Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Quiet Heart

I've recently been diving into the idea of "biblical womanhood" and what it means to be a woman of God right now - in the time and culture and place I live, and also in the season of life I'm in.

One theme that keeps emerging is that of "quietness" - often paired with the idea of gentleness and peace. I've really been struggling with this idea. Does it mean I have to literally be a quiet person? Because let's be honest - I'm just not. Sure, I went through that really shy, awkward stage as a teenager, when having to talk to someone at all was terrifying. And yeah, I am an introvert and I need my alone time. . . but none of this adds up to me being a quiet woman. In fact, around people I love and care for, I can be downright noisy (and sometimes even boisterous and obnoxious). And we have fun, and we talk and laugh and it builds our relationships.

So what is this business about living a quiet life? And how do I strive for that and pray for it to come about in my life? Here are some questions I've started asking myself on a regular basis, to help determine if my liife is marked by quietness, gentleness, and peace:

- Am I being loud, talking a lot, or telling personal stories only to gain attention for myself and be in the spotlight?
- Are my mind and heart "quiet"? Am I anxious, worried, stressed, etc?
- Do I take time to listen, to sit silently and just be present for my friends?
- How are my non-verbals? Is my tone of voice gentle? Is my posture and bearing one of peace, or am I being defensive, worried, withdrawn?
- Do I spend time each day in silence, listening to God? Do I take quiet time in His Word?

This is my starting point - not trying to change my personality, not trying to just be quiet for the sake of obedience, but in understanding what ways God calls me to a quiet life. He tells us that as women, we can "win over" those in our lives without words, but through behavior. Wow - what power there is in the "unfading beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit" (I Peter 3:4).

"My" Song: Lessons from Group Therapy (at Work)

At work, we do "group" with the girls - essentially, an hour of group therapy every day to help them come together and learn and grow together. Lately, we've been privileged to work with a music therapist! She does all sorts of neat stuff, from drum circles to composition tutorials to song analysis, and much more. I've gotten to participate with our clients, and the last two weeks, we've worked on song analysis. We were asked to bring a song to group that we felt like described us or our life.

Um, fun fact: there are so many songs. Like, in the world. That makes this a very difficult task! But I started by looking through some of my playlists, and found this one from growing up that I've always liked. When I looked up the lyrics, I knew it would be my choice for group.

Here is a link to listen to it: When I Go Down, Relient K

I'll tell you flat out
It hurts so much to think of this
So from my thoughts I will exclude
The very thing that
I hate more than everything is
The way I'm powerless
To dictate my own moods

I've thrown away
So many things that could've been much more
And I just pray
My problems go away if they're ignored
But that's not the way it works
No that's not the way it works

When I go down
I go down hard
And I take everything I've learned
And teach myself some disregard
When I go down
It hurts to hit the bottom
And of the things that got me there
I think, if only I had fought them

If and when I can
Clear myself of this clouded mind
I'll watch myself settle down
Into a place where
Peace can search me out and find
That I'm so ready to be found

I've thrown away
The hope I had in friendships
I've thrown away
So many things that could have been much more
I've thrown away
The secret to find an end to this
And I just pray
My problems go away if they're ignored
But that's not the way it works
No that's not the way it works

Any control I thought I had just slips right through my hands
While my ever-present conscience shakes its head and reprimands me
Reprimands me
Then and there
I confess
I'll blame all this on my selfishness

Yet you love me
And that consumes me
And I'll stand up again
And do so willingly

You give me hope, and hope it gives me life
You touch my heavy heart, and when you do you make it light
As I exhale I hear your voice
And I answer you, though I hardly make a noise
And from my lips the words I choose to say
Seem pathetic, but it's fallen man's praise
Because I love you
Oh God, I love you
And life is now worth living
If only because of you
And when they say that I'm dead and gone
It won't be further from the truth

When I go down
I lift my eyes to you
I won't look very far
Cause you'll be there
With open arms
To lift me up again
To lift me up again

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Three and a half

Three and a half.
It's the time I let myself drift in and out of sleep during my "snooze" timer, before I remember I need to shave my legs this morning.
The number of months since I first found the beautiful house I now call home.
If you multiply it by 10, it's the number of bills and accounts and items of mail, and phone calls I've made over the past month, just trying to be an adult.
The number of mismatched socks I have generated after only 3 months of using my washer/dryer (one has a lot of holes in it and one was an extra that didn't belong to me or either of my roommates).
It's how many batches of enchiladas I've made lately, between having dinner with friends, and taking meals to new parents, a colleague recovery from surger , and a single mom who just needs some extra help right now.
The attempts it took me to figure out Google groups so I could video chat with my siblings
The number of times I've been out running in Forest Park here in St. Louis.

And. . . it's the number I used in math the other day, to demonstrate writing out fractions to a 14-year-old client. And when I drew my asymmetric circles and rapidly shaded them in, and cut one in half with a simple line, and then we walked together through the simple task of counting. Three wholes. One half. How to write that in numbers. So basic, but she got it. I could see her face light up as she asked for more so she could practice this new found ability.

It also represents a change in this same client after the morning of school. She "checked-in" that morning at a 6, and then we did reading and vocabulary and math. We smiled at each other, giggled at the funny sentences in the vocabulary program, talked about her family and how much she misses her mom. And then we finished and "checked-out" and she said she was a 9.5.

It's the little things and the little numbers that make a difference. Because maybe tomorrow she will check in and out with only 3.5. But I know that she can be a 9.5, and I will work tirelessly to keep seeing that cheeky grin light up her sweet face.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Buying a House

So I'm buying a house. Sort of - my grandpa and parents are helping me financially to get started, but after that I'm taking care of costs and upkeep.

Note: Not buying this one. :)

Looking at houses is SO fun . . . until you are actually trying to decide if you want to drop considerable money into it or not! There are so many different factors to consider. I think the hardest one for me has been the idea of permanence and the perfectionist in me that arises.

See, looking for apartments is easy - if it doesn't work out, or you just don't like it as much as you thought you would, it's only a year. Then you move somewhere better.
Excited to take a look at this one soon!

But a house - well if you are going to invest in a house, it had better work out a little longer than a year!

And for the past 5 years of my life, I haven't lived in a single place for longer than 10 months.

It's a little scary. Permanence. Settling down. And it has taken me a while to realize why it intimidates me so much. I love having "roots" and I love the concept of "home". In fact, with each of my temporary housing situations, I tried so hard to make it feel like a true home. 

The little deck of my last apartment - green makes me feel at home.

I just always imagined that settling down would look different. I imagined a husband, children, being able to stay at home and putter around the house with the children, "making home" all day. And that is not at all what my life looks like right now.

So my challenge is the same that Paul challenged the early Christians in I Corinthians. He said:

"Each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. . . What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. For this world in its present form is passing away." (7:17, 29a, 30b)

I can't let my life pass away in wishing I were somewhere else, something else, or had someone else. THIS is what God has called me to. The world is crumbling and I am such a small part of it - yet the Lord of Creation has offered me a home, where I can seek peace and stillness, entertain those who don't know Him yet, offer a bed to those needing shelter. Who am I to question this calling? 

Lord, take away my fear of never realizing dreams. May I always "wake up" from my dreaming to see what it is you have before me right now. 

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, 
but of power, love, and self-discipline." 
II Timothy 1:7

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Writing Love Letters

It used to be so natural and easy to put a pen to paper, let the words flow from my heart and through the ink. I filled pages of my journal, jotted down notes to friends in class, labored over lengthy letters to people I loved. All those words. Really, all those feelings and thoughts. For that was what my words were.

One day. Boxes of love letters were suddenly once again mine. Returned. Read, enjoyed, saved. Then returned. My tortured thoughts and deepest feelings. Handed back to me in a shoe box. My heart, in a box.

I saved that box for years. It wasn't about him, but me. The letters, they had been about me. My outlet, the only way to keep everything inside from bursting outside. I couldn't read them again. I had lived the pain and joys once and it didn't seem right to try and live them again. But throw them away? So my heart sat in a box in my closet.

Eventually, in the process of moving so much, I decided to simplify and downsize all the stuff I had been dragging through Missouri with me. Out went the letters. My heart, in a box, now in a dumpster.

I want to write love letters again. I want an overflow of feelings to come out onto paper. I want to love that much. But I am learning that my writing and my love are not about me.

"For the Lord comforts his people
    and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
 But Zion said, 'The Lord has forsaken me,
    the Lord has forgotten me.'
. . .  I will not forget you!
See, I have written you on the palms of my hands. . . "

I write love.
God writes me. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Heart Transplant

I watched an episode of House, M.D. tonight that involved a patient who needed a heart transplant. Dr. House decided to lie about her psychological problems so that the transplant committee wouldn't exclude her from the transplant list. She got the transplant and promised to get treatment for bulimia.

As the episode wrapped up, I found myself thinking about people who get transplants. My general attitude toward these individuals is that they have a responsibility to take care of their bodies. The idea of someone going back to past bad habits and re-injuring themselves makes me feel sick - especially when I know how many deserving people don't get the transplants they need.

Enter conscience. Don't I claim that I've had a heart transplant of my own? A spiritual one, anyway. So how do I take care of my spiritual self? What does my "diet" look like? Have I kicked the bad habits that lead me to need the transplant?

Well. That gives me a whole lot to think about tonight.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Full Circle

Last night, I was looking for something to doodle. So often, I've found inspiration and comfort in the Psalms, so I started thumbing through them.

Life has sure changed.

Underlines. Notes in the margins. Tear streaked ink. These cover the pages of my Bible that hold Psalms of tragedy and pain.

Verses about being forsaken. Alone. Broken-hearted. Empty. Helpless. Sinking. Fear.

Emotions expressed thousands of years ago. Shared by my heart for so long. Years I thought would never end.

Today, for myself, I no longer dwell in those Psalms. I seek out the verses of Promise and Hope in the Old Testament, and words of Encouragement and Conviction in the New Testament.

But those underlines. Tears. Notes. They still tug at me. Not for me, but for my girls. The ones I've been praying for these last months.The ones I'll soon be sharing life with. Right now, they are all in places of darkness I have never been or imagined. Those Psalms, the cries for help, for anyone at all to take notice and see me - those will be the cry of their hearts.

So I've circled back. Through autumns of drought and death. Through seasons of barren winter. Through springs alive with new and beautiful things. Through summers filled with light and warmth.

Back to the death and intense hurt caused by sin in this world. But this time. This time. I know that I am safe and secure. I know that life will spring anew for each of these girls. I know the healing brought by God's abundant grace.

". . . to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor."
Isaiah 61:1b-3
photographer Zion DiGennaro