The Super Moon

All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah Psalm 66:4

This week I have been in Philadelphia for work. It’s been a busy week, with much time in meetings and being attached to a computer. The evenings have been spent catching up with friends and colleagues in different meals, sharing stories, catching up and laughing together, and lots of good food.

One night I was talking with the friends I was staying with, and one of them said, “Tonight is the biggest super moon on the year. Let’s watch it rise.” After a long day of work and people, I wasn’t sure I wanted to stand and watch the moon rise. A moon is a moon, right? But I had repeatedly admired this friend throughout the week for the way she lives life with an “all in” attitude and with joy. So if she was suggesting watching the moon, I would watch the moon.

And it was glorious, friends.

It was a bit hazy, and we were in the city, so it wasn’t so much the actual moon (though it was beautiful!) but it was more the fact that I was standing in the cooling evening air with friends, watching God’s creation for no other purpose than just to be reminded of how amazing God and his creation is. I took the time to just watch, just be still. No agenda, no rush. I was thankful for the moment and for the friend who suggested it.

As I get older, I have been trying to be more intentional about what it means to be a person of steadfastness and peace. I realize that this only happens when I sit in stillness, when I abide in his goodness and love. It happens when I am aware of his fingerprint on everything and everyone around me. It’s hard to be angry or anxious when I am seeing my great Creator in everything. What a holy lesson.

I am Here

When one of my children was younger he struggled a lot with anxiety and fear. He comes by it naturally. Both Shawn and I have struggled with these things. It has come out differently in each of us – Shawn tends to shut down and internalize while I talk myself into a frenzy and speak the lies out loud. Neither way is helpful if you continue to sit in them and allow them to shape you and the way you react. When I realized this child was on the verge of a full blown panic attack I knew I had to get him back to reality as soon as possible. I physically grabbed his face, put it right in front of my own, and said, “Look at me, son. I am here. I am right in front of you. I love you. Nothing will ever change that. You are my child.” I kept speaking these truths to him and slowly he started to breath at a more normal rate. As I held him in my arms I continued to pray over him. This didn’t stop the fear from creeping in again later, but in the moment there was peace. He looked at me. I looked at him. Truth was spoken and the power of that changed both of us.

I’ve spent years (decades) in counseling all over the world. Some of it was not so great, but the counselors that I connected with changed me from the inside out. They knew the words to say and the questions to ask to help me see truth. I am all for counseling. But now as I am older I see that it doesn’t help just to know the roots of my issues, or even to pull them out, but I need to replant in this soil that has sat empty. I need seeds of truth to sprout so I can be a person who not only survives in this world, but thrives in the love of my Father.

I need God to grab my face and point me to him.

Isaiah 43:1 says, “But now this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I’ve called you by name, you are mine.”

God will always love me. I am his. No matter what happens or how I feel, nothing changes this truth. I am sealed with the Spirit, redeemed and covered under the blood of the lamb. When hard, or even unthinkable, circumstances come my way, I can stand firm in this truth that is stronger than and brighter than any fear, circumstance, or trauma I face. Even when I don’t feel it in the moment, this truth is still truth. Thankfully my faith is not defined my me but by the one whom my faith is in.

When I feel like I am being swallowed up, consumed by the things of this world me and brokenness is all I see, I can look back to this truth and know that God – the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, unchanging from everlasting to everlasting, the Papa who calls me to crawl up in his lap and will cover me in the shadow of his wings, the warrior who defeated death once and for all already – that God love me, Heather. He knows my name, the number of hairs on my head. He knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb and already had my days planned out. My name is written in his book of life.

When everything around is out of control and I am dizzy and nauseous with uncertainty and fear, I can find this truth and focus on it alone. I can picture the Father grabbing my face and saying, “Focus, breathe. I love you, daughter, Heather. You are my beloved. Be still and know I am God. I am singing a love song over you that more beautiful and healing and whole than you can ever even imagine. I am fighting your battles. I am weeping with you. I am here. I am here. I am here.”

God is not an Avocado

We had an avocado tree in our yard in Nairobi. It produced small little fruits because it had not been well cared for before we came, but the harvest was still plentiful and happened twice a year due to the perfect weather there. (Sigh…I do miss the weather!) You could also buy them year round from roadside markets called Dukas for about twenty cents each. Yes, you read that correctly. I know – you practically have to sell your organs to buy them here.

The thing I have noticed about avocados is that you spend so much time waiting on them to become the perfect ripeness. There’s really no choice – it’s not one of those fruits that is yummy when it is not ready. I would gather the ones that fell in the yard and bring them in. Most of the time they still had to ripen a bit, and they would sit on the kitchen windowsill. Each morning I would check them, hoping for that perfect give that in them meant I could put it on my toast with some tomato and an egg – the perfect breakfast if you ask me.

Then suddenly one day I would rejoice because after all the waiting and checking it was finally over – my avocado was ready! I would enjoy it that day! However, by the next morning the rest that had fallen and been brought inside were rotten. I hate when you cut through only to see the black rot around the pit – so disappointing. If I happened to be in a hurry and missed the good morning, I might miss out on the whole batch. All that waiting for nothing. Avocados wait for no man.

Humans do not tend to be very good at waiting. I know that I am so impatient. It is even harder when we are not waiting FOR something but rather we are waiting IN something. I have had times in my life where I have clearly sensed God telling to me to wait in the moment – don’t wish it by or fast-track things. When we are in the middle of grief or pain or uncertainty we do not want to hear him tell us to wait. We worry as we wait that the solution or the perfect thing will come and we will not be watching so we will miss out. What if I am sitting in my grief and allowing the my heart to really feel what is happening around me – will I miss the chance to heal?

I know that the Bible talks about the idea that in all things we are to give thanks. In my past this has meant “getting through” things as quickly as possible so I can get on with the business of gratefulness. More recently I have re-thought this concept. In her book, No More Faking Fine, Esther Fleece says, “We are so quick to get to the beauty that we skip over the brokenness or have a hard time seeing beauty arise amidst the brokenness. This has led to some dangerous and unbiblical theology. And if we are going to recover a healthy, biblical understanding of how God meets us in our pain we need to recover the lost prayer of lament in our churches. Authentic praise flows from honest prayer, unrestrained lament, and trusting dependence. And this is when brokenness becomes beautiful.” (Emphasis is mine.)

This has been a year. There has been a lot of hard, a lot of bad. I have had to give myself permission to sit in some lament and grief over many things. I’ve been aware that there are things that I can learn only in this time of waiting. I can be in that time as long as I need and I am not going to miss what God has for me. In fact, waiting with no clear answers may be exactly what he has for me.

Recently I preached on what it looks like to live in a broken heart versus a whole and healed heart. The hardest part about “guest speaking” is you have half an hour to tell everything your heart has been ruminating on. While I know that God desires to see us healed and whole, I think part of that healing comes in the sitting and the waiting. I believe that sitting in the not-quite-yet healed completely heart while waiting on God to finish the healing is a good place to be. It’s not being stuck in the brokenness. It’t not missing out or being left behind. God’s healing sometimes feels like waiting for an avocado to ripen – like it’s never going to happen or somehow it will pass you by and you will miss it. But God is not an avocado! Sometimes his healing means sitting and waiting; listening and anticipating; waiting in the murky in-between where it doesn’t always feel so good, but where the broken becomes the beautiful.

I believe God is the redeemer of trauma and brokenness and the beauty-maker from ashes. As we offer our sacrifice of praise in the waiting, we will see these truths.