the evaporating nature of plans

the evaporating nature of plans

 

Photo by Achilles Kastanas on Pexels.com

It’s Memorial Day.

This day may conjure many different emotions. Many cemeteries are not placing flags or allowing visitors which adds to layers of grief. 

It may have been customary to spend the holiday with a large group of family or friends, reveling in a day away from work but now work is staring at you from across the room every day. Today may signify a deepening of the loss of social interaction and work-life balance.

Today we join Mother’s Day and Easter to the list of holidays celebrated in new ways with Father’s Day looming on the horizon.

The reality of Memorial Day, in addition to its great importance, is where it lands in the calendar year, it is literally the doorway to summer. It is that last holiday before the school year ends and perhaps an audible sigh signaling permission to look toward future plans. 

Well, I doubt there is anyone who hasn’t already had plans disrupted over the last few months. As summer approaches, it is a foregone conclusion that plans have changed.

I don’t have any magic words to lessen the ache of those once anticipated events. However, I would suggest speaking aloud each loss. I know it may sound insignificant because the awareness of what isn’t happening is obvious. 

Why rub salt in open wounds?

I had to express a hard spot to different sets of people several times over the past week. It pre-dates COVID-19 by a few years. 

I had to say aloud, my dad has cancer.

It’s also possible, I barely uttered the words when cancer had belonged to my husband several years ago, saving the fluttering of sighs only for God. 

I mentioned to Carl how surprised, after all this time and experience, I still needed a deep breath before uttering the words. I knew these words, they have been firmly implanted into my mind and my soul but to hear the words hanging in the air felt different.

Saying the words didn’t change any of those days’ realities. 

Saying the words didn’t erase the pain, dismiss uncertainty, or cement plans which undoubtedly for the foreseeable future resemble quicksand. 

Saying the words, allowed me to exhale a wee bit, like a tiny pin releasing air from a balloon slowly.
The balloon is still knotted with some inflation remaining, but the tautness of the vessel for air has softened enough to be held. 

Saying the words made me stop grasping for control, in any way.

Speak your sorrows.

Speak forth your losses.

Share your pain.

Then remember to be gentle with yourself.

I am becoming acquainted with is a heightened response in my body regardless if something is hard or good. I am choosing to be gentle with myself.

Your words may be…

My wedding is not happening the way I envisioned.

My birthday or anniversary celebration may feel like just another day.

My graduate won’t walk across a stage in the way dreamed of for countless years.

My loved one with mental health challenges is especially vulnerable during this time.

My child with special needs is struggling due to the stripping away of routine and support.

My friends are not only socially distant but nowhere in sight.

My next paycheck is not guaranteed or will not arrive. 

My dreams are slipping through my fingers. 


What pain point do you need to express?

What tightly held plan do you need to release to allow your body and soul to unclench?

Speak your worthy words into the atmosphere and wrap your arms around yourself in a gentle embrace. 

*****

The Lord bless you

    and keep you;

 the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you

    and give you peace. 

Numbers 6: 24-26

messengers

messengers

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We had a rough week. 

It wasn’t related to the Coronavirus, but yet it was. The parameters established, although critical, can make situations more challenging and ladle stress on top of what already resided. The details aren’t important because I am confident at this crisis point, we can all fill in the blank regarding a hard circumstance compounded because of new limitations.

Today is better.

This past week when I was feeling a bit fragile and shaky, I paid particular attention to the words  read and heard. There seemed to be a repetition of words as well as harmony of theme.  I would have missed the impact of these words if I hadn’t decided to slow down, shunning stress and anxiety.

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe what some might call a coincidence is simply a messenger or an invitation to pay attention. 

Over the years, I have practiced lectio divina which means divine or spiritual reading. Now before these Latin words cause you to glaze over, think of these two words as describing the posture you could take while listening to a friend. 

Imagine a friend sharing a piece of wisdom or insight. You listen and mull the words over in your mind. This is possible because you have made time, no hurrying or rushing to the next appointment.  You ask your friend to utter the words again and once again you listen, lingering over the words to see if they take on any new meaning. Without fear of redundancy or seeing rolling eyes, you ask your dear friend to say the words once more, because these are good words.  Your friend smiles, speaks the words aloud and now the conversation begins.

In lectio divina, you are the one who speaks the words aloud. You are the one who mulls and reflects and turns the words and phrases upside down until you are right side up. You are the one who initiates conversation with your Maker.

So many spoken words surround us on a given day. News reports, bad news, phone calls, words during a meeting, kids bickering over the remote control, or simply the people in your home talking loudly. 

How often do you read aloud, softly, and slowly?

When was the last time you heard words spoken over yourself, in your voice?

 What if you paused and considered what these particular words could teach or guide you on this particular day?

What if instead of reading words quickly and moving to the next task, you allowed yourself to linger over words over, over, and over again? 

How many epiphanies have been missed because of refusing to slow down and sit with words?

 Perhaps you might exit the time of lectio divina with a lighter heart, a new resolve, or with renewed hope. 

My invitation to you is to try lectio divina. 

I will guide you.  

Last week, I kept stumbling across two scriptures and a very well-known prayer. I heard the verses on podcasts and read them in books. The prayer was repeatedly posted by attendees in the chatbox of my Weight Watchers virtual meeting. Go figure.
I tend to rush over passages I know quite well. But when I read the words out loud and without hurrying, I uncover unmined gems.

Below I have included the prayer and the two scriptures I found great comfort in this past week.

Choose one.

Following these three options, I adapted the practice of lectio divina for you and have provided additional resources at the end of this post.

 

/1/

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

 

/2/

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: 6-7 (NLT)


/3/

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:25-34 (NLT)

*****

  • Find a quiet place. I realize this could be a challenge during this time. 
  • If you desire, a pen and journal can be helpful to have on hand to jot down any thoughts which arise. 
  • Take a few breaths as you anticipate the gift of this invitation. 

 

Read the passage slowly and aloud.

What words or phrases stand out?
What do you sense God is saying to you through these words or phrases?

Take a moment to listen.

 

Read slowly and aloud a second time.

From those words and phrases, is there an invitation God is extending to you?
How do these words or phrases apply to your life right now?

Take a moment to listen.

 

Read slowly and aloud for a final time.

Journal your thoughts, questions, concerns, resistance, desire to change directions, or simply speak these words and have a conversation with God.
What do you need from God?
What can you thank Him for?
What are you grateful for?

 

Well done, friend. 

You can practice with any passage of your choosing. I hope you will.

Keep listening.

*****

May we experience familiar words in new and fresh ways this week.
May the loss of familiar ways draw us closer to God who longs to settle our spirits.
May we breathe and allow our spoken voice to bring new revelation or gentle comfort.
May we slow down and give ourselves permission to be soothed by our Maker.

 

More about lectio divina.

I have used this journal over the years.

This book.

 

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
elevator grace

elevator grace

elevator button

 

I confess when I am alone in an elevator, I push the button to close the doors

as quickly as possible.

Elevators can be awkward.

Usually when I need an elevator, I seem to be in a hurry.

I definitely do not want to linger before arriving at my destination.

Last Thursday, I had an appointment with a specialist

as I have some blood levels which are being quite rebellious.

The consultation I thought would last 30 minutes spanned close

to 2 hours leaving me a bit sore from all the poking and prodding

and offering up more blood.

I raced to the elevator and was the only one waiting for that

familiar ding and lit up arrow to draw me closer to my car

in the parking garage below.

Of the four door options, I found the one with the gaping hole

and stepped inside.

I pressed the number button and perhaps assuming I was “safe”,

I didn’t push the close door arrows.

The doors were closing and I was exhaling as

a man straddled the threshold and stumbled inside,

joining me.

He was white-haired and quite striking.

I quickly determined

if his floor choice needed to be pushed.

With a grin he told me we were going

the same direction and asked how I was.

I told him I was doing alright.

I reciprocated by asking him the identical question.

Without his smile leaving his face, he paused.

He glanced his eyes to the heavens which in this case,

was a cold metal ceiling and didn’t utter a word.

His pause was long enough that even

without our elevator encasing it would have felt awkward.

Silence reigned and I wanted to reach out

to touch his arm or even give him a hug.

But we were in an elevator and surely this gesture

would have broken protocol or etiquette.

It was a pause saturated with meaning.

When what felt like the final grain of sand had joined a

heaping mountain in the bottom of an hourglass,

he volunteered,

“You know, just sitting in those rooms makes

my blood pressure go up.”

As the doors begin to slide apart and

this dear man strides to exit,

I nod and say,

“Yeah, they don’t give us lollipops or stickers

when we have been brave anymore.”

He turns and faces me as we are now

among the cars in the cool, dark dampness

of the underground garage.

He says,

“Oh yeah.”

“Man, that’s a good line.”

He is still wearing the smile.

The smile we have learned to assign ourselves

in our public lives.

The smile meant to shield the world from the inner

life residing in the dark, damp underground

place we park our fears and concerns.

I could see behind his smile and he knew I was not

just feeding him a line.

We parted as people in cars visually pleaded with us

to vacate our parking spots.

We separated by telling one another to take care.

I sat in my car and prayed for a man I will most

likely never see again.

I prayed he has people in his life who will wait with him

in the pause, even when it feels awkward and long.

I prayed they would remain after the words are uttered.

I prayed that he has comforting places where he can

wear whatever face he deems appropriate.

I prayed that he would be steadied when his pulse races.

An elevator,

a check-out line,

a cross walk,

a classroom,

a bus

or any other everyday place can be an opportunity

to gaze into someone’s eyes and offer them grace.

Each day we have the privilege to give others  stickers

and lollipops of our affection and concern as they bravely

walk through a life filled with landmines.

Perhaps we all need to pause before we push

the doors closed.

 

 

bowls of worry

bowls of worry

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All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God.

~Oswald Chambers

Once upon a time I spotted rows of bright green happy bowls.

I stalked them for months at a neighborhood store.

They weren’t outrageously expensive but enough that I felt they were a bit

of a splurge when I had other bowls sitting on shelves at home.

But one day, I took a stroll through this store and happened to see

the remaining bowls in the marked down bin.

As quickly as I could stack them in my mini cart, I set them on a

conveyor belt and escorted them to their new home.

I had visions of using them to hold toppings for sundaes or

even taco salad.

I had the bowls’ purposes all lined up.

Quite awhile after their arrival,

I saw someone eating cereal from one of my lovely bowls.

Another time I happened to see a flash of green pass me from the

picnic table where I sat, moving quickly across the CONCRETE patio heading

towards the deck.

I cringed because you know, my beloved bowl could be broken.

As silly as this sounds, it is even more amusing that I might have casually

launched a few comments airborne hoping they would land at just the right

angle to get my point across.

Yes, maybe I had all the subtlety of a Nerf Super Soaker.

I mean using the bowls for what they aren’t intended for is one thing

but taking them from the safe confines of indoors is clearly another matter.

At any given moment, there can be any number of balls coursing through

the air.

Face it, my backyard is quite dangerous!

Around the same time as I began to realize the

extent of my bowl madness,

I stumbled across the Oswald Chambers quote.

Alright I will be honest, I read it immediately after

I averted my eyes from the bowl and the concrete pairing.

His words helped me understand how

deeply I had wondered from shallow waters to the

deep end of worry.

Bowls weren’t the only objects of my worry.

The list was long, wide and covered my family,

loved ones, money plus any number of what if’s.

Somehow I had begun to believe there was never enough

and no one capable of providing for whatever was lacking.

Any broken bowl would tip the scale beyond recovery.

*****

Well once upon a time on another day,

let’s call it last Saturday,

our neighborhood had a block party.

We planned the event with 3 other families.

Perhaps because of the heat, instead of sprawling down our street, we ended up

remaining planted in our yard.

There had been days of worrying all about the enough’s.

Would there be enough food?

Enough ice?

Enough shade?

Enough people?

Guess what?

There was plenty.

Plenty of people, conversation,

food, drinks and sun.

At one point, I noticed a ring of people in chairs laughing at someone’s joke I suppose.

I let my eyes wander and looked beyond the fabric chair backs.

A girl was sitting on the grass picking and feasting on blueberries and

then I watched her sister pluck a daisy and

thread it through her hair.

A smile formed on my face as witnessing these small acts

displayed the girls had felt welcomed.

I want to live my days with the abiding promise that I have a Provider.

One who takes a careful account of all my needs and meets them.

What if I lived with arms open of invitation and not scorn

when someone touched my stuff?

Dare I feast on blueberries and pluck flowers with no concern

that I have depleted the source?

Bowls are meant to be filled and emptied.

Flowers and berries are meant to be picked.

Each day I awaken empty,

needing to be filled

for the sole purpose of being depleted over

the course of each ticking second.

Carl and I will celebrate 28 years of marriage this week.
(Carl took vows unaware he was marrying a bowl worrier.)
Whew!

One of my favorite wedding gifts was a square bowl.

Yep, I have a thing about bowls.

We weren’t able to take many gifts with us when we left

for Minnesota days after we married.

I was so anxious to use this bowl once we returned.

This bowl has been lovingly used almost daily.

Currently it holds mounds of grapes.

Except for a small chip, this bowl has never broken.

Imagine that!

I am so glad I didn’t hoard this gift but liberally used and

enjoyed it.

Whether it is a material item or a loved one,

release your hold.

Lift your bowls and offer

them to be filled.

We might be pleasantly

surprised by the contents of the filling.

Note: I am confident that spider had vacated the blossom
before it was plucked by that sweet little gal 🙂

 

prone to worry (& june desktop)

prone to worry (& june desktop)

Less than 5 minutes after Caleb left for a school overnight field trip,

I remembered he left a special comfort item.

Then my mind started to imagine what else was forgotten.

Would he have a good time?

He has been accident prone lately, perhaps he would require

stitches before lights out.

Before I could envision the next disastrous possibility,

my phone alerted and there was a text message from

a mom on the field trip telling me she was Caleb’s

activity leader.

A few moments later she sent a picture of him

photo bombing a group of girls 🙂

Several hours later, another mom sent a picture

of Caleb sawing a log.

Bless the community of moms!

Oh the places my mind will go when I am given

a few moments to let it wander aimlessly.

I am thankful God knows how prone I am

to this circular thinking.

Before they call I will answer;
    while they are still speaking I will hear.

Isaiah 65: 24

Those text message moments found a home in expanse of this verse.

We had gathered, fingers braided in prayer before

Caleb crossed the threshold.

Those uttered words should have been enough.

Yet I had been rehearsing my worries.

God is well acquainted with the contents of my heart.

He knew the best balm for my

mother ache.

I am so grateful He hears and is more

than capable to protect Caleb

than his tattered blanket.

*****

June has arrived.

Two places for your desktop enjoyment.

One

Two