Forget Me Not…

At times I am convinced that the only bad days or moments are ones in which we fail to remember… fail to see today in light of yesterday, and put everything inside the bigger picture. I don’t have to go very far in my remembering to put grace back into today. Somehow looking at the past always seems to readjust my perception of what today truly is. There is no way I could have anticipated the ways that my life has twisted and turned. Even things I have long envisioned with hope, still strike me with awe when they happen. To be here is a dream. Even moments of temporary discomfort are still moments within this dream.

If I hold today’s problems in my hands, I am discouraged and overwhelmed by their complexity. But anytime I look at the road behind me, I begin to see hundreds of tiny handfuls just like these, paying tribute to grace and faithfulness. Thankfulness is the first response to any moment I remember to look back. And when I see yesterday’s problems covered by grace, thankfulness paves the way for hope. I look less at the little problems cupped in my hands, and begin to see promise in tomorrow.

The only way for me to truly remain downcast is if I forget, because looking back always reminds me that in some way, today is a dream in which tomorrow only gets better.

One of Those Days

There are days when you wake up and have to be out the door before your head realizes your feet aren’t in slippers anymore. Days when the moments before you shut the garage door juggling a Statistics textbook in one hand and a piece of toast in the other are far too short, and the moments it takes before you’re home again are far, far too long. Those are the days when I decide in the morning that lunch is over-rated and nothing in my fridge sounds appealing enough to entice me to pack it, and then later in the afternoon I decide that applesauce was one of God’s greatest creations… pity it’s still in that fridge where I have “nothing to eat.” Those are the days when I hold my breath from the moment the clock strikes 8 till the very last words of Political Science have gone in one ear and out the other. Those are the days when I do the things that are before me, even if I don’t feel gripped with grand purpose in the moment, because I know they’re my choices, and they’re steps that are taking me somewhere. Those days are typically Monday to Friday.

Then there are other days… days when you get to wake up to faces you love, and head over to the donut shop in your PJs, bright red hoodie pulled over your need-to-be-washed hair, feet gladly still in those slippers too quickly discarded other mornings. These are the days when quarters get you the delight of well warn books off people’s front lawns, or mismatched pairs of vintage mugs. Even coffee smells better on these mornings. On these mornings I can sleep in forever, but somehow I always end up getting up earlier than I planned on. I don’t seem to mind because the day just seems to welcome me into it; I want to get up and share those moments, and see what delights lie behind a spontaneous decision. Hole in the wall Chinese shops, crossword puzzles in the Record Searchlight that are impossible to complete with the knowledge in my brain, and red stretches of off-road that don’t go anywhere other than to no-where places you’ve never been before.

These are days when I get to occupy the largest, most red chair in the coffee shop, and give one of those sighs that mean, “I have the best life in the whole world.” There will be more books at my feet than I can possibly read in one day, but that doesn’t matter. My perception that I live in the world’s finest town is probably a little biased and inaccurate, but that doesn’t matter either. Even the large pile of unanswered questions about my life that sit inside my brain like papers on an office desk, even those don’t matter. What matters is that I’m here… here to ask the questions and enjoy all the moments it takes to find the answers… here to get it right and then get it wrong, and then be confused and do it all over again. What matters is that sandwiched between all those days that end before I can get my too-full arms around them, there are these days that are slow enough to hold onto…

Today was was of those days.

Lessons from the Kitchen Shelf

I have sausages in my fridge. Sausages and cheese. Don’t ask me how they got in there (I bought them). I never buy sausages! And I’ve been avoiding cheese for so many grocery shops that I had to go out of my way to find and make the purchase. I can’t quite remember why I decided cheese was important to avoid, but it’s been a well observed principle for some time. I generally verge on the side of conscientious health when grocery shopping and for several months I could applaud myself for not buying anything that had any kind of label. That is why the sudden appearance of two cans of spaghetti on my pantry shelf is scandalous. Sausages, cheese, and spaghetti–all of which have labels and were not found in the produce section!

Something has happened of late where I suddenly get these creative ideas about what I want to be eating–random cravings that simply don’t go away. If I’m wanting chinese food, then the only thing on the planet that is even going to taste good is chinese food!. Basil leaves, falafel, and white cheddar cheezits have all made it onto my craving list lately. My roommate has become accustomed to us driving around town together and suddenly pulling into a drive-through because I get this brilliant realization that it’s been three years since I’ve had a sprite, and there’s no time like the present to fix that. While driving the other day, I suddenly declared that I wanted guava juice. She informed me with a side-glance that that was the strangest craving yet, and queried as to whether I had been thinking too much about Africa. There were no drive-throughs for that one. I still want guava juice.

I’ve never been particular or opinionated about what I wanted to eat. I’ve been one of those annoying guests who when you offer them a drink, politely decline until you insist for the third time. It takes far too long to figure out what I want, if anything at all. Likewise, it’s torture if a group of friends nominates me to decide what we will eat or do, or where we will go. I think too much to be entrusted with such decisions. When somebody asks me where I would like to eat, I have to think about the preferences of everybody else, how to compromise between them, where can we get that, how much it costs, how that fits in everybody’s price range, how far away is it, who’s driving, and whether it’s too far to ask everyone to go. Exhausting. No wonder it takes me so long to answer, and I usually don’t reach an answer at all. “Where do YOU want to go,” you might say as if that somehow eliminates all other questions and makes it quite simple. But no, because what I want is always connected to what I perceive other people want. What I want most is to choose well–to choose something that I think will provide the maximum opportunity for enjoyment and connection. This amiable motive has not always worked so well for me.

It’s hard to figure out what you want in life when you’re thinking too deeply about what might happen if your prayers go answered. If God gave me my heart’s desires, would I suddenly realize what terrible prayers I had been praying all this time? So when He comes asking me what I want, I hear a trick question, and I start trying to figure out what I ought to be wanting instead. “What do you want?” is a question He has been whispering in ears for some time now. People who don’t want, who don’t desire, sit back in life and wait for a controlling cosmic power to make decisions about their lives for them. The only way that we really do things–get up and move forwards–is when we are either propelled away from our current situations by pain or fear, or when we have a desire and we’re after seeing it fulfilled.

I’m convinced that our Father wants children who are active with their lives–children who run with this God-given capacity to desire. But far too often we put our lives on hold, waiting for Gabriel to arrive in our living rooms with a direct assignment we can be assured is flawless. Then we’ll run and act and desire. But to ask us what we want? How are we supposed to figure that out? What does God want? Was this really the place He intended us to be in right now? Do we have the right skill set, or could our human weaknesses compromise the mission? And after all, even if we have found the mission, and we are the person to take it on, how do we know it’s the season? All legitimate, well-intended questions that have a place in our lives. But sometimes we ask these questions until we are dead in our tracks. If we can no longer respond to the prompting, “what do you want?” then we have made ourselves ineffective and powerless soldiers. We are sitting on the pause button, bound by fear.

My father always taught me that “He gives us the desires of our hearts” has two meanings. First, that He puts those desires in there, and second that He brings the fulfillment of them. It’s a flawless plan really. Our hearts get renewed into the nature of Christ, carrying His DNA, and therefore we reflect His nature and dreams. Our desires are an expression of His, and as we live them out, He brings the answers to the very things He planted in our hearts. I am convinced that when we take the journey to discover what we want, we are discovering the nature of God that is reflected in us. I am also convinced that should we make a mistake, He is powerful and gracious enough to correct our prayers, and guide our footsteps. But if you have nothing to desire, nothing to go after, you only have things to shy away from and avoid. You live in response and fear towards that which is wrong, instead of actively living towards that which is good and pure.

Sausages may not be my exact definition of what is good and pure, but they give me a degree of satisfaction sitting there on my shelf. Every time I get up in the morning and know exactly what I want to eat today, I smile, because I’m learning. I’m learning how to know what it is that I want, and how to give myself permission to go after those things. Sometimes these kinds of lessons are just too big to learn out in life, and so He teaches us in daily parables of the little things. So here He meets me every day, teaching me lessons on the kitchen shelf. You can be sure that once I get it, I will stop buying sausages.

The Forgotten Fairy Tale

There is something about stories that speak so much of the way life really is – the way we ought to see it. Fairy tales have a way of whispering things so intrinsic to our nature – things we were designed for but have become distrustful towards. Something of these tales feels so familiar to us, as if perhaps we lived in a story like that once upon a time.

We seem to have a complete inability to recognise the stories that we ourselves live in. Our dreams are filled with fantasy and romance – things that perhaps other people discover at some point on their journey – but the lives beneath our own feet seem caught between ordinary and disappointing. We have come to distrust that the themes of fantasy find their heart in the real world.

We have experienced cruel realities, and each of them has come with a whisper that erodes the banks of hope in our heart. When did we begin to let tragedy define us? When did we stop believing that the things we dream are mirrors of His dreams towards us? The instincts of our heart, the very DNA of a world where light shines and there is no darkness, has given way to a common view of a lesser life. When did we come to deny so much and expect so little? What caused us to kill our deepest wells of life, to distrust our dreams, and go off striving on our own to earn something we couldn’t find? When did we forget the symphonies of grace?

Perhaps life really is all we ever dreamed of. Can we really believe that the life we live is without the goodness of the One who created it? If all the things we dream about life are not supposed to be so, then why do we have the capacity to dream them? It cannot be that we create greater stories in our minds that that which our Creator crafted for us. The essence of this life was designed to mirror the tales of His heart.

But we have forgotten our fairy tales. We have failed to notice the themes running through our days. Do we even hear the soundtrack that accompanies us anymore? Each life creates melodies like none ever has before. Turn the page and the orchestra soars. Walk down a new road and you find yourself in the midst of a piano solo. Seasons close to soft sounds that linger before resolving to that one note you crave to hear.

We must believe in things that do not seem to fit within the box of reason that disappointment has built for us. Because if we could draw back the curtains of how we have seen today, we would catch a glimpse of a forgotten fairy tale from which all great stories have been scripted. We would at once know that there is something of fantasy that is so much more real, more alive. That the pictures we paint in our imaginations are really faint memories of what was always meant to be. We would discover that dreams really do come true. We would step through the veil and with misty eyes realise that we were standing in the midst of every story we ever wished was true.