quiet

Loud is my normally quiet voice as I teach and instruct and explain all day Thursdays.

Noisy is my roommate’s work stress when I get home

Deafening is the call of my silent companion, inviting me constantly into a tangled world wide web

Piercing is the email from a friend which makes my heart flutter in excitement and my mind race with imagination

Blaring are the trumpets of regret reminding me of the day’s mistakes and failures and imperfections

Yet quiet is the voice that calls me to rest, to acceptance, to love

Soft is the reminder that every sin has been covered in oceans of grace

Peaceful are the moments spent in living, true-life-breathing Words

Still is the knowing that He is God

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time

As the first week of the semester ticks ever closer to its end, I think about how much of my time this week was spent on… time. My Excel spreadsheet calendar open, I colored in hours with teaching and classes and meetings. In the empty spaces, I began to budget my time for research projects and exercise and sleep. All of this strategizing and budgeting and allocating my time out for the next several months.

But is it really MY time?

Of course it is not. In the beginning, the One who breathed the universe into existence started time, and it is to his rhythm that it ticks to this day.

So while my plans and intentions for my time are good, I still want to invite the Keeper of time to have input on how I spend these brief 24 hours each day.

Maybe it’s to re-discover those few hours I used to spend on Saturday evening, moseying through the woods, hand in hand with the one whose hands move the eternal clock, listening, conversing.

Maybe it’s to capture that hour between class and teaching when I would rather relax, and make the effort to have lunch with a newer believer.

Maybe it’s to take those few minutes to write a text or email to let someone know when I am thinking of them and praying for them.

And on and on the list could go. But they are all just maybes, just wishful ideals that will get eaten up by the urgency of daily life unless I am still and listen for the One who made time.

 

Joining, as usual, with FMF!

pace

The pace is hurried this time of year. There is the race to buy gifts to show others we love them. The packing in of parties and activities and last get-togethers with graduating friends. The rush to get finals graded. The push to collect that last bit of data knowing lab money is dried up next year.

Medicine has a name for this: it’s called tachycardia, a racing heartbeat. It’s just fine for a heart to beat fast for short bouts such as during exercise. But prolonged tachycardia leads to fatigue, anxiety, dizziness, and even passing right out.

My heart has been racing lately.

And my type of tachycardia can be relieved by lying down. By giving up the fight against gravity and being still.

So when my heart bounds away to my big deadline in January, or the new class I’ll be teaching next semester, or Christmas with family, or this weekend’s data collection and serving and celebrating, or the work left tonight – life pulsing loud and ominous in my chest – then I will try to be still. To lie down for a time and rest, waiting for the wild thumping to slow to a steady, rhythmic, beat.

Joining as usual with Five Minute Friday.

reflect

In my mind, the year’s a clock face. Right now I’m coming down the home stretch of 2015, ticking toward the bottom of the hour, anticipating a sharp turn that will lift my face into the new year. Riding on this moving clock-hand I am always facing forward and have to twist and strain to look back into the past seconds and days and months. Often facing backwards only leads to the motion-sickness of regret and I return to marching forward to calm my queasiness. A healthy reflection on 2015 is a remembrance of God’s grace. How he carried me through the scary uncertainty of outlining my research project. The endless days and nights of work fueled by wonder at a Creator. Long discussions on life and religion and spirituality with co-workers. Sweet friendship and fellowship that burned brighter before being dampened by distance and a dangerous world. A blissful week of vacation after two years solid of work. Delight in exploring new geographies including bleak prairie and majestic mountains. Intensifying love and appreciation for my family of origin. Just enough provision of mental, physical, and emotional energy to make it through a several month long academic challenge. And in this long aftermath, finding myself in a place of exhaustion and desolation and lost-ness, which is the place where I most readily cry out for the giver and sustainer of life.

Merry Christmas to the FMF community! The more of you I meet and start to get to know, the more I appreciate you and want to invest more time in this community. (There is a new year coming for such resolutions!) Sending you my hand-made Christmas card and wishes for a blessed holiday season!

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weary

Prelims are officially OVER! It’s been six long months of slogging through a mental wilderness trying to make sense of research outside my field; wondering if I’ll ever be enough; begging for supernatural strength to make it through. Three months staring straight at the goal and trying not to let my heart skip a beat or my eye rest too long on the most immaculate neon leaves, the distractions of friendships or the rhythms of the week. All around the edges I could feel anticipation growing for the day when my time was my own. I vowed to exercise more regularly and put effort into relationships because work, when it’s all you have, is eternally hollow. And now it is over. The exam is past, and passed, and gone. And I’m weary. It’s a weariness that transcends the adrenaline-letdown and that can’t be alleviated by sleeping away half of the days’ hours (as I’ve done). It’s a soul weariness, pure and simple fatigue of chasing after the wind. The spiritual weariness of knowing that my calling will continue to require my all, and I will forever be begging on my knees. Thankfully, I have somewhere to go. Jesus says “Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and you will find rest…rest for your soul”. This week, my goal is to live each day returning to that love and rest.

The morning of my exam I was photographing the dandelions in my yard. This one struck me deeply, and I sensed the Father saying, “When you are weary and barely hanging on, don’t give up and fall to the ground – cling tightly and wait for the breeze to carry you upward”

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bacon

I thought I wouldn’t write tonight. I wouldn’t spare the 5 minutes because the hours before this deadline are ticking by so quickly. But I regret missing last week’s prompt, which was joy, because I may have literally missed joy last week. And so I came ready to be inspired, to be spoken to by the words and to pray for an otherworldly grace to flow out through the process of tapping these earth-scarred fingers. Sometimes that grace comes, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Today’s prompt is “bacon,” so I just knew no inspiration would come. All that comes to mind is the study that just came out this week about processed meats and cancer.

But bacon. Sometimes I get so caught up in my own thoughts that I forget about the simple pleasures in life. I have wracked my brain for the last 3 months preparing for this exam that will determine whether I can go forward to my degree. It is big; it is scary; it is daunting; it is necessary. It is sterile and cerebral and logical. And I had kind of forgotten that such things as bacon exist. Oven-baked maple bacon. Sweet, thick and chewy with just the right amount of crunch. Perfect for vacation, sitting with mountain views and French-pressed coffee and a day to explore nature. These days, I have been subsisting on a soup I made that I don’t really like. It’s what I have and it will sustain me, but it is not enjoyable. Much of my life feels utilitarian.

So tonight, even if I don’t have any bacon to eat, I’ll at least think about bacon. Tonight I’ll stay at my desk until I’ve sat here for 17 hours straight. I’ll fight the stress and anxiety and plain tiredness to focus. But I’ll drink deeply of aromatic “stress-relief” tea. I’ll breathe deeply of the crisp, fall night air on my walk to the car. Driving home I’ll sink deeply into a song with mesmerizing lyrics layering “Peace, be still” over lyrics of depression and worry. And I will know that these gifts of beauty and pleasure are all around me, given by a loving father who has everything else under control.

green

Green is the color of envy.

I gaze green at a friend who is beautiful and gifted and who God is using in amazing ways without them even trying. And I blush green because I want those gifts and I don’t quite understand the ones God has given me.  I forget to be thankful that I was fearfully and wonderfully made.

I choke green as I scroll through news of idyllic engagements and marriages and babies, constantly bombarded by the life I thought I would have and that I cannot make for myself.  I sigh green at the relational gifts God has given, my empty arms wondering how many weeks it’s been since my last hug, or true “how are you?”.  I forget that any relationship, even the non-Christian at work whom I get along with, is a gift.

I seethe green at the thought of my fellow PhD students who are advancing and supported and guided, while I work for a brand new professor who seems to rub us all to a blister.  I forget to be thankful for the opportunities to do work that so perfectly interlocks with my personality.

Sometimes I’m afraid to lift my head and look around for fear of drowning in the green pool of unfulfilled longings all around me. I search for my crumb of thanks, while remembering the taste of pastries once eaten and imagining the delicacies of cake I’ve never tasted.

And I remember that the Father is close to the brokenhearted. He cares for the hungry. Pastries and cakes will never truly satisfy; but even a crumb eaten from the hand of a caring Father satiates the soul.