To live in full color…

…risk stepping out to be who you were created to be… rise up and answer your calling…

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Growing up in Western Washington, there were many a gray day. Even if it wasn’t actually raining, the skies were white with overcast clouds. Though the rain gives that area it’s lovely green color, without the sun to shine on it, one can feel like it’s a pretty dreary place.

Recently, the thought came to me about how life can sometimes feel that way… Reality and the things that make us feel so “alive,” can seem hidden by some fog of responsibility, or obligation, or simply, the monotony of life.

Back in the 90’s, a movie came out that at first glance seemed to be entirely filmed in black-and-white*. Starring Reese Witherspoon and Tobey McGuire, this brother-sister duo found themselves transported into the brother’s favorite 1950’s TV sitcom. The premise followed a “Leave-it-to-Beaver” type family living in a small town where everything was predictable and “safe.” Being that the sitcom followed the birth of the television, it aired in black-and-white rather than color. Similarly, the movie began in gray-scale scenes…

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As the brother-sister duo move throughout the movie, they begin bringing attitudes and behaviors from their own generation, nearly fifty years later. Suddenly, the predictable story line becomes disrupted, throwing the town in which the series is set off kilter. Before you know it, everything begins to fall apart… Characters deviate from expected behavior, going off-script and begin to dream…

Scenes shift from only black-and-white, to stains of red, orange, blue, green… By the end of the movie, each scene is entirely in color, none of the black-and-white shades remain. Predictability has vanished, boring has been wiped out, what was lifeless has disappeared…

It got me thinking… What is it to live life in full color?

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Earnestly, I’ve yearned to “fit-in,” seeking after the life everyone else around me appears to be living… Working the “9-5,” attaining the “husband, house, 2.5 children and a dog” lifestyle preached to me from the pulpit and the TV.

Yet, the more I’ve sought this life, the more it’s alluded me. Furthermore, even that which I have attained has left me feeling more lifeless than I expected. This “life” became boring, predictable, even frustrating. As if, the more I strove to be like everyone else, the less I became like everyone else and the more lifeless I felt.

But to live in full color…! That is the life I long for…

To live in full color is to be fully alive… To feel every breath in your lungs… To rub the lint between your toes and feel its plush fiber… To gaze out across the valley and see a sunset that leaves you speechless… To lose track of time playing games with children, laughing all the while…

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Not many routine things bring such joy, such life, such color as these… And yet the adult within me struggles to make those things a priority… But if I’m to live the rest of this life, it’ll only be worth it if I’m living in full color.

So, let us take risks… Risk trusting Yahweh to care for you as you follow His leading… Risk your reputation or friendships sharing about the reality of Jesus in your life… Risk stepping out to live the life you were created for no matter how much money you will make, how much others oppose it, or how much you fear failure… Risk getting lost in the little moments that bring you joy, whether that be painting the ocean shores, creating a melody on ivory keys, throwing a frisbee to your furry friend, or playing tic-tac-toe with a five-year old… Rise up and answer your calling…

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“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” – Jesus*

“[God]…richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” – 1 Timothy 6:17

*Pleasantville (1998)

*John 10:10

pcs: all sc, except Pleasantville clip and vintage TV set

Always becoming…

…in the midst of determining our goals, we are already becoming someone or something…

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Backyard at the house I used to live in was a sturdy apple tree. None of us were quite sure what kind of apples it grew. But one thing was certain, this tree excelled at fulfilling it’s created purpose: to bear apples.

Every weekend in Spring, a swath of apples at varying stages of ripeness blanketed the grass beneath the tree, waiting for someone to come and take notice. It wasn’t long before collecting the apples made it to our weekly “chore list.” Each of us soon discovered the need to operate with strategy if we were to dispose of them efficiently and save ourselves from back pain.

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Despite the fact that I always seemed to finish the chore with a throbbing back, my time spent beneath its branches always yielded life lessons as proliferous as the apples themselves…

Through the seasons of time, a tiny seed in the ground grows and grows until eventually it becomes a tree. A robust trunk shoots out of the ground stretching to the blue skies above. Spindly branches stretch from side to side, concealed in green leaves quivering in the breeze. As Winter turns to Spring, little buds begin to develop, ever bigger with each passing day. Until all at once, you begin to see the beauty of the fruit.

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But what kind of fruit is it?

In a healthy tree, it will become nutritious, pleasing to the eye as well as the body.

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In a tree diseased by harmful cankers, pleasing fruit is sure to bring poison to the human body.

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A tree becomes a tree over time. And over time, it produces fruit. But what kind of fruit will it be?

Similarly, we all began as little children… Seed from our parents that would one day bear fruit of our own. And whether we’ve strategized about the fruit we want to bear or the kind of “tree” we want to become, we are all becoming something.

For the longest time, I’ve spent countless hours trying to “figure life out.” Most specifically, figure out MY life. What am I to do with it? How can I please God? How can I get the things I want out of life?

Recently I realized that even in the midst of being “stuck” in this season of “figuring things out,” I’ve been becoming something, or rather someone. Right under my nose, I’ve been becoming who I am. It got me thinking that though I may never have life “figured out,” if I am faithful in the day-to-day, pursuing my goals piece-by-piece, even on my way to a destination, I already am someone. I already am bearing some kind of fruit.

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And so, as I consider this happy little apple tree, going about her business of stretching her branches wide so that birds may perch on them and sprinkling apples on the grass for the squirrels, I, too, ought to go about my business of bearing good fruit and fulfilling my purpose of being a human being. Let us consider our fruit… What kind of fruit are you bearing as you grow into yourself?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” – Galatians 5:22-25 –

pc: all Sarah Coffey

Enough through Jesus…

…simply believe in the One He has sent…

If you’re like me, in the hustle and bustle of today’s world, you often find yourself overwhelmed… Overwhelmed by the day-to-day tasks vying for your attention, while simultaneously agonizing over the oughta’s and shoulda’s to reach personal goals…

Social media has afforded the ability to vastly over-share small snippets of our lives, the “highlight reel,” as some have called it… And in scrolling through our activity feeds, we’re left feeling inadequate… We begin believing, perhaps even subconsciously, that these “highlights” are the sole experiences of our friends and acquaintances… Smiling faces, professional achievements, carefree vacations… As if you’re the only one who experiences life’s ups and downs…

So often, it has left me wondering, am I enough? Am I doing enough? Is my life enough, in God’s eyes?

Jesus was once asked what one must do to do the works God requires…

“Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.‘” – John 6:29

WHOA. To simply believe in the One God has sent! THAT is enough.

And, knowing all too well our human tendency to try to work out our salvation, Paul the apostle reminded us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godnot by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

When Jesus offered Himself up for us on the cross, He accomplished all that was needed and declared, “It is finished.” – John 19:30

Tempting as it is to try to EARN God’s favor, rest in the simple truth that it is enough to simply believe in Jesus. That His perfectly lived life paid the ultimate price on our behalf… His sacrifice was for the sin of every person throughout all of history! Wow. Trusting in His finished work is all that is needed to be enough before God.

Paul made it clear and simple…

That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.'” – Romans 10:9-11

So, it’s not a matter of achievement, a matter of feeling, or a matter of other’s perceptions of us… Believing in Jesus is enough…

“…your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” – Colossians 3:3b-4

pc: Sarah Coffey, Ukraine

Keep on dancing…!

…embrace each new year as an opportunity to live to the fullest…

“Ruby?”*

“Did you say, ‘Ruby’? Why, that’s me!”

Turning in response to my cry was an elderly lady, feet propped up in the stirrups of her wheelchair. Each curl of her graying hair was so volumatic one would have thought it was actually artificial. Wheeling her back to the exam room, I could tell I was in for a treat… this was no one ordinary.

Carefully, I pivoted her chair into the room, backing it up so that she sat in line with our usual exam chair. All set to begin, I positioned myself behind the computer screen to begin taking notes of the reason for today’s visit…

But Ruby was lost in her own conversation, going on and on about how good she felt…

“You know, it wasn’t until I really got sick that I even stopped dating. I never once thought about my age or worried about it… This little nurse that’s been helping me, she turned forty just a few weeks ago. I thought she was going to have a nervous breakdown! She was so distraught about turning forty, but she didn’t look it at all! I even met her little old mother; she didn’t look her age either. I don’t think her mother even gave age a second thought. In fact, I think this little nurse picked up all this worry about getting old from her friends. Well, I’ve never been concerned about my age. I’ve dated and danced all the way through life… That’s what you gotta keep doing: keep on dancing. Ah, that’s what I miss most… If I wasn’t in this chair, that’s what I’d still be doing… dancing.”

I scarcely could bring myself to move the conversation along. Her words struck me… therein was a lesson that I needed to learn, a good word I needed to ponder…

Keep on dancing.

Suddenly it occurred to me the irony of the phrase… The theme of my high school graduation had been “I hope you dance.” (LeAnn Womack’s song of that title had come out that same year, so it was fitting for our class.)

At over ninety years of age, Ruby had found the secret to remaining youthful. In fact, I never would have guessed her age… Her vivacious spirit would have put her at least thirty years younger in my mind!

We live in a day when people are in desperate search of the secret to youthfulness. People invest their hard-earned-cash in creams, diets, athletic regimes, surgeries, all in the vain hope of keeping up that 20-something look. Meanwhile, their minds grow old… their spirits grow dull and lifeless…

Ruby’s quip was exactly what I needed to hear and what I think many of us need to hear. For me, I’ve just entered the latter half of my thirties. I’ve been dreading the idea of reaching forty without a spouse, children, or career to show for… But Ruby’s lesson inspired me to consider her words as profound wisdom… Stop fixating on length of years, instead fixate on the quality of your years.

Age is not to be feared, dreaded or escaped. As much as I urge you to take this to heart, I write it as reminder to myself. We ought to receive, accept, and embrace each new year, considering it an opportunity to grow, discover, and keep on dancing.

*Not her real name.

*pc: Sarah Coffey, Swaziland, Africa

Like a couple of rabbits in the garden…

…to have room for the new means to be rid of the old…

…screeeeaach… I forced the door to my clothes closet open… I was in search… Now where is that stuff… I was sure I brought it along…

Digging through all my paraphernalia, accoutrements, various doodads, I could feel myself sinking, being buried alive in my closet. It hit me… thoughts turned from my search to this impediment… Despite all my efforts to down-size earlier in the year, these possessions were once again growing, multiplying like a couple of rabbits left alone for a spell in a garden… No sign of the carrots, just countless figures of fluffy white fur canvasing the vegetable patch…

Beginning to feel a bit claustrophobic, I began making snap decisions… No, I haven’t worn that in the last year… No, I haven’t even cracked that book in all the years I’ve kept it… Quickly a pile began to form of articles to purge.

In the midst of this sorting, a realization hit me…

The only way to have room for the new is to be rid of the old.

Such a simple thought, yet pivotal.

For so many years I’ve held on to things for “the future.” As if this “future” would be full of destitution or poverty, a lack of necessities or no remembrance of days gone by…

Yet, in so doing, not only has it limited my floor space, it has limited my mind, trapped me in yesterday… There was no room for new things.

Like a breath of fresh air or a weight lifted from my shoulders, my mind seemed to open. To get rid of the old is to make room for the new… To make room for the new is to give myself permission to do new things… It means, new things WILL happen… new, GOOD things are coming… But I can’t grab a hold of them with my arms still full of yesterday’s heap!

I suppose I had felt that I somehow needed permission to move forward, permission to move on from the past… To let go of the past was somehow to deny or discount it…

But I was beginning to see how to let go of the past was in essence a way of assuring future goodness. To make room for the new was to see that new things would actually come! To be looking forward to those mysterious, as of now, not-known things – good things – that would be coming in the future… But how could I grab a hold of them if I didn’t move on from the past?

And then I was reminded of God’s word…

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’

– Revelation 21:5

So, as I enter this New Year, I am eager to make room for new things… The past is full of trials and triumphs, of which the present time and the future will not discount. It was what it was, but now it is time for something new. And so, my heart will carry the following sentiment through 2018…

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” – Psalm 40:3

Unfettered…

…live unfettered and let God achieve the unachieveable…

…he soars into the yard, wings extended… quickly closing them up under his breast as he touches down on the green grass… looking for the proverbial worm to fill his belly at breakfast… at a moments notice, his white and black striped pinions open high and he’s off over the fence… searching another lawn for the juicy grub…

Around here black magpies fill the air, the yards, the parking lots… Their coloring is striking… black and white… a shimmer of teal reflecting from the black feathers… I’m always drawn to them…

In watching them, it got me thinking… what would it be like to be completely unfettered? Free to roam, fly where you choose, unfettered by the cares of this world?

To many, I seem like a “free spirit,” and in many ways, I suppose I am… But for a very long time, I have stressed about many things… money, relationships, career, purpose, ministry… being enough… So many goals… seemingly unachieveable in my own eyes and perhaps even the eyes of the world… especially based on my track-record and current status… How can they come to be?? And, even if I was to give up stressing about figuring them out, how would that get me any closer to achieving them? To let them go… wouldn’t that mean giving up on them?

Yet, as I sit here, considering life… it occurred to me… stressing out and trying to “figure” it all out hasn’t really gotten me much closer… it’s just gotten me more stressed, bitter, tightly wound… and that is not living…

Isn’t our God bigger than that? Isn’t He bigger than our puny attempt to try to figure things out? Bigger than our failures? Bigger than the dead ends we think we find ourselves in?

And, just maybe by living more carefree, giving up trying to figure things out, that would actually get us closer to seeing them come to fruition…! I’d be free from worry, burdens, cares… and so, perhaps I would be more myself, a relaxed self, a beautifully unfettered self…!

Luckily, there is some solid advice from God’s Word… He seems to know us so well…!

“…look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”*

“For nothing is impossible with God.”**

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”***

 

*Matthew 6:26-27

**Luke 1:37

***Hebrews 13:8

pc: The Internet – The National Audubon Society (I couldn’t sneak up on them fast enough for a nice photo.)

To be a wife…

…waiting in active preparation…

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”*

Recently, one of my single girlfriends came over to share lunch and watch an episode of the series This is Us. In the middle of the episode, something sparked us to reflect on our own love lives… or, rather, lack thereof… We shared our experiences, our heart’s desires, our annoyances, and our frustration in waiting… and waiting… and waiting

After we finished and my friend left, I began to reflect on our conversation… It got me thinking what would it look like to be a wife? Not, what does it look like day in day out… But rather, what would I look like as a wife…? what kind of wife would I be? What are the traits that I would hope to possess? And it occurred to me, I’m not there yet…

I’ve been blessed to know many godly women who have been great examples to me of what it looks like to be a good wife, and a good mother… It’s taken them couragepersistenceperseverancetoleranceforgivenessselfsacrificeallowanceacceptance… determination am I that kind of person?

To be a wife is so much more than being a lover, an assistant, or a support…

It means being an encourager being an ego booster being a confronter

It means being willing to put in the hard work to work through differences, disagreements, and misunderstandings… without running away…

It means being vulnerable and real

It means being willing to put aside the desire to be found correct, and instead seek to be one

And, I venture, it means many more things I have yet to understand or even know…

Proverbs 31 has always been the passage that the Church has always looked to as the best example of a wife… To be honest, at times that Proverbs 31 lady seems so perfect that it seems impossible to try to be like her… even though the desire remains strong to try to keep her pace…! Like the perfect “soccer mom” of the 90’s

Well, as I sit here in my cozy bedroom-for-one enjoying an evening of peace and quiet, I’m humbled to recognize the ways in which I have to grow even as I recognize these things and even strive for them, I must also accept the truth that I’ll never be perfect… never

So, as I seek to “grow up” in maturity – to be tolerant, gracious, flexible, dependable, stable, encouraging – I also seek to rest in authenticity, being real about who I am and where I’m at…

And so, I guess I am content to wait but wait with purpose wait in active preparation seeking to grow, deal with my insecurities, my anxieties, my issues… so that when I meet my man, I can be all the more ready to grow in oneness with him…

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”**

*Proverbs 13:12

**Ecclesiastes 4:12

pc: Sarah Coffey, Cesis, Latvia 2016