Farewells & Celebrations

I stumbled across a news item on my Facebook feed after leaving the local grocer that just couldn’t be true … some of my friends were posting goodbyes to another of our friends.

For some reason, news of her death has hit me harder than the other most recent friends, neighbors, colleagues I’ve said goodbye to. Sweet husband asked if she was older than me.  My response? No, we’re about the same age.

It’s hard to read the eulogies to people that have already left this life for eternity.  So, I’m committing to celebrating my friends & my family NOW, while we’re living.  Don’t be surprised if you see a post written by me celebrating you.  Because I love you and I want the world to know.

 

 

Retreat of Silence

Midday of Day 2 on our Retreat of Silence and I was ready to talk.  Cheryl laughed, gave me a hug, and said, “Tomorrow.”

I was ready to share with my sweet friend what the Holy Spirit has been revealing through this time of silence, of listening, of learning. Ready to talk about the connections I’m making with what I’ve been learning through the last several months and where I hear Him calling me to focus now. Today. This minute.

Ready to talk about the plans He’s unfolding in my heart and mind, what I’ve written down, what’s yet to be written down.
And ready to listen to what and where Cheryl hears Him calling her.

I told God I was ready to start talking, too. Funny thing, He wasn’t done sharing with me and, if I’d have started talking then, I’d have missed a lot of what He wanted me to see and hear, of sweet moments of peace and worship … some of which brought me to tears.

I won’t lie, it’s been tough not talking for almost three days. There are times when hand signals and smiles just aren’t enough. We limited our conversations to only what needed to be said in those brief moments. I get Drew’s advice to do these solo, the temptation to talk is tremendous!

We started our Retreat with two different agendas.  When I let Cheryl know several months ago I was planning to do a Retreat of Silence (we call it the RoS), she said without hesitation that she’d fly down to join me. My friend left the cool-compared-to-Texas weather of North Dakota without even a second thought.

Our conversation just prior to her boarding the final leg of her flight earlier this week,

“Lisa, is it hot?”

“Yes dear.  It’s hot.”

My sweet friend & I started our RoS both seeking to hear God’s voice with an earnest desire to know His heart and eager expectation to learn where He’s calling us to serve. Both of us. Together these few days in the same space and yet alone, because God has plans for us individually as well as together.

I found us a space to retreat close enough to home but far enough away that nothing is familiar. A space where the only thing to capture my attention, our attention, is the quietness. A space where our only priority is to sit at our Savior’s feet and listen. Cheryl & I set our own individual agendas, agreeing to meet at specific times for meals. The rest of our time was solo and we both let the Spirit lead us where He willed. Prior to Day 1, I gave myself a very loose agenda as a guideline to follow: listening, planning & Bible study, prayer.

Sad our time is winding down, I’m tired yet rested. I’ve shed tears over these past days and spent time just plain smiling. It’s been a good respite. It has been a time to stop, to listen and read, and yes … sleep. Would I do this again? In a heartbeat.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV

Do not be afraid

To all my friends living in fear of the unknown, I hear you.

I feel your pain & anxiety.

I get it.

Because I’m living it.

And I’m asking you to do something with me …
Focus on this: Jesus told his disciples to get in the boat and go on ahead of him.

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. – Matthew 14:22

True, then the storm came and they struggled.

I can apply this to my unknowns, as in, my current circumstance. When I met with my accountability partner in mid-January, I shared with her I believed He was giving me the “green light” to move on, which is something I’d been praying about, wrestling with really, for almost two years. When confirmation came in a form I would have never expected, I knew the time had come.

And yet, change is scary. And I was angry. Really angry. Why? If I was moving forward with His blessing, why the anger, why the hurt? Why.the.struggle?

Because change is scary. Trust is scary.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. – Matthew 14:24

But it’s going to be okay. Because he sees me struggling in my storm of the unknown & he’s there in the midst of it with me.

About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. – Matthew 14:25

Jesus was walking on the water. Jesus was with them in the storm and yet … he walked on the water. In it with us but not a part of it.
His words to his disciples then are just as true now …

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” – Matthew 14:27

So … I’m trusting his promise: he’s with me in my circumstance. And we’ll make it to the other side.

The Sound of Silence

My friend and I are planning a Retreat of Silence. She’s going to fly in for our Retreat and I’m … we’re … so excited to be setting aside time to do this!

The sound of silence … an opportunity to be quiet. To listen to the music of creation. To pause awhile and to hear the Master’s voice.

I’ve been asking myself what I hope to learn … to gain … from our retreat.

  • Is it a new perspective on my life?
  • Clarity in seeking His will?
  • An opportunity to sleep for as long as I want with no responsibilities tugging at me for a few days?
  • Is this time away from “the world” going to be selfish?
  • Is it simply a time to step away from noise – the hum of technology, human chatter, people in general?
  • Is this an escape or is this an opportunity for spiritual rest & renewal?

As many know, my life is currently in a season of transition and I’ve been wrestling with lots of questions:

  • What is my passion?
  • Where is my heart?
  • What am I going to do next to earn a living wage and help to keep a roof over our head, food in the ‘fridge, & clothes on our backs?
  • Is any of this lining up with what my Father’s will is, where He’s calling me to focus my talents and energy?
  • Am I living a life that glorifies Him or me?

So I’m continually asking & answering: What do I hope to gain from this experience?

This is what I know:  I’m looking forward to …

  • time to reflect on what is really important
  • an opportunity to worship and adore the Creator
  • refreshing rest & sleep … both are almost nonexistent these days and things I desperately crave
  • Walking in quiet, stopping to listen, to pray, and resting in stillness and solitude
  • listening for His voice, His nudging, His prompts – free of hourly or daily time constraints
  • gaining a clear focus of where He’s leading me

Excerpted from my journal this morning …

I long to have a relationship, a walk, a journey, like Enoch did with God …

To be so familiar with God and He with me, to be in such an intimately close relationship with Him that one day we’re walking together and then in the next moment, we’re home together … at His home. For all eternity.

To be so intimate with God my Father that nothing in this world would measure in importance or significance … or priority … than to be with Him and do His will and be so passionately burdened for this hurting world around me that the only thing I say or do is to serve others and lead them to Him.

To be so laser-focused on being His hands, feet, and voice to the hurting world around me that everyone I encounter won’t be able to deny the fact that they heard the Good News … that they know Jesus died for them – that God loves them so much.  So very, very much.

What do I hope to gain from my Retreat of Silence?

To hear. To see. To walk. To rest. In Him.

 

Spring Break 2016

I love Spring Break. But not for the reasons I’m sure most people love Spring Break.  I don’t typically sleep any later or make any extravagant travel plans. With the exception of a few days spent out of town on daytrips with Sweet Husband and my Mom, I stay pretty much within the confines of our neighborhood. Okay … within the confines of my house.  It’s an introvert thing.

I love Spring Break because it allows me to be reflective.  And, with everything that has happened in the last several weeks, this has been a good time to a) work through the panic of the unknown; b) allow myself to dream about what I’d like to do since there is a possibility, albeit slight, my seventeen year tenure in the field of education may be ending in a few short weeks; and c) spend wonderfully relaxing and encouraging time in the Word.  Because really … who but God knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone on June 16th (the day after my current school contract … and my job … ends)?

This Spring Break, unlike the sixteen previous Spring Breaks, found me dreaming big, only-possible-with-God dreams. Dreams where making money didn’t make it into the equation. Dreams that begin with … “If nothing is impossible then … ” and continue with “What is my passion?” and  “Where is God calling me to join Him?”  Dreams that consume me so much so that, while I know I need to continue trolling the HR sites of the area school districts for  teaching and administrator jobs … if God is calling me out of education, I know it’s going to be okay. Everything will be okay.

My reality? I’m scared. But I’m also incredibly hopeful.  And I know God is chuckling a little over all this.  You see, I already had a plan in place to retire from education at the 20-year mark.

God simply moved the timetable up a bit.

Reflections of Summer

Me & my sweet friend

Me & my sweet friend

During the Christmas 2014 break, I told Hub I was missing my friend.  She lives in a town bordering North Dakota and Minnesota.  I told him I was thinking of heading somewhere over my summer break and inviting my friend to join me.  Hub thought it a good idea and so the planning began.  The summer trip morphed into several different scenarios with the final version of the trip being me heading up to the great white north to spend some time with her.

Two days on the road up and two days back meant Lisa had plenty of time to spend alone with God.  It was some amazing time, too!  I got to thinking we “city folk” have it completely wrong. We need to head out to the country, the undeveloped areas of our continent, to breathe the clean air, shut off all the social media, and listen to the silence.

Most important: look up and look out.

Missouri River Valley, Iowa

Missouri River Valley, Iowa

IMG_0716

Preacher’s Cove, Itasca State Park, MN

Red River North, East Grand Forks, MN

Red River North, East Grand Forks, MN

Storm clouds over the Minnesota plains

Storm clouds over the Minnesota plains

My friend has a “little man” living with her part of the week.  Little man’s brother stays with his other grandmother most of the time.  “Lisa, if anything happens to me …” I made the same promise to her concerning “little man” and his brother that I made concerning both her (now grown) children … and to my brother concerning the Princess. If anything happens, I’ll be there.  They … ALL of them … will be loved and cared for.  I immediately fell in love with little man.  6 years old and full of 6-year old little boy energy.  Lots of questions, lots of talking … lots of 6-year oldishness.  It broke my heart when he turned to me one morning as he and my friend were heading out the door to Summer School.  He looked at me with those big brown eyes and asked, “Are you going to be here when I get home?” “Yes, I’ll be here,” I replied.

I shared my heart with my friend over dinner that night. And we became quiet.  She adamant that she will ALWAYS, always, be there for this child. Me adamant that if anything happened to her, I’d be right there for him. No hesitation, no questions asked.

*** * *** *

“B” loved the ‘watermelon popsicles’

I posted the following on Facebook:

Question: How do you take “foodie” pics with a 6-year old in the house?

Answer: You don’t

Love that kid!

St. Joseph's Social Care & Thrift Store, Grand Forks, ND

St. Joseph’s Social Care and Thrift Store, Grand Forks, ND

I told my friend I wanted to join God at work in her community during my stay.  I had the honor of helping to pack over 1,000 lunches for children of low-to-no income families.  I cried … bucket loads of tears … as I left the building.  What an incredible work these people do.  Do they even understand how great their work is?

There were so many incredible moments this summer that I truly want to burn into my memory … driving through the Flint Hills of Kansas at sunrise and over the Missouri River into Iowa, soaking my feet in the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River, watching the crazy clouds of two storm systems colliding over the plains of Minnesota. In each of those moments, all I could do was praise God for this incredible trip.  And I wondered what these places looked like at the moment He created them.  Did they look like they do today? Was there a freshness, a newness, a cleanness when they were spoken into existence?  What an amazing moment that must have been!

Lake Itasca, Minnesota

Lake Itasca, Minnesota

Where Lake Itasca becomes the headwaters of the Mississippi

Where Lake Itasca becomes the headwaters of the Mississippi

The Mississippi River on its way to the Gulf of Mexico

The Mississippi River at the beginning of its journey to the Gulf of Mexico

“Don’t wait for a fish to find you”

A prayer of surrender: it’s not an easy subject or an easy way of life. In fact, it costs us everything. We hand over our every dream for our lives – every hope, every remnant of control we think we have – to God, and say, “You have it all. You have me. I am yours. Anything you want to do with me. Anything. I am in.”

I read the above excerpt from Jennie Allen’s book, Restless, a few weeks ago and fell to my knees in absolute awe.  Jennie wrote in those few lines the very longing of my heart: to be totally surrendered to God’s will.  One prayer I’ve shared previously is for God to use me however He sees fit and for me to be okay with it.

Is God good or what?

Flashback: I made a commitment in January to attend the women’s Tuesday night Bible studies hosted by my church fellowship.  I very quickly realized my work responsibilities would heavily encroach on this time commitment.  I wrestled, over the next several missed Tuesdays, with trying to continue the study or allow myself the time I needed to finish my work. It wasn’t a battle of urgent versus important but important versus important. After a lot of prayer and receiving wise counsel from my friend and Bible study teacher, I stepped away from the Tuesday night study.

I wistfully told her I needed to either find a study or lead a study that meets on the weekends or maybe during the summer.  Her response? “Don’t wait for a fish to find you.” I love her! ❤

Fast forward to the present: I opened an email yesterday morning talking about a new summer study.

In that moment … I knew.

I knew it was time to step out and say, “I’m in.”

I forwarded the email to my accountability partner letting her know I had signed up to lead a study. I asked if she was interested and if she thought our Lifegroup sisters might be as well.  She immediately responded with, “Yes, share this with them!” and then she asked if she could invite a colleague. Laughing, I said, “Of course!”

Today is a school holiday and I am ready to begin preparations to lead a summer study.  What is it? It’s Jennie Allen’s new study, Anything.

Again, is GOD good or what?

As if I needed any more confirmation, check out today’s video from the Bible study I’m doing:

Message received, Papa.  Please, no fish.