Saturday, August 23, 2008

Thoughts from the beach at Lake Superior

Heather said it was ok to cross-post this from my blog at The Midnight Cafe. So, here it is (edited to add that Mango = my husband, Vespera = my 17yr old daughter, Mane = my 6yr old daughter, and Novio = Vespera's boyfriend):

Last week we camped...5 days, 4 nights...just on the outskirts of Duluth. We brought the whole family + Novio.

On Wednesday evening I sat on the rock beach watching the waves come in, nestled up close to Mango, the wind whirring in our ears. Mane collected "rock babies." Vespera and Novio sat quietly, first taking pictures and then just still and contemplative. My heart was so full I could have laughed or cried. Instead I poured out my thoughts to Mango, poured them into the wind and the waves.

I have always loved the passion and intensity of teenage emotion. I love that electricity. And I think we are faced with a couple of choices as we grow out of our teenage years. We can stop feeling all that intensity because it's heavy and difficult, because it's hard to be stable and cope with life at that level of emotionality all the time. OR we can allow ourselves to feel, to be fully alive. And, in being fully alive, we have so much more experience and depth to the emtional intensity that follows. It makes your heart feel like bursting so very often, but the joy is just as deep and intense. Sometimes I feel as though I might drown in my own heart, covered over by the depth of all that I've learned and experienced since those teenage years.

I was aware, sitting there on the beach, that Vespera and Novio were in the midst of one of those deeply emotional moments. Novio comes from the ocean, and surfing was his hobby. Since moving to Minnesota he has not visited a body of water so vast that you cannot see the other side. The water and waves of Lake Superior were both the wound and the balm at the same time. So poignant. So bittersweet. The waves washed up old memories, even while we were there creating new ones.

I asked if the Lake made him homesick. His answer was heavy but quick and direct, "Yes, but Vespera is here, and I want to be with her." And they curled into each other, one wave inside another.

I honor the depth and breadth and truth of the emotions that my child and her Novio held out there in the wind that evening, while also acknowledging that the strength and depth of my own emotions go deeper...just because I've lived longer and known more, because I know them AND I know me. The wild ride of learning that we have intense and passionate emotional selves that begins in the teen years is really only the beginning. I can keep a cap on it better now if I want to, but when I sit in that quiet created by the rushing wind and crashing waves and allow myself to feel, I know that I draw from a well that is deeper now than it used to be. And I am so glad. I feel as though so many people around me have forgotten how to really just be connected to the waters of passion and intensity, of life and vitality. And the lack of connection limits our ability to love, to know joy, to be loved.

I do wonder how this relates to our ability to know God and be loved by God. God is such a powerful, intense, and vast Being. We connect a little bit to that vastness in those in-between years when we're so full of life and vitality ourselves. So much gets lost in the race to be successful, to care for our families, to do the necessary day-to-day things that we forget. We forget to open our arms wide to the wind and let the waves wash over us. We're filled with inhibitions that come from more experience, from fear. But our possibilities for understanding and knowing that Greatness, that Vastness are so much greater as we gain experience, more life, more depth. It's a conundrum, a paradox. Experience creates our inhibitions, but it also increases our potential for knowing and being loved by God and other human beings.

And this is why I love the wind and the waves. I love the way that the natural world grounds me in my humanness while drawing me into eternity, into a full, wide, expansive relationship with God and with others.

I want to live with the expansiveness of a teenager and with the tiny bits of wisdom I've gained since then. I want to put to use the full range of human life and emotion that God has granted me. I am willing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Maybe it's in the Moments

I look out the window at a man who has been struggling with his weight, his love of food taking over and leaving him defeated most days. Today he looks happier, a little lighter. He has been sick and couldn't eat, making weight-loss that much easier. For quite a few days now, his desire for food has paled in comparison to the desire to avoid the pain that comes with eating. So the weight dropped, leaving him to feel like health might be possible. It is only by these days of inevitable consistency and motivated self-discipline, that the outcome that has been so long desired is starting to appear. His weight loss can be chalked up to a mere accident, in the face of no other choice. The ability to be self-disciplined handed on a silver platter. The platter of no other choice.

That's what it takes for me too, I think. Something has to happen that changes everything to get me to follow through as faithfully as is required of me. And even then, my will-power only lasts until I'm comfortable again. Or distracted. Or allowed the opportunity to be even the slightest bit lazy. If given the chance, I fall ever so quickly back into patterns of self-destructive behavior. Or at the very least, the absence of healthy habits.

One way I do this is with my "quiet time," as we good Christians like to call it. For a month at a time I can rise in the morning and spend some time with my God, feeding my spirit with His words and learning more about Him. And then the month passes, a new routine appears and I cave. I give in to the stress of life, the desire to sleep, or a generally distracted nature.

Sometimes I ask and ask, wanting God to give me a quick fix. A fix to a situation, or a part of me I'm tired of battling. But just as a diet plan is slow and arduous, so is faithfulness. We attempt and fail many times, making small strides and falling back. Lately I've been wondering if that's because we think in endings. The final weight goal, total freedom from addiction, a life where we live as we desire everyday without fail, or a perfect walk with God. Maybe it would be better if we stopped thinking that way. It seems too simple to say we need to start thinking in moments rather than in endings, but it may be true.

Maybe "living in the will of God" looks more like taking tiny steps with Him, thoughtfully considering what He would want in a particular moment, rather than believing there are only big choices on the road to His purposes.

It's maybe not about that one big decision, a job, a new baby, or a big move. It's maybe in the way we speak to the annoying co-worker that everyone else ignores. Or in the way we extend a hand-full of change to the homeless man holding his sign on the corner. Or it's in the way we take a deep breath, rather than lashing out at our children our spouses. Or in the moments where we stop and let another's hurt pierce our hearts, compelling us to act on their behalf. Or it's in the small ways we are called to action; to live, to feel, to hurt, to love, and to extend grace freely to the world around us.

In small moments we can stop and choose what God would want for us and His world around us. So maybe it's not about the end goal weight, but about the simple choice to choose fruit over a danish, just one morning at a time. And maybe it's about choosing to take a walk over having another glass of wine. Or it's about choosing to get up and sit at the throne of God, asking for wisdom and grace, just for today. I can do it, just for today. No need to think of whether or not I can do it tomorrow. Just for today.

Maybe as we choose the heart of God in these small moments, we live our way into the big and glorious calling for our lives.
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