Getting Home

Slowly sipping coffee, snuggled in my favorite chair, wrapped in a blanket in the early morning silence, I am welcoming this quiet day where the calendar app is mostly empty. An incredibly busy week has passed, one that included far more events and meetings and gatherings than I usually schedule in a month.  The whirlwind has given way to time for reflecting, for processing and cleaning up details (and my home), and for gratitude.  I know fully that this hectic time is a signal to all that I am back and inviting relationships with others rather than being consumed by my own grief. I celebrate the ministries that God has led me into even as my coffee cools and my thoughts return again and again to the possibility of a nap later today.  The challenge for me is always knowing just where I am meant to be, where I should go and to not dwell on those places that I am being kept out of. Given that I am directionally challenged, finding my way is often those most difficult part of my journey.

When my sweet friend invited me to see Little Women with her a couple of weeks ago, a friend-date to an actual theater in the evening, I knew this would stretch me.  I try to never drive after dark.  Yep, with a birthday coming this week I am admitting to having old eyes that cannot do night driving. I really wanted to go and Chef was working and I didn’t think to suggest we ride together, so when it was time to leave my home and make the 10 minute trek, I made a bad choice.  Rather than drive the route I do almost daily, I picked that time to switch it up.  I have searched my mind for the reasoning behind this and I come up empty.  What I know is that when I can’t see well I begin to rely on false cues.  I was almost late to the movie and caused my friend worry that I wasn’t meeting her.  That should have been enough for me to recognize my limitations.  When it was time to drive home, I thought I was making a wise decision to follow her, she lives 2 minutes from my house.  Satisfied with my brilliance, empowered by my problem-solving, I followed the car ahead of me as it skirted campus, navigated the round-abouts and led us in the direction of home, all the way up until it didn’t.  Friends, I was following the wrong car.  Even as it began to dawn on me that I was going the wrong way, I followed. I panicked, searched for a place to pullover to get back to what I have trusted before (mapquest is my most used app) and heard my husband’s voice in my head. Thoughts of the coming shame led to more wrong turns, I became more focused on my embarrassment than on actually getting home.  This road looks familiar, wait is there where we usually turn? Is it safe to pull over and recalibrate?

Friends, I made it home but the 10 minute drive lasted closer to 40.  It was harrowing.  And so very unnecessary.  I forgot to use the tools that have worked, I relied on my own understanding in the worst circumstances.  I created drama and frustration and it all could have ended badly.  Reading Luke 9.23-26 took on new meaning as I considered what it means to be lost and found.

Luke 9:23-27 The Message (MSG)

23-27 Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”

We have since laughed about the fact that I got lost 10 minutes from home but the truth is that I lose my car in the grocery parking lot, I often take the longest route to get somewhere.  I struggle to find my way so often exactly because I don’t keep my eyes on Jesus, I rely on my own understanding and impulsive ideas. “Anyone who intends to come to Me has to let Me lead.” Friends, I am convicted. I can fill up my schedule or stay hunkered down at home but I have to let Jesus lead me or I will forever get lost. Poor vision is a reminder that I cannot see without His light leading me. And I always need to ask for help, even 10 minutes from home.

I am praying today that we all rely on Him more than our own senses, that we remember we are not in the drivers seat, and that it is critical we stay on the path He lays out for us.  Following the wrong one will never get us home.

Choosing the Right Tree

We are all probably quite familiar with the story of Adam and Eve, maybe even too familiar.  Is it right the Eve gets all the blame? Should Adam have thrown her under the bus for his own choices? Why even have a tree that is off limits?  Doesn’t our humanity filled with curiosity, a trait we nurture in our children, mean we are destined to nibble where we are told not to? Yet today as I read the story anew, I wondered what tree I am eating from.

In the story, there are 2 trees, one that brings life and one that bears fruit not meant for me.  It struck me that those same trees are present every day in my life.  Do I reach out for the lush fruit that God has grown especially for me, fruits that come from following Him? Does the juice of His word run down my chin, spilling onto all that I touch? I am reminded of the fragrance of a sweet, sun-ripened peach in the summertime, a smell so alluring I can’t wait for that first bite.  Inhaling a peach, eating it so quickly I am covered in juice and lick my fingers so as to not miss a drop, I wonder why I don’t realize the greater joy of breathing in God’s Word? Maybe I am eating from the wrong tree.

Eve had all she needed, she had it all and wasn’t satisfied.  I think my name is Eve. I want what isn’t available to me right now, what has been called off limits in this moment.  Yet to many in the world, I have it all.  Certainly housing security, food in the pantry, more clothes than I can wear in a month, relationships I treasure, and opportunities to serve God.  Why am I unsatisfied, looking over at the tree that bears wealth and status to others? I grab fruit from trees that bear fear and judgement, that encourage incite division and blind me to those in need.  The juices from these fruits stain my hands, grow bitter on my tongue and multiply my resentment and pain.

My prayer today is that we all see the trees of hope and joy that God has offered to us, that we dine on His Word and offer these fruits to our loved ones and the stranger we meet.  When you catch me heading to the wrong tree, friends, please remind me of my love of a good peach and steer me back to the right garden.

 

Little Girl, Arise

Luke 8:49-56 New King James Version (NKJV)

49 While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the [a]Teacher.”

50 But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” 51 When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go [b]in except [c]Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. 52 Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” 53 And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead.

54 But He [d]put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.” 55 Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat. 56 And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.

 

 

I have stepped away from writing and publishing for almost a year, losing my voice and my focus as I have gone about the work of breathing. Grief is completely different in the second year, less visible, less pronounced. In fact the second year brought me out of the haze, the comfortable shock that dulled my senses and allowed me a cushion. The second year was evidence that I was surviving and most days I asked why. Searching for the point, for the joy, for anything other than the ever-present ache, I threw myself back into ministry. Scheduling daily meetings and events, saying yes to newly expanded roles at church, I plodded. Most days I looked like I was healed, like I was getting on with life. Yet what was happening inside felt more like a slow death, like a giving up of life, like I was sleep walking until the day I could be called home.

As we enter the third year of life without our son, I am waking. Having spent months evaluating relationships and the purpose of everything, including why we have this many mugs and really, why do we decorate for holidays, as well as what I am actually doing with each day that I inexplicably keep getting, I have discovered that the old has to go. Like new wine that must go into a new wineskin, I cannot keep what used to work. I am not that person anymore. But what am I now? Who am I now? Always the bigger question, why am I now? With all of this on a constant loop like background music, some days I hear it consciously as I consider the foolishness of the wreath on my front door or the oddity of owning an ice cream maker. Other days I notice an unsettledness, an awkward feeling like I am wearing someone’s clothes, realizing I don’t fit in them and they aren’t me. The very act of noticing signals to me that I am rousing, 

So it is that when reading Luke chapter 8 yesterday, I saw the young girl who was dead to all but Jesus. Remembering that girls had little value in that society (has anything changed?), I saw this young woman anew. By most of our culture’s standards, I too have little value. No income or social standing, I don’t bring much to the table. Yet Jesus heard that she wasn’t living, that she had been counted out and he wondered at why they would think such a thing. He knew she had more, she was more. He invited only those most trusted in to see her, he gathered loved ones to be at the ready for her revival. It was a small circle, an intimate one. Jesus could have brought her to life in front of the crowds, a display of his power. Yet he chose to speak truth to her, to call her back up, knowing when she roused and became whole again, her eyes should open first to see those she could trust with her new heart.

The gentleness of Jesus’s words, “Little girl, arise” have broken me, woken me. The endearing way he reminds her she is a child of God, and with one word, speaks power into her life, how can I keep sleep walking through my days? After she accepts his invitation, he tells those gathered to feed her. Wow. As someone who thrives on feeding others, who breathes in the power to nourish the souls of those at my table, I get it. If I am going to arise, I need to be fed straight away. Closing my circle, making sure that those who are with me in resurrection are trusted, listening for the gentle words of Jesus as he speaks to my soul, I believe I can wake up and begin to live again.

I am entering the third year of grief. I know I will never heal back into who I was the day before I forgot how to breathe. I have grieved the loss of that woman, the one who thought all the hardest days had already passed, that trusted the best days were ahead.  I know now that every day is hard and my fragile heart could be broken all over again at a moment’s notice. A new me is waking though, in the company of Jesus who said to me, “Little girl, arise.”  If you find yourself counted as dead or worthless, know that Jesus hasn’t given up hope. May you find yourself rising as well, into the life Jesus has for you. Let’s nourish each other, let’s provide sustenance for our steps back into living.  I’ll see you at the table.