Sunday, May 11, 2014

On My Mother, On Writing, On Obscurity

My mother is full of life. A fiery, vocal, flitting-about woman with as many ideas and talents as there are days on the calendar. Indefatigable is how my sweetheart describes this quality. But, when he uses that word, he's describing me, unknowingly nodding to the woman who gave me life. In this, I am my mother's daughter, through and through.

Every day of her retirement has been filled with friend-making, others-serving, hospitality-offering, and grand-baby watching. She lives for others. She always has. For years, she tirelessly served as my childhood church home's director of outreach, figuring out best how to connect servants with needs. She has a big heart, a seemingly bottomless pit of selfless love.

I guess that's what motherhood produces. For years, she put my sister and I's needs above her own, generously providing for us at cost to her self. Back-to-school shopping sprees when it meant no new clothes for her. Saturdays at cheerleading competitions (and nights before sponge rolling every hair on our heads) every weekend of the fall when it meant giving up her own relaxing weekends. She threw birthday parties for the books and legendary Christmas tea parties. She's a giver, a do-er, and a gold-hearted woman. It is my heart and my hope that I can grow to be as kind and gracious, more loving towards my neighbors than I am to myself.

And when my mom's not doing, she's processing. She's always had a gift for collecting thoughts and wisdom gleaned on paper. She's a gifted writer, however infrequently she gets the chance to do it and share her bits of wisdom with the world. But, today, I had the somewhat-suprisingly profound realization that she has never tried to make much of herself. She has never tried to wrangle her abilities into a money-making scheme, or turn her gifts into a quest for fame.

She is quite simply...her. And the enjoyment she gets out of her hobbies, the rewards she gains from her endeavors, are for her satisfaction and the pleasure of others. Oh, I pray the Lord produce that in me. That my artistic, creative bents aren't twisted by selfish, narcissistic attempts to gain notoriety and success. I pray to simply know that my efforts, my days, my words, and my works can and will be used by the Lord to glorify Him and serve others if I offer them up as gifts and not givens.

I have struggled with the saints to find my identity in Christ, and Christ alone. I have put my purpose in the work of my hands, on the beau on my arm, on the amount in my bank account. But, I am changing. Lord, am I changing, thanks to the Spirit's hold on my life, and the Eunices, the Loises (and Louy's) that he's put in my path. Thank God for His indefatigable attempts to turn me into His faithful child.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Live to Die.

Well, it's certainly been a minute since I've found my way here with all of my thoughts and musings. At this point, I'm confident that it doesn't matter if there's anyone on the other side to affirm (or disagree with) my diatribes. At the heart, I know wrestling my thoughts onto a page is the only way that I can live at peace with them.

When something moves me, the pen, the keyboard— this is where I land. And, boy, where do I begin? The moral of the story is that by living, I've learned that life is hard. Struggle and despair are real. If not for me, for my neighbor, my roommate, my loved ones. Day to day, week to week, year to year. It's not always the joyful adventure I remember as a kid, or even clawed after as a young adult. Life is strung together by difficult seasons, peppered with what I once heard called "forgetful joys."

 As children of God we were never promised health, wealth, and happiness. Find me that scripture and I'll then amend the way I've been praying. No, in fact, we were promised suffering. But, we do not suffer as those without hope. In fact, the hardship of this life, according to the Word, prepares us to carry the immense heft of God's glory...later. There's the good news.

And, gosh it's GOOD. Because if it weren't for the life we anticipate with Christ, this toil, toil under the sun would sometimes be too much to endure. But, I'm (in this moment in fleeting time) so very thankful that this present is not enduring. Because yesterday (and maybe tomorrow), I'll forget and spend more energy flitting about like it is.

When I see death as the end to this and the beginning to something better, it does indeed make me want to capitalize on the now. Look close, think long and hard, and find a million reasons to despair. But, beneath all of the very real pain of living is the very real hope. And not just the band-aid, sympathy-card, pat-on-the-back kind of antidote. It's the ultimate end-to-all-tears, eternally-lasting kind of hope. I wish that I could remember it when I pore over the numbers of my budget and wonder how it's all going to come out, or when I cry and wait for a prayer to be answered. And for those in my life who live without the hope I know, I wish it'd resonate. Freedom for the captives, life for the walking-dead.

 * Note: Much of this thought has been stirred by my reading of Death By Living, by N.D. Wilson and by listening to this sermon about The Weight of Glory.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

If you're a creative: if you make, write, start of scratch and produce, I advise you to watch this. If you've struggled with depleted inspiration, you will be refreshed and reminded that your creative 'genius' doesn't have to torture you because it was never from you. As Gilbert says, any bright ideas you have are a product of the gift that was loaned to you. Now, I don't have any reason to believe that Ms. Eat, Pray, Love is a professing believer in the God I try to know. But, in this ode, she does down right declare that there exists outside of us, a greater power. And when it comes to our successes, it is that power and not ourselves that should be saluted, thanked, and depended upon. I've had a summer filled with learning these lessons the hard way. I've experienced a drought of sorts in my artistic pursuit. The flow of work coming in slowed to a drip, and as a result, my motivation followed suit. I thrashed about and doubted that my decision to follow my artistic leanings was the right one. I made do with less, and I questioned more. The Lord works in mysterious ways. For whatever reason, He has used the last two months to take me by the shoulders, look me in the eye, and remind me that He is the source of every good idea, the energy behind each noble action. If not for His ingenuity, I'd have no mind to envision, to fingers to type, no arm to extend. This work is mine, but the ability to do it has been loaned to me...yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

It was about four years ago that I first became acquainted with who I now only refer to on a first name basis. Dear sweet Edith. Each month, I gathered with other young new members of a freshly-formed neighborhood church to pore over the pages of Mrs. Schaeffer's The Hidden Art of Homemaking.

I was a recent college graduate at the time, having moved to a new town to begin work in my first professional job. At that point, I had moved no less than a half dozen times in five years. I had begun collecting odds and ends—things that might one day make a place a home. They were mismatched and incomplete. I felt an inner urging for wholeness, groundedness, for rest. But the truth was, I was in transition.

**Quick aside, I firmly believe that I was wholly unprepared for the several years after college that proved to be much more trying than I could've imagined. Who would've known that becoming a real-world working woman would require several wrong pursuits to finally—years later—arrive at a place that felt right, that just fit? If I have one piece of advice for new graduates, it would be this. Be patient. Be flexible. You may want to begin the rest of your life immediately, but more often than not, it's a process. Like most other things, getting there takes time for both you and that idea mature and grow. So, give yourself a break. You don't have to the woman you always dreamed you'd be. You just have to start becoming.**

So amidst the tumult of age 22,  I sat encircled with other gentle souls. I listened as women, just a few years my senior, echoed Edith's sentiment about finding beauty in everyday living, in making art out of home-based activities. Whether it is through cooking or gardening, making music, or decorating a home, God is inviting us to take part in His creativity. Don't wait, she encouraged, until you own a home, are married, settled, and have it all figured out.

The only place to start is to start.

And, so I did, and it was so soon that I felt alive to the woman God made me to be. I opened up my home to others more frequently. I dusted off the sewing machine, I framed old prints. I took a million culinary risks, far beyond my actual capacities. I delved into new hobbies, and re-awakened artistic leanings that I'd allowed to go dormant. I certainly didn't succeed in them all, but I was making, I was moving.

The simple of acts of effort were nothing short of transformative. I truly believe that the Lord used Edith's wisdom to crack open what He planted within me, within each of us. He desires for us to get involved with the world He has given us. In doing so, we become characters in our setting, looking for His maker's mark on all things. He doesn't ask for perfect, just for participation.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Taking Back Paris

Three years ago, I was laying in my backyard sun, listening to French language podcasts in anticipation of an upcoming trip to Paris. I spent days perfecting my bechamel sauce, delighting in the endless combinations of cremes and cookies for homespun French macaroons. I steeped myself in the culture as an appetizer for what I hoped to deeply taste on the other side of the sea.

I read a few books, and flipped through a travel resources of things to see and places to eat. I surely wanted to do the city right. But, in honesty, I was even more occupied with the company I would be keeping. I let all of my hopes for to-dos fade into the backdrop of a reunion with my boyfriend at the time, who had been across the pond for almost a year at that point. After a visit to his homebase, our plan was to take a four day Parisian detour. What a romantic idea, what a dream, right?

This is a cautionary tale. This is a story of sorrow and regret. This is a story of prayer for redemption.

The trip began with promise. A strong espresso at Gard du Nord, an impromptu accordion serenade on the metro, and a silvery sky started Paris and I off strong. But, within hours, a grumpy hunger tainted the mood. A subpar first French meal (which proved more of a disappointment than I could've imagined) and a heavy conversation lead us to a stroll by the River Seine. As I looked out on the river, and beheld the grey-washed City of Lights, I cried. A sniffly, embarrassed, looking-the-other-way cry.

Where was the magic? Where was the ease?

The questions I asked during the next four days, the additional tears I cried, and the inner turmoil I suppressed, all turned out to be more prophetic than I was willing to admit. I was in Paris, for Pete's sake. The city of romance. But, what was happening, if I'd been honest, was the very beginning of heartbreak. It was the first scrape in what ended up being a deep and painful wound.

Of course, had it been that obvious, I would have spared myself. But, the beauty of Paris blurred the truth. I was walking the streets of Montmarte, hand in hand with a well-dressed gentleman. I was standing in line, picking out macaroons at the very birthplace of the crispy wafery delight. I was experiencing little forgetful joys all throughout. But, underlying, I would be dishonest with myself not to admit a deep sadness.

Paris is for lovers. But, make no mistake, it is for life-long committed lovers. It's for those who've made a promise under God's love banner that come what may, covenant remains.

Sure, the city is a certainly the epitome of lovely. Even with the heartache and difficulty, the streets managed to charm me around every corner. The beautiful hours of sunlight well past dinner, and the full-flavor of wine-soaked steak. Yes, these are sweet memories. It is those memories that beckon me to return, to redeem a wearied heart, to put another nail in the structure of re-awakened hope.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

You Can't Take It With You

For this past Lenten season, I gave up superfluous spending, online shopping, incessant lusting after things. Pinterest has been no small thorn in my side when it comes to desiring to decrease my appetite for things. I want to stop wanting, but every time I see the colorful inlay, the rows and rows of beautiful things and spaces and foods, I can feel the drool of desire dripping down my chin. Sometimes it seems like the subliminal message of our culture is just this colorful conniving version of untruth.

What you have is not enough.

During the fast, my aim was to put a stop to the spending, and thus, abate the ravenous hunger for more. I've grown so accustomed to seeing a book title that catches my eye, clicking right over to Amazon, and adding to my cart without batting an eye. That one-two motion is almost completely thoughtless, instantly gratifying, and utterly selfish.

This six weeks, I thought, will be full of generosity, others-centeredness, and God is enough-ness. Those good intentions surely did pave the way. I set out on the journey, only to find myself in a mess of unforeseen expenditures. Sure, I wasn't buying cute dresses and kitchen utensils, but I was forced to start shoveling out money for individual health insurance, for doctors visits, for bills. And then irony of all ironies... on Easter Sunday, due to a vehicle-devastating wreck a week prior, I had to purchase a new car. How's that for learning how to conserve my resources?

In starting a new job and adjusting to paying taxes as a small business owner, I've been riding the wave of a million little learning curves. Money in and out of my meager bank account has come to resemble the pastel colored currency of a child's game. But these hundreds and thousands are not-so-easy come, eaasssssy go. While I've been extremely busy with my letterpress work and with baking three-ish days a week, the only dough I find myself rolling in is for the Bourbon and Pecan frosted Sticky Buns.

But, I have not gone without. Not for a minute. Not for a meal.

I'm not worried about not having my needs met. The Lord has proven Himself fit for the task of providing again and again. What I pray, in this season, is that no matter how much I spend on the necessities of living and learning to run business, that I am truly taught the meaning of going without for the sake of lavishing generosity outside of myself.

May my rekindled relationship with Pinterest not create in me an insatiable desire for things at the cost awareness of the needs of others. And, may I always hold my money, my successes, my failures with a loose grip.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Living My Days

I won't apologize to anyone (including myself) for my long absence from writing, from reflecting. The first quarter of this year has been filled with living. My day-to-day has received another minor facelift. I've got new hours and some new work for my hands, but it's all too familiar. I'm back in a kitchen, back in the flour, back to creating. And, I'm happy.

The funny thing is, I've been dealt some tough cards this week. Some material loss and a real scare could have easily sent me reeling into a worried despair. Years ago, I think it would have. But, today, I feel fine. My lightness comes only from a trust that is more firmly attached to an immutable source of strength. Today, I can more easily laugh at what's to come.

And, I think it all comes back on the prayer I began this year by praying. Come what may, I want to trust in the Lord. I want not to be shaken, embittered, or defeated by what happens to me. I can take a hint from his unchangeable character — the God of Adam, of Moses, of David that is, too, MY God. From the beginning, He was slow to anger and quick with mercy—even when He touched soil and physically entered this life with all its tattered imperfection.  May I too, be unmoved by the wind and waves of life on this ground.

Lord, bolster my faith.