Cicada Song (A Makes You Mom Post)

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The little valley where I live is finally melting under the crust of the two or so feet of snow Winterstorm Jonas dumped on us. Warmer temperatures leave the sound of trickling water in our midst; the earth is sipping deeply to sate an unquenchable thirst born from a core made of fire. But still, in cul-de-sacs and on sidewalks—any space deemed “inessential”—mounds of dirty snow remain, discarded by desperate snowplows. So much of the valley is still impassable.

I’m sharing a story about transition and transformation over at Makes You Mom today. Will you join me?

 

The Top Five Lessons from 2015

It is January, the month named after the Roman god Janus—that god with two faces, so depicted because he looks both to the future and the past. They called him the god of beginnings and transitions.

But as sit and look out into the meadow this morning, watching what I believe to be a rough legged hawk prey patiently from the top of a naked pear tree, I feel the presence of the One True God fall over me. I see the wisdom of looking back to look forward, and I know this is why our good God calls us “to remember” so many times in scripture.

I remember this morning. As I look back on 2015, it seems a year of transition, a year of change. This is the first lesson I carry with me into the newest year: Life is about change.

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It seems that old country song was right, life is about changin’. 2015 is the year our eldest left home for his first year of college. We’ve floundered in this almost-empty nest. Jeff started a new job, charting a different course for our life together. I lost my job at The High Calling, which has gone on to become something entirely different than it was when I cut my editorial teeth there. We said goodbye to the pastors who have shepherded our church for the past six years, and are preparing to welcome a new spiritual leader. We buried some dear ones, and pondered what it might mean to meet up with them again in glory. These outward changes sometimes appear good, sometimes appear bad but one thing they all have in common? They all require an inward shift.

That brings me to the second lesson from 2015: If I am not changing, I am not growing.

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To resist change is to resist growth. Wouldn’t I rather stay in my comfort zone? Dull the pain of the transition by sinking into monotony? Yet, scripture tells us that the Christian life is never static. It is a state of always growing, a journey toward maturity in Christ. We are to grow up to become more like Jesus every day, says the letter to the Ephesians, up into the measure of the fullness of Christ. This past year, the world has struggled with race relations, terrorism, and letting love overcome fear. The problems of the world can seem so big that it can feel like my small life cannot make a difference. But when I let love lead and try not to run from the hard places, change can bring good things.

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Lesson three is this: Faith comes first. By this, I don’t mean we must put our spiritual lives first, though this is certainly true, but that sometimes we must confess belief in a truth before it is visibly apparent. Believing in a promise despite a lack of tangible proof will stretch faith in new and unimagined ways. Walking through the darkness of depression with my husband has been one of the greatest challenges in our marriage and our faith. But we continue to hold on to God and to each other. By the grace of God the light moments are spreading over us the same way the sunshine spreads over the meadow in the morning.

This year I’ve also learned how intricately My faith life and my physical being are yoked together. For much of this year I have been unable to run due to continued struggles with plantar fasciitis. During weeks of resting my physical self, I have felt my sense of wonder begin to wither. A lack of physical activity, for me, seems to have the peculiar effect of making me feel far away from God. Gradually, I’ve learned that it’s a precarious formula of caring for this temple of my body and making sure I am out-of-doors some every day. Running combines these two and being unable to run requires me to be much more deliberate in meeting these two spiritual practices.

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The fifth and final lesson I’m carrying into 2016 with me is a renewal of the awareness of The importance of my alone time with God. I’ve been working more hours at the hospital lately, which affects my freedom to plan more adventurous playdates with God. I’m still learning how to steward my time better in this new season. Writing, reading, and ministry have necessarily taken a back seat to other professional demands. This is a big shift for me. Even when I can’t leave the house for a playdate, I am learning once again to relish simply sitting with God. Such freedom in that simplicity.

So here are my top five lessons from 2015:

  1. Life is about change
  2.  If I’m not changing, I’m not growing
  3. Faith comes first during the dark seasons
  4.  God cares about my body and how I care for it
  5. Time alone with God must be a priority

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January may be named for the Roman god Janus—a name that comes from the Latin ianua, which means “door”. Mythology has him the keeper of doors, gates, bridges, and passages.

But this is the kind of door my God keeps—one made from parted waters, one that passes safely through tongues of flame, one that parts the heavens in a windstorm. These impossible, seemingly impassible doors; these narrow gates that the world whispers about, this is not the way, it is too hard—these are the kinds of doors my God keeps. He opens them wide and still, I squeeze through as if only a tiny crack.

But this Doorkeeper? He not only holds the door aloft, he reaches for my hand and pulls me through. Happy New Year, Beloveds. Praying many open doors for you in 2016.

West Virginia Morning: What David Oyelowo Taught Me About Faith

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This morning when I take Bonnie out, amber and violet hold hands in the meadow behind our house, coloring these early hours with sun-kissed hues dipping gently in the breeze. The bright waves of goldenrod and ironweed compliment each other perfectly, and I stand for a moment on the rim of our yard to let beauty settle in my soul. My eye follows the color trail along our property line, but something strange happens when I look beyond to where the meadow butts up against our neighbor’s yard. No golden waves dip between greens, no purple clusters kiss the sky. Instead, there is white laced into the grasses, as far as my eye can see.

The meadow behind our house looks like a tickertape parade, but behind our neighbor? There is a wedding banquet.

I have been having trouble ordering the days. Now that my editing job is over, there is a little more room in life and each day I try to make up for all the things I neglected when the deadline was king. At the slow winking of the end of each day, I find myself exhausted and dissatisfied.

Yesterday, I awakened with a terrible cold and am now forced to rest. I am feeling puny and ineffective, all the more aware that no matter what work I choose to do, there will always be something left undone. This transition leaves me questioning everything; I am wondering again about the best use of my time.

I have been trying to live more deliberately from a place of being loved—not let the things I do, the world’s definition of value, perceived success or failure, the actions of others—not allow these things define me. When a woman knows she is loved, it changes the way she lives in the world. I’ve had to grow into this beloved skin—still am on many a day. This question is a remnant from my chaotic childhood, “Am I worthy of being loved?” My husband’s eyes tell me yes, the arms of my children tell me yes, my faith tells me yes; but during times of transition, the soil I was planted in leaves my heart wondering anew.

God uses many things to speak into a life and not too long ago he used a movie star to whisper love in my ear. In an interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, actor David Oyelowo was asked how being descended from a royal family has impacted his life now.

Laughing, Oyelowo downplayed this part of his history, saying, “You know, royal families are a dime a dozen in Nigeria. It’s more like being the king of Sherman Oaks, really.”

But then he went on to share a very profound way his family lineage has shaped his outlook.

… the effect that knowing that I was from a royal family had on me—I mean, it had no real monetary or positional benefits … as is the case with a lot of African royal families. There’s actually no real financial remuneration. It’s more born out of a tradition. But what it gave me, that is undeniably something I hugely value, is a sense of self that has enabled me as I’ve gone into my life in the West to carry myself in a way that flies in the face of the world in which I live in. You know, there are a lot of challenges I undeniably have faced as a black person, both in the U.K. and in the U.S. that contrived to make me feel lesser than what I am. And I can absolutely see that in the African-American experience in this country. If you feel like the beginning of your history is rooted in slavery, that really, I think, messes with your sense of self, your self-esteem and your self-worth. But to know that you came from a lineage of kings, to know that you came from a place whereby every opportunity afforded within that society is yours for the taking, it makes you get out of your bed a very different way than if you feel like today is yet another fight. And so that is something I carry with me that I know has been of huge benefit as a result of, you know, my family and where I’m from.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about his words since I heard them. Our country has had a rude awakening in the past few years when it comes to race relations. Everything I thought I knew about such things turns to dust in my mouth when I try to speak of them. But Mr. Oyelowo’s words teach me about more than the troubles of our culture. They teach me about myself.

What if I lived my life as one descended from royalty? What if I treated every person I encounter in this same way? Yes, I am worthy. I am a daughter of the king.

This morning, I look out over the meadow at an endless sea of white. Its name is Tall Thoroughwort, my wildflower book tells me. But I name it Promise. It’s a royal wedding feast.