I know it’s a little crazy to hear from me after I have left this blog alone for so long.  For too long.  I miss it actually.  Perhaps I’m back.

I’ve been spending some time in Acts recently and find myself sitting with questions of boldness and Spirit-filled living and what are God’s real intentions for life lived in His power and grace.  I have been told by others who have observed me that I have the spiritual gift of discernment, and I am more and more believing that they may be right.  I realize that to step more into this gifting for the benefit of the body will take a good deal of listening and following the Spirit.  But what does or should it look like to walk in the Spirit and to be able to “see” and “sense” below the surface?  I want to share here two conversations I had with the Lord that sort of relate to these topics and perhaps they will make room for questions of your own.  There’s some length to this, so read at your own leisure.

After reading through Acts 1-4, this was my response:

“Lord this seems like such a unique outpouring of your Spirit during a time when the church needed to grow.  But I can’t help but wonder if this is what life in the Spirit is meant to look like all the time, no matter the century or the circumstances.  You used ‘signs and wonders’ all throughout the Bible, but it doesn’t seem like You really do anymore – at least not where I have lived.  Did You decide to work differently, or did we just stop believing?  I hear stories from other parts of the world of miraculous things done in the name of Jesus that sound like the book of Acts all over again.  I don’t understand it all and don’t even know that my motivation would be pure in desiring to see You work in these ways, especially as it relates to the possibility of You working some of these things through me.  What I do know and understand though is that my dreams and prayers are too small compared to how big You are and Your ability to do so much more than what I could even imagine.  God give me dreams that are as big as You are and prayers to bring Your whole kingdom, not just one small part of it that I’m able to understand.  But what I still can’t quite get a hold of is the balance of being bold in my asking while realizing that You occupy a position so much higher and greater than I and therefore I also need to approach You humbly.”

God’s response to me: “Err on the side of boldness small one.  You stand complete and clean before me.”

Me: “I’m still so afraid of my motives though.”

God: “Let Me handle your motives.  Don’t let fear keep you from asking.  Remember James and John asking to sit on my right and my left?  Though their motives weren’t all pure, that didn’t keep them from asking.  And I didn’t condemn them, but gently redirected them.  Neither will I condemn you.  You are in My Son, and there is no condemnation.  Just ask small one.  Don’t be afraid.”

I was talking with a friend on the phone yesterday and recounted part of the above journal entry to her.  She wondered what it is that I am afraid to be bold in my asking for, and encouraged me to take the Lord’s invitation and ask.  I thought about that some, and then just started writing.  It’s a bit “stream of consciousness,” so I hope it’s not too hard for you to follow.  This is what came out of that:

“I think what I fear asking You for are the very things I long most to have in the depths of my being – relationship and impact.  Deep intimacy with You seems like a dream – an unattainable one.  And being so filled up with Your Spirit seems like it’s something only from the pages of New Testament times.  Being used by You to really impact the world around me as I tell Your story seems unreal on a larger scale.  I think all of this is because I feel like I’m the one standing in my own way and I don’t know how to get me to move.  I keep basing things on merit and what I feel like I can or can’t earn.  And more often than not I measure myself and find myself sorely wanting.  So why even bother You with my requests (bold or not) if I can’t even manage to focus, really focus, on You for even 15 minutes.  I feel so self-absorbed and so inadequate and so unholy, though You call me into a life shaped by Your life.  If I can’t even manage these simple things, how can I ask You for these huge dreams and expect You to actually say ok?  Yet You give just because You want to and You delight to, and it has absolutely nothing to do with what’s in me, good or bad.  But I also know that You do acknowledge faithfulness and You smile upon attempts and tries, even if there’s failure.  To the one who has proven his faithfulness, You offer more.  How do both of these coexist?  It’s that whole paradox of Your kingdom thing again – that You do play the biggest role all by Yourself, but we somehow end up having small but significant parts too.  Worm and unworthy though I am, can I be so bold to ask You to give just because You are the Giver?  To love just because You are the Lover?  Can I be so bold to ask You for more of Yourself even though I may throw Your heart right back in Your face?  Why should You even look upon me with favor Lord when sometimes I have seen Your beauty and decided it wasn’t good enough?  Lord have mercy on me.  Can I be so bold to ask You to fill me with Your Spirit like You did with those early followers, that You would truly be closer to me than my next breath?  Can I be so bold to ask You to work through me to bless and impact hearts and lives around me, to let me see (really see) through Your eyes, and to use my voice to speak Your words of life?  And can I ask You for this knowing that I will fail You; that I won’t always be totally Yours or totally faithful?  Can I really surrender my need to have life work on MY terms, my need to have to earn Your grace and favor and heart; to have come to the end of my life feeling like I have accomplished something good on my own; to prove myself worthy of being called Your daughter; to work to make You proud of me?  Can I really surrender these outworkings of a broken and wounded heart?  Lord, apart from You I have nothing and I am nothing.  All I have to offer is this crippled and shriveled up heart that has so much concrete I’ve built up around it for protection that sometimes I wonder if You can even break through at all and breathe life into my long been dead places.  Father I lay down all my efforts at Your feet.  I release my grasp on trying to make You love me and my grasp on demanding that Your redemption of my heart come without struggle.  I lay down my trying to prove myself of being someone or something that I can never be on my own anyway and then beating myself up over it when I fail to live up to my own expectations of who I think I should be.  Thank You that Your only expectation of me is that I be loved by You.  It’s from this place and being embraced in it that the Spirit-filled life comes.  With nothing to offer You buy my wayward and wandering self, I come to You with empty hands to boldly ask You for You , just You, to love me, just me.  And I come with no more nickels left to buy and eat the richest of fare without money and without cost.  I come with no merit, only thirst.  And I sit and wait for You to come Lord, choosing to believe that You love me for no other reason than that it makes Your heart sing.  May it be so, Lord.  May it be so.”

God’s response: “Rest small one, from all of your pretenses.  Find rest in Me.  I take great delight in you.  Just you.”

From Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)
“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

"Dime Store Seed" - The mighty Sequoia in its beginnings

These photos are to go along with the Sequoia post from a while ago.  Hope they give you an inspiring visual.

"Relativity" - A Sequoia on the tip of my finger

 

"Holding a Giant"

 

"At the Feet of Greatness" - That's me way down there at the bottom of what, given several thousand years, that seed could turn into

I have completed a second thing on my 30 list.  #14 was a suggestion from a friend to join e-harmony or some other online dating service.  A few weeks ago, I saw that e-harmony was offering a time of free communication with matches if you filled out a profile.  I decided to go ahead and get it over with and sign up.  I have always been reluctant about doing something like this because while I am sure there are some decent men on there, there’s also some not so decent men and it could be hard to tell the difference.  I have friends who could tell you about some of these not so decent men that they have met through online dating services.  I have also shied away from being in a relationship in the past because quite honestly the thought of being in one (muchless marriage) has been rather terrifying to me over the years.  There are many reasons for this that I won’t get into but suffice it to say I’ve done a pretty good job up to this point of making myself very unavailable. 

A year ago when I took the trip down to Tucson for some intensive counseling, one of the things the Lord brought up was how much I have hidden my femininity and have refused to enjoy who He has made me to be as a woman, and therefore have refused to offer that as a way for people around me to see the image of God in me.  My refusal is one of the things He has been asking me to repent of and my learning to enjoy who I am is one of the things He’s been inviting me to step into.  So I guess in some practical repentant way, doing something like e-harmony is a way to offer who I am as a woman and to trust God in this even in the midst of my fear.

What has this experience been like so far?  Well, there have been days where I have been matched with up to 10 or more men which has proven to be quite overwhelming because of all that’s involved in “getting to know someone.”  When you are matched with someone, you can view their profile and then decide if you want to “send them a communication.”  There are guided communications that e-harmony sets up that starts out with sending a list of 5 multiple choice questions that you select from a list of many possible questions.  So then if they view your profile and may be interested, they answer your questions and send you 5 of their own for you to answer.  Then it proceeds from there through more forms of guided communication until you both finally decide if you want to start emailing each other through their secure website so that no personal information has to be exchanged yet.  So I have recieved communication requests from a handful of matches, most of whom I haven’t responded to because of things in their profiles that I haven’t been super impressed with or excited about.  I have sent just two or three requests for communication, none of which have reciprocated.  There has only been one guy so far that I have passed through the stage right before you get to the email part, and then he sent me a message saying thanks for chatting but he’s now just starting to pursue another relationship.  Oh well. 

I’m still not really sure what I think about this whole e-harmony thing but there’s a quote that keeps coming to my mind from the movie “You’ve Got Mail” when Kathleen (Meg Ryan) and Christina (the younger woman who works in the bookstore) ask George (Steve Zahn) if he’s “online.”  He says in response, “Well as far as I’m concerned the internet is just another way of being rejected by women.”  This pops into my head on occasion more because I think it’s funny and not because I’m feeling rejected through an online dating service.  Though I guess if I’m honest some of that might be there too.  But anyway, there’s also another quote from the same movie that I just ran across while I was looking for the exact wording of George’s comment.  Kathleen is writing to Joe (Tom Hanks) and says, “Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave?”

So here’s to being brave, not only in quitting my job and searching for my heart, but in joining e-harmony as well!  And who knows, maybe this could help me fulfill #13 on my list…to go on a date if the opportunity presents itself.

On my 30 list, #4 was to read a book suggested by each of the managers I worked with that impacted or changed their lives somehow.  A few of them couldn’t pick just one book (surprise surprise since they do all work in a bookstore) so they gave me multiple titles to choose from.  Here is the complete list:

1. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

2. Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

3. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

4. The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management by Hyrum Smith

5. Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder

6. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams or Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

7. The Source by James Michener or Hawaii by James Michener or Tourist Season by Carl Hiassen or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

9. They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky by Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng and Benjamin Ajak or Illusions by Richard Bach

For now I will choose one book from those that gave me more than one option, but if I have time I will try to read all of them.

I was trying to set up my tent at my campsite in King’s Canyon National Park.  I spread out my tarp and the tent on top and was about to start putting the poles through when I looked down and noticed the swarm of mosquitos around my legs.  Fortunately I was wearing pants, so they weren’t biting me…yet.  But I knew it was only a matter of time before they found their way up to my arms and face.  Now if there’s one thing I hate, it’s bugspray.  I try to avoid it at all costs if I can, especially if I know I’m not going to be able to take a shower and wash it off.  Yes, it may keep the bugs away, but it’s like poison for your skin.  Well, the skeeters (as we call them in the south) were so bad, I decided to head over to the next campsite and see if they had any bugspray I could use.  The last thing I wanted was to get eaten alive.  So I walk over and there’s a couple in their mid-50s about to sit down to dinner.  I asked if  they had bugspray, which they did, and they asked if I wanted dinner.  So after poisioning my skin, I sit down at the picnic table having no clue what God had in store for the evening.

Their names were Steve and Angie from New Mexico and like me they were on a long road trip.  The meal was some sort of really spicy beef, bean and veggie stew and when I was almost done with the first helping Angie asks, “you’re not a vegetarian are you?”  Steve chuckled and answered for me, “not with the way she sucked that meat down!”  I was eating fast because it was so hot and I knew it was only a matter of time until my nose started to unleash the river inside that gets unleashed when I eat anything spicy.  They started asking me the generic questions like where are you from, where did you grow up, what do you do for a living.  It’s hilarious to me when you tell people that you’ve just quit your job and you’re trying to figure out what to do with the rest of your life how much unsolicited advice comes out.   I should probably interject at this point that they were both drinking quite heavily.  Angie had a bottle of wine that she had no trouble downing all by herself and Steve had a bottle of whiskey that seemed to not affect him quite as much as the wine did Angie.  In their not-quite-drunk-yet state, I did manage to find out a little bit about their current and past lives of jobs and failed marriages.  Steve said if there was one piece of advice he would give me it would be to not start your own business with a partner.  According to him, “getting out of a busniess partenrship is worse than getting a divorce!”  Thanks Steve, I’ll keep that in mind.  Now he has his own business by himself and he manages and trains a lot of employees.  Angie has been through many jobs in her life, but is now an elementary school teacher.  This year will be her first year teaching “gifted” students.

As the drunkenness ensued, so did the wisdom and life advice…of course repeated several times over.  We talked about the places we had been to thus far on our respective adventures.  When we got to Sequoia NP, Angie lit up and talked about how much she enjoyed being in the midst of those big trees.  She also talked about the fire that’s necessary for them to grow and how isn’t that just like our lives that the hard times and change can bring about something great (hmm, sound familiar?).  Along these lines came my favorite statement of the night from her: “You know, in life there’s just a lot of shit.  But then there’s time where that shit turns into something wonderful.”  Well that got me tickled and I nodded in agreement with her.  At some point she dipped back into her schooling years and talked about attending a Catholic school for college.  She mentioned one of the priests who was her favorite professor and something that he always used to say that has stuck with her to this day: “God writes straight with crooked lines.”  And thus the Lord began to speak to me through Steve and Angie and their drunken wisdom.

Now keep in mind that in the midst of all of this talk they’re chatting with each other about things and cursing up a blue streak and sharing a lot of little stories here and there about their own experiences.  One of the things they kept talking about was how life is a series of choices and how no matter what life throws at you there’s a choice in it for you.  And you have to decide if you’re going to let something bad get you down or make you lose hope and stop trying, or if you’re going to choose to rise above it and let it change you somehow.  And they’re getting drunker by the minute.  And then out of nowhere Angie stops whatever she’s saying and looks me dead in the eye and says, “Polly, you are a beloved child of God.  And I think it’s great that you’re out here just waiting.  He has a path for you and if you open your eyes and take the scenic route, you’ll know in your heart what’s right.”  And then Steve adds on top of that, “You know, God doesn’t make mistakes, so He didn’t make any mistakes when He made you.  He isn’t capricious; He’s willful.  And He made you perfect, just the way He intended you to be.  And I hope that no matter what happens, you can really enjoy how He has made you.”  In a split second I’m thinking, “Wow, what in the world?!  Where  is this coming from and who are these people really?”  And then Angie quickly responds to Steve’s comment, “Or not,  I mean it’s your choice.  You can choose to enjoy who you are or to not enjoy who you are.”  And a smile came to my face and I could almost hear God chuckling and saying, “I’m going to get this across to you one way or another, even if I have to use people in a drunken state to do it.”  This is exactly what the Lord has been inviting me into – learning to enjoy who He has created me to be, to offer that to the world unashamedly, to live out of my heart, and to really believe that I am a beloved daughter of the King with everything that entails.  And there have been times of me walking into this and times of me continuing to fight Him.  A few more comments from the evening that I wrote down later that night before I went to bed were again from Angie, “I think you need to just enjoy life and be grateful.  You’re blessed.  And I think you’re very brave and have a lot of courage coming out here like this on your own.  I only think something good will come of it.  And like I have found Steve, I hope you can find someone who will love you down to your soul.”

I walked over to use some bugspray and 2 hours later walked back to my campsite, laughing and feeling very loved by God, and finished setting up my tent.  The next morning after I had my car packed and ready to go I walked back over to say goodbye to Steve and Angie.  They laughed about not really knowing what sort of jibberish was coming out of their mouths and I said, “Oh there was more wisdom in there than you guys know.”  Angie said I must be very discerning if I could pull anything out of the conversation and see it as wisdom.  We wished each other well and I got in my car and drove off.

God indeed writes straight with the crooked lines of all of us.  My friends I hope you and I don’t ever doubt that He can (and does) use anything, even us, to make Himself known to the world.  And I also hope Angie is right, that from my 6 weeks on the road, something good will come out of it.  Well, I at least have this hilarious and very poignant story to carry with me.

Sequoia National Park is home to some of the world’s largest trees.  Though not the tallest trees (that title belongs to Redwoods, though sequoias are still very tall), they are the largest around and have the greatest volumn of total wood.  I spent several days walking among these “gentle giants,” as I came to start calling them.  I can’t even describe to you all of what it feels like to stand at the base of one of these sequoias and look up, straining to see the top and feeling engulfed by the massive size of the trunk alone.  These trees continue to grow every year, so they can reach quite an impressive size.  Many of them live to be a couple thousand years old and the oldest known sequoia lived more than 3200 years.  “The largest of the sequoias are as tall as an average 26 story building, and their diameters at the base exceed the width of many city streets. As they continue to grow, they produce about 40 cubic feet of wood each year, approximately equal to the volume of a 50 foot tall tree one foot in diameter.”  (Got that info from this website http://www.sequoia.national-park.com/info.htm#tree)   Talk about learning how to live into smallness!  It’s pretty easy to do when you’re standing in a giant sequoia grove.

While I was in the park, I learned a few things about sequoias that struck me just as much as the weight of their immensity.  The sequoia sprouts from one of the smallest seeds (as far as tree seeds are concerned), so small and light they look like oat flakes, yet over lots of time and among the right conditions they grow to be the largest living things on Earth.  After many years of research in Sequoia National Park as rangers were trying to repopulate some of the areas that had been destroyed when they decided to build a bunch of cabins, markets and gas stations (and then tore them down in 1998), they discovered the element that aids most in the spreading, survival and growth of sequoias: fire.  Used to be that rangers would try to fight fires in the forests caused by lightening.  Then they figured out this was the very thing the trees needed to reproduce.  So now they just let the fires rage on.  The fire burns away logs and plants and other things on the forest floor, dries up the cones so they will open and drop the seeds, and then the ashes allow for a fertile place for the seedlings to grow.  The bark of the trees is strong enough and the sheer amount of wood that is there at the base even as it is consumed by fire doesn’t kill the trees at all and the fire usually doesn’t reach the tops of the trees.  Many of them have very large “fire scars,” but still live on, still grow and produce wood every year and still drop seeds.

What amazing lessons to apply to our own lives.  That the largest tree grows from one of the smallest seedlings and that raging fire (or in our terms: pain, hardship, suffering) is often what it takes to help them reproduce and grow.  Yes it leaves scars, but the trees aren’t consumed.  I hear echos of the Lord’s words…”the least of you will become a thousand; the smallest a mighty nation;” “when you walk through the fire you will not be consumed” (Isaiah 60 and 43) “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope;” “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 5 and 8 )

I’ll leave you to “walk” among these gentle giants in your own thoughts and reflections if the Lord would choose to use these descriptions to speak anything more to you.

#10 on my list of 30 was to ask God for a word and a verse (or passage) for this year.  After a couple of weeks leading up to my birthday of praying, thinking and reflecting I believe I have both of those.  The word actually came through a gift I received in the mail the day before my birthday.  A good friend sent me some notecards that all had the same word on them and she had also used that word in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS within the bday card she gave me.  I had been kicking a few other words around in my head during the previous days, but nothing really seemed to grab me as my “word” for this year.  Until I read the word FAITH.  Somehow I knew that was it.

As I have quit my job and am launching out into the unknown, taking a long road trip to clear my head and meet with God (and meet my heart), faith just seems to fit.  I have no idea what these next weeks and months will hold, but I think faith will probably end up playing a bigger piece than I even realize.  Another friend commented to me, “Since faith is a gift, why don’t you just ask God for more?  He likes those sorts of prayers.”  As I find myself both being excited about what’s ahead and a bit fearful of what I might potentially have to walk through that will take faith, I keep hearing C.S. Lewis in my head.  In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when the children are with the beavers and hearing about Aslan for the first time, Mr. Beaver tells them that he is a lion.  This frightens the girls and both Susan and Lucy ask if he is “quite safe.”  Mr. Beaver responds, “Safe?  Who said anything about being safe?  Of course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the King I tell you.”  I am learning that MY definition of God’s goodness, of His love and of some of His other attributes can often be very different from HIS definition of those same things.  I am just as guilty as anyone else of using my circumstances to tell me whether or not God is being good or loving.  If things are going well, if I’m healthy, if I don’t have pain, if relationships are good, then I equate that with God being good and God loving me.  But if things aren’t going so well, if I don’t feel “safe,” I think God must not be good and He must not really love me.  What the Lord has been inviting me into is the constancy of His character that has nothing to do with my situation in life or with my safety and comfort.  That regardless of my surroundings, regardless of my circumstances, regardless of whether or not I have a job or am healthy or am in pain, and regardless of whether or not I am pursuing His heart or running from Him, His goodness and His love don’t change.  He is certainly unpredictable and yes, sometimes He’s not safe.  But He IS good.  Following God’s heart doesn’t mean life then becomes health and wealth and prosperity and free of disaster and hardship.  Following God’s heart means that even and especially in the midst of life’s hardships and tragedies, His goodness and love will keep your soul intact.  In the words of one of my favorite songs by a group named Glad, “Though your body lay weary from wasting, and your eyes show the sorrow they’ve had.  Oh the love that your heart is now tasting has opened the gate, be ye glad!”  Faith is definitely what I need to keep holding onto the constancy of God; to keep fighting the enemy who wants to destroy my soul when He says that God really doesn’t love me or that He’s not really good or trustworthy.

And what about the “verse or passage” you ask.  Well, that came in the form of one of the suggestions for my 30 list.  A good friend from college and I once memorized Romans 8 together.  Her suggestion to me for this year was to re-memorize it if I have forgotten it (which I have).  In reading through that passage again, just like the word faith, I just somehow knew that was it.  I think I might memorize it in The Message.  Regardless I will definitely be spending a lot of time with it this year, so I have a feeling some of my weekly blog posts will end up being my thoughts about faith and Romans 8 as I grow into them.  So stay tuned….

Well, I’m off to California to continue my Epic Western Adventure.  I wanted to post a couple more times to my blog before I left (because I do have weekly thoughts), but I’m out of time.  Maybe in a few weeks when I have internet access again I will catch up.  Until then….

So a few weeks ago, I turned 30 and decided to steal an idea from a friend to help ring in this new decade.  I sent an email to some friends asking them to help me come up with a list of 30 things to do/try/accomplish/what-have-you during this year of being 30.  I decided to come up with 5 of my own and had people from various parts of my life offer suggestions for the other 25.  I had people either give me one suggestion that I would have to do, or a list of several I could choose from.  I decided I would put the list here on my blog and you all could join in this adventure with me as I attempt to mark things off the list.  As much as I can with the ones that can be chronicled with pictures, I will try and post photos here.  Though I am not quite to 30 things yet because I am waiting to hear back from a couple of folks (and because I still need one more idea for my personal 5), I decided to go ahead and post what I have since some people have been asking me what I ended up with.  So here it is, with my personal list being the first 4…

1. Take a series of photos surrounding a theme (theme to be determined…I am waiting to see if one will present itself as I shoot instead of me having to come up with one)

2. Learn to play a new musical instrument (which will probably end up being the mandolin I have had for a few years now)

3. Learn to dance Michael Jackson’s Thriller

4. Read the books that I had my management team at Barnes and Noble recommend to me that impacted or changed their lives in some way (list will follow later because I don’t have it with me right now)

5. Apply for at least one job in Turkey

6. Watch 2 episodes of Glenn Beck just for posterity’s sake

7. Coach a little league team – either basketball, t-ball or soccer

8. Visit the people I know in South Dakota

9. Hike a Fourteener (one of Colorado’s mountains that’s at least 14,000 ft high) 

10. Ask God for a word and a verse for this year

11. Write a song (a real song…not one of my silly cafe songs)

12. Plan 2 coed group social events per month (group being at least me and one other person), or accept someone else’s invitation

13. If the opportunity presents itself, go on a date

14. Join E-harmony or some other form of online dating service….do you see a theme going on here with these last 3??

15. Re-memorize Romans 8 (something I did with one of my Bible study leaders back in college)

16. Take a ballroom dance class

17. Write a book using my story to bless others

18. Play tennis with Linda

19. Read A Story of a Soul the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux

20. Put together a book of my best photos, blog thoughts, journal entries from the last decade

21. Read the Bible all the way through

22. Try something out that I decided long ago wasn’t for me (either I didn’t like it or wasn’t good at it)

23. Write on my blog once a week instead of once a month (this one may be a little difficult due to the fact that I don’t have my own computer and I will not have much internet access for the next several months, however I decided I could write blog entires on paper once a week and then upload them as I can)

24. Visit a few microbreweries in CO

25. Create a photo journal – 1 photo per day with journal entires

That’s all I have right now.  And I think that’s more than enough to get me started!!  Thanks to all of you who offered suggestions.  Stay tuned for the rest of the list….and for much more blog posts according to #23!

A few months ago I was talking with a good friend of mine about dreams.  Not the kind you have at night while you’re sleeping, but more the “aspirations, wishes, longings for your life,” those types of dreams.  We were in a discussion about my life and future and she asked, “Polly, do you ever allow yourself to dream?”  I thought about it and said, “No, probably not.  Or if I do I don’t let it go too far.” 

Her question stuck with me over the next several days, as did my response of “No.”  And I began to wonder why I don’t allow myself to dream (or to long for things).  In the past I can point to clear times where I have taken a dream, a desire or a longing (even one that I knew came straight from God) and twisted it and turned it into an idol.  Things became less about loving God and others well and became much more about me loving myself well.  My motives became self-serving and self-protective.  There are also other circumstances and events where I think the enemy was very quick to squash my dreams (either via his own voice or by using another person’s voice in my life) to give me the same message: “Your dreams, desires and longings are just selfish.  And besides, they don’t really matter.  Your heart doesn’t really matter.”  The selfish part was easy to grab hold of since it sounded so spiritual.  Because after all, isn’t that what the Bible says?  Not to be selfish, but to put God and others before yourself.  What I didn’t understand though was that God puts dreams, longings and desires in our hearts.  He hardwires them in and Satan would give anything to see us NOT pursue those.  Because therein, deep within our hearts, the hearts that He has gently and meticulously created, lies the life that God desires for us.  So if the enemy can keep us from realizing what’s in our hearts, or keep us thinking that what’s inside isn’t good, then we won’t be the image-bearer God has designed us to be.  The world will never see the piece of God that each of us is uniquely designed by our Creator to show.

Dreams come out of the heart.  And I hadn’t really seen or considered the fact that I was no longer allowing myself to dream.  In a way, I was no longer living from my heart because I had listened to the enemy’s voice instead of my Beloved’s and believed that my heart wasn’t really important; that my dreams and desires were foolish.

I was journaling through this one day and was considering some of the “dreams” of the women in my Bible study.  One took a huge risk and quit her job to pursue PA (physician’s assistant) school and will be graduating in a few months.  Another quit her teaching job to pursue writing and is currently working on her first young adult novel (which is being considered for publishing).  Another, after putting off having a baby for various reasons finally decided with her husband to “pull the goalie,” and she is now a stay-at-home mom of a precious 18 month old boy.  Another is really passionate about working with youth and is a speech pathologist at a middle school.  The other two are recently engaged and entering into the lifelong journey of marriage.  The last, our Bible study “mom” has spent most of her life raising 4 amazing kids and now spends her time investing in the lives of her friends and neighbors for the Kingdom.  All of these ladies in one way or another are in the midst of following their hearts, pursuing their dreams, their longings, things they are passionate about; living out of who God created them to be.  As I considered all of these things, I also thought about how none of these women have it “all together.”  They still struggle with sinful choices and being unwilling to step into places of their hearts that God is inviting them to step into.  They still struggle with motives and finding life apart from God.  But, that hasn’t kept them from moving towards Him, moving towards life, moving towards dreams. 

Let me invite you into a little conversation the Lord and I had as I was journaling.

Me: God I know You have redeemed my heart, but I also know that I am still in the flesh and very much cater to myself sometimes in grasping to get my desires and longings fulfilled in ways you never intended.  How do I know where I have twisted things versus where Your goodness really dwells?  I don’t dream or desire because I don’t always feel like what’s inside of me is of You.  What if my motives ARE still self-centered and unloving?  I don’t want to move into anything if that’s the case.

God: And so then you just don’t move at all.  What are you afraid of Polly?  Deep down, what are you really afraid of?

Me:  I don’t know.

God:  Can I make a suggestion of what it may be?  You’re afraid that if you take the wrong step, make the wrong choice, say or do the wrong thing that I’m going to just leave you right where you are; abandon you altogether.  (He hit the nail right on the head with that…surprise, surprise).

Me:  Leave me to suffer in my sinful choices, hiding Yourself from me and removing Your love.

God:  This is what you have believed about Me since you were a child.  But Polly, that is NOT who I am.  I am NOT the god of your childhood.  When have I ever left you alone?  Will you stop fighting Me child and just come to Me?  Will you trust Me with you?

For a few months now I have been considering leaving my job at Barnes and Noble and finding something else.  I didn’t want to quit though withouth having something else to fall back onto (because in this economic crisis who knows how long it would take me to find another job).  Several events of this past week at work have forced me to come to a decision much quicker than I was intending, however.  On Thursday, after much thought and reflection, I turned in my letter of resignation to my store manager.  My last day as a Barnes and Noble Cafe Manager will be June 19th.  And I have absolutely nothing else lined up.  I keep wavering through phases of feeling really at peace with this decision and feeling sheer panic.  But I keep hearing God saying, “will you trust Me with you?”  I think the sheer panic is once again the enemy’s voice, telling me I’m making the dumbest decision of my life.  What I hear God telling me however is that for far too long I have neglected my heart and I have neglected Him…and I have neglected Him BY neglecting my heart.  I keep going and going and keep working and working and keep running and running all on my own trying to make life work the way I think it should; trying to “get it right;” striving and striving to prove myself worthy of His love and favor.  He keeps calling me to come away and rest, and I keep saying to Him “No, I will not rest.  There’s too much I have to do for You and for everyone else.”  His response?  “What is there left to do child?  I have already done it all.  Will you just stop fighting Me and come to Me?  Will you let me hold you and let me heal you?  Will you trust that I know what’s best for you?  Will you follow Me by following the heart I have put within you…a heart that has been redeemed and a heart that I have called good?  And will you finally believe that just as you are, every moment of your life, you have ALL of my love, ALL of my favor, ALL of my grace?

I have known for a while that making coffee is not my heart.  And while I don’t know what all is really in my heart, I am learning to listen and pay attention to what is there.  I don’t know what’s next for me, but I think maybe it could end up involving other countries, loving and caring for people who have been deeply wounded by life and by others, and perhaps a good bit of photography and music mixed in there somewhere.  For now I am not going to concern myself so much with what the future holds, what job I may get, how I’m going to pay my bills, if I will have health insurance, and a thousand other questions that are bombarding me.  I hear my Savior calling me instead to just look upon His face for a while; to still my soul and follow my heart.  

So trembling yet determined I am stepping out into the unknown, daring to find God to be exactly who He keeps telling me He is.  Daring to open my heart to discover what dreams may come.

I will leave you with a song that I heard exactly when I needed to on the radio Tuesday night.  It’s by a group called Tenth Avenue North and is called “By Your Side,” sung from God’s perspective. 

Why are you striving these days
Why are you trying to earn grace
Why are you crying
Let me lift up your face
Just don’t turn away

Why are you looking for love
Why are you still searching as if I’m not enough
To where will you go child
Tell me where will you run
To where will you run

And I’ll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
And please don’t fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Look at these hands and my side
They swallowed the grave on that night
When I drank the world’s sin
So I could carry you in
And give you life
I want to give you life

Cause I, I love you
I want you to know
That I, I love you
I’ll never let you go

On Friday, April 9th, my Aunt Anne passed away in her bed in Nashville surrounded by family, friends, and her devoted dog and cat.  I flew to Nashville that next Monday to join the rest of my family in both grieving and celebrating her life…which ended far too soon. 

How do you say goodbye?

During the memorial service, I learned that she had been keeping a journal for the last couple years of her life since she found out she had cancer.  She and my cousin Ian (her 20 year old only son) had decided beforehand to play a jazz song by Grover Washington at the end of the service.  What Anne wrote about it in her journal was, “Play Grover Washington to celebrate my life, and then move on.”  Playing the song was the easy part, as we watched Ian and my Aunt Libba moving back and forth in their chairs to the beat and the high and low notes of the sax as Grover played.  And then there was my niece who was joyfully laughing at the scene as Ian would glance back at her and smile.  Anne would have enjoyed that  had she been there.  Yes, celebrating her life was the easy part.  It’s the moving on that’s hard.

I had a dream two nights ago that I was looking for my aunt.  I kept asking, “Where is Anne?”  And during the dream either I figured it out on my own or someone had to tell me (I don’t remember which), she’s gone.  I woke up finding it hard to breathe and feeling like I was saying goodbye all over again.  I took out the newspaper I brought back from Tennessee with her obituary in it, cut it out and read it again.  The very end says, “Anne, like those who have preceeded you, you have left us too early.  There is a hole in our hearts.  We miss you deeply.” 

A couple of weeks before she died, I talked to her on the phone and mentioned that I was considering quitting my job at B&N and moving on to something different.  She’s been telling me for the past few years that she thinks I work too hard anyway, so she was glad to hear it.  I remember a conversation we had in September or October right before she left Denver to move back to Nashville.  She really encouraged me to take risks in my life to pursue my dreams.  I don’t remember her words exactly but the message was to not wait until it’s too late, like she felt she did in her own life.  The message was the same as I listened to her on the phone a little more than a month ago.  “Follow you heart, Polly.  Do it now while you still can.  Don’t put it off.  You just have to make up your mind, set some goals and jump in.”  This coming from a woman who was staring death right in the face and at the same time probably looking back over her life, the joys and the pains, the victories and the regrets.  These are the sorts of words to pay attention to.  Words that come from wisdom and from the heart.  Those would be the last words my aunt would ever speak to me.  That would be the last conversation I would ever have with her.  “Follow you heart.”

Aunt Anne, I miss you deeply.  There is a hole in my heart too.  I am so thankful for the time we did have with you, even though it wasn’t nearly enough.  You told me to follow my heart, and I intend to.  I intend to.

Maybe that’s how I say goodbye.  I think that’s what she would have wanted.

June 2017
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