Friday, June 26, 2009

C: The Cote Meeting and Rest

Last weekend was a busy weekend. First, there was the flurry of trying to get my house in order enough to host our Three Blind Sheep dinner Saturday night. M and S are good friends and totally non-judgmental about my messiness (or seem to be, anyway), but it sure does bother me to have folks into my usual disarray. Throwing things out of sight took a little time and effort! They arrived mid-afternoon and I was as ready as I was ever going to be, just giving up on what remained.

We sat and talked and talked and talked as only the three of us can. We talked about our lives, we talked about a recent church conference, we talked about God and plans and food supply v. population and nanotechnology (about which NONE of us has a clue, but we loved talking about it), and on and on—you can see that our conversation covered lots of ground. We had not been able to be together like this in a very long time, and few other people are wacky enough to tolerate these random wonderings and soundings. Really, we need each other for this.

I don’t think we moved from the table all evening except for short bathroom trips and when I got up to throw steaks on and heat the rest of the easy-fix dinner. It was fun, it was restful, and it was restorative.

M stayed the night and, after we talked til noon, I went out a couple of hours to ride first on the tractor, bush hogging, and then the lawn mower around the large yard to the side of my house. On those implements I do lots of thinking, and I thought a lot about the evening with my friends and how restful it all was in spite of my frantic cleaning frenzy.

In fact, I found myself thinking how restful my tractor and lawn mower were! It was hot (90’s), but the humming of the mowing, the smell of the grass and the visible strips of progress as the grass became shorter were all mesmerizingly relaxing! Such a paradox! Activity—even hot activity— can be restful, which led my ADD mind to consider the meaning of rest. I think that for me “rest” equates with “peace.”

Of course, the first Bible verse that comes to my mind when I think of rest is Jesus’ saying:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is
light. -- Matthew 11:28-30

I pretty-much know for a fact that Jesus did not mean exclusively the lying-on-the-couch kind of rest, here (although that can, obviously, be rest, too). He meant, rather something He calls “rest for your souls.” Again, for me, this equals “peace.”

I had considered just lying around all afternoon after M left, watching old movies and eating junk food rather than working in the hot sun. That actually sounded more like rest at first. I had earned this—it was easily justified after my stressful week with not enough time (besides, I have a lazy streak a MILE wide…). But, you know, that grass beckoned to me. It isn’t so much that I was stressed out about the state of my lawn and surroundings. It was more like the grass mowing was calling me in an alluring way, as something pleasant awaiting me.

So, off I went, because lying on the couch, while restful to my body, would not have been restful to my soul. It was the right choice. It gave me time to think about that nanotechnology thingy S was talking about last night. It was restful, and it was peaceful.

One of the paradoxes of the spirit! I loved being with my friends--even the work to prepare for them was restful...pure peace! - C

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Divergent Path

A new season is upon me!  One that has been slowly making it's appearance and yet has now suddenly burst forth.  Like spring after a harsh winter, the signs appear long before the warmth.
If only the signs were easier to see and interpret in my emotional landscape as they are in the physical.

Motherhood is one of the scariest things I've ever attempted! It has also been filled with the most blessings.  I tell myself that I've done a good job seeing each of my children as individuals, not as extensions of myself or chances for me to 'get it right' this time around. Each has their own ideas of what works and what doesn't. It's taken me years to figure out how to facilitate these differences. It's been my privilege to tutor and make safe their paths up to a point. 

Having said that, I am discovering that there resides in me the idea that these children I've nurtured will behave in ways that are fairly predictable and follow along a path similar to my own.  That having laid a foundation, they will build upon it.

Not so! Or so it appears right now- My oldest is striking out on her own! The signs have been there for nearly two years. She's celebrated her 18th birthday, graduated from high school, entered the 'real' world of work, registered to vote; all those grown up activities that seem so fresh and appealing when we are first inducted into adulthood.

And she's done a good job. I'm proud of the young lady she's become/becoming. 

Enter the divergent path.  She's not chosen to do anything illegal or even morally questionable. She has simply chosen to pursue an idea/way of life that is foreign to me. Foreign to the way I raised her.  I have no way of knowing this path, of clearing it of dangers, of preparing her to walk this unknown landscape.

                                  " For we walk by faith, not by sight" 2 cor 5:7   

Exactly what a blind sheep should be doing. Only I forget! Especially in areas I still think I have control over-like my children! HA! The season of letting go is upon me.  I've known for years it would come. I've seen the signs. Now my heart is being opened, stretched as I am learning to step back and trust that I've prepared this child for life. Life apart from me. 

Just as I am blindly following and trusting my good shepherd, this child of mine (no longer a child) must take up her own journey of faith and blindness. She must learn to hear and walk accordingly.  

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Sheep M  6/25/09 

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sheep M's sunflowers

The sunflowers are in bloom in my garden! They were lovingly planted 3 years ago by a dear friend when I was staying in the hospital with my son.  I've let that patch to go wild-more like am overwhelmed with all that tasks that fall to my lot now to micromanage this one spot of beauty.
The sunflower has long been one of my favorite flowers. It's beautiful and useful, but perhaps the most wonderful thing about it is the reminder to always follow the light. 
Each of us have and will continue to experience dark days. Days that make no sense in any rational way. Days that must be walked through with hope and faith.  The sunflower, despite the circumstances, follows the track of the sun throughout the day. 

A recent sermon sparked an inner discussion. The sermon was about opening a can of worms (wonderful lesson!) In the sermon, the preacher alluded to the myth of Pandora and her box.  The details he shared are fairly common-curious female given box by the gods and told not to open. Well, she did exactly as expected and opened the box.  Now there is a bit of discussion as to what the box contained. One version has it that she released on the world all the current woes. Another that she released all the good things that make life worthwhile, thus leaving mortals with all the woes without all the blessings. 
In either version, she manages to hold onto only one thing-HOPE.  Hope that there is more. More of whatever it is that makes each of us take that next step, take the risk, endure the present trouble.  
So, my inner discussion? What is hope? 
I suppose there are many answers to this question, each based on individual experiences. Oh the stories we could tell! 
What it comes down to for me: hope is an uncontrollable element, unlike the other things released from Pandora's box. I can't produce it or manipulate it.  Hope is a gift from God, given to me to lighten the dark moments of my days. Giving evidence that what I can see isn't all there is. In my loneliness, I am not alone.  There is always light, expressed in a multitude of ways and through many means. 
And so we return to sunflowers- a beautiful gift from a generous heart. 
Sheep M 6/19/09

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sheep C: Lost in the Flock?

Being single again can be real drag. I have wonderful friends and family, but they have their own stuff going on, so sometimes I’m just left to be a big girl and handle things on my own. I can really stick my bottom lip out about that, feeling sorry for myself. It was kind of that way this past week. I spent more than a little time saying “poor me.”

To me, my situation is huge. I have been betrayed. I have been abandoned. I have been wronged. I have been dealt hardships. I am lonely. I am alone in my worries. (Can you hear the “whine” in these words?) Should I go on and on? I can, believe me; I proved that to myself again just this week. And then I saw, of all things, a bumper sticker that just put everything in perspective. It said:

It’s only
one-six-billionth about you.

Probably because I needed to hear it so badly, this message was almost jarring to me. Wow! You mean to tell me that it’s not all about me? A picture flashed through my mind. Here is what I saw:

Now, when I have been down in the past, I have tried the comparison thing to help me count my blessings. It is my profession to deal with people in my same marital boat. In terms of objective factors, my situation is so much better than that of many of my clients. I have said many times (maybe even in this blog) that Sheep M’s situation humbles me when I compare it to mine. Still, as Sheep M graciously pointed out to me, knowing that others are having a harder time really doesn’t help all that much. You can only feel your own situation.

But this bumper-sticker thought got to me in a way that my own comparison game did not. I thought about all that God sees. The Scripture that came to my mind was Psalm 50:10, where the Lord says that the cattle (sheep?) on a thousand hills are His.

Oh, dear! He sees it all, and then, way down here in the American south is little Sheep C, bleating about being a little lonely (a good part of that being by her own self-imposed isolation so she can pout). It made me feel humble and small, indeed. And, for some reason, it made my troubles seem smaller (thank you, Lord!). Yes, it brought relief! I think I’m going to put that bumper sticker on my office wall so I can keep it fully in mind.

I pondered this six-billion-sheep thing while I was on the lawn mower Sunday afternoon. Does that mean that I don’t count; that my troubles are too small for God to worry about? Maybe heaven’s switchboard lady-angel (think Lily Tomlin) is saying, “Sorry, He’s very busy right now with that starvation thing in Africa and that war deal in Iraq. You know, honey, your problems are way down the line for Him, just wait your turn.

No, I don’t feel that way at all. Knowing that God has the sheep on a thousand hills to tend only helps me sharpen my perspective. For some reason it does not make me feel neglected or small in his eyes. And I thought about that, too. Why is that? If He really has six billion sheep, who am I to even think He knows my name, let alone about my troubles. I mean, if I were God, I wouldn’t give my situation so much as a second thought. I’d be saying things like, “She’s got a roof and plenty (oh, yeah, plenty) of food, yadayadayada. I’ll deal with her later—maybe—because in the broad scheme she’s perking along pretty fine on her own.”

But that’s not true, either. And God is not me (again, thank you, Lord!). His priorities are different than ours…I believe that we are all and each His number one priority. It’s a God thing—only He can do this, but parents who have multiple children must see a glimpse of this, loving each child the same AND the most.

I am reminding of another saying that buoyed me one time. I think it would make a good bumper sticker, too:

God loves each of us as if there were only one of
us. --St. Augustine.

So, hope you can take heart, too, that you are one of His six-billion-plus-strong flock and that you—yes you!—are the most important!--Sheep C.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sheep C: Sheep Lessons from a Toad

Since I started writing on a couple of blogs, I’ve been much more interested in my camera. So many blogs have gorgeous photography, of which I am envious. I don’t aspire to that, but I do think that pictures liven stories up, so I’ve started actually packing my camera most of the time. One never knows when one might want to snap a picture to spread across the worldwide web!

I got inspired this past weekend to work on my rock/flower garden in the front of the house and had my trusty camera hanging from my belt loop. This is not my strong suit, gardening of any type. I love to see flowers; I just don’t like working at them. But, I am finding that gardening is a good way to think and to hear God. And it can make my place look better (that is if I ever actually finish a project).

Part of my task was to move some large, flat stones that we had used to outline some little individual areas. I was watching closely, worrying that I might run across a snake under one of them. My neighbor has reported several already this year. I encountered a few grub worms, many earthworms (some very large!) and a couple of scurrying bugs, but nothing to make me shriek.

I set aside one rock to discover a toad. How do they do that—fit under something that should squash them flat? In fact, I know for a fact that it did squash him flat; I know enough physics to figure that one out. But the amazing thing is that he doesn’t stay squashed.

The toad gave a momentary flinch as I moved the rock and then just sat still as stone. I sat back to look at him and, as I did my change in posture must have made my dog Scout (ever the helper) believe I would now give her the attention she so richly deserved. She hopped over the pile of stones and plopped right down next to the toad. I had a flash of concern as she did, thinking the toad might hop away and Scout might pounce on him. Still, he did not move. He just sat there. Can you spot him in the picture below? He's just to your right of Scout's foot; I've put a little circle around him.

"Instinct," I thought. "He knows he's almost hidden by staying still. If he moves, he'll have to deal with that dog or with me, so he's just staying put...counting on not being noticed"

Then something said, "He's being still, listening to God."

I had a flash of Scripture:

Be still and know that I am God... Psalm 46:10

"Nah!" said my brain, "He's not listening to God; he's being still because of instinct--you were right the first time."
But the more I thought about it, I have decided that a toad's instinct and listening to God may just be the same thing.

I thought about how my Sheep's brain analyzes everything, how that brain and its logic can cause me to plot and plan myself right into trouble. Rush, rush, rush; my brain tries to figure it out, take charge and run myself right into trouble, just because I did not stop and talk to God about something and listen to Him.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but
its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12

And then there's fear. Being in fear almost never causes me to "be still," like the toad. It can cause me to stampede headlong, never stopping to listen to God and understand that He is in control, taking care of things whether I know it or not.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14
So the toad taught me what? 1) be still, and maybe your enemy will not notice....2) be still and listen to and trust that voice of God, just like the toad did. You can't hear Him well when you're still.

P.S. In the interests of full disclosure, let me say that when I excitedly explained the toad's lesson to my son, his reply was, "Mom, he's cold-blooded. He couldn't move. You'd just pulled a cool rock off of him, and he did not have enough umpf to move, that's all." So, it may not have been instinct or the voice of God at all...maybe that toad just was too darned cold to move....but I like my version better... And then maybe, just maybe, that regardless of the reason the toad was still, I heard the message God was speaking to me. So, there!