Waiting it Out….

I woke to brilliant sunshine reflecting off piles of snow. It’s hard to believe that 24 hours ago we were in the middle of a blizzard, snow coming down at two inches an hour.

But that’s how storms are. When you’re in the middle of them, you think they’ll never end.

The snow was slow in coming. At first light Friday I looked out my window and there was nothing but a hush and the ominous grey look of a storm yet to come. The morning was well underway when it picked up; medium size flakes, whirling around, slowly sticking to the cold ground.

Since Wednesday afternoon I had heard about what could be the “storm of the century”. With an already full refrigerator, matches, candles, Boggle, Bananagrams, and several one thousand piece puzzles, we had little to prepare — we were ready to wait it out.

And wait we did. I baked bread. Then I baked cookies. Then we did a puzzle. Then we played games. Then we watched movies. Then we played more games. And all the while we would periodically look out the window and comment on the storm.

But restlessness sinks in. Realization of the aftermath begins to accumulate. The ‘What ifs’ start pounding on the door. We begin to fray at the edges.

So we baked, read, watched movies, played games again. And again.

With storms there’s a lot of waiting.

How do you wait out a storm? How do you fill the empty space and empty time so the restlessness does not overpower?

Storms of the mind and soul are more difficult than storms of the weather. There are empty spaces, empty time, churning thoughts. And it’s during empty space that my mind can twist truth, empty time that my soul can turn sour.

While the tools of a weather storm are food, candles, matches, flashlights, full tank of gas, water, easily prepared foods – how can one prepare for storms of the soul? Walk through the storm without the mind going crazy with worry and fear?

What are the tools of soul storms?

Tears, Truth, and Time. Tears – those housekeepers of the soul that help us release fear and anxiety; truth – sharp piercing messages from the word of God that both sting and comfort; time – waiting it out, baking, reading, living through it even when you’re fraying at the edges – all those things that you do during a weather storm.

And one day we wake to brilliant sunshine, clarity, peace — the soul storm is over and it’s hard to believe that 24 hours before the soul was dark, swirling with turmoil.

Because that’s how soul storms are. When you’re in the middle of them, you think they’ll never end.

During the Storm
Blizzard 2013, Boston
After the Storm

It’s Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be!

“It’s not the way it’s supposed to be” – the cry of the mother whose child has been shot in a kindergarten class on a seemingly normal Friday in December, presents already purchased, hidden in a closet in anticipation of a Christmas morning. The “hurry up! we’re going to be late” already a memory of the day. The “make sure you tie your shoe laces, don’t forget your lunch, honey you can’t wear that shirt, it’s dirty” now poignant reminders of a life that was, that is no longer.

It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

The cry of the husband burying his wife and little one – deaths from a complicated childbirth; the cry of the husband who buried his 28-year old wife, dead from a brain tumor; the cry of the young woman who watched her husband die on their honeymoon; the cry of the mother of a soldier – killed during the war on terror; the cry of thousands of mothers in Afghanistan and Syria – all of whom have watched a child die.

It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

And the cries echo toward the Heavens, in agony, in fear, in anger, in the deepest grief imaginable to man. And the throat catches, and the grief is wordless and boundless and rips the soul, the Whys and the Hows echoing all around. Hearts broken with grief, words of “how can we go one? how will we heal?” whispered through sleepless nights.

And on this third Sunday in Advent I look up and shout toward Heaven “It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.” And in the quiet, still of the morning, He whispers in my heart “I know child, I know.”

And so “I lay my ‘whys’ before your cross — In worship kneeling. My mind too numb for thought. My heart beyond all feeling. And worshiping realize that I – in knowing You, don’t need a ‘why’. “*

poem by Ruth Bell Graham, wife of Billy Graham.

First Friday of Advent: Everything Changes When a Baby is Born

Many of you will know that Advent is marked off the calendar in Sundays. It’s the four-week season of expectation as Christians around the world wait for the Christ child to be born. Wikipedia describes it as, a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning ‘coming.’ It is the beginning of the Western liturgical year and commences on Advent Sunday”. This month Fridays with Robynn will feature four Friday Advent pieces. Friday is a day of worship for many around the world. Fridays are also the day I get to write! And when I’m not grumpy I really love the Advent season. Happy First Friday of Advent to all of you!

Yesterday was a miserable day. I stayed in bed most of the day and drank hot tea. I cried lots. I watched a couple of mindless TV shows. I read some. But mostly I just felt sorry for myself.

And finally I phoned my mom. My dad was there too…and he was full of wisdom and humour.

But really it was a day when you just want to talk to your mom.

On Monday some very dear friends, the Chamberlains, from our India days came through. We hadn’t seen them in nearly two years. It was a wonderful reunion. My kids enjoyed their kids. We enjoyed them. Of course we stayed up way too late, attempting the impossible, trying to catch up on all the stories with all the heart. Tuesday morning after getting our own three kids out the door to school, we helped reluctantly get the Chamberlains out the door as well.

Tuesday afternoon I spent all afternoon baking and grieving the shortness of their visit, the ache of such sweet friendships we made in that far off place.  I was baking for an event later that evening, where we say thank you to all our dear Alpha volunteers. That same afternoon Lowell and I realized that the Environmental Missions project we oversee was very nearly broke. We had submitted an expense account for some rather large expenses only to be told they would have to hold off on reimbursing us because of lack of funds.

So you can see that by Wednesday I was done. I sunk into myself and savoured long sips of tea and long moments of self-pity.

I was suddenly lonely again—having said goodbye to our old friends. I was suddenly tired again—having poured out for family and friends and church. I was suddenly overwhelmed again—having realized our bank balances are low and will likely be this way for a while and it’s Christmas. I was suddenly sad and full of sorrow.  I was gray and ground to a groaning, grinding stop and I cried.

And then the text message came: “He’s here! Kendall Jason. Born November 27 at 12:01pm. 6lbs 9 oz 21 ¼ inches long”.

Everything changes when a baby is born. Instantly colour entered where everything had seemed so dismal. Immediately optimism was born. New life infused new meaning and a sense of hope into my soul. I got up and took a shower. I put on clean clothes. I suddenly had purpose again.  I grabbed the camera and headed out the door. Unexpected energy and excitement came with me.

We had a baby to visit.

I held the new little mister. I hugged his mama. I kissed his fresh head. Tears came to my eyes and spilled down my face. Miracles still happen. God still makes new babies. He still writes new stories. Grace and joy still exist. Suddenly my Wednesday didn’t seem so despondent, my heart wasn’t so close to despair.  I left the hospital smiling, hoping, happy.

Because it’s true! Everything does change when a Baby is born!

Raising My Ebenezer on a Friday Morning

I fiddled with the red ear buds, twisting them this way and that to hear the melody of the song playing on my iPhone. The ear buds had been a “gift” from a transatlantic flight on Virgin Atlantic so I couldn’t complain about the quality. Finally they settled in, and I settled down, pressing “shuffle” (I like being surprised by music!). I closed my eyes happily as the second song began to play to the rhythm of the train and one of my favorite hymns filled the train, although only I could hear. The hymn was “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. Perfect for a Friday. And as I never fail to do with this song, I started thinking about an Ebenezer. What it was and why I needed to raise mine.

There are many unfamiliar with the term so an explanation is in order. There is a prophet in the Old Testament called Samuel. He was a miracle baby, born to a woman named Hannah who anguished to the core of her being as she cried out to God for this baby to be conceived. And Hannah tangibly did what most moms find so difficult to do – she gave her baby Samuel to God.

Samuel went on to accomplish some amazing things through God, and for God. At one point, he places a large stone along the journey. I don’t know how large the stone was, but it must have been significant because it was worthy of a name – the name Ebenezer, “the stone of help.”  He did this because he had seen God’s help along the journey and wanted to acknowledge this in a concrete way.The song reflects this as it says “Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come. And I hope by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.” 

Truth be told, all week I’ve been thinking about an Ebenezer. I found a blog post called “What is an Ebenezer?” written by a new reader, Debby. From her blog, called “Living in Graceland”, I found that Debby works with people who have “lost their way in life”. She knows grace. She sees it by the minute. But Debby, and those she serves, also know help. They know that you’ve got to raise an  Ebenezer and proclaim that help, it’s the only way to get back on track.

So today is Friday, the end of the Western work week, and I want to raise my Ebenezer. My Ebenezer; my help; the help of physical strength and finding words to communicate well when I felt I had nothing to give and a room full of people who wanted something. It’s a Friday and  today I raise my Ebenezer.

What about you? What is your Ebenezer from this past week? Where did you find help from something or someone beyond your own ability?  Let’s raise our Ebenezer in the comment section. 

“Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—”the stone of help”—for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” —1 Samuel 7:12″

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.