Playdates with God: Quiet Season

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The first Sunday of Lent was Valentine’s Day, and Scout Sunday, and also a day we recognized the many years of service to our church of one of God’s everyday saints. There was a reception following worship and then Jeff and I went grocery shopping amidst all the other church people. At home, we opened cards and candy, exercised, took the dog for a walk, and then made ready for a concert we had tickets to celebrate this day of lovers. We were invited to a friend’s house for dinner before hand. We dined and laughed and touched each other’s hands under the table. Then, the music, oh sweet music, and in my heart I felt the beauty of being in love. When the show was over, the snow had started. We drove home through a blinding white, no snow plows in sight, creeping at 30 miles per hour until arriving safe at our destiny. I fell into bed, bone-tired but happy and this morning our little valley feels like a snowglobe, entombed in white.

As I sit here in the wee hours of dawn, I realize this is how most of the days go by lately—a blur of so many good things. I have been feeling God calling me to a quieter place for some time now. You may have noticed I haven’t been writing much here in this space. There are days when, in angst, I fear I’m losing my voice. I pray for words and eyes to see the bigger story, but the moments go by unrecorded. As most in-between places, this has not been a comfortable place. But it has been a place of growth.

I tell you these things, dear ones, by way of explaining that I will be letting this Monday morning practice of sharing a playdate go for a season. This community of seers has given me eyes for the holy for many years now, and it is a bit frightening to say “the end.” But I know we will always be connected and this is not an end to our friendships. I will still be chasing the blue flower, just in a lower profile. I’m not sure what that will look like, but I am trusting it will be lovely.

I want to share with you some other linkups that you may like to participate in during this quiet season here.

My friend Kelly Chripzuck has a sweet community called Small Wonders. She says, “That’s my proposal – that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.”

Lisha Epperson has a Sunday Community of sharers she calls Give Me Grace. She says, “Link up like you always have with images, scripture, art, a video, a song, one word or many. We’ll wrap it in grace and present it as an offering each Sunday.”

Lyli Dunbar’s Thought-Provoking Thursdays is one of my favorites. She writes, “Have you written something thought-provoking, challenging, encouraging, or inspiring lately? Link it up here!”

Sweet Jennifer Lee is Telling His Story.

There are always Five Minute Fridays.

And every month, Emily Freeman asks her readers to share what they’ve learned that month.

gift of friendshipThese are some of my faves, but would you share of any places you love to link up to in the comments? Also, I must announce the winner of Kristen Welch’s book Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. The winner is … Marci! Congratulations, my friend. I’ll get the book to you ASAP. Also, I have another book to give away this week. This one is by my beautiful friend Dawn Camp. It’s a collection of essays by various writers called The Gift of Friendship. The stories are accompanied by Dawn’s gorgeous photography. Leave a comment here for a chance to win. I’ll announce the winner on Friday, 2/19.

I’ll still be writing in this space, just less often. In the mean time, I’m praying this Lenten season brings some quiet blessings your way too, friends.

Playdates with God: Small Group

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Yesterday morning, before church, I almost caught the house on fire. It involved a candle, some blue tissue paper, and a box of jewelry; but mostly it was about being distracted, not paying attention to what I was doing. Before I knew it, an entire swaft of blue was flaming yellow and orange. I threw it in the floor and poured a cup of water over it. Crisis averted. Thank goodness for sturdy tile that can be sponged clean of the burn. Jeff and Jeffrey were still sleeping upstairs, none the wiser to my careless accident when they came down for breakfast a little later. Nothing left but a faint hint of smoke in the air, tiny floating ashes settling into hard to reach places.

I carried the box of jewelry to church, where I tried to sell it to raise money for a charity our church supports. Vibella Jewelry gives 30% of all sales back to a charity of your choice if you host a party as a charity function. Plus, by supporting Vibella, you support a company that provides jobs where they are sorely needed. My Bible study class voted to try to raise money to buy a CerviScope for Family Health Ministries, a medical ministry that serves the Haitian people. Did you know that women in Haiti die of cervical cancer twice as often as their American sisters? The doctors over there need better tools to serve the people. We didn’t quite meet the goal we set but orders are still trickling in and I am hopeful we will be able to send Family Health Ministries a nice check to put toward purchasing a CerviScope. And a lot of the members of my church family got some early Christmas shopping out of the way. It was a win-win.

Anyway, this morning as I was sweeping a few remnants of ash from the corners of my kitchen, it occurred to me that most of our crises happen when no one is looking. Whether it’s some secret pain in our marriage, an illness doing its dark work on our body, or those longings for something we know is not in our best interest … secrets can destroy—send all the light of the blue up in flames so fast all we’re left with is smoke and ash.

Most often, the flame gains strength slow and steady when I am distracted, when I’m not paying attention to what I’m doing. I know the impact of living deliberately—I’ve felt how it changes a life, a marriage, a faith. But it takes work. And strength. Sometimes, I’m just too tired.

Last night we had our small group. We had a lesson, shared bread around the table, and later in the evening our conversation turned to some hard things we are all trying to process through together. Paying attention felt easier with all those extra eyes in the room. Making good choices felt right among those beautiful hearts.

Do you have a group of people like that in your life? Meeting with God alone has changed me. It’s created a space for deeper intimacy and a love I never could have imagined with an unseen God. But meeting with God amongst others? Living life together, being real, sharing our deepest thoughts and sorrows? Having this small, intimate circle of friends who love Jesus and one another helps me pay attention better. And even when I slip up and accidentally set the blue afire, their tender love extinguishes that flame before it all turns to ash.

I have to ship back the Vibella items we didn’t sell at our charity function, so I thought I’d give one item away to one of my dear community members here. You all help me pay attention to my life too! I’m dying to see the Salvation Bracelet (below) on a good friend’s wrist. Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win. If you visit Vibella’s or Family Health Ministry’s pages, let me know and you’ll get an extra entry. Also, if you subscribe to my blog I’ll enter you two more times! I’ll announce the winner on next Monday’s Playdates post.

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Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

The winner of the signed copies of S.D. Smith’s books is … Constance Ann Morrison! Congratulations! I’ll be in touch. 

Laura Boggess

Playdates with God: Childlike

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In the grown-up world, if I am to believe God the way a little child does, it is implied that I must employ suspension of disbelief—a term first used by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817 in his work Biographia Literaria. In an attempt to recapture the imagination of a world held captive by the new science of the industrial revolution, Coleridge reintroduced fantastical elements into poetry—writing of visions and beings from the spiritual realm that had long been abandoned in favor of more practical imagery. Suspension of disbelief implies that to go along with a storyline, I should ignore certain aspects of the plot that are seemingly impossible. In this way, I look over what I know to be true—what my eye sees—into the greater narrative of the story … Maybe, [to have faith like a child] instead of suspending disbelief, we need to practice expansion of belief. Isn’t this the way of a little child? To open the mind wide enough that the huge presence of the impossible can fit inside? Children don’t suspend disbelief. They enter into belief with the whole of their being…” ~Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World

In our small group last night, we talked about the difference between being childish and childlike. We watched a video about recapturing wonder in our faith lives, and it fed my hungry heart.

We always start our small group with a check-in. We go around the room and everyone gives a little update about what’s going on in each of our lives. So before we entered into this conversation about being childish verses being childlike, we listened to stories about work and play, aging parents, dealing with teenage angst, new puppies, and adjusting to the almost-empty nest.

It’s a beautiful thing, a sharing that bonds, a great practical way of staying in touch with the big things going on in each other’s lives. But I couldn’t help noticing that the real checking-in happened later in the evening. After we watched the video and discussed its finer points, after we prayed and everyone piled their plates full with yummy food—that’s when the real connections were made. People huddled together in the living room sharing stories from every day, folks wandering out to the deck to watch the children jump on the trampoline, someone ruffling the hair of another one’s child.

We put our lives on hold and make a choice to enter into these holy moments, and in the end, these are the moments we will remember. These are the moments that expand our belief and wake us up to the knowledge that God is here. He walks among us.

In her book Deep Play, Diane Ackerman says, “There is usually a boundary or door at the edge of deep time.” We have to choose to cross the threshold. That is what planning a playdate with God does for me—invites me through the door into holy time. “What gives moments meaning is not the moments themselves,” says Emily P. Freeman in her book Simply Tuesday. “but the presence of Christ with us in the midst of them.”

Trouble is, too often I walk right by the doorway that will lead me into the kairos time—the holy time—because I’m too preoccupied with handling life on my own.

Last night, I wanted to ask my friends about the last time they let their belief expand. When last did they make room in their crowded lives to believe the impossible? When was the last time I did? When I make room in my life for time to wonder at the unlimitlessness of God, all my worries fall away.

And the impossible takes shape and form and is no longer unattainable.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

We Are Still Here

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The neighbor children are tracing around each other’s bodies with sidewalk chalk. From my desk, I see them through the window taking it in turns to lie, still as a stone, on the driveway, offering their perimeter. It is a serious task, requiring the tracer to move her entire body around the placid figure she outlines.

I watch the girl thread the chalk between her brother’s feet, up the long path of his legs, around his arms, along the rugged terrain of shoulder and neckline. He smiles up at her and waits his turn as artist, plucking the thick stalk of color from her chalky fingers as they switch roles. They leave behind evidence in pinks and blues, yellows and greens: they were here; they are still here.

Later, I walk the dog under slow-moving clouds; the moist heat of the summer evening becomes my second skin. The neighborhood streets are quiet, hushed by the coming of night. In the fading daylight I dare to visit their chalky mural and let it tell me a story.

I see that each outline has been colored in with detail—a rainbow-striped skirt for the girl, the boy’s bright red hair in short-cropped curly loops, and long eyelashes and wide, full-lipped smiles for both. But the thing that tells the story is the way the children have joined their hands. I know they weren’t holding hands when the outlines were traced; I watched the making. But here they are, reaching out to each other in Technicolor, clutching tight with hands that look like tennis balls.

The writing life can be so Benedictine—we live cloistered, set apart, dedicated to tapping out words as prayer. And yet, in Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg says, “Writing is not just writing. It is also having a relationship with other writers … It’s much better to be a tribal writer, writing for all people and reflecting many voices through us, than to be a cloistered being trying to find one peanut of truth in our own individual mind. Become big and write with the whole world in your arms.”

How do you say goodbye to a community who has become your tribe? To the people who bring you the world and offer you their hearts in story? Over the years, The High Calling has become just that: a place of relationship. The voices and friendships I have found here have helped me fill in the details of my chalk outline, coaxed my writing voice into a rich, wide-lipped smile.

The day after the kids drew their chalk figures, one of those sudden, driving, summer storms blew through. I watched from the window as all that color ran down my neighbor’s driveway in rivulets. When the sun came out, the mural was gone. No rainbow-striped skirt, no wide-lipped smiles, no outstretched hands clasped together; every speck of color scoured clean.

I felt sad, until my neighbor’s screen door banged open. Out skipped the little girl in a rainbow-colored skirt. As he always does, her little brother followed close behind, red hair glinting.

Halfway across the drive, she reached out her hand. And when he reached out to take it, I felt my heart swell.

We were here. We are still here. Hands outstretched toward one another. Nothing can wash that away.

Don’t forget, in honor of Hannah More’s extraordinary life and the contribution she made in support of the founding of the school we left Teddy at this weekend, I’m giving away a copy of Karen Swallow Prior’s beautiful book Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist. Just leave a comment on this post for a chance to win. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow, Wednesday, 8/26.

edited by Ann Kroeker. image by Steven Depolo, used with permission, sourced via Flickr.

West Virginia Morning: Cicada Song

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This morning, I fill my feeders to the brim with black oil sunflower seeds, whispering a blessing over my feathery visitors as I move silently through what Frédéric Gros calls “the undecided blue hour.” I have been watching through the window for the better part of an hour as a Downy Woodpecker creeps and clings to the dead branches of our plum tree. We have been talking all summer about hiring someone to clear away this sad reminder of the harsh winter, but still, it stands—naked in its death, branches slowly giving way to the brittleness of time. The woodpeckers have found it inviting and for this reason I am in no hurry to cut it down.

The Downy flits away to the meadow as I draw near. I watch his retreat—that undulating flight the woodpeckers are known for. He disappears into a nearby tree and I can hear his familiar pik, pik, complaining about my invasion.

“I’m sorry,” I say, to the sky. “I hope you like this little treat.” I fasten a suet cake into the holder that dangles from the dead tree.

My Audubon Field Guide tells me the Downy is recognizable by “…its habit of tapping on branches hardly thicker than itself.” I smile as I pass under the thin branches of the plum. I’ve often thought of it as an umbrella, the pliable branches cascading down over the earth it grew out of.

I will miss this tree.

Over by the coneflowers I find an empty cicada shell. Every evening we are lulled into letting go of the cares of the day by the steady thrum of the cicada song. I stoop and study its casing, the memory of membrane on its abdomen. “Thank you,” I say, to the empty eyes.

So many songs belong to nature. This life contains so many different worlds.

Yesterday, on my way home from work, a large foreign object appeared seemingly out of nowhere in the air and crashed into my windshield—on the driver’s side, right where my head was. It happened in high-speed traffic and so fast that I couldn’t do anything but brace myself. The window was shattered and I was covered in glass. I was only a few miles from home so I limped my van on down the road in a state of shock, I think.

Life feels fragile.

There has been a lot of talk lately about online community verses flesh and blood community. I am glad for the conversation. It is good to look closer at the different worlds—to look deeper for the good of each and leave the undesired behind. After my windshield was shattered, I stayed unplugged the rest of the evening. I only wanted to be with my family and celebrate our life together. This doesn’t diminish the community I have found online—it only informs it, defines it better, I think. We should never stop learning, never stop looking deep, always asking questions. We shouldn’t shy away from what we don’t understand; but listen, study, learn.

A hummingbird does a flyby so close to my head that I feel the air from its fast-moving wings on my cheek. I duck involuntarily and the little bird is gone in a flashing moment—time on fire.

Today I am giving thanks to God for a strong windshield and good auto safety standards, for my family and all the small moments we share, for my online community and my flesh and blood community who both prayed gratitude at my safety, and for all the different songs of nature. Life is short. We will never live long enough to learn about all the different worlds out there. But I will keep trying.