When the Beautiful Seems Buried

Some days my thoughts seem tumultuous. They flit back and forth like a captive bird unexpectedly released from its cage yet uncertain as to what to do with its newfound freedom. Spinning from idea to idea, yet landing upon nothing. Circling and hovering with no intent of coming to rest anytime soon. On days like this, my best recourse is to simply stop and pray as I ask God to realign my focus and help me to pursue “one thing” instead of rushing toward any number of countless opportunities I could easily grasp at any given time.

And so I pray. I pour out my heart in letters to Father who knows and sees all that I am and all that I am yet to become. Even when I don’t.

As words tumble out one on top of the other, tripping and stumbling toward the throne of grace, I ask God to keep my heart balanced. I pray for help to dig in and push hard through those times of transition and the pain that often accompanies them. For the courage to embrace change, and chance, and risk. To press in and gather the broken when everything in me wants to turn in flight. But I also ask to have those amazing moments of brushing up against hope and birthing life, too. To find times of rest and grasp bits of beauty throughout my day so that I do not lose heart in doing good. Oh how my soul needs those times of refreshing delight in God’s presence to keep me from growing weary. (See Galatians 6:9)

Partnered with those moments of both the soul-tiring and the refreshing, I need my memory to be stirred. Challenging me to look back and memorialize those times when God seemed so very far away but, in reality, was as close as the heartbeat keeping me alive. Those out-of-the-blue experiences when God showed up in unexpected and surprising ways. Both small and large. Just to remind me He was very much aware of my every breath.

Calling attention to the fact that He was/is/always will be there.

Despite my failings. Or my feelings.

In the midst of living out my days and walking out my dreams (and sometimes my nightmares), God is ever near. So very present. Even when life is less than glamorous. Even when the beauty seems buried beneath layers and layers of the downright ugly.

He is here. Here in each inhalation and exhalation of life.

Whether I am gritting my teeth and pushing through to accomplish the next step in pursuing my purpose or coasting on the winds of the Spirit carrying me along, I want to live. To be here now with a moment-by-moment, graceful awareness of God in me and me in Him – all held tightly together by His unrelenting yet unrestricting love.

To live each day with open hands as I’m called to pour out those desires He has placed within me. Both the ones I long to fulfill and the ones which I sometimes war against. (Can I get an Amen?)

It seems that divine purposes sometimes always require a patient continuance in order to bring them to completion. So I ask that God hold me close and keep me pressing onward as I present these humble offerings. Looking to Him with faith, trusting that He will focus my gaze and steady me through it all.

Each and every moment.

Even as I grow to understand that while my life may not be glamorous… it is always beautiful.

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The Counsel That Stands

The other day I took a walk to the bridge at the end of the road. Beneath that bridge is a small waterfall which makes a continuous rushing sound as close to that of the ocean that can be found near my rural homestead. For this Ohio farm girl who longs for ocean waves more than the trickling of the nearby creek, its tune was soothing to my ears. I closed my eyes and simply sat for a few moments, imagining a scene of sea waves lapping against sandy shores as I allowed my mind to wander and rest in the song of nature –  a melody that never grows tiresome to these ears of mine.

And in the stillness of a heart attuned to the glory surrounding me, I wept.

I wept for all the hurts in this life. I wept for relationships gone wrong, for sicknesses wreaking havoc in the lives of friends, for depression that twists minds, for tiredness that weighs heavy. I wept for all the overwhelming circumstances that demand too much. Too much time. Too much effort. Too much mental focus. Too much… me. Mostly, I wept with the longing of a daughter who yearned to spend a few hours in conversation with a mother whose counsel could steer my heart toward wisdom. A wisdom that I desperately needed on so many fronts. It’s been over twelve years since I’ve heard the sound of my mom’s voice, and on this particular day it was her counsel I wanted to hear – even more than the sound of ocean waves.

While I did not hear my mom’s physical voice, memories of her words of wisdom nestled into the depths of my heart. Regardless of the trials, no matter the problem of the day, the brunt of my mother’s counsel was always the same: “Seek the Counselor.” Mom consistently encouraged me to go to God. With my problems. With my praises. With the attitudes in my heart that were so far removed from the reflection of His image I was intended to bear.

As I walked back toward home, I took her advice, and I found the peace for which I yearned.

I found it.

And it wasn’t because my mother’s voice somehow miraculously broke through the pearly gates to reach out to me.

It wasn’t even from the soothing sound of rushing waters.

Peace came in when I took the time to seek the Counselor.

Right there in the beauty of a God who never tires of my seemingly ceaseless cries, peace washed over me.

As steadily as the small river beneath my feet poured over the rocks, rushing to meet the current that flowed, so the burdens of my heart rushed forth to meet the river of God’s healing power. In the awe of a Father who never grows weary of me, I felt a release that has been missing for several months. Maybe it was a combination of the life-giving walk, the strains of birdsong wrapped around river rapids, the memories of a mom who always pointed me to Jesus, or maybe it was simply God breaching the gap between heaven and earth. However it happened, it came.

And it wasn’t because I had perfected my approach. It wasn’t because I had prepared my heart beforehand with just the right Scripture reference. It wasn’t because I was pondering a profound teaching from some Sunday morning service.

It was because I simply cried out. I came in my brokenness, my tiredness. My weary.

It was because I unknowingly took Paul Miller’s advice from his book A Praying Life:  “The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come weary.”

I didn’t even have to exert the effort to fit that criteria. I NEEDED Jesus in the midst of my messy.

And He came.

And while I am certain to have more weary in the days and weeks ahead, I am equally assured to have His presence beside me. Whether I feel it or not.

Whether I’m wide-awake or half-alive to the things of His Spirit.

Or broken into a thousand, splintered pieces.

As long as I show up again… just messy me… He will be there, steady as the rushing of the waterfall. Tirelessly, lovingly, patiently blessing my life with His peace in hand.

Turning my heart toward truth again, as I turn my heart to the Counselor.

Even if it is one overwhelmed, weary, wandering, messy thought at a time.

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Soul-Weary

You sent abundant rain, O God, to refresh the weary land. There Your people finally settled, and with a bountiful harvest, O God, You provided for Your needy people.  – Psalm 68:9-10

O Lord,

I am weary.

I am weary of all the hurt.

I am weary of the phone calls bearing bad news.

I am weary of the relational stress with others.

I am weary of the many needs surrounding me.

I am weary of being weary.

This present heaviness goes beyond a sense of tiredness and settles in the depths of my soul, causing it to sigh with exhaustion.

Yet, You promise to reign Your presence in me. Here in my tiredness. To refresh the weary places of my heart. To bring new strength when I am spent. To revitalize my spirit with a fresh breath of Your own.

How I need Your God-breath to sweep in with its gentle breeze and whisper, “All is well.”

Here in my weariness, I will look for You.

And I will wait.

In this parched land, I will settle my soul and listen for Your whispers.

Looking for the clouds of rain in the distance, I will hide my hope in You until the mist of Your Kingdom springs up in this wasteland. I will flee to the refuge of Your salvation – to the calming springs of Your presence. And there I will stake my dwelling. I will stretch out the ropes of my tent and lay claims to my inheritance as Your beloved.

When the dust of “too much” kicks up its storms, I will hide beneath Your covering, entrusting myself fully to Your care.

And here I will stay until this storm passes.

Until the weary turns to wonder at the sound of Your great name.

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Enjoy!

Enjoy Jesus today…

These three words were the final sentiments in a recent message I received from a friend. I couldn’t help but smile when I thought of how prophetic his words were for me. Unfortunately, enjoyment is not the term I would use to express my life at the moment. Weary would more accurately describe how my heart has felt. Not depressed. Not overwhelmed. Not anxious. Simply… weary.

I could not help but wonder if the lack of living out my friend’s encouragement might not be the very reason for some of that soul-weariness. Could it be that the best course of action to overcome my bent toward feeling weary would be to take his advice and simply enjoy Jesus today?

“Can it really be that simple?” my thoughts argued. Shouldn’t my focus be on serving Jesus? After all, there are so many  responsibilities to be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. Shouldn’t my attentions be on helping others since I’m surrounded by so many pressing needs? Perhaps I would do well to concentrate on praying more since intercession is such a powerful weapon in tearing down strongholds…

Or maybe my friend was right. Maybe, just maybe, the most powerful way for me to live out the Gospel in this moment is to simply… enjoy Jesus today.

With my typical obsessive-word-passion-compulsion, I pulled up definitions for the word enjoy. After all, if I am to take said directive, I want to do so appropriately. As I perused the varied definitions for this verb, I came across the obvious ones like: take pleasure in; find satisfaction in; appreciate; etc.

I also came across modern terms like: live it up; go have a ball;  and my personal favorite: freak out on. (This seems to be the most fitting for my behavior as I am often found “freaking out” on any number of things that unexpectedly come my way, although most likely NOT in the enjoyable way to which this particular definition is referring.)

All silliness aside, the most accurate of definitions was likely the most simplistic, as well: take joy in. Imagine that – the most fulfilling way to enjoy is to take in joy. And that’s what spending time with Jesus produces. Joy. The lightness of spirit and refreshment of soul-happiness is a natural by-product of being with the Savior. Joy happens there because joy is present where freedom is found. And freedom is found where Jesus reigns.

As tempting as it is for me to get caught up in all the things that my learned behavior of Christianity has taught me to “do” to become an effective and mature believer, I have found my life is not changed so much by spiritual disciplines as it is from simply enjoying friendship with Jesus. Could it be that the most effective way to grow in God and to share His love with others comes from enjoying Him today?

When I think of people who make Christianity attractive, it is not the folks with a long list of dos and don’ts who immediately come to mind, but rather, it is the very ones who have a vibrant and living faith because they spend much time “with Jesus.” I have a friend who literally seems to glow with God’s love, and I know it is because she “lives’ with Him all throughout the day – whether she is studying her Bible or scrubbing floors. That is Kingdom living at its finest. That is what makes me want to know God like she knows Him. She has learned the habit of living in joy with Jesus. And it shows.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am NOT encouraging you to cease all Bible study, prayer, or service to others. But I AM encouraging you to place “enjoying Jesus” on a higher priority level if you have found yourself living with diminished joy. Why not set aside all those other obligations and simply have a ball with Jesus today? Stop freaking out about circumstances over which you have no control, and take a moment to freak out on Jesus, instead. It’s really okay, you know.

So go ahead.

Enjoy Jesus in joy today.

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How do YOU enjoy your relationship with Jesus? Please share your comments with us so we can enjoy Him, too!