More   Leave a comment

At many points throughout my life, I have wanted to do more.

Whether I was genuinely motivated by a wish of my own or an original idea, or just looking on at what other amazing people had accomplished, the emotional results were the same.  I read about a five year old who started her own non-profit to bring hot lunch to the other children in her school.  I observed the faithful and amazing way a woman I knew wisely and lovingly parented her children.  I admired local entrepreneurs who started their own brewery in an abandoned church.  I saw a doctor friend both parent her children and further her career.   I scratched my head in amazement at the knowledge and skill required to found and run a company like Google or Tesla.  I gathered from the vibe in my culture that I was supposed to have a paid career and that my at-home-ness was an odd aberration that better childcare options would make unnecessary.

At times, the observations I made about what other people were doing left me with the sense that there was something wrong with me, that the work I found joy in was too little of a contribution, that I should somehow be doing something more or something better.

Should.

Be doing more.

Be doing better.

Then I saw an ant.  It was doing what ants do best.  She was seeking food for her sisters.  She was removing obstacles from the doorway to her nest.  She was cleaning her antennae.  She was sprinting along the sidewalk.  She was crunchy, streamlined, tiny, formed of amazing minuscule parts, but perfect.  She was beautifully pursuing who she was made to be.

She wasn’t trying to pollinate flowers.  She wasn’t feeling disappointed because she couldn’t get her abdomen to light up every night.  She wasn’t attempting to migrate to Mexico.  She wasn’t sunk into despair because she could not stride rapidly past into the upper distance like those giants who shake the earth.

My conclusion is not that challenging aspirations should not be pursued because they are too difficult, or that there is an underclass of people who aren’t good enough to deserve meaningful work, or that a specific gender is responsible for all childcare and it’s immoral if they escape their homes.

Rather, there is no need to think we must do something better or something more or something else that someone outside us says we should be doing.  We can move forward following the leadings we’re given.  We can trust that who we are is enough.

 

 

 

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Posted December 1, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity

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Hurry   Leave a comment

What’s the hurry?
I’m referring of course to the ever more noticeable early rush of Christmas decorations, music and advertising. I don’t know if it’s just more obvious this year because Thanksgiving was so early, or if it is truly even more ludicrous than usual.  I was subjected to “Feliz navidad” while shopping for the turkey. That’s just obnoxious.
There is no reason to Light Up Your Town on November the 5th, or start calling it “the holiday season” the minute the kids stop choking down all their Halloween candy.
It’s not the holiday season.  It’s November.  It’s being grateful for what you received, not looking forward to grabbing whatever you can get.
I know what you are thinking.
You’re thinking I’m a grumpy curmudgeon who can’t keep up with the times, who doesn’t like change and who doesn’t want to have fun.  If you think that, you’d be right–except for the bit about not having fun.  I really do love to have fun.  And I’m writing this because I think people are missing out.
Don’t miss the glories of November, the colors with the blue sky, and the rainy gloomy days when the leaves get torn down.  It’s orange, gold, red, russet and brown.  It’s harvest home.
Don’t miss the rest and the food of Thanksgiving, and the fun of being together with other people to give thanks.
Don’t miss Advent.  Don’t miss the anticipation of the feast of Christmas that is to come.  Don’t miss walking through the sorrow and darkness that is this life, knowing that the surprise that overturns it all is still to come.
Don’t miss the opportunity to sit, quietly, in your home, before the lit tree, and ponder the mystery and glory of this season, the Incarnation.
You don’t have to try to cram all the parties in before the 24th of December.
There is still time.  From December 25th to January 6th, you can lift your glasses highest, sing the loudest, and leave the Christmas tree up, and the lights on.  When the year is at its darkest, that’s when we need the lights the most.

Posted November 30, 2017 by swanatbagend in gratitude, holidays

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Fearless   Leave a comment

After approximately 30 hours driving a minivan fully loaded with the belongs of six adult sized people, pulling an also fully loaded pop-up camper on our trip across the country to California, I felt pretty confident.

In a lovely series of clichés, it had been a marathon whirlwind insane time.   We had loaded up for the trip, immediately following birthday season at our house, plus starting school, plus daughter starting some college classes, plus younger son spraining ankle, and then we had successfully driven all the way to the Pacific ocean and almost back.  We had left behind older son to go to grad school, which was the motivating factor for this odyssey.

And it had all happened.

Despite all the stress and insanity, there had been joy, and no one had been killed or even injured.  I had even become accustomed to the logistics of driving with the pop-up, although it wasn’t something I had enjoyed in the past.

I had been hoping I’d find one of my current favorite songs on the radio.  I hadn’t been able to download it to my MP3 player before we left.  As we were sailing through Kansas I finally found it.

Am I good enough? Do I measure up?  Seems like a war I can’t win.  But I wasn’t given the spirit of fear, I was given the power of love.  Everything I’ve been fighting against I’m gonna lift it up.  I wanna be Fearless.  No holding back no backing down.  Fearless, because I believe you’re with me now.

Bring on the unknown.

Lead me and I’ll go.

Come set me free, God, I want to be–fearless.

 

I am tired of being a fearful person, and this particular song came to my attention around the same time my youngest successfully completed participation in an outside activity, which for many years was something that wasn’t possible.  I want to choose confidence and trust, even though it is not my natural tendency to be fearless.  It never has been.  I am easily distressed and worried about a hundred different things.

So.

We’re flying home down I-70 and I am rejoicing over our survival so far.

Flying across Kansas was Friday.  Monday at 8:30 I’m home, frying bacon and pancakes, sorting through mounds of bedding and laundry and sorting through the pile of things in my mind, when my husband calls and says, “I just got laid off.”

From a good job.  One he’s had for years and loved.  One we thought would not stop until he wanted it to.  And the money and the medical coverage will last just eleven more days.

My heart is beating a million miles an hour as I sit there on my bed and listen.

When he hangs up, I go back to the kitchen and fry more pancakes.  I sort the laundry.  I do the next thing.

And I remember.  I remember what I had just sung, what I had just said, what I had just decided to do.  How could it be I would be called upon so soon to apply what I had just chosen to do and asked to be?

The only logical thing to do was to just do it.  So, every time I felt afraid, when I wondered how to make things work, when I feared we would have to move and leave our connections and move all six members of our family to a different place, I just said, “God, you’ve got to take care of this.  I know you will.  We’ll go with what you provide.”

This process of turning back to God every time I worry has been amazing.  He’s made me different this time.

 

 

And thanks to Jasmine Murray for her song.

 

Posted November 27, 2017 by swanatbagend in prayer, transitions

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Helpless   Leave a comment

Life is supposed to be ever onward and upward.  Our culture, as you’ve probably already been told by other bloggers, developed from the American dream, which all started when someone had the audacity to decide our country would be based upon people having the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Somehow, since then, our raison d’être has ballooned to include not just the pursuit of happiness, but the thing itself.

Advertising and media envelop us in images of how it is supposed to be.  Life is full of sunshine, with healthy athletic attractive families prancing across fields.  If you just see the right doctors and buy the right car, take the right medication, get your kid into the right college, your existence will travel forward on this pleasant upward trajectory–forever.

It is true that we do learn skills and competences, and move toward being more independent as we grow and develop from a helpless infant to an adult.  We are responsible to do what we can with what we’re given and not sit around waiting for someone else to do the work.

However, our care of our bodies cannot stop unexpected events from happening.  Our work doesn’t guarantee that we will have a meaningful career, grow older with a loving spouse, and have a pleasant retirement, despite our culture relentlessly pushing this model as what to expect, what should be.

While our skills are valuable and meaningful, they can’t save us from old age and death.

I’d like to think they could, but all I have to do is look around me.  I look at my own life.  Despite doing what is in me with the strength I’ve been given to live a good life, so many of the big things that make the most difference long-term, I don’t control.

I like to think I am in control of them.  I work hard to make things be the best they can be.  And I know how I think things should be.

I make choices all the time.  I work.  I respond.  I choose.  It’s not that I have no power.

But my power is limited.  I don’t control the forces that have the most influence on me–what happens to me and who is by my side when it happens.  I cannot by sheer will command the ocean to roar and another human being to do what I think is right and my heart, mind, soul and strength to be what I think they ought to be.

I am hemmed in on every side by my impotence.

 

Posted November 21, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity, reality

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Misery Loves Surprises   Leave a comment

The misery that you worry about is not the misery that comes.

It never is.

Most of the time, the things I worry about don’t actually happen.

Sometimes they do, but most of the time, the hard things are not the things I was expecting.  They are the things I wasn’t looking for.  I thought somebody would get injured or sick, but instead, my husband lost his job when I knew he was well liked and the economy was booming.  I thought I’d have to put out the fire, but instead I got a flood.

There will always be hard things.  They are just part of life in this world.  Others have suffered; I too will suffer.  Others have lived right on, as Wendell Berry says we do in those times; I too will live right on.

So I have decided that when I find myself worrying about the challenges ahead, and when I start feeling the dread and mess of possible outcomes, I will remind myself of this.  Yes, difficulties that make me feel miserable will come.  They always do eventually.  But I am going to chose not to imagine, in advance, what they will be.

The misery you worry about is not the misery that comes.

Posted November 15, 2017 by swanatbagend in waiting

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Grace Alone   Leave a comment

I’ve been the recipient of a really wonderful sermon, so I’m just going to paraphrase what I got today, and thank my pastor for it, and thank the 500th anniversary of the Reformation for it.  So without further ado, here’s Ephesians 2:1-9.

Sin is not just in our actions, it’s in us.  It is our nature.  We don’t want God.  Original sin is the Christian doctrine that is empirically verifiable.  You can see that death and sin are at work in the world.

As to your rescue, you are a drowning swimmer, not one calling out for help.  You don’t need reform; you need resurrection.  You’re sunk.

BUT because of his love, God has made you alive by his grace, ongoing from beginning to end.  The reason you are a Christian is not because I–but because God is rich in mercy.

Martin Luther states this more fully: “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it.”  It’s not because of something we did, or because we did enough good deeds to show that we deserved his love, that God loves us.

“Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.”

We see that we can become more attractive as God redeems us, but we don’t need to be attractive to be loved by him.  The only criteria for salvation is our neediness and brokenness.

Lisle’s four questions to reflect on as you ask if you are beginning to grasp grace.

  1. Are you growing in humor, joy and laughter?  Because grace.
  2. Are you growing in holiness?  A grace filled life is not a sin-filled life.
  3. Are you growing in humility?
  4. Are you growing in honesty with God?  You can, because it’s not about your performance.

 

Posted November 12, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity, reality

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Free Agents   Leave a comment

I have to remember that if love is coerced, it’s not really love.  It’s slavery.  It’s bondage.  It’s fake.  If I can keep that fact in front of me, it provides a needed corrective to my natural tendency.

Whenever I find myself thinking that I wish so-and-so would step up to the plate and do what they’re supposed to, I remember the time I complained to an older and wiser friend about how someone was not doing what I thought he should be doing.  In a way, I was right.  The person had an obligation to me and others in a social context he was not following through on fully.

But in a much, much bigger way I was totally wrong.

My older and wiser friend pointed this out.  She did it just with the right amount of gentle and the right amount of real.  I can’t remember what exactly her words were at this point, but if she’d been totally blunt, she could have just said this.

“Since when do you get to run his life?”

Who made me the arbiter of what another individual should be doing?  Nobody.

I have neither the right nor the privilege to do so.

Thank God, because I too want to be a free agent.

 

 

Posted October 26, 2017 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized