Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Schedule

Time Management
Photo Credit: MindMed

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

About a year ago my friend Lindsey asked me to write a post about making a schedule. Just a few months prior, I had perfected one that would provide just the right amount of structure without being too rigid. Eric and I had a few meetings about it, agreed and disagreed on some things, and I took it back to the drawing board about three times before I actually printed a copy for both of us.

That schedule failed after two months of use--it was still too rigid and did not account for the random acts of small children. I attempted to take Lindsey's advice, thinking that if I was forced to write about it, then I would be forced to keep the schedule I came up with. I remember working tirelessly on different plans last fall, hoping I could make a post out of the whole ordeal.

My mom had shared with me about biorhythms and how each of us has a window of time between 45 and 90 minutes which is optimal for working on one task. She uses this method at home, setting her timer (one of my favorite home management tools) for 45 minutes and changing tasks each time the buzzer goes off. This works great for her, and she's shared the idea with me several times. I decided it was time to find out for myself why it works.

I spent an afternoon researching these biorhythms and even started a post about it, but I abandoned it. Several months later, I called Mom, still complaining about not having order in my days. She told me about the timers again and invited me to bring the kids to her house for Labor Day weekend. I dropped the kids off on a Friday and used her timer method every time I was home by myself. It worked fabulously! I got so much done and felt so much freedom.

At one point, I set the timer and set out on a big walk. I got home with about 15 minutes left on the timer. I used that extra time to lay out on the floor. I did a bit of stretching and then soaked up the sun for the remaining minutes. No kidding--about one minute before the timer went off, my eyes popped open. I sat up, ready for the next thing!

The same thing happened when I sat down to research. I was going along at a steady clip, my 45-minute timer set so I didn't have to wonder when to stop and take a break. All of a sudden, this wave of exhaustion swept over me. Sure enough, there was about one minute left on my timer. Apparently, my biorhythms are set to 44 minutes!

Well, I was stoked. It was easy! It worked! And I felt great going from one activity to the next with energy to take on each task. Surely, the kids and I could make this work for housekeeping, my writing, and homeschooling. My mom was right, again!

My mom really likes being right, and I secretly adore affirming her every chance I get. Somehow it just makes me so happy. I told her about how well her system worked for me, and I could hear the big smile in her voice. I told her how excited I was to try it with the kids when she brought them back.

I'm sure she's guessed by now, since she called on one of those really bad re-entry days following their return, that it didn't work out so well. I don't think the kids are on the same biorhythm I'm on, and I don't think they have the same enthusiasm as I do for getting the housework done and being quiet while I write.

That magical moment of "waking up" after being able to concentrate for 45 minutes was sorely missing from my attempts, primarily because I never had the chance to actually sit uninterrupted for 45 minutes. After a weekend of constant activity and the full attention of their grandparents, my kids were bored with the mundane routine.

I wish I could say I went back to the drawing board to come up with a new plan, but frankly I gave up. I had tried everything, and nothing seemed to bring the peace I longed for. The plans I made were either too rigid for our lifestyle, or they were too easy to fudge with a late night here or a late morning there (usually both at once).

I didn't give up altogether, as I did continue to pray (and sometimes complain) about the lack of order and the stress I felt trying to juggle homeschooling, playing with the kids, getting outside, and getting my four hours of work done each day. And just a few days ago, we had another round of energy-draining formlessness to our days and a meltdown from Zara, "Mommy, your work is making everyone unhappy."

I brought them together and explained why Mommy's work is so important and how it is imperative that we find a way for me to get my work done in chunks of time each day without interruption and without interfering with learning and having fun together. Together, we agreed that with a few important tools (a clock for the living room and one for their bedroom), we could choose a schedule that would work for all of us.

Sorry, Mom, but it's not based on your biorhythms method, though it is closely related. It does require that I get up earlier than I have been, but since I got the children to fully cooperate with an 8:30pm in-bed time, it should work out in the long run for me to get to bed earlier.

Here's what we decided:

7:30am
Mom wakes and works for an hour. Orion is in the living room working on a quiet activity chosen and prepared for the night before. Zara is in her bed, reading and doing the quiet activities she chose. They both have a clock they can watch and read, and I have a timer set for one hour.

8:30am
The timer goes off, and the kids and I eat breakfast together.

9:00am
Orion returns to the living room with his activities, and Zara returns to her bedroom with hers. Mom goes to the computer, sets the timer for one hour, and proceeds to work. Interruptions are greeted with a gentle reminder, "Uh-oh, the timer hasn't gone off." OR "Sorry, Mom's not available right now." OR "Remember, the house is quiet until 10am."

10:00am - 3:30pm
Mom and kids, and Dad on his days off, spend time doing things together without Mom having to wonder when she's going to get her work done. Yesterday, we assembled their new toy shelf together, put up fun snow flake lights on Zara's upper bunk, and played a game Orion made up. We watched a movie together while we put the shelf together, and we had a fairly stress-free time together. It was the first time in a long time that I haven't wondered if I should be working or doing school or cleaning house instead of whatever it was I was doing.

3:30 - 5:30pm
Mommy works while the kids watch a movie or play together quietly.

This is a great schedule, and it worked like a charm for a brief season. Now, though, it does not seem to fit the changes Eric's spring season brings to bear on our life. I've once again abandoned the notion of keeping a regular schedule. I'm living one moment at a time, and it actually feels really good most of the time I suppose you could say I'm learning to trust the process. Despite the inconsistency in my schedule, the housework, the schoolwork, and my writing all seem to get done miraculously at the end of each week (or at least by the end of the month).

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring, Here We Come


Well, it has been a ridiculously long time since I've posted a family update. Rather than looking too far back--on missed posts, the flu, and other things I'd rather forget about--I'm choosing to focus mostly forward. And one of the things I'm looking forward to is Spring!!

Spring--warm air with guaranteed cool sea breezes, playing cards on the patio with friends, play dates at the park with kids and moms I haven't met yet, and sitting on the beach reading and writing while my kids build forts and sand castles.

Have I mentioned before how grateful I am to be on this beautiful island in the Sound? Ahhhh!!!!

Before I get into my future plans, I offer you a brief update on the Andrews Household:

Family Update

Eric

Eric has been busy creating beautiful gardens (on paper) for happy clients, working late (very late) nights at Christianson's, and nurturing teeny-tiny growing plants. It is so fun to venture out to our covered patio and find happy little seedlings thriving under his care.

Orion

Orion has been focusing on his goal of becoming a Lego Designer. We enrolled him in the Lego Master Builder Academy last year, and he has worked his way through four of the six kits. This is an amazing program which I can highly recommend. He is practicing old skills and adding new ones as he reads and builds his way to better Lego designing.

Zara

Zara has become more and more confident with letters and their sounds, and she is frequently surprising us by sounding out words on signs. She's looking forward to the Summer Reading program at our library, and she's been practicing writing the titles all the books she reads into her notebook. She continues to dance through life, enriching our lives with singing, encouraging words, and her fabulous outfits. She asks extremely insightful questions, and looking at the world through her eyes is a joy I can hardly express.

Angela

Though many of you already know this, I have a brand new hairstyle. I have long been an anti-style kind of girl. I suppose a deficit in proper training, combined with a murky relationship with beauty, makeup, and girly girls, equipped me with a mountain of vows, excuses, and hangups when it came to adopting a personal style. Thankfully, after several years of unleashing my true self on the inside, I've finally found a way to let her fully shine on the outside! I'm still working out a few kinks, but the two are becoming one slowly but surely.

I'm still writing--a lot! Mostly on EraGem Post about all things Engagement Rings! And I completed my very first book, which I'm preparing to publish very soon. In a couple of weeks I have the privilege of attending a special writing workshop in California, where I will learn the intricacies of writing, publishing, and marketing my first book. Yes, I've already written one, but I look forward to tips and tricks for writing my second one very soon! I'll keep you all posted as to the progress, and of course where/when you can purchase one for yourself!

In the Infirmary

Of course, most of this is what we've been doing. I'm sure you want to know how we're doing, too. Well, I must confess it has been a tough year. I really can't speak for Eric or the kids in this department, but I can speak for myself. As many of you know, two of my cousins battled for their lives against cancer. This, and a friend's husband, as well.

Unfortunately, I don't like that they have cancer, and I don't like that they're spending their precious moments battling. And I over the winter I succumbed to the battle myself, even though I KNOW BETTER!!!

During that season I felt I was in the infirmary with my Papa, leaving all of them and their battles to His capable hands and letting it just be about me for a bit. That was a good choice, and after a nice break from Facebook and most of my extracurricular writing, I returned with a new vigor and confidence that even if we "lost" one of our precious family members, they would not truly be lost.

A few months later, my cousin, Nick, passed peacefully, holding hands with his wife and father. That was really, really hard. None of us had given up hope of his recovery, but none of us wanted to see him suffer any longer either. After a week of deep grieving, I returned to making confident declarations and watching mountains move--as they always do when I make confident declarations.

Thankfully, my days in the infirmary are over, and I seem to be finding stronger footing for life's curve balls lately. So, now that we've gotten the past out of the way, let me move on to the future.

Future Developments

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what purpose my blogs serve. I love the idea of connecting, sharing, and involving you all in our process as a family, as well as in my personal process as a writer.

Signature Blog

To that end, I've been refining my Signature Blog! I'm still working on a name, but for now I've settled on Word Love. I've oriented this blog around my process as a writer. For now, I'm writing mostly in my journal, developing a solid vision for it. I've written a few book reviews, and I plan to write more. Since most of my free time is spent reading, this just makes sense. I've also been collecting various writing exercises, some from books I'm reading and others I've developed based on my own practices. I'd love to see some of you start stepping out into your writing destinies.

Home Education

A major part of our family life is our pursuit of learning. I've had many friends encourage me to write about my unique philosophy and methods for home education, and I've decided I actually do have some things to say. So, beginning very soon this blog (A Life in Season) will become the place where I share in-depth about my philosophies and methods for homeschooling.

I Had To Learn Everything I Know. This will not be a place where I tell you how I think you should do it. That would be antithetical to my belief about the nature of learning. Instead, it will be a place where I share what I do and why I do it.

I teach in a way that I have seen very few other people teach, and at this point there is no way I could sum it up in a list of rules, formulas, projects, or methods. In fact, many would probably look on and think, "Well, that just comes natural to her. I could never do that." My husband says that all the time.

However, I don't buy those statements. I had to learn everything I know. I had to cultivate curiosity and creativity in my own life. And even though I've done this most of my life, I believe it's never too late to begin.

Feeling My Way Through. I'm extremely experimental, which means that although I know a lot, understand a lot, and have a lot figured out, I DO NOT have it all figured out. However, like all practiced learners, when I need an answer I research. I read books, talk to people, listen to kids and parents and teachers and "experts" talk about learning and creativity, and I contemplate it all. 

Contemplation and experimentation dance together frequently in our home. This means that the wheels move slowly. It means projects are started and left undone, books are started and taken back to the library unfinished, TED Talks are bookmarked for later (maybe 5 or 10 years later), and sometimes I feel extremely insecure in this process. 

Because I don't have a manual or follow a curriculum, because I'm still feeling my way through, because I'm more like an unschooler than any other kind of homeschooler, I have kept myself under the radar for a long time. It felt safer for me and my kids, and to be honest it probably remains safer that way. However, periodically, I find all that hiding to be a little bit silly.

Done Being Silly. Ahaha! Silly me, thinking I'm the only one who wants a different option than all the other options out there. Silly me, thinking I'm the only one who thinks kids are amazing and don't need teachers so much as guardians, guides, and fellow explorers. Silly me, thinking that because I'm not the same as everyone else, I don't have anything to contribute. 

So, I've decided I'm done being silly. I've gone to the library and collected some books, again. And eventually, you will begin to see a survey of ideas, concepts, and "expert" input on what I think it means to learn and what I think it means to teach. You will begin to see emerge a Life Pursuit of Learning rather than an attempt to Educate my kids.
  • You will find links to my favorite resources on the Home Education tab 
  • You will find posts about what's working for us
  • You will find posts about what's NOT working for us
  • You will find in-depth book reviews
  • You will find posts about what I'm learning, and what I hope my kids will learn
  • You MIGHT find posts about what my kids are doing, BUT I hope you'll remember that "doing" is only part of the story
  • You will find posts about who my kids really ARE and the great delight we find in exploring them--for that is the real story!
  • You will find support and encouragement, and I hope...
  • You will find the empowerment you need to take some risks of your own and step outside your own education box into the wild and wonderful world of Learning!
Someone out there, I know, has been looking for me. Now that I'm not hiding anymore, she (or he) will now be able to find me.

~Angela

What It Means To Be Human

What it Means to Be Human
Photo Credit: Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be human--woman or man, child or adult. There are some things we seem to dismiss as unacceptable, and this dismissal has led to shame, to hiding and pretending, and to a lot of damage. Here I pay tribute to a few of the ignoble aspects of being human.

Picking Your Nose

"We don't pick our nose and eat it."

Well, we may not now, but once upon a time, every single one of us has done it at least once. And at least once we liked that salty taste and the interesting, nothing-quite-like it texture of a booger.

Foul Smells

"Farts and poop are gross."

Actually, they smell gross unless you live in a bathroom. Then, as with all other "gross" smells, your nose becomes accustomed to the smell. You have good times and bad times in your 'home', hopefully more good than bad, and before you know it you've begun to associate that smell with the wonderful feeling of home, belonging, and community.

Pretty soon, when you're away from your bathroom home, you find yourself longing for that smell...it becomes a part of what is good in your life. You stop resenting it, you've assimilated it into what is normal for you. The smell of poop becomes sweet, like a familiar friend. And you're surprised when visitors remark on the smell you don't even notice anymore.

I know we don't live in bathrooms here, but it is an important thing to remember, humans get used to their surroundings. We all do. Physically, we are designed to acclimate--to temperature, to humidity, to bacteria and toxins present in our food and water sources, and to odors.

This is true all over the world. We must not feel sorry for people who live in garbage dumps or slums--they are often happier than we are because they actually know their humanness, they embrace everything it is to be human. They do not sanitize their lives.

Also, every single one of us has made the big drop-splash. Every single one of us has farted really loudly before having a good satisfying poop. Why is it so shameful to unload in public, then? Come on, is it really better to let the s**t fester inside you? Just let her rip and be done with it. Chances are you'll be empowering someone else to be human right alongside you!

Shedding Tears

"Men shouldn't cry, and women shouldn't make a scene when they cry."

I found myself hiding in the back corner of a building this morning with tears rolling down my face, as if a public display of my sorrow would bring shame to me somehow. How many men do you know who cry in public? I know a few, and I've seen a few choke up without embarrassment, but for the most part it isn't done. Too many admonishes to suck it up, to not be a cry baby, to be tough.

I know men and women express their emotions differently, and I'm all for unity in diversity. However, this idea that showing sorrow is a sign of weakness affects both genders equally. I know some people think women have permission to cry, but actually we don't.

We brush the tears aside before they have a chance to roll down our face. We stop talking, swallow our sobs, and apologize for getting emotional. It makes us feel vulnerable, and far too often we've been told to pull ourselves together and put on a happy face, because happiness makes the world go round.

Boo-Hiss! True happiness is not even possible without true sadness. We all have the same basic emotions--happy, mad, sad, and afraid. There are endless variations on the themes, and there are nearly as many expressions of these feelings as there are human beings on the planet. Yet when you boil it all down, we all feel the same feelings.

And to be healthy, we must have at least one place in our lives where we are free to express all these feelings in whatever manifestations they show up. And we must all be prepared to surprise ourselves and each other, because feelings often have a life of their own separate from the all-powerful mind that we so often think (hope) is in charge.

Gender Roles

"Men should be manly, and women should be girly."

First of all, why do men get to be men, and women only get to be girls? And second of all, what in the heck is manly or girly anyway? These are just expressions of personality and environmental training (what some mystics call domestication).

The only truly defining physical difference between men and women is our reproductive organs, making us far more similar than we are different (all the books on puberty say so!).

Every other physical difference is actually based primarily on neurotransmitters and hormones. And these extremely powerful agents in the physical body are uniquely brewed in every single body, making us far more different than we are alike, even if we share the same reproductive organs. (Yes, I know I "contradicted" myself, but I did it on purpose.)

If a man likes to sew, he should be celebrated. If a woman likes to pack heat, she should be celebrated even if she's not wearing high heels when doing so. A woman has a vagina and a uterus, whether she chooses to use them or not. A woman is a woman even if she speaks in a low voice or has facial hair. Whatever a woman does, that is what "women" do.

Whatever a man does, that is what "men" do. Men have penises, and anyone with a penis is a man, no matter whether his interests and expressions are "manly" or not. We are not being very precise when we say that "Men don't this or men don't that," if it is men who are doing those things. In this case, having a narrow mind will help us broaden our horizons. With only one defining difference between what it means to be a man or a woman--penis or vagina/uterus/breasts--there is no end to the possibilities of what it means to be a man or a woman.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

When Words Don't Come

Kintsukuroi
We celebrated my cousin Nick today, and we grieve a tremendous loss today. And we will continue to celebrate and grieve, holding in our hearts the tension that it is to be fully alive.

The day after I wrote my last post, my cousin Nick passed through the veil that separates earth from heaven. Our loss is his gain, and he wants us to see it that way. It's not always easy, but we are doing the best we can to fulfill his desire.

Words escape me, but I wanted to let you know that I am a part of a beautiful family. Some would say we're a dysfunctional family, but I completely disagree. We are clay pots holding treasure. We've seen hard times, and some of us have experienced some pretty major fractures along the way.

However, as we've walked together and talked together, as we've cried together and by ourselves, as we've laughed together and then laughed some more, Someone has been mending us.

It seems to me that somehow we are even more beautiful than we could have ever thought possible. If that is dysfunctional, I will take it any day over functional.

Please continue to hold Alyssa, Austyn, Jeff, Linda, Virgil, Jacki, Michelle, and Benjamin close to your hearts in prayer. Send them thoughts of love and peace, for the closure that came today will likely open a whole new storehouse of sorrow. As reality settles in more deeply, pray it settles in like a blanket of peace with a heavy dose of perspective and the silver linings of joy.

If you have not seen the following video of my cousin Nick sharing his heart, I invite you to do so now. A very great man has walked among us, and we will forever be grateful for the moments we had with him.


In Peace & Joy,
Angela

Sunday, January 5, 2014

My Cousins Have Cancer

"Embrace the Clouds"
Just after a flash flood at Whiskeytown Lake, California
Photo © 2009 Angela Magnotti Andrews

My cousins have cancer.

For the past two months, I've woken up wondering if today will be the day that I hear the news of their passing. I wonder if their funerals will overlap and if I'll have to miss one of them--if I'll have to choose which family I will honor with my presence.

Then I get mad at myself for thinking such morbid thoughts. Condemning voices harass me: "Don't you believe in the supernatural? Have you so easily given up? I thought you were a woman of faith."

I am. I am a woman of great faith, and these are the grim realities a woman of great faith faces at times in her life.

I've been trying to write this post for several months, but thinking like this in the privacy of my own mind is a lot different than putting it out there where you can read it--and worse, where they can.

I want nothing I say or do to cause them any further pain. Not that I really believe I could harm them by expressing my feelings. I know both of them want me to be honest about my pain. Still, morbid and sad have long since ceased to be my chosen genre. So, I've hesitated until now.

Now, I don't want another moment to pass without sharing how their lives have impacted mine. Each of my cousins has walked this path in a distinctly different way, though both have demonstrated an unwavering faith in the goodness of a loving Father who is not at all to blame for their conditions.

One Cousin

One cousin has made his life an open book. He talks freely about what cancer has done to him and how it has affected every aspect of his life. He openly shares the negatives, but he chooses primarily to dwell upon the positives.

No one wants a fast-track education in what truly matters, but Nick Magnotti has taken this lump of lead and turned it into gold. And he's been breaking nuggets off and passing them out for free to whomever will take them.

He has fought vigorously and surrendered gracefully, and he has always kept the main thing the main thing. With every breath he is given, he declares the goodness, the kindness, the mercy of the One who made him, and he has poured himself out in a spiritual act of worship in a way that few of us may ever have the opportunity to do.

Because of Nick Magnotti, the word cancer will just as likely bring a smile to my face as a grimace. Because of Nick Magnotti, I cherish moments with my children more than I once might have. Because of Nick Magnotti, I fear death less than I once did.

My Other Cousin

My other cousin cherishes her privacy and has worked tirelessly to ensure that the atmosphere around her is one of hope. She has refused to entertain defeat, and she has fought this battle on her own terms. She has given her family members the privilege of speaking their hearts, sharing the ups and downs with frank honesty.

Meanwhile, she has conserved all of her physical and emotional energy to give life (literally) to both of her girls in every way she possibly can. She has foregone treatment, jeopardizing her own life, in order to safely carry two precious beings to full term while cancer was growing just as rapidly inside her.

After a nine-year battle, and after countless victories and as many setbacks, she recently decided to cease all treatments. Her vigorous spirit continues to defy a disease which has taken so much from her. Through it all, there is so much cancer has never been able to steal. And it is these things which have so inspired me to become greater in my own life.

Because of Thelma Hartmann, I think twice before backing down from my own fears--fears that I know I will pass on to my children if I don't deal with them immediately. 

Because of Thelma Hartmann, I think twice before sharing my struggles with someone. She has taught me the value of being discreet, of managing the atmosphere of faith around me, of determining just what I will allow to enter my "air" space.

Because of Thelma Hartmann, I know to my core that Life prevails even when it appears to be losing ground.

Both of My Cousins

Both of my cousins are facing the end of their lives far sooner than any sense of justice deems proper. Their miraculous recovery is always possible. Every morning as I brace myself for what I will learn on Facebook, I realize that I'm just as likely to hear an outstanding report of breakthrough as I am to learn of their physical demise. But sometimes you can just feel a dread thing coming, and it's hard to shake. It's hard for a woman of faith to know what to do with that sense of impending doom. 

At these times, I do the only thing I know to do.

I release them into His loving care. I feel my feelings and then let them go, for they are just feelings. Deep inside my heart I know that Thelma and Nick are safe in His hands, that death is not an enemy to fear. Indeed, it is as much a friend to us as the birth canal is to an infant.

What is Faith?

The last thing I wish to spark within you is some form of pity or sympathy. Rather, my purpose in writing is to share the every day struggles of men and women of faith. So often we're led to believe that doubt, fear, and disease are evidence of a lack of faith.

I disagree. Fear and doubt are feelings and thoughts, and disease is a complex manifestation of things we do not fully understand. Feelings, thoughts, and complex problems will always present themselves to men and women of faith.The question isn't whether we are free from doubt and fear and disease, the question is what will we do when presented with such feelings, thoughts, or complexities.

I've learned not to ask the question, "Why?" Instead, I ask the question "What?"

What am I going to do in this moment?

I am going to celebrate the gifts of life in all their forms.
I am going to celebrate the people I love in every way possible.
I am going to embrace the clouds, so that I will be ready to celebrate the silver lining that follows.
I am going to choose Life at every opportunity.
And I am going to honor the ones who pave the way so I can walk in greater measures of faith.

Faith is the seed of an action or a response. In the absence of fear and doubt, in the absence of sorrow and pain, in the absence of trouble, there is very little opportunity to know whether you have faith or not. Therefore, I do not despise the opportunities presented by my cousins who have cancer. Though I pray daily that they will recover fully, I hope none of us will ever recover from the valuable lessons we've learned as they've labored to maintain faith throughout their struggles.

My Prayer

I pray you will not shrink back or wish for a life without trouble. I pray you will not run and hide from your pain and miss the comfort of the Comforter when He comes. I pray you will not shove doubt and fear under a rug in your mind. I pray that you will know the full measure of your faith and its capacity to grow within you in the face of pain and loss.

Will you please pray the same for me today?

Thank you,
Angela

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Journey With God

Sacred Gift
© Vladimir Kush. All Rights Reserved.
Used with Permission
by Angela Magnotti Andrews
Last time I wrote about swirling masses of waters and virtual hugs. I told you about a journey I was invited to take with my Papa, and I extended my own invitation for you to take the journey with me. I'm glad you've decided to join me. We open the Book first in Genesis 28:10-22.

Jacob's Encounter with God

Jacob was on the run from the wrath of his twin brother Esau. Only one mourning period stood between him and his brother's murderous revenge. Hightailing it out of the land of his father, he set out toward the land of his mother, Haran. He was promised asylum there with his Uncle Laban, a wealthy and crafty farmer.

Jacob's trouble started with what seemed like a straightforward exchange. For a bowl of soup, Esau offered up his inheritance. Of course, when pay-up time came, Esau had forgotten his foolishness and demanded an accounting for the treachery he felt his brother had played against him (see Gen. 25:29-34 & 27:1-46).

At sunset on that first night, Jacob stopped in an unnamed place. He took a stone from the ground, laid his head upon it, and fell asleep. Upon that rock he dreamed of a ladder which stretched from earth to heaven. He saw angels ascending and descending the ladder, and he saw God standing above the scene.

"I am the God of your forefather Abraham and your father Isaac. You will receive from me the unnamed land upon which you lay your head. I will give it to you and to your descendants, which will number as the grains of dust upon the earth. Your lineage will spread abroad in every direction, and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you" (see Gen. 28:13-15).

More Than a Blessing

Little did Jacob know that he had received more than a blessing from his father. God Himself showed up to bestow a promise. It was the very same promise He had made to Abraham (see Genesis 12:1-9 & 15:1-21). In essence, God made a declaration: I will marry myself to (make covenant with) you. You can depend on me for whatever you need no matter what you do or how you do it.

You would think this strange, given the deceit by which Jacob had found himself in this field. But rather than looking upon the behavior of man, God looks upon the heart. Jacob fought for what belonged to him, and God declares his love here for Jacob.

Jacob's response is priceless: "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it...How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" (see Gen. 28:16)

He rose then, took the stone upon which he rested, and set it up as a pillar. He poured oil upon it and named the place Bethel (House of God). After this encounter, he made a vow, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house..." (see Gen. 28:18-22).

I read between the lines, "If God does what He says, then I shall marry myself to Him, too." Apparently, the jury was still out for Jacob, but he definitely said yes to the beginning of his own journey.

Living Stones

I got to thinking about how often men marked a place in the Bible, as if the place is what attracted God. It seems to me that it was really the man in the place is what attracted God. Jacob exclaims that the place was the House of God, that it was the gate to heaven. But perhaps he ascribed to stone and dust that which God would, and did, and even still does ascribe to the man!

Peter writes of Jesus, the Living Stone, who draws us unto Himself and then turns us into living stones from which are built a spiritual house and a holy priesthood (see 1 Pe 2:4-5). We are the foundation of the House of God. The God of the Universe inhabits and indwells us.

Even Though

This journey with God was turning out to be a grand one. Still, I was unsure what all of this had to do with the swirling waters, so I asked. He gently led me to Psalm 23. This Psalm tells me that with the Lord as my Shepherd I shall never be in want; that I will lie down in green pastures and beside STILL WATERS.

It tells me that though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death (sub deadlines, sub financial struggles, sub cousins with cancer), I shall not be overcome by fear. It tells me God is with me (like He was with Jacob), and that He will prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. It tells me He anoints my head (like Jacob anointed the stone?), and that His goodness and mercy will follow me around for my entire life.

Trust is a Choice

I grew aware of a shift taking place, and still He led me further. This time, in Psalm 46 I discovered that trust is a choice. Psalm 46 tells me that God is my refuge and my strength. It tells me that He is ALWAYS with me to help me when trouble presses upon me. Check this out:
Therefore we will not fear, EVEN THOUGH the earth be removed [even though my cousins have cancer], and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its WATERS ROAR and BE TROUBLED, though the mountains shake with its swelling.
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High God [sub The Heart of His Home]. God is in the midst of her, SHE SHALL NOT BE MOVED. God shall help her, just at THE BREAK OF DAWN. (verses 2-5).
The Psalmist declares that God is with us the same way He was with Jacob, and then he declares God's power to destroy and to heal. Next, he extends one of the most poignant entreaties in the Word: Be still and Know that I am God. And finally, he reiterates how with us God is: "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge" (vs. 11).

God is our refuge. God is with us. God is for us.

Sink Into Our Familiar Friend

In Hebrew, the word for Be Still is rapha. In the New American Standard Version, this word is translated cease, though it can also translated sink, relax. The Hebrew word for know is yada, the same word used when Adam and Eve came together to conceive Cain. Yada can be translated in many ways. The most pertinent to this passage include: clearly understood, familiar friend, experienced, intimate friends, know with certainty, and have intimate relations.

So, we are invited to sink into our intimate friend, God. The implication is that we can know and understand Him, that we can experience and encounter Him. The implication is that if He is with us--the One "who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work," the One who "created the destroyer to wreak havoc"--then no one and nothing can stand against us (Isaiah 54-16-17).

I don't know about you, but the noise of the swirling waters seems to be fading. My faith is rising, and I'm beginning to understand just how big my Daddy is. I hope you experience the safety of intimacy with Him today and that your swirling waters begin to dissipate.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Virtual Hug Dispelled a Swirling Mass of Confusion

Born From The Sea
©Vladimir Kush. All rights Reserved.
Used with permission.
Dear Friends,
Many Saturdays have passed without a word from me here on A Life in Season, despite my declaration six months ago that I would be writing here regularly again. Sometimes I have so much to say that I don't even know where to begin. Today is one of those days.

My World of Swirling Emotions

For the past year I've wrestled with so many questions, so many unknowns, so many ideas, so many duties, so many curiosities, so many fears and doubts and feelings...it's just been so hard to decide what would matter to you in all of the swirling mess.

I can't decide whether to lay it all out for you--to bring you into my world of swirling emotions, sleepless nights, and pain that can strike so deeply that I sometimes feel I could cry forever--or to tell you all the ways that God has met me through it. Ever the optimistic, joy-giving, hope-infused lover of Jesus that I am, I've decided to tell you about one time when God met me through a virtual hug that rivals any physical hug I've ever received.

While I Was Hugging You

The other day, I called a friend and poured out my heart in deep anguish over all that my little self has carried these past six months. Despite the hundreds of miles that separate us physically, she hugged me deeply and tenderly. Perhaps it was the distance that made it so effective. Convention seems so often to cut short the length of a hug before its healing effects manifest. This time, profound healing came.

This virtual hug lasted at least 4 minutes, possibly longer. Over and over, my brain protested: What is she doing? Why isn't she saying anything? Is she waiting for me to say something? I don't know what else to say.

In the face of my brain's discomfort, my heart instructed me: Be still. Let her love you. Feel her embrace. She's hugging you.

And that's exactly what she said in the end: While I was hugging you, I saw a few things.

An Invitation to a Journey

She saw a stone about the size of a throw pillow lying on the ground. She heard: Rest. Cease striving. She thought of Jacob's dream of the angels, and she saw me with a swirling mass of stormy waters above my head. The minute I lifted my hands into the swirling mass of confusion and commanded it to STOP, it stopped. She didn't tell me whether it drenched me in the process, or whether it just disappeared. All she said was that it stopped.

In that moment, I could not believe that I could make it stop. Perhaps I can be honest here and say that even now I'm not sure I have the faith to take authority over it. What I do know is that I will soon.

Her pictures took me to the the Lord, and the Lord invited me on a journey. If you'd like to see where it led me, I invite you to join me for my next post.