Saturday, December 24, 2011

God With Us

God came close.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel, which means, God with us.
" -Mathew 1:23.

God came close. He made himself low, in the form of a baby, not even a wealthy baby. Showing himself in that way, making his dwelling among us, shows me that the world in its fragile and often complicated state did not scare a God who chose this route to come into the world.

God with us. Then and now. For the angel said to Joseph, "she will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

He is still with us, still close. Still able to bring freedom and lasting peace.

Have a listen to Barlow Girl's song "Hallelujah Light is Come" - it's a beautiful song that reminds me that all the praise goes to God - who " has heard our cry."


"So close to me
The Son of God
Now all can see

Hallelujah
We've been found."

    -Barlow Girl

Merry Christmas!!!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Wait..The Light Will Come

There is victory even in the night. There is light to blot out darkness.

I was thinking about December, and how I don't want it to pass without me looking at it. All too frequently, my days give rise to stirrings of 'how will I ever get it all done?' and moments of peaceful writing and/or blogging are a far too distant memory.

Today, I am struck with a sense of awe at light, not just any light, but that illuminating light that comes from the Son, coming into the world and reminding us at Christmastime that Jesus has claimed Peace and victory for good, and that carries us not just despite the times we feel we can't do it on our own, but because of that very point. I need Him.

I need the reminder that He promises to give me a hope and a future. That He promises to be faithful and that if I just lift my eyes, I'll see that He has overcome the night. That He is alive and He makes me free to live in Him and through Him, and because of Him.

I love Phil Wickham's song "The Light Will Come."

Will you listen and remember with me?

"Lift your eyes
The Son has overcome the night
Come alive
As we shine in loves true light

Here is laughter beyond the tears
Here is courage to face your fears
Look the light has come
So rise you daughters and stand you sons
Claim the victory that Jesus won
Look the Light has come"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

LateLate

Once again, I stumbled upon an interesting license plate this week. It read : Latelate. This was funny and timely (no pun intended) for me because my life has been busy and I have in some ways felt a race against time to move faster and keep up.

There's something nice about having the ability to just laugh at words like Latelate outlined right in front of you...where you almost feel like some exclamation points are warrented and perhaps you aren't the only one.

Still, as I am able on this Thanksgiving weekend to have the chance to pause and sit back for more than a moment to remember what's most important...

I love JJ Heller's song "All I need" ... It reminds me this Thanksgiving, that God is enough, and that:

- Goodness and mercy are following me
You're all that I need
You make a home for me
Where pastures are green as far as I see
You are all I need -

Monday, November 14, 2011

And The...

I saw a great license plate the other day. It read: 'And The...' No joke. I pretty much love every thing that is a fill-in-the-blank, a grab-bag sentence starter, writing or conversation prompt, etc....I have no idea what was meant by this actual license plate but I know that it got me thinking about my own 'And The...'

And The...

...best thing is still Jesus. Who came down. Bringing Hope. Died to give me life. Rose and is living again.

When I think of what this means to me, so many images and words and Scriptures and parts of my life come flashing before me. For some reason, there's also a lot of songs that remind me of the best thing. That remind me of what stays truer than true even despite times of climbing uphill, or when winter just lasts and lasts.

A song that comes on and just holds memories of days when God has spoken through my life's experiences to teach me that He reigns above any circumstance is "Song of Hope" by Robbie Seay Band. I love me some Robbie Seay Band music; they are one of my favorites. Just ask anyone who knows my music tastes. If I could choose, I would like them to play at my wedding. That would be pretty cool.

It is not Tuesday yet..but I need to do a plug for RSB's new album Rich and Poor. It's available now - go check it out! :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Unexpected

I'm so excited for this one. I woke up this morning and actually remembered that it was Friday. My day was extremely busy and I actually have some time to refresh and (hopefully) continue the wave of this during the weekend. I have grown to love these Five Minute Fridays when I can catch onto them, probably for the very reason of the topic that today's word hits on:

Unexpected

I love things unexpected. It's kind of strange to say that because at times predictability is what I think I can count on. It's good to know what will come when and that you can check things off your schedule. BUT, there's something in that spunky, just-might-surprise-you unknown that leads me to leap before I look sometimes.

It's where the daily grind gives you pause.

It's seeing friends two days in a row where it didn't seem like 'life' allowed for it, laughing and remembering that the unexpected part is that you are constantly made new when you are with people know you and love you just the same.

It's where faith meets life and you just get to pause in thanks for another day at unexpected bliss. I wouldn't have always called it that, but I think it is.

-Linking up with The Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Friday-

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Remember - Operation Pancake

I knew I wanted to participate in The Gypsy Mama's word for Five Minute Friday this week --- Remember, but I just didn't have any idea what to write about. I didn't think I was at a standstill due to my 31 days writing madness, but who knows.

The word remember seemed to be catching me offguard. Typically, I like to remember..it's a part of stories.
It helps to recall where I've been, what God has done, in times of blessing, and even in times that I've had to overcome challenges.

But I guess I just didn't feel like doing any kind of remembering this week, good or bad, in my writing. So I didn't.

But then, this morning, I was making pancakes, and the first batch didn't come out too well. It wasn't that they didn't work all together, I just realized that the second batch was probably the one to keep. See, the pan needed to warm up and I needed to get my hand around flipping again (it's been some time since I've made pancakes). So...

Me, in my hungry state, hadn't waited for the second batch to finish. I tasted them, and I was glad I did, because they were pretty good. People always say to throw out the first batch of the pancakes. Wait until you know what you're doing, that's when the good stuff happens.

Sometimes, we have to just try, and taste the stuff of the beginning to know what later looks like as well.

                                                          ***
I wrote this post because I am glad to remember all the days when I was young when I made endless amounts of pancakes with my dad on weekend mornings. I am pretty sure I didn't know what I was doing at first but we never threw them out. Big or little, burnt or undercooked, we just ate them. That's the good stuff.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Gray to Grace { Day 31: 31 Days of Loving the Middle Space }

It's Day 31. I only half-believe it. I'm kind of going to miss this 31 day business. I thought for the last day I'd let you all in on a little secret of mine....

Several years ago I had a ton of writing momentum for fiction and an idea that kept my attention long enough to finish it through. It wasn't the right thing at the time to do anything with that work; I was just happy to get the story line flushed out and that I had gotten my characters through to the end! The story was called "Gray Space" and it is about 4 middle grade girls who are trying to figure out life, namely the main character, who ends up learning more than just school from her teacher, Miss Lemon. What I liked best about the character was her perspective change from seeing things classified in extremes to a reconciling with some of the tension that occurs in her "gray space." Needless to say, I saw a lot of myself in that character at the time.

So, I have had this desire to rebirth "Gray Space" but I haven't found the right way to do that yet. All I know is that God has sort of transformed what once was just this idea of Gray Space and moved the gray to grace. I guess that's a little bit of how I hoped to just jump with this idea of The Middle Space. It's all grace - how the tension, the muddy stuff, the getting to learn more as we go, the joyfulness- they work together. I guess as God keeps showing me how to move from even the gray to grace...it grows me into leaving space for more, space for Him.

This is a starting point. It might be the end of a series but leaving space gives way for more. My prayer for you is the same as the prayer for me, that you would be open to the space He breathes into your life and living in the freedom you have been granted.



*If you missed any days of the series, you can check them out here. Thanks for coming by!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Conversations

"Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most." -hope floats

This month showed me a lot. That the middle does count. That the beginning, the middle, the end, that all parts of the story have a revealing in them that is worth noticing.

God keeps showing me that life isn't about dividing my journey up into chapters, segments, separations. Even though He gives us a beginning, middle, and end, He is ever moving through our stories and weaving Himself in them. I don't know where you are. I know a lot of writing on here seems like a one-sided conversation. It's not like normal life. I like real, natural conversations.
This picture makes me laugh. I think the penguins are having a real conversation.

That's why I've come to really enjoy the friends I've made and grown through this medium and the connections I see through others who want to reach out through their own individual pockets of life. There's still something authentic I see in blogworld, that I never once thought I would. That's why I do it. It's one more way to connect to people, and somehow through words and finding meaning in where we are and have been placed, there comes to be a sort of springing up instead of a falling down.

When you stop and think about what it really looks like to have a bunch of people sitting around their computers writing or reading, posting art, recording music..all the different voices and visions and readers and dreamers and people who jump on board a train to someplace...we might not have arrived. But we are becoming.
Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey - Babs Hoffman

I have a neat journal called The Traveler's Journal, and it has little quotes on on side of the page and then Bible verses on the other. I don't think it's supposed to be a dichotomy but sort of a blend of faith and life. There are interesting little tidbits of information about traveling and life, such as "A travelers worst enemy can be a new pair of shoes. Break in your shoes before you leave for a long trip."

I think in times past it has been hard for me to 'enjoy the journey' because the potholes were too painful...or so I thought. After all, potholes get in the way, don't they? See, potholes are funny in that if you're so focused on the trouble and pain, you can't see the beauty that's around you. You might be able to avoid going over a few more bumps, but you might also miss a little bit more in the process.

Pain, difficulties, trouble..there's no easy way to wrap yourself around all of it, especially not to say that even if you focus on beauty and goodness and all things HAPPY, you'll avoid it. Sometimes there is beauty from pain. Sometimes there's beauty from the not-pain. I think everyone has to get there in different ways.

The middle space wasn't supposed to just be about talking about pain, but I know I talked about it a lot. I kind of use that as a reference point because I've been there, and still understand when people say that finding balance in the day-to-day is hard. I think sometimes it's easier for me to have one hand in the present and one hand in the future. I don't know if that's right or wrong but I think it helps me to know that God promises a future that is full of hope.
                                                               ***


Fun Travel Tip I'll leave you with:

"It's wise to take a collapsible-type umbrella with you. Then you will be prepared for rainy weather."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

31 Days Is Nothing

I titled this post '31 Days Is Nothing' not because I think writing for 31 days is nothing but because 31 days is not much time for real change to occur for people, pertaining to too much of any topic or area of focus. It's possible, but change/growth is also often gradual. It can be sudden too, of course, God-willing, depending on situations in a persons life. But God really works on His own timetable..and it's helpful for me to acknowledge that. It's kind of a relief, too, to know that The Middle Space, it's more complicated to write about than I think. How to live in this already/not yet time, the one with Christ's work already finished for us, but yet there is still trouble. It really makes up the crux of everything we know about pain and suffering and yet also joy and love. It's deep. But it's also light because Christ took on everything for us.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Healing Vs. Haunting

I've been reading Emily Freeman's book Grace for the Good Girl slowly, as it is so mult-dimensional and full and inviting. In it, she talks about how we all share a common frailty, but there are often some parts of ourselves that don't let us take part in that. And when we don't let ourselves take part in healing, instead, there becomes a haunting.

I think about the word 'haunting' this week as we're approaching Halloween. And I think about what Emily talks about in her book about masks and like her writing, there's more than one dimension to this idea of covering up. 

It has to do with the way we see our lives sometimes and where our truth and identity comes from. It's more than just infused with the external; if it was only that, the masks we wear could come off in the same way Halloween masks do- we would easily throw them off as soon as they stopped working for us. But they drive deeper and there's a letting go process.

I love how Emily says, "Jesus brings people to the edge of self-sufficiency and urges us to fall to the ground in surrender."

God is patient with us. That is encouraging to me in times when I think I must still make my life work for me. But I know the answer is with Him; that He asks me to trust and work with Him, who helps me learn and re-learn this throughout my life.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saying Yes. Day 26: { 31 Days of Loving the Middle Space }

"i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes" -ee cummings


***

So, I'm not sure who ee cummings thought God was or where he would fall today in talking about Him in great debates among Christians, but one thing I know is that his poetry about creation and being thankful for being alive was something that touched me back when I didn't really know God many moons ago as a small one. I can remember loving to read literature and also loving to write out quotes in my journals, sort of as inspriations. When I was little, I think there were small inklings of God moving in my life before I knew to look a little deeper into who He was, and I believe that He came down and showed me that each new day was a little precious gift from Him.

Each new day. It is something sacred. There are birds and trees and infinite skies, and there He is- gathering them all together.

When I don't stop and remember that place, those initial places where God sought me out, and continues to spur me on- I can lose sight of each day being something special. That He created it and it's here for a purpose, and I'm here for a purpose, even despite moments in the middle when I think a day feels too full and there's not time to even look around.

He continues to teach me that there's grace enough through Him for each day, and He provides what I need for that day, but not to carry that over to tomorrow's burdens.

Today my prayer is:

Father, help me to live this day out in thanks, this most amazing day, that I would receive your grace for today, and all that today entails. And that I would say Yes to today, and take some time to look around and up at those "blue true dream" skies.





picture via http://www.yellowbarnstudio.com/

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day 25: Remind Me...

It's been too long since I've done a Tuesday Tunes. This one is going to be short though.

Every time I hear the song "Remind Me Who I Am" by Jason Gray and especially see this video, it just really does something with my heart. It reminds me of how big God is and how different his love is than what we see in this world. It's not because we love Him that He loves us though, it's the other way around..
  
Tell me, lest I forget
Who I am to you
That I belong to You.

picture via googleimage
www.performancesolutionstech.com/

What Remains

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:7-8

I think this is my favorite verse of the passage in 1 Corinthians  about love. It endures and bears all things. It's a love that doesn't fail.

Growing up and going to weddings all the time, I heard this verse offered at ceremonies often, but it wasn't for a long time until I recognized that the verse was talking more about an eternal love, God's love that will outlast anything else, one that will not come to an end. When we think of something that fails or dies out, it's easy to consider in our own thinking how quickly the things of the world and pass away, but God, in His great love, remains, far beyond anything we know in the temporary sense.


When I think about endurance, I often think about my own race. The one I want to stay in as long as I have a pulse. I want to continue, even on the times there are challenges, with a purpose on living for Christ daily. Yet, the verse in Corinthians makes me reflect on the idea that Christ too has and is enduring for me. I'm not a biblical scholar, but I feel like it's hinting at the purpose behind Christ's suffering and enduring for and with us, out of His great love.

It brings full circle for me the idea that what really remains at the end is love. Not the pain, not the tough times, not the days when you want to throw in the towel, but the walking through it with you in the compassion and understanding that is wrapped up in His love.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Not So Locked In

Yesterday, I referenced the book Writing Down the Bones. It's an excellent book and I've read it and used it for writing on several occassions in the past. I was flipping through it again and I saw how she suggested this idea on writing a short paragraph and then scrambling the words up to display how we are usually locked into sentence syntax. She said by allowing words to flow in this kind of exercise in any direction, we are releasing their energy and new capacities for movement. I thought I would try it. First, you just go, using no punctuation.

I think we all need to breathe in Loving the Middle Space here's to helping me do that in one more way words have always been my friend but now this can allow for more space and freedom to see how things move and maybe what doesn't have to stick together this is kind of freeing

Then, you scramble it all around.

We more kind see all breathe in the Space to helping that in way words now can space together this freeing kind is think we I Loving to here's together this freeing maybe way Middle think need freedom doesn't me things words allow my always friend move.

Not sure I got them all but now we're supposed to put in punctuation marks in random places to create feeling.

We more kind see all breathe, in the Space. to helping that in way words now can space together this freeing kind is. think we, I Loving to here's together this freeing! maybe way Middle think need freedom? doesn't me things words allow my always friend, move!


I have no idea, folks. It was just a random, word-scramble exercise. :) Maybe you'd like to try it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Middle Space Creates Space for Footloose Blogging: Day 22

As I ventured over to The Nester's site today, the architect behind 31 days, she took the words right out of my mouth for how I was feeling about the taxing oh-so-joyous process of writing for 31 straight days with the same idea.

Sometimes, you're just not in the mood. Or you're too busy to sit down and put thoughts together that have anything to do with what you set out to talk about.
I saw the movie Footloose last night and I really liked it. I love movies about singing and dancing. Today, as I thought more about it, it made me think about Footloose Blogging. I'm not sure what I really mean by that, but some of the most freeing times I have writing are when I remember that it's natural and flows out of me and doesn't always have to be just right, or even dependent on the rhythm of my life being on beat.

In the book, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Natalie Goldberg says, "Think of writing as though it were breathing. Just because you have to plant a garden or take a subway or teach a class, you don't stop inhaling and exhaling. That's how basic writing is, too."

Not everyone has this kind of an impression with writing..but I think it helps me to recognize something that helps me look more intentionally through the seemingly nitty-gritty of the everyday. You can't skip over it, because if you write through times that are hard, somehow a form of softness sort of bubbles to the surface.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Looking Beyond

Ultimately, writing about the Middle Space has given way to shaping in me more of a love and thirst for the knowledge of who God is and how He is working through even this time, the already, not yet time we're living in.

I like how Paul describes this tension and attempting to find some balance in where he was at currently versus where his gaze was fixed for the future when he said:

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." -Philippians 3:12-14.
Inspired by Five MInute Friday and The Gypsy Mama's Topic: Beyond
***

When I think of beyond, I think far reaching. I think of what even more than my imagination can comprehend. But I also think of going further than the 'now time.' and what is right in front of me. I know that God is far reaching in a way that I will never be, and also that he calls me to go beyond my view to see further than any circumstance of life can touch.

The only way to really do that is for the things of this life to not have the final say, to not be conformed to this world, and when that is hard, to remember and trusts who already has accomplished the victory. While we're still called to be in the world, I'm reminded of Acts 17, where it talks about living and moving and having our being in Him...and Ephesians, where Paul reminds us that God can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.

MORE than I imagine. More than any of my circumstances warrant. This now and not-yet time, where those promises that He would send Someone on our behalf have been fulfilled (Isaiah 9:2, Isaiah 9:6, Zechariah 9:9, Isaiah 53:5...) and yet He is still working in this world until the time of coming glory. 

That puts me in awe. I think I can wrap some nice words around it and call it a day. But God continues to blow my mind.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

(He Will) Never Let Go

This is kind of a precursor for next week as I get ready to actually start wrapping up the series! That's hard to believe. I couldn't stop myself now because I felt like God was bringing some truths to my mind throughout the day and then I came across similar language and meaning in song form.
Romans 8:38 says,

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

...nothing can separate me from You,

You are with me always.

"how high, how deep is Your love for me.

light or darkness, doesn't matter,

because You will never let me go." -jj heller

"You Tell Me So" - I love this song

And all things will be made new...

"Kingdom Come" - I double love this song

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Don't Say Watermelon

Were you ever in chorus and learned that you can sing/mouth the word "watermelon" when you don't know the words to a song? I don't think my choir teacher taught me this but probably some other students. It works though! It's helpful when you can't remember what you're supposed to be singing. I tried this a couple times, but typically, I couldn't do it for long, because it always felt fake to me.

See, even when other people can't tell if you're pretending, you know when you're just mouthing the words to get by. I don't want to just mouth the words. That bugs me. I don't like pretending. I liked pretending more when I made up skits and acted out plays when I was young though. Those make believe stories are great, but you usually know the difference between a real live story and a made-up up one...you can just tell.
But beyond the great adventures and the fun stories a person is able to tell are the times someone might forget the words to how even their own story goes.  Sometimes, the best way to start speaking clearly is to be truthful and allow others to speak truth into your life, even when it's hard.

The end result: growth...

and maybe some good conversations.


Photo via

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day 18: Keep Going

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there – Will Rogers


I've always kinda liked this quote, even though it's perplexing when I think about it in action. Even when you're on the right track, you can become immobile. I've always wondered what that looks like. I think it has something to do with thinking you've exhausted all your options, or the idea of standing still, thinking there's no more potential left. No more expansion possible. I believe where there is life, there is still room to continue.

Sometimes, though, there are moments where the everyday is a little ambigious and life is not separated like chapters in a book. The growing doesn't look like a train rolling by effortlessly and instead someone might get caught sitting on the tracks, nearly getting run over. Hmm...

That sounds painful. We don't like to be too busy, but we don't like to have nothing to do, no where left to learn and grow. Sigh, I wonder if there's a kind of a middle place we get stuck in waiting for things to either speed up or slow down? I've felt this before. I guess what helps me is the idea that things are always moving in life, including who I am. I'm always changing, because God is working even in those times that seem out of place.

This is where I want my confidence to be every day.

Monday, October 17, 2011

REMEMBER: { Day 17: 31 Days of Loving the Middle Space }

This week in Loving The Middle Space we're going to talk about how to grow in this time.

I think we all need each other, especially when it comes to growing. We've all learned different things along the way because of our stories and where God has led us and that it's neat to see how we all intersect together. I love learning from different people and also sharing what helps me grow and that's why I wanted to talk about journeying together in growing in the Middle Space for this week.


So, I start with the idea that to grow I'm constantly aware that I need to REMEMBER. Not just remember what I have to get done in my everyday life, but how God has shown up every which where and through my life, in that "big picture" scenerio I think I can somehow make pretty on my own. But I'm reminded again and again that He is the one who makes my picture full.
Now, when I actually visualize thankfulness and what it has become in my life, it's like a stream that touches on even the rocks and the dirty underground that no one really wants to step on. Thankfulness gets near to the things you wouldn’t think were even blessings and allows you to sense that there’s a purpose even in that.

As you think on where you've been and those little pebbles or perhaps big rocks in your life, the ones that seem like they get in the way, I encourage you to step through to what God is doing in you now. Does remembrance help you get there?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Startled by Kindness { Day 16: 31 Days of Loving the Middle Space }

Tonight I had too many thoughts going in different directions as far as what God has been doing lately, and I thought it would be better to let someone else utter a message for Day 16. There's a lot of folks who I think have extremely helpful things to say and who I am thankful have wise words with meat to chew on. 

As I traveled over to Donald Miller's blog, this article spoke volumes for me tonight, and maybe it will be meaningful for you as well. With humbleness, gentleness, and just the right amount of boldness, he talks about how God's kindness connects with us and exposes and defeats the places that don't connect with Him, the spots that are filled with untruth, and areas that stifle relationships with others. It's only by His kindness that we are captivated to connect more, releasing all it was that we thought we had to hold together.

The song "My Hope Is In You" reminds me of this grace.

"I wait for You and my soul finds rest..."

...Psalm 62:1-2...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Even in Australia { Day 15: 31 Days of Loving the Middle Space }

F is for Free. Not Failure.

I think my favorite thing about The Middle Space and even writing about The Middle Space is the idea that I am continually reminded that the middle is the best place for surprises.

Today marks just about the Middle of the series and God has once again jump-started my excitement for the rest of the series.

Do you want to know what I was thinking for a post? How all I really wanted to write about was the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It's a kid's book in case you don't read that genre. It wasn't because I was having a horrible day, but I have had days kind of like the ones in the story, and I think we can all relate to those days when things just go all wrong. It's cute and funny and Alexander makes me laugh. I own the book from back in my teaching days. Poor Alexander can't quite make anything happen right all day; he gets gum in his hair, he gets the wrong kind of food in his lunch, his teacher can't understand what his drawing looks like, the dentist tells him he has a cavity, he has to wear his railroad train pajamas...and he hates his railroad train pajamas.

Alexander just feels like everything is doomed at the end of the story and he decides he wants to move to Austrailia. But he is assured by his mother that everyone has bad days. Even in Australia.

Image by google maps


Though it is so simple, it's a reminder that never goes stale. Not only do we want to not have bad days, it's human nature to want to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and find where we fit, somewhere things make sense, where we are free and accepted.

I searched for that place for a long time...until I found it...

Galatians 5:1 says:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Catch and Release { Day 14: 31 Days of Loving the Middle Space }

Because I almost forgot that it's a Friday Favorite day :), I wanted to spend a couple of minutes writing on the prompt from The Gypsy Mama for today. It's a unique one and I thought it could relate to what I've been talking about in my series on Loving the Middle Space. The topic is Catch.

Go:

For some reason the idea of CATCH makes me think of the idea / movie Catch and Release.  It's been a long time since I've seen that movie but I think the general idea to this thought is that you have to let some things go in order to learn to let in new parts of your life. Sometimes we experience loss in life through painful experiences or broken pieces unraveling and as we engage with them, we actually become something new in the process. I'm not sure where the "catch" stars and ends and "release" begins but I think they work together.

We talk about catch in both positive and negative terms. We don't want to 'catch that sickness,' but we do want to 'catch on or catch up' to what is needed to survive. For some reason, I am a little more drawn to the release. It sounds kind of awful- the letting go of those parts we thought we had to cling to, the giving back..but there's also a setting free that happens here I think. Words I think of that remind me of this are restore, remove from what binds, take away from bondage.

Stop.

Come back and visit tomorrow for more on freedom.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Straightening the Path { Day 13: 31 Days of Loving the Middle Space }

I'll be honest, there are times I remember only the end of a passage of Scripture, like in Proverbs 3, it seems the part I regularly bring back to memory is:

"In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths."


Then, in moments of uncertainty about where my life is headed, I can think, 'God ,how is it that you make my path straight? It looks pretty curved from my angle.' I seem to forget what comes before this verse...the ever-life giving words of Trust and where to glean my understanding from...

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding."

 What a difference this makes!! God moves in ways unknown to me and my human brain, even with the ability and functions He has given for me to work with in that way. How much further does His understanding stretch and does the wisdom He imparts allow for change in my life...

Trust not only awakens the spiritual life but also nurtures it. As we lean back in trust, more and more, we depend less and less on what we think we have to supply in and through our own strength. This is a hard thing to let go of in many ways.

I really like a recent blog post by The Gypsy Mama as she relates this concept to the idea of 'being successful.' Check it out..it was really powerful and spoke to me on how God does the work in us in straightening out the path He designed for us, even when we don't quite see the path outlined in such a way. I think He does this in such individual ways and helps us to see that He is developing in us a reliance on Him, so that even though the path before us becomes straighter than before, we still have to trust Him for what will be on each step. I believe what are difficulties or struggles do very much involve God's merciful hand, as our paths and who we are in this faith walk would look much different without them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Too Busy Not to Write { Day 12: 31 Days of Loving the Middle Space }

Have any of you read the book Too Busy Not to Pray? I still haven't read it yet, although it's on my list of books to read (please don't poke fun :) ). I was thinking about how that idea applies a few things in my life, and as I'm doing this 31 day challenge, I realize that there are times that it is NOT easy to sit down and write.

Ironically, I'm one of those weird people who would say that most of the time, I nearly always find something to write about...I'm not sure how good of an idea that is, but I love everything to do with the written word. So, you can imagine my surprise when I felt stagnant already mid-way through October? I think it is more the cluster of activity going on outside me with a recently revved up scheduled rather than an internal resistance to writing.

But writing is still something I think of a little bit like brushing my teeth. It's a whole lot more than that but I think at a basic level it's that. I'm pretty sure you can insert ______
for you, because maybe it's not writing, maybe you're a creator of some other kind of art, or you do some sport or something that really makes you tick. I thought about incorporating something about this idea back when I was going to write for 31 days about the idea of just plain love, as part of how our passions and inspirations and things that get us excited really are special and worth talking about.

God really set all that in motion because He created first, and now even though sometimes I can't see straight because of all the different directions my life seems to be headed, He somehow reverts me back to the start, and my passions and visions that He gave me.

There will definitely be ebbs and flows to those things we can talk about for hours and our passions in life. But, I think on the occassions where all I can do is brush my teeth with my writing, it's chistled down to the bare essentials, and there's something nice about that, too.

Because I have to keep brushing my teeth. Just like I have to keep writing.

What do you keep doing even when life gets busy?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Can't Tune Out { Day 11 }

When in pain...it's pretty typical to want to tune out to the world, however, it's also nearly impossible to live on auto-pilot. You're more naturally in tune to what's going on within you when you feel pain, which can bring more awareness to what's going on around you and with others as well. The cycle of receiving comfort and sharing comfort has occurred in my life, but the grounds to getting to that point hasn't always been the easiest ground to tread. 

"It's so not about what I did or thought I could do. My  perspective was altered forever. God was the one moving throughout the earth and at times, he invited me to go along for the ride."

"Part of that change in awareness involved s u r r e n d e r. I had to yield my opinions, agendas, and timetables about how God should fix a broken world."
- Susan D. Miller, Closer Than Your Skin.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Able to Fall Apart { Day 10 of Loving the Middle Space }

I could be speaking for others here, but I feel like it's pretty natural to avoid pain at all costs. Pain is a signal that something is wrong, and while it's not healthy for there to be prolonged pain...pain can be a sign that something isn't working quite right.

Naturally, a lot of the time, we think things ought to work right most of the time. But the problem is, they don't. In Grace for the Good Girl Emily Freeman talks about this and says that "when things break, something happens inside us. The routine is interrupted by the urgent, and the broken thing becomes top priority" (p. 171). She goes on to talk about how there are things in life that aren't easily repaired or replaced, but discusses the hope that is found when things, or rather, parts of us, fall apart.

Likemindedly, I think along the same lines. It's been true in my life that my routine has often been disrupted by the effects of pain or things that have been left "broken" too long.

Brokenness comes in many forms. We see it in the world we live in..in poverty, in injustices, in our homes, in sickness, in our spiritual lives, etc. One can look around without seeing quick-fixes for any of it, but that's okay. As Emily writes, "We don't need fixing. We need healing" (p. 179).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Praying the Psalms {Day 9: 31 days of Loving the Middle Space}

             One thing that helps me in times of pain and suffering is praying through the Psalms. I like to be real with pain and I think the Psalms are a picture of that as well, and also give us a sense of what it means to cling to God in those times. I have been awe-struck by some examples of David in times of need and drawing close to God in whatever way he knew. I feel like that is me and the Psalms teach me that God is near, that I just need to lean on Him and remember who He is. These are a few that continue to be poignant for me related to this topic...I know there are others but these have been especially moving to me.

                                      God is long-suffering with us:

Psalm 86:15

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

        God brings freedom and healing in broken places, He is powerful and mighty

Psalm 147:

He heals the brokenhearted
   and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
   he gives to all of them their names.
 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
    His understanding is beyond measure...



Psalm 100:5
God is good, even when the world says otherwise. He is merciful...

For the Lord is good,
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What Lies Underneath { Day 8 }

I think it would be good to spend the next week talking about what lies beneath and within the middle of pain and trials.
The other day, it was really helpful for me to start brainstorming this by coming up with a list of words that I thought of in association with such times. Strangely, I thought of a lot of upbeat ones.

Hopeful
New
Joy
Thanksgiving
Renewal
Freedom

Wow. I was taken back. That sounded all good. I did come up with some other words like

endurance
hardship
distress
tiring
chaotic
suffering
fast but slow (?)
longing

So how do they fit together, I asked myself? Do I see more of the joy or the times in the valley? Then I remembered. It's not either-or. It's not a checklist to see which one carries more weight.

It's not about pretending all is well all the time, but where the outlook is headed and knowing that difficulties produce something in us that God can use.

James 1: 2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

What words come to mind when you think of the middle of difficulty?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Not so Ordinary Middle: { Day 7 }

Okay, it's Friday and almost the culmination of the first week of Loving the Middle Space, so I decided to take the thought for today as inspired from my typical Friday link up at The Gypsy Mama. The topic for today is Ordinary. I need a few minutes of unedited writing bliss, so here goes.

Go:

There's a lot of things ordinary about the middle time we're all bouncing around it. Aside from ordinary, there's also mess. We (I) might think mess = bad. It can, but it can also be a pathway to discovery.


Sloppy Joe's. I never was a big fan of the name or the dish. Well, several years back, I spent a little bit of time hanging and living with my cousins, and they put a spin on it because it reminded them of my last name. It became a running joke...and all of a sudden..wolah! It reinvented my love for the dish and the sloppiness.

What is unordinary about the middle space? The fact that grace and mess go hand and hand. It's a beautiful picture of turning something that once was filled with ash into something beautiful, and churning and producing love where it once was without.

Stop.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Story Days: Why I like (?) the Middle Space { Day 6 }


 "When it comes right down to it, of course, it's always been in the interim. We've always been in the middle space, the yearning and groaning..."
"And if we're honest with ourselves, if the armor is off and the castle has crumpled, we feel the ache of the meantime." -shauna niequiest


This was a small snapshot in her gem of a book, but it was a major take away for me. Why?
Shauna Niequiest can tell a good story. I feel like I talk about the same books on here for awhile until I wear them out like an old pair of jeans, but I guess that's what some stories do to you. You feel them in your bones and they move you. They aren't the kind that shout "this is going to change your life," they just come in slowly and subtlely and start to press on areas you hadn't given time to before.

This middle part of the story, like I've said before, is something I've explored and tried to make sense of in my head, but never been too crazy about. Even in my writing. I understand now that I'm more of the engineer type (not of buildings, but of stories and thoughts), someone who likes developing ideas and taking them somewhere.

I even like endings (which we'll do more with later).

I'll write endings because they are conclusive, they are sensible, and they complete a journey. Even when loose ends aren't tidy in my own life, at least I can write down an ending, and go from there. "Fill in the middle later," I used to say, and that works for me.


But Cold Tangerines got me thinking. Right now, we are in the middle. I might try and write endings, but my own middle is bleeding through. Hoping for a voice.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Directions: It's All Just Details {Day 5: 31 Days of Loving the Middle Space}

Yesterday, we talked about how God is going somewhere with his story.

I like directions because I like to know where I'm going. However, a lot of times I have traveled places where I know my final destination point, but I take a bit of a round-about way to get there.

In those cases, I often want to turn back mid-way through my trip. Sometimes I don't take directions with me because I think I know the place backwards and forwards, and then something will stop me up, like a detour, or the fact that I'm coming from somewhere all together different. Or, it'll be dark and raining and everything just looks more confusing because now I can't see the road and I have to remember it's the age of cell phones, and I don't have to panic. All this to get to some destination. "Well," I think, "It better be a good one."

It's times like these when you wonder if it's worth the hassel, the struggles along the way. You wonder how it's all going to fare in the end. Thinking on one of my turbulent roadside situations, what kept me going was knowing that I was going somewhere good at the end: A friend's house, my home, a party, wherever it was, it was some place inviting.

In the book How People Change, Timothy Lane & Paul Tripp write about this idea when they say, "If you want to go in the right direction, you need to know your final destination. The details of your life only make sense when viewed from the perspective of eternity."
How, then, did we make the jump from Eden to Eternity? It's a slow progression...that's where the middle space lies.


It's those times of groanings that can be difficult. The ones where you wait with anticipation and at the same time are attempting to live with abundance.

Hmm..what does this mean to you? Does it seem fuzzy sometimes ?


We'll talk more about it tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why Beginnings Count {Day 4: 31 Days of Loving the Middle Space}

Any good story emphasizes has a solid beginning. For years, I thought it was a major weakness of mine as a writer for me to get overly excited in writing beginnings. I loved coming up with ideas and just creating. But, my story fell apart after a little while. How awful...was I nothing if not spontaneous with my creations? Did I give no thought to my stories if my favorite part was merely the beginning?

Is this how God is? Is he merely spontaneous with us? A beautiful crafter of the created world, of humankind, who lets stories unravel before His very eyes like the words on my page?

No...I know God is not this way. He has a purpose to what He does, and unlike many of my feeble attempts, His story is going somewhere.

Photo via http://pinterest.com/pin/261003145/

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Clear Picture {Day 3: 31 Days of Loving the Middle Space}

So, if you've been checking in on the 31 days so far, you're aware that we're digging into this thing called the middle space.

As we talked about yesterday, there's some elements to our stories as a whole that are very good, because God says so. Sometimes, it's hard to rest in one of those, because-He-says-so answers, but perhaps there's more to it than that.  

We look around and find ways to argue with what isn't good about the world. And with each other. And with ourselves.

And there's definitely truth in that.

Rather than just turn inward and within my own story to find answers though,  I've begun to understand who I am more fully when I see the bigger story unfolding inside the grand narrative of God's story, because it's about the One that doesn't change, the One that is perfect and already knows how this beginning, middle, and end is going to go.

The story of God's people from the start was lined with brokenness, of things mired, starting from this place in His story. But it's also one of redemption. Those truths aren't so different than mine.

I can look back at the truth of His story, and it makes my own a little more clear.

Picture via discoveryeducation.com/clipart/images
Especially on days when I see things a little dimly.

*Stay tuned for a bit more on beginnings: tomorrow we'll talk about why all I ever want to write in my stories are beginnings.

How about you? What is your favorite part of stories? If you're a writer, what are your favorite parts to write? Just some thoughts to consider.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Let's start with Story {Day 2: 31 Days of Loving the Middle Space}

I want to write about Story this week. Honestly, everything about the series has to do with this in some sense, but we'll look at it in more deeply this week.
I figured the best way to talk about the middle was to start at the beginning.

All of our individual stories have a beginning, in the same way that when we look at our collective stories, there's a beginning there as well.

Do you ever stop and think about how we can't remember our beginnings? Like, our first beginnings. Not the first time we went to school, or the first time we blogged. I remember that. But, that at some point, we weren't here, and then we were. Surely, that might have been recorded for us. Our parents or caregivers might have written down a bunch of facts about our births or first years and we have pictures helping us with what that looked like (ie: He was all wrinkled! She had bleach blonde hair! He smiled at everyone he met!), but that's about all.






What's interesting to me is that all people share these initial beginnings, no matter what ends up happening in the middle. Sure, each person's beginning does look somewhat different for sure; we're all unique from the get-go. Still, our stories share a certain breath and depth to them, spurring us onward.

Onward to where our lives play out and we begin to ask, either inwardly or outwardly: what in the world am I doing here? What is my purpose?

This is not a new concept. We've been doing this for a long time. You might not be asking this question right now, maybe you have arrived.

But I have come to the conclusion that even when I think I have arrived somewhere, God keeps bringing me back to the beginning. My beginnings, and then better yet,

where He began with all of us.

and I hear Him whisper,

that was v e r y  g o o d.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Welcome to the Middle Space { 31 Days of Loving The Middle Space }

(photo credits:http://pinterest.com/pin/260965265/)

Welcome to the middle space.

This phrase might sound puzzle-like, but I think it's only a puzzle if we make it one. And it's not a mystic idea, or a promo for fixing anything going on in that belly area.
  • Recently, The Nester talked about making our topic for 31 days of change a little more specific. I took to this idea when she described choosing something like 31 days about chocolate chips instead of just "cooking." Not that cooking is a bad option, but chocolate chips are much more fun. However, all I really do with chocolate chips are eat them straight out of the bag. :)
  • I decided to make my first topic of love a little more specific. I have some books and old writing of mine that made me think of the idea of the middle space. So I thought, why not spend some time digging through what this means and how it applies to our lives. I like topics on story and where faith meets life. The middle space is all about how our stories intertwine with this life we're in now.
          So, I thought, let's talk about the middle space...for 31 days,

the in-between now and not yet finished time in our stories,
          which can often be a time of groanings, but also moments of love, when sorrow
          is mixed with celebration. 
I hope you'll come back and join in on this series.

Here is a list/link of posts for each day:

 Day 1: Welcome to the Middle Space
 Day 2: Let's Start With Story
 Day 3: A Clear Picture
 Day 4: Why Beginnings Count
             Day 5:  Directions: It's All Just Details
             Day 6: Story Days: Why I like the Middle Space
           Day 7: Not So Ordinary Middle
             Day 8: What Lies Underneath
             Day 9: Praying the Psalms
             Day 10: Able to Fall Apart
           Day 11: Can't Tune Out
           Day 12: Too Busy Not To Write
           Day 13: Straightening the Path
           Day 14: Catch and Release



          I'll share some of what I've learned and am learning about:

          why the different points in our journeys matter  
          why we're in the middle of our stories
          what are some challenges and practicalities to this reality  
          how to grow through the 'in between' times
        
Here's a little snapshot of why I like this kind of thing & I hope you will too:
Quoting the book Cold Tangerines, still a favorite of mine, with it's true-to-life sketches and stories:
"I want to arrive. I want to get to wherever I'm going and stay there. That's why I was such a ferocious planner of my life. But I'm learning to just keep moving, keep walking, keep taking teeny tiny steps. And it's in those teeny tiny steps and moments that I become, actually, who I am. We won't arrive. But we can become. And that is the most hopeful thing I can think of." - shauna niequiest, p.208.

Friday, September 30, 2011

On Friends.

It's Friday! That means Linking up with TheGypsyMama and the others for five minutes of writing bliss. The topic for today is one of my favorites. I could write and write on this one, but I'll spare you for now:). It's 'On Friends.'

The years keep piling up since I have seen many of my friends, the ones I would spend everyday with in college, and the ones I'd see often enough where I grew up. That happens, people say. It gets harder when you move away. Especially when the home you go back to isn't the one you grew up in anymore and your friends are all scattered.


(me back in 2010... I'm now a Northern/Southern mutt)

We make phone calls. Write letters and cards. With the digital age keeping communication distant, it's pretty amazing: I still feel close. I can hear in their voices how things are going, try to make plans for visits. I want to see them soon, but it's hard with a big family to see when I travel. I'm determined yet to see those new babies, and to see my friends more in real life.

I guess what's important is we've found a way to make it work for now. When you keep at it even though you don't see a person, and have no idea when you will next, it makes it all more beautiful.
***

I'm glad I've had some prep for linking up, because starting tomorrow, I'm writing for the 31 days of change series and linking up with TheNester and crew. Come by and check it out!