A Larger Version of Yourself

I wonder how many young people we have stressed out by asking them silly questions?

If they’re between diapers and acne we ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. As they near their senior year we up the ante and ask a more pointed question about college, because it’s time to make those decisions. I feel sorry for all the 17 and 18 year olds, but I’m guilty of striking up the same cliche conversations.

We train the good answers right into them, and we unintentionally teach them that when you grow up, your life will really begin.

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I remember playing with the neighborhood kids growing up.  I was usually the teacher or the secretary, but if we played house, I was the baby. (Basically, what this says about me is that I want to be in charge and have all the ducks lined up neatly, but at the end of the day what I really want is for someone to take care of me.)

Over the years my goals changed – there was a period where I wanted to be a writer, like, for real. I even submitted some poetry to a magazine once and made sure they knew where to find me incase they wanted more, precocious child that I was. But then the responsible people in my life helped me aim higher and in high school I pointed towards physical therapy, sports medicine, or nursing.

After six months in the nursing program, I quit and changed my major to elementary education.

Today I homeschool 4 children, try to manage the books for my husband’s business, write my heart out for strangers and family, and in the evenings I curl up and ask my kids to bring me a blankie.

We ought to pay more attention to the dreams our children have, before logic and sensibility and financial security over-rule them.

My husband owned a logging company for 20 years. He worked the long hours from dark-to-dark, drove the long distances, managed acres and acres of timber and worked on equipment on the weekend. He was successful. He was responsible. He was tired.

Now he builds houses, and he’s still successful, responsible, and tired, but he’s satisfied.  The person he is has lined up neatly with his work and his ministry and God does the greatest things when we get on board.

He’s always been good with people and good at fixing things and when he was a boy, I’m told, his mom let her three sons play with her dollhouse. Coincidence?

We are whole people, raising whole children, and our whole selves are so much more than what we do or what we want to do or what makes the most career sense.

We had this conversation, my daughter and I. It’s time to talk colleges and majors and tentative plans and we talked it out on the way to town one day.

She said the truth when she said it was hard to decide. I remember being her age and feeling that I had to all of a sudden make this decision – how will I spend my life? What do I want to “do” ? What are my strengths and weaknesses and where will I excel?

Those silly aptitude tests don’t work on most 17 year olds, especially if you’ve had so many years of being pressed into a mold. What teenager knows themselves well enough to answer those questions objectively?

We aim too far ahead, I think. We set the mark so far into the future and we expect a long-range mind to be in a teenager’s body, to be in a small child’s body even.

What do you want to do when you grow up? has to be one of the biggest disservices we commit. 

“It’s not so much about what I want to do, but what kind of person I want to be,” she says. 

And maybe I’m wrong again about these young-adult people, about them not knowing themselves well and how can they possibly decide at 16 or 17 what they want to “do” for the rest of their lives.

I remember the things my kids did when they were young and carefree. I remember how they played, how they lit up and unwound. I know there were boxes of miscellaneous screws and do-hickeys, stacks of books and blocks, cars lined up in a row, Lego towers and battles, copious amounts of abstract art and tea parties and glitter.

They are still those creative people, thinkers, outgoing and helpful, some social and some private. They are the best kind of people, each different, each wonderful.

When they grow up, I hope they’ll just be larger versions of themselves.

 

What if You Couldn’t Fail?

What would you attempt if you were guaranteed success, guaranteed the desired outcome and all the rewards of a job well done?

Remember when Jesus sent the apostles out with nothing, in Matthew 10? With no extra tunic, no sandals, no copper nor silver nor gold, their needs were met as they went. Hearts set on obedience don’t worry about failure.

Remember your own zeal? Remember when you would have sold it all and gone out with Him to the very very ends, the absolute edge of reality and sense?

No one fails in the easy yoke of Christ.

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Hope, that most intangible of possessions, grows greater in our meager circumstances. When all you have is all He promises and nothing you see,  you hope for so much.

And then you get a little something.

A little knowledge. A little experience. A little bit of an opinion and interpretation and logically-drawn safeguards. You might get people’s approval or just the opposite, but both can find their way into your heart and make you careful.

You don’t lose hope.  You lose your need for it and that’s worse.

It’s the difference between doing something you’re comfortable with, like sitting in the pew, for example, and doing something that scares you and maybe even makes you a little mad to be asked, like singing on stage let’s just say.

One’s comfortable because it’s the same. The other is scary because it’s outside of all you feel equipped for or called to.

When you are safe you only ask for the hope that nothing will change.

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The advent of Christ’s birth is also the coming of the One who makes us accepted before God. And it’s done. It’s accomplished in the failed logic of a virgin birth. It’s finished in the seeming failure of a crucified King.

We are the crazy people who follow this juxtaposition. It’s a holy contrast and so are we – that we want to please God but are afraid of displeasing Him, so we become safe-keepers and do nothing.

But what if you couldn’t fail?

The pages are about to turn on another year.

What if you couldn’t fail in this New Year because all your hope was rested in Christ only, not in what you can safely do, easily accomplish, logically complete or skillfully manage?

 

{This post is linked up with Jennifer and #TellHisStory}

 

A String of Moments

Always this tug-o-war between what should be and what is.

Always more to do.

I want the kind of life that gives rest

And takes the focus

Off the cares of this world,

Puts them on Jesus, and ushers hope along.

In long,

Sweeping gusts.

A rest-giving,

Beauty-seeing life.

***

At the end of Thanksgiving break I capped the days off with the dread of what’s to come – back to the grind, back to busy, back to the pressure of deadlines and attitudes and performance.  We had enjoyed a solid week together as a family, but I was cutting it off short with all my worry about things that hadn’t happened yet. Borrowing trouble.

I have to fight a bad attitude whenever my peace is threatened. I have to decide that all those things I don’t want to do or am afraid to do or anticipate having to do, are moments in time. Only moments.

Life is a string of those moments we can’t avoid, interspersed with the ones we want to make last. So much of the possibility for beauty is in how I think, react, speak, and prepare for the moments, and how I make sudden stops for noticing.

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***

I’m deciding that I only have room for beauty. Everything else will have to wait. Everything rushed or stressed or bitter or hardened will have to wait outside while I entertain beauty.

I know – this won’t work.

This experiment in beauty-only will turn to an exercise in futility-mostly, and I’ll be all the things I want to ignore. I’ll be the disappointed one. Rushed, stressed, bitter and hardened, because reality is going to come crashing in and it’s not sunshine and roses, so why set my heart on beauty? I’m only disillusioned.

Unless I decide not to be. 

I try to erase thoughts already thunk and I battle down doubts like so many dragon-slayers before me. This mind, and your mind, such gifts that can turn against us.

The key must be to have a storehouse of beauty in these minds so bent on ugly.

I will take charge of what’s been entrusted to me. I will do more than fight dragon-fires and react to sparks. I will do something beforehand and prepare more than platitudes like band-aids for bad days, like thin coverings for heavy hearts.

I will prepare a storehouse of beauty right in the face of an unjust world.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. ~ Phil 4:8 NLT

The morning light comes flaming over the mountain and the birds come to the feeder and grass is the greenest green ever.

The music plays soft, or it’s loud and fervent, and all the passion blazes.

Laughter cracks the exhaustion of the day.

The oranges are sweet and the air is crisp and that one last leaf mimics the ocean as it undulates down to earth.

Small things are always with us, whereas the Big Moments of life pass quickly. We go from anticipation to excitement to memories, and that Big Thing only gives way to waiting for the next Big Thing.

But free beauty is hidden in everyday, woven in, and we are looking for it like treasure to come and welcoming the Big Things like the small diversions they really are.

I think heaven will be full of all the small things we enjoyed here.

 

 

 

An Advent Guest Post

Thanksgiving is the skids on which Christmas arrives, paving the way and giving us gratitude in our waiting.

Our hearts are all prepared after a month of counting blessings and giving thanks, after sharing what’s plentiful and finding contentment with small things. Our hearts are prepared in November for fresh hope in December.

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But there are thieving circumstances that pay no attention to our holidays and they steal our joy, replace it with silence,  choke it down with emptiness.

I spent time with my dad who is terminally ill in November. He needs a new liver, and he needs the hope of Christ.

Sitting with dad for a week, watching him sleep, watching his labored breathing, I felt like all the years of praying had to come to some sort of fruition now. Things felt urgent and more important than ever, and too many what-ifs and why-nots occupied the space in my mind where God should be glorified.

I felt compelled to be more hopeful than was possible. I wasn’t writing and I wasn’t inspired and I didn’t want to do the hard work of wrestling thoughts out and trying to put hope into words.

That’s when Christie emailed me.

She’s writing a book, and she’s being honest with herself about her time and her resources – something I should do more of.  She shares lovely words on her blog and has faithfully written everyday of Advent in years past, but this year is different because of the book.

She asked if I would guest post at her place.  And God said, “Do the hard work. Wrestle the thoughts down. Keep writing.” 

Today, I’ve written some Advent hope here: http://www.christiepurifoy.com/2014/12/03/advent-first-wednesday/ . You’re invited to visit Christie’s place and find some hope in the waiting with us, because He’s coming.

Thanksgiving in a Weary World

I think un-noticing may be a great sin in my own life.

I miss the blessing of moments. I wrap up whole days without observing the natural beauty of them. I busy and entertain myself right to bed and the next thing I know it’s Christmas already, New Year’s next, and what of all my summer plans?

But to others, to the downcast and persecuted and depressed, un-noticing may be the only strength they carry. Unseeing might be unfeeling for today, and that might be grace enough.

Truly, it’s a weary world.

I know there is suffering that is unspeakable and seemingly unbearable.  I know that, indeed, God does give us more than we can handle, in order to show His perfect strength in our weakness. And we have shoulders that stoop and eyes that fall and some of us have burdens that push us in that spot between our shoulder blades, that spot where we are vulnerable and already hunched, and we trudge on, face down, feet dragging.

We are weary in this world, Lord.

I can’t even watch the news. I can’t sit in my recliner and listen to one-liners about wars on terror, wars on our streets,  and dollars down the drain.

I am sickened and cynical, then. I am the scrooge who was meant to carry hope, but I am weary of this world, Jesus.

It’s hard to account for frivolous thank-yous  offered, for things like a good cup of coffee, jeans that fit well, parking spots up front and a sale on our favorite ice cream. It’s hard to swallow gratitude so shallow.

But maybe it’s not shallow.

If everything good and perfect comes from a God who fathers the Light, who never shifts sides or changes positions, who is constant and unflinching and Good, who am I to belittle small gratitudes? Who am I to scoff at trifles appreciated?

This weary world needs to notice. This tired place and its history, repeated, needs a thrill of hope again.

I want to give big-thanks for every little thing, because none of it is. When the woman finds the lost coin and the widow gives her last one, both are cause to rejoice. Both are strength for a weary world.

When life is grand it’s easy to give thanks.

When sorrow is great I hope I’ll find a sunset, a song, a child’s small voice. I want to notice the change in the wind and the direction my hair blows when I’m walking off my cares. I want to be the person who is thankful for a stranger’s smile, for the driver who paused to make room for my car, for the neighbor who has the cup of sugar I need.

More importantly, I want to be the cause of the smallest thanks-givings in someone else’s day.

All of it becomes a monument of thanksgiving prayers and none of those stones are wasted when we notice, when we see the smallest of blessings in the shadow of the biggest sorrows or the light of our happiest days.

On Homemaking

Being away from home is hard.

I was gone for a week without my husband and children, visiting my dad and his wife in the frigid cold of Montana. My dad is very ill and the week was one of those hard-but-good-but-just-hard times that we all have to face at some point. I’ll spare you the details, out of respect for my dad, but please do pray for him.

Montana from 20,000 feet

I felt a new compulsion while I was away to pray for that Christian kid at college – away from all the comforts and routines and supports of his home-life, away from what’s normal and having to make it alone, with only his own convictions and standards.

I long to abide more in Christ. I long to be so solid in my fellowship with Him that even being out of my routine and all that’s familiar doesn’t change my relationship with Him, doesn’t stagnate or diminish it.

Home is such a part of us, and such a comfort of routine and safety. Being away is foreign, even if many of the components seem the same.

It’s like cooking in someone else’s kitchen or driving someone else’s car. It’s a kitchen, and you know kitchens. There’s a fridge, a stove, a sink, and a pantry full of ingredients. Or it’s a car, and you know cars. A steering wheel, gas and brake pedals, heater, wipers, lights.

But it’s not your kitchen and it’s not your car and it just doesn’t feel the same. It’s all familiar and comfortable to someone else, and though they may be the greatest of hosts, you’re still just visiting someone else’s home.

Home is people and inside jokes and silly antics. It’s a reminder that grace is needed everyday for the moods and pet peeves. Home is the round-table of souls united for the good of one another, even when that table feels hard and unyielding.

So I’ve been back a few days now and homemaking has taken center stage, rather than housekeeping.

Think, “Messy, but Cozy”. Think of large, blank walls that finally have pictures hanging on them, after two years of living here. Think of all the things that make your own house feel like home to you.

The floors are fairly clean, the countertops get cleared once a day, the laundry piles are manageable, and I’m just so thankful to be here with these people that, for now, I’m content to let little messes slide.

It may just be the season or the circumstances of my current life. I guess I always get a little more homemaker-y this time of year.

But I also am awake to the realization that every goodbye could be longer than expected, every phone call more important than you thought.

Making a home is so much more important than keeping a house clean and sparkly. Home is something you feel and some of your most important feelings just can’t be cleaned up, can’t be tidied away.

In the same way, abiding in Christ has to be less tidy and more real, more true to who you really are and less polished than mealtime prayers or Sunday morning rituals.

Abiding means all of me. It requires more depth than I can give any relationship, because so much of my devotion is dependent on circumstances and moods and yes, location.

Thankfully, it also means all of Jesus. Abiding in Christ means home is always with me and Jesus is in every home I make, every house I enter. He makes up for everything I lack.

{And then I read this, and it summed up everything I was trying to say here.}

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