Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Hanging and Hoping

photo: Flickr/Jared Tarbell
When I was in elementary school, gym class at some point during the year included an activity I quickly grew to loathe: the rope climb. In the makeshift office area (it had once been a stage) off the gymnasium, a long, thick rope hung from the ceiling. Our class would line up in a row, and one by one, each kid had to step forward and shimmy as far up the rope as she could.

As a skinny kid with noodle arms, I didn’t have near the upper body strength to reach the top. In fact, I could hoist myself exactly zero inches up from my highest reach when dangling at the bottom. It was humiliating to hang there, the rough strands of rope burning my hands, unable to pull myself up.

I spent a good portion of my pregnancy meditating on 1 Peter 1, and at some point in the midst of memorizing, I remembered that old rope. I read “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” and pondered Jen Wilkin’s exhortation at TGCW16 to set your hope *fully* on God, not partially. I pictured not just the one rope but two giant ropes hanging from an impossible height. In my mind’s eye, the ropes don’t merely hang a couple of feet off the ground, with a kid-sized chair at the bottom; below them is a black hole of darkness.

I picture myself suspended between those two ropes. This time my assignment isn’t to claw my way to the top; all I have to do is hold on, keep from falling into the darkness. I’ve got a death grip on each one, but I’m dangling in the middle, vulnerable, precarious. My strength can’t hold out forever. The ropes burn my hands. My fingers cramp and my shoulders ache; the muscles in my arms start to quiver. This is what it is for me to hope partially (even *mostly*) in the grace of Christ and yet also not be willing to let go of other hopes.

What I can't feel or see is that one of the ropes is slowly fraying at the top--fiber after fiber breaking under the strain of my weight. It won't hold forever. If I will let go of that other rope and devote all my strength to the sure and solid one--the one anchored in the Rock that is my Savior--I can wrap my entire body around it. I can grip it with both hands, forearms pulled securely against it. I can hold it right next to my whole body, twist my legs around it, even use my feet for extra traction. If one hand gets tired, I can let go and shake it out while the rest of me holds tight. And if I grow weary and start to slip, I will not freefall into the chasm below the ropes—I will simply slide down this one rope a bit. Even if my strength should fail and I slide all the way down—there is a steadfast knot tied at the bottom, massive, firm enough to stand on. In the end, it will hold me.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Fresh Starts and New Beginnings

Hey, so. If GoDaddy is going to keep billing me for this domain name, I should maybe use it, huh?

I don't really know what happened to this space. Well, I mean, I sort of do.


I spent nine months devoting most of my energy (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual) to carrying her in a 35-year-old body that does NOT do pregnancy well.


And then I've spent the last five months figuring out how to settle back into a season of life I've not seen in a long, long time.


My days are once again full of nursing and diapers, tummy time and babywearing, walks with a stroller and troubleshooting fussing and trying to catch a quick nap. Only this time around, they're also filled with listening to a beginning reader, signing math homework, driving to piano lessons and soccer practice. It's hard to find time or space to think my own thoughts, much less write them down. Especially when I'm desperately rusty, having all but forgotten how.

Today I have a babysitter. Three whole hours of a friend's homeschooled teenage daughter entertaining my baby so I can do whatever I want. Ha. Of course "whatever I want" looks like being paralyzed with anxiety about how best to use the three hours, knowing the time will fly by. It looks like fighting rejected insurance claims, calling orthodontists, attempting to summit Mount Laundry, and stressing about whether I'm going to end up paying the babysitter to be here while Miriam sleeps.

But, at least today, it also looks like sitting down to a blank screen and a blinking cursor and trying to remember how to do this writing thing. Let's be honest: this blog was dying a long, slow death for quite some time before Miss Miriam arrived on the scene. And yet, as a much-beloved writing professor reminded me years ago: "Thankfully, we are people of the resurrection!"

Just yesterday I came across this incredibly timely and encouraging post by Rebecca Reynolds at Thistle and Toad. She concludes:
...Now and then I can write an encouraging post for five people--or I can write a post for one person who is struggling.
I can wait to post until I have something important to say.
I can let the gospel apply small. I can let God be God and trust Him to place my labors in the context that is most useful to him.
I can live small then smaller still, encouraging my readers to do the same.  
I can do all this because the gift of writing doesn't offer an identity that springs into being with a publishing contract, or with a following in the 100’s of thousands. Writing well is simply a tool to utilize in the context of an identity that was secured long ago by the work of Jesus. We have nothing to earn; we have only to wake up each morning and say, "In every small step I take, Thy will be done."

So here's to fresh starts. Here's to tiny baby steps, the smallest of efforts in the right direction. Here's to awkwardness and imperfection and muscling through the anxiety to get something, anything, on the page. Hopefully I'll be back soon.