Loneliness

Loneliness has been on my mind this week. I was reading through a total stranger’s blog that I happened upon and I was overwhelmed with the waves of loneliness that crashed through one of her posts. I had a physical longing to just reach through the computer screen and pat her on the shoulder. Tell her I would be her friend if she wanted. Somehow let her know that there is a personal, relatable God who would love to permeate her life, take away the pain, fill it up with meaningful relationships. Somehow let her know that there is an answer, a solution.

I didn’t say anything though. I didn’t comment on her blog, I ghosted on by. Mostly because if a total stranger started talking real deep to me I would probably not be real open to what they have to say.  But she has stayed in my mind and I have been praying for her. And I have been thinking about loneliness.

I wish that I had some kind of “5 Steps Solution to Curing Your Loneliness”.  I was trying to think about what the solution is and all I could think of was that every single person is so different, how can there be one plan that fits all situations? And it occurs to me that while there is no “1 size fits all” plan, there is a “1 size fits all” God. If you have asked Jesus to forgive your sins and you have given your life to him, then you now have access to the One who can fix all things. He can fix your loneliness. He wants to fix your loneliness. He didn’t create us to be alone. That theme starts all the way in Genesis. God created us for relationships. To be in relationship with him and then to be in relationship with others. When people complain that they are lonely, they are in fact noticing that something is wrong with their lives, and I think it’s a problem that is universally recognized…it is not good to be alone. We were created to Not Be Lonely.

I am more of an introvert. I have never needed large groups of friends. I prefer a couple close friends, small groups, one-on-one conversations. While my childhood friendships were typical up-and-down affairs, God did bless me with a close family so that even on those days when my best friend hated me, I still had a family I could fall back on. Later I was blessed with a husband who has been my best friend for the last 20 years. Even when my women friends moved away or entered into different phases of life that moved us away from each other, I have still had my husband always there. I am what you would call a blessed woman. But I have to tell you a little bit about loneliness. It is very nuanced.

Somehow it is possible to be in a room, surrounded by people who love you and whom you love and yet you still feel alone. I was this way. I’m going to speculate on why I felt this way. When I was a kid I learned very quickly that the more people knew about you, your likes, dislikes, interests etc, the more power they had to hurt you. If they knew which boy you had a crush on, they could go tell other people and embarrass you. If they knew that something had hurt your feelings they could rub it in your face and make it a hundred times worse. If they knew of a mistake you had made they could broadcast it to the world and humiliate you. I slowly adopted the attitude of “If you don’t know me, you can’t hurt me”. If the only things you knew about me were surface things, inconsequential things, then you had no power over me. I retreated into a shell where I was very good at listening to other people and speaking into their lives, but I never opened up too much about my own life. It was too dangerous. I didn’t want to be hurt.

Now we come back to the one God who can fix all things. God lead me to a small group of women who offered me a safe place to talk, a safe place where I could open up about myself and not worry about having that information used against me. We met together once a week for years and while there were seasons when I couldn’t go, I attended as faithfully as possible. As I gained courage to open up, God used that momentum to start revealing areas in my life that needed healing and as he started healing me, I found it easier and easier to open up more. I started having courage to open up more even in my relationship with my husband which I had thought was pretty transparent. I found it easier to share about myself. The fear of being hurt slowly lessened.

Nowadays, I still have parts of me that I keep to myself, but now it’s just because not all stories are for all people. If the right person comes along who would benefit from those stories, I’ll share with them. I’m still an introvert, I still don’t have a boatload of friends, I still prefer small groups, one-on-one, but I find that I don’t feel near as lonely as I used to. Probably because I am no longer hiding.

Everyone has a different history, a different journey. I don’t know what your past was like. I don’t know what your daily struggles are. But I do know the God who knows you. And I know he doesn’t want you to be lonely. Ask. He’s listening.

What Kind of Food do You Like?

The other night I served my kids something new for supper. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. No one liked what I had made. Nobody wanted to eat it, though my husband assured me that the food tasted great and it had nothing to do with my cooking skills. I served up a small amount for everyone and made them taste it, but no one wanted to finish their food. No one. Not even the baby. You are probably curious as to what strange weird food I was trying to introduce to my children. I will tell you. Chicken Pot Pie. Yep. That’s it. Chicken Pot Pie. You would have thought I was serving up raw liver and kale and lima bean salad.

My 5 year old, when she saw me preparing the meal, asked with a tinge of horror in her voice, What is it??

Chicken Pot Pie! It’s yummy! It’s Southern! You are Southern! You were born right here, in Tennessee, so you are Southern. This is Southern food. You are supposed to like this.

She disagreed.

My children apparently don’t appreciate Southern food. I have failed my children.

The problem is, though I was born in Kentucky, I don’t have a southern background when it comes to food. My mother is English and she grew up in India. I grew up on Indian curries with the occasional Shepherd’s Pie and ham with white sauce and peas served over rice. I also grew up in the Caribbean so throw in a healthy dose of rice and beans and plantains.

Even though I grew up on curries, spicy food has never been my favorite. I remember, often, walking into the house after school and having my eyes instantly start watering up because my mother was frying an overwhelming amount of spices. My mom tried to take into account that I didn’t like things spicy, but the problem was I was the only one. My brother and father loved spicy food too. I was on my own. I remember once when I had a bunch of friends over, my mom made a pasta dish and she added some kind of hot spice to make it “more interesting”. It was so hot that we ended up turning it into a game. How many bites can you eat before you have to take a drink? My mom said, later, it was a good way to not get eaten out of house and home.

When we moved back to the states when I was 6, I went into 2nd grade. My first time in an American public school. The first year my brother and I ate school lunches. This was in Kentucky. I was exposed to interesting new foods like corn dogs (I was not a fan, I would peel off the corn meal outer layer and just eat the hot dog in the middle), pinto beans and cornbread (I’d eat the beans and trade my cornbread, I didn’t trust bread made out of corn, that just seemed weird), tater tots (amazing!) and vegetable soup with bread rolls (my absolute favorite meal). My mom did not cook any of these foods at home, and whenever we ate out it was either at a Chinese restaurant or a Mexican restaurant. I did not get much exposure to “American” food, but the small exposures I got were heavenly. I remember going to a friend’s house for supper and we had homemade biscuits and gravy. Euphoria. I slowly developed a decided preference for Standard American Food. And I rarely got it. For my birthday my mom would ask what special thing I wanted to eat. I would request things like tuna noodle casserole. Without added curry spices please. Just plain.

As a young bride I suddenly found myself in a position where I needed to know how to cook. My husband taught me how to make rice and beans – Nicaraguan style. My mother-in-law taught me how to make biscuits (New England style). I started to explore recipe books. By this time I had discovered that I loved Southern food. I attempted to learn how to cook it, but didn’t have anyone to teach me. I tried to make fried chicken once and my husband let it be known, very diplomatically, that he really didn’t like fried food. I tried hush puppies once. Same response from hubby. I also tried fried green tomatoes and decided on my own that I was no good at making this dish. Sigh. I eventually gave up.

Nowadays I serve a hodgepodge of all the cultures I’ve been exposed to. We eat lots of Mexican, occasional Chinese, some Indian (I cheat though and buy the sauces premade), rice and beans, some Haitian-style dishes, and then the standard spaghetti, and lots of various Chicken and rice dishes. I gave up on being a Southern Cook and simply get my fix when I go to church potlucks or get to eat at someone’s house. My southern children have sadly had little exposure to southern cooking and have no idea what they’re missing out on.

Funny enough though, now, when I visit my parents, I eat my mom’s curries with great delight. Even though I can’t feel my tongue because of the heat, it represents home, childhood.

So what kind of food do you like?

Joy and Purple Houses

I watched a TED Talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee the other day on Joy. What is it, how do things in the physical world create an emotional response… It was very interesting and I’ll put a link in for you if you want to watch it:

Where Joy Hides and How to Find It

In the talk she was emphasizing how color brings joy and it got me thinking about how I love bright colors so much. I recently bought myself a bowl from the Pioneer Woman Collection at Walmart. The bowl was less than $5. I was so excited when I bought it. I brought it home, filled it up with cut strawberries and had a moment of bliss. It was so beautiful! So colorful! I sat in a chair, nibbled on strawberries and felt decadent in my colorful splurge.

bowlofcolor

My husband and I often have differences of opinion  when it comes to color. About 7 or 8 years ago we were getting ready to paint our house and my husband asked me what color I wanted to paint it. My answer was Purple! He raised an eyebrow, laughed a second, and then said, really? You’re serious? YES! I want a purple house! Which purple?  I told him I didn’t care which shade of purple or how he wanted to go about it, he was the design/color expert, he could pick out whatever would look best. How could he argue? He would have preferred a more standard color but the color I wanted was tied into emotion..Why did I want a purple house? Because it made me happy, joyful!

So why on earth did purple houses make me happy? Ok. A tiny bit of backstory. I attended Biola University for 2 years, right after I graduated high school. My parents lived in Alaska and I would fly down to Southern California each semester by myself and live in a dorm. Though I made some good friends in college, it was still a bit lonely. My second year my dorm room was at the end of a very long hallway. Some kind soul had decided to try and cheer up the hallway and they had tacked up a bunch of prints of Thomas Kincaide’s paintings. You know what I’m talking about? Fuzzy, cozy houses, with beautiful light spilling from the windows. I would stop and look at these pictures as I headed for bed, late at night, after spending hours practicing piano at the music building. Looking at these pictures created a longing I had never had before. A longing for a home, somewhere stable, cozy, warm, inviting. Up to this point in time I had thoroughly embraced my parents’ nomadic lifestyle. My entire life I had never stayed in a home longer than 2 years. I assumed that I would continue this same pattern as an adult. I would move around, have lots of adventures, never settle too long in one place. When I saw these pictures I suddenly found myself wanting something completely different. I didn’t understand it, I just knew that one day I wanted a home that reminded me of these pictures.  

Later, when I had children, I read them a story called “Mr. Pine’s Purple House” by Leonard P. Kessler. It is a story about a man who wants his house to look different from his neighbors. He finally ends up painting his house purple. I loved this book. When I read it, I would think, Yes! I want a purple house too! But I would imagine a Thomas Kincaide -type purple house: fuzzy, lots of lights on the inside.

So, my husband asks me what color I want my house and I am ready, I’ve been saving up this answer for years…I want a purple house! My husband loves me. He is also a brave soul. He started looking at paint samples of all the millions of shades of purple that exist in the world. He finally came up with a plum purple on the top half of the house matched with a heavy cream on the bottom half. Looking at the paint samples, it looked great. We told the painters which colors we wanted.

We drove up to the house after the painters had finished one side. We both gulped, hard. Wow. That’s really purple. Really purple. We looked at each other, laughed nervously. My husband said, This was YOUR idea. I nodded. Yes, I would take full responsibility. Even though I was feeling nervous, seeing the purple still made me happy. I had an overwhelming urge to just laugh and dance. As the painters added the cream on the bottom of the house and finished everything up, it looked a lot more balanced, not quite as startling. I loved it. Every time I saw it I would start grinning. Why did I want a purple house? Because it makes me happy, joyful!

fuzzypurplehouse

Years down the road, the paint has faded, it needs to be redone soon. But I, the unobservant person that I am, still notice the color of my house and it still makes me happy. I am thankful for a Creator God who made all the colors around us and then also put a desire in us to be around those colors. I am also thankful for my husband whose color choices tend to favor tan and khaki and muted grays who nevertheless lets me indulge in my fits of color. You want to know how much he loves me? He just let me paint our bedroom an interesting shade of orange. Why? Because it makes me happy, joyful!

Anxiety and the Gospel

Have you ever noticed how quickly your mood and attitude toward life can change? One minute you’re walking around and everyone you meet reminds you of Mr. Rogers (of Neighborhood fame), there are rainbows on the horizon, and you feel like you could do and be anything you want. And then one of your kids makes a bad choice and you suddenly feel like the worst parent ever: I’ve failed my child! Something happens at your kids school that makes you mad: I’m going to withdraw my kids from school and we’re all going to live in a commune in the wilderness and home school! Someone is rude to you at the store: I hate this town, why can’t we move! You have a sick day and get behind in your chores: I can’t do this, there is no way I can survive unless we hire a maid! And everything just feels like it’s unraveling right before your eyes.

So, I’ve had a week like that, or rather, that has been this past week. I found myself feeling anxious and unsettled this morning and I started doing some self-talk. It’s going to be ok. You’re going to be ok. You are ok. And suddenly that phrase that our pastors are always preaching at my church came back to me, “Preach the gospel to yourself.” And my self talk changed. I am ok because I have been saved. Everything is ok because Jesus already paid for all my sins. Everything is going to be alright because Jesus cares about me and he is in control and I don’t have to worry. He cares for me. He also cares about my kids, even more than I do. He’s got this. He’s going to help me figure out each one of these situations. I am not alone.

The anxiety rolled off my shoulders. Some of the tension eased. I put on some worship music later as I trudged through the chores. Took a nap because my worry has been keeping me from resting well. Felt better about life.

This is not the first time I’ve “preached the gospel to myself”. When I was 19 yrs old I started having panic attacks. Looking back I can see that I was very over-extended, sleep deprived, pursuing a career that really didn’t suit my personality. All of these were prime ingredients for inducing anxiety. I found panic attacks to be the most terrifying experience I had ever had. Mostly because I felt like I was going crazy and I didn’t know what to do with my racing thoughts. My very brain itself seemed out of order. During this time I dropped out of college and went overseas, spending 4 months in Haiti and then 5 months in Chile. While I was in Chile I attended a Spirit-filled Baptist Church where I had a lot of people pray for me, minister to me, teach me things about church life that I hadn’t learned yet. It was a time of spiritual awakening for me. I can’t remember if anyone specifically told me what to do or if God just helped me figure it out, but I remember I started having a panic attack one night and instead of completely melting down, I started preaching the Gospel to myself. I recited my entire creed of faith out loud. I believe in God. I believe he created the heavens and the earth. I believe in his son Jesus who came to earth. I believe that he died on the cross for my sins. I believe that he rose and died again. I believe that he forgave my sins. I believe that when I die I will be with him. I believe he has has sent his Holy Spirit, I believe his Holy Spirit lives in me.

By the time I was finished, the panic attack had eased off. I was still feeling shaky, but I had something to cling to and I clung hard. I was able to fall asleep and when I woke up, the anxiety had passed. Over the years I have struggled off and on with anxiety. For me, it has usually been a symptom of something deeper going on. Extreme stress, extreme fatigue, a need for some serious changes in my life. I have found that if I want the anxiety to really go away, I have to deal with these deeper issues. Make changes. But through it all, preaching the gospel to myself has kept me sane.

I in no way am going to claim that this is how you heal panic attacks. I have family members who have struggled with anxiety for years and they have had to come up with their own ways of coping, but having an anchor to hold on to while you figure it out is invaluable. Having a certainty that you are not alone and that someone a lot bigger than you is holding you even while you go through the storm, that is something I long for everyone to have. Preach the Gospel to yourself. Every day. It is life.

Facebook, Politics, and Respect

Respect has been on my mind a lot. I’ve thought about it as I’ve scrolled through Facebook, I’ve thought about it as I’ve read a whole bunch of political jokes. I’ve thought about it as I’ve listened to some of my kids’ complaints about various school teachers. I’m looking around, and I’m not seeing a whole lot of respect in our culture.

When I was in 3rd or 4th grade I bought one of those Mad Libs books at a book fair at my school. Remember Mad Libs? It had some kind of story with lots of blank spaces. In the blank spaces you filled in whatever it told you, like a noun, or a color, or a famous person. After you had filled in all the blanks, you would read the story and it would sound ridiculous because you had changed all the keywords in the story. I was so excited about my Mad Libs book. I was visiting my Grandma and was doing a Mad Lib with one of my cousins. One of the blank spaces we had to fill in was a famous person. We were young and innocent and the only famous people we knew were from the history books, so we put in Abraham Lincoln. We finished filling in the spaces and then I began reading the story out loud. The story featured Abraham Lincoln (our famous person) and it was ridiculous. Well, my Grandma had been listening to what we were doing and she marched over to me and lit into me. She was mad. She was mad that I was disrespecting Abraham Lincoln, one of our countries fine leaders. She thought it was outrageous that we would use his name so lightly and make fun of him and she put the fear of God in me to ever talk disrespectfully about one of our leaders again. I can’t say that I liked her methods, she scared me to death, but the lesson stuck.

As politics continue to get nastier year by year, I have been confronted with the idea of, “Their actions make them unworthy of respect.” They are liars, cheats, frauds, ridiculous, aren’t doing their job properly, people with an evil agenda. The idea is that these faults make someone unworthy of my respect, which means I can say whatever I want about them, because, after all, they are not worthy of respect.

Ok, let’s look at the definition of respect. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines respect, the verb, as “To consider worthy of high regard: Esteem”. It gives synonyms for Esteem: worth, value.  Our Declaration of Independence says that “All men are created equal”. The book of Genesis, from the Bible, says that “God created mankind in his own image”. When we look around at all the people around us, we’ve got to realize two things. First we are all equal, there is no hierarchy where some people are allowed to look down on others. Second, we are created in the image of God. He made us special. He made each one of us. He happens to like what he made.

I can hear all the excuses being thrown out, because I’m thinking them myself. If someone does not act in a respectable manner, then I don’t have to respect them. I’m going to put out the theory that really there are two kinds of respect. The first one is just common decency that every human deserves because they are our equal and because God created them. The second level of respect would fit more with the Merriam Webster definition of respect, the noun, (as opposed to the verb) “expression of high or special regard or deference.” Yes, there are people who rise above and do things that we admire, have character that we admire, have accomplished great feats that we admire. Yes, these people are worthy of respect, in a level that goes above the general respect you get just because you are human. Perhaps a better word would be admiration.

But we have forgotten that general respect that people should get, just because they are human. I have noticed it most with our media. I don’t watch TV, so I’m out of the loop, but several years ago I was sitting in a waiting room at a doctor’s office and they had the news on a big screen TV. The room was small and there was no avoiding watching what was playing. It was supposedly a news show, but what they showed was a clip of an elderly woman who was pulled over by the police. The woman was clearly confused and started to be very aggressive with the police. The news anchor people showed the clip and then sat there and made fun of the elderly woman. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe that they were sitting there mocking and making fun of this poor elderly woman. What happened to respecting your elders?? Nowadays it’s Memes on Facebook about our President. I’ll go on record and say, I’m not a Trump supporter. I’m not a Clinton supporter either. But these are people! And right now Trump is our President! I’m blown away that people think it’s fine to be extremely disrespectful about him, or on the flip side, extremely disrespectful about the the people who oppose him.

I am not saying that you need to agree with our current administration or with any other political leader. It is not disrespectful to point out things you see as mistakes or are just plain wrong. But it can be done respectfully. Mature adults having a conversation. I don’t think it’s wrong to protest, but it can be done respectfully, sticking to the issues instead of trying to tear down individual people.

Here’s the thing I’ve been trying to drum into my teenagers heads. When you act disrespectfully towards someone, all it’s doing it pointing out a lack of character in yourself. When you are willing to stoop to a level of name-calling and mocking, all you’ve done is made yourself a lesser person.

I’ll end with this. One of the things I love about my husband is that he treats all people equally. I am always made most aware of this when I see him dealing with homeless people. My husband works downtown and his construction sites are close to the homeless shelters. He runs into a lot of homeless people. I’ve seen him. He talks to them, shakes their hand, shares any spare change he has, looks them in the face, wishes them luck. On occasion he has reached out and helped some of them get a job, get help. Here’s the thing, he doesn’t believe that he has some kind of “ministry” to homeless people. They’re just people that he runs into on a regular basis, and he’s just treating them like normal people. Because they are. We all nod our heads and say, yes, it’s good to be kind and respectful to homeless people. Y’all, politicians are people too. We are welcome to dislike their political agendas, but we should not be welcome to malign them, make fun of them, and treat them as lower-level humans. And here’s why. If we want racism to end, if we want violence against women to end, if we want sex trafficking and slavery to end, then we have to get rid of the idea that some people are worthy of respect while others aren’t. We have to throw out the notion that there are different “levels” of people. As long as we feel like certain groups are open game to mockery and belittlement, we are never going to achieve true equality.

.

 

Passing On the Family Heritage

Camping is in my blood.

Now when I say that, I don’t mean that I’m obsessed with camping and just want to go all the time. No, what I mean is that from my earliest memories, my parents dragged me along on camping trips until it became embedded in who I was.

My earliest memories of camping are when I was somewhere around 4 years old. We lived in the North of Haiti and I remember my parents loading my brother and I along with a ton of luggage, into our old, unreliable Peugot station wagon. We traveled about 12 hours down to the South of Haiti, up into the mountains. I remember heat, dust, throwing up from car-sickness, my mom singing songs from the Sound of Music to entertain us, chewing on minty gum that we bought from a street vendor. I also remember that we got to our destination late at night, that it rained, the tent leaked, all our belongings got wet, it was a lot colder in the mountains than my parents were anticipating so we were freezing, and my brother and I ended up sleeping in the car because it was the only dry, warmish place. That was just the first night of camping. I think it improved after that. Not sure. Maybe. I also remember picking blackberries, exploring a large fog-filled meadow, and fighting with my brother over who got to be in the hammock that my dad had strung up. Every year that we lived in Haiti my parents would insist on going camping in the Southern Mountains. It was their vacation and they were/are adventurous people. They also loved that part of Haiti and dreamed of working there.

The five years that we lived in Kentucky my mother was in school and life was busy. I don’t think we did any camping during that time, but we spent lots of time at the lake or visiting the nearby Carter Caves or the Natural Bridge. We also squeezed in a trip to Niagara Falls and a trip out West and saw the Grand Canyon. Not camping, but definitely forays into nature.

When we moved to Alaska, when I was 15, camping became a regular way of life during the summer. We would load up into our boat, head up the Kuskokwim River and go for hours until we found a likely spot on the river bank and then we’d stop, spend more hours setting up camp, and then sit around the fire, roasting sausages and marshmallows, drinking tea. My dad would go fishing and we would eat whatever he caught. It was a time of rest and relaxation. And mosquitoes. (Pictures of Alaska are beautiful, but that’s just because they photo-shopped out all the giant mosquitoes making black dots on the picture.)

Later, when my husband and I were living in Chile with our first two babies, my parents came and visited, and what did we do? We went camping in the Andes. My dad and my husband went off to hike Mt Picazo (Same name as my maiden name, my dad felt a connection, wanted to hike it). My mom and I and my two babies stayed in a campground. (We didn’t feel the same connection and were quite content to stay behind with the babies). The two main memories that stand out to me was first, our tent site was on a side of hill which meant that by morning, we had all rolled to the bottom of the tent and were effectively squishing each other, and second, the very friendly owner of the campground explained to me the secret to cooking good pasta: get a really big pot with lots of water so that the pasta has room to cook and doesn’t stick to each other. (I have always remembered this, but I never seem to have a big enough pot handy, so I still deal with clumpy pasta.)

Nowadays,  I would tell you that my idea of getting out in nature is to rent a cabin in the mountains and sit on the deck and enjoy the view.  Alas, I married a boy scout. My husband’s idea of getting out in nature is to get a pack and go off and do a section of the Appalachian Trail. He knows all about wilderness survival and gets out camping/hiking/canoeing any chance he can get. We went camping on our honeymoon. Any time we travel long distances we camp. If we are going to do something fun as a family, it’s probably going to be camping. Still not my favorite thing to do. But it’s in my blood. I feel duty bound to pass this on to my children, it’s part of their heritage. And so I go camping. And if my kids complain, I take on the role of cheerful optimist who thinks that hanging out in a tent with 7 children because it’s raining outside is FUN! Going to the bathroom in the bushes is CHARACTER-BUILDING! Fighting your way through swarms of mosquitoes….well, even I can’t think of a positive statement for that.

Here’s the funny thing though. We went camping this past weekend. Primitive, out in the middle of nowhere camping. We got there by canoe. Took 7 children with us. You know what? I actually had a lot of fun. I loved being outside. I loved seeing the beautiful lake and mountains and streams and forests. I loved cooking over the campfire. Ok, I still just endured using the bathroom in the bushes, but does anyone love that? It was a wonderful experience. I especially loved watching my kids have fun, watching my husband teach them how to cook a simple campfire meal, watching him teach them about “Leave no Trace”. I loved seeing my 7 yr old daughter get her tent and pitch it all by herself. I loved watching my oldest daughter as she paddled our canoe diligently with me across the lake. I loved watching my sons get excited about all the different animal tracks they found. I loved watching my two youngest just run around the camp, so excited to be outdoors for such a long period of time. This camping thing is a bit of a crazy heritage, doesn’t exactly fit my personality, but I’m learning to appreciate it.  And I’m learning the joy of passing it on to the next generation.

canoetrip

God Didn’t Make Me a Nun

It’s been a long crazy week, and we’re only on Wednesday. School is out this week for a break and so, on top of the normal chores, normal baby care etc, we have also thrown into the mix, playdates, sleepovers, dentist appointments, volunteer work, and some babysitting. Today I felt like the world was spinning twice as fast as normal and I couldn’t quite keep up with anything. In the midst of all of that, this evening I found myself thinking about intimacy with God.

So here is my thought for the day.. How do we become intimate with God? What does that even mean?  When I think of intimacy with God I think about having long hours of silence and contemplation, maybe some private worship time. I have always had a bit of envy for nuns and monks who spend their days in quiet and devotion and service. That seems like a bit of heaven from where I’m standing. I will point out the obvious though, God didn’t make me a nun. So how does someone who is super-busy all the time and fully immersed in the world become intimate with God?

I am no expert so I’m just going to put out an idea. What if being intimate with God simply means being aware of him more and more. He is, after all, everywhere. If we aren’t feeling his presence, it’s not because he went somewhere, it’s because we aren’t tuned in.  As you become aware of him more and more, maybe being intimate with God means including him in your day to day decisions. Perhaps it means learning to notice him enough to say thank you as you see wonderful little things hidden in the chaos of your day…a child’s grin, a hug, a sunray shining onto your face. Maybe intimacy with God is sending out prayers to him all day long for patience, for willpower to make good decisions, or sending out prayers of intercession as you think about various friends. Perhaps being intimate with God means that you think about his Word throughout the day, not just read something and then forget about it as soon as you step away from the Bible.  

How does this play out in Real Life? I know that I have heard over and over that you should get up really early in the morning and spend time reading God’s word and praying. This is really hard for me, and often impractical as I am still in the stage of life where my nights are regularly interrupted by little children who need their Mama. Though I still want to carve out that time, it hasn’t happened in quite a while, but in the past couple months God has lead me to start memorizing Bible verses with the kids. We focus on one verse a week. It has been a really good experience because I find myself thinking about the verse all week, pondering on it, meditating on it. It’s easy because I don’t have to find a Bible or a quiet place to read, it’s already in my head. I find also that God uses those verses to speak to me too, bringing them to mind at appropriate times.

How do I involve God in the daily things? Well, the other day I was trying to leave the house to go to the store and I was in a hurry and I couldn’t find my handbag. I searched all the normal places several times and I was starting to get a bit frantic and then I stopped and just spoke out loud,

Ok God, you know where my bag is, I don’t, I’d really appreciate it if you could just show me.

I was kind of frozen in one place as I said all this and then I glanced down and there was my handbag, tucked away in a corner where I had never put it before.

Thank you Lord!

I grabbed my bag and headed out the door and it occurred to me that I had just asked the Creator of the Universe, God Almighty, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, to help me find my handbag. (ok, I admit I regularly ask him for help to find things, but this was the first time that I really thought about the implications) I stopped mid-stride and kind of glanced up to the heavens, almost wondering if a bolt of lightning was going to appear and strike me down. I mean, really, wasn’t that disrespectful? I apologized, out loud.

Sorry Lord, I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful, I’m sure you have better things to do than find my handbag for me..

Except that he DID find my handbag for me, and for some reason I think he probably found it amusing.

Ah yes, Esther, I made her especially absentminded, she can never find her bag, her keys, her phone. I can’t keep track of how many times I’ve helped her find something.

It’s not something I understand, but somehow the God of the Universe loves me and actually wants to be involved in every single part of my life. And I’m not sure why, but he isn’t displeased when I ask him for help with little things, it actually makes him happy. The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7 that we should cast all of our anxieties on him because he cares for us.

It doesn’t say to cast only the really big burdens, the ones that you can’t handle. No, it says to cast ALL of our anxieties on him. Losing things makes me anxious, it gets me upset. When I ask God for help to find my things, I’m casting my anxiety on Him. And it’s ok because He cares for me.

I’ve made lots of mistakes and I’m due for a million or so more in my in my life time, I’m sure, but that doesn’t have to stop me from growing in intimacy with God. If I’m keeping him involved in every aspect of my life then it will probably be easier for me to hear his voice when he tries to counteract some of my foolishness. Being in the habit of turning to him all the time also makes it easier for me to repent, apologize, ask for forgiveness because I’m just used to bringing everything to him. I don’t have to go looking for him so that I can “Make things right with God”, we’re already talking every day and it just becomes part of the every-day conversation. This happens all the time for me. I yell at one of my children, lose my temper, allow myself to say something that I shouldn’t have said, and God’s right there, shaking his head (in a metaphorical sense) and I feel convicted and apologize to him, and then he waits (again metaphorically) and I finally make myself go seek out the person I just wronged and apologize to them as well.

This is not to say that I have reached some amazing level of intimacy with God. No. I have great days where I’m really aware of him and then I have other days where I hit evening and realize I haven’t noticed him all day. But this is what I want for my life. This is the goal, the dream, the thing to pursue. Spending every day with God, making him such an integral part of my life that I can’t imagine ignoring him. And maybe I can achieve this, even outside a convent.