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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Five Minute Friday: Practice

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Gentle Reader,

I’m actually writing this on time. And I even got to pop in and chat for just a second. Wild.

Onward, before the benadryl kicks in. So much sinus pressure. Stupid allergies.

Kate says: practice.

Go.

I drop to my knees, grateful for the thick yoga mat beneath me. Sweat drips from my brow, dotting my forearms. Again I wonder why I am awake earlier than I want to be. Why I am putting my body through the torture of physical activity. A disgustingly chipper voice encourages me to get back into plank position. With a heavy breath, I plant my hands on the mat and press my toes onto the slides.

Pull legs into a crouching position. Push out into a straight line. Use abdominal muscles to make the movement. Press down on the slides, legs out into a v-shape. Back into a line. In again.

Arms shake. Core tight. Legs ache. Lips tremble.

They say that fitness is a journey, not a destination. It’s all about the practice. About being better than you were yesterday. One more rep, a little heavier weight.

So, too, I think with our faith.

The Kingdom is then, in eternity, a place for us to look forward to with hope. But it’s also now. Right here. Inside you and me. We are called to a different way of living. Different ethics, different perspective. We get to participate in the beautiful, difficult work of sanctification. We get to show the world what it is to live for and with Jesus.

We don’t always get it right. Sometimes we fall to the mat and wonder why we even try.

In those moments, in the sweat, in the pain, in the weariness, the Spirit says: Get back up.

Stop.

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Sisters: Someone Else

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Gentle Reader,

While He was going, the crowds were nearly crushing Him. A woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years, who had spent all she had on doctors and yet could not be healed by any, approached from behind and touched the end of His robe. Instantly her bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are hemming You in and pressing against You.”

“Someone did touch Me,” said Jesus. “I know that power has gone out from Me.” When the woman saw that she was discovered, she came trembling and fell down before Him. In the presence of all the people, she declared the reason she had touched Him and how she was instantly healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

– Luke 8:42b-48 (CSB, emphasis mine)

Jesus is on His way to save someone. A little girl, twelve years old. Her father begs Him to do it. The Savior is compassionate. Loving. He turns toward the house. His feet begin to take the path that will lead Him to her side.

Jesus is always on His way to save someone.

The saving doesn’t always look the same.

The question we all have: Why did so-and-so get healed but this other person didn’t? We don’t understand why one is snatched from cancer’s grip while another is crushed by it. Makes no sense. God hears our prayers, we are told. We believe it. So why, why, does He sometimes say “no?”

Why does He seemingly go out of His way to save her, to heal him, while others are left reaching for His robe?

I can’t answer that. Nobody can, and anyone who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.

This where we see life and death holding hands. This is where we are confronted by our lack of control, by our inability to place all experiences and people into neat and tidy boxes. This is where we learn to say, through gritted teeth, “…even if not, He is good.”

Is He? Is He really good as He walks toward the little girl? Is He really good in letting the woman follow? After all, He is God. Incarnate here, wrapped in frail flesh, but still God. He knows her. Knows her pain. Knows her deep loneliness. Why does He not stop and hep her first? Look her in the eyes? Hold her?

I did throw a glass across the kitchen once. To my annoyance, it bounced instead of breaking. I threw it again. That time, the crack, the splintering. Shards fell from the wall, scattering across the floor, throwing rainbows onto the ceiling as they caught the afternoon sunlight. A flash of beauty in brokenness.

And I thought, “I really understand very little.”

What if the God who is outside of time and therefore not bound by its strictures really does know everything, and better than us? What if “why?” is not the question, but “what?”

As Jesus walks, He opens up space for faith exercised in the midst of suffering. This weak woman, likely anemic after years of constant bleeding, is drawn to Him. Imagine her. She takes a breath. A deep one. Musters up the bit of energy she has and presses her way through the crowd. Weaving between the bodies. She crouches. Shaking hand reaches out, into the space He has left for her.

And it’s not about the healing, though that matters. Not about her body, though God cares for it.

It’s about her soul.

Not the “why?” of her suffering, but the “what?” of her faith. The Person.

What He will do.

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For all posts in the Sisters series, go here.