Trusting In Advance

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s not difficult to admit that change is good. We do not become who we need to be without altered circumstances, in spite of the pain in the process. It’s hard to believe until we are well past the gate, but change always has the potential to be good. It gives us the opportunity to be better, to grow, to lean forward and dig deeper. Once we’re there, we can nod our heads at our own history, we can acknowledge the results.

But it’s hard to believe, in the midst of the turmoil. My friend Lisa posted this quote by the Philip Yancey (author of one of the most transformative books I’ve read, The Jesus I Never Knew):

“I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”


If you live in the paradigm of grace, change triggers growth, resulting in faith.

But it’s hard to see.

There are so many around me who are enduring painful change in this season; difficult medical diagnoses, basic surgical procedures gone wrong, loss of jobs, imploding marriages, changing relationships that change the future. In the chaos of their circumstances, there is pain. It is difficult.

One person I know said, with no small amount of anger, “I don’t want any canned Christian phrases. I can’t even cope…” God bless you. I don’t want any canned Christian phrases either.


I sat down to write this morning about the current season of change in my life; how my three daughters are all living somewhere other than this house this summer, and how my anxiety almost crippled me as I contemplated life without the swirling mass of female energy that has always defined our home life. Like a rushing wind, some weather event of joyful energy, my emotional energy has been fixated on my daughters. There have words – many, many words! – and questions and laughter and tears and let’s not forget the massive amount of clothes everywhere. There’s stuff of the practical, daily living, and matters of the heart, the way that big, broad personalities fill up all the empty space in the house. The way the dynamic of sisterhood brings intense conflict and incredible love. It is big, and it is busy, and loud and emotional. And it’s all I’ve known, for almost two decades.

And now? Change. Quiet. Space. Vision. There’s the general contemplation of what comes next for the girls, as each one prepares for college and work and new relationships and independent living – anxiety on a different level. But also, there are eyes to see (mine) the young men who have lived in the midst of the swirl, space to hear them and settle into silence and uncomplicated maleness. I have a sixteen-year old son. I have a thirteen-year old son. The shade of their sisters gone, they are in my field of vision now, and I am discovering the joy of a more complete and focused love for them, without distraction and unhindered by their role as, simply, The Boys.

I sat down to write about that sort of change this morning, to acknowledge that I have survived, it’s not so bad, and that it has been surprisingly good. I have settled into something that makes sense, and I have discovered that I really, really like being the only female in a house of men; not only the ones who live here, but also the ones that tag along with them, crashing on the floor to eat ramen and drink Gatorade and sleep, arms and legs flailing, on the couch in the midst of it all.

I sat down to write about this good place I am easing into, and of the irony of a 12:17AM phone call last night, from a daughter who had a week’s worth of words that needed room to roam.

Things have changed, and some of what is different still bruised and tender. I miss my girls. I pray for their safety and stave off worry and anxiety over their well-being. My maternal cloak of protection stayed home with me, and I leave them to their good sense and the watch care of God.

Change is painful, regardless of the circumstances and details. I have known the backbreaking pain of the big ticket items; illness and loss and death and divorce and sin and shame. The relatively minor (and somewhat natural) process of releasing my children to independent lives pales in comparison, but change is painful, no matter the details.


Yet the result is always the same, when you look back; the aching may remain, as Andrew Peterson says – but the breaking does not. The cracks are filled in.

Faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.


Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


Or, as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message: 


The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.


Struggling with current circumstances? I have no pithy phrases to alter your perspective.

But because you cannot see, the paradox of growth is put into motion.

And that’s a good thing.

Colors

I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. – Psalm 9.1, The Message

Today, I am thankful for color.

The way the sun dances on the front of the storage building in the back yard.
(Which was built by my friend Andy, for whom I am also grateful.)
A carpet of leaves layers the ground outside my kitchen window, covering up the lack of landscaping attention so sorely needed. Now it just looks leafy. Kind of like throwing a nice quilt over a sofa that’s seen better days.
Autumn is my favorite time of year; at least that is so in October and November, when the colors are passionate and full of the demonstrative glory of change. For most of my life, I’ve been all about the changing; rearranging the furniture, finding a new job, starting a new hobby.
I’m settling down in my old age, I suppose. I am more reluctant to change, more aware of the toll and time it takes. I’m a good bit more comfortable.
But the colors of fall remind me that there is glory in death and beauty in transition.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Brawley

All Of My Life, In Every Season

What a weekend.

I’m sitting in an unusual pile of repressed emotions.  So much going on, so many life events and circumstances triggering varying emotional responses…I need a good cry, but I despair of having the time for that luxury.
My eldest child graduates.
My mom hosts the entire family – ex’s included – for a lunch, gracefully offering hospitality and a huge dollop of forgiveness.
One of my dearest friends and favorite musical partner ever moves out of our arena and into his own; we sang together today for what might be the last time this side of heaven.
My emotional reserves are spent, with lots of social activities and interactions.  The introvert in me is huddled in a corner of my soul, hands over her head, shaking and pleading, “No more….please, no more…”

My hormones are raging in unfamiliar ways.  Something uncontrollable seems to be happening to my body.  All the internal, physical and emotional issues aside, the primary problem is that my clothes don’t fit.  I hate it.
My life feels very cluttered and out of control right now.  I am longing for some quiet organization, some calm.
And yet – I could not ask for better circumstances.  
Isn’t it interesting how we humans can become so absorbed in the little glitches of life, missing all the level-headed joy springing up all around us? John Ortberg once said, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to take a nap.” I’m hoping that might clear out the clutter in my soul.  And I’m hoping that a little perspective will do the same.  The greatest truth I can find is in the undeniable existence of God.  Firm on His promise, I’ll stand.

This is my prayer in the desert when all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in the hunger and need
My God is a God who provides

And this is my prayer in the fire, in weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved of more worth than gold
So refine me, Lord, through the flames

I will bring praise, I will bring praise
No weapon forged against me shall remain
I will rejoice, I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

And this is my prayer in the battle, when triumph is still on it’s way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I’ll stand

All of my life, in every season
You are still God, I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

This is my prayer in the harvest, when favor and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be empited again
The seed I’ve received I will sow


Undergoing Major Change

At last year’s Leadership Summit I was introduced to Carly Fiorina.  She was a dynamic, engaging speaker and I was captivated, listening to a strong woman talk about leadership and empowerment.  I picked up her book, Tough Choices, and have referred to it off and on throughout the past several months.  

Truth be told, I’m just reading it VERY slowly – it’s sort of a monthly devotional book for me, with constant encouragement and information about leadership.  
Okay.  Honest truth?  It’s in the bathroom.
Midway through the book Fiorina talks about the creation of Lucent Technologies, which arose out of AT&T getting rid of a collection of assets called Newco. She was tapped to be Executive VP of Corporate Operations.  Here’s what she says:

“For some, the words aspiration and inspiration are mumbo jumbo; or hype; or soft, nonoperational stuff. These are people who forget that every income statement and balance sheet in the world is produced by the everyday hard work of everyday people. And people achieve more when they’re motivated by a purpose worthy of their efforts. They align their individual actions in to a more powerful collective effort when they know they strive for a common and commonly understood goal. Nowhere are aspiration and inspiration more important than in a large, complex organization undergoing major change. In large companies myriad actions taken and countless small decisions made must add up to the bottom line. And in a period of change, each employee must break old habits and learn new skills, and every employee’s actions and decisions must align in new ways to produce something different.”


In the midst of everything that we are doing as PCC staff members, in spite of what we’re feeling and experiencing on a personal level, regardless of the current status of our personal relationship with God, we are in the middle of some major changes at PCC. We are the folks who are not only doing the “everyday work of everyday people”, but we are also inspiring and leading volunteers who are doing the same thing as they serve at PCC.

We each have unique goals for our ministry areas that are hopefully clearly and commonly understood by those folks who serve with us. But I think it’s important to still remember that we are, technically speaking, a “large, complex organization undergoing major change.”

Our mission is to reach and lead. That is the purpose worthy of our efforts. Lives are changing because of what God’s spirit is doing through PCC.

I just want to challenge each of us – myself included – to continue to live in the awareness of the challenges of change, and to take to heart the necessity of breaking old habits, learning new skills and aligning our actions and decisions in new ways. God is using us – and he is also changing us, through this time of change. It’s a remarkable thing that ultimately results in eternal impact for our community. We are led by a senior pastor and an executive pastor – but we are also given the great responsibility and even the luxury of leading ourselves.

I’m focusing on praying for us as a body today, and thankful that God’s drawn us all together for the sake of His name.

Cross-posted at Words Matter