Tag Archives: trust

God of the Great Wall

I entered the final session of the final day, closing out my season of pursuing the Lay Counseling Certificate at the Allender Center. Group had ended in a profound way for me. Deep insights and keen observations by fellow members left me feeling settled and seen and incredibly grateful for the experience. There had been much goodness leading up to the arrival of these fast-approaching, fleeting, final moments.

Transition from the small group room to the large group area a floor below was quick. I needed to be present and on time for the final gathering around tables. Amidst chatting and ducking into the restroom, I instinctively grabbed my phone for a glance at the screen shots I had taken when I woke up that Sunday morning.

Facebook reminded me of where I was six years ago on that day. Did I want to share what was stirring with the others around the table?

Six years earlier, I had stepped out of my comfort zone and agreed to a trip to China with my sisters and three other women. Together we shared and experienced and grew. I brought back meaningful memories along with the souvenirs displayed around my home. They became part of my eclectic decor.

I had walked on the Great Wall at the end of a challenging trip where I faced many fears and insecurities and learned more about myself and my limits. Led by a local guide, I was instructed on how to pose and jump for this picture.

Following his instructions, trusting what felt counterintuitive, the shot became one of my favorites from the trip. Touristy? Of course. Fun? Absolutely. It popped up as a Facebook memory, as well.

I decided to risk sharing what was in my heart with those who had shared so much with me. The goodness that was spilling over was hard to contain. Passing my phone around I began,

This is where I was six years ago today. I was walking on the Great Wall of China with a Chinese man guiding me just as I have had a Chinese man leading me in group this year. In fact, their names are the same. Just as I had to trust what I didn’t understand about taking this picture, and the whole cultural experience in China, so I had to trust what I didn’t understand about the group process and the whole experience this year. I am amazed that God knew six years ago that this is where I would be on this day six years later. He knew I would be sitting in this space around this table with all of you. And he also knew that in my group would be two other Asian men that would become like brothers. I am so grateful for this kindness. My souvenirs and decor from that trip to China hold so much more meaning now.

That Sunday morning I felt seen by God in so many ways on so many levels. While my head knows that God always sees and knows me, my heart does not always feel it. In that moment I felt seen by the God of the Great Wall, the One who knows where I will be six years from now even when I cannot see. I can trust in the God of Miracles who met me in that space and is still with me now. I can trust and remember the goodness.

 

 

Butterfly Blessing

Choosing to leave my phone behind, I climbed to the middle of the back bench seat in the family minivan. Silencing the what if’s in my head surrounding all of the things that I could possibly need it for, the answer remained leave it behind.

I don’t even need it for pictures.

Late Father’s Day afternoon, Steve packed a cooler and announced his desire to visit Riven Rock Park. With seven of us going, the van was full. I chose to give my front seat to the eighteen year old who had spent many years wedged in the very back middle between the car seats of younger siblings.

Everyone scurried to find swimsuits, water shoes, and towels. Transitioning from house to vehicle was a challenge. While moving beyond struggling with car seats, diaper bags, and sippy cups, we now wrangle electronic devices, headphones, and seating arrangements. Somehow we survived the final painful push, and the house and van doors were shut and locked.

Upon arrival at Riven Rock, the van was emptied and the water filled with laughter and voices of siblings. Sunshine poured through the trees, and shadows lengthened. I walked down to the water, stepping gingerly from rock to rock, hoping to achieve my goal of staying dry as I meandered across the top of the water.

Meandering took me back to shore and up the length of the gravel drive, deeply engaged in thought. Without an electronic device to distract and pull me into what other people were doing or to announce to other people what I was doing, I was left with myself. This felt uncomfortable and unsettling. What am I doing?

It’s the question I get most often, these days. What are you doing now? or What are you doing next? 

The answer is I just don’t know.

Walking and wrestling with the unknown, I felt gravel crunch under my feet and heard birds sing in the trees. I asked Jesus to meet me in this space with what I needed, not even knowing what I needed myself. I walked and watched.

My eyes caught sight of something blue and papery on the ground. Once my mind registered that it was a butterfly, I thought it was wounded or dead. Closer examination revealed that it was resting while slowly moving its wings up and down. I stood still, breathing with the movement of the wings in, out, in, out.

The butterfly was not in a hurry to get anywhere. My mind raced to regret that I had not brought my phone to capture this moment of breathing with a blue butterfly that was being so still for so long without an injury. Then my focus shifted to capturing the present moment of stillness with it and reminding myself that it was enough to be just me with the butterfly without the entire world watching or even knowing about it.

The butterfly remained still before finally flitting upward and away towards the trees. I stood in awe and gratitude for what I had experienced in the moment. The practice of breathing and stillness and presence with a beautiful creature clothed in a color that I had never seen before was a gift.

Moments later the blue butterfly returned, alighting just in front of my feet. I peered down closely, trying to memorize its brilliant coloring and beautiful shape so that I could look it up and identify it later. Again, I matched my breath to the slow movement of its wings.

Is this what you had for me today, Jesus? The reminder to slow down and breathe? The knowledge that it is enough just being with myself and with you? The practice of stillness?

Suddenly the butterfly flew up from the ground, touched my forehead and flew away. I stood there stunned. It felt just as a butterfly kiss should feel, light and feathery and stunning. It felt like a butterfly blessing.

I was stunned and stood there in awe.

The butterfly returned a third, and final time. It landed again on the ground in front of me, just as my husband was walking up from the water. I imagine it looked odd to him to find me standing strangely still staring at the ground. I pointed at the blue butterfly, and he was able to glimpse it before the beautiful creature flew up and disappeared into the trees.

There is no picture. (The one at the top of this blog is a Monarch butterfly from my files.) There is no documentation. I cannot even identify the butterfly correctly from the images I find online. All that remains is the image in my mind. That has to be enough. I will trust that it is enough.

Ending Well

February 23 is when I first dared speak it. I was at an extra-curricular fair at the high school and connected with a safe sister who teaches there. I knew she would hold my words in confidence while holding me accountable to them. I had spoken them to my husband the day before.

I’ve made the decision to leave Good Shepherd at the end of this school year.

It felt terrifying, yet I knew I was the only one who could make the decision. No one else could do it for me. I needed to use my own voice. Hearing that voice speaking the words aloud stirred a mixture of fear and peace, confidence and uncertainty, joy and sorrow, relief and grief.

There was So. Much. Ambivalence. attached to the decision to end my teaching season.

There were nudges in the direction. I had agreed to two years when I signed on to return to the classroom. This was year four. There were changes going on in my world both internally and externally. There was little margin for the best with all of the good I was doing.

Wrestling with the decision was hard.

It was hard to imagine leaving the students and other teachers whom I dearly loved.

It was hard to imagine finding a replacement for my income.

It was hard to imagine walking by faith and not by sight. It was terrifying, but I knew it was time to step out.

I don’t know what’s next, but I know what’s now.

I penned these words in my journal the weekend I composed a resignation letter.  I turned in the letter on Monday morning, and then spoke in person to those I knew needed to hear the words directly from me, not in a memo or through the grapevine. I let them feel their feelings while I felt mine, not rushing through or trying to fix. It was so hard.

Again I wrote,

There are so many feelings inside. So much stirring. With the end of this chapter in sight, I need to be attentive to what is required to attend to the hearts around me and finish well. I am trusting what God has in store for me as good.

Last night was rough when the lights went out and things were still. I began to wrestle with the reality to end my time at Good Shepherd and with adulthood. What about all of the unknowns? Will you be there, God? Of course you will! How can I not trust that you have been and will be?

Holding my decision until an official word from the school office was released was challenging. I longed to write about my version of The End, May’s theme for Red Tent Living, and process on my blog, but the timing wasn’t right. I wanted to honor the timing.

I am glad that I did.

The day that the student intent letter went home with the information that I would not be the classroom teacher in the fall, there were many big feelings from small people, some of whom I had taught for all four years due to the nature of our program. There were feelings from adults, as well.

Today my students found out I am not returning next year. There were lots of feelings and emotions. Next week will be long. I need to trust.

There is much to ponder and process still about how that final week went. It was long. It was good. It was full. It was kind.

It is finished.

Because

Because you are my Shepherd, I have all that I need.
You allow me to rest in beauty.
You guide me in peace.

You renew me when I am weak, direct me to where I must go.
You are close when I feel afraid.
You protect and comfort me.

When I am surrounded by enemies, you prepare for me a feast.
You anoint my head with oil.
You overflow my cup with blessings.

Your goodness and love are not only available, they chase me down.
You are with me all my days.
You take me to live in your house forever when those days have passed.

Forever.

Because you are my shepherd.

 

Not Behind

I am not behind, though it feels that way.

I am right where I am supposed to be right now.

This is what I am supposed to be doing.

Today that looks like still being in lounge wear at 3:17. No condemnation. The voices try, but I choose to refuse to listen. At least in this moment.

Day two of Christmas break has been a full one. Somehow I passed enough kitchen skills along to an eleven-year-old that she was able to mix up the gingerbread cut-out cookie dough by herself while I drove her brother to practice saxophone with Grandpa.

When I returned, she was ready for her little sisters to join her in rolling and cutting out Christmas cookies. I mixed up another batch for the inevitable, Can we make more?, but I did not have to be involved with any rolling out or cutting. I only had to slide pans in and out of the oven.

I did have to listen to conflict which just about did me in. I let them resolve it, though, and things were fine.

Not behind.

I messaged with a friend who is in a similar-yet-different season of hard, because the hard doesn’t have to look the same to struggle through it together. Just like our cookies didn’t all look alike coming out of the cutters or out of the oven.

Christmas cookie theology? Don’t worry. I’m not going there.

But wait. The crumbly broken deliciousness. . .nevermind.

So I am writing this mainly for myself and the ambivalent struggle I am currently having with my words. Feeling paralyzed about writing anything, because I feel so behind in life, I choose to combat that you’ll never catch up lie (or actually truth, because I won’t) and just jump in.

Hence, being right where I am supposed to be.

And the real thing about that is I am here now.

Sun comes up and we start again. ~ Mason Jennings

Anchor Me

Anchor me.
Tether me.
Bind me to your heart.
Lead me to the higher rock.

I feel the drift.
I’m drifting.

As you hold me together,
I am held.

As you sustain me each day,
I am sustained.

Yet I struggle.

Please calm my heart
as it races and wrestles
your work in my life.

You are not far from me, God.
You are here.

You are with me, Creator God,
Lord of my life.

You are the potter ~ I am the clay.

Throughout the disruption and disrupted,
You rule.

This hymn from my IFB roots has been playing in my head, lately. This is the only video that I could find with lyrics, so that you can actually understand the words. Enjoy!

Provision

I am resting in it. Confident that what has been started will be completed, this is where I talk about how God is faithfully supplying my needs and wants and making a way for me to get to Seattle four times during the upcoming school year.

I asked my friend Angela to close out the Go Fund Me account this week. After being open for a month, it reached $935, thanks to many generous friends and family members. $2,435 came in off-line in the form of gift checks, birthday money, and creative saving.

I appreciate the awareness  that the Go Fund Me account brought to my desire and also the boost that it gave to my educational savings account. I also appreciate the fact that I am able-bodied and can work to make and save money to add to the amount. I feel abundantly blessed and encouraged that so many took an interest in a longing and dream of mine and felt led to offer financial support to help make it happen.

At the same time, I know that there are many other needs in our circles and communities, and it seemed like the right time to end a formal fund-raising campaign once I knew that there would be enough to cover tuition expenses. Travel and lodging will fall into place. Those are the next steps to take.

Some of you have asked or been curious about how funding is going and how to help. If you wish to contribute, or were planning to before I closed out the account, you can still write a check directly to me. I will deposit any donations into into my education fund account. 

I hope to keep the blog updated with progress on a monthly basis. At this time I have $3,370 set aside in an account for the $4,000 tuition that will be due over the course of the year. I plan to continue to add to that with money that Steve and I budget and that I raise or earn in other ways. Travel expenses will come from that. I have contacts in Seattle willing to help with housing if dates and times line up.

To all of my blog subscribers who received the preemptive note to self that was accidentally published, this is the post you were looking for. Not this.

In God’s kind timing, however, I needed to read that post as I wavered and waffled on the VBS fence, yet again this year. I am constantly surprised by the way He works. I plan to do preschool kid-vid again.

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