running to stand still

wp-1469413762554.jpgI don’t quite know what to do with myself at the moment. For the past month or so, I feel like I have been running non-stop. I’ve alternated things that bring me laughter and joy with not-so-fun doctor’s appointments, scans, tests, and results. I’ve been working extra hours at my day job and spending my spare moments helping with the Grey Havens summer camp plans and other volunteer business, in addition to trying very hard to exercise even more than I already did.

I’ve been running fast. And now it feels like I can stop for a while, but I don’t know what to do. My next check-up is in a couple weeks, and then a kidney specialist visit in a month, and I have to schedule another scan…but I can’t do that right now, and even when I do it will have to be for a couple more weeks out. I am waiting. I know that I have polycystic kidney disease, and thankfully so far nothing else, unless that next scan proves otherwise…but I still don’t yet know what this all means for my future. Right now, I am taking my medication, exercising, and waiting to see what comes of it…

Today, my family is pre-occupied, and my love is at home getting ready for his work week, and I am physically alone. It’s quiet outside, almost too quiet, but I wish it were quieter in my mind. I woke up early today and held my love close as my mind kept racing and racing. I’ve already exercised, twice, today. I’ve cleaned, I am cooking, but I can’t help feeling like I am supposed to do something else. I’ve been running so hard that I’ve forgotten how to just be still— and that it is perfectly okay to just be, by myself.

I know I’ve been reserving my moments of pleasure and relaxation to spend them with my love, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relax and do nothing for an afternoon by myself, right? I’m so very hard on myself. I need to just let myself be, and be alone, and rest. I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I’ve been so afraid for weeks that I don’t know how not to be afraid anymore. I am thankful that I have people in my life who help me to pull me out of this and lead me to think positively.

However, now that I am alone… I’ve tried to read; I am reading five different books. I’ve tried to watch tv; I’m watching about five different shows. I can’t slow down long enough to get absorbed into one of either of them. I want to so badly. Sometimes, it feels almost like the first year of grief all over again.

And yet, sometimes I can experience the most ecstatic joy– and a love that makes me wonder how it’s even possible to be filled with this much of it, a light so bright. I’m so glad I have that, but of course that comes with the fear of losing it. But I must push that aside (perfect love casts out fear) and enjoy the now. Yoga has helped me to think of the now; if only it were as easy to take that focus and serenity off the mat… I do love catching this echo of the Divine in the now, in human love, in natural beauty, in knowing my own body.

I know this post is all over the place. I am even typing it as I cook dinner– I can’t even commit to doing one thing at a time. But hopefully the days will get better and not worse; hopefully, I can learn to create a new normal, just as I have after losing my mom, and then my dad. This chronic disease does not have to define me. Let me go, ‘cuz you are just a shade of what I am, not what I’ll be. I want to hold on to the hope I tried to grasp in my last post. I want to do great things with the time that is given to me, but I also want to just be still– to enjoy the resting, to be okay being by myself, to reconnect with God, and to breathe, to listen and connect to the rhythm of the universe.

I am still thankful. I am thankful for the amazing friends and family in my life, for a decent job working with compassionate people, for a volunteer position that changes young lives, for doggy cuddles, for love, for today. I will try to be thankful for the quiet, for these words, for the darkness too. Let there be light.IMG_1552

Eleven. (Months).

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Not long after this time last year, I welcomed the rain, the thunder, the wind, the lightning. It echoed the storm, the chaos in my own soul. It reminded me that God was big and powerful and outside my control — and yet His storms could be breathtakingly beautiful.

This year, however, I fear the storm. I fear the return of the rains because they signal the passage of time. (I’ve noticed that sudden death tends to make one obsessed with time.)

This world is moving on, and June will come again with her storms, same as last year, same as all the years before. Last June was no different than this June; for the rain it was just like any other summer.

The world is moving on, am I moving with it? I cannot decide whether that is good or bad. But I know the storms scare me. They shake me.

They wrest me, and steal my joy… when I used to run and dance in their rain, I used to marvel at their power, I used to want to be consumed by the storms, taken into the clouds, carried away on the winds.

But today I dread the encroaching darkness. I dread the thought of a year without him.

And yet the storm calls to me; the winds beckon me on…

among the rocks

IMG_0164Yesterday, I climbed a mountain. (Okay, I didn’t literally climb a mountain, I hiked a trail in the Flat Irons on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, but it sure felt like mountain-climbing to me, especially as I struggled to keep up with my brother who takes to trails like a mountain goat.)

Yesterday, all that mattered was getting up to the top of that trail and making it back down again. Nothing else mattered. I didn’t pull out my phone, I didn’t have my bag with me, I didn’t have to focus on a to-do list, because none of that stuff would help me get up the side of that freaking mountain. All I could do was concentrate on my breathing, push my limbs, and keep going.

I didn’t really have much space to think about what was going on in my life because all I could think about was getting up and back without falling. It was kind of like an escape.

I had great conversations with my brother, I saw beautiful flowers, I looked out over breath-taking views. And after it was over, I felt accomplished.

As we neared the end of the trail on our way back, I didn’t want to reach the car. I didn’t want to have to come back. And sure enough, after we started driving home, my phone rang. Real life was calling me. I had a new job and plans had changed and I’d have to report to that job in two days (now tomorrow). That’s good, right? But to me, the ringing of the phone paralyzed me with dread and fear and I don’t know what else. (That’s been happening to me a lot lately, when my phone goes off, I just don’t want to face whatever’s on the other end, even if it’s something good.)

Because I still don’t want any of this to be real.

If I start a new job, that means I have to put on a brave face. I have to concentrate. I have to pretend like nothing’s wrong around a bunch of people who have now way of knowing what’s actually wrong. I have to deal with the countless mistakes I’ll make. I’ll have to worry about a schedule that might eat away at the time I get to spend with my family. But I have a job, please hear me when I say I am so grateful. I’m just also… scared.

Everything is not okay, but I have to keep going as if it were…

And when I was climbing in the Flat Irons, I didn’t have to think about any of that, and it was amazing. I scrambled up piles of rocks, clung to trees, sat in the shade of a boulder, and the sky had never looked so blue before.

If I could only name one thing that I love about the Rocky Mountains, I’d have say it’s the Colorado wildflowers. They’re all over the place, bursting between rocks, clinging to edges of cliffs, sprouting up amid monotone fields, and thriving on the tundra. Growth in the most unlikely places.

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Treasure Hunting

The following is my latest post from Small Still Voices from last Friday. I apologize for the delay in getting it up. I am posting it here in full again because it continues my thoughts from last week on fear and new steps and God’s goodness. Thanks for reading. 

Andreas-photography / Beach Photos / CC BY-NC

I love living with a three-year-old boy. Note: he’s not my three-year-old boy, but his parents have graciously welcomed me into their home for this season and now I have the blessing of getting to do life with them.

If you’ve been around kids for a while, I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean when I say I have pages and pages in my journal about what this child and his family are teaching me about human nature and the love of God. I love learning about my Daddy through the eyes of little children.

Yesterday, my little buddy and I were going on an adventure. We sat on the couch—I mean, in our pirate ship—as the boy steered us through the treacherous ocean to many different desert islands. What was the goal of our adventures? To gain more treasure, of course! Arrrr, we be pirates, matey.

When we got to the first shore, the boy lept from the boat, but I hesitated.
Me: “Can you hold my hand, Captain? I’m a little scared.”
Boy: “It’s not scary, it’s an adventure!”
Me: “Ohhhh.” (Mental note: Write this in your journal.)

So we headed ashore to explore the island. Each time I would try to add fear to the game, the boy would keep reminding me, “It’s not scary, Miss Robyn.” When we had finished exploring, he’d say, “Let’s go to a new place! I wonder what we’ll find on this island. Don’t worry, it’s not scary.”

“We are going to so many places,” the boy said in excitement in the middle of his playroom. The walls of the room, by the way, are plastered fittingly with maps of the world. “And everywhere we go we just get more and more treasure!” (Actually, he said “toys,” because in his three-year-old mind, treasure=toys. But I think the metaphor still stands.)

So if I’m going to extend this metaphor to my life journey and yours, let me say that again: Everywhere we go, we just get more and more treasure. 

What is the only treasure that matters? Christ. Where do I want to rest my heart? In the Kingdom of God. Each new day, each scary leap, each opportunity to grow, each desert island, is a chance to gain more and more of the treasure of Christ–that is, a deeper relationship with our Savior and Maker. Paul the apostle calls this the “surpassing greatness,” sometimes translated as “overwhelming preciousness” of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. Treasure.

Last week, I wrote about being terrified of a new adventure and trying to lay that fear aside to trust in my God. This week, He reminded me, through the beautiful imagination of a little boy, that this scary adventure is a chance to know Him more, a chance to draw even deeper from the precious well of His presence, and a chance to partake in and spread the treasure of His Kingdom. And remember, Miss Robyn, there’s no need to be scared, anyway.

I feel like I’m in the ocean. In a number of ways, that’s a good feeling as well as a bad feeling. Regardless, I’ve set the sails, and I’m relying on the direction of my Captain. Now I just have to wait for the timing of the wind and pray I’ll have the courage to leap ashore when the water meets the land….

Praying you would find treasure today,
Robyn

This post was orignially published on Small Still Voices. If you would like to comment, please do so over there.

Dealing with Fear

I published this post over at Small Still Voices on Friday, but I want to re-post it in its entirety here, because part of why I write this blog is so that I can have a way to look back on my life and be encouraged in the journey (and hopefully encourage you in yours too).
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Community, as you know, I’ve been in a post-graduation transitional state for a few months now… However, I just recently made a big decision. I chose a path that will take me somewhere new and adventurous and unpredictable, at least for a year. Hopefully, by the time you read this post, thinking about this path will bring only exciting and peaceful thoughts to my mind. But right now, community, I want to be real with you: I’m terrified.

As soon as I made the decision, and in the days after it, I’ve been plagued with aching fears and doubts. The decision’s been made, the paper’s been signed, the plan is in motion, and I lie in my bed as the anxious thoughts spin round and round in my head and I cry, What in the world did I just do?

I’m sure this has happened before, when I’ve faced paths like this. I’m sure I’ve felt afraid even as I trusted in God to lead me. The fears just feel so much worse this time. It’s enough to start me questioning if I made the right decision, if God really is leading me here, if I just completely missed something. However, when I think about stopping and giving up the path entirely, I resist. I don’t want to. I don’t want to stop, but I’m afraid to go. Can anybody relate to this?

The other day, a mentor asked me if I thought this new path would be scary or exciting. I said both, since the scary part is what makes it exciting–because if God doesn’t show up, I’m not going to make it. I actually said that, I don’t know where it came from, but I said it aloud, and I started tearing up at the thought of God leading me down this road. I thank the Holy Spirit for that moment. It’s definitely not the first time (or the second time) that the Spirit’s swept in to bring words to my mouth about how the scary part is actually the best part.

God is so good, so good, and He will never leave me nor forsake me. I want to be authentic with you about this journey and about my fears, but I also want to align those thoughts and emotions with the Truth that God is in control. Thank you for sharing this road with me.

What about you? What’s happening in your journey right now? How do you handle the fears and doubts that come your way? I pray that the God of the universe would fill you (and me) with the peace of the Savior that surpasses all understanding.

This post was originally published on Small, Still Voices. If you would like to comment, please follow this link to comment over there. Thanks. <3

A good king, a change of heart

IMG_1512Alright, blog, it’s time to get back to my trek through the story of the Israelites. In my life recently, in the midst of my ups and downs, my immense unfaithfulness and God’s everlasting faithfulness, I have found myself aching to go back to these stories, the stories of a people loved and chosen and cherished by God, a people who continually turn from Him and a God who continually draws them back to Him.

When we last left off, I was returning to Chronicles to read the ancient stories again as they were told to the returning exiles. I had just related the change of seasons, from war to rest, between David and Solomon. The other day I was reading about the kings that came after Solomon, and the story of one really stood out to me: King Asa of Judah.

His story, told in 2 Chronicles 14-16,  recounts a spectacular reign of God-honoring reforms, victory, and peace on every side. Asa destroyed the idols and commanded his people to serve the God of their fathers.

However, 36 years into his reign, Asa of Judah faces the threat of the king of Israel, and instead of trusting in his God to deliver him, just as He’d done before, he takes the dedicated silver and gold out of the temple of the LORD and gives it to a pagan king to win him as an ally. With the help of this ally, he succeeds in getting the king of Israel to back off, but he doesn’t defeat him. Hanani the prophet says to him, “You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.” (16:9)

Rather than listening to the prophet and turning to God, he gets angry and throws the prophet in prison. He mistreats his people, and three years later comes down with a disease and still refuses to turn to God for help (16:12). He dies, but he is buried in glory and honor, his reign still celebrated by his people.

He is commended as one of the great kings of Judah, he is still remembered as a “godly king who reformed Judah.” In 1 Kings 15, there is no mention of his turn from the LORD, only that he took the silver and gold out of the treasuries of the temple. He is remembered as a good king. But I can’t help but think, in light of 2 Chronicles, that in his personal relationship with God, in his cries behind closed doors, in his heart, he lost something…

He lost something.

Earlier in his reign, when faced with a vast army, he prayed: “LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O LORD, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you.” (2 Chronicles 14:11)

What happened? How could he have gone from that to stealing from the temple to buy a foreign ally? Was it fear? Was it pride? I don’t know, but it troubles my heart, and I don’t want it to happen to me.

I don’t want to forget what the LORD has done, to forget His power, His goodness, His closeness, even when I’m lost in terror and darkness. I dont want to attribute success and prosperity to my own doing, when all good gifts come from the Father. I don’t want to win a battle on my own effort, but lose the war in the long run. I don’t want to turn my back on conviction, but rather I want to repent and seek the LORD. I want to come to Him, to humble myself before Him. I want my heart to be fully committed to the LORD, all my life, as is written about King Asa in 2 Chronicles 15:17—but I want it to be completely true, all the days of my life.

In Transition

IMG_8256Five days ago, I finished my Bachelor’s degree.
Four days ago makes it one year since I’ve returned from Scotland.
Three days ago, I hit a speed-bump on my way down a road of many-forking paths for the future. Not a roadblock, just a speed-bump, enough to throw me off balance and make me wonder if I’m choosing the right fork.

I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m confused about the desires of my heart. I feel like I’m getting conflicting words that tell me to move forward, but rest and wait on the Spirit. What’s the difference between moving forward and letting the Spirit move you forward?

I don’t even know where to move.

Over a year ago, in Scotland, I spent some time trying to find my dreams, to figure out the way God crafted me. I remember a time in Lifegroup where we were asked to think about what it would look like if God gave us the desires of our hearts, the deepest desires we’re keeping hidden. I remember having a really hard time with this because I couldn’t quite pin down the desires of my heart. I wish I could find that moment in my journal, but I’m pretty sure I said God would have to show me what those desires were first. Or something.

But maybe that’s not the way it works. Maybe I’m supposed to do something first, and then realize with hindsight that God had been satisfying the desires of my heart all along. I don’t know. But I also remember thinking that I had to leave Scotland with an answer, with some kind of future plan.

And I didn’t. In fact, I called that idea out as a lie that was stressing my mind. Once I came home, though, I thought that I would for sure leave college with an answer.

And I didn’t. Here I am, still confused and scared and in [what feels like permanent] transition. Still no closer to figuring out what my dreams are. I thought I was, but then the speed-bump came along to show me that really, I don’t have anything figured out.

I don’t want to move forward frantically without the Spirit, but I don’t want to sit and do nothing.

One day from now marks the traditional anniversary of the moment my God left the throne of Heaven, took on flesh, and became a baby, a baby that would grow up to die for my wrongdoings and then conquer death to bring freedom and victory to the whole world.

So maybe that’s all that matters. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know the Gospel. And because the world shuts down this time of year, there’s not much I can do but sit and ponder it, even if I’d rather be pushing forward down those forking paths.

May this be a time of sweet communion with the LORD, then. I want to know my Father’s heart so deeply, to bind mine with His so closely, that the way is obvious. And even if it isn’t, even if I still don’t get an answer, at least I will be drawing closer to the Lover of my soul.

Fears, Victories, and Wilderness Places

I want to write about a couple things today.

First, I think it only fair to report what happened with the various events causing me to feel wimpy the other day, because I really saw God come through and take the fear away after I laid it before Him.

So, first class of the day with the professor who’s a stickler about time: He hands us back our papers (and I actually did pretty well), and tells us that we can make corrections and turn them in the next day to receive extra points. What a great way to start a day I was dreading!

Next, we move through geology and into my workshop class: I’m the last person to have their story talked about, but I’m actually less worried than I had been before. God had already been working in me to let it go and just relax… And then we get to my story, and people talk about how it was really cool and intriguing, and yeah there were criticisms, but they were things that I understood and welcomed, because I wanted to make the story better, and overall people liked it. Maybe I am still a writer after all.

And oh! The dinner party with strangers— so much fun. And ironically enough, one person told me he thought I was “pretty brave” for being there. God is funny, but so so good.

Does this mean everything’s better? No. But it does mean that God sees my fears, and He wants to come in and show me how pointless they are, and I welcome His ways to remind me of that, and to remind me that He takes care of me.

That being said, God has been speaking to me a lot lately (and even before I left Scotland), about deserts and wastelands. You might recall I’ve talked about Isaiah 43 before, how God promises to make a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Well, a few weeks ago I was listening to a sermon and the pastor was talking about the feeding of the 5,000, but then he started talking about where the 5,000 were and the green grass and everything, and he said something like, “The God of the Old Testament specialized in feeding His people in the wilderness places.” It struck me as random, but I know his statement was purposeful, and God wanted me to hear it, so I wrote it down.

God makes a way, creates a river, and feeds us in the wilderness.
But that’s not all:

Hosea 2:14– Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert 
and speak tenderly to her.

He speaks to our hears there too.

God revealed that verse to me this week when I was hurting and struggling with sin, and Hosea 2:14-23 has become the passage I’m clinging to right now. Yes, God has led me into this desert, but it is not so that I can crumple and despair in a valley or hide away in fear of the wasteland.

My God is a God who meets His people in wilderness places, who carves out a way for them, quenches them with living water, feeds them with the bread of life, and speaks tenderly to their hearts. Amen.

I’m not always this much of a wimp, am I?

Okay, I’m fairly certain I wasn’t this scared three months ago in Scotland. Sure, I used to be afraid like this before, but I thought I’d moved past it, I thought Scotland was a growing season, I thought I’d changed.

But here’s a list of some of the recent things making me feel like a wimp today:

—I’m afraid to go to school tomorrow for two reasons:

1. My first professor (who counted me late when class starts at 8am and I walked in at 7:59) is handing back our reference papers, and I already know I didn’t put a cover page where I should have, so I’m already not getting the best grade, and so I just don’t want to deal with getting the paper back (or having to see that teacher).

2. We’re workshopping my first short story for Advanced Fiction, and I foolishly decided to center mine around a war veteran who comes home having lost his mind, but I know nothing of war and nothing of post traumatic stress, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t handle that subject very well, and I’m terrified of what the class and the teacher are going to say, and I’m worried I might’ve offended someone.

…What? That’s stupid, I know. I don’t remember worrying about school work this much in Edinburgh. I mean, I know that I did, but I also know that I would talk to my roommate about how I needed to remember that my grades didn’t define my value.

Then again, I didn’t take any creative writing courses in Scotland. I think it’s much harder to detach my value from my creative writing than it is to detach it from my academic writing. (But both are really, really hard for me.)

—I went to new church for the first time yesterday, and I was invited to go to someone’s house for a community group dinner tonight. I’m going to go, but I wish I didn’t feel so terrified about doing it. Why am I so scared to go to dinner? Sure, I have no idea who’s going to be there, and I don’t know anyone there anyway, and I may seem out of place, but that didn’t stop me from checking out churches in Edinburgh! In fact, I sought out places like that in Edinburgh, and if someone invited me to something afterwards, I went! I thought I was growing, becoming more open to God’s opportunities, I thought I was brave.

But for some reason, I can only be brave in Scotland, not in America.

—I’m afraid to talk to my friends. WHAT? Yeah, how wimpy is that? You see, I’m not very good with keeping in touch with people who are far away, and so now that I’m back in America, I’m kind of afraid to initiate things with friends that I’ve missed. Because I’m afraid things have changed. …So my solution is that I just don’t do it? That’s ridiculous. Also, I’m afraid that I’m losing my friends from Edinburgh because we don’t talk all the time like we used to when we lived in the same city, so that means there must be this strange disconnect, so it would be hard to talk to them whenever I got around to it, so I just shy away from phone and skype conversations and replying to emails. …Yes, I am aware of how foolish that sounds and how wrong it is.

—And the ongoing, underlying fear: I’m afraid of looking foolish. Why? I don’t know exactly, it’s something I’m bringing before my God. But this is why I don’t “just ask” for a product I want if I don’t see it on the shelves; this is why I don’t raise my hand in class, even when everyone else is saying the wrong answer and I know I have it right; this is why I feel embarrassed for twenty minutes after I pull on a door that says “push.”

Seriously, what the heck is wrong with me?

I hate being a wimp. I hate these projections I have in my head, they’re binding me from experiencing freedom and joy.

I thought I was past this.
I thought it wasn’t this bad.
But I’m scared of how scared I am, and of how much I attach my value to the thoughts and reactions of other people.

I am God’s child. Nothing else matters. I need to walk in freedom, not fear.
But how do I do that?

Beyond the Blue

Lately, the road ahead has looked something like this:

It’s blurry and out of focus. I can see glimpses of pretty lights and fun colors ahead, but I don’t know exactly how to get there and I can’t see the end. All I can walk towards is darkness, the unknown, as the world shifts around me.

However, in the midst of all this swirling chaos, I’ve come across the music of Josh Garrels, and his lyrics pierce my heart. His words are Spirit-filled, and they hit me right where I’m at:

Hide your spirit in the Vine
Where all things will work by a good design
For those who will believe
And let go of all we cannot hold onto
For the hope beyond the blue.
Said I let go of all I could not hold onto
For the hope I have in You.

I am about to go beyond the blue, quite literally. I’m crossing a real, tangible, physical ocean, and I don’t really know what I’ll find on the other side, but I have hope that God has something in store for me there. I have to let go of all that I try to hold so close, of all that I’m not really supposed to hold anyway. I have to let go, and give it all to Him, and let Him lead me beyond the blue.

I will arise and follow You over
Savior, please, pilot me.
Over the waves and through every sorrow,
Savior please, pilot me.
When I have no more strength left to follow,
Fall on my knees, pilot me.
May your sun rise and lead me on,
Over the seas, Savior, pilot me.

That is the cry of my heart. Lord, pilot me. And as you do, I hear these words:

Like a serpent and a dove, you will have wisdom born of love
And carry visions from above into the places no man dares to follow-
Every hollow in the dark of night, waiting for the light,
Take the flame tonight.
Because child, time has come for you to go
You will never be alone.

Every dream that you have been shown
Will be like a living stone
Building you into a home,
A shelter from the storm.

I do not know what lies ahead, but I know that God will never leave me, and He will use this path to change me, and to change others too. This last verse of the song above speaks to the dreams of my heart:

Like the wolf at midnight howls,
You use your voice in darkest hour
To break the silence and the power
Holding back the others from their glory.
Every story will be written soon.

Because child, time has come for you to go
You will never be alone.

Every dream that you have been shown
Will be like a living stone
Building you into a home,
A shelter from the storm.

[Josh Garrels is giving away his latest album for FREE. Get it here and enjoy <3]