Monday, April 28, 2014

Courageous Enough to Stand in the Place Where You Are

It feels like I have been living in the in-between for a long time.  On the outside life moves forward, and I am situated in the needs of those around me.  I spend my days attending to these needs, ordering my life by them, their collective journeys rendering mine as I nurture, feed, clothe, supervise, assist, counsel, help, hear, and love those in my household.  It all has a jaunty quality of movement, of hustle and bustle, of bursting forth.  And this is all on the outside.

But on the inside, I live in the liminal.  I feel suspended in air, as if someone lobbed my life into the sky and I am still waiting to come down.  This is not natural to the person I know I am.  I have always lived my life with an interior pulsing, a pushing toward something greater, a restless journey of becoming.  The quieting of purpose is unnerving.  Inwardly I groan.  I long for.  I await.   And I cannot even name the thing I am straining for. 

I participate in the unfolding life around me with deep joy.  I treasure each face and hold as sacred this chance to be mother, wife, helper, friend.  It is a gift to serve.  It makes the groaning bearable.  But it is not the end for which I was made.  I know life is incomplete.  Something is missing.

In the unfolding I offer this to God--my heart with all its beating, groaning, and longing.  I offer it and wait for God to answer.  My only answer is the quiet enfolding of Love that reminds me I am not my own.  I don't even belong to my family.  I belong only to Him.

The temptation is to give up and give in--to live in grim resignation, to come to the conclusion that this is all there is, nothing more is out there for me.  And in that resignation to stop living within the life I have.  To extinguish all vibrancy and joy and hope and expectation and giving of true self.  Simply because I know the wait is not over and I cannot say when "over" will be. 

Sometimes the most courageous thing we can do is to just stand up in ourselves, to honor the life that is in us and to honor the life we feel called to, even when it is only a not-realized hope.  And so I offer this as my own affirmation of faith--that it is possible to stand in a good place when it feels like all you are doing is losing ground:

STAND--in truth, particularly the truth that God's love is real and deliberately personal.  No matter what I might be tempted to believe, I will stand up in the affirmation that unresolved circumstances do not trump God's love for me.  God loves me in and through this thing I can't just get around or get over.  God is not mad at me.  God is not punishing me.  God's love for me is life-giving.  I will receive all the love for me God wants to give.

STAND--in rightness, to not do the wrong thing simply because doing all the right things doesn't seem to be working.  Oh how tempting it is to just say "screw it all" and just be a gluttonous, pleasure seeker; to try and forget the pain of life, yet destroy life in the dulling.  So I resolve to keep doing the next right thing.  Not because this ever gets any easier.  But because there is inherent value in doing what is right because it is right.  And besides, I don't want to make things any harder than they already are!

STAND--in peace, living as a peace maker within myself and among those God placed me with.  I don't always have to get my own way.  I can be generous with my time and my love and my compassion.  I can try to see things from someone else's point of view, and I can try to say things with genuine love.  Instead of beating people up with my disappointment I can pray for blessings in their lives and try to be a source of blessing for them.  I can look at them as the gift that they are, the gift God created them to be.

STAND--in faith, believing that scripture really is true for me and in my life.  When Psalm 27:13 says "I believe I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living," to act as if this is true.  Even if it doesn't feel true, I can act like it is.  To tell myself that I can trust God, and to commit to that trust in increments--"I don't know about tomorrow, but I can trust You with the next four minutes."  Once I do that often enough, four minutes can grow pretty fast, and I discover I have all the faith I need to get through each day.

STAND--in the Grace that saves, knowing that God forgives me and redeems me, not because of something I do, but because of His mercy and goodness.  It is something in Him that keeps Him reaching for and restoring this human life.  I can rest in that.  And I can rest in the affirmation that God is crazy about me, though I cannot fathom it.  This boundless Love is wrapping itself all around my life, tying up the loose ends, making sense of the senseless, and bringing forth beauty from my ashes, not because of what I bring to the table, but because the Table is His and He issues the invitation.

STAND--in the Word with real power to change things, weaving it in and around my living until its language is more familiar than my own thoughts, until its language transforms my thoughts.  I have learned to feed it to my brain the way I feed my body when it is hungry.  I speak it over my children at night in blessing, feeling its wisdom seep into my own weary bones.  I record the passages into my phone and play them over and over in the car when I am alone, especially when I am afraid or lonely or sad.  They comfort me.  Those Holy scriptures make all the other things I'm trying to stand in that much more real, bringing truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and saving Grace close to me, as close as the breath that escapes when I speak the Holy Word. 

Thus I close with Holy Words in my heart, on my mind:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.  Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand . . . . and having done everything, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-11, 13).

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hope in a Window Sill

I have a magnet sitting on my dresser mirror.  It is a picture of a mama bird hovering over her baby birds.  Their necks are extended toward her as they wait for her to drop food in.  The caption says, "My God will meet all your needs (Philippians 4:19)."  I remember the day this handmade magnet came into my possession.  Our church was having a baby blessing ceremony for all the babies born over the past year.  We were scheduled to bring our Isaiah to the special service.  He was still so tiny.  But that particular Sunday morning, baby Isaiah was sick.  Tim sent me on to church with toddler Noah while he stayed home to tend to our little one.  I was so angry at him.  It was so hard to sit through that service and watch all those moms stand in front of the church with their children. 

God sometimes works through means I would never choose, sometimes in ways that tick me off at first.  This was one of those times.  The sermon that day was one I needed to hear; it melted through my defensive anger to speak a word of hope.  What really caught my attention though was the little magnet Noah brought home from Sunday School, a very clear message to my heart that God was aware, engaged, and already at work to bring the support I so desperately needed.  It also tickled me when God sent an actual bird to nest in Tim's grill just at the moment when we most needed to know God was with us.

The past couple of weeks a bird has been building a nest in the corner of our bathroom window.  Every morning as I go through the motions of getting dressed for the day I see her silhouette comfortably situated on our window sill.  This is not Tim's grill.  I can't not notice this little bird and her home.  It's placement feels very pointed. 

Yesterday morning Tim casually brought it to my attention.  He says lightly, "Maybe it is a message."  He knows I've been struggling.  I simply reply, "Maybe."

I had thought the same thing.  I had spoken those words to myself earlier.

I have no sense of consolation, no feeling to back it up.  There are no answers written in the sky.  I know that I have to keep reminding myself of the truth of God's Goodness, to purposefully situate myself there so that I don't accidently fall into a sadness I can't get out of.  I have to plant myself in truth that is stable when my faith legs feel wobbly--situated just like the little birds situated nearby.  In this time of searching for answers, I see only a nest.  So close to me.  The story of a mama bird bringing forth little ones unfolding right before my eyes in one room.  And the words of a child's Sunday School magnet slapped against the bedroom mirror in the adjoining one:  "My God will meet all of your needs."

Do I take it seriously? 

Do I take it as if God wanted to plant that very message in my weary, doubting heart?

What if those words have not been lifted up by God at all, but are simply the graspings of a desperate woman?  What if I chose to believe God sent them anyway, sent birds to nest in my window anyway, even if He didn't?  Would God honor my believing still?

I think about what it means to believe something is true of God, even when it feels like a fairytale, even when it feels unreal and unreliable.   This I believe is faith.  And the message I am hoping in comes from scripture, which is a trustworthy source.  So I am going to choose to make my home there.

My God will meet every need. 

Not just the obvious ones, but the ones that haunt my dreams.  He will fill my hunger when my belly rumbles, and quench the thirst that leaves my mouth parched.  But He will also satisfy the crazy longing in my soul that just won't go away.  He will show us how to make ends meet, but He will also show me how He made me to meet an end which no one else can.  And in all of this consideration of which of my needs are biggest right now, I realize my biggest need is to simply trust Him.

I trust You.

With all that I am.  All that I want to be, Father.  I trust You.

I trust that You are aware . . . engaged . . .  already at work in my life in ways I cannot imagine but will someday get to see.

And I trust You with all that is entrusted to me.  Because life is no longer all about me.  Because every choice I make leaves its mark on my own little ones, and they need me.  In just the same way that I need You.

So I am situating myself in faith.

And I am choosing to believe that this is truth--
You will meet all my needs.