resting and returning

resting and returning

Hello friends.

I am full of joy and expectation to be writing again in this space.

I was unsure about returning this summer. As I began my break, it was apparent, I was more exhausted than envisioned. I felt empty of words and couldn’t see a clear path or direction before me. It is a huge disservice to attempt to manufacture content, a pause was wise and beneficial. 

Resting is vitally essential for all of us.  Somehow I had succumbed to a belief that the collective shut down of life was restful. I had slowed down but the constant changing tides of any given day took a toll.  I pushed back many of my emotions related to the pandemic and racial tensions to the background and kept going. 

I say to you today, don’t mistake this time of being less busy with outside of the home pursuits as any less taxing. We all need time to reflect, grieve, process, and reassess. Even usual summertime activities are different than in the past. We have lost our care-free existence and spontaneity and I am guessing even if this wasn’t a normal bent, it would be welcomed right now. 

My time away from this blog didn’t feel different during the first two weeks. Life continued with more in-person gatherings with my children but even being in the company of my nearest and dearest still brings an element of feeling risky and foreign. We spent a few days in two cabins along the Columbia Gorge, a precious family memory. We felt safe and secluded and did not take for granted the blessing of those days. We had our masks when we did venture into any area with people which was twice on a waterfall hike and to pick up take-out one evening.

I woke up early each morning to spend time with God and to simply watch the water from the deck. It wasn’t easy to rouse my sleepy self but the steadiness of keeping rhythms, no matter what, has deepened in me. It was a gift to be away from home and endeavoring to not squander a moment. However, not a lot of words were written except for some scribbles in my journal.

Then my guys went camping and this was the first time I had more than an hour in our home alone since March. I adore my people but I crave silence and solitude and they know it. The anticipation of words and fear of none appearing were my companions. I have learned and this time was no exception, the words come but not on command. It takes time to surrender to silence and slow the pleading pulse of anticipation. 

Ever land on the most brilliant idea when soaped up in the shower without a pen at hand? Being silent allowed me to hear again and mostly when I wasn’t thinking about writing. 

Since March, I have asked God to entrust me with words like He gave manna to the Israelites in the wilderness. I am learning to trust He will give me just enough words for each week. Although I now have a page full of bullet points, I know all the thoughts could turn into a solitary post. It’s disappointing as I long to be “ahead” but it’s truly the way of the Master to dispense what I need. I can view this as crumbs when in reality it is a basketful of bread, broken with plenty to share.

We live in an upside-down world.  It’s difficult to behold beauty but also stare straight into the realities of despair and heartbreak. My nasturtiums have been growing along our fence with gusto with flowers erupting in colors beyond the typical yellows and oranges. But this week, I turned over a few leaves, only to find tightly affixed black dotted clusters of bugs. I know these pesky bugs from past seasons and can never rid my plants of them before they choke out life. I have two options. I can ignore the bugs pretending they don’t exist until they spread to every plant, creating mass casualties. Or I can gently remove the infected leaves and in some cases plants, protecting the healthy ones.

I am fighting for joy in the midst of despair and wading through misinformation. I am choosing to not ignore the brutal parts of life and doing what I can do when life feels out of control. Sometimes it is simply to take a deep breath, whisper a prayer, and unclench my jaw and hands. I look to the shades of my flowers knowing there are forces that can and at times want to assault my joy and stability. I will enjoy them at the moment without fear and obsessing about what might be on the underside.

I am back to living with my people again and as Oregon has declared, this will be the way for quite a while. This wasn’t a surprise but being refreshed helped me to surrender to this sustained reality.  I needed time alone however it is a mistake to believe I can’t find solitude when my home is inhabited by others. I just need to be a bit more creative.

My challenge to you is to look for patches of solitude this week. Here are some ideas to help fuel your creativity.

  • Get up early and watch the sunrise.
  • Stay up late and stargaze.
  • Watch less news.
  • Hold your phone less.
  • Watch a butterfly or a bee. 
  • Close your eyes. If you fall asleep, you needed a deeper rest.
  • It bears repeating, take a nap.
  • Pick one hour each day or even 15 minutes to simply do nothing. Let your mind wander. Allow the silence to offer a surprise landing of thoughts or ideas revealed.
  • Walk around your yard or garden. Don’t water, prune, pull a weed, or even harvest. Simply marvel at creation and hear the sound of your footsteps, the birds of the air, and the sound of your breath enlarging and also softening.
  • Seek ladybugs. Number the dragonflies.
  • Sit and watch the moon rise. In fact, make it a point to see every phase of the moon this month.
  • Blow bubbles and watch each one pop. Muse about how our days are like bubbles, fleeting, yet beautiful and full of wonder. Marvel how at any age, bubbles never cease to bring a smile and cause us to look up.
  • Sit in your favorite chair inside or outside with a frosty beverage and just be wonderful you.

Fill each day with the essentials and plenty of margins to be still and quiet. 

*****

May each day provide moments of quiet.

May we access our need for silence and solitude.

May we release the uncontrollable and embrace wonder.

May we fight for joy especially on days where it feels like we are in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 

May we know and believe, whatever the cluster of pesky bugs in our lives, it will not dismantle or steal our joy.

May we be like bubbles to one another.

 

The Joy Collection

The Joy Collection

unnamed

 

It’s a new year.

Hello.

I thought it would be fun to recap the many ways I encountered joy during the previous month.

This year I have been using the Passion Planner as my daily calendar. Within each weekly spread is room for Space of Infinite Possibility. I am dedicating one box monthly to collect joy which might slip from my view unless documented.
This month, reaffirmed how technology can be used for good in my life. I suppose there isn’t anything new or earth-shattering in my collection but isn’t it marvelous how often joy is contained in familiar and mundane places.

Bring on the joy.

Fitbit: When I was a physical therapist, I never worried about the number of steps I walked in a day. My day consisted of walking patients up and down hallways and stairs. I was always eager to take the stairs instead of elevators to access a patient’s room.
For the past four years, I began my first-ever sit down job in a small office building.

I started wearing a Fitbit a few years ago and was horrified by the average number of steps logged at the end of my work day. I am here to tell you, inactivity breeds inactivity but thank goodness, activity breeds activity.

  • I have started taking 15 minute walking breaks during my work day. It has been such a great way to add steps to my day, clear my head by actually walking away from my desk and deposits renewed energy for the remainder of my day.
  • I invited my family to do a Workweek Fitbit Challenge a few weeks ago. Before the week was over, Courtney had already invited us all into a Weekend challenge. It has been a lot of fun to gently nudge one another to be active. I don’t see any end to the challenges. We dragged our feet about Caleb having a Fitbit as he doesn’t need one and more importantly he will clobber us. Are we competitive? Yes!
    But Adam our newest family member disagreed and bought him one this past weekend. The first day at noon, Caleb had already logged 9500+ steps. (Currently he averages about 26,000 steps/day). Another reason I walk the track while he has soccer practice. Every step counts:)

The Bible App: Currently Carl and I are reading through the Bible using a 3 year plan and Carlen and I are reading through the Bible in 90 Days. Slow and fast.
I can’t tell you what a touchstone this has been to my days. Each of us leaves our thoughts on the readings. Doing these plans together has helped me stay connected with two important people in my life, given me built-in accountability and provided rich face-to-face conversations.

Power Sheets: As I said above, I am using the Passion Planner as my daily calendar. During a Cyber Monday sale, I took the plunge and bought Lara Casey’s Power Sheets.
I have loved using this goal setting system. For me, it was helpful to have it in my hands in advance of January as there is plenty of prep work before a single goal is formed. I found the process thought-provoking and glad not to rush because January 1st was beckoning. The sections about what I am saying No and Yes to this year as well as what worked and didn’t work for me were enlightening. By the time I finished, I had a great grasp on the direction to head in the year ahead, instead of grasping at familiar popular goals. The built-in monthly assessments of goals allows me to change my mind. What a novel thought 🙂

Family Skype Calls: My parents live 350 miles away. My brother and his family live 250 miles away in a different direction. We only span two states but we don’t see one another as often as we would like. I am horrible about picking up the phone. In fact, I have to put it on my calendar to remind myself. It’s not my preferred method of communication. For an introvert, texting and email are divine. For the last year, my family has had as often as possible weekly Skype calls. Yes, Skype is old-school and out of date but it keeps our family up-to-date. It’s so nice to see each other’s faces in motion. We have had serious calls recounting test and treatment results and unfortunately, those topics aren’t over yet. We have watched and listened as my brother Bill cooked spaghetti, comical and noisy. We have laughed over past history and it’s always fun when the younger set who favor SnapChat or FaceTime make an appearance. I believe our record is 12 people making a chatty, fun time.

Favorite bite:  A toasted bagel with equal parts cream cheese, avocado sprinkled with Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend, topped with arugula.
I eat carbs.
Shudder.

Feed the birds: “People living in neighborhoods with more birds, shrubs and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress” ~the University of Exeter.

For many years our family has hung bird feeders. I can attest to the fact it is soothing to watch the birds at the feeders. I also know this has been a slow act of faithfulness. We have placed an offering of food on branches and have waited to become a regular feeding stop for different types of birds. We love to watch outside our dining room window during breakfast and witness our feathered tenants. This is not a new joy but one which continues to endure.

My one word: Unwavering

It would be easy to say last year was a difficult year sprinkled with patches of great joy. If I am honest, the last many years have been challenging. I am learning this might be the bittersweet gift of aging, experiencing more joy and sorrow. I have lost track of myself. I can see it in my body, not paying attention or taking the time to care for my entrusted vessel. I witness it in forgetfulness of what I like in favor of other’s preferences. I sense it in how overwhelmed I feel by the immensity of suffering of those around and beyond me. I feel the ripple of fear of finding myself in the most unsettled place I have ever resided within my faith community. I recognize how neglectful I have been to hold in my hands, the grief of the past decades in favor of simply soldiering on.

The paragraph above might scare you or read as a real bummer.

You might think, wasn’t this post supposed to be about joy?

It should scare me.

It should completely bum me out.

Instead, it feels like a flashlight or perhaps a penlight has been flipped on. I can’t hide the corners of my life anymore. It’s time to remember who I am and also honor the road walked and the path still to tread. I know it won’t be easy. There will be days when I will pray for the flashlight’s batteries to dim the light or to die.

Joy often shares a lap with sorrow.

This is why I chose the word unwavering for 2019. I am on an unwavering pursuit in many areas but most importantly, I am on an unwavering pursuit of Helen. I need to rediscover and reintroduce her to all the inhabited spaces she occupies. At times, I have lived in the third person. There is joy in recognizing this awkward speech pattern.

Every time I am tempted to whisper to myself any back talk, I have been running towards and repeating a verse allowing the truth to establish residence in my mind, heart and soul.  This verse is the first of I hope many to guide my steps and beliefs this year and hopefully, forever.

I am believing as I stretch my arms like branches, with hands full of crumbs, He will faithfully create a resting spot for me to feast.

That’s joy today and to come.

 So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the hope we cherish and confess and our acknowledgement of it, for He Who promised is reliable (sure) and faithful to His word.

Hebrews 10:23 (Amplified, classic version)

What’s on your joy list today?

an open book

an open book

 

black twist pen on notebook

On a stunning late June afternoon, our daughter Courtney became a wife.

Spoiler alert: It was the most amazing day sandwiched between two equally wondrous days of celebration.

Our family won’t easily forget the joy of witnessing love by raising glasses, cheering, dancing and feasting as our family enlarged for the better.

However, the months leading up to the big event were filled with countless sleepless nights.

Not because of attempting to lasso a budget although the rope often felt out of reach.

No matter how I tried, I could not envision what or how this day of days would look or feel.

Since I couldn’t visualize those 6 hours, I threw myself into list making during my waking hours and sadly my sleeping hours also kept a tally.

My sleep was compromised simply because my mind was restless for a glimpse of the future.

One night in late January, sleep seemed pointless due to my overactive brain, I left my pillow behind and entered the darkest gap between night and morning and tucked myself under the dining room table before my journal.

I wrote in bold letters:

ALL THE THINGS THAT CONCERN ME

I wrote it all down.

There was nothing too insignificant or monumental that wasn’t scribbled on two pages.

I laid every care, fear and worry upon the lines of that open book, like a prayer or a hyperventilating plea sent in the direction of heaven.

Then I went to sleep.

I would like to report to never having another night of tossing and turning.

I did but the space between waking and falling back into dreamland was narrower.

For the majority of my life, I have trusted God.

Trust has been reflexive like a doctor’s hammer tap below one’s knee but often a whispered hope.

This summer was one in a collection of remembering the God I trust.

Sometimes my trust in God has put the emphasis on my actions instead of tilting the weight off my shoulders and witnessing the character of the God, who can be trusted.

*****

When I was young, my mother taught me to thread her needle.

After I mastered this skill, she showed me how to tie a knot on thread draped through the needle’s eye.

I remember watching her fingers, thumb and thread and it seemed the most mysterious display, especially when my clumsy hands tried to duplicate the feat.

Two thread lengths tethered only by the eye of a needle, each side placed between my thumb and second finger, as they slid back and forth until a knot formed.

At first it seemed improbable, impossible.

A folded piece of fiber remained uncontrolled.

But after practice and failed attempts, knot making became automatic.

I wouldn’t give a single thought when presented with a needle and thread today.
But if I dare to  pause long enough to observe the reflexive movements of my hand, I still marvel when a knot appears due to the gentle gliding of two parts of one hand.

I believe in the God who knows how to thread the pieces of my life through their appointed spaces.

I believe in the God who expertly knots every dangling fear, insecurity and worry.

I shudder by how easily I grow accustomed to his handiwork, some seen and often more shielded from my view, all accomplished by the rubbing of his fingers to and fro over my life.

*****

During the final moments leading to the wedding, I was given time to spend with Courtney in the balcony area of the venue. I looked at her and decades of prayers flooded my soul and were placed alongside my love for her. We spoke, we laughed and desperately tried not to ruin our make-up. It felt like an eternity had passed once I walked down the stairs to see the procession lined up, excitedly chatting as they waited for me. I took my place next to my tall son in the front of the line. I was certain the sacred space with Courtney had put our schedule in jeopardy but I lifted my eyes to the wall clock and it was exactly 4pm.

When does a wedding start on time?

That day.

I am not writing to share how God crossed out or put a check mark beside every one of my journal full of concerns, yet He did.

I am writing to admit none of my sleepless nights accomplished anything but darker under eye circles.

I am writing this because although it sounds cliché, God is never late or too early.
In fact, His timing is impeccable.

I am writing this not because God gave us the most brilliantly happy day, yet He did.

I am writing this because He pulled out all the stops for a brilliantly happy day in the midst of a multitude of sad days past, present and undoubtedly in the future.

He gave us merriment hemmed in beside the hard places which have taken up residency in our lives and seem to have no intention of hanging a vacancy sign.

I want to whisper and shout about my days to God, knowing no utterance is too trivial for His hearing.

I want to be an open book.

As I surrender my lists to Him as an act of trust, the privilege is mine to see the God who can be trusted to gently slide His hands across each strand of my life and affix it to Himself.

It seem improbable, impossible.

In His mercy and kindness, He ties knots of faithfulness all over the threads of my life.

Each one is a full stop in the story of me, allowing me to pause, stare back in wonder of the God who can be trusted.

 

Photo by Mohammad Danish on Pexels.com