Friday, March 23, 2012

Loud

Generally, this isn't a word to describe me.  I'm a fan of quiet, and its many variations.  Relaxed.  Gentle.  Whispering.  Soothing.  Loud usually isn't what I go for.  Unless it's music.  Or laughter.  Or joy.  Those I like in wild, raucous stretches.


But these days, the only things that have been loud in my life are those I'd like to mute for awhile.  Things like sadness.  Fear.  Dissatisfaction.


I try, I really do, to make the joy louder than the not-joy.  Positive thoughts.  Scripture truths.  Prayer.  Rest.  Ice cream :-).  


But my attempts to follow all the right steps, to hush up these not-joy-noises work about as well as Christian-bumper-sticker-slogan bandaids.  They don't really cure the problem.  Actually, the fact that they don't help only adds to the angst.  Makes it even louder.  Almost unbearably so.


In the moments when those other noise-makers are drowning out what I so long to hear, I must remember.  No, I have to remember this:  Sorrow's sound may last for a dark season, but it has its designated end.  And when it does, then . . . .  joy.  It will come shining and singing, like the beams of the sun as it first peeks, then blazes, laughing, into the bright blue morning sky.  Lovely.  And loud.



Thursday, March 22, 2012

Making a Little Room

Tonight, I had the delicious opportunity to reconnect with a friend over dinner.  Our time together reminded me about one of my favorite qualities in a person—a trait that this friend possesses in abundance:  the ability (and willingness) to ask great questions.  The kinds of questions that create room for meandering conversations about what we’re thinking and feeling, doubting and believing.

Our conversation uncovered, I think, one reason behind this new adventure that is shadowwonder:  I long for those kinds of conversations, and that longing is part of my DNA.  It simply will not be ignored for any real length of time.   For proof, just ask my husband.  :-) 

It’s true:  I have things to say.  But I also relish the opportunity to listen.

Obviously, I’m the one here who’s done most of the talking so far.  But I constantly find myself wanting to hear from you.  Partly to know a little about the people who are dropping by my little spot in blog-land.  (And thank you, by the way.  Your visits make my heart smile.  Really.) 

But also because I wonder whether this might be a place for conversations. And I'd like to make room for more than my own musings. 

{A sidebar:  One of the mixed blessings of blogging--beyond the sheer miracle of anyone even reading--is that I can see when a post has been viewed, and even the countries from which viewers hail.  It's definitely cool to know when someone has stopped by, and to see visitors from places I haven't even heard of.  Love, love, love that.  

But (naturally), this piques my curiosity:  Who are these kind people?  More aptly put:  Who are you?  What prompts you to visit my little blog-home?  Was it an accident, or on purpose?  What do you experience while you're here?  Do you come back, or does each day bring a new set of visitors?

While these questions cross my mind, I also enjoy the anonymity blogging affords--for all of us.  The last thing I want is for my blog-friends to feel the pressure to create some shiny, hip, photo-shopped image of ourselves (hence the omission of my name or a bio).  I don't want this to be about marketing or image (and I so see my own propensity to do just that!), so I'm wanting to resist the pressure (and the artificiality) of depicting myself in a way that will be attractive or appealing.  I want visitors to enjoy that same un-pressure.  You don't have to have a cute pic, a catchy bio, or a profound comment to be welcome here, though it's okay if you do.  I enjoy reading them.  :-) 


All of that to say, I'm grateful to have you as my guests, and I want to be a good host.  So I have mixed feelings about asking you to "reveal" yourselves.  Maybe anonymity is a good thing.}

Anyhoo . . .  despite my ambivalence . . . I’m going to follow my friend’s example and ask what I hope are a few questions you might want to answer.  Here goes:

*     What is one part of this freshly-minted spring season that you’re especially enjoying at the moment?

*     What is an adjective a family would use to characterize you?  And how would a stranger describe you?

*     What is one quality or trait you wish to possess, but don’t?

*     What’s a subject that's been flitting around your mind for awhile?  Something that you’d love to talk about? What do you have to say about it?

They aren’t quite as good as my friend’s, but maybe you’ll want to answer one of them . . . or more.  
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
First, I suppose I should start with me.  

I'm loving the redbuds this week.  They are in full bloom, and their bright color always catches my eye.  

I wonder myself how my family would describe me . . . . hmmmm . . . I made up a tough one, huh?  I'll have to think about that one.  A stranger would definitely say I'm a fast (and occasionally dangerous) walker.  I've come too close to causing a handful of near-collisions, especially when rounding blind corners on sidewalks or in hallways.

There are lots of traits I wish to possess:  an eternally cheerful outlook is probably at the top of that list; being more laid back is there too.
A surefire source of joy?  A warm welcome--definitely a smile and a hello, eye contact, and even a hug (though, strangely, I'm not likely to initiate that last part).

And I guess today's blog post pretty much says what I want to talk about today . . . . That would be you, my blog-friends.

So now it's your turn.   Go ahead.  Scroll on down, claim that empty comment box, and fill it up.

I can't wait to see what you have to say.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

shadow-sharing

I’m in the middle of my Spring Break.  The holiday is questionably titled, since the calendar says it’s still winter.  Thankfully, though, the weather has graciously cooperated.  

I’m taking full advantage—avoiding all unnecessary planning, doing a few chores here and there, dropping by a few favorite shops, walking Huckleberry the dog, and pretending my kids are on their break too (even though theirs isn’t for another 10 days or so).  For better or worse, I can’t bring myself to take homework duty too seriously this week.

I’ve also had opportunities for long, lingering conversations with a few friends—something my work schedule doesn’t usually allow.  A sort of friendship-feast, if you will, that included coffee, laughter, and a blessed absence of the distractions that come with children (though we do love 'em!). 

What makes me so grateful for these relationships is the opportunity to reflect on the brighter spots in our lives as well as our passages through shadowy places.  You know . . . grey seasons, when melancholy persists even though there’s no logical reason for it.   

This is the stretch of the road that I’ve found myself writing about quite a bit lately.  Part of me has been hesitant to do that . . . almost feeling like I should apologize for being not-perky-enough.  

The past day's conversations, though, made me rethink that instinct.

Something happens in me when I’m reminded that I’m not the only one who knows less-than-sparkling days.  As one of my friends said, such exchanges are a blessed reminder that we’re not alone as we lean into the not-yet.

And this is precisely why I’m compelled to write of my own experiences in the shadows. 

Being surrounded by stories of victory, completion, resolution, fulfillment is a blessing, but it can also trigger no small amount of angst.  It's not that I don't believe these stories to be true.  Nor is it that I don't want to celebrate them.  Quite the contrary:  such stories bolster my faith, offering a glimpse of a loving God palpably weaving His mercy into the lives of those I love.  Hearing my friends tell of their experiences is no small honor; celebrating alongside them is, I believe, a sacred act.

Even still, there's a fearful loneliness that comes with thinking I’m the only one whose view is eclipsed by clouds from time to time.  But when I recognize a similar shade of grey in a friend's experiences, there comes a deep comfort that I find equally sacred.

For me, hearing and sharing the stories of shadow-wandering brings profound solace, even healing.  Not because of a bolt of insight, or a pearl of wisdom.  

No, not at all. 

Instead, comfort comes in the welcome reminder that I'm not alone.  That we are not alone.  That these heaven-bound journeys do, after all, call for us to make our way through an earthly existence that is, by definition, imperfect.  

That the grey is not an indictment, but something to be expected.

So, if sharing my own not-yet moments allows even one beam of Hope-light to fall on someone else’s path, if it allows another shadow-wanderer to know the wonder of peace . . . well, then it’s well worth the risk.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We are not defeated,
but we are surrounded by troubles;
we do not give up hope,
but we are confused, perplexed, frustrated;
We are not destroyed,
but the ache is real.
God does not leave us,
but we do taste the torment of the earth-life.

We are earthenware jars, 
common, fragile.
But His light shines in our hearts,
relentlessly, perpetually, unfailingly.
 Eternally.




Sunday, March 4, 2012

JOY*HOPE*WAIT*PATIENCE*WAIT*HOPE*JOY


I’ve always thought of HOPE as JOY’s synonym or perhaps a close cousin.

Being called to HOPE-fullness means being of good cheer.  Optimistic.  Unfazed by the potential for pain.  Able to see the half-full glass.  Willing to celebrate the silver lining, no matter how delicate its glimmer.

My attempts at such HOPE are, at best, meager.  Paltry.  Characterized by less-than-JOY.

Maybe because someone forgot to say this: 

A call to HOPE is a call to WAIT 

for a need to be met;
        
             for a dream to be realized; 

         for a goal to be accomplished;

for a destination to be reached.

And a call to WAIT is a call to be PATIENT.

When I imagine the face of patience, I see a smile both gentle and understanding.  I think of warmth.  I think of certainty.

The patient face I envision reflects no acquaintance with pain.

(Patience.  So lovely to encounter in others.  So difficult to demonstrate myself.)

Yet its Latin root, “pati,” doesn’t reference gentleness, or warmth, or certainty.

To be patient is to be familiar with PAIN.

Which is what we taste when we are called to WAIT; asked to drink deeply from the cup of incompleteness; summoned to lean into the life of not-yet. 

One day, all this will be eclipsed by JOY when the need is finally met, the dream is finally realized, the goal is finally accomplished, the destination is finally reached.

One day, we’ll no longer need to HOPE, or to WAIT, or to taste the pain of PATIENCE.

One day.

=====================

The stretch of not-yet can be lonely and frightening.   But knowing there are others who are waiting for completion can make the journey less daunting.  And lifting up the hopes of others who are still on-the-way can give purpose to our waiting.

So, if you like, name your hope below, knowing that I'll join you in praying for the joy that comes will hope's fulfillment.