Toward the end of the year, I start to reread my journals from past Decembers and Januaries–comparing what I was thinking and feeling then with life now.
It’s always humbling because I find I write the same things, struggle with the same questions, or learn the same lessons over and over, just in different situations. After an hour or so of reading, I’m utterly tired of myself and imagine a big bonfire of burning journals.
This year was different. Well, I still got tired of the monologue, but rather than being saddened by the broken record of my journals, I was comforted that God sticks with me and keeps speaking, keeps forgiving, keeps showing possibilities in every moment. I’m starting to see my journals as a 25-year record of God’s faithfulness in the midst of my often melodramatic prose.
I also saw that there were certain resolutions that didn’t make it on the official lists, but were quiet and patiently relentless in the background. These were the ones that survived past January.
Two years ago, starting The Contemplative Cottage, was one of those resolutions that didn’t really feel like a resolution. Yet, if I were to list influential practices of the last two years, submitting to the blank page of the blog post is one of the most important. The call to write, to reflect on contemplative living, to share gratitudes, knowing you are reading, has been a life-changing discipline. Receiving your comments and emails have spurred me on.
At the same time I started writing here, I started taking digital photos–ostensibly for the blog posts. I discovered a whole new world of light and color and way of seeing God’s creation and people, that still stuns me and fills me with awe. Photography didn’t make it on my list of resolutions that year, but nonetheless, its impact has seeped into every corner of my life.
Photography made it into my prayer–“God, use this joy, please.”
Taking photos has become a way I worship God. The surprises and joys keep coming. This Lent, I’ve been invited to be Artist-in-Residence at St Paul’s Episcopal Church, taking photos in response to the Sunday lectionary texts and sharing them in worship. I cannot begin to describe the JOY and the wonderful-terrified-humbled feeling at being given this gift.
I’m also praying about how I might combine photography and short-term missions, a direction that could literally take me anywhere in the world. Joy. Wonderful-terror.
As I read my journals, I began to see a larger pattern in how I approached life. The main tasks, such as exams or dissertation writing, I lived in opposition to, so my resolutions were mostly about what I was going to do to take control and get things done. But then there was a whole world of un-resolutions, from which God’s cultivating hand brought fruit–joy and grace and LOVE.
While I needed to take some action, there was an indirectness about it all,
a certain hidden grace-full-ness.
Eugene Peterson talks about the relationship between work and grace. Whatever task before us that God has placed in our lives can be a container for His grace. A concrete action, gift, task, or situation, can become a way to experience God’s grace operating in our lives and in the world.
The blog writing, the photography…I got out of the way and these became containers for grace. And God’s grace does amazing, joyful and transformative things when we let it.
What would it be like to live this way? What it would it mean to approach all of life like these quiet but relentlessly patient un-resolutions?
To get in on the action, but out of the way of God’s grace.
To no longer live in opposition to life,
write no more take-control-lists,
but bring it all in worship to the foot of the Throne,
and see what God does….
(to be continued!)
Today, I am thank-full:
God’s faithfulness through the years. And the un-resolution of 25 years ago to start journaling, so today I have a record of His faithfulness and patience.
God’s grace and all the containers He fills to overflowing.
A new way to think about the dissertation writing….as worship!
My camera, every single day.
My parents singing to me on New Year’s.
Young Jack singing to me O Come All Ye Faithful, two verses memorized!
The community of St Paul’s Episcopal and their faithful welcome.