Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spiritual Formations: Lengthen Your Stride

The Essentials In Spiritual Formation Worship Course with Dan Wilt

Apparently, God has it a top priority that I continue the process of becoming fully human. This theme keeps turning up over and over again wherever I turn. Some days it seems too risky to pursue. It means mistakes and looking messy.

It also means I become more fully alive, more "in my element."

I was out walking a couple of weeks ago and decided to jog a few yards. As I started out, I heard the Lord tell me: "It's time to let out your stride and not hold back any longer." So I quit mincing steps and took my full stride and instantly felt the freedom come to run. I didn't run far...maybe 1/4 mile, but it was a physical experience that has forever etched in my mind what it means to live in my element, to stretch out and go.

In keeping my stride in, I thought I was conserving effort. Once I let my stride out, however, I realized it took more energy to keep it in than it did to let it out.

As does living my life by a list of shoulds, restricting movement as an act of self-preservation, trying to be perfect and meet expectations that don't match up with who I am.

Still pondering this one. Just some unfinished thoughts here, but I think I'm onto something, at least for me personally...a shift in season as I become more aware of what it feels like to move freely as God created me to.

Friday, July 23, 2010

... and it's midnight again

I really should get to bed, but I just can't get settled tonight.

Sometime this afternoon, I hit a wall. I'd gotten very little sleep and was feeling taxed by the pull to be mommy to my kids whilst caring well for my mother-in-law. It seemed the two roles were at odds throughout the day.

I keep reminding my kids that we are privileged to be able to care for their GeeMa, that we don't know how much time we will have like this with her at her house, that we need to embrace the moment and trust God's working all things together for our good. There are sacrifices we make along the way because it's a divine opportunity to serve the least of these.

And it is, but today was hard.

I know of others who have cared for aging parents or other sick loved ones over a much longer period of time than the 2 weeks we've been doing this. I think of my aunt's friend who's been caring for her dad for quite some time, first in her home and now in a facility, trying to juggle her four young kids, husband and household. There's also my friend whose son has had multiple health issues since birth. I've watched her walk through some of the challenges of trying to care for his needs while meeting the needs of her other 4 children and her husband. Not to mention trying to take care of herself.

These people are my heroes tonight. I am awed by how they are sustained in a difficult task with little or no reprieve. I know it's the Lord. I know each one of them have been prepared for their moments just like I have been. And I pray tonight that they will sense His Presence in extra measure. That in those moments when they are crying out for mercy and strength, they will find themselves enveloped in the strength and power of Jesus. I pray that those intense times of caregiving will always be accompanied by an increased awareness of the arm of the Lord upholding them, loving them, empowering them for the tasks at hand.

And I pray that they would continually run into people who are Jesus to them in the moments when they most need that touch of human kindness.

You, my heroes, are the hands and feet of Jesus. May you feel His smile of delight and the joy that He has for you. May it strengthen you and give you peace. May you find moments of rest beside the still waters and find food to sustain you in this season.

Spiritual Formations: Why I'm blogging at midnight.

For: The Essentials In Spiritual Formation Worship Course with Dan Wilt

Six months ago, my mother-in-law Bonnie fell and broke her hip. After hip replacement surgery and a stint in a rehab hospital, she was 2 weeks from being strong enough to come home again with my father-in-law. That plan was derailed when she contracted aspirated pneumonia (a complication often associated with Parkinson's, which she has), and a 3 week hospital stay virtually erased all of the progress she had physically made since surgery.

With benefits running out and her strong desire to return home, we arranged for caregivers to come assist with her care and brought her home (to her house) 2 weeks ago. We did not fully anticipate the amount of time and restructuring of our home life this has required.

To complicate matters, my father-in-law Dick had to be hospitalized most of last week, requiring one of her children (by birth or by love) to be present 24/7. He got to return home last Friday. But today, after going for a routine visit, he was told they were going to keep him a couple of days.

And so, unexpectedly, I find myself spending the night tonight in their home with time to blog and reflect on the importance of spiritual formation.

What does all this have to do with spiritual formation? Well, about 9 months ago, I felt strongly impressed that I needed to start getting up much earlier than was my custom. Having tried and failed before, this time I wrote it on my calendar. Mysteriously, that is what it took to get me to wake up early.

This early time was for spending alone time with Him and for getting in a work out. The one sounds spiritual, the other not so much, but both have come into play these last 2 weeks.

In those early morning hours, I meditated on Scripture, journaled, read excerpts of writings by C.S. Lewis, Brennan Manning, Henri J. M. Nouwen, Gregory of Nyssa, Richard Rolle, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, Madame Guyon, Dag Hammarskjold...my soul was fed on the richest of fares. And I was strengthened.

Then I would typically go for a 4+ mile walk or to the Y to work out - some sort of cardio and some weights. I signed up for a session with a personal trainer and put a plan in place. And I was strengthened.

I find myself today needing to remember that the Lord has prepared me for this intense season that is requiring so much physical and spiritual/emotional strength ~ where there is no "plan." Where my day, my week, my month is, out of necessity, dependent upon the needs of my in-laws and I must draw from the strong center the Lord built within me these past 9 months.

See, the Lord is not surprised by the things that surprised me today, yesterday, 2 weeks ago. He has been preparing me for this moment, preparing me and my family to serve in this way for at least the last 9 months...almost certainly longer.

Now, my mother-in-law is one of the sweetest, kindest, gentlest people I know. She does not complain. She is grateful and thankful. She is humble. It is an honor to serve her in this way. But, to be honest, it's not how we planned to spend July. It took us by surprise.

But since the Lord has been strengthening the core of my being through physical and spiritual exercise, as the need has arisen, so has the joy and the energy to sustain the change in direction of this portion of our lives.

I am tired and it's now closer to 1 a.m. than midnight. I will need to wake in just a few hours to start the day with Bonnie, but because of the Lord's great love, I will start the day knowing that God has my back, that His strength is at my core, that His power is made perfect in weakness, and that in His presence I have no lack.

He has given me everything I need.