Cemetery Grace

It feels healthy to me every once in awhile to sit in a cemetery, to let a cemetery sit with me. While that is undoubtedly morbid to many, it is part of my life and I find it a grace.

There is a gentle voice in the cemetery that rides the wind through the grass and speaks, “Brevity, brevity.” In that simple word it dares any soul that will hear to live fully, to fully live.

The pathetic and yet love packed bunches of plastic flowers scattered across the field seem to have eyes of their own that burrow into mine as their shadows fall on their stones. Every life will eventually lie in peace under a shadow of time, perhaps under the shadow of a plastic rose.

There are many people who are no longer with us, many, many, many, people whose lives are over. I am not one of them. Not today.

I rise with a conviction to live. Live aware of brevity. Live now.

My cemetery grace.

Advertisements

Sprinkled Surrender

They grew
And grew
And GREW
Until they could NOT GROW anymore
And then –
With their flowery heads and orange eyes
turned toward one another with a nod –
“It’s time.”
And the release began –
The letting go
The giving in
The freedom to be
And not reach anymore.
Decorating their earth with white
They sprinkled their surrender around
And let the scent of it float.
And that –
THE RELEASE –
Proved to be –
Their awaited glory.

Gray

Today the sky is gray.
Yesterday the sky was gray.
The day before that it was gray.
Last week the sky was gray.
Tomorrow the forecast is … gray.
Gray. Gray. Gray.

Meet my cloudy fog-filled mid-winter world.
Meet my cloudy fog-filled mid-winter demeanor.

I want to take a big stick and poke through the clouds today to find the sun. Or pull out our leaf blower, hold it high over my head and blow the clouds away. A cloud blower would be much more useful to me than a leaf blower anyway.

Maybe I will try.

Katie vs. the gray sky.
I need sun.

Shade

I woke up this morning out of a bazaar dream. Sunscreen. I had a dream that I put sunscreen on my face, turned around and looked into a mirror. My reflection in the mirror revealed excessive sunscreen; blobs of caulk-like white plastered around my face. I tried to rub it in, but that only made my face increasingly pale. “I didn’t even need sunscreen!” This clear thought shot through my brain and I woke up.

One foot in front of the other I crawled out of bed. Today is my first day off in a very long time. Two months ago I accepted a full time job, a very full time job. Demands and deliverables have been driving me fast, somehow graced by my own genuine excitement and sense of purpose in the role. Busy, nonetheless, very busy.

Four large trees tower over the roof of our house and I stare at their jagged branches. The leaves on them are full  – creating a canopy of shade on our deck. Shade.

The Lord watches over you. The Lord is the shade at your right hand.

The Word washes me and I hear Him, “You don’t need sunscreen, Katie. You need to respect the role of shade. Get into the shade. I am Your Shade.”

In that moment, I understand my dream:

My face – myself
Excessive sunscreen – my fear of getting burned, burned out
Mirror – a reflection of my fear
My thought – an invitation to trust God instead of self-protecting

Self-protection is a big deal. It limits my personal freedom. Trust in God to protect me in what He is calling me to is a bigger deal. It liberates my present.

Is it possible to be in full-time ministry and not burn out? I don’t mean the obvious crash, burn, and quit of external burnout. I mean the subtler, unnoticed, layers of internal burnout where people lose their personal sense of “life abundant” and “my cup overflows.”

I fear that.

The trees shake with the wind and the shade shifts.

I sense my invitation – “Don’t fear the increase, Katie, trust Me, make use of the shade.”

Its easy when people’s expectations are increasing, to start living in response to them, for them, because of them. In that space plaster me with sunscreen and even then I would probably do well to just hide. It is not safe. But … I believe there is a better way. Instead of self-protecting, I could up my ante on following Holy Spirit’s voice. Let Him be my protector; listen, respond.

When Holy Spirit says take a Sabbath – take it.
When Holy Spirit says turn off my phone – turn it off.
When Holy Spirit says walk away from a need – walk away.
When Holy Spirit says do something for myself – do it.

I think that becoming a better follower of Holy Spirit is how we can position ourselves to steward increase in a way that supports rather than threatens our personal needs. This requires a die-hard commitment to Him as the primary leader in our lives.

After all, who is really driving us? Is it Him?

It’s a brilliant hot day in my life and I plan to enjoy it.
But the dazzling favor of man, I refuse to work to maintain.

Sunscreen is not my solution.
The Shade is.

The Lord is the shade at my right hand. 

Victim or Survivor

I bend down and thumb through a pile of shells. “Victims or survivors?” I think to myself.

On one hand, these shells have been beaten, tossed, lost. They have been separated from their counterparts; textures erased by the pounding of water that spit them out of their home. Shells, literally, are all that are left, victims of the rage of the sea.

On the other hand these shells are the few who made it to the shore. Riding what came against them, they did not drowned, they did not shatter, they rode in on their opposition and are now littering the ground like gems. A whole shell cannot be taken for granted; it is most definitely – a survivor.

I worked for a few years full-time in Anti-Human Trafficking. When I first started with the organization, I was an Administrative Assistant to the Director – a passionate modern day Abolitionist. One of the values she engrained in me from the first day was, “We do not call people victims, they are survivors.” I was tasked with sorting through correspondences, articles, and materials to meticulously delete any instance of “victim of trafficking,” and replace it with “survivor of trafficking.” It seemed to me an odd pet peeve of my boss … until …

I was sitting in a prominent conference on Human Trafficking. One of the hosts escorted a young girl to the stage who had agreed to share her story. She had been trafficked and sold for sex for a number of years. At the time of this testimony, she was fourteen years old. The room stood to their feet and applauded wholeheartedly as she approached the podium. Tears streamed down our faces as we, the audience, fought to find the honor she deserved. Before she even said a word, I finally understood … survivor. Every minute I had spent deleting the word “victim” from materials about human trafficking felt well worth it. She was not a victim; she was in every sense of the word – a survivor.

Immersed in this work for a few years, I find myself living with long-term effects on my perspectives. One of these is the value of seeing people as survivors instead of victims. People may seem very broken, but what if we don’t know the half of it? What if the fact that they are even alive is testament to their strength?

Friend, consider it for yourself. What if you are not a victim of loss, divorce, addiction, abuse, disease, loneliness, rejection, re-location, miscarriages, stress, poverty, disappointment, etc. What if you are a survivor? What if you are one of the few who hit the shore with a determination not to give up on life after internal or external pain that could easily have shattered you and left you on the bottom of the sea?

And consider it for others. What if the pain people have endured needs to be honored before they know they have the strength to heal?

I have found that seeing people as survivors empowers them to understand their own strength, which in turn inspires them to heal. I cannot tell you how many people have begun to heal from the simple recognition of, “Your pain matters, and I am amazed that you have gotten to where you are today.”

You, my friend, are in my book – a survivor.

… and so is that tattered homeless man you pass every day.

Dare to see.

Survivor = “a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship or set back.”

A pile of shells.
A pile of prized heroes who are – against all odds – here.