"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. :)

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