Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Right On" Words of Encouragement

Lately, this week, this morning, I have been anxious, fearful, hands shaking, afraid of being constrained, trapped, stuck, fake. Afraid to speak. Have I picked up the Word? No.

So this morning I pick up the Word. "Where should I go?", I silently ask. Psalms. I open. Psalm 56.
I read silently. I read aloud:

"Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?"

And then . . . verse 8:

"You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?"

I have been wandering all week. Wandering and wondering. And yes, tears. Silent tears. Quiet tears. He knows each and every wander I have taken, each and every tear I have shed. He records them even. He cares that much. My breath is taken away. He knows the depths of my wandering, where they are and why they are, knows their purpose, even if I cannot speak them.

I read on. Verse 9-10:
When I cry out to You
Then my enemies will turn back;
This I know because God is for me
In God (I will praise His word),
In the LORD (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

I have been putting my trust in myself, my past, my inabilities and/or unwillingness to speak my heart, fearing opinions. Fear comes from that.

A cross reference says Psalm 118:6. So I go there. I read verses 5-6:

I called on the Lord in distress
The Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
The Lord is on my side;
I will not fear
What can man do to me?

The commentary says that distress is referring to confined, constrained spaces. My fear has been that the Lord will stuff me in a box. But the truth is that he sets me in a broad place, open, free. He is on my side.

Again the cross reference says Psalm 94:17. I turn and read . . .
"Unless the Lord had been my help,
My soul would soon have settled in silence."

Sigh. Selah. Wow. I have been on the fence of speaking versus silence. Stepping out versus settling. My soul taking flight in truth versus sinking in under a mask. Without the Lord's help, my soul is destined to settle in silence. But that is not me. I have the Lord's help and so, my soul will not settle in silence.

I have been anxious. I read on. . . same Psalm verse 19:
In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.

Yes, I am delighted. That has been me this week: a multitude of anxieties. But after this gentle rain of His words directly, specifically, uniquely to my soul, I am truly and completely delighted.

What was unique to me this week? Multitudes of anxiety. Fear. A silent, settling soul. Suffocating claustrophobia. His word spoke to every unique need I had. Not that I am the only one who feels those, but they were my specific needs at this specific time.

Once again, I am amazed. I am encouraged. I am trusting in God, not me, not someone else. I am delighted.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009



Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).
Sunflower family.
Description: A common weed, its yellow flower head topping a hollow, leafless stalk that rises from the center of a rosette of toothed leaves.
The popular name comes from dent de lion. French for "lion's tooth," referring to the teeth on the leaves.
(The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers c)1979)

A common weed. Yet so much memory in it. Who does not remember as a child picking fistfuls of dandelions to present as an expression of love for a mother, grandmother, or another beloved woman? The pungent smell of the blooms takes me back to my childhood as it did on this day when I saw the first few weed-flowers of spring along my house.

Lately as I have relished fond memories of my grandparents, I have seemed to mourn a loss of "knowing" one of my grandfathers. Not anger. Not bitterness. Just a sadness. How we can live next door to one another, or even within the same household and miss a deep knowing of one another is a tragedy. Yet it seems far too common. And so follows a portion of my journal from April 23, 2009.

The dandelions that have sprung up along the house this week remind me of Grandpa's war against them. I remember him out there in his yard with a dandelion digger. I remember a photo of him, of me, of dandelions. . . were we in it together? Was it just him? Just me? Grandpa digging and me delighting, as a 4-5 year old, the dandelions. And as I think of these/this photo, questions surface.

Did he have an affection for me? He must have. Certainly a grandfather would. What inner battles was he fighting that he seemed so occupied, so. . . in the background? Why do I have so few memories of him? Are there parts of me that are from him? How am I like him? What did he long for?

The memories that I do have ~ I do remember his voice. I do remember his laugh. I do remember his huge-knuckled, humped-up arthritic hands. I do remember that he watched M*A*S*H. He was fascinated by maps one of my aunts recently shared with me. I watch M*A*S*H now, so much that it is almost a "language" that Jim & I speak to each other. ("You know the episode when Margaret's father. . . that's how I feel," I might say to Jim.) And I am and have always been fascinated with maps.

I am overcome with a new compassion for him, with forgiveness, with sorrow for his lost relationships, for him, for me. For what he refused to face or express, for how he held back from those who loved and needed him most. For how he was able to express his true self with others: those he worked cattle with, the ones he bought a sewing machine from, those he attended the Episcopal church with. They were the ones who got his true self. . . his glorious self. For we all do have a glory to share, I believe, from our Creator. They got to see, and some got to know, the "good stuff".

I am not angry. Instead, compassion. Sorrow. Relating. Grace.

What was going on behind his mask? What is going on behind mine? What pressures did he feel? Were they like mine? What was his battle with pride like on the inside of him? Is it similar to the one I fight? The one that attempts vs. lets go of "painting a perfect little picture" of my life.

The answers to the questions about my grandfather are not as important as the eyes of my heart that the Lord is opening to see my grandfather as a real person. To see him as a person who did hurt, who did have insecurities, who battled uncertainty, who did fear, who made mistakes as he lived his life as best he know. He was real with feelings and battles just as real as my own.

The little dandelion-picking girl in me asks, "Did you delight in me, Grandpa?"

And in my mind, I respond to the question, "I think you did. I think the answer is yes, even if you didn't show it in a way that I can remember. I think you may have struggled to be your truest self with your family just like I do. And it wasn't their fault. But the vulnerability it required was risky. It was scary. It was easier with people who 'didn't matter so much'."

From deep within, I hear a voice that I write. "Don't make the same mistake, Jodi. Don't hold back who you really are deep down inside your core being from the world and most of all from those who matter most. Don't let this life go by pretending to be what you are not or trying to fit a mold of success that you think others will approve of or by impressed by. What matters most is following the heart of the Lord because He made you to be you for your family...for those that "matter so much". Don't hold back the 'true you'. Because the 'true you' is the 'best' you, and they deserve the best, truest you. They need it. They want it. They need and want to know and experience the true you. It gives them permission and courage to discover and be their truest selves."

What do I do with this encouraging voice? When I read it, I want to cry out, "Yes!! This is true!" And then when I attempt to live it, to speak it, with those that "matter most", a fear creeps in . . . that whispers of being rejected, of being thought a fool, of being told that I am too complicated and too deep and serious, of being misunderstood, of being arrogant to think that I could write and publish something that people would want to read. The whisper causes me to want to "play it safe", to pretend there are no things stirring in the depths of me to step out in a new way, to pretend or to convince myself that I am content and should leave everything alone, to keep peace and calm--no waves, to stuff the desire to risk and share the passions within. And then the encouraging voice cries out, "No! Don't repeat it! Don't hold back! Be real! Be who you were made to be! Share the passions and gifts you were given that were given only to you. They are needed. They were designed for you to share, not to keep to yourself! Each person was designed uniquely to offer themselves, and that includes you. Risk rejection, for some will reject. Risk being thought a fool, because some will undoubtedly think you are. Risk revealing the complicated questions you have and the depth of your thoughts. And risk misunderstanding because in hiding, stuffing, and pretending you are already misunderstood."

How would I want my children to respond to a battle like this within? I know the answer. I know the voice I would encourage them to follow. Live like I want my children to live. Be the example. Put on courage and live it. I hear Casting Crowns, echoing their song in the background of my mind, "But the Voice of Truth, tells me a different story. The Voice of Truth says, 'Do not be afraid.' And the Voice of Truth says, 'This is for My glory.' Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth."

Dandelion. Bloom as you are. There is beauty in who you were made to be. Some may try to destroy you because you are messing up the order and tidiness of their arranged "yard-life". While others will embrace and delight in your beauty, gathering up in fistfuls the uniqueness that is the true you. Bloom and scatter your seeds on the wind of your words.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Spring Hope.
(Written 4/7/2009 after spring blizzard. Remember, not so long ago. . . )

The robins are here this morning. On my deck, in my few sparse juniper branches that refuse to be crushed by the snow, in my cottonwood tree. Their orange breast against the blue sky evokes a glimmer deep in my core--

Beyond the tree I see a black baby calf dancing in figure-eights around his blizzard-weary mama; his tail flying straight behind him. If he could speak, I imagine he would be saying, "Mama! Mama! The sun! The sun! Do you see the sun? And the blue sky? Blue! That is what blue is! Wow! It's amazing!!" It is the first time this 3-day old baby has seen a blue sky, has seen the sun. He has only known white and gray, cold and wet.

And mama, slowly, deliberately chewing her cud of hay, wearily lifts her head, utters a soft shallow, "Mmm," saying "Yes, dear."

There is a glimmer again. Color. Light.