A Benediction for Your Disappointments (just in case the day doesn't go as planned)

I remember being a little girl and throwing the classic tantrum on my bed—legs battering the mattress, arms flailing, wails of injustice running from my throat. I don't recall the offense now but I am sure the pitched fit was completely rational, as they all are. I'm sure it was some very large violence done against my very small-self. Not getting my way has always been devastating.

Disappointments, like all things God uses in my life, can break up the soil of a stagnant heart. Big or small, insignificant or completely life altering, when something disappoints so much that I want to pitch a fit, I know that my focus has been stolen or skewed or momentarily seized by unattainable ideals. Otherwise, I could accept the turn of events as another Thing Sifted Through the Hands of God. If my focus were right I wouldn't be pulled into the spiral of a grown-up tantrum, which consists of sitting on my bed, stewing in unspoken thoughts, and punching imaginary walls.

This is part of life, though. Being disappointed is part of a longing unfulfilled and this world was not meant to satisfy all our desires and make us spoiled brats. We are struggling to live in two worlds, redeemed from disappointment but still disappointed. We want more than one world can offer.

And hello. We are often a let down to others with high hopes.

Lowering my expectations is probably not the answer. Instead, I try to be reminded that all my hope is in Christ, Who is both in this world and in another completely disappoint-less one, a kingdom eternal. The desire for more than this world can offer is the fuel for high hopes, and when plans fail or people fail or all hell seems to break loose, that desire for more reminds me to look at the smallest victory available in the moment. Because Christ is here, there is always something to see.

May you find small victories today, priceless and precious in a world of Big Things. 

When a child smiles, may you see the face of God. When a child cries or complains, may you be the face of God. 

May you have grace for the graceless and guard your words for the sake of your weaker brother. 

May you bear up under the disappointments of others. 

When the moment doesn't turn out the way you hoped, the way you imagined, may all your hope and imagination turn to a coming kingdom. 

And when you find something perfect—a moment, a word, a mood, a song, a picture, a taste, a smell—may you give thanks for the bit of eternity you've seen.

Fix it now or fix it later, but it won't fix itself

There is a handicap that comes with marrying a man who can fix anything. In most circumstances we try to keep balance in our marriage: we know we can't both be grumpy at the same time so we take turns; we both love sweets but one of us usually wields self-control so the other is kept in check; and of course, one of us is a saver and one is a spender. But because my husband can generally fix anything, I generally fix nothing. I am not Mrs. Fix It, but rather Mrs. Wait and See if It Fixes Itself, and you know how often that happens? I have many times put a broken item in a drawer because I don't want to deal with it and months later, when I stumble upon it again, it's still broken. It doesn't heal itself. It's disappointing.

The current list of broken things we own includes the motor to our jetted tub, our BBQ, several loose door handles, two pictures I can't hang yet because the backs won't fit on properly, my old Garmin that probably just needs a new battery, a pair of pants that need hemmed, and a Nalgene water bottle whose lid was melted in the dishwasher. (Updated: I ordered a new lid for it from Amazon. Done and done.)

If I can't fix it by banging on it, powering it off and on, or gluing it quickly together, I will set it aside and wait. I may order a replacement; I may bring it to my husband's attention; but I generally will not buckle down and do the work of figuring out how to fix it myself.

I'm not proud of this.

I want things to work effortlessly and last forever and not require assistance from me. I want the tub to miraculously start working when I fill it with water and push the button, though I know it's broken, though I know it will take more than time to fix. This is a laziness in me, and I am not proud of it.

Hello. I'm Tresta and I despise fixing things.

fix it

"...to know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks."  ~  Flannery O'Connor

There is grace in knowing what one lacks. The rich young ruler lacked only one thing, according to Jesus, but that one thing was the barrier to his freedom. I wonder how his life changed after that hard look in the mirror of Jesus' words? He went away sad; sometimes we stay there in the sadness of a broken thing we have the power, in Jesus, to fix.

Sometimes the brokenness fixes us.

My desire for things to be fixed without my efforts is one part laziness, but another part of it is just the fact that so many things are broken, and I am dependent on them: machines, technology, people. Since I depend on them and not the other way around, they are piled-up expectations of what I need from them while I, myself, am broken and don't see.

I wait and see if they will be fixed with just waiting, if time alone will heal. (It doesn't, of course.)

In time, on time, a new heaven and new earth will arrive. One part of fixing in this present time is sincerely waiting, sincerely hoping, sincerely setting aside our Fix-It-ness. We are conflicted in prayer because for some, we pray for actual brokenness, and for others, we ask God to please just fix what's broken, fix the hurt and heal the fractures that splinter bone and brain and family. 

I get weary and set things aside. Because time is for marking grace, in time I come back and see that indeed, some things are fixed without my fixing and fretting and even in my forgetfulness to pray, God is using brokenness to fix things. It's not just time that heals; it's people doing the hard work God puts before them, and it's God taking care of the hard things His people put before Him.

You have broken stuff going on. You have shoved things aside in exasperation and occasionally you might pull them up again, push the buttons, bang them around a bit to see if they are working right. Take heart, and take this as sincere encouragement:

Now hear me, Rabadash," said Aslan. "Justice shall be mixed with mercy. You shall not always be an Ass."

We will not always be broken.

Harps in the willows: Psalm 137 and our need for encouragement

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it. For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requested mirth, saying, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion!'

How shall we sing the LORD's song In a foreign land?" ~ Psalm 137:1-4

All of Oregon has blazed and been razed and we just saw the actual sky a few days ago, for the first time in over a week. We haven't seen clouds or shards of blue, just a flaming orange sun and a landscape muted and filtered in old Instagram-style.

I'm afraid we missed our one last hurrah of summer, buried under smoke and barricaded in our houses for a week. School has started, the leaves are fringed with fire, and the sun slips away every evening by 7:30.

It's funny how I just wrote about my love for Oregon, all its natural beauty and clean air; funny how we give thanks for these things that are changing in the blink of an eye. Our belongings are not subject to only moths and rust that destroy, but to fire and wind and rain so hard and heavy it lifts us from our very foundations.

But it settles us, too, sifted and dropped back to earth.

And while we've been burning our forests and our lungs, while our firefighters have tirelessly protected our homes and our lives, Texas has overflowed and Florida has had its deluge. No Oregonian has probably ever prayed for rain and no Texan has ever longed for the sun like we all have lately, in this flip-flop of a confused world that only seems unprecedented.

The earth shakes and floods and burns and keeps turning, neglecting our pleas for reprieve. Everything is the worst thing when it's our thing—our home and our loved ones and our favorite state park. We want attention for our disaster but it's all a disaster, isn't it?

Everyone in the world is experiencing trouble—some firsthand, some via sound bites and images.

The ability to feel another person's pain keeps us from being the narcissist we all want to be, the Me-First people of abundant flesh, hanging our harps on the nearest willow and refusing a song. This may be the one good thing we've gained from the interwebs and constant connection: we can always reframe our current struggles in light of bigger issues going on in the world and get some perspective.

Hope can be harder to muster up than perspective, though. We can sing the happy lyrics in this place that feels foreign because the world likes happy people and we're trying to be what they want—we're all fine and everything is fine and you're fine, too; but a genuine song of hope—an earth, wind, and fire of firsthand experience that back-burns and bulges and bricks our worries over with expectation, with good things coming—that song takes guts.

It's too easy to hang our harps and sit down to weep, leaving a vacuum where despair rushes in. In place of a melody we get a malady: hopelessness. We get rusted harps that have forgotten even the melancholy songs we want.

It's too easy to be doomsday prophets.

I keep coming back here, to the banks of the river and the exiles on the shore and this psalm that is so vivid. The imagery of the river and the harps hanging on the trees, the weeping of the people and the mocking of their oppressors—all of it is awkwardly beautiful to me, the way truth that hurts is still truth. (Have you seen the pictures—the fires glowing against the night, the animals taking refuge in the river while their world falls to ashes, the heroes in fire and water? This is the Lord's song in our place of exile, the literal beauty in literal ashes.)

The Israelites were cared for even in their exile; we are cared for even in our exile from The World the Way We Want It. If we are disciplined, we know we are loved. If we are weathering storms, we know we're not alone.

I've read this psalm over and over the last few months and every time I want to blame the children of Israel for their pouting. I want to shake them by their shoulders and point to their harps and shout, "Sing!", but I never would do that in real life. I'm more likely to sit and pout alongside them, to fold up inside myself and wait for the storm to pass or the fire to burn out or the anger to subside. I am almost sure I have figuratively hung my harp in the willows on more than one stressful occasion.

What I want someone to do is to grab one of those harps hanging there and come up with a hopeful song, one for those who sit and weep, one for those who pout. If you're in a hard place, isn't that what you want, too? An encourager?

I'm praying today for us to stand up and do the work of encouraging others in their trials and troubles, finding the hope and the empathy called for in scripture. The harps are rusting.