God made me fast

Nepal Hiking

Some of the wonderful people I got to “go together” with in Nepal.

I’ve got a cup of french pressed coffee sitting by me and my window is open, letting a slowly warming breeze into my room.  The shouts of little children draw my attention outside and watching them in the nearby park makes me smile as it reminds me of my childhood.  There must be a cross-country meet going on in the park right behind my house because the parking lot is full and I can hear shrill whistles blowing.  I didn’t run track or cross-country in high school, but as a little kid I did run in some races.  I remember one race in particular at a local a park.  Anxiety and anticipation that took full control of my body right before the race.  I wanted to win and my coming performance drew my full attention.

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.” -African Proverb

I love the irony that as I came across that quote this morning reading a magazine there were races going on behind my house.  I was fast as a little kid and as I stepped up to the starting line all of my strength was directed towards winning and running as fast as I could.  I remember the feeling of complete fatigue as the race ended and I had given everything I could.  The competition was exhilarating and I understand maybe a little bit of what Eric Liddell said in Chariots of Fire: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but I also believe he made me fast.  And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”

What I didn’t have any idea about as a little kid is that some of the kids in that crowd I was trying to beat had no concern about winning the race at all.  Some didn’t even know the route we were supposed to run.  Some of them didn’t realize the race has started until they noticed all the kids around them had started to run.  I didn’t realize that the way I was seeing the race was completely different than how others were viewing the race.  

This theme has been on my mind, the idea that we were made to do life together but often see things so differently from others.  Truth be told, it often seems easier to just go at life alone.  Because just as when I was a little kid I had no idea how other little kids were experiencing that race day, now, as an adult, it is a struggle to truly understand and accept others as they process through their own life.  

I often don’t have the right words to express myself and make myself known to others.  And, on the flip side, I have just as hard a time slowing down and humbling myself to truly understand others around me.  Because it’s hard, as the proverb says, to “go together.”  And so much easier to just do things the way I want it done.  

I’ve definitely tried to go at life alone.  And the loneliness that follows is more debilitating than the diligent effort required to stay connected to those present in my life.  I’m not sure if you’ve followed my ramblings, but if you have, I also want to say that with my whole heart I believe that the diligent effort required to stay connected to others, so we can “go together”, is worth every ounce of effort.  

 

Kenya Breakforth

In Kenya I learned so much about life from these women.

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To a flooded bathroom

I’ve been back from Peru for about a week and a half and the transition back into American life has been seamless.  It’s almost as hot here as it was in the jungle, but of course here we have air conditioning.  I loved almost everything about Peru.  I loved the work we did, the people we were with, and the fun adventures.  

Jungle Walk

After we got poured on during our “jungle walk”

I also loved the airplane rides, the bus rides, the boat rides, and the moto rides.  Traveling can be extremely exhausting.  You’re either wondering where the nearest bathroom is or who can watch your things for you as you go to the bathroom.  There seems to always be a bus you have to catch at a certain time or the fact you’re still needing to find a place to finally break the big bill you’ve been carrying around that no one at the market seems to want to acknowledge you have.  It’s either way too hot at night to sleep or the nighttime airplane ride is freezing cold.  And then there’s constantly having to remember NOT to flush the toilet paper, but then again, maybe you can here?

Peru Translaters

A couple of our AWESOME translators who helped us do the medical work

Traveling brings a constant rush of new people, sounds, food, anxieties, and joys.  Going to Peru was a sweet reminder of what it’s like to step out your door and not really know where the next step is going to take you.  Traveling has taught me a lot.  It’s taught me how to enjoy the process.  I’m sure you’ve heard the cliche “Life’s a journey, not a destination.”  It irritates me sometimes, but then again, it also speaks to my heart.  I even bought a journal this morning with that very slogan on the cover.  Traveling has broken down my agenda and taught me to enjoy the process.

My favorite moment from Peru didn’t come as we did our anticipated work.  We went to Peru as medical missionaries and were able to work diligently as such.  My favorite moment came as we were preparing to start our very first clinic.  We had make-shift clinics throughout the entire trip and our first one was at a local school.  I slipped out of the classroom to make a quick trip to the restroom before we started for the day.  I was expecting to walk in, take care of business, and hustle back to see our first patient.

When I stepped into the bathroom my first awareness was that of water on the floor and a semi-flooded bathroom.  I started to pull up the bottom of my pants as my mind began to problem solve the best way of going to the bathroom without getting wet when the sound of sobbing broke into my awareness.  The sobbing was coming from a young girl, no more than 8 years old.  Her friend was standing by her side, a small hand placed on the shaking back of her friend.  In hesitant Spanish I asked what was wrong.

“Her uncle is very sick and in the hospital.”

Our first clinic was in Belen, the most impoverished part of the jungle city where we were serving.  And this jungle city, Iquitos, was not a place flowing with wealth.  We had heard stories of the kids who grew up here and knew it was rough.  It seemed that mercy was hard to come by in this place.  

The sight of this small child facing such a massive amount of pain overtook me and I opened my arms.  The thought, “This could be awkward” floated through my mind, but I couldn’t stand that she sobbed without the comfort of older and stronger arms.  She ran to me and I held her as she cried.  Slowly some of her friends trickled into the bathroom and I talked to them as her tears slowed.  Eventually we were all laughing a little and then I realized I should probably get back to the clinic ASAP.  I left without even going to the bathroom.

A couple hours later I walked out of the classroom to grab a prescription for a patient and saw the little girl watching for me.  I opened my arms again and she ran to me, this time smiling instead of crying.  I wished her a blessing in Spanish and she ran off, her little backpack swinging back and forth as she left the school grounds.  I have no idea what her name is, how her uncle is, or how she is doing.  But it seems to me as if all the plane rides, bus rides, and walking brought me to my main destination in Peru: a flooded school bathroom where a little girl was crying and needed a hug.

Although I’ve learned that life is a journey, one to be enjoyed with as much delight as one can muster,  I have not given up on the reality that journeys need a worthy destination.  May you delight in your journey and may it take you to a worthy destination.   

Holding Boa

Holding a really big snake

In different times

In 2 ½ weeks I’ll board a plane for Peru.  I haven’t left the country (besides for a road-trip to Canada) since the summer of 2015 and as I start to pack I’m reminded of what it was like to live out of a backpack for a year.  It makes me smile to think about it and gratefulness creeps over my heart… Gratefulness that I got to experience it AND gratefulness for my cozy bed that I sleep in now every night.  And for clothes hung up in my closet.  

I have in the past several weeks finished my first year of PA school.  Last August as I started school I was a stranger in a new city trying to be patient as I settled into the rhythm of life with new faces and new places.  School felt like it would last forever.  It felt so permanent.  But after finishing the first year I see how quickly the rest will actually go.  It won’t be long before I graduate and, once again, move into a new season of life.

Living out of a backpack for a year (and then some more) pressed into my awareness the transient nature of our lives.  Whether it’s moving, graduating, friends leaving or getting married, co-workers moving on, or children growing up, life doesn’t stop changing.  And this, at least for me, is a painful reality.  I feel like I grow attached to people and structures quickly and as they change I often feel only the pain of loss.  It is seldom I am able to see or even hope for the better that can come from change.  I am one of those people who would attempt to re-create what happened once in the hope of enjoying it again.  I’m not sure if others do that, too.

God has shown me this in my heart.  It is one of the ways I would seek to control my life, to secure my own joy and happiness, and to avoid depending on Him.  And while he sees me with gentleness and grace, he has also shown me that my fear of change (not necessarily the grieving part it) comes from seeing him as small.  I often don’t believe that he is a good Father who can touch my heart in new ways.  I forget that he is beyond me and has good for me that I can’t imagine.  I can only remember how he has done it in the past.

But he is slowly working on my heart and because of his continued faithfulness I am better able to hope through the changes in life.  When I got back from traveling in 2014 I had a hope that maybe I would be able to keep visiting new places.  Even more specifically, that I would be able to keep up with visiting as many countries as I am old.  Well, 2 ½ weeks from now I get to go to Peru and the plan is to visit Machu Picchu, a place on my bucket-list since I studied the Incas in my college Spanish classes.  It will be my 30th country (including the US) and I turn 30 this October.  I never set out to do that.  I have no explanation other than God saw the longing in my heart and worked it all out.  It’s been a gift.  All of it.    

I am so grateful because I know more and more every season that the goodness of God never changes, it just looks different in different times.  And that gives me hope.

Crepes and coffee

It’s been a gray couple of weeks.  I had grown used to a consistently bright, shining sun and lately it’s been taken away and traded for a gray sky, rain showers, and a chilly wind.  My shoulders and neck feel tense, probably from a week of studying mixed with doses of anxiety.  But it was a good week, a week I found myself enjoying.  Now I’m sitting at a local coffee shop filled with sounds of chatter, dishes being washed, and a low murmuring background music.  I enjoyed a delicious crepe and am sipping on some coffee.  It’s a great morning.  

Don’t get me wrong, life isn’t perfect.  I get pulled around in my head by various thoughts, flow in and out of weariness with the monotony that life presents with sometimes, and struggle to wade through the continuous waves of choices I make everyday.  God caught my attention this week with how much I, too, compare myself with those around me.  

A couple weekends ago I drove 4 hours to a reunion with some of my friends with whom I traveled.  To see them and sit with them felt both normal and surreal.  To see their faces again brought back precious memories that came flying back into the present.  Reliving the funny and scary moments with them deepened the memory and pushed them further into my heart.  It was a special time.  I used to get so bored listening to my parents talk to their friends about times gone by.  I used to think it was sad that all their memories were over (sorry mom and dad:) and all they had left was the reliving of them.  I didn’t realize that the event itself is just the beginning… that the reliving and remembering add a wholeness, a perspective, that is only possible as the memories are matured by time.

D squad Iowa

I am also reading the “Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis for probably the 5th time.  It’s just so good.  And it’s got me thinking again about time, memories, and choices.  We make them, choices and memories, every day.  We might think we understand them in the moment, but really it takes the fullness of time to mature them and show them for what they are.  The choices I make everyday mean something.  They actually mean a lot.  But in everyday life sometimes we don’t even realize the things we are choosing between, it is not clear to us.  At least it’s sure not clear to me.

Some of the friends who I visited were with me in Tanzania, a trying time in my life to be sure.  It’s sort of ironic that the week after I got back I started a typhoid vaccine that gave me a fever and chills and gave me a small taste of how I remember feeling physically in Africa.  God does have a sense of humor.  So Tanzania was brought back to mind.  It was a trying time, but it was also a special time for me because I was presented with a clear choice: trust God or go home.  It wasn’t hazy or confusing.  It was just scary.  In the end I wanted to trust God and I stayed.  And sometimes I look back at the time, with it’s clarity, and compare it to my present life.  Am I even trusting him now?  With the choices I make everyday what am I choosing?  What does it look like to trust God now?  

The answers to these questions don’t come clearly to me and I find myself only able to relax into the truth that I don’t have to know, that he is with me even if I’m not trusting him well.  And I feel the voice urging me to wait in the tension and enjoy the gifts I’ve been given in the present.  Because, truly, I’ve been abundantly blessed.

 

As we live along the edge

I woke up slowly this morning, one of the greatest treasures of the weekend.  With my slow morning properly started I made myself a fruit smoothie, sat and drank it as my roommates ate their breakfast, and then began to re-read some of my earlier blogs.  Some of my experiences re-touched my heart and I couldn’t help but wonder at how even though I’ve grown and changed I still question some of the same things I used to. I wrote this 5 years ago:

My whole life has been a struggle, “God are you pleased with me?  What am I doing wrong?  Do you hate me?  Why am I so messed up?”  Each day was a day I could either make God proud by overcoming my sins or fail because I forgot about Him and fell.  Every day was a test that I failed.  

“Of course God isn’t pleased with you”, a voice said, “you’ve got a long ways to go.”

“I know,” was my reply.  

 The theology in my head was sound- of course Jesus had paid the penalty for my sins and I was free.  Then why did I feel so stuck?

“I am proud of you.”  These words were words of life to my thirsty soul.  These are the words I long so deeply to hear.

A lot has happened this week and the week before.  I don’t mean anything out of the ordinary has happened, just the continual list of to-do’s and want-to-do’s.  I know I am not alone in this.  I’ve felt rushed lately and found myself rushing.  I don’t like it when I am anxious and desperate to get things done.  But I’ve also found myself occupied with, in awe of, and enjoying a lot of my days.  Some of them have flowed by in a continual stream of engagement and adventure.  

As I’ve shared with friends about my life I’ve heard a response that has been repeated, “It sounds like you are right where you’re supposed to be.”  And it sure feels like I am where I am supposed to be.  But there are questions in my mind that drift between the lines of my to-do lists and activities:  Am I pleasing?  What am I doing wrong in life?  The same questions I was asking five years ago are, if I’m honest, the same questions I’ve been asking my whole life.  I used to hate those questions because they brought with them shame and fear.  I don’t feel that way as much now.  I love this quote that I ran across again the other day:

Living on the edge means recognizing those places and experiences that do not offer me easy answers, those fierce edges of life where things are not as clear-cut as I hope for them to be.  There is beauty in the border spaces, those places of ambiguity and mystery.  

-Christine Valters Paintner, Border Spaces

And one of the things I long for most is to live on this edge.  It’s the place where, even though there might not be easy answers, there are sometimes beautifully hard and mysterious answers.  May you live along the edge today.

 

el-salvador-edge

Five years ago I was in EL Salvador.  We got to hike up some mountains and it was so fun to gaze into the distance over this cliff.

 

How the World Race Changed My Life

*Adventures in Missions sent out an email asking alumni to share how the World Race changed our lives.  This was my answer.

The World Race changed my life. Truly it did.  But it’s hard for me to say that now.  Don’t get me wrong, I still say it. It’s been almost 4 years since I did the World Race and I’ve realized it’s one of those statements that’s completely true, but almost misses the point entirely.

I wrote this in 2014:

“It’s pretty toasty in our Indian apartment.  I attempted to take out the trash again tonight.  Only this time when I threw the bag over the balcony trash flew everywhere because I had forgotten to tie it shut.  (Yes, this is how you take the trash out in India minus forgetting to tie the bag shut).  I went inside quickly and closed the door.   Oooops.  I hope I didn’t hit anyone on the floor below.

Two days ago I was on that floor helping do physical therapy for the girls we are with this month.  They all have some sort of physical disability.  My first job for the morning was helping one small girl learn how to stand.

Her knees would lock and her pelvis would push too far forward.  I tried and tried to get her knees bent, but she was more interested in losing her balance and having me catch her.  She thought that was hilarious.  I didn’t.

The first time she did it anger and frustration shot through me.  “Don’t you know how bad it would hurt if I wasn’t here to catch you,” I thought.  “How foolish,” was my judgement of her.

Her laughter spoke back to me, “But you are here and you do catch me.  I am safe.”

She did it so many times that by the end I was giggling at her delight in the rush of falling.  My heart was seized by it and I wanted to do anything I could to make her laugh.  I set her down on a yellow board with wheels and found one for myself.  Pretty soon we were zooming around the room, me dragging her around by her feet as she lay back on the board.

I would stop for a second and she would lean her head down onto the floor and let out a laugh that shook her entire body.  I couldn’t stop trying to make her laugh.  This went on for 30 minutes.  Every time I stopped she would let out a deep, rich belly laugh that delighted my heart.  Every time.  I marveled at her simple ability to enjoy.  For those brief 30 minutes I was dancing on the edge of heaven.”

Over five years ago my plans were invaded as I was pursuing getting into a Physician’s Assistant program. I resented the collapse of my plans and had no ability to see where this new path was going, the path that brought me to the World Race, Adventures in Missions headquarters, then squad leading, and back home.  I am now almost done with my first semester of PA school. Here I stand, completely brought full circle.

I realize now that in some ways I had everything turned upside down. I thought unplanned people and adventures were a detour from the “straight and narrow” plan of my life. I see now the “straight and narrow” plan of my life came from my need to be perfect (perfectionism) and it threatened to take me away from the crux of life… unplanned people and adventures.

I was afraid my lack of control would prevent me from doing what I was supposed to do.  Surrendering to Jesus felt like dying, dreams seemed to self-combust, and joy felt like it was sapped from life.  Yet what I discovered is that those feeling were only temporary. I was rescued from myself and given the gift of unplanned people and adventures.  I was given life.  And that all along, without me knowing it, I had a Father listening to and answering the deep, true longings of my heart.

The World Race changed my life because now all I want is Jesus.  These are the things I learned.

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,

I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do great things,

I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy,

I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,

I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,

I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

-The Confederate Soldier’s Prayer (as far as I know, an unknown author)

I am so glad you’re here

flag-football-chams

“I’m glad you’re here.”  These words have meant a lot to me the past couple months.  I don’t know what words sound better to a stranger’s ears.  Because “I’m glad you’re here” means “hi!”, “welcome”, “I see purpose and meaning behind you being here”, and “I want you to stay.”

It’s been 2 ½ months since I packed up my car (and my dad’s truck), said goodbye, cried some tears, and drove into the next season of my life.  The long car ride with my parents seems like a long time ago and it’s hard to believe time can go so fast.  It has always slightly bothered me when people say that… “Ugh, time goes so fast!”  But that phrase has been coming out of my mouth a lot this week.  With tests always followed by tests (school will do that to you), new exciting friendships, groceries to buy, and laundry to do I find life passing by quickly.  Really quickly.

Being in school again has been really enjoyable for me.  I am a nerd for sure and it sometimes amazes me that my job right now is learning.  I love it.

School is hard for me, too.  I am tempted to gain my worth from being smart or getting good grades.  I am so tempted by it.

The first couple weeks after moving were especially challenging.  I knew that I would eventually make it around town without google and I wouldn’t always be a new face.  I knew I would meet people and form friendships… Eventually.  But it wasn’t eventually yet and what was being asked of me was patience.  I am not sure how patient I was, but eventually is here now.

I look at my life and, as always, find things that aren’t the way I would wish them to be.  Especially when I see my nephews and niece over FaceTime and I can’t give them a hug.  That breaks my heart a little bit more every time.  But as I take an honest inventory of my life I am blown away by the grace that has carried me and provided for me beyond what I could plan.  I am so glad to be where I am.

The words “I am so glad you’re here” welcomed me even when I wasn’t ready to fully embrace the new “here”.  So thank you to those whose words touched my heart.   

pa-selfie

“We travelers, walking towards the sun, can’t see

Ahead, but looking back the very light

That blinded us shows us the way we came,

Along which blessings now appear, risen

As if from sightlessness to sight, and we

By blessing brightly lit, keep going toward

That blessed light that yet to us is dark.

-Wendell Berry

He commands the waves

As I sit here writing this blog, I feel a deep sense of gratitude.  My eyes are heavy and satisfied from a full day of work and play.  I played basketball this morning, tutored Algebra, spent time with an old friend over smoothies, took care of my garden, and spent some quality time loving my family.  But those are just the names for what I did.  The quality of them takes more explanation.  

I came alive running around on the basketball court and teaching my students math.  The smoothie I had was delicious and the memories of childhood in a similar way tasted sweet.  My garden is exploding with growth and vegetables and I’m filled with sugar snap peas and restful thoughts as I care for it.  Feeding my newborn nephew his bottle and watching him watch me pushes me to see the world with fresh eyes.

At the end of a day like today I used to be tempted, perhaps more honestly I demanded, more days exactly like it.  I wanted to play the same games or tutor the same people in the same way.  I don’t think I realized how much of an error this can be, or how much I stood to lose because of it.  

Because what infused today, along with the delight, was a grief.  I am moving in a few weeks to begin a new chapter in a new place.  New house, new school, new friends, new church, a new grocery store, and on I could go.  This fact colors my days and influences my choices.  I am leaving.  The old will pass and become tucked away in memories, because new is coming.  

New is always coming, no matter who you are or how old you are.  I’ve realized this.  I am changing and the world is changing.  The more I’ve accepted this pain and let it be present in my day the more I experience the deeper layers of life.  

Beach in El Salvador

Yet the battle remains in me.   I want to press pause on the moments of fun and live in them forever.  I want control over my ability to feel joy and happiness. 

These sorts of thoughts have been brought to the surface because I am, once more, reading a book by C.S. Lewis.  His words:

How could I wish to live there except because it is Fixed?  And why should I desire the FIxed except to make sure– to be able on one day to command where I should be the next and what should happen to me?  It is to reject the wave– to draw my hand out of Maleldil’s (i.e. Jesus’s), to say to Him, “Not thus, but thus”– to put in my own power what times should roll toward me… That would have been cold love and feeble trust.  (from Perelandra)

It has always been a challenge for me to let go of the old and press on into the new.  It might always be hard for me, but the longer I live the more hope I have in the goodness and delight of each new wave that comes my way.  And I can honestly say I am excited, really excited, for what is coming next.

No mistakes

The bathroom line on an airplane is one of the most annoying lines in existence.  Of course, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.  Waiting for the airplane bathroom requires precise bodily awareness for the two things required: 1) getting out of the way of those leaving the restroom and  2) not sticking your rear in the face of the poor people seated near the back.  It’s always a bit of a mess.  I was trying to chameleon out of the way when I saw a familiar name on the t-shirt behind me:  “the World Race”.  (click on the words if you want to know more about the World Race or a brief overview of my journey with the World Race)

Since I was on my way to Georgia to work at a World Race training camp I wasn’t too surprised to meet a World Racer on the airplane.  I started a conversation with her and I found out there was also another World Racer on board with us.  I heard the phrase “the guy with the yellow hat,” but by then it was my turn to go to the bathroom.  We agreed to talk later.    

On my way back to my seat I noticed the young gentleman with the yellow hat was seated in the row behind me.  

“Excellent,” I thought, “Another person to talk with!”

I waited until we were deplaning to start a conversation with him.   

“Are you going on the World Race? I don’t mean to be creepy, but I met someone else on the plane going on the World Race and they said you were, too.”

He looked at me strangely, but slowly said yes, he was.  After a slightly slow beginning, we exchanged the normal get to know you questions and then it was our turn to get off the plane.  We continued to chat as we waited for the other girl I met to get off the plane.  As she joined us I turned to leave, but she asked us to please wait, there was another World Racer getting off the plane.  

I was a bit confused.  Hadn’t I just met the one she was referring to?  The guy in the yellow hat?  

“But isn’t this who you were talking about?” I asked, referring to my new yellow hatted friend.

“No,” she said, “I was just telling you my friend was seated in the area of the guy with the yellow hat.”

Realizing my mistake, I began to laugh.  I had begun a conversation with a random guy on an airplane.  But, as it turns out, he wasn’t just any random person on the plane.  Finally, we were all accounted for.

The four of us made our way to baggage claim, brief companions walking through a world mostly unaware of the unseen power that had drawn us together.  Worship was stirred inside me as I listened to small sketches of their life stories.  What’s your name?  Where are you from?  Why are you here?       

I didn’t know much about them, but I could see in their eyes and hear in their voices that they had received the same call I had.  That’s why they were in Georgia preparing to leave their families and homes to travel for 11 months as missionaries.  They had heard the same voice whispering, “Come and see.”  And they had decided to come.  

We waited together at the baggage claim until everyone had secured their luggage before heading over to the pick-up point.  By this time there was a crowd of World Racers waiting to be picked-up and we lost one another as we interspersed among them.  

K squad

K-squad:  The squad I helped train at training camp.

This was the start to the 12 days I spent in Georgia reuniting with friends and meeting lots of new ones.  I found myself so thirsty when I got there.  Physically thirsty, of course, I’d been on planes all morning!  But more than that I  was thirsty for life to be about something more than me.   I was thirsty to remember that living a life dependent on God is the only one worth living.  I longed to walk alongside people as they walked into a deeper knowledge of Jesus.  And I needed hugs from my dear friends.  Jesus provided all of that and more.

B squaders in GA 2016

Dear friends and travel companions.

The weeks were full of people.  And it was wonderful.  I was reminded of the truth that the body of Christ is a living organism, living and breathing because we live and breathe.  And our connection to one another transcends space and time.  We labor here, bringing the kingdom to earth, until all of us are accounted for… no one, especially no one in a yellow hat, will be left behind.  

k squad training ream

The team I worked with at training camp = crazy blessing

 

Right Now

I am sitting still right now.  And I can hear the wind moving the trees’ leaves, birds chatting, and children running through the playground near my house.  They are the sounds of a new season: summer.  I call it new, which it is.  But at the same time it’s not.  It’s fresh because I’ve never lived through this summer, it’s old because I’ve lived through summers before.  I know what to expect.  Sort of.  This is both calming and exciting.  

I have to talk about summer, about seasons, because I’ve entered a new one myself.  The daily occupations of work and class have lessened and I’m left with time.  Time stresses me out, to be honest.  When I’m busy I long for unstructured time to relax and enjoy time with books or people.  Then, when I have time, I freak out.  I know this about myself.  New seasons and more time usually equal deep tension for me.  Fears and lies start to crowd the edges of my life and cast shadows over my daily tasks and activities.

I feel panic rising up and I can hear old voices telling me old lies, “You are not enough”, “You need to figure this out so you don’t fail”, and “You are failing.”  I couldn’t tell you why I’m not enough or exactly what I’m failing at… But the power in the lies isn’t in anything truthful or logical, it’s in the feelings of shame they arouse.  They are powerful indeed.

But I’ve heard these lies before, and even though they bring fresh shame and anxiety, they are old news.  My only weapon is to sit still.  To breathe and listen.  To hear the birds, yes, but to hear the deeper voice of truth.  Sometimes I am able to sit still.  But sometimes He needs to break into my inner noise through people or songs or signs.  Signs like the one in my basement that say “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”

be still

In stillness the old voices aren’t beaten back or held at bay.  I feel them shrivel up and die.  They fade away and different sounds take their place:  the sounds of laughter, of music, and words of hope.

This is a poem I wrote from a place of stillness.

 

The calling

I can hear you calling,

Yet no voice I claim to hear,

The hearing is the feeling

That simmers deep within.

I can hear you calling,

My breaths are slow and free,

It’s air speaking to me deeply

Still and drifting into me.

I can hear you calling,

You echo in my books,

Words still shimmering with meaning

Everywhere I look.

I can hear you calling,

My eyes open to see,

Diamonds sweetly resting

Right where normal used to be.

I can hear you calling,

A knowing low and deep,

Delight is the trajectory

Of the will you’d have me keep.

I can hear you calling,

Redemption claims the past,

With heaven as the present

The shadows will not last.

 

I can hear you speaking,

No voice I claim to hear,

But I cannot doubt the speaking

Of a presence always near.