Living Already

 

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”

 – Omar Khayyam –

Don’t miss it.

I know you dreamers, because I am one. This is what I’m saying to me today, and to you today.

Let’s not miss the life we actually have while we’re busy looking through pictures of other people’s lives–their best moments–caught on film. And we compare ourselves to that, and we live in that world, a world of people’s best moments sewn together like a patchwork quilt of reality. And then we look at our own reality, and it doesn’t seem to quite measure up

We spend hours on Pinterest and Facebook, looking at all the things people are doing and the places they’re going, and the things they have.

On Pinterest, we save all the things we’d like to get or do for ourselves…and we forget the things we already have. The things we are actually doing. The places we actually go every day.

In books, we take adventures, make friends, come to love characters. When I finish a book, I often wish the characters were real, because I love them so much. I would never be one to criticize reading, that’s for sure…but I wonder. Is this another place where we can accrue to ourselves people that we like, people who we identify with…and then forget that there are already people in our lives who, like it or not, are ours? People whom we are not just asked, but commanded to love, by the God who loved us first.

We dreamers can live in the future…all the roads yet traveled, all of the beautiful things yet to be seen or touched. The beautiful family we might one day have. The wonderful people we might one day know.

And we forget the simple magic of the hum of our tires on the roads that we travel day in and day out.

Lost in dreaming, we can lock ourselves away form the hard work of making relationships here and now. Relationships that are strong. Relationships that matter.

And I’m as guilty of this as the next person. I’ve pinned up all of the future glories that I dream of. I mean, I’ve spent hours pinning pictures of boots. Short boots, tall boots, ankle boots, knee boots…and it’s not even that that’s bad.

It’s just…today I woke up and the boots I’m wearing are the ones that were already in my closet.

And the way I did my hair is the way that I always do my hair.

And my fake little imaginary world didn’t change that.

I can drive down the road that I drive a couple times a week, not even seeing it. I’ve let myself grow dull to it. I’m so busy thinking about Pinterest-board trips that I don’t stop to enjoy the one that I’m on today.  I told myself that I’m tired of this road.

But why am I so tired of it? I don’t want to be.

Maybe it’s because I keep looking for the bigger and the better and the next and the someday.

I think that’s it. Someday.

It’s not even that I don’t like this road…it’s that I’m too busy thinking about the next one.

So, to all you dreamers out there like me, please. All we have, all that’s been promised to us, is today. This road. This family. These people’s love. These moments. These realities.

Please don’t stop dreaming. But remember that those dreams are just that…dreams. They’re not real yet. And if they do become real one day, enjoy them then.

I don’t think they will taste nearly as sweet if we wring all the enjoyment out of them before we even get to them.

I’m not so scared of my dreams not coming true. I’m more scared of missing the dreams come true that I already have, that I’ve forgotten were once dreams, because they’re real now. And maybe when they’re real, we dreamers go to the next dream.

I don’t want to be like that.

Today, this dreamer is going to live in today.

And tomorrow this dreamer is going to live in tomorrow

And I’ll keep pinning the pretty boots on Pinterest, and I’ll keep budgeting for long vacations, and I’ll keep dreaming about what it would be like to have a special family of my own one of these days. I’ll smile and I’ll dream. I’ll always keep dreaming.

But I won’t forget that I already have a family of my own–a different kind, but my very own. And I already have boots that I really like. And I already go places with people I love.

Thank you Lord, for the alreadys.

And help me not forget where I really live.

Maybe this is called contentment. Learning to live and love where you are.

Today. Already. Now.

 “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
 – Philippians 4:11b-13, NIV –
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Letting Go

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“Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

– William Butler Yeats –

I am a firm believer in wonderful things.

In fact, I am very good at setting my sights on things I want and wishing for them with all my heart.

If you’ve read my blog long, you know that I’ve talked about surrender quite a bit–empty hands, a whole heart offered to God, trust in the future that He determines.

But all that to say–I apparently still didn’t get the idea.

There are stages to journeys.

“One does not surrender a life in an instant. That which is lifelong can only be surrendered in a lifetime.”

― Elisabeth Elliot ―

First, God led me, years ago, to say my first, halting “Thy will be done” to His plans for my future.

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Since then, over and again, I’ve laid my desires out to Him and given them over into His keeping.

Every once in a while, though, a big and lovely dream creeps into my heart.

It’s hard to know what to do with such a magnificent thing. I’ll tell you what I like to do–I like to frame that dream and hang it in the corridors of my imagination. I like to set it high on the shelf of myself and  lean back and smile over that dream a little while, pull it down and stroke it a bit, then set it back up to stare at again. For such a fair and perfect dream, I can spare no expense. Every highest thought, every best energy of my heart goes to it.

I have had such big, beautiful dreams, and sometimes I have handled them well. I have let go just enough to say, “Yet, if You take this dream too, Lord, I will love You and serve You even then.” I have been able to laugh in the dark and give even my desperate tears over to my Master. But still, that dream was something I often clutched. Willing to give it up…yes, for my Jesus. If circumstances made me. If others forced me. If God Himself set blockades in the way. But give it up on my own…why would I do such a thing?

blue-nature-wallpaper-14297133009ozOnce upon a time, I had such a dream–oh, it was the prettiest thing I had ever seen. I guarded it and kept it with all my might. Sure, I told God He could have it. I even meant it. Honestly, I wrestled and I came to the sincere conclusion that if this hoped-for thing did not come to be, it would be okay. I didn’t know how it would be okay, but I really did believe it.

But I will tell you something about dreams.

Sometimes, just being willing isn’t enough.

Sometimes a dream grows so large and heavy, so lovely and blinding, that it is a weight to carry along.

I had that big, lovely dream, and I toted it along in my heart. And, even though I said the Lord could have it, I also said, “But please, I like it so much, can’t I keep it?”


A father and his little girl were taking a journey together.

“Father!” she squealed, finding a lovely object on the ground. “Look at this! Have you ever seen something so beautiful?”

He looked down on his hopeful-eyed little girl as she hoisted a too-big load up in her thin arms, and he said, “It is very heavy.”

“But please, I love it. Can’t I bring it home with me?” this little girl pleaded.

And the father smiled to himself, because he knew the treasure was too heavy for the small one. But he nodded and let his little girl heft the weight along.

Soon she began panting.

“Why don’t you put that load down?” he asked.

The little girl’s eyes flew open wide and tears pooled in them. “If you say I must, I will,” she said, quietly. “I know you want what is best for me.” Then she looked up at him tearfully. “But please, can’t I bring it a little farther?”

As they traveled along, she began to moan quietly under the crushing weight of her burden. Each time the trail steepened, she cried a little on top of her treasure and gritted her teeth to carry it up the hill. It seemed like her load was getting heavier and heavier with every small, wobbling step she took. Soon, her arms trembled and her knees buckled. She dropped the load, barely pulling her small hands out from beneath it before it crashed to the path.

“You should leave it now,” her father spoke again, so kindly. “It is only a weight to you.”

“But…” she looked down at it, then saw the red blisters on her hands and the bruises turning blue on her forearms. She bit her lip and grabbed her father’s hand. “Yes, Father.” She got up, tears falling. She started to follow him down the path, but turned back for one last glance. “I will leave it here. I won’t try to carry it myself any more.” She took a few more steps. “Father?”

“Yes, dear one?”

“What if that treasure…is supposed to be mine?”

He smiled down at her and scooped her up into his arms. “Then I will carry it home to you when it is time.”


This has been my experience: Even though I battled with my dream, trying to keep it from becoming an idol, truly wanting to keep Jesus first, the battle wore me out. 

Finally, after heart-breaking after heart-breaking, I had to just let it go. I had to leave it at the Lord’s feet and say, “Here is my favorite dream. I’m not bringing it with me anymore. I’m not counting on it to come true anymore. I’m not letting myself imagine it is true, or picture all the ways I will enjoy it, or setting it at the center of my future. I am leaving it behind and letting You do with it what You want.”

I couldn’t keep tugging it along. It was dragging me down, wearing me out.

“God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.”

– Elizabeth Barrett Browning –

blue-flower-1354931252PeKPeople say that hope is a good thing. “Never give up hope,” they say.

But I think that sometimes you have to give up on a small hope to make room for a Greater Hope.

As the persecuted Chinese Christian Li Quan says in Randy Alcorn’s novel Safely Home, “That day, hope was dashed–and, no matter how painful, it is always good when false hopes are dashed. Since then, many have learned to trust not in man but in God” (page 94).

Every dream I’ve given up, every disappointed hope,  has only driven me deeper into my need for Jesus.

Sure, each time I open my heart to His ways instead of mine, a part of me dies. But isn’t dying to my way of doing things part of becoming who I am really designed to be?

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“If my life is surrendered to God, all is well. Let me not grab it back, as though it were in peril in His hand but would be safer in mine!”

– Elisabeth Elliot –

Dreams aren’t bad–I don’t regret my dreams, my disappointments, or the pain that has been my teacher. I only regret the time spent on lifting dreams higher than I lifted my love for Jesus.

However lovely, no dream is as beautiful as He is.

The question is, do we live like we believe that?


“I have become absolutely convinced that neither death nor life, neither messenger of Heaven nor monarch of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither a power from on high nor a power from below, nor anything else in God’s whole world has any power to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord!”

– Romans 8:38, Phillips paraphrase –

 

 

 

 

Half-Frozen Lake

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“It’s wonderful to climb the liquid mountains of the sky. Behind me and before me is God and I have no fears.”

– Helen Keller –

My future is a half-frozen lake.

I’m standing on the edge, where the who-knows-how-thick present meets the sheer ice of what is to come.

When I lean forward, the frozen platform crackles, portentous.

Once upon a time, I dared to dream.

I took a step out onto the fragile thinness ahead and thought perhaps it too had crusted over. Safe to bear my weight at last. The first whispers of dreams were coming true—culmination of years of education and spiritual training and heart-to-heart talks with my family. In so many ways, my life was budding into what I thought it was to be. Calling, vocation, life service, my passion. Maybe it would all come together smoothly. So far, so good.

So I was out there, out on the just-frozen water, for a while. Dreaming that maybe these future paths could be real.

From the heavens, just yesterday, fell a stone.

Rough, ragged, sharp. The too-thin crust began to shatter.

Tears welled up, trickling warm on my pale, cold cheeks.

One of my dreams broke. Crumbled beneath my feet until my very heart depended on how fast I could leap back onto the thick, solid surface behind me.

I jumped and landed in a skid. I knelt on firmness as a thousand shards of ice-dreams floated away in the pale ripples.

I wasn’t heartbroken. Just sad, left with a dull ache of losing something I never had.

I wasn’t angry. Just disillusioned and disappointed. Disappointed with friends. Disappointed that I had fooled myself yet again. Disappointed that I thought life was clicking into place. Disappointed, yet left clinging to my best Friend of all.

As the little crystal pieces of hope drifted off, I held on to a song.

That the “trials of this life are [His] mercies in disguise.” Even “when friends betray us.”

And I’m thankful. So thankful, that my heart had not been tossed into that chilled lake when the future-ice gave way. So thankful, that wisdom had come through the words of a counselor all along, and kept me back from throwing all my weight onto the thinness.

So, again, I’m on the ledge. It seems like the thin places reaching across from the opposite bank are slowly stretching to meet my solid place.

The pieces of a future dream are melting into the past.

But now I fear stepping out again, fear testing the ice crusting over in front of my hesitant toes.

What if my dreams break off again? Isn’t it easier not to dream at all? The heart-sickness of hope lost is too much of a gamble, isn’t it?

That ice coming across the gap, smooth and sheening, enthralls me. It’s so beautiful. My eyes hurt with hoping that it’s not a mirage.

Future is fast merging into present, tomorrow becoming today.

Soon, the ice in front of my timid feet will cloud, translucent.

God never waits for the ice to go hard through, opaque.

He will call me to step out while the layer is still thin. While the dreams are tender and the hopes are fragile and I wonder if I really can stand it again.

“There are times in our Christian life when we cannot see beyond the next step. At that point, we have to trust God and venture out on the basis of His Word.”

– Alistair Begg –

One day, my feet will be on a solid bridge, a hope and a future that will not be cut off.

Ultimately, this hope is unshakable, eternal. Forever.

“We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see?But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience…..The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will. We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. We know this because God knew them in advance, and he decided in advance that they would be conformed to the image of his Son.”

– Romans 8:24-29, CEB –

Grace, a frozen merging of all my todays and tommorows.

I’m learning not to fear thin ice.

After all, I’ve got a Savior who walks on water.

“Strength of my heart, I need not fail,
Not mind to fear but to obey,
With such a Leader, who could quail?
Thou art as Thou wert yesterday.
Strength of my heart, I rest in Thee,
Fulfil Thy purposes through me.”

– Amy Carmichael –

Thank you, David Wagner and Public Domain Pictures, for the great shot!

When the Days are Just Hard

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I’ve approached this past week with a writer’s eyes. “What in the world will I write for Monday?”

And, truth be told, I have felt unworthy to pass on anything.

I’m sick of insights that somehow don’t translate into my living.

This week I longed for a victory so I could pass on some special spiritual secret to you.

Instead, I woke up every day to burdens and labors and jobs I didn’t want and attitudes that gripped me. One morning my world seemed to shift over a nothing–a slight departure from my neatly-pressed plans. It was all I could do to keep sharpness out of my clipped answers to my family. Words clanged in my ears and I could hardly breathe, hardly believe the hateful replies that my off-center mind presented. Things I would never want to say.

And I didn’t. But just my ability to think them startled me. It didn’t help my morning any.

So as I ponder what in all my crazy world could speak to yours, perhaps I’ve found it.

Maybe you really don’t need someone who’s conquered a fear or mastered a subject. You need someone who’s deep in the same life-death battle as you.

Maybe you really have no use for a perfectly cheerful morning person, but instead need to know I’m slogging through attitudes that snag me.

Just like you.

And most of all, maybe you need to know that I don’t have all the answers for you.

I don’t even have all the answers for me.

After a series of days that are spiritually just a bit fuzzy, there are foundations calling me back.

God has given us a Hiding Place to run for refuge. “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2, NKJV).

But I get so busy and so caught up in a self-constructed world that I keep running through the storms instead of running into the shelter He offers.

“You were reaching through the storm
And walking on the water
Even when I could not see
In the middle of it all
When I thought You were a thousand miles away
Not for a moment did You forsake me
Not for a moment did You forsake me”

– Meredith Andrews, “Not for a Moment”

What are real, gritty-living ways we can hide in Him? How do we keep living in the storms?

– Join me in digging deeper. I’m currently memorizing the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) with an accountability partner. Please, read. Please, dive in. Listen on CD, online, or on your iPod. Post verse cards on your mirrors and desktops and on sticky notes. And dwell there. Fix your heart on them, like anchors that are sure to hold in those gale-force winds of this next week.

– Sisters, pray for everything. It’s work–but so, so, so much joy. Pray for me to abide. I’ll pray for you. It is life-giving.

– Lay aside the dream worlds. I can tell I’ve stepped out too far into mine when reality makes me blink and I feel disconnected. Make sure that you aren’t spending so much time in alternate realities–even beneficial ones–such as TV, books (any kind), schoolwork, daydreaming, and your own plans that you lose touch with your family and the real living that is happening now. Today is our calling, not tomorrow–not even a dream tomorrow. Be here. Now. Rooted. As Jim Elliott said, “Wherever you are, be all there.” Join me in setting aside the music and the screens and the papers to look someone you love in the eye when they speak–is it showing love to keep your gaze rooted on your task and grunt a reply? (Oh, I’m preaching to me too!) Please, join me in a prayer for us to be real.

– Take up the pen and journal and give thanks. Write down 3 gifts that God has given you today. Or 5. Or 50. Thank Him, even when your heart’s not quite in it. Pray for help in the rejoicing. Seek His wonders.

Take a breath.

Say a prayer.

Live real, right here.  Right now.

He will make you stand.

“The only beautiful thing about a Christian is Jesus Christ.”

The Calvary Road, p. 102 –