Life In and Out of The Sweet Season

Have you ever had that “sweet season,” when you just seemed to be content and peaceful? You appreciate where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing. Even though life isn’t perfect, it feels like “all is right with the world.” You have a sweet friendship, a sweet job, a sweet reprieve from health concerns, or something else that spurs you to breathe a deep sigh of contentment.

There’s a part of us that wishes we could stay in the sweet season, but we can’t. We can easily become discouraged when we don’t accept the reality that we can’t stay there forever. We need to thank God for the sweet season but not expect Him to keep us there. We would miss out. We’d miss the lessons of hardships and challenges. We’d miss the trust we find when we need to cling to Him through doubts and trials. We’d miss the relationships He forges through the tough times. We’d miss the conviction of correction He gives us when we get complacent or rebellious. We’d miss the appreciation of the sweet season in comparison to the chaos of the seasons surrounding it.

The sweet season isn’t the goal here on earth. It’s the exception that gives us a glimpse of hope and a moment or reprieve. It’s an invitation into appreciation, not an expectation of what we deserve to maintain throughout lives. It’s a gift, not a right.

Appreciate the sweet season, but remember the appreciation mainly comes from the context within the rest of your life.

Receive it as a blessed treat. Enjoy it. Let it prepare you for the next season, which may not be as sweet but still comes with plenty of opportunities to choose contentment and appreciation.

The Stitches of a Marriage

quiltI’ve been working on a quilt to give my youngest daughter and her fiance when they get married this summer.

I’m a basic quilter. I use simple designs and hope the quilts will get used for years, perhaps generations, to come. While I admire my artsy quilter friends and the phenomenal creations they make, I prefer to stick to the basics. Probably because of all the quilts stacked and used in my parents’ and grandparents’ homes throughout my life. They were warm and cozy, and I loved to look at the fabrics and stitches and wonder about the stories behind each detail.

I machine piece and hand quilt. That means, I spend most of my time making small stitches to hold all the layers of the quilt together. It’s a big time commitment, especially with this king-size quilt, but I’m quilting it well. I want it to last.

One of the things I enjoy most about hand-quilting (and other handiwork and housework) is the opportunity I have to pray for the people who will receive it. Whether or not anyone ever uses this quilt, the prayers cannot be put in a closet. I’m investing beyond fabric and thread.

This is the first marriage quilt I’ve made. As I look at the stitches, I’ve reflected on so many different aspects of marriage.

Most of my quilting follows the lines of the seams. It provides strength as the quilt gets washed and spread out and folded through the years. While the lines to follow are straight, my quilting stitches sometimes meander a bit. It reminds me of how we do our best to follow God’s instructions for marriage, but we aren’t perfect. We go a bit crooked at times.

I try to be consistent in the size of my stitches. From a distance, it probably looks as if my stitches are the same, but I see up close. Stitches are slightly different lengths. It reminds me that no matter how consistent we try to be in marriage, we “short” some things and make others too long. In some ways, that’s okay; it shows our unique personalities. But we don’t ignore the need for consistency–just allow for flexibility. We still try.

I go through a lot of thread, and I need to secure the beginning and end of each piece I use. I can’t leave big knots, because they’ll get caught on something and the thread will break, causing layers of the quilt to separate over time. Hiding knots isn’t just for appearances. It’s practical. But those knots are important. Like marriage, we need to be secure, knowing what holds us together and taking care to set those things firmly in place.

The front of the quilt always looks better than the back. The front shows the full pattern. The front is my focus when I stitch. The underside is a bit less consistent, but it’s all the same thread. The back of the quilt is just as important as the front. It’s not a quilt without all the pieces, even if we only typically see it from one perspective. Like marriage, we can’t just look at what we want to see. We need to keep a broad perspective and appreciate the things we’d rather ignore at times: difficulties, vulnerabilities, hurts, and so on.

As I move my hoop to continue quilting, I realize I’m dealing less with layers and more with a cohesive quilt. What once was pieces is becoming a whole. The pieces don’t disappear. They remain intact. They simply get firmly stitched together to create something more.

Marriage is the same.

Lesson from Nature: Moving On

©PurePurpose.org
©PurePurpose.org

“Go across to the ark of the Lord your God in the middle of the Jordan. Each of you lift a stone onto his shoulder, one for each of the Israelite tribes, so that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites…This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.” (Joshua 4:5-7,24)

I don’t know what each person intended by stacking his or her cairn on the beach. Some might have simply thought it looked fun or challenging. Others might have done so in remembrance of something or someone. Each stone, each stack was different. But to me, they meant something. Despite not knowing the motivation behind each and every one, they were a reminder of the lesson God taught me about setting standing stones for Him. Not literal stones, but certainly spiritual stones. As I wrote in Pure Emotion. It started with a painful experience, signified by a large, unavoidable stone…

I dealt with it the best I could (which looking back, seems like not dealing with it at all), and I moved on. A few years later, I could feel it poking at me again. I felt like I was right back at the rock even though time had passed. I felt as if I hadn’t grown or healed with the passing time. So I worked it out again, a little differently, hopefully a little more deeply…and I moved on. Again.

A few years passed and it started sticking out again. I trudged back to the rock. Repeated coping and healing. Fast forward. Trudge back. Repeat. Fast forward. Trudge back. Repeat. It was an exhausting process. I didn’t think about it much in the “in between” times, but each time I trudged back, the effort and pain caught up with me. Each time I thought I was ready to move on. Each time I was caught off guard with the pull back to the rock.

And then, several years ago, I’d had enough. I felt the sharp poking, and I knew what was coming. The exhaustion set in, and I wasn’t happy about it. I was downright angry and said, “God. Why do you keep pulling me back to that place? I thought we’d dealt with this!” I clearly heard his answer in the depth of my soul: “Susan. I’m not taking you back there. You’re trudging back there on your own.”

What?! Why would I put myself through the agony? Yet I wanted to learn and grow, and I was tired of the weariness, so I listened. And God taught.

Consider the trauma like a burn. I’ve never experienced a severe burn, but I understand it’s excruciating. When someone suffers a severe burn, the focus isn’t on reconstruction. It’s on easing the trauma and stopping the burn. No reconstruction can immediately take place. The swelling has to subside. Tissue has to heal. And then reconstruction can take place…after some time.

From what I understand, the reconstruction can be more painful than the original burn. I’m sure there are some similarities. Just as I felt the pull back to the original pain and trudged back to it, a burn victim might feel that initial trauma. Similar pain, but different. The healing that’s taking place couldn’t have taken place at the time of the trauma. But it feels similar enough – and might even feel more painful – and it brings up all kinds of excruciating pain.

After the reconstruction, time must pass in order for the swelling to subside and tissue to heal…in preparation for yet another reconstructive procedure, at which time the process cycles yet again. Feels like the same pain as the trauma. Perhaps worse. But it’s another stage of healing.

And the process repeats itself. Perhaps a little different each time but part of the same journey.

I thought God was pulling me back to the original trauma. But he was healing me a little more along the way. He knew I needed rest in between. He knew it was best for the healing process – and still is. My journey of healing isn’t over, but now it looks like a series of standing stones. You see, each time God worked on me, there’s a monument to commemorate it. I move on from the stone. If I were to camp under it, I wouldn’t need the monument to remind me of the journey. Instead, the stone reminds me of the relationship I have with God. He works on me, and I set a stone of remembrance. And another and another. I keep journeying. Instead of trudging back to an earlier place along the journey, I can stand right where I am, turn my head, and see a line of standing stones as a testament of the dependability of God. I can see and declare, “God was there for me. And there and there and there. He brought me here. And He is here with me, too. I can depend on Him for everything at every place along the journey.” Praise God!

Emotions are moments, not monuments.

We can be pulled back to monuments we’ve erected when we’re experiencing emotional responses. Current pain reminds us of past pain, and we return to the monument. Current frustration reminds us of a pattern of frustration, and we return to the monument. Current fear reminds us of past fears, and we run to hide behind the monument.

But today’s emotion isn’t yesterday’s emotion. Similar? Yes. But if you’re growing in your relationship with God…if you’re asking him to reveal His godly emotions to you and reveal the discrepancies between Himself and you…if you’re drawing closer to the center of His will, your emotions of today only have hints of yesterday’s emotions – an aftertaste. And today’s emotions are a mere appetizer of tomorrow’s emotions. God has a feast planned for you!

Are you ready to move forward, assured in His presence and provision, and savor what He has for you, right now?

Jesus Is Holy

So prepare your minds for service and have self-control. All your hope should be for the gift of grace that will be yours when Jesus Christ is shown to you. Now that you are obedient children of God do not live as you did in the past. You did not understand, so you did the evil things you wanted. But be holy in all you do, just as God, the One who called you, is holy. It is written in the Scriptures: “You must be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)

Holiness includes a strong, complete and never failing hope. Hope is secure, because it’s rooted in the unchangeable nature of God. The hope Jesus provides is available for everyone, but not everyone takes hold of it. With the hope of eternal life—life with God—comes the desire to live by God’s purpose, the desire to live a holy life on earth.

Holiness includes obedience to God’s commands and will.

So brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be only for God and pleasing to him, which is the spiritual way for you to worship. Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

What patterns of living have you changed as you have grown spiritually?

What patterns should you now change to continue to grow?

Live a life that reflects the holiness we find in Jesus.

Negative Patterns

There’s a beauty in patterns. Rows of trees, lines of a web, petals of flowers, veins of leaves. I like to look for the way things fit together. I remember sitting in the back of the family car, watching the utility poles as we passed. I’d try to count, establishing a pattern, so if our speed was consistent, we’d pass consecutive poles on the same count. And I enjoyed the What in the World puzzle of National Geographic’s World magazine, featuring magnified photos and challenging readers to identify the glimpse of something in nature. (Try one by clicking here.)

The consistency of patterns is reassuring – when the patterns are beautiful. I think about the patterns of my life. Some are pretty; others aren’t. What patterns do you see in your life? When you pull back and widen your perspective, what significance do those patterns have on your life, especially on your faith? What will others assume about you by looking at your patterns?

I want to reflect God.

When I think of a reflection, I think of looking into water. But it’s not the way I should strive to reflect God. After all, when you look at a reflection in water, the image isn’t accurate. The size, colors, and lines are all distorted. When we reflect God, it’s more like a photograph negative. It’s not the actual image, but it has every detail of the image recorded in accurate dimension and proportion. Someone can take the negative and reveal the truth about God. Your life becomes a series of snapshots of God for all around you to see.

Develop the negatives of your life. What do you see?