Monday, August 24, 2015

How To Find Your Way Home

The little spring gurgled as it rambled though the deepest part of the wooded area on my parents’ property.

It was a narrow vein of artisan water, clear and cold, which found its way to the surface and grew more fierce and wide the farther east you followed it. But on the acreage where I lived, it lapped gently and spilled over rocks, etching out its path.

As children, it was impossible to ignore the shimmery reflection of light that could be seen dancing on its surface like flecks of glitter.

My brother, the one closest in age, and I would duck into the jungle-like overgrowth on our farm, to eluded Mom's constant ability to find extra chores for us to do, if we were underfoot. We would race from the sturdy white house, down the narrow lane and over the fence that kept the cows from going wherever they pleased.

Along the way, we would run and laugh and push, until we reached the edge of the water. The place where light pierced through the tops of trees and the breeze rustled thorough cedars.

In that space we were the captains of our own lives.

We crafted small boats out of whatever we could find. Dried bark always made a great hull, to which we added sticks, leaves and wild berries and ran along the tangle of brush on the shoreline to see whose boat would win the race to the barbed wire fence which marked the end of our property.

There the little rafts would wobble out of sight, as they made their way to the east and we would argue about whose boat was sure to make it all the way to open water or at least go the farthest without sinking.

Sometimes we might love our current boat too much to let it go, so we would snag it up and run upstream and do it all again.

We were wild navigators, reckless in our efforts, often causing them to slip below the surface of the water. And, almost always, we would be mud caked and soaked from head to toe.

In this place we passed hours and days and even entire seasons.

In summer the thick leaves hung like umbrellas to give us shade as we splashed in the stream catching tadpoles and turtles.

In the fall, leaves laid down a thick carpet for us to run on, as we built forts and imagined we were storing up wild grapes that stained our fingers and clothes.

In winter seasons, this same place softened the harsh winds and dipping temperatures. And the tracks along the shoreline showed us that we shared our playground with many animals.

And then, once again, spring would arrive and every blade of grass, budding tree and wild flower began a whole new season of adventures.

I never once remember dad or mom scolding us for being such a mess when we emerged from our latest adventure.

How deeply grateful I am that we had a home with great food and piles of good books.  A place where stories were told, but there was grace to be messy and creative, as we explored and lived out those early years.

Because life has its own twists and turns and seasons, now 58 years have passed and my dad’s place is kinda, officially, on the market.

It is an odd collection of feelings rippling across my heart.

That place has a certain smell. A familiar scent of family and years and memories and knee-high grass waving in the field.

If comfortable could be a location, I happen to know its address. 

I always thought we were poor. All of us living in that old farm house without a single elaborate feature. Unless the built-in cabinet framed with pine, in the center of the living room, counts. 

But every square foot of living space there is like my favorite pair of slippers. Nothing fancy….just all the uncomfortable edges worn off. 

The years, with all their trouble and trials, were softened by living in this place. 

They raised six of us there in the two bedroom, one bath home. No granite counter tops. No family room. 

And it fit us like love does.  

Home and family. The hard, the dark, the laughter and the fried chicken with real mashed potatoes, lumps and all, drenched in white gravy. Gravy that had flecks of pepper and chucks of browned crunchy pieces. 

In this place we all kind of found ourselves and lost ourselves and found ourselves again.

Home is like that. 

Mostly, I took it for granted that my parents would always be there, peering out the big double pane window in the kitchen, hoping someone would come by and interrupt their bird watching. 

And watching my dad age... it’s painful and beautiful all in the same moment. 

His hard edges are softening.

His laugh is deeper.

He is tender with babies.

He says I love you.

And I found this gift just before his 80th birthday last week. It's a promise we can all hold on to. 

As much as my heart has wandered in the years since we ran in the wooded area, what I know is that God has been carrying me home. 

He has been carrying those I love home. 

And for a time He has used this place for our family, to be a shelter, a refuge, a haven, a sanctuary. 

Not so long ago, I drove up the narrow lane and parked. From there I walked deep into the thicket of trees, maneuvering my way deeper into the overgrown places where I had ran wild and free as a kid. 

Before life choked the dreams and did its best to destroy me.

The stream no longer flows through this property. They came through and built up the highway and hit the vein that fed our little brook.

And I was sad about that for years. Until the Lord reminded me of this verse: "Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me..."

Yes. Yes. Rivers of living water will spill over and flow from those who believe in Jesus.

Jesus is the truest of artisan springs, that never runs dry. And He is in the business of drawing people home to His heart.

What I had growing up was a great home.

What I have now is a relationship with Jesus, who promises an eternal home.

And I've learned a few other things. Things like...  I'm not good at being the captain of my own life.

And how all the things I've tried to navigate alone, apart from God, came up empty and hallow in the end. 

Looking back I can see how God Himself has fiercely protected me, gently guided me, allowed me to be broken and redesigned.

How He has literally redirected the very course of my life.

And this place is just a physical address, but home is wherever there is love. 

That is what I’m learning and what I’m taking with me when someone else picks up their mail from the end of the long lane. 

But here a piece of my heart still runs wild, because this is where I began to see the beauty of God's creation spilling over and the place I learned to dream.

This place, this home, is part of my story, part of how I ultimately found my way home.

Monday, August 17, 2015

When Change Is Hard

Change is hard isn’t it?

Sometimes it rolls in like a soft mist blowing across tranquil open water, settling into the ripples with gentle motion as it lands on the shoreline of our souls.

Or more likely, as it has often been the case in my own life, change comes like a crashing, crushing wave where you fight to shut the porthole of your soul as it rushes in.

Occasionally we choose change –we think– but more often, change chooses us.

We fight to find a rhythm and balance in life.

But change –it shakes things up. 

It messes with mornings and afternoons and keeps us awake. It strips the controls -- or at least our illusion of what we think we control -- right out of our fingers.

It jumbles up who we perceive we most deeply are.

It's as if  God uses change to remind us of who we really are and our utter dependence on who He is.

We absolutely have the freedom, ability and need to make plans.

Meal plans, education plans, marriage plans, career plans, business plans, five-year plans, and retirement plans.

These are not bad things, but the raw truth is, too often our plans are for selfish purposes and a change in plans gives us the opportunity to seek God and His plan.

I like to think I’m adaptable.

In fact, according to a certain personality test, being adaptable is one of my top five strengths. That is honestly laughable.

It seems like a conditioning thing. Something that has happened from sheer practice more than a gift or strength.

What I know about change is that it's rarely what I expect it to be, never super comfortable and always occurring. 

Change strips away the layers of self-sufficiency.

There are many people who appear to make great plans and make those plans happen, and to all of you  –salute'!

However most of us know that about the only thing we really have control over in this life is how we respond to change in our lives. This is usually the litmus test for where our faith truly lies.

Too often I've bought into the whole rah-rah thing. That I am the master of my own destiny. That––try harder, work longer, do more and go more, so you can be more.

The true Master of destiny sees the heart, not the performance and when it comes to difficulty and change? He doesn’t usually change our painful circumstances as much as He sustains us through them. 

I've read where people refer to change as a desert experience. We've certainly all known times in our lives where the heat of suffering presses down and stretches out before us, as we wander and wonder if this season will ever end.

However this has been a year where the one word that found me happens to be 'deeper'. So the water analogy seems more fitting. And when I personally find myself in over my head, I tend to reach for God because there are simply no other options to run to.

I'm not a speed swimmer. I think we may have discussed this. And the older I get, the more change happens and the less I want to be seen in a swimsuit. A little helpful information? Treading water is just complicated and exhausting when fully dressed.

Change is most often uncomfortable because we are heading into uncharted waters.... which equals no control.

This summer a few of us came together to study the book, Be Transformed, a commentary on John 18-21. Even though it doesn't sound that exciting, it was actually revolutionary in the way I read the Word. Well, one of Johns closest companions was Peter. Peter, that guy who was quick to speak and act and overtly passionate about all he did.

Following Jesus turned out to be a wild ride that looked nothing like they thought it should. 

For instance, at one point, their journey took them straight into a storm. Jesus actually told them to get in the boat and go into that open water which turned into raging waves. And for a few minutes Peter forgot that people don't just walk on water.

It's recorded for all of time that if we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can do the impossible. Perhaps you remember how the story goes? When Peter took his eyes off Jesus, only then did he sink and the waves began to overpower him.

In the last chapter of the book, Peter decided to go fishing. So he and a few of his fishing friends spent the entire night working away and caught absolutely nothing. At least for them it was only a night, right?

At dawn, Jesus shows up and asks them how it's going.

I love that. And then Jesus tell them where to cast their nets.

These men, who had nothing to show for all their hard labor, now pulled in a great harvest.

That's how this faith life is.

We need Jesus to show us where to cast our nets of energy, resources and time.

It begs a few questions. What am I doing that is just being busy? What is truly important to do right now? Have I asked God where to place my net?

And like the author Warren Wiersbe points out in his commentary, "....often we are not far from success. Maybe just the width of a boat."

In different seasons God has removed things I've built my life, my identity, and my happiness around.

The pain of those experiences continues to  motivate me to hold loosely to things and to do what I do, for His glory.

So now more change is arriving and I'm looking for His direction as to what is the next thing to do.

Change isn’t about knowing the path, it’s simply about being obedient to take the next faithful step right where our feet have landed. –Even if we haven't landed on solid ground yet.

Oh friend, may you enjoy the space between the rise of the wind and waves of change.

But if you find yourself in this place where the water is rising, remember that God is unchanging and still in the business of calming storms.

He knows the beginning from the end. He has great plans for you. And you and I can trust Him even when the waves of this life threaten to overtake us.

Sometimes change is actually a second chance. Another opportunity to come to a quiet, broken place where we can hear God’s voice. In that place, He is able to show us the path to take.

I’m not ever going to be ready for now to be over. But the now I'm currently comfortable with was once a change arriving.

The biggest change I will ever need is a change in heart. And honestly that is what change is usually all about.

May we be people who step out of what we hold as safe and familiar so we can embrace the new season arriving.

Together friends, let's keep our eyes on Jesus.
© Rhonda Quaney