Posted by: karanoel | February 15, 2020

Oh to be satisfied

When I was in my 20’s, I had the privilege of spending six months in Central and South America with a group called Youth With a Mission. I toted along my then-four-year-old son, Cole, and lived, learned and served with a group of other young folks from several different states and countries. Rita, who hailed from Colorado and was the only other mom in the group (one brave enough to bring a toddler and three-month-old on our adventure), quickly became a close and lasting friend. Her humor entertained me nonstop and her loyalty made me feel secure. [Except, perhaps, for the night she pushed me toward the alligator lurking on the swampy hotel grounds to save herself. Fortunately it turned out to be a statue, but I made a mental note to avoid wild animals in her company – or to be quicker on the draw, and no damage was done to the friendship.]

One day, when I verbalized an intense craving for fruit, it became clear how well Rita had come to know me. She looked me in the eyes and said “Kara, you’re thirsty. Drink some water.” Apparently, I had regularly tried to quench my thirst by eating fruit. Probably because I like to eat. It’s more fun than drinking. And also probably because my body and I have always had issues communicating with each other, making it extremely difficult for me to identify actual needs and offer relevant solutions. We are still working out the kinks. Anyway, Rita perceived what I couldn’t. Per her suggestion, I drank and was satisfied…. far more than I would have been with the moisture squeezed out of some cantaloupe.

waterIn addition to the misunderstandings I’ve had with my body, I have also been known to misinterpret emotional needs as physical ones. This explains my misguided choices to put things in my body – food, alcohol, drugs, caffeine, etc. – to make myself feel better… without much success, as you might imagine, because emotional needs cannot be met with physical solutions. I’ve had similar results with my attempts to control or distract my way into feeling better, once again misunderstanding what would meet the actual need.

With the Holy Spirit acting as my Rita, I have been getting better at identifying and addressing these things. I am trying to make sure my body has food when it’s hungry and water when it’s thirsty (Rita would be so proud!). I have been earnestly acknowledging my emotions, bringing them to the Lord and trusted friends, getting feedback and prayer as needed. I’ve even scheduled a counseling appointment to make sure that this process is moving forward in a healthy way. And since the soul is comprised of the mind and will in addition to emotions, I have been continuing to take thoughts captive that don’t line up with what God says is true and to humble myself before Him by yielding my (very strong) will.

And yet, I’ve been hungry lately. A restless, insatiable kind of hunger that is not responding to the physical or soul-related solutions I’ve proffered. This is, I believe, because it’s a spiritual need; one that can only be satisfied with a spiritual solution. I got a clue to this in a book called Becoming Mama, given to me by my dear friend, Sue. The author, Yvrose, ends up finding a very apparent and deep satisfaction in the most unlikely of places (poverty-stricken Haiti) and the most unlikely of roles (as a mom to 30+ adopted children, founder of multiple schools for local children and all-around helper for people in need). The satisfaction came because she sought, found and followed God’s will for her life. It was the only thing that could fulfill her spiritual hunger… a hunger that trumped all others.

When the disciples tried to give a hungry, tired Jesus some food, He said “My food is to do what the one who sent me wants me to do and to finish the work he has given me.” That is the kind of food I need right now. I haven’t always felt this hunger or maybe just didn’t recognize it since all my appetites were such a jumble, but it’s now starting to gnaw at my belly. So I’m seeking, knowing that I’ll find God as I do. He promises this. And in finding who He is, I always find more of who I am. Wrapped up in this relational connectedness, driven by need and desire, a “becoming” happens. Abram became Abraham. Jacob became Israel. Simon became Peter. Yvrose became Mama. And from this becoming, born of the Spirit, purpose emerges. Like stirrings of a rumbling tummy that demand to be satisfied, this spiritual hunger will continue until is produces something of eternal value. And I’m pretty sure we can never be fully satisfied until it does.

I’m not talking about searching for significance – yuck to that – or any level of striving. I’m talking about a simple response to spiritual hunger by feeding on spiritual food… spending time with the Lord, talking with Him and hearing His heart, filling up on His truth; letting Him lead us forward. We can thank God for our hunger and thirst because, much like a baby’s cry, they provoke a response to satisfy needs that will cause us to thrive and grow into the fullness of what we’ve been created for. We may worry that He will ask us to do something impossible like move to Haiti and adopt dozens of children or just give up the comfort we are clinging to (is that just me?), but assurance is growing every day that He can and will bridge the gap between our fear and limitations and the amazing plans He has for us. Nothing less will satisfy because it’s what we were made for.

So I’m pressing in and joining the many who have gone before me. If you’re not already on this journey, I warmly invite you to come. Let’s feast together on His goodness and “do the good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10)

A couple questions to leave with you: Has there been any confusion in the way you are identifying or addressing your needs? Is it possible that a hunger you haven’t been able to satisfy is a spiritual need gnawing inside, beckoning you to come and feast?

Food

Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live. Isaiah 55:1-3

If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes into Me, as the Scripture said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water. John 7:37

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. John 7:7-8

Posted by: karanoel | February 6, 2020

What is in your hand?

MosesFor the past month or so, I’ve had 5 words stuck in my head. They are from a conversation in Exodus after God has revealed Himself to Moses through the burning bush and is explaining how He will use this Israelite-baby-turned-Egyptian-prince-turned-Midianite-shepherd to free the suffering Israelites from bondage to the Egyptians. There’s a bit of back and forth between the two, with Moses asking very reasonable questions like, “Who am I that I should do this thing?” God seems more interested in repeating who He is and emphasizing that He will be with Moses, rather than listing any particular qualifications His very insecure human friend may possess.

When they get to the part where Moses asks God what to do if the Israelites don’t believe He was sent by God, he gets this response… the one that has been echoing in my mind… “What is in your hand?” As you probably know, it’s nothing impressive like a magic wand or even courage. It’s an ordinary shepherd’s staff. Under normal circumstances, that is. But under God’s power, it becomes a snake that serves as a sign that Moses has indeed been with God.

God provides a few other signs to use, but Moses is not convinced. He has some serious concerns because of a deficiency in his ability to communicate, by which he thoroughly disqualifies himself and pleads with God to choose someone else. God immediately re-qualifies him with this rather strong response,  “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” But Moses will not have it, so his brother Aaron is sent to accompany him as a mouthpiece.

There are so many things going on here I would love to chat about, like what would have happened if Moses had trusted God to help him speak? But let’s just leave that part of the conversation with my immense gratitude for a God who understands our fear and our weakness, and will use us in whatever capacity we are willing. Which leads me right back to those 5 words: What is in your hand?

I was on a hike this morning thinking about that question. My heart has been tender to the touch lately, hurting over Cole, so I said, “Grief is in my hand.” “I can use that,” was His quick response. And I sensed deeply that it would have been the same with any answer I gave:

“A love of writing is in my hand.”
“I can use that.”
“Fear is in my hand.”
“I can use that.”
“A desire for community is in my hand.”
“I can use that.”
“Passion is in my hand.”
“I can use that.”

I think that we tend to qualify – or disqualify – ourselves for God’s use, just as Moses did, based on how we see ourselves and what we hold in our mortal hands. And I think we tend to believe that He can only use the parts of our lives we consider to be assets. But God doesn’t see it that way. He’s not looking through our self-assessment filter and He’s not interested in combing through a list of our qualifications. He sees who He is. He says that He will be with us. He knows that whatever is in our hands will be transformed for His glory; that these ordinary lives will be used for His perfect purposes… if we will entrust them to Him who is able. It will be the proof that we have been with Him, that we have been sent by Him, that we are His. So I will leave you with this question: What is in your hand? 

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13

Posted by: karanoel | February 3, 2020

The best investment

I was thinking about my last blog post and felt the need to add something. Part of my frustration with Chase’s ongoing, boomerang-like sickness was, as I said, the loss of control over my time and schedule, but there was also the loss of control over a broken little body that I couldn’t fix. Anger is my go-to when I feel out of control. I have a long, involved history as evidence, but God has been working (and working) on it so what I do with that anger is not usually as dramatic or destructive as it used to be. Can I just say thank you, Lord, for that.

IMG_8491It’s what I found these past weeks as I held my sweet boy with the high fever and flushed cheeks who wanted nothing but to be in my arms for hours at a time. He didn’t want TV or music or to be read to. He didn’t even want me to read to myself. He just wanted the quiet, focused nurture of his mom. As someone who tends to value personal freedom above all else, I wouldn’t consider myself a nurturing person by nature. But I found myself yielding that nature, which couldn’t provide what was needed, to a greater Nature; One that values love above all else, no matter what the cost. In the midst of that holy transaction, with a broken heart over my aching boy and all my plans out the window, there was a sweetness that came; a pleasure to pour into this boy what has been poured into me. 

In that last post, I talked about spending, saving and giving. But love is something different altogether. It doesn’t provide an immediate return like spending or a guaranteed future return like saving. And it isn’t always as tangible or self-satisfying as giving can be. It’s an investment in the life of another, with no promises of a return in natural terms, either now or later. But it is the whole point of the gospel and the reason we are here. The Bible says love never fails. That doesn’t mean it will look like we think it should, but it does mean that it is always worthwhile; always a sound place to invest our resources.

If I think about the things I would have accomplished if Chase had been well and at school, they seem so insignificant; so trivial and temporary in light of love, relationship, eternity. How much more lasting an investment to give up a bit of my freedom for Chase – to sacrifice in a way that demonstrates his value. Though my efforts obviously pale in comparison, it’s the very thing Jesus did for us. The recent tragedy of all those lost in the helicopter crash has helped us all regain this perspective, I think… of what really matters; of what has true worth. Oh Lord, what I wouldn’t give to have the privilege of setting aside anything and everything to nurture Cole again and pour love into his broken places, whether I could fix them or not.

I don’t see love, though, as something we need to try harder to do. Yes, as I’ve experienced so often, we need to yield our wills… to become willing to let God work in us and through us… but even that we can’t do without His help. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to ask Him to help me be willing. But He will do it. And everything He does comes with His soft, gentle, cleansing love, which will melt all the walls that try to keep it out. Eventually, we will become so full of this love, that even the slightest pressure on our lives will cause it to spill out on those around us. And maybe we will even become so full that we can’t take a single step without it sloshing over the top and pouring onto others. Because, as I’m thinking about it, the Love we’ve been given was the greatest investment of all time and, when received into our hearts, it can’t help but produce dividends that go far beyond anything we would ever be able to contain or spend on ourselves.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Cor 13:4-8

Posted by: karanoel | January 31, 2020

Releasing what we “own”

Money JarsWe talked to Chase last week about having three jars for his money: One for saving, one for giving and one for spending, with the goal of putting 10% in each of the first two jars and spending the rest. He immediately broke down crying. Like hard. In between sobs, he kept saying, “But it’s my money. I earn it!” This dramatic response provoked a knowing look between me and John that this opportunity to loosen his grip was more needed than we thought. It’s not that he’s not a very generous person. He really is. But he has become overly possessive of what he considers “his” which will end up owning him instead of the other way around.

While it’s true that Chase earns money through simple household chores and managing our recycling, he seems to have forgotten that the majority of his current cash on hand is from his Grandma’s generosity… the loose change she saved up for him, the bonus change from her car she let him keep and the $5 she gave him for no reason but love. Of course he also hasn’t yet thought through the fact that the reason we have the resources to cover an allowance or purchase the cans we recycle is because of a dad who works hard to provide for this family (and a mom who is willing to sacrificially drink oodles of Diet Coke and Bubbly, and to drive him to cash in on all those cans). Even the fact of our family income is sitting upon John’s unearned health and the opportunities available solely because of the time and place in which we live.

It’s not that these things can all happen without us playing our individual part, but sometimes we exaggerate the importance of that part, unable to see the greater picture of a heavenly Dad who provides all the resources at our disposal – from every breath we breathe to the mind, body and passions He’s gifted us with; from the freebies we take for granted to the opportunities that provide a sturdy platform for us to do our part.

It wasn’t hard for me to roll my eyes at Chase’s response, but I inwardly cringed because in that very same moment I recognized that I’ve been struggling with a similar entitlement with a primary focus on my time. My time. I’ve earned it after years of waiting for Chase to be in school for a full day. Never mind that I’ve had more free time this year than I’ve had since childhood. It never seems to be quite enough. And God forbid if any of this time gets saddled by unexpected demands. Like, say, my kid getting a cold. Directly followed by the stomach flu. Followed by 12 hours of health before a prompt relapse of the cold. This morning, when my mom suggested that Chase probably needed another day home with some rest, I knew she was right but was so ticked I could have cried. Not at her and not at Chase, but at the circumstances that are robbing me of my time. Or, rather, my control of my time. I’m guessing God and Jesus exchanged a knowing look about my need for this “opportunity.”

At the turn of the year, a very good friend asked what my word is for 2020. After some thought, I decided it is “release.” It applies to all sorts of things, like grief and fear, expectations of what my life should be, and most definitely control. Because deep down I know, and I mean I know, that if I can release all that I am and have to the Lord who formed me and gave me this life to steward (not to own), He will make more of “my” life and “my” time than the sum of what I possess times infinity. It’s what He did to multiply the meager offering of a boy’s fish and loaves (which he had every right to keep and eat), satisfying not only the hunger of that boy but thousands of others.

I don’t mind starting with a small percentage of time in my “giving” jar. It’s a start! But my hope is that I would come to understand the abundance of the Household in which I live and grasp the freedom that comes from holding up a jar containing everything I possess and asking the Lord how it would best be used… trusting that what He gives me to spend will be more than enough for my needs and what He asks me to give just might be joyfully multiplied and used to satisfy the needs of so many more.

Many Coins

Posted by: karanoel | January 27, 2020

Tents with a view

I’ve been tempted again lately to get some botox like a heck of a lotta women do where I live (or maybe everywhere?) when the signs of aging change from subtle whispers to blatant shouts. I’ve read that a good amount of young, unwrinkled people even do this preemptively now. No one wants to look old, especially when you feel like the only one. Responding to this predicament with botox or fillers is certainly nothing worthy of shame or scorn, so please don’t feel bad if this is something you do. And I’m going to give myself grace if I end up taking that route, but here’s what I was thinking about yesterday….

The fact that I’m alive at 46 is pretty much a miracle. Nearly losing my life to a heroin overdose at 18 was my closest call and one that brings me to tears in gratitude for the mercy of every breath, but it was not remotely the only time my life was at risk. There were times I totaled cars and walked away uninjured and other times I drove drunk and escaped the horrors of destroying the lives of others in addition to my own. There were years of pummeling my flesh with whatever drugs and alcohol I could get my hands on; of withholding food and kindness to my hungry body and soul. There were countless poor choices that made me vulnerable to the twisted whims of others, like the time I was kidnapped, and relationships so broken and drug-fueled, they held no safety. I recklessly provoked self-destruction, egging it on, feeling deserving of it.

And yet, not only am I still here, but those horrific years of brokenness and torment have been swallowed up by ones of beauty, truth and grace. These deepening lines on my face and the gray hair that increasingly shows through my artificial highlights, I feel like I’ve earned them. Through laughter and love and hardship. Through wrestling out my faith in small things and big. Through working and learning and growing. Through relationship as a daughter and a sister, a friend and a wife. Through raising my amazing children; through losing my son. Through days and nights and years with the Lord. Through time outdoors in the sun I love, breathing in the cool, moist air of the ocean or the thin, dry air of the mountains. Through living.

I don’t want to go back to being young. I’ve fought hard to get here and I’m proud of having made it this far. Age has been such a blessing to me. And my outsides are just a shell of who I am; a tent that holds and covers me for this part of the journey. I want to care for it as best as I can so it can serve me well and shelter me for the adventures ahead, but I’d rather use it and enjoy it than worry about it looking brand new and untouched. So this is my hope. Not that we toss out every bit of hair dye or spurn any chance to look younger, but that our focus would increasingly shift to the the great renewal taking place inwardly day by day and the amazing views these tents allows us – not as we look at them, but from them – upon the diverse and glorious terrains and people the Lord leads us to. 

Inside Tent

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  2 Cor 4:16

 

Photo credit: Rob Hammer

Posted by: karanoel | January 21, 2020

Express yourself!

Yesterday, I started thinking about how I love Chase’s art. It’s not because he has mastered techniques or has a solid understanding of composition, but because I love him and he made it. It’s an expression of who he is. I keep notebooks full of what he creates and I already look back fondly at his toddler drawings of personified vegetables, so simple and yet so delightful, and his pre-k portraits where everyone had boxes for bodies and stilts for legs, or when those people began to develop aggressively shaped fingers that remind me of Edward Scissorhands. I know that I will savor each step of the way because, whether or not he ever becomes technically proficient or produces anything he, his peers or the world beyond see value in, I know he will never again express who he is, at this time, in this way. 

FlyingPotatoLady1

flying potato

FallingPotato1

falling potato

ChaseDad

boxy bodies

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edward scissorhands

What would break my heart is if he ever stops creating. Maybe his eye will become critical and he can’t bear to produce something that is flawed and imperfect. Maybe someone will tease him for something he’s created and he will respond by severing his heart from the love of drawing to guard it from further rejection. Maybe the joy will be sucked from creating because he feels the need to perform, or believes it needs to look more like the creations of others. Maybe in comparing, he will decide he is not as capable and is somehow disqualified from participating. Or maybe the the cares and distractions of this world will drown out something he once loved. If any of this ever happens, my greatest hope is simply that he pick up where he left off – even if it is at the level of a first grader – and enter back in, delighting my heart by expressing what only he can. 

This disconnect is something we’ve all experienced, I think. Maybe not with art (although I’ve read that most people stop drawing in early elementary school when they realize it’s not just about expressing, but about producing), but perhaps with something else we’ve enjoyed and ceased to do – or maybe never even started. And it’s no wonder since one of the enemy’s favorite tactics is to get us to disengage. He knows that our heavenly Dad loves to see us participate (whether or not we are any good) and loves what we create, not because it’s technically proficient or because we measure up to what other people are producing, but because He loves us and we made it. It’s an expression of who we are. And, since we are His workmanship, what we create is really an extension of Him, and an intimate way to connect with Him – our Dad, the Creator. 

He formed each of our hearts so uniquely that no one else on earth can express something exactly the way we can and it’s this expression – far more than the product – that delights His heart. It understandably grieves Him when, from fear or perfectionism, we withdraw our efforts. Though we might improve as time goes by, we will never again be able to express who we are, in this way, at this time. 

Besides, perfection is a pipe dream. It will never arrive and will only keep us from following our hearts and entering in, with all the joy and productive failure and growth that follows. That’s the very thing it’s done to me most of my life. And, jeez, I’m stunted in a lot of ways because of this disengagement. But I’m starting to live. To really live. A little bit at a time. By doing what I love to do and fighting down the demons of comparison and fear that threaten to shut me back down and relegate me to the role of spectator. Because my Dad loves me and He loves what I make. And that’s enough for me. My joy is rising. And so is His; I can feel it. I can’t wait to see what forms expression takes as my heart opens up and its contents pour out before Him. Maybe He can even teach me as we go.

Is there something you’ve stopped doing – or never even started – because of fear of failure or the belief that you just couldn’t measure up? As I tell Chase all the time these days, success is putting yourself out there and doing your best. It has absolutely nothing to do with the outcome. So I encourage you to express what is in your heart and beat down any demons that say it has to look a certain way. Step into the joy of creating and share it with your heavenly Dad who will marvel at your efforts and tuck them away forever in a special place where He keeps all His most valuable treasures. 

Posted by: karanoel | January 16, 2020

Love’s true form

FionaDuring the holiday break, I sat with my sweet little family on our enormous sofa and watched Shrek. While not a fan of the sequels, the first one has remained one of my top five favorite movies since I first saw it nearly 20 years ago. This is partly because it’s immensely clever and makes me smile from ear to ear, but also because it delivers a message that melts my fears with its gospel truth. 

Since you’ve probably seen the movie I won’t summarize the whole thing. The piece that is relevant here is that Princess Fiona is under a curse, which transforms her each evening at the sun’s departure from a beautiful princess to an ugly ogre; a curse that can only be broken by true love’s first kiss when she will take “love’s true form.” She hides the ogre part of herself from all and tries to hasten the moment when love will swallow up her ugliness with beauty.

I can relate. I’ve been aware of my weakness and the ugly parts of myself since I was a small child, wanting nothing more than for those hideous parts of me to disappear, leaving me strong and beautiful, unafraid to show myself (which, I assumed, would require me to be a better version of myself). When I found the Lord – or, I guess, when He found me – I had expectations of how presentable I would become; how good and beautiful I would be. I did my best to look the part and hide the rest until the curse would be broken and the magical transformation would take place. 

When Princess Fiona finally got her kiss, she did indeed transform, but not as expected. Instead of becoming a round-the-clock beautiful princess, she became a full-time ogre. Confused and disappointed, she said, “But I’m supposed to be beautiful.” Shrek, her true love, looked her in the eyes and said, “But you are beautiful.” She smiled and relaxed into the wholeness of love’s true form – an undivided self, completely loved and accepted. It was even better than what she’d been looking for. 

It is the kind of love I found in Jesus, but didn’t know it for a really long time because I kept trying to present my best self and thought He loved me for that. But as I’ve yielded to His embrace and allowed love’s transformation to take place, I’m starting to see that becoming strong and good and beautiful was never my heart’s deepest desire. It was to be found beautiful and to be loved just as I am; uncovered, in the midst of my weakness and ugliest moments. I think it’s what we all crave in our deepest selves. To be granted intimate acceptance that allows us to drop every bit of striving; every facade – our divided selves – and to cast aside all cares of what the world will say when they see who we really are. Because we know that we are loved as we are, now; that we are seen as beautiful even in our ugliness. It’s this great romance that transforms even the ugliest face and the hardest heart, and then reflects its radiant beauty on a world full of ogres in need until they too can receive true love’s first kiss. This, my friends, is the gospel; a love story from start to finish.

Altogether Beautiful

 

Posted by: karanoel | January 10, 2020

We are the instruments

Hi all! It’s been a while. Hope you had a sweet Christmas and New Year with so much grace for the season. As I shared, there was a chunk of time that was pretty emotional for me, but it ended up being overshadowed by the rich time we had as a family, especially with Madison coming home from college to play. We took Chase ice skating for the first time, which proved successful thanks to the help of a seal named Max. We went to the kids’ rock climbing gym, where Madison and I joined Chase in the fun while looking oddly large in a sea of small people. We went to the San Diego Zoo, where we were smitten with the baboons, of all creatures. My heart was full.

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With a few blog post ideas rolling around in my head during the break, I couldn’t wait to get back to writing. But when the holiday bustle gave way to regular routine, I found myself wanting to garden and research puppies and go to Marshall’s instead. The few times I did sit down to write, the words on the page just wouldn’t take shape. I’m pretty sure this is at least partly due to the unwelcome appearance of some old self-loathing that seemed to come out of nowhere, derailing my best intentions. 

This morning, I had a great conversation with my mom and got some much-appreciated prayer (thanks, mom!). Something she said stole my heart and made a deep imprint on my mind. It was this: “You are trying to find an instrument to play, but you are the instrument and God is the one making music.” You guys, this is exactly it. The self-loathing I experience often has to do with failing to perform as I’d like to. The people around me seem to perform with beauty and grace, while my efforts produce off-pitch squeals that only draw attention to my inability.

But what if it’s not about finding an instrument – some area of life where I can excel – and learning to perform it really well so I can join the symphony of life, community and service? What if it is about being undone through surrender – of who I would like to be, how I would like others to see me, what song I’d like to play – so that I am an instrument totally yielded to the masterful hands of my Lord who can, through my life, produce notes of the sweetest, deepest resonance that ring in perfect unity with all the others He’s drawn to Himself?

Because we are His, we already belong in the orchestra. We are not disqualified and never were. Where we have run into problems is our insistence to play our own song; to consider our music to be what we can create in our own ability. We compare our performance to others; maybe trying to sound louder to be heard or cooler to fit in or fancier to impress. All we then produce, no matter how well executed, is a cacophony of a billion competing pieces playing simultaneously.

That is, until we yield our roles as composers and performers and become unique instruments in a heavenly orchestra, breathing out each note with heart and passion in perfect harmony with millions of other instruments, all playing His song. It is a song that began before creation, and one that will go on for the rest of eternity. Its beauty will change hearts and transform lives. And we belong here, right in the middle of this music; allowing the notes of His story to shine through our lives. This, my friends, is the best news I’ve heard in a long time. I hope you are encouraged too.

Violin

Posted by: karanoel | December 31, 2019

River of love

Grief QuoteA friend recently posted a short passage on Facebook that said grief is just love with no place to go. I didn’t give it too much thought at the moment, but yesterday while on my walk, it floated into my mind and I couldn’t help but ponder its truth. 

The picture that formed was a river of love thwarted by a dam of death. The river won’t just dry up due to the absence of one beloved whose presence sculpted and filled river beds in the landscape of our hearts. Love doesn’t work that way. Once created, it is a living thing, eternal; restless until its purpose is fulfilled. No, the rain will still come, the mountain snow will melt, and the river will continue to flow. But now, unable to reach the place where it can empty itself, where will it go?

It will pool in one place, rising at times as rivers do, pressing up against the tender truth of an end, irrigating our lives with tears. We might bathe in that reservoir of frustrated love until the moisture has pruned our skin or immerse ourselves until our lungs are at bursting point. But at some point, we will climb back up to where we’ve set up camp on the banks and try to carry on, maybe stand once in a while with our feet in the water looking at the expanse of what could have been. With no apparent path past that dam, it seems the best we can do.

But what if death doesn’t have to thwart love any more than it thwarted life when Jesus was crucified? What if, like the third day in the tomb, it is resurrected into a new kind of life, having only gained scope and power through loss? This, it seems, is a significant part of the process of surrender: That by yielding our ideas of how this river should flow, we allow the Lord to bust down these dams or carve out the ground around them, releasing a wild flow of love from our hearts, not just to those we’ve lost, but to wherever it is needed.

I don’t know exactly what this will look like, but I can think of no better way to honor Cole and the extraordinary love formed in my heart because of him. I do know that it can only be done by the Spirit as I continue to yield in trust and ask Him to help me see with new eyes and to love like He does – without end. I can’t wait to see where this river will flow. I’ll keep you posted. And I hope you’ll do the same.

Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8

Posted by: karanoel | December 19, 2019

A surrendered will

As I shared recently, grief swung back around, this time wooing me with sentimental thoughts of Cole coming home. I wasn’t trying to imagine this alternate reality. It just entered my mind one day and kept playing its reel so earnestly, it felt plausible and true, this disguised fantasy. So I didn’t try to turn it off, but lingered there, on those sweet thoughts, letting them touch my heart with their warm breath. When I dreamed one morning of Cole exiting an SUV in front of our house, fresh from the Navy with suitcase in hand, I left my eyes closed after waking, savoring the image, letting it be true for that moment. And I called it back to mind a few times later that day, cradling and caressing the sight of my boy standing before me, happy to be home.

No one would blame me, I think, for indulging myself in these moments. Losing a child is a kind of suffering that deserves some comfort, if only fleeting, it would seem. But what I have found is that false comfort only makes the reality harder. There have been some ugly cries lately because, as sweet as these thoughts have been, the truth is that Cole is not coming home. He already went home and I’m the one who will be showing up there with suitcase in hand someday. 

So what is to be done now? I could easily spend the rest of my life trying to stay connected to Cole through this sweet sadness of memories and grief. But at some point that tie, which feels so temporarily warm and comforting, is bound to become distorted, as always happens when we cling to love rather than loose it. It will, I imagine, reduce Cole to an idea of a person; a stagnant character in the story of me, and diminish the parts of my life that don’t touch his, denying both of us permission to develop and become outside of each other.

At the heart of it, I am once again seeing my will. I want things to be a certain way; for my son to be alive and with me here. I had expectations that would be the case; that God would intervene in Cole’s darkness in that way. It’s not wrong to have prayed for, hoped and expected his freedom here, and it’s certainly not wrong to be sad for my loss. But the tension, the prolonged torment that arises, is not from the very natural process of grief, but from my resistance to surrender my ideas of what should be; what I want to be true; my disappointment and failed expectations, in ruthless trust to my Father who sees my struggle, holds my tender heart in His hands and beckons me forward into a future that it is not defined by outdated desires or by grief.

But surrender is a choice. One I’ve made before, and one I’ll have to make again. I know that peace will follow; it always does. So I will wrestle down my will until I can hand it over freely, a sacred gift that only I can give. And then, like a child whose tantrumed tears dry, whose anguish subsides, whose relationship is restored to sweet order once yielded, I will curl up on my Daddy’s lap and humbly receive His love. It doesn’t mean I will fully understand or see the whole picture, but I will trust that He does, that He is for me, that He has my best at heart. He will speak over me and help me see the good things ahead as hope rises again and we laugh together. 

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

river-in-desert

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