I had the privilege of knowing Ann Absalom during the brief 4 years I lived in Japan where she led a bible study at our international church. Back in our home countries, we reconnected over Facebook about a year ago. I came across these words she posted this past Saturday just before Easter and she gave me permission to share them here . . .
I have been thinking about Easter – how it is not really ‘good’ Friday until Sunday – how we won’t really, truly know until we see Him face to face on our resurrection day. Meanwhile we wait and we hope – we live in the in between – we have His promises that we have been born again, that heaven is waiting – that it is glorious, that He is there now preparing a place for us. We are given tasters of joy and peace by His Spirit who lives within us but the tasters are found amidst a life that is often difficult and hard, relentless and tiring. We are asked to trust His Word that He will rise on the third day and that we will rise with Him and we are encouraged to put our trust in that – to believe that He is now – in the time between Friday and Sunday – causing all things to work together for our good, that He is for us and that in the end we really will rise with Him and live for eternity in a place without pain and sorrow and tears.
But it is all unseen, it is a confident hope, but hope nonetheless. That is what makes it faith – that is what makes it so difficult for those who need to see and touch and taste and feel.
It is still Saturday and the voices along our path cry out on the darkest days ‘really, are you sure – wouldn’t it be easier simply to stop and give in? The voices cause us to ask ‘why me’ and to question His love and His compassion. But we look back and have decided to put our trust in the One who died in our place on Good Friday – we believe that He is God, that He paid our price, that He made it possible for us to walk through Saturday into a glorious Sunday. We have decided to trust and to wait and to hope in the Lord and as we do we hear His soft small voice call out ‘well done beloved child, well done – I am rejoicing over you with singing’.
It will always be Saturday whilst we live on this planet – Saturday with its trouble and trial, it’s pain and its doubt but Sunday is just around the corner – hang in sweet and precious child of God He is waiting to greet you with open arms.
Night after night, she wants the same story read. I’m anxious to reach the end and kiss good night. I don’t always enter into what I’m reading, but she is entranced.
A recent favorite is about a group of friends: bear, mouse, and mole; raven, rabbit, and wren. They play together, hunt strawberries together, and cuddle up to sleep.
Another is a little girl day-dreaming. In her own garden “there would be no weeds” and the flowers would “never die.” Anything would grow. The fruit of her labor would be abundant and large (except for carrots which she hates).
My children listen, not batting an eye. When I am present, I remember what these stories are really saying. They are beckoning to their imaginations of an ideal life; whispering a reality we’ve lost and must, for now, imagine.
So when I’m there in my heart and not 15 minutes into the future when the house is quiet, I tell them why they love these tales. I tell them what once was, . . .
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” . . .
and I tell them what will be . . .
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
Creation will be renewed and weeds will be legend. We will be friends with creatures, perhaps cuddling for naps or hunting for strawberries on their backs.
Children are supposed to grow up, leaving childish ways behind. I’m not sure what all those ways are, but being a fool in love with the hope of paradise lost again being found is not one of them.
A picture flashed in my mind one recent day. It was my stack of journals. Until late, I never thought of them as a discipline. They were a tool to extract my thoughts, my frustrations, even my joys. All the days I feared the future, felt I was a bother to God, should get it together already, are written and collected. They are the journey of a heart poured out.
I scratched out prayers, my head down low to see the pages, but also from frustration in coming with the same struggle day after day. Parenting was hard. I worried about the future. I saw hardness and rebellion in a tiny soul and desired to lead her well. I begged with my pen,
“Let me, let us, do this well. Guard her heart, keep it. Help me greet her today with a smile and be patient to correct when she disobeys, fights, and argues. Let me not drive her away, but lead her to You.”
It’s been over a decade now and suddenly I’m seeing gentleness where I didn’t before. A desire to know God and love Him has grown. She expresses thanks in place of entitlement, and I smile at how she is gifted where I am not. My eyes are opening too see the change. How she got so tall and stopped fitting in my lap without hurting my legs, is a marvel. How beauty has sprung up in a place I was expecting dry ground is more so to be pondered.
Her cells multiplied daily, unnoticed before my eyes. My prayers multiplied just as fast, growing both of our hearts in secret.
I thought it was just me; this need to document words, a necessity to keep my focus from the air. It was that, but the day in and day out of crying through ink and pleading through secret pages was my part in His work. I believed and clung to see what would come of it. More life is ahead, and more prayers on which will hang. Most of all, I’ve learned I can smile at the future.
A discipline born out of need, I’ve decided to continue scratching this messy heart into quiet words, eyes down as they practice looking at hope. In hope we pray and plead, in hope we anticipate. In hindsight we see and rejoice, we sigh relief.
Would He have done it anyway? Perhaps and probably so; I am joining Him, not the other way around. Would I have seen it? I’m not quite sure. I forget too soon what I have asked of Him. For the remembrance and the joy of saying, with a smile in the future, “For this I prayed,” I keep scribbling.
For when my deepest parts occupy a small notebook, closed and dark by 7am, they transcend time and space and sits before the face of God, the Lover of my soul, the Master of shaping hearts.
I met my dad for breakfast and told him it’s no fun to be a grown-up.
The girls had given the dog a bath the night before which ended with three laughing, naked little people erupting from the bathroom,
the dog dripping behind them,
the bath full of brown water,
and the floor wet enough to float a small boat.
From the sounds wafting down the staircase, I knew it could be messy, but I chose to leave them to themselves. I tried to keep smiling as I discovered the flooding, but frustration found its way like a shaken up soda. Claire cried, “Mom, we were just having fun, why do you get mad?”
Over eggs, my dad says getting in trouble is part of being a kid. I suppose, but I can’t stand it. Feels like I say no more than yes. My attempts to let go and let them have fun end with me acting like dry woodwork is more important than laughter.
I can reprimand myself for not being present when bathing the beast or for being surprised when child’s play turns chaotic. Most of all, I chastise myself for not carrying out perfectly all I’ve read about parenting, an impossible ideal. It’s all my fault in the end for letting it happen.
What’s happened before will happen again; the kids will play and find fun where their delight leads them and I will guide them out of childish places, trying not fizz over, but the fizz will come again. It’s a serious job to preserve child-likeness and that’s where I tremble. Somehow in the middle of it all, I should roll with things a little more.
The ancient King Solomon who sought all wisdom rightly declared, “What is crooked cannot be straightened, and what is lacking cannot be counted.”**
Life is like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube, untangling a slinky, or holding pudding in your hand. Sometimes even in trivial moments, the frustration can heave a person into despair. Where’s the hope? Why strive once more? I’m a crooked tool trying to shape crooked souls.
I cannot make myself straight though I try. Nor can I pass on what I don’t have; a child-like spirit, a patient heart. What can you do when a crooked thing just won’t go straight; not a thing will just stay in its place? How do you keep standing, keep trying?
Later, over dirty dishes, I find strength to smile. The more I bend my mind to it I perceive that while things finally straightening is still on the horizon, He is at work trimming my soul. I’m watching the crookedness in and around me and keep going because there’s a promise for the terrain of my heart. It will be made new. It will be smoothed out. Things will have their place, darkness will have none, and I will truly be like a child.
I will bring the blind by a way they did not know;
While I’ve felt pressure to get on here and let whoever’s reading know where I’ve gone, I haven’t known what to say, nor had the energy to say it. Having such a small blog, isn’t it a silly thing to say in the first place?
However few, you matter much to me. Without a reader, words stand still. Since you are my partner in creation, I think you deserve to know where I’ve gone.
I joined National Novel Writing Month! Then, almost as quickly as I signed up, my words ran away.
I’ve written about 3,000 of the required 50,000 words. I thought I had a book in me, but when I sit down to write I am lost. To try to get to 50,000 words, there is no capacity left to post to a blog. I don’t know how to do both, but one thing I know for sure; it has been the busiest month of my life, ever. We are going to cut out some things for the month of December because I can’t breathe.
I’m stuck in a long moment. I think it’s been 5 weeks since I’ve posted anything. Interestingly enough, my last post was about asking for brokenness, and there is some.
I offer you my thanks and apologies. Thanks for sticking with me, for comments and telling me you’re there. Apologies for my inconsistency and inability to make this more than it is. My goal and vision for staying here is to inspire a few of you to see the story differently, empowering you to live life in Christ with a fresh vision and joy and the ability to imagine what’s true, but not yet seen.
I not only pop up today to say, “Hey, I’m here, stick around,” but really to express that I think this period of silence has a purpose. After 5 weeks of not posting and feeling incapable and empty, it dawned on me that this is necessary. It makes sense to need to be hands-off for a while and come back to the reality that this art is not all mine nor all up to me. Sometimes we need to sit back and let the substance of life fall around us before we have something to work from. I think that’s where I’m at right now.
To save yourself the need to keep checking back, use the subscribe button at the top right, or add this spot to your Feedly. I will go on with my life, studying planets and stars and the French Revolution with my children. You will do your thing too and still be notified when I have some pieces of life to share!
I love the seemingly sudden change of seasons. The one change I won’t forget was when in Tokyo, I walked into a hospital to deliver our first baby. It was hot and humid mid September. Seven days later I walked out to drastically cooler breeze. Life was different; life was new.
I remember the day we left thinking, “Wow, this baby really does belong to us. We’re walking out of here with her and she will go wherever we do!” I stepped into this new life and cool air with a hot head. I knew it all, but a season of exhaustion, sometimes emotionally more than physically, found me. The weight of guiding a soul was something for which I was not prepared. Thank God we just couldn’t get the externals right or I would be stuck in my hot head forever.
Tonight’s mid-September, I feel the cool again. The changing breeze feels sudden though the world has faithfully worked its spin since the last one. It feels sudden that I’m a different mom, but the tough climbs of a decade had a place and the wind blows over a cooler-headed mama.
I smile at the future now. Not because I know it all, but because the day I walked out of that foreign hospital carrying a 6-pound bundle, the one who knew the current of my heart was prepared to carry me.
He works miracles, He does. We are mistaken to think they all happen in a flash. All of creation teaches us His ways. The breeze can sing or smell or feel in a way that shows us how we’ve been carried when we thought we were getting nowhere.
Feel the wind today. Marvel at its mystery. You can see only its effects and grasp only its brushing past your skin. This, my friends, is the paintbrush of God. Ask Him to carry you along and see how He has worked the next time the breeze comes around.
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Boarding was at 10:30 am for a quick flight from Omaha to Dallas to attend The Declare Conference. I edged in my seat, ready to board as the speaker clicked on.
“Ladies and gentleman, we’re having some trouble with the luggage door on the aircraft. We apologize for the short delay this will cause us in boarding. As soon as we get the door open we will begin boarding. Thank you for your patience.”
I sat back again.
The next time the speaker clicked and I edged forward . . .
“Ladies and gentleman, the door issue is a little more complicated. The repair will take a while, but we’ll keep you updated as we know more. We apologize and thank you for your patience.”
After 6 hours of updates, another aircraft was available. We boarded in a rush, but soon deplaned without going anywhere. Before we could leave the gate the pilot had reached his legal time limit for flying that day.
While waiting for the plane to leave the gate, a strange thought had come to me.“Was I the one keeping the place grounded? Was I headed to a conference I wasn’t supposed to be at?”
I remembered Jonah on a ship in a terrible storm. The sailors were crying to their gods for help. Jonah said, “It’s me! Just throw me overboard and the storm will stop. I’m not supposed to be on this ship, I’m going the wrong way.”
“It’s not all about me,” I thought. “I’m not special like Jonah. Besides, if I got off and just drove back home, nothing would make it obvious that it was me.”
The thought stuck with me, (I even told Jeff Goins about it later when meeting him for the first time. I felt stupid. “Did I always have to be so transparent??” ).
Shaking my head inside my head, we deboarded the plane and finally took off 2 hours later. Third time’s a charm they say! We were finally headed for Dallas! I was excited to at least meet some people after missing registration, dinner, and the first keynote speaker Mary DeMuth. I also had an agent critique waiting for me at 10pm I could still get too!
Before landing, a weather front moved into Dallas and we were rerouted to a nearby freight airport. We sat for 2 hours before flying back to Dallas in 15 minutes at 5,000 feet.
The shuttle friends I had planned to meet left long ago. I took a taxi in the dark, arriving at the hotel in time to sit in on an impromptu session with the agent. I sat quietly in the back. At almost midnight, waiting in line for my critique, I introduced myself to the person standing closest to me. We exchanged cards and made small talk. She was ahead of me in line and I overheard her story which took a lot of bravery to share.
I was kind of a lost puppy the whole weekend, not knowing anyone aside from their picture on the Facebook page. I introduced myself a lot and asked questions of others, but didn’t chum around with anyone. Here and there I went to say hi to Jacque since she was the first person I’d met after my late arrival. Still small talk really, but I was drawn to her.
I enjoyed and learned lots, and planned to exert myself until 10pm the 2nd night, then cut myself off. I needed a good rest for my early flight out.
I took my ipad to bed to set the alarm and Jacque was still on my mind. I peeked at her blog, read her story in 11 parts, and cried. Her story was written into a series of several posts chronicling her marriage, affair, divorce, and second marriage. I read all 11 parts of her story and cried.
I cried because I knew. I knew what it felt like to realize you’re the worst sinner. I knew why Mary Magdelene cried over Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair, not caring what others’ thought. My story was like hers, but different. Every story is about a wandering heart looking for the right place to settle.
Tucked under the fluffy white hotel bedding, I shivered. My feet were like ice and my teeth chattered. I knew something else . . .
I knew why the first plane’s door wouldn’t work, and the second one had enough of a delay to boot the pilot off. I knew my silly thought made sense and that I wasn’t supposed to be on that plane at 4:30 and why our 8-hour delayed flight was comically diverted by wind and rain. I arrived in time to meet Jacque when she told her story loud enough for me to hear.
There I was, alone in a hotel and He was there giving me shivers. I lay there in the sheets, my heart lay exposed. It’s done its share of wandering. He wanted more of it and was giving me more at the same time. This was the time and place He wanted me to see.
The next morning, Jacque unexpectedly joined my group on the shuttle. Out of 6 of us, she and I were alone in the AA terminal for an hour and I told her my stuff. Small talk was over; we were friends. We rejoiced together to know what mercy feels like, to have our “good girl” shells cracked open to know it up close and personal.
So was the day all about me? All that drama that sent people into a tizzy? More than my mind can take, I’m sure the chaos could’ve been worked out for everyone in a different way, a different story, if they were paying attention.
But there’s another thing I know . . . A shepherd who says He’ll leave his 99 sheep to find the one that’s lost her way.
And that’s not all. Check out Jacque’s account of how we met! We were at The Declare Conference: One Message, Many Voices. Our message? There is one watching and waiting to show love to you!
Next time things go “wrong,” start watching. How have you seen God’s love more clearly through inconveniences or struggles? Have you felt the pursuit of the Lover of your soul?
I swept the hair I clipped from my husband’s head tonight. The dustpan isn’t as full as it used to be. It’s peppery too, not all black. We’re in process; the process of aging. Every once in a while we say to each other, “Oh honey, I’m aging,” but the countdown began long ago, before we drew a breath.
In Japan with our first baby, nearly 10 years ago
It’s shocking to realize your skin doesn’t bounce back always when you rub lotion on it. Lines are slowly beginning to form and there is no way to stop them. There are certain things about life you have no choice but to let happen. There are other parts of aging you can join in with and embrace.
Last weekend, Hiro and I went away to a quiet lodge; the place where Arbor Day began. We had one purpose; to plan backwards from the end of our lives. We’d talked about it, read about it, but this was the first time we were actually doing it.
I was nervous. What if we couldn’t agree?
What if we’re too different and our lives will always cross and not travel parallel?
How do you plan a life anyway? Especially when you believe there is a God directing your steps and you’re supposed to trust Him and not yourself? How do you dream when you’re supposed to die to yourself? How do you plan financially when you’re supposed to give everything? It all confuses me. I want black and white and that’s just not the kind of relationship He offers.
So off we went, first sharing our own dreams with each other. At one point he says in 10 years our first baby will be turning 20. Thinking of how fast the first 10 went . . .
What do we want life to look like then? What do we want her to be like? We dreamed like there were no weeds in the world, nor in our hearts. We smiled at her, a vision of our imaginations.
And we counted backward . . .
All the ways to invest year by year and day to day. What to change and what to continue strong.
We went through pages and pages, going from big to small. Disagreements were great discussions, different points of view were eye-opening, we fueled creativity in each other as we delighted in what may come as we grow older.
We returned with joy and hope and a realization that our differences and where we cross had sharpened us.
Our journey to the park bench in Nebraska City was an action we took, directed by a loving God . . .
the plans we’ve made have made our eyes more open to see where He will redirect and show His hand . . .
and sometimes sharing your unadulterated dreams with another is like dying.
It’s painful; it’s raw. You don’t how things will go when you take off the lid.
How much I wish I had known to do this 10 years ago. I remember reading about it, but it didn’t register. I had thicker, browner hair; he had wiry black that filled the dustpan, but things were very black and white to me then.
I sprinkled the peppered hairs into the trash, the color of age mixing in. By grace, the black and white understanding of my gracious God is newer everyday as my heart and plans grow closer to Him. By the time we’re all white-haired my heart may just feel the youngest it’s ever been; waiting to stand, not dreaming, in the weed-less, ageless kingdom He’s been planning since the beginning.
Everyone is still asleep and I am writing. Well, staring at the keypad is more like it.
Maybe I should quit blogging. The end of the road has come when I’m barely off the ground. I was afraid of this.
I click around, read some things, check the next module in my writing course. Before long, the sun is peeking and a small body draped in hand-me-down silk finds me on the couch.
“Mommy, can I play the tablet?”
“No honey, we don’t play the tablet in the morning remember?”
A few minutes go by . . .
“Mommy, can I please play the tablet?”
“You asked me before and I answered you. My answer is the same. We don’t start our day with tablet games. Find something else to do.”
She gave it one or two more tries and I answered the same, but was tempted to give in. I gave her a couple options which she didn’t like, but I left her to figure it out. It’s tough to let boredom work itself out, but before long she is coloring and cutting and I’m still here with my keypad, . . . kinda bored.
I’m waiting, watching, listening for something . . . and I realize those little feet dragging a little nightie around gave me something. That searching little voice, needing forced into creativity by sitting in her boredom, was just the inspiration I woke up for today.