17 October, 2018

Name the Place

I’ve been reading the early Old Testament, and the stories are coming alive in a way I’ve never experienced before. Maybe it’s the transition from childhood imagination to having more of a grasp of the way life works. Something I've noticed is the prolific amount and significance of names given. People were named after their characteristics; it was their identity. The Hebrew definition for name comes from a word that means ‘to put, place, set, appoint, make, ordain, etc.’ Naming a child back then was literally declaring a prophecy over them. 

To us the old Hebrew names sound strange and random, but to those who understood the language, each name was full of meaning. Imagine introducing yourself to someone and them having immediate insight into your character and personality just by the name you have! It makes me want to learn the language so I can enjoy the vividness of life portrayed in the Old Testament genealogies. 

Then, there were names given to places. When one of the patriarchs built an altar, dug a well, even came to a place in their travels, they named it. They defined what it was to them, and, in most cases, the name stuck. I think it’s beautiful, because it sets that moment in time apart. It wasn’t just one of the times they were worshipping God, it was Jehovah-jirah, the time God saw and provided. The well where God met Hagar when she was sent away with Ishamel, was Beer-lahai-roi, the place she realized God lived and cared for her. Maybe it was a way of preserving the moments to treasure; maybe it became a catalogue of lessons learned and personal revelations from God. 

I was planning to lead into the significance of making sure we find our identity in who God says we are, rather than what others call us, or labels we cling to ourselves. I was going to talk about how God changed people’s names to reflect their future (Abram became ‘father of a great multitude’, and Jacob became ‘a prince of God’) and He can do the same for us; our past isn’t who we are. We are what He calls us, nothing less. And He calls us His own, loved, chosen, destined for good works.
But this idea of naming our experiences comes back to me. It’s a way we can preserve the little moments we learn and grow, we experienced life and love and beauty. It’s a reminder to pause. Often, I have an idea of things I’m learning and going through but it’s vague. I don’t define it, unless I have to write it down or explain it to someone. There are a lot of parts of life I never stop to process and appreciate, and it makes me question if that’s the way God intended us to live. Life is often so fast paced we don’t take it in and name the place. But what lessons and insights into God’s goodness might we be missing? How might we feel if we took a breath and considered what we’re experiencing, and these passing moments became etched into our memories?

So, maybe that’s what God wants me to learn from this observation of His word. He is who He says He is. I am who He says I am. And the same power to attach meaning through choice of words is mine as well. He wants us to take note of the life happening around, to us and through us, and truly experience it. Name the place. Set it as a memento to look back and see how God has been revealing Himself, changing us, and making this life everything it is and will be.

~

What have you been learning recently? Do you have a favourite Old Testament book or story? How do you think we can ‘name the place’ in our everyday lives?  

05 October, 2018

The Fire of Contentment - A Memory



Remember the time we went down the paddock at dusk and lit a fire? I remember we loaded the trailer up with rose clippings and weeds from the garden, and towed it behind the trusty mower to the place where the fire was to be. You tried to start a fire, but it kept going out. Finally, it got down to the last match; it had to get going this time. And it did. 

I rushed around taking photos; capturing the sunset through the pine trees and the light of the flames on your faces. We added dead leaves and pieces of bark, and the fire grew. We piled on the prunings from the trailer and watched as they smoked, burst into flame, and sank as ashes. The night grew darker, the fire grew larger, and I continued taking photos. 

But eventually, I put the camera down. We sat on our haunches around the fire, poking sticks into it and watching them burn. We laughed at each other’s antics; we chatted about superficial things and progressed to deeper topics. We shared our thoughts, and we sat in companionable silence.  

Finally, the last of the rose prunings and weeds were on the fire. We scraped in the edges, and felt the warmth one last time. Then we hopped back into the trailer, and the mower chugged up the hill home. We looked back at the glowing pile, and I believe we were feeling the same way:  

deeply content.

~~~

I wrote those words a little over three years ago. Today I found the photos I took that evening, and something about the memory still speaks contentment in my soul. My siblings and I have changed; life has moved on. We didn’t have any campfires this season, and I kind of missed it. But I have the faces in the photos, though they are more grown up. I have the same place to call home. I still have the choice to be content, and cosy memories like this one remind me that life is a beautiful gift and sometimes its extravagance can only be seen in hindsight. 

What’s one of your favourite memories? Do you miss those childhood days, or am I extra nostalgic? How do you choose contentment?

30 September, 2018

Notes to Self



ft. my still-developing artistic skills

1. Let people into your process. I’ve always been reluctant to tell people my hopes and plans, because what if I don’t live up to my word? It’s scary to share and not be one hundred percent sure I can carry them out. Anyway, this week I had two specific instances where people I’d reluctantly let into the process encouraged me and helped me see the way forward just by caring and discussing it with me. It was overwhelming actually. It helped me realize how much I need others. I pride myself on being strong, on not ‘burdening’ others, but I haven’t gotten this far alone, and I’m finally realizing I won’t get the rest of the way alone either. It’s uncomfortable to open up, but whenever I do (to trusted caring people) it turns out to be what I need. 

2. Don’t give up on people. There’s this idea that if someone’s not serving us, pushing us toward our goals and dreams, we should move on. I agree that toxic relationships aren’t good and we do well to leave them behind. But I can’t agree to ridding our lives of people because they’re imperfect, because they struggle too, because they’re taking more than they’re giving in this moment. We’re called to love first, and love always. Perhaps it isn't best to be close friends with someone who is negative, or sapping our energy, but I believe love gives everyone another chance. Take time to hear the other person, and what they’re going through. Conflicts can be resolved; it’s possible to work through things and be stronger for it. Maybe these people in our lives are actually gifts to develop us in ways that couldn’t be possible otherwise. Don’t give up on people, because we need each other.

3. Take time to disconnect, sit outside, enjoy the sunshine, and get off technology. I sat in the sunshine this morning, and it was amazing to feel the warmth. Spring is coming! Every week I have to wait a couple of hours in town to pick up my sister from work. I drive to a park and read a book or write usually. I sit in the car, which is justifiable through winter. But when there’s warmth and sunshine, I still don’t want to get out of the car, because it’s my comfort zone. It takes effort for me to sit and read in front of whoever is at the park, even though I know they’re not paying attention to me. But this week, I did it, and it was wonderful: the fresh air, the friendly water birds, the creek right in front of me, and even the conversations happening around me. I decided it’s worth stretching myself for. We’re made to breathe and enjoy the journey, and, wow, it feels good. 

What have you been learning this week, my friends? How do you think we should treat those who take more than they give? Why do you think we need other people? What do you like to do to make the most of spring? I hope you're all going well, and staying strong! xx