I can still see her in my mind’s eye, a young woman…perhaps even still a teenager…holding a newborn wrapped in a blanket. She was wearing sandals and a sun dress. Her chin was pointed slightly downward, and her long golden hair hid part of her face as she walked out on stage
Humility. Brokenness. Maybe even shame.
I could feel it all over her. My heart immediately shattered in pieces for her.
Surrounded by a few family members and church staff, she began to gently weep as Pastor Danny began to pray. With the hands of those close by on she and the baby, and the hands of those of us in the congregation stretched outward towards them, we entered all into a holy moment together. A moment when this young mother, having been forsaken by the man who fathered the child, was there to offer herself up as she dedicated her baby and herself to Christ.
If ever there was a singular moment over the last 8 months that made me glad we joined this little community church, it was this one. Not a shred of judgement was anywhere to be found. None. And I know for a fact others there, like my husband and I, didn’t know jack about this girl or her family. We didn’t need to know anything except what was happening in that present moment. Compassion compelled us, all over that room, to join as One to seek the face of God on behalf of this young person. We were with her.
And with tears streaming down our faces, we asked God for strength and courage for this new little mama, and His hand of protection on the child. Men committed themselves to step up and offer to be fathers to this fatherless child. The women offered themselves as well. We would be additional mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters to this family, there with our love and support whenever and however they needed it.
By the end of the dedication, as everyone left the stage glowing with peace, I felt connected to “the church” and everyone there in a new way. A deeper way. It’s been since 2002 since we’ve been members of a church, and I had forgotten how good it felt when it’s done “right”. Having a spiritual community, even as new as it is, provides us a level of comfort, connection and commonality that’s been missing. I, particularly, feel ‘safer’. A feeling that is hard to come by in a world that feels exceedingly unsafe. The Pastor, 42 years old, is down to earth, funny and wise. The congregation, made up of every age group and every color, displays the diverse nature of God.
I am so happy….so grateful…that we found Bridge. That’s what it’s called. Bridge Community Church. Even the name rings deep within me. Bridges have always held special meaning to me….sacred symbols of joining, connection, and a way to get from one place to another.
Not everyone likes going to church, and I understand that. We didn’t go for a very long time. We don’t do denominations or religion. But we do love Jesus. Having a place to go where we can worship God with other like-minded folk is a huge blessing that has brought tremendous healing with it. Not only a “spiritual” healing, but positive changes in other areas of our lives as well, from our marriage to our finances.
I think that is what happens when you are where you are supposed to be.
This morning we’ll be celebrating the (re)opening of the main sanctuary. It’s been undergoing renovations since last year while we met elsewhere on property. The “new” interior us lovely with an understated, peaceful and intimate feeling. I think the pews will hold about 500 – not too big, not too small. A large rustic wooden cross, against whitewashed brick, is the only adornment on the stage, but the worship team has all sorts of great lighting and technology to use now. Most importantly about this space, I literally feel God as I walk in.
I navigate life through my feelings, and this building is filled with positive intention and good vibes. It radiates a warm welcome to all who enter. A place where faith is strengthened, hope is rekindled and love is made manifest. A place to belong.
How lovely is your dwelling place,
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
Life is full of magical moments and little synchronicities.
Several happened to me last week and many of them related to my cookbook project. This might have been the coolest.
It’s been a long standing habit of mine to check two pages of any devotional book before buying it. Well, I bought one this week based solely on serendipity.
This first photo is from a chapter I wrote back in the Spring entitled, “The Well Stocked Kitchen”.
Now this one: A page from a little devotional book I picked up last week at the Good Will entitled, “A Grand New Day”. It’s the page from my birthday, March 30th.
I’m still grinning ear to ear.
Happy Serendipity Sunday to you.
Last week I was asked to write a guest post on journal writing by a wonderful woman who is an internationally known author, singer, and creative mentor who uses and teaches journal writing as a healing modality. My post will be published on December 13th, but because it will be under my real name – and I write Anonymously here – I won’t be linking up. However, I can publish it here and now. Because it had to be 600 words or less, I edited quite a bit out. Maybe in the future I’ll expand on my own journal practice in future posts.
Diaries! That place where your secrets were kept, secrets needing to be protected from the watchful eyes of parents and snoopy little brothers. I can still see myself laying on the bed, my bedroom door closed, filling pages with big loopy lettering made in No. 2 pencil. I wrote about other girls, first periods and first bras. I poured out my heart when I wasn’t invited to a party. I chronicled my parents fights, and that night I accidentally discovered them naked in the pool.
I wrote about boys. A LOT!
There was something exciting about each new diary started. They whispered of POSSIBILITIES. NEW BEGINNINGS. FRESH STARTS.
I’m not sure when diaries became ‘journals’. Little hard-bound books were eventually replaced by steno pads and spiral notebooks. It didn’t matter what they were called, though. That FRESH START feeling didn’t change.
In the 70’s, I wrote out all the angst and longing of a teenager that didn’t feel like she fit in and so desperately wanted to. In the 80’s, my journal absorbed the crazy-hot desire of a single 20something trying to make her way in the world, where I often waxed poetic. Words poured out of me, filling empty hours and a deep-rooted need for self-expression. I wrote about other girls, who was dating who and the heartbreak of not being invited to a party. I chronicled the liberation of not living under my parents’ roof.
And I wrote about boys. A LOT!
It was after my first child was born in 1986 that my “Morning Time” was also born. Working full-time, I found it easier to stay awake after his 5 am feeding than to go back to bed for an hour. It didn’t take long before I discovered the treasures to be found in the quiet solitude of Predawn. I would sit at the dining table with my coffee and journal, gazing out the window while body and mind awoke. I watched the changing seasons of my life reflected in the big Maple tree in our backyard, and I wrote and prayed. Intentions were set for the new day, my head and my heart purged, and blessings counted. During the brief periods when I didn’t practice it, I felt the difference – and not in a good way.
30 years later, I can still be found in the wee hours with my journal and coffee although, thanks to menopause, it’s more like 3 a.m. (I wrote through THAT, too!). While the hour and view has changed, my journaling journey hasn’t. It’s still the best friend ready to listen without judgment, the husband who never zones out, the psychiatrist who doesn’t requirement payment or an appointment. And perhaps, most profoundly, it’s the Ear of God that’s always Present.
After nearly 50 years, I’ve journaled my way through marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and more sorrows and joys than I can count. Most recently I wrote my way through a breast cancer diagnosis and 18 months of treatment. Frankly, I don’t know how I would’ve survived without it. Writing is healing. It’s cathartic. It’s revelatory. It’s doesn’t care if I’m happy or scared, strong or weak, or blonde, bald or gray (smiling).
A journal is unconditional in its acceptance of all the Flawesomeness of my life. All I have to do is show up – authentically and faithfully – to reap it’s magic:
The Alchemy of my Soul.
Even after all these years, it never ceases to amaze me when – at just the right moment – I stumble upon the EXACT thing I need to read or hear.
That happened to me earlier today when I opened a little devotional booklet that I like to read in the mornings, and read these words:
“I AM trusting God with the desires of my heart. He knows what’s best for my life, and I give Him complete control over all I am and all I have. Any worry, fear or frustration, I turn over to Him. I’m at peace knowing that He will get me to where He wants me to be, and I will never be disappointed. This is my declaration of who I am.” (From Joel Osteen’s work, “I AM”.)
I like to spend some time in contemplation and prayer at our little kitchen table in the mornings, journal and coffee at hand, with a candle burning. It’s a time for seeking God’s Will and His Presence, and something I started doing 30 years ago as a new mother. There have been seasons when I neglected this precious practice, or when the nature of that time was something other than it is now. I noticed that life doesn’t flow as smoothly, that my burdens seem heavier, and my attitude crapier when I miss these moments. It is something I always come back to at some point. My default position.
One of the blessings from the breast cancer journey I went through is a renewed commitment to my personal spiritual life – a Coming Home, if you will. I’ve winnowed out what works and what doesn’t work for me, what spiritual ideals and practices fit and which don’t. Certainly, I don’t fit the mold of a typical fundamentalist Christian, and I’m good with that. I am a believer in, and a follower of, Jesus the Christ and look to the Bible for much of my inspiration and direction. After all of the miracles I have experienced, after all the times when I literally felt the supernatural touch of God on me, I couldn’t be anything else. And I’ve tried.
In this Season After the Fire, when my “New Normal” is being normalized, I spend even more time than usual thinking about, talking to, God. For of all things that I desire – it is the desire to live out God’s Will that burns within me the hottest. Whatever that may look like, I am completely surrendered.
I think. (smile)
But deciphering God’s Will and plan for my life isn’t always easy for me. Sure, there are times when divine direction is so obvious, I just want to slap my forehead and say, “Duh!”
Other times, however, the direction isn’t as clear, or doesn’t feel like it is showing up at all. and I am left contemplating the idea that what DOESN’T happen is the Will. I am being led by what prayers AREN’T answered (or, perhaps, were answered with “No”.)
Times like when interviews prove fruitless, or the promises made to me by others don’t come to pass. Other times I end up hitting brick walls, when the path I am on leads “nowhere”.
I’m in one of those times right now and it’s like trying to find my way out of a maze. My view is obstructed and progress seems as at standstill. It’s hard not to feel trapped. Lost, even.
But I know – from experience – I am anything but.
This is a time when my faith is being stretched. My desires, honed. Growth often takes resistance, and I’ve learned that struggle isn’t a sign that I’ve blown it. It could be that the struggle is producing the strength I need for the next part of my journey, much like a butterfly needs the struggle of exiting a cocoon if it is to be healthy and strong.
After months of Maze Walking, it was a real comfort to received a Word from the Lord this morning assuring me that His Hand is guiding me. That His plans and purposes WILL prevail in my life. It is important that I keep this in mind I can’t let discouragement weigh me down, or worry to steal my peace.
I just need to be patient and allow myself to be led through this season one step at a time, and trust that He is with me and that His plans for me are good.
The shift IS coming.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go. I will counsel you and watch over you.” – Psalm 32:8