Crema

noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

When Opposites Attract February 8, 2016

During the 10 hour drive between MI and Iowa, the adult passengers shared stories of people with somewhat opposite personalities, strengths, interests, and characteristics finding one another, pursuing one another and resulting in marriage. No one intentionally sought out an opposite, but attraction to the opposite was the common thread in every story.  Also common was that the differences have worked together not against the relationship.   In fact the opposite qualities become complimentary over time. My own experience would say that is because I’ve pushed back less, and appreciated the differences more;  I rely on what my hubby is wired to contribute and accept his ‘opposite’ as necessary to bringing out the best in me – and our ‘opposites’ functioning together bring out the best in us.

Turns out, this opposite attractiveness shows up in circumstances as well as in people.  I have a fresh experience that I need to write down somewhere.  Its too much for me to hide, to keep to myself.  And because it’s raw, real, recent, there is no filter.   My father has pancreatic and liver cancer.  He responded well to chemo for months, but in the last few weeks has made the shift to facing end-of-life rather than more treatment. He is still living with love, in faith, not in fear.    My brother Jim and I (we both live out of state) got to be with my dad and my mom this past week.  And really – we did a lot more being than doing. That doesn’t feel like much, but its good.  My brother Jeff and wife Sara who live there are so present, kind, compassionate.  Their little kiddos are refreshing diffusers of the intensity.   So thankful for this time to be together.  However, during this same week, some many-year, long-story unfortunate circumstantial crap stirred itself up.  Just trying to write that sentence sucks air out of my lungs, makes my hands shake.  Does anyone else relate to hard things piling up – coming at you in multiples?  Sheesh.  It nearly wrecked me.  Nearly.  Thank you friends for phone calls/texts; you people who I know well – who know me well, and who know yourselves the wallop of hard things.  In one conversation the words of Psalm 23 about the darkest valley (or valley of the shadow of death) came up and the truth that its real but we can “walk” through it because were not alone in it.  I would admit sometimes the walking looks more like crawling with bloodshot eyes, snot running out of your nose, gasping for air.  Or looks like fist pounding on what seems like steel doors, crying for mercy.   We’re not alone.  The opposite of the darkest valley makes me vividly aware of my need for the Presence of Jesus.

The valley of the shadow of death isn’t imaginary.  It isn’t figurative.  The shadowy valley of darkness isn’t inviting or attractive, never on someone’s bucket list.  No one will escape it.  Though most will want to avoid walking through it themselves or with someone they love.  Normal.   I find its hard to breathe and my chest feels tight and I can’t swallow easily  when I’m walking through that valley myself or alongside someone.  A sense of helplessness bounces off the valley walls: ‘I can’t make this go away; I HATE this; I can’t DO anything to change the outcome; I can’t fix anything; I have no control; I don’t want this to be happening.’ It is threatening and oppressive – alone.   Ps 23: 4 “Even though I walk through the darkest valley I will fear no evil for You (Jesus) are with me;  your rod and your staff will comfort me.”  I will walk through dark valleys but I can without fear…and with provision, protection, comfort, peace – the Light.  You can too; we are NOT alone.

Joy meet grief.  Sorrow meet beauty.  Celebration meet suffering.  Dark valley meet Light. These opposites actually seem to attract.  My friend Rachel told me about an unreal circumstance her friend is living right now, unborn baby, cancer.  no No NO.  Same story: best doctors available, treatment, plans for summer, and the beauty of a Spirit filled prayer.  Please – pray for Rachels friend, her name is Rachel.

And Please don’t push back on the light in your own life, maybe a birthday celebration, maybe a baby on the way,  an engagement, vacation, a childs school program, the job you like, a snow day, even if you also have unreal circumstances in your life – in your friend, family, neighbors life.

Yesterday Dirk the pastor told the story of Elijah who was in the darkest valley; ( I Kings 19 ), Elijah who just had his life threatened by a nasty angry kings wife; a prophet who had ENOUGH; a man of great faith who was just done; who was afraid; who ran away – away from people and places and civilization.  He got to the wilderness alone, away from the dark place, but not really away from the fear or feelings of being overwhelmed.  He lands under a bush and actually prays this prayer:  “Enough of this God, take my life, I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave.”  Then he falls asleep.  I hate to admit, but I get you Elijah.  I relate to the fear for my life, to the having had enough, to the desire to run far away from people, places, civilization.  Anyone else want out of the dark valley?

Thank goodness Dirk the pastor included the next 5 verses.  Here is where the opposite of despair shows up.  An angel shakes Elijah awake and fixes him breakfast!  More sleep, more food and he is ready to take up a long journey to a place where God Himself comes to Elijah in a gentle whisper and sets him back on his feet, back on task. Dark doesn’t win.  I again relate to this story – arriving home, exhausted and waking up to someone making me a great cup of coffee and an spinach, egg, and cheese mexican breakfast torte smothered in Nanita’s hot green chili.  Thanks JR,  you angel you.

People, please believe me.  God is for real.  He is good.  He is greater than the darkness which is also so very real and no one denies.    Don’t push back on Who the Light Is.  If you are curious or skeptic, desperate or not; if you have sat in a church for years and are pretending to believe but really don’t, or have never asked a single question about God – Please just ask God to show Himself to you.  He will.  I can’t help but share what is so real for me in the current dark valley.  I don’t know too many people who haven’t lived through rough patches.  What I know to be true is that the greatest opposite of those places, of those people, of those circumstances is the way Jesus shows up, encourages me and sets me back on my feet – back to living.  He is doing that now.  The cancer isn’t gone, the crap isn’t gone, I’m not done walking through.  But I didn’t run and die alone under a bush.  And I know for certain – I am not walking through alone.

Are you in a dark or dangerous place?  Is hard piling up?  Wanna run?  Too overwhelmed to even know what you need?  This is true: You Are Not Alone.  God is everywhere and will not let you be overcome.  As we are unique, our circumstances unique, God meets us uniquely.

Sometimes it begins with breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 29: Good Things in Stinky Cans November 6, 2013

Final Button 3Part of  today’s post is another repeat from 4 years ago, but it applies to this day, this moment and I needed the reminder. It is more about cat food than people food.

When we moved to SoFL we knew there would be surprises.   We did not expect them to come in the form of real estate.  I know that in the big scheme of life this is minor and momentary, but JR reminded me that I don’t have to deny that it’s discouraging.  Closing on the little townhouse by the sea was set for tomorrow.  That’s not happening.  “Temporary setback;  a minor hiccup; an unfortunate delay” are the sentences I read from realtors and mortgage brokers today.  Hopefully that is true.  Today though, the emotional pot got all stirred up and it just smells stinky.  I will therefore share this earlier post as it was helpful to me.  And when, yes WHEN something good happens, I will report that too.

I will also provide pictures of Pekoe this time.  She is good for a laugh if anyone out there needs that today besides me!

Pekoe is our cross-eyed cat.  She is also cross-bred Siamese & Russian Blue which makes for a super soft, significantly shedding cat coat.  She only likes canned cat food.  She would rather starve than eat that crunchy stuff.  Have you ever smelled a can of cat food?  Stinky!  Pekoe loves it, lives on it. 

Yesterday, I was opening a can of tuna for lunch and started laughing at the realization I too eat stinky food from a can.  A tuna sandwich is a good thing, but the smell of it strongly resembles cat food. 

There are moments in my days, days in my months, seasons in my years that have really stunk.  Circumstances with loss; situations of change; episodes of aggravation;   happenings of hard times; matters of adversity;  scenes of stress and strain; conditions of complication; occasions of anxiety; cases of crisis.  I do not live for them. I do not love them.     

I have found good things in all these stinky cans.  Although the discovery of good isn’t always immediate, it’s always there.   I am often slow to embrace the gifts that are found in the seasons, months, days of what seems repulsive and rotten. I want simplicity and strength.   I need comfort and kindness & encouragement.  I want peace and contentment.  I crave perspective and perseverance and progress.  I hope for wholeness.  These are what I love, what I live on. 

Maybe Pekoe has a cross-sense of smell.  Maybe she knows that the great things in life don’t always smell like it. 

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Day 28: Hearing His Voice November 5, 2013

Final Button 3There are several places I can hear the Originator, Author, Creator.  He speaks the perfect Love Language,  sometimes in conviction, sometimes with clarity, so often summoning me to trust without understanding.  I’m learning to pay attention to His Voice, especially in these places:  ironing space, cooking space, & walking the dog places.  My heart ears are more tuned in, less distracted.  So it is with awe and wonder I receive thoughts from my daughter on baking bread and conflict.  I believe she too is hearing His Voice as she learns the love language of food.

She gave me permission to share.

“Today, baking bread reminds me of conflict.  You see, baking bread takes time. So does conflict. It isn’t something that you can plan into your schedule, or check off of your to-do list. Conflict is often a lengthy process. It is crucial to understand that time spent on resolving conflict is valuable and necessary. Time also allows healing.  It allows those engaged in conflict to come to a new place of understanding. 

You have to stick your hands in the dough and knead it until your forearms are sore. Conflict is the same way:  it requires hard work,  is not “hands-off” or something that one person can back out of.  If they do, the level of conflict might increase, or the friendship could end.  Dough sticks on your hands, fingers, fingernails. Even if you wash it off, remnants remain and crust over until you scratch them off.  Stickiness is also a factor of conflict.  It sticks on your mind, your spirit, your heart.   Sometimes, it does leave small scars that you “scratch” off.  Scars may remind you of the friendship that had to end, or the conflict that improved the friendship.

Baking bread requires multiple tries, and most of the time, much attention to detail. You normally don’t get it right the first time. Or the second. By time five, maybe you have begun to get a handle on things.  During the first (second, third, fourth, fifth) time that you are baking bread, it takes laughter and a great sense of humor to realize that you misread the recipe, and didn’t add enough water to the mix. Once you realize you have misread the recipe, you call your grandma and ask her for help. She gives you wisdom that should have been obvious in the current situation, but clearly that wisdom hadn’t dawned on you. You follow her directions (even when the bread seems hopeless and dry as play-doh) and find that there is hope for the bread (even if it is a little chunky on the inside).   Friendships often need multiple tries.   No one understands friendship or executes it perfectly at any point in life. Laughter is a key ingredient and is always welcome in friendship, and can be used with discretion during times of conflict.  In the midst of conflict, calling a wiser friend, parent, sibling or relative can give perspective, wisdom, joy, and reassurance.

Bread baking is messy.  There may times during the baking process that you need someone to pull up your sleeves and tell you how much flour you have on your sweatshirt. Similarly, friends involved in conflict need to confess their own failures, and express what the other friend did that hurt them.  

Baking bread requires space and creativity & time to rest.   Once you get through the process of mixing the ingredients, you have to let it sit.  And you wait. When the time comes, you punch it down and then let it rise all over again.  Friends must realize that giving each other space during a time of conflict is vital. Space allows for rest, reflection, perspective.  Issues that initiated conflict need time to “sit,” so that they are not blown out of proportion. Sometimes, the issues need re-assessment, or punching down. This re-assessment can allow friends to widen their perspectives, and understand the truth of the issues, not what was assumed.

 Finally, you bake that dough and something beautiful comes from it (hopefully).  You may realize the process is just as memorable as the product.  One of the best parts of friendship is resolving conflict.  Friends may find that conflict helped them to grow as people and as friends.  That’s beautiful.”

 

Here are some pictures of Lauren and a really good friend Scotch, who worked through a lot of conflict.  The results of that friendship…Absolutely Beautiful.

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followingthewatershed

wa·ter·shed (noun) 1. an area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas. 2. an event or period marking a turning point, a change of course.

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noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

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noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

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