Rise Above

“Anyone can rejoice when life is going well but maturity is defined by the quality of our celebration in oppositional circumstances. I think rejoicing is designed to give us an experience of God’s joy especially when we are in times of difficulty.”

Graham Cooke

I had a dream about wild dogs and mountain lions attacking innocent pets on the ground in a forest. Then I saw a bird. As she sang, she rose higher and higher. Her song of praise lifted her up above the fray and above the sound of the snarling aggressive beasts. The beasts slunk away.

I still have trouble walking very far, although I am much improved over last year. My desk is now in front of what we used to call a “picture window.” From here I can see rush hour traffic backed up at the lights a few blocks away, and the flashing lights of emergency vehicles speeding down the road. I can lift my eyes and see the hills and mountains covered with fresh white snow and above that the sunrise and ever-changing vista of the sky. I particularly appreciate the sky lately.

I’m wondering if we are in some sort of flyway because birds pass by my window all day long. I was never a birdwatcher before, but I am starting to pay attention. There’s an osprey that flies between its perch on a tall fir tree and the deck railing of a luxury apartment. Ducks, geese, crows, and seagulls are regulars. Even an eagle passed by at eye level a few days ago (too fast for me to grab my camera, alas).

I envy them. I wish I could fly. Then I am reminded that I can, in a way. Rejoicing, thanking God for his kind provision, and worshiping his goodness and lovingkindness raises my spirit above the fray where frightened angry people attack each other and prey on the innocent.

How much sky do you need? How much love and grace do you need? God is generous. He lavishes grace on those who respond to him. Don’t be afraid to enter his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise and ask for some.

Let the Past Sleep

Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.

Oswald Chambers

I could tell she was frustrated. The young woman standing beside my piano stopped singing and turned her face away. It’s hard to sing with a lump in your throat. I know. I did the same thing more than once when I was studying voice. I told her that discouragement after taking singing lessons for a few months was not unusual. A few months was enough time to learn about changes she needed to make, but not long enough to remember all of them at the same time and definitely not long enough to let go of familiar ways of singing that could eventually hinder her progress.

“For a while it will feel like trying to hold several beach balls under water when you only have two hands. Something always pops back up,” I told her. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Relax. It will come.”

I don’t teach anymore, but I needed to be reminded of my own advice after these past few months. My creative process feels like it was wrapped in newspaper and packed away in a forgotten box. I sit down to write or sketch and realize my brain is as blank as the page.

We’re mostly settled into our new place. I should be ready to get back to some of the projects I was working on before we decided to move but something has been stopping me. As I prayed about the blockage, three similar articles came to my attention in the same week. The message they carried?  You need to say goodbye to the past and grieve for the loss of the familiar, both good and bad, before you are ready to move on.

I know this move was the right one at the right time. We had so many answers to prayer including selling our house before it was listed and finding a new place (without stairs) in the new city on the first day we started looking. In spite of my anxiety that I would forget something essential, everything fell into place and we realized, on the day of the first snow, that our prayer to be finished with the moving process before winter was answered.

But I have realized that even though everything looks like it is in place, I still have unfinished business.

I asked the Lord if there was anything I still needed to let go of. I remembered walking in the snowy silence of the forest near our old house. Around the snow-covered tree trunks that fell in that big windstorm a few years back and down a deer path, there was a stump where I used to sit and pray. Suddenly tears welled up. I miss my stump! I miss my trees and my mountains! I miss not being able to walk very far (one of the reasons behind downsizing) and I especially miss my time with the Lord out in nature where I most easily feel his presence.

“What do I do with these memories and feelings, Lord?” I asked.

“Give them to me,” I heard.

I wrote memories on a sticky note and put them in a little paper box. More memories came, not just of beautiful people and places I loved, but also sad memories of goals unattained, of relationships that remain unreconciled, of disappointments with myself. I wrote down my worries for people I wanted to help (okay, fix) but I left them behind still suffering pain and mess. Finally, I realized that I left behind a young, energetic woman who could accomplish much more in a day than the one who sits writing this now.

There is always grief involved in saying goodbye, I guess. I added to the pile of sticky notes in the little box and tied it up with a piece of string.

“Lord, I give this to you. It’s not as impressive as I wish it could have been. There’s some disappointing and embarrassing stuff in it, but I know you’re not surprised because nothing surprises you. You know all about it. There’s some good stuff in there too, really good stuff — and it’s hard to let go. But I trust you. I know you have more to show me and a purpose for the time remaining in my life no matter the circumstances. Here you go.”

Transformation comes with the willingness to cooperate with God’s process. (I think I wrote that somewhere.) When our hands and hearts are clinging to the old there’s not much room for the new. Letting go of the past is the only way to move forward. The little box is a symbol of my intention to do that.

This is not the end.