Sunday, June 29, 2014

Like Pieces of a Quilt...the not so silent struggle...

"None of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love."
                 - Mother Theresa

It is so ironic. As the school year starts to wind down, I am at once feeling like I am so exhausted I cannot last another minute and have to have a vacation and at the same time feeling anxious about how I will adapt to a more unstructured schedule.

The tension of opposites.

It's almost as if a fear about the slowdown exists because as life becomes more simple, more regular, less filled with have- tos and must- dos... I can hear God's voice more clearly. Things simply become more in focus and the pattern of my daily life more obvious to me. I can no longer hide behind the "I am too busy to think about this " mantra.

Now, with school off my plate, I am not too busy. And the thoughts I have held at bay float in, surge in, surround me and at times overwhelm me. It's a bit staggering to be honest. How they all come to the surface, pop up, if you will. 

"Look at me," one says. 
"It's time to think about this," whispers another.
"You can't ignore this one more minute," echoes a third.

Often at the end of a school year filled with too many endings to count, I cry at the drop of a hat. I am overwhelmed by love and joy and gratitude and just as overwhelmed by a sense of deep grief that leaves me feeling raw and frightened. That may sound dramatic to some folks, but truthfully that's how it feels to me.

I hate endings. Let me say that again... I hate endings. I hate transitions. I hate not knowing what God has in store. 

And during times like these, part of re-establishing my balance is talking to God ...all. the. time. Yes, all the time. While I am drinking a cup of coffee, or puttering in the garden, or looking out the window at 5am and seeing the first rays of sun poking through the rain-soaked leaves. I am an extrovert and I talk to God... a lot. Mind you not  formal language using thee or thine, but informal language I would use with a best friend where I can be completely authentic and transparent. Language that just flows. Language that is uncensored.

I talk my doubts. I talk my joys. I talk my fears. I talk it all.

That's why I love Ann Lamott, why I get how she is. When I read her books like Stitches- A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair, I feel like I have come "home." Just the title of this latest book helps me to breathe more deeply. Words like meaning and hope and repair...well, they speak to how I want my life to be.

I get that, as this book suggests, we need to ask ourselves some profound questions like...
*What do we do when life lurches out of balance?
*How can we reconnect to one another and to God's sustaining grace when evil and catastrophe seem  inevitable?
*What do we do when a precious friend moves and takes pieces of my heart with her?

Ann says that we begin by "collecting the ripped shreds of our emotional and spiritual fabric and sewing them back together, one stitch at a time."

Like Ann, I know about ripped shreds of my emotional and spiritual fabric. I am a quilter and as such understand that often before patterns emerge, there is often chaos. There is often hurt before there is meaning. I also get that my own soul and spirit may from time-to-time feel like someone has come in and shredded them and I wonder how they will be put back together again. How can my life make sense when I am in the eye of a storm?

Just as I am a quilter, so is God. Thank goodness God knows the pieces of my life, no matter how torn they appear to me. Thank goodness He intimately knows the storms that surround me. He gets that I am fearful that this one, this storm, might take me down. Thank goodness He isn't put off by the pieces of my life that spell chaos, and hurt and doubt and fear any more than He is put off by all the pieces that make up joy and gratitude and wonder. Ahh... the puzzle pieces in my life.

I learned early on that God loves all of me, every single piece. The peace and the chaos. After all He created me and I am His beloved daughter. Even when I don't feel very lovable, He still Loves me... with a capital L. He holds me when I feel lost and alone and coming apart. He doesn't leave me or forsake me, even when I am confused and acutely more aware of how truly broken and imperfect I am. He knows that I may be using the comfort of being busy as a way to distance myself from Him, from His plan for my life.

You see, and I may only be talking about my own experience here, but I don't think way to run away from ourselves is to stay busy. To have a calendar so full that we look and feel needed and important. 

One way to try to run away from our Ever-Loving, All-Knowing God is to have a plate so full that there is barely room for Jesus. He's the appetizer or dessert, not the main meal.

And when it all slows down, what happens then? Well in all truth I can see the cracks in the plate. I can see some of the misuse of time. I can see how Jesus, really living for Jesus, was almost an after-thought.

Now don't get me wrong, even in the days of a calendar so full it would make a business tycoon squirm, I got up early, read my devotional and talked to the Lord. And I still went to church...well, most of the time I did. But truth be known, my hours had more to do with students and family and consulting and grading mounds and mounds of college papers than they had to do with being in communion with the God who made me. And now, in the quiet and less structured time, I am left to wonder if I have been doing His work or my work? Like pieces of a quilt, not yet stitched together, the pattern isn't exactly clear.

I know about quilts and pieces and trying to make sense of how patterns come together. "Back in the day" I made quilts for many of my grandchildren. I didn't use a ready-made pattern, but let my heart lead me about what would speak to their heart, their soul, who they really are. The last quilt I made was for my beloved granddaughter Sihin, adopted three years ago from Ethiopia.  I experimented with photographs on material and putting the pieces of the quilt together took time and space and love and prayer. There was a rejoicing when the struggle of how it would all "fit"  was finally resolved. I made a quilt for Emma, so soft and cuddly, and for Owen and Jacob and Emily and Kayla and Zac. Each time there was a time of confusion before a time of clarity. I remember roaming the aisles at Mary's Quilting Bee, one piece of fabric in hand...searching for its companion pieces that"felt" just right.

Once found, ahhhh the sense of satisfaction... the "so this is how it is meant to be" moment. The all will be well reassurance.

And today, just like those pieces of a quilt coming together one stitch at a time, I am trusting the God I know and love and serve to help put me together again. To give me new strength and direction and knowing His purpose for me. To help me understand that I may not be doing great things, but with His guidance I can do small things with great love.

And I remember, with a bit of a smile, that this is always how it is at the beginning of summer after a busy school year. There is always a sense of dis-ease followed by His clarity.

And I am reminded of the old church hymn....
      It is well, it is well..with my soul.

God Bless!
Love, Linda


Vicky said...

I feel like you and I just sat down and talked over coffee, like old friends. I garner so much insight through reading your description of your spiritual life and what shape and form it takes- both physically- and emotionally/mentally.

Thank you for this personal glimpse into how you balance everything, at times when being out of balance is so often where most of us find ourselves!

And I love Ann Lamott and have a feeling I will have to read this book too now!

Love you dear one!

Peggy Sue said...

I echo what Vicky just said above! People use to think I should write...I use to think I should write. But...after reading both your blogs I feel my writing is not as good. You both have a way with words that explain and bring a picture to mind..or a lesson or feeling. And then I too talk to the lord..24/7 and wonder...ok, so now what do I do? for I feel he has a purpose for me that I have not yet accomplished....I could relate to so much of what you wrote Linda...I tend to be very emotional about so many 'lil things; I hide it well...but I am a emotional bucket sometimes...I have not read Ann Lamott another book to put on my list! As always thank you for sharring such real feelings and words...this was once again beautiful!!! much love to you Linda!

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