Thunderstorms & Victories

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MO 2015

I’m learning so much and some days it feels as though it’s too much goodness to take in. Days go by like minutes and all I can see when I close my eyes are still shot memories playing like a slideshow to echo how much goodness there is in the world when you have found your people, your own voice, your own spiritual expression. I see friends with whom I danced upon hilltops and city lots, celebrating art and culture and community. I see the many cities of the past that made me and the upcoming travels peeking up over the horizon that will soon make me. I see so much to celebrate and yet my mind is restless. I’m in a season of great excitement, but also unknown change after I end my fellowship in two months. In preparation, my to-do list expands ever long and a hundred possibilities of next steps to take keep my tired mind active until it’s 3 AM and I’m typing incoherent musings onto a blog.

But tonight feels a little different. Strong rain beats against the house and I open my bedroom window-fairly confident a cool front is coming through-to give some refreshing air to my muggy room. I turn off all the lights until I am laying in bed listening to the night sky speak in splendor through flashing lightning, rustling trees, and steady rain hitting pavement. My mind is tempted to sort through how I’m going to be able to fit in all the things I need to- or “should” do-this week in light of a couple weeks’ worth of upcoming travel.

But I lay here, the night storm reminding me of pleasant memories, like camping in Puerto Rico last summer. There was that night when I woke up at 4 AM muttering expletives over the tent window I left unzipped that resulted in wet pajamas and a soggy sleeping bag. It didn’t take long for cursing to turn to laughter as I thought about the joy it actually was to be woken up by both the insomniac bulls groaning in the distance and by a rain that smelled of intoxicating fresh raw Earth. I laugh at the memory, grateful that I’m enjoying tonight’s storm with the sound clarity as though I am out there in my tent, but with the luxury of a warm, dry body.

The storm has captured my heart into an entranced calm, the Earthen sounds, smells and sights a natural spring aphrodisiac of sorts. Lying there, listening, I feel as though the storm is speaking to my soul. You’ve forgotten what the point is, it calls out. You’ve forgotten the point is to daily lie in awe of a world filled with people and places and processes that you can’t explain but can only appreciate. The lightning grows brighter and I feel the rise and fall of my chest. You have a heart that beats over 100,000 times a day. Oxygen and lungs to breathe some 12-20 times a minute. Stars and sun that hang above you, grass and barefoot feet below you. All around us are people on the sidewalk, people in the grocery store, friends, family or maybe even a lover whose bodies do these processes too and have that light above and ground below.

So maybe the biggest victory I can have today is being able to stand in the midst of all the work and email and pending decisions and ringing phones to remember that life is for awe and wonder. Maybe my real achievement is not the next speaking engagement or conference invite, but is being able to close my eyes before slumber and hear the own pulse of my heart, pondering the human body and all of its unconscious processes that will go on whether we pay attention or not, like respiration and growing new skin. Maybe it’s in these achievements, these victories of mindfulness, that true life lies- a real place in which hope and peace dance in symbiotic heartbeats that draw creation to Creator. And maybe tomorrow, I’ll return to this space after another full but good day, and feel this gratitude perhaps unprecipitated by storms, in communion with Creator, in awe of a life I can’t explain. 

MO 2015

MO 2015

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Storms. Blessings. ((Up With the Birds))

I’ve heard it said that, “you’re either going in to storm, in a storm, or coming out of a storm.” I get that. I believe it. I’ve experienced it. Whether you look at the weather, the Bible, or your own personal experiences, we know that life will present us its own trials and conflicts for growth and no one is exempt. Good times don’t last forever, because we need change, a shift in routine, conflict to shape us and mold us into the people we are capable of becoming. Storms and deserts shape you… if you let them. In those moments, you develop your “trust muscles” towards God, you learn to depend on Him, and you are changed by your desert experience.
So, yes, I know this to be true.

But I got thinking.

What if the opposite was also true?

“You’re either approaching a blessing, experiencing a blessing, or going to experience a blessing.”

Does that work?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not living to “be blessed.” Rather, I’m trying to live to be a blessing and also to appreciate the constant blessings in my life, the everyday breath we breathe, people who love us and who we love, laughter, God’s constant presence…

But, for just a moment, I decided to relinquish the voices in my head that tell me “no, no, no, Melissa; you’re not supposed to think like that. That’s not what God would want-” aka- all the “don’t think for yourself” kind of voices. I waved them out of my mind, if only for a moment, like a fly swatter, saying “just shoo for a minute, will ya?” and thought about it without the dogma of needing to impress others with the shooting darts of “this verse” or “that verse” and embraced my faith from my own free thinking thoughts and experiences of God.

So I’m just merely thinking, reflecting, as Coldplay’s “Up with the birds” plays on in the background of my car.

I totally believe the storm thing. But sometimes I just simply need some encouragement; to know that something good will happen. Some optimism to remind me that life is not just about storms and valleys… storms and valleys… deserts, desert experiences. Suffering. Suffer much… as I think the church has soooo deeply ingrained (at times, “drilled” I think would be much more appropriate) in my head.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think life is all about blessings and I don’t believe in the “prosperity gospel.” I don’t ask God for tons of money (but do ask for enough to get by) and refuse to buy a Cadillac and mega home and say, “look what God has blessed me with!!!” while millions go hungry and homeless tonight.

But I think it’s ok to point out that God’s blessings will come. That there is hope. Optimism. Because we serve a god who uses all things for good. I’m learning to get rid of the harsh religious voices that try to ensnare my thought life, telling me what I’m supposed to think and say and feel and do. And I’m learning just to be me. The child of God, with a sound mind, body, and spirit, that God made. And in the process, I am reminded that it’s ok to delight in blessings. Seriously— it’s ok. Can you imagine giving your best friend a present, watch her sheepishly open it, and squeak out, “uh, thanks!?” and stuff whatever the gift was right back in the box and quickly move onto other things? I’m learning, or rather re-learning, that God is a great giver. The New Year’s Day rainbow that appeared in the sky above my neighborhood. A giver of a “future and a hope,” even when I can’t figure out what the heck it is I’m supposed to be doing with my life some days. Incredible, ridiculous, ab-workout kind of laughter like tonight’s dinner with new and old friends.

So. Storms. Blessings. I think they coincide- and mix together in a catalytic beauty, ordained by God.

I know about storms. But today, I’m going to keep my head up and remember the blessings that God produces… ‘cause good things are coming our way. 🙂