June 25, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again

I haven’t been on a horse in quite some time. I think I could cinch up a saddle. I’m not sure I could get up into it unassisted. Cinching a saddle is like riding a bicycle, isn’t it?

I got up on a bicycle this week. I don’t remember learning to ride. I do remember my bike with the banana seat, the colored straws on the spokes and the orange flag that waved above me from the top of a fiberglass pole. Learning to ride must have gone well or I would have remembered.

Traumatic life events are seared into the memory. 

The day I wrecked a ten-speed without any brakes is seared in my memory. The moment I felt my toe catch in the spoke, I knew I was in trouble. My reflexes threw my hands forward as gravel wedged into my palms in a failed attempt to break my face-plant into a dirt road. My body lunged forward, the gravel shredded my lips, dirt filled my nostrils. 

When I got on the bike this week, the first thing I did when I pushed it upright was to check the brakes. 

Bad judgment caused me to wreck the bike I was riding when I was fourteen. By using my foot to clip the spokes with my shoe—letting friction slow the wheel’s momentum----I could hop over the high bar of the boy’s bike in a dismount of sorts.  I must have turned my wheel ever so slightly into my breaking maneuver as I veered off the highway and onto Cherry Road to avoid traffic. The next thing I knew I was sitting there with rocks in my hands, rocks in my knees, and my lips were swelling. Behind my bleeding lips was a mouth full of broken teeth.

My sister was with me the day of my wreck and she was with me when I crawled up on a bike this week while we were away together for a few days of vacation. The bike was old school, one speed. It even had a basket and the brake was on the pedal.

We took the bikes out for a ride a couple of days ago in a beach town where people who don’t ride bikes ride bikes. 

After riding a nature trail that took us over bridges and around a marsh and through a picture perfect neighborhood, we shoved our borrowed bikes between metal bars at the parking area and walked to the market for a drink.

A woman taking from the cooler at the same time, asked, “Sisters?” 

“Twins,” I remarked.

“Lucky, “ she quipped.

Yes, lucky. I smiled and thought of how blessed I am to have had my forever friend. 

We have lived a lot of life since that day when I wrecked my face on Cherry Road, spent all of junior high with my hand over mouth, and rued the day that I lost my smile.

We both have had to get back up on horses that bucked us off--- literally and figuratively. But we got back up and rode even when we were bruised and reeling.

I could have passed on the bicycle this past week, made excuses about being too old and out of practice, fear knotted to a distant pain. I could have let fear win. Instead I pushed up the sandy road, let the wind catch my hair, and worried for keys while I was in the grocery store with the bike parked outside. Leanne did too.

(Funny how you feel like you set down your keys when you didn’t even have them with you?)

We all have things that have happened in our past; one day can change everything, tie us up---keep us from pushing through, finding life, living joy in the moment. We cling to that which is routine, to things we are so used to having they seem to be part of us. But there is more than one way to get to the grocery store and sometimes you don’t have to keep up with the keys.

So thankful for a little time out of the routine these past days to get some perspective—to remember fear will only bridle me, keep me from living, if I let him.

I don’t live by the beach and I don’t see a bicycle in my future, but I wouldn’t mind climbing on horse when I get home.

Does changing up your routine get you out of sorts or does it help you get new perspective? Does trauma from the past keep you from living in the moment?

Linking with Emily and Jennifer:


June 19, 2013

The Courage to Live {when tempted to survive}

I remember the boys screwing up their faces when their dad handed them the check. When they were little guys, elementary age, we would take them out to restaurants where a cashier stood behind a register to close out the bill. My husband would send one of the boys from the table with a scribbled-on ticket and some bills. They always looked back for assurance but they had to grab hold of courage and make the transaction on their own.

Courage happens most often in isolation---even when there are people in the room. The hardest things to do are the things no one else can do for you---taking the exams, giving the report, taking your turn at the bat.

The good news is that it’s that way for everybody.

In January, I prayed asking God for my “one word” for the year. The year before He had clearly given me the word “restored.” The word wrapped around me warm, hugged me in its embrace. I thanked God for it---for the assurance written across my life: Restored.

As I prayed in the cold days of January for the new word, God wrote on my heart: Courage.

I didn’t know what it would mean for me then; and in most ways, I still don’t.

What I do know is--- it takes courage to live in this world by faith alone, to believe in the Unseen God, and for promises that wait.

It takes courage to be with God rather than to do for God---courage to sit with the knowledge that I may not be getting everything right. It takes courage to be less than perfect and be okay with it.

Maybe courage is stepping forward when the only light for the path is that the sun rose in the morning.

Today I sat before the vastness of the ocean. I saw its power as the waves pushed against the shore. I watched its rhythm, how it was reaching out, being swept back, over and over and over. 

I am familiar with that rhythm. I know its song. I have sung it---over and over and over.

I’ve stumbled through life when I wanted run with a steady jog, with a bounce in my step. I have tripped up now and again, lost courage—unsure steps stammer. 

I move two steps forward, one step back. I do the hustle with God trying to figure out what He is up to next. Outwit. Outplay. Outlast.

But I want to be more than a survivor. There is no freedom in hanging on til the end and not really being all in. That's not living.

Courage isn't about surviving. It's about thriving.

When you’re restored, you are tempted to sit back in a beach chair, dig your feet deep in the sand, and not risk walking out into the unpredictable ocean called life.

For me, I know God didn’t restore me so I could try to build some kind of fortress around my life, vie for safe when the sea is prone to storms.

There is no guarantee I will only have one big storm in life. 

The rain comes at times under cover of darkness; you don’t always see the storms coming.  

Courageous living means accepting the unknown, living in the moment, trusting God with the future. It also means stepping out in the midst of the storm---eyes fixed on Jesus.

It is learning the rhythm of faith, “…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Faith is not a state of mind. It is an act of courage.

Linking with Emily and Jennifer:


June 12, 2013

What if We just Showed Up?

“What if we just showed up in our relationship to God? What if the only thing we actually did was to be available to Him? What if we acknowledged that the Jealous God is in hot pursuit of us and let Him do what He will with our lives?”

Our God is jealous. We furl our brow because that word reads negative but the word in its original meaning could be interchanged with the word “zealous.” God pursues us. He is totally committed to his relationship with us. He doesn’t come after us to put us in holy time out. He wants our hearts.

I wrote the questions above for an online book discussion based on the first commandment found in Exodus 20:3-5. But the words resonated with something God has been up to in this season of my life, something that I really have never done before in my forty years of living as a Christ-follower.

What have I been doing? I have been showing up.

For as long as I can remember I have been pursuing God, but not until the last few months have I been in a position where without a doubt, I knew He was running the show.

That’s a tough admission from a once Bible teacher and short-term missionary, from someone who has been part of church starts and led the board of a local ministry.

All those things were good things but they were tasked-oriented. Though God used me and I grew spiritually through those good things, they weren’t the forever God-things I had thought they would be.

I still go to one of the churches I helped start, but God has asked me to step away from the other things, things very close to my identity. 

God asked me to surrender, to walk away— for the time being. I've learned to not to put limits on God. It wasn't easy to discern his leading and much harder to lay down things I was capable of doing, things I did well. I walked in obedience because I trust the heart of God.

So for months now I have been getting up every day and reminding myself that God can use me if I make the effort to be available—if I am willing to see the world through his eyes. 

What I knew in theory, but hadn’t really given myself to, was the truth that God doesn’t need an organization or a class to use me to extend his grace to someone. Day by day, He gives me the privilege to give grace, be with someone to encourage, to extend acceptance where it is not expected. I never anticipate when the encounter will come. It comes in the most unlikely places. Last week it was at the nail salon on one day, and when I reported for jury duty on another. 

The zealous God is pursuing my heart. I live the necessary, the frivolous, and the mundane and He finds me there. Wherever I am, I find myself right in the middle of his purposes. Though I am intent and watchful, I am always surprised when he creates an opportunity for me to extend his grace. It has been my delight. 

God is great and glorious. He wants our hearts—more than anything else. 

He still loves Bible Study, mission trips, and para-church ministries but He wants us to see him working in nail salons, jury rooms and at the neighborhood market. 

I won't tell you that this showing up has been easy. It involves waiting, praying, solitude, listening. I get easily distracted and can become self-condemning thinking I am not making a difference in the world.

But I keep remembering that God is pursuing my heart and I offer it to Him.

I don't have a mission trip planned or a Bible Study lined up for the fall; no one has called me to teach or to speak. 

I study the Bible. I pray for the nations. I write words on a page.  

As I acknowledge the One who pursues me, He lets me in on the grace-giving. My eyes are opening to God's care for the smallest things. I gather little treasures that bear the "weight of glory." 

I once read a book that had a list of fifty or so things required for surrender. It overwhelmed me and I chucked it. Could it be that surrender means just showing up? I think so.

How about you? Where have you seen God showing up when you least expected it? Have you had to surrender good things for God things?

Linking with Emily and Jennifer:


June 5, 2013

When an Open Window Feels like Love

I've been opening windows recently here on my blog. I guess you could say I've been airing out my life, trying to be me--the me I know and you may not, risking vulnerability.

My grandparents put an air conditioning unit in a living room window late in their lives. Grandpa wouldn't run it, said it made too much racket.

In our four season climate, the windows were open the biggest part of the year.

During the spring, the clapboard house filled with the smells of hedge blooming and honeysuckle. The privet out back had grown into a tree. My sister and I would climb it, our version of a jungle gym. When the garden was tilled, the aroma of earth crept wet and heavy through the window screens. And when the grass was mowed, the smell of heaven's sweetness spewed out of Grandma's push mower and into the house.

Grandma liked curtains and she kept sheers behind them. When the windows were open only the sheers covered them. She set up box fans all over the house. 

I didn't slow down much when I was a child, spending most of my day coming in and out of that old house. But the sheers and the fans were the means to a childlike version of entering the moment---places where I paused to take in my present reality. 

The fans whirled. I was swept into ah hah moments as I slowed, then bowed before them. The sound of my voice broke into pieces as I projected it through the spinning blades modulating the ah hah of my voice at different pitches. 

After singing through the fans, I would lay down under the sheers. The wind blew in and spread them out like kites. Without warning, the feather light curtain was sucked back hugging the screen. Soon, they would swoop out again, brushing across my face. The curtains danced. It felt like love.

To those of you who have blessed me by looking through the open windows of my life here on the blog, I want you to know something. I don't take this opportunity to send words into the world lightly. I wish all of my posts could be, to those who read them, "ah hah moments." My hope is that I might express some truth about God and His grace that would sweep over you and feel like love. But life doesn't always feel like love and sometimes the windows stay shut.

Love isn't a feeling. He is a person and always He keeps up His end of the relationship. He pursues my heart, helps me find the present moment, the place to stop and remember that He is in the wind and the memories. He was, He will be--- and mostly He is.

The truth is, I don't live in a clapboard house. Many people would call my home a mansion. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the blessings of my life, including my home, but the windows rarely come open and my curtains have never felt like love. Despite that there is a passion in me for God. The older I get the more mysterious and marvelous is the grace of God to me. Writing is an outlet that brings me joy. Sometimes I feel compelled to share it.

(It hasn't always been that way. I stopped writing here in May of 2011 because it wasn't joy. It was an idol.)

The windows I have opened here on the blog lately are windows to my soul. My prayer is that maybe someone will find some kind of hope in one of my stories---not because I am perfect and have it all together, but because I don't.

What I do know is there is power in story. The Greatest Story is the hope of my life, the Writer, my closest friend. I am praying that my lesser stories will give glory to the greater Story Teller. 

I mentioned I was in and out of that old house a lot. When I was out, open windows carried the voice of my a Grandma calling us in for a bologna sandwich or an afternoon fudgesicle.

I really want this place to feel like that clapboard house when the windows were open. I want those of you who read to find joy like singing into box fans and having shears sweep over like love. I want to be open, real. I want to call out to you when God gives me something we can savor, a taste of goodness calling us to a feast. I want it to feel like love. 

I know I haven't exactly done that today--dished out hope and love. I may fail to do it any day I put words on this screen. That is the truth. Despite that, I wanted you to know what I am up to here in my little place in the great big blogging world. Thank you for your encouragement and know that I am praying the wind of the Spirit will pass our way. 

When He does, I want to have the windows open, feel His caress soft like wind-blown sheers, take in the sweet honeysuckle aroma of life.

Linking with Emily at Imperfect Prose and Jennifer at: