beauty for ashes

On Wednesday I sat in the lounge room of a friend I’ve known for almost 20 years. 
She made me coffee, the same way she used to when we were teenagers and although we’ve not seen much of each other over the last handful of years, we were not strangers. 
Reflecting with her on the last two decades of our lives was the greatest gift, but I’ll be real; hindsight can be my greatest burden. Regret soaks into my skin like humid, stifling air. 
I wanted to grab my 17 year old self by the shoulders and shake her until her teeth rattled. 
I wanted to shout at her to dream bigger, and think further!
Sometimes the ache to go back and do things differently is overwhelming. 

And it’s easy to feel stuck with the choices that we made when we were younger, or be continually affected by the past. 
It reminded me of a line in the midst of the Imposition of Ashes; In the midst of life we are in death. 
Dust we are and to dust we shall return.
Life moves so quickly. It makes me dizzy and nauseous. 
It seems just yesterday this best friend and I were listening to Jewel, writing poetry and going to parties. Now, we’re child wrangling, and walking through the beautiful messes of marriage. 
The things we find the most difficult now, were once our hearts greatest desire. This kind of perspective, and wisdom comes from the relentlessness of time. 

And while I know time marches on, and doesn’t still I can be still in it’s midst. 
And when I’m still I begin to realise that the unquenching thirst for what could have been, is really a thirst to know God. 
That the insatiable hunger for the life I once pictured, is actually pointing to an empty place only He can fill. 
And while I am here, trapped in this thing called time, I can slow my soul enough to cease the hustle, forget what lies behind and keep my eyes fixed on what is ahead.

Over this Lent season I want to create in my life a rhythm of depth and slower pace. 
That my focus would be less on doing, and more on seeing, really seeing.
That I would see my shortfalls, and failures and acknowledge my need for Jesus. 
My heart would desire prayer, not platform. Spiritual disciplines would follow the natural ones. 

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. Isaiah 61:3

I believe the Master Craftsman of our lives creates beauty from our grief, from our regrets, from our failure. 
Then He gives us insight to walk the next steps of our journey well, if we stop still enough to listen. 

Lord I pray for those who have lived with regret, and declare their time of mourning over. Crown them with beauty and with joy. Help us to slow our hurried souls and remove the clutter in our hearts and minds, to see clearly and to hear Your voice in the midst of our every day. Help us to embrace slow in a world that scorns it. Amen.

My friend Amanda and I are writing one piece each per week over the season of Lent, to position our hearts towards an embracing of slower living, and spiritual growth. You can read her first post here.  xx

start with just today

 

Yesterday I folded those itchy plastic branches into their box, and tied it up tight, for next year.
I found the floor in the girls bedroom. 
We found places for new treasures to belong and I carried a garbage bag for those things that aren’t so loved anymore. I filled it up and took it outside before any of us could hesitate.
Because my mind has been swirling with words like
simplify
declutter
minimal

Because I don’t want a life full of stuff but to live out an existence full of experiences.*
Because I know that when I exist in a minimalist-like interior, my own inner life has real breathing space that can explode with possibility and creativity. 
I know it’s not possible to live always in that zone; there will often be dishes in the sink and toys on the floor, but as much as I can I want to have a fresh and clear heart and head.
And living in a space that doesn’t feel stuffed to the brim of things I keep simply because I might want to use them someday actually gives me the ability to be truly present right here.

I’ve been asking myself just what it is that steals my focus, and clutter is one of the thieves. 
What else can I tweak to bring about more peace to my days? 
I gave up on resolutions. But tiny baby steps in the right direction? I can do those. 
I started running in November 2013, and I kept running. Not daily, but regularly.
I ran my way through last year, and managed to reach a 5km goal I’d set.
Not in leaps and bounds and amazing achievements, but in quiet consistency. 

I can do quiet consistent baby steps towards a more minimal home, more purposeful days, a fitter body and a less distracted me.
I won’t let the new year remind me of the accumulation of years I’ve failed, or how long it’s taken me to get here. It’s a reminder of a fresh start, a celebration of life, and anticipation of the goodness the next twelve months will bring.

Lets tiptoe tiny baby steps, they’re so very achievable. I’ll start with just today.

xx

* and also because I just can’t handle mess. I try and fail. Let’s just make it easier all ’round huh?
 

surely goodness.

We met in the doorway, Daniel and I. He was getting the milk for our tea, and I was putting away the last of the stray objects that had littered our floor that evening. The lights were dim, and our mugs waited. But we stopped, and grinned at each other.
The grin of parents with an exhilarant secret. 
Parents.
I find it hard to comprehend that I am that person who prays away nightmares, kisses bruises and plans the weekly dinner menu. The one who will star in my children’s memories of childhood, for better or for worse. 
And we are always making memories. Some will last longer than others.
This weekend it was our epic puppy surprise.
For them, it was knowing daddy was bringing something special home. Their guess was chocolate, and then, ta da! The puppy they had been asking for for years. 
For me it is simply our early mornings spent outside watching his tail wag and throwing balls and hearing little voices call him to follow. Together. 
And goodness has just taken me by surprise. 
The goodness of family surrounding me. The goodness of friends. The goodness of opportunity given. The goodness of dreams realised. 
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.*
Even when I’m walking in a different direction, love pursues. 
Like this new puppy of mine, it’s chasing me, biting at my heels, following after me, even as I chase my own versions of happiness. 
And I’m overwhelmed at that pursuing, chasing Love that I absolutely don’t deserve. 
Even while I’m cleaning up after a toilet-training puppy.

Happy days.

xx

*Psalm 23:6

 

painted sky

Last night I walked into our laundry room and it was aglow. Pink. Like wearing red cellophane glasses. I’d just come from the kitchen where I could see the sky in front of our house darkening but had seen no hint of the colours radiating from the east.
I slung my camera around my neck and hurried outside. There, I was met with an explosion of pink, and beams of red as the sun sunk into the ocean. The sky was fairy floss pink against blue and I climbed our front wall to attempt to capture the colours of God’s masterpiece. 

I sat for a while on that wall, watching the colours and the light change. 
A gentle reminder that the hand that paints the sky is the same one who directs my steps. That I can lay down my striving, and my need for order and control and embrace the changing, painted colours of my life. There’s beauty in the mess. Order doesn’t equal perfection. 
Beds don’t have to be made before I can hug my baby, read a book with an eight year old or stop and listen with my whole heart to the cutest six year old in the world. 
Those things are my struggle. This sunset was the reminder of the grace available to stop struggling. 

xx