wedded by the river
|—||John Steinbeck in a letter to his son|
This past weekend was full to the brim. The kind of full where you are racing to start the day to get to one thing only to then be late to the next. I arrived in Nashville so excited I screamed when I got in the car, and then screamed again when I stepped into my house. I swear my parent’s home gets more magical with every visit. I ended up surprising a Thursday night group with much more screams and thrills. That night was all too unexpected with many hugs and confusing welcome backs. I proceeded the night with a dear high school friend at a new coffee shop. The conversation was light hearted and funny as usual, and then got down to the grittiness of what was going on in her heart. I couldn’t help but have feelings of sympathy and longing for her to know that everything will soon be okay.
The following morning was an early drive to pick up a friend in Birmingham for lunch; which then proceeded as one of those days full and yet spilling over with reunions and hour-to-hour catch ups. I remember everything about this day. The soup savored, the conversation over tea with a few store pop-ins as different people, acting as you call it, and a walk with a friend through lush greens proceeded by more hugs and reunions. I ended this short but overwhelmingly wonderful day over tacos and margaritas with a friend whom I am deeply proud of. I celebrate her as she prepares for many changes in her life. After a car ride of yet more surprise that rocked emotions, I had time to reflect on that day. I realize it was a day to drop everything to celebrate or absorb in the midst of the present-whatever it holds. The days of the weekend consisted of remembrance, surprise, heartache, understanding, stories, openness, laughter, and festivity all in one. All of these reactions intertwined and all of them completely engaged in. Life is just like that. In fact, my time in Maine has taught me more about relationships and relating. As I was listening to a friend and his time in New York, I related in more ways than one. I saw that the Lord uses isolation to teach you a lot about becoming. The routines of life are far different now than they have ever been and the lessons learned are far greater than I ever thought.
It’s taken me some vulnerability to realize things I’m discovering in Portland, while also wishing I had opened my ears and eyes more than I did when I started this move. This past weekend confirmed this epiphany. When I say I love it, it is no less than the truth. And I have honestly never felt so comfortable with a move in my life. I guess it was time in life to be okay with moving. There came a point after the exhilaration of exploring the streets where I started to feel a tad bit of that isolation already mentioned. I talk to many people throughout the day, in art galleries, in my building, etc., but there was a point, and I can’t exactly put my finger on what day, but I started to feel really far away. I mean like 2,000 miles away. I think it was one day as I was walking on the eastern promenade, a very common walk for me, where it was super quiet. I might of seen one or two people cross my path. Sometimes you need that quiet. But this quiet was that strange, winter quiet, almost numb. I’m not usually one to voice what is hardest, mostly because if I talk aloud about it, it is more real. And once I do people start to question whether I like it here and it can be complicated to explain to someone who has never experienced it. For the record: I love it here. A lot.
Okay, yes, the start of living alone in a new city not knowing anyone is harder than I probably say it is – but then saying that it sounds harder than it really is. Make sense? It’s been a pretty medium transition. I was questioning what my purpose was here in Maine. I knew I loved being here and I knew I felt so good with the move at first – sometimes we (meaning me) can be so impatient with what the Lord already has planned so we try hard to conjure up our own, and then that leaves us a little more empty than if we just listened in the first place. But hey, its how we learn and grow, too. I started thinking about Jonah. And I was confused as if I was acting like him. Was I running from his call? I was confused if I ran away from God’s plan and went my own way—and if I needed a fish to swallow me up for me to see it or not. But I knew I loved it here and I felt good about everything at first, so the confusion kept on. The books I carried with me are very limited and among those few I have cold tangerines and bittersweet. I started re-reading and re-listening to bittersweet as I worked out every night. Man it’s just so good. The chapter on “learning to swim” hit hard. It reminded me of what I felt when I left my friends in Birmingham or my friends at camp- a feeling of treading out in the water. Feeling like something huge let me loose and I was missing my friends so badly it hurt. I read a couple favorite verses that lead me to think about my transition.
“…They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:8 “Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. The LORD will guide you always. He’ll satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. He’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places-you’ll be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58
There is restoration here even when it feels cold and dry. I knew my friends and family were all over the place and I was [and still am] stoked that the Lord has us where he wants us. It’s one of the things in life I get super, jump up and down, smile till it hurts, happy about -seeing friends realize their gifts and passions and move towards them. It’s a gift to see and be apart of. It’s one of those moments to stop in the midst of whatever is happening- to celebrate. I was celebrating friends as I was crashing against waters, and it felt completely right.
As I was not feeling so good about the thought of waiting to reconnect at the end of May, I started opening up to a friend about feeling pressure to have everything settled. My first illustrations for a children’s book were done. And volunteering seriously fills more spaces than anything, but was that my purpose here, I was unsure.
It took me time to go through lent, to turn focus off myself daily and give love out of whatever day I was having. It took me some studying on Jonah and learning how to float with these waves, to allow the changes to carry me. I realized that I was feeling these emotions in the midst of Lent – a very transitional period in time and in season, as mentioned in posts before. Everything was coming together and I knew that I had to transition and it was okay to question and study about the changes – that they are good and The Lord will back me up, because I knew in my heart, in my bones, I was supposed to live here for a bit. And I knew it wasn’t one of those dreams I made myself think and believe for it to be true, I knew I loved Maine the first time I came. I just had to be patient with my actual place here. So back to talking to this friend. She told me to listen to the song “oceans” - I thought, ahh why not listen to it again. Then it hit me. This “being called out upon the water – great unknown – where feet may fail” “where trust is without boarders, let me walk upon the waters – wherever you may call me” Yes. Allowing him to call me to obedience. [Jonah’s disobedience lead him to the water, while my impatience lead me] And following even in the deepest waters my trust is being made stronger. It was perfect. It described it.
My daily walks are by the marinas and Maine beaches – it’s my little place of peace. It all became reassurance in a time of treading. A time of reflection and of prayer. So yes, there was a moment when I did feel lonesome here. And naturally anyone would. And allowing you to know that there was a major struggle in finding my rhythm…that I had at the beginning, and then slowly lost as I reevaluated my trust and security… is pretty vulnerable for me. I never doubted the Lord would use me and I still don’t. I am just learning to take change for what it is. I needed to remember that when I feel as though I am treading or sinking with pressure, I could float. When all I see is water, I know the Lord is leading. When I feel numb and dry, I can be a tree by water. I can be a well-watered garden I just cannot let my vision be blurred. And I cannot squish the feelings by pretending they are not there, that won’t make them go away and won’t benefit their lessons. I can face it because I know I call on His name and my soul is at rest. Always.
This is a little testimonial about my first two months here. I have never for one day or one second stopped loving this place. Myself got in the way of realizing WHY I love it, not questioning IF, but WHY. I realize after all this that I have a tendency to make my thoughts so complicated. But I just have to find the simple ways the spirit reveals to me my place here and anywhere I may go, at that. Appreciating what to sink into for reflection, and what to burst out of with celebration. This is a constant revelation in my daily walks with faraway friends. So why I love Maine… I love it for the lack of churches, & being the least church city in the US. I love it for the coastal city it is. I love that it surprises me daily. I love that people here are so inviting and interested about my move. I love meeting new friends young and old. I love feeding lunch to kids in the afternoon and reading them superhero stories before naptime. I love that they call me “dea”. I love the way the weather can change from rain to sun to snow to bright sunset all in one day. I love talking to the lady at the front desk, every weekend since the first day I stepped through the door. I love seeing the lady that swims laps when I work out- on the bus every Sunday as I am headed to church. I love going down to the pier and talking to the fishermen and sailors. I love the way the puddles reflect the bluest of skies. I love getting to know friends here and seeing how our stories connect. I love the way the Lord reminds me of his promises as the sunrise wakes me with its rays through my window. I love walking on the east or west by the water and seeing people play with their dogs on the beach. I love how the Lord called me here and I love the fact that I can volunteer at my church as we welcome people who have never been to church before. I love the challenges I am facing; yes I love them, too. I’m learning to not allow the changes and anxiety push me away and numb me. I am learning to feel them for whatever they are. They are given to me, so I will take what is given for the better. When I leave this place I will miss Maine one day, too. Transitions, its like floating, letting go of resistance- I’m just turning to the voice I hear and feel when the wind picks up and ripples across waters.
“The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; (which is the deepest part of the oceans) the earth with her bars was about me forever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.” – book of Jonah
“I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts and one of his most useful tools. It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways…In many cases change is not a function of life’s cruelty but instead a function of God’s graciousness. If you dig in and fight the changes, they will smash you to bits. They’ll hold you under, drag you across the rough sand, scare and confuse you. But if you can find it within yourself, in the wildest of season, just for a moment, to trust in the goodness of God, who made it all and holds us all together, you’ll find yourself drawn along to a whole new place, and there’s truly nothing sweeter…take a breath and begin to swim. Begin to let the waves do their work in you.” – Shauna
This past weekend consisted of verbalizing the changes while the past two months were realizing and learning how to float, instead of force. It wasn’t the easiest realization, but I am thankful for it. I’ve learned to accept and wait for the unfolding as it comes. No more gripping my fists but more of God’s mission and presence. Here I am, letting the waves carry me while friends are starting to step into the water. My soul wants to burst as I think of my dearest friends discovering gifts and talents and places to go. Of jobs, graduation, opportunity, and weddings. I am thankful they too can celebrate with me wherever they are, just like this past weekend. celebration, leaning in, listening and surprising. It’s time to celebrate and it’s time to change. Jump in, the water feels fine.
It is exceedingly beneficial to our souls to mount above this present evil world to something nobler and better. The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches are apt to choke everything good within us, and we grow fretful, desponding, perhaps proud and carnal. It is well for us to cut down these thorns and briers, for heavenly seed sown among them is not likely to yield a harvest; and where shall we find a better sickle with which to cut them down than communion with God and the things of the kingdom? In the valleys of Switzerland many of the inhabitants are deformed, and all wear a sickly appearance, for the atmosphere is charged with miasma, and is close and stagnant; but up yonder, on the mountain, you find a hardy race, who breathe the clear fresh air as it blows from the virgin snows of the Alpine summits. It would be well if the dwellers in the valley could frequently leave their abodes among the marshes and the fever mists, and inhale the bracing element upon the hills. It is to such an exploit of climbing that I invite you this evening. May the Spirit of God assist us to leave the mists of fear and the fevers of anxiety, and all the ills which gather in this valley of earth, and to ascend the mountains of anticipated joy and blessedness. May God the Holy Spirit cut the cords that keep us here below, and assist us to mount! We sit too often like chained eagles fastened to the rock, only that, unlike the eagle, we begin to love our chain, and would, perhaps, if it came really to the test, be loath to have it snapped. May God now grant us grace, if we cannot escape from the chain as to our flesh, yet to do so as to our spirits; and leaving the body, like a servant, at the foot of the hill, may our soul, like Abraham, attain the top of the mountain, there to indulge in communion with the Most High.
how much this makes me think of the rich days on the mountain top where the summer was spent with community listening and learning, playing and basking in communion with the Most High.
“Wake up! Sing! The Earth is bursting with Life!” – Isaiah 26:19
“Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”- Martin Luther
The significance of Easter and Spring—->
Now that lent is over and we celebrated on Sunday morn the resurrection of our Savior, I cant help but think of what my Easter was like and how differently I celebrated here in Portland. Lent was such a time of transition in the season, as I’ve said before. Lent falls right around the time snow is trying to get it’s last blizzards in while Spring is waiting patiently to burst from the cold ground. The resurrection is not left on that blessed Easter Sunday, it continues [for eternity in fact]. The path to Easter is so very significant in how I myself can fully celebrate on Sunday. My transition has been the normal one. I am learning to float on the waves of change instead of tread and sink when it becomes difficult. I love the way the changes are changing me. And I love the way the change from winter to spring has an effect on the earth.
Lent has taught me and made me realize that this season is for humbling and for growth and for self-evaluation. Once we learn the truth about ourselves and be honest with ourselves we can see how much mercy and grace we are given and the resurrection tells us that it’s never over. What love we have in our Savior. I am glad Lent is a time of discipline and yearning for Easter day. And now the life and promises and mercy through spring is a reminder, with each tree that is finally producing fruit this season, with each blossom that is turning towards the sun, that what springs from a ground of cold winter and ice is color and beauty and fragrance and reminders. During lent the ground started covered in snow. Here in maine, the ground was cold. It was a time of preparation and of digging in the dirt. The weekend was for planting the truth that we know. The Saturday before is a waiting period, silent Saturday, waiting patiently for something to come from the dirt digging and planting. Easter was the break in the ground, the burst of life! It’s the waiting patiently for the change of winter to spring, from greys to colors, that humbles me. Lent taught me to dig deep. Whatever I experienced on that Easter day stemmed from how much I was willing to dig and plant beforehand. How often do we want to rush to Easter, how easy it is then to forget the events of Good Friday. To truly see those events will produce the biggest celebration on Easter morn.
Now the ground is broken and spring is a constant reminder of how we got to the place we are now. Easter is a day of color and bloom and rejoicing. The celebration continues ad it is not limited to Easter day. The celebration of new life, of life from death is welcomed with the morning sun for the days to follow! Rejoice and celebrate for His unfolding grace is not withheld a day, but will last forever!
“Christ invites us to celebrate the full life as the celebrants — not because we’ve got it all together, but because He’s finished it all at the Cross! A celebrant out dancing in a pouring rain of grace! Aren’t all the worshippers celebrants? When should we stop worshipping? Or stop celebrating grace?” – Ann Voskamp
"Come, see the place where the Lord lay," with joy and gladness. He does not lie there now. Weep, when ye see the tomb of Christ, but rejoice because it is empty. Thy sin slew him, but his divinity raised him up. Thy guilt hath murdered him, but his righteousness hath restored him. Oh! He hath burst the bonds of death, he hath ungirt the cerements of the tomb, and hath come out more than conqueror, crushing death beneath his feet. Rejoice, O Christian, for he is not there—he is risen.” – Charles Spurgeon
Easter Sunday -
“Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor.”-Charles Spurgeon