Blogging about your personal life can be a little weird.
See, I’m hovering around the six-month mark of our move back to the U.S. from Africa. And when I’m truthful, this last month in particular has been a low point I haven’t hit in a long time. I wonder sometimes about what’s appropriate to share. I believe it’s Brene Brown who says she thinks it’s okay to be vulnerable on a larger scale if first she’s been vulnerable with those close to her. Yet there was also a point last year where I was like, All of this cyber-honesty is making my blog a real downer. All I need is a few posts about puppy mills and cancer and we’ll be all set!
But a common thread through all of these ideas on practical spirituality and relationships is, yes, the story God’s writing around me. Hence the classification “blog”. So I thought I’d let you peek in on my curious occupation this past week.
He must have been two, I think, when it happened: back when his cheeks still looked like he was storing up nuts for winter. The store’s fluorescent lights buzzed above, and it must have been the time of year that the air conditioning was running full-blast there in the South. I was pregnant with our third, and making one of those fly-bys mothers of young children perform in a store when they have to look at a rack before one of her kids starts crying, whining, distracting, throwing things out of the cart or into the cart–you get the idea. The store wasn’t busy. Which must have been the reason I lifted him out to explore for a moment.
It was in the meal line when I was laughing with a young 20-something who’d just left her home in Sweden after years serving there. As I reached for the fresh berries (berries! I missed those in Uganda. I may have taken an inappropriate amount, maybe four times), I was getting her name, her country of service, her tenure. “And you’re back now?” I asked.
Recently I sat with a friend who’s undergone such remarkable suffering over short years. I should tell you: She’ll be the first one to respond with hope. But I can also tell that what she has is faith, not answers. I can see question marks curling around, pointing her year after year to the God who will, someday (and even now) reward those who earnestly seek Him. Her sinewy, muscled joy is built on what she can’t see; on decisions of trust she makes over and over again.
Remember the mourning. Looking at Scripture, it seems God sometimes simply asks for us to witness what is not right in this world, and to participate with Him in lament. Maybe you’re flirting with failure in part because of someone’s hard-heartedness; because the forces in this world were stronger. I wonder if sometimes we’re not just given a glimpse into why this place is temporary; why it is passing away; why this place and this body and this fallen version of me is not forever. Sometimes failure, I think, can shape a mental sticky note to me: You are not, Janel. But He is. When you mourn with God, you are blessed. And you will be comforted.
Let me just lay it out for you here: I, uh, may have actually started these memos for me, while I huddled in my bedroom chair on a Sunday morning, hoping it would be a few more minutes before the kids popped in or started fighting.
And then I thought maybe you’d like to read over my shoulder. Because maybe I’m not the only one who grapples with what may be…failure.
Failure seems to flay open my skin, unveiling raw questions inside. Questions like, What does this say about me? Or, Why didn’t God show up? Or maybe, What do I do now?
The dust, fine and red, coats the plants lining our roads. Sweat beads on my upper lip. Last night as my children lay awake in bed, I stuck my head in and reminded them to keep guzzling plenty of water, after a friend of theirs landed in the clinic for dehydration. Cooking in the warm afternoons in my kitchen, with my hair twisted off my neck, I’ve been praying, coaxing the weather. C’mon, rainy season.
Author’s note: It was two years ago that our family received unsettling news that began an extended holding pattern for us, news which wouldn’t be resolved for another eleven months. That period of gray, unsettled twilight will stand out in my life as one where I became well-acquainted–more than I would have wished, for sure–with the chisel of God that is waiting.
Yet in an odd way, it also brought me to love its sculpting edges, planing away curls of my own impatience and distrust.
I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately, dreams.
Since I’ve already confessed that I’m a feeler, I’ll tell you that a lot of feelings and thoughts swirl around them too: Hope. Confusion. Anxiety. Zeal. Guilt.
They’ve come center stage lately as I wait…and wait some more. It’s to see, really, if my dreams match up with God’s as future plans unspool. If my idea of green pastures and still waters are really His—or just the “good thing” that is not His best thing. As Donald Whitney writes, One way to clarify your spirituality is to clarify your ambition.
Really glad you're here. Welcome to a lingering conversation--about a head-turning, undeserved kindness that's turned my life on its head. This site's about Jesus in a pair of well-worn Levi's: faith walking around in our sneakers, scuffing up against real life and real people.
I hope you'll find some questions worth asking, conversations worth engaging, compassion that's compelling, and practical ideas to knead genuine love into relationships. (...With a side of slightly irreverent humor.)
After five and a half years in Uganda, my family and I have recently returned to the U.S., where we continue to work on behalf of the poor. I write and love on my family from Colorado.