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heart-worn and refinedFebruary 26, 2017

February seems to be redefining my word of the year – Invest.

When I thought about ‘Investing’ at the beginning of the year it was much more about getting my house in order, about being in the moment and cutting back on the dross that filled my time so I could refine my efforts into less pursuits. But on this journey I’ve found that the thing in greatest need of investment is me. I need to invest in the building bricks of who I am and what I believe and who influences my choices, what I give and what I take in.

The daily discipline of listening to either pray-as-you-go or watching a sermon has been inconvenient and yet hugely rewarding. Rather than push ahead it’s really drawn me to look in every other direction first. To look outwards, outwards at the people I’ve neglected to be a great friend to, outwards at the people waiting to be befriended. Outwards at the church I could be a part of and how that part may fit or fail. This has translated not just to my prayer time but in time to exercise, meals to plan and people I connect with.

But mostly this looking has lead me to reconsider how I look back, both at the history of the faith and my own years. Scripture suddenly seems more gritty than it has for some time, it’s events being told and retold through a prism of words. The idea that my own history is just a draft version, and the final piece can still be tweaked is a notion that’s rather empowering. If history is indeed ‘written by the victors’ then as private and personal authors we can rewrite, not the events but the voice and emphasis with which they are told. As I approach a decade since I was the youth-worker that so defined me, I’m redefining my identity and letting it be shaped, both physical and spiritual. Those failures of the past become lessons upon which to glean wisdom, those adversaries can be seen as misunderstood and misconstrued and painted as fallen opportunities to connect with our brothers, those working out of faith can be detours from the pathway or daring shortcuts through reliance on God’s provision. Our names can be refined from the childish self descriptors or the practical labels into the heart-worn and refined titles of our character.

And this changes what we expect of ourselves. Practically, by allowing motherhood to be a more primary definer tot-school takes president over JWL for a few weeks without the guilt. I worried that the JWL requests and support would dry up, but quite to the contrary both donations and requests are flying in. In particular translation projects for multiple languages and alternative means of doing this seem to be bouncing about. Meanwhile the tot-school packs are getting the chance to bless others around God’s wonderful globe.

And prayer stands as the anchor. The thick tread of steel in the fine fabric that weaves through my days.

The goggle boxFebruary 8, 2017

I’ve noticed a pattern, it’s a sad one and one I’d vowed I’d never fall prey to, but alas I have a kid that totally over-consumes on screen time. In some senses it’s not really surprising. We have more screens per room in this place than we had in the whole house during my childhood. I’ve got the 2 year old who can exit a kids app and happily navigate youtube alone if unchecked. It’s something we are clamping down on.

I’ve always been terrible with screens myself, I feel them suck me in like a huge vortex and all other activity fades. I apparently goggle quite badly and can’t multitask while they are blaring, even silent screens will result in lost conversations. I’m not sure why they are quite so potent to me but it’s not surprising that Adam seems to suffer similarly.

Screens are like the prayer life I’d love to have. That all adsorbing focus, irrespective of time or distraction. It’s been too long since I got ‘lost’ in prayer. I found myself time wasting the other day as I waited for sleep to claim the little man on the other side of the room. I read correspondence, saw the headlines and peered down the rabbit hole of social media until I found my eyes close from frustration and the thought of prayer came. The shame came too, for prayer shouldn’t be a last response for the bored, the forgotten task you left unchecked on your list.

There have been times in the past when prayer was a delight, a refuge and a divine embrace when life seemed too huge. But not lately. Recently my prayer life has been like a long distance phone call, a mix of highlights and pleads, frustrations and forgotten thanks. And really that’s not all bad, sometimes we don’t need a God who is our BFF, prep talk, and crutch. Sometimes. Other times we need to feel that almost tangible hug, that connection you only get after you’ve got past all the small talk, past all the niggles and fleeting affairs, onto the deep stuff. While my prayer life of late has not been absent, it’s not been celebrated or treasured either.

One way I’m combating this is to restart my love affair with the pray as you go daily recordings. I discovered these when I first came to Serbia and they have been ebbing and flowing since, arriving gently and slipping off silently when other activities drown them out. I’ve also discovered that I’m best praying for others, praying over situations conveyed through the webs of murmur and sighs of help. While it’s great to finally be the friend who genuinely prays when she exclaims she will, it’s also not so healthy for my own relationship with the divine to be always turning up with an outside agenda. So I’m going to start writing to God again, pick up my pen and scribble lines, correspondence that is never as one way as it first appears. Hopefully I’ll fill you in on the journey.

Photo Source : Unsplash – Pawel Kadysz