People Watching

Sitting downtown at the park with my Peets cappuccino, I settle in to observe people; one of my favorite pastimes. There is so much to learn through the countless ways people express themselves and interact with others.

There are several paved paths in the park allowing walkers and runners to take different routes each time they go around the square.  It is interesting to see the paths each person chooses to walk.  Some strictly follow the square path circling the park and do not deviate from that. Others choose a different intersecting path each time, making their jaunt around the park unpredictable to those observing them. Different personalities at play.

From my bench, I spot a group of 60-something ladies in their comfy walking outfits, white shoes, and brightly colored sun visors, walking 2-3 abreast loudly chatting about the choices their grown children and grandchildren are making. The ladies appear oblivious to the rest of the park goers as they march in serious conversation often peppered with laughter, stemming from a long-time camaraderie. These ladies must know each other and the inner workings of each family on a deep level to have earned the right to share their opinions. It’s entertaining to guess how they first met and the careful dance they did around each other until familiarity, trust, and love grew into the friendship they now share. I want friendships like this – women who have a place in my heart that is so woven and interconnected that we weather all kinds of storms and victories together, never hesitating to rally around each other with love, laughter, encouragement, and respect. I am grateful for the precious women that fill this spot. I say a prayer for those I’m blessed to call friends.

Across the square, there are 4 or 5 teens hanging out at one of the tables. Backpacks, phones, and food are strewn between them as they take selfies, gossip, and laugh at TikTok videos. One young lady appears to lead the pack. When she laughs, the others laugh and when she stands up to dance to a favorite song, all eyes are on her and a couple of them get up and mimic her dancing. She is the first to grab for the snacks and the others defer. Interesting how different personality types drift together; the leaders and followers, the outgoing and introverts all have a place. As I observe them, I wonder what God’s plan is for them. They each have unique gifts and talents. It is easy to watch a strong Type A leader and imagine them going far, but sometimes it’s the quiet observers, who take it all in and ponder, who quietly take the world by storm. I pray that they each find their place and people; that there is always someone in their corner who supports and loves them deeply.

Next to the water fountain an older man takes a break from his walk. He follows the same paved path for each turn around the park. This is not the first time I have seen him here, walking his predictable route. He walks with purpose, but at a slow pace. His comfortable shoes and tan slacks with a t-shirt are his usual outfit. As he sits a spell, I notice him looking at each person as they move past him, as if willing them to notice him and spend a few minutes shooting the breeze. I’m close enough to see his wistful gaze, as if he remembers other walks in this park, perhaps with his wife or a close friend that he has since lost. Are nostalgia and memories his close friends now? It gives me an ache in my heart for him. I imagine Jesus next to him on the dark blue bench bringing him comfort, peace, and a balm for his loneliness. The ultimate best friend. I say a prayer for this gentleman, asking for some joy, peace, and camaraderie.

As the morning moves along, the playground fills with moms and kids. Different parenting styles are evident this morning and I find it fascinating. There is the group on one side of the playground, who have taken up an entire section of the granite bench that encircles the play area. They are so orderly and neat! Snacks, tiny water bottles and juice filled cups are lined up carefully. Each child is told to get a big drink and stay hydrated before going on their climbing, shrieking, energy draining adventures. Most obey and take big drinks except for a couple of them, who cannot resist the pull of play. They peek at their moms, take the tiniest, fastest sip possible and dash off. These moms seem to enjoy their together time, but always with a sharp eye on all the shenanigans happening on the slide and big climbing tunnels. I hear warnings of “be careful, slow down, that’s too high and use your words!”, shouted from the bench, all the while still managing to maintain the flow of conversation.

Another pair of moms and kids occupy a spot next to the well-organized group. These moms have a couple of backpacks full of random snacks, toys and juice boxes spilling out. They are more carefree in their playground rules. I hear less shouts and warnings from these two. They are intent on their conversation and less focused on the playground interactions, which the children are quick to take advantage of while they can.

The children and their interactions with each other are fascinating! I love how the lone child there with his mom, is included in the games and treated as if he has been part of their group forever. Easy inclusion; no posturing and judging. Adults could learn a lot from that.

Looking at these little lives, I imagine the mark each of these children will leave on the world. I ask God to smooth out and make their paths straight; to open doors that keep them going in the right direction and for His hand of protection to be all over them.

Under the leafy trees next to the pathway lies a homeless man wrapped in his sleeping bag. His isn’t sleeping. His arms are behind his head as he looks up into the leafy foliage. A suitcase full of his belongings and life is settled next to him, along with a water bottle and a crumpled chip bag.  I watch as the park walkers notice him there. The reactions are varied. A woman with her coffee and small bag of something yummy from Peets changes direction and follows a different route. Is it to avoid passing him? Does she fear having to acknowledge him or worry she will be asked for something? Others pass him by without a second glance, intent on the path in front of them or their phones. I can tell they are very aware of him, but don’t want it to be known. Are they afraid of what they don’t understand and haven’t experienced? Is it fear? What if the person suffers from mental illness and acts erratic, what do they do then? How lonely and hurtful it is to be unseen.

Eventually an older man and his dog stop and engage him. The dog sniffs and wags as the man pets and interacts, maybe for the first time in a while. After their pleasantries and chat are finished, I watch the man’s face. He looks after the one who stopped and made him feel seen. His face reflects that joy of acknowledgement and it’s a lovely thing to see. Who knows what that simple act will do for this man and his life trajectory? We never know for certain what our interaction with another human being does for them, but we can rest assured there is an effect, either positive or negative; never neutral. I offer a prayer for provision, protection, and opportunity for his circumstances to change.

There are frequently lone walkers in this park. They seem to be tranquil and at peace on the outside, but I wonder what burdens lie on their hearts. A few take a seat on benches and watch the world go by. Maybe they are taking advantage of a few moments alone to recharge. Maybe they are on a break, getting in some steps or waiting to meet a friend.

As I sit, I wonder if there are fellow people watchers quietly observing me. Are they trying to divine what I’m about, what my facial expressions and body language are speaking and what my heart holds? I wonder if they can tell that I’m a fellow observer trying to glean insight into the human spirit.

Psalm 139:2-3 (ESV), says, “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.”

God is the ultimate people watcher. He sees, knows, and discerns everything we are about and all that hurts us and heals us. It makes me happy to know how carefully watched over and known I am. We only see what people choose to reveal and try to discern what it all means, but God…He knows our inner workings, sees past the persona we offer to the world and the parts we so desperately want to hide. To be fully know and greatly adored; that is relief, rest, and peace.

A shout out to…

A big shout out to the talented and amazing women that I am working with to get my book, Divine Encounters… published on Amazon KDP.

Pia Edberg, http://www.piaedberg.com, edited the manuscript. She did a fantastic job, very thorough, easy and fun to work with, gave great feedback and was always on schedule. She is full of tips and advice on publishing, social media, etc. Thank you, Pia!

Karolina Wudniack, http://www.karolinawudniak.com, designed the book cover and is currently working with me on the interior layout of the book, formatting, back cover, etc. Karolina is great at what she does! She took my ideas for the cover and created one that I absolutely love! The interior she is creating, is wonderful so far. Karolina is fun, easy to work with, funny and creative. She gives great feedback with all kinds of technical things that I don’t quite understand, haha, and is right on schedule. Thank you, Karolina!

Jessie Cunniffe, Book Blurb Magic, is helping with the book’s blurb. It isn’t so easy to write the blurb for your own work, I’m discovering. We just started working together, so I’m eager to see what we come up with as the final product. Thank you, Jessie!

So, if you decide you have a story to tell and want to take the plunge, please give a look to these talented women to give you a hand. You won’t regret it.

Cheers!

More news!

Hi friends,

I wanted to share the link to the new author page I set up on Facebook. You can find me at https://www.facebook.com/MelissaGiomiauthor. If you are on Facebook you can search @MelissaGiomiauthor.

My book, Divine Encounters… is in the interior design and layout phase right now. It is so exciting for me to see it all coming together. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Looking forward to where this will lead and the next steps God has planned out for me and for this book that He inspired me to write.

Have a fantastic day!

Meadow

Standing at the edge of the alpine meadow my coffee mug is warm in my hands. A beautiful balance to the chill air. Ahhh…

Under the towering Sugar Pines, I take a few moments to soak in the first glimpse. My senses are awake and receptive drinking it in. There is a physical sensation of being pulled and beckoned, compelling me to go out in the meadow. This is my place. Belonging.

Leisurely walking the boardwalk, I notice the sights, sounds, and smells that make up this lovely place. Earthy, elemental, fresh yet ancient is what comes to mind. I pause to deeply breathe in the air, cleansed by so many Sugar Pines, Giant Sequoias and Cedars.

The meadow is already alive with creatures going about their business. The shiny black birds and bright, bold Tanagers call, dive, and swoop as they greet each other and share the meadow gossip. Flitting insects and seeds make up their breakfast. They light on the tip top of the purple-blue lupine, singing and swaying with the breeze that ruffles the meadow flowers and leafy plants. Joyful!

There is a greyed and hollowed out fallen tree with gnarled branches and bits of decayed roots lying across part of the meadow. A small tree is growing up from the edge of one of the dead branches. I wonder what creatures call the nooks and crannies home? Grass in varying shades of green, and bright yellow Sneezeweed, tiny white flowers and deep purple lupines have grown up around the old tree like an embrace. These colorful flowers create a gorgeous living carpet. Breathtaking.

Walking further in, I find the perfect spot to sit. Settling in, I am at peace. A feeling of being welcomed, rooted, and folded in, as if I belong here, in sync with the mystery and rhythm of the meadow. Connected.

I hear a rustling scurry in the clump of meadow flowers just below and to the left of my spot. A small grey-brown head peeks up and watches me, judging and spying. Deemed safe, the chipmunk darts across the boardwalk continuing his morning journey. I’m curious what the day holds for him/her. Purpose.

Trickling and whispering, the little meadow stream bubbles and flows out into the meadow. Tiny insects dip and float on the clear water. Other creatures scratch and rustle in the crowded marshy earth, searching for an appetizing addition to their breakfast.  I don’t know its source, but as the season pushes on the stream will slow and the water will pool, creating a new habitat that sustains those late summer and early fall plants, flowers, and creatures. Seasons.

The morning light filtered through the tree branches at the edge of the meadow casts a mysterious, divine glow, as the summer sun rises. The rays force their way between pinecone laden branches burnishing the meadow with a lemony, pure, white light. Each light ray is distinct and discernable, stretching out beyond the trees to touch a specific spot.  These bold rays are in sharp contrast to the meadow area still in shadows. The lighting produces an ethereal, other worldly feeling where one might fancy seeing a forest sprite or fairy, dancing and flitting through old growth and flowers. A supernatural spotlight.

The Divine is palpable and alive in this place. The Creator is here in this beautiful meadow. It is ancient ways, knowledge and mystery, the connection between living things and continuous rebirth.

The cool morning air is becoming warmer as the sun continues its climb. I have been out here for a while, feeling as one with nature and this meadow. The early morning creature energy is slowing to a lazier, relaxed pace, slipping into the routine and warmth of late morning and early afternoon.

It is time to get on with the day. I feel melancholy and wistful as my time in the meadow comes to an end for this trip. Life will go on uninterrupted after I head down the mountain. It is as if I’m leaving part of myself here with the meadow to be picked up at my next visit; to recharge and restore what life has depleted. Is it strange to feel so connected to a place?  

Divine connections and encounters are a blessing. It feels like hope.  I will treasure these sights, scents, and sounds until next time, when I sense the meadow’s welcoming arms and soothing call to come and sit a spell.

The old barn

I glimpse it from the country road. It’s down the next gentle curve, off on a little used side road, possibly forgotten; full of ruts, some potholes and waving, faded wild flowers; abandoned yet peaceful. This calls to me. So beautiful.

Turning off the road, I follow the pocked and tumbled lane, carefully maneuvering, following the faded track to the old, falling down barn. It’s graceful and lovely. There is history here. Stories abound within these wind and weather scoured timbers. I need to see it, feel it, breathe it in.

Pulling off the jutted lane, I stop the car, quietly get out and just stand a minute. Absorbing, listening, watching. The silence begins to speak and it is a beautiful language, the silence. I know it well and it feels like a comfortable old quilt; old, wise, full of life and so many possibilities. It has so much to say; and the wisdom – the wisdom gained from silence is not lost on me.

To the left of the ramshackle barn, an old oak tree still casts shade and shadows; it has weathered much. A thick, frayed rope swings lightly in the breeze. Maybe a tire swing hung there, propelling its riders on so many adventures; the freedom of flight!

There’s a bird house tacked to the upper part of the old oak that’s seen better days. Part of the tiny roof is missing and something has gnawed a small hole in the floor of it. Someone, a child perhaps, painted a welcome sign above the bitty door to the birdhouse. Welcome Home, it says, in faded orange paint. Closing my eyes, I see and hear the many families this old house has sheltered through the years. Mamas and babies and the first tentative attempts at flight; the swooping, diving, bug catching and seed collecting. Nature doing its thing in a never ending cycle.

Standing in the silence, I hear a cheeky giggling, bubbling coming from the other side of the barn. A creek! Gingerly making my way, I brush through tall meadow grasses and an assortment of wild flowers that have claimed the long forgotten space. The happy water-sounds call to me. I find the creek and simply watch for a bit; listening and observing. I don’t know the origin of this pretty creek. It snakes through the gentle rises and falls of this land, making its way to the destination meant for it. It is not daunted by obstacles. It goes over, under or around as it can; it always finds a way and there is always a path for it – an end-point. I wonder if it knows that it carries so much life in its twists and turns and frothy bubbling. On the quieter edges, I see tiny fish gathering in the sunny spots and darting away as my shadow falls on them. I think I see a crawdad and I hear a wood pecker hammering on the old oak. I spend some time here by this creek. The joy in the nature-chatter of it makes me feel happy and somehow ancient and in tune with Mother Earth.

The abandoned barn still beckons and I respond. I imagine it in its heyday. I think it was a reddish color, but it is so weathered and sun and wind burned that it’s exact color is hard to determine. How proud it must have looked when it was first erected! I picture pick up trucks full of neighbors and wood and nails, helping build it. The lively shouts and laughter as they worked together must have been comforting and friendly. Was there a barn raising party here after the work was done? It’s big enough inside that I envision a long trestle table filled with vittles and cold lemonade and ice water. Comradery. Life lived and protected under the timbers and beams.

A rusted old pitchfork is leaning jauntily against what looks like an old stall. Did a horse live here? The railings are falling down and a couple are broken and jagged. Further in, old withered ropes are looped on lichen covered hooks and a broken-down wheel barrow sits. There is a remnant of loft beams overhead, long tumbled and rickety. A hole in the roof speaks of heavy snows that over the years weakened and dashed the beams. How lovely, quiet and breath-taking this barn must be, covered in the powdery white of a snow-fall. I will be back to see that.

Large tufts of grasses, a ripped old sack and abandoned hay look to be patted down, in the left side corner of the old barn. A creature finds shelter here, warm and safe, despite the battered look of this old barn. Looks are deceiving. The barn’s skeleton and frame are still useful and needed. Life is still very much present here. I find that comforting. The outer glory and flash of this barn may be diminished, but it still shelters. It is still needed, but in a quieter and gentler way. Roof beams directly above me have been claimed as home by birds. I can see the nests, abandoned at the moment, but ready for the return of nature; all in its perfect timing.

The large, half cracked open door at the back of the barn, hangs on dilapidated hinges that have their fair share of rust; parts of them just holes, eaten through by time, wind, heat. I carefully make my way to that door. There on the side beam that forms the support for the door, is the name Jill, written in squiggly, nail-cut writing. There is a heart and a cat and a smiley face etched nearby. This barn had stories and adventures lived out inside it’s walls. I wonder if Jill told this old barn her secrets; are they contained in the walls and the beams?

The wind picks up a bit and through the chinks and cracks, it whispers and sighs. Its breath is new and fresh, yet has all the undercurrents of time passed, secrets and hints of the supernatural Divine. The old and ancient, ramshackle and run-down have so much to teach us. Nothing is entirely as it seems on first look. What appears to be abandoned and useless often carries far more than the passing glance reveals. Life needs the old things. Cracked and weathered beams still protect and teach and shelter. There are safe, soft corners that can be missed if overlooked.

A squirrel chatters nearby and a bird trills and scolds. I give another look and listen to the old barn. It is time to go. I won’t soon forget this old barn. What a welcome detour it has been, this reconnection to the silence and healing of the old, time-worn and abandoned. “Thank you,” I tell it. “I will be back.”

He will see to it

I wonder if this will ring true for you, as it does for me? Will it hit a tender spot in your soul? Will we give that tender, carefully guarded wounding to the One who can heal it? It may seem gloomy and dire at first glance, but reality always has that aspect to it, doesn’t it? I believe that in order to see light and some hope, the hard, rough, frail parts of life must be seen and known; openly acknowledged for what they are. It isn’t always pretty on the surface. Maybe if we go below the surface seen, a different kind of beauty will be there waiting; a different kind of rest. Provision. Peace. Stillness. Will you look with me?

I’m tired, I’m weary; some days weary to the literal bone. My heart and soul have questions that I know I will not get the answers to on this side of heaven. That is not what overthinkers want to hear! My mind strives and spins in search of the “whys”, the “should haves” and the “if onlys”. For me, in this season, it is the whys of illness and surgeries. When will it be enough? When can my body rest? When will I have some peace and silence? Silence from constant world-chatter, arrogant opinions, ruthless maneuvering and diagnoses that are unwelcome. It is also the whys of friendships that end, dissolve, fade; some slowly, methodically and probably expected, and others surprisingly abrupt and hurtful. Should I have done this or that? Do I let it be?

Worry and overthinking are beliefs that God will not get this right, whatever the “this” is for you and for me. It is belief gone wrong. I have to go back to what I know about the Lord. I have to purposefully shift my mind to remember His promises and character. It’s hard and deliberate and I don’t always want to make the effort. I’m worn out and angry. I have to look below the surface of all that is swirling and clamoring; the noise and chaos trying to lay claim to my peace and faith. I need to remember all the ways I have been healed and provided for; all the ways He has taken those things that I saw as evil and impossible and used them for good; miracles that only I have seen, but profoundly changed me. In times of loneliness, He has been so near and spoken beautiful, soul-deep words and promises that no human could provide, but Him; words that would have been drowned out by expectations of others and their views and opinions. It is remembering that not a single thing happens that He does not see and that He does not allow to first pass through His hands, before it can touch me, touch you. This remembering does not magically make the pain, loneliness and fear go away. We are still humans with emotions and breaking points, worries and tears. But…the Lord sees, He will see to it. The Lord always sees; you, me, what they did and didn’t do, how you were treated, what the Dr does and doesn’t say. The life-tapestry being woven for you, for me, is beyond our limited vision, but is always seen and hand crafted by a unique God-design that is never wrong, never too much, too little or inadequate in any way. It is just what is needed. It’s exactly enough.

Can we pause for a minute and listen soul-deep? Ah, the mysterious, lovely and precious things He wants us to know! Below the surface, there is good and beauty and it has happened, it is happening and intertwining in the midst of reality and God sees it all. He is calm and He sees. He sees the tired body, the wounded heart, the panic and striving, as well as the victories, joy and laughter. He sees what is coming in the next minute, the next month, in12 years. He will see to it. “The act of God’s seeing means God acts. God’s observing means He always serves. This is the thing: your God’s constant vision is your constant provision.” (1) Can you see it?

Here is the beauty of faith; we may not see the provision right away and at times it won’t feel like provision and tender care at all, but that honestly doesn’t matter, does it? If we have faith that He sees and provides, even if that faith is a tiny, dirtied thread that is tossed and frayed and tangled by life, we can trust we are well looked after and so well loved. Not easy, but it’s possible. Hope. If we hold on to the fact that every mountain we will ever face, the Lord will level with the right amount of grace, we will see that the Lord will provide. He sees you, He sees me, He will see to it. The Lord always sees and He will see to it. Rest is found here. Blessed, beloved, beautiful rest.

(1) The Greatest Gift, Ann Voskamp

The Lake

The path around the lake is a bit overgrown, but navigable. I wonder whose feet last hiked this trail. What were they hoping to find here at the lake, nestled in the mountain meadows? This path is not new; scuff marks from countless boots have worn a soft pathway in the alpine meadow, gently leading around the deep blue-green water of the lake. I am alone here with the only sounds being my feet, as they lead me along to my favorite spot and nature, doing its thing. Birds call and snicker to each other as I pass by, dipping and darting over the water as they snip up the buzzing, whirring insects that make the lake and tall grasses their home. Parts of the path are cool and shady, winding along under the forest canopy; then sneaking out into the open meadow with wildflowers nodding and swaying, as the breeze passes through, sighing through the canopy, and stirring my hair.

The banks of the lake are home to such diverse life, with the nooks and hollows filled with myriad water skippers, boatmen, pollywogs and tiny fish, darting and spying, as I lean down to get a closer look. How can one lake hold the life of so many creatures and plants in its watery, silty hands? Carefully kneeling, I notice the lake rushes rustle and shiver, as a creature makes its way though the slippery murk at the edge of the lake. It is totally immersed in the tall, wet grasses; hunting, watching, doing what it was meant to do. Is it a muskrat? I become as still as I can and quietly watch and wait…then yes, I see its long brown body gracefully dip under water. Bubbles breaking on the lake’s surface give away how swift he can swim, as he heads to his den in the lake bank. I have a feeling I will be carefully watched.

Moving again along the path, I pass by a cold and deep looking spot, right along the edge of the lake. There is an old, long since fallen pine tree along the banks and I wonder what fish may live in that deeper, dark part. Has a fellow hiker ever cast her fishing line in, hoping to hook a big trout? Looking carefully around the fallen pine, I notice a shallower area with sunlight filtering through the trees and spot a large crawdad, his orangey-red pincher motionless. Has it spotted me? Finding a long, slim stick, I gently submerge the tip and try to touch that claw. It is too fast for me and darts under part of the fallen pine. I smile and tell it I am sorry for disturbing its rest and get up to move along the path.

My destination on the lake is coming up soon. Just a couple more twisty turns under a low hanging branch and up and over some high raised roots and I am there. My spot is at the edge of the meadow that curves and moves along the edges of the lake. There is a sweet little mountain stream that winds its way down the slopes and forest floor, and feeds into this lake. I love this place the most. Swinging off my light backpack, I bring out what I need to get comfy here. A thick blanket, water, some vittles and my book, that probably will not be cracked open. The blanket is large enough to accommodate the various positions I may choose, as I sit, lie, stretch out and soak up my spot. The babbling, chatter of the stream as it flows, dips and rushes past forest debris, rocks and flowering plants makes me happy. It is cheerful, chatty and constant, yet completely soothes and refreshes my tired soul, as it chips away the debris of life. It leaves a tender, slightly raw place inside that revels in the solitude of nature, babbling streams, throaty frogs and cricket symphonies; gossipy, scolding birds, slithery, earthy sounds and the busy, buzzing insects. And the smells, oh the smells! Earthy, fresh and that distinctive lake smell – part mud, part plant, part fishy, part flowers and pine. It smells new, yet ancient, all at once and it is lovely.

I got an early start this morning, so have most of the afternoon ahead of me to be still, listen, daydream and let some of the heaviness go. I have needed this for a while. I am ready to soak in whatever the Creator has for me here by the lake. My mind wanders to Psalm 23, “…He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.” Renewal. Yes.

The wind has begun to sigh and whisper through the trees, as it will in the late afternoons. My signal that the sun is starting its trek to the west and sunset will soon be here. Packing up, I take another long look at the stream and the lake, drinking in my afternoon of peace and restoration. Heading back along the trail, I smile and speak aloud, ”It is well, it is well, with my soul!”

Random thoughts on quarantine, prayers and thankfulness…

This is a weird time to be in right now. The requirement of being home is quite different than wanting to be at home or choosing to be home. When I want or choose to be home, it’s like giving myself the gift of permission to just “be” and that feels safe and cozy and pleasant, something to savor and appreciate. With a lot of things feeling off kilter and out of balance, I feel a bit lost in being home and it not being my choice. Errands that were annoying and exasperating a few months ago, begin looking so lovely! An opportunity to get out! Go! Do! Accomplish! But, that’s not how life is right now. It is eerie being out, strange to feel exposed and vulnerable just doing what I always do. It is odd to need a mask on my face to feel some semblance of safety, yet not really knowing where the threat is coming from…is it the guy over there by the bread? The woman, with no mask on, coughing, by the eggs? The seemingly strong and fit younger guy browsing the veggies? Or the couple walking by with their dogs, trying to enjoy some sun? It is a disconcerting knowing there is a real threat out there but having no idea exactly where it is lurking or if I am the threat to someone else.

I love to pray, intercede and talk to Jesus during the day. There are times when I feel unsure and overwhelmed by all the need in the world and next door and in the next state and in my own home, that I literally do not know how to pray for all of this. We haven’t experienced this before and there isn’t a “set way” to do it. This truly is beyond us. But God… sitting on my patio thinking about how to pray for ALL of this, God reminded me of Romans 8:26, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” That’s comforting. He knows how this is going to turn out. He knows what He is going to do and not do, who He is going to equip and raise up for such a time as this. It’s been in preparation for eternity and this virus has not taken God by surprise. He’s gifting scientists and researchers and healthcare workers with wisdom, creativity and intellect to tackle this and we aren’t left all alone in it. Filtered through His hands. When we don’t know what or how to pray, it is perfectly ok to say, “Here it is God, here’s all the need and fear and illness and death and unknown, so just here, take it, heal it, work it out and please just give us You.” He’s enough.

There is a book I like reading each morning – Jesus Calling. I loved yesterday’s reading. “When you focus on what you don’t have or on situations that displease you, your mind also becomes darkened. You take for granted life, salvation, sunshine, flowers and countless other gifts from Me. You look for what is wrong and refuse to enjoy life until that is “fixed.” Negative focus darkens the mind. Hmmm. Yes, I think it does. Right now, there are a lot of things that are not going our way, that seem impossible to surmount, that are terrifying and unknown and create so much fear and panic and feelings of lack. I think it is healthy to acknowledge all the things that displease, frighten and anger us. If ignored and denied, those feelings and fears fester and grow and threaten to take over. But, once looked at and acknowledged, maybe we can choose to look about us with clear eyes, open minds and expansive hearts to find things to be thankful for that are good, positive and bring joy. What if we were present and not attempting to rehearse the future, imagine what post-virus life is going to be like and just be and see what is in front of us. There will be terrible things, but I need to believe there will be just as many, if not more, good things right in front of us; maybe hidden by the large looming pandemic, but still there. Simple things like warm sun, chilly rain, 11 day old baby kittens in my guest room, sunrise and sunset, birds singing, coffee on the patio, a walk in the neighborhood looking at all the flowers, the actual chance to sit, to be, to stare at nothing…

I know this is random and disjointed, so thank you for sticking with me, if you made it this far, but this is my mind right now. I don’t have this figured out and I don’t know how to do this either. I can guarantee my mind will go to dark places, probably even today, but I know I can pull my thoughts back up and refocus as many times as I need to and so can you. The one constant I know completely and has never failed me is Jesus. He’s never left us and He’s not going to now.

I pray His peace and presence all over every one of you!

It is well

Pandemic. Shortage. Lack. Hoarding. Panic. This is how it feels right now. All of social media is full of the latest death, new cases of Covid-19, rumors of martial law, people ignoring social distancing out of fear, denial, ignorance, stupidity, selfishness…it is frightening and disconcerting. We haven’t had to do this before. We don’t know how to do this and that in itself makes everything feel off balance and surreal.

The first time it really struck me and became “real” was in the grocery store not that long ago. The atmosphere was odd. People were wandering the aisles and I could see the uncertainty in their faces – how much do I buy? Will there be enough? Will we be ok? I stood still in the aisle that normally contains all types of dried beans, rice and pasta and felt totally overwhelmed. The shelves were bare. Stripped of just about everything. It was such a surreal feeling. I have never felt that way before and it felt like the footing was ripped out from under me. I stood there and wanted to cry; for the loss, the strangeness, the total unknown, the anxiety that all of that produced. I finished my shopping, but that undercurrent of unease and chaos still simmered there.

I turned on music as I put away our groceries and the song It is Well by Bethel Music started to play. I stopped, sat and listened to the lyrics. Such beautiful words. Such truth.

“And through it all, through it all, my eyes are on You. And through it all, through it all, it is well…and this mountain that’s in front of me, will be thrown into the midst of the sea…So let go my soul and trust in Him, the waves and wind still know His name…and it is well with my soul, It is well with my soul…”

God knew I was afraid, disconcerted, stressed and feeing out of control. I adore Him for gifting me with this song at that moment. I literally felt my muscles relaxing, my breathing slow and my soul calming. The wind and the waves obey His every command! They cannot cross the boundaries He has put into place without His permission. He’s got this. He’s got us.

The chaos is still here, life still remains uncertain; panic and fear prowl and sniff at our hearts and minds, looking for any tiny fissure of terror and doom, to sneak in and flourish. We don’t have to let them in. We don’t. It is very hard not to, believe me, I get it. I have to talk to myself and Jesus constantly to keep from getting sucked into chaotic thinking and trying to rehearse what will happen and how this will all turn out. I am not good at that and not always successful. I don’t know what the new normal will look like, as this virus continues to rage or what the new normal will look like once it has run it’s course. No one knows but Jesus. He knows and He isn’t afraid, He isn’t scrambling and panicking. Nothing touches us that isn’t first filtered though His hands.

I pray that as we navigate all this “new”, that we will love others and try to give lots of grace and compassion. I pray that we allow others to feel what they feel and allow ourselves to feel what we feel, because we are humans; but I pray we choose not to reside in chaos and fear, but remember that it is well and He is so very near.

 

 

Blessed

My new coffee mug has the word Blessed inscribed across the front of it; letters big and bold, like a confident declaration. When I saw that mug on the shelf, it called out to me. I had to have it; I want to feel blessed and be blessed.

This New Year’s morning, I sat at my favorite spot at my table, where I look outside my slider and watch the morning unfold. There is often a variety of early birds at the feeders who are singing, as they jostle for position, waiting their turn; sometimes with nice attitudes and other times, not. There are the other birds, scratching and scritching among the garden debris, ferreting out whatever treasures are hidden in the rich dirt. Watching these birds go about their daily business, I began to think about the word blessed. The dictionary says it means consecrated; holy; sacred; blissfully happy or contented. These words are beautiful. I do want to be these words, feel these words, live in these words.

I have often thought of living blessed and being blessed as something elusive, more like a thought or an elevated idea, than something I could truly capture, do and live inside of each day. As I pondered my birds and the beauty of a new morning, in a new year, I  began to see that the word blessed is not a higher thought on a difficult to achieve spiritual plane.

Imagine a typical day, in which you wake up and grab your coffee in your favorite mug. Perhaps you watch the morning unfold in front of you on your patio with a soft breeze floating past you; all kinds of sounds and scents in the air. What if during this peaceful time, you began to feel grateful that you are alive; able to see and smell and experience nature going about its business in the Divine order of things? Is that not be sacred and pure; bringing you bliss and contentment? What if during your ordinary day, you witness a startling and unusual act of kindness, that causes you to pause, maybe tear up and have your faith in humanity and goodness restored, if even for a moment? Is that not holy? Is that intersection of the Divine and the human, not sacred ground? Hmmm. I wonder when I’m making dinner, if I play worship music that brings me into the Divine presence of Jesus, or when I pour out my heart to my Father – the good, the terrible, the truth of my heart – on a walk in my neighborhood, if those places become sacred, holy, and divine. Blessed. Blissful happiness, contentment.

But…what if the day isn’t full of things that make me blissfully happy and content? The car accident that totals the car, the child that makes a very poor choice that has lasting ramifications and you see no clear way out of it. Maybe cruel words were hurled in the heat of the moment and they can’t be taken back. Maybe there is a diagnosis you never saw coming. Is there room here to declare “I am blessed?” Yes. Yes, you can declare yourself blessed. Some blessings come after the hurt and wounds. The Divine often shows up in miraculous ways, turning devastation into glory, failure into victory, wounding into strength and the impossible into something to be remembered in awe and reverence, because there seemed to be no good ending, yet there was.  I truly believe that to live blessed, one has to be alert and try to find it. It won’t always show up immediately and may not be dressed up in blissful happiness and a cute outfit. It may come dirty, scuffed up, straggling and a bit off kilter, but I do believe it will come. I have seen it come in both forms and both are equally holy, sacred, consecrated. Blessed.

At this start of 2020, I want to live expecting to be a blessed person. I’m not good at it yet, I confess, but I want to be. I want to bloom where I am planted and thrive there, no matter what it looks like. Maybe we can do this together? I absolutely believe that the holy, divine, sacred and blissful happiness is all around us, waiting with open arms for us to slow down and seek it. What is sought will be found. May we see it, grab hold and never let go!