Tuesday, July 21

Out of the Depths I Cry to You, Lord

Why hello there.

My goodness, it has been a while. At first, I didn't write because I had a baby and life got messy and loud and distracted, and I couldn't write because I didn't have time to be perfect.

And then my baby got a little bigger, but my boys were in a difficult season of life and misbehaving and loud, and I couldn't write because I didn't have the energy to be perfect.

And then life got crazy and messy and busy, and we started homeschooling, and I didn't write because I didn't have the strength of mind to be perfect.

And I simply had to be perfect, for myself, for you, for everything.

Perfection sucks, people. Wanting to be perfect is toxic. And it is not from God and not what he intends for our lives.

So here's to a new fresh beginning. Here's to opening my heart wide once again, perfection be damned. I'll be the first to say I am far from having this day figured out, let alone my life or relationship with Jesus.

But in his mercy and good will, he occasionally gives me little nuggets of his wisdom to ponder and reflect. That's what I will share with you: the little crumbs that fall from the table of the Lord, the little flowers that grow at his feet, the little meditations I like to reflect on.

Shall we begin?

I was so blessed for the past four weeks to participate in a women's bible study at my parish.
So so good. So grateful to so many people that made it possible.

Today, the last day of the study, was about joy: what it means to be joyful, is it possible to be joyful always, etc etc etc.

Much was shared, but what I want to pass along to you to meditate on is a simple picture of what our journey with Jesus can sometimes be, at least what it has looked like for me these past few years.

So much of what we hear of in the world revolves around what I feel: our emotional well-being, our sense of happiness, and if you are a Christian, encountering the Lord on a regular basis. Faith often becomes something we can no longer trust without involving our senses. I gotta feel the Lord's presence, we say. I gotta hear his voice speaking to me or I won't know what to do! I gotta sense him when I go to church, moving in my heart, guiding and leading me, sweeping me along in this flood of emotion.

Or else, something is wrong.

We've lost the capacity to be still and know. It's hard just to sit still (especially if you, like I, have ragamuffins underfoot), let alone be still and allow yourself to be encountered in whatever way he chooses.

I read somewhere that Mother Teresa, one of the great beacons of love, generosity, faith, and obedience in our lifetime, endured some 50 years of spiritual dryness. She was in the dark, fumbling her way, putting one foot in front of the other, one arm and then the other around the next lost and hurting soul. And she loved her way into the hearts of millions, spoke words that resonated with Catholics and non-Catholics alike. I can't imagine her sitting and saying, "Well Lord, since I can't hear you or feel you, I must be doing this wrong," and hanging up her habit in despair.

She didn't let the silence stop her love. Rather, she embraced the message of Jesus and chose to put her faith in it, and that faith spouted a bottomless ocean of love that she poured forth upon a thirsty world (let's pretend for the sake of metaphor, that this particular ocean isn't full of salt and therefore undrinkable!).

The Lord wants to take us deeper, my dear friends. You look at the surface of the ocean, and that's where the storms rage or the sunshine beams. But the deeper down you go, the quieter it gets, the more profound, still, and peaceful. And sometimes it gets dark too.

Here in the quiet, there are fewer distractions, and that's scary. Our emotions can lift us up into the great heights, then send us crashing back down. I remember going to Festivals of Praise at Franciscan University and leaving feeling I'd been on an emotional roller coaster. There's nothing wrong with encountering Jesus on that emotional level - it's good to cry, to laugh, to dance, to sing, to praise with every fiber of your being until there's nothing left.

And when there's nothing left, when you are finally still and quiet, that's when the still and small voice can speak and be heard. When all our mess is out of the way, when all our words are done, when we've emptied ourselves of movement, his word is still there, waiting to be heard.

In the quiet depth of the ocean of his mercy, he surrounds us with calm. And sometimes that's all there is. I remember again at Franciscan receiving words of knowledge and wisdom, hearing the voice of God speak love to my heart, reassurance and guidance. I needed it then.

But now I'm older. My walk has had a few rough spots: I've wrestled with the Lord, I've been disappointed in his plan, I've been angry and questioned and raged and repented (because let's be honest - he is God and can handle the vast array of emotion that he himself bestowed upon us).

And I've seen his goodness made plain beyond belief again and again and again, despite my fear and my doubt and my anger and my trying to do things my own way.

And now I sit and marvel. I am still and I sit within his stillness. I don't hear his voice as clearly in the hustle and bustle and noise of my life. But that doesn't for a second mean that he is not there in the depths just as he was obviously there on the raging surface. He is there. He surrounds and fills and quiets and breathes peace.

Every day now, I choose to put my faith in someone that I cannot always feel or see. But I believe he is there. I believe he is love. I see his grace poured forth in my children, in my church community, in my family and friends. He is made evident beyond doubt.

I am in the quiet depths with him, and our quiet companionship sustains my every breath. When I lose my patience and want to scream at my child, the quiet deep in my heart reminds me to love. When my train of thought is yet again interrupted by mundane childish observation, the quiet in my heart gives me the strength to take that extra much needed breath. When my plan is once again disrupted, the quiet in my heart reminds me that my every need has always been met and maybe there's a better way than my way.

So if you too are in the quiet, longing to feel a touch of his hand, hear a whisper of a voice that used to be as loud as a thunder blast, know that you are not alone. Elijah sat in the cave and watched as the wind ravaged the sky and the earthquake shook the ground and the fire raged, but the Lord was in none of these things. He is the quiet in our hearts that gives us the courage to love extravagantly, the patience to endure small children, the strength to embrace the leper and prostitute, the joy and peace that radiates to the world.

Here lies my joy. Here lies the reason I smile and love. It is him, and him alone that sustains me.
And right now, I find him in the quiet depths, where what awaits me is peaceful quiet unconditional love.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD.
Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications
...there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning;
... hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is loving kindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
+Psalm 130+

Tuesday, April 16

weakness for a good romance

i have a confession to make:

i have a weakness for a good, steamy romance, and i am quite aware of the fluffiness of this weakness.
sometimes a mama just needs something fluffy. she puts her feet up, chills for a minute with a delicious mug or glass of something, and enjoys a moment of quiet with a tasty novel. it may only last a moment, but it's enough to fortify her for the next portion of the day.

it's amazing what a few minutes of alone time can bolster you to endure.

so one of my fluffy weaknesses (in the good company of pop tarts and the occasional gossip magazine) is a good romance novel.

but lest you judge me too fervently, i must add that i do at least try to inject some modicum (hah - see what i did there? injected a fancy-schmancy vocab word to regain your trust and admiration ^_^) of redeeming value into my novels by only reading crime fiction thriller romance. the romance is prevalent and steamy, but it is surrounded by a gauze of detective mystery and suspense that makes me feel i'm not just reading smarm.

but occasionally the Lord will inject Himself into my weakness, even into my fluffy crime thriller romances. i love that He uses all means available to Him to break into my daily doings and grab my attention.

in this one particular series--as is wont in many series-- the man is utterly enthralled with the woman. people, he wants her, the totality of her. he is 100% committed, emotionally engaged, charming and witty, unafraid to protect what's his: basically he is the rich, handsome, total package.

she on the other hand is somewhat unable to accept the totality of his devotion-- she questions, she doubts whether this is what she wants, she fears, she challenges his love.

and i, the reader, shout at her (metaphorically, of course -- thou shalt not shout during precious naptime quiet): "what more could you possibly want, foolish woman?!?!?! the epitome of manly perfection wants YOU!!!!!!"

and watch, here is where the Lord rocks my world a little.

this, ladies and gentlemen. this is how He wants us.
this is how He loves us.

perfectly. totally. unconditionally. passionately. full and undeniable agape.

and the angels in heaven bear witness to our ridiculous chasing after other things that don't matter and won't fulfill or make us happy. they watch as we doubt, as we question, as we fear and challenge.

and they echo that shout back to us (literally this time, because they don't have to worry about naptime, being that they exist in perfect eternal bliss): "DON'T YOU REALIZE WHAT GIFT YOU HAVE?!?!?! HE WANTS YOU!!!!"

this, dear readers. this is the greatest love story. the story of how our God adores every little weak bit of us. He adores the part that falls apart a little in doubt. He adores the part that struggles to keep head above water. He adores the part that makes foolish mistakes in the effort to do what is right.

He simply and unequivocally adores us. He created us, bled for us, died for us, because He simply and fully adores us. no questions asked, no strings attached, except the vulnerable request that we love Him back.

and He stands waiting for our response, as He waited for Peter's response: "do you love Me?"

and if we are unable to love with agape (full, total, unconditional love), He is content to accept our filio love (the love of a brother), which is not quite what He desires, but is what He will accept until we are able to give all.

and He promises he will accept us as we are, invite us into a relationship that will take us deeper, and wait patiently for us as we stumble clumsily towards His open heart.

because He cannot help but love us. 
and we cannot hope to exist without that love. 

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