Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Lament Surrounded by Hope

Lamentations is a book of the Bible that I have read before, skimming all the parts that aren't so pleasant and focusing in on the center of the book, which proclaims the greatness of God's faithfulness and makes me feel good after reading it. 

In my Old Testament class last week, we were looking at the book of Lamentations and as I slowly read through the entire book and saw the way it was structured, the middle part became so much more meaningful to me in light of what the author was feeling and experiencing. The depth of grief experienced brought new depth to the hope found in God.

The entire book consists of five poems (each chapter) and they are acrostics, all 22 verses, except for chapter 3, which has 66 verses. They include the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and emphasize the author's purpose in lamenting from A to Z and covering everything that was being experienced. 

Judah had just experienced great loss and they were at a place of complete desolation and grief. I have no idea the depth of what they experienced, but the author's grief and lament resonated deeply with me. 

Most of the book is a lament, and yet right in the middle, there is this brilliant proclamation that starts with the word "but"... despite all of the things that have happened, there is reason for hope. While the future may be unclear and dismal, there is hope in the present, in today. The author proclaims it to the reader, but also turns to God, declaring "Great is Your faithfulness".

Lamentations 3:21-32

"But this I recall to my my mind, therefore I have hope.
The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
"Therefore I have hope in Him." 
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. 
It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone and be silent since He has laid it on him.
Let him put his mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope. 
Let him give his cheek to the smiter, let him be filled with reproach.
For the Lord will not reject forever, 
For if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion
According to His abundant lovingkindness."

 As I read, I was deeply encouraged that the core of this book is hope. Not a hope that brushes off the pain or emotions that are being experienced, but rather a hope that enters into those dark places and abides there in the midst of the pain and grief. These verses are surrounded by a deep lament and yet despite not feeling this way, the writer claims these truths about who God is and ultimately, God's lovingkindness and faithfulness win. 

With the future unknown in this place of waiting and when I can't make sense of things, I will cling to the truth that God is faithful. Even when I don't feel it or understand how that applies to my current circumstance, I will claim it and allow it to permeate hope and life into every area of my life. This afternoon, I sat in the hot tub, marveling at the mountains and the eagles, singing loudly "Great is thy faithfulness." Even without the answers, this truth resonated a hope deep within that I will continue to cling to daily. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Waiting Time is not Wasted Time...

Waiting time is not wasted time. 
Waiting time can feel like it's not productive at all. 
Waiting time is not always dull or boring.
Waiting time can be a time of chaos and disorder.
Waiting time can pass by slowly or quickly. 
But in the end, waiting time is not wasted time.

This statement has been one that has been mulling around in my head over the last couple of months. It was brought to life even more with advent this year. I have observed advent with different levels of understanding and engagement in past years, but this year I came to a deeper realization of the waiting and anticipation for Christmas, for Jesus. It represents a time of expectation with great lack of clarity at times.Yet within the waiting, there is great hope and life.

I feel like I'm stuck in a place of eternal waiting. And to be completely honest, over the last month or so, I had lost a lot of perspective and was fairly grumpy with a negative attitude. I let myself lose perspective of what I am doing and why I am doing it. 

But as I continue to discover, there is life in the waiting. 
There is joy. 
There is growth and transformation. 
There is laughter.
There is community built.

Yes, there's all the other stuff on the other end as well, like pain, tears, etc. but sometimes I focus in on that and forget that life is a balance between the two and that beauty is found in the intermingling of both. I probably sound like a broken record here as I recognize that this is a repeated theme, but I need to be reminded of it again and again and again and again and again. And because it's something I'm continually learning, I will post about it again and again and again and again. :)

So in the last month and a half instead of blogging, I have been decorating Christmas trees (eight of them in fact), hosting Christmas dinners on my mom's behalf, playing with children I love dearly, connecting with dear friends, stopping to enjoy nature and its beauty, and when I have felt discouraged and down, I have been making conscious choices to engage and choose life. Because in the end, life wins. So, here's a few of the things I have been doing to engage life in the waiting...

Wrapping lots of gifts.. and children too...

And the bottle being drunk is maple syrup.. just for the record.
Visiting with friends from afar and just having fun. 

Commissioning my friends to wrap gifts in incredible ways (the above gift is a whale in case you were wondering)


 Joining with hundreds of others for the polar bear plunge in the ocean on New Year's day.

Tying Christmas trees to the wall so they don't fall down....

Having photography dates with myself to capture the beauty all around me. 

 Going to the beach to watch the sunset

 Taking time for weekends away for rest and friendship and admiring God's creation.

 Taking time to celebrate my birth and life with wonderful friends!

Thanking God for the beautiful area in which I live.

Staying up late so I can wrap bows around my neck, wear zebra tuques and take multiple photos of myself.

Going on hikes in the pouring rain to see waterfalls

Playing with little people who make me laugh

Shifting my focus from being task-oriented (for example, decorating a Winnie the Pooh Christmas tree) to surrounding babies with all the tree ornaments in order to take photos.. and because it's funny. 

Decorating myself with Christmas lights instead of unplugging them and packing them away right away. 

Rather than focusing on the tasks, I'm trying to live in the moment. I like things to be orderly and planned out. Unfortunately that's not possible with life. Or with people. So I'm learning to embrace the chaos and messiness that life brings. It's a struggle but I'm encouraged by my own growth within it. 

So, all wrapped up in one post, 
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year! 

My waiting time will continue and is full of unknowns but I am reminded of the beauty of "Immanuel", "God with Us". I'm thankful I'm not alone on this journey, for the amazing, wonderful days, the mundane average days and the not-so great days. I'm intrigued to see what life will hold as this season continues but I'm up for the adventure.