… and now it’s December!

Its been a while … no explanation for the long absence, life happens! Started this in November …  and now its DECEMBER already! Christmas is how many days away?             O silent night, let your glories fall!

Mid November found me moving back to the “unforced rhythms of grace” that cover my daily life.  After a crazy busy, emotionally, spiritually charged two weeks, finding the norm of the “rhythm” I started to linger in a season I had visited a year ago.
Looking for answers, questioning the way of the path I was traveling, not knowing what lay ahead after so much exposure and vulnerability over things of the past. How interwoven it all appeared to be! The past, the now, the future.

On the road daily, driving from city to country, I found Autumn, more alive and vivid than I have ever seen or been a part of.  Yet, the earth seemed to be turning within itself. Laying down its outer layers, colors fading. Dormancy and stillness willing it into a season yet to come.  So it was with me!  A turning within was happening.  An awareness of the demands to know the whys, to have answers to the questions. The dormancy started creeping in, bringing with it an unwanted settling. Till I arrest it!

My mind’s eye catches a glimpse of a leaf falling to the ground.  Arrested, the demands begin a downward spiral. An unseen hand guides them to a space on the ground, prepared for them. As they settle, as movement comes to an end, a response rises up. Don’t race ahead, stay within the unforced rhythm, linger long enough to learn something new, lean into the waiting, embrace the stillness. Learn to follow without having plans. Trust and go, not knowing the chosen course or direction. Let go, let the unforced rhythm steer you to what was planned long before a leaf ever fell to the ground.

Then, a four page newsletter came in the mail. Four pages about life at the medical mission, Loma De Luz in Honduras (http://www.crstone.org/). In it, Dr. Jeff McKenney,  shared about an encounter in a forest, while attending a conference in North Carolina.         “At first, these were all the sounds I could hear in my head – that and my footsteps disturbing this year’s crop of gold and russet leaves. But as I walked, I gradually began to hear more of the forest around me, hear the sounds of God’s breath. And, as I looked up, I became less concerned with calculating how many more minutes I had left before my next obligation and more in awe, struck by the sense of joy and reverence for being allowed to pass through one of God’s great cathedrals. How quickly transformation took place. How quickly my entire perspective had changed from inward (the noise my feet could make and the noise inside my own head) to outward: listening and observing the wonder of God’s works, feeling His presence, and the privilege of a travel stained pilgrim being allowed into this holy place …….. So take a walk in the woods and listen for God’s voice and keep walking until you hear it.”

Look up, look out. Hear the sound of His breath. Listen for His voice.                               Keep walking, travel stained pilgrim.

With love, Ava

 

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Life choices and Refugee Camps

Know that feeling?

That sick to the gut, head hurting, feeling?  Or maybe that “oh no, what did I do?” sick to the gut thought! Or what about that deep, ache in the heart feeling that leaves you in tears over words said, exchanged or heard.

It was that deep, heart-ache feeling that got me, as in it I felt a sound that rattled me. Though voiced by many, it was a single solitary cry, as people walked for what they believed in. Their rights, the rights of others, the rights of the living. I saw it on the faces, heard it beyond the chants, and read it on the flimsy poster board signs. The cry came at me from all sides. And I ached. Deeply.

With open admission I can say my feet have walked in those places too, albeit independently, but just as intentionally as the crowd. Numbly moving through what was believed to be the right thing to do at the encouragement of others.  It was the cry of humanity, resounding wordlessly from those surrounding a surgical table and from the one laying on it. The loudest cry coming from the smallest of those present, hidden from sight, and heard only by One.  A cry so loud it would later echo in the emptiness of grieving.

I asked a friend if she had heard the cry. And she had … overseas where the presence of a people group had drawn worldwide condemnation and angry misunderstanding. Where for the people, the fear of the unknown had been swallowed up in the fear of the moment as mindless escapes took place. Where a breathe once held gave way to hesitant relief. Only to have anxiety’s stranglehold tighten as fear of the unknown resurfaced. It was again the cry of humanity, yearning for life and release from hopelessness amid the deafening roar of war and death. The cry dressed itself as a widow, an orphan, sitting in the dirt of a foreign land. Exiled, far from all they knew, owning nothing, save the timid laughter that echoed out into the absence of a once familiar roar.

As the cry finally quieted down to a whisper,  I heard …. “and such were some of you”*. Only then did I understand what I had been given to hear.

In a middle ground place called choice, decisions were made. Viewed through the shifting lens of human perspective it became the difference between living and dying. Then  knowingly or unknowingly, allowing the decision of that choice to inherently affect all that is stepped into … today, tomorrow, forever.

Can I ask you to do something?

Don’t listen to the loudness and clamor of the collective cry, listen for and lean into the whisper.  But then again that’s up to you. After all, it’s your choice. Right?

On a journey till next time,

Ava

*1 Corinthians 6:11

 

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Sounds like …

Did you know that a charade was a form of literary riddle popularized in France in the 18th century. In the early 19th century, the French began performing “acting” or “acted charades”with the written description replaced by dramatic performances as a parlor game—and this was brought over to Britain by the English aristocracy. (www.wikipedia.com)

Or in my mind it’s that game that causes obvious frustration as highly exaggerated body gestures attempt to convey to onlookers words that cannot be spoken!  Recently a word come up on a page that gave me a moment’s pause …. it has three syllables and sounds like ….. jour.ney.man.

The dictionary defined it as a person who has served an apprenticeship at a trade or handicraft and is certified to work at it assisting or under another person; any experienced, competent but routine worker or performer; a person hired to do work for another, usually for a day at a time.

In this new year and new season of my life, no matter what I am “apprenticed” or “routinely” asked to do,  I am going to be the best journey (wo)man I can be!  What is that going to look like, how am I going to act that out?

As 2017 defines itself through yet to be known scenarios, circumstances and the vague interpretations of what I hope will be, I will trust in the plans my employer has for me. Plans for my good that will build strength of character, integrity, endurance and perseverance.

My daily worth or pay will be found in the summation of who I have become at the end of that day. As belief in what I have been entrusted to do unfolds in my life, my character and personality will become as it was visualized when I was first chosen to be a part of this corporate body.

To truly do this, I can’t approach this as a charade, a dramatic performance for the benefit of those who look on!

This has to come out of the genuine overflow of a heart committed to the best interest of my employer. Being single minded in every avenue I go down, never being satisfied with half measures or the progress already achieved. Ever pressing forward to complete the work assigned. Would my employer expect any less of me?

See you soon,

His journey(wo)man,

Ava  xo

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Crows, Keys, and Lights.

Sixteen days in Seattle! Feels like forever. Time, days, time zones have all melted together since leaving the Gulf Coast just a month ago. I’ve loved this city from afar …. and now to be here, well it’s almost natural!

When I think of all we’ve done in the past 16 days … waiting in lines, waiting in traffic, looking for jobs, waiting for interviews, looking at houses, waiting on application responses, the refined art of waiting has kicked in. It flows from that slower southern pace of life that will always be a part of me. I mean, really!  Come on now! Where else can you put a jar of water with teabags in it outside in the sun, go tend to other things, as you wait on the sun to heat the water and brew the tea?  Life speaks and moves and goes on its way, even in the waiting times.

img_7147Take the crows for instance. Monday morning as I pulled the bedroom curtains back I saw three crows land on the roof of a house.  Watching them walk along the ridge-cap in a stiff legged, single file march I couldn’t help but smile. Going upstairs, at another window, I see them land in the backyard. It’s the strutting that captures my attention and I stifle a giggle.

With an unobstructed view from the sliding door, they show me their pattern of life. Walking in straight lines, then in eccentric circles all. over. the. yard! Looking down their beaks for whatever they can find. Rigid movements, head down, peck, peck, head up, move to the left, strut, strut, strut. Repeat right. Like a haphazardly choreographed dance.  Then one comes up victorious, something in its beak. The other two start circling in an attempt to get closer. To late. The victorious one quickly struts off in a straight line, head high, seeming to say “find your own!” Then just like that, they take flight, up over the fence. Gone.

Sunday’s message from church, circles through my mind about the religious leaders back in the day. Not willing to bend low to hear the voice of the people, to feel the heart of the people. Head high, strut, strut, keep moving. Pass them by. Unclean.

The message moves on to the woman who lost a coin, sweeping and searching, holding her lamp low, shining it into the dark places. This is likened to God drawing near, stooping low, casting the light of His love over all the peoples of the earth.  Searching to bring the lost one home. Searching intently in the cracks and crevices of every life.

It was after dark on Friday when I remembered to check the mail. I unlocked the box, dropped down the door …… and heard the ‘clink’.  In the silence, I felt the darkness hide the key from my vision. Oh no, we’d been entrusted with this key, now I’d lost it. There in the rocks and the dirt. I turn on my cell phone light, shining it all over, lifting rocks,  putting them back. Futility strikes. I can’t see it’s too dark, the key too small. I need help, more light. Going inside, I call to my man … I’ve lost the mail box key!  He says that’s funny, I thought I would lose it last night! Getting two flashlights from the car. More light, more rocks moved, then there at the back my man sees it, wedged sideways. Relief comes as I gather up the scattered mail and lock the box. Grateful words on my breath.

Then came Sunday. Oh, the tug on our hearts as in our seats we edged closer together, not saying a word, but knowing and listening. Intently.

In the waiting, Life was speaking. Loudly.

Would there be flight under the intensity of His gaze?  An urge to keep moving, up over the fence, gone?

Or would there be an upward glance directly into the gaze of His unconditional love?            A response to the urging to draw closer to Him, for the sake of those lost in the darkness.

p.s. the key now has a blue ribbon tied to it.

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The Steadiness of Faith

Cannot begin to tell you all how much this got me this morning as I read it … reduced me to tears.
And as we continue on with this journey, my man goes to check out of the hotel where we have been for the past seven days..this happened – he reminds the receptionist of the $50 discount on check out. She says actually, its a 50 PERCENT discount. He says are you sure? She checks again and says yes, sir its a 50% discount!
It’s in stuff like this we see His provision, caring and love, encouraging our faith …..

The Edges Of His Ways

I was revisited today by an illustration I heard years ago about a ship and a train.

My pastor was sharing about living by faith, and illustrated his thought by contrasting the experience of traveling somewhere on a ship versus on a train.

As most of us have discovered, when you’re on a train the feeling underneath your feet is very certain, secure, predictable, and reassuring. You can sense that you are clearly moving forward in the direction you are intending to go. There is no back and forth, or side to side–just forward.

However, when you are traveling by boat, your experience couldn’t be any different than that of a train. The feeling underneath your feet is unpredictable, uncertain, and even anxiety-producing at times. Furthermore, there is just water! There are no indestructible steel train tracks, no visible markings indicating that you are connected or harnessed to something stable.

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Listening to the whispers.

Saturday night. I lay down, reading until sleep starts to overtake me.  As I go to put the book aside, a group of words capture my attention. Speaking to me.

img_7014Sunday morning. I see the sun come up over the mountain and watch as it’s light breathes on what the darkness had covered. And in a different book with a different author, there it is again, the same words.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us….” Hebrews 12:1

We go to Zootown Church – yes, that’s really its name, look it up – on the way I say to my man “You know I read that verse about throwing off the stuff that so easily entangles and persevering in running your race both last night and this morning.”Uh huh” his response, as he sips his coffee and follows the directions of the GPS.

I go on, saying “Wouldn’t it be something if that was mentioned again at church?” His response was a ditto on the last response! 🙂

Our first time in a gathering place with His people since leaving that coastal town that now seems so far away.  After being greeted at the door by the smiling faces of the generation rising up – a voice says “Hey, I know you! *smile* Your Casey’s mom and dad, how are you? *Hug* We are so glad you came! Lets get a picture.” Welcomed and Embraced.

The worship songs pour down over my head, like the rain that fell on our way to this place. Refreshing happens and I feel His welcome as I enter that special place of His presence.  Then comes the message. A series from the Old Testament. This one – Moses and the Ten Plagues.

Words echo and bounce off the hearts of men and women as plagues are likened to the sins that so easily entangle our lives. What more is left to be said?  Throw aside your sin, run and receive the bounty of grace and mercy that is offered. img_7028

On the way back to the family house, a rainbow is seen, appearing to rise up from the valley floor, where clouds have misted it, trying to shadow what the rain and light have brought. That ancient sign of promise.

 

Sunday evening. Hearts are quieted as thoughts turn to what it lies ahead. Goodbyes are said, with the knowing that the miles between the visits are so much shorter. I sit on the side of the bed, book in hand, and begin to read.  And in the quietness, a heart tunes in.

img_7037“If anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will. He hears him.” John 9:31

“My will is not a place, but a condition. Do not ask Me where and when but ask me how..”

Whispering I respond with “I don’t know how You are going to do all that we are asking, but I know this, I trust You.”

The words continue “You will discover blessings in every place, and any place, if your spirit is in tune with Me.”

“…. you have put your life into My keeping, and because you are depending on Me for guidance and direction, I shall give it. Move on steadily and know that the waters that carry you are the waters of My love and My kindness, and I will keep you on the right course.”

My eyes fill up, profound gratitude fills my thoughts. I share it all with my man and in the quietness he too hears.

Monday.  It’s almost one a.m. and I really need to sleep. We are leaving at 8 a.m! Ha.

Where is that card I was using as a book mark?  There it is … and with it one more whisper.img_7036

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

Missoula, Montana …. this place of rest, before the final leg of this journey. How loudly I have heard His voice in this place. And now we move on.  Over the mountains and on into Washington State to what He has readied for us.

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H2O

On this journey …we have left behind the waters of the Gulf Coast, seen the lakes of Northern Michigan, beheld the evergreen and colorful beauty of well-watered Wisconsin, passed through Minnesota, the land of 1000 lakes, with its cranberry farms. And this night we arrived in South Dakota …. miles and miles of barren rolling hills and gully’s in between, acres and acres of corn and sunflowers …. and how do they grow? No apparent lakes or irrigation systems that can be seen as we fly by on Highway 90 … side note: the highway speed limit is 80mph and everyone sticks to it!  Yet these crops grow and thrive .. what’s the rainfall quota for SD?  Who knows.

But you know what I have noticed though, in each state the water is different. Yes, there is a difference in the water … and in what it does to the covering on ones head! My hair can testify!

Before I go there, let me back up a few days….to Michigan. After six days with my man’s mom, the day came to leave … and we forgot a few items in her fridge, she says, wanting to make sure we would eat on our travels, so we go back. A few more hugs, a tentative see you later, teary eyed smiles and love you’s all over again. Leaving the familiar once more …and this verse on my day planner …

img_6802

Simply love, as you leave what you know.

Simply love, before you go, uncontaminated by self interest, like a rain soaked landscape, it will  create all kinds of beauty as the seasons change.

86 years of living and she’s tired of letting go, but she does.

Because she loves, uncontaminated.

..and so our journey continues.

New sights to see, places to visit, laugh about [the corn palace?!], and talks about the unknown of the days to come.

Another waitress, opens up and shares her dreams with us, as kindness and encouragement is offered and is taken in like water to thirsty soul. She finishes her shift and comes back to talk. She’ll go far, she’s on the right track … and with only 18 years of living, at that.

What is it about water, though?

Apart from the fact, as over the years as we have traveled around this nation, my hair has felt its effect from state to state! From being unable to hold hairspray from the time I spray it to when I walk out the bathroom door. To needing one short spray and staying styled for days. And I totally get why women in Texas have big hair!

So much grows from water, in it, and around it,  it can be still or in constant motion.  It’s just like that love uncontaminated, its living and giving, its touch can be seen and felt, its tested and tried and always comes out the same in its purest form.

It’s a source of life that we all need.

All of us.proverbs-2719

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