"God showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand… and it was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: 'What can this be?' And it was generally answered thus: 'It is all that was made.' It was so small I thought it might disappear, but I was answered... everything has being through the love of God." --Julian of Norwich

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The ache: a litany of gratefulness.

I've finally put my finger on one of the better reasons for the ache in my belly about leaving Vancouver.  I've written in the past months about the vertigo of packing up and leaving our lives in Vancouver behind for a new adventure and about the anxiety I feel in doing this.  But this week I've come across an amazing quote that shed new light on this ache.

(I feel the tears welling up.  If I were reading this post aloud to you, you would hear my voice shaking a little bit here, see my chin wrinkle)
The first and most famous of the desert fathers, Saint Anthony, was once asked, “What must one do in order to please God?” His answer had three parts:“Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes: whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.” (quoted from Amy Peterson's article Wanderlust: A Personal History)
Did you catch that, there at the end?   In whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.

In the past few months, on a subconscious level I have believed that the sad, tight feeling I've carried around in my stomach is mostly bad.  It sure doesn't feel that great.  It feels like loss and grief and uncertainty and anxiety and lack of faith.  But according to St. Anthony's words it's not bad at all.  If I'm having a hard time leaving one place and heading out toward another, if I cannot easily leave, it's a sign of healthy spirituality.  It's a sign that I am pleasing to God.

I don't say this to toot my own horn.  This surprises me.  I don't feel pleasing to God.  Most days I feel like a colossal failure as a human being because I can't even do simple things like respond to my preschooler with patience or keep my time online under control or keep my house relatively clean.  Let alone huge feats of faith like packing up to take my family whithersoever the Spirit leads.

It also surprises me in some ways that I cannot easily leave Vancouver.  I have not particularly felt at home here.  It has often felt like a stopping place, a passing through place.  For the past three years, we've thought, "just a little bit longer and we'll leave."  In our minds, it felt like we already had one foot out the door, like we shouldn't settle in and get comfortable.  But even as an exile and a foreigner just passing through, I have so much to be grateful for about my life here.

God has been with me here.

He has been with me in walks along the windswept shore of Spanish Banks and the wooded trails of  Galiano Island.

He has been with me in the flash of red and yellow autumn leaves that set every common tree aflame.

He has been with me as I knelt to glean hazelnuts from a farmer's orchard, a tiny life pressing against my belt.  And as that life grew.

He has been with me helping me to find (and even grow) healthy, scrumptious local food to eat in the face of corn-allergy.

He has been with me through my courses at Regent College that have helped me to see his Word clearly again after years of dissonance and confusion.

He has been with me as I sat around so many tables with so many friends sharing bread and wine and excellent conversation.

He has been with me as I've knelt at the altar rail month after month with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, righteousness that I could never earn or deserve.  As I committed to teach my girls that hunger.

He has been with me through the struggles and through the accomplishments.  Where I am apt to look at even my biggest accomplishments here with a gnawing sense of failure and despair--he has enfolded me with love and spoken to me--oh so clearly!--that he doesn't see failure, he sees faithfulness.

For this and so much more I am truly grateful.

all pics my own.  all rights reserved. :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Trust: Moving forward

My blog has been unexpectedly silent this summer, as you can easily see.  I've missed two Trusting Tuesdays and all those June posts I was supposed to do.

The truth was that I have been sitting here with those same butterflies I mentioned in my last post all summer, until I began to wonder if butterflies in your stomach can develop into an ulcer.  Only proverbially speaking, thankfully, but still.  To put it mildly: it's been hard to live in the Trust I set out for in January.

This summer was beautiful in Vancouver, everything that I could have asked for.  I made it my goal to enjoy my time-growing-short in this city.  Even though I've lived here twice as long as I lived in New York City, I have never felt at home in Vancouver, I have always felt like an expat, a student just passing through.  But with a lot of hard work, I have made a life here, and some semblance of a home.

Day after day through summer, I would pack up Lucy and Julianne and everything we could possibly need in our zippy red jogging stroller and head out--to the playground, to the wade pool, to the splash pad, to the beach.  The weather was incredible.  Day after day of sunshine and temperatures topping out in the mid 80s.  The sun sparkled on the water, glinted on bubbles on twilit evenings, warmed my chill bones, gave color to my skin, made growing things glow green.

Baby and I would sit in the shade of a tree and watch Lucy abandon herself in the joy of play (do you remember the delight of losing yourself in play?  It was a joy just to watch).  She would turn her wise brown eyes back to look at me, brimming with happiness or pride at a new accomplishment.  "I did it, Mom, I was brave!" (She's learning to be brave!  If that doesn't make you catch your breath, then check your pulse because you're not living.) Or Julianne would turn to her sister at dinner and laugh uncontrollably with delight that she had a front row seat to such an amazing human being. Or Clint and I would look to one another eagerly, our eyes saying without words "Did you see that?  Did you hear how amazing this life is?"  Our reality was almost too beautiful to look at.

I clung to that beauty because it felt like all I had in the vertigo of this waiting place.

I found myself slipping, by mid-July I felt clouds of anxiety, depression and panic gathering.  Joy would break in for a moment, like a blinding ray of sunshine.  But in the midst of the waiting, the everyday joy born of noticing everyday beauty was almost painful.

I tried to just keep showing up.  And showing up again.

I think, by God's grace, it worked.

Now we are packing up, making choices, moving toward the next rest stop on our journey: Calgary, where Clint's parents live.  And it will be a place to rest.  A place to catch our breath a little bit.  A place for me to write what will hopefully be the last major draft of my book, to find the voice buried deep in its bones and let it out.

But--oh!--Lord have mercy on my battered nerves while we pack.  Suddenly I understand what women down through the ages have been referring to when they spoke of their Nerves.  I have them too, and they are under assault.  But.  There are already twenty four boxes packed, twenty nine days until we have to hand over the keys to our tiny apartment, and a bucket list of things to do and see "one last time."

Here. we. go.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Trust: The butterflies


The good Lord has me in the wringer these days.

It has begun to sink in that everything in our lives is about to change, that giving up the crazy patchwork life that we’ve been living—how many jobs can one man work?!—also means giving up a lot of things I love.  Because a new job for Clint probably means moving.  


Moving and I have a history.  Like that one period of 18 months in college when I moved seven times.

Last week this reality hit me hard, in my very body.  My stomach gets that light, tumbly feeling like when I’ve jumped off of something high up and I’m falling.  My throat constricts with grief:  If we move out of the Lower Mainland of BC, how will I make it without my friends?  Without this apartment we call home?  Without all the community resources in our neighborhood?  Without Avalon whipping cream? (Trivial but crucial for someone with allergy)

But seriously: we don’t have any idea what our future will look like beyond August.  Like none.  We have wishes and dreams and that's it. Where will we live?  What will our lives look like?  How will we make ends meet?  Will we all be able to be together while we file the right papers with the right immigration authorities and wait interminable waits? (ok, now I hope I’m being irrational)  How will I keep the girls safe and happy and fed on time?  What will we take with us and what will we leave behind?

Can you feel it with me?  Those tummy-butterflies?

When I was younger I lived on this uncertainty.  This is the life I chose for myself: international travel, perpetual schooling, bustling cities, risk-taking ministry, small apartments, smaller income.  There is an exhilaration to taking a jump, packing a vehicle with everything you own and heading off for the unknown.  But now that I’m in my thirties with children to be responsible for, I’m getting tired.  I’m feeling so homesick for the lovely people and comfortable places I’ve left behind.  (It’s possible that the thirties are just exhausting no matter what… but my case still stands.)

I pray every day.  Hard.  But I still feel ALL THE THINGS.  Anxiety.  Worry.  Anger.  Sadness.  Grief.  And hope. (Is hope an emotion?  I think so.  And something more.)

A week ago on Pentecost, I felt the weight of all this and I found a little prayer:

            Send your Holy Spirit upon us and clothe us with power from on high.  Alleluia.

It reminded me (again) to trust in the power of God that I really do believe in.*  Not just, like, a little bit, but at the core of my being I believe in this power.  And I believe it’s our only way forward.  

Will you pray with me?


This post is linked up with Amy Young's Trusting Tuesdays at her blog The Messy Middle.

*Do you remember my first post on Trust in January?  And this one in February?  I'm not sure if I could have said this back then.  I think this gut feeling is progress. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the discipline I discovered back in March.  Or how God came through for us in April.  But I'll gratefully accept.