Saturday, March 29, 2008

wonder hunt

"I was thinking about how beautiful the color of green is."
-Rich Mullins

I went for a walk yesterday. I've been trying to cultivate eyes to see beauty in creation. I read Rich Mullins' biography last week and made a resolution to look as he did. He saw laughter in moonlight and redemption in prairies. Many days, I travel with blinders on, my mind a long checklist and my thoughts frenzied bellboys hopping from bullet to bullet.

So. A solitary walk after a full day of teaching first graders. Not an exercise to burn calories, not a way to get from point A to point B, but instead, an effort to see, a pause to listen.

Firstborn daffodils sprung up from grey ground.
Bare trees lined up for roll call against the horizon.
Buds blooming red out of naked brown limbs.

And even the rocks cry out.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Psalm 55:22

I am all at once many things today.
My heart is restless,
wanting to go,
wanting to stay.

I hold more people in my heart
than I can gather near.

Dreams underneath the current of
come and go,
work and play.
Silent, dormant,
still they ache.

From the One who understands the tug,
the contradiction,
the mystery,

these words of peace...

Monday, March 17, 2008

wanna be broken, peaceful, thankful

Another point for the big sister.

What's her tally up to now, anyway? The number of times her wise words have hit my heart at exactly the right moment? Ah, gee. I'm not good at details, so the exact figure evades me. It's probably too high to count anyway.

I talked to Rachel this weekend. The pressure is off with Rachel. No need to impress her, entertain her, ask insightful and thoughtful questions of her, or sound mature. Phew. Don't we all need more conversations like that? Maybe Rachel wishes I made a little more effort to sound mature, because typically our conversations go something like this:

Me: Blah, blah, blah, my life is hard, and I am confused, and blah, blah, blah.

Rachel: Pause. [Insert wisdom. Given in a gentle, gracious, and firm way.]

Me: Longer pause. Oh. Wow.

(By the way, Rachel, thanks for still answering the phone when I call. You're the best.)

The revelation of Saturday's conversation? Here it is. I realized that if I were to tag last year with one word, it would probably be loss. The past twelve months have held several Big Hard Things, India being one of them. And the subdivisions of that city Loss are named Tears, Grieving, Loneliness, Questions, Fear. Did I meet Jesus in a more raw and real way this past year? Absolutely. Am I sorry that it was hard? No. I think the dark makes the light all the more beautiful. But after all of the fallout, I have hoisted an enormous burden onto my shoulders, the burden that, hereafter, I expect everything to be equally as hard and even possibly more painful.

"Lara," Rachel said, "You will have seasons of suffering in your life again. But you don't have to live expecting everything to turn out that way. God is also a God of joy. Of redemption. A God who leads His people out of the deserts and into the gardens."

Lightbulb. I am not believing for myself what I dare to dream for other people--that God will turn my tears to laughter, that He will show me more of His abudance than I knew existed, and that He will restore the seasons of cracked riverbeds and bitter heartache. God is graciously filling my life with good things right now, but I am turning my head away, scared that it will all slide away or evaporate like dew.

I want to be willing to mourn with those who mourn. I do not want to be afraid of the heavy, dry, even desperate seasons of life. But, maybe, just maybe, it is time to join the dance for a bit. Rejoice in the things God is blessing me with. Open my heart up to His healing, His love, His grace. Receive the gift with joy instead of running away frightened.

Thank You, Father, for Your gifts. The dark was a gift, and now, the light is gift too.

For Aaron, who wants to know me and stays even when it means sharing my pain.

For Megan, who makes Bolivar a fun place to live and rocks the 5 am workout with me. You get it, girl.

For new friends I wasn't expecting but thoroughly enjoy.

For a cell phone to call the friends who live far, far away.

For the job of substitute teaching which I am enjoying way more than I ever thought possible. How neat to get paid for something I love!

For my family, who eats my outrageous meal experiments and who loans me the mini-van when I need a set of wheels and who prays for me and with me.

For Bolivar. For this season. For life.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

for a time

"Often it is the dark forest that makes us speak about the open field...Not seldom are our visions of the future born out of the sufferings of the present and our hope for others out of our own despair...The paradox is indeed that new life is born out of the pains of the old."

-Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out

I visited JBU this past weekend. It was my first return since last May's graduation. Then, there were so many goodbyes, some of them the hardest I had ever made, and a quiet three hour car ride home to Missouri. While Mom drove, I thought about four years gone and wondered with just a little trepidation how the following months would unroll. I was going to California. Colorado. Kolkata. Each new stop a bit more unfamiliar than the last.

10 months later, I returned to campus.

For a brief few days, I felt like the college Lara. I remembered how much I like that Lara. She has fun. She runs five or six miles, no problem. She loves 19th century British Literature, but she doesn't have much time for reading, because she would rather have tea with a friend, sitting cross-legged on the tan couch in her apartment. She knows her place, and for the most part, she is confident.

I realized this weekend that I’m not that person anymore. I’m not. I’ve been to the other side of the world and back, and I'm hurting. It is not unusual for the landscape that once seemed familiar and understandable to now seem like a dark forest. I have questions. I have tears.

I want these pains to pass. "For goodness sake," I think. "I've been back for two and half months now. Let's return to normal." I don't want to walk the long, dusty road I know leads to the open field. Is there an instant teleport option, one of the Star Trek variety? I'll take that one. Oh restless heart, how quickly forgotten the truth that it is in the cluster of barren trees He plants new life. A seed unseen.

Last night, I opened my Bible with this earnest prayer: Lord, please speak to me in a way that I can hear and comprehend. This is what He gave, and between the close-crowding branches, I saw a light falling through.

"Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all...He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were." -Romans 4:16:17