One Question I Ask Myself Before I Pray for Clarity

She runs past me on my way up the stairs, shouting over her shoulder, “I know it isn’t true, but I’m going to prove it to you.”

She heads out the front door to the yard and waves her arms up toward the sky. I continue up the stairs and when I get to my bedroom, there are her sister and brother at the window, one holding an iPad. Over their shoulder I notice our address is typed into the map app, the camera zoomed in to an aerial view of our cul-de-sac. I’m starting to catch on.

One Question I Ask Myself Before I Pray for Clarity

They stare out the window at her down below, then back to the screen in their hand. Window, screen. Window, screen.

“Okay, you’re right,” he calls to her through the window. “I can’t see you.”

If only all arguments were so easy to resolve. If only all we had to do when we are unsure of something is to run out to the front yard and wave our arms to confirm, no, there isn’t a camera in space video taping us at all times.

Well, there may be, but this image on Google Maps isn’t evidence of it.

Praying for Clarity

Clarity is one of those words I’ve used in prayers for many years, one I’ve held onto like a tattered lovey, a comfort when things seem dark. I’ll be alright if I could just get some clarity.

In nearly every major and sometimes not-so-major decision, I’ve prayed for clarity. Once when that didn’t seem to work, I even Googled how to make a decision. But lately, every time the word comes out of my mouth, I hesitate. I’m realizing for me, clarity can be a nicer word for control. If I could just see the future, I could make a good decision about this part of my life.

I say I want clarity and what I mean is I want to have a peaceful feeling about this decision. I want to know the right answer, to know I’m making the right choice. And I desperately want to take out all shades of gray when it comes to making this decision, want clear lines and long views and big pictures. I can become so focused on making the right choice that I forget to acknowledge what a gift it is that I can make a choice at all.

Before I Pray for Clarity

I forget to receive the gift of grace, to remember how Jesus is with me and has made my heart his home. I forget I can trust him with my life and trust myself to choose well regardless of how unclear things may seem.

I’m not saying I won’t get peaceful feelings or right answers eventually, but when I make those first things instead of second things, decision-making becomes a lot more frustrating.

And that conversation in John 14 comes rolling over my soul, when Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going so how can we know the way?”

The most logical response of Jesus should have been “I’ll show you the way, I’ll show you the truth, I’ll show you your life.” We would like that and it would seem loving and make sense and comfort everyone. It would comfort me.

Instead, though, Jesus simply says to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

He didn’t say, “Come to me and I’ll give you answers.” He said, “Come to me and I’ll give you rest.”

How to Make a Decision

And maybe we’ll still get the answers, maybe he’ll show us the way even while he is the way. But I think he is telling Thomas something important about life and he tells me this as well.

Jesus prayed to his Father, “Give us this day our daily bread,” but I want bread to last the month. He invites me back, again and again, to ask only for grace to last through nightfall and no longer, trusting more will come tomorrow.

One question I ask myself before I pray for clarity is this – What do I want even more than clarity?

Sometimes I can’t answer that because there’s nothing I want more than clarity. In a way, this is answer all by itself, telling me something important to know. Maybe I’m worshiping clarity rather than Christ. If I always had clarity, why would I need faith?

Faith is confidence in what we hope for.These words feel incomplete today, but I’ll publish anyway. Maybe that’s the point?

 

For When You Feel Like a Spectator to Grief: A Reflection on the Death of Robin Williams

In the quiet of this morning, before the sun comes up behind the trees in our yard, I acknowledge how very little I know. Because the pain in the world is sometimes too much to bear and our backs can bend heavy beneath it, rounding over and caving in like a tired question mark.

For When You Feel Like a Spectator to Grief  - Reflections on the Death of Robin Williams

Some losses hit you harder than others and I don’t know exactly why that is. It can be difficult to know how to process the death of someone you only know from the movies or because they’re in the public eye.

I still remember the sadness in late August of 1997 when we learned the news of Princess Diana’s car accident. As a girl, I looked up to her because she was a beautiful princess living in a fairy tale. But her life told a different kind of story than the ones I made up for her in my head. When she died, that story revealed itself even more clearly to the world whether she wished it so or not.

A few years later we were on vacation in Hilton Head when we heard about John Kennedy Jr.’s plane crash. Later that night, we went out to dinner near the harbor, the restaurant hushed in respectful shock, whispering behind the back of one of the waitresses who looked exactly like Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy.

But the first time I stood on the peripheral of public grief was walking home from the bus stop after school and my sister told me that the Space Shuttle Challenger had exploded that day. I was eight and the first thing I remember thinking was how that couldn’t be true because Christa McAuliffe was on that shuttle and she was just an ordinary teacher.

John and I went to see Patch Adams on our first real date, that time he tried to hold my hand and I wouldn’t let him because he hadn’t told me with words yet how he felt about me. So we had a long talk after the movie was over in the parking lot of the theater. Do you like me? Is this a thing between us? All with nervous chewing of twizzlers and secret dreaming of the rest of our lives.

Last night, when the news broke about the death of Robin Williams, we were watching Jumanji on our sofa with our three kids, our dog, and a borrowed kitten. I’d never seen the movie but I knew he was in it. Well, it must be good then. Of course it must.

When we turned the movie off, I checked my phone and saw the news and there was that familiar ache again, the sadness and disorientation that comes when you hear tragic, shocking news. As someone who tends to navigate the world through experience, intuition, and deep feeling, I always struggle to know how to process the loss of someone I don’t know personally.

In some ways I fear I don’t have the right to grieve a loss that doesn’t seem to belong to me, like I should keep a respectful distance from the real grief of others. But I’m not sure that’s right and I think to deny the effect someone has on your life, however small, is to lose a little bit of being human.

Robin Williams wasn’t part of my life, but his art colored the backdrop.

When someone shares their art with the world, they share a bit of themselves. And when they die, especially when their death reveals a pain that runs deep and wide and dark, you see their art differently. The lens shifts and we get a glimpse of the person beneath the actor, of the soul within the person.

And so those of us who only knew him from the roles he played will pray for those who knew him best. And we’ll consider all the sadness around the world and within our own hearts, remembering Christ who came down to heal all the brokenness, both within us and around us.

By faith, we trust he is building his kingdom even while we wait for the day when we can see with our eyes how he is making all things right again.

“As you huddle around the torn silence, each by this lonely deed exiled to a solitary confinement of soul, may some small glow from what has been lost return like the kindness of candlelight.”

-John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us

 

One Reason Why Rest Takes Courage

“Prison,” she said after sharing with me how desperately tired she was, “is starting to sound really good.”

She wasn’t in danger of being convicted of anything, unless exhaustion is considered a crime. But she was so tired that even the idea of prison didn’t repel her if it meant she could be on a mattress and read a book alone.

soul rest

Seems to me there are easier ways to get time alone than prison (Maybe a hotel? A lock on the bedroom door? Something that doesn’t involve bars?) but I knew what she meant. We laughed, shook our heads at ourselves, promised to never reveal those words to anyone because prison.

When desert islands, hospitals, sinus infections, broken legs, and jail start to sound like a vacation, you know you need to take a rest on purpose.

Today at (in)courage, I’m talking about why rest takes courage. To finish reading, join me there?

On Taking a Break From Being the Grown Up

We load up the car and drive half-way to Charlotte, straight to the crowded parking lot of a Chick-fil-A. It’s mid-July and that means it’s time for Grandy Camp. Years ago we decided this exit was the half-way point and so this is where we meet my parents, trade sleeping bags and children for an empty car and several days together, just John and me.

John and Me

Not used to this kind of spacious time, we re-aquaint ourselves with one another in the form of him taking a nap on one end of the sofa while I read a book on the other. We leave our empty house for an early dinner at a little Greek restaurant right near our house and marvel at the space and the quiet that has now descended upon us.

After dinner we go shopping for him some shirts, spend exactly 20 minutes in the store from the time we walk in to the time we leave, including dressing room time and checkout.

Man-shopping at its finest.

We browse through the Whole Foods, a place we rarely shop, and buy not one necessary thing – not one egg or gallon of milk. Instead, we leave with individual slices of over-priced dessert and a bottle of wine. We head straight to his Mom’s house to eat our fancy cake and watch Tiny House Nation on her cable TV.

When the kids aren’t around, we turn into kids a little bit.

john and meIn a way I don’t think about until later, I realize it’s good for the parents to have some time away from the kids for lots of reasons, not the least of which being so we can remember how to be kids ourselves.

And I think of how Jesus tells us grown people to become like little children, always inviting us downward with gladness, always pulling us closer to Him, welcoming us to the small places we sometimes forget to go when we are so busy being the grown ups.

“I would not choose to become a child again but I am looking to children and searching in them for a simplicity and ordinariness that makes being an adult easier to accept and miracles easier to see.”

Macrina Wiederkehr, Seasons of Your Heart

Welcoming Summer and All Her Gifts

“We stop, whether by choice or through circumstance, so that we can be alert and attentive and receptive to what God is doing in and for us, in and for others, on the way. We wait for our souls to catch up with our bodies.”

-Euguene Peterson, The Jesus Way

On Instagram, I mostly only follow people I know. But there are a few feeds I can’t resist and one of them is a farmer named Ben Hole who lives on The Isle of Purbeck, England. In the tangled trail of clicking, I don’t know where I first saw his images. But when I did, I wanted to see more.

benjaminhole instagram

screenshot of @benjaminhole’s feed on Instagram

When I’m scrolling through and see one of his shots, instinctively I pause. I stare. I recognize a longing deep within me that is stirred. For what? I’m not sure. But I like to pay attention to it. There aren’t many things on the internet that bring about this response. So when I find words, people, messages, or images that do, I hang on to them.

I hope Chatting at the Sky is that kind of place for you – a place where a little bit of frantic falls away, a place where you leave a little more calm than when you came, a place for your soul to breathe.

The summer of 2014 - chatting at the sky

To make this that kind of place, I need to take regular breaks from posting. I’ve already been posting less for the past month but slowing down isn’t the same as stopping. So I’m just going to stop for a while.

Soon my kids will be home for summer and we’ll head to the coast, spend a little time letting the sea smooth out the jagged edges that have formed within and around us, letting the salt burn the wounds, letting the sand rub off the dead skin, letting the nighttime hold us still and quiet until the first light of morning shows up with all her promises. We’ll follow the advice of Eugene Peterson and let our souls catch up with our bodies.

sunrise

We’ll skip the What I Learned in June post this month and maybe just do one big one at the end of July, perhaps a What I’m Learning This Summer link up? I’ll let you know.

While I won’t be writing here, I’ll still be writing because it’s how I know what I think about things, how I learn what’s hiding beneath the surface, how I see. Most of that writing will be private, for now. Some will be shared.

For example, new Hopeologie content will release July 1 and if you haven’t joined yet I have to say that June is my favorite collection so far. The way our words and thoughts came together with one another seemed especially serendipitous this month since our theme is hospitality.

Here is a photo my sister took of one of the prints Annie designed for June’s collection:

DSC_5726-2-753x1024

Maybe this will be the month you decide to join us as we practice embracing hope no matter how things appear in our homes, our families, our own souls. (If you join and don’t like what you see, we offer a full refund if you cancel in your first month, no questions asked. So really you’ve nothing to lose.)

I’ve been working on a Recommended Reads list for a while that I plan to send out to my newsletter subscribers. If you would like to receive that, you can sign up for the free newsletter here. Until I return to Chatting at the Sky, you can find me on Instagram, a medium I rarely take a break from. Maybe I’ll see you there.

I’ll leave you with a sampling of posts on quietness, waiting, and rest:

“It’s much easier to spend a lot of time making your microphone louder than it is working on making your message more compelling.”

Seth Godin

Here’s to long days, thoughtful words, and more compelling messages. Dear Summertime, Welcome. We’re so glad you’ve come.

For When Your Soul Needs Whitespace

With only a few days left of school, I’m planning to take some time off from writing here on the blog beginning next week. For now, I’ve started a list of things I want to do while I’m taking a break and one of the first things on that list is to finish painting the walls in our living room white. We’ve started, but we haven’t finished, as you can see here.

my living room

Having a plan to finish painting is a normal thing but it is also revealing. First, I’m making a list of things to do during my rest. 

It’s true, doing things around the house is restful for me. But I am also aware of my ability to completely waste a purposeful rest by planning it out like it’s my job. And by the time the “rest” is over, I need a rest from it.

The second, more subtle revelation is this: one of the things on my list is to paint my walls white.

It’s like my eyes are trying to tell my body – You need whitespace. But my body is too literal to speak the poetic language of the soul, so she says, Alright then, get me a paintbrush. Let’s paint something white!

And I think this will help, the white living room walls. But ultimately I need a different kind of whitespace, the kind that fills up the inside – whitespace for my soul.

When I hear the word “whitespace” I think of Bonnie Gray. I first met Bonnie at the (in)courage writers beach retreat in September 2011. I knew her a little before I met her, as I had read her blog for a while and we were both regular contributors for (in)courage. If I had to put my first impression of her into three words, it would be these: tiny, confident, faithful. Here was this little woman with a great big presence. She was like a walking oxymoron and I liked it.

Bonnie & Ann

Ann Voskamp with Bonnie Gray :: 2011

During those few days we were together at the beach, Bonnie got a call from a publisher offering to publish her first book. The publisher was Revell, the same publisher Holley Gerth and I have. And so Holley and I and all the girls celebrated together with her, right there in the beach house, as she was finally going to write her book. It seemed  to be the beginning of something beautiful.

And it was. Just not the kind of beauty she would have chosen.

Any author will tell you the process of bookwriting is hard, much harder than you think it will be for reasons you may not foresee. But for Bonnie, writing her book proved to be a trigger for childhood trauma she had yet to face, ushering her into an unexpected, terrifying time of experiencing PTSD. All while writing a book about finding spiritual whitespace.

Talk about an oxymoron.

Bonnie Gray & Ann Voskamp

As I’m reading her book, I’m getting to know a new Bonnie, someone whose confidence worked against her for a little while, as evidenced in her words here:

“I believed my faith buried my hurt in the past, but I was using faith to hide from the past . . . What’s worked for me since I was a child – staying strong, reading more Scripture, praying more fervently, exerting more self-discipline, applying greater optimism – isn’t going to solve this problem. Jesus has been whispering one phrase into my heart – follow the current downstream.

I’ve rowed my boat upstream for so long, I didn’t know if I could stop.”

Bonnie Gray, Finding Spiritual Whitespace

While our stories are different, as I get to know Bonnie, I am also getting to know myself.

purple flowers on the beach

My journal I use for morning pages (when I do them) is nearly to the end. I’ll need to start a new one soon. Flipping back to the first pages, I noticed the date: June 2, 2013.

As I read over my writing that first day one year ago, it all sounded so familiar — a longing to be united in my body, soul, and spirit in all things, a longing to move out from a secure place within, all written somewhat urgently — jagged edges and blurred focus.

I smile a little when I read it, recognizing the triggers then as I do now.

The jaggy blur doesn’t indicate a need to simply “take a break” (especially with my tendency to over-plan my breaks). It speaks of something deeper, something Bonnie addresses here:

“Finding spiritual whitespace isn’t about carving out an hour of time to escape the things that stress us. It’s the opposite. It’s getting away from everything we do to distract ourselves from all the hidden pieces — in order to nurture our soul.”

FInding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray

I’m going to keep taking this book to the pool with me this summer, keep reminding myself of the importance of whitespace, keep honoring that desire alive within me that wants to clear the clutter so that I can see what’s most important.

Bonnie Gray is the writer behind Faith Barista who wrote a book about her inspiring, heart-breaking journey to find rest, which garnered Publisher’s Weekly starred review. Her book releases today (woot!) and I’ll be following along on her journey to find rest and learning about my own along the way. You can get your own copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace here.

Why I’m Listening to Jerry Seinfeld

With barely three weeks left until school is out for the summer, many of us will begin transitioning into a different kind of daily schedule, one where the day-time agenda shifts. I will still do my work, but the pace will slow and we’ll all settle into a new kind of rhythm together.

New Rhythms

I wish I could say I glide gracefully into the summer schedule, but the truth is I limp and fight my way through this transition every year. This year I’m accepting that it will take some time to settle in to the slower pace and the constant presence of small people. But I’m also going to learn on purpose in whatever ways I can. For example.

As a writer, a part of my self-imposed job description is to pay attention to the world around me and the world within me and then to see how they connect.

I am always listening for reminders about focus, about saying yes to the right things, about remembering what I do and, even more importantly sometimes, what I don’t do. Teachers are everywhere as long as we’re willing to learn from unexpected voices. Yesterday I found a teacher while listening to an interview Alec Baldwin did with Jerry Seinfeld.

Alec points out that, with the success of his TV show in the 90s, Jerry could basically do anything he wanted to do now, be as big as he wanted to be. Here’s a peek into the conversation. (From Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwinoriginally aired October 14, 2013 on WNYC 93.9 FM)

Alec Baldwin: You could have your own channel. The Jerry channel.

Jerry Seinfeld: Yeah, but I didn’t take that bait.

AB: Why?

JS: Cuz I know what it is. I know what it is, that’s why.

AB: What is it?

JS: You can’t pull that over on me! Cuz I’ve sat in all the chairs, I’ve been in all the rooms. I know what it is. Look, Alec, you’ve been there, right?

AB: Yes!

JS: You can’t trick me into thinking…

AB: Thinking what?! Share with the people.

JS: …that that’s good.

AB: That’s not good why?

JS: Because most of it is not creative work. And not reaching an audience. You wanna be on the water? How do you wanna be on the water? You wanna be on a yacht or you wanna be on a surfboard? I wanna be on a surfboard. I don’t wanna deal with a yacht. That’s a yacht. Some people want a yacht to say See my yacht.

***

This morning, I read an article by Dr. Shelly Provost called How to Tell If You’re Following Your Calling or Just Feeding Your Ego. It’s good, you’ll want to read it, but the gist is here:

“Your ego fears not having or doing something. The lifeblood of the ego is fear. Its primary function is to preserve your identity, but it fears your unworthiness. As a result, ego pushes you harder in order to achieve more . . .

A calling expresses itself quietly, through the expression of subtle clues throughout your life. It is unconcerned with you attaining or accomplishing anything. Its primary function is to be a conduit for expressing your true self to the world. What you do with that expression is less important.”

And then, the most revealing statements from the article: “Ego needs anxiety to survive. Calling needs silence to survive . . . Listening to your life and discovering what it’s asking of you is your calling and it requires more silence than most of us are comfortable with.” (read the whole article here.)

In other words, your ego reacts to fear while calling responds to reflection. Both can be important, but the question is which is moving you forward? Which is motivating you in your work?

***

The connection of these two ideas is loose in my mind and given more time, I’m sure I could flesh it out fully. But blogs aren’t necessarily for fully-fleshed out ideas, at least that’s not what I do here. As I consider these two teachers, Jerry Seinfeld and Dr. Provost, here’s what comes to mind today.

Ego always has one foot on the shiny deck of an imaginary yacht, the promise of power and acheivement holding her strong above the water.

Calling takes off her shoes and stands barefoot on the wet top of a surfboard, where the risk of wipe out is great but so is the opportunity to ride the waves.

Here are some questions I ask to find out if I’m letting my ego get carried away:

  • Do I know I need margin but am afraid to take it?
  • Do I want to say no but am afraid of what I’ll miss?
  • Do I want to say yes but am afraid I can’t pull it off?

Ego speaks loud in the chaos — impatient, competitive, and scared. Calling rises up from the silence — focused, generous, and free.

Marking Storms and Making Choices

Fourteen years ago this week, I’m working at a local high school as a sign language interpreter. It’s morning and the bell rings to end the first class of the day.

I gather my bag just as the student I interpret for motions that she’ll meet me in the next class. Thankful for the few minutes, I make my way to the teacher’s lounge for a quick phone call. My sister is in labor and I want to call Mom who is with her to find out how it’s going.

The phone rings on the other line and Mom tells me there’s no baby yet, but soon. Just as I’m hanging up to rush to where I need to be, the principal’s voice comes over the intercom, announcing a tornado has been spotted in the area and everyone should stay put. I instinctively turn to look out the window behind me, surprised to see my own reflection staring back instead of the front lawn of the school. Outside is dark as night and it’s not even 10 am.

chatting at the sky

Later we’ll learn the storm that May morning wasn’t necessarily impressive according to the F-scale, wind gusts reaching just above 80 mph, but it still comes in as the worst the city has seen in 20 years. My drive home that afternoon is careful and filled with detours – around downed trees and power lines, the aftermath of the day the sky turned black.

My apartment wasn’t damaged and neither was my car. The school day eventually continued and my nephew, born later that day, is now almost fourteen. There isn’t any reason in particular I should still think of that storm often, but I do. Because of this.
chatting at the sky This tree in our neighborhood bears the mark of memory. I don’t know how the storm affected the person who carved the wood that day, but it was enough for them to take the time to mark it.

When I walk past this tree on the trail near our house, I think of that day still – how the principal had to make a choice for the sake of safety to keep the students inside, how the sky turned black and ominous, how we couldn’t change the weather, only try to stay out of its way.

That’s the way to handle yourself in a storm, take cover and wait for it to pass over.

But it’s possible to live like a storm is ever brewing just outside the door even when the sky is clear and bright. It’s possible to take cover even when there’s nothing to take cover from, except for a heavy idea or a recurring thought in the night.

It’s possible to live as though every move you make is an anxious attempt to avoid an unwanted consequence rather than a thoughtful decision to move toward life. And this life becomes one marked by hiding from the potential storm of loneliness, failure, isolation, invisibility, or insignificance. Take cover or the storm might overtake you.

Avoid danger. Sit under the banner of fear.

photo 3-2I’ve done that. When the kids were little I lived in fear a lot – of them getting sick and it never ending, of me getting sick and not being able to take care of them, of making the wrong decisions about where we should live, how we should school, if I should take a job or not.

When my first book came out and speaking opportunities started to roll in, I said yes more than I maybe wanted to because I was afraid of missing out on something. I also said no a few times because I was afraid I couldn’t pull it off. Fear works both ways, you see – keeps you from doing things you might want to do and convinces you that you have to do things you don’t want to do.

I still make wonky decisions based on fear when it comes to my work and my writing, my home and my life, but I’d like to think I’m doing that less.

Just two weeks ago I was wrestling through a should-I-or-shouldn’t-I scenario as to whether or not I should make a phone call. A phone call, you guys. It wasn’t something I had to do, just something I felt like I should do.

But when I took a few minutes to think about the reasons why I felt like I should make the phone call, none of the reasons were rational or good. Each one of them had to do with avoiding a consequence. If I call, then this person will be happy. If I don’t call, then this person might be mad. Love was never a motivation in this scenario. Only fear.

Storms everywhere, on every side.

I decided in that moment to do what I thought was best. I didn’t make the phone call and chose to believe whatever storm might come as a result, well. I’ll be okay. And guess what? I was.

This will probably always be something I need to walk through, making decisions out of love rather than from fear. I can’t prevent storms from coming, but I can decide not to invent my own. I like the idea of marking a storm like the tree-writer did. This happened, it was bad, and we lived through it. But I want to let go of the habit of making them.

What are your experiences with marking vs. making the storms in your life?

The Sacred Work of Sitting

The peonies bloomed last week, the sharpest white you can imagine with surprising color inside, like someone couldn’t resist trying out the  bright pink marker on that easy white canvas.

peonies

I was out of town when they came full out, teasing with their friendliness. They act all happy-like now, but they’ll only be around for a week or so. We’ll enjoy them while they last.

For the last few months, I’ve shared a little about the fog I’ve walked through. I wrote about it here (for when the fog rolls in), here (for the soul pulled in all directions) and also here (for the wannabe hopeful).

Fog is the only way I’ve come up with describing it, even though I accept these seasons are part of normal life. It’s part of growing up, too. I’m learning more about what it means to have faith without depending on certain kinds of feelings to go along with it. Sometimes faith feels like nothing.

This soul of mine has been churning the transition we’re in, turning slowly, shaking out distraction, seeing what’s leftover now that the dust has settled. Some of the identities and certainties I have held onto for years have fallen gently away.

While some seasons of change are more pronounced than others, aren’t we always moving from one thing to another, begining and ending and middling? Life is made of transition and the soul is always processing something. I do well when I remember to leave a little breathing room for the motion.

May brings along all kinds of transitions in her colorful basket – graduations, anniversaries, weddings, recitals, tournaments, performances, and ceremonies. But all anniversaries aren’t celebrations and May brings those along, too.

The simple act of sitting is becoming a kind of metaphor for me, a way to practice faith when things feel hectic, foggy, or when truth doesn’t feel true. Nothing fancy or hokey, but intentionally sitting down with the reality of the moment, refusing to talk myself out of it can bring quiet discovery of what I long for, what I fear, where my hope burns bright.

Before we move too quickly to hope, it’s important to grieve the losses, to handle them, face them, and let disappointment do its deep work.

We like to talk about celebrating the gifts, but facing the losses might be important, too. Not to wallow, but to keep company with them long enough to recognize what part they play in our story, to name them, and eventually release them in the presence of Christ.

Sit and consider what you no longer have to hold or what you’ll soon need to let go.

For example, you’re not technically a pastor’s wife anymore. How does that feel?

They don’t seem to understand. How might you be misunderstanding them, too?

He’s graduating. Where does that leave you?

She’s growing up. What are you afraid of?

He left and you don’t think he’s coming back. Is it time to let go?

The Sacred Work of Sitting at Chatting at the Sky.

Have a seat and consider the disappointments as well as the celebrations, the fears as well as the joy. Here are a few places I’ve been sitting lately.

photo 1-4 copy

I sat on this bench with a book and a journal, but I did more staring than reading. I watched the moms and babies stroll by, the workers with their good intentions toward the public bathrooms, the guy on his bike who rode without a helmet. I read a little about David, how he was both a man after God’s heart and a killer. I thought about how none of us are just one thing, but many shades of light and dark and shadows of gray, proof that we need Jesus.

Alone does good work.

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I sat in the front seat of a rented Ford Focus that I paid one million dollars to borrow for the day and panicked when I first got in because the seat was too low and I couldn’t figure out how to adjust it. How do they expect me to drive if I can’t see over the dashboard!? But then relief when I found the right button and the seat raised up and all was well.

Sometimes you sit in unfamiliar places and it takes some adjusting to get your bearings. You drive alone on unknown highways and cry as you listen to Roz Chast talk about her aging parents on the radio.

Sitting in the driver’s seat of a strange rental car, listening to other people’s stories does good work.

photo 1-4I sat here in these airport seats, waiting to board the winged, sideways skyscraper, remembering that I can’t hold it up with mind games or willpower. So instead I ate an apple and read an article about Sandra Oh leaving Grey’s Anatomy while waiting to board the bus in the air and shoot out into the wild blue sky.

Sitting on the edge of my comfort zone does good work. Especially when the seat is at 30,000 feet.
Processed with VSCOcam with x1 preset I sat for several meals across from Shannan Martin, one of my favorite writers, a gift from the internet. We traipsed and meandered through town and conversation, sitting on cement benches and vinyl restaraunt chairs, spralled on the end of white duvet covered beds.

Sitting with a friend to hear and to be heard does good work.Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetI sat in this ergonomic chair you can’t see (trust me, it was super ergonomically correct), stared out the window and had to accept that even though I came here to get work done, I didn’t want to be a relentless dictator over my soul if my productivity didn’t meet my expectations. Even while I’m doing the work of counting words and crafting sentences, Jesus just wants to be with me and this is the kind of work that means something even though I can’t measure it.

Sitting with my weakness, my obsessions, and my profound ability to twist art into achievement – this does good work, too.

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I squeezed myself onto this swing in my neighborhood during a morning walk, thought of the ways our life used to look compared to how it looks now. While some of the changes are encouraging, others are not so easy to categorize. I recognize my desire to evaluate everything even as I appreciate the mystery of being unable to. I thought of the future and the past and where my hope comes from.

The rhythm of sitting on swings does good work, a reminder that we are tethered even as we sway.

homeworkI sat with her at the kitchen table, quiet while she spells her words, frustrated over my frustration, ready for the year to end. I answered the questions I could, aware of how soon the day will come when their homework is beyond my ability to advise. She’s moving on and I can’t always go with her. But while she’s here, I’ll sit beside her.

Sitting with family does good work.The Sacred Work of Sitting

When we sit we may find answers but most likely we’ll finally hear the questions. We may uncover things we’d rather avoid, things like fear, anger, weakness, or entitlement. But we might also find courage, peace, and hope there, too. When we sit, we let what is be, we remember to release outcomes or perhaps finally admit how tightly we are clinging to them. When we sit, we let ourselves be human.

Where will you sit today?