Seeing through the storm

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'” (Matthew 14:29-30)

I have been in a storm.

This is my busiest season in a life that is almost consistently busy. I know that our culture bristles at that word, and I agree that busy should never be for busy’s sake, but also–life is busy. It is full and abundant and I struggle sometimes to understand how I am called to be at rest when I’m also called to so many ministries.

I believe it is, in part, a matter of perspective.

We read the story of Peter and see his faltering faith, but I think of the storm. I imagine the biting coldness of the rain, the bowl-me-over buffeting of the wind. Throw in some hail piercing my skin and thunder rolling above. In that howling darkness, the water quaking under my feet, I feel myself drawing inward, curling against the tempest.

Then I feel myself sink.

Peter’s problem was not the storm, though our earthly bodies tell us opposite. The problem is that we believe our bodies, and our gaze follows.

Yes, if your life is less busy, the storm will be less distracting. But I’m tired of feeling stuck because “less busy” is not an option. Trust me–I’ve asked. So there must be another answer, because God would not lay out the storm-focus-faith scenario if the answer to Peter was “You should have stayed in the boat.”

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (1 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Outward, there are storms; inward, God renews us “day by day.” Little bits, long term. We get there by looking upward, lifting our eyes even as the storm rages harder on our upturned faces, and looking past the storm to the Father with His outstretched hands, the Son with His warm embrace, the Holy Spirit with His inward renewal.

Every day.

I know that seems relentless, tiresome, or impossible–day by day, forever?  But you know that phrase, “no pain no gain.” What exactly do you think gains eternal glory? It’s certainly not sitting in a boat.

So my question is, what do you need to look past, and how can you look to the eternal instead? It may not change the storm, but by God’s blessing it will change this day.

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Saving the day

Juggling the schedules of two school kids is a challenge. Most of the time I’m able to balance it well, with one activity per afternoon, plus time for homework and free play. Most of the time. But occasionally things don’t work out quite so smoothly. For a while at the beginning of the school year, we had “super crazy Thursday afternoon.” Instead of going home and detoxing for a bit, we had both gymnastics and soccer shortly after school ended, which meant no going home in between. Just the thought of it made me cringe. I prayed: please let this work! I offered it up to God, knowing that it was a lot to ask for two kids late in the week.

And it ended up that “super crazy Thursday afternoon” wasn’t so super crazy after all. For the month that the schedule lasted until I was able to get K into a different gym class, Thursday afternoon was one of my favorites. We’d go to the park. I’d sit in the sun. They’d ride their bikes and we’d share snacks and talk about our days. We enjoyed the weather, the air, the forced break.

Our schedules have shifted now, and it wouldn’t be the same anyway, not with the cooler weather upon us. But when I think back on those afternoons, spending time with my two once-babies who had so much to tell me, I realize how important it is to turn each situation over the God.

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is great!'” (Psalm 70:4)

I sought the Lord for that saving help, and rejoiced because of it. Even when I was stressed at the very thought. Even when I thought there was no saving those afternoons. A life abundant is about giving all those moments to the Lord, even the ones we doubt, and rejoicing in them. Indeed, the Lord is great, not just because He saved those afternoons, but because He gave me cause to trust in praying first (instead of stressing) in the future.

Music to my soul

It was one of those rare afternoons of peace. A steady rain fell outside, and inside, I made the kids hot chocolate before they ran off to play “3rd grade” upstairs. For once, their morning play continued as if nothing had interrupted it. The house was tidy from a lunch playdate; the laundry finished, folded, and put away. I cleaned up a few dishes in the kitchen, then looked around. Almost everything was in its place, including us. I knew I need to prep the floors for work tomorrow, and I knew there was mess upstairs, but it seemed like a peace too rare and blissful to be wasted with work. But I hardly know how not to work.

Then my eyes landed on the piano. I also hardly play the piano. Childhood lessons have stuck somewhat; I can pick my way through sheet music. Unfortunately, I’m a perfectionist, and the piano feels loaded with guilt. Guilt that I make mistakes–understandably so, since I play so rarely, but mistakes nonetheless. Guilt that others must endure my mistakes–my sister once complained about how loudly I played, and while I probably was just an annoying little sister at the time, I took it to heart, playing with the damper pedal and a sensitive ear whenever anyone was in the house from that day on. I don’t know why I even wanted the piano from my childhood, with all the guilt it seems to bring me, but I did request it from my mom, who doesn’t play anymore, and paid to have it moved down to San Diego shortly after we moved into this house.

And yet, I do know why I wanted it: because, if I can get past all that guilt–the feelings of embarrassment and shortcomings–I enjoy playing the piano. I like taking all those little dots and marks and lines and translating them through my fingers. I love falling into the sway of a song. There are only a few I play well, but when they are well-played, I’m in my own state of bliss.

My ability to play piano may be hampered by my sensitivity, my guilt, my lack of practice. But my enjoyment of playing the piano–that’s a special gift of God. I often think of it as a skill, a talent I don’t use well, but that talent was given to me by God for a special purpose, and even if it’s not to serve my church or to annoy others, it also isn’t meant to be left unused–thanks, but no thanks. My Creator knew every part of me, and He believed I needed to enjoy the piano. It’s also not lost on me that He conveniently provided a free piano, which I, for the most part, completely ignore.

Not today. Today I played my favorite songs and dusted off some older ones. I did not play any of them particularly well, especially since the keys are dusty from renovations and the piano is seriously out of tune. But I enjoyed playing them, in the quiet peace of a rainy afternoon, and I thanked God for the gift in doing so. And it really was just what today needed.

Winter Wonderland

For once, let’s put all the complaints on hold.

This is my frost-covered lawn:

This is my (suddenly losing its leaves all at once) fig tree:

This is my (now dead) eggplant:

So while I grant that San Diego does have the possibility of eighty degrees at any time of year, I would also like to point out that it can also regularly be forty or lower at night through the winter. Yes, winter. Because if my kid’s slide can be covered in a quarter inch of ice, I can call it winter. Sure, it’s not the copious amounts of snow that my sisteris enjoying, but it’s enough to feel Christmasy when you’re a thin-skinned California girl.

Falling Hard

It’s another eighty degree day in San Diego, so I can guarantee I will hear, at least once today, a complaint about the weather. “It’s November!” people say, their whine suggesting that they’d much rather be scraping ice from their windshields than slathering on sunscreen. They lament that this is NOT what fall should feel like. Which makes me wonder: why are earth are you living here, if you’re going to spend all winter complaining about it? Almost anywhere else in the country you could be serving up stew by now, if not snow, at a fraction of California’s cost!

You want to know what I think? This feels just like Thanksgiving to me. There’s a slight chill to the breeze, even on these sunny days, that demands you stand in the direct rays and soak up the yellow along with the oranges and reds on the trees. There are enough leaves on the ground to have color hunts, but not enough to spend all day raking. It’s in the forties at night–what a California girl considers cold enough–so we do get to see  our breath, bundle tight, hunker down. But the days oscillate between cold and warm and rain and sun and I just think this variant, temperamental mishmash has Fall written all over it. Of course, California fall. What else do people here expect?

We spent two years in Virginia, so I am totally aware of the rest of the country’s novel weather, and yes, I understand that our Fall is not standard fare. But I love it just the same, or else I wouldn’t have come back. And I wish sometimes that instead of people around me wishing they had the season they were supposed to be enjoying, they were relishing in the unique experience they have instead.