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Archive for October, 2014


“Will life always be this way?” I found myself lamenting to Lyle the other day. I’ve been off work now for 6 months, and I often wonder about the future. While I continue to be grateful for the time and space to heal, worry can kick in when I strain to understand what lies ahead. What will life look like in another 6 months? In a year? The image from my last blogpost of waiting inside a chrysalis continues to be an apt one, and it is not easy to rest, holding on for God’s good timing!

One of my life’s dreams is that someday I might write a book, perhaps in my favorite genre of memoir. Is this God’s dream for me? My dad has often told the story of his grandmother, my great-grandmother, whose husband built a writing shed behind the house in Russia because she wanted to write a book. It’s the only detail I know about this woman, besides the fact that she died young and never did write that book. It’s an amazing story, especially for the late 19th century, and with hope I wonder if I’m meant to follow in her footsteps.

It’s not a bad dream. I’ve loved writing since I was in grade 2 and my friends, not to mention my parents, have always encouraged it in me. We all have mercies in our lives that bring out the “better angels” within, and for me, it’s writing.

"Brevity" cartoon used with permission. www.gocomics.com/brevity

“Brevity” cartoon used with permission. http://www.gocomics.com/brevity

But when I thought of “The Book” last week, it was surrounded by my worries for the future. It felt like I was grabbing onto something, anything, that could get me out of the waiting game. I recognized that I wanted it to puff me up with significance, unlike these days of uncertainty. Pride is a sin that comes up regularly for me and here it was again. “Lydia Penner: Most humble woman of the century” would be the ironic author bi-line.

It was into this quagmire of unease that I heard a distinct Word, countering my dreams of grandeur. Like the tiny rudder steering a large ship, a small thought came to me that changed my direction: “Isn’t it enough just to be God’s child?”

It was like a load lifted off my shoulders. I was reminded how often I long for significance, and like the master planner I’m not, try to bring it about in some way. It’s almost like I was born with a sign that said, “Notice me!” This clamoring effort never brings about the results I crave, in fact, like all addictions, my attention-getting leaves me wanting more. Beneath the pride of my “Notice me” sign is a deep fear that I am worthless and unloved. How quickly I try to fill my own bucket.

One of the biggest realizations I’ve had lately is how even my headaches have been connected to this fear. As I’ve begun to release my people-pleasing agenda and rest in solitude, the effect on my headaches has been better than any medication or therapy I’ve ever tried.

The poet Rumi says that “Someone fills the cup in front of us,” and I know that Someone isn’t me. Remembering I was loved brought rest from my clamoring need to be important in the world’s eyes. I remembered that God loves us even when we are not achieving.

It’s the same with my son Joel. I’m proud of the accomplishments he’s making in the world, but there’s truly nothing he can do to make me love him more. In the same way, God loves us in all our ups and downs, whether we are humming with productivity, frustrated with failure, or stumbling in the whole spectrum between.

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Photo by Paul Patterson

Maybe someday I’ll write that book, but in the meantime I desire to sink ever more deeply into the knowledge that I’m loved, not because I’ve earned it, but because God loved me into being. This knowledge is enough for me, a treasure beyond compare.

I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” Romans 8:38-39 Common English Bible (CEB)

Tight Places

One of the blessings of every summer is monarch butterflies. This year, I raised about 20 in all and kept finding people to release them with. Whether it was with a grieving friend, inner city kids, IMG_5134summer bible school kids, at a  community “Nature Walk”, at a garden party or wedding shower, I felt honored to watch wonder unfold. The monarch is an ambassador of hope, especially now as they are becoming endangered.

At each event, I was struck by the challenges people were facing. It wasn’t hard to see the poverty of the inner city children, or the grief of my friend with the sudden loss of her husband, but I also knew there was suffering in the more polished looking places. No one is immune. We all have limitations that bring us to the end of ourselves. Tight places that leave us without answers. In some way, we are all misfits, longing for grace and healing.

The monarch caterpillar knows all about tight places as it sheds its skin one last time,

Photo by Holli Webb Hearn

Photo by Holli Webb Hearn

transforming into a chrysalis.  A chrysalis is a place of radical rearrangement. The caterpillar looks nothing like the adult it becomes, which is the definition of complete metamorphosis. It’s a miracle to be sure, made all the more remarkable when you realize what a tiny place the chrysalis is. It’s a very unlikely place for transformation.

In the middle of the night, when answers sometimes seem the furthest and we don’t know how we can get through, we are not unlike that chrysalis. It’s hard to believe that transformation can be just around the corner. It’s hard to believe that something new or even beautiful can come out of suffering.

Photo by Holli Webb Hearn

Photo by Holli Webb Hearn

As I’ve been in my own unsolvable tight place with my wonky head, I have received hope from an unlikely thought – just to give up and rest in the process. I can not bring about my transformation anymore than a caterpillar in its jade encasement. Despite the 20+ solutions I’ve tried over the last 30 years, I have not yet solved my conundrum. So I’ve stopped trying to wiggle my way out. I’ve begun to listen.

I’ve been learning to trust that this place, while it is difficult, is not a dead end place. Like the monarch, God is surely working a transformation in me, as in all the places of struggle in the world. The places that strike us with terror or no-hope are the places where God can change us the most, because we are brought to

Photo by Holli Webb Hearn

Photo by Holli Webb Hearn

God in prayer. We can do nothing but trust that an unseen hand is bringing about some kind of radical rearrangement of our very molecules. Transforming us in the miracle of complete metamorphosis.

The Psalmist says it best, “From a tight place I called upon God; and God answered me and set me in a spacious place.” Ps. 118:5

This Thanksgiving, I offer a prayer of thanks for the knowledge that I am not alone. May we all be rearranged in our tight places and have the faith to know that a time will come when we will emerge, by God’s infinite mercy, into a spacious place. Surely our spirits will soar again.

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