Empty is Not a Bad Word (Brave Every Day)

There are blank spaces in the line up. The Write 31 Days campaign is short a few. And Write 28ish Days doesn’t have the same ring.

First, technical issues (source still unknown) shut down my site for enough of a day to throw off my posting schedule. And then I got busy. Then tired. Then apathetic. Then out of sorts.

It’s tempting to go back and try to fill the spaces. So the days are complete. Perfect attendance.

I used to do that with my daily journal. Find where I’d left off, think back, and write from memory. Or fill it in with a quote. Anything to keep myself from staring into the blankness. Any way to plant a flag of “I was here” on a 24-hour period of time. As if only writing it down would prove my existence in the world.

I can’t tell you the last day pen hit paper in my 5-year book. Months. There’s no way to fill that kind of space.

Besides, the only way to be honest about those days are to leave them blank. Because I’ve been pretty absent from myself.

***

I find the urge to fill the pages not much different from the urge to fill my stomach.

It doesn’t take long for me to be uncomfortable being uncomfortable. To look for something to ease the hunger. To add just about anything into a void to stop it from being hollow.

Like a black hole creates a vacuum in the universe, my stomach abhors a rumble. Or a hint of a rumble. Or the possibility a hint of a rumble is coming.

But I am learning to give emptiness its space. To fight the urge to fill just for the sake of avoiding a lack. To ask exactly what the right filler might be.

To explore the possibility empty is not a bad word.

Because maybe empty puts me in the right position to receive. Not to manufacture my own kind of gap plan but to pause. To breathe. To let hunger do its work while I wait.

Because He is faithful to bring good gifts in His time. And if I’m already full of the less-than, I’ll never be ready for His best.

***

So I will not sugar-coat (pun intended) or arbitrarily fill my missing days this month. My 31 Days will come up a bit short.

And that will be exactly as it should be.

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brave-squareIn response to the 31 Day blogging challenge, I will be publishing EVERY DAY in October — reporting on ways I reach out to bravery in my everyday life. (See all posts to date HERE.) To be alerted to new posts, please follow me on Facebook or Twitter using the links on the right side of this page. Or Subscribe to get posts sent to your Email.

Tobacco & Cotton (Brave Every Day)

 

The tobacco stalks are stripped bare. The yellowed leaves removed. From the bottom up. Until the once full plants stand exposed.

Only feet away cotton balls peek through their drying husks. The harvest yet to come.

I feel the full weight of both.

Both stripped down. And budding new.

Both waiting for the turning under. And the anticipation of more becoming.

I guess there is no other way. This peeling back piece by piece only to leave a new layer vulnerable to the elements.

Tonight the frost will come. And tomorrow the sun.

Numb. And thaw.

Expose. And bloom.

It’s painful.

And beautiful.

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brave-squareIn response to the 31 Day blogging challenge, I will be publishing EVERY DAY in October — reporting on ways I reach out to bravery in my everyday life. (See all posts to date HERE.) To be alerted to new posts, please follow me on Facebook or Twitterusing the links on the right side of this page. Or Subscribe to get posts sent to your Email.

Holding Space & Accepting Help (Brave Every Day)

 

Months ago I knew I needed to. Weeks ago I said I would. Yesterday I made the call. Today it was confirmed.

“I’m holding space for you, Beth,” the therapist said. “Starting right now, you’re sharing the load.”

And she was right. I instantly felt it lighten.

Admitting a need for help — and then actually asking for it — Good, gosh, that’s hard.

You might think I’d know better. My Dad is a professional counselor, after all. And I saw real benefit from time talking with a psychologist during my infertility struggle many years ago.

And still…

So to get such a confirmation, in a conversation of less than 5 minutes, that my heart was being heard. And held. Well, it started pulling together the brokenness. Helping me to gather the fragments into a manageable pile. A place to start from.

Holding space.

The promise of a soft place to land. An advance reservation to be accepted without pretense. A seat at the table with the other Ragamuffins feasting on grace.

“I go to prepare a place,” He says.

Heaven, yes. But here, too.

In Him. In nature. In silence. In each other.

To float. To dwell.

Amen

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brave-squareIn response to the 31 Day blogging challenge, I will be publishing EVERY DAY in October — reporting on ways I reach out to bravery in my everyday life. (See all posts to date HERE.) To be alerted to new posts, please follow me on Facebook or Twitterusing the links on the right side of this page. Or Subscribe to get posts sent to your Email.

In Need of Grace (Brave Every Day)

 

In lieu of a full post.

Because grace is enough.

It’s always enough

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brave-squareIn response to the 31 Day blogging challenge, I will be publishing EVERY DAY in October — reporting on ways I reach out to bravery in my everyday life. (See all posts to date HERE.) To be alerted to new posts, please follow me on Facebook or Twitterusing the links on the right side of this page. Or Subscribe to get posts sent to your Email.

A Spark in the Soggy Places (Brave Every Day)

This is the word brought to my heart this morning. My wet and soggy spirit aching to find just a little bit of fire again. Of how God came. How He always comes.
It may have been written originally during the spirit of advent – the waiting for Christmas. But aren’t we always in a season of expectancy? Of hope to see Jesus come anew? I am hungry for that today. And grateful to read these words again as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Even when our spirits are soaked and it’s been a long time since we felt any flame in our veins.
(originally posted December 2013 at trading good for grace)
I have been chewing on these words for days. Feasting on their richness.
Because we all know the feeling of cold water splashed on our souls. Even at Christmas.
Sometimes, it’s from the inevitable storms of life. Sometimes, our spirits are soaked in tears. Or sweat.
Sometimes the rain is our own doing. Often, it is not.
But the One who formed the laws of nature is not restrained by them. And, in my experience, He does His best work when odds look the longest. When our altar wood is soaked.
Christie Purifoy says it beautifully in her Advent post this week, and she has granted me permission to share the whole of them here.

(originally posted December 18, 2013 at www.christiepurifoy.com)

There is Advent on this blog. And there is Advent in my home.

Advent on the blog is, I like to think, serene. Advent at home? Less so.

Here is a confession: I have everything it takes to be a good mother. Unfortunately, those qualities consistently abandon me during the tired edges of the day. Which means I only have what it takes when ¾ of my children are at school, and the last little quarter is asleep in her crib.

Translation: I do not have what it takes.

 

DSC_5405_1

 

So far, our family Advent observance has been … impressive. At least, I’ve been impressed. Most nights we have sat down together to light candles and read a devotion. I can’t take the credit. The whole thing is due entirely to the friend (angel, really) who gave us a complete Jesse Tree collection the first Sunday of Advent. We had everything handed to us: beautifully crafted ornaments for each day, a printout of Ann Voskamp’s family devotional (tied up in green silk ribbon), even a large glass vase. We supplied a bare branch from our yard, and we were in business.

But the wait for Christmas is long and heavy, and our observance has cracked a bit around the edges. Well, worse than that, really. I may have exploded one recent evening after yet another argument over who would hang the ornament. I may have called the whole thing off and sent them to bed. One of them crying those enormous, guilt-inducing crocodile tears.

And yet, Monday night somehow found us gathered, again, around our Jesse tree. I wasn’t optimistic. I was tired. When I glimpsed the evening’s reading – 2 ½ pages from the book of I Kings?! From an obscure story about idol worship?! – I panicked.

I was this close to shutting the book up again and announcing a change of plans. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t read the whole thing while children fought and pestered me with questions like Who is Baal? What is a prophet? They did what to the animals??

But a fight over who was or was not touching someone’s favorite ornament on the tree threatened to boil over so I did the only thing I could.

I started reading.

***

Do you know the story?

There is a showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Baal’s followers prepare an altar and a sacrifice. Then they spend hours calling on their god to set the thing on fire. They shout. They dance. They prophesy franticly. They even slash themselves until the blood flows.

Here is the eloquence of Scripture: “But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”

At this point in the reading, I had the full attention of my children. They sat mesmerized. It was as if we could see that frantic, bloody dancing. It was as if we could hear the deafening silence of heaven.

I kept reading.

Elijah sets up the stones and the wood for his own altar. He douses it in water. And more water. There is so much water, and the impossibility is doubled. Tripled.

Elijah prays: “Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

We sat – each of us – with eyes large and breath caught – until: the God of Fire came.

He heard. He came. And there was fire.

“The Lord – he is God! The Lord – he is God!”

***

advent angels

***

Making space for God’s presence in my home feels about as back-breaking as hauling stones. My husband and I stack those stones while little people bicker around our ankles. Too often, their bickering is contagious.

I lose my temper. I can’t take even one more thing. Not one more mess. Not one more argument. Until, I have filled our home, our altar of stones, with so much water. An impossible flood of water.

Making space for God’s presence in my home is also a free gift. It is a beautiful and complete family advent collection handed to me by a friend.

It asks nothing of me. Requires nothing of me.

It is an impossible mess, and it is grace, and my children and I have seen fire.

Because God came.

Because God always will come.

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brave-squareIn response to the 31 Day blogging challenge, I will be publishing EVERY DAY in October — reporting on ways I reach out to bravery in my everyday life. (See all posts to date HERE.) To be alerted to new posts, please follow me on Facebook or Twitterusing the links on the right side of this page. Or Subscribe to get posts sent to your Email.