Shouldered

So, we recently moved to Northwest Oregon and I’ve realized a few things. First, this beautiful place, for being as far north as it is, it doesn’t do snow. In the mountains and passes, yes. But in the everyday driving in the Willamette Valley and I-5 corridor…just no. I grew up in northern Ohio, have lived in Russia, Mongolia and Alaska, and snow wasn’t an issue unless we received 6 or more inches in one shot. But here, the mere threat of snow….done, closed, cancelled, out. Recently, we had a snowfall of about an inch or so. In the three mile drive from our exit to the next exit, there were two pickup trucks in the median, another flipped over on it’s side, and two cars with the front ends wrecked. Crazy. There were a few cars pulled off on the shoulder of the highway, but there didn’t appear to be anything wrong. I assume they were just not sure what to do next….move forward or simply ride it out until the storm passed. They were simply sitting on the shoulder.

In an earlier post, I wrote about reflecting on where you’ve been by re-reading things you may have written in your journal.  I did this and found something that was coming at a point I was shouldered (well, one of the times I have been shouldered). I want to pull out one bit that I journaled about on February 9th, 2015. It has to do with that of “liminal space.” Richard Rohr defines liminal space as “the  place of transition, waiting, and not knowing is…a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have let the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.” He goes onto say that we begin to ask the question of “now what?” which isn’t bad, but gives the idea that there is one perfect utopian thing on the other side of this space that will fix all our “problems.” And, if we don’t find it, we’ll be in this place forever. I must say, I don’t believe this is true. At least, I no longer believe this is true.

I used to believe that there was ONE soulmate, ONE calling on my life forever, ONE perfect set of choices in this life and if just one of those were “wrong” then my whole life would be wasted. I also used to believe that if there was pain as a result of a choice I made, that that was a “wrong” choice. How incredibly legalistic, bleak, dismal, disheartening and oppressive that is. That is quite the opposite of living a life of freedom, isn’t it? Are their consequences for our actions? Yes, absolutely. And sometimes there are painful consequences for doing the right thing or living our lives for Jesus.

There is no one perfect utopian thing on the other side of transition. Why? As Rohr suggests, it’s because “change doesn’t exist in a box.” Just like our God. People have free will, and therefore, change will constantly exist and not be able to be contained, regulated or predicted. And again, neither can God.

So what are we to do with this time and space? Run? Sure, we can run. In fact, that’s what we often do-we escape. If we run, then we will most likely be caught up in this place again, trying to figure out what to do next. We miss the moment to learn what God is doing in that moment, what he’s doing in us. Believe me, I am notorious for moving on too quickly and not really taking the time to look around at what God has for me in the moments of my day or in these liminal moments of my life. Grief is a huge one that many have a hard time sitting in and with. Or when it comes to a relational issue we run by either trying to fix the issue or escape it completely instead of trying as much as we can to reconcile it. This transition place is just like one of those moments-God having something for us, we just need to allow to sit in the space for awhile. But, my word, it is so incredibly hard to not run for the hills with whatever we have left in tow.

These could be part of what St. John of the Cross coined a “dark night of the soul.” Or, what others have called a “desert.” But a liminal space is it’s own place of unknowing. God may be speaking clearly to you, perhaps clearer than ever before. He may also seem incredibly close to you. But this space is simply one of not knowing the life that is coming down the pike, nor what direction to head in, nor whether to simply sit in it and for how long.

So, I sit.  Shouldered in another liminal space. Just like a car that simply quit and the driver has no idea why. It simply won’t work. I can’t go forward or backward, but sit on the shoulder and figure out what I need to do next. I was in one the spring of 2015, and here I sit in yet another one. I am worried, concerned and fearful, yes. I would be lying and, dare I say, not a human being if I wasn’t. But I learned before that He is here and He will not let me be destroyed. And I know this from reflecting on my past. I have learned that it is imperative to have a separate set of eyes (or five) as I walk through this time. A coach, spiritual director, soul friend, mentor, sponsor or any other person who is sensitive to the Spirit that can listen for His guiding alongside me is so very important. They are far more objective than I am as they are removed from whatever fog I’m in.

A good portion of what is written on this blog is from times I was in the desert, liminal space, dealing with a time of fog. It seems as though I’ve been in those places almost as much as not these past 12 years or so. Sure there are things that are current, the now, what will be. But my responses and thoughts on those things are from these spaces I’ve walked through. I think it is in these times that our other senses are fine tuned. Hopefully what is written here will do the same for you…allow the Spirit to finely tune in those other senses. Especially when you’re shouldered.

be blessed today

 

 

Seeing the Forest but Not the Trees

Our daughter is this ray of sunshine. She is so happy and joyful. On the flip side, when she is sad, she is sssaaaadddd. There is usually no middle ground, all in or all out. But that is part of what makes her her. Laughing, giggling, creative, crying, sobbing, hot mess- those make up her. This morning as we were walking, she kept hiding behind corners, door ways, around bends with her back turned to us. When I would come up to her, or even  just passed, she would turn around and yell “BOO!” Then giggle and laugh that deep belly laugh that is so contagious.

What she didn’t quite get, though, is that when her back was turned toward us, her backpack, coat and head stuck out passed the things she was hiding behind. You couldn’t help but notice her standing there. Not to mention her giggling as she was psyching herself up to scare us. It made it impossible to not know she was there. But, like any parent, when she finally yelled and laughed, we would shout out “WHHOAA, you scared me” to respect the effort she was putting into it all. Though it was tacky, it made her laugh all the more and run up to the next bend in the path to do it again. Like I said, a ray of sunshine in our lives.

Though I try to be observant, I do miss things. I’m not all knowing after all. But I try to be aware of my surroundings, people around me, places I am. Working closely with those in the military a few years ago, they are hyper aware of what’s going on. After going to battle, I suppose you need to be in order to stay alive. I am in no way as observant or aware of my surroundings as they are, but still, I try to be as aware as I can. The monotony of life is probably the hardest time, or times, to be aware. I guess that’s why most car accidents occur within 25 miles from home. For me, mowing the lawn when I was growing up was the most monotonous thing I did. Simply following the line I mowed 5 minutes before, around and around in circles, the constant hum of the engine.Three to six hours each week round and round….monotonous. Oddly, that is one of the first things I crave to do when I get back to the States..mow my folks lawn. That’s another story, I’m sure.

This morning, before our daughter was trying to scare us, I read these verses as I walk through the  50 days after Easter (which is yet another story)….

 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb  and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.  They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.  He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).           John 20:11-18

I was fairly moved by this passage. It wasn’t the angels, nor the fact that Jesus’ had risen. It was that He had risen and Mary didn’t even notice Him. She wasn’t aware of God’s presence amidst the despair of losing Jesus. It was so impossible and unusual that the cultural monotony of coming to the grave and trying to find the dead, lifeless body of Jesus that caused her to be unaware of Jesus being resurrected.

I wonder, when I’m caught up in the monotony of my life, what I am missing. I wonder because of my cultural monotony, what am I missing? What am I not aware of that is around me, moment by moment? Easter has come and gone. Other than barbecues, get togethers and fireworks, what are we looking past the monotony in our lives towards? Thanksgiving and then Christmas, I guess? I do, at times, look past what is to come, to the holiday that comes next…to break up the routine, habitual repetition of my daily life. But if I’m looking there, and not looking here, around me, in this moment, what am I missing?

It doesn’t say if Jesus yelled “Mary” or simply spoke her name. I am going to assume the latter. He spoke her name and that familiar voice was enough to shake her out of her dull, one-track-mind thinking into the present reality.  And this morning as I read that passage, He did the same to me. It helped me become aware of what’s going on right now, right  here and not trailing off into the eternal “what if” and “future” thinking.

So, today, let’s be like Mary. Not in the unaware, but in the realization of God, the Christ with us. Near us. Walking with us.

Do you feel the same as I? Here but not really here? Physically present but unaware of God’s presence? Or, are you aware? What is your experience?

Be blessed today

Photo Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2960267/So-long-don-t-make-sound-bears-never-know-m-Photographer-sets-tripod-camouflage-gear-unaware-giant-bear-right-him.html

Waiting, Part 2

So, what if we took the Advent season as a time of becoming more aware of God’s presence in the waiting? It’s an interesting thought.

When I was young, I would put together plastic models. Mainly classic cars. I never wanted to do it as a serious hobby, just a way to pass the time. I would be all excited as I opened the $6 box of plastic parts, some covered in chrome others were the rubber tires. It didn’t take long to figure out that no matter what I did, I couldn’t make them look exactly like they were on the box cover. In order to do that you needed a hobby knife, special paints and an expensive airbrush system. It just wasn’t going to happen.

The other reason why they would never be featured in a museum was because instead of waiting an hour for the glue to dry and take hold, I would wait…five minutes. My fingers would get glue on them and then I would have glue fingerprints all over the model. Of course, I wouldn’t wait for the paint to dry either, so it would be glue and colored paint fingerprints on the windows, the sides and on the shiny chrome parts.

I’ve noticed for me that when I think life is moving too slow, when the waiting is longer then it “should” be, that is when I start to fall back into the habits that can be destructive. Controlling, manipulation, passive aggressive behavior..it all comes back. Sometimes subtly, sometimes pretty strongly. Some things really do need to be moved faster, but others don’t. I know especially when I start falling back into those habits, that I need to go back into the waiting. It comes down to a lack of control.

What else requires waiting….ah, great waiting. There is great waiting in pregnancy. We don’t want to rush it as some major damage could come to the baby as well as the mother. Pregnancy is meant to take nine months. It is the way God designed it. If we tried to rush it, took some super pill and the next day had a baby, that could have some serious implications. And, would that baby be as cherished if it was instant gratification? In the past few years, several of my friends have adopted. Based on their experiences, it seems that adoption processes take a long time. Most take longer than a pregnancy, especially international adoptions. But as each day goes by during that process, for those parents, the longing for their future child grows by leaps and bounds. There is a determination and longing that grows by the moment.

And, let’s be honest, if the pregnancy part was instant, then we would want to find a way for the baby to grow from infant to adult overnight, right? Skip the diaper stage, maybe skip past the spilling, clumsy stage. Oh, and while we’re at it, we might as well skip the 13 going on 30 attitude stage, and just have them go straight off to college—-check that, we don’t want to pay for it, it is expensive, let’s just move them onto their first career.

If we did that, where would the memories of watching their first footsteps come from? Where would the memories be of standing before the court as they declared you the rightful parent from this point forward? Where would the memories of learning to ride a bike, walking through the pain of a friend hurting them, their first day of school, or the first time they read a book, when they learned to drive, walking through the pain of their first breakup?

There is great purpose in the waiting. We learn. We grow. We learn about ourselves, about others. There is also great pain in the waiting. Pain is just that, painful. At times we may chose to run from the pain and that only causes us to fall back into habits and hangups that we have suffered or been addicted to in the past. When we try to avoid the waiting that we need to go through, it only ends up hurting us, costing us more. Even if the waiting is painful, through it we will grow. Think about Jesus. Especially the week leading up to the crucifixion, there was great pain in knowing that He would be crucified. There was pain in the three days after his death. There was pain in the days He was on the earth before he ascended into heaven. And there is much pain now as we wait on His coming again.

But in that pain is where trust in God comes from. In the waiting is where dependence upon Him comes. In the anticipation is where we are emptied of the fallenness and layers of things put on us wrongly begin to be stripped away, albeit painfully, and become the person God is calling us to be, more and more.

Perhaps this Advent is a time where we we simply sit in the waiting. Maybe this is a time where He is inviting us into where He is working right now, in the Land of the Living among the chaos and destruction happening around us. What a joyous Christmas present-realizing and seeing where He is at this very moment! Will you join me?

I would love to hear of your experiences in the waiting-the pain and the joy, the lessons learned. Us sharing our experiences with others encourages us and grows us all. I know I would love to hear your story, please comment below. And, would you be willing to join me in the waiting?

Waiting, Part 1

This past weekend, we celebrated the birth of our daughter. She turned six and spent the whole day in the costume from a blockbuster children’s movie. We spent the day singing the soundtrack from the movie in the car going to preschool and on the way home…and at her party…and while she went to sleep that night. She has brought a massive amount of peace, laughter and sensitivity to our family. I am so thankful for her.

I was sitting here remembering the months leading up to her birth. Iris’ baby bump started to show, then there were the several stages of maternity wear and as the days got closer there was the anticipation of seeing her little body wrapped up in blanket. She was the first girl on Iris’ side of the family after four boys. So, our daughter, Emmi, had an entire closet full of clothes before she was born. From cheerleader onesies to footie pajamas to cute little skirts, she had them all.

There was a ton of anticipation for this little girl. And, of course, as any pregnancy goes on, it becomes more painful (from what I’ve been told). Though Iris loved carrying this little girl, she was ready for her to come and meet the world, too!

Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.-Psalm 27:14

I’m going through a pamphlet with meditations for Advent that I purchased online and had sent to me. I just got it (the excitement of a real book-paper and all was almost too much to handle!). Simply some reflections as we walk through the advent season up to the birth of Christ in our celebration of Christmas. On Emmi’s birthday,  it had this verse from Psalm 27 written at the top. “Be strong and take courage.” Those are good words, great words to be exact. But….waiting on the Lord…….ya, not so much.

I know that I rush things. I know that I try to get things done quickly to move onto the next step, level, next adventure or project. It happens with work, it happens with my family time and it happens with the time I have set aside to meditate on Christ. Waiting is a part of life. Some things I hate waiting for like standing in line to pay a bill. Or, ugh, sitting in traffic. But there are other things that are worth the wait, like the birth of our children.

It’s almost as if the waiting was creating more excitement, creating more desire and longing, building a deep a treasure to be cherished, becoming more valuable by the day. They were worth the wait.

I have grown to become more aware of God’s presence in the waiting moments of life. Not always (I am only human after all), but I try to be more aware of His presence around me. Right before verse 14, David writes this-

“I would have despaired unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

In actively  becoming more aware of God’s presence, I have been able to see the goodness of the Lord. I’ve been able to see the land of the living unlike any other time in my life before. I can see that He is here, in the waiting, in the anticipation. I have seen Him here, therefore, the despair is no longer the first thing I go to. Peace, often times, is now what I go to first when I’m in that time of waiting. Even when that waiting comes pain.

It is the Advent season. What is that? It’s simply a season of waiting. Anticipation of when the Savior came to this earth. When He came in the form of a baby, not an adult. Not only was there waiting in his birth, there was waiting until His anointing when He began his ministry. There was pain in that waiting, but it was worth the wait.

What if we looked at Christmas with such anticipation? What if we looked at this waiting through the lens of the land of the living? What would change? What has been wroth the wait to you? Let’s commit to doing this together…