My Ark

Rest and Resiliency ~ What am I learning?

Needing to come up for air after two crazy years — good crazy, hard crazy, busy crazy years, God led me to focus on the words rest and resiliency for 2017. I sectioned off a new place in my journal to record what I’m learning.

Several pages are dedicated to the Noah narrative. The name Noah (in Hebrew noach), means rest. “and called his name Noah, saying … this one shall bring us relief …” Genesis 5:29.  Like Noah, I’m building an ark, a safe place to withstand the floods of life. An ark that is fit for the next decade of my life. My guess is the floods are not going to subside; my hope is that my ark will help me live resiliently even while the storms are battering on every side. In the future I’ll share more about my ark, for now here are the pieces of the keel.

  1. Physical rest bows to soul rest. (Eugene Peterson)
  2. Pay attention to bubbles of grief that might be below the surface. (Kimberley Knochel)
  3. Steward my emotions and tell myself truth. (Mark Bates)
  4. Honor my circumstances and listen to my desires. (Dan Allender)
  5. I don’t need to lower my expectations; I need to adjust them. (Linda Bonorden)
  6. My calendar is not my decision-maker.
  7. I need to make HARD decisions (canceling our trip to Illinois, OUCH).
  8. Listen to my body. God knit it together.
  9. Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light …” Like a lighthouse warning of unseen dangers below the surface.
  10. The chains still rattle and remember those chains are lies. (Bill Tell)

Jean Fleming’s excellent work, Pursue the Intentional Life, shares much wisdom as she purposefully looks ahead to her remaining years and desires to honor God with her life. I cannot recommend it highly enough. As my husband tells the college students when he comes across an invaluable resource, “Sell your bed and buy it!”

This is one quote from Jean’s book that I copied to my journal.

“Reframing means keeping what is important but wisely reconfiguring as necessary
… Reframing, like sonnet writing,
always requires creativity, humility, and surrender to the imposed limits.”
(p. 139)

I’m looking forward to one of those mile-stone birthdays this summer.                                                      What would be your wisdom for me as I shape my ark for this next phase of life?
Do you have favorite authors, scriptures, prayers that bless you as you look to the future?          Will you share them?

 

 

A Trip to the Cabin, Our Sanctuary

“Better is a handful of quietness
than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.”
Ecclesiastes 4:6

Last week Bill and I took a one-day road trip to our cabin in the Wet Mountains.

You might ask, Is the 2 1/2 hour drive worth a few hours away? A resounding yes!

The would-ofs (computer work), could-ofs (coffee with a friend), should-ofs (dusting) all left behind, bowing to the call of our sanctuary, to quietness, to rest.

It was good–very, very good.

“We are worth time set apart for rest because God is worthy of our attention.”
Rhythms of Rest,
Shelly Miller, p. 128

There was physical rest. I took that nap I never gift myself on the weekdays at home. There was soul rest, a day to breathe deeply, a day to be, the handful of quietness trumping the toil of computer work, and striving after the wind (I’ve learned the dust returns).

For a while in the afternoon I enjoyed our deck and zero-gravity chair while reading Jean Fleming’s Pursue the Intentional Life. My underlines and margin notes testifying to the fact that God was speaking to me through Jean’s words. My soul responded.

The word invest stood out in chapter 20. When I invest time in the beauty and quietness of the mountains, in the solitude our off-the-grid cabin offers, I find my soul restored. Physical weariness not cured in one day, but somehow different; it’s a good weary.

John Ortberg in his book, Soul Keeping, reminds, “When my will is consistently, freely, joyfully aligned with what I most deeply value, my soul finds rest. That is wholeness. When I live with half-hearted devotion, my soul is always strained.” (p. 68)

In January I penned this post on Isaiah 30:15. It was the beginning of my journey of rest and resiliency, my words for 2017.

Reflecting on The Gallop

What is restful for you?
How do you feed your soul?

Shame, Control, Trust

I don’t often talk of this part of my journey. Because I remember the sting, the hurt, the I don’t deserve this feelings. And a piece of me does not want to re-live those times. But I’m compelled to share the shame of these stories. Because shame is epidemic.

My Shame

One incident led to changing our wedding plans.
A second incident led to loss of promotion and loss of salary.
A third led to loss of my perceived identity.
I was shamed.

In each case someone with ability to change the outcome was silent. And in each case, they later admitted their silence to me about the wrong that came my way. The wrong continued.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
I John 1:7 (underlines mine)

My Desire

Walking in light.
Fellowshipping with you.
Cleansing from sin.

My First Response

I worked at hiding my shame. I donned a smiley-face mask to communicate this isn’t bothering me. I’m more mature than your accusations.
And
I took the responsibility of defending God. After all, He is sovereign and my response will prove I believe it. I will make sure He looks good.

I worked hard at controlling.

On the plus side God gifted me with safe friends. I confided my real me and my hurt. My words were heard; I was loved well; I experienced grace.

“A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.”
Proverbs 17:17

Proverbs 17:17 was lived out for me; I experienced the truth of that scripture. My friends helped carry the burden.

But what about the last phrase of I John 1:7? You know, the one about cleansing from sin.  What was the sin? What needed cleansing in me?

Inside each incident was sin. I was sinned against. My sin was in my response, my attempted control.

All my shame responses screamed control! I will attempt to control what you think of me. I will attempt to control what you think of God. Control, the polar opposite of trust.

As those three incidents unfolded, control was not part of my thinking; it was ingrained in my reactions. The shame continued for years until I released my control and learned to trust God.

As I opened my tight grip, I saw each hard incident through God’s eyes. I saw his desire that I trust his control; I knew what needed the cleansing that I John 1:7 speaks of.

Five Big Lessons

  1. God has not lost control! Sins against me don’t change the truth. God still loves me. I John 3:1.
  2. God didn’t spare Jesus from hard things. In John 17:23, Jesus prays that God would love us, as He loves him. My hards allow me to experience God in new ways.
  3. God’s plan for me is to mature by his love. Hard times grow holiness like sandpaper smoothing rough edges. “Long before he laid down the earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love”. Ephesians 4:21, The Message.
  4. I am called to “ … proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”. I Peter 2:9. So I share this story.
  5. These incidents clarify ministry for me. Ministry is not living from a role or title. It’s giving up control and walking in trust. Ministry is stewardship of the story God allowed in my life.

“as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed,
but that with full courage now as always
Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Philippians 1:20

How has sharing your shame lightened your load?
When are you tempted to try and control your situations?
How has God developed trust in your life?

This Isn’t Something I Talk About A lot …

This Thursday, I invite you to listen to God through the words of my friend,
Emily P. Freeman. Thank you Emily for letting me share your post.

“One Surprising Way I Found Relief From Anxiety

Ten years ago this month, I was in the midst of the most anxiety-ridden time of my life. This isn’t something I talk about a lot, but I come from a long line of worriers – gentle, hilarious, kind, gracious worriers”.

Click here for the rest of Emily’s wise words.

Emily and I met in person last November at a Hope*Writers retreat. What a gift that weekend was. Besides meeting Emily in person–and several other new friends, those few days have influenced my communicating with you.

Do you have secrets – you know those things you often don’t bring into the light? I do. And next Thursday I’m sharing something I don’t talk about a lot. I’m learning that when I take off my masks, come out from my hiding that not only does it bring relief and rest to me, but it does to my friends as well. More often I’m hearing, Really? Me too! My heart is to offer relief to my friends, and I’m learning my story does that. Will you join me?

I’ve used one of Emily’s books, Grace for the Good Girl, letting go of the try-hard life,  several times as I meet with women and discuss this journey of grace. I commend it to you.

Looking forward to hearing from you, Sue

Thursday Connections

I awake on Thursday mornings anticipating two special connections.

I connect with you through a new Echoes of Grace post. And I love when you connect with me through your encouragements and questions. You can comment publicly in the comments below, or privately by email, sue@suetell.com. If you haven’t signed up to receive these posts in your inbox each week, please do. Then we won’t miss a week of connecting.

And I look forward to Thursday mornings each week to connect with God. Thursday is my sabbath morning. It starts with sitting, coffee, a time of quiet, and enjoying whatever God decides to serve up that day outside my triple window. (In warmer weather, I take this sacred time outside).

My morning progresses. I open my Bible, my journal, often my art journal to capture with color the words I’m hearing. God and I converse through my prayers for you and for others. Sometimes words fill blank pages with verse like, Today is a SIT Day, that I share below. (Originally penned three years ago in the summer, I changed a few lines to reflect the now, the winter).

I keep these sacred few hours each week non-scheduled, following the lead of the One I enjoy. Do you have a sabbath time? What does it look like for you? I love sharing ideas and learning from others.

My friend Nancy enjoying a sabbath time at Glen Eyrie on a warm winter day.

Today is a SIT day,
A day to be,
A day to listen,
A day to ponder.

Today is a SIT day,
A day without schedule,
A day without have-to’s,
A day to follow the lead of Another.

Today is a SIT day,
A slow walk day,
An enjoy the soft snowflakes day,
A feel the cool breeze on my face day.

Today is a SIT day,
A no errand day,
A no project day,
A simple day.

Today is a SIT day,
A play day,
A Sabbath day,
An away-from day.

Tomorrow is a Martha day,
A different gift from God day,
A unique, special day,
BUT
Today is a Mary day.

“And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.”
Luke 10:39

 

 

 

 

Without a Niche

Niche – A comfortable place, or status, or position appropriate for a person. From google and the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Why was a niche so important to me?
What did the niche provide for me?
How did the niche develop?
Who affirmed my niche?
When did I feel most secure in the niche?

It all started with missing the early morning flight. The small airport had few passengers that day. My friend and I chatted comfortably as I waited for the boarding announcement. Every few minutes I glanced at the clock. Shouldn’t we be boarding by now? Isn’t it time to walk through the security turnstile? I waited (bad choice). No announcement. Finally I go to the desk and ask. Oh, our public address system is out of order. Your plane is taxiing down the runway right now. Without me!

I WAS MAD!

Because I missed that plane, my niche was in jeopardy (or so I thought). My significance, my role, my worth, all on the line.

There was a later plane. And the niche I was missing could easily be filled (and was) by another.

But the issue rested in why was the niche so important to me? (And the other above questions).

That niche represented my misplaced identity.

The weekend went downhill, the discouragements unrelenting.

I gave up. I didn’t care. I’d put on a mask and pretended all was well.

It was my lowest point spiritually; and a turning point.

Could I understand that pain as part of my gospel journey? How I answer that question makes all the difference.

“Come to me … my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
from Matthew 11:28-30, NLT

That weekend the burden was heavy. The come to me invitation drowned by my perception of the circumstances. The drone of my perceived reality deafening the beautiful melody God was orchestrating.

I had always had a niche, a team, a place of belonging.

God was gently (although it didn’t seem gentle) chipping away at my external support system. He wanted to be my support.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD,
plans for welfare … to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11, ESV

That weekend, the truth of Jeremiah 29:11 never entered my thinking. To jump into the deep end and trust God’s good plan was anathema. God was going to need to initiate. And isn’t that so like God? He is always the initiator.

“We love because he first loved us.”
I John 4:19, ESV

God knew his niche for me, his place of belonging, his supports, his destiny for me with my name written all over it.

This was new (for me, not for God). My known-ness had always rested in a recognizable team, had dictated my worth, was the place I expected fruit, was now resting in God’s love.

My ears were becoming attuned to God. My niche not dependent on airplanes.

Although my specifics are different from Abram, I hear God saying,

“I will make of you …
I will bless you …
you will be …”
from Genesis 12:2, ESV

Easy ~ A Soul Word

“Easy is a soul word, not a circumstance word … The soul was not made for an easy life. The soul was made for an easy yoke.” (p. 126 Soul Keeping, John Ortberg)

For over 25 years I worked with a national sales company. The products fit my life style and extrovert that I am, I loved the party plan.

My achievements led to my significance. Sustaining that significance offered acceptance by the company and by my peers and ultimately for me.

But oh the burden. If I didn’t keep it up, my acceptance floundered.

Achievement > Significance + Sustenance = Acceptance. 
Climbing the ladder of Works.

Do you see it? WORKS!!! When I stopped performing, my acceptance dwindled. For an extrovert  that is devastating. And exhausting. Circumstances ruled. My soul un-involved, life not easy.

For a while I could do it. The new relationships, the fun of the party, the income fueled my motivation. The acceptance followed. But it depended on WORKS! Eventually the paradigm crumbled.

A good thing. After 26 years, I hung up that hat.

Reading Soul Keeping last summer, this story came to mind illustrating again how diametrically opposed works is from grace.

As the meeting that evening at our church drew to a close, and the sanctuary emptied of hundreds of ladies, I sat rooted on the pew, tears streaming. I got it. I realized I had made a sub-conscious vow that caused me to live with the goal of proving I was good enough. The Holy Spirit through the speaker brought awareness. My ladder of success was leaning against a wall that could not support it. I worked hard to achieve and was somewhat successful; my significance glowed when others noticed.

Grace starts with realizing my acceptance, my child of God status that is never in jeopardy. As I meditate of my acceptance (sustaining it), my significance is secure. And as I live out my significance, there is achievement fruit (in Bible words). My child of God identity (my acceptance) yields the achievement, not the other way around. My soul thrives; the yoke easy.

Acceptance + Sustenance > Significance = Achievement.
Experiencing the ladder of grace.

My achievements rest on knowing my acceptance. I breathe more easily just typing those words.

When Jesus was baptized, before his earthly ministry began, the Spirit affirmed his identity,
“You are my beloved son.” Jesus heard these same words right before the cross on the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.”

His beloved-ness, his identity (his acceptance) ushered him into ministry and was God’s affirmation at the end of his life. It fueled his life. His significance secure in the love of his Father.

But sometimes I get tired … really tired! If Jesus’ yoke is easy, why is life feeling so heavy?

I’m forgetting. The temptations the devil offered Jesus all depended upon his forgetting his acceptance as the beloved. It didn’t work. Unlike Jesus, sometimes I forget my identity and believe my achievements depend on my works, not grace, not living out my acceptance as a beloved daughter.

Sometimes it’s my calendar. I let my times of solitude and listening get squeezed. Or white space takes on a hue.

Sometimes it’s my thinking – you know, it’s all up to me.

Sometimes it’s forgetting those other things that are life-fulfilling … like Scrabble with Bill, my walks with my dog, coffee or a good movie with a friend. These keep my yoke easy.

An easy yoke communicates grace and that my achievements rest on my acceptance. My soul breathes holy air. It is good.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Psalm 23:1-3 (bolding, mine)

 

 

 

 

Rocks, Ruts, and Roadways

January – a bumpy ride with glorious vistas.

Not one to make new year’s resolutions, the thought of one word for the year intrigued me. Although the word rest kept surfacing, when my friend mentioned resiliency, it clicked. My life resembled a rubber-band stretched taunt, no resiliency, lacking the ability to snap back. I seems I’d forgotten my own wisdom.

With my understanding of resiliency entrenched in my thinking, my decisions, and my prayers, I walked into the new year. Already, I’ve tripped on rocks; I’ve stumbled in and out of ruts; I’ve been encouraged by some glorious vistas along the road. And I’m re-learning the truth of Isaiah 55:8.

Rock-shaped Invitations

Traveling is part of my reality. Visiting family most often requires airports. Ministry opportunities abound. Sometimes I travel alone, often Bill and I go together. I’ve heard myself say, As much as I love each trip, I wish they were a bit spread out.

As December turned to January airports were curiously missing (not completely) from my calendar. It felt good, space to build resiliency.

Then the invitations started; I dug in my heels as I perceived the invitations as rocks. The still small voice whispered, Sue are you willing to trust me with these rocks? Will you allow me to define resiliency for you?

I have not RSVP-ed to all the invitations yet. I have RSVP-ed to God, Yes, I know I cannot protect myself. Thank you for taking that responsibility.

Ruts, some good, some not

I’m an initiator. That’s part of my creation – a good thing. Inviting flows naturally: a friend over for lunch, another to meet for coffee, ask the neighbors in for a Valentine Tea – it’s a rut that easily happens. One summer about five years ago, I sensed God wanted me to put that piece on hold for June, July, and August. I’m sensing the same now. I need to climb out of this good rut for a bit.

Sometimes I just can’t help myself. Here’s an invitation for you.
If you have not already signed up for the Echoes of Grace community, please do.
In a few days I’m sending those in the community, a copy of my S-C plan,
a spiritual habit that has transformed my devotional life.
You can print it out and stick it in your Bible or journal.
But I need your email.

Back to my thoughts on ruts …

One of my not good ruts is a lie that haunts me, I’m not good enough. I’ve known this for a long time and I also know how to defeat it with truth. I am very good. I have the DNA of godliness. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My guess is because you are reading this, you are too. But our enemy is alive. As new opportunities come, my default isn’t always truth. Lies drain. Truth fills.

Resiliency rests on my recognizing my good ruts and my not good ruts.

Roadway Vistas

Thank you to my nephew Greg for this beautiful view.

Beautiful vistas are life giving.

Paul reminds me in Ephesians 2:10, that God has prepared me for his purposes and I’m to walk in them. Ahhhh, walking, breathe deeply, enjoy the visitas – so life-giving.

Jeff, my son offered this understanding of Psalm 16:11, our boundary lines are in pleasant places, not because of where they are, but because of who put them there.

Often comfort food novels bring times to enjoy the road. Jan Karon is one of my favorite authors in this category.

I find sitting by the side of the road enjoying vistas fosters resiliency.

Vistas along the roadway happen in many forms: words, views, quietness, and more. Each offers hope, space, resiliency.

I’m learning. What about you? How do you snap back? What offers resiliency to you?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”
Isaiah 55:8

Anecdote, Antidote and Anger

On August 1, five months ago (it’s written in my journal), I woke up disappointed ANGRY at Bill. I don’t remember why … I’m glad I didn’t write that part.

Before my feet touched the floor, I prayed, God, what would it look like to trust you today?

The prayer I voice almost every day was especially needed that day.

About an hour later, I sat on our swing with John Ortberg’s book Soul Keeping in hand. The chapter titled, The Soul Needs Gratitude was my reading that morning. I learned the Hebrew term for gratitude literally means, “recognizing the good” and involves three factors, three bene’s (the Latin word meaning good). Hmmm, why didn’t I remember that from my high school Latin? But I digress.

  1. Benefit – “Bless the LORD, o my soul, and forget not all his benefits,” Psalm 103:2. Good springs from God.
  2. Benefactor – do you almost see the word factory? A benefactor is one who does good. As a Christian, I believe that it is God’s factory creating the good that comes my way. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above …” James 1:17
  3. Beneficiary – that’s me, the one who receives the good gifts from God who always has my best interests in his heart. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

God graciously allowed my anger to be reformatted, realigned, and dissipate that morning as I remembered the goods I was experiencing.

One of my goods that came to mind was a conversation with Diane last spring. She and I were getting to know each other during our annual mission’s conference. As we shared our stories, we were amazed at how our journeys were intersecting. It was the beginning of a deepening friendship which is growing through texting prayer requests and scripture to each other. Diane’s friendship is one of my gifts.

A few weeks ago we received Diane and Bill’s Christmas letter. Between April and December 2016, Diane kept a thankfulness list recording a whopping 4360 entries! (Move over Ann*) I knew the circumstances of Diane’s life; I did not know of her thankfulness list. She tells me her list, born out of a daily wrestling and need to reformat and realign her thinking, was like putting on corrective lenses, clarifying her focus, and enabling her to see God and his grace more clearly.

Her entries spanned the death of her dad, the continuing saga of her mom living with progressive dementia, and their 35 year old daughter’s episode with cardiac arrest. A BIG thank you is that God spared her life and she is now back at work.

Diane’s journey fleshed out Ortberg’s teaching.

  1. Thankfulness reformats our thinking. We remember God’s benefits.
  2. The source of our thankfulness is God, our benefactor, not our circumstances.
  3. The habit of recording our thankfulnesses, recognizing we are the beneficiary, is the reason we can rest in peace that passes understanding. Philippians 4:7

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts … And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly …
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Colossians 3:16-17

*Ann Voskamp’s book, 1000 Gifts spent 60 weeks on the NYT’s Best Seller List and has ministered extensively around the world.

Wiggle-Room

Rachel celebrated her 30th milestone last July.

She connected with several of us (older, ah-hem) friends asking for a gift – our gift of words written on a card and delivered by snail mail. How old-fashion.

I loved it. Rachel is a wise woman. She hunts wisdom and listens well.

How would I respond?
What scripture would I share?

One concept kept re-surfacing – wiggle-room. Guarding space for the unexpected; planning for the unknown.

Spiritually speaking, wiggle-room is a necessary ingredient of Sabbath-living*, my designated time for enjoying the friendship of God.

But there is more … three lessons I practice to preserve wiggle-room (and my sanity).

  1. White-space on my calendar is as much of an event as the doctor appointment, or lunch with my friend. It is my designated time for rest and re-fueling. I keep a weekly white-space day. One of my goals for that day is to not need car keys. And Bill and I reserve a white-space month every summer for time at our small cabin in the mountains. We call it our Sanctuary.
  2. I don’t need to create ministry. God whispered those words to me almost 15 years ago. I love ministry to women! Creative ways to live that out abound. As God fleshed out his meaning for me, I learned that my most significant context is my normal world. Ministry surrounds me. Live inside my God-created boundaries and ministry will happen. Psalm 16:6.
  3. The need is not the call. I could do that, but should I? I’m learning that the word should is a yellow-flashing light. I need to slow down and look both ways. Look back to how God has been speaking; look forward to how this need might effect my now. The needs will always exceed my capacity.

Two scriptures I regularly pray over, John 1:12 and I John 3:1 both call us children. Children need protection. After Noah, his family, and all the creatures were safely inside the ark, Genesis 7:16 (NLT) records, “… then the Lord closed the door …” It is frightening to think what might have transpired, if God had not closed the door on his children. God closing doors is a good thing. It preserves wiggle-room.

I don’t always follow my own wisdom well, but referring back to and praying over these principles provide guidance as new opportunities come.

Last summer I invited Jo and Kathy to a course on living in the reality of applied grace (my name for the High Trust Leader certificate. Please ask.) Both intrigued, both drawn, both prayed.

Jo signed on the dotted line.
Kathy declined … but please ask again.

Both considered wiggle-room. Jo opted out of another small group to make space; Kathy is one semester away from finishing another online course. It was easy to affirm the decisions of both my friends. They were living the way I want to live, considering wiggle-room.

The scripture I shared with Rachel was from I Thessalonians 1 in The Message, “God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special … Something happened in you … Your life is echoing the Master’s Word …” (I changed it to the first person.)

What helps you from becoming overwhelmed by opportunities?
Do you have scriptures that provide guidance for you? Please share. You’ll encourage us all.

 

*To learn more about my Sabbath-Living retreats, and how I facilitate the opportunity for my friends to grow in enjoying the friendship of God, scroll back to the top and click on Sabbath-Living (the third offering on the pink line).