Wednesday, September 12, 2012

God In My Waiting

The last few weeks have been some of the most challenging times of my life. It seems that every time I turn around, I am met with a sucker punch kind of emotional pain or spiritual difficulty. Sometimes they come in such quick succession, I would probably laugh it wasn't for all the crying.

What I would like to focus on, though, isn't at all about my present situation. It isn't about the miscarriage. It isn't about the financial issues, the suffering within my family, or the seemingly interminable waiting period in which we now find ourselves. It's about something bigger.

It is God's faithfulness.

The Lord has been so faithful throughout every difficulty, and so I am left blissfully overwhelmed by His love for us. He ushers in peace and comfort, reminds me of His unfailing love for me, and protects me from harm in more ways than I'll ever know here on earth. The Lord's love is steadfast, an anchor amidst the sea of confusion, chaos, and pain.

Charles Spurgeon once said, "I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages." 

I hope that I am just beginning to take a step in that direction. And right here, right now, I just want to say that the Lord is faithful. He is just. He is merciful. "By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me..." Psalm 42:8 He is always with us. He feels our pain and has compassion for us in our suffering. Who is like Yahweh? There is no greater love in the universe. "The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?" (Ps 27:1)

Yes, bless the Lord, O my soul. In the midst of every trial, uncertainty, and pain- and even here between the punches, I hope to always sing His praises.

"Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and take heart,
And wait for the Lord."

Psalm 27:14

Cheers and God Bless,
Natasha W.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Love is Patient

I'm listening to a song recommended by a dear friend of mine. That is, a friend who is emphatically separated from me in every other area of life. The great chasm of belief, worldview, religion, politics, convictions, and definitions of various significant terms... It gapes and yawns and threatens to consume us. It's a hard line to walk sometimes. And yet, there is music. It is a tiny thread to cling to across the abyss. But I am so thankful it is there.

I'm reminded of a song (a line, really) by The Fray. "If you love somebody, you love 'em all the same." The lyrics are from their song, "Heartbeat." I'm struck by the profound nature of this statement. Only God's love is unconditional. Even believers of Jesus Christ have a hard time grappling with this agape love. How can we grasp it?

Here's a picture: Christ was crucified for what I did, and loved me throughout the entire process. Crucified, he loved me. And that is how we are to love others. Across the universe, across the gap, across the misunderstanding and frustration. We love them all the same.

You gotta fire and it's burnin' in the rain... 
And you don't look back, not for anything,
'cause if you love someone, you love 'em all the same.

I'm yearning to love patiently. Things take time. This was one of the things I learned throughout the painful, frightening miscarriage experience a few months ago. And I am still learning it. God is not subject to time, but He often chooses to use it for His Kingdom, to work within it to sanctify us. We must cling to Him in painful circumstances and persevere in faith, in love, and hope. (If that sounds exhausting, remember that those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength!) Know that the present darkness will not last. It will pass! It will give way to light! For now, cling to His promises to never leave us or forsake us. Rest in His love.

We must persevere in compassion. I realized earlier this week that one of my motivations for judging others, or for writing them off in some way, is that judging frees me from compassion. Compassion isn't easy. Yet, Christ was identified by others for His compassionate nature. Judging, giving up on someone, refusing to try to understand... these are all shortcuts. But love is worth the trouble. God demonstrates his love for us through this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Oh, what love!


Cheers and God Bless,
Natasha

Monday, July 2, 2012

Bonhoeffer's Costly Grace

Dear Friends,

Today, I can only sit at the feet of Jesus and rest in His presence. I cannot recall a time in my life when grace has resonated more deeply with me than this morning. It pierces my heart, my very being. My helpless being who was rescued from behind enemy lines. And though I feel weak, I know that there is a sense in which I don't ever want to leave this place. For it affords such a view of the riches resulting from Christ's sacrifice. And so I glance at my weakness, but I meditate upon His strength.

I discovered a book on precisely the subject that's been on my heart for some time now: discipleship. What does this mean in our modern, multi-tasking, busy, and "important" lives?  Our so-called church "community" reeks of individualism and opaqueness. We can attend studies, conferences, and meet in one another's homes, and still find that, "You have no idea who I am- no idea what I am going through!" We find that no matter how rigorously we follow the church's schedule, no matter how well we are "plugged in", we are cut off from one another. We are cut off by work schedules, family obligations, and even the rigmarole of church involvement itself. And perhaps what is swept up in the swift tide of our busy lives is the detrimental fact of hidden sin. We have so little time to see our sin, much less still to reflect upon it or decide how best to assault it, let alone to actively confess it to one another in love and humility.

Admittedly, this individualism is not only encapsulated by our culture, though certainly it is cultivated and thrives here. But it was present, apparently, in Russia in the 1800's.

"All mankind in our age have split up into units, they all keep apart, each in his own groove; each one holds aloof, hides himself and hides what he has, from the rest, and he ends by being repelled by others and repelling them. He heaps up riches by himself and thinks, 'how strong I am now and how secure,' and in his madness he does not understand that the more he heaps up, the more he sinks into self-destructive impotence."

And...

"Everywhere in these days men have, in their mockery, ceased to understand that the true security is to be found in social solidarity rather than in isolated individual effort." 

The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky (Book Six: The Russian Monk)

But the book I found this morning is, The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And through chapter one, "Costly Grace," God met me exactly where I am. And so I am hopeful of beginning a journey to understanding discipleship better.

Some quotes from chapter one:

"Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian 'conception' of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins."

"Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before."

"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

In contrast...

"Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock."

"Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner."

"Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light.'"

Why are churches across America being emptied by the pew? Perhaps because the grace they were offered in Christian America was cheap. "The justification of the sinner in the world degenerated into the justification of sin and the world. Costly grace was turned into cheap grace without discipleship." 

I recall being nineteen and standing behind a pew while we all stood and sang, "I Surrender All" for the hundredth time in my lifetime. I was quickly slipping into dissatisfaction with the church and becoming more and more astounded by the chorus which did not seem to be matching up with the people around me. "Really?!" I wanted to scream. "Who here is surrendering anything?" I just couldn't see it. Because I wasn't doing it. Christianity seemed to be a good luck charm in the pocket of the good ole' fashioned American.  Not the thing you give up everything for.  The very sonorous sound and tempo of the song seemed to coincide with the lethargic way we regarded the grace of God. "I... surrender all... I.....  surrender...*snore*.... all... " When is lunch? 

It would resonate with me later on with my face pressed to the carpet of my bedroom floor, when I proclaimed to Jesus that, "Yes, you ARE all I need!" After "accepting Jesus into my heart" ten years earlier, I now wrestled with this laying down of my life in whatever way God intended it. And I decided to follow where ever He led. "Though none go with me, I still will follow! No turning back, no turning back!" Yes. That made sense. When I surrender all, does the beast within me not cry out with a piercing scream of pain? That day, it certainly did. And it was beautiful.


In the all-you-have-to-do-is-accept mentality that I had formerly been living in, Bonhoeffer notes that, "my only duty as a Christian is to leave the world for an hour or so on a Sunday morning and go to church to be assured that my sins are all forgiven. I need no longer try to follow Christ, for cheap grace, the bitterest foe of discipleship, which true discipleship must loathe and detest, has freed me from that."

And...

"The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ." 

Yes.


Bonhoeffer discusses how Martin Luther proclaimed Sola Gratia, grace alone, in the protestant reformation, yet did not live this out through intellectual assent alone. It was a constant act of following and obeying. 


"In the depth of his misery, Luther had grasped by faith the free and unconditional forgiveness of all his sins. That experience taught him that this grace had cost him his very life, and must continue to cost him the same price day by day."

Let's press into this truth. Lay down today. Let Christ harpoon the monster within. For today is yet another day to leave everything behind and follow Jesus.

Cheers and God Bless,
Natasha W.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Materialism and the Race

Dear Friends,

One step in breaking the chains of busyness may lie in coming to a clearer understanding of what we are busy doing. One thing which is so easy to do, amid the incessant inflow of advertisements, unrealistic images of "important" individuals, and wealthy caricatures of the American family, is to chase stuff.

Let's ask ourselves seriously if our stuff is a hindrance to our godliness. 

I was reading Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God, by Noel Piper (which I have finished, and have begun rereading in parts). The story of Esther Ahn Kim contained a few principals concerning the way she faced persecution and temptation. Along with prayer, worship, generosity "with good things, not just leftovers", memorizing scripture, and "listening to people's stories about trouble and God", Mrs. Piper also listed "practicing living simply." I'm reminded of how Esther Ahn Kim prepared herself for persecution by eating rotten apples.

And at one point in her lengthy stay in prison (that is, "several years of cold, illness, and starvation"), as so many fellow saints died of this starvation, she began craving those rotten apples she had grown to endure years earlier. She craved and prayed. And so she was saved when God orchestrated the delivery of rotten apples to her cell. What would have happened, I wonder, if she had only awaited her imprisonment with creme brulee and ristretto-shot, light foam lattes, that were not quite up to standard? What if she had spent her days reading fashion blogs, obsessing over Kate Middleton, and complaining about her manicurist's inability to get her nails just right?

I'm also reminded of War and Peace, when dear Pierre Bezhukhov (the quirky, yet ever- theologically-seeking hero) considers how a man is just as discontent with a crumpled petal in his bed of roses as he is when living as a P.O.W. without shoes in the dead of winter, and trying to sleep on the cold ground.

 "He learned that suffering and freedom have their limits and that those limits are very near together; that the person in a bed of roses with one crumpled petal suffered as keenly as he now, sleeping on the bare damp earth with one side growing chilled while the other was warming; and that when he had put on tight dancing shoes he had suffered just as he did now when he walked with bare feet that were covered with sores- his footgear having long since fallen to pieces."


Once again: "... and be content with what you have," echoes from Hebrews 13:5.  There is a lofty command.

Janet Luhrs, author of The Simple Living Guide, writes,

"A certain level of material comfort is necessary... The trouble is, most of us don't know when to stop."

She continues on a well-articulated and much needed rant on our obsession with silly stuff,

"Pasta machines. Absolutely. In this day and age, everyone has time to make homemade pasta.Who are we kidding? I don't care how great the stuff tastes. When was the last time you used yours? Electric can openers. In my humble opinion, these have always been the paragon of a life gone junk bad.  This is one item I never could understand. Hold all phones everywhere- we can't open cans with a hand crank? We can't?"

Plato once said, "In order to seek one's own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary, everyday life." Simplify. Lower your need for comfort. Challenge yourself with less.

Chuck the clutter. And while we're at it, let's stop watching the commercials, listening to the ads, gazing at the billboards. Stop watching the wine sparkle in the glass if you're trying to drink less wine. Let's refrain from window-shopping. While I love Pinterest for its abundance of inspiration, craft how-to's, and collection of artwork and cleverness, I am getting more than a little tired of all the "stuff" that is pinned as, "must-haves." Really?

Do we really have the time to hunt down ideas of things to want and need and covet? Do we need help coveting? Do we need a cyberspace to collect all the things we covet, and to spend time organizing and renaming our groups of wanted stuff?


Continuing on the line of materialism, Randy Alcorn writes in "Money, Possessions, and Eternity" (a favorite book that Shyla so graciously lent to me about a year ago, and which still remains hostage in my home),

"Seeking fulfillment in money, land, houses, cars, clothes, boats, campers, hot tubs, world travel, and cruises has left us bound and gagged by materialism- and like drug addicts, we pathetically think that our only hope lies in getting more of the same. Meanwhile, the voice of God- unheard amid the clamor of our possessions- is telling us that even if materialism did bring happiness in this life, which it clearly does not, it would leave us woefully unprepared for the next life."

And back to Luhrs,

"When you are in a store and get the urge to buy some gadget or other, ask yourself what it really will mean over the long haul. You will need to do something with this item. You will need to put it somewhere, you will need to clean it, repair it, and so on. "

She goes on to break down how an expensive item requires an extensive amount of time at work (possibly a job we don't love or feel called to be in) to purchase, to pay for the repairs, the cleaners, the accessories, etc. Stuff is not only acquired by the price listed on the sticker.

Luhrs also points out, "I've never heard anyone say they just love to do errands. Never. Yet a big reason for errands is our stuff- in the buying, maintaining, repairing, or storing." We will invest energy in thinking about it, worrying about it if there is a storm or a fire or a new housemaid, etc. We will be tempted to consider how this item will look to our friends, how important they will consider us when they see us using it, etc.

And last, but not least, I must point out that spending money on temporal stuff (as Randy Alcorn eloquently writes about at length in said book, which you must read), takes away from spending money on missions, takes away spending time in serving one another and the Church, takes away from being generous and hospitable, and ultimately from dwelling on the loveliness of Christ and enjoying His presence in peace.

"Be still and know that I am God." (Ps 46:10). Friends, this needs to fit into our daily schedule.

Hebrews 12:1

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw of everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." 

Yes and Amen! Let's throw it off and run with abandon!

Cheers and God bless,
Natasha W.



Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Chains of Busyness

Dear Friends,

*If you don't have time to read this, feel free to stick to the boldface type.*


I am becoming more and more convinced that Satan's most prolifically used weapon in modern American culture is the weapon of busyness.


 I'm trying hard to think of one individual, and even one family that is not currently and often being worn down, exhausted, spent, and thrown off balance (spiritually and/or physically) due to the busy demands of their lifestyle. And friends, I'm not even talking about people who are rolling in the dough. I'm primarily thinking of us blue-collar middle class, or lower middle class folks. Though certainly, it reaches all income levels! As I am currently a married-with-no-kids housewife, I often feel that I am the only person in America who doesn't feel too busy most of the time. 

On that note, I also have to take my financial dilemmas and insecurities to God again and again and again. But it is so worth it!

Let me clarify "too busy". These are just some examples I've seen in my life at different times: 

-Not feeling able to spend 30 minutes to an hour in devotion (prayer, worship, scripture) on a daily basis. (The amount of time you spend may vary- but I do believe it is a problem if you are completely incapable of penciling in an intentional half hour with the Lord.)

-Not feeling capable of beginning and maintaining a commitment to disciple and/or be discipled by meeting with a fellow believer once a week. (This is personal to me. Others may rather struggle to meet in life groups or pursue mentoring opportunities.) I'm reminded of Hebrews 10:25.

-Not feeling free to pursue opportunities that seem to be directly provided by the Lord (i.e. serving with the youth on sunday evenings, volunteering on Saturdays, etc.) *Note that I'm not referring merely to things that are written down in the church bulletin; I'm talking about things you personally feel the Lord impressing on your heart to do. It's personal! And obedience is something we need to take seriously.

-Not being able to think straight enough to pray throughout the day. I'm reminded of Ephesians 6:18 "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."

-Not feeling free to talk to people in public as the Holy Spirit prompts you to do. OR, not desiring to be open to the Spirit's leading at all, because you don't have time to talk to anyone! You've got to book it!! Eph 5:1-2; Gal 5:16.

-Not having time to get 8 hours of sleep (parents may be exempt from this- I wouldn't know about that) or eat 3 meals a day. Let's be honest. Even believers can take crankiness to all new levels. Unless seriously fasting, that's no way to live by the Spirit.

-Not believing it is possible to set aside one day a week for a biblical sabbath- day of intentional rest without work or the usual demanding tasks such as cleaning, running errands, etc. This is a concept I'm just now trying to apply.


In other words, you may feel pulled by the Holy Spirit in church to do certain things and apply biblical truths in certain ways during the week-


BUT immediately feel the unavoidable tug in the other direction by the mere fact that, THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE.

Please know that I am not condemning anyone for these feelings. It's hard to figure it all out, and live it out.

My food for thought is this: 

What if the math is just not adding up to what the Spirit seems to be asking of us, simply because our culture has created a mold for a lifestyle that God never intended us to live? What if the reason we can't seem to make enough money AND have enough time to use it for God's Kingdom is because our culture has left us with a blueprint for finances and lifestyle that God does not agree with? What if we ought to come up with ways that are countercultural in order to be good stewards of our time and resources?

What has cut in on you? What is destroying your peace? What is preventing you from being obedient and bearing fruit for the Kingdom? How indispensable are these things, really? Are these chains really unbreakable, or are we just failing to think outside of the wealthy-accomplished-individualized-American box? Is Biblical, Christian community really an unattainable concept? Or if not, then are you achieving it right now? If you are, please tell me how!!

Living countercultural lifestyles. Doing without the things we've been told over and over again are essentials. Sacrificing temporal gain for eternal profit. None of these things are done easily. Chains rarely break painlessly. Hebrews 13:5 "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'"

 Let's ask God for wisdom in living Biblical lives, in throwing off chains that enslave us and keep us from serving one another in love. Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Cheers and God Bless,
Natasha W.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Eve and I

This week has been quite interesting. It's been full of ups and downs, and yet... I'm learning constance. (Repeat: Learning! I'm still a student of faithfulness as I write this, and a stubborn student, at that.)

I find that I'm still deeply affected by Dr. Beal's quote from the tribulation lecture at OCU a few weeks ago:

"Either Eve didn't know God's Word well enough, or didn't regard it highly enough." You know, I think I've always sort of loathed that woman. I mean, WHY did she have to eat from the apple and bring her husband down with her? Have you ever had an apple? So not worth it. But when you put it into terms as Dr. Beale did, well, that changes things.

Which am I guilty of? Surely the first is the result of the second. If I regarded it highly enough, then I would take the pains (and joy) to learn it well. And this would keep my foot from slipping as I so often do.

I yearn to be a woman of God in the deepest sense that God desires it for me. And this conviction of not regarding God's Word highly enough, in practice as well as theory, weighs heavily still. In my experience, I can spend a few weeks coming up with a list of verses I've memorized until I have a list that takes several minutes to recite in my mind everyday. Once, the list was sixty verses long (which just proves to me that it can be done). But the first few days I lag behind, due to sickness or vacation (as though that's a good excuse), I get overwhelmed and feel that I shall never work my way back to where I was. And certainly never get further! But hey, let's break off that lie of in the name of Jesus. I am perfectly capable of learning His Word in my heart and mind to the extent that He desires it for me.

If anyone has any good tips for guarding against this tendency- to get overwhelmed- please let me know. :) And I confess that the biggest challenge for me is remembering the references for each verse. Someone told me recently that it's okay to just say, "Paul says in Ephesians," etc. So perhaps I'll try that.

Life itself testifies to me that learning scripture is so powerful... so crucial to our constant spiritual warfare. And yes, I believe that spiritual warfare is constant! If not in the sense of angels and demons, then certainly in the sense of killing sin and living by the Spirit moment by moment and praying through everything. This morning, I sat down with my worship music playing and began to journal to my Father (as I'm trying more and more to make a daily routine in spite of varying circumstances). Something felt lacking- was it sin in my life? Was it a spiritual issue I wasn't taking to Him, to my Healer? Was it a lack of faith? I expressed to God my honest and confusing lack of enthusiasm and peace in coming to Him.

I glanced down at my sheet of handwritten verses, and my eyes immediately drew to Psalm 51:10,12.

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me."

Thank you, David! And thank you my dear Father, who gave me the very words my heart was searching for. Every phrase of these two verses echoed what I so desperately longed to convey to my Savior. I need God to CREATE in me a pure heart. I need God to RENEW a STEADFAST spirit within me. I need God to RESTORE to me the JOY of his salvation and grant me a WILLING spirit to SUSTAIN me. I seek a pure heart; I seek renewal and steadfastness. I seek restoration and joy in his salvation, and- yes, I seek willingness! I have faith, but, Oh God, help my lack of faith!

I'm not sure exactly how to say this... But there have been times of great revival and passion and intensity in some of the people around me, and I feel that we have dipped into a valley of sorts. And I think my perseverance in my exuberance for God's Kingdom is being tested. Where will I fall? I may traverse through valleys, but my eyes must rest on God's hills, on His glory.

Anyway, when my enthusiasm seemed so weak and lacking, I rallied the help of some heavenly friends. Sometimes, we need to go out looking for inspiration from other Godly women when we can't seem to come up with it ourselves. I picked up "Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God" by Noel Piper. I reread the end of Esther Ahn Kim's story, and began that of Helen Roseveare. It was like one really amazing pep talk!

Friends, we must lift up the anthem. We must start each day with all we've got. It isn't enough to give almost all we have.

I'm reminded that Jesus was never afraid of difficult conversations. He dove straight to the heart of things, whether by way of parable or some other story, or just direct confrontation. We mustn't fear the conversation. But perfect love drives out all fear.

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7

When I read that verse, I think of it in terms of THE Spirit. For I cannot muster up power and love and self-displine on my own. I am only enabled in as much as I go to the Spirit for these things, and in as much as I have grace to live in power, love and self-discipline.

Don't you remember, oh friends, and oh soul of mine?

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9

That's what we do with our lives, with our words. In our joy, in our pain, in our waiting and confusion and affliction. We declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. You may not feel much like getting down to business today- getting to the heart of things, working out your salvation, reaching out to someone in love, or giving your all for the Kingdom. But God is just as worthy today, perhaps in the valley, as He ever was on the mountaintop a week ago. Though your arms and soul may be tired, lift up your hands to Yahweh, and ask Him to create in you a pure heart, steadfastness, joy, and willingness to do His will. He loves to give good gifts. But we must learn to ask for them!

Cheers and God Bless,

Natasha W.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Know Thyself


     Lately, I've stopped writing with the intent of being read. Rather, I’ve begun to write for the purpose of understanding life more fully. 
I've realized that I write to know myself. I've found that I don't truly know my own heart, my own mind, my own fully developed perspective on any certain situation until I've put pen to paper, so to speak. I think when my hands are moving. I suppose this makes sense, too, in light of the fact that I am a kinesthetic learner, and a constant clapper during worship. 
Also, so much of the poetry I've written has begun as some cryptic, ambiguous gob of phrases with nothing more than a mysterious feeling behind it. But after writing and rewriting and pulling threads together and manipulating phrases, I find that the impression that was always there is finally visible even to myself. And so I know myself a little better than before. 
....

In other news, I discovered yesterday that a friend I’ve been visiting with during tutoring every week for two semesters now is a book editor. I’m not one to harp on about networking and connections, but I found this rather coincidental. -Oh, but nothing is coincidental, is it? Providential, perhaps? We shall see. 

     Also, she wears truly chic nautical-themed outfits, with the anchor designs and blue and white stripes and all. There is a vicious rumor that I have a tendency to gush on about her outfits every single week. Oh, and I started it. 
God bless,
Natasha W.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ocean's Rhythm


This morning, I have been walking in that certain heaviness that comes with inspiration and revelation (a good heaviness, I might add). So many thoughts have come as heavy, overwhelming ideas that seem to change everything for me. 
For instance, I was reminded of the ocean. How I love to sit on the beach (Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, to be exact) and feel the sugar-white sand beneath me and watch and listen to the rhythm of the waves crashing and rushing up the shore. I love the rhythm. And today I was struck with the idea that perhaps what I have always felt drawn to in the ocean's rhythm is the same thing I am drawn to in writing and fiction and art and humanity. I'm drawn to the magnitude and complexity of life on earth and its rhythm. Pain, desolation, confusion, darkness. Waiting, searching, seeking. Then grace, light, understanding, clarity, joy, inspiration and blessing. Dryness, emptiness, space, pausing, time. Then the rush, the crash, the music, the revelation, the water and fulfillment. Seasons, cycles, change, growth... but always a rhythm, always a plan and a pattern and a Someone orchestrating comfort and grace and fulfillment in our lives. 
So much has happened in the last week during this bizarre and beautiful time of healing. I've been finding new depth in my love for children- not a vague idea of my future children, but the children of friends and family, and even handsome little strangers who smile at me from across a room at random, for no reason at all except that we happened to meet eyes and felt like smiling.  
I was enveloped and welcomed back into my church family (as I haven't been there in so many weeks) with the scents of coffee and bulletins and books and newborns and that evasive, mysterious something that seems to come with the general congregation of Oklahoma City hipsters. And it was so good to sing to God, and to sing over one another and with one another and to one another. This concept of worship is so new to me, for I've always thought worship was ONLY between me and God. But now it is so much more when I am with the church family. It is encouraging and being encouraged to sing to God, to sing about Him, to deepen our fulfillment in our love for Him and acceptance of His grace. It's complex, for we are all coming to God from different places, different moods and weaknesses and perspectives. Some are in mourning, others are struggling with addictions and recurrent sins in our lives, and still others are experiencing a new joy and seasons of blessing. Some of us are singing louder, lifting up our hands higher. Others are listening more, and being encouraged by those who worshiping with so little restraint and so much freedom. We are lifting up and being lifted. And we are all apart of the chorus, the complex movement of a people toward their Creator. 
Today I'm reminded to sing my part, to gradually lift up the song as my own heart is being lifted by others, and my eyes are being redirected to God's goodness. 
Natasha W.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Now Then...

Well, friends, here we have sorrow. That is to say, I have begun to feel that everywhere I turn, I have stumbled upon it. And I find myself asking who it is that I am hurting for. Is my pain entirely my own, or even most of my own? It all seems blurred together- mine, his, hers, and theirs.

I suppose these things are generally kept quiet, but I hate to go around acting cryptic, so I should mention that I had a miscarriage recently. It's a strange thing, to be honest- if "strange" is the word I want, and I think it is. You find yourself going along your merry way, getting up in the (WEE) wee hours of the morning, worshipping, cleaning, studying, cooking, and finding joy at every turn; you write because you believe you're a writer; you study violin because you believe God gave you a violin with your name already engraved on it; you tutor kids, you open up with people in church, you hug a lot and pray and sing and dance. In short, you believe you know who you are and what you're doing.
  Next thing you know, you're pregnant. You rejoice, you tell the world, and try (oh so hard) to begin to grasp what this word means, what parenting means, what the future holds. And I admit, it was scary and heavy and a little unbelievable. 
And in the very next breath, the doctor's telling you something's wrong, there will be no baby, you've had "crappy bad luck" (thanks a lot, doc- that explains everything), and a lot of other nightmarish things, and you're just trying really hard not to pass out or puke all over everyone (very real possibilities, I might add). It was something like that. 
And then... what? I'll tell you what. You put your clothes back on and take the elevator downstairs and try to hold it together as you pass all the women with swollen bellies and toddlers and excited spouses. And of course, it’s impossible to get out of the building without at least one poor soul asking you when you’re due date is. But all you can think is, “Lady, I don’t have one.” 
You think about your grandparents a lot. Like I said, "strange" is the word I want. But you go on thinking about them, and how sorry they must be for you, and somehow, this hurts the most. You think of how sorry everyone is for you, and (I'm not even kidding) you feel extremely sorry for making them sorry. You think about your husband, who really wants kids. You think about your mother-in-law, who really wants your husband to have kids. And then you think, "Who am I? What am I doing? What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to feel?" And everyone asks you how you feel, how you're doing, and there is no good answer. They're all bogus answers, no matter how honest you try to be. The only realistic description of how it feels is, "crushed".  So, you say "fine" instead, because if we're being honest, "fine" doesn't mean anything. All I could think of was my pestle and mortar, and how you throw in some lifeless ingredients and set to work grinding it all up together with that marble pestle, round and round, making that knocking noise as you grind. But it isn't delightful when you are the stuff being ground up, crushed into a million pieces. Crushed. Obliterated. Like taking the heel of your boots and digging something down into the earth, or scraping it across the sidewalk until its no longer recognizable. 
And that's exactly it. Unrecognizable. I've spent the last few weeks feeling like a guinea pig, getting poked and prodded, measured and sized and evaluated because of complications and outrageously high hormone levels that aren't supposed to exist, getting personal calls from my doctor, leaving messages with nurses whose answer to my questions is offering to google it for me, etc. And nothing has been sane- nothing has been like it was before. I keep asking myself, "How do I get back to before? Or, am I supposed to get back at all? How do I go forward? Who am I now?" 
After weeks of praying things like, "Oh God, I don't want to be bitter!" and "What now, God? What do I do now?" I feel like I'm finally landing on my face where I belong. Because I don't know. I don't know what God is thinking, or why so many people around me seem to be facing darker sorrows than myself. And I don't know what I'm supposed be or how I'm supposed to feel. But I spent a long time in His Word and listening to people singing His praises this morning. And I read the following snippet from Joshua, which, in the strangeness that is my heart right now, God used to get something through to me. Maybe it won't make sense to anyone else, but it says everything I need to hear right now.
"My servant Moses is dead. Now then..." (Joshua 1:2)
And so I realize that today is my, "Now then..." Today I use every ounce of strength to get back up again. Whoever I am, whatever this all means, I can't stay here. And even though I don't know what God is thinking or doing, and I have zero vision for my future, I know I'm made to sing His praises, to bring Him glory. And for this little glimmer of hope, no matter how hard it is to see or grasp, I'm supremely thankful.
Natasha W.
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me."
Psalms 51:10, 12