In the Moment

We’re down in Portland for the weekend, a little getaway to celebrate our anniversary.  Happy 21st to us!

Keeping my running streak alive, I dressed down and laced up for a run.

I put my headphones on and turned on my mp3 player.  Nothing.  I could hear that power was getting to it, but no sound emitted from the plastic attachment.  Strange.  I fiddled with it, unplugging the headphones from the player and reinserting them.  That was the extent of my mechanical knowledge. Nope.  They bit the dust.  I sighed.  I don’t like running without music.  I have done it, and will do it again, but it’s more enjoyable with my tunes playing.

I left it behind and headed out.  It’s summer here!  This is where it’s been hiding.  It’s not summer – yet – in Shelton.  Here, it’s warm.  It’s going to get close to 90 today.  I wanted to get the run knocked out early, before the sun could blaze down.

I turned down a side street.  The sun was just coming up over the hills.  The roadsides bloomed with wildflowers – something periwinkle, neon-yellow blossoms of something else, and my favorite, sweet pea.  My dad calls me Sweet Pea, not to be confused with this Sweet Pea.

Can you see the resemblance?

Can you see the resemblance?

And that started me thinking about our Heavenly Father.  Due to circumstances in my childhood, I’ve had trust issues.  I haven’t always felt like God had the best in mind for me.  But as the breeze blew a breath of cool, fresh, flower-scented air over me, I realized anew my faulty thinking.  It’s just that sometimes God is quiet.  We look for answers and seek His face but He doesn’t respond.  Sometimes we’ve veered from the path we should be on, and we need to realize it.  Other times, it’s simply a season of waiting.  We move forward with what we *do* know and listen for further instructions.

I chugged along in relative quiet.  In this location, it’s never totally quiet. Planes soar overhead.  Cars lurch.  Trains toot.  But my head calmed down as I put one foot in front of the other, sun warming my back.  I went up hills and down hills.  I ran on asphalt and grass and gravel.  Birds chirruped to each other in the trees.  My spirit expanded.

Earlier this week, Ruby and I attended a kids’ summer concert at our local library.  We listened to a group called Harmonica Pocket.  They sang original songs about trees and growing things and mud puddles.  Comprised of a guy and a girl, they played guitar and harmonica – and “hoolihooped”.  They were joyous and fun.  I sat on the wooden floor with Ruby, who didn’t want to sit alone.  I held her as we listened and sometimes sang along.  I watched her face and the other children’s faces light up as the puppets emerged from their suitcase and the performers introduced “Diaperman”.  General raucous chortling ensued.  Ruby leaned on my knees and swayed, lost in the music.  A feeling of contentment swept over me as I surrendered to the moment.  A sweet breath of rest rolled over me.  Ruby has no trouble with trust.  And in that moment, as in the one this morning, neither did I.

Trust Fund

trust

“Do you trust me?”  I asked Ruby.

Ruby looked up at me, her liquid brown eyes very serious.

She shook her head no.  Mommy, I want to do it my way.  You don’t have my best interests in mind.  I have to protect myself.

Ouch.

Ruby’s dilemma was very small, to me.  She didn’t want to go upstairs by herself.  She hates being up there alone, even in the daytime.  She used to have nightmares about an enormous beetle coming in her window.  That beetle would have to be 20 feet tall, but whatever. He might find fitting into her window a tight squeeze.   To each her own nightmare.  Some leftover fear lingers.  We’ve prayed, talked, cajoled, even bribed.  Nothing truly sticks or changes her outlook on The Spooky Upstairs.

She doesn’t trust us.  She doesn’t believe that the simple act of going up and down the stairs, ugly red carpet and all, will turn out to be a non-event.  Nobody here but us chickens.  Her pajamas reside in her drawer, unarmed. Her trust is low in this area.  Call it the negative by-product of an abundant imagination.

But don’t we treat God the same way? Our crises in relationships, finances, careers, health – are nothing to Him.  He created the world.  He breathed life into people.  He is love, all the time looking out for us.  Yet something in us refuses to yield.  A small kernel of stubbornness remains.  “You can’t possibly fix this, God.  I will do it myself.”  “Okay, Lord, I know just what to say.  Now, bless me as I go…” And we fail.  Then we wonder why God didn’t intervene.

Our trust fund is low.  Contrary to the old American saying, God doesn’t help those who help themselves.  Otherwise, He would be blessing the bank robbers.  He helps those who trust in him and wait on His direction or provision.

Sometimes, He makes us go “upstairs”.  We get to confront the thing we feared the most, meeting it head-on in direct combat.  We will defeat it if we do it in His power and not our own.  Other times, we wait.  We don’t move forward until some instruction comes our way. Still other times, He fights our battles for us and we never have to do a thing.  He dissipates the rotten circumstances and changes people’s hearts for us.  I like those the best.

We will try to continue to encourage Ruby to head up the stairs without protest.  Jesus has already defeated the Great Beetle, along with all her other fears.  He can be trusted.

See the Lilies

I wanted to run today, but I couldn’t.  Somehow, during yesterday’s workout, I hurt myself. Or, I should say, re-injured the same leg.  Some of you would insert something here about payback…

Sigh.  I got very discouraged.  Ever feel like your life is two steps forward, one step back? I still have a certain amount of pain at times. In the interest of full disclosure, this journey back to full strength has not been a linear one.  I wish with all that I am that it was exactly that way. Sometimes, predictable can be a good thing!  I am getting stronger every day.  But I can’t force the process, nor can I predict when I will be fully recovered.  It really hit me hard today.  I only ate one chocolate chip cookie, however.

Jonathon sent me these.

Flowers from Jonathon

Not a great picture, perhaps, but the best my phone could do.  They smell heavenly. Roses and lilies are my favorite combination. They’re a great visual reminder of how much I am loved in spite of myself. My physical limitations do not define me. I’m learning, finally, to define myself only by who I am in Christ, not by what abilities I have – or don’t have.  I’m so blessed to be married to someone who “gets” me.  And doesn’t lecture me for acting like a baby.  Hope your day is going well.  Mine just got much better!

Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow.  They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.  Matt. 6:28-30

Safe Haven

deer

There are times when things don’t go as you planned. Life can be incredibly disappointing.  I found myself feeling really discouraged today about circumstances I can’t control.  As I devour the book of Psalms in my Bible reading plan, I came across Psalm 42 and 43.  These, my version says, were originally one psalm.  Perhaps it got too long and so someone divided them. “As The Deer” , that old worship chorus, was pulled straight from Psalm 42.

This is a song written by the sons of Korah.  Some Korahites were warriors, some were doorkeepers and some ministered in song.  They were counted among the Levites, who served the Jewish priesthood.

The recurring refrain in the NLT is:  Why am I discouraged?  Why is my heart so sad?  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise Him again – my savior and my God!

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God (42:1).  Yes.  I need Your presence today, right now.  You are the one who can satisfy my need.

I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me (42:7).  It’s pouring outside and has been all day.  The wind pushes the rain sideways, making visibility extremely limited. Inside, Rex and Chloe take turns pounding each other, stirred up by the wind.  A storm rages outside, the wind and rain seemingly inseparable as they wreak havoc on all under their power.

The day feels almost pre-dawn in its bleakness.  Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me (43:3).

And that is what I am learning – choosing – to do today.  We can’t rely on others to lift us up; we need to go to the one true source.  God is my only safe haven.  Even though my heart may be troubled and things look bleak, He is still in control. As the animals of the field and forest trust there will be food for to eat and water to drink, so I will trust.  But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life (42:8).

Why am I discouraged?  Why is my heart so sad?  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise Him again – my savior and my God!

The Theme

With all that’s going on in my life these days, it seems a theme has emerged.  I like themes!

Here’s a picture of what I’m experiencing.

father-and-daughter-talk-a-walk-together-day

I can see, harking back to 2010, the way circumstances have pushed me out of my comfort zone into new arenas – running, writing, cooking, working.  If I hadn’t followed that still, small voice, would I have taken the chances I have?  I suppose to most people I seem pretty tame.  I’m not a flamboyant personality.  I don’t really stand out in a crowd.  But moving away from what I know and what I know I can do constitutes risk, at least for me.

It started to become clear to me as I walked today.  Yes, I still miss running, but it was good to be out in the chilly February air.  The sun shone.  The sky gleamed azure.  Buds are starting to appear on the magnolia tree downtown.  It’s a transition time.  Winter is losing its chilly grip, day by day.  The days are getting longer.  The nights are not so deep and gloomy.

In 2010, I set out to run 3 half marathons.  I would turn 40 that year.  I trained for them, and I did them.  I quit my job in the church office the end of that year as well, looking for more time at home with Ruby before she started school, and possibly other career opportunities in the future.  I started to dream about writing.  I actively sought purpose.  I started to learn a little about contentment and peace.  I’m a restless person, generally.  I’m bored easily.  I need something to get up for in the morning, a goal, a dream.

But I think boredom gets a bad reputation.  It’s getting to the end of ourselves.  Being bored at home and sorta desperate for something to keep me occupied got me into seeking out other people.  It got me volunteering a little at Ruby’s school.  I got a part-time job at Harmony Hill, which ended as quickly as it started.  I realized I needed people almost as much as I  needed time to myself.  I got a chance to deepen some friendships and pursue new ones.  I started this blog.

Now, I can see how things have transpired to get me to this point.  So, I am learning to trust.  That’s the theme. I’m not good at it. A teacher would probably give me a C- or a D+ in this department. I have a tendency to eat anxiety for breakfast.  In fact, if it were up to me, I would take care of everything myself.  But that’s not how God designed people.  Trusting is inherent in a relationship with Christ. We simply can’t do or control it all.  It’s part of the makeup of a childlike faith.  My kids don’t worry about bills, food, gas in the car, nothing.  They know someone else (usually me) is on top of that.  And I am.  But whom do *I* trust?  Am I fully leaning on God the Father for everything?  I’m learning.  God is so gracious to take us through these lessons.  He doesn’t ram them at us.  No. It’s one at a time, day by day, line upon line.

As I am literally a bit hobbled by this back injury, God is doing some inner healing. I’m letting go of my death grip on this life. I’ve been symbolically running away from something deep down that’s needed His touch.  I see a glimpse of it, a fragment.  I know I’m on the path. I’m willing now to bring it into the light. It’s not so easy to shove it back down.  I’m willing to be made whole from the inside out.  I’m learning to trust.

Jumping Without A Net

trapeze artist

I ran 6 miles this morning.  Those of you who know me would say, “So what?”  But I haven’t run that far in a couple of months.  My leg is the culprit, and my own confidence.  I realized this morning how much crap I’ve been holding onto.

You could say I had a runner’s epiphany.  There was an article about them in “Runners World” magazine.  This writer would come back from his runs and say things to his wife like, “Honey!  I had this great idea!  We should put an enormous telescope in the backyard!” Or,  my personal favorite, “We need a bounce house for adults.”  I still want one.

I think the Lord is calling me up higher.  I can see glimpses of the person I want to be.  I read back through my first post of 2012 and realized it’s almost all come true.  I have become more available.  I have become less selfish – though not entirely so – it’s an ongoing process in this life.  I’ve also been called very original a lot this year.  At first, I didn’t find it very enlightening.  I didn’t – and don’t – seem to fit well into anyone’s particular mold or brand.  But now, I get it.  If you’re unique, you’ve no one to measure up to.  If you’re one-of-a-kind, you can be whoever you feel you need to be.  What a gift!  Nobody can compare you to someone else, because it’s like apples and oranges.  Both are fruits, but nobody makes orange pie.  By the same token, nobody uses apple zest to flavor baked goods.  And now somebody will comment on my blog and provide recipe links for both of those.  Whatever.

The point is that I want to be all the I’m meant to be.  For me, as a Christian, in part that means becoming more conformed to the image of Christ.  I need more fruits of the Spirit in my life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (oho boy!).  But it also means being the best Susan I can be.  As the saying goes, “Be yourself.  Everyone else is already taken.”  As the obedient firstborn, I wanted to be somebody else.  I wanted so badly to “fit in”, to have my life-path make sense.  Thankfully, the part of me that is real would not go quietly.  It questioned.  It analyzed.  It preferred other things and had a different perspective.  It bucked the trend.

You know what?  Being different is not wrong.  It is not bad.  It does not mean that you are rebellious.  It only means there is variety in the world.  God made you that way.  You don’t have to apologize for not following a beaten path to a predictable goal.  You are not ungodly if you think for yourself.

For decades, I have deadened myself to purpose and drive and dreams.  I’ve used food.  I’ve used exercise.  I’ve used the scouring whip of condemnation.  I think I’ve even used past jobs to create some kind of meaning.  I don’t want to do that anymore.  We Westerners like a linear path.  But what if it’s been circular, or loopy, or even maze-like all along?  Does that make it less valid if it gets us where we need to go and we learn all we can?

Trapeze artists don’t use a net during performance.  They expect to be caught; they trust.  They let go of the swing, soar through the air, and clasp hands with their partner.  They flip and swing again, and again, beauty and grace in every line.  Their joy is palpable.  They are unafraid.  This new year, I will strive to do the same.

By the Numbers

I am not a big math lover.  I finished all  my math requirements in high school, if that tells you anything.  I did 4 years.  I took the tough classes.  Once I was done, however, I was done.

I can still do simple calculations, believe it or not, despite being out of high school for more than 20 years.  I did a little math last night.

Last night, I wondered just how many miles I’d run so far this month.  I added them up – I write them on my calendar.  Fifty-eight for April.  For 2012 so far, over 200. Wow!  That put things in perspective for me when I get down on my mileage or pace. 

Since September 2011, Jonathon has applied for approximately 103 jobs.  He’s had by my non-scientific count, around a dozen interviews. 

It’s rained over 24 inches in Shelton so far this year.  April brought us 3.5 inches of rain.

I lost and regained the same 3 lbs in April.  Yay!

I’ve heard of 2 births and one death this past month.

I baked 3 different batches of cookies in April.  Hence the 3 lbs.

I’ve been blogging now for 5 months and had over 5,000 views.  That really blessed me, folks.  Thanks!

When I was a kid, my grandmother, an accomplished artist, introduced me to the joys of a paint-by-numbers kit.  She painted beautiful oil seascapes and I wanted desperately to learn how to do that, too. Anyone remember those kits?  I think in my little box kit there were acrylic paints, a brush and 3 different “canvases” to paint.  The idea was that you would match up the numbers with the color of paint.  For example, all the yellows would be for #1, green for #2, and so on.  You would paint only that color until you’d filled in all the spaces with that particular number. 

I loved it.  I remember setting my little easel outside in the backyard of her house on Fisher’s Island and painting in the sun, the sound of surf as a backdrop. The order fascinated  me and pacified my meticulous side.  Suddenly, without trying, I had shading and definition in my painting. All I had to do was follow the numbers.  The #5 was a dark royal blue – shadows.  I could skimp and cheat and finish the painting on my own by guessing the outcome, getting a little cocky, but it wouldn’t look right.  I tried.  I needed to stay with the numbers to get the best result, following the directions and the order. I could  not jump ahead. Eventually, I had a picture of a doe and her fawn.

That’s how life feels right now.  Looking at the numbers, some of them make sense.  Some of them make me feel happy and that God has a pattern and plan that I know not of.  Other numbers just drive me crazy, like Jonathon’s applying for jobs or having interviews with companies that never call him back. On their own, numbers only tell part of the story.  I can’t “see” the big picture right now. I need to continue to trust that God is at work and I must continue to paint the numbers, using the colors in my paint box.