When You’re Truly NOT Enough

Writing in community again today with Kate Motaung and the flash-writing mob at Five Minute Friday, where today the free-write prompt word is…

Weak.

 

Sometimes you’re utterly weak.

Sometimes you get down so low you don’t think you can go any lower.

Sometimes the circumstances really do overwhelm.

Sometimes you don’t even know what to do or say, let alone have the strength of character to stand up and say or do it.

Sometimes God really does give you more than you can handle.

Sometimes you are not enough.

 

At least those things are all true of me.

But here’s the dynamite thing:

That’s when I have accomplished the most astounding things in my life—that’s when I’ve stood tall and strong (and I’m not even tall) and spoken courage (and I’m not courageous), that’s when I’ve met the challenge without a flinch (when just a moment before I was knee-knocking trembling). That’s when I have amazed myself as well as other people, doing what I couldn’t do.

“How can that be?” you say.

Because then it wasn’t really me doing the doing. Because “When I am weak, then I am strong,” because “[God’s] power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9-10). Because it was at those times when I found myself slamming up against such impossibility, that I not only knew I couldn’t do what was needed, but I also recognized Who could, and my heart strained toward Him, crying, “Help!” Because (unfortunately) it usually takes times like these to goad me to the end of myself, to the end of my own slippery, fraying rope, and down onto my knees, to pray my wisest sort of prayer: “God, I can’t do this! You’ll have to do it in me, through me.”

For His power is made perfect in weakness.

If I were pressed to name a “life verse,” I think this would be it. It has certainly been the theme of my life that when I came to the end of all my meager strength and flailing, failing efforts, or else knew from the start that I was not enough for the challenge before me, that’s when I did far beyond what I could do. For that was when I most fervently and completely turned to God and prayed, and looked to Him to be my strength and wisdom and all the rest, and let him act.

And that’s when He most remarkably did.

Because His “power is made perfect in weakness.”

Same tree as in the photo above. (The one standing tallest and strongest.)

*****

If Only I Could Feel Safe

Writing in fellowship with the Five Minute Friday crowd, on the word prompt, “Safe“…

I couldn’t get to sleep last night. My heart beat fast. The thoughts wound round and round and round inside my head, my breaths came quick, quick, quick.

Safe. If only I could feel safe.

I sat and tried to slow. I drew breath in, then exhaled deep, I counted slowly as I breathed. I searched for calming music, fastened it to my ears, my head. I closed my eyes, tried to picture lapping waves, a muted sunset on a shore, a grassy meadow, blades of green like hula skirts dancing in the breeze.

My shoulder muscles still felt tight, but it was better, just a bit.

Safe. That’s the thing. If only I could just feel safe. I could handle the rest of it.

The music wasn’t really working like I’d hoped.

I turned it off, sat still, and closed my eyes again.

I prayed. Psalm 4. Earnestly. “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness. You have relieved me in my distress. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer…”

I turned to Psalm 91, my Bible near me on the table by my side. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge, and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust…”

The words were going into my head, but my heart still pumped a faster pace than bedtime peace, those muscles still were taut.

Then it came to me–the suggested reading I’d been revisiting from last month’s retreat: John 14-17, specifically…

Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in me…” (John 14:1).

I sat back in my chair. “Oh, Lord!” I sighed, remembering times before when, like a child with a bundle in her hands, outstretched them out to give the burden up to a Daddy who could carry it, long and far and weightless to Him, and how He gave relief, release, back then…

I did that now, all those worries bundled up, I lifted up.

“Please take it, Lord.”

I did it once. I did it twice, and maybe thrice, and then at last, the burden left. I knew it lay in able hands. And now I thought that I might even manage to “both lay me down in peace and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps 4:8). [And I did.]

Sometimes it’s a struggle; my stubborn will just won’t let go. But struggling and calling Him to enable me and take the fret, eventually it comes: release and peace.

And how do I feel now? “Like a weaned child with his mother. Like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Ps 131:2), resting settled under the shadow of His wings (Ps 36:7; 91:4).

The Texture of Silence

I always thought of texture as “the feel of a thing,” also as an art element. (You depict the texture of tree bark one way, pansy petals another, unspun wool yet another…)


But Kel Rolf at Soul Pantry has expanded my understanding. By definition texture also means means “the structure, essential part, substance…, or character” of a thing.

Now when I think of the “texture” of silence as its essential nature, it opens up a lot of thought about how that can vary, according to our perceptions, mindset, and circumstances–considerably. As the following incident illustrates:

Sunday evening. I’m sitting in my “quiet room.” I’ve just put a few thoughts on paper. Never mind their content, because my thinking has just shifted.

Suddenly I’m thinking of silence, because I’ve started wishing for more of it.

Husband has turned on the movie, Chariots of Fire, in the room beneath me. Though a “good” movie (if not entirely accurate historically), right now it’s “unwanted material” cluttering my mind.

So how shall I remedy this problem? Or should I just give up and go watch the movie?

Seems a fairly unimportant question. But it’s not—not in my present desire for greater spiritual refinement, and the helpful role that “silence” plays in attaining it..

Undecided, I descend to the kitchen to return a glass, and find its door closed and the dishwasher running. I know Husband has closed it to block this noise from interfering with his hearing the movie.

Entering and pulling the door closed behind me, I find an odd thing happening. The dishwasher’s sound is welcoming, because it drowns out the TV noises that distracted me, with their sudden changes of varied music, cheering crowds, etc.

Abruptly I scoot back upstairs and grab my journal, along with dictionary, to look up “silent.” The definition that resonates most as I sit now with it at the kitchen table is…

free from sound or noise”

Now I find interesting my word choices in the paragraph above. I called the audible emanations from the dishwasher “sound” and those of the TV “noises.” “Noise” is unwanted, “sound” not necessarily so.

Indeed, places where I find welcoming “silence” are not devoid of sounds. Bird songs, cricket chirps, brook babblimgs may fill them, or, inside, some gentle music may soothe. In fact, on my way home from the “silent” retreat, I stopped at a favorite shopping spot and bought a set of hanging bamboo “chimes” to dangle in my garden come spring to add more ambiance of quiet and peace. And the last previous purchase I made there was an indoor fountain, for the sound of gently cascading water to enhance my indoor “silence.”

Right now what I find soothing is the drying phase of the dishwasher, breathing out its steam, and even the hum of refrigerator motor joining in. These two are the present guardians of my “silence” by their gentle override freeing me from noises that distract.

I smile. How very odd! Or is it?

Here there’s no speech, no uttered words—something usually quite good at distracting me, because I’m so much a “word person,” and my main learning mode’s auditory. Here instead is just steady hum and continuous “fo-o-o-o-osh…” and almost hidden amid that mix the muted ticking of a clock.

So I am sweetly glad I have chosen this place of odd “silence,” because I’m finding the thoughts of my mind and the leanings of my heart drawn into holy hush.

That movie beyond the door somewhere (beyond my muffled hearing) is commendable in many ways, I know from having seen it often, but what’s happening here, around and in me is better—a “strangely warmed” state of heart, as by a very gentle “refining fire.” I even seem to sense the presence of God Himself.

So for a moment I just sit silent, unmoving, soaking up that sense of God’s presence, and thanking Him for it, without any spoken words, but with a soul full up with gratitude.

*****

What “texture” of “silence” do you like?

What sounds enhance “silence” for you?

My Venture into “Creative” Journaling

If the RJD (Random Journal Day) link-up was still operating, I’d be posting some personal journal excerpt today. So, what a good time to share my first attempts at “creative” journaling, incorporating “art” of some kind to express the heart! The journal used is the complimentary one I received at the Silent Sanctuary Retreat I’ve been writing about. [Text accompanying scribbles and paste-ups is lightly edited in the transcription below.]

I’m considering “creative” journaling on the next few pages, incorporating art/collage/ color/found-words with writing…  I’m giving myself some prompts that might aid me:

  • Find and use a sticker or cut-out that seems to express your feelings or mental state now. Or…
  • Use word(s) or phrase(s) from magazines, newspaper, etc. [or…]
  • Color part of the page with whatever color strikes you as appropriate. [Or…]
  • If a shape represented your state right now, what would it be?

[“Creative journaling” text:]

I feel all over the place, kind of ADHD, kind of tense, even kind of shaky, though I don’t know why. It seems I’ve wasted my morning. Yet my afternoon remains—with quiet opportunity for silent solitude and all.

I start to write, cross out things, scribble over, feel loser-ish.

Picking a color from the markers—purple, but dark—I draw ragged lines [at the page’s edge]. I pick a second color, a brown. It’s running out of ink, I discover, as I echo purple[’s lines] with it.

Then I try drawing random lines through the page’s middle portion. Afterward, I sit back, scrutinize, consider… What came out of this looks remarkably like… a dragon! Well. That’s interesting…, isn’t it?

I pull out a couple of my “scraps and stickers” plastic mini-drawers I think might hold something appropriate—“Floral and Victorian” and “Nature.”

What’s on top grabs hold of my heart. It’s a [gutted] Hallmark card, evidently one sent me, here for recycle. But it’s so nice I think I shouldn’t “waste” it! Hm!

In defiance of this niggardliness toward myself, I quickly grab a glue stick and paste it down. It’s beautiful in a dark and somber way, and I love it, even love the black ribbon tied ’round it. As soon as I saw it, it brought to mind the page I’d ripped from a magazine to remind myself to look for a small dogwood tree to plant in my bounded garden come spring.

So I go fetch that page from a different room.

I see this card’s flower isn’t a dogwood, and I’m not sure what it is. Magnolia, perhaps? Nevertheless, it may be its reminding of the dogwood that made me want to use it here. So I cut out parts of dogwood blossom pictures, to place here in this journal…

…What was I “wasting” time on this morning? Watching garden programs and looking at garden files and magazines, to plan a fuller garden for this year—a garden intended, in part at least—and maybe in quite large part, at that—to be a meeting place with God, whose designing and planting honor Him.

Not such a waste of time after all, I see!

____________________________________________________

1/28/17

(Continuation/Sequel to previous two pages)

Boy, I can be hard on myself! Boy, I can become a mouthpiece for that old serpent-dragon, the accuser of the brethren (and “sistern”)—against my very self!

I wonder why that is. But rather than conjecture on that here, I peer into the plastic mini-drawer which held the card that “spoke” to me, and right there, beneath where it lay, I see roses. One on a Dayspring bookmark, the other two stamped metallic on manila cardstock.

With thoughts of the last journal page still on my heart/mind, I also recall just seeing two programs about roses this morning during my “time wasting,” one of which explained the symbolism of the rose, especially the red rose, as representative of love. So naturally I’m moved to color the bookmark’s rose a nice red. I retrieve my Caran D’Ache water color crayons, dip a fine paint brush into the jar of water I keep handy now on my art table, and dab away.

Once the rose is red, the leaves want to be green.

Meanwhile, the metallic roses, when moved about in the light, reveal red mixed with, or beneath, the gold. The stems are silver because I chose it to represent me as SylvR.

So it’s really odd and amazing how I’ve been hesitating to cut them out because—no kidding—I was thinking I ought to save, not waste them! This is perfectly ridiculous because I can easily duplicate them with materials I have.

Wow, I see why I chose “kind” as my 2016 “one word,” meant to practice on myself! Seems it would be good to carry it into 2017, at least for cases like today’s, where I am inclined to hold back from myself even tiny blessings I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to bestow on someone else.

But oh, how these roses, appearing when they have, speak to me of the great, kind love that Christ does not hold back from me! And now I am remembering what I once intended the stamped roses for: a Christmas card quoting from “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” which rose in the song indeed refers to Christ.

How appropriate the verse at the foot of this page! How wonderful and amazing the love of Christ, our ever-blooming rose of love!

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the (wo)man who takes refuge in Him.” -Psalm 34:8

___________________

And now I decide to add one more “creative journaling” page, because it follows through on the above. Its prompt, from some website I can’t remember, said to choose a word or phrase you want to remember and write it repeatedly over a page, but with different kinds of lettering fonts and styles. This is what I did:

*****

A reminder for the weekend, and the coming week, to “Be kind to yourself,” and “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

When Cars—and People—Can’t Breathe

Writing in company this morning with the bloggers gathered at Five Minute Friday, on the word prompt “Breathe.”

“I’m in the wrong lane!” I realize. My memorized directions served me well till now, but they only went this far. I thought I could check the next lap somehow before this, but couldn’t till pulling up to this light. Too much demanded my undivided attention.

But now my gut tells me I chose wrong and the directions printout on the car seat agrees.

So I make my way through the busy business area, searching for a good turn-around spot—hopefully one where I can just stop a while and simply sit and breathe.

Besides, that dashboard warning going, “Bing! Bing! Bing!” back there in the crowded six-lane traffic needs investigation. And the car itself seems ready to pass out, after chug-chug-chugging away so sluggishly, as if 65 mph was pushing it way past its limits.

Spotting a motel complex to the left, I sigh relief. I turn, pull in, put the car in park, turn off the motor—and deep-sigh yet again. And I decide, right then and there, to give myself a full ten minutes. I drop my hands from the steering wheel, lean back in my seat… and breathe.

Those exhales are important, I’ve come to learn. The Asthma Association taught me that. Trouble from asthma comes from not being able to get rid of what’s inside to make room for fresh oxygen to come in. So they advise you to do a breathing exercise while walking: Inhale to the count of four, exhale to the count of six, steadily blowing out what’s inside through lips pursed as if to whistle.

The relax-and-live-better coaches advise something similar. Inhale naturally, then exhale long and slow, as long as you can. Release the burden and relax the taut chords.

Later at the retreat I’m also asked, “What do you need to let go of to be fully present this weekend?” and am advised to let go of that as I exhale, then inhale what I need from God. And a handout sheet quotes John 20:23, “Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”

Even the car, it turns out, had a similar problem (besides what the dashboard warning was binging about). Closer investigation under the hood (later) revealed leaves from last autumn surrounding the air filter, making the engine, as Husband described it, “Starved for oxygen.”

Is it just a coincidence that I read Psalm 55:23 this morning?

Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will sustain you” (verse 23).

I don’t think so.

What burden is under your hood that you need to “exhale,” get out of the way, and cast (roll) onto the LORD, so you can better breathe in the things of His Spirit? When can you take ten minutes to “breathe” and release it? How about now?