For Those Moments {When We Think We are Not Enough}

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When I walked up the narrow staircase one week ago today, darkness had already enveloped our country home. It was night-time, around 10:00 p.m. when I knocked on your closed bedroom door, asking if I might come in. You were reading, a bed-side light shining its sheen across the page. The room was awash in a warm glow. You looked up expectantly. I felt such relief at seeing you there. Such a safe place to be— under our roof, where a body knows they are loved unconditionally. Where a body knows that they will be cherished forever.

I sat on the end of your bed and looked at you. Stared unabashedly at amazing you.

And inside my mother’s heart I felt the need to tell you how much you are loved. Felt the need to tell you how much I believe in you: believing that you have much to offer this world, much to give this circle of influence in which you have been placed.

I felt the need to tell you how incredible are the offerings and talents with which you’ve been gifted. Telling you how valued you are to both your father and I— to our whole family. I felt the need to tell you that who you are is enough for anyone, including yourself. You have much to give. Much to put forward to anyone.

I felt the need to tell you. And so I did.

But more than that.

I wanted you to also know that you, Precious You: You are worth so much more than even what we, your parents, think and feel. You are Loved, with an Eternal Love; loved by the One who knows no boundaries, no limits, no restrictions. Who knows no Shadow of Turning, knows no minute fraction of faltering. You are loved eternally. Wholly, purely, completely.

I wanted you to know.

But Child of Mine, there will be some, who will someday, somewhere cause you to consider whether you are enough. There will be voices that will taunt, will jeer. Will question, will doubt. And there will be niggling worries that will grow into all-out, full-blown fears in your mind. There will come a day when you will give ear to the thought that ‘who you are is not enough’.

Not enough for the crowd.
Not enough for the moment.
Not enough for the situation.
Not enough for the requirements.
Not enough for the job.
Not enough for the part.
Quite simply, not enough.

There will be moments, and these moments will come. For they have come for us all, at one time or another.

God says it differently to us:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love… with loving-kindness I have drawn you.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

There is never a question of whether or not we are enough.
We always were. We always are. And we always will be.

There is nothing that will separate us from that Love.

No crowd’s opinion.
No moment’s worry.
No situational disaster.
No lacking requirements.
No failed attempt nor any missing parts that need be present.
Nothing.

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8)

I left your room that night, tears falling freely. For I am so honored to have been given this opportunity to love you. It is my mission, my heart’s desire to impart to you the knowledge of this love.

A love that will endure for always. And forever ever after that.

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Take Heart

He clutches his ‘nearly-the-size-of-him’ backpack tightly to his chest. His shoes, somehow having landed on the wrong feet, stand motionless- flaps to the wind. But thankfully we remembered the bus pass. He holds the tiny stub of paper with the little bit of tape I stuck on for good measure, absently rubbing it against his cheek.

There is fear in his eyes.

He is going on a different bus today, but because he is right now alone, this experience is terrifying to him. It is unthinkable. To get on a vehicle you have never before traveled and trust that it will end up somewhere familiar is beyond his capability right now. All he wants is something sure and someone familiar. Someone recognizable to travel this road with him that will eventually take him toward home.

Don’t we all?

Life is lonely. And so very hard.

We were never promised easy. Never guaranteed a trouble-free road.

That road might look different depending on where you stand, but the road remains the same. Challenged with obstacles, roadblocks, detours, barriers and obstructions of every kind.

{“In this world you will have trouble.” It’s a certainty. A sure thing.}

I stand beside him with my hand on his back. I see the tiny tears welling up in his eyes, and my own heart breaks in two. Breaks into a piece for him and a piece saved for all the others that I will stand alongside in comfort and offer my heart of hope.

I crouch down beside and whisper those very words of hope that I believe. Words that I trust will bring him peace of mind and ease of trouble.

I tell him that his brother is on his way. It won’t be long, they will soon be reunited. We both look toward the door in anticipation. For when that older brother appears, all anxiety will subside. Brothers offer that kind of sustaining optimism sometimes. When they do, it is a powerful thing to behold.

{“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.”}

Sometimes we wait for things to come to us. But sometimes we must move towards those things we know are waiting.

We two walk toward the outside door, through it and then up the stairs and towards the classroom buzzing with voices where we know Big Brother patiently waits for his own release.

The lost is found.

{“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”}

We know this world is fraught with tribulation, difficulty, pain and hardship. We are all located somewhere on that continuum of trouble. Where we are located is different depending on the story, depending on the variables. But the outlook is hopeful no matter what the situation.

For He has overcome the world.
And that very fact makes all the difference.

Hope Springs Eternal

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
– Alexander Pope
image retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk

The ants are in my dahlias and they are killing my beautiful flowers. I bought the two small pots earlier in the summer on a whim— something to brighten my doorstep. I didn’t even know what colour they would turn out to be but was quite delighted when their copper tones began to peek from out of the foliage.  Now, these beautiful plants are being overrun with tiny little killers which crawl in and out of broken stems as if on a mission, while wilted blossoms droop in support of their fragile stems. I am no gardener, I am afraid. I love to have beautiful things surround me, but my green thumb is non-existent. I water and shade and protect from the elements, but when it comes to predators, I feel helpless to defend. I want to do something, but what?

A quick search on Google suggest pesticides, but there are also downsides to using these as well. What to do?

In spite of it all— despite the abuse and the odds racked against them: my poor little plants continue to suffer on, even boasting a few little bulbs that might withstand the dangers. These flowers refuse to bend and break in light of the certain outcome to befall them, if present conditions remain. They carry on. They endure. How lovely to be a flower and not know, not realize what’s coming next.

To not have to prepare for what lies just around the corner.

I talk to her and we circle around the same issues once again. The same heaviness clouding our conversations.  There is little to say sometimes when darkness overshadows. Life and all its accompanying struggles aim to kill joy, diminish our already dwindling supply of hope in the face of certain desolation. Fear, anger, rage, discouragement and despair try to crawl inside even while we fight for courage to persevere. We feel the presence as some kind of malevolence: as if it is a wave that will overtake us. Sometimes we believe that we are being destroyed from the inside out with little recourse other than passive acceptance.

We all need courage. But how is courage acquired?

We all need hope and expectation. But from where is that summoned?

We all need to know there is something worth fighting for. We need to believe that life is worth living. That there is purpose and meaning in our actions and thought. That there is something more.

But from where do we draw this resolve to believe?

I take it all in, the beauty of this late summer day. Wind blowing through the trees, clouds gently floating by. It all seems so idyllic until I turn by gaze back to my doorstep and these pitiful dahlias.

But nature has a way of replenishing itself. When grass dies, there is always new growth. When trees lose their leaves in autumn, new buds emerge in spring. When flowers die, new blossoms eventually appear. Renewal and revival are part of the process of life. In the very same ways, the soul needs to believe in hope just as the natural world aches for rebirth and new beginnings.

Some inspiration for today taken from David’s psalms.

Psalm 121 (NIV)

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from?

 

2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber;

 

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

 

5 The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

 

6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

 

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life;

 

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

And more comfort still…

Psalm 91 (NIV)

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

 

2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

 

3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.

 

4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

 

5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,

 

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.

 

7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

 

8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

 

9 If you make the Most High your dwelling– even the LORD, who is my refuge–

 

10 then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.

 

11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

 

13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

 

14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

 

15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.

 

16 With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Like the wind and the waves in nature, I will carry on. Like the flower in spring, hope will always emerge from the blackness of the earth.

Courage is ours for the taking. Quitting is not an option.

Take heart, dear one.

Hold On

“When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on”
― Theodore Roosevelt

retrieved from woman.thenest.com

I am sitting at the back of the Bayliner, watching the waves gently rock us to and fro as we idle in the water. Husband is at the helm, and I am flanked by three of our four children. The Other is awkwardly sitting in the river with water-skis attached to her feet. She bobs like a buoy as she awaits the pull of the boat. The call comes for her to ready herself and I can almost feel her nerves—taut and anxious as she grasps on the two-way handle-bar. There is a split-second, a moment where we all are unsure. Will she gain the momentum necessary? Will she hold on? Will she right herself in time? Will she let go?

We pull ahead with a forceful thrust and she dives into the water, side-long or head first. I cannot recall. This, an unplanned entry either the route. The same procedure begins again. The boat pulling around in a circle while the tow rope slowly makes its way towards her through the water. Her arms reaching and then grabbing onto the tow line, holding on as if for dear life. The tense moment of waiting and then the lunge forward.

The boat pulls as if hauling a butterfly. But she again is unable to manage the propulsion. She slips and topples back into the water. (Thankful for a patient teacher in her Dad.)

This holding on and letting go is taking its toll, is trying her patience; but I can see that she is determined. Even when the drift takes us into murky seaweed. Even when she falls for the eighth time. Even when. She is discouraged but not deterred.

One more try.

She finally makes it upright after her ninth attempt, and we all cheer ecstatically from the sidelines. You can see even from a distance that she is very pleased with this accomplishment. So she should be. She has held on and we are moving forward through clear waters, nothing but sunshine and blue skies overhead.

Holding on is hard work, but it is worth it. It requires grit, stamina, tenacity and determination. We have to have resolve. And when we let go our grasp, it is just as crucial that we reclaim our former position and hold on that much tighter the second, third, fourth time around. Because life is not just about holding on—it’s about getting back up again after we’ve had to let go.

There is much to fight for in this life, much for us to fight for and hold on to:

-Our sense of purpose
-Our independence
-Our freedom
-Justice
-Relationships
-The future
-Our faith in Providence and humanity

Whatever the reason that you are still holding on, take heart and keep on keeping on. Don’t be discouraged in your efforts. Holding on is tedious, strenuous work, but it is worth it. Holding keeps us positioned, enables us to move forward, brings us closer to our goals. Holding is the most difficult thing we might ever have to do, but when we fight for what we believe is worth it, we discover something else in the process: holding on is beneficial for our character, too. In holding, we develop courage. And courage gives us hope.

Whatever you are fighting to find or seeking to reclaim, just hold on.

You’ll make it.

On Beauty in Sadness

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We spend much of our time pursuing happiness, joy, contentment. Peaceful bliss. But what of the experience that sadness brings? When grief descends upon us, enveloping with a haze of memories and emotions, do we try to escape its embrace? Do we turn our hearts from pain? Shelter our feelings from any knowledge of the unpleasant?

The sun blazes down. It is a scorcher of a day- 30 degrees in the city, where we find ourselves looking for one particular church. We are headed for a celebration of fifty years of married life, an occasion designed to praise the commitment two people made to forge a  jointly-lived life complete with its joys and sorrows. Complete with its highs and lows. But for today, of course, perspective is largely focused on the bliss. Attention is given to the delight found in exquisite beauty cultivated from meshing two lives into one.

These are for them the golden years. Just like the song says.

But there is something about the lyrics so sweetly sung by a daughter and her father that make me turn my eyes away. I find tears would come quickly- too easily, but for my attempt to re-focus my attention on the people around me. I scan the room while the duo at the front bring their song to a close. This music- it ignites within memories and feelings that are particularly tender and vulnerable today, a day marking another kind of anniversary. An anniversary within an anniversary.

Two months. Fifty-two years.

It suffices to say: it has been a beautiful day; but it has also been a difficult day.

I hear myself offering a word and the possibility for quenching the dark cloud: “I don’t want you to feel sad” I say to the one I love. But I wonder within the moment if this is truly wise. We must feel the melancholy that searing sadness and pain can bring. For grief is what helps us heal; it is what enables us to feel better. It is what enables us to find joy again. Rejecting those early feelings of seeming despondency so as to only accept the forced happiness we crave is to reject the necessary emotion that enables us to mend our broken hearts. Sadness serves a purpose that joy cannot: it is there to bridge the gap from one joyful moment to the next. Without the sadness, we are often stuck in stagnation. We are immobilized and halted.

We need to let ourselves feel.

Jonathan Safran Foer contends that “You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” If we are to experience a life rich with emotion, we must allow our hearts to burst with joy when the moment decrees, and then break with sadness when we experience loss and pain. This is all part of being and becoming human. Allowing ourselves to be in the moment who we must be and yet enabling ourselves to become who we are meant to authentically be in response to what is happening in our lives.

This poetic Biblical passage says with eloquence what I am feeling tonight:

A Time for Everything

3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes Chapter 3: 1-9, NIV)

Everything is beautiful…in its time. Beauty in sorrow. Beauty in delight.

He has made both joy and sadness beautiful in their time.

Wonderings {on gratitude}

What would our prayers be like if we focused them around the things, people and situations in our lives for which we didn’t feel overly grateful? Thanking God for the things we’d sooner we DIDN’T have…rather than asking Him for things we DON’T have and want/desire.

I wonder.

Would we then appreciate more the difficulty and trouble we see as obstacles in our lives, viewing these instead as blessings in disguise? Would it make us more grateful? More appreciative? Would we realize that these difficulties are things that make us and shape us into beautiful people, stretching our hearts so that they can hold more love?

I wonder.

Would that gratitude that was grown and cultivated cause us to give more love? To be love to those around us- even to the ones we are ungrateful for? I truly wonder.

What would happen if we were grateful for things like the following:

Snow and other weather related annoyances
Dirt and mud and soggy grass
Messes (both large and small)
Chores
Work/employment/jobs
Inconveniences (make this one personal)
People who rub us the wrong way
Mundane activities (you name one)
People who offend us
People who challenge us
Financial issues
Health and its challenges
Marriage and its complexity
Relationships and their intricacy
Pain and its hardship
Loss and sorrow

What if the pain in our lives was there to teach us gratitude and how to offer words of thanks for each and every moment we’ve been given…as if everything we’d been given was a gift? For is it not?

We are owed nothing. We come into this world naked. We leave the same way. What happens in between is ours to use as an offering of gratitude, as we can. As we are able. So that we can grow in grace and understanding. So that we can grow in compassion and empathy. So that we can reach out to people in our circles of influence and show those people care. Trouble is here in our lives so as to move us toward something. Might it move us to love? Move us closer toward the Author of gratitude Himself?

Might it cause us to be a grateful people?
Making us mindful of who we are, what we have and what we can give as an outpouring of our gratitude.

Might it open our eyes to a whole new way of living?

“I want to see beauty. In the ugly, in the sink, in the suffering, in the daily, in all the days before I die, the moments before I sleep.”― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

And echoing these beautiful words, I say: I want to be grateful.

For today, for all my tomorrows and for each day that leads towards always, even after that.

Respite

There is something to be said for silence.

Still, quiet tranquility.

Where I find her- my quietude, is on an oft-silent side road on the western end of a snow-covered Island, just before evening turns to velvet night. There is a little inlet that leads to a river and there the water is just starting to break through the ice-covered cap that has blanketed the flow since late January. Yesterday, I found ducks paddling along in single-file formation, moving like something from a black and white film feature from the thirties. The water, moving ever-so-leisurely- I paused for a moment while on my mission (aiming for the mailbox on the right-hand side of the road, where I then turn and head back toward home) to notice.

I have to train myself to take it all in, where sometimes I am more prone to rush right on by.

Walking is a calming exercise for me. I can feel the layers from the day sliding away like a heavy cloak that needs to be shed. The tension dissipates with each step forward and each slap of rubber on pavement. I press on. Past the melting rivulets of water that form a triangular waterway down the middle of the road, past the barking dog, the whispering pines. I press on toward the growing quiet I feel now both without and within.

All is quiet.

Serenity is knowing that there is a place we can return to again and again when life gets too loud and too demanding. For there are so many voices calling, so many noises pressing in. Our hearts can’t take it all sometimes.
We see it on the news, on our social media sites, in our workplaces, in our circles. It is in our homes. Life is just too loud and busy and frantic and chaotic. Where is the still, peaceful tranquility we so crave and require?

Lately, there has been news delivered to those I love, those I care deeply about. Some news of which, when conveyed- feels as if the world is shouting in my direction, in their direction: “Hear ye, hear ye- there will be doom, and gloom and horrible things that will bury you and smother you with sadness.” Shouting voices- sharp, piercing and pointed, all with the intent to jar one from their reverie. It feels as if the noise will suffocate me- bury us all. That it will overpower us with its cloud-like cover. Stifling us until all life is snuffed out like the stub of a candle that has reached the end of its wick. We are being asphyxiated by the weight of it all- this tremendous clatter, bearing down hard on our souls.

My Grampie M. was a humble man, an unassuming, hard-working salt-of-the-earth type. Life for him was never easy- most of his days were spent with an ever-watchful eye on his son born with Down Syndrome, but life was full. To my knowledge, he lived the entirety of his eighty-nine years long life without ever raising his voice. There were changes at the end, due to the dementia, but when he was living with all his faculties and awareness, his meekness led him to live a life of quiet grace.

He used to place his work-roughened, grease-blackened hand upon my head and say with a gentle chuckle, ‘That’s a good little head.’ His calm assurance always left me feeling that all would be well. When Grampie M. knew that something was about to reach a feverish pitch- when all of hell’s bells were about to sound: he would amble out to his carpentry shop and reach for his hammer. And he would pound wood with nail after nail to drown out the sounds. He was that kind of man- he embraced the repetitive sound of steel on wood over the noise of clashing voices or tension of any sort.

Sometimes we crave the Hand of a Father on our heads, gently reassuring us of this hopeful desire, written on all our hearts no matter how hardened and weathered they might be: a desire to know that all is well. There will be peace. For there is hope in the noisy ‘here-and-now’- peace even in this messy present in which we live. And all because that Peace has come; there is a place of rest for the worn and weary. There is respite. There is reprieve. There is a place of quiet, tranquil solitude for those who yearn for a space to go where the world is hushed and the noise is muted.

“Come, all who are weary. And I will give you rest.”

There is a place I like to go when life gets too noisy. Too riotous and rowdy. It is my respite when the clamour of everyday living becomes too raucous and commotion reaches peak levels. And in that place, my weary soul finds rest.

I find my quiet in the still of the evening.