Wordless Wednesday: playing catch-up!

What have we been doing since I blogged last???

IMG_6257Pink received this hat from an aunt this winter, and it became her daily wear.  Seriously.  Every day.  She even wore it to bed.IMG_6266Science projectsIMG_6314Link made a table in his woodworking class at co-opIMG_6400Roughing it on a field trip to The Mariner’s MuseumIMG_6411A trip to the orchestraIMG_6445A regular favorite – archery!IMG_6489Zoo field tripIMG_6491#zooprioritiesIMG_6514Human bird feederIMG_6518Skyride at the zooIMG_6519Hoodlums 😉IMG_6610A sunny EasterIMG_6687New family member – the CUTEST BUNNY EVER, Floppy!!!IMG_6688IMG_6702Birthday time for PinkIMG_6704Yes, those are panda sheets she’s huggingIMG_6722Spring cleaning time – but for a break, ice creamIMG_6751The end of another successful soccer season for AstroIMG_6854The James River on the Blue Ridge ParkwayIMG_6857Mom/Dad–selfieIMG_6863Wading in the chilly mountain creekIMG_6865Otter CreekIMG_6866IMG_6868IMG_6870Now THAT’S sedimentary!IMG_6871IMG_6875IMG_6883Beautiful overlookIMG_6886Shenandoah ValleyIMG_6889IMG_6891IMG_6910More Floppy!!!IMG_6911Relaxing by the fireIMG_6912

Happy summer, guys!

New

The recap of 2016 is written.

Pictures of the three kids and our fun excursions have been posted.

All the Happy New Years have been said.

 

So now.  Now it’s time to get down to it and get real.

It’s 2017, guys.

 

Every year I choose one word for the year.

In 2015 I chose Live.  At the end of the year, for my one word in 2016, I chose Be.

At the time, and even after, I sort of knew it was a cop-out choice.  Because… Be?  Really?  But at the time I just really couldn’t think of anything else.

And inevitably, whatever I choose ends up fitting.  Maybe not the way I thought – or hoped! – it would, but it does.

And in 2016, Be definitely fit.

I had a list of reasons how I was planning to apply ‘Be’ to my life throughout the year, but honestly, I don’t even remember them.  I could look back and see what they were, and I probably will after I write this, but for right now I just want to shoot straight, without trying to backtrack or explain, without being confused or distracted by what I *thought* would be the case for 2016.

#Be2016 – because I often did take more time to just be in the moment.  I didn’t really think about it in any grand sense – I didn’t think about the fact that ‘Be’ was my word – I just… did it.  Sometimes I’d be doing one thing and one of the kids would ask to do something else and rather than put them off I’d think ‘Why would I not just do it right now?’ and I’d do it right now.

#Be2016 – because sometimes things were weird, and different, and strange, and not easy, but I kept myself through all of it.  I am me.  I’m comfortable being me.  I’m not ashamed of being me.

#Be2016 – because, in a way, I came to grips with all that being me really is, more than I ever have before.

There could probably be more, but as I have thought about this year at the end, these are the things that I remember, and the way that ‘Be’ came to be the word for 2016 after I had made it so.

 

So now – 2017!  What is in store for this year?

I had actually started thinking about my One Word for 2017 quite awhile ago.  Well, okay, I didn’t really start thinking about it then, but as I was reading a book, a word stuck out to me as being a possibility.  When December arrived, I began thinking about it more and making note of what I really was looking for in 2017 and what was sticking out to me the most as 2016 was coming to a close.

A few different things jumped out at me over a span of several days, and some were repeated many times.  So then I started working on trying to narrow it down between them; then, just about 3(? 4?) nights ago, I had just written them down again and was trying to decide, and when I walked away, it hit me:

Grow.  Bloom.

And I thought, okay, Grow is a good one.  Grow!  That sounds really grounded and applicable to all of the things I was trying to decide between, and it describes a lot of what I want to do really well!

But… I just couldn’t settle on it.

I told myself over… and over!… that Grow was a good word.  And it SO is a good word!

But… I just couldn’t get Bloom out of my head.

You know the whole ‘Kermit to Kermit’ thing that’s going around right now?

Me: ‘Grow is a really good word.’

Me to me: ‘Bloom.’

And again.  And again.

Til finally I just decided I’d go with it.  Because truthfully, it’s not that Bloom is a BAD word at all, but when I look between Grow and Bloom, grow looks more responsible while bloom looks more frivolous.  Even though blooming is a definite part of growing, right?

And I do know that there are a few things that it brings to mind, and those things make my heart and my mind really happy.  When I think ‘Bloom‘, I think of colorful things, bright things, open things.  And you know how I love all of those.

And all of those are things that I hope for this year.  This year feels full of brightness, of openness, of hope for me.  I hope it does for you, too.

 

So, does anyone else have One Word for 2017?  What will it be?

Another year – ver. 2016

Ah, another year come and gone, and as always, I forgot to blog most of the time.  🙂

 

At least I’m reliable.  Reliably lax in my blog upkeep.  That can be my thing, right?

 

So 2016 has passed.  I’m actually a little late writing any sort of recap, but I’ll do it anyway because in my brain I have to write this before I write anything about 2017, so…

Just some highlights.  🙂

Winter:

Unsurprisingly, I only have 2 photos for winter.  Because EW WINTER.  🙂  One in the snow:img_3608And one on our first ice skating trip!img_3652Spring:

I have many more from spring.  Namely from our short trip to DC.  At the zoo:img_5788During the Night Tour of the Monuments.  I highly recommend this!  So cool and pretty!  img_4074The next day: Jefferson Memorial.  IT WAS CHILLY UP THERE!  And, unfortunately, during the Cherry Blossom Festival!  Ideally we would have avoided that at all costs, but it was when our family could get off work to make the trip.  🙂  img_5803At the GORGEOUS FDR Memorial:img_5819img_5822Ornament making at the glass blowing shop in the city near us:img_4245Summer:

Hooray for summer showers!img_5069img_5070These kids love some tie-dye.img_5378Autumn:

The kiddos on their first plane ride!  We went to visit my family for Thanksgiving, and since The Man couldn’t get off work, we flew!img_5697Part of the ‘Top of the Rock’ in Branson, MO.  SO MANY WATERFALLS!  This was SO fun and cool!img_5736See?  So pretty!img_5755We drove in golf carts.  How fun is that?? The closest one to us there is the boys with my Grandpa.  I was driving the ‘girls cart’, so Pink is taking pictures.img_5766Behind them is a cave.  It’s small but tall with a waterfall inside.  Again, SO COOL!img_5836And much of my extended family lives in Pella, Iowa, home of this beautiful little place.  SERIOUSLY.  Dutch Letters = <3.img_5893And here at the dam near Branson, on our last day before heading home.  img_5909Winter again!

Here they are making gingerbread houses at co-op.  Yes, Astro’s is amazing – he had some help from one of the moms 😉 (not me lol!)img_5952img_5955One of Astro’s selections to make for Christmas Day.  This stuff is SO SWEET – but it’s good.  I can only eat a tiny bit at a time lol!  And this is before we had added the Lucky Charms marshmallows back in!img_6016Kida is not forgotten on Christmas!  She’s already made a bit of a hole in her chicken leg. 😉img_6020Christmas morning!!img_6023

That’s a brief wrap up of our 2016!  We had a good year, and I hope everyone else did, too!  Here’s to an awesome 2017!

Something

For days… perhaps weeks… I have thought about writing this post.

For days… maybe weeks… I have thought it better not to.

Better not to put these words in print.

Better not to open this can of worms

Better not to tear open these curtains to expose what is inside.

 

But today, my perhaps less-than-better judgment has gotten the best of me, and I am writing them anyway.  I’m typing, eyes, closed, like I often do when it is a post like this – a post that is raw, and open, and, to be quite honest, not fun.

It is far from the excitement of the videos I post on social media.  Far from the excitement that I really, honestly, do feel about this upcoming weekend.

 

See, the highs – they are high.

And the lows – they are low.

 

Perhaps it is a regular personality trait of people with the same personality makeup as I – when we’re in, we’re all in and we’re stoked and we’re excited and we’re dancing in the streets with joy and happiness.

And when we are not, we aren’t sure what we are.  We aren’t sure whether the space that we are occupying is the space we are supposed to be in.

We look back at ourselves – at what can really only be called our ‘former’ selves – the years in our past when we were young and we had bright futures and people had high hopes for us.  And then …. we sit and we just stare, head cocked to one side, at what we are instead.

What I was then cannot compare to what I am now.

Because I’m not even sure it’s the same person.  And really, we could be really philosophical here and say that no, it isn’t the same person, because we are a product of our life experiences and that then, at that time, I had had fewer.

The experiences since then have made me who I am.

But the contrast is stark.  And the picture now… the painting that is being revealed at this time… I’m really not sure I like it.

I’m not sure I like being who I am now very much.

 

I notoriously have set the bar low for years.  I often take on projects and quit them because I lose interest, or I like the idea better than the reality, or I fail and take that as the end.

When I was in college – it wasn’t long, really, about a year and a half total – a professor said something to me that has stuck out to me ever since.

Maybe it’s something I think of when I’m just feeling sorry for myself.  Or something.  I don’t know.

He told me that ‘they’ (the professors of my department) had been excited when I came.  They were excited to see my list of accomplishments and the things I knew how to do.  They were excited when I came to try out for scholarships.

And he told me that since arriving, I’d proven to be a big disappointment.

 

He didn’t know, that day, in his office, that  in high school I’d realized that was my biggest weakness – I didn’t want to be a disappointment.  I was okay with people thinking I was weird, or rude, or stuck up, or full of myself – but not a disappointment.

The times that I didn’t accomplish a goal as a teenager, the disappointment in myself was paralyzing.  When I felt like that disappointment came from other people, it was even worse.

 

No, he didn’t know that.

But here he was.  And here I was.  Hearing that I was the very thing that I had never, in my life, ever wanted to be.

It wasn’t really like I was doing bad with anything.  I passed everything with pretty good grades.  I enjoyed my classes.  I had fun.

But I have always lacked this one really pivotal thing.

Drive.

Maybe if you don’t know me that comes as a surprise.  But I’m really not driven.  I’m a procrastinator.  I’m not organized with most things unless they are something I particularly enjoy.

My piano teacher at college (gotta love these folks) said he was earnestly awaiting the day that I stopped letting talent carry me along and started actually working hard.  He wanted to see what it would look like then.

Unfortunately, I never did.  Working hard is… still not my strong suit.  I am a bit of  – okay, more than a bit of – a slacker.

 

And maybe, since that day in college, I’ve perpetually resigned myself to that fate.

Maybe I’ve looked at my life and determined, before things ever happen, that I’ll just aim low.  That I’ll just be a disappointment anyway.

 

As a result?

Can I say it?

My life feels like a disappointment.

Not the people, not the experiences.  Just the me.

At the same time, though, that slacker portion of me – which wins every time – doesn’t know how to change it – or want to put in any hard work that may be necessary to do so.  So… I don’t.

 

I’m a month into summer vacation and I’m so bored and I try to find things to busy myself but they are all little, they are all trivial, they are all minute things to try to pass the time while I pretend they are all important.

I stay in bed too long and stay up too late.

And I feel like I’m giving up.

I stood in the bathroom tonight and fought against those thoughts in my head again about how it’s what I am, this disappointing me.

And sometimes I try so hard.  So hard to not think about it, and I’m good at it.  I’m really good at compartmentalizing all the things, all the ways that my life can be awesome and then I feel not so much all at the same time.

And so it’s kind of funny, really, that I can be as hype as I am about some things right now and then the next thing you know it’s this.  This mess of feelings and loneliness and sadness and wanting, so much, for there to be more.

But you know, like I said: the highs are high.  And so it’s only fitting that at the same time as my mindset is at a sort of peak, there would be an influx of both.

 

What do I do?

 

How do I fill the void that I feel?  How do I find a way to just be happy?  To just be content?

I know I’ve said before that it is God-given, right, this whole inability of mine to just be content.

 

I thought that when I stopped buying the lie – that lie that tells women that motherhood is their highest calling, that tells women that there is nothing better than this – that I was really doing good things.  That I was really moving forward in life, to expose this lie.

And I don’t disagree now.  I still know that’s a lie.

But at the same time, I think it would be so much easier – life would be so much easier – if I just bought it still.

If I could still just swallow that whole agenda hook line and sinker.  If I could literally just think that my sole purpose on life was what I do day in and day out.  If I could really dive into what it is to be a ‘stay at home mom’ or whatever, that maybe life would just be… prettier.

I could be blissfully unaware, as I happily folded laundry or cleaned the house.  At the very least I could see these toils as being all part of the greater good, for my great purpose of being a Mom and wife.

But instead.

Instead I feel like the writer of Ecclesiastes – it is all meaningless.  Clean what has to be cleaned so we don’t live in filth, but no more than necessary.  Teach the kids how to fold their own clothes lol – teach them to clean while you’re at it.

Then I can live my life doing absolutely nothing.

Because for some reason, despite the boredom, nothing still sounds better than some things.

I only wish I could figure out what some things I could find that would sound better than nothing.

But right now, I can’t.

 

Sometimes I can do these big things.  And I love the big things.

Because, in the end, I think the big things fill the void.  They give me something.  And to be something that is better than nothing, it seems like it has to be big.

And often times I go into these big things because of it.  Because I’m searching, looking, trying to figure this thing out.

And I’m not saying that this makes the big things bad!  Or negative at all.  But realistically, the big things wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t some unrest to put them there, you know?

I… I sometimes say that I am watching others live the dream.  My dream.  And I think, to an extent, that’s probably true.  To an extent, it is hard to see people who live music day in and day out andto an extent, I wonder why they got that life that I wanted and I didn’t.

But then, at the same time, I am also seeing it for what it is.  It’s me trying to assign a reason, an excuse for this.  For this… this… gut-wrenching, raw, empty feeling.  And yes, I get jealous that they get these things.  I get jealous and it hurts.  And I know the grass is always greener and that a life of music would probably not be a life of family and that had that path been the one I went down I would probably lament the latter, or, more likely, I wouldn’t have made it far down the path to begin with.

I know that no life is easy and no path is unhindered.

 

As I finished writing this, I was what I can only call exhausted.  Soul laid bare on a page.

Now that the time is coming to hit the ‘publish’ button, I worry a bit.  I wonder if I shouldn’t post it still.  I wonder if people will think the other things – the happy things – are a lie.

They aren’t.

I wonder if people will think that I’m not okay, that there is something wrong with me.

There isn’t.

 

Right now, I feel at peace.

 

Free

Last night, again, I felt it – the turmoil.  The disquiet.

My mind, it felt… chaotic.  For no real reason – I wasn’t thinking about anything that was particularly weighty, or worrisome, I wasn’t trying to decide between any two things that were causing me to jump back and forth.

But still, as I lay in bed last night, my brain felt jumpy.  That’s the best way I can describe it.

So I prayed.

Prayed for peace and clarity and an end to whatever restlessness was plaguing my mind.  Prayed for quiet and stillness.

And I slept.

 

Today dawned, warm and new, and for the first part of the day I was peaceful.  For most of the day, really.  But for some reason, by about dinner time, I felt… icky again.  Just unhappy.  Just displeased.  I felt a general discontent with something.

 

So, when I left the house to run an errand or two, I stopped briefly at the park by the lake.  It was dusk – the sun had set, and it was cloudy this evening anyway.  There were no pink skies like there were on my walk the other night – just gray clouds and still water.

IMG_3893

But the second I stepped out of the van to go to the fencing, I felt it.

Peace.

The breeze blew, and off the lake it was actually a little on the chilly side (which I guess I should expect in March).  I breathed deeply and closed my eyes.  I watched the clouds.  I watched the water.

 

I can feel God when I’m outside.

I wonder if everyone is like that.

 

Long ago, when I was a teenager in a youth group at a church in the middle of nowhere with cow fields next door, when we had nights where we sat and spent time in prayer, I would choose a spot by the narrow window and look out into the field.  When, at night, I had trouble getting to sleep because I was having a teenage angsty problem, I would go to the back window of the house, the one that looked out over the open fields that had not yet been developed, and stare at the stars.

I always felt peace when I looked out and up.

 

I’ve never considered myself much of an outdoor girl, but when the sun warms the ground and I walk barefoot and feel the breeze and plant pretty things… sometimes I feel like an outdoor girl.  Granted, I can’t keep said pretty things alive ;), but there is something in all of it, in nature, that just is…warm.  And peaceful.  And restful.

It’s pleasant.

 

The other night, I watched the newest Cinderella movie again for the first time since taking Pink to see it in the theater the weekend it opened.  And as I watched it, I was struck by the familiar feeling – watching this fairy tale ‘come to life’, what resonated with me was the beauty of the setting.  The freedom in the childhood that they portrayed – a charming, dancing Ella, with animals and free flowing hair and bare feet.  And a mother who was equally so.

It’s all so… beautiful.  Does anyone else think so?

 

As I have mentioned before, I recently read the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.  As the first step of the KonMari method, she recommends writing out what it is that you want in your home, what you want it to look like, to feel like, and why.

It didn’t take long for me to see a trend.

IMG_3894

‘open… freedom… earthy… warmth…’

My feelings about a home are much more feelings than a certain aesthetic.  Similarly, when I think about the things I would optimally have in a home someday, I have said one of my main requirements is being able to see the sky.

Sometimes I wonder if it is an innate trait of people in the U.S. – after all, we are descended from people who came here, who embarked on a journey across the Atlantic ocean for one reason or another, and had to have some semblance of adventure written in their souls.  I wonder if it is something we all have, the desire to close our eyes and breathe deep and look up at the sky and be able to see it all.  To stretch our arms wide and be able to feel it.

The freedom.

 

When I think about what a perfect life must be (though I know no such thing exists here on earth), I think about smooth stones and trickling streams and breezes over grass.  And stars and sunsets.  I think about ripples and laughter and bare feet.  I think about windows wide open to the expanse of life that lies outside our doorsteps.

I think that, maybe, there is a deep, sometimes hidden, yearning for openness that lies in our hurried, busy, claustrophobic world today.  Even our homes are now more open, rather than the boxy rooms of old.  We have high ceilings and tall windows, open floor plans and wide doors to try to cultivate that feeling, that taking in of the expanse that is nature, but overall I feel we still fall short.

We probably always will.

I think of the churches and child centers I visited in Thailand, many of them open to the outside, and how much I loved them.

(Beautiful floors like the one on the left have stuck with me since that trip.  And the way it’s open there – we ate all our meals outdoors or under open air pavilions, everything is outdoors.  The buildings are vented to outdoors, like the church in the lower right.  And the shoes – I have such wonderful feelings about those big piles of shoes outside the doors of the buildings.)

I know that to most of the world, our closed up houses with airtight doors and windows are a mark of how well off we are.  We may think of open places as poorer and more primitive, and yes, it is true that many places are poorer and the open air-ness is of necessity… But then sometimes, all of the modern day things we have, while not bad things, have closed us in.  They’ve shut us up and closed us off.  Instead of open doors to the outside, we are fully enclosed and self-sufficient.

But are we free?

 

A couple of weeks ago, the kids and I went for a walk on one of the first nicer days we’d had in some time.  We took Kida, who does okay walking on a leash if it’s just me, but with the kids, she wants to perpetually keep up with them, be next to them, be ahead of them.  So when we all take her, they usually hold the leash and they all run together.

At one point, Link ran ahead of Astro and Kida and as she ran to catch him, she pulled Astro along faster than he would have gone on his own.

When I caught up to him, he looked up at me.  “Mom,” he said, “when I was running with Kida we were running so fast my eyes were watering because it was so awesome.”

I laughed, when he said it that day.  Astro has always loved to run, though he’ll say otherwise to anyone who asks.

Then, the other night, we had Kida again and it was just Astro, Pink, and I.  We took her around on the sidewalk near the lake which is a terrible idea, because she freaks out about the cars and is perpetually trying to get between us and the road, while at the same time be almost in the road.  But as we got closer to the van, we cut across the field and I took her leash again.  Astro and Pink ran ahead and Kida, as usual, followed, this time pulling me along behind at a pace that I was not prepared for!!

But as I ran with her toward the parking lot, all I could do was throw my head back and burst out laughing – it was joyous!  This exhilarating, breathless pace!  It was so free!!!

And then I got it.

I got to the van and the kids and I laughed about something, and I turned to Astro and was like, “We were running so fast my eyes watered because it was so awesome.”

He laughed.

Coming up for air

Warning: This is a Christian post.  Sometimes I try not to be too blatant in my own beliefs – this is not one of those times.

I still hesitate, even days after I first typed this post out the way I always do, in a whirlwind of whatever it is that I get – inspiration? – to go ahead and publish it.  Because it goes there.  It goes dark and depressing and hurt and angry.

But then… maybe someone out there is now dark and depressing and hurt and angry.

If so… This is for you.  I’m not sure it will do anything to provide you comfort.  But maybe it will help you to know your struggles have belonged to others, too.

 

Do you ever feel like you have been asleep for awhile?  Not literally.  Not like you actually went and took a nap and woke up and are like, oh, I was asleep.  Didn’t mean to do that.

No.

I mean like… you’ve literally just been out of it.

Maybe something like what Foster references in The Celebration of Discipline, when he talks about the dark night of the soul.

Other things in life may be fine.  Other things may progress normally, even better than normal, maybe.

You may, like me, find new strengths and reach new heights in other areas of your life.  You may still feel fulfilled and, overall, pleased, content, happy… however you want to describe it.

 

But at the same time, you feel sort of…. out of it.  Like there is a conversation going on around you, and you are missing out on it.  Because the words are falling on your ears and you can’t necessarily understand them.  Your mind does, sure – but you can’t connect them with your experience at all, with your heart – you’ve lost the emotional side, maybe.

 

Remember how I said, awhile back, that last year the feeling that I felt a lot was really most akin to grief?

What was this grief?

This grief was solitary.  It was… alone.  Silent.  It didn’t always manifest as grief, but as emptiness and silence and separation.  Not from people, not from reality, but from God.

Not because there wasn’t faith.  Not because I had lost faith.

But because I had lost what I thought were my ‘places’.  My ‘things’.

The grief wasn’t the actual, literal loss of these things – but the resulting chaos of the soul.

If we, as human beings on earth, have a purpose, then what is it?

If we have passions, why can’t we do anything about them?

And these were my questions.  Why am I here?  If not this, then what?  If not these things burning in me, then why are they there?

And feeling like there was nothing but silence on the other end of the line.  God sitting, still and silent, as I grew angrier and more bitter and less understanding.

 

Perhaps the best way for me to explain my sense of grief is to share something I wrote last summer.

I’m beginning to wonder if there is a lie out there – a lie of ‘great things’ – that is hindering us all (Christian or not) and keeping us from living a fulfilling life.

I don’t think I believe in purpose.  

Pastors talk and say that ‘in God, you will find your purpose’ – no.  You won’t.

There is no purpose to be found.  We’re just here.  We’re existing.

I’m annoyed.  I get things that matter to me and then can’t do anything about them.  I find a passion and then it sits, stagnant and frustrated.  It’s seething and roiling inside so much that it hurts sometimes.  

Even when I think of it… you know when, in the Bible, it talks about the priests and people rending their garments – tearing at their clothes in agony?  I feel that.  Right now, as I think about those things that bring back echoes of a past life, a former life, a life that could have maybe been.  My heart aches beyond aching as I sit and am reminded that this was where I belonged.  Or at least I thought I did.

I’m in a desert.  There is nothing.  There is nothing that I can hear in headphones that can match reality.  

It’s dry.  It’s lonely.  

And I’m so annoyed.  I’m so mad because I feel like God gives me things and I love them and then they are just jerked away from me.  

Is that immature?  Ask me if I care

‘You like this?  Here, let me give you an ear for it, and a brain for it, and the eye for it, and I’ll have you spend a good part of your formative years engrossed in learning about it and doing it.  Then you’ll think there’s nothing for you only to discover these amazing outlets for it.  You’ll feel fulfilled.  You’ll feel happy.  You’ll feel like the world is good.  And things are right

Then?  I’ll take it away.  

And you’ll have nothing.

And you know how you really found what you thought was a passion?  I’m going to let things happen so that you can go ahead and get immersed in it.  You’ll get excited about it and you’ll love it and you’ll feel it.  It’ll be burning in your soul.

Then you’ll be stuck.  There will be nothing else you can do.’

 

 

I look back, and I read those words, and I can see the brokenness in them.

I read them now, and I still see in them similar feelings to what I have now.

But not the brokenness.  Not the hopelessness.  Not the anger and the bitterness.

It’s like coming up for air.

I don’t know when the shift took place – when I went from bitterness and anger to this… this peace.

I finally do feel that.  Peace.  Content with all that is.

Perhaps it was when I saw the growth that had taken place in those dark and lonely times.  Perhaps because I, without even realizing it at first, could feel God again, there, present.

I’m still in the same place.  My circumstances are still the same.  I still left an event last week and was so full of fire that I was so excited I thought I would burst, and felt a twinge of frustration because I know no one else gets it.
But I know this now – It’s not for them to get.
I still have no music.  The music is gone, right now.  And that still makes me sad.
I still miss it.
But I have faith.  It will come back.

I came to the realization about purpose, perhaps a bit late:  Our only purpose on earth is laid out for us in the Bible – to go and make disciples.

How many times have I read that?!  I took a whole COURSE with that as the primary foundation, for pity’s sake!!

But popular media, popular preaching, popular ‘Christianity’ had me thinking that there must be something else – some big dream, something else out there that was a grand purpose for each individual.

Do you know how freeing it is to realize that our purpose is that same simple golden rule?

Love God.

Love people.

It’s become such a trendy saying.  I still say I said it first.  Years ago.  I’m just kidding (halfway) – I’m sure there were people much wiser than I who said it long ago.

But how wonderful is it to know that that’s it?  That’s all I need to think about.  There is no such thing as ‘God’s will for my life’.  That doesn’t exist.  And I’m not saying that in a hopeless way – it’s freedom.  I’m not going to miss the mark because there’s no mark to miss.

I’m not going to be living in the ‘permissive will of God’ because I have missed ‘His perfect will for me’.

Because those things are man-made creations.

DO YOU SEE HOW FREEING THAT IS?!

 

I wasn’t even planning on talking about that for that long.  But I tend to ramble.  So.

 

Last year – perhaps that was a dark night for my soul.  Perhaps I was struck dumb with grief, with bitterness, with anger, with depression.  As people spoke around me, and I listened but couldn’t comprehend, couldn’t take part, couldn’t be an active participant in conversations about spirituality because who am I to say anything?  And what would I even say?

But this year – is freedom.  Last year I was living.  I lived.  I lived through it, and in other things, yes, I excelled.

This year is being.  Being free.  Being able to breathe again.  Being able to understand, to comprehend, to take part.  Being able to feel peace in all aspects.

Being able to make the connections – see those common threads.  Being able to see where my focus needs to lie for right now and make the commitment to it.

Do you know how good that feels?  To come back to life again?  To be able to feel that God is here and real again?  And not feel like instead, there is a void?

 

The thing about these things – these dark nights of the soul – you do come through them stronger.  If I had to name a time when I felt like God was closer to me than ever, it would be when Pink was in the NICU, when she was born.  That was a time I grew stronger in my faith.  And if I had to name a time that felt the complete opposite, where I couldn’t find or feel God much at all, that would be what I experienced for much of last year.  I feel I should add that I still had faith.  I still believed in God.  I still believed.  Was I bitter, angry, uncomprehending?  Yes.  But did I still know God – the character of God, the sovereignty of God, and who God is and had shown to be in my life?  Yes.  But last year I just felt… far.  Trying to reach out and grab hold of something, but unable to grasp Him.

But, just as I grew stronger from the experience of walking with him constantly, waking up at night and praying for my daughter, and coming to peace with any outcome – I grew stronger from this experience.  From feeling lost and secluded and alone.  From feeling like God was a long way away and like no matter how hard I tried, he was like water slipping through my fingers and I couldn’t hold on.

 

So I want to encourage you – anyone who is feeling that now.  Like God is just too far away and you can’t find Him anywhere.  You may be hesitant to even believe that He’s still there – trust me, He is.

Remember that it’s not what put you in the state of being – in the darkness – it’s the being there that I’m talking about.  My struggles are minute compared to some others, but this isn’t about the what made me this way, and there is never a good time to compare the struggles of life – someone always has it worse, and that doesn’t make anyone’s pain irrelevant.  This is about the existing in the loss, the loneliness, the void.

Keep trusting.  It’s okay if you go through hard times.  It’s okay to have emotions.  We are human.  It’s okay to vent your frustrations to God – even if you can’t feel it, he’s there and he knows them, anyway.  🙂

You will come through it stronger.  I know you will.

Common Threads

I’m sure everyone has had this happen at some point.

 

You’re reading a book and like something it says.  As you are reading another book, a similar line comes up.  A person may mention the same thing.

Sometimes I wonder about these things.  About these common threads.

 

I know that we are more apt to recognize things that we have shown interest in.  If I go to the car dealership looking at a certain car, I will leave said dealership and notice more of those cars on the road than I had previously – not because there was a sudden influx of them, but because I have been made aware of it.

 

So I have to wonder this: When we see these common threads in life – in our interactions with people, the books we read, the shows we watch, whatever – are they merely a product of our minds making the connection that has always been there?

Or… are they a clear sign of there being something bigger and greater that is weaving those common threads together?

 

When I was in Thailand, a person in the group talked about the next step.  And you know, at the time it was a small thing, said in passing, but those words impacted me greatly – because I know that I, along with so many other people, get lost in the big things.  The big goals and the big picture and the long range ideas.  We sometimes lose sight of just taking that very next step.

So at the time, I resolved to take the next steps, and I did.

But then, as time went on, guess what?  I started to forget.  I was looking again at the big picture and going this doesn’t look promising.  I was looking at things and trying to create a whole batch of cookies when I hadn’t taken the step of buying any of the ingredients yet.

Yeah, I don’t know.  A baking metaphor is so not my style.  But it works.  So we’ll just go with it.  😉

So then as I was watching a speaker last weekend I was reminded again about just taking the next steps.  And I had probably heard people say that multiple times in the last year or two.  It wasn’t a new concept.

But something in the way she said it.  Something in those words, in the phrasing, in the context, in the tone… something brought me back to remembering the epiphany of it from the other time.  Something reminded me that I had lost sight of just taking the next steps because I was too busy trying to find big steps and forgetting to just look for the small ones.

You’ve heard that before, too, right?  That it’s not our place to see the whole future.  We won’t see the end result of the steps we take because hopefully we will never stop taking the next step.  We should never feel like we have ‘arrived’ at the place where there is nothing left for us to do.

If we do ever think that, we are wrong.

 

So that’s one thing that I’ve been seeing woven through many things I’ve seen lately – just take the next step.

 

The other thing I keep seeing is from our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world – first in Brother Yun’s book and again recently in another book I was reading, just as an aside from someone in another part of the world.

To not pray/ask for our problems to cease, but for strength to deal with them.

How often do we pray just for the strength?  And really mean it?

This isn’t something that I have ever really put much thought into.  I don’t think that, in general, I pray just for all my problems to disappear because I’ve been fortunate enough to have never been taught the idea that Christians should have it easy.

And I’ll interject here and say that if you are being taught that, it is incorrect.  Choosing a life of faith in Christ doesn’t make our lives on earth easier – not by a long shot.  The difference it makes is in what we do with our circumstances on earth, and of course, in our eternity.

But I digress.

Sometimes, you know, you see things and you’re like… ehhhh… I don’t reeeally think I want to hear that right now – it could be too uncomfortable.  So I’ll just gloss over it and assume it’s for someone else to take to heart, mmmkay?  No?  No one else does that?

Ha.  Lies.  🙂  😀

Because honestly, who, living in America, can say that we really want to ask for strength to endure?  Unless we have really become one with the idea already?

In general, I think that most Christians don’t look at their peaceful lives and ask for God to give them strength to endure hardship.  Because they don’t want to ‘speak that sort of thing into existence’.  Or if they do say it, they certainly don’t actually mean that they’re looking for difficulties!

Goodness me!  We can’t possibly pray for strength to endure – what if God takes us up on it and makes things more difficult?

Usually, I think that the average American Christian’s prayer for strength comes when there is already hardship.  There is already sickness.  There is already brokenness (which there always is, anyway, somewhere).  There is already strife.

But to ask for strength for hardships we don’t have?  Preposterous.

 

So here I am, coming across this statement not just once, but twice, and recognizing it as a fault that we have in our comfortable American Christian faith.

I don’t know what that means.

But there it is.

 

So when you begin finding these things – these common threads that are woven throughout your life in one way or another at a certain time – what do you choose to do with them?

Do you dismiss them as coincidence?

Do you assume it is your brain playing the game of noticing the familiar?

Or… do you think that maybe – just maybe – it’s something bigger?  Whether you believe that particular something = a higher power, God, or even your own subconscious noticing things that you need to work on right now, I encourage you to not ignore it.

Sometimes we notice things right when we need to.

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