Sweet Spot – The Eye of the Storm

“Wherever we are always accepted and never alone, never abandoned, our deepest dreams can come true – even in the midst of nightmares.” (Ann Voskamp – Waymaker)

In a paragraph about addiction and loss, death, betrayal and rejection, Ann Voskamp writes about dreams coming true. We expect our lives to be easy roads, she muses, maybe because the screens in our lives say, subtly or directly, that a product or a person can make things perfect.

This is a lie.

Suffering, says Ann, doesn’t mean you’re cursed; suffering means you’re human.

She is right, I think. Suffering is more common than we think.

If we grip the illusion we adopted at the beginning – or the story someone gave us – that life should be a thrilling backdrop as we, the heroines, wow the world with our beauty, poise, energy and intelligence, we are going to collide with disappointment.

The mundane unfolding of an average life, touched here and there with pain, does not have to be horrible.

Let’s loosen our grip on the notions that hold us hostage as we scramble after (or sadly lament the absence of) the perfect life, body, family or career. Let’s lift our gaze to the overlooked nooks and the underappreciated places in our every day lives.

I know I’ve said it before, but I want to tell you again. You are not alone. You are loved. You are wanted. You will never be abandoned.

The struggle reminds us that we are not Home. That’s okay.

His love makes it possible to live well away from Home.

Smash That Mirror!

Do you obsess over selfies and photos and the image that stares back at you when you use the bathroom? Or maybe it’s the opposite… you never take selfies, make sure you’re the one holding the camera for group shots and you look as little as possible at any mirror you pass.

We want love. There’s no denying it.

And those who are beautiful get love – that’s the message I’ve been soaking in since I was a girl as little as the one in the photo at the start of this post.

That’s why, when I came across this paragraph in Shannon Popkin’s book Comparison Girl, I was kind of surprised.

“… God, who loves me, uses things like group photos to develop my humility. Each time I’m confronted with flaws in a photo, in the mirror, or on the scale, it’s a new opportunity to humble myself and say, “God, I trust you. You see me as your treasure, and I trust your eyes more than mine or anyone else’s.”

I assumed that the answer to my insecurity would be LOVE. God’s love. I expected the author to reassure me by underscoring God’s love for me. Instead, I was hit hard by the line: God, I trust you.

She’s so right. For me, it’s not about doubting God’s love for me. It’s fear about everything else. Will other people despise or overlook me as I age? What are the implications of wrinkles and age spots and scars and other flaws in a world of you-have-value-if-you-look-good?

God, I trust you.

When you look at yourself in a photo or in the mirror, are you like me? Do fears… some loud and some subtle, stir in your mind?

This week, when that happens, take a deep breath, quiet your soul, and say: God, I trust you.


BONUS – TRUE STORY


Have you ever done something ridiculous to avoid being seen in a less than ideal state? I have.

I was fifteen and fed up with hanging around high school after classes – every day we had to wait about forty minutes before the school buses showed up. One day, last class was cancelled and I decided I was NOT going to stick around for two hours. I had legs. I would walk home.

I walked down rural roads for about an hour, then entered suburbia and made my way past countless homes. My hair was thoroughly windblown, my skin sunburned. I felt exhausted and I needed a bathroom.

Mom worked at a church on my route, so I snuck into this familiar building to use the facilities. Mom wasn’t there and this was way before cell phones. I couldn’t call for a ride. Still, I knew the pastor whose car sat out front and I figured he could drive me the rest of the way home. I was SO TIRED. I’d been walking for about two hours.

When I saw myself in the mirror, I changed my mind. I looked like a blond hurricane. Rather than let anyone see me like that, I walked another hour.

Three hours.

11.6 kilometres.

I could have allowed a willing soul to rescue me, save me some trouble… but pride and insecurity drove me to keep going on my own. Avoid people. Refuse help.

Vanity.

Fear.

I chuckle now and shake my head. I’d never do something like that now. And neither would you. We’re more mature than that!

Aren’t we?


Daring to Hope

“How do you get up day after day to face a world of brokenness and hurt and failure? You murmur the question and you hope that no one hears you: Is God really good, does He really see me…?”

Katie Davis Majors asks hard questions in her book, Daring to Hope. It’s not a new title, but it’s one of my favourites, and I want to share a few thoughts from it with you today.

I think we all could tell stories about ways life didn’t go how we wanted it to, how we begged God to do things our way, not His. Can we watch life crumble and still believe?

Honesty can be so healing. Katie writes of a time when life went sideways for her, when the happy ending she wanted is not what she was given. She says, “Everywhere I looked, suffering abounded. This realization left me with two explanations: either God is not actually who He says He is, or He is and I needed to relearn how to know Him even in hardship.”

Katie takes her readers on a journey as she does just that. She relearns how to know God, even in hardship.

  • She testifies each day about who she knows God to be, even in the midst of disappointment.
  • She sees how the glimpse we get of God’s face during times of pain is up close and intimate. It changes us.
  • She embraces God’s presence with her in the story, in spite of the not-happy ending.

It can be hard to acknowledge pain and disillusionment in our lives, to read about it in someone else’s life, but I love Katie’s book. I love how I hear echoes, in her words, of my own questions and fears and hopes. I love that, in spite of the struggle, her spirit stays healthy.

  • She knows God does not abandon us.
  • She knows we are called to surrender control.
  • She knows that He will heal our wounds, if not in this life, then in the next one.

Love can be messy.

Pain can be a gateway to deeper intimacy.

Our God is good. He isn’t done with us. He holds us through it all. He pulls us close. He never turns away.

The things others don’t know

Have you ever glanced around at a social gathering and noticed how easy it all seems for everyone else? The light chatter? The casual bite of cake?

Sometimes I people-gaze from the window of our car, envying the jogger who runs with ease, the elderly home owner who prunes a bush, the father who bikes with his child.

Those common activities are often impossible for me. Some days I’m overwhelmed with how difficult each minute is. Light chatter takes effort as I struggle to breathe. Pruning a bush presents dire consequences – the decision to do it seems too dangerous, so I stay inside when I long to be out. And that cake. Oh, the cake.

My daughter made me a chocolate cake a few days ago. I took a photo of a slice – it’s at the start of this post. Her cake was bakery-level-good. The aroma irresistible. The flavour… don’t get me started. How I longed to scarf down as much as I wanted whenever the cake came out of the fridge. I couldn’t, though. Cake is sweet, and sugar causes certain reactions in the body and dessert is a minefield, best consumed in small bits after a meal, if I want my heart to keep beating properly.

WHY?!

Why can’t my life be as easy as yours?

What’s that you say? Yours isn’t as easy as it seems? Oh. I guess I forgot for a moment. It was the cake. I got carried away.

Sometimes the things others don’t know build up and get rowdy inside of me. The symptoms. The fears. As I click into each call from work with practiced ease, “Thank you for calling, may I help you?” the caller at the other end has no idea what kind of a night I’ve just come through, what kind of a moment I’m having.

I know some of you live lives like this too. Each decision. Each smile. Each light laugh is accompanied by stabbing pain. Throbbing pressure in the head. Fear. A feeling of desperation for that other reality – the one no one is seeing – to end.

It’s hard. I can’t deny this. But where I think we’re wrong is our assumption that we’re alone in our interior world of struggle. Remember the first scene I described? The casual bite of cake and easy chatter? Look again.

I’m not the only one whose internal narrative is not happy. There’s a diabetic in the room who wants the cake more than I do. A young woman with an eating disorder is avoiding all the food. An older lady enjoys the cake, but dies a little with each bite as she thinks about unwanted weight gain she can’t get a handle on. Social anxiety stalks others, making them too queasy to eat.

If we peel back the socially approved glow of good times, we’ll see this stuff. Not everyone navigates struggle in social situations or everyday moments, but many do. If we unmute the secret part of people’s lives I think we’ll hear something akin to a symphony in the room.

In your better moments, keep your eyes and ears open. Notice the things others don’t say. No one wants to be a three-legged beagle surrounded by greyhounds. You don’t have to be. Those greyhounds are as flawed as you are; it’s just hard to see, because most of us hide our struggle.

In the moments when you feel alone, even after reaching out for help and sharing with someone else how hard your week has been, remember that there’s an Inside Man. It’s God. He’s in there with you. No one else experiences your pain, your fear or your thoughts all the time.

But God does.

Every chocolate cake moment is shared. He sees the mix of longing and terror that is gripping you. He knows. In a way that no one else can, He knows.

Savour that truth in your hardest moments. The things others don’t know are known. You are not alone.

My Favourite Things

Do you have a stash of treasures? Trinkets from childhood, fabric scraps from special outfits… precious, tangible reminders of a moment or a person you don’t want to forget? I do, and today I want to share a few with you.

I can hear your thoughts.

You’re right. It’s a collection of teeth. My daughter’s. I just couldn’t bring myself to throw them out as she lost them, and I now I have every one of her baby teeth in this silk-lined box given to me by a former student. Almost hidden by the teeth is a ring my father-in-law sent all the way from Peru – a wedding gift for me when I married his only child, Alexis. I could leave it there, but you may wonder about the right side of the box. Those are rocks. I’m sure all of you have taken a walk with a child, who noticed the most perfect stone, just lying on the ground. I kept the ones my daughter gave me. They’re in the box. The necklace next to them really goes along with the next photos…

Weeks after my grandma died, I found myself alone in her garage, going through boxes of things. To me, everything seemed precious. Have you experienced this? All of those dusty objects are suddenly your last chance to connect with a person you loved. Boxes of letters and clothing and photos become your only way to learn about this person and the past. I wanted to keep everything, lock it away, and go through it very slowly.

Since this wasn’t possible, the things I did keep became very important to me. Among them were a an old navy song book that belonged to my great uncle and a yellowed envelope containing hair (a bit creepy, I know, but also a tangible link to someone I never met – my grandmother’s mother.) The necklace in my silk-lined box belonged to this side of the family – one of a few treasures I keep to link me to them.

Gifts from dad were and are rare, which makes them special. Once or twice, dad flew from Canada to California to visit his family, and when he came back, he brought along something for me. I felt so excited when I saw my name on these things. A gift chosen just for me! By my dad! So special.

Now you’ve seen things I share with no one. Treasures. I keep my favourite things tucked away. Safe. Because they cannot be replaced and they are precious to me.

I’d like to leave you with a thought.

If you pry open the hand of God, you will find that He, also, has a treasure cradled in His palm. A favourite thing. Precious. Irreplaceable.

It’s you.


The Spoken Word

I’m not a poetry person, but every now and then I bump into a poem that I understand (rare) and love (even rarer). Here’s one I came across a few days ago – I hope you like it as much as I do!  


The spoken word

Has always been sanctified here, since

The Creator God spoke

This place into existence;

And careless, we throw words around

Like worthless fruit stems,

Forgetting they have the power

To give life

And take life

To give being

And take it away again.


“I have an idea,” we say,

And stumbling and stammering

More excited then eloquent

We begin to frame the genesis

Of a movement, a business,

A creative work of art.


Other voices

Other words

Come back at us,

“That’s crazy.”

“That’s a strange idea.”

“That will never work.”

Any one of these common phrases is enough

To starve a fledgling idea

Of its very life.


Words take life

Can take it before it even

Is born into the world,

And at times,

It would seem

That the safest way

Is silence.


But silence kills, too.


When we witness a bully

On the playground,

Or in the pew,

Or in parliament

And turn away,

Shrugging off

Responsibility

Like an unneeded jacket,

When we turn away

And say nothing,

Our silence

Is a consent to the injustice.

Our silence

Says we support the injustice.

And silence

Has been the undoing of many a person.


We humans look to others

For commendation

For affirmation

For the words “I love you,”

And if they never come,

Then we hear

In the silence,

“You are not good enough

“You are not worthy

“You are not loved.”

And with no other words

We are left

To fend off these lies

Alone.

No wonder

The silence drains our life away

The lonely, lonely silence.


But we are not alone.


The Word

Existed

Before the world.

The Word

Spoke the world into existence.

The Word

Became flesh and dwelt among us.


And He spoke

To defend the undefended.

“He that is without sin

Let him cast the first stone.”

He spoke

To affirm.

“What she has done here today

Will be spoken of in generations to come.”

He spoke

To bring life.

“Lazarus come forth.”

He spoke

To bring forgiveness.

“Father, forgive them

For they know not what they do.”


But The Word was also silent,

Taking the whipping

Like a slave

Taking the judgement

In our place

Taking the death

So He, The Lamb of God

Could say,

“It is finished.”


The Word

Knew the power of words.

He heard the denial of Peter

“I do not know this man,”

Not once,

Not twice,

But

Three times.

He also asked

“Peter, do you love me?”

Not once,

Not twice,

But

Three times.


The Word knows

The spoken word

Has the power of redemption.

Our words

Spoken words have the power of redemption,

When cleansed by His blood,

This once bleeding,

Now living, breathing

Word of God.


Visit Yolanda’s blog to hear a spoken word version of this poem. Visit her at: Travellight94. Thank you to Yolanda for giving me permission to share her poem with you.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: