Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hello Fall

Can you believe this weather? 

All fall and breezy and cool and leaf-crunching, salted caramel latte drinking, boot & scarf wearing weather? 

I adore it. 

A couple of weeks ago, if you remember (and if you live in my neighborhood…) we were having weather with an identity crisis. It was October but totally feeling like spring. I was all ready for the long sleeves, fuzzy boots and all of that, but the Sun was shinning and well…I was feeling a little over dressed. But I didn't care because I was able to spend the morning with my precious niece. It is hard for me to even believe that this girl is a whole year old already. She is a delight and I love spending time with her. She isn't talking a lot but, oh boy, she certainly knows how to tell you exactly what she wants!
We played outside that day, since it was so beautiful. We were going to go for a walk, but Miss Thang was a little sleepy and preferred that I carry her. I made no complaints. I would stop walking and ask her where she wanted to go next. She would point and away we would go. There are a few hills at my parents house (where we were hanging out that day) and how do you go down a hill with a one year old in your arms? By running, of course!
The wind caught her baby wispy hair, pushing it back off her face. The sun caught the gold in her hair and highlighted her laughing eyes. I was struck in the moment, as I am quite often when I am blessed to spend time with her, how perfectly happy she looked. She gives herself to new experiences fully. And I love that about her. She would burst out laughing when I would stop, almost as if the laugh was building up the whole time we were running and she didn't want to waste it to the wind or miss a moment of fun. 

We wandered over to the raspberry bush, where she insistently signed "more" and pointed to the bush. My girl likes her raspberries! There were only a few and I had to distract her when the ripe berries really were "all gone." We sat on the slightly damp ground and pulled up grass and ripped up a brown crunchy leaf. We just sat. No talking. We just passed the leaf back and forth and ripped it to pieces. And in that moment, as I watched the sun on her face and her little fingers work so carefully, I was thankful. 

Thankful for cold weather. 
Thankful for sun. 
Thankful for the precious child sitting in front of me. 
Thankful for being able to spend time with her & get to know her tiny self better.
And it was hard going to work that day. It was hard leaving her and those moments of peace and quiet. It seemed so wrong that I would have to go to work after spending such a beautiful morning with people I love. But even now, I carry that image in my head of Baby Girl's face: the wind blowing her hair, the sun, the joy, the laughter. And no matter how cold it gets or how many scarves I wear or lattes I drink, nothing warms my heart like that girl. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Trust & Obey...but only if I have to...

Twice a year for twelve years, I sang the first and last verse of Trust and Obey. It was my small Christian school's theme song and it signaled the beginning and end of every school year. To this day, I can still sing those two verses with my eyes closed, the words seared into my memory. I am using the Merriam-Webster definition of the word seared here: to burn, scorch, mark, or injure with or as if with sudden application of intense heat.
In case you are still confused, I do not like this song. These aren't glowing terms I am using to describe the song or the memory of singing it with my classmates. While the song and the memory of it represents many years of my life,(and some of those years admittedly were good years) as a whole they aren't joyous years; they are years and years of frustration and a little bitterness.

Even now, seven years after graduating, singing this song in church produces a negative attitude in my soul. (Which says more about my heart than the song, I know.)
Well, I mean, it did. Until the other week. When we sang, not just the first and last verse, but the verses in between. 
See, the first verse talks about joyously following Jesus and how he will only walk with us when we, say it with me, trust and obey:
When we walk with the Lord
in the light of his word,
what a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will, 
he abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey.
The fourth verse talks about the sweet fellowship we will have with Jesus when we are able to bodily be in the presence of God and the willing obedience we display, without fear:
Then in fellowship sweet
we will sit at his feet,
or we'll walk by his side in the way;
what he says we will do,
where he says we will go,
never fear, only trust and obey.
For me in that school, this song felt like a holy battering ram, forcing me to do what the school wanted, in Jesus' name. I was to obey them without question, because Jesus said you were suppose to obey those he placed in authority over you. And if I did all that they asked, followed their many rules without fear or questions, Jesus would love me and let me walk with him! 
Two weeks ago we sang this song at church. At first, I wanted to dig my heels in, stand there, hymn book closed and arms crossed. Fool me once, shame on me. But, for whatever reason, I opened the book and sang along, thinking I knew the whole song by heart. I was surprised when I had to look at verses two and three, because they did not fit with the image of the song I carried with me for many years. 
Not a burden we bear,
not a sorrow we share,
but our toil he doth richly repay;
not a grief or a loss,
not a frown or a cross,
but is blest if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove
the delights of his love
until all on the altar we lay
for the favor he shows,
for the joy he bestows
are for them who will trust and obey.

 I don't know about you, but these two verses change the tone of this song for me. It does not hold to the happy clappy spirit of the first and last verse. There are trials and toils, ah but he is there! (I imagine to 'richly repay' something, you need to know what the issue is.) And the trusting and obeying, it gets rewarded. Even if it doesn't get rewarded right away. We are blessed when we trust and obey through the hard times. (Hard times? If you just sing the first and last verse there are no hard times!) That verse three? What a doozey! It is talking about full submission in every area of our life. To fully know and understand God and what He is about, total submission to Him is required. Do you see the result of submission? Favor and joy. 
And before anyone says it, I realize this isn't Scripture. It isn't something to live and die for. But has that ability to speak to our souls when regular words fall short.

I'm not saying that I now, all of a sudden, love this song. I won't choose it at the next hymn sing. My apologies to the worship leaders at my church.But reading and singing these two verses, I don't know. It changed something in my heart. Trusting and obeying isn't something that will instantly make things go well for me or get me good grades.It won't make my life eternally blissful, but it will contribute to the bliss of my eternal life. And through the hard times, understanding who God is and relying on him is what will make all the difference at the end of the day.