I shared last week about how going through a crisis showed me how big the world is and how God uses us to help one another. This weekend I was reminded of another thing I learned from that crisis.
Saturday Dan headed south for an outdoor concert and the kids and I had the day to ourselves. We are the keepers of two special summer projects, one intentional and one serendipitous (I’ll share that one another day). Our intentional project is the Sunflower Fort. We cleared out a 8 x 8 foot flower bed and planted sunflower seeds along the edges. Inside we put a thick layer of mulch. We left a one foot space as a “doorway.” Even though we planted late, the plants are really starting to live up to their name, Mammoth Sunflowers!
Making the choice to hang around outside with the kids in our Sunflower Fort instead of straying inside alone to clean or study is the direct result of the kind of promises Dan and I made to ourselves in the tiny NICU room where preemie Claire fought for life. We never wanted to put ANYTHING as a priority over our family. We always wanted to remember how clear our priorities were sitting in that room.
Sure, I’d love a cleaner house. It probably should be cleaner; I know there is a place for that. But these days, if I’m making choices, the living souls get my time. Everybody and everything else can take a number and enjoy the hold music! : )
To the Fort, I say to you!
I’ve been thinking that I need a splashy new masthead here. I’m picturing something a little retro (aqua blue is in my head) with sparkle symbols around the words: RARE ROCKS – Felicity’s Blog for Intentional Spiritual Formation (Guaranteed Gem Quality!). Now all I need is a graphic/web designer who works pro bono for a good cause – mine! : )
As I’m dreaming up this new blog layout, I imagined two images flanking the title: on one side a rough-edged rock and on the other a shiny polished stone. In aqua? Something like the round guy in the middle of this:
Sweet, right? I know. Don’t you want to just reach out and roll those around in your hands. So soothing and meditative. Well, after I looked at polished stones on Flikr for awhile (thanks scorpocat!), I remembered how much I used to want a rock tumbler for Christmas! I used to look at them every year in Grandma’s JCPenny Wish Book and think, that would be AWESOME!
Alas, it was never meant to be, but, clearly, something about it stuck with me. What is it about rocks!?
So, of course, I did a little research on rock tumblers last night and, oh the joy, it was everything I had hoped. Rock tumbling is just another perfect analogy for spiritual formation. You want to know what you need to turn regular rocks into polished beauties?
First you need the right kind of rock, good material. Then you need grit. That’s right, grit. Add water and tumble all of that together for awhile. Like, a long time, weeks even. Imagine this is you and the grit of everyday life rolling around in the water of God’s Word:
Not the most comfortable sight or sound, huh? Seems about right for spiritual formation – it seems to take forever and it isn’t glamorous at all. Watching that video, it looks a little boring even.
After the rough grit round you’ll have another round with a finer grit. Again – weeks. After each round the stones have to be washed thoroughly to remove any leftover grit. In the final polishing round even a small spec of grit could end up leaving all kinds of scratches on your stones.
So rock tumbling is NOT for the faint of heart, or the impatient, which probably explains why I never got one! But, for the brave soul willing to move through each step with vigilance and care, rock tumbling produces some beautiful RARE ROCKS!
Luke 12: 25-28“Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearanceâ€”but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?
You should know that Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, is following me on Twitter. Me and 33, 203 other people! Still, I enjoy reading his blog and this week he posted some great perspective. In the middle of trials, instead of asking why, he as learned to ask What does this make possible? I love that. (Just so you also know that he appears to be rather normal in other respects, he notes in the comments that this question can be asked too soon to someone actually in a crisis – just keep that little tidbit of advice in mind.)
Being on the other side of a trial is a wonderful place to be – you are surrounded by perspective. When I see others just walking into a trial it is tempting for me to accost them with my hard-earned perspective, thinking maybe I could spare them some of the struggle. But that isn’t true, is it? We call them personal trials for a reason. Even though we can help each other through them with support and prayer and encouragement, the true gift of a trial is something gained as an individual.
I could share story after story of the many changes in my habits and ways of thinking during our time of crisis with Claire and her twin sister, Ellery, who died shortly after her birth. (Admittedly not all changes were good. I attribute eating for comfort to those difficult days when a trip to a restaurant was a cool oasis from the desert of our hospital surroundings. Very hard habit to break.) One thing that surprised me the most was how much bigger my world became during that season.
I had been raised in wonderful Christian home and active church. I loved it there and I grew spiritually. However, it was a small world. That can be good in some ways, but for some reason it had made me arrogant. I lived, worked, and learned with all the same people. I began to think we could do anything if we tried hard enough. But I was wrong.
When I experienced placenta abruption at just 23 weeks into my twin pregnancy six years ago, not only could no one in my church help me, no one in my TOWN could help me. I had to ride in an ambulance two hours before we reached the University hospital with staff prepared toÂ help. Then for 115 days I met person after person who had sacrificed years of their lives andÂ thousands of their dollars to acquire the skills and knowledge that were being applied toward my tiny baby girl’s healing.
We realized so many things in that hospital. Among them, we were rich in friends. Also among them, God had even prepared complete strangers to be part of our story. His world is so much bigger than ours. I would never wish for someone to go through the things we went through in those days, but I’m so thankful for the perspective. I’m thankful for a bigger world and a bigger God. Who knows, God might even be able to use Twitter!
*You can follow me on Twitter, too. Click here.
I’m reading the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Do NOT be deceived by this title; this is not fluffy Christian-positive-thinking-affirmation type stuff. Chan’s words are challenging, sometimes nearly offensive. And it really has me thinking.
As an example of the kind of challenge Francis Chan is throwing out to the Christian community, here is a question – accompanied by a video of his wife with an abandoned baby in Uganda – he posed on his own vlog:
why is my life more valuable than this baby’s? Someone asked me recently why I don’t save money for emergencies, or retirement. My answer was how can I justify saving for myself “just in case” something happens to me when something IS happening to so many already. 29,000 kids will die today of preventable causes. If I’m to love my neighbor AS myself, why spend so much time worrying about me?
What do you think?
During the summer my teaching schedule relaxes considerably. On top of that, I usually don’t take summer classes myself. Viola! TIME TO READ! It is really one of my favorite seasons of the academic year because I get to take my time perusing new texts, sorting through old lesson plans, and make changes for the upcoming semesters.
Much to my husband’s dismay, my favorite way to do this kind of work is with as many books and binders as possible piled on my desk ready for inspection. I might like to read from the new Craft of Research along with the updated MLA Handbook. I might want to spend a few minutes previewing a worship foundations text and then switch over to reading about the Bible as literature. I want all of these choices at my fingertips so I can see my options. It helps that I can take my time doing it because my students are mostly out and about enjoying summer break and I don’t have tight deadlines for a change.
But, it does make for a messy desk! And I like it that way!