August 17, 2012

Forty-Something

photo credit: whitelilyz.com

I have a birthday this week.

A forty-something birthday.

I really don't keep track of the exact number anymore since age is just a number anyway and forty is the new thirty and forty is fabulous and with age comes wisdom.  At least, that's what they say.  I'm not sure if any of those things are true, but they work for me, so I'm pretty much okay with turning forty-something.

However, I have to admit that birthdays do bring about some ambivalence in my heart.  It's not the number that gets me, or the random gray hairs that continue to find their way upon my head, or the fact that I consistently need stronger reading glasses.  It's not the crows feet around my eyes that lengthen and deepen with each passing year, nor is it the few extra pounds that have mysteriously crept on that I can no longer blame on the holidays, or the fact that I gave birth to two children many years ago.

No, it's none of those things that get me, no matter how frustrating and horrible those things sometimes seem.

It is the longing, though...

Oh, how the longing gets me.

Each year, around my birthday, I find myself reflecting on my journey... what the years have held, where life has me now and what I hope for in the future.  And almost always, the reflecting brings with it the longing.  Not the unhappy-with-my-life, frustrated and anxious kind of longing, but the wishful, hopeful, can't-wait-for-Christmas-morning kind of longing.  It keeps me up sometimes at night and lingers over me during the day and tempts me to become impatient and restless.

It's the longing for so much more...

More of life and more of love and more in my relationships.  More healing and growth, and the subsequent beauty and strength that comes with it.  More courage and trust, more faith and hope.  More of who God made me to be... more of my calling and place in his kingdom and more of Jesus... always more of Jesus.

Wanting so badly to see and experience what lies ahead, I'm sometimes guilty of trying to rush my journey instead of waiting on God, who usually isn't in a hurry and whose timing is often not my own.  He's much more concerned with my healing and growth than he is with the passing of time.  And though I might wish differently, He may choose to take years to accomplish something in my life and develop me for his purposes.

So, for my birthday, give me patience for the journey, Jesus.  May I stay in you... being and resting, hoping and trusting, as you continue your beautiful work in my life.  May your plans for me gracefully unfold one day at a time, in your time.

And give me more of you, so much more of you, Jesus...

because anything else is really just the icing on the cake.

"I know what I'm doing.  I have it all planned out...  plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.  When you call to me, when you come to pray to me, I'll listen."  Jeremiah 29:11-12



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August 8, 2012

Lost and Found

I came across this passage in Luke recently and was deeply touched by Jesus' heart towards the widow, a woman living in the midst of tremendous pain and loss.

Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him.  A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said.  Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.”  
Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother." 
~Luke 7:11-17

photo credit: jsr75.wordpress.com

In my mind's eye, I imagine the widow's face is drawn, her eyes are swollen from tears and deep, dark circles surround them.  She walks slowly and clumsily beside the coffin of her son, trying to hold her head high and find the strength to press on.  Shell shocked and numbed by grief, she wonders inwardly, "How did I get here?  When did my life take such a tragic turn?  My hopes and dreams are shattered and those I have loved most in life are lost to me now.  How do I possibly carry on?  How do I find the strength and courage to live?"

And then comes Jesus.

He's walking along the path with his friends, about to enter the village.  Countless people surround him... dozens of mourners and dozens of others who just can't get enough of his teaching and life.  But though he's encompassed by many, his heart is captured by one... a heartbroken, grief-ridden, struggling woman on her way to lay her only child to rest.

Upon one look at her, Jesus instantly feels her grief and loss.  Moved by love, sorrow and a strong desire to alleviate her pain, he tenderly approaches her, lays his hand upon her shoulder, looks into her eyes with a gentleness she hasn't known since her husband died and he tells her not to cry.  He reaches out and touches the coffin that bears her precious boy and he brings him back to life.  He gives her back what was lost.

Absolutely stunning.

Jesus sees the widow.  He truly and genuinely sees her.  He feels her pain as if it was his very own and moved by love, he heals not only her son, but her as well... her broken, bleeding heart, her shattered hopes and dreams.  His tenderness, compassion, strength and power on her behalf is staggering and amazingly beautiful to me... because it's familiar.

I know this story well.  I have been the widow and I have known this Jesus.  I, too, have experienced great suffering and loss and have truly been seen by him.  He has moved with power and love on my behalf to lay his hand upon the coffin of my life and give me back what was lost.  I've been found by him and in the finding, he's healed my heart and set me free.

"You have turned my mourning into dancing."  
~ Psalm 30:1

"I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free."  
~ Psalm 119:32


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August 5, 2012

Restless and Wrestling

It's three o'clock in the morning.  I wake from a dream I can't remember and instantly feel the crushing weight of reality on my chest.  A thousand and one different concerns race chaotically through my mind.  I'm restless for the future and wrestling with the present.  Life has not gone the way I thought it would or had hoped it might and when I'm honest about that, when the truth of my journey... where I am, where I've been and where it looks like I'm headed... rushes unrestrained to the surface, I come undone.

I lay in bed for a while and try to go back to sleep but my mind won't stop churning.  My head hurts and I want to run and hide to escape the pain and quiet the noise.  In the mounting stress, I'm tempted to devise a plan to take control and arrange for the life I want.  Anything to dull the ache and bring relief.  I can't do strength and hope and faith anymore.  I just don't have it in me.

photo credits: thelevendian.com

Normally, most of the time, I'm incredibly resilient and live with a courage that surprises even me.  I can take a punch, many in fact, and still stand strong.  My husband says I have the balls (forgive the expression) that most men would envy, but that's not true right now, not in this moment.  I stumble out of bed and grab my robe and quietly head downstairs.  I sit in the darkness and pray.  I search the Internet looking for something, though I'm not sure what it is.

My brave and loving husband comes looking for me in the dark and patiently listens and holds me while I rant and rave, cry and laugh, question and wrestle, struggle and search.  The crazy hits and I'm a mess.  As he wraps his arms around me, I feel the arms of Jesus holding me tight as well and I sense him saying, "It's okay.  You can beat on my chest.  I know and understand your ache and longing.  Let it out.  Let it come.  I can handle your heart."

And after I've said my piece in a way that hardly makes sense but brings release and a soothing sense of calm, I hear the words I've been hearing for some time now...

"Be."

"Rest."

"Wait."

"Trust."

"Be."

And I know that I can have answers or I can have Jesus and all I really want...

all I've ever really wanted...

is Jesus.

"I would have lost heart unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord;  be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."  
~Psalm 27:13-14



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