Loving this song right now.
Loving this song right now.
My mind stays hurried and unfocused recently. Accomplishing small bits of tasks here and there until eventually complete. Frustrating myself. Poor sleep, immediate technology in part to blame.
Then Sunday afternoon closing out July I set aside the painting and scrapbooking I plan to do and instead curl up in my favorite chair with a book I started two weeks ago. The Help. I begin thinking I’ll read for half an hour and work on the painting that awaits me. Three and a half hours later I’m still reading.
I have not lost myself in a book for that length of time in months. Taking a break to exercise I return later in the evening to read more. Another hour and a half later I turn the last page.
Painting and scrapbooking and all plans other than the exercise abandoned. Something my mind and spirit needed.
Today I check the mail. An already good day made even better. Our yearly update on our World Vision sponsored child. A new photo showing how he’s grown. Squirt asking again “Can we go to Africa?” “I wish it were that easy,” I reply. Shifting my mind to Writing Joy & other World Vision bloggers in Bolivia this week. Sharing stories of what World Vision is doing. That tug at my heart to apply for a World Vision blogging trips returns.
I continue counting the gifts.
476. For all the different birds playing in my yard as I sit on my porch. (7/25/11)
477. For the motivation to push through and write. (7/25/11)
478. For energy & motivation to run/walk four miles after three days off. (7/26/12)
479. For hummingbirds at my feeders. (7/26/11)
480. For cool breeze on a hot summer afternoon. (7/26/11)
481. For new clients emailing to book a session. (7/26/11)
482. For Sherry and Elizabeth. (7/27/11)
483. For getting to talk to Sarah Beth. (7/28/11)
484. Star gazing in the hammock. Seeing a shooting star. (7/28/11)
485. For motivation to move even though wasn't feeling well. (7/29/11)
486. For a day where I accomplished what I wanted to. (7/30/11)
487. For Ann. (7/30/11)
488. For Highlands. (7/31/11)
489. For an afternoon of hours of reading. (7/31/11)
490. For energy to run when all I wanted to do was take a nap. (7/31/11)
491. For losing two more pounds. (7/31/11)
492. For another shooting star. (7/31/11)
493. For a morning with a friend at the pool. (8/1/11)
494. For kiddo deciding he liked his painting he finished when he didn't like it at first. (8/1/11)
495. For energy to go run when all I wanted to do was take a nap. (8/1/11)
496. For our yearly update on our Word Vision sponsored child. (8/1/11)
497. Two afternoon thunderstorms with sunshine in between. (8/1/11)
Many hours I spent pushing our nephew in his toddler swing. Graduating to a big kid swing pushing until he learned to pump his legs. It seems not so long ago. Now he's seventeen.
Then as a mom and not an aunt I spent countless hours pushing my own son. Pushing as he laughed and laughed. The simplest of joys lighting up his face.
What is it about swings that bring such joy? Such delight?
Perhaps the soothing motion of the back and forth, up and down. How many naps did my son take in his baby swing when nothing else would soothe him? One of my dad's favorite places to sit is his front porch swing. There is a comfort in a gentle swing.
Is it the thrill you feel inside as you go higher and higher? Or is it the feeling of almost touching the sky? That you can go higher and higher. Do you remember the rush of pumping your legs swinging higher and higher and leaping out of the swing? Seeing the ground you know you can jump and reach the ground with relative safety.
Life is filled with certain uncertainties. Our pastor shared a message series recently entitled Doors about God's will. His moral will and His sovereign will. One point he made in the message about God's sovereign will was that we can expect uncertainties.
We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
God isn't going to give us all the details. If He did we why would we need Him?
We have to grow in our faith enough and learn to step out in trust. If we don't we will never know how high we can go or feel the joy He wants us to know.
We have to leap out of the swing even though we can't see the ground beneath. The irony is that when we learn to leap is when we will find His comfort and peace.
Are you learning to leap?
Linking up for the Swings Blog Carnival at the blog of Peter Pollock.
Early morning sun falls through the east facing window as I sit in my favorite chair reading devotion for the day, journaling thoughts and prayers. Glancing out the window I see wind blowing through the tops of trees. But not the shorter trees or lower limbs. Only the upper branches. I watch morning after morning as the wind drifts among the tops unbeknown to the life below.
How often do we feel like God is silent? Or not working in our lives? Nothing seems to be falling into place. The job didn't work out. The relationship failed. Disease still ravages. Resistance seems to discourage at every turn.
Again I'm brought back to the thought that even though we cannot see His hand at work doesn't mean He isn't working. Just like the wind couldn't be seen in the smaller trees and lower branches doesn't mean it wasn't there.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9NIV
His ways are not our ways. We cannot always understand. I continue listing the graces. Counting the gifts. Giving thanks.
Smell of fresh summer rain. (7/17/11)
Bright moonlight through the trees. (7/17/11)
A hummingbird flying & hovering a foot from me. (7/18/11)
Birds in the crepe myrtle as I sit on the porch & read. (7/18/11)
For my favorite red chair in the living room. (7/19/11)
For the gift of prayer. (7/19/11)
For waking up to a thunderstorm. (7/20/11)
For wind blowing through the tops of the trees. (7/21/11)
For twitter friends who encourage. (7/21/11)
For new music by Shaun Groves - Third World Symphony. (7/21/11)
For the neighbor mowing at 9 instead of 6. (7/22/11)
For a rainbow in the rear view mirror on the drive back from Auburn. (7/23/11)
"Without a witness they just disappear." - Taking Chance
I'm not an avid movie watcher, but I had wanted to see Taking Chance for some time. Toward the end a veteran is thanks Kevin Bacon's character for escorting Chance's body home. Bacon's character says he didn't really do anything to which the veteran replied "Without a witness they just disappear." Those who escort our fallen heroes home give witness, they honor the sacrifices made.
Instantly my thoughts went to Eucharisteo. To giving voice to the gifts of grace.
If we don't give witness to the gifts God sends, to His ordinary every day miracles, they disappear.
to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever." (Joshua 4:6-7 NIV)
How easy our hearts forget the graces He sends to us each day. I see people overwhelmed by their own problems. There are days I am overwhelmed by my own problems. Normal day to day frustrations. Worries. Hurtful words. Constant questions from my eleven year old that I do not have answers to. ("Why no son I do not know why they choose to patch the asphalt on that road and just make it worse instead of paving the entire road." Can any of you moms relate?)
Eucharisteo. The Eucharist. Some denominations call it Holy Eucharist, some Holy Communion, some the Lord's Supper. Whichever, it is to be a reminder to us. We receive it in remembrance of what Christ did for us. In remembrance of the grace God gave us through His son.
And in this remembering we give thanks. Eucharist. Communion. A visual reminder that has become much more meaningful to me as this word, Eucharisteo, was given to me this year. A gentle tap in my spirit to give thanks for the ultimate grace. Yet a confirmation to live Eucharisteo and give witness to each grace no matter how small.
Front porch rocking chairs and seventy-nine degree weather in July.
Five miles on the treadmill.
Chocolate and almonds.
A husband, a son and golf.
Online friend's who send encouragement.
Clouds painted across the sky.
Sky clearing to see two stars.
I may have blogged this before. Maybe I'm writing this again as a reminder to myself after this odd few months of feeling at a place between and just not quite myself. Perhaps someone reading this needs the reminder.
It all comes down to giving thanks and remembering. Giving witness to each grace.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. Psalm 77:11-12
What do you need to remember today?
Rain. I have always hated rain. I half joke and say I would like to move to Arizona. The desert part. Where it rarely rains. Days on end of rain get to me. Heaven forbid weeks and months like it felt at the end of 2009 and early 2010. I needed sunshine.
But now, this summer? 2011? I'm craving rain. I pray for a thunderstorm each day. Perhaps it was the dry days of late spring and early summer that threatened a summer drought. Maybe it is how my spirit is feeling lately. Melancholy and fighting to seek the gifts. To give thanks. This season of growth and testing God seems to be using. I find myself craving the rain. Lost in thought as the summer thunder rumbles for what seems like hours.
Praying the rain will bring growth to my restless spirit. Praying it will bring healing to my wounded heart.
For almost two years I grew. Growing into myself, in all God was teaching me. An excitement in the growth. Anxious for what He was teaching me. Finding my voice through my art. Sensing Him everywhere and in everything. Grasping at a faith of my own.
Then suddenly that feeling lost. Still learning. Continuing to grow.
Yet a painful growth.
Learning to seek when hurtful words pierce. Moving toward Him when faith in humans is lost. Knowing He is faithful when disappointment in mortals takes hold.
"For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies." Psalm 57:10 (NIV)
Seasons of growth. Some bright with promise. Others clouded with gray.
But this growth? This growth striped with pain? We need this as much as we need growth marked with joy. How else do we learn to seek Him through life's darkest hours? How can we cherish the growth in joy without knowing the painful? What other way do we learn to give thanks in everything? Even when our spirit hurts we must learn to give thanks. Eucharisteo.
I sit rocking on my porch. Feeling the fallen temps after the storm chill my skin. The train whistling in the distance. Rain dripping from the trees as crickets sing their praises to the creator. One star barely visible through clouds.
My nightly liturgy of sorts. This place where I think. Where I pray. Where I listen. Where sometimes I don't like His answers. Where I am learning to pray "bring the rain. Yes. Bring the rain."
Tracee wrote a beautiful guest post at Living the Lyrics about the ten lepers Jesus healed and the one with a grateful heart who came back to say thank you. (Luke 17:11-19) She brought up a point that, even though not the focus of her thoughts, I had never considered as many times as I have read this story.
When He saw them, He said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they were going, they were cleansed. v.14
Jesus didn't immediately heal the lepers. They could not see their healing in the beginning. Their healing began after. After they took the first step. After they obeyed His instructions. Knowing the stories of Jesus did they have enough faith to turn and go as he said? Did they begin to wonder at first if they would be healed when immediate healing wasn't visible?
for we walk by faith, not by sight-- (2 Corinthians 5:7 NASB)
Much can be said about the one who came back to give thanks that would apply to my one word for 2011, but this other aspect of the story struck me.
How often do we pray for healing? Physical or emotional healing for ourselves?
I cannot begin to understand or explain why God chooses to heal some and not others of physical diseases. Why are there those who deal with chronic diseases stealing life and often joy? I do not want to minimize those by giving the cliche answers we have all heard from well meaning Christians.
Please don't misunderstand me on this either. I am certainly not saying that those who do not experience healing are disobeying. The story of Job proves that difficulties come even to those who are "blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil." (Job 1:1 NASB)
My first thoughts, though, when reading the passage in Luke went to emotional healing.
We all bear emotional scars in some way. The loss of a parent at a young age. A friendship that dissolves due to misunderstanding and hurt feelings. Divorce. Absentee parents. The death of a child or other loved one. The lasting effects of being bullied and never fitting in as a teen. Abuse in indescribable ways. Many situations trigger severe depression and need professional help and counseling.
I wonder, though, if we wear our emotional scars as a leprosy of sorts? We build walls around our hearts so no one can hurt us again. We remain at a distance from the gates of those who want to help us heal. Those who God sends to help us heal.
We pray for healing, for our hearts to feel joy, happiness. We walk through grief. We may hope for retribution when we are hurt. How often are we frustrated when our hearts do not immediately heal?
We must go and "show ourselves to the priest." The lepers turned and took that step. We must make the first step no matter the situation. Often times the first step may simply be winding the clock. Going through the motions of our every day. Maybe it means forgiveness. Daily, sometimes hourly, seeking God to help you forgive the one who caused you such pain. Seeking professional help through a counselor or doctor might be the first step.
Whatever the first step is does not mean the healing will happen immediately.
Pain often accompanies healing. It is a process. A process by definition requires steps. It requires time. Perhaps more time than we imagine or want.
As we take the first step we may not see healing. But if we show ourselves willing, if we have faith and seek, as we are going, healing will begin.
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.' (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NASB)
I am not sure any of my rambling thoughts in this post will make sense to anyone. I have written them over a course of more than a week as they surfaced. I realize too I may be repeating myself from previous posts, but writing is my way of processing what I am learning and this is heavy on my mind as of late.
Can any of us ever truly be made whole this side of heaven? Of course none of us will be whole physically. But emotionally? Spiritually? I don't believe we will be.
I wonder, though, if there isn't something to be found in the silence of waiting.
I’ve learned the hard way this past year that remaining silent is a gift. That simply listening and understanding is usually best. Preston wrote so beautifully of this in his posts ‘understanding’ and 'on being whole' that these thoughts on silence resurfaced.
Preston is right when he says "I need you to understand that desiring to understand is the most gracious and beautiful and sacred gift you could ever give to another person."
Might I dare add that understanding in silence is also part of that sacred gift?
We cannot make anyone whole or complete and the inner turmoil they battle usually begs only for understanding. Nothing more.
Why then do we often feel the need to fix situations? Our emotions become frustrated when we aren't able to make circumstances better for those we love.
I've written a good bit about silence and the silence in ordinary time recently. Last year I felt God teaching me through everything. I heard Him. Felt Him. In conversations. In my prayers. Not audibly, but in every book, scripture, conversation, song. He was there. But in the past few months I feel like I struggle to hear what He is teaching me. My spirit has been restless to hear Him, to feel Him near. I know He is with me. I do not question that as I might have in the past.
Now I begin to wonder if God also gives us His silence as a gift? If He teaches us through the silence? Was He not silent as Christ was on the cross and in his death? Did He not seem silent to the psalmist in times of lament?
Why then do we struggle when peace in our own situations cannot be found? Perhaps God gives us these seasons of restlessness. Stretches of time where the anxiety almost cripples us. This does not mean we are doubting our faith. Could He be using His silence to strengthen us? To cause us to seek Him even more desperately?
I believe this is especially so for those gifted/cursed with seeing the world in shades of gray. Those of us who feel the liminal space between the seen and unseen. Those of us who need to create in some way. To know our creator through art. Who always feel as if we are never complete. Those always searching, questioning and never being able to completely find perfect solace in not knowing.
We have peace and trust in His promises, but our souls are never completely quite at rest.
As Christ followers we know we can only be made complete in Christ. The something others try to fill yet never grasp we have. But will we ever truly attain wholeness or feel complete spiritually and emotionally in this world? I'm not sure. Yet more and more I'm seeing this and the times of silence as a gift. A gift urging us to seek Him even more...because He is still with us and He will not remain silent forever.
So the blog name is staying. I am however considering changing my twitter name to my full name. I have always gone by Amy Kiane online. Kiane is my middle name and it is so unique I have always loved it. (I’m researching it and plan to write about it here soon.) I have some ideas and hopes though causing me to think maybe it would be good to change it to my name that everyone knows me by in life. Still thinking through it as of now.
When I posted about changing the blog name my twitter and blog friend Preston Yancey replied that he wanted to think about the name change, that Ordinarily Extraordinary seemed so right. Preston has been such an encouragement to me in my writing. His writing never fails to make me think and wonder. God has given Preston an amazing gift with words. So later that day I asked him why it ‘seemed right’ to him? This was his reply.
“Because when I think of Amy, I think of quiet, home, fires, simplicity, wood floors. These are ordinary things, made extraordinary.”
Then when he posts something like this in his Formica Friday about my blog and writing...well you can see why he is such an encouragement. (You have to scroll down a bit to read it.)
Thank you Preston. You made me remember why I chose the name in the beginning. While the focus and purpose of my blog has changed the heart behind Ordinarily Extraordinary hasn’t. I still want to see the extraordinary in what most see as ordinary.
As I said in a recent post “For these ordinary moments of our days can become extraordinary in His grace.”
Several other friends also replied they liked Ordinarily Extraordinary so after much thought and some prayer the name is staying. Thank you to all my friends who gave suggestions and their thoughts.
The next month or so will still be a bit quieter than usual here as I begin the switch to the new platform and hosting and take care of some other projects on my list as well as simply enjoying what remains of our summer. I hope you'll keep checking back. I appreciate each of you who read and I can't wait to share the words God is giving me and the plans I have for the new blog. Thank you all so much for being a part of my journey!