…blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord…he is like a tree planted by water, not anxious in the year of drought…

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Paradise…

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restless

Restlessness. It seems to be always with me. Restless for the week to begin, the week to end, the conversation to begin, the conversation to just be over and ended and done. Restlessly waiting for that first morning that I open the back door and feel cool fall air, for the clouds to let go of their rain, for the full red moon to rise, for the sun to color clouds and finally set down. Restlessly anticipating news…good or bad or anything but the same old thing again and again. A constant waivering between loving the here and now and wanting to get to the there and then. Just settling in, just getting comfortable, and then recognizing that familiar itch to leave. It’s in the way I read ten books at one time, start five projects and write down eight ideas and plan three roadtrips and side projects and hobbies and lives, and only rarely get any of them to the point of completion. It’s what I’ve always labeled as an issue of attention. It’s what I am starting to now see as something more.

I am starting to see it as a gift.

I have wrestled with this holy discontentment for so long that I think anyone who has spent time with me must be sick to death of the conversation. It’s so cyclical. It’s so typical. It’s so restless.

Am I where I am supposed to be? Am I doing what I am supposed to be doing? Am I heading in the right direction here? Or should I be there? Or maybe over there? Or perhaps….there? Am I giving enough, praying enough, saying enough, helping enough? And why can I not seem to sit still long enough to listen to the answers?

So I wrestle and strain and grow frustrated and fearful. I fight the desire to remain safe and comfortable and in control. I battle with complacency. I beat myself up and unfairly judge others. Or feel jealous towards others. Or get angry at others. Then myself. Like I said, it’s a battle, and it’s cyclical, and it’s on me like a winter coat.

But oh, what a gracious God we have. What a lovely Lord who does not remain silent. Who speaks to me even when I refuse to listen. Who talks to me in ways so obviously meant for me and only me that I lose my breath in it’s intimacy. A Holy Spirit who is working in me through the restlessness to bring about ideas and truths so much larger than my small, self-centered world. Whispering to me, shouting to me, keeping me here in this battleground place.

Yes. Keeping me here. This is the truth I have only recently come to accept. This restlessness, this “I should move to Mexico, or what about Honduras, or Guatelmala would be nice, or just start my own private practice, or sell all I can do without, or get rid of technology, or find some land and take in foster children, or get truly involved at church, or finally really learn Spanish, or go back to school, or….,” it’s not going anywhere. I am seeing it as a gift, because it is clearly a part of who I am. It is my Father’s way of keeping me in check. Keeping me on my toes. Alert, eyes open, ears focused on His words, always watching for the next place to pour out His love. My little gift, this restlessness…It’s here to stay until this life is done, because this is not our home.

I have settled down enough lately to listen to the Holy Spirit’s whisperings, and they are clear and sweet and true. They are telling me that I have this unsettled nature here, sinking deep in these bones, in this blood, because I am going to always be searching for the next thing to do to bring Him glory in this place…and to focus on being with Him in the next. There is a reason why nothing feels comfortable here. There is a reason why I never seem to quite get to that place of feeling content. The ceiling is so low…the yearnings of the heart get crushed under it’s frustrating weight. This is not our home.

But oh, what a gracious God we have. He gives us glimpses every day that draw us into His perfect presence. He speaks to us in ways so delightfully personal we can not put them into words that anyone else would understand. He brings us fall morning breezes and breathtaking sunrises and mercies so new each morning we should all just weep upon waking. He guides us. Refines us. Forgives us. Holds our feet to the fire and refreshes us with living water, bread of life. He puts us here, right here, right in this restless spot that never seems quite big enough, and challenges us to live huge. He wants us to seek Him in the mundane. To find Him in the every day. To wrestle with Him through the frustrations of this suburban, American, everything-we-will-ever-want-or-need-or-have-in-excess-and-refuse-to-give-away place. To find Him in the subtleties and make His presence known. To be the light in a dark and dying world and to be that light exactly where we are right now. Because this is where He has us, right now. This is where we are, where we are to be obedient to what we already know of Him, to show this place His love, His face…

So I am afraid, and overjoyed, that I have been told I will remain restless until that glorious day…I am where He has placed me for today, and here I will seek Him, show Him…I will stop merely waiting for patterns to change, chains to break, fears and habits to fall away, and get about the business of working out my salvation. This is what Jesus Christ died for. This is the freedom found even when we feel so suffocated by the trappings of this fallen world.

This is not our home.

Philippians 2

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him he name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me…

yes

2004 was the Year of Miracles, and did I ever need some that year as my sweet little cousin fell and swelled and fought to live….The miracle that he did indeed live, the miracle that we all went on breathing and moving and behaving quite normal. The miracle of a lifetime of perspective found in an instant. The miracle of honesty sweeping through the room, stirring up hearts and causing us to hold nothing back. The way that day, in that year of miracles, lead me arrow-straight down a completely new path that has blessed and challenged and stretched and strengthened me. A path that is still winding, and the miracle that I have not yet grown impatient, weary, sad…

Since that massive year I have labeled then all….Soul, Understanding, Joy, Freedom…

And then 2009, sublimely stamped with the sweet word Restoration. What a frightening word to choose at first, but once the word appears it hovers out there in front of my line of vision like some knowing spider’s web, created specifically for catching my year’s moments, holding them there in the silver lining until I focus my eyes, still my thoughts, and see how the moments relate to the word itself.

The word chooses me.

Restoration was terrifying, sometimes heartbreaking, but oh if only I had counted the ways He truly did bring restoration to my soul…reminding me of how He sees me. Who I am. Who He is. All that is under His care and control. The fear subsides. The year grows long and the restoration comes, and then with December’s ending comes the creeping fear again as it is time to reflect on what has been done, and what I will beg for in the newness of January’s calling…

Now, 2010, 51 days in, and I am still walking in fear of this year’s chosen word. More frightening than begging the Lord to tear out the crippled parts of my heart and restore them to walking again…More frightening than pleading for miracles before realizing that they can only be seen when things are falling apart, when they themselves are the only hope…More frightening than declaring all things joy and then sitting in heartache and anxiety and feeling betrayed.

This year, I have vowed to say Yes…

Just days after I had settled on Yes (no..Yes had settled on me…) I read this and it was done. All done. Terrified or not, The Year of Yes was upon me. 

Being a creature of Yes all of my life, it was time for a new definition of this simple little breath of a word. This could not be about taking on more; in fact, it is about being asked to take on less…to refrain from all of the Yeses I toss out into the winds hoping someone will need and appreciate them. It is about tuning out the voices that have grown dependent on my every Yes and turning my Yes to God alone.

In every question asked of me that comes from my dear Savior, the answer must be Yes.

Will you love as I have loved? Yes, Lord.

Will you see yourself as I see you? Yes, Lord.

Will you speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves? Yes.

Will you do right, even when right seems wrong? Yes. 

Will you encourage even when you cannot see the hope? Yes. 

Will you turn to Me before any one, any thing, any thought? Yes. 

Will you cast all cares upon Me before trying to cure them yourself? Yes. 

Will you do the work I have set out for you? Yes. 

Will you suffer as those you love sit in suffering? Yes.

Will you let those who love sit with you? Yes.

Will you live in thanksgiving, in joy, in peace, no matter what heaviness swirls and tears around you? Yes, Lord, Yes.

The questions appear to pile up day by day. They are sometimes piercing, sometimes light. They are pages long, and they cover every breath. Every decision. Every movement. Every moment.

Yes.

Even when mumbled with a stubborn spirit. Yes. Even when expelled from shaking, terrified lips. Yes. Even when sighed out heavily from a tired, tired soul. Yes.

And then in great joy…Yes! Yes Lord, Yes! A hundred and a thousand and a million times, Yes!
The journey of Restoration put me in close contact with the Holy Spirit…so neglected for so long, such power and beauty and great great love there, just waiting there, undisturbed, as I listened to my own disturbed will…

But now I feel I know Him. We are creating something quite wonderful here. We are woven together like some cozy soft sweater that without I am lost, and cold, and unshielded. What great Soul is found in Him. What perfect Understanding. What Joy. What Freedom. What Restoration done through Him…

Without His promptings, His nudging, His soft whispers, I would not be able to discern the pull of the world from the pull of the Lord. I could convince myself minute by minute to say Yes to things unhealthy, unwise…those things possibly permissible, but not especially beneficial. Saying Yes to my Jesus, who said the ultimate Yes for me, often means saying No to self, to to others, to world. It means saying No to trying to run ahead when the Lord is begging me to rest and be and grow right where I am. It means saying No to comfort and ease and security and moving into the fear a little more each day…finding that in the fear there lies the freedom. It means sounding foolish, looking foolish, saying No to what the world calls right, and knowing that the only One who matters holds all of my Yeses in his hand, looks upon them with joy…it’s overwhelming.

Yes.

breathe

Breathing. Breath. Air.

The breath I hold too tightly when the phone rings late at night. The way I fear losing my breath when I run. The way I do lose it, fear, and must stop the running.  The sweet, deep breaths of my godbaby snuggling on my chest. The air outside finally so cold, the breath we can now see, the way it draws in quick and tight in the wind. The breath knocked out of us when the phone call brings frightening news. The way we then just breathe and must stop the talking. The wonder of it all. 

Wondering how my kind pastor was able to breathe while having surgery. Wondering, are the lungs able to just keep pressing in and out on their own while the brain is exposed to the air all around us? Do the doctors step back, breathe deep, then move in and hold their breath still as their skilled hands remove tentacles of tumor from the brain? Does the wife in the waiting room have to remind herself to breathe, the way my dear friend does? The friend who is divorcing and told me, just today, that forgetting to breathe is actually  easier than you might think. That men and sin and holding on too tightly to this world…these things can all steal your breath before you even notice that you are suffocating…

Thinking about Jesus being air. The Word being life. The Lord being light. The image of breathing in the life and light of the King. The fact that our King humbled himself into the form of a baby, somehow breathing deep inside of Mary. Then breaking through into the night air in a dirty barn, our King, suddenly breathing in the air that he himself had first imagined. The actual air that he created…using the system that he designed to send oxygen through blood to heart, to lungs, to brain.

Breathe. 

I am blessed each year to take a messy group of at-risk students to a ranch to work on social skills and self esteem through time spent with some pretty remarkable horses. The kids start the semester in awe, seemingly forgetting to draw in breath when first introduced to the massive creatures. They have to be reminded to breathe steady, to find a calm rhythm that the horse will draw comfort from. These little complicated children dictating through breath how the thousand pound animal will behave.

My favorite moment of the 12 week course came this week. It’s the time when the students are asked to lay across their horses and simply breathe. They drape their bodies over the bare backs of the horses, press their cheeks against the soft winter fur, wrap their arms around the bulging bellies, and just breathe. The goal is to create a two-way trust by learning to breathe in rhythm with the horse….To synch the human and horse breath so perfectly that an unexplainable bond is formed right there in a way that you can actually see. In a way that you can trust. 

One student, anxious from the start, was never able to get his breathing steady. He was gripping too tight as he grunted and tensed and tried with no success to somehow find the calm.  The horse was moving, the boy panicking, the breathing from each sporadic and nervous and bent. 

For others less frightened, or just as frightened but still willing enough in spite of it all, the breaths would eventually come. The rhythm would become visible. The calm, while unexplainable, was evident. And then there would come a moment…every single time there would come this perfect moment, when the horse would breathe in so deep you could feel it in the way the heat from a room can suck a door from open to shut, and he would let out a sigh, his head would hang towards the cold ground, his back would sway and create a perfect cradle for the child, and that elusive peace that passes right past any human understanding could be seen. A perfect picture of peaceful rhythm right there in a damp and cold and dirty, smelly barn.

How often do I get out of rhythm with the One who created me? Every time I fear, give in to anxiety, try to take control, put people in the place of God, try to find fulfillment and joy and rest and peace and validation in anything other than Him, any time I stop listening to His breathing…I am that scared little child,  all out of synch, grasping for hold on a beast that is moving around beneath me, constantly just out of my reach.

Oh, to daily put all of these fears at His feet, lean back against His chest, and fall in rhythm with the perfectly peaceful breath of Jesus….

jeremiah 17:7,8

jer 17:7,8

quiet

Seems like every time I get quiet lately, I find myself getting a bit angry. It’s a bizarre thing to realize that something so powerful is just hiding here within me, apparently right below the surface, waiting for me to get still enough, silent enough, for it to come alive…

Even more powerful is the way God just tells me he can take it. The way he is immediately there. The way he forgives me when I beat myself up over and over again. The way he reminds me of grace, of the cross, of my calling…the way he reminds me I am his. While he should be so over me, the way I am sometimes so over myself, over my selfishness, my many idols, my pride, my crassness, my dependence, my shame…and he answers it all with kindness. It’s unbelievable. And precious. And I find myself, once again, not knowing what to do with it all. How to take it all in. How to be thankful enough, grateful enough, how to live in that thankfulness and grace.

I don’t know what to do with a love like that…

times

The Lord is just wrecking me the past few days through the words to this song…

tenth avenue north – times

I know i need you
I need to love you
I love to see you, and its been so long
I long to feel you
I feel this need for you
I need to hear you
Is that so wrong?

Now you pulled me near you
When we’re close I fear you
Still I’m afraid to tell you
All that I’ve done
Are you done forgiving?
Or can you look pass my pretending?
Lord I’m so tired of defending
What I’ve become
What have I become?

I hear you say “My love is over,
it’s underneath, it’s inside, it’s in between
the times you doubt me, when you can’t feel
the times that you’ve questioned ‘is this for real?’
the times you’ve broken, the times that you mend
the times you hate me and the times that you bend

Well my love is over, it’s underneath
it’s inside, it’s in between,
these times you’re healing
and when your heart breaks
the times that you feel like you’ve fallen from grace
the times you’re hurting
the times that you heal
the times you go hungry and are tempted to steal
in times of confusion and chaos and pain
I’m there in your sorrow under the weight of your shame
I’m there through your heartache
I’m there in the storm
my love I will keep you by my power alone
I don’t care where you’ve fallen, where you have been
I’ll never forsake you
My love never ends, it never ends…

we did it

Mere, Jenn, and I survived our first race! We had a blast and are truly looking forward to doing it again soon…

I may write more on it later, but for now check out Jenn’s blog for some photographic proof!

what to do with all of this….

This is an email I sent to a few dear friends this morning and decided to post….

I had three little mini break-downs yesterday. Three different little crying fits where I felt like I really wanted to be screaming but instead I just did some quiet crying. You know those days? So, in tryng to sort out why – especially after one of the little crying fits came while jogging around the track at the gym, with lots of other people, none of whom were crying – I drove to the lake and rolled down the windows and played that game I play with the Holy Spirit where I ask him to talk to me through random shuffle on the ipod. I don’t care if people think that is divination or using God or inviting Dopey into my car via music selection. I like it and I usually get something really great and personal and wonderful from doing it. Just like yoga. Demons be damned.

Anyway, the song last night is one that I promise you I have never even heard. It’s on Mere’s old ipod that I occasionally use now that she has the superphone. It just floored me. Here you go:

Surely We Can Change
David Crowder Band

And the problem is this
We were bought with a kiss
But the cheek still turned
Even when it wasn’t hit

And I don’t know
What to do with a love like that
And I don’t know
How to be a love like that

When all the love in the world
Is right here among us
And hatred too
And so we must choose
What our hands will do

Where there is pain
Let there be grace
Where there is suffering
Bring serenity
For those afraid
Help them be brave
Where there is misery
Bring expectancy
And surely we can change
Surely we can change
Something

And the problem it seems
Is with you and me
Not the Love who came
To repair everything

And I don’t know
What to do with a love like that
And I don’t know
How to be a love like that

Surely we can change
Something
Oh, the world’s about to change
The whole world’s about to change

It’s the “I don’t know what to do with a love like that, and I don’t know how to be a love like that” part that really got to me the most. Is anyone else doing this “letting Jesus love us” thing and being completely overwhelmed by the realization that it is so freaking huge that there is no way to even know what to do with it? I am suddenly feeling completely overwhelmed with the state of the world, the vastness of the universe, the blood of Christ, my own terrible nature, the sweet things not seen, the stress that everyone walks through day by day that is natural and understandable but so silly in light of the big picture, the big picture, the fact that there is so much more going on here than we recognize, the fact that I do not live as if there is so much more, the fact that I know there is so much more and that it tears me up to recognize that I am wanting to explode about the so much more but keeping in all in check to get through my days in an easy, simple, going through the motions way.

John 4 blew me away last night – this one little section that I am sure I have read a dozen times in my life – just blew me away.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper may rejoice together.”

And I don’t know what to do with the way that passage hit me last night.

These were his disciples, who knew him and his message better than anyone, and they were just consumed with the fact that he hadn’t eaten bread for the day and needed to. How many things do I say I “need” to do in a day that have nothing to do with my real purpose in being here? How dramatic that he told them, “I don’t need to eat. It’s not important. There’s this huge living and dying world all around us. That’s what’s important today.”

This morning I was thankful that I have never been given more. I can’t handle what I have. How badly would I screw up even more? So I have all that I need, way more than I need, but I spend so much time wishing and dreaming and being jealous and angry….it’s just like those guys worrying about what was for lunch. It is silly, pointless, and all about me. Living breathing dying world all around me that I am called OUT from, and I just worry about fitting IN. Geez.

This righteous anger that I was talking about last week, it’s all mixed in with this frustration that there is so much more, and we don’t seem to get it. I don’t know what to do with that. Then there’s his overwhelming love, the fact that I was given this day today to try one more time, that I really don’t know what to do with.

This counseling gig is difficult. I spend all day doing my best to make sure everyone is alright. I have to step away from that and realize that I can only do what I can do. And I need to let other people ask me if I am alright. I can’t do that here at the job, so I need my friends to ask me if I am alright sometimes. Yesterday proved to me that I am not, but that I am learning, he is beating me into some greater understanding, and I am overwhelmed and thankful for it all….

It’s a lot of ramblings, but like I said, I don’t know what to do with all of this. But I am so incredibly thankful that I know I can spill it out to you all, that my Jesus is walking me through this maze, and that I have a place to take all of this….I think about the counselors I know who have no belief in any god other than we screwed up messes of human beings, and I really don’t know how they cope.

So, I guess I do know what to do with all of this. I keep taking it to Jesus, I keep talking about it with my friends. I keep finding times to be quiet and listen. I cry sometimes when I am jogging.

chasing the sun…


my dear friend, nicole, celebrated another year on this planet yesterday. this fascinating woman and i spent some timeless years together in norman, ok…writing (rarely using caps, you see), laughing (seriously good, deep, hurting the next day laughs), singing (i don’t mind the sun sometimes), circling (repetition, repetition), traveling (nine states in four days…still a personal best), reading (from george’s dante love to smashed fairies and all that fall in between), walking (down railroad tracks for a diet dp so early in the cold cold morning), dreaming (of knitting nations and salt like sand for miles and miles and miles)….

friend, 
you have lived beyond everyone’s hopes for you – taken on the big city, taught the masses (i will sit on the hill, the children will come to me, and i will teach them…), shared your unique view of the world with the world, helped the grounded to fly, given voice to the silent, wed, and found a baby in your belly… and we find ourselves so far apart. but please know that i admire and love and miss you. i am thankful for the pieces of me that i remember when we do connect. i hope that you had a magical birthday and got there smiling, just as the sun went down….
here’s to here.
and i you.
happy birthday.