Side Roads

The Ambiguous Side Roads of Life

I would describe my life these days as rather ambiguous. I can’t seem to find a clear, concrete definition for this season. I wish I liked the ambiguity a little more. I bought this card earlier this year while I was visiting a friend in the States, and I have it displayed on my desk to try and convince myself of the supposed ‘deliciousness’ of this completely frustrating season of uncertainty.

Delicious Ambiguity
[Photo Credit: Quotable Cards - Gilda Radner quote]
Even though I have gone over my priority list a million times already, showing me why I have chosen to do what I’m now doing (living and working in my childhood hometown), it doesn’t make the ‘living-it-out’ part any easier. Not knowing how long I’ll be here and why I’m truly here is a tad torturous for this organizer-planner gal.

Most of the time, this ‘delicious ambiguity’  feels more like ‘distasteful yuckiness’, if I’m completely honest.

Life is about not knowing.

That involves trusting an unseen divine hand upon my life, a trust that I resist with everything in my being. A trust that involves all the unknowns and uncertainties that live just around the corner. I can’t see that far. I hate corners. They’re killin’ me.

Life is about having to change.

I used to think that I was fairly ‘okay’ with change. But these changes over the past couple years? Nope. I’ve kicked, screamed and stuck my head in the sand like a ridiculous ostrich trying to avoid the inevitable, refusing to accept that I have to change my way of thinking, my perspective on my life, and my approach to challenging people and circumstances. I’ve fought the reality that change is often counter-intuitive, goes against the grain of my natural flow, and seems to stubbornly violate everything my heart holds dear. I have had my share of grown-up temper tantrums, crying about how life is not going the way I thought it should. My life is not going according to plan! The plot has jumped off the grid, and I’m faltering. Reality is setting in that life is rarely easy or fair and not always enjoyable. Sometimes, it’s just damn hard. So, in those times, to get fresh hope and joy to navigate forward in life, we must change. It’s the only way to progress in life. If we refuse to accept the changes, we’ll get stuck on the road and life will pass us by. Ugh, I don’t want life to pass me by…

Life is about taking the moment and making the best of it.

So the ingredients in my current life don’t feel like they will combine together to form anything remotely delicious or tasty, but this is what I’ve been given to work with in this season of my life. Can I accept it and then make the best of it? Sigh. I’m trying…

Life is about not knowing what’s going to happen next.

So, I guess this means I must give up control of the plot, and give up my demand that life tell me what’s around the corner. I must give up my wishful thinking that everything in life will be ‘easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy’ as my little niece loves to cutely declare. No, life is definitely not easy-peasy, and nothing about it is certain or unchanging. Life is more about giving up the illusion that it never changes and accepting the inevitable uncertainty of it all.

So, here I am, staring at this little card on my desk. It tells me that life is a story that doesn’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. At first, it breaks my heart, but the more I have thought about it these days (and the reason I have even kept it on my desk) the more I realize how much hope it has given me. It has shown me that even though the story called “My Life” feels so ambiguous at times, when I take the courageous steps to “change the things I can change” and “accept the things I cannot change”, I discover that the plot really is moving forward. This is all going somewhere. And maybe, just maybe, I can catch a whiff of something possibly delicious coming around the corner. And, as this other card below has encouraged me lately,

“Sometimes your journey will take you off of your path. It’s all part of the same trip.”

Side Roads
[Photo Credit: CurlyGirlDesign.com]
Life is full of side roads. Side roads that often don’t make any sense at all. Life is not one straight path forward. It is a woven tapestry of multi-layered paths, unexpected intersections, devastating detours, challenging roadblocks, fascinating views and surprising encounters along the way.

This is the delicious, ambiguous life!

girlbook

A Silent Blog: Seasons of Un-Writing

I’ve had a few people asking me lately when I’ll write a new blog post because my posts have been few and far between this year. Yes, I realize there’s been minimal activity here… it’s been a little silent on the blog.

silentblog

If you saw my writing folder on my computer desktop, you would see that I have half a dozen or so half-finished articles, and there are even a few that are in draft-form on my website dashboard, with photos attached and all, but I haven’t been able to feel that internal release to ‘go-ahead-and-press-the-publish-button’. It appears I just don’t want to publish my words these days.

Sometimes, we go through seasons where we need to leave more of the deep, internal words of our heart hidden and un-written on the inside, or at least, just revealed to a few trusted friends or family. Let’s just say it’s been one of those seasons.

Last night, while starting to read the opening pages of a delightful new book on people’s encounters with C.S. Lewis, I stumbled across a quote of Lewis’ that perfectly describes my blog silence. Here it is:

“Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realize it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others.” (C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism)

So, that is what I’m doing… my own eyes (and my own words) are not enough for me right now, I will see through those of others.

I may not be writing these days, but  I am reading like a parched desert has just met an ocean of others’ words.

Off to the books I go….


[Featured Photo Credit: Brave Heart via photopin cc Edits: Alison Lam]

Photo Credit: Mike Chen aka Full Time Taekwondo Dad via photopin cc // Text Edits by: Alison Lam

Lost Is a Place Too

I stumbled across these words the other night.

I wept.

In five minutes, all the pain and perplexity of this long dark season was… validated.

Photo Credit: Mike Chen aka Full Time Taekwondo Dad via photopin cc // Text Edits by: Alison Lam
Photo Credit: Mike Chen via photopin cc // Text Edits by: Alison Lam

 

These words were quoted and contained within an article on  this man‘s website; his depth of mind and heart astonishes me and has the ability to comfort my soul like few can.

I’d like to just cut to the chase and post the first couple paragraphs of the article and share the very words that have made me weep. I am sure that those of you who are in a similar painful season will be compelled to click the article link at the bottom to read it in its entirety.

LOST IS A PLACE TOO.

by Ron Rolheiser

 

In her book, Survivor, Christina Crawford writes: “Lost is a place, too.”

That’s more than a clever sound-byte. It’s a deep truth that’s often lost in a world within which success, achievement, and good appearance define meaning and value.

What can that phrase teach us? That sometimes it’s good to be without success, without health, without achievements to bolster us, without good appearance, and even without meaning. Being down-and-out, alone, lost, struggling for meaning, and looking bad, is also a valid place to be.

One of the greatest spiritual writers of all time, John of the Cross, would agree with that. If he was your spiritual director and you explained to him that you were going through a dark, painful patch in life and asked him: “What’s wrong with me?” He would likely answer:

“There’s nothing wrong with you; indeed, there’s a lot right with you. You’re where you should be right now: in the desert, letting the merciless sun do its work; in a dark night, undergoing an alchemy of soul; in exile, lamenting on a foreign shore so that you can better understand your homeland; in the garden, sweating the blood that needs to be sweated to live out your commitments; being pruned, undergoing spiritual chemotherapy, to shrink the tumours of emotional and spiritual dead-wood that have built up from wrong-turns taken; in the upper room, unsure of yourself, waiting for pentecost before you can set out again with any confidence; undergoing positive disintegration, having your life ripped apart so that you can rearrange it in a more life-giving way; sitting in the ashes, like Cinderella, because only a certain kind of humiliation will ready your soul for celebration; and undergoing purgatory, right here on earth, so your heart, soul, and body can, through this painful purging, learn to embrace what you love without unhealthily wanting it for yourself.”

He’d also tell you that this can be a good place to be, a biblical and mystical place. That doesn’t make it less painful or humiliating, it just gives you the consolation of knowing that you’re in a valid place, a necessary one, and that everyone before you, Jesus included, spent some time there and everyone, including all those people who seem to be forever on top of the world, will spend some time there too. The desert spares nobody. Dark nights eventually find us all.

TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE:

http://ronrolheiser.com/lost-is-a-place-too-2/

giveandtake

Give and Take: Choosing to Trust [Guest Post]

I love the global family of YWAM! I’d like to introduce Brittany Hurst to you, who was a part of YWAM Australia for a few years and is our guest writer on the blog today! You’ll be challenged in the area of surrender and trust as you read her words below!


giveandtake
[Photo Credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc Edits: Alison Lam]
 

There’s that Christian song – kind of old school – called “Blessed Be Your Name”. Who was the original artist? Beats me, but there’s this line in it that goes like this:

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say,
Lord, blessed be Your name.

These lyrics are about the idea (and reality) that God gives and takes away, and that in seasons of plenty and in seasons of darkness and suffering, we need to surrender and choose to bless His Name.

Surrender.

Now, roll this word around your tongue a bit; ponder it. What do you picture? What’s the first word that comes to mind?

I have found that sometimes my initial response to a gift or a blessing is, “Oh great, thanks God… but I don’t really know what to do with it?! And…how long can I have it for?!”

The fact is, life is uncertain. Things happen. We live in a fallen world, full of people with free will and sometimes, it feels like ‘anything goes.’ Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

I’ve learned that sometimes God does ask us to give things to Him – to surrender it, to lay it down, or not pursue something for a certain time. Reasons vary, and sometimes we don’t understand.

Now I don’t believe God does this in a cruel way. Sometimes, I think it’s because it’s not good for us. Sometimes, I think it’s because He has something better for us. Sometimes, I think it’s because the timing is not right. And sometimes, I think it’s because He is testing our faithfulness and loyalty to Him and to Him being first in our hearts.

But, it brings me back to my initial response when I receive something I like and want: if I’m honest, I fear losing it or fear that I’ll be asked to surrender it (again).

It’s almost as if I don’t fully –one hundred percent– trust my Father.

There. I said it.

I struggle to trust Him. It’s a choice. Sometimes I choose to, and sometimes I dwell in everything but trust.

Our loving Father sees the end when I just see the beginning. He’s the One who sees all the pieces when I just see a small sliver. He’s the One who knows my heart even when I can’t untangle the thoughts in my mind.

Why do I struggle to trust Him?

In my short life, I’ve learned a decent amount about surrender already. Just say the word, and the first things that come to mind have to do with people, experiences, or decisions I’ve made. In those areas, I’ve had to choose to believe, even when I can’t see. I’ve had to choose to trust Him and His character so that I can see the bigger picture. The bigger, eternal perspective that reveals that it’s not all about me and my happiness and it’s going to be okay, because I’m on the winning side.

I want to encourage all of us today: whatever circumstances you find yourself in, whether it’s a time of abundance and blessing or the opposite, whether it be suffering, lack, hurt, or if you just feel the challenge (or nudge) to surrender…. remember that God truly is faithful.

I really choose to believe that.

God really is good and He works things out for the good of those who love Him. I’m not saying it will turn out the way YOU think it needs to but He’s got it figured out and He’ll come through in one way or another.

And even if today and tomorrow and the next day really really really SUCK, remember that He loves you. He’s there for you. He wants you to talk to Him, to trust Him now, before things get better.

“Chin up, child. This too shall pass…”


About the Author:

GuestWriter_BrittHurst_PicBrittany prefers being called ‘Britt’ and really believes that the essence of life is all about relationships; how we relate to God, ourselves and others. She’s a coffee drinker- journal writing- belly laughing – American girl who has got her eyes on the nations, developing world and cultures. Subscribe to her blog, follow her on instragram, or ‘friend’ her on Facebook.

[Photo Credit: Ozyman via photopin cc

Purpose in Unexpected Seasons [Guest Post]

I haven’t had a guest writer on the website for a while, so it’s about time! Here’s my wonderful Kiwi friend, Kate Dugdale, sharing some thoughts about the reality of adult life being very different than our childhood expectations. May it encourage and challenge you in your own unexpected life…


[Photo Credit: Kate Dugdale original, author of post]
[Photo Credit: Kate Dugdale original, author of post]
 

As I write this, I’m sitting at my small desk – to call it ‘organized’ would be generous. It’s covered in books, pens, highlighters, and a second computer monitor balanced rather precariously on the equally small bookshelf which rests between my desk and the wall. I am possibly breaking the fire code by having my backpack sit in front of the fire escape. The pile of books to go back to the postal library hasn’t moved in about a month and the wall is covered with lists and outlines and calendars. There are three other desks in this small enclosed balcony, all empty at the moment, but often filled by other students who come to study on campus. This is my life for most of the time, five days a week… and is not where the sixteen-year-old version of myself envisioned my twenty-five-year-old self being.

I spent most of my teenage years involved in ministry and mission. Almost every vacation period was spent on camps or mission trips, and by the time I was sixteen I had started homeschooling in order to facilitate doing a church internship. Growing up in a YWAM family meant that doing a DTS was a certainty in my own mind. I fully expected to be called into full-time missions in a country outside of where I’d grown up, that life would be full of crazy God-adventures in the nations, and that I’d get caught up in some epic revival or move of the Holy Spirit. I always assumed that the dramatic moment of calling was just around the corner. God had an AMAZING plan, and I was going to be right in the midst of it!

Little did I know what was coming…

Through a strange series of events, I found myself starting at Bible College in 2009, with the expectation that I’d do a single year… and then something else would open up. To my surprise, I’ve been a full-time university student for five years, with another two and a half years to go. I’ve spent the last half decade studying – my diploma turned into a bachelor degree in biblical studies, followed by another postgraduate diploma in theology, which resulted in my enrolment to start a PhD in Systematic Theology. In that time, I haven’t been on a single missions trip, or even left the country except to see family in Sydney. Instead, my focus has been on learning Greek, and exegetical studies, and my time spent reading theologians who rarely agree with each other. I used to denounce academic theologians as people who knew about God without knowing God… and yet as a student, I find myself required to participate in that world. This is far from the life I envisaged.

The fact that I’m still doing this both exhilarates and infuriates me, depending on the day… and yet here I am, still sitting at my desk, attempting to be faithful in my current calling.

As I read yet another book for my thesis, I am learning that God is just as present to me in these moments, as anywhere else. I understand that God is here with me as I struggle with concepts of epistemology and ontology, and what they mean for my understanding of who God is. The Holy Spirit is just as close as he would be if I was proclaiming the Gospel in a country hostile to the Gospel. Instead of preaching to crowds, I teach biblical studies to small classes of five students. I don’t see miracles on a weekly basis, but what I do have is the privilege of journeying alongside a small group of teenagers from my church, and seeing them continue to grow in their own journeys of faith and discipleship. I don’t see miracles of healing, and dramatic conversions, on any sort of regular basis, but I do encounter the goodness and kindness of God on a daily level.

So God is good… and I am slowly learning…

I am learning that God is with me, bringing life and growth and fruit where I least expect it. I continue to discover that regardless of where I worship and work, the Spirit is still present and active. I’m becoming more confident that God is at work in the unseen places of my heart, even when I don’t realize it. I’m still not a hundred percent sure why I have been called into my particular journey, but I do know this: God is working all things out for good, according to his plan, not to mine… and that position of quiet trust is all that is required from me.

[Featured Photo Credit: Ozyman photopin cc, Edit: Alison Lam]


About the Author:

Kate Dugdale Bio PicKate spends most of her time in Nelson as a PhD student and teaching theology. When not studying, she can most often be found either drinking a vanilla latte, dreaming about making a perfect cupcake, or trying not to fall off her mountain bike.


The heart thrives in vulnerable expression