Saturday, May 28, 2016

Shaken AND Stirred

Have you ever read anything by Anne Lamott? Thanks to the magic that is Facebook, I've seen bits of her writing over the past few years - always raw, gritty, real, funny, poignant, intriguing, offensive and full of truth that nobody wants to admit to. But I'd never picked up a book of hers until a few weeks ago. Full of sudden resolve, I grabbed everything that was available at my neighbourhood library one day (after I'd finally paid my shockingly large overdue fines): a novel from 1983 (Rosie) and two more recent non-fiction titles (Small Victories - Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace and Help, Thanks, Wow - The Three Essential Prayers). I highly recommend them, but at the same time - read at your own risk!

I'm still trying to decide. or figure out, what reading these works is doing to me, in me. I feel shaken and stirred, strengthened in spirit but somehow depleted as well. I can't say that I encountered any brand new ideas or had my mind blown in any major way, but there's something...

First of all, I'm incredibly inspired. I want to live a life worth writing about, and I want to write stuff that's worth reading, that stirs hearts and allows people to say in response, "me, too!" I want people to know that they're not alone by sharing my story, my journey. I want to be honest about my struggles and victories, my joys and sorrows, my doubts and fears. I want to be my own keenest observer, eyes and heart wide open to what God is doing in me, around me, through me, in spite of me...

But there's also a faint, lingering note of panic, of urgency. I have a sense that my time of study, of rest, of wisdom-gathering, of reading and writing, of observation and learning, is coming to a close, and that a new, challenging-in-a-different-way season will soon be upon me. And so I want to cram in as much as I can while I still have the opportunity.

I'm concerned, though. (Who am I kidding - I'm downright worried, no - terrified...) I don't feel at all prepared to leave this chapter behind - I don't feel like I've learned enough, changed enough, absorbed enough. But that's just like God, isn't it...from what I've seen, He tends to equip as we obey, as we take steps of faith beyond our current capabilities. And maybe, just maybe, this foundation He's been building in me these past couple of years will be firm enough to withstand the inevitable strain of the days to come.

I guess it all remains to be seen...



Sunday, May 22, 2016

Singing in the Rain

I took a walk through the woods in the rain today. I heart rain. So much so that most people think I'm a little weird in this respect. When I was as young as three years old, I would sit out in a lawn chair in our yard during thunder storms, my small heart thrilling to the wind and wet, the crash and flash. "Pluviophile", while not a real word, is the urban dictionary's term for my condition: "a lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days." Next to walking on a beach, this is the activity that most feeds my soul.

And my soul needed...something. Since becoming aware of the imminent possibility of being consumed again by depression (as described in this  post), I've been seeking out ways to avoid it, to counteract it, to rebuke it, to nullify it, to appease it, to fend it off...if that's within my reach at all.

So I took to the dripping trees. As previously mentioned, I love rain in general, but after a very dry winter and spring, it was exceptionally delightful. As the rain poured down, it seemed as though Nature was exhaling a satisfied, rose-scented sigh of pure gratitude. As though the earth had plucked up courage, refreshed and recharged and ready to fight another day, through drought and storm and whatever challenge might come along.

My own spirit responded. Seated on a rock beside a rushing stream, the soothing, soaking rain drenching me thoroughly, I breathed in that unique, invigorating scent that rises from wet woods and with it, renewed courage to resume my own battle, come what may. Whether it leads me through that deep, dark valley or across a serendipitous bridge to the other side, I will fight. Fight for freedom, for peace, for hope - for joy.

video

Friday, May 20, 2016

On the Edge

Oh, my dear Friends...I'm so afraid. What began as a slight unease in my soul seems to be slowly but surely nudging me closer and closer to the edge of that deep, dark, delusional pit of depression...and I so desperately want to avoid falling over the edge.

I know what lies over the precipice of this particular pit - been there, done that, got the t-shirt - several t-shirts. It's more awful than anything I've ever walked through. "Walked" isn't even the right term; more like slogged through, waded through, sat-inertly-like-a-bump-on-a-log through...

I DON'T want to go there again! I don't, I don't, I don't! It's such a scary, solitary, sad, surreal place. A place in which it seems impossible to even see the truth, let alone believe it. Where I yell at my kids and then cry, and buy chips and eat them all and feel even worse, where my house is even more of a wreck than usual and my relationships are sorely neglected, where it's painful to be with people but the loneliest place I've ever been, where joy is elusive and hope non-existent. I feel like a toddler on the verge of a tantrum, stamping feet and pounding fists and screaming, "nononononononono!".

Is it remotely possible to avoid going there? Or even desirable? Should I simply embrace the inevitable, trusting that this too shall pass and that all things will work together for my good?  I'm not sure I have any other option, to be completely honest.

I can't recall ever being aware that a "depressive episode" was imminent; only finding myself in the middle of it and waiting for it to lift. And the lifting, I definitely remember the lifting.

So maybe this is something else. Maybe I'm not about to go over the edge. Oh, I hope so.

But I'm hedging my bets. You may recall that in at least one other post, I begged you not to advise or sympathize. Well, I'm reversing that. Please, please share with me your own stories, what has helped you or someone you know in a similar situation. Comment here, Facebook me, email me, text me...And please pray for me, if praying's your thing. Bless you, Friends.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Am I Living the Life I Want to Live? (and is that even the right question?)

It's quiet in my house today - no music blaring, no TV on, no family scurrying around...just the tick-tock of the clock, the hum of the refrigerator and the chirping of a bird outside my window.

I'm generally a fan of silence and stillness. I find I need lots of both in my days in order to deal with my life. I guess it helps me connect with God, and lets me really hear from the depths of my own soul. I've come to discover that these things are important factors that enable me to live the life I want to live.

There are times and seasons, though, when I shrink from such solitude. Fears and worries and doubts and conflicts have a way of sending me running from my thoughts. Escape and comfort come in the form of good books and loud music, usually in tandem, so that I am afforded no opportunity to dwell on these peace-shattering, joy-stealing issues.

The irony is that I need that soul-quiet in order to address and process such events and emotions. But it takes courage to turn off the noise and face the music. It's a kind of bravery I'm not always able to summon. When I can, it ends up being its own reward.

I've been thinking today about purpose and calling and goals and dreams. Asking big questions, like, "Am I living the life I want to live?" "What kind of life do I feel called to live?" "Am I enough?" "What gaps exist between the life I'm actually living and the life I want to live?" "What priorities and values and beliefs is my life communicating?" "Do I practice what I preach?" "Is anybody even watching/listening?"

Are these even the right questions? I dunno.

But I do know that, right here and right now, I'm content with my life. With the choices I've made, for better or worse. With the path that has led me to where I am right now. As bumpy and winding and uphill and uncertain as it has been, I look back at a path strewn with breath-taking beauty, true joy, life-changing lessons, unbounded grace, unshakable hope and deep peace.

I Timothy 6:6 is a verse I keep thinking of today. In the New International Version I grew up with, it says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." In this chapter, Paul is warning Timothy about those who love money and only care about amassing wealth, to the exclusion of more worthwhile, more eternal pursuits. It's a beautiful thought, and expressed perfectly in The Message: "A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God."  

That hits the nail on the head for me: the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. It unequivocally sums up what I want my life to look like.

I've spent a lifetime in fear of not having enough, not being enough. Now, I can see clearly that God has filled my lifetime with comforting assurances and undeniable proof that He is enough, will always be enough.

And now, looking back, I can see that this is the path I've been following all along - learning to simply be myself, the person God has created and called and equipped me to be, and to agree with Him in all of it. Therein lies great contentment, and real joy. Thanks be to God!


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Fires and Songs

Today is an anniversary - one that's very significant, almost miraculous, to me. One year ago today, I sat at my dining room table and scribbled words on a page. Then a tune came out as I sang the words into my phone's voice recording app. Later in the day, I sat at a keyboard and pounded out chords until they fit the melody, with much more scribbling, erasing (I ALWAYS work in pencil!) and recording.

That very evening, I had the audacity to announce to my worship team leader that I'd written a song, and the even greater audacity (with much fear and trembling) to let him hear it. A few days later, I sat at that same keyboard and timidly offered my song to Jesus in the presence of a (very gracious) congregation. My very first song was born. (So, if you want to get technical, it's actually a birthday I'm celebrating...)

That one little song unplugged a previously-unsuspected but much-desired fountain in my soul, and I went on to write over forty more songs in the following six weeks. Some were pretty good, others... not-so-much. But each one expressed a little piece of my heart and brought me great joy.

But after that, the fountain seemed to dry up. Or more accurately, life got in the way and I neglected to let it flow...

...until about a week ago. I was sitting on my backyard swing, enjoying a little break from the hustle and bustle of managing a home, delighting in the cool breeze and bursting buds on the trees. I got to thinking about how we needed rain, and how wonderful it would be to have some big, fat raindrops pour down. All of a sudden, a whole verse and chorus of a new song came to mind, and I got out my phone and typed it out:

My soul craves You, Lord
In this dry and weary land
Only You can slake this burning thirst
My soul is parched and cracked
As I travel this long road
Only You can make these dark clouds burst

Pour out Your love, pour out Your grace
Soak us in mercy, come drench this place
Pour out Your healing, pour out Your peace
Let these dark clouds burst and release
Pour out

I worked with it a bit more that evening, coming up with another couple of verses and a melody, then left it for a few days. I sat with the lyrics again today. They conveyed an entirely different flavour. 

In light of the tragically devastating situation in Fort McMurray these past few days (massive, out-of-control forest fires have destroyed much of the northern Alberta city and forced complete evacuation of some eighty thousand people - for the information of my international readers), these quickly-penned lyrics now seem eerily prophetic. 

As a country, we've been praying for rain. That seems like the most expedient, logical way to bring this horrific nightmare to some kind of end. And we continue to pray.

But what an incredible outpouring of love and grace and mercy! It is simply astounding, the thousands of acts of generosity and offers of hospitality and demonstrations of selflessness that have flooded, soaked, drenched the landscape of northern Alberta in the last three days. And where there is love, there is God, smack-dab in the middle of it all. Pouring out His boundless love through those who aren't even aware of it. 

Isn't that just like God? Such beautiful, bountiful grace.

{And anyone, anywhere can join in the grace-fest! Visit www.redcross.ca}