Thank you, Abba, for:
church steeples pointing to the sky (look up)
beloved prodigals who remind us of, and connect us to, You (look up!)
cycles of change, leading (ultimately) to renewal (fall into winter, winter into spring, life into death, death into life)
hot chocolate on cold, rainy days (extra marshmallows, please!)
books (the kind that grow you up)
poiema (tattoo this on my heart: that you and I are God’s masterpiece, His workmanship, His poem…)
the musical cadence of rain on the roof (and rhythms of heartbeats and breathing)
naps (to process reading)
cricket songs, slowed down to human lifespans, that sound like unearthly choirs (the whole earth is full of His glory, and there is a speed of life where even the rocks sing audible praise to their Maker)
beautiful, intelligent, mature conversations with 5-year-old Sarah about art (she gets it… unsullied by fear, wide open to wonder)
ink-stained fingers (making art)
things that sparkle (and more art)
people who shine grace into darkness (near as my heart, far as the Rising Sun)
So, my goal to write a blog post for every day of November is not going to happen, but I am okay with that. Really. I refuse to beat myself up over something that already is and cannot be fixed. I’m going to live out the Serenity Prayer instead, and accept the things that I cannot change. Like the past. It is behind me and unreachable. I’m leaning forward now, into hope.
My temporary blog-silence fell out of several seemingly disconnected and unrelated things. First, a painful disagreement with someone I love, which erupted into angry words, tears, misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and just plain not hearing. The conflict circled round and round without resolution. Now we walk around one another stiffly, unsure how to proceed. Lean forward, Rebecca, into hope.
The incident prompted me to do a whole lot of thinking on the monastic practice of Voluntary Silence. Yes, I do catch the irony. It certainly seems inconsistent for a person who spends time making art out of words to take a vow of wordlessness. But honestly, in situations where words become weapons, silence looks golden.
And I’m not talking about the Silent Treatment, where not speaking becomes, itself, a weapon. More like what my grandma used to say: “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.” But larger than that, even, because when every attempt to fix something with your words seems to lead to more hurt, just shut your mouth, eh? So, yeah. For now. Horizontal silence. Vertical conversation. Listen. Listen. Listen.
Leaning forward into hope really does mean praying for the right words to bring about resolution and restoration and healing. It means watching carefully and hoping faithfully for the right time to speak those words. It means having the courage to speak, in spite of the pain… speaking the words through the pain and into the heart of the pain and letting them heal it. We are broken. Hard graces expose our brokenness, lay us bare to heartache, but they remain graces, nevertheless.
Meanwhile, I’ve been having some long and hard vertical conversations with the only One who really knows my heart. He understands how and why I’ve become so unwilling to settle, yet again, for “sorry” without change, for regret without repentance. Not on my part. Not on my friend’s part. Jesus understands the frustration at its source. Not only my frustration, but also my friend’s. He sees the whole picture. He knows the back story. And He loves both of us. So I feel confident to trust Him here, to bind up our wounds and restore us.
The other cause for my delay in posting has been this book I’m reading. Yes, that sounds so lame. But haven’t you ever read a book that just blew your boat out of the water and left you feeling a little wobbly on your sandy land-legs? It’s a bit like coming out of the roller-skating rink after six hours on wheels and having to remember how to walk in plain shoes again. (Do people still roller-skate? Hmmm. I wonder.)
Anyway, this book by Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live, came recommended to me from several different corners. It kept popping up on the “you might also like” thingies that tease you to shop a little more. The title definitely intrigued. It spoke of ideas that have been germinating in my spirit for a while now. So I downloaded it onto my Nooky Monster. And after The Conflict, I finally got around to reading it. Four times. Uninterrupted by anything else but art and sleep. (In that order.)
Now I’m blaming Ann Voskamp for this! Not just because it was on her blog A Holy Experience that I first saw the title. You see, I responded similarly to Ann’s beautiful book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. A birthday gift, I opened it curiously and began to read. When I had finished, I just flipped the book over and started reading it again. It was like eating a very rich, very chocolate, very decadent cake. The kind that comes on rare and special occasions. Chew slowly. Savor the words, prose-poetry for the heart, visual as her photographs. Reflect, reflect, reflect on every nuance of flavor and texture. And, ultimately, rise to the challenge. A friend and I together, undertake Ann’s dare, her challenge, to begin counting graces, to begin living right here and right now in the moment at hand, and to begin offering gratitude for those moments in our broken, paying-attention ways. Eyes wide to wonder.
God used — is still using — Ann’s book to up-end my world, exponentially. The process of change hasn’t always been comfortable, but it has been beautiful and good. It has been expansive, in the most alarming ways. It has taken me deeper into real, abiding relationship with the Lover of my soul. It has colored every corner and crevice of my spirit. Aurora borealis colored. Bright, shining, double-rainbow glitter-glued. This is free, unfettered, glory art… the nothing-is-impossible kind of art that wise five-year-olds make. A promise from the only One who ever really keeps His promises anyway.
Fast-forward to A Million Little Ways. I’m not sure what it would have looked like if I had read the book a year ago, or even two months ago. But because I have been having this renewed love affair with my Savior, and because He has used this time to show me new things about His love for me, His acceptance of me, His plans for me, and because the title and teasers for this book spoke to some of the same things I’ve already been wrestling with and writing about on my blog, I have been beautifully blown away again, wobbling about on shoes without wheels, and looking for ways to say:
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
So this post may have started off rambling, in a wandering-around-aimless-and-lost kind of way. But I do think it found its way safely home… to the heart of grace that dwells in gratitude.
“At the most basic level of our identity, your job and my job is to be a poem, the image bearers of God, made to reflect his glory. The art you and I were born to make is released out of the core of who we truly are, where our spirit is joined in union with the Spirit of God. Any movement coming from that place reflects the glory of God. This is our highest purpose and, ultimately, our greatest joy.” Emily P. Freeman (emphasis mine)