Hold Your Hands Up High

This new year has been challenging for so many people in my life.  It’s hard to believe we are but a month in;  with the gravity of some of the situations, it feels as though we have already lived the whole year through.

All of this has me thinking about the story in Exodus about Aaron and Hur coming to the aid of Moses.  The Israelites were fighting the Amalekites and as long as Moses held the staff of God up, they were winning the battle. But as soon as he lowered them, they would start to lose.

Have you ever had to hold your hands up for any length of time?  Think of hanging a shower curtain…your arms get tired.  They’re not used to being held in that position for very long.  You may have to stop for a minute before reaching back up.  But holding his hands up was the only way for Moses to protect his friends, his family, his people…and when he got tired, when his arms lowered, they were at great risk and headed for certain defeat.

Moses’ brother, Aaron, and his friend, Hur,  saw what was happening and pulled over a large stone for him to sit on.  Then each one took a side “so that his hands remained steady until sunset.” And the Israelites won the battle.

Whose arms do you need to hold up today?

Or maybe you are like Moses, trying to win a hard battle.  Who is your Aaron?  Your Hur?

On Being Real

If I could have a super power, it would be to live without sleep.

I’m without sleep anyway but it’s the living part I’m unsure of.  I’ve come here to write and have started several posts, only to shelve them all.  A voice in my head keeps saying,”What’s the blog about anyway?” and I’ve lost the strength to say that it is about anything and nothing and so much more all at once.

I was awoken the other night by a howling, hissing, growling cat who clearly wanted to kill the other cats in the house.  We spent a long night of this and I whisked her off to the vet in the morning. She ended up with an overnight stay so they could figure out what her deal was but nothing could be found.  She returned home and peace was restored to the land…until this evening, when it began again.  Only this time, all I could think was, “I feel ya, sister.”  Because I want to howl and hiss and growl at the world.  And sometimes that’s just the way it is.

When I first started working in youth ministry, I wanted to show the kids that you could juggle work and life and all the in-between stuff.  But as we went along, I realized it was more important to show them I was real. That sometimes I got tired or depressed or just plain discouraged.  Sometimes I said things I shouldn’t of and sometimes I made decisions that were straight up bad.  Because, seriously, who doesn’t?  I am by no means perfect…and I’ll prove that to you again and again and again.  And there is purpose in that, by design.  It’s interesting how this word I have chosen for this year keeps coming to mind and showing up when I least expect it.  But truly, what is the purpose in pretending?  There is more to being real.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit on day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender before Nana came in to tidy the room.  “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you an a stick-out handle?

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.  “It’s a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse.  “You become.  It takes a long time.  That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

-From The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Beautiful Things

I came home from youth group this rainy night, took a hot shower and got immediately into bed.  But since then, I’ve been lying here listening to Gungor’s “Beautiful Things” over and over.

The melody of the song drew me in but then I really started to listen to the lyrics:

All this pain,
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way.
I wonder if life could ever really change, at all.
All this earth,
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come up from this ground, at all?

The song really speaks to the struggles of so many in my life right now.  When you are in the midst, it is hard to see that any good can arise out of the struggle, the muck, the mire. You wonder what you could have done differently.  You wonder why this is happening.  And most of all, you wonder how you can ever make it through.

But the song goes on:

You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of the dust.
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of us.

There is hope – for peace, for healing, for wholeness, for redemption.  And I’ll hold on to that hope for my friends when they can’t because I’ve seen it in my own life and in the lives of others, even when I was sure no good could come from the terrible – beautiful things, rising from the dust.

Is There No Balm in Gilead?

I never say “my word” in this context – but my word y’all, things have been crazy up in here over the past few days.  I was reminded time and time again of the adage, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Losing a loved one.

The list of what those in my life are struggling with today could go on and on.

I wish I had some profound insight here.  I’ve gone back and forth, wrestling through my word for this year;  it’s interesting to me how already pervaded my life.  I wonder what the larger purpose in these situations is but moreover, what my purpose is in them.  In some, it is clear;  in others, there may not be any at all in the end. I just don’t know.

I started today by praying for my friends who are fighting hard battles; I’ll end it the same way.

The Purpose of Purpose

When I chose my word for this year, my mind took it in many directions:

What is my purpose in life?
What is my significance?
What will be my legacy?
What should I do “on purpose”?
How can I be more intentional?
What is the purpose in my friend and youth pastor leaving our church?
In a troubling medical test result?
In a friend battling cancer?
In any number of trials faced?

Lately, too, when I am thinking on a word or a concept, I look for quotes to further my ponderings.  I’ve always been fond of quotes (of the written word overall, really) and how they are phrased, what larger meaning they have, and how they resonate.  I looked over a few this evening with regard to my word and found this one to be the most relevant:

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.  ~George Bernard Shaw

I’m so eager to see where this year takes me;  a little anxious, too, in some ways, about examining my life in this way.  But didn’t Socrates say an unexamined life wasn’t worth living?

Just One Word. What’s Yours?

Those who know me well know that I am a voracious reader.  I love to curl up with a book and read the day (or evening) away.  My taste varies;  I’m often reading a non-fiction book in tandem with fiction.  I will often find myself in a season of what I refer to as “light” reading, especially if I’ve just finished something that took a great deal of energy and emotional investment, as I am prone to getting very involved in a good book.

Debbie Macomber is one of my go to authors for lighter fare – positive stories with happy endings and characters you can relate to.  Recently, I read her book, Thursdays at Eight, which tells the story of four friends who meet for coffee every week and share their lives.  The premise of the book is that they all start the new year by choosing a word to help them focus on their personal goals for the new year.  (Interestingly, she also has a book coming out tomorrow on this same topic – which should be arriving on my Kindle shortly!)

What a great idea…and yet challenging at the same time.  How can you find one word that sums up all the hopes and dreams you want to strive for in the new year?  I challenged a friend of mine to do this with me and then promptly forgot about it until she wrote me back today.  I’ve been pondering it on and off since.  In a way, it is similar to making a resolution or setting any goal, but I think it needs to be broader as well, which led me to thinking about what my goals really are for this year.  (Interestingly, I just started a daily Rick Warren devotional that has me thinking about that as well.  The context there is even broader, however – thinking about the next decade and what you would like to see happen in your life in that time.  The next decade?  Sometimes it is hard enough to think through until Friday!)

Anyway, I have several areas I would like to focus on for this year.  Rather than list them all here now, I’ll simply pledge to talk about them here when the time is right and instead provide my word for 2012:  Purpose.

What’s your word for 2012?

And So It Begins Anew…

Happy new year!

What better way to kick of 2012 than with a new adventure in the blogosphere?  I’ve been wanting to resurrect my blog for some time now but for various reasons, I decided to start fresh.  After making that decision a few months ago and setting up this site, I was stuck in a period of complete analysis paralysis:  what should I blog about?  Should I talk about my faith?  Youth ministry?  Books?  Online dating?  My life story? Or simply chronicle my adventures?  Or use it as a forum to do some “creative” writing?  And then: who will read my blog?  WILL anyone read my blog?  Who do I WANT to read my blog?  And why?

I’m not kidding, y’all.  I’ve been completely stymied by all of this.

But as I reflected back on last year this evening, I realized something.  None of that really matters.  Maybe no one will read this or maybe only my nearest and dearest will read it.  Or maybe it will take the world by storm, it’ll be turned into a bestselling book and you’ll see me chatting it up with Robin Roberts on GMA one of these days.  The point of the matter is that I want to be writing and I feel like this is a good forum in which to begin.

So to that end, I am going to go against every shred of advice I’ve gleaned in the past year from several wildly popular bloggers, let my blog take on a life of it’s own and see where it all leads.  I hope you’ll come along for the ride!