Monday, April 29, 2013

Keeping in Step

"How have we kept in step with the Spirit during this transition?" That was the question we were supposed to answer in a brief sharing time last week at the Cru day of prayer.

I'll be honest, my first response was, "The phrase, 'keeping in step with the Spirit' has not crossed my mind at all during this transition. Does that mean I haven't? And how would it go down if I just got up there and threw that out as my opening line?"

And to more honest, I was a little afraid. Afraid that if I got up there and shared how much I've struggled with holding fast to God in this transition, I would be the odd man out.

But I wasn't. We were the last to share that day, and the encouraging thing was that everyone who got up front talked about how they struggle to keep in step with God. By the time I got up there, I knew I was among friends.

Even better news is that I DO see how I've been trying to keep in step with the Spirit during this transition. For me, it's meant learning to slow down, stop trying to figure things out on my own, waiting for His direction, and responding in obedience.

But the thing that encouraged me the most that day was something from one of the other speakers. He talked about being expectant. I have been in the habit recently of starting my day by saying, "Ok God, it's you and me. In it together. I know you're at work. Show me what to do, and I'll do it." All good. Good stuff. Good way to start the day. But I realized that I can do that, and yet not really expect God to do anything. Or maybe just expect not much. So I've been trying to do that this last week, to go beyond, "I'm willing" to "I'm expectant."

What are you expecting Him to do today?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bread Upon the Waters

This afternoon I had the opportunity to share a few thoughts about our transition at our World Wide Day of Prayer. It should be noted that until last night, I was imagining the WWDOP here the way it happened in previous years - about 40 of us in a basement sitting around tables. It was good for me to know, at least somewhat in advance, that we would be speaking in front of ALL the staff of Cru. Good thing public speaking is something I enjoy!

As I shared, I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 11. I once spent a good part of a summer meditating on that chapter. If you read it, you will probably think, "Wow. Seemingly one of the more confusing ramblings of the Old Testament." But God really spoke to me through it, to the point where I wrote one of my favorite poems about it.

And THAT is the point of my story. See, I always get around to it eventually. I wrote all that to introduce the fact that - ta da! - I want to share one of my poems. You might want to read Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 first to get some context. In short, what I read from it is, "You really don't know what God is going to do. Just focus on being filled with His Spirit and being expectant, and see what He does."

Bread Upon the Waters

Blow you winds where you will
only let that it may be
upon my back pushing me onward
causing my life to be
as bread upon the waters
poured forth heedlessly
yet anchored to You

I will take no thought of it
for where I fall, there will I lie
as I am filled, therefore will I rain
Rain upon the waters
Life returning to life
Take me, fill me, cast me out
on the path of your wind
O Maker of all things.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

My Anchor

I have this picture in my head today of me in a tiny rowboat on a vast ocean. I know I've talked about boats a lot through our transition, but it's fitting - we are on a journey. So back to my rowboat - imagine me in a tiny rowboat, riding the waves, and as I look around I see nothing recognizable in any direction. In fact, forget the boat - it's actually more like a raft, Castaway style. Except unlike Tom Hanks I have not, at any point of this move, made a disemboweled volleyball my best friend and confidante. I am, thankfully, still far from that. Praise be to God.

I think we generally try to move toward life in a swimming pool. We want something manageable, something with defined edges, something with a dimension that doesn't wear us out. The walls of the pool are the roles and relationships we form that give boundaries to who we are. We can stretch out on an inner tube and enjoy.

Any kind of transition - getting married, becoming a parent, changing jobs, kids leaving home, moving across town - will affect the roles and relationships we have. They stretch our boundaries - maybe to an Olympic size pool, maybe a lake, maybe the whole big ocean. We have to learn to renavigate, to manage this different shape. We need to find those places where we can rest, to become familiar with the edges again.

And so there's me, imagining the ocean around me with no land in sight. I long for the edges, the boundaries, the things that make me go, "Oh right, this is where I am, where I belong, who I am, what I'm capable of." My temptation is to look around, paddle frantically, screaming, "WILSON!!" I find myself looking to others to tell me "here's land." I seek affirmation, acknowledgement, value, to make me feel solid again.

But the fact is, those things we think give us definition are ultimately not what define us at all. They are merely temporary boundaries, these roles and relationships God gives us for seasons. What we need, what I need, to remember, is that regardless of the size of my current situation, my identity comes from Him. He is the anchor who tells me, "I know you. I see you. You are mine. That is all you need."

And in this, transition is a gift. It's an opportunity to have all that I might depend on be stripped away, and to be called back (more frequently than I usually need) to who I am in Him. The truth of who I am in Him is a constant, grounding me regardless of the depth of water or the distance from land.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

This is assigned

"How accurate are these things?"

"Umm . . . the box says 99%."

"So it could be wrong. Right?"

"I think that means it might say you aren't, but you really are. Not the other way around."

So began our parenting adventure nearly 14 years ago, just months before we planned to head overseas to live long term. I have to say, it wasn't the most thrilling moment of my life. In fact, I was stunned. I gave serious thought to the possibility that God had made a mistake, like maybe he took his eyes off me for a second and then looked back and said, "Oh, hey, are you pregnant? Oops."

Yes, I know, theologically unsound. Pretty sure God never says "oops." So I spent that summer pondering how on earth this could really be good timing in light of all I hoped to do that fall in China. God led me to Psalm 16:5-6, "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup. You have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Surely I have a delightful inheritance."

Those verses said told me God is two things - sovereign, and good, therefore me being pregnant at that time was from the hands of a good God who knows what he's doing. That was hard for me to accept at the time, but I grudgingly said, "Ok God, show me how this is good" and he said, "Challenge accepted" and proceeded to blow my mind with his awesomeness. True story.

Those verses came back to me over and over again through the years. It was in little moments, like when I stood on the street corner with my 3 month old, hailing cab after cab because each one I called was snaked by a stranger, and I repeated to myself, "This is assigned. This is assigned." It was in big moments, like when we were suddenly asked to move to Singapore and leave all that we had come to love, "This too is assigned."

Sometimes I can look back and see so clearly how it was God who intervened and made things so much better than I planned (hello, Ethan). Other times I am still left wondering, but that doesn't mean they didn't accomplish what he wanted.

I've been mulling those verses again lately, realizing that I haven't been as conscious as I'd like to be, or need to be, of God's hand in the details, great and small, of my life. Something changes in my heart when I settle on the fact that nothing will come today without God's permission, without his promise to use it for good, without his commitment to be in it and above it. This is assigned.

Monday, April 8, 2013

I Quit Pinterest

I quit Pinterest.

Seriously, I did.

I realized that after looking at Pinterest, I would have this vaguely uneasy, discontented feeling, like maybe my health, my house, my relationships, and certainly my parties, were all a little lacking. Sub-par. Less than awesome.

True, I've found some great recipes there. I'm currently looking at what is a highly satisfying DIY project of ceiling medallions adorning my dining room wall, thanks to a pin I saw (but FYI ceiling medallions are NOT inexpensive unless you can magically find them at a salvage yard or something). I have new ideas for exercising. I have been amused by some e-cards.

But what I've found, and I'm finding all over the internet actually, is that we all seem to be striving for just a little bit more, just a little bit better. And we don't just strive for it, we have to put it out there that we're striving for it. And sadly I think that generally produces one of two results, at least it does in me: either a zealous attempt to keep up with the Jones who appear to produce fabulous non-processed organic meals for their continually-improving-through-homemade-activity-children and going on meaningful dates with their spouses while maintaining rock hard abs, all in their chemically free, Pottery Barn inspired yet DIY decorated homes, OR, it makes us want to throw in the towel.

Me - I'm doing the latter. It's not that I don't want some of those things. I just want them not that much. Not so much that I make them my god. My idols. That's what I find happening in my heart when I sit and stare at page after page of what I could do, what I could be, what I could have. I am sure there are people out there for whom Pinterest is nothing more than a fun way to gather ideas and grow, and that's great. For me, I have to go back to my word of the year - content - and own that Pinterest is one of those things that stands in contradiction with it.