Beauty and Awe

There was a mom and a little girl about three years old, standing amidst some wildflowers during my walk today. I watched the mom hold a flower up for her daughter to examine. “Isn’t it pretty?” she asked.

And I thought about how all good moms do that. They raise their children to be in awe of this world. From flowers to airplanes to puppies to sunsets, kids are being taught: “This world is magic.”

My mom told me when that before I could really talk in earnest, I would gasp, point, and say: “Ooooh, look! Preeeetty!” Did I really think the thing I was pointing at was pretty? I don’t know. Maybe. But mostly I was just mimicking my mom. I knew enough to know that there was beauty to be found in this world, and I wanted her to know I, too, was keen enough to spot it.

Why do we do that? Why do we raise our kids, teaching them to see beauty, if beauty doesn’t exist? If life is deadlines and depression and death?

Why do we read them stories about princesses and adventure, where individual people’s hearts and hair colors and dreams and courage MATTER? Why do we read them stories about hope and laughter and love? Do we do that so that they’ll grow up believing all of that is true to life, only to be crushed by “reality” as adults?

Do ADULTS believe that individual people, their individual stories matter? Do they believe life is rich with love and laughter, and that hope is life’s heartbeat? I think few do. And those that do are called idealistic or naive.

And yet, here we are, feeding our kids awe and wonder and magic. And we’re doing it from a place of deep, deep love.

So why?

I think because, on some level, we know that wonder and beauty and awe and the things of children’s books are true.

We grow up and a flower is just a flower. And sunsets aren’t a big deal anymore because they happen every night and there’s dinner to make and kids to get into bed and who has time to watch the sun go down?

We grow up and our hearts get broken, and dreams don’t always come true, and so we abandon hope.

We hold people loosely, not really trusting them again not to hurt us. And protecting ourselves from hurt? That hurts too. It’s lonely and scary. And yet we still call it love. We redefine love in our minds, believing that’s as good as it gets.

We stop pursuing our dreams, deciding instead that they’re silly and that adults don’t dream, they work and pay bills and that’s the responsible way to be an adult.

We go through life dull to the richness of possibility all around us.

And it hurts. But “that’s just life”. So we look forward to moments that don’t hurt. Barbecues and beer with friends and crawling into bed at the end of the night.

We go through life partially dead inside.

But just partially.

Because something inside of us still knows enough to look a three-year-old in the eye, hold up a flower for her to see, and say, “Isn’t it pretty?”

 

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Soup and Tears and Hope and Peace

The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes yesterday morning was a cross.

Sunlight coming through my blinds created a perfect, glowing cross on the water bottle sitting on my desk. And my eyes landed there immediately.

Do I think it was from God- an “I am here” reminder? Do I think it was just the natural product of sunlight coming through blinds? I don’t know.

But what I do know is that it was confirmation that I am seeking Him. In every moment my eyes are open, I am searching Him out- His promises, His love, His presence.

*

I surprised myself yesterday by getting unexpectedly emotional over something seemingly silly-

soup.

My coworker was talking to me about a new recipe she found for making soup with her leftover turkey. And she was smiling, and her eyes showed joy and excitement and pleasure over this simple thing, and she was talking about how the carrots are cut and what vegetables go into the soup and how she was going to make it for her family. And suddenly my throat was tight and my eyes were filling. Because of soup.

But I wonder if maybe it wasn’t silly at all. Maybe it was God giving me his perspective- His love for her. How He delights in all the things–both little and big–that bring us joy.

The tears weren’t sadness-produced. It was love. My happiness for her–for the recipe that brought her gladness–it stirred my heart with love.

And I prayed, “Oh, Lord. Help her to know You.”

Because she’s beautiful. And kind. And she deserves heaven. Anyone who cares how carrots are cut, and wants to comfort those she loves with warm, homemade soup, deserves heaven.

It is too unthinkably horrible that anyone I know and love and care for would go anywhere else when they die.

Hell should be reserved for the evil only, not just for the unbelieving.

I like to believe that in a person’s last minutes, they get a chance to believe. I hope that heaven is filled with those who spent their life unbelieving, but who, in their final moments, realized they had a choice- and their choice didn’t include atheism. They had to choose- God or Satan.

Lord, save those who can be saved- those who don’t know You but who still reflect You more than they reflect the enemy.

*

One of my favorite things about my job is my clients’ children- how they look up at me shyly and smile, and how when I see them the next time, their eyes meet mine and they remember and they smile a less timid smile.

I played dolls with one little girl yesterday while her mom talked to the OB nurse. We named the doll and fed the doll and rocked the doll to sleep, and I was impressed with my own ability to participate in imaginary play. Cute little kids who look at you with hope that you will join in on their activity, they are very motivating. 🙂

My coworker said, after they left, “You’re just a child at heart.”

She’s not wrong. I swoon over the sky, and collect fallen leaves and pine cones, and pause when I pass a stuffed animal display at Target so that I can pick them up and cuddle them. I have no trouble seeing myself as God’s child. I have no trouble seeing Him as my Father. None.

What I struggle with is seeing myself as an adult-
a bill paying,
tucks herself in at night,
car driving,
no one has to take care of me,
I belong only to myself,
adult.

I have trouble watching A Little Princess and Because Of Winn-Dixie and Annie and not secretly hoping THAT’S actually real life, not what I have come to believe is real as I’ve gotten older. I have trouble telling my timidly-hoping-against-all-odds heart, “That’s not reality.” I have trouble carrying around the weight of what is real and not grieving the loss of my wonder and awe and childhood naivety.

At work, I feel like an adult. With people my own age, I feel like an adult. When I’m caring for a child or cleaning my house or doing volunteer work, I feel like an adult.

But at least 50% of me is a child, wide-eyed and teary, looking for a parent’s hand to hold.

Maybe that’s why I love children so much–playing with them, providing care and nurturing–because I don’t feel that far removed from that time in my life. And it eases the ache in my heart to be able to give to someone else what I don’t have.

*

I read a blog the other day that made me think.

Two of my favorite words these past few months have been “redemption” and “restoration”.

This blog discussed both.

It talked about those times in our lives that threaten our ability to breathe, but how God continues to provide breath for us in the midst of those seasons.

It talked about how redemption comes first–God takes the situation and turns it around–and restoration follows. But we have to choose it. Restoration is a choice.

“We can continue to live with the knowledge that Jesus truly redeemed our situation, but still hold on to those wounds of insecurity.”

We have to allow God to breathe truth into the lies we believed while we were waiting for God to redeem our suffering. We have to stop letting the enemy prey on our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. We have to shed bitterness and insecurity and the sense of being unworthy.

“The enemy is not creative, but he is cunning so as long as we allow him to use our hurts, he will use the same hurt over and over and get us to operate out of it.”

We have to repent for doubting God’s character, and ask Him to reveal Himself to us afresh. We have to pray that the hardened areas of our hearts, the areas that we hardened as a way of surviving, become soft again.

This blog said that if the enemy can’t get us to turn our back on God, He will get us to doubt His character.

And I find, 90% of my pain is the result of doubting who God says He is. It’s not the right now that hurts as much as believing the right now is going to be forever.

When I doubt that God can be found in a way that satisfies my aching soul,
when I wonder if I’ll spend my entire life having to consciously practice gratitude while holding a hot and heavy sadness in my chest,
when I doubt that I have anywhere that I belong,
when I question whether God really does bend near to earth to hear my prayers,
when I start to believe my heart only matters to me…

…that’s when my sadness becomes unmanageable.

I can handle the sadness of today when I have hope for tomorrow.

When I believe that happiness isn’t a myth,
that there are people who are glad to be alive,
that life isn’t just struggle and suffering.

When I tell myself God is smiling down on me,
growing me,
blessing me,
whispering and yet speaking like thunder: “HOPE!”…

…then I can love today.

I practice gratitude daily. I try to notice the little things that are going right.

It’s not today that’s hard, it’s when I start believing I’ll spend my entire life trying to fight disappointment–which I heard yesterday as anger mixed with sadness–with the truth that God is good.

At least 90% of my sadness comes from letting Satan subtly convince me that God isn’t who He says He is.

Or that I misunderstood who He said He was.

Is it possible to hope too much?
Does it make any sense at all to be excited for the future or is it going to be scary and hard and lonely?
What if the only thing worth hoping for is heaven?

Those are the things I wonder. Those are the lies I am tempted to believe. And that? That will completely drain one’s awe and wonder and joy and will to live and ability to see life as a gift.

That’s how I know they’re lies.

Truth brings life.

When God speaks, His words are like oxygen.

When God speaks, His words come like light.

“Let there be light.”

*

I was praying the other night, and I was telling God, “I don’t understand…” and I was emptying out all the situations in my brain that hurt and turning them over and trying to understand them in a way that would make them less painful, but I couldn’t. These situations were, to me, question marks. Would they be okay, as defined by me? Was it appropriate to grieve what I feared losing? I didn’t know. And so, “I don’t understand, I don’t understand, I don’t understand…,” I said.

And I heard Him say, “You don’t have to. Of course You don’t understand. Just LISTEN.”

His ways are not ours. Of course we don’t understand.

And trying to understand things that are beyond our comprehension? It only gives Satan the opportunity to speak hopelessness and fear and worry and insecurity into our lives.

So we have to set aside what we don’t understand and trust God with those things.

We have to focus on what we DO understand.

We have to listen.

We have to silence our questioning to meditate on His truth.

*

“I believe,” I say aloud a lot lately.

Also, “I trust You.”

And, “I know You are real.”

I say them aloud because I believe what I am saying, and speaking truth in spite of what I feel gives me comfort and a sense of peace.

And I say them aloud because I know it makes the Lord smile.

And I say them aloud because I know it pisses Satan off, which makes ME smile. 😉

But the other day while I was driving, after I uttered, “I know You are real.” I sensed God ask me, “Yes, but HOW real?”

As evidenced in my recent blogs, I’ve been really struggling with my hope that God is more than what I currently know, that He’s nearer and more available to us than others might suggest.

But it’s impossible to over-estimate God. It’s impossible to think Him TOO alive or TOO real or TOO present.

At least, I pray that’s true.

…And even as I type that last sentence, there’s a fire burning within me and I know that I know that I know–IT’S TRUE.

And so after He asked me that, I looked around me- at the wind blowing through the trees and the wet pavement and the headlights and taillights of traffic. And I said, “This is all Yours. You made it. We have grown to think this planet belongs to us, but it doesn’t. Every inch and corner, every height and depth, Your hands have created. And it would be silly of us to think that You created this planet and then left, that You are up in Heaven conducting things down here like a surgeon in an ER, reaching out a hand to an OR nurse without making eye contact and demanding, “Scalpel.”

We are not Your job.

We are Your passion.

It would be foolish to believe this planet, which has Your holy fingerprints all over it, is on its own, armed with scripture and prayer and the Holy Spirit, yes, but not the God who is both lion and lamb, the Savior with tender eyes and a warm embrace.

And so I choose to believe, because nothing else would make sense, that You’re here- that Your presence is hovering over this entire earth.

Lord, give us eyes to see.

Come as a rushing wind, come like rain, come like fire, come like a still small voice, coming like a baby in a manger… just COME.

*

You know what I’ve discovered? Sometimes we don’t even know what our hearts need to hear until it’s spoken to us. And the way we know our hearts were thirsty for those words? We cry. At least I cry!

I was fine, sad, but not tearful. And then she said, with authority and firmness, “You. Are. Lovable.”

Tears.

I was fine. And then she called me a gift.

Tears.

I was fine. And then she called me family.

Tears.

I was fine. And then she said, “It’s okay, He knows you’re heart.”

Tears.

I was fine. And then she said, “It’s going to be okay.”

Tears.

I was fine, and then I lifted my head toward heaven and asked, “Are you proud of me?”

And tears.

Because I knew the answer was “yes”.

*

I was going through papers the other day, looking for information about CEs and supervision in an effort to take a step closer to getting my LICSW.

Bills, bills, bills…
Product warranties and instruction booklets…
Admit papers.
Discharge papers.

My hand touched them and then withdrew. They are, to me, like fire.

The memories, the images that flash into my mind, they aren’t from God. I know that. And I believe God has (and continues) to redeem that season of my life.

And I am trying to surrender all to Him so that He can restore me, bring me back to a place of complete functionality- the only fire within me a fire for Him, and not a fire that leaves me burnt when I get too close.

*

When I pray aloud and speak the word ‘Lord’, it feels holy on my lips. Both heavy and light.

It puts me in my place.

And I don’t mind being put in my place. 🙂 There’s comfort and safety and awe and magic when I remember He is Lord over all. He the Creator, and I His creation-

both beloved and dust.

*

The thing I get complimented most on is my smile. And I only say that because it’s funny to me how the thing most often commented on is one of the things I feel most insecure about.

And I wonder how often the thing God’s given us, meant to be good and a gift and a strength, the enemy tries to turn into a weakness and insecurity.

How often does the enemy succeed at making us hide the things God specifically put us here to glorify Him with?

Our lights under a bushel.

*

This video made me cry-

Because the cub was playful and joyful and happy to be alive.
Because the papa (or mama) bear jumped in the water to save his/her cub without giving it a moment’s hesitation.
Because the cub was helpless in the water, but it was okay because he/she had a rescuer.
Because they had each other.

Because of how love is the most powerful force in the universe.

Awe

Where do you stand on the concept of coincidence?

Because I’m starting to think there is no such thing. Maybe it’s a myth- like unicorns.

Because if God is holding it all together, if nothing happens without His knowing, then things don’t simply happen “by chance”. Right?

For instance, it’s not “happenstance” that I stumbled across a job posting, applied even though I wasn’t entirely sure what I was even applying for, and miraculously got hired to do a job I love.

It’s not a roll of the dice that I go to a church that feels like home.

And the people in my life? It’s not coincidence that our lives intersected. There’s a purpose for it. A reason. God knew what I’d need, and what they’d need, and He orchestrated our meeting. It’s beautiful and incredible and takes some of the fear out of rejection and vulnerability and abandonment, doesn’t it? Because He holds it all together.

“God places the solitary in families…” -Ps. 68:6

If we do life that way, believing there’s something to give or receive in every encounter and situation, it puts the magic back in life, doesn’t it?

There are no “routine” days. Not from heaven’s perspective.

Maybe God is always speaking to us. And maybe we don’t hear because we’ve grown accustomed to labeling things “coincidence”.

We’ve grown numb to the magic of the sunrise. And the way the leaves turn brilliantly orange in the fall. And the wonder of our lives- the intricacies of the human body, all that has to function properly within us–organs and cells and whatever else makes us up on the inside–in order to make it from moment to moment.

The fact that God bent down and breathed His breath into us. Formed us with His hands. Delighted in creating the whole package of who we are- personality and what makes us cry and our heart and brain and fingernails and how our laugh sounds.

The whole earth, all of life, screams “I AM!” and we don’t hear anymore because it’s all we’ve ever known. We can’t see His hand in it or appreciate the creativity and majesty of who our Lord is and how much detail he put into all of creation, because we don’t know anything else. The trees and grass and clouds and birds and ability to sing (not necessarily in tune ;-)) and snow. My gosh, snow. It’s magical. Wondrous! Awe-inspiring!

“I’m here,” He whispers in the rushing wind.

“I am your Protector,” He says as candles flicker above my fireplace and rain pours down outside.

“I will never stop taking care of you. I am your Provider,” He says as I eat breakfast Sunday morning in my warm house while wearing pajamas and watching my cat play with a toy.

“You’re My child,” He says soothingly to my aching soul when someone I love hugs me or rubs my back or looks at me with love.

He breathed life into us. HIS BREATH, His holy breath, IN US. Sustaining us. He is nearer to us than we know. Within us. Telling our hearts to beat. Giving us air to breathe.

He breathed breath into us to give us life, and when we come to Him, when we sit in His presence or fall to our knees before Him, His breath fills us up again and again. It sustains us- reawakens us to life- to LIVING. To the wonder of being His and being held and existing in a world in which nothing happens without His knowledge. Nothing happens that He cannot use for good.

There’s never a single second we’re not loved, adored, delighted in, and thought about.

He spoke life to the rest of creation. With us, He formed us with His hands and breath and dirt, but with the rest of life, He spoke it into existence.

Which teaches us, there’s so much power in the spoken word.

“I love You.”

“I am Yours.”

“I trust You.”

“I choose hope.”

“You are good.”

“Thank You that You love me.”

“Thank You, thank You, thank You.”

We can know that everything that happens to us is out of love. Holy, perfect love.

The fiery furnace of trials. Softening us. Purifying us like gold. Making us tender and pliable and more wholly His. It’s still love.

And our tears matter to Him.

Even when He knows the outcome is good beyond what we can imagine, even though He knows we have more reason to rejoice than to weep… He hurts with us.

Lord, help me to trust You more. Help me to know I am Yours. I am safely held in Your hands and nothing that happens to me or in my life will be more than I can handle. Nothing is beyond repair. Nothing is cause for despair.

And Lord, thank You for the miracle of what You’ve done in my life. It wasn’t long ago that things looked really, really bleak. You are a mighty Redeemer and Restorer. You are merciful and forgiving and gracious and kind. And I am so in love with You.

Wildly in love. Amazed. Grateful.

Oh, the wonder of it all…