Reminders

I'm coming out of a period of total overwhelm, the kind of overwhelm that sends you to the (hopefully unoccupied) teacher's work room to cry because too many children are talking at the same time. Where you know that everything will be ok, but it doesn't feel like everything will be ok, not at all. Where clutter abounds and even putting the sheets in the washing machine feels akin to climbing a small mountain. (Let's not delve into the effort required to move the sheets from the washer to the dryer, and from the dryer back to the bed. Those are mountains to scale another day.)

That was me last fall, and while I'm not above a good cry in a not-so-private location in a school building, I'm in a better place. Not necessarily an easier place, but definitely a more functional one.

And yet, there are still motivational mountains to scale daily, which I manage some days with relative ease and simply stare down on others without moving a muscle.

Life has felt very fragmented lately, lots of broken little pieces of glass scattered around on the floor. (So don't be surprised if most of these posts reflect a little (or a lot) of that fragmentation.) But I realized today that in the back of my mind, my hope is that writing can help me sort through the many, many pieces of life that feel like they're all over the ground one by one by one...the household clutter, the books I'm plodding through ever so slowly, the quotes that speak life to me but remain unorganized, the creative in me that longs to make beauty but can't quite get it together to make "enough."

I stopped by a friend's house yesterday on the way home from work and sat on her couch for a few minutes. What was only a short fifteen minutes of conversation directed me to talk given by Katherine Ruch, entitled "Remembering that Your Story is God's Story" (it's on iTunes if you type in her name). That small chunk of time encouraged my soul and pointed me to some life-giving words. I listened to it last night, and this simple, beautiful quote resonated with my heart:

Is anything too hard for the Lord? … God owns your story, you don’t own your story: God owns it. … If you belong to the Lord and you are hidden in Him, if you will but surrender to Him, He will make sure that your life is meaningful, and rich, and that you will be all that you were created to be. You can trust Him in that.

This is not rocket science, y'all. I've heard this before. But I forget it each and every day. 

These days I live out, one by one, are part of something bigger than myself--and thank God for that! The pieces that lie on the floor, a mess from my perspective, will one day form a beautiful, coherent tapestry (or mosaic, my jagged glass shards connected together) that displays a more glorious picture than I could imagine from my limited vantage point right now in 2017. But in the midst of these days, am I surrendering my life, my purpose, to God? Or am I living for myself and the story that I claim I will write? I'm afraid I (sometimes unconsciously) am often doing the latter.

God of our stories, may we embrace your ownership of our lives and the collection of our days, living out however much time you gift us on this earth with grace and faithfulness. Help us to wait for the things we long for with kindness. Loosen our grasp and remove our white-knuckled fingers that desperately seek to control and direct what we have no control over. May we keep our gaze turned heavenward, remembering that our stories are so much bigger than what this world knows or understands: while our days are numbered on this earth, our souls are rooted in eternity. Give us faith to trust that you withhold no good thing from us, your children, because you gave us the greatest gift of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Beginning again

It's been something like a year and a half since I last posted on this blog. Every now and then I'd think about returning and picking up where I left off, but...it's been so long. Too long, maybe. My first thought was always something along the lines of, "But we're not living in Europe anymore. I'm not going to write about going to BiLo" --though let me interject here and say there are probably some interesting things to write about that happen in any given shopping experience at that particular chain store-- "so I won't write at all."

In other words, my "normal," average, American life is, well, kind of boring, so I won't write about any of it. Period.

But that thought always bothered me, because even though something simple like going to the grocery store is much more obvious blogging material abroad, that doesn't qualify my life as unworthy of reflection and careful thought put down in words. I knew this, and I know it still, and it brings to mind the fact that my sense of the beautiful in the mundane and ordinary isn't exactly something I've been practicing.

Oh, but I want to practice it. Writing helps me to remember to notice the lovely and simple and beautiful in my day-to-day, and the noticing helps me to remember to write. It's this beautiful cycle that I vaguely remember but haven't touched in a long time. There's something gentle and soothing about it that helps me to connect the dots of my faith and my life, but I'm out of practice.

There's another issue that always popped up in my mind when thinking about returning to blogging, too: audience.

There are a lot of words in the world, and we are bombarded with information from so many different sources every day. Who am I to think that anyone wants to read my words, or even has time to? Words and images are screaming for our attention every time we open our inboxes, our phones/iPads/tablets, etc. Don't even get me started on how overwhelming Facebook is these days, with information constantly updating ("someone is typing a comment") and constant notifications (yes, I know I can manage my settings) and "your friend commented on so-and-so's photos" (but why? why do I see this when I'm not friends with so-and-so?!?). My words are pixels in the seemly endless abyss of words, words, words on the Internet.

I used to think that blogging wasn't really worth it if it didn't result in lots of comments, follows, and an audience that would tell me I was a good writer, or affirm the choices I was making, or applaud the places I had been. Now I see things differently. I know that it's ok to grow small, and that it's ok to be small. My sphere of influence may be small now, or it may always be that way. I just need a place to write about the books I'm reading, the art I'm making, and how I am growing to understand who God is and what He is doing in my life better. Maybe in the future my children and my children's children will look back and see something of a legacy in the words that point out time and time again (oh, how I hope they do!) that God has been faithful and He will be again. I need a place to declare my anthem, to find my voice, and to embrace my small-ness in a bigger-is-better world. I could do this in a journal (and sometimes I do, especially for very personal things), but I find this is a fun way to connect with other writer-friends and to align words and images in one place.

Here's to practicing gratefulness and celebrating the beautiful in the mundane, to thinking and writing, even when it's hard, and even when life doesn't seem exciting. My guess is, somewhere beneath the surface or right in front of my face, there's something worth pondering instead of dismissing. Here's to smallness and obscurity, all the while being known by a great God. Here's to fall.

Here's to beginning again.