It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
Always, the unknown exists, bringing times of joy, heartbreak and everything in between. Life does that, over and over — laughter and fun, followed by tough stuff that sneaks in when we least expect it. Each time, we can sink as the waves crash down or learn to swim–asking for help and hope along the way.
Hope walks in all types of ways:a whisperearth-shaking like booming thundera hint of yellow light or red skya line in a song or a poema stranger’s wordsa prayera hug from a loved onea place you’d least expect (like on the bumper sticker stuck on the car that cut you off)the stories of others
While hope doesn’t air lift us from our troubles and place us on a lush island, free of sickness, war, poverty and daily challenges, it helps us to believe this uncomfortable-growing-stretching-sometimes-devastating space may not last forever. Maybe we’re not alone. Maybe there’s more to life than what we see at this moment. Maybe there’s something to learn.
Life happens in all its mystery, full of adventure, sadness and beauty. We find we’re a little more bruised up from life’s challenges, yet somehow wiser, stronger and braver than we knew we could be.
When we let go and search, begging, trusting God and even waiting for it to show up, hope walks right in the door.
Where else do you find hope?
Does all that has to get done today have to get done today?
In this multitasking age of do more, see more, be more, live in the moment and seize the day there is a lot of pressure to DO and just keep doing. Yes, we need to live a focused life; however, we need to regularly stop, or we’ll be stopped by sickness when the body doesn’t recover from the day’s stress. Did you know the brain also functions better when it has regular sleep?
For a while, I would have paid for good sleep if that were an option, but I don’t take sleeping pills since they leave me feeling groggy for hours. Night after night, I tossed and turned, becoming more anxious as I wondered how I’d get everything done the next day. When my rheumatologist wrote down:
Patient needs 45 minutes of rest a day in or on bed,
I felt like I hit the lottery because not only was I told I had to slow down, but now I had permission (in writing)! And that shifted my thinking in a big way because I had a mandatory rest time (like in first grade but without my Strawberry Shortcake pillow), and it made a difference. Suddenly, it was more about what I chose NOT to do than what I did. This is a choice I have to make every day, and it does not come easy. Even now, Brian will ask me when I am going to stop the busy-ness when I’ve worked all day and then continued working at home in the evenings.
If sleep and rest are problematic for you, here are some ideas others have shared with me that have helped me. Every body is different, so maybe you will find one or several that work for you.
What can you choose NOT to do today? Give yourself permission to listen to your body and do what you need for yourself. If that doesn’t work, here’s your permission–>get some rest in or on bed. 🙂
Even on this freezing morning, chirp, chirp, chirp was all I heard before pulling back the comforter and putting my feet on the floor. Those birds know spring is almost here, even though it doesn’t look (or certainly feel) like it. Masked by huge snowflakes, sleet and rain, new life is springing up behind the scenes. Still, those giddy birds have chirped every morning for the past week.
In an odd way, it reminds me of a time years ago, when Brian and I sat in a cozy room surrounded by friends, many of whom had children or openly shared their hopes for a baby. It was he who also spoke it aloud, but I just sat there with my mouth shut, wanting to store away that part of our journey. I’d been open about so many personal things, but for some reason this felt like too much. We want a baby, too.
Eventually, each of those couples surprised us with their creative version of happy pregnancy news, and we cheered. Many times, though, those joys came with a lurking heaviness. “Do you think God is playing some kind of joke on us?” I laughed bitterly at the irony. Each time we talked about going to a fertility specialist, something always seemed to get in the way, and so we just did our thing–sex on the right days, ovulation tests and temperature-taking. For two months, I tried Clomid, and it made me feel crazy-angry and annoyed at everything, with rashes and stomach issues, so sex was the last thing I wanted (and let’s just say Brian was a saint to stay instead of spending those nights at work or even in his truck in the driveway). Those days, I cried more than anything else. I blamed it on Clomid, but I’m sure the emotional release was exactly what I needed.
In the back of my mind, nothing seemed right.
Still, each month I got my hopes up, but either all the pregnancy tests and thermometers were broken or something was wrong with me (those days I felt like it was always me. He was fine, they said). Seriously though, when would it be our turn?
It was the when are you having kids questions that felt like too much from those who had no idea of our struggle (as if being a parent is the only way to live an adult life anyway). It was the well-meaning you can always adopt suggestion, as if we never knew that was an option. It was the baby showers that felt wildly different than in my 20’s (when most of my friends didn’t have babies). But in my 30’s, everyone it seems has kids along with multitudes of stories to tell about their water breaking, the birth, the best infant and toddler products–breast pumps, bottles, diapers, potty training and on and on. Having zero stories to tell can be tough, especially if you desperately want them. It was cruel irony that PMS and pregnancy signs can be practically the same. It was starting my period like a slap in the face before multiple baby showers, praying that I could be happy for the almost new mom and just be okay with me. I usually cried once I was back in the safety of my car.
I was furious at my body with all its rashes and stomach issues (continuing long after the devil Clomid days and proving there was more going on than I could see). “It’s so hard for a woman who can’t get pregnant,” I told Brian, who assured me I’d be surprised at how hard it was for men, too. All that trying for a baby began to feel like an expectation that unfulfilled, left us feeling like ashamed failures.
Yet…slowly, somehow our feelings and prayers for a child began to change. No longer was it
we want a baby,
we want a baby,
please give us a baby;
it was this– we want a baby if it’s right for us.
And over and over, I was reminded God created me a work of art, whether my body was able, ready or willing to have a baby. As that truth sunk deep into my soul, my face was red and splotchy with tears.
So after major downsizing and moving, Brian and I stood in the kitchen, lights low, as we dried the dinner dishes. We looked at one another, and I breathed a sigh of relief. This had nothing to do with dinner or dishes, it was more than that. It was peace, even though the water heater broke, the dead refrigerator was hauled away, and water leaked through the window while we were out of town. I’d realized an excitement, an odd stirring deep inside. I couldn’t explain it, but it was there just the same. Maybe the moving craziness had something to do with it? There was an awful lot going on then. After so much time, I just couldn’t believe it!
And I was scared, but I took a deep breath and said it, “What if we don’t try anymore? What if we just live and have adventures and be happy?”
And just like those birds, chirp, chirp, chirping on cold, rainy late February mornings, giddy about what’s to come…
I felt free. I felt worthy, unashamed and beautifully free.
Sometimes the happiest ending isn’t the one you keep longing for, but something you absolutely cannot see from where you are.–Shauna Niequist
We moved into a small, rental place after selling our house in August and a few issues popped up.
And so before long, we wondered if our landlord would stop answering our calls.
We had more than the basics, and we no longer had to fit a mortgage or repairs into our budget; that responsibility belonged to someone else, but even then I had a tough time feeling content. “God, I’m just letting you know, I hate this place,” I complained-prayed aloud when impatience stretched over me like an itchy sweater. Downsizing was the right thing for us, but my vision included moving in and having everything put away within the month…with none of these complications, of course.
We just had to wait and trust that our landlord would do what was best (waiting is hard). It took a while to relax into the goodness of that truth, the gift of someone else paying for all of it. Slowly, though, the right-sized fridge was delivered, followed by a hot water heater with all other repairs done in between. And just as slowly, boxes were unpacked and most of our belongings found a place.
Isn’t it the same when we pray, practically telling God how to solve our problem, whatever it may be? We’d rather be doing something instead of waiting around for Him to get to it (even though he’ll take care of it in the way He thinks is best, when it is best). But, I see over and over again, there is learning during the waiting — learning to trust, learning to be okay when everything around us is not. Many times, the outcome is wildly different than we imagined, and sometimes, it is also better.
So, a couple months after moving into our smaller, rental house I realized gratitude and peace settled around me like fragile bubbles blown from across the room…so quietly, I almost missed it. Even with the challenges, I’m really starting to like this place.
Do you think God has a sense of humor?
Sometimes I pray over and over and over again about something. And then, the 17th time right in the middle of a lot of explaining, the answer pops into my mind–mid-sentence. Just like that. I imagine God hanging out in the same room with a smile on his face, thinking, “You know, Jen, you told me these things three months ago, again last week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so stop…before you use all those words before 6:00 A.M. Here’s your answer.”
If this happens, which isn’t often by the way, I stop talking and can’t help but smile and say in a surprised voice (because this is always shocking to me), “Okay. Um…thanks.” And I stop and ponder the what-just-happened-here of this, and then I keep the rest of my words for later use, since it’s early still in the day.
These rare times remind me of many conversations Brian and I have had or heard about the huge number of words women tend to use versus men on the same topic. Maybe God is a
man being of few words?
Listen. I am not saying he doesn’t want to hear us or respond. Instead, I believe he hopes we’ll continue pursuing and expecting answers from him. Sometimes, it feels like he’s playing hide and seek with us, quiet and far, far away.
It’s this– the waiting is usually long and hard and many times, wildly frustrating.
And maybe God isn’t always so serious. Maybe he gets a kick out of being different than we expect and surprising us with his beautiful whimsy.
For example, things around here have been heavy and emotional. There’s just a lot going on these days. So, I prayed I could release and receive. You know, release control of everything I keep doing that gets in the way of peace and then, in turn, receive the good that comes from letting go and trusting that he’s got it all.
And then, I dropped my phone into the toilet, and well…let’s just say it was a shitty time (a time of…release?).
All I could do was laugh and stare uncomfortably. I had no choice, I guess. So, I fished it out, decided to wash it with soap and water, and wiped it down with peroxide before putting it into a bag of organic jasmine rice for the next 36-48 hours. And you know what? I’ve giggled about this forced disconnection…releasing what’s been competing for my attention and receiving the gift of time (away from my phone), peace and quiet.
Does God have a sense of humor? Oh, yes.
I think so.
Last week, I wrote about some hard questions for God. If he answered me in a letter, I’m sure it would be much more beautiful than my attempt. Here’s what I imagine and what speaks to my heart.
The time will come for answers, but it’s not here just yet. I can tell you there are big things up ahead for you. I’ve known you before you were YOU, and I know there have been so many times in your life that have been complicated and mysterious. I’ve seen you search and search for answers, but there are some things you aren’t ready to know.
I’ve seen you cry, shoulders heaving, and I cry heavy tears with you. I’ve also seen all the things that make you giggle and fill you with joy–the silly songs you make up when you’re alone, the dark chocolate you leave in the freezer, the way your eyes light up every time you see a beautiful sunset or the way blue sky and mountains seem to take your breath away. I smile when I see you smile, and guess what? The corners of my eyes crinkle up just like yours.
I know you are tired. Don’t wish your days away. Each one is filled with my goodness just waiting for you. It’s okay to rest your mind and let me do my work. I’ll let you know if I need your help. Rest.
I know you look back at carefree times and wish them back. Know the hardest days are not pointless. You are learning to trust me, and I know that is not easy. But, I am the Creator of the Universe. Don’t you think I can handle what hurts and scares and puzzles you most? I created YOU; why would you worry I’d leave you in the middle of it, alone? All I ask is that you trust me. I have your back whether you see it or understand it or even feel it.
Just believe it.
This tough stuff right now, it won’t be like this forever. Just as the seasons change and winter is giving way to spring, the times of your life change, too. Keep moving forward. You’ll see up ahead, just around the corner is a new season for you, too.
When you are afraid, I am here. When you have nothing left to give, I am your strength. You have been through hard things before and will make it through again, this time and the next and the next. There is joy right here, every day, just waiting for you. Look for it. Marvel in it.
I love you. I am so proud of who you are. You are enough.
If God sent YOU a letter right now, what do you think it would say? ~Jen
This has been the most peaceful Christmas yet. I can’t remember, ever, another holiday time when I felt as calm and joyful as I have felt today. We opened our present (yes, one) after a long, drawn-out breakfast of cereal and berries and Monkey Bread that I made and cannot eat. It’s been sunny and cold today, and I haven’t stepped outside. I didn’t wear my best clothes or think about what else I could be doing. I didn’t worry about who I wish I could talk to or be with just because it’s Christmas. This day has been full of the present–not the one I unwrapped or a list of met expectations. This day has been one of love and laughter of family. It has been pure joy, and that is peace. I am breathing the precious gift of contentment, and I want to stay.
As a kid of divorce, I was used to splitting holidays; it came with the territory. As an adult, I used to (meaning until last year :)) spend a lot of time and mental energy making sure my holiday was all I wanted it to be. All I wanted it to be changed over the years. Some years, it meant making arrangements with various family members/ friends early in November. Other times, it was choosing not to decide who to be with because my story has always contained certain people who are not going to be around others. Oh, but I worked hard to ensure I would have a happy holiday, regardless…and I was still disappointed at times because whatever I did wasn’t perfect.
Well, this year, I started consciously trying to change this little habit I have always had: all-out refusing to wait. So when November (and the impending holidays) rolled around, I started questioning why. Why did I work so hard to make these days special in the past, instead of just resting and knowing that all would be as it should be? Why not wait to see what happens without making it happen (or trying to)?
Christmas came and went, and it was different than most I’ve been a part of before.
It was calm and relaxing every. minute. of. the. day (except for that one time I said, We HAVE to open presents before we go to the movie! And then there was that other thing….ARGH! Oh, seriously! Those sneaky, old habits are hard, hard, hard to break).
Some of my friends and family called me. Some sent texts. I called some. I sent texts. I saw some on THE day and weeks before, and I will see some weeks later. All of that is okay.
Here’s what I’ve learned: it doesn’t take celebrating together on certain days or during certain weeks or even months to prove that there is a lot of love in my circles. I am surrounded by the compassion of friends and family, and I am warmed and supported and content.
I am grateful for those I am with right now, those who are close and those who are far away. I am thankful for change and healing and more peace than I know what to do with some days. There is no perfect holiday that I can arrange, anyway. And really, IS there such a thing?!
Christmas was never about perfection (Jesus was born in an old barn and all. Hmm, how hard was that for Him?).
My imperfect is exactly as it is–knowing those I love also love me in their own unique way. It’s being content with where I am and who I’m with, and that feels…
~Many thanks for reading. May 2013 bring you love and peace in the midst of the imperfections!
I don’t know why I love this so. Maybe it’s the beach, the wind-beaten fence, the narrow road. I fell in love with this place when I was visiting Ireland a couple years ago.
This door hidden in the earth is intriguing. Who knows what one might find on the other side? Treasures of some sort? A whole world of newness and adventure waiting to be discovered?
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go. He’s the one who will keep you on track. ~ Proverbs 3:6
I believe we can hear God’s voice in the clouds above, a stormy day, standing at the top of a mountain observing the beauty of the landscape. Wherever we are if we listen in the stillness, our path will be made known to us–down a winding road or through a waiting door.
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