It Will Not Be Enough

IMG_5491Exactly one week from today, I will wake up at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, having hiked down a steep 8 miles or so the day before. I did this hike two years ago but I expect to be surprised and delighted in new ways this time around.

I already know:

  • I’ll be stiff from what amounts to a controlled fall down craggy South Kaibab and ever-so-thankful for the right gear and the months of training.
  • I’ll be grateful for the rich companionship of my fellow hikers that is unique to an experience like this.
  • I’ll be impressed as always by the untamed wildness and inherent danger of this beautiful place.
  • I’ll be stunned anew by nature’s multiple mood swings, often visible all at once across the sweeping panorama.
  • I’ll be reminded of my own smallness and comparative insignificance amid such enormity.
  • And I’ll be inspired to private worship and whispered prayers of gratitude.

And I also know this: None of it will be enough.

That’s what brings the joy of this adventure into sharp focus for me.

As I become aware of my tiny place in the grand scheme of nature, my heart turns toward an even grander scheme: the eternal perspective of a  good and just Creator, the very One who laid the foundation of this marvelous place. 

Our God is too big to be understood and infinitely worthy of more praise than we can ever give, even in our most fervent attempts. Far from being frustrating, this “not enough” thrills me.  Even in a location as majestic as the Grand Canyon, I am reminded that God is greater … and beyond … and above …  all.

I begin to sense in profound yet inadequate ways that the same eternity reflected in the nature around me is also placed within me, in all my smallness, and I am awestruck beyond words.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

When I wake up a few days later, back home in the flat, relatively dull Midwest, God will be just as near and just as glorious, just as worthy of worship as he was on the South Rim, South Kaibab trail, Bright Angel trail, and the Phantom Ranch.

That’s the God I serve.

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Revisiting the Dog-Eared Days

When I was in school, we weren’t allowed to fold down the corners of any pages in the textbooks we were assigned or mark them up in any way.

Folding the page corners gave the book permanent creases, we were told, and made it look tattered, even abused. Since the school had to make them last, our teachers sternly warned against careless or rough treatment.

Just to be sure we complied, our names were recorded next to some identifying number for these particular books and we were warned we’d have to pay for any damage – other than “normal wear and tear” – if we defaced them. The same applied to library books.

So at the beginning of each school year, my sister and I could be found cross-legged on the family room floor, dutifully fashioning protective covers for those textbooks out of paper grocery bags.

Truthfully, I always liked getting a book that already had a little mileage on it. It told me that someone before me had found parts of it useful and suggested perhaps I would, too. At a minimum, it told me I could probably use the book without freaking out if I dropped it or spilled something on it.

IMG_5431These days, if I feel like dog-earing one of my books, I do it freely (I know, that’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to some – don’t judge). I fold the page corners to help me find the passages I want to return to, even if it means the book now has flaws that would disqualify it from being resold. The places I’ve marked lead me back to what strikes me as memorable.

Frankly, if the book is interesting enough for me to want to refer back to it, I’m not likely to want to part with it anyway. If I’ve borrowed someone else’s book, I’ve been known to return it and then buy my own copy just so I can crease and highlight to my heart’s content.  Continue reading

What Putting “Legs” to Your Love Looks Like

For some strange reason, the phrase “loving well” keeps popping up for me lately. Just in the last few days, a writer I deeply respect used it in a blog post, my pastor prayed for it in a prayer service, and a friend wished IMG_1769for it in a conversation.

So I find myself wondering: what distinguishes loving well from – well, “just” loving?

As I try to nail down the distinction, I think of the people in my life who I would say love well and I ask myself, “What makes him/her come to mind?”

Yes, they put others’ needs above their own, certainly they allow themselves to be vulnerable in relationships, and no doubt they consistently strive to communicate clearly.

But here are some other characteristics that set them apart: Continue reading

The Giant Kid at the Bus Stop

yellow school busDo you remember junior high? Sorry, I know that was a painful question. We all remember those days (and not necessarily in a good way).

Here’s the thing: Where my house is located, I have a front row seat to the on-going pre-teen drama at the junior high bus stop . . . and frequent flashbacks of my own to that dreadful era:

  • How could I forget the kid with the unfortunate first name of Orville? No doubt his parents intended to honor some beloved relative by giving him that name. But Orville? He paid dearly for his parents’ choice to hang that one on him.
  • There was the overly tall, awkward guy everyone in the seventh grade called “Slow Monroe” and then snickered as though he couldn’t hear them. I hope he ended up a CEO somewhere.
  • I still remember Ellen in Mr. Hunter’s math class. She used too much Coppertone QT over the weekend and came to school with her face orange. Even the teacher had a field day at her expense. I’m not sure she ever lived it down.

Continue reading

The Lesson in the Peeling Wallpaper

 

Peeling Hand Stenciled WallpaperEarly on in my single parenting years, I bought a fixer-upper house in a charming neighborhood full of young families with kids. A few short months after moving in, I joined a singles group at my new church.

I don’t know what made me do such a thing. I mean, the house was an investment and a way of bringing stability to a wobbly life. That part made sense.

But the singles group?

It sure wasn’t because I needed more to do. I was working an all-consuming, often dangerous job that required me to be on call 24/7. And now I had a house in dire need of TLC, a lawn to mow, a temperamental car to nudge along, and a not quite 3-year old to raise on my own.

But for whatever reason, I decided to give the “kickoff” singles event a whirl. I hired a babysitter and then went into image-management mode. I wanted to project the together, professional vibe; to give off a self-sufficient, polished air. I couldn’t have people knowing how hectic and chaotic my life really was. Continue reading

When This Is the First Prayer of the Day

metal_anchorchain_chain_665878_hSome days are just hard. Then another one comes along just like it. Then another. And before you know it, they’re stringing together like the links of a heavy chain and you’re dragging the weight around, exhausted and discouraged and maybe a little (or a lot) angry at the unfairness of it all.

When I start to feel that heaviness,  I find myself waking up well before daybreak and whispering, “God, please let today be better”. It isn’t a plea grounded in hope, as in I know God is with me and will make all things work together for good if only I will believe. No, usually it’s more of a desperate, I give up, I’m drowning here. I’m at Your mercy.

It’s not a time I need a sermon or a theological explanation about God’s grand designs for humanity and what a small part of it all my tiny life is. It’s true the big picture of human history is infinitely vast and knowable only to an all-powerful God. And it’s true I can trust Him to take care of me in the larger context of eternity.

But when I’m in pain or exhausted from too much drama and the frustrations of life, you know what I need? Continue reading

Floating in a Sea of Icebergs

People are complicated. I’m sure that’s not news to you.

I think about my own life and the image I always try to project: polished, confident, intelligent. You know the drill.

icebergs - Alaskan Dude Flickr
Photo by Alaskan Dude, Flickr.com

But I’m an iceberg and so are you.

There’s what we let other people see, and then there are all those other layers and dimensions we keep below the surface: our past, our weaknesses, our fears. To be seen as who we aspire to be requires that those aspects of who we are remain hidden. But all that other “stuff” is still there below the surface.

Being in relationship with each other – unless we keep it strictly superficial – is going to be tricky, maybe even dangerous. We’re sure to bump up against each other and those layers we didn’t know were there for others will bruise us, while ours will bloody them.

The loss of comedic great Robin Williams this week really drove this point home to me. Here was a guy who brought so much joy and laughter to his audiences and seemed to always have a funny retort and positive outlook.

I think I could have been friends with him if our worlds had intersected in some way. No doubt I am not alone in that. He was a rare presence.

But he is quoted as having once said, Continue reading

Delighting in the Perfectly Imperfect

Over coffee recently, a friend intrigued me with her description of a relative we’ll call Jackie. Jackie, it seems, embraces the odd. If you were to go shopping with her, you might be flummoxed to discover she prefers the items with tiny flaws: the one blue vase with a splotch of orange paint where it shouldn’t be, the picture frame with a nick on the corner, the sofa pillow with a pulled thread. Nothing that renders the piece unusable or unsafe, mind you, just something perfectly imperfect.

Me? I’d be rummaging through the box or bin for the one object in the whole selection that WASN’T slightly crooked or smeared or cracked, but apparently not Jackie.

What’s more, Continue reading

When the Circle Widens

lake_ripple_brown_703068_hI’m not kidding when I say there was a glow in the room. My neighbors had invited my daughter and me over to meet their new grandchild – their long awaited, breathlessly anticipated, deeply adored grandchild. They knew how much we had been looking forward to meeting this little one and it was going to work out perfectly. Their daughter and son-in-law would be there with the baby all afternoon. I could hardly contain my excitement.

She was everything we thought she would be and more.  Beautiful, angelic, perfect. That is the absolute truth. But what impressed me even more than the preciousness of this child Continue reading

The Tiny Pink Suitcase I Can’t Put Down

picket-148325-mThe truth is, I don’t really know what was going on. I witnessed a small drama and, as we are all inclined to do, I overlaid it with my own narrative, which may or may not have been accurate.

Here are the facts, no interpretation or assumptions. Just what I saw. You can decide what you think was going on: Continue reading

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