Saturday, November 29, 2014

On Being Renewed

A year ago, when I prayerfully began asking for my word for 2014, I realize now I was thinking small. So small. And that God had much bigger, deeper things in store. I was thinking of so many of the difficult circumstances in life that needed change and, truly, God wasn't blind to those painful places. Looking back, though, I think that what God was more interested in was my heart, my soul, my perspective, and my place with Him.

Like I said, God HAS stepped in to some of those ugly places. Right around Remembrance Day, my husband and I were noting just how far this year has brought us. How different life is this year compared to this time last year. It was mid November last year that he had lost his job. Mine was not much better. We were alienated from both daughters. Finances were tight. We were just taking slow, painfully frightening steps into church community. Our basement was a disaster. The past was pushing into our present with painful perseverance. We had experienced loss after loss after loss and hope was hard to be found. In truth, I felt like I was drowning and wondering where on earth God was in it all.

This year, we have seen change in some of those circumstances. My wonderful husband has been provided with a new job. One in which he feels respected and challenged, able to provide for us as a family. One of our daughters has returned to us. We're only a few days work away from the basement being finished (we will never, NEVER, renovate again). And, spoiler alert, we have a baby on the way! There is a different feeling of hope this winter season, even though not all of the tough stuff is by any means fixed or "gone."

Hope is a funny thing. Rarely, if ever, does it come from circumstance. One of the biggest changes for me has been a softening of heart, a renewal of relationship with God and His church that is hard to explain fully but something I am increasingly aware of and thankful for. We have made some choices in that regard. One of them has been returning to church community.  I don't know if I have posted yet about how that all came about. Short version is this: summer vacation 2013. Colin and I were on the ferry to Victoria to visit some friends. I was sitting on the deck of the boat watching the beauty of the BC coast pass by and I knew, I just knew, that it was time to go back to church after our season of rest, if that's what its called, or at the very least, of absence. As is his nature, when I spoke to Colin about it, he was truly supportive. I think his words were something to the effect of "I've just been waiting for you. Where do you want to go?" We chose a church close to home (proximity to community is important to us) that we knew had similar values and theology to what is close to our hearts. After a meeting with the pastor to answer some of our questions, we decided to make it home. There was no church shopping for us. It was time to get back into community and this was the place. We were, or at least I was, tentative at first. I think its probably a natural tendency of the broken to be tentative and cautious. For me, this was a step, maybe even a leap, of vulnerability, not just with church and organization and community but with God himself. Let me be clear. This was not just about "going" to church. To me, its been about being open to God's timing and God's plan, which truly is perfect, even when it felt like He had completely and utterly forgotten us. We entered into His community just before crap really hit the fan for us.

God has been faithful. He has found me in my vulnerability and reluctant obedience and given me what I didn't know I needed - not the renewal of circumstance I expected but a renewal of Spirit. Through the people there He has provided community, friendship, support and encouragement. In the last year He has spoken deeply into my Spirit. He has healed, or at least, is healing, this broken heart of mine. Because of what He has been allowed to do there, more has come. I know I am different, perhaps more whole, than I was a year ago because I have allowed Him to move in me. God has taken my one step of obedience, one tentative step towards what I knew to be true, to change me. He is dragging me, slowly and patiently, out of the darkness I felt like I was in and returning me to the lightness of His spirit.

He has me doing things I wouldn't have imagined a year ago. Our church does what they call Covenant Community. I suppose you could call it membership. Just recently, my husband and I made the commitment to join community. It wasn't about being "members" for us, about whether we could vote or be on the "in" with decisions. It had very little to do with organizational church of structure to me at all. I felt like it was another important step, a building of an alter if you will, like in the Old Testament when they built alters to mark significant meetings with God. We were saying that we're here. We're not going anywhere. These people will be our family and this place will be our home. We commit to following God together and allowing Him to continue to change and shape our perspective, to continue to provide the hope and renewal He has begun. We will allow Him to use us there, in service, to do what He needs to do.

An important part of the process was reflecting on and writing down my journey of faith. This was the testimony I gave to the church that day:

I was practically born into the church. I am the oldest child of a dad who was an elder and founding member of our church, a well known teacher in our small farming community and a farmer and friend to many. My mom was a leader and servant in her own right, an integral part of our church and community. Our church became an extension of my family and I learned early that one of the joys of community is doing life together. Through that family, I learned the stories of the Bible and watched it lived out in real life. It was because of the lessons learned there that I met Jesus early, praying a child’s prayer at around 4 years old, asking Jesus into my life. I had opportunities to serve, to lead and to search out God’s will and gifting for me. 
My faith became real and truly hit home when I was about 9. I remember it clearly. I was at summer camp and the speaker was talking about just how much God loves us. He read John 3:16 and then asked us each to repeat it with him, putting our own name into the verse. “For God so loved Stacey, that He gave his only Son that she should have eternal life.” I knew that that was true and that that was a God I wanted to follow. That message of unconditional love, deep and unending, has been the foundation of my life and faith. 

It has been my goal to love and to serve Him since. I was baptized in June of 1998, after my first year of Bible College. I went on to get my Religious Education degree and have had the privilege of serving in ministry for almost 15 years, walking closer with Jesus, learning more about who God made me and having the opportunity to journey with so many dear people who were also getting to know Jesus better. Together we learned to love God and love people.

In 2010, things began to fall to pieces, making the last 4 years some of the hardest of my life. I have wrestled in my faith, moved out of ministry, struggled with my belief and trust in people and had my self esteem beaten and battered. I have wondered if God is there and wondered if there is anything good left for me. Hope has been hard to find.

Yet through it all, even though I didn’t always feel it in my heart, two truths that have shaped my life remained: God loves me and He wants us to walk in community. 

Last July (2013), I knew it was time to return to church. Even though I was afraid and even though I was wounded, I knew that was what God wanted for us. There was something there for us that was important. Our first Sunday was a timid step of obedience. Sunwest has been our home since.

Every year, instead of choosing a New Year’s resolution, I try to prayerfully choose a word. This year’s word has been renew. There are so many aspects of life that have needed (and still need) renewal. We are thankful to have Sunwest as a part of that renewing journey. 
I feel a little bit like I'm rambling and not fully getting to the depths of what God has, is doing. Let me put it this way: I feel like I am slowly climbing out the other side of a dark valley. It's uphill and has changed my perspective. It is hard work but I am not alone. He is walking with me and I'm beginning to see the light glimmering over the horizon at the top. I am learning that He who began a good work in me will follow it through to completion. If all I can is this, that God has not forgotten me, this I know, then I am better than where I was a year ago. Some days, that's what it is...still one fragile, broken step in front of the other, simply knowing I am not forgotten in the mess. Some days its more. Some days I feel like he's closer. Present. And I'm starting to see His movement in life around me again. It's not all sunshine and roses. Some areas are downright nightmarish. God is in those moments too.

That is a perspective I needed to have renewed. That is where there is hope to be found. There are so many little, circumstantial things that still need to change, so many that I need take responsibility for - habits to restore, mindsets to change, steps to take - but it all seems a little less daunting looking at it from a different perspective (someone remind me of that when I'm a tearful puddle on the floor next week!!).

Who would have thought that seeking a simple word could be used in such a way? Do I dare ask for more?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Life Aquatic :: Donkey's Day at the Pool

It's recreation. You'd think it would be fun, and some days it is, but usually it's 29.9 degrees, 79 percent humidity, grumpy people and, well, work.

So we make our own fun.

Donkey came to the pool. The girls took one look at him and were convinced that I have a fabulous ass. We spent all day chasing that ass around the pool, making bad jokes.

Look at that ass in the pool. There's always one, isn't there?
Lazy ass hitched a ride with Gertrude.

How on earth did you fit that ass into there!?

The diving board is broken! Get that ass off of there.

Sit that ass down on the slide. No standing.

Check out that hot ass in the hot tub!

You don't like our rules?  Think that lifeguard is a real ass?
A real ass? You might be right.
Then that ass decided he wasn't getting out of the pool.
Then that ass decided he wasn't going to get out of the pool when we closed.
Who can argue with an ass? This is how the morning staff found him.
He came back the next night. Silly ass.

And the next. That ass thinks he's really funny. 

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

To Love and Be Loved

**This post was written last October but, for a number of reasons, tucked away. Today I found it and decided to post it. **

Have you ever had that moment where something new and different - perhaps a new place, or a new group of people - bring you back to exactly where you began? I had one of those today. My sweet husband and I are embarking on a journey back to church community. For so many reasons, it is a journey back and while it is in so many ways old and comfortable and home and same and about obedience, it is still new and different and a little bit frightening. It is indeed a journey back.

That Sunday, participating as a part of this new community, I was reminded of one question. A question that drove me through my degree and the classes I took at the masters' level. The question that influences me in my day to day interactions. The question that for so long, took over the reading I did and the things I discussed with other church leaders. This one question motivated the lessons I planned and the way I taught my leaders in my different leadership and ministry roles. It was the foundation for the way I recruited. It, in many ways, shaped how (and why) we began this journey back to church.

What does it look like to live with a spirit transformed by Jesus?

I've come to the place where I sum it up like this, the way that Jesus did: to love God and to love people. I know I've said it before in my musing: the love that Jesus is talking about is active and all consuming. It changes how we think and live and move. It informs all things. Or at least it should.

See, living like Jesus can't be just about believing in him. In the message that Sunday, we were reminded of the scriptures teaching that even the demons, if Satan himself, believe in Jesus. They know he exists. They know he is real. They know he is the savior of the world and that he sacrificed himself.

But they don't live lives that are changed.

They don't follow him.

They don't love him.

And if we truly love Jesus and realize that he loves us, we can't help but live lives that are loving. We can't help but be transformed from the inside out. See, then it's not our actions that make us followers of Jesus. It's our hearts. And it's because our hearts are following Jesus that our actions change. 

Round 2

I've decided it's unlikely I'll have time to post an extended review on the playoffs - I've barely even been able to catch a game thanks to this crazy shift I'm working (working nights is hard on life). That said, I still have my four picks ready to go.

Eastern Conference
Boston over Montreal - I hate to say it. Loathe, really. I hope Carey Price can steal the series but, barring that, I still have to pick Boston.
Pittsburgh over New York - again, don't really like it, but here we are. It seems I'm all about the goaltenders this season - Lundquist could be the New York solution to Pittsburgh but I'm still not convinced.

Western Conference
Chicago over Minnesota - Have I mentioned I hate Chicago? And yet....
LA over Anaheim - This is the only series that I'd be pleased to see my pick actually win!

So there you have it. Time will tell.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Current Read - April 20, 2014

It has been a long time since I've written one of these. I've certainly spent more time hiding myself in the stories of others than writing my own. For a season, I'm convinced, that's okay. The truth is, I have had so much in my head, so much in my heart, but it hasn't felt like the time or the place to pour it all out. It's like Thumper was taught by his momma, "If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." And I haven't. So I haven't.

But today, on a day to celebrate newness and life and restoration, it seems like this is a good, safe place to start.

So stories. I have read piles and piles of stories. Words written on paper and giving rest and, at times, escape.

I have read (from most recent to oldest):

Happier at Home: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Cram My Day with What I Love, Hold More Tightly, Embrace Here, and Remember Now, Gretchen Rubin - A continuation on her first project, it's more of Gretchen's story on how to live life, in the context one finds themselves in, seeing the beauty, the fun and the happiness there is to be found. The fun thing is, while I wouldn't choose to do all of the same things - some are certainly applicable and resonate - the truth is, her search is inspiring. Who couldn't use a bit more happiness at home?

The Help, Kathyrn Stockett - My confession is that I didn't think I would like this one. I don't normally get all into the "drama" category. Not often anyway. I read it more out of curiosity. It's been on the best seller list forever. My friends that read all seemed to enjoy it. Book clubs have devoured it. A movie has been made out of it. And with good reason. It's unique and honest. The characters are real and loveable - well, at least most of them..the rest you just love to hate - diving into the issue of black versus white and white versus black, people with differences on the outside but all the same hopes, dreams, fears and frustrations on the inside yet still coming at them from very different perspectives.

Cress - Marissa Meyer - The third in the trilogy. Fun to the end. So fun. If you like that sort of thing. Which I do.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians (books 1-5), Rick Riordan (oh, and I watched the movie adaption of Sea of Monsters. It was actually pretty good. For a movie based on a young adult fiction. But then again, we liked the first one, The Lightning Thief, in this house too.)

The Happiness Project: Or Why I spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun, Gretchen Rubin
A project to find more happiness. You know what I liked the most? It's not like so much of this type of thing in society. She was not in crisis of any sort, in fact, life was good. It wasn't about being a victim but about building a "bank" of sorts, a series of habits to rely on, so that if life were to get tough, like it often does, she would be prepared to face it. It wasn't about being a victim and expecting someone or something else to the work of "making" her happy. It wasn't about having more or getting more or having to make big changes to the context (like move) in order to be happy. What it was, was about finding the moments of brightness, of happiness, within her already there life and enjoying them. Like stopping to smell the roses. Making the choice. Taking responsibility for her own happiness. Making the choice to be happy with who she is and what she has. What a novel concept. And yet oh, so needed, and so deeply refreshing. I feel like this is one that I'll likely read more than once.

Crossed - Ally Condie
The first book in the series, while young feeling, caught my attention enough to bring me into the pages of the second one. It picked up right where the first one left off except that now, instead of just questioning the existing structure, Cassia, the main character, chooses to leave what she knows in search of a new future, new adventure and possibly even a new society. And now, that I'm two thirds into the story, I may just have to pick up the third book.

Matched - Ally Condie -They choose when and who you marry. They choose who you die. They choose what you eat and where you work and what you study. They. And everyone goes along with it. But what if something changes that causes someone with a bright future to question whether they should or whether they really know what they're doing? Another utopian, challenge the regime book, in the wake of young adult fiction books like Divergent but, unfortunately, this one comes off being a bit younger feeling than the others. I can't quite put my finger on why. 

The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the full love of Story of Christmas, Ann Voskamp - Sometimes the holiday season gets so full and busy that it's hard to see the truth of Jesus in the midst of it all. Voskamp's devotional focuses on the truth of the manger and how it ties through to the prophecies of the old Testament. It sounds so dry when I say it like that but the style of it is such that it comes alive and makes it beautiful. True. Even holy. I think this might be a part of our household holiday traditions.

A Tale of Three Kings - Gene Edwards - A sweet friend who knows much of our story over the last couple years recommended this one. Actually, she insisted that I had to read it in light of everything. Then one of the pastors I shared life and ministry with at Journey told me the same thing. Two people I respect, trust and know me well so read it I did. And I'm glad. Solomon. David. Absalom. Three kings with different stories but all needing grace and forgiveness and hope. What struck me most profoundly was the message of hurt, loss and betrayal experienced, at the hands of other believers and how each character dealt with it differently. Hurt, loss and betrayal are emotions I know well and even just knowing that there is enough truth to them to write a book made me feel a little less alone and, in company, brings hope.

Scarlet - Marissa Meyer  -The first book in the series, Cinder, took to space and political crisis the story of Cinderella, twisting it into something unique and different but strangely similar. Scarlet brings to life the little red riding hood and the big bad wolf. And then the two characters collide in the midst of political breakdown, potential global takeover, and the threat of war. The only problem I had with this one was that when I finished the last page, I didn't the third and last book waiting for me to start.

The Infernal Devices (books 1-3), Cassandra Clare - I think I liked these better than the Mortal Instruments. Set approximately three generations before the events of the Mortal Instruments, it prefaces the stories of the other series and yet still tells its own, full of battle, suspicion and magic.

Allegiant, Veronica Roth - I don't know if I've ever been as angry at a book as I was at this one. Seriously. With each page approaching the end hoping I kept hoping it wasn't going to end the way I feared, and, when it did, I threw it one the floor. Really. But I don't want to ruin the fun for the rest of you reading through the series. Enjoy.

City of Lost Souls, Cassandra Clare
The story of the shadowhunters, full of love, loyalty, betrayal, fear, sacrifice and family continues. Husband has lost interest, I think. Too much teenage angst, perhaps? And he's probably right. The story has probably been drug out one book too long but I need to see it through to the end. It's just the way I am.  The story gets bigger, the characters take on a little bit more and I just have to know. I want to find out where it goes and, in the battle of good and evil, who will actually win. Because that's what it's about, isn't it? Good and evil? Love and hate? Hope and fear? Loyalty and betrayal? Somewhere, deep down, we're wired to hope that good can and will overcome. Always. So there's one more book to wrap the story up. Thinking I might pre-order. Sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do. 

I feel like I'm missing a few but I can't remember what I'm forgetting. I suppose it wouldn't be forgetting if I could. That's the thing about forgetting.

Now there's this one. My current read:

Fall of Giants, Ken Follett

I loved the last Follett books that I read. I also enjoyed that my dad recommended them to me. So when he told me about these, I couldn't help but hunt them out. Spanning the stories of families over generations through some of the biggest global confrontations in history, the Century Trilogy combines historical truth and fantastic, gripping fiction...and I'm barely a third of the way into the first book. It's a big book. A really big book. Even so, I've already encountered Welsh coal miners, German spies, American ambassadors, Russian plant workers, police and peasants and English royalty. I think this one's going to be good.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Round 1 Picks

For the last several years, I've been posting my picks for each round and my thoughts on the match ups. This season I'm a little bit behind. My days since the round was finalized have been full - I think work is taking it's toll and getting more than just the best of me. Regardless, here's a quick look at the teams I choose. If I can, later this week, I'll expand. But, for now, I choose:

Eastern Conference
Pittsburgh over Columbus
New York over Philadelphia
Boston over Detroit
Montreal over Tampa Bay 

And, with slightly less confidence, and I hate to admit that, I choose:

Western Conference (the West, in my opinion, is way harder than the East!)
Dallas over Anaheim
St. Louise over Chicago
Colorado over Minnesota
LA over San Jose

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


I read an article this morning about how Gary Bettman is "not thinking about" NHL players playing in the Olympics in 2018. It was a silly article but then again, it simply matches my opinion of the public nature of the commissioner.

What burned my bottom was the barrage of comments that followed the article. Hundreds of people weighing in on whether NHL players should, indeed, be allowed to play hockey at the Olympics. People are allowed their opinion on the issue. Fine. What got me, was the amount of people that, in the mindset of keeping the NHLers out of the Olympics, spoke of the games as being a competition intended for the amateur athlete.

Burns my bottom!

Here's the thing. I love the Olympic games. I love the surge of patriotism that unites the country for those few short weeks. From the opening to closing ceremonies, I have goosebumps. I admit to tearing up in the midst of the stories of great victories, golden or otherwise. I surge with pride when it comes to stories like the one that circulated about our Canadian ski coach who jumped on the track to help a Russian competitor. I'm on the edge of my seat for ice dancers and bob sledders and speed skaters and curlers. I'm amazed by the speed (or airtime!) of our skiers, the finesse of our slopestyle athletes, the bravery of our skeleton sliders. They amaze me. #wearewinter

All that said, there's no one in our house denying that hockey is the sport that has our attention. If hockey is on, we'll catch replays of the others. We cheer on our men and women's teams with a fervor that the other events just don't receive. We won't be happy with less than double gold for our men's and women's teams. I admit it.

So back to where I started: NHL players in the Olympics and the games being for the amateur athlete.

Simply put, let's have the best of the best in EVERY sport representing their countries. That, to me, is the intention of the games. If that's NHL players, so be it. A two week break is not that big a deal for the league and a certain level of patriotism and "playing nice" with the rest of the world might just go a long way in actually aiding the cause of the business men behind it.

Here's where I get angry and defensive though. The games are NOT for amateurs. To say so takes away from the incredible athleticism and character of individuals competing. Of all of them. These people are class act. A gold medalist cross country skier waits 28 minutes for the last place athlete to finish and congratulates him ? That seems pretty professional to me. Or what about ALL the athletes who make this their life's work and goal, sacrificing so much in pursuit of their dream? They live and breathe this stuff. They train. They compete throughout the year. They compete through injuries that would absolutely take out the rest of us. They work to make themselves better. They may not be on national television with kids across the country wearing their name on their back or have agents working on multi-million dollar contracts but they are professionals in their own right.. more "professional" in character and in the way they represent their sport than what I've seen from a few NHL players out there.  Professional speed skaters. Professional skiers and snowboarders. Professional bobsledders. Professional figure skaters. Professional curlers. Professional hockey players.

Perhaps we need to reconsider how we define "professional" but, for now, its enough for me to recognize that these athletes are good. They are the best we have. And they should all have the honor of using that skill and dedication to represent their countries at the games.

Perhaps if we acknowledge the professionalism of sport for what it is in the other endeavors and supported our athletes accordingly, we'd see an even greater level of success and achievement by our athletes on the world stage. The other countries wouldn't stand a chance!

I'm proud of our athletes. I'm proud of what they've achieved so far. Yes, Team Canada, indeed #wearewinter

(C) Team Canada #wearewinter campaign

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Quoted :: Philip Yancey, Tim Keller, Max Lucado, G.K Chesterton and St. Augustine (a belated Christmas post)

“Yet as I read the birth stories about Jesus I cannot help but conclude that though the world may be tilted toward the rich and powerful, God is tilted toward the underdog.” Philip Yancey

"Christmas shows us that God is not just concerned about spiritual problems but physical problems too...because Jesus Himself is not just a spirit but also has a body, the gift of Christmas is a passion for justice."  Tim Keller

"He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. God tapped humanity on its collective shoulder. 'Pardon me, ' he said, and eternity interrupted time, divinity interrupted carnality, and heaven interrupted the earth in the form of a baby. Christianity was born in one big heavenly interruption." Max Lucado

"Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home."
G.K. Chesterton

"He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in a manger in wordless infancy. He, the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute."  St. Augustine

One Word

Last year was the first year that I joined some of my favourite bloggers in choosing a word (check out the movement - yes, it's actually a movement - at oneword365. It's pretty cool), instead of resolutions, to define the new year. The idea struck me as brilliant, really. A compromise between the a-type, goal setting personality part of me and the part of me that recognizes the wisdom of bigger picture themes and mindsets. The part of me that needs more grace than {failed} resolutions seem to allow for.

When I chose the word thrive, I had no idea how much that would change and shape my thoughts and perspectives...and how much I would need that.  2012 had been a difficult year. A year I felt that I simply trudged through and survived. I entered 2013 wanting something more than mere survival. I wanted to thrive. It’s amazing how one word can conjure up such deep, rich images. I saw rich, green plants coming out of parched earth, sipping up the water and reaching for the sunlight, growing, stretching and thriving, even in some of the harshest of conditions. In my mind’s eye, the pictures are optimistic, hopeful and alive. Little did I know how much I would need that kind of optimism. Little did I know what life would throw at us.

The truth is, in hindsight, our year was marked by loss.

Loss of my grandfather.
Loss of relationship with my husband’s children...who by choice, in my heart, are our children.
Loss of my sweet husband’s job.
Loss of health and subsequential loss of dietary freedom and some food favourites.
Loss of financial security...through some things truly out of our control.
Loss of stability.
Loss of the illusion of truly is only an illusion, isn’t it?
Loss of hope...almost...but not quite.

I know that's the not the complete list either. We all know what's under the tip of the iceberg, right?

It was the kind of year that could almost make you want to curl up on the floor in a turtle.

And still, it seems, at least, that we have done more than survive. We have grown, we have changed, we have been formed by the curve balls of life and our reactions to them, we have made (or at least tried to make) wise decisions, and we have kept the big picture in mind. We tried to keep our eyes looking up and ahead. We have made the intentional choice to look for the things that are good, the gifts we have been given, and we have held on to each other. We have attempted to thrive in an environment that was certainly not conducive to it. From the outside, it may have looked a lot like survival but, somehow, from the inside, it felt different.

That said, I have never felt so ready for the turning of a new year. I am glad to be rid of 2013. Something in me breathed a sigh of relief when the clock struck 12 on New Year’s Eve. Out with the old and in with the new. There was something tangible to a new year this year that I have never felt before.  This year can, and will, be different.

Now it’s January 5 and I find myself still prayerfully musing over what word to choose for 2014. Something to capture what I hope for, to capture the message that New Year’s sigh conveyed.

I’m ready for a new thing. I’m ready for peace and quiet and rest. I’m ready to renew and be renewed.

Do you feel that? Renew?

The sigh echoes in my soul with that one word and I know it speaks deep and true.

There’s an image of green again for me with that one word. Or perhaps of a turning from brown to green. I remember as kid on the farm, we looked forward to the harvest. That was the goal of each season of planting and tending...the harvest...and so it seemed to defy reason to put a field into summer fallow. Into rest. Out of production. And yet there is the wisdom of the ages, of biblical truth, even, in that practice. To continue to plant in the same land over and over would deplete the land of the moisture and nutrients it needs to be productive. The energy and resources diminish with each crop that is grown. Giving it a season off allows it to be refreshed. It also allows for additional time for residue from previous crops to break down and replenish the soil, bringing back nutrients so desperately needed for subsequent crops. In short, it allows the ground to renew.

Part of me feels some fear in front loading a year with expectation after what seems like so many difficult ones. Like maybe, even though it's not a list of resolutions, I'm setting myself up for disappointment. Then I think of last year and how much the perspective change of one word changed me and I know it's good. I think of how much I long for a chance for a full stop, a moment to take a deep breath, to pull us back together and start again, one baby step in front of another. To start fresh. I think of how much I need...NEED... to be refilled. I feel like there is not an ounce of energy or emotional reserve left to deal with any more crisis, change or loss. I feel dried out, burned out and exhausted. There are so few tears left to be cried. Old habits, positive habits, long forgotten need to be restored. Like the fields, I need to be renewed before any sort of fruitfulness can occur. Perhaps, then, it is need producing hope. It's the words of scripture, like God's promises about sabbath for everything from the land to slaves to entire communities (you know, it's probably been 6 years of "hard" for both of us in this house...hmm...time for Sabbath, you suppose?) that come to mind and bring confidence.

It's another image, of prophecy, that allows my soul to sigh deep and long again and allows the hope of my one word to settle. Of dry bones restored.  

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’"   

Ezekiel 37:1-14

And so it is that these dry bones can be filled by the Spirit, hope can be restored and a life scarred by change and loss can be renewed. I know it to be true.

It's not just blind hope, waiting for something to be done to me or for me. Already the beginnings of some tangible things are taking shape. Small things, but a start, none the less.

Welcome to 2014.

*Leviticus 25:1-5  The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai,  “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord.  For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops.  But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.  Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest