Friday, February 28, 2014
Friday, December 13, 2013
Thursday, October 3, 2013
What do you expect from your morning?
The heaviness of leaving a soft pillow and warm bed. The hardness of the floor as feet adapt to pressure. The disorientation of standing upright, trying to walk. Perhaps the hurry of out the door. Perhaps the soggy squish of wet grass.
I usually want a morning that is predictable. Expecting my home and family to be as I left them the night before, I sag with half-closed eyes into the new day. I don't want to face something new - a sick child, burst pipe, dead car battery, surprise meeting - in the morning. Maybe these could show up after lunch. Changes and challenges seem especially difficult as I struggle to wake up, and I fight them. Often, I don't even want a new breakfast food in the early morning. Save newness for the slow moving days of brunch.
Despite my desire to ease into a world that is the same as yesterday, that is bland with routine, that
allows me to gather myself before changing anything I expect to find... out the window, there is a stirring.
Regardless of my apprehension, a new day cannot help to be anything but new: unfamiliar, unusual, unique. I shrink from the day, aware it could bring morning news I don't want to hear. I could block everything and hide in silence. I could awaken my ears with consistently bouncy radio hosts, predictable political commentary, or superficial social scoops. Yet, I cannot escape the impending sunrise pushing the new day forward, whether I comply or not.
This morning, I read Psalm 90, where Moses discusses the brevity of life and petitions the LORD concerning mornings. Does he ask for safety? Routine? A chance to have coffee or juice before anything too exciting happens?
No. He asks to be surprised. Verse 14, in the Message translation, says, "Surprise us with love at daybreak."
Surprise is the joy of having no expectations. When my two-year-old comes upon a group of people, her eyes light up and she often yells, "Surprise party!" to the unsuspecting crowd. They might be having a party or they might just be shoppers on a busy day at the grocery store. Just in case, she assumes the former. For her, most of the day is a surprise. She doesn't expect to accomplish anything today. She doesn't expect to produce, to store up, to plan and fulfill those plans. She knows she will be cared for today. That is all. That is enough. The rest is excitement.
Am I constantly weighed down by my expectations of a new day or do I simply embrace the unexpected love of my Father?
Abba God, Your Love is worth losing my expectations and embracing the dawn of a new day. Amen.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
I haven't written in a long time.
The list of reasons over the past few years has included a laundry list of acceptable uses of time and energy: job, school, two toddlers, the daily routines of cooking and cleaning and carving out a life
I repeated the list when my husband reminded me to write. I ruminated on the list when my soul yearned to express itself. I replayed my excuses rather than hear the new words God might want to say - those beautiful words I needed but didn't want to wait for.
But this morning, with the air still chilly and the Sun struggling to peak pale light through the trees outside my window, I will write. I have few expectations for myself - this being a necessary criteria to convince myself to even begin - so I am open to the happiness and accomplishment of whatever words make it on the page.
This is my fresh start. This is my morning.
I have long struggled with mornings. In grad school, I argued that waiting out the urban traffic chaos was a valid reason to start the day later. When I taught college classes, I would prepare everything the day before so I could rush in at the last minute and immediately jump into the coursework. For the life of my 14-month-old, I have reasoned that sleeping when she does in the mornings is an important use of time so I will make it through the day. I had no mornings alone with God. I had no morning words to settle my hungry soul in need of nutrition before the activities of life. Now is the time for breakfast.
Like my tendency to skip meals or sleep when I think I have too much to do, I neglect how I need to start my day. Because I am obstinate, whiny and forgetful, I need instructions to myself:
- Pay attention to the craving God made you to have. Don't avoid the ways He fills you up. The day is going to be long, but you'll want the energy and sensitivity to embrace each moment.
- Prepare yourself for the barrage of the expected (crying children, mountains of laundry and dishes, dissertation editing) and unexpected concerns coming your way. All the hoping, ignoring, and crossing your fingers won't keep them from planting themselves in the middle of your day.
- Pave the way for new revelations by getting over what happened or didn't happen yesterday (and all the yesterdays that have come before). This morning is a fresh start on a blank page.
Psalm 19:12-14 (MSG)
Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!
Keep me from stupid sins,
from thinking I can take over your work;
Then I can start this day sun-washed,
scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.
These are the words in my mouth;
these are what I chew on and pray.
Accept them when I place them
on the morning altar,
O God, my Altar-Rock,
Saturday, June 6, 2009
She tentatively steps out of the bright sunlight
Her eyes straining to adjust to being inside
Seeing the store owner, she smiles to be polite
- But eyes show the uncertainty she cannot hide
This is not her first time wondering through these aisles
She has been here before but made no decisions
The space is not large, yet her browsing covers miles
Each item leads her to make mental revisions
This is a shop replete with opportunity
On every rack and shelf are the outfits of life
Each offers a means to join the community
By filling roles such as doctor, teacher or wife
Options seem endless in this concentrated space
Jackets, hats and shoes cover the walls and the floor
To select well will require wisdom and grace
As there is no option to just choose to buy more
Purchases made in this strange little store are constrained
To the weight you can carry and what you can hold
Each choice requires effort, you have to be trained
Too many selections and you’ll feel tired, old
So she stands and considers what she should do now
Her clothing from former days-gone-by is in rags
It must be replaced. She needs to choose what she’ll allow
The storekeeper to give her and place in her bags
With a knowing smile, the shopkeeper leans to her ear,
“Try them all on, all the ones you think you will like.”
She stops and stares, the prospect calms a little fear
She had not known that they would not all fit alike
The first was too bulky, it hung loose on her frame
The second and third were either short or too tight
The fourth was a style that made her face red with shame
The fifth was tacky with colors bold and bright
The sixth one looked lovely and breezy on the rack
But on her, it was misshapen and would not do.
Each item she tried felt like a brutal attack
Nothing seemed to match her shape, not even a shoe
“This is terrible!” she sobbed from the dressing room,
“I’m fit for nothing at all in this world of outfits!
How can I grow, prosper, and eventually bloom
When it looks like I’m made as one of the misfits?”
Slowly, calmly, in His own compassionate way
The Shopkeeper attended, He came and knocked,
“Come, open the door and I will end your delay.
I have what you wanted, I’ve kept it safe and locked.”
She did as He had asked and through teary vision
She saw fabric draped across His outstretched arm
Unlike what she saw while making her decision
It was light yet cozy, full of beauty and charm
Before her eyes, she saw Him cut from a design
At the top of the page, what surprise, was her name!
He quickly stitched all the pieces, missing no line
And held the result for her to see and acclaim
She tried it on and, what wonder, it was perfect
Obviously every detail was made exactly for her
The color, the size, the style and cut were correct
Even in details she did not know to prefer
“How did you do this?” she gasped to the Man, in great awe
“I was made all wrong for everything in the store!”
“Ah,” He answered, “you thought that meant you had a flaw.
Choosing from other options is a useless chore.”
“I am a tailor; I do not sell standard ware.
Each item must be carefully crafted anew.
You were not made to fit some fashionable flair
No, dearest, it is meant to be shaped to fit you.”
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Are you ready for closure in some area of your life? I know I am. When I go through a difficult time in any area, I just wait for the end date. I've noticed that I fully expect such a day to come - as though it is like the last day of the semester for a class I didn't like in school. Once that day comes, I expect that I can have closure and be done with it. Hopefully I got a good grade, but even if not, it's over either way.
The frustrating part is that real life does not always work like this. I have had relationships wounded that I keep hoping will miraculously heal. I continue deal with issues of security and wanting to know if I'm on the right track. This gone on for years. I keep waiting for the celebration day of sadness to be over and constant rejoicing to begin. All the hurt of the past should be resolved. All those questions about work and school should be answered. If these were courses in college, I'd be done by now. I keep realizing how I expect that God's semesters of teaching me each of His ways will have end dates. Not exactly consciously, but I keep thinking that if I didn't like the struggle, it will end either way.
Maybe there is no last day of class. There is no final grade. We just continue to move on.
Recently, I've been typing up a test for the intro psychology class I teach. The chapter covers the difference between Sensation, what you actually see, and Perception, how your brain interprets it. Often, the interpretation part makes what you actually see fit to what you expect to see. (Sidenote: This is why visual illusions work, your brain is trying to make an image fit to how it should normally look, even though the picture doesn't actually follow normal rules.)
Looking at an example of the "Principle of Closure" (see picture), it's interesting that the perceptual experience of closure has to be inferred. The circles are not actually complete, but I see them and the triangle anyway (although it's technically not there). My mind is able to accept what looks incomplete and find a larger picture there - if I let it.
I believe sometimes closure in all those areas of life works like this too. We know there are still loose ends. Not everything comes together. Not every problem is solved. It doesn't always just go away. But by the grace of God, who gave our minds the ability to see beyond what is physically there, we can get more than the answers we seek. We can get a big picture glimpse of God Himself. And to that, I pray there is no closure.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Last fall, I planted daffodils. I carefully dug holes to the proper depth and added a little richer soil than the red clay in most of the yard. I put them in, covered them up and thought of the joy they would be in the spring, bursting with color before anything else. I tried to forget about them, but I simply could not. I watered them. I made sure no one walked on them. Even with no evidence of how they were doing, I thought of them enduring the cold winter safely in the ground in order to be ready for spring.
Now it is early January. The winter weather has been strange, it was cold earlier than usual, but before Christmas, and especially after it has been unusually warm - even for the south. But it is still early January and the coldest is yet to come. I know that. I see the calendar and pay attention to weather reports.
Unfortunately, as I decided to do a little yard sprucing-up recently I noticed that the little bulbs I had tended were now popping up through the ground with bright green leaves shooting high. Daffodils are early bloomers and sturdy plants, but early January is still before their proper time.
"No, little daffodils!" I wanted to tell them, "It's not time yet, there are still many frosts to come, maybe snow. It will be cold. Stay hidden and safe!" But they can't understand my message. So I brushed a little of the remaining pine needles over them and hope they brave through. I sigh and think how it would have been easier for them to wait at least a month or so to start showing their new leaves.
But I identify with my early daffodils wanting to declare a new season and move ahead. They took cues from the weather; it seemed warm for a time. I take cues from my environment as well. When I want a season of learning or a season of testing or a season of growing to be over, I look for any clue that I can claim as a sign that it is time to move on. And sometimes it's just too early.
For the last year or so I have spent untold time struggling with wanting security and wanting the days of not knowing my career path to end. God has taught me many things along the way and has always been faithful to provide everything I've needed and more, but still the training to trust Him has seemed long. Looking back, I think how precious that time has been, valuable more than wealth. But every so often during that time, I declared that the season must be over and surely it was time for me to move on. When I heard of a job or continued education that sounded interesting to me, I saw glimmers of sunshine and felt the warmth of spring, or what I thought was spring since I was tired of my personal winter. I saw others with less education and experience finding their own careers. Not wanting to miss any opportunities, I tried my hardest to send out my own leaves. I immersed myself in each new direction and imagined myself there. If believing or hoping for good changes was all that is needed for them to happen, I would be on one of those paths now.
Yet, God knew I needed to wait, to sit still for a "winter" rather than always trying to bloom. When I stuck a leaf out, He probably sighed as I did with my daffodils and lovingly protected me from storms ahead. But He didn't turn January into Spring. He has his own plans for me and has designed my life to follow order, which includes Springs and Summers, but also Autumns and Winters. Each time I try to jump ahead of that timetable uses energy and puts me at risk of future storms.
Bulbs for some flowers need to be planted in Autumn so that they have a winter to build a complete root system. When spring finally comes, they are established and ready to grow. So, for now, I am being aware of my root system (my character, habits, skills, attitudes, knowledge base) and letting the time to grow up and out come in due season.