Archive | quiet life

on being “desperate”

 

desperate

Once upon a time, I swore I would never write about singleness. After all, nothing screams “desperate” quite like blogging about wishing you were married. However, in the past couple of years, I’ve received so much encouragement from my friends who are not ashamed of their relationship status and are bold enough to write about it, that I thought I could share my two cents without labeling myself too blatantly.

Since then, I’ve written about how singleness is not a disease and the real reason it’s hard being single. 

I defended myself in the first one. Singleness is not a disease…I am happy being single! In the second one, I confessed…it’s hard being single. Both are true. It seems that no matter how happy, fulfilled, busy, purposeful and content I am, there’s always an undercurrent of wishing I could marry. I don’t know yet if that’s a hidden form of discontent or a God-given instinct that will one day manifest itself in a real marriage or some of both, but it’s there nonetheless.

Still, the fear that I’ll seem “desperate” is so strong, it kicks the breath out of me at times. I feel like “single” is a name tag stuck in my hair. No amount of smiling and assuring people I’m happy will distract them from that sticky label.

What has surprised me most, however, is that as the years pass, I become happier and happier and more and more desperate. It’s true. The other night, I covered my face with my hands and cried real tears over this. I told God for the first time that I am, in fact, desperate. Desperate in the sense that I cannot shake this desire to be married, but it’s so much more than that. I’m desperate for God to write my story, whether it includes marriage or not.

Only He can fulfill me, only He knows what is best. I have become desperate, alright. Desperate to see Him move in my heart and my future. Desperate to know He’s working on this. Desperate to feel Him close when I feel lonely. Desperate to put all of this—the contentment and discontentment, the tears that come with a wrenching heart and the joy that makes me wonder why I’d ever want any other kind of life, all of this—into His competent hands.

I’m studying The Book of Numbers right now in my Bible study and it’s far from boring. Something really impressed me about Chapter 11, in which the wandering Israelites beg for meat. They “grumbled” and “wept” at the doors of their tents. In other words, they whined and complained to anyone who would listen, but they did not take their desires to God. When Moses could take no more, he addresses God in what sounds like an equally whiny and disrespectful speech:

Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” Numbers 11:11-15

His plea is sprinkled with questions of God’s faithfulness and the idea that the burden is entirely on Moses himself. You might think this is the point when God smites them all, Moses first. But that’s not the case. Though the people are punished, God takes mercy on Moses. He actually raises up seventy men to help bear the responsibilities as spiritual leader. God honors Moses for his honesty and the fact that he brought his weaknesses and needs to Him, instead of just complaining to his friends and family.

The people get what they asked for too, if you’re wondering. They get their meat. So much meat, that it oozes out of their nostrils (gross, huh?) and, “while it was still in their teeth,” it gives them a great plague and many die. The place where they fall is called Grave of Craving. Ouch.

That day in my Bible study notes, I jotted: “We can crave our way into the grave if we refuse to be satisfied by The Bread of Life.” 

Katie Davis, a missionary and woman of God I greatly admire, recently married. After living several years in Uganda as a single mom to fourteen, she finally has a husband (something she says she wanted all along) and a dad for her daughters. She writes,

“The Lord who knows my heart has been whispering to me of a new season for a long time, and my flesh has worried that this new season might take me out of my secret hiding place with Him, that somehow a physical, tangible relationship with another might take away from my relationship with my Builder, My Lover, My Life-Giver. Little did I know that this new relationship would only enhance the other.” (from Katie’s blog.)

My first thought was, “Yes! That’s what I want, too. I won’t settle for anything less than a marriage that enhances my relationship with God.” But later in the week, I started thinking about her words again, and I realized one horrific thing about my heart: There are moments when I would gladly trade my relationship with God for a “physical, tangle relationship.” And I don’t have the kind of relationship with “my Builder, My Lover, My Life-Giver” that would make me hesitant to receive a new relationship into my heart.

The words from the Rend Collective song came to mind almost immediately:

But I want to love You more
I need You God
But I want to need You more

I’m lost without
Your creative spark in me
I’m dead inside
Unless Your resurrection sings

I’m desperate for a desperate heart
I’m reaching out, I’m reaching

All that I am is dry bones
Without You Lord, a desert soul
I am broken but running
Towards You God, You make me whole

You are exactly what we need
Only You can satisfy

Maybe I am desperate, but not even close to as desperate as I want to become. 

4

the gentle slope

Sunday afternoon, I had come home from church after spending several hours there singing, listening, praying, taking notes, flipping through the pages of my Bible, fellowshipping and attending a lunch meeting. I plopped onto my bed and surveyed my bedspread. Sundays usually find my bed in disarray because I clean primarily on Mondays. A pile of clean laundry perched on one corner, a stack of books where my second pillow should be. I’ve spent too many years sharing a full-sized mattress to ever learn to sleep in the middle, so the other side of my bed always seems to turn into extra storage during the week.

I glanced around at the books that had been left there. The Eleanor Estes book I’m reading aloud to Jubilee, a book on illustrating children’s books, The Christian Writer’s Market Guide from 2011 (which is, as I suspected, quite useless now) and my Bible. I remembered how my class that morning had inspired me to read scripture to myself more often. I’m taking a class on The Creation Issue and our teacher referenced some scriptures I had certainly never considered, much less meditated on. I also remembered how I’d had trouble coming up with a prayer request during our small group time. Was it that there were too many to choose from or that I hadn’t thought much about prayer at all recently?

I should really stop and pray right now. I thought. Not only did I feel that I should, but I knew it would be beneficial to me.  I was just about to stop and grab a pen and open my journal to write out a prayer when I remembered something I needed to do on my computer. It was terribly important that I check my Elance account just then. While I was doing that, I remembered that someone had sent me a message on Facebook I had never responded to. I opened up Facebook on another tab and quickly responded to the note. Wow—how did I already get this many notifications? I proceeded to click on each one and “like” or comment accordingly.

I was suddenly feeling very inspired to chime in on an interesting thread I saw going about writing. I put in my two cents with prolific ease. What was it I was going to blog about? I perused my search history to try to remember. Ah yes! My reading challenge. I wanted to pick up the pace now that June was upon me. I reached for the book on illustration.

Wait a second, wasn’t there something I was going to do?

Now, I don’t know a lot about spiritual warfare other than it exists. I don’t have a theological argument for how The Enemy works or what tools he uses. What I do know is that I suddenly come up with lots of “good” things to do right as I’m about to do the only really vital thing I can do: communicate with The Creator.

In C. S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters, a demonic character writes:

Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts…

In my experience, Satan does not ever, ever tell me what he’s up to or where I’m headed. When I’m tempted, it comes in the form of half-truths and justifications. I am most often drawn away from God by being distracted with “good.” A good thing to do, a good place to go, a good thought to entertain, a good movie to plop down in front of. It is a very safe road to hell indeed to continually find more and more good things to distract you from the only source of Good we’ve ever known.

At another point in the book, the demon remarks:

It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.

Our hearts are already full of sin and impurity. You don’t have to teach a baby to scream or hit or be possessive or show favoritism. It’s our nature! What is against our nature is to go back to the way we were in The Garden of Eden before the serpent slithered onto the scene. To go back to those thought patterns and actions and culture is to swim upstream. We have to consciously open our spiritual eyes and see God all around us. This sometimes feels like opening one’s eyes underwater, unnatural and highly intimidating. Eyes are so vulnerable, we’d sometimes rather be blind than expose them to the truth.

We have to consciously shut out the impure thoughts and ask God to take them far away. We have to consciously take in the Bible, God’s letter to us, and “hide it” in our hearts. Much of the Bible is unpleasant, confusing, demanding, even gory and erotic. I’m not sure what sort of person, not seeing the living value of it, would choose to read it over and over again as Christians do.

We have to pray in private, knowing that God is always with us, and daily open our eyes under the sea, come sand come salt, and allow God to show us new things. We have to silence our sinful thoughts which want to walk us gently and comfortable into Hell or, in the case of a Christian, into a dormant state of no production or communication, and forcibly open the door for The Holy Spirit. A strange new visitor who does everything backward. Instead of retaliation, submission. Instead of gain, loss. Instead of taking, giving. Instead of hate, love.

EP-come sand come salt

Instead of life and then death, death and then life! You have to retrain your mind to see things backwards and upside down, but when you do, you’ll see things clearer than ever. You’ll realize that the first time you were born, you were born upside down and you’ve been walking around upside down ever since. The real life, the real reality, is the other way around and you must allow yourself to be righted before you can walk that life.

When He [God] talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever. –The Screwtape Letters

You know that you should not sin, but do you know that you should not give, should not go to church, should not smile at a passerby, should not evangelize, should not read Christian literature, should not do a good deed until you have realized that all of that is but clanging symbols without a connection to and a relationship with the source of all that is good? Put down your book, blog, conversation. Put down your list, your calling even. Put it all down and pick up your eyes. Look up to Zion and ask yourself, am I trudging uphill toward a glorious peak, or slowly and comfortable sliding down the gentle slope?

8

what the transfiguration taught me about blogging

smart phone photo

One day, Jesus and I walked to the top of the mountain and Jesus was transfigured, showing me all of His glory. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared and they started chatting it up like old times. And I said, “Jesus, it is a good thing I’m here, because I have an iphone and this totally needs to be on Instagram!”

Besides the fact that it was actually Peter and not me, this story is pretty much a retelling of the true transfiguration story in Matthew 17. The actual scripture sounds just as ridiculous.

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

It may sound like a stretch, but this is what the transfiguration taught me about blogging. Peter has just seen Jesus Christ transfigured and Moses and Elijah, both long-dead, standing and speaking, and yet it isn’t until God Himself speaks from a cloud in heaven that Peter falls on his face. First, as my Bible says in the notes, he desires to set up an appropriate memorial for this moment.

I love that it says that God interrupted him. Memorials are all fine and dandy, but Peter was, as is the often the case with myself, missing the point. God commands Peter and the other present apostles to listen to His son. They fall on their faces and, when they look up, see nothing but Jesus. This is exactly as it should be. We hear from God and fall down and worship, seeing only Him. And yet, I think we have a tendency to go with Peter’s first inclination.

Something amazing happens: a mountain top moment. I hear from God! I witness a miracle, receive a message, see a vision. The next thing I want to do is blog about it, tweet about it, instagram it. I want to share with the world immediately! What great blog fodder that was, God! Now I’ll help you out by spreading that message to the world via social media! It’s a good thing I was there, because this needs to be documented!

Here God, let me tag you in this picture so all the world may glorify you! Let me hashtag #thewondersofyourname that we might worship you! Let me get the SEO just right on this post so we might share your good news! And then God knocks me on my face and says, “This is my son we’re talking about. Listen to him.”

And I lie there panting in the dust for a moment before Jesus touches me and says, “Rise and have no fear.” And for a beautiful moment, I’m actually focused on Him.

Not focused on being a Christian, but on being in the presence of Christ. 

It is so much easier to talk about God and tweet about God and use God as a marketing tool than to actually see Him. It is so much easier to “live the Christian life” than to fall down in his presence and listen to him.

As they walked down the mountain that day, Jesus and James and John and that guy Peter with whom I often relate, Jesus tells them not to tell this story until later.  It was not the time or the place to whip out the smart phones. It was not their story to tell. He would be glorified later, He assured them. And after seeing him “transfigured before them,” his face shining like the sun and his clothes white as light, you’d think they’d trust him on that one. You’d think I would too.

We serve an unseen God who listens to the prayers of unseen people in unseen places and works unseen miracles. Everything that happens on this earth is preparing us for an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

Just wait for that weight of glory, beyond all comparison. I don’t think social media will even cross our minds when that day comes.

P.S. I understand the irony of this blog post about something God taught me. That’s really not the point either. We are told to share the things God teaches us, but more importantly, we should worship God. He put this on my heart many months ago, perhaps this was the right time to share? 

6

on earth as it is in heaven

This is the final post in the Gather Up the Fragments series on ending waste. 

I doubt there is such a thing as recycling or “upcycling” in the kingdom of heaven, but I am sure there is no waste. As a final part of this series, now that Christmas has come and gone and epiphany is here and your Christmas tree is either being disassembled or sitting by the curb, I want to reflect a bit on what we’ve learned together and encourage you and I to spend the new year spending less, wasting less and being much more grateful.

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will would be done here on earth as it is done in heaven. You may not immediately think “go green!” when you hear that prayer, but I think that a healthy respect for God’s creation goes right along with it. God himself wastes nothing and in an attempt to reflect Him a little better, we should waste less…less than last year. Even though the green peas on your plate probably cannot be shipped to starving children in Africa, you eat them or share them because to throw them away would be to dishonor the hungry. Waste does hurt people. How to end it? Side with it’s archenemy: gratitude.

You’ve probably heard of the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. I’ve gathered some inspiration for us as we keep these three R’s in mind for 2014.

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  • The lovely Bethany  of Letters from Home writes often of “living with less” and mending and making do. I particularly love her post Where Nothing is Wasted (Or Why my Mother is Awesome) but anything under her tags of “living more with less” or “waste” is excellent. You’ll find lots of inspiration therein and probably a kindred spirit. “Banishing waste not only gives my parents the freedom to do the work to which they have been called, but also enables generosity. At its best, a home should teach its children about God, and I learned a lot about God’s providence from my mother’s watchful gathering and saving.”

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  • My dear old friend Tonia (our friendship is old, not you!) writes more and more these days about simplifying more and wasting less along with caring for the animal kingdom and being grateful. (Very applicable, yes?) I loved this post about new grocery shopping habits and plastic packaging alternatives. I also love any post with a picture of a little red-headed girl. She’s a pretty awesome friend of mine. :-)

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  • Have you heard of Sole Hope? I’m pretty excited about them ever since I heard their founder speak last October. I have attended a shoe-cutting party and hosted a shoe-cutting party and I am planning on hosting another at the end of this month or beginning of next. This is a wonderful way to recycle old jeans or other durable fabric, plastic bottles or folders. They explain it better than I do, but Sole Hope allows us to recycle instead of waste while creating jobs in both the U.S. and Uganda, giving relief and follow-up to people suffering from parasites and preventing them from being reinfected by giving them a pair of shoes.

What your ideas and suggestions for wasting less in 2014? How do you care for nature in your every day life? 

0

january thoughts

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I thought about starting this post with an apology for being quiet around here, but the truth is that things have been loud outside of my computer and I’m not sorry. As a matter of fact, I think I’ve told Meggie to please be quiet about ten times today. Like many of you, I love January because of the bright, clean newness of it. My calendar is clear and tidy, my year lies ahead like an open road and even the cold air feels pure when I breathe it in. Sadly, our noisy and lovable new sister flies away this Saturday. Back to the orphanage and the boarding school with all of the miles and oceans and silence between us. Back to freezing temperatures and only thirty minutes of sunlight a day. Back to loneliness. We’ll miss her very much.

My heart has been brimming with plans for a wonderful twenty-fourteen, but I am putting most of those things off until after the eleventh. Once Meggie is gone, we’ll need to busy ourselves with all the things we didn’t get done while she was here and prepare for her permanent placement here. I’m really hoping she’s home by the time we usually take our trip to Galveston Island. Still, despite my assurance that the first eleven days of January should be spent mostly cuddling with Meggie and listening to her adorable accent, I am feeling antsy and behind. I’m still working on reading books I started last year while my big reading list for this year sits idle. I’m still not sure which children’s book I should be working on or who is going to illustrate them. Should I be signing up for any conferences this year? Planning to go and visit any friends? Applying for jobs?

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the little sisters

There I go again, cluttering up my calendar and throwing all sorts of obstacles on that open road. I’m trying to remember to breathe and be present and most of all, not to worry. There are a billion good things I could try to do this year, but I’m only capable of really doing one thing at a time. I know I’ll end up panicked and unhappy if I try to do too much, especially too many new things.

I did apply for one job last week and I did start collecting illustration lessons and inspiration on Pinterest and I did email a local artist about possibly teaching a beginners water color class. I did find out when the next welcome class for Bible Study Fellowship is held and I did put that on my calendar, but for now, that’s quite enough.

If I told you that I’ve been thinking a lot about how loud and fast the world has become, I know I’d sound like a broken record. I am honestly seeing people grow up for the first time and it kind of gives me the chills. I just watched some old videos of when Willin and Jubilee were toddlers. The thing is, I didn’t realize they were toddlers so much at the time. They were just Willin and Jubilee, my brother and sister. And now I hardly recognize them, hardly remember their accents or what their skin felt like. They’re tall, lanky things now who rarely need my help with anything and I wonder if time will have picked up even more speed when the next ten years have passed.

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one of my favorite things: swirling swarms of grackles as the sun sets

I spend a lot of time on the internet (hello, here I am!) and I’ve been convicted lately for the billionth time that it’s really too much. And yet I have trouble knowing how to separate myself from it. I log into Facebook and a visual of a strainer pops into my head. If only I could log in and receive all the benefits of social media (inspiration, education, interaction, friendships, professional connections, entertainment,) without drinking in all of the negative effects (conflict, controversy, anger, distraction, mental pollution, jealousy, waste.) I mean, I suppose I wish I could take this strainer with me throughout all of my life, but it feels like the internet is a concentrated version of the rest of the world.

In “real life” I live in an upstairs room in a big old house on six acres of Texas land. I surround myself with people I love, things I enjoy and the work set before me. I’m guessing I’ve spent 90% of my time at home over the Christmas break and will spend at least 75% of my time here during this next semester (depending, of course, on whether or not I get a job.) On the internet, however, this blog is my upstairs bedroom. Facebook is like a mall/battleground/locker room/vegas with little alcoves cut out where friends are huddled with their coffee and tea and kind words and winky faces that tell me they’re being sarcastic/speaking my language. When I log out, I’m both full and empty. Sometimes I actually slam my laptop shut and make myself take deep breaths. And then I’m back. Five minutes later.

It’s like a bag of chips. You eat until you’re full. And then you finish the bag because, “Wait-what just happened?!” And it was tasty, but now you feel like a cow about to give birth and you’re a little bit furious with yourself.

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Putting the junk food metaphor aside, I don’t want to give up the internet. It is probably my favorite tool in the world. At risk of sounding really sad and creepy, I have a lot of friends on Facebook who I only know online, only communicate with on social media and feel like I am actually close to. Through this blog and the other blogs I contribute to, through conferences and writer’s groups, the internet has revolutionized the life of this solitary scribbler. I don’t want to throw all that away because I have an addiction problem and trouble saying no to futile internet arguments. As a matter of fact, I can’t imagine cutting off some of those relationships forever. That’s just not happening.

So what do I do? How do I apply a strainer to the internet? All I know is it’s probably going to break every rule for modern-day authors. I’m not going to be the most popular person on Twitter or have a post go viral any time soon. As a matter of fact, I might become a total flop. “Remember that girl with the fake name? What was it, Waverly? I really thought she was going places. #whatevs.”

But, I’m becoming more okay with being a “flop” in the eyes of the world. The more I learn about traditional publishing, the less appealing it becomes. I have not the means or desire to be Beth Moore. The idea of millions of people reading my Tweets makes me feel nauseated. Deadlines have the potential to send me to the psychiatric hospital down the road (and I’m only slightly kidding.)

Woah. What is the post even about? I’m not sure, but I hope you enjoyed rambling along with me. I want to write another post soon giving a real-deal update on my family and then another post about how Jesus handled fans and friends. And then eight million more posts because I really love blogging. See you on Twitter! But maybe less than usual? Email me for my snail mail addy. :)

everly

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