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Category Archives: Life in Limits

Sunshine

We are living in a fog today. And no, I’m not speaking of my usual metaphorical fogs! =D I’m talking about days and days of living in a wet, rainy cloud. You see, when you live on a mountain in the southern United States, you experience weeks’ worth of dense fog during the colder months of the year. The “I-think-I-need-another-cup-of-coffee” kind of fog. The “I-can’t-see-10-feet-in-front-of-me, would-you-kindly-turn-your-fog-lights-on, are-you-crazy-walking-alongside-the-road-like-that-oh-black-jacket-wearer?!”, and “if-I-don’t-see-some-sunshine-soon, I’m-just-going-to-turn-to-mush” kind of fog.

 

I’m a little bit more affected by the weather than I care to admit. (-sheepish grin-)

 

In highschool, my best friend and I dubbed the Mountain fog, “romantic mist”.  Ah, yes, sweet, innocent girlishness.

Please excuse the trash can hiding behind the bush. I was too lazy to go move it simply for a picture!

 

Because now I live on this mountain and this “romantic mist” drives me to decorate windows and leave them just-so for months on end:

 

 

Or set out fruit like this and literally try to drink in liquid sunshine:

 

 

Yes, it’s getting pretty bad over here.

 

Firefly asks me, “Mama, why isn’t the sun coming out?”

 

I chuckle at how her little questions mimic my grumbling heart sometimes. She’s sometimes like a mirror, that child of mine.

 

I speak to both of us that which I know to be true.

 

“The sun is out, sweetie. We just can’t see it because the clouds are flying all around us. It’s still there and it’ll shine again soon.”

 

And my metaphorical fogs (of course, I couldn’t *not* write of them) are no different. The clouds are sometimes dense and I wonder if He’s leading and I wonder why He doesn’t “show up” a bit more clearly or when I’d like Him to. What’s that quote? Something about how when we wonder where He is, it is then that He is carrying us?

 

Not led. No immediate fog-lifting miracles. Carried right through the split of the clouds.

 

And you know, they say the clouds are what will carry Him back to us.

 

 

Yes, I get to live in a cloud.

The Now Beauty

Earlier this week, I write of letting go and cradling close.

 

The next day, I take a pen in my hand and write out my plans for our future. A list of ideas, of pros and cons. The list is made, I lay down the pen and nod my head in satisfaction. I text my husband and let him know I have things on my mind.

 

I immediately regret it. I feel like a hypocrite.

 

I am hypocrite. My husband hears me talk repeatedly this week of being broken. Of God breaking me. I wrote of it. And already I am back to my not-so-old ways.

 

It’s really not funny . . . but is sort of is. I can’t help but smile ironically at my human ways. That I could so quickly forget that I laid my will to rest.

 

But I leave the list on the dining room table, proud to show it to the man who lives life with me, thinking he might like my thoughts anyway. I go back later to wipe off bread crumbs and gather crayons and little-girl-drawings. It’s then that I laugh . . . sheepish.

 

 

The Abundant-Life-Giver sends a gentle message so obvious, that I simply have to stop and fully take it in. I bought that pen on a whim just last week. I had picked up birthday cards on the way to a party and grabbed a pen in the checkout, just to have something to write with in the car. I had never even read its words.

 

He keeps me on path. And I see, ah yes. The daily dying. The daily letting go. The daily opening of my clenched hands that He may fill them with whatever He so desires. That I may abundantly live in the present. It is not a simple, one-time sort of thing.

 

When we don’t receive what we pray for or desire, it doesn’t mean that God isn’t acting on our behalf. Rather, he’s weaving his story. Paul tells us to ‘continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving’ (Colossians 4:2). Thanksgiving helps us to be grace-centered, seeing all of life as a gift. It looks at how God’s past blessings impact our lives. Watchfulness alerts us to the unfolding drama in the present. It looks for God’s present working as it unfolds into future grace.”

~Taken from A Praying Life, by Paul Miller. “Future Grace” is John Piper’s language.

 

I am learning to be watchful. To look for what He is doing in the seeming everyday moments.

 

 

I look for Him in the beauty of now.

 

 

This Present Grace.

 

 

Cradled

Apparently, one of our pastors has been known to say something to the effect of,

“True brokenness is when you no longer have any possible plan in your head of how God could possibly work out a particular circumstance.”

 

I think that the Lord has *finally* taken me there over the course of the last couple weeks. You see, for the last 8 months or so, I have been striving and wrestling to work out my own desires (the ironic thing is, I don’t even really know what those true desires are). Not only that, but I’ve been rebelling at the mere thought that His plan could possibly be the one thing that I didn’t think I wanted.

 

It’s taken a full 8 months, and maybe really longer than that, but I think I am finally at peace for whatever might be around the bends in our road.

 

I have taken His silence – His seeming lack of direction – as a hard case of discipline. It’s even made me wonder if I’m truly following Jesus.

 

Short story:

My striving – even at the thought – against certain possibilities in our lives, sent me into a frantic searching. A spiraling depression. Doubts.

But He sends truth-filled words and He helps me develop an eye for Him in my life. He allows me to groan through nights of insomnia.  Until, I just can’t do it anymore. Like a young toddler, my temper-tantrums and wrestling against the waiting . . . the possibilities . . . did nothing but lead me into sheer exhaustion. He held me through my fighting, lovingly waiting for me to surrender.

I’m done striving.

I’m letting go.

I’m done trying to figure out what He wants.

I don’t even know what I want.

But, of course, it’s not about what I want, now, is it?

It’s all about bringing glory to Him.

In the waiting.

The not knowing.

The surrendering.

I know nothing better

than to

rest peacefully in His arms.

Where He leads, I will follow.

By grace.

 

The Hard Thanks

Joining others in the hard thanks

 

It happened again last night. A group of people getting to know one another and the typical “couples” questions came up.

 

“Tell about yourself. Let’s get to know one another. How did all of you husbands and wives meet?”

 

We, my husband and I, don’t like telling our story. It’s gritty. It’s ugly, really. And our hearts still feel raw at times. I skim just the top off the story, and I’m still reeling a few hours later. It’s not that we mind the question. It’s hard to answer, but in order for anyone to truly know us as a couple, or even as individuals, the chapter must be told.

 

It’s not the question we mind.

 

It’s our story itself.

 

It started out all well and good. I was seventeen and I had all the butterflies and hopes and dreams over a certain brown-eyed, brown-haired, brilliant young man. We were best friends. And then . . .

 

we fell in love.

 

We planned on marrying from the start.

 

It felt like a fairy tale. Our families loved each other. Our families spent lots of time together.

 

And then.

 

It all fell apart. Our parents’ marriages disintegrated right before our eyes. Within two weeks of one another, both sets of parents were separated. Accusations flew. So did denials. But, relationships between parents became too close. It can no longer be denied.

 

We surveyed the devastation and thought it was all our fault. If it hadn’t been for the two of us, falling in love, our families would still be intact, we thought. We broke up. Again and again. Wondering how we could ever navigate a marriage in the midst of two families that were now feuding.

 

But we loved each other.

 

We couldn’t stay away.

 

God sent us counsel.

 

And in September, after Hurricane Ivan left our hometown flooded and our honeymoon destination shutdown, we woke up to a beautiful, blue-sky kind of wedding day. The kind of wedding day every girl dreams about. Ivan means, “God is Gracious.”

 

Yes.

 

We stood on the rocks of a Mountain church and pledged our vows to one another. Looking back, I realize we kept the vows before we ever even said them. I hope to live them for the rest of my life, by God’s grace and only His.

 

 

When the seemingly normal questions come, my hearts shrinks back in the wanting to hide. In the wanting for the simple beauty of just a regular love story. In simple family ties.

 

But God gave us something different. And I’m learning to accept that a little grit, a little lightning, make the most beautiful vessel-like glass.

 

Ah, yes. I must find the eucharisteo of the past  . . .

 

that I might live it in the present.

 

#327 the necklace with nine and twelve . . . my comfort in the not understanding

#328 that we had two years before each blow

#329 Jonathan’s roommate’s encouragement, when we thought we were crazy

#330 that we can understand each other’s wounds

#331 that our siblings have never blamed us

#332 for truth-speakers when we didn’t know what to believe

#333 that He helped us to hold onto one another through it all

#334 that we actually went through with it, we said the vows

#335 that we can be honest about the wishing our story was different

#336 that we recognize that it made us stronger

#337 that our story is not finished

#338 that God builds on chapters

#339 that I love him more than ever

#340 two beautiful baby girls

#341 that if I knew this would still be the result, I’d marry him all over again

Looking

When I was a teenager, I was often called a Pollyanna of sorts by my family members. The words stung. They weren’t meant as a slight, but they sure weren’t meant as a compliment. But they were true. I did have an irritating way of looking on the bright side of things – of glossing over things and putting my own bright, sunshine-yellow brushstroke over life.

 

I had an optimism that came from a lack of suffering. An optimism that didn’t understand pain, or heartache, or nitty-gritty ugliness. I hadn’t experienced it. I don’t think I believed that it truly existed.

 

I grew up a little more and pain entered.  It hurt and it stung and I wrestled. I still haven’t experienced pain and true suffering like so many in this world have. But for a long time, I looked at my life’s gaping holes  . . . wondering where Jesus fit into this seeming new, raw, unbrushstroked life He’d placed in my lap.

 

I grew up even a little more and learned that not only does life take things out of your hands . . . sometimes, it simply doesn’t give you what you want. Some call it the “death of a vision.” What do you do when you feel like the life you expected got lost somewhere along the way?

 

 

Let me tell you, it’s easy to trade in some good, old, trusting Pollyanna sunshine for a stone-cold, bitter, E. Scrooge sort of cynicism. And I think in some aspects of my life, that’s exactly what I did. Because after you’ve been hurt in sensitive areas, it’s hard to trust people . . . yourself  . . . God.

 

But He’s awakening me and I can’t dwell anymore on the things He-never-promised-but-I’d-come-to-expect, my assumed empty-handedness. He’s not left me to pine and simmer in bitterness. Thank God He’s been scooping me up, teaching me, teaching me, teaching me not to dwell on the seeming gaping holes of my life, but holding me close to His chest, pointing His finger, turning my face to see . . . Him. His hands. Toward this story He’s writing in my life.  So many times I’ve wanted to throw away certain chapters, or change the course, or scratch in Audra-chosen details, but all the while, He whispers, “Peace, peace, child. Let Me write. I am the Author. The Perfecter.”

 

I am learning to let go of the pen.

 

I am learning to trace the etchings of His filigree.

 

 

Cynicism looks in the wrong direction. It looks for the cracks in Christianity instead of looking for the presence of Jesus. It is an orientation of the heart. The . . . cure for cynicism, then, is this: develop an eye for Jesus.

~ Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life

 

 

 

My eye catches on something fallen to the hardwood.

More Than

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.

My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

Psalm 28:7

 

 

 

He fills.

He is more than enough to make us enough.

He is gentle enough to trust with our wounds.

He is powerful enough to fulfill our needs.

He is forgiving enough for our soul’s honesty.

He is true enough to deflect the accuser’s lies.

He is unending enough to enlarge our limitations.

He is our God.

 

 

Good Reason

Isn’t it true that some days it seems that every which way you turn, bad news awaits? Sometimes, the ripple effects of the Garden’s sin-splash enter our life’s spheres from every side . . . and the undertow seems enough to almost pull you under.

 

Yesterday was one of those days. Our little household is floating along life’s currents just fine for the moment, but it seems like just about everyone we know and love is struggling to keep their heads above water. Our hearts ache. You know that ache? The one where you pray hard, and throw out what little lifelines you can, but really, your hands are tied and only God can move and do the rescuing?

 

And even though it feels different and you feel helpless, nothing’s really changed from the good times to the bad. God is the same. We’re powerless in any sense of control all the time, not just when it feels like it. I think it just hurts more when you’re stuck on the shoreline, watching others struggle for footing and lung-filling breath between life’s waves.

 

How do we come alongside others in their suffering? Do we shake our fists at God in His seeming unfairness? Do we ignore their pain so that we are not brought down low as well?

 

I think on words, spoken by others who have struggled for that air and found it:

 

I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I’ve seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks . . . [for] all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks.

~~Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

 

 

Maybe when others are struggling for air, we breathe deep, and look for the joy – the beauty – that a good God is sure to bring. Look for the Rescuer. Pray for the Rescuer. Maybe thenwe motion hope from the shoreline.

 

And I think on words from our Pastor and I can’t quote, but the idea has been a healing balm . . .

 

As Christians in this world, we are never fully content because we were not made for this world. We were not made for the heartache, the death, the disease, the waiting. We were made for another world.

But, neither our we ever completely without joy because we have hope in a God who is making all things right. We have hope in what is to come. We are never fully content, but neither are we ever completely without hope and joy.

~~Joe Novenson, paraphrase (and probably a bad one)

 

 

The in-between. The here and now.

 

Today I am singing a song that, I think, captured this idea.

 

 

we were pressed on every side
full of fear and troubled thoughts
for good reason we carried heavy hearts

it is good to come together
in our friendship to remember
all the reasons hope is in our hearts

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength
hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

now with patience in our suffering
perseverance in our prayers
with good reason this hope is in our hearts

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength
hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

oh we saw the face of Angels
many good things well secured
for good reason this joy is in our hearts

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength
hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

for good reason joy is in our hearts

~~ Sara Groves, from Fireflies and Songs

 

So, we are pressed. But there is good reason.

 

Joy.

Hope.

Christ.