“You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all–irrespective of how we got here–in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day–a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”~Ephesians 2:19-22; The Message
My husband and I have been on a much anticipated vacation this past week, and in many ways, it has exceeded expectations. We took a road trip from our home in Georgia, to Minnesota to visit our children, and then to Canada to visit friends and family. We then drove around Lake Superior, to Chicago, and then back down to our newly beloved South. It was a lot of driving, and I know some people shudder at that prospect, but we love it. It’s a great way to view the countryside and for me, I love it because I have my husband’s undivided attention for hours. No phone or computer to distract us, at least not really. We have a lovely relationship, we are very comfortable with each other. A trip like this gives us time to explore the country and its beauty, and we have ample opportunity to talk, or just enjoy each other’s company.
The photo depicted above is a snapshot of my husband’s feet, taken in Chicago during our vacation. He was standing on the glass floor of the The Sky Deck of the Willis Tower, 412 meters above street level. He loves that kind of stuff. He is fascinated by the engineering and technology required to build such a structure, and of course the view is breathtaking. I am also fascinated by all of that, but it was a little harder for me to just step out onto the glass floor of the deck, as I am afraid of heights. It is difficult for me to trust that if I step out onto that glass floor, it will not shatter and I will not plummet all the way down to Franklin Street in downtown Chicago. I mean, I did step out onto the glass floor and with my husband’s protective arm around me, I felt safe enough to pose for a picture. I realize of course, that he wasn’t really protecting me from anything, because it was an extremely safe situation. I wasn’t in harm’s way really, but having his arm around me helped, and I felt good that I had taken the plunge. We now have this cool memory of something we did together.
This week I also had time to think, and I found myself wondering about relationships, specifically those I’ve had with people in the various churches we’ve attended over the years. Taking that proverbial plunge onto The Sky Deck, made me think of other circumstances in life where it has taken some encouraging for me to take the plunge and join in on the life God is whispering to me about. I’ve written in my previous posts about our move, and starting a new chapter in our lives here in Georgia. I’ve also eluded to some discontent and discomfort in finding a church community.
It’s inevitable that at this age, I would have come across a negative experience or two regarding the church, and because of that , I find I am more protective and guarded about showing any vulnerability, especially to those in a church community. I realize that this is a very sad statement, but true none the less. I imagine I am not alone in feeling this way; I have experienced feelings of judgement and self-righteousness from others that I would not wish on anyone else. However, feelings such as these are inevitable when we develop relationships with others, because we are all flawed and our stuff and emotional baggage gets in the way. It has become increasingly difficult for me to try to enter into new relationships every time I’ve moved on to a different community. It is easy to believe, instead, that new relationships are unnecessary, and it’s nicer to stay at home, sleep in, or walk the dogs, rather than worshiping with others on Sundays.
My daughter once said she misses the feeling of community in church. She has not attended church for several years, for reasons of her own, but she shared this tidbit with me once when we were talking, and I agreed with her. Also, when my husband was discussing church attendance with our son last weekend, he (our son) mentioned that he wants to find a church that he can attend regularly, but he is shy to take the first step and just go. It is a difficult thing. I understand exactly how my kids feel. Sometimes I feel as if I am standing on the edge of a precipice looking out, and I feel paralyzed, not able to move off the edge. Just like I did on the edge of the glass floor of The Sky Deck in the Willis Tower. I don’t like that feeling, and I don’t like the fact that I’ve become such an emotional mess, that attending church can be so traumatic for me.
The thing is , I have found a wonderful, closely knit group of people in a small church close to our home. The pastor is wonderful and has gone out of his way to communicate with my husband, and with me, to let us know that someone cares about us. God is using him to draw us near to Him; I know that. When I have attended services over the past few weeks, I have sensed love and a genuine warmth radiating from the people in the congregation, yet I have left immediately after the service is over, unable to stay and make myself converse with those around me. I have left in tears, not understanding what is going on with me.
This week, while we were on vacation, I found myself missing church. To top that off, we received another warm text from our pastor, wishing us a good holiday, and a brief outline of what he was teaching about while we were away. He was initiating a conversation about “church” and all that it entails, as outlined in Ephesians 2:19-22.
Friends, community and relationships. I understand now. The pull of God whispers while I am hiding from church, and finally, I am going to listen. I know it’s time for me to step off the precipice, and let His arms comfort me while I enjoy the view.
“God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom..”~Psalms 46:1 The Message
“Far better it is to dare mighty things and to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, for they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt
A few weeks ago, my husband asked me why I hadn’t written anything on my blog, and I gave him my exasperated reply, “I have writers’ block!” He literally laughed out loud at that, and so did I. It is hilarious to think that I consider myself a real writer, but here it is; I cannot write unless this burning within me takes control and urges me on. I never know what will bring it on, but I can only imagine it might be what drives a painter or a sculptor to create something beautiful and breathtaking. At least that is my hope and desire. I do not write because I have a need to expel my verbal diarrhea. I write because I want to share something that might cause pause in my readers’ day. Creativity in any given form, whether it is music, art or written, adds life to our world; we cannot let it die. We must nurture it so that we might breathe, and not simply exist.
These thoughts were swirling through my mind as I finished my morning swim, and I was walking back to our house. I noticed today, for the first time, that through the busyness of our summer, the cat tails in our pond had matured, the sumacs along the tree line had begun to turn red, and some of the leaves on the choke cherry tree in our front yard had begun to turn orange. Fall in all its glory is arriving, and with that, we will be leaving this wonderful state that fits us like a comfortable old shoe, and venture out into parts unknown. We have sold our house and bought a new one; in a couple of short weeks, I will be swimming in a new pool in a much warmer climate.
With the knowledge that our time here is coming to a close comes much excitement for our future, and some bittersweet feelings about leaving our children behind. I have felt some sadness and anger in waves from each of them, and I know that is warranted, and yet it causes my heart to churn. I have kept my children close over the years; the apron strings have not been loose, so it will be hard to let go.
I left home when I was much younger, and I remember leaving on one long cross country trip in particular, with my brother and sister; something like that would have been unheard of when my children were in their teenage years.
During the summer before I entered tenth grade, my parents thought it might be a good idea to let me take a road trip to Kelowna, British Columbia, with my brother and sister, who were twins, and four years older than I was. We lived in the small town of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and had made the trip out west by car many times during summer vacation to visit our Uncle Eddy and his family, but this was to be our first time alone. To this day, I cannot fathom how my father and mother were brave enough to allow three teenagers to travel cross country alone; but they did, and we were fine. We had a glorious time. We loved our Uncle Eddy. He was a mechanic by trade, and an entrepreneur by spirit; that is, when we went to visit him that year he no longer had his mechanic’s garage, but was running a urethane foam insulation business from his shop in Kelowna. While we were visiting him, he spray-insulated my dad’s Dodge van for him. (I remember spending the trip back to Ontario picking off the bits of bubbly foam insulation while I was lying in the back of my dad’s van)
That summer, we spent a lot of time in my uncle’s office while he worked. He had many inspirational quotes typewritten on pieces of paper and thumb tacked to his office wall. This is where I discovered, for the first time, the above quote by Theodore Roosevelt, and I was so profoundly moved by it, that I memorized it for a tenth grade English assignment. Since then, I have “owned” this quote and it has inspired me on many different occasions.
As our time in Minnesota quickly comes to an end and we find ourselves jumping through endless hoops of paperwork to get everything in order for our move, I suppose it is only natural for some doubt to set in, and we, my husband and I , find ourselves wondering just exactly what it is we are doing and why we are doing it. So many of our friends and colleagues have never moved from one job to another, never mind one city to another. They are firmly rooted in one place, close to their friends and family, and are very comfortable with their surroundings. As we prepare for the changes that are coming, we are a little excited, and quite frankly, a little bit intimidated at what awaits us. We have moved multiple times over the years, but somehow, this latest move has me rattled. I find myself feeling a little bit jealous of my friends and acquaintances who have never moved and who are firmly rooted in their surroundings.
It is in these brief moments of uncertainty that I remember this quote by Roosevelt, and I remember that not everyone is hard-wired the same way. The restlessness that is a part of us has challenged us to move forward and make these changes in our life, and it is too late to turn back now. We will go forward, unafraid, and lean on the One who has breathed this change into our lives.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”-Romans15:13
“The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” – Exodus 33:14
In my last blog I wrote of restlessness and change, and since then, I have found out, that once again, we are moving. I have always told my husband that if he had the opportunity to work in Atlanta, then he wouldn’t even have to ask me; I was there, because I want to be a Georgia Peach. I love to read, some of my favorite authors write about the South, it is filled with history and charm, and people from there seem so darn friendly. Never mind that I have never been to Atlanta, except to change planes in the airport (what a harrowing experience), or to drive through the state of Georgia on the way to Florida a time or two. Over the years, my husband has told me time and time again, when we’ve had this fictional, moving to Atlanta conversation , that I can’t possible become a Georgia Peach, because I am a Canadian, and I don’t understand what I am talking about. There is a culture difference between people from the South and people from the North, that I don’t understand, apparently. People (from the North) keep telling me that, whenever I tell them that we are moving. I do think I have a vague idea about it, and I am sure I will come to understand more as time goes on, because now that fictional conversation has become real. Somehow I knew it in my bones; I knew I would live in Atlanta someday, and it will happen as soon as we tie up the loose ends here in Minnesota and just go.
This is a different move for our family, because we won’t be taking our children with us, and why would we? They are grown now and have begun lives of their own. They have jobs and friends that tie them to this community and this state, and we are the ones severing the cords and pulling away. It seems backwards to me when I think of it. Aren’t children the ones who are supposed to move away from home, not parents? When I wrote about change in my last blog post, a friend of mine suggested my angst might be caused by God calling me closer to Him. I have to confess, I had an idea that my husband was contemplating a change of some kind that might take us away from our children and that created some unrest and anxiety for me.
Will they be okay without us? Have we prepared them adequately to survive without us in the same state? These are the questions that are haunting me as I prepare in other ways for our move; as I have painters and floor guys come and give me estimates for our house to prepare to sell it, and as I study in preparation for out of state licensing exams, so I can work outside of the state of Minnesota. With so many things to do it is hard for me to focus on one thing at a time. I should be studying or sleeping, and I am blogging. Yesterday when I washed my face, instead of a facial toner, I used nail polish remover on my face. It was quite uncomfortable. I don’t recommend it.
As I think of all of these things and prepare for our move, I pray and I remember a visit with my sister. She was visiting me and we went shopping together in the Mall of America. My sister loves jewelry, and when she can, she enjoys buying pieces of jewelry to splurge and to pamper herself when she is on vacation, or on a trip away from home. She had bought herself a pendant for a necklace, made of blue glass, shaped like a heart. It was rather large and pretty, but totally unlike anything I would ever wear, because it had my sister’s name written all over it. She and I are quite different when it comes to our tastes, as most sisters are, I imagine. At the end of our weekend visit together, my sister told me, in no uncertain terms, that she felt very strongly that she was to leave the pendant with me. It was mine, she said. Over the course of the weekend, I had shared with her some of the angst of my motherhood, and she told me that this pendant represented my mothers’ heart, and it was for me. Now , you have to understand. My sister LOVES jewelry, and when she bought this pendant for herself, she really wanted it. When she gave it to me, she really thought I should have it; it was a God thing. My sister is not a mother; and for her to think of this was a little uncanny to say the least. I strung a ribbon through the pendant and hung it on my bedroom wall. When I see it, I think of my sister and her tender heart as I pray for my kids.
I know in my Mothers’ Heart, as I pray for my kids, that moving is the right thing for our family, and He will care for each one of us. I am reminded of the story of Hannah praying for God’s blessing, because she was barren, and couldn’t have a child. Finally, God blessed her and she gave birth to Samuel, and then right after Samuel was weaned, she turned around and brought him to the temple so that he could be trained by the priest Eli to serve God. It was quite a sacrifice for a mother to give. While Samuel was away from his mom at the temple, he learned to listen to the still, small voice of God, and he became a mighty voice for Him. This story has been ringing in my heart, and maybe, God has something to say to my kids without me buzzing around getting in their business. I have to let go of them and cut the apron strings. That’s pretty hard for me because I like control, and I will miss them in my daily happenings. So…maybe my friend was right. Perhaps God can use this restlessness to draw all of us closer to Him.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” -Isaiah 30:21
I have been thinking about the things that I have shared in the last month, in my last posts, and I am reminded that they are all connected, and each blog seems to lead into the next one. Of course, that makes sense, as I am writing about my Life, and my musings from day to day. I feel as if I have been trapped in the wilderness for years, and now, finally, I have heard The Breath of Change speak my name; He is speaking softly to me in the desert, and letting me know it is time…time for what? I am not sure.
This is a photo I took almost a year ago, close to my home. When I took this photo, my husband didn’t understand why I liked it so much. “They are just weeds; they are not even flowers, ” he said. He is right, but still, I love this photo. The scene speaks of serenity to me. It is along a favorite walking trail of ours; we walk here almost daily with our dogs. However, this peaceful meadow and pond look quite different now. If you could see beyond the pretty landscape of the pond, you would see it has been developed with new homes. The pond is still there, and it is still home to quite a few ducks and geese. The “weeds” and wildflowers are gone, the trail is manicured and paved, and many beautiful new homes have been constructed in the meadow where we used to see deer run freely, and where we could let our dogs run off leash. Our walking trail is not quite as peaceful and serene as it used to be, and although I selfishly think it has been ruined, the new homeowners appreciate the change that they have paid for, and now share with me.
The spring fragrance in the air, the baby goslings swimming in the pond, and the changes in my walking trail have caused me to reflect on how things can change rapidly, before we know what’s coming.
“God is always faithful, and it is because of His faithfulness that you are here.”
These are the words that were spoken to me, and to my husband, by our pastor in a small church in Thunder Bay, Ontario, shortly after we had moved there from Toronto. We had left our friends, family , and everything familiar to us behind. The future felt very uncertain, and quite honestly, at that time, I had no desire to be there, in that place, at all. I only knew, that when my husband’s job transferred him, as it did so many times, it was my place to follow, and I did. This happened more than 15 years ago; it is difficult to fathom that time has passed so quickly. I used to pray the words in Jeremiah 29:14 over our lives constantly, thinking that God would bring me out of the place “from where he had banished me” (Thunder Bay) and “bring me back to the place from which he carried me into exile.” (Toronto). I did not embrace change very well in my younger days.
It was difficult for me to change things that were familiar to me and to give up things that I deemed precious, because I couldn’t take them with me when we moved, or because they were not useful to me in my new environment. Over the years, I have found myself reflecting upon those words spoken to us by our pastor, and they have become quite precious to me.
“God is always faithful, and it is because of His faithfulness that you are here.”
The smell of the lilacs blooming bring change in the air, and I wonder what is in store for me. I am at a crossroads in Life, and I wonder what this Restlessness is within me. My children are grown, and my work schedule is hectic. Why do I think there is more for me to do, and why is this not enough? It’s laughable really, to be so bored and discontent in the middle of all this busyness.
I have become quite restless for some reason, and if I am not cautious, I will worry and fret unnecessarily. I must remember that in all things, God is in control. I am not, and I do not need to preoccupy myself with what is around the corner, or with what tomorrow may bring. He has been faithful to me over the years. He has always taken care of me and my family, and has provided peace amidst the storms of life. It is possible that the cause of this unrest inside me, is simply the Breath of Change.
“Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” – Psalms 27:14
“He says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalms 46:10