Five Minute (Monday): Well

Gentle Reader,

Did attend the chat last week, but neglected to go and see what the prompt was, thus this belated entry.

Completely unconnected thought: I have never dyed my hair. Well, I guess that’s technically not true; one summer, several years ago, I had some low lights put in that were about two shades darker than my natural color. Wild, I know. But yesterday, I found myself thinking, “I should go blonde.” Utterly random and it 99.9% won’t happen because I am lazy and/or a hippie when it comes to my hair – obviously, or I’d be straightening these locks every morning – but you never know. I might show up looking like a completely different person one of these days.

Kate says: well.

Go.

LORD, you have treated your servant well,
just as You promised.
Teach me good judgment and discernment,
for I rely on Your commands.

– Psalm 119:65-66 (CSB)

If you’re ever feeling down, turn to the psalms.

The whole range of human emotion is expressed in these poems. We are given permission, by their inclusion in holy writ, to be the fragile, frail people that we are. We are given space to cry out to God. To doubt, question, and wrestle. To express the desire to call down fire on someone’s head. (Don’t tell me you’ve never felt urge). The psalms are the sinner’s songbook, full of fear, passion, and rage.

And yet the stanzas are so much more. Time and again we watch as the author shifts from complaint to praise, from worry to wonder. The pen stills as the heart drops into a steadier rhythm. Despite the brokenness, despite the pain, despite the suffering, God is good. Like the true Father He is, He guides His children into places of peace and wholeness. When we are done fighting and fussing, He draws us into His lap and whispers words of love.

Yes, Lord. You treat Your servants well. We raise our hands in praise to You not because of the perfection of our existence, because it is not perfect, but because of the perfection of Your presence. You enable us to walk the path You have set before us, sometimes sure and swift, sometimes halting and hushed. This path, it leads straight to the heart of the better country, the place for which we are made and for which we ache.

Yes, Lord. Teach us good judgment. Teach us discernment. We rely on You.

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Name

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Gentle Reader,

It’s storming outside. I don’t mind. There’s something soothing in the rain, the wind, and the strange grayish light. Suits my current mood.

Kate says: name.

Go.

Marie: bitter.

Louise: renowned warrior.

The middle names of my grandmothers, given to me the day I was born.

I’ve been bitter. Unprocessed anger and cherished grudges revealed in sarcasm that’s just fury with a smile painted on. Replaying old conflicts in my mind like favorite movies. Miserable in the feeling, but accustomed to it.

Jesus changes the meaning of my name. He changes me. He holds my clenched fists in His hands and gently guides me to pry my fingers off of the rage. I am not bitter, but free. I carry with me the fragrance of His presence. I can love, because He loves. I can forgive, because He forgives.

Renowned warrior, I don’t know about that. I’d much rather be known as a gentle lover, someone with a warm smile, a listening ear, and open arms. And yet, there is a core of steel that runs through my middle. Whether it’s refusing to let illness define my life, or working to improve things in my community, or praying for a long (and growing) list of teenagers, or encouraging someone to do something brave and scary, or daring to declare that there is truth and His Name is Jesus…

There are things I will fight for. Never with a weapon. Rarely with a raised voice. But I will fight.

The difference is that what I fight for now no longer leads to bitterness. Jesus worked that change in me, too. It’s all about the hope, the joy, the love.

Stop.

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Five Minute (Saturday): Culture

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Gentle Reader,

2:20 p.m. on a Saturday and I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open. Haven’t slept well this past week. Thursday saw me knocked down with a wicked migraine, which is bad enough on its own, but some delightful panic attacks at 10:30 p.m., 12:18 a.m., and 3:05 a.m. made the pain so much worse. Why the panic?, you wonder. Down to faulty brain wiring. I flung the blankets off of me each time and fairly jumped from the bed, awakened by internal alarm bells tripped for no reason, ready to fight.

But yesterday was busy, full of things like volunteering and having lunch with a new friend, so I dragged myself away from the cocoon, despite still feeling tempted to rip my right eye from its socket. It’s the blind one, anyway. I don’t need it.

Kate says: culture.

Go.

[Caroline Bingley, addressing the giving of the label “accomplished” to a woman] “…A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, all the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women.  [Elizabeth said]. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”

– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennett. Josephine March. Anne Shirley. Laura Ingalls. All literary heroines of mine. All women who dared to swim against the culture’s current, in one way or another.

Interesting, isn’t it, for one who has been fairly determined to remain the flower on the wall, to be attracted to characters who were not afraid to stand out?

There’s an eshet chayil, a woman of valor, somewhere inside me. One who isn’t afraid to be noticed. One who is unbothered by the opinions of others. One who can be bold and brave, but also gentle and tender. She’s always been there, for this is who God created His daughters to be. It’s me who has squashed her. Tried to fit myself inside some mold of acceptability and accomplishment.

There’s something stirring now. Rather, Someone. Calling me out of that mold, that trap. And it feels very much like being broken into tiny pieces. There is real pain in letting go of what is comfortable and known. Real ache in squeezing one’s eyes shut and taking the leap of faith.

But I know, somehow, that God’s hand is there to stop the falling.

Stop.

Related to the above: I will no longer be sending out a weekly newsletter. One, I suck at it. A newsletter is not something I ever wanted to do, but tried because it’s part of “brand building.” (Ew. Gross. Ugh). Two, life is busy, and about to get busier, and a newsletter is not a priority. Thanks to those who subscribed!

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Five Minute Friday: Promise

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Gentle Reader,

I fell asleep around 6:30 p.m. last night. Woke up at 8:15, feeling confused but also deeply at one with the blanket. And I wasn’t the only one; my dog, traumatized by his visit to the groomer’s earlier in the week, snored loudly.

Kate says: promise.

Go.

I’m not a runner. I’ll do just about any other kind of physical activity. Hiking, Pilates, kickboxing, weight lifting, dancing, swimming. Hardly the best at any of these, but I’ll do them. Running, though? If nobody is chasing me, what’s the point? (And if somebody was chasing me, good chance I’d go all “deer in the headlights,” anyway). I’m just not competitive enough, with myself or others.

And yet I am a runner.

Youth ministry crashed into my life like a tornado a few months ago, almost as if God said, “Yeah, so, you’re going to stop avoiding this now.” Why He plopped these beautiful people in my lap, I’ll never know for sure, because nobody thinks “youth leader” when they look at me. Too anxious. Too reserved. Too studious. Too always trying to hide a highly sensitive heart behind an analytical, detached exterior.

Ah, but He who began the good work in me sees it through (Philippians 1:6).

That’s a promise to which we can hold. God’s ways are not our ways. His plans are not our plans. He sees things in us that we don’t see in ourselves. When we stop running, and give ourselves over to Him, we experience the strange combination of energy and rest. Passion to do what He made us to do. Peace in knowing that we do not do it in our own strength.

Why this and why me? I have no idea. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s enough for me to just say “yes” and love these people. And I do love them, fiercely. Like the proverbial mama bear, I watch as they take faltering steps to truly form community, to truly engage with the Gospel, and I know that I cannot and will not allow anything to mess with that or them, even if that means I have to access my not-so-gentle side and come out swinging.

They have my heart.

And I realize that them having it means that God has it, perhaps in a way He never has before, because i have not allowed Him to pull and stretch me like this. I have held onto the false promises of low expectations and safety.

Now?

I cling to the promise of life, rich and full, found in Him.

Stop.

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