Monday, March 30, 2009

Waiting to Be Found

Music has always been important to me. Long before I had words to express this, I understood the transcendent nature of lyrics and melodies. I am not sure if everyone feels its power, but I believe it's always there whether we are aware of it or not. Perhaps it is the artist in me that makes me receptive to the way the words of a song can break through to me when nothing else does, the way music can change the way I am feeling for better or worse.

During these many months of brokenness in my relationship with God, music has been my only way of connecting to Him. At first I thought it strange that I could sing a worship song with all my might—and mean every word of it—but as soon as the music ended, I could not even bring myself to start a conversation with the God I had just been worshiping. Thinking about it now, though, I realize that as much as I aspire to be an "integrated whole," there are many times when I find myself living as separate parts. There is a part of me that is still hurting so much from what has happened between God and me that I do not even desire to be in relationship with Him. I feel guilty that I am not in close fellowship with Him and even more guilty that I do not want it, but that does not change my lack of desire. Even so, I think there is a part of me that feels the loss of this intimacy more acutely and understands how deeply I am in need of it. It is this part of me that is awakened by music and, in those moments, becomes strong enough to overcome everything else within me, everything that hinders me from reaching out to the God I once loved with all my being.

A couple months ago, I was playing the piano at home and came across a song I had not heard before, but for some reason I was drawn to it. After learning the song, I couldn't stop playing it. The part of me that desperately wanted to connect to God kept pulling me back to play and sing it "just one more time." I think I have yet to fully understand the significance this song will have in my search to find God again, but last night as we sang it at church for the first time, one line stuck in my mind:

"Here in our weakness You find us, falling before Your throne."

I suppose this is the hope I am clinging to. That although my weakness leaves me in a crumpled heap on the floor, unable to even look for God, still He will find me. That I will be restored not because of who I am and what I am capable of but because of who God is and what He is able to do. Yes, I am weak. Yes, I have fallen on my face. But He will find me here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Last fall I set out to develop a deeper sense of gratitude towards God and towards life itself. Although I found myself feeling thankful in general, I noticed that in times of stress, frustration, or discouragement, giving thanks was definitely not my first response. The death of my friend and the ensuing devastation in my relationship with God came just days after my decision to pursue gratitude. Needless to say, I didn't get particularly far in this pursuit. I did, however, happen upon an amazing book called Radical Gratitude by Ellen Vaughn. As a testament to this book's virtue, it is one of only a handful of books I have actually read from start to finish in the last 5 years. I found it inspiring and hope-filled but also deeply challenging. She tells the true stories of POWs, 9/11 survivors, political captives, concentration camp survivors, and many others—all of whom have learned what it means to be grateful in the midst of excruciating circumstances. This book was a light to me in those early weeks after my friend's death, and I have been left with such a desire to be a person of gratitude, to live a life that breathes thankfulness regardless of what is happening around and within me. I certainly have a ways to go, and I hope to begin a more deliberate pursuit of this in the coming months. For now, I am taking one small step. As I have seen other bloggers do, I am starting Thankful Thursdays here on Growing Is Beautiful where each week I will post a list of the things I am thankful for. Here and now, I am choosing to be grateful. Will you join me?
*I am thankful for the courage to be authentic in relationships. It is rarely easy and often terrifying, but I find my greatest joy in the relationships where I have been my most authentic self.
*I am thankful for my community group—the way you love and accept me but always push me to be better. Your presence in my life has allowed God to refine and transform me into the woman He created me to be.
*I am thankful for God's faithfulness to me, His never-wavering love that continues to pursue me no matter how many times I slam the door in His face.
*I am thankful for Spring. This visible demonstration of new life coming after the bitterness of winter reminds me of hope, of God's faithfulness, of second chances and new beginnings.
*I am thankful that for the first time in my life, I have faced a period of brokenness and devastation without losing hope. How grateful I am for this!
*And lest you think I am all seriousness and deep thoughts, I am also thankful for chai tea lattes—if happiness did come in a cup, I am positive it would be a cup of chai shared with good friends.
What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The God Who Is

As most of you know, a friend of mine was killed in a car accident nearly 6 months ago. In the wake of my friend's death, I have found my faith and my relationship with God challenged beyond anything I have ever experienced. I stopped talking to God for 5 months. I screamed and cried and slammed the door in His face, but there were no conversations. I stopped believing He was listening. I stopped believing that it mattered. It has been an agonizing life-altering road, but finally there are glimmers of hope seeping into the blackness of my grief. A few weeks ago, I spoke to God for the first time in many months. And out of that conversation came this poem:


The silence closes in,

And I wonder if You are still listening.

There is no whisper of Your presence,

And I wonder if You are even here.

Do You love me less

Because my doubts are so big

And my faith so small?

Do You ever grow tired

Of waiting for me to understand,

To believe, to move forward?

I feel farther from You than I have ever been,

Weighed down by the enormity of who You are

And the mystery of Your workings.

The many things I once believed

No longer seem clear to me.

But there is one thing I have no need to question,

One thing that breathes hope into this night:

In all of my life,

You have never failed to redeem my brokenness

And turn the ashes of my suffering

Into the beauty of Your glory.

I am certain this time will be no different.

Though I stand here now,

Full of doubt and disappointment,

It is with great anticipation

That I await the revelation of Your glory.

Indeed, I am waiting for the day when my questions will be silenced in the face of a God whose goodness is never absent from my life, whose mercy is without equal, and whose love reaches the darkest corners of my soul. Not the God I thought He was or even the God I want Him to be, but the God who IS.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New Beginnings

I suppose I have wanted to start a blog for a long time now, but I have always had the usual excuses: No time to write, nothing to write about, and no one to read it. Those are all exaggerations, of course; yet still they have held me back, afraid to start something I wasn't sure I could finish, afraid to open myself up only to fail miserably. I can't say I no longer feel that way, only that my desire to move forward is stronger now than my fear of falling short. Today I am full of hope and excitement as I embark on this new journey and I am thankful you have chosen to join me along the way. For those who are curious, the title of my blog ("Growing Is Beautiful") was inspired by an art project I am currently working on and will be posting about soon. I had a hard time coming up with a name, and in truth, my first choice was already taken by someone else. Now that I have settled on this title, though, it feels perfect for who I am and what I want this blog to represent. As I look back on my life, it feels messy and emotional, fraught with mistakes and unexpected difficulties. But the overarching theme is one of change and growth--a gradual (though not always steady!) progression towards strengthened faith, deeper love, and greater hope. In the day-to-day process, though, it is easy to focus on how messy and confusing this growing business can be. I need to be reminded that when God looks at me and sees even the tiniest bit of growth, He rejoices over me with singing and calls me beautiful. I don't know what will come of this blogging adventure, but I am more than ready to take the first step and trust God with everything that comes after it.