose most people don’t enjoy weeding, it’s the after results which beckons even sore muscles to dance.

Caleb and I assumed our positions along the fence line of our driveway to deal with the tangled assortment of foliage. My hope was to clear the weeds, spiff up the soil and plant sunflower seeds to whisper the promise of a summer full of glory.

At first glance, the dirt appeared possessed with an assortment of stray grass, clover and bluebells. But once we moved farther down the fence, there was evidence of the ground cover our neighbor had planted along his side of the fence. The longer I pulled, the more problems ensued. Not only had the ground cover found its way under and through the fence but plunged its roots system deep throughout my plot of earth.

As I progressed, I yanked out tendrils of green with gusto. I might even say with some fury. I was locked in a game of tug-of-war and mostly unintentionally disrupted the plants on the other side. What was most unsettling was the amount of muttering taking flight and rage churning within me.

I stood up to stretch and surveyed the backyard. Every season seems to bring gifts from our neighbors’ yard. Fir needles and pine cones, stray branches and fallen leaves endlessly seem to be strewn across our patchy lawn and neglected flowerbeds.

I simply wanna pull my own weeds!

I only wanna deal with MY stuff!

How foolish to experience the makings of a tantrum over inanimate objects.

Yet how illuminating.

It has taken piles of yard debris shoved into cans to reveal the anger in my life, not basic anger but unproductive and unresolved anger. Anger from someone else’s weeds growing outside their confines. Anger which has risen from all the many unwanted intruders which cross into my self-imposed life boundaries.

I don’t consider myself an angry person. Aren’t angry people those who keep their faces tightly pinched into a frown? Surely that isn’t what my public face reveals.

Anger has become an easily accessed emotion. It has slowly and stealthily become my go-to response. It’s not tears or even pouting. It’s not bouts of depression although it is sometimes involves eating whatever emotion I am trying not to explore.

Anger is like a place card set on a table for a guest yet to be invited. Anger takes the place of what you have not allowed a seat at your table. It could be fear, lack of control, sadness, depression, discouragement or any other emotion that is eclipsed by anger and rage. Anger settles right below our subconscious, waits until its ready to make an ungraceful entrance. Anger leans on the horn and abandons once you remember there are no tinted windows. It is consistent in humbly making us regret our responses. We understandable  avoid examining anger as it makes us feel ashamed.
Nothing gets everyone’s attention like anger.

I am trying to not panic when anger arrives. I am looking at the upside of anger and seeing it as a teacher and not my undoing. I have viewed each day as a sprint from beginning to end and haven’t allowed myself precious time to break down each heartache, struggle, disappointment, dream deferred or ended. I forced a steady supply of weeds farther and farther into the depths of its receptacle. I hoped like my actual weeds that by setting them at the curb to be carried away every week, they would cease to exist when in reality they re-seeded and multiplied.

It’s the reason my journals are barren. Blogging has fulfilled part of my need for expression but the majority of my thoughts needs to be worked out with ink between hardbound covers and not on a screen.

My responses to loved ones have contained heavy usage of the word “fine”. I need to give better answers and my people deserve to hear them.

I have chosen the conversations I have wanted to have with God. I have kept my words tightly reined instead of loosening my tongue with abandon.

I am not a tether ball on a string being whipped back and forth by every outside force seeking to keep me from the center pole.

I am the pole and God is wrapping His presence around me no matter which direction the prevailing winds blows. God’s string of protection and love is tightly coiled around me when I need it most and loosens so I can avail myself to others.

My friends, are you erupting over the most basic annoyances of life?

Pay attention to your anger.

Take an inventory of what might be the root of your rage and what it is
attempting to bury.

You might discover more weeds than you envisioned. Examine one at a time
and carefully allow your mind to attach the proper emotion with each memory.

Weeding is hard, back-breaking and knee-aching work. Weeding requires time and repeated effort. I didn’t plant the sunflower seeds during that weed-pulling, rage-filled day. In a matter of weeks, more weeds grew to replace the cleared section of land. In fact, they were numerous and large.

I’m back to weed pulling and less muttering.

Care to pull some weeds with me?

 

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.

 

spiritual teachers

 

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During our conversation, it became apparent my daughters differ in their preference of

reading the same book repeatedly.

I was reminded of the books I have read daily or year after year.

The stack above is a collection of books that have accompanied

me during the morning hours and remained steadfast through

the ever-changing landscape of life.

Just like a faithful friend, they encourage, remind and provide

a foundation of strength to keep standing.

There are several more I could place on the honorable mention

list, some might even be your favorites but besides

my Bibles, these have been my truest guides.

(A tiny sliver of me feels so vulnerable sharing these
books. Perhaps because they are a window to this delicate
and fierce walk of faith.)

Daily Light: A common thread of scriptures for the morning and the evening.
One of two devotional I have given the most to loved ones.

Jesus Calling: This is my number two gift devotional. I started reading
this devotional a long time before it became so popular. I loved that it
always seemed to express what I needed to read.
(If you are curious to know my #3 gift, it would be Blessing for the Evening.
It would make my stack, but I don’t own it. Isn’t that wild?) 🙂

Let Go: This might be a strange choice, how a slim book of letters
written by a 17th century French Archbishop would find its way
into my hands but I am thankful it did. This book is tough and
tender. It has this beautiful sunset on the cover but don’t be fooled.
Sometimes we need our teachers to be gentle, sometimes we
need a little shaking. It’s all about surrender.

My Utmost For His Highest: I started reading this devotional
in high school. A friend raved about it so I eventually bought
a copy of the original version and I couldn’t understand it.
Later in college, they came out with a contemporary version
and it was much more to my comprehension. This probably
explains why my friend went on to become an emergency
room doctor and I did not. I do read the original from time to
time and understand it more, it only takes me two readings now 😉
Timeless wisdom.

Seeking God’s Face: This one makes me sigh. For years,
I have wanted to follow a lectionary or a listing of daily scriptures
to read based on the church calendar. No matter which one
I would choose, I was confused. I never knew if I was
reading in the correct place. It drove my perfectionist heart
crazy. Enter this wonderful book made for non-emergency
room doctors tee hee. Here’s a picture.

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See the box? For the next 12 years (heh) I will know my place!
That’s a very good thing.

31 Days of Praise/Prayer: There are times in life when words are distant,
prayer seems futile and difficult. I alternated between these two volumes as
they taught me how to prayer through the scriptures and to keep clinging
to His promises.

How To Study The Bible For Yourself: The pages of this book are yellowed
by age. There is so much wisdom in this small book. I return to it time
and again to be reminded of the many ways to study the Word of God.

Venite: I have written about this book several times. It is now out of print
but used copies can be found. I was raised in church and over my 50 years,
have been apart of so many church traditions and experiences.I am so
grateful for this fact. I also know that I love tradition.
The pastor of the church we now attend always says we are a storied
people steeped in the story of God. I adore this and it is the very reason
I reached back to grasp the old ways. This prayer
book helped me rediscover parts of my church upbringing I had abandoned.
I found it at a time when I was very much in a wilderness and physically
stopping to pray throughout my day and night changed my life.
It changed my heart and drenched me with peace and hope.
I know it sounds trite or cliché but truly I felt my soul fly home
when I began to pray the hours.
There is something so sacred about uttering words that have been
said by countless seekers over centuries.

I wrote Robert Benson who
compiled this book to thank him and to share how
unaware my soul was missing
something until I started praying the hours.
(His letter response is a very cherished possession.)
I wish I always stopped my busyness to pray throughout
the day but when I remember
to pause, I am remade breath by breath.

Whispers of Hope: I bought this book in 2005 at a Beth Moore
conference in Spokane, Washington. I am so happy that she has
updated and recently re-released it.
(Although for those of us with large handwriting, I wish
they had kept the book the same size…oh well.)
Each day is a scripture reading,some thoughts from Beth
and spaces to write out prayers.
I can fan through the pages and see the multitude of prayers
required during that time frame. Some answered and
some remain. I wonder if all of them had been answered would
I still have the need to pray. As I let my eyes roam over those
needs still not resolved, I can’t ignore the reality of seeing His hand.
I know that He has drawn me closer to Himself.
I have changed in the midst of each hardship.
It is more than hindsight allowing me to see more clearly.
It is the prayers of 2005 and the God who was more than equal to
those cries, He is the same God who walked me through
the aching years that would follow.
He knew when I poured my ink prayers onto paper
that more hardship would come and He would remain.
He still remains.

What books bring you comfort?

This post is apart of the 31 days…yet again series
about books. You can find the entire series here.

 

 

i no longer wear a watch

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The path to church last week was a series of closed streets, on-ramps and detours.

The need to assemble sometimes outweighs being late.

After the third re-routing, let’s be honest,

I started scouting for diners,

ready to trade in worship for feasting.

We were able to exhale once

Caleb was deposited to his class and

the four of us took our places in a nose bleed

worthy upper balcony pew.

We missed the first songs, testimony,

announcements and sitting where we had

become accustomed.

It took many twists and turns to sit in those seats.

We all have our own faith journeys.

I glance from time to time to sneak a peek

at my two daughters

and think of Caleb in the next building.

From the moment each one was laid in my arms,

I have been consumed with loving them beyond reason

and without end.

The loving part is not a challenge.

It’s every other part of the equation which proves difficult.

I have wanted to teach them every possible lesson for

every possible scenario.

I have wanted them to love each other deeply and count

it all joy to be brother and sisters,

well, at least most of the time.

I have wanted them to unearth their passions

and breath deeply into their dreams.

I have hoped hard that they would one day believe Carl

and I had been the parents they needed

and somehow forget

each misstep.

Far above anything, I have wanted them to love

God because His love for them defies reason and

has always been and always will remain.

I have held so tightly to these hopes like they were

wishes upon a dandelion fully in seed.

I have witnessed gentle and violent breezes send

the seeds spiraling into orbit.

At times I have tried to be God, with everything

that Helen could muster, I tried to line up these

three people’s lives to align the way I viewed

as just, right and acceptable.

Yet sitting there in that sky-high pew, my hands

release their choke hold on these three beloveds

of my heart and soul.

There will be detours and road blocks in this life,

in their lives,

in my life.

There will be sections of life when roads are

closed for repair.

The tarnished and scratched watch I have worn

displaying my timetable

has now been relinquished to my Maker,

to their Maker.

I have found Him trustworthy.

I have found Him without equal,

flawless in character.

90 minutes pass and we are cramming into what was once

my grandfather’s Buick navigating our way home.

A question is lobbed in Caleb’s direction about his time in class.

He chatters about God providing manna in the wilderness and

water from a rock to satisfy the Israelite’s hunger and thirst.

We all nod and uh-huh as we had heard the same

moments earlier.

A shared experience.

We had all known wilderness

and hunger

and thirst.

We had all journeyed on different pathways

yet as one family.

We all nod and uh-huh that God has been

faithful to provide manna every day

for every hunger pain.

He has provided water to satisfy

our penetrating thirsts.

He has never taken a break

from His post watching our flock.

Every road we traverse,

I can trust He is there,

watching,

patiently waiting

and possessing hope.

A bucket full of hope

large enough to empty

its contents over me,

displacing my fears and

worst case scenarios.

I drop my timepiece in His hands

and open my mouth

to shout but the sound is only

released in a whisper,

“They are all yours.

You can keep time.”

He assures me,

a hushed prayer is

His delight.