God Thoughts From My Recycling Blunder

I recently made a major domestic “oops”.

Our town sends out the trash truck weekly, but they only pick up recyclables every other week.  By the time week two rolls around, historically we’ve been overflowing with seltzer bottles, milk cartons, empty cereal boxes and more.  In fact, we actually called the waste company to upgrade us to a larger recycling bin…but apparently I should have asked them to supersize that.

Needless to say, during recycle week we are on high alert, prepared to deploy our bin at a moment’s notice.  Occasionally we forget which pick up week it is, and glance as inconspicuously as possible at our neighbors’ driveways hoping for a clue.  When in doubt, we send the bin down anyway; better to let the neighbors know we can’t count than be stuck with overflowing heaps of #4 recyclables.

But a week and a half ago my husband said he was going to take the recycle bin down and I uttered roughly the following fatal words: “Don’t take it down yet; I have a little more to add.

Did I remember to add more?  No.  Did I remember that I was supposed to take the recycling down?  Yes.  Right as the recycling truck passed by my house the next morning.  (I can’t think about it too long or I’ll have trauma flashbacks.)

Perhaps I could take my bin across the street at a neighbor’s house?  Maybe they’d listen to my pleas for mercy!  I could stash a few recycle items in the bins of some good-natured friends!  Ooooh! I could drive up the road, cut the recycle truck off with my mini-van and stage a truck heist!

OR…I could be a rational person for once and just wait.  Eventually recycling day would come again.

But nearly a month of stashing recyclables has a way of changing “waiting” to “longing”.

So here I am, recycle day dangling a mere three days away, with an overcrowded bin and more besides. 

This is a calendar worthy event, rivaling my children’s own birthdays.  In fact, I may have to resist the urge to hug the recycling people in my sheer elation at their arrival.  If you pass my house on Thursday and catch me twirling my empty bin in the driveway and crying passionately, please know they’re tears of joy and promise me you won’t have me committed.

Ahem.

But I’ve found lately that the recycling truck isn’t the only thing I’m waiting expectantly on.  Recently I felt impressed that God was doing something new in my life, but I couldn’t tell you what for sure.

I had some ideas, (don’t we all?) but I wanted the full, detailed, google maps version of my life plan, complete with pictures and alternative routes in case of an unforeseen delay.  I figured if I pestered God long enough, He’d give me the complete 411.

It’s been weeks now and in place of piles of recycling I have pages of journal entries contemplating what God is up to.  I’ve been praying and wondering and using my master’s degree in overthinking.

And the truth is…I haven’t gotten any burning bushes or writing on the wall.  (OK…there’s writing on the wall, but it’s crayon and suspiciously includes all the letters in my three year old’s name.)  God hasn’t made plain whatever it is I thought He might be leading me into.

So….maybe God’s just reminding me that He’s always up to something and I should keep my eyes open.  Maybe He will give me some more direction in the future.

But no matter what, I think He’s smiling a bit because in all my wondering and journaling and waiting…I’ve been sitting at His feet a little more.  I’ve found that the waiting has turned into a renewed longing for God.  In all my straining to see what’s ahead, I’ve been humbled to find that there’s no clearer place to view my life than on my knees in prayer.

And even though I’ll probably forever want to stay two steps ahead of God when it comes to my life plan, I’m learning something about what it means to wait on HIM instead of treating Him like a divine GPS.  He doesn’t just want me to wait on Him for directions, blessings, or dreams.  He wants me to learn to wait WITH Him…eagerly expecting that when I set aside my to-do list to seek Him, He’s there already.

In this season we’re all waiting on something.  Maybe it’s the look on your child’s face when they open that gift they never thought you’d get them.  Maybe it’s a long anticipated trip to see family for the holidays. Maybe it’s a fresh start in the new year.  Perhaps you too are waiting for that recycle truck so you can finally be rid of all your empty amazon boxes!

My prayer for each of us is that those places of temporary expectation cause us to be aware of a deeper anticipation bubbling up in our souls.  In all our other waiting, may we learn to desire God Himself and find that what He has to offer us in His presence today (and tomorrow and the next day) is more than enough for us.  He is greater than anything else we could hope for or dream about.

And He won’t keep you waiting.


Psalm 63:1

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.

Psalm 130:5-6

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Luke 10:39

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.

Psalm 37:4

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Acts 17:26-28

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

 New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Be the Hydrangea

I have a confession to make: I’m in love with hydrangeas.  (I don’t care who knows it.)  My obsession started when my parents moved from their beloved CT home to distant Alabama.  My Mama, who passed her sweet sentimental genes on to me, had carted and cultivated a blue hydrangea, that had been transplanted from my great-grandmother’s plant, to various homes she’d lived in.  Though they moved in summer and the hydrangea was in full bloom (not the best time to move it), my mom couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her plant behind.  So she recruited one of our moving helpers, (bless his heart), to dig up that whole giant hydrangea plant, and pack it in all its uprooted strangeness into my mini-van.  I promptly taxied it to my own home like I was a flower ambulance driver, and dug it a new home with all my heart.

The spring after they moved, I watched that hydrangea’s signature green leaves burst forth in full health.  There would be life yet for this organic bridge of generations.

Or not.  The plant was alive, but its poor shocked system wasn’t ready to re-bloom just yet.  Not the first year.  Or the second.

I waited patiently.  One winter (remember that key detail), I went outside for the mail or one of the other two reasons you go outside in the frigid New England cold.  And there, blowing down the road like a frosty tumbleweed, was a dried up hydrangea blossom.

Call it the innocuous catalyst to a winter-crazed mind, but I latched onto that plant in a symbolic way.  Suddenly I had to know all about hydrangeas because how often does one casually breeze by your mailbox in the dead of winter?

Did you know hydrangea literally means “water vessel”?  (That’s one fact I found out in my hydrangea frenzy.)

Water vessel.  Water carrier.

These robust flowers are so named for their appetite and ability to draw up water and the bowl shape of their flowers. (*)

I believe we’re meant to be like these hydrangeas. (That’s right. Be the flower.)

Once Jesus sat at a well with a Samaritan woman who had gone all kinds of wrong in her life.  And even as she went to draw physical water for herself from the well that day, Jesus promised her “living water” which only He could offer.  He said “Everyone who drinks this [physical] water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

Later, in John 7 Jesus says, ““Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.”

This world has only satisfied me to a point.  After awhile, even the greatest physical experiences leave me missing something.  Whether friendships, food or family; vacation or vocation.  It’s temporary.  It doesn’t last, and I keep returning to the well each day, seeking a pure joy and hope, but never filling myself completely.

Yet when I realize my physical world isn’t everything and I thirst for something greater, I’m finding that God DOES offer that living water that somehow floods my soul, offers me lasting purpose and hope, and, yes, satisfies me when I allow myself to be transformed by it.

But when we begin to thirst for that kind of water, we’ll find its not meant to be contained.  No, I believe we become carriers of that water, like the hydrangea, overflowing with hope to others.

You are meant to carry water and spill it over in every place that you touch.  We are meant to be spreaders of Hope and Life to our families, our co-workers, those that seem to have nothing and those that seem to have everything.  When we thirst for living water we’ll find its an endless well and we’re not meant to hold it in but to let it flow, and this is the mystery of His Spirit.

I don’t know where you’re planted and drawing up water- I don’t know specifically where you’re meant to overflow with Hope.  But I do know, you were created for this.  You were made for the only Water that satisfies and you were made to overflow.

This world is struggling in more ways than we can count right now.  If ever there was a (political, social, racial, economic, resource-scarce, confused, unjust) time to seek God’s heart and let it spill over in compassionate action, now is that time.  And we are the water carriers.

P.S.  My hydrangea finally did blossom, and just this year my mom took a cutting of it to her new home, so the legacy lives on!


Stay tuned!! In the coming weeks I plan to highlight a few practical, tangible ways you can make a difference with issues such as human trafficking, poverty, and more!  If you’re currently involved with an organization or know of a group that is meeting physical needs and empowering the powerless, please pass along what you know!  I’d even be happy to have you guest post about your experiences. Thanks for joining and for all the ways you share hope.

 

*Hydrangea Meaning

Hello from the…Middle

Adele made it to the other side.  I’m not sure I’m there yet, but “hello from the middle” isn’t as catchy.

Everyone loves a story with a good ending.  The one where Jesus rescued the disciples from the freak storm.  The time God answered Elijah’s prayer for rain after a many year drought.  The one where God used Esther to rescue His people from mass slaughter.  The one where Jesus healed the woman who had been sick for years.

Good stories.  Pleasant morals.  Faith builders.

You know what I can’t stand?  A movie that ends without being resolved.  A book that appears more tragic than hopeful.  A story that’s stuck in the middle.

I don’t want to be trapped indefinitely on that rain-pounded, wave-hurled boat with the disciples.  I don’t want to wrestle with whether God is big enough for all this. I’m too busy panicking and trying to figure out where my contact went after that last wave. My stomach is queasy.  I like to watch lightning from my living room window with some wine.  Jesus is clearly sleeping, and if he wanted to help me he would have brought an alarm clock or something.  Why was I following Him again?

I’d prefer not to sit with Elijah as he prays for rain the second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth time.  I’m fairly certain I would have given up already if I was waiting that long on my barista to get my latte right.  My faith and reputation are on the line.  I don’t have so much as a darkening sky to assure me the cracked, parched earth beneath me will ever receive a drop of moisture.  Can’t we just skip to the part where we sing and dance in the downpour? Assuming Elijah is down with his life as a musical. 

I’d rather not be plucked up out of my home to be made the pawn of a dangerous king.  You can keep your tiara and beauty treatments, thank you very much.  I don’t want to know the tortured mental journey that preceded her decision: “And if I perish, I perish.”  Did she really come to a place of peace, or was it a kind of grim resignation?  Was she too depressed to care anymore?  I think I would have simply left the king a sticky note on the royal fridge and avoided the whole awkward potential death thing.  I don’t want her story’s middle.

And I don’t want to be in the middle of desperation from chronic illness like that woman.  I’m fed up right with her living in fear, waiting on a cure that won’t come.  I’m tired of believing in hope that doctors will help, that someone will eventually reach out and see me.  I’m tired of wondering if God cares.  I don’t want to be overwhelmed in the thick of a crowd grasping for a dirty hem after all else has let me down.  Did she wonder if it was worth it to put her heart on the line…again?

The middle sucks.

As my friend recounted her “middle” stories- she reminded me that they strip us down of what we think we know.  They threaten to uproot everything we think we stand on.  The middle makes us ask, “What kind of a God would…?”  “What’s the point in trying if…?” “What if the promise isn’t true?”  The questions themselves aren’t bad- they force us to see things differently.

But the problem with the middle is that we don’t have the “aha!” ending glasses to see through.  So we full-on react in survival mode, like a crazed bee-chased person wildly karate chopping the air, fleeing in bumbling zig zags.  At least I do.

I thrash around like my three year old sometimes does when I put his in his bedroom at night.  He’s mad that he can’t read another book, that he can’t have more water, but mostly that he can’t come out.  So he screams and throws things, crying in hysterics.

But I tell my son that even though he has to stay, I’ll come in and be with him.

At first he says no, and continues tantrumming.  (Which isn’t a word, but ought to be.) But I can always tell that he’s really wrestling with his own emotions, with what he ultimately wants, and there’s always a breaking point where he admits that he’d rather have me with him than rail against me anymore.

He accepts the promise of “with” even if it means waiting through another night to see the other side of that bedroom door.

And I guess I’m saying that’s me.  This whole time I’ve been flipping emotional furniture in my brain, acting like God has locked me up and it’s his fault and what on earth is He doing?!!  And at the same time I’m crying,

Please don’t leave me, because you’re all I have.  Please don’t go because even in my doubts I have no greater hope.  Please forgive me because I’m not quite ready to let you in to just hold me, but I desperately need to know you’re waiting for me on the other side of that door.”

I like the lessons from the end.  Or before the problem ever starts maybe?  But the promise I’m holding onto right now is that the middle of the story is what actually shapes us.  The middle of the story is where our convictions confront our deepest fears and we sink or rise.  You don’t get to walk on water on dry land.  You don’t get to pretend in the middle.

My fists are still a little clenched and I just bought a bunch of paint  so I can hide for a bit inside a project and process my disappointment.  My wrestle.  (Although the paint was on sale, if that makes the middle sound less self-indulgent.)

I don’t have the cute moral to give you right now, just the awkward picture of a thirty year old woman throwing an all-out tantrum on the floor.  It isn’t pretty.  But it’s real.  And I’m daring to believe it’s accomplishing something steadfast and hopeful inside of me that I couldn’t have found otherwise.

Photo: Joy Martin

 

I don’t know how long you’ll wait for the uplifting ending to all this, but if it comes in this lifetime I’ll be sure to blog about it.