b*ponders :: in my father’s arms

When I was a kid, I can’t tell you how many times I skinned my knees, or fell and gashed an elbow. I was that rough and tumble tomboy, always getting bruised and scraped up. I rarely cried, because I wanted to be strong, capable and “okay”. Instead, I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and kept on running. The exception, however, was when I took a nasty spill and was picked up by someone else; my dad. In his arms, all my fear and hurt came to the surface in a snotty mess of tears. In his arms, I could be small and weak and yet completely loved and safe. To this day, when I am hurting, a conversation with my dad makes me come undone. I rarely cry, but I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve poured out my hurts and fears and confusion in an ugly, blubbering mess of tears to my dad on the phone. There is something about the grip of his love towards me that makes my facade of strength come crashing down.

Sometimes things in life don’t make sense. Sometimes as much I desperately try to pick myself up, brush myself off, and keep running, inside I’m just a little girl who is scraped up and hurting, ready to come apart. It’s in these moments, that I find myself running into my heavenly Father’s arms. There is such safety and comfort there. I know I don’t have to be strong or capable or pretend like everything is okay when it’s not. My Father loves me. Not for my capability or productivity or mastery of relationship. He loves me because I am his child. He loves to comfort me, because he is my dad. He loves when I run to him and come completely unglued. In my weakness, he is strong. He is my shelter, my rock, my safety, the one who rescues me and hides me.

The lesson I’ve been learning lately is this: the Christian life looks an awful lot like a bruised and scraped up child being picked up, comforted and held in the arms of their father.

b*ponders :: small, needy, loved

I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere in the span of my two week trip to Sedona, I became absolutely convinced of my utter smallness. The hugeness of the landscape filled me with a sense of awe. VAST is just one word to describe the vistas in every direction.

The grandeur of my natural surroundings, coupled with my inner struggle and desperation resulted in what I would call a perfect storm. I felt like a speck of sand under a wide, blue sky.

Have you ever considered your smallness? Have you ever thought about your complete dependence on the Creator of the universe? Have you pondered the fact that you can do nothing on your own? Think about it. Every breath is a miracle. We can no sooner control the blood pumping through our veins or the breath in our lungs , than we can control the orbit of the earth around the sun. And yet, we so often forget this fact. We get busy, self-important and confident in our own abilities. We become self-reliant and convinced of our own capability. Like ants carrying bits of dust, we scurry about the earth on a frantic mission to build our own little kingdoms. We forget that we are tiny, helpless and completely needy creatures.

Recognizing smallness is the beginning of humility. And humility inevitably and invariably leads to dependence on God. When we admit that we are dependent on Him, things begin to change.

The conviction of my own smallness brought me to my knees. I found myself praying and praying often. I wasn’t speaking the eloquent prayers of a preacher. I was uttering my desperate need. I was honestly crying out to God, begging for help, direction, and hope. Prayers bubbled up within me, spilling out of my heart. I was surprised to find myself feeling like God was near. Not far off, but close. Like in this quote from A Praying Life, I was learning the simplicity of communication with God.

There is nothing secret about communion with God. If we live a holy life before God, broken of our price and self-will, crying out for grace, there will be communion with God. It really is that simple.

Since my return, I’ve found prayer to be the air I breath. When I’m driving, showering, making breakfast or falling asleep, I’m talking to God. I’m being honest with him. I’m asking my Heavenly Father for grace and guidance, for stuff I need, for friends who are hurting. And in the midst of all of it, I feel less anxious, less worried, less fearful. I feel secure in the love of Father. I am resting in the knowledge that I am utterly small, completely needy, and yet indescribably loved.

b*ponders :: getting desperate

We all struggle, right? For me, the struggle lately has been in relationships that I don’t know how to navigate. It’s been in wondering what tomorrow will bring. It’s been in anxious thoughts and sleepless nights and endless to-do lists. It’s been in losing myself in my work. Going on this trip, I felt despair rising in me, choking me and wrapping itself around my every thought. I was in the middle of storm clouds, desperately looking for a way out.

Desperation. It’s that gnawing feeling within that eats at the very fibers of your being. It’s a cry in the night, an unmet hunger, a thirst in the desert. It’s the end of your rope, the place you crumble.

I think most of us tend to assume that desperation comes from great tribulation. And yet, I am convinced that it lives within the mundane. It’s the daily struggle, the “stuck-ness” of life. It’s the difficulty of relationship. It’s being overwhelmed with the details. It’s the hollow feeling of being alone. It’s small problems multiplying and piling up until their hugeness blocks the sunlight. In the moments when your hands are thrown into the air, or you collapse in a heap on the floor, knowing not what to pray, knowing only that you MUST PRAY, you are getting there. You are getting desperate.

In The Praying Life, Paul Miller says, “When we struggle, we long for God to speak clearly, to tell us the end of the story and, most of all, to show himself. But if he showed himself fully and immediately, if he answered all the questions, we’d never grow; we’d never emerge from our chrysalis because we’d be forever dependent.”

The longing for God to speak–that is the beauty of desperation. It’s getting to the place where we cry out to him, because no one else could possibly answer the deep questions within us. Desperation shoves us to our knees like nothing else possibly can. And on our knees, our Father meets us. Not always with answers. But always with hope. Only he can show us the cross, and at the foot of the cross, hope utterly abounds. We see the son of God dying in our place, offering us forgiveness and rescue from our dark, sin-laden, storm-cloud-ridden lives.

Desperation. It’s the place we grow. It’s where we change. It’s where everything within us strains for a glimpse of sunlight amidst the clouds. It’s where we realize we can’t fix ourselves, solve our problems, or make it on our own. It’s where our self-reliance is shot to pieces. It’s where pride dies, and faith begins. Stay desperate, my friends. It’s your only hope.

b*ponders :: the impetus for change

While I was in Sedona, it snowed. Not just a few flakes. Not just a dusting. No. It was a real mountain blizzard. Fat globs of snow falling from low, dark clouds, coating every tree and rock in a thick, heavy blanket of white. It was beautiful. But it was also the last thing in the world I wanted to be looking at. I had come to the Southwest for SUN, not snow. But, for two days, the sun hid its face, as the snow continued to pile up.

In the end, we headed south to Tucson to visit family and escape the unfortunate weather. When we returned, the sun was shining, and the snow was all but gone. The previously dry creek beds were rushing with water. Trails were muddy, and rocks slippery as the white stuff melted off the face of the mountains. Water coursed down the hills, into the valleys, eroding trails and carving paths into the soft, red rocks.

The moisture made the desert come alive. Previously brown cacti were suddenly shades of vibrant green. Trees were bursting forth into bud. Tiny flowers sprung up on the hillsides. Change was happening all around. The impetus for this change? Ten inches of heavy, wet, dreary snow.

Being stuck in the middle of a snowstorm while on vacation is not pleasant or cheerful, yet witnessing the arrival of spring in the desert? Breathtaking. Sometimes I think life is like that. Hope is born of suffering. Newness comes from trial. Personally, I feel like the last several months have been wrought with struggle. I went on vacation feeling like I was existing in the midst of dark storm clouds. I couldn’t see beyond them, and I didn’t know when or how they would lift. Spring seemed a world away.

I mentioned yesterday that I read a paradigm-shifting book while on this trip. The book was A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller. Below is a (rather long) quote from the book that fits perfectly with my (literal and figurative) experience of springtime in the desert. Read and ponder.

The hardest part of being in the desert is that there is no way out. You don’t know when it will end. There is no relief in sight.

A desert can be almost anything. It can be a child who has gone astray, a difficult boss, or even your own sin or foolishness. Maybe you married your desert. [...]

The Father turning his face against you is the heart of the desert experience. Life has ended. It no longer has any point. You might not want to commit suicide, but death would be a relief. It’s very tempting to survive the desert by taking the bread of bitterness offered by Satan–to maintain a wry, cynical detachment from life, finding a perverse enjoyment in mocking those who still hope.

God takes everyone he loves through a desert. It is his cure for our wandering hearts, restlessly searching for a new Eden. Here’s how it works.

The first thing that happens is we slowly give up the fight. Our wills are broken by the reality of our circumstances. The things that brought us life gradually die. Our idols die for lack of food. [...]

The still, dry air of the desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face-to-face with your inability to live, to have joy, to do anything of lasting worth. Life is crushing you.

Suffering burns away the false selves created by cynacism or pride or lust. You stop caring about what people think of you. The desert is God’s best hope for the creation of an authentic self.

Desert life sanctifies you. You have no idea you are changing. You simply notice after you’ve been in the desert awhile that you are different. Things that used to be important no longer matter. [...]

The desert becomes a window to the heart of God. He finally gets your attention because he is the only game in town.

You cry out to God so long and so often that a channel beings to open up between you and God. When driving, you turn off the radio just to be with God. At night you drift in and out of prayer when you are sleeping. Without realizing it, you have learned to pray continuously. The fresh, clear water of God’s presence that you discover in the desert becomes a well inside your own heart.

The best gift of the desert is God’s presence. We see this in Psalm 23. In the beginning of the psalm, the Shepherd is in front of me — “he leads me beside still waters” (verse 2); at the end he is behind me — “goodness and love will pursue me” (verse 6, NIV); but in the middle, as I go through “the valley of the shadow of death,” he is next to me — “I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (verse 4). The protective love of the Shepherd gives me the courage to face the interior journey.

b*ponders :: another year

Hello, dears. We’re a mere five days away from Christmas, and I can scarcely believe it. Earlier today, my husband asked me how it was already 9:30 in the morning. I responded, “How is it already December? How is it already almost 2012?” Really. How do the moments, hours, weeks, months and years fly by so quickly? Time. It just goes.

Anyways, apart from pondering, life has been ultra-crazy. And I mean that in the best way possible. Full to the brim with good stuff. I have a long list of posts I want to write. Recent design projects to share. Adventures to fill you in on. Chocolate I’ve tasted. Concerts and shows to review. Updates and tidbits and normal b*stuff. I could post daily from now ’till the end of the year. But instead, I am going to pause. For the next two weeks, I am going to back away from the computer, and spend time with those I love most. I’m going to enjoy the time off, and not feel guilty over it. I’m going to celebrate the implications of the incarnation of our Savior. And I’d encourage you to do the same.

Thank you, all of you, for following along on my adventures these past 3+ years. Your notes and comments and emails mean more than you could know. You guys are a good bunch. I wish you the Merriest Christmas, and the Happiest New Year! All for now. Be back in 2012 with loads of good stuff to share!

love!
b*

pictured above, this years wrapping theme — black paper and twine. cool or morose?

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