Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day 31: Found at the Cemetery

I know, it's not exactly a catchy or cute title for today's post. But hey, it's Halloween so maybe it is mildly appropriate. 

I went by another cemetery today. I took my dad a few weeks ago so that we could leave flowers at his parents' and grandparents' (my grandparents' and great grandparents') graves. This is not something that we do often - or really at all. But in my recent return home I have the overwhelming urge to learn about and from my past.

Here's a picture of my great grandparents:



Daisy & Horace
c. 1906


Horace rode across the mountain from Tennessee into North Carolina on a horse for like 20ish miles just to court Daisy. Can you imagine?

And here is their fourth child, my grandmother.



Merill
c. 1938


She was 28 in this picture and already had four children of her own. She drove her entire life without ever obtaining a license. At some point in the late 70s or early 80s she was pulled over and cited by a city policeman, but she still did not get her license. 

And here is a picture of her parents, Horace and Daisy, in their later years. Many many many exciting, strange, scary, miraculous, sad, joyous, and lovely things happened between that picture from 1906 and this picture in 1965. 


Horace & Daisy
c. 1965


I hope I can write about these things some day. Growing up I heard many hilarious stories about these family members. After all, when folks are gone we want to retell the joyous and the funny things right? Nothing wrong with that. There's a host of things about this side of my family that I want to cement into my memory and into the traditions I create with my family.

But there's more to a person's life than the happy. There's the sad. There's the generational behaviors or tendencies (and sometimes sin) that happened too. There's the stuff that if left unmentioned and ignored may be repeated for generations to come. I don't intend to go on some gossip finding mission or anything - not at all. But in listening to stories and events I have started to "hear" things differently and wonder.

And when I look at myself, my family, and my decisions I can't help noticing some striking similarities. Some make me laugh. Others make me cry.

Today when I removed the dead flowers I stared at my maiden name on my grandparents grave. How do I want my family's name to be remembered? What part of "us" do I want to live on and what part of of "us" must die in order that He might live? I guess I can't ask those questions in the plural. I can't decide what other family members will do with our heritage.

But I can make that choice myself. Hmm... wrong again. I'd rather He make those choices, whisper them to my heart, and then I obey.

More to come...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Days 27, 28, 29 and 30: Found in the Small

I have the general feeling of being small lately. I can't say that I welcomed this feeling. By "small" I do not mean anything regarding an actual or tangible size to anything. I just mean the opposite of the generally large/overwhelming/often-times all-consuming things of this life.

I used to have a "big" job. I frantically worked to establish and improve my image in my field. I made presentations, dressed older than my age, and wrote about survey results and such. And I talked about it a lot.

Now I have no job. Doesn't get much smaller than "none." In fact, I've been turned down for every job that I have applied for in 10 months. Makes me feel quite small.

I can no longer end my days looking back on the previous 8 to 10 hours patting myself on the back for a great presentation, a finished report, or kudos from my employer or coworkers. While none of those are bad things in and of themselves I now realize how much I depended on my "big" job to define me.
I'm actually more joyful and peaceful in my current unemployment than I ever was in my job.

And it's not just the lack of a job that makes me feel small. I also do not live in my own house. Instead, I reside in a small guest room at my aunt's house. The clothes I brought take up one side of a small closet and three dresser drawers. Seriously - that's it. My schedule (or lack of) also makes me feel small. I literally spent about 10 minutes this morning putting "library" into the next 6 weeks of my calendar so that it would say something.

All this smallness has left me a lot of time to pray and listen. I purposely did not say "think." Inordinate amounts of time "thinking" out of my own devices (aka "my flesh") never go well for me. No... that's actually speaks more to the largeness of myself and my ideas. And we're talking about being small today. So I'm learning to embrace this "more of Him, less of me" way of life.

And that makes me feel small in a very cool way.



Friday, October 26, 2012

Day 26: Found in Fish

I was going to title this one "Found in Salmon Patties" - but I just couldn't.  However, there ya go, it's the first line.

Two days ago I made salmon patties in an effort to use what was available in the pantry instead of buying new groceries. I truly love these fishy things. Apparently they were a staple if you grew up in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. I did not grow up then, but my parents are older and as such I grew up taking part in older traditions.

It had been a very very long time since I had made these so I followed a recipe. I then had the bright idea to share my leftovers with a family member. This person loves these fishy treats as well. So when I called to thank this person for the food items they left in exchange (their idea not mine), I was surprised to discover that a compliment and rave reviews were not in order. Nope. What did I get?

Person:  "What did you think of them? Did you like them?"
Me:  "Yes."
Person:  "Did you think they tasted like your mom's?"
Me:  "Um... I actually liked mine a lot. I've not had my mom's in like 10 plus years. I don't know. I'm sure hers were better. Most things she makes are."
Person:  "Yeah, I thought so. Can I offer you some suggestions should you make them again?"
Me:  "Sure."

Really? Why do some people only offer up a healthy dose of criticism at every possible opportunity? I was trying to do something nice. I've actually avoided this person a lot lately for this very reason. Then the minute I go out on a limb and try... that's what I get.

And then to myself I say "Really? You're going to let salmon patty criticism ruin your evening? Really? Are you that insecure?"

Yes, yes I am. There are moments when my flesh is that weak.

And then I laughed a lot. At the entire situation.

And then my husband showed up the next night as I was just finishing up the last salmon patty leftover. Another "Really?" We're trying to mend things and the night he shows up I'm parked in front of the television with a TV tray smelling of canned fish. Really I say?"

And then I laughed a lot - again.

Thank you for finding me in fish Jesus.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Days 23, 24, and 25: Found in No Surprises

During these months, weeks, days, and minutes of being found I keep being reminded of something a dear person prayed over me:

"Jesus, this is not a surprise to you."

Truly, there are absolutely no surprises for Him. None. 

The possible "perfect storm" brewing out in the Atlantic - He sees it coming. He already knows the outcome. The exact path. Every molecule of seawater that it will move. 

The "perfect storms" of relationships, illness, and loss -  He also sees those coming. And He already knows the outcome. The exact path we will take. Every tear we will cry. Every word we will yell. Every cancer cell and healthy cell that chemo will destroy. Every relationship that it will alter. 

These storms often do not meet our expectations of fairness. My human mind cannot reason its way through to understanding the purpose of it all. Asking why and wondering to what end is a normal default. It's how our human minds are trained.

I'm a little over being "normal" by human standards though. Normal has not served me well. Normal reasons, figures out, blames, wallows, turns inward, and becomes a victim. Normal is exhausting.

Instead, I'm craving the foolish default setting. The wisdom of heaven is often seen as foolishness in the eyes of this world. Such foolishness trusts, walks it out, commends, praises, reaches out, and becomes a victor. Foolishness is exhilarating. 

Now please understand, I am by no means an expert on embracing the foolish and forsaking the normal. No, I'm just learning these lessons. And I will continue to learn them for the rest of this earthly life. But in the moments of clarity when I listen long enough to hear Him whisper, "I'm not surprised by this" I have found the sweetest rest. Instead of dwelling on the circumstance He has reminded me of His indwelling Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 

Where is the Spirit of the Lord? In me.
What else is found in that place? Freedom.

So I can live in freedom. 

Freedom.

Freedom from fear, blame, doubt, depression, apathy, rage, malice, and on and on and on and on. 

No matter what storms swirl around me, these things cannot hold me captive. They will not conquer me. I am more than a conquerer. 

He has marked out the race already. No twists, turns, rain, sunshine, valleys, Alp like climbs, speed bumps, or even face plants on the pavement will shock Him. 

And because He is in me... they don't have to shock me either. 

Again, this is a new way of thinking and behaving for me. As I type it I fully expect to trip on my walk back to my car and literally face plant in the parking lot.

But... what if this kind of thinking became our default setting? Can you imagine?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Days 20, 21, and 22: Found in Family

I have spent this past long weekend soaking up some much needed time with my family.

My aunts and uncles are in their late 70s and early 80s. Most of my first cousins are in their 50s or older. I have always loved being in this kind of older family dynamic. They take time with each other. They tell stories - really well. The same stories actually. And I always laugh hysterically even though I know what is coming next. They simply never get old.

We love to play cards. Variations of gin and canasta I suppose. Our favorite for the past several years has been Hand and Foot. While I've been living away for the past 3 years they started playing this game with partners. I discovered a few weeks ago that they always sit in the same spots around the dining room table at my aunt's house. Six players - always.

My uncle passed this summer. So when I moved back home I took his place.
"Took his place." Doesn't sound or seem right.

So now I'm partners with my Aunt Ann for Hand and Foot. She's quite the card player. This past weekend though my aunt had a church event the night we played cards. So, my cousin who was visiting took her place. My uncle was her father. So she sat in his place. And I sat in my aunt's place at the head of the table.

I voiced that I was not comfortable with taking her seat. You see my aunt is quite a force. And I mean that as a compliment. She commands a room in an amazingly strong, yet soft and feminine way. There's no "taking her place."She should be pictured next to "hostess" in Webster's.

We still had a truly lovely evening though. The card game was a hoot though my cousin and I started a game with negative 2,000ish points after one hand. Ha! We ate, shared stories, teased, and reminisced.

Being around them awakens something powerful within me. I'm sure you've experienced the same with your families. I wonder what pieces of them I will carry with me when they are gone. Will my children enjoy being around their aunts and uncles this much as they grow up? I sure hope so.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 19: Found in Unemployment

Well, I interviewed for a job about a month ago and learned today that someone else was selected. I got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I really thought I had it. The panel seemed to like me and I liked them. My references were called and they all told me that their conversations with the hiring manager were just spectacular. I still knew it was not a done deal. But I sure did have my hopes up.

I shed a few tears. But honestly... I felt peace about 15 or 20 minutes after the initial shock. Truly, I did.

He has a different plan for me. It's still unfolding. Whatever He has marked out for me is spectacular. And the rest of this afternoon was just that.

I took my niece to see my friend. My friend dressed her sweet dog in a Halloween t-shirt and we laughed a lot. We went to the Farmer's Market to buy apple cider and look at crafts. Then my husband asked me to meet him at work briefly. He was so kind and understanding about how I felt. He experienced the same "let down" a year or so ago. Again, there was a much better plan for him. It's nice to have those rare moments in life when you or someone else truly "get it" when you feel a certain way. It was comforting.

And now I'm off to make chicken chili for an all afternoon-all evening family card playing event tomorrow. The chili will be better if it sits for a while.

As will my future....

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Day Eighteen: Found in Faith


I spent most of the day riding around a very rural and draw-droppingly beautiful county near where I grew up. My dad has been wanting to visit an old family cemetery. He attended decoration, dinner, and singing-on-the-grounds every since he could remember up until some time in the 1980s when the older family members had all passed. 

It was a lovely trip listening to family stories and connecting to my heritage. 

Before we left this morning I was feeling rather squirrely about my life and thankfully God led me to Hebrews 11 and 12. Talk about connecting to my heritage. Thank you Lord for the heritage of faith that still lives in these pages of your Word.

It all spoke to me, but here’s what ended up scribbled hurriedly in my journal (like the Word was going anywhere) - oh, and the italics are of course my emphasis though in my journal they are in bold, sometimes underlined, occasionally boxed in and starred like a cinema sign:

“Abraham went to the land of his inheritance though he did not know where he was going…made his home like a stranger in the promised land”

“they welcomed the promises from a distance

“Moses chose to be mistreated”

“regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value”

“He left Egypt, not fearing”

“he persevered because he saw him who was invisible

“whose weakness was turned to strength”

“run with perseverance the race marked out for us”

“let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our…..

FAITH

So this cemetery was beautiful and there is host of my family’s heritage there. I’m already establishing my own story in that heritage and the one in His Word. They are the same.

He called me home though I was not sure what I would find.
He whispered His promises to me and I welcomed them.
I’ve been mistreated along the way.
Many days I have regarded the disgrace of my circumstances of greater value.
I was fearless when I left.
I have persevered because I have seen Him who is invisible.
My weaknesses are becoming strengths because that’s what He does.
My race has already been marked out for me.
My eyes are fixed on Jesus. Yes they are in this moment.

And in the moments when they are not, He lovingly lifts my head again. Because He is the author and the perfecter of MY…

FAITH


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day Seventeen: Found in Being Still (my version at least)

So there are no posts for Days 13, 14, 15, and 16.
Oh well.

Reasons:
  • did not make the effort to go to a Wifi location
  • day 13 felt ominous for writing, I know silly superstitious non-sense
  • day 13:  went to a one-year-old's party that day actually, quite fun, full of happy young couples with cute babies though - yep, made me sad; drove home from the party crying on and off wondering when it would be "my turn" - yep, hate to admit it, but true
  • day 14:  had to let my emotions surface that day; I've kept myself "together" quite well in recent weeks (months really), but the floodgates opened, not "ugly" tears though, just needed to feel and let God hold me; also watched The Sandlot that day - fun, fun
  • day 15:  drove most of the day, lots of good time to think; yeah for day 14's events b/c this day was renewed energy and joy and sweet time in the car with my tunes
  • day 16:  reacclimating to my guest room life with my 82 year old aunt - I say that will all the love and excitement in the world for this season, truly, very fun
Biggest reason:
  • I didn't want to and it felt nice to "fail" at the 31 Days and not beat myself up about it. It is what it is.
What I've learned from this:
  • Psalm 46:10 is an awesome verse. Love love love it. "Be still and know that I am God."
  • My "being still" looks like no one else's. I'm uniquely designed in absolutely every facet of my being. He knows that. I need to know that. I'm rather outgoing and outspoken. I'm also filled to the brim:  full of emotion, full of energy, full of optimism, full of wonder, full of questions, full hope. So at times He wants me to dial it back a bit. Not because any of those things are bad, no no. I just need to "still" myself a bit. Dial back the outgoing and embrace a bit of introversion. Dial back the outspoken and speak a tad less. Dial back the emotion and simply live in the Truth, no matter how I "feel." Even in happiness - that emotion does not define me. Dial back the energy - hence me only leaving my house for about 30 minutes on Day 14. Dial back the optimism. I know that seems odd. But sometimes I just need to be sad and be ok with that. Dial back the wonder. I've stared in wonder at the Monarch's for ridiculous periods of time recently. Nothing wrong with that. But there are times when I also need to do the mundane like vacuuming up the cat hair. He's in that too. Dial back the questions - yes, that's a good one. Walk it out, that's what I said, right? Dial back the hope...hmm... seems like a strange thing to say. But I mean dial back the hope in my own flesh. Dial back the hope in circumstances and dial up the hope in Him. Be still and know.
What does your "being still" look like?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Day Twelve: Found in Family-Friends

It has been an odd week. I have literally and figuratively revisited places that have been the source of much hurt. However, the Lord has been faithful (as always) and has truly walked it out with me. He has been brave within me when I wanted to run and hide. He has shifted hearts and circumstances in ways only He can.

Yet at the end of this week I felt very tired and I allowed the weight of all that I have faced start to weigh me down. I forgot about his perfectly crafted yoke for a while. Instead I put on the cheaper one-size-fits-all kind that the world designed. It was not easy. It was not light. It hurt.

It weighed me down with regret and shame. Thank you Lord that I only did this for a few hours. While driving.

Then I finally arrived at my friend's house and her in-laws were also visiting. I had never met these lovely folks before. We spent the evening cooking out, playing with my friend's little girl, telling deep South stories full of color and humor. These people are real.

And they ask real questions.

Where are your people from?
Where are you living now?
What size town did you grow up in?
Now what does your husband do?
When are y'all planning on having some babies?

Thank you Jesus that you have brought me to a place where I can answer these questions honestly and without hesitation.

I may not have all the answers to those questions that I would like to have at the moment. But You've let me know that the current answers are just fine. Because you continue to work out the final answers.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Day 11: Found in the Bittersweet

Yesterday I talked about being found in a paradox.

Today I'm thinking about my best friend whose precious daughter is one year old - today.
And how this morning her husband rushed their dog to the vet to discover he had to be put to sleep.

Happy 1st Birthday! You lost your first family pet.

I cursed when she told me. Yes I did. It was the only thing I could think to say.

So of course I'm thinking about other bittersweet moments in life.
I'm also thinking about other paradoxes.

Death and life
First and last
Loss and gain
Forsaking and taking
Beauty from ashes
Strength from despair
Gladness from mourning
A way in the desert
Streams in the wasteland

I still trust that in Him all things hold together.

As my friend said, "it's still going to be a great day." So happy first birthday sweet girl. I pray your life is full of more sweet than bitter. But I know that difficulties will come, they will. So I pray too that you always find your way back to beauty.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day Ten: Found in a Paradox

I had a meeting today that is going to change the course of some things.

As I continue to be found, sorting out the truth from the lie has become a pass time. Not exactly fun, but a necessary endeavor for sure. 

Much of what I accepted as truth has been flipped on its head in recent weeks. By extension, some individuals that I once trusted to speak truth have also done a sort of a flip (literally and figuratively).

There's truth and then there's the Truth. As I draw closer to Jesus I draw closer to Truth. Because He is Truth.

And Truth sheds light on everything. What was once falsely deemed "darkness" and a "lie" is actually the truth. In turn, much of what I thought was the "light" was a facade, a great masquerade.

My meeting lasted for nearly three and a half hours. Good stuff. Very productive.

Here's how we greeted one another:

me:  "Hey!!!"
person:  "Hi there!"
(me and person exchange a brief hug)
person:  "Welcome to the dark side (smiling)."
me:  "Sorry it took me so long to see the light."


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day Nine: Found in the Monarchs

This is a female Monarch butterfly. 


I had to park a long long way from my destination today. So very glad, because my long walk led me by a garden I usually ignore. Not today. Nope, I'm loving this "eyes wide open" state of being lately.

 I had the recent privilege of attending a seminar on the Monarch migration. Yesterday I talked about miracles. This yearly migration is most definitely a miracle.

She's feeding on a butterfly bush because she desperately needs nectar to give her energy for the rest of her trip to Mexico (the Sierra Madre to be exact).


When she arrives there she will "overwinter" until next Spring. 


She could have started her long journey from as far away as Canada. Seriously.
Instinct tells her to fly South. She has no clue if she will find enough nectar flowers along the way. 

She simply flies on faith. Ok, so it's instinct. But go with me here on the faith thing. 

She just goes. She trusts. She flies and finds what she needs along the way. Not what she wants, what she needs. It's her version of walking it out

Gazing at her brings to mind such courage. She will literally eat nothing once she gets to Mexico. It's ok because the temperature in the Sierra Madre is so cool that it will not use her energy stores much at all. She will rest when she gets there.

She's not the only one who made the journey of course. 

thank you Google images

thank you again Google images

At some point next Spring instinct (aka faith) will urge her again to take flight. She's ready for her next adventure. She will fly as far as she can go and lay her eggs. She will bring new life into the world. She will leave her own legacy.

And somehow, her great-great-grandchildren will find their way back to Mexico again. Seriously, it takes a generation. Scientists first discovered there migration pattern and destination in the 1970s. National Geographic first published the amazing discovery in 1976. Here's the greatest part....

They still have no idea how future generations continue to find their way!

"Another unsolved mystery is how Monarchs find the overwintering sites each year. Somehow they know their way, even though the butterflies returning to Mexico or California each fall are the great-great-grandchildren of the butterflies that left the previous spring. No one knows exactly how their homing system works; it is another of the many unanswered questions in the butterfly world."  
from www.monarchwatch.org

When I notice these Monarchs now I can't help but stare at their beauty. It's not just their amazing colors. It's their entire story. Every last detail is stunning.

She takes my breath away.

Our stories were meant to be this way too.

Full of faith, no room for fear.
Taking in exactly what we need along the way.
Resting at times, readying ourselves for the next adventure.
Bringing life (in all forms) into this world because of the journey.
Leaving a legacy that lasts for generations.








Monday, October 8, 2012

Day Eight: Found in a Miracle (and on a Monday no less)

A few weeks ago, well, Sept 15th to be exact, I had the privilege of attending Beth Moore's Living Proof Live Simulcast. The day's teaching was based on the account of the widow and the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4.

God spoke in a powerful way through His Word that day. I could likely write 31 days of posts on the notes I took from those 6 hours.

But on this Monday I want to talk about miracles.

Both the widow (poor, desperate, had nothing) and the Shunammite woman (rich, blessed, thought she needed nothing) experienced miracles. Like shock your socks off miracles. Even as I write that, I'm wondering why I feel the need to describe the magnitude of the miracles.

Isn't the very definition of a miracle just that?
  • something extraordinary
  • something that surpasses all known human or natural powers 
  • something ascribed to a supernatural cause
Thank you dictionary.com

Maybe I feel the need to qualify it because miracle is one of those words we use too often for things that are not truly miraculous. I know I have used it flippantly and out of context.

Not today though...

Looking over my notes from Beth Moore's simulcast here are some thoughts on miracles (and I'm about 98.7% sure that I wrote her words down verbatim):
  • regarding the widow:
    • personal desperation can jar us out of secondhand stories
    • our individual lives were meant to be absolute miracles...
    • so get your own story on this page
  • regarding the Shunammite woman:
    • Fear is the crippler of a walking-talking miracle
    • He wants to work the miracle of you...
    • So tell your story

It's about time I started telling my story. 

I am a miracle 
because I AM lives and breathes in me

So I'll ask you the same question Beth Moore asked her audience across the world that day...

Are you ready for Him to do in and through you what cannot be humanly explained? 


I am







Sunday, October 7, 2012

Day Seven: Found in Music

I've been riding around with my dear friends exploring the woods and waterfalls of northwest Georgia today. We've listened to some songs that I've been missing. God is everywhere we turn if we listen with His Spirit.

Little Wonders by Rob Thomas has always touched a deep part of me. I realize now it is because of the larger message of the movie... "Keep moving forward." At the end of the movie when Lewis has the opportunity to see his birth mother he decides not to. Instead he plays the hand he was already dealt. Or in the way I've been seeing things lately...

he continues to walk it out.


Recently someone gave me a verse to look up that seemed fitting for me now - oh my... was it ever fitting. Little Wonders seemed to fit with the message of the verse well. 

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:  18-19 (NIV)

One thing defines me. One Person rather. In Him I live and move and have my being. He is working all things for my good and there is not one bit of my life that has been wasted.

Let's keep moving forward shall we?

Happy Sunday. 



Then another person spoke about 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Day Six: Found in Fall

Fall has always been my favorite season. The heat and humidity of Summer drains my energy while the cooling temperatures of September and October put a definite spring in my step. And then there's all the fun Fall events... apple festivals, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and the like. Oh, and the colors. The colors the colors the colors...

greens that gradually become orange, crimson, and yellow. The maples seems to show these off the best.

I've been blessed to spend the past two weekends in lovely cabins in the mountains of Western, NC with beautiful graceful friends. But even during the week I have found myself reveling in this season.


It's no coincidence that I was found on a Friday in the Fall and that He pursued me wildly until I literally fell (hard) into this year's Fall.

Though I cannot fully understand the why's and wherefore's of how He works. I think I have an inkling of why He chose this season of life for me during this season of the year.


He knew it would be hard, so He let me fall during the months of the year when I already look around in wonder at His creation. He knew I needed to hear his gentle whisper, so He let me fall when my heart and life were slowed down enough to listen. He knew I would need to find hope and excitement for the future, so He let me fall when there would be festivals and fun everywhere I turned.

Most of all, He knows me. There is not one detail of me that escapes His attention. Sure, I've read over the years that He knows every hair on my head - and that's great. But what I realize about that verse now is that He knows every single thing that lights me up from the inside out.

That's what Fall does for me. It has always been my season. Eyes wide open, taking it all in, heart full of wonder. So that's where He found me, where He knew I would be ready to change - just like the beautiful maples.

It literally brings tears to my eyes to know, I mean really know that He loves me that much. To purposefully bring me to this place with Him during my favorite season of the year.

So now every single Fall I will remember how I fell and how I was found. 

Thank you Lord for this season. A season of stunning, life-altering, merciful, grace-abounding change.




Friday, October 5, 2012

31 Days of Being Found: Day Five

Found in the lack of technology

Perhaps this is unique to America. Not sure, I'm not much of a world traveler. But the ridiculous pace of life in the U.S.A. can be absolutely exhausting. Truly - how and why do we do life this way?

Everyone is in a hurry and ridiculously connected to all manner of things - except people it seems. A line at the grocery store with more than one person in front of us inspires a sigh or a huff. A stoplight means 30 vital seconds to check Facebook, Twitter, email, or a play on Words with Friends. Waking in the morning means checking email for 20 minutes even before turning on the morning news show.

Anywho... there's a myriad of things to distract us throughout the day. I don't think any of these things are awful in and of themselves - truly. Social media, the news, smart phones, and the like can serve a host of positive avenues in our lives these days. However, I do believe that if we focus too much on these things we risk becoming consumed and/or driven by such things. In doing so we may miss God's whispers during our day.

Now... I say these this recognizing fully that I have allowed myself to be totally consumed by such things as well as the breakneck pace of appointments, responding to emails in less than 5, and "liking" every possible FB status update or comment in fear of not appearing "social" enough. I obtained an iPhone near the beginning of 2012 through my job and immediately fell in "love." oh my word - it was a quick fall too.

Remember though... I quit my job recently. So that meant no more iPhone (unless I wanted to foot my own bill at the moment). So at the end of July I went from iPhone connectivity back to this:




And life has been so sweet because of it.

Now I won't lie. I'm gnawing at the bit to get my hands on an iPhone again. However, I must say that this time away from it has been a much needed break from distraction.

I have also limited my TV time lately. Instead of starting my mornings with world news and entertainment I turn to God's Word. I realize how "church camp" that sounds, but it has been an absolute necessity for me to drown out every voice but His lately. I have taken for granted how sensitive my mind is to input. That may be negative news, romantic comedies, the FB lives of friends that have "more" of what I want for myself, or the need to respond immediately to email as a means of controlling something - anything.

Gosh, it's exhausting.

So these days away from much of that have been so sweet. It's forced me to sit in silence, to listen to people instead of just hearing them, to listen to my own thoughts and sort out the Truth from the lies, to pick up a book - or even The book, and to write.

In essence, this disconnectedness has issued a connectedness to things that I've needed to focus on for quite some time. Most importantly, I've heard His voice more. I think He whispers to us frequently. We just have to be quiet and focused enough to hear Him.

Have you been hearing His still small voice lately?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

31 Days of Being Found: Day Four

Found in Community

Who are your people? I've been asking myself that a lot lately. Yesterday I was rather bold about telling you about my recent failures. I also told you that I am crazy happy with all of this "failure." And I still am.

So let me start telling you about why I'm so joyful amid all the "mess."

A very important factor in my newfound joy is my community. And because I love contrast so much, let me take a minute to discuss the antithesis of community...

isolation.

Ug, I despise that word these days. Truly. Doesn't it conjure images of a prisoner in a solitary confinement cell? Or a school kid in ISS sitting alone in a cubicle eating his or her lunch. For the past three years that word could have captioned almost any snapshot taken of me in my living room staring at my television - any night of the week.

Isolation is essentially hiding. Most days I did not even realize that I was hiding. I simply convinced myself that I was too tired, or too sad, or that because I'm an introvert I needed some down time at home by myself. I'm not dismissing the joy and necessity of times of solitude - certainly not. Quiet solitude and isolation are vastly different.

Times of solitude with the Lord are a necessary and vital part of spiritual growth. I think these times lead to discovery (aka being found). A person leaves such times renewed.

Isolation leads to loneliness and despair. Some of the enemy's best tools to thwarting growth.

As I started to let go of the things that were keeping me in hiding I began to discover my desperate need for community. I began contacting friends and family again. God brought to mind a host of people who were or would become my community. It was beautiful.

For one, I needed a place to stay. I'd just quit my job and still had a mortgage so renting seemed fairly irresponsible. So, I called my 82 year old aunt and she was thrilled to have me. This is my dad's sister and later he said "Holly, does she know you'll be bringing your cats?" Oops. You know what she said when he mentioned it to her??
"Well if Holly is coming of course the cats are coming." Precious.

I invited some girl friends from college to spend a weekend together at my aunt's cabin. Newer friends have invited me to spend some time with them this coming weekend. Coworkers from three years ago still have lunch every Thursday at a mall food court. I join them every chance I get. My family and I have taken day trips through the mountains. My dad is teaching me to fly fish (currently we are still practicing casting out in the backyard with the apple tree as the target).



My community is teaching me that life is not meant to be lived in isolation. I'm needed in this world. Because His life living and breathing in me is needed in this world, in my world - in my community. It doesn't matter that my life "looks" messy. Truth is people identify with the mess. Because all of us have some kind of mess. Being found just means you admit it and cease being afraid to share it.

Being found is causing me to be real. To be real with and in my community.

So who are your people? How do they "find" you? How do they keep you real?


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

31 Days of Being Found: Day Three

Found in Failure

Relying on myself takes many forms. And these forms are often dressed up. Dress forms. (Yes, I've been watching Project Runway lately.)

My ideas - dressed up very clever.

My intuition - dressed up all wise and feminine.

My sense of justice - dressed up all starched and ready for court.

My need to fix things - dressed up with a tool belt that carries a hammer, crazy glue, Clorox Cleanup, and maybe some baking soda and vinegar for the purists.

I'm sure there's another 15 to 20 forms I could add to this list. Perhaps you have your own or can identify with mine.

I'm sure you see the problem with those statements above... they all start with "My..."
Nothing that comes after that word really matters, because the failure begins with those two little letters.
And the result of any effort based on "my anything" is often the phrase "oh my oh my oh my... what have I done?"

While there is often a ridiculous amount of pain that results from such self-reliance, there is infinite amazing grace waiting to pick-up the pieces. There are pieces because something was broken. That something is self-reliance. And self-reliance or a self focused life is the very best way to hide.

I didn't even realize I was hiding because it was dressed up so pretty. It even prayed pretty prayers. So in order to be found I had to be broken. Which means I had to fail. Oh and fail I did...

I told you the process of being found began on September 30, 2011. Well... I ran back into hiding not long after the new year. My ideas, my intuition, my sense of justice, my need to fix things myself, my, my, my, my everything fought quite hard for several months. Until the end of July, 2012.

Then I finally reached the end of myself. Failure lead to brokenness. And boy was I broken, shattered really.

You see I've been working on a doctoral degree for a bit over three years now. Simultaneously I've been working on a PhD in the theology of ME.

In all of my self focus I managed to burn bridges with precious family, neglect my husband, lose sight of my gifts, and let my passion for my field almost completely die. All I could see was what I thought I needed. My focus on self made me spiritually blind. I still attended church, prayed a lot, and worshipped - but I was still hiding.

So at the end of July I did the following:

quit my job at the university where I was working/studying

put my house up for sale after the prime time to sell in a university town

packed up my cats, a few clothes, some books, and toiletries

and

moved back to the town where my husband and family had been living while I was off "discovering myself"

to live with my 82 year old aunt

I am unemployed, separated from my husband, making zero progress on my dissertation, and living in a guest room.

I'm a failure by all earthly accounts.


But that's not the perspective I'm operating from these days. I much prefer the perspective from the seat at the right hand of God. And in His view I'm victorious.

I'm ridiculously happy. Seriously - not kidding at all. It's the strangest thing. Nothing in my life at the moment makes much sense to a lot of folks. But it makes all manner of sense to Him.

Thank you Lord.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

31 Days of Being Found: Day Two



This finding process began on September 30, 2011. 

I honestly had completely forgotten that date until I started paging back through my journal this past weekend - on September 30, 2012 to be exact. I literally gasped when I realized it was one year later.

One day later I was enjoying a lazy Saturday and decided to watch one of my favorite movies, Amazing Grace.



I watched this movie for the first time in 2007 (I think). I loved it immediately, but my heart had not been laid open at that point. It was simply an inspiring true story.

Well, four years later as I began to watch it again - heart splayed wide open - the message of the movie nearly jumped off the television screen. A steady stream of tears ran down my face. Not those horrid guilt-ridden tears - those are more based in hiding. No, these were tears of joy, of knowing,

of being found.


I've posted the movie trailer, but the part I wanted to find was a specific conversation between Wilberforce and Richard (the butler). It's near the beginning of the movie. Some of my favorite quotes from that conversation:

Richard:  "You found God sir?"
Wilberforce:  "I think he found me."

Wilberforce:  "I have ten thousand engagements of state today and I'd rather be getting a wet arse (yes, that's how's it is captioned) marveling at bloody spiders' webs."

Being found had that affect on me. Suddenly the constant hassle of life and the stress that threatened to literally choke me faded from my consciousness. In it's place I sat in near silence marveling at the miracle of being discovered the Creator of the universe. Not only was He the Creator of everything, but he was my Creator. 

Simultaneously I sat in awe of the bigness (the Creator) and the resulting smallness ("the Creator" created me) of that truth. Oh my... it still leaves me stunned.







Monday, October 1, 2012

31 Days of Being Found: Day One





I started Found on a Friday much much earlier this calendar year after I spent the Fall of 2011 truly being "found." I thought I was ready to write about it then. Not so.

The 7 posts that precede this one are still relevant and I enjoyed writing them - truly.

But now is the time to tell you about how I was found and how I continue to be found.

Being found is the opposite of and also the cure for "hiding." My dear friend and college mentor Emily Freeman wrote about this in her book Grace for the Good Girl. I strongly recommend it. Being found is one part of the larger grace experience.

I believe deep down we all want to be found. Hiding feels safe, but it is not. Being found brings freedom and in doing so unlocks the deepest and most beautiful mystery this world will ever know.

I will spend the next 31 days talking about the unveiling of this mystery in my life. I hope some of these things will resonate with you and if they do, please tell me if feel compelled.

For Day One...
being found showed me that I no longer had to figure it out. Instead, I am called to walk it out. Insert all manner of situations, decisions, people, etc. into the it of those two phrases.

Every time I attempt to reason something through I inevitably come up with most clever understanding or solution. Oh so clever. I pat myself on the back and plunge head first into my self-assured plan....

and then wonder why it does not turn out to be what I thought it would be.

All that dressed-up, clever self-reliance is no way to live. That pull-yourself-up-by-your-boot-straps mantra is rather exhausting and physically impossible. Seriously, but on a pair of boots and simultaneously try to pull yourself up into them - both feet at the same time.

So if relying on myself doesn't work, then what does?

Well, I plan to explore that with you for the next month. And I'll leave you with this...

Someone else already has it figured out. In fact He also walked it out. And what's more?

He'll still walk it out with us


See you tomorrow