God in the Details

When I was younger and maybe full of more zeal, my requests were filled with big-ticket items from God: complete healings, spiritual awakenings, a turning of the hearts of kings. Slowly, my requests have followed my years and come home, closer to my heart and the community I live in. My asking has become more specific, almost smaller: heal the pain in her leg; let him see your goodness in the beauty of this gift; let us live at peace with all men, regardless of circumstances.

The change has not come from a loss of faith. It’s not that I don’t believe God can turn a nation or bring complete healing or that he cares. If anything, my faith has grown with time, finding its home in smaller ways as it has matured, and the small ways he speaks are all around my everyday life.

We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the growth of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail. Never believe that the so-called random events of life are anything less than God’s appointed order. Be ready to discover His divine designs anywhere and everywhere. – Oswald Chambers

I am choosing to see God in everything that is small and insignificant these days. Read the rest here.

When I thought you weren't looking

When I thought you weren’t looking, I took this life into the two hands you fitted for praise and ran with it. Not with my hands—instead, when I thought you weren’t looking I ran with my feet, made to go straight, and I rounded corners of my own invention. Not my own—I think many people before me must have heard you weren’t looking and they made these corners, rough edges, mazes for mankind that would follow, to follow. I followed.

I took my life and the hands and the feet and ran to places hidden from your sight, when I thought you weren’t looking but I still needed to hide. I did things you didn’t know about, couldn’t know about. You didn’t tell me otherwise, when you were silent. I ran to dark places and closed blue eyes so tightly, little specks of light danced in them. I opened to darkness and closed again to flecks and specks, filaments of spark. You didn’t say anything. You didn’t do anything. You were silent and I kept on, more light in eyes shut tight than in the dark corners where you were not. 

When I thought you couldn’t see I hid things from you, though you weren’t looking and wouldn’t look. The old watchmaker, ticking time but not watching it, not seeing minutiae, not noticing the seconds. Do you only see big pictures? Does your hand only wave across a broad expanse of sky and never become small enough to open the tiny lids of eyes of creatures of your long ago creating? Do you see only the firsts, the biggests, the loudests?

Do seconds even count?

When I thought you weren’t listening I said things about you to people who were. People who listened, heard. I said you were too big, too far, too grand, and I said it in reverence as if it was honoring to you to speak that way; but really, you weren’t listening anyway. Honor doesn’t fall on deaf ears but to the ground, hollow world, empty meaning. Who is honored by distance but the wild and ferocious and untamed? You weren’t listening because you were too big and far and grand; maybe I was the only one who heard.

You are hidden best in the most obvious places. Are you laughing, while I stumble?

When I thought you were listening I asked you for things, numerous things, and I listed them neatly with checkboxes for the day you would answer, because now I had faith and therefore, now you were listening; or vice versa. Was that funny—all those checkboxed lists documenting your attention? I could keep track. I could see how you were seeing and what mattered to you in those lists. 

On one day when I thought you might be listening—when my kids were listening—I asked you for the wild and ferocious and untamed, that we might see them. As quickly as I asked a God whom I hoped was listening, my kids asked if you really were. Were you listening? Would we see?

Did you laugh?

When you saw my children check my faith, when you were listening to words that tried too hard to be bold and I squinted blue eyes to see what I hoped was seeable—I wonder what you thought. I think you did laugh, because a mama bear transfigured right out of the woods (and this is no metaphor), right into the road, right into my spoken half-faith in a God who maybe hears, maybe sees, maybe cares about the smallest seconds. You laughed, and two cubs climbed a Douglas Fir tree not fifteen feet from our vehicle so those kids in the backseat could get a better look at you, laughing. 

When something is really funny I throw my head back, cackling through teeth too big for my head. I am in your image; is this how you laugh? Or are you reduced to tears by witty puns and plays on words, like I am? Are you like me? (You’re laughing now, I know it.) Words are funny. Eyes can play tricks, too. All this is laughable, right?

All the firsts on my list became seconds behind a mother showing her children the way: to faith; to make God laugh; to be accidentally funny in a comedy of errors. “A story is good when you continue to see more and more in it, and when it continues to escape you,” said Flannery O’Connor. I see you, and you escape me continually.

Let’s laugh together now at how far I’ve come, shall we? Let’s laugh at how I thought you didn’t see couldn’t hear and maybe didn’t care. I am second. Or last. And still you see small enough to notice the inconsequential and I think you do laugh when that parking spot opens up and I say praise the Lord! to no one in particular and then I think—was that you? 

It’s all funny now—how I used to think about you. My former self is always hilarious, post-punchline. But I wonder what jokes I’m missing now?

Are you laughing?

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Eleven Days of Inconvenience

The first green shoots were pushing through their earthly barriers by the end of February. I haven’t ventured to the garden lately but from the kitchen window I can see the chickens scratching up the dirt, doing the preliminary work of spring for me. We have months before planting if we want to be careful of those late spring frosts, but the flowers are the first ones up from winter sleep and I always watch for their signals.

The snow came down hard a few Sundays ago. We saw large flakes dropping during church and went home to fill the bathtubs, run the dishwasher, and do some laundry, anticipating that the power might go out for awhile. Where we live, the trees are sponges to soak up the Oregon rain; when it snows, sometimes the limbs grow too heavy to hold, and dropped branches often knock out power for half a day until the crews can get out to clear the lines. Filling the tubs and running the appliances is just insurance for the possibility of being out of electricity and water for a short time. We might also round up flashlights and candles when a storm is coming, but the darkness is not as inconvenient as the lack of running water.

We are set-up for these random power outages and we get by okay. It’s an excuse to be slow about things, to shirk a few responsibilities and live primitively and privately for awhile. All gathered in one room, we absorb the same heat our ancestors lived by: fire: burning bushes and blazing mountains and a refining furnace. 

When the snow kept coming down after church and into the evening that Sunday, we filled jugs and contemplated canceling our homeschool class in town the following day. We got a little excited and lit some candles. At 8:44 p.m. we lost power, and our next day’s plans were made for us. My in-laws came on Monday to share the convenience of our generator and we continued to be a little excited throughout the morning as the snow piled up, covering every green shoot and obliterating all signs of spring’s coming. 8 inches. 10 inches. 12 inches by the end of the day. By Tuesday we were over the excitement. 20 inches had accumulated and life was beginning to be very inconvenient. This is going to last awhile

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I really hesitate to complain about eleven days with no power or running water because, trust me, I know how very blessed we are. I’ve been in villages where all the water is hauled and heated with sweat equity and fire, where the daily hike to the rice paddy and back is not optional, not recreational, but necessary for living. Our life is framed around convenience and when everything works as it should, we are happy enough. But I know people whose lives are framed around inconvenience, and they are happy, too. 

All my routines and intentions fell victim to inconvenience those eleven days. It wasn’t convenient to get up early and have a quiet time—it was stinking cold and the bed was warm. It wasn’t convenient to stick with my goal of writing 30 minutes a day for 30 days—the only places of solitude in the house were stinking cold, and dark. It wasn’t convenient to exercise—because it was cold, and there's no shower. It wasn’t even a convenient break from normal work—when you homeschool and are part of a group which meets weekly and keeps a schedule, you still do school during a snow storm. 

And it was cold.

I do complain, and even if it’s mostly in my head, it shows in my face and my attitude and treatment of others. It took eleven days of stress and inconvenience to crack through some hard spots in my heart, to turn my attention back to Jesus, to prayer, to the kingdom here in us. It took all those days, but I hope it only took eleven days, to remind me that my calling is to serve others; to remember that I am served well by others and my needs are met. It only took eleven days to remember why I love where I live, why my neighbors are truly neighbors, my friends truly friends, my family truly family. That’s all worth eleven days of inconvenience. 

 

I take steps toward convenience because I like efficiency, but I question this now. Everything is convenient these days, but not everything is profitable. My Bible app popped up a message yesterday to tell me that if I had an Alexa or Google device, I could simply say Hey Alexa, read the verse of the day to me. Hey Google, read Matthew 11. They’re playing to my tendency to live as though efficiency lines up next to cleanliness, both in line for godliness.

It’s not true.

The “suffering” we endured for eleven days was mostly about losing our creature comforts, but others suffered real hardships during the storm. There are trees on houses and barns, whole homes cracked in half, and businesses with big losses to make up. I only came up against the borders of my own strength—my own ability to cope, to be patient, to serve, to think, even—and found I am far too dependent on efficiency and order and easy things. As Christie Purifoy says in her new book, Placemaker, “When we pray for guidance, perhaps God’s answer is every way he hems us in, like a river.” What I needed from those eleven days was to be hemmed in to a tighter place, to be closed up so I could see my own selfishness and fragility . When I lost my ability to be efficient and productive, I really did draw closer to God.

 

The snow is slowly melting, piled in heaps in shady spots while the sun greens the unburied grass. The garden is still partially snowed-in but I see a few blueberry plants cresting the surface, and I think spring will arrive in its time—tomorrow, actually. I just checked the calendar and tomorrow is the first day of spring and I feel “behind” on life, still hemmed in by various inconveniences and surprised that the world went on without our involvement those eleven days. Inconveniences are doing the preliminary work of breaking up the hard spots in me, though. There are green shoots that promise change, the daffodils dot yellow bursts of sun, and beauty I didn’t work for is showing itself as God’s handiwork, not mine.

Welcome, spring.