I resolve

For 2020, I resolve to be here. The last four or five years (yikes, too long!) I’ve been sidetracked with everything from repeat infections, mold remediation in our house, to repeat surgeries, on and on. It seemed like every time I was ready to stand up and “get things done, and get back to my writing,” I was hit with something new, or an old thing with another face. It was like the stories my mother enjoyed telling. Crawling out back in the grass with our goat Minerva, I’d raise my little diapered derrière, trying to stand up and walk. However, Minerva couldn’t resist that big white target. She’d come running and butt me flat on my face, while my parents laughed from the porch.

Being blindsided and flattened is far too achingly familiar.

After working with various doctors and a nutritionist, lots of testing, tons of supplements, a thousand diet changes and increasing sensitives and allergies, I’m improving, but still measuring out my energy with a teaspoon.

2019 was a year for me to go deeper. I read a study from California about how Adverse Childhood Experiences set people up for chronic and life-shortening illnesses. By quick count, I had at least eight major Adverse Childhood Events by the time I was five, a statistic that says I should have died a few decades ago. That depressed me until I realized it means I have fought. I have grown stronger. I persevered, in spite of it all.  And, most importantly, I realized I have never been alone.

I allowed myself to look with compassion at the pain within and found the silent infant alone in her crib while her mother tried to woo her wayward husband back, the toddler still crying, unconsoled in the grass, the shy child terrified by her father’s hands and voice, the young girl utterly alone, caring for siblings only years younger, the world looming cold and threatening. So much shaking fear.

There is much I would like to share with you about this journey, and probably will, but today I want simply to assure you that God is always at work. Though often not the way we would write the script, He is creating something more wonderful than we can ask for or imagine. And this life, this world, is only the beginning.

But I’m not giving up on this life to merely wait for heaven. There is value in living well, living with wholeness, even if we are sick or in pain.

Especially then.

As many others have, this past year a group of us asked God to give us a word for the year. “Abide” keeping popping up for me. I wanted something more active, brighter, and something that would mean I’d spend less time in bed and more time accomplishing my goals. But I have learned this year how powerful it is to abide. It begins with reading his love letter in the Bible and listening. Learning to meditate has helped me slow my racing mind and sit in his bright love.

I have allowed the silent infant to cry out and abide in His loving presence. The toddler learned to abide in His consoling embrace. The frightened and lonely little girl began to run into his arms. I’m learning to really let His love soak deep into every hurting, crippled part of me.

That is abiding.

The word I’m hearing for 2020 is “New.” Once again, it’s not flashy or active sounding, but the time I’ve spent abiding has given me hope that New really can happen in my life.

I resolve to be alert, to be present in my life, to deeply experience feeling chosen, being custom-made to praise Him.

Janie 4th grade
Janie 4th grade Virginia Beach, VA
© Jane Foard Thompson
In the silence of the desert
Wailing seal © Jack H Thompson
Wailing Galapagos seal © Jack H Thompson
Maui waves, JHT
Maui waves

 

“This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies— they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’ —the coyotes and the buzzards— Because I provided water in the desert, rivers through the sun-baked earth, Drinking water for the people I chose, the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me.
Isaiah 43:16-21 MSG

Is there a word that highlights the year ahead for you?

I’m on the downhill slope in life.  I could almost hear massive calendar pages turning today, the 1st of January.  Initially, I cringed with a flicker of panic. I might not live long enough to write everything I want to write! There’s so much more I want to do!DSC_0035-1

Then I caught my self and remembered my resolution:        No more striving to do it right. No more yardstick in my mind when I get in bed at night, measuring my day, my words, my actions, or lack thereof– always finding myself wanting. No more (pitiful) efforts toward House Beautiful (I’d already given up on the yard) or photo-ready outfits.

No more turning dreams into bullet-point goals that I use to beat myself up when I don‘t reach them, when “life gets in the way.”

No more waiting to live when I am well, or stronger, get it all right, or finally get all my piles sorted and my mom’s boxes emptied in the attic.

My resolution for 2019 is to live right now. Invest in this moment, because it really is all I have.

(Anyone figured any other way?)

I learned as a child to postpone my life and not feel emotions. I’ve been on a long journey to being wholly present.  I’m waking up to really living and want to make the moments count.

If this hasn’t been an issue for you, perhaps you are tempted to stop reading.

But I find many around me struggling for other reasons. We have so much motion, activity, so much noise in our world. So much interaction with screens in place of in-the-flesh people.

Our culture is simmering us, slowly, in a pot of our own making.

Well, this frog is jumping out.

Recently, at just the right time, my daughter handed me a copy of Present Over Perfect, Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful way of Living, Zondervan, by Shauna Niequist.

I’m savoring every page.

Present over perfect living is real over image, connection over comparing, meaning over mania, depth over artifice. Present over perfect living is the risky and revolutionary belief that the world God has created is beautiful and valuable on its own terms, and that it doesn’t need to be zhuzzed up and fancy in order to be wonderful.

Sink deeply into the world as it stands. Breathe in the smell of rain and scuff of leaves as they scrape across driveways on windy nights. This is where life is, not in some imaginary, photo-shopped dreamland. Here. Now. You, just as you are. Me, just as I am. This world, just as it is. This is the good stuff. This is the best stuff there is. Perfect has nothing on truly, completely, wide-eyed, open-souled present.” p130

No more lists of changes for 2019.

I’m singing along with Marcia Ramirez: There’s a Reason

I’m letting go of trying to be in control. There’s a reason He is God and I am not. And I’m so glad!

 

with grandsElysse loves lifeJT1_0281Jeremiah badmittonJT1_0370So I’ll simply love on my family, enjoy my dog, relish friendships, bask in worship and beautiful music, and relax into soft Florida breezes.

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And I’ll have more tea parties, with fine china.

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How about you? Where does 2019 find you?

Preparing the way?

This weekend we began the observance of Advent. The Coming. I heard a lot of teaching and songs about getting ready, preparing ourselves. My mind wanders back to a cold December night in Oswego, NY. I scrape frost from the window and watch snow falling in the street light. A white Christmas must make it better, at least that what the songs says–dreaming of it. And sleighs can’t be jingling their bells that make everyone happy unless there is snow to slide on. But when I drop the curtain and return to wrapping gifts, I wonder what I can do. How do I prepare enough to make Christmas right? To keep us all safe?

We are one-less this Christmas, though his name is never spoken. Mac’s stocking is missing when we unpack the ornaments and decorations. My three-year-old brother, who drowned last summer, loved everyone. He always sang “Jesus Loves Me” while he played. He begged us to sit in the front pew in church so he could greet Jesus (and sing with gusto, though his hymnal was upside down and he was one syllable behind the choir). What did Mac do wrong?

In my ten-year-old mind, if we please God, then good things happen to us. So if bad things happen, we must be doing something wrong.

What did I do wrong?

And what can I do this Christmas to get the baby back in the manger?

It has taken many decades to purge my thoughts of the lies about being able to do it all right, and make it all right.

But it is easy to slide back into polish-yourself-up-and-get-presentable thinking.

When you hear, “Prepare the way,” do you go there, too, either by decorating beautifully, or baking up a storm, trying to create the magic that we wish is Christmas? Or buying the best gifts ever? Singing fantastic Christmas music, or decorating the church, or taking food to the poor? By being nice when you want to curse or helping someone you might usually ignore? Maybe you even read the Bible more or go to church when you don’t feel like it?

We have a million different ways to try to pave our way to the manger.

Or perhaps you shy from the light, feeling you don’t deserve to go in there, where candles flicker, and “Come, oh come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel…” drifts out the open door?

Maybe you are the one closest to the truth.

We don’t deserve to creep up the manger.

We don’t deserve a Redeemer.

We don’t deserve Abundant Life.

It’s all a gift.

Once again, I go to my favorite prophet, Isaiah, who calls to us from the very distant past.

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought GOD’s saving power would look like this? Isaiah 53: 1 MSG

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am GOD, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you…That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you. “So don’t be afraid: I’m with you.
Isaiah 43 2-5 MSG

Reassured, I flip forward, spanning centuries, and land on the book written by the youngest follower of Jesus, John. He called himself the one Jesus loved.

How loved he must have felt to write that!

Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!—came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out. The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life he brings into Light…whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.
John 1:3-4,9,12 MSG

Tonight, I’ll our Advent candle in peace, knowing I can’t, and don’t have to make myself, my home, my family, my writing — anything perfect for Christmas. I can give up trying to make everything right (again).

I don’t need to try to be the savior.

He came as an infant over 2,000 years ago, and made the way for us that we could never reach on our own.

That’s why those angels were singing!

I think I’ll hum along.