A Lantern of Hope

Several days ago I asked God to show me how he is working in my life. As you could probably ascertain from my last blog post, I’ve been having a hard time seeing this. Being able to admit what I did in the last post is one of his answers and then something that happened yesterday, which I now share:

All day I was feeling the pointlessness of my existence. This wasn’t situational, necessarily.  It wasn’t a “big day,”  other than the rambling, normal celebration of a friend’s birthday. I had spent all day with these friends chatting, eating, staring off into space, being entertained by their children, taking photos with my cell phone…

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Existential Absence

Raise your hand if you want to talk about loneliness!

No?

Me neither. In fact, until this morning I would have responded to the topic with a smile and shrug. “I’m not dealing with that issue right now.” For a few weeks now I’ve had that thought several times, to my own surprise. Who doesn’t feel lonely sometimes?

Apparently not me. Cool.

Then this morning, as I was beginning to question this unexpected sturdiness, I opened up the book I’m reading, The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. In the chapter, Ministry by a Lonely Minister he talks about loneliness as a gift, he looks back at loneliness and says, “The truth is so disconcerting and painful that we are more prone to play games with your fantasies than to face the truth of our existence.” He also throws out a few things we do to avoid loneliness and, reading this, I realized I haven’t been craving people because I’ve been keeping myself so busy. Work, books, movies… even cooking and cleaning keep me distracted…

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Better Than I Deserve

I‘ve been wanting to write this post for a few weeks, but I am not sure how to word it so that it conveys the joy, gratitude, elation, and shock I feel.

Last year while studying so constantly I went without a lot of things. In fact, there was one point when I didn’t have enough money to buy food and when I asked God what was up with this,

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he said, “I want you to be hungry.”
I was hungry most of last year. Hungry for a lot more than just food; hungry for a sense of home, for clothes (everything had holes), for technology that didn’t break down all of the time, for people to share what I was learning with…. there were a lot of things I was hungry for last year.

At the beginning of this year God began to teach me how to really receive his love. Maybe I should have known this already? Maybe it will take all of my life? Wherever you stand on this idea of receiving love, it seems to be something that I’m often learning, but this year it has been much more concentrated….

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The Chaos Theory

Just one more day left in the great state of Washington.

I could let my current state of broken exhaustion speak to whether the time here has been “successful,” but I’m not sure that it should. We’re big fans of simple summaries. “How was your trip?” “It was good, thanks for asking,” or “Oh man, it was bad, glad that’s over.”
It’s unkind to get mad at people for asking this very generic question as they pass you in the hallway but I have never found simple summaries easy. I need to talk to several people who are willing to listen to me ramble for a while as I figure out what just happened before I can feel comfortable with this one or two sentence response.

I had a good day of realization on Sunday. I had just spent several days doing nothing because of some intense neck pain and I had a “support raising lunch” to be a part of after church. During church the pastor talked about our false selves and how the goal is to lay those down, let God work on us and learn from him about our true selves. I hear that message with my life. I have always felt this sureness that no matter what the social standard is, I will likely not measure up, so the best thing I can do is combat my need for approval with total honesty and an appropriate level of vulnerability. It’s a bit like shock therapy for my false self and it keeps me trusting in God’s love and goodness

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The Cycle of Surrender

There are predictable stages to my cycles of growth. Unfortunately several of these stages are so disorienting that each time they occur I feel like Alice sliding down the rabbit hole. And they are only predictable in retrospect. I guess that means they aren’t predictable, but identifiable.

I get lost in my head sometimes. Some places are dark and foreboding. Some thoughts are loud and overbearing and sometimes they lie.

I don’t mean that I “hear voices,” but my own voice, or the echoes in my memory of things other people have said- sometimes these become more vivid than the real world around me….

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Here With Me

For a while now I have been feeling… for lack of a better word… desperate. This isn’t the only thing I’ve been feeling but it has been a pervasive emotion. This morning I woke up early, my will overpowering the desire I had to just keep sleeping and while I was going about my usual routine to get ready I was mentally standing before God with my shoulders bowed and my hands lifted up.

“Help.”

“Help me, God.”

“Be here, God.”

This prayer to ask God to “be here” is a little funny because where is he not? Every time I pray this (and I pray it a lot), I end up amending my prayer to say, “God, give me the grace to be here with you.”….

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For You, For Me

Today begins the first day of  “fall break”. It’s just a week before diving into the 3rd quarter of SBS but I think it will be just right… just a bit of time to catch up on sleep, stare off into space and do something fun before diving into the Old Testament prophets.

The last week was pretty interesting. Before this week I had gone through a lot of emotional ups and downs but it wasn’t until this week that I felt “breakdown” looming. Yesterday, at (what felt like) the end of my rope I had a kind of epiphany; breakdown and breakthrough look very much the same. Sometimes they are the same.
So yesterday, after very little sleep because of an unhappy stomach I got up around 6am and just went directly to the classroom. I talked to God a little, made a cup of tea and got started on what was a ridiculous amount of homework. Every minute of that time was a battle to keep working. If you can imagine me bleary eyed, sitting before my charts with a pained look on my face- almost getting up out of my seat every five minutes to walk away, but then pushing forward with decidedly irresolute determination.
A few nice friends came in at different points and gave me encouragement.
Push. Push. Push. I actually asked God several times, “Should I keep going?” and He said, “Keep going.”

Then I got to 2 Samuel 7….

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For Freedom

I have found an important clue to my life in the first 5 books of the Old Testament.

Let’s just ponder the Israelites. They spend 430 years in slavery in Egypt. They multiply while being oppressed. We’re not talking a little light name calling, we’re talking horrible physical labor with guards who have weapons to keep people in line. Then they are delivered from slavery by God through Moses and Aaron. The Hebrews at this time have all grown up in slavery in Egypt. They had likely heard stories about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, but they may have been like distant fairy tales that meant nothing in the reality of daily toil.

So here God is through Moses with PLAGUES. Pharaoh finds it easy enough to not believe, but this guy is king and thinks himself to be a god.
The Hebrews, on the other hand are just watching while all this crazy stuff happens. Then they are ejected from Egypt and on the road. THEN God parts the Red Sea in front of them (not a puddle), while simultaneously keeping the Egyptian army (who was chasing them by this time) from reaching them. Then He destroys their enemies by allowing the Sea to fold in on them.

All that, plus a lot more, and what do the people do? They complain….

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How the Mighty Fall

Yesterday I woke up and felt ready. Unlike many of the days in this last week, I woke up feeling prepared to take the day by the reigns and get things done. I think partly because Saturdays tend to be more rewarding days and because all of the work is followed by a day off.
Who knows why I woke up feeling prepared, but it led me to work out and then high tail it to the classroom. There was a lot to be done.

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Looking back on the day, I think the feeling of preparedness was mainly a head trip. It was a pretty good head trip until things started to go wrong. The class computer wouldn’t get online. Then once I got it to go online, it wouldn’t connect to the printer so that I could print out all the work I had to work on. Thankfully a staff person came in earlier than usual and helped me figure out how to connect my laptop to the printer…. but then this process also took a while because I had to install drivers.

And the clock was ticking….

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Wake me up inside

Last night I watched the movie Amazing Grace with a few friends.
I heard about William Wilberforce during the school I did last fall on communications and I am again moved by his dedication to fight injustice… and keep fighting when it seemed too few were listening.

After the movie and while waiting for my laundry to dry I was thinking about this passionate abolitionist and, as

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usual, pondering what I will be when I grow up. I made some steps forward this week by letting go of some responsibilities that were not ‘the thing’  so that I can be freed up to for whatever ‘the thing’ might be. At the same time I have been totally exhausted and realizing that wherever I go I always end up having more people in my heart than I have energy to effectively walk with.
So I need boundaries and I need to stay really close to God who sees it all and knows for whom and how much I should be poured out….

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