Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
You might have found yourself there.
On the backside of an experience that is utterly ground-shifting life change. You’ve returned home, and though part of you wants to share the mountaintop in all its complexities, divots and shimmering facets, words come up short.
Like they do.
You have family and friends who are good listeners, don’t get
me you wrong. But spinning, swirling life requires your presence, so maybe you and your husband split conversations about your time into 30 minute installments. (One down, who-knows-how-many left to go.)
And if you’re honest, which you try to be, though you’re so glad to be back home with your family, you feel frustration about how much you desire to live like mountain-top-you here. You may even wonder if it’s worth saying much of anything to your people about what you lived, besides a cursory “it was amazing,” as it will fall short.
Even as you do.
Yet there’s fire shut up in your bones, and so you’ve got to speak embers and flames.
You’ve been paying attention, you’re astonished and you’ve got to tell about it, however incomplete that telling may feel.
Last Tuesday, I returned from a solo mama adventure: a week-long spiritual direction program, intensive-learning retreat, meets heaping portions of grace. I am humbled by all God did in that place, all the ways He so clearly moved in and around me, all the ways He spoke so I could hear. Thankful, thankful, so very thankful.
I want to tell you of the terra cotta-colored rocks, of the brilliant blue skies, of the wild turkeys and big horn sheep that roamed the grounds of Glen Eyrie and of the castle built by a father for his wife and three daughters. Of the ways it all reminded me of Eden and caused such intense longing for Glory.
I want to tell you about the hour upon hour of rich teaching by Dr. Larry Crabb, of the challenges to paradigms and perspectives, of the circles of conversation and prayer, of practice listening to the Holy Spirit, of a journal brimming with it all.
The hush and the awe and the laser truth.
And I want to tell you about the relationships — the hours of nighttime talk with my heart sister-roomie Toni, the sacred space of my small group, the encouragement and challenge of spiritual direction — all the glimpses of the dance of the Trinity.
I long to tell you what I learned about what love does, about the greater and the smaller stories, all the energy we waste in dealing with life (and worse, other humans) as things to be managed.
I’ll likely write poetry and Five Minute Fridays that touch upon these things. I tend to do that when the heart speaks what sentences and long form cannot.
But for now, I’ll leave you with this. A bit of a journey down from the mountain top and the truth here, too.
Yesterday my morning started with lots of tears, yelling, overwhelm and no shower (though I could have used one). My afternoon included a desperation nap. My nighttime filled with sleeplessness, punctuated by concerns for our nation and my children and cloudy prayers.
I believe that my life’s greatest good is found in how I love. That I can most put God on display by the way I relate. That I do not want to become sidetracked by what is temporal and not eternal. Yet I don’t (love well). And I do (get horribly distracted).
I believe in more than the blessed life or the healed life; I desire the abundant life. One where I take my proper place in the story, releasing my demanding spirit unto the Glorious God who sees from above the sun what I cannot see below it.
This morning I read in Psalm 51 “renew a steadfast spirit within me” and “grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” Yes, Lord.
May I lay down my ego and my aspirations in order to receive what sustains. May I thirst and be renewed through what God gives, though it’s not often flash, glam or mountain top.
May I receive the ground under my feet. The good enough of right here. The stone and earth and eyes of these dear ones, these momentary glints of light. And give thanks.
I texted back and forth with my friend Toni yesterday. I told her about my discouragement and difficulty in seeing clearly what’s important even as I try so hard. So very gently, Toni reminded me of some of the last words spoken in our spiritual direction classroom. In our last group session, Dr. Crabb spoke a simple exhortation and reminder of what is needed on these human journeys toward eternity.
They are words that speak to willingness and commitment, weakness and failings. The great difficulty in focusing upon what matters:
In the midst of the world’s madness and mess-ups, in the midst of forgetting and falling short again in our treatment of one another, may we lay down rights to the easy life, picking up God’s greater good — His love without end, amen.
May we remind each other and remember ourselves the good of growing — be it ever so slowly — in the ways of love.
Struggling forward with you.
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I savor this glimpse into the unsayable this morning, as I sip my coffee and enter into your pictures, your head, your heart. It’s so true, how often words fall and fail to contain the essence of what’s in our hearts. Even that is a “struggle forward.” To tell the bits we can, as they come to us – and to live them. I have such confidence that you will. I love you so much.
So beautifully said Ashley. In one of my classes we have been talking about how we must make the “terrible effort” of continuing to press forward in our spiritual journeys and how the theme of wrestling is all a part of it. I’m so grateful that God is so gracious and patient, slow to anger and abounding in love…so unlike me. :) And, yet as I struggle forward with Him, He make an indelible thumb print upon my life that somehow miraculously reflects His image. I love being on the journey with you! Cheering you on today! xo
Love well. Struggle forward. So much goodness here dear friend!
So fun to hear some of your reflections, as I’ve been longing to know about your adventure and journey!
It is so true, the hardness of putting these experiences into words!
Looking forward to it spill out over the course of the rest of your life!
Spilling out over the course of the rest of your life — yes, exactly that, I pray. Love you, friend.
Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful!!! <3
<3 back at you!
You put into words what I felt in my soul. What a defining week.
Thank you, Neil. It sure was. Praying you are well.