An Inconvenient Work of Refreshment

There is a conference that happens the first weekend of October in Nashville, and has been happening for about eight years. Tickets go on sale in Spring and in the past have sold out in a matter of seconds. I was one of the fortunate few lucky enough to grab a ticket three years ago. I almost didn’t go, and I wrote about that here.  This year I didn’t even try for the ticket, because I just didn’t have the funds or the time.

Until the last minute, a few days before the conference and an extra ticket was offered up on FaceBook. I went for it. I splurged. It was a spontaneous moment. I didn’t really think through all the consequences, I just knew that I needed refreshment.  I needed to be among this group of people, represented by a pipe smoking rabbit. Crazy, right?

Hutchmoot. This oddly named, hard to define gathering of creative people desiring to foster wonder, desiring to instill a theologically infused wonder into our bruised world…this conference always refreshes. Filled with writers and painters, singers and songwriters, musicians and chefs, and people who appreciate all of this. Somehow it even refreshes those of us who don’t get to go, just by listening to the testimony of those who have gone. 

This year, though,  I jumped and decided to attend. Honestly? It was a bit of a challenge. The conference meets about 50 miles from my house. The husband and the eldest were in St Louis at a hockey tournament, while I was home with the other three kiddos. Which meant while the conference was happening, I was running between the conference and tutorials and soccer games and home and friends homes. I was not completely at home or completely at the conference. 

It was all a bit inconvenient. No. Not a bit. It was inconvenient.

You know what?

It was worth it.

The bit of the concert we caught on Thursday night, the bit my husband and two of the kids attended…completely worth it. They got it. They caught a glimpse of what Hutchmoot was about.  The  session Friday morning on hospitality and the importance of the table I caught, after catching a bit of ‘Muffins with Mommy’ at the tutorial (which was thankfully two miles from the conference) with the younger kids…completely worth it. Completely.  Lunch with a friend and a new friend, then driving home with kiddos and settling them in before running back to the conference for a bit of the dinner and evening conference? Well, that was kind of a pain, but worth it. 

Saturday…dropping some kids at the soccer field and other kids at a friend’s house, then watching hockey games and soccer games  on periscope while waiting for sessions to begin, then engaging in sessions and conversation? Yep…you guessed it. Worth it. Deciding to leave the conference before the evening session…difficult. Laughter at home with the kids was good.

I drove 350 miles over two days. I switched gears between parent and conference participant I don’t know how many times. I tried to take notes and gave up. I worshipped, listened to concerts and drove miles. It was inconvenient. It cost a fair bit of money. It was, honestly stressful. 

It took work.  Work for me, work for my friends helping me out with letting my kids hang out with them and coaches giving kids rides home. 

What is the point?

Refreshment is important, it was important enough to work to get there.

Find it. Search it out.

We are in a bruised and broken world.  The week of the conference was the week of the shooting in Las Vegas. The week of brutality and fear and sorrow. The weeks leading up to the conference were hurricanes and floods. Now there are fires.  Our world is broken, bruised and so in need of hope and wonder. Gospel. Refreshement. 

That refreshment takes work.


The conference took great effort and work…we benefitted from the effort and discipline and work of all the session leaders and the workers who put together beauty in words and music and visuals. Months of planning, disciplines that have been developed. Thoughts and ideas and lectures prayed over and discussed and edited and revised. A vision for refreshment and encouragement and hope…and inspiration. And we benefitted. From all this work. 

In some ways, this year was even better for me. I did not get to connect as much with people, but each time I walked in to the building I took a deep breath and had to intentionally change my focus. I had to set aside all the busyness it took to get to the conference…and take in the moments I had there. I had to make the most of the time I had in that setting of refreshment.  The conference took work for me this year…lots of planning and effort to make it to just two sessions and a bit of two concerts. It cost me a bit more, and I paid attention more as a result. 

Now, I am able to reflect and read some of the books I picked up. I’m able to take the time I need to think and to pray and to listen. I am able to hopefully allow what was begun at the conference to come to fullness…and to have an impact on those around me. The work continues now.  The work the conference presenters did continues in me so that I am prepared to offer refreshment to those who are in need. When those come to the door, or to our table…we need to have done the work so we have something to offer.

So…when a conference comes your way that sparks your attention, go. When a book grabs your attention and inspires you and the Spirit awakens you, pay attention. When you find a space that brings you refreshment, be thankful, and go there. Don’t feel bad about carving out spaces for reading and having coffee and finding beauty. Go for walks, and pray. Splurge and go to the conference or the concert. Sing loudly in worship each Sunday. Refresh your spirit and pay attention as God speaks…and make the spaces around you to refresh others. It takes work. It takes paying attention. It takes being intentional.

 Sometimes it takes being spontaneous and splurging and going to crazy conferences with goofy names in the midst of crazy schedules…but they might just give you the lift and inspiration you need, and refresh your spirit. You might just inspire someone else as a result.

(I grabbed the picture of the leaf and the “Every Moment Holy” from the Rabbit Room Instagram feed )

God Made You Special….Remember That.

Thirteen Reasons Why.

 

This title kept popping up on my FB feed, or on suggested lists on Netflix. Maybe because I watch lots of detective shows? I’m not sure. Maybe because one of my kids watched it before I was aware of the heaviness of the show and the starkness of the subject matter.

 

I watched this last week, primarily to discuss with the kiddo. We’ve had some good discussions as a result, with two main aspects I keep thinking about. I would not suggest our kids watch the show, to be honest, but I would guess many of our kids have watched or at the very least have discussed the show with their friends. The age of viral topics is deeply upon us.

 

The show, in case you have not watched or heard about or read about it, follows the story of a high school girl, Hannah, who commits suicide. She leaves behind thirteen tapes, each focused on primarily one person, explaining why she took her life. The tapes are passed from person to person on the tapes, and we follow the character of Clay as he listens to the tapes. He is number nine. The story of why Hannah takes her life is filled with sex, betrayals, false relationships and fear. Loneliness. There are graphic episodes, and the scene of her actual suicide is quite graphic and stark. (Apparently in the book Hannah takes her life with pills, while in the show she slits her wrists in the bathtub).

 

I am not interested in giving a point by point retelling of the show. Two things, however, have struck me, and these I wanted to share.

 

First. There is no mention of God, no awareness of God, no exposure to God, no calling out to God, no reference to God in these episodes. Ok…maybe a reference or two. There is no one in these characters who has a relationship with God. There is no one in these characters who tells Hannah that she is loved by the Creator with a deep and tender and true love. There is no one who tells her she is an image bearer of the One who can love her purely.

 

How utterly different could this story be if someone had spoken Gospel to her. If someone had told her of the redeeming love, the pursuing love of the great God?

 

We have to tell those around us that they are loved. We have to speak and not simply hope others will. We have to watch for those in our midst who need to hear the reality that they are loved and not forgotten, and there is a God who changes everything. The absolute vacuum of anything spiritual in the lives of the kids on this show was stark to me.

 

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.” – Brennan Manning

 

 

Second. Sex. This is at the root of so many of the problems in the show. There is a reason sex is dealt with in Scripture. There is a reason we are given guidelines. Sex is not something to be treated cheaply, or to be toyed with. Especially in the volatile emotional teen years. Sex has such a deep impact on our psyche, on our identity. The bonding of one human to another so intimately….changes things.

When our identity is void of the reality of God, sex holds even more weight. When sex becomes common place in our relationships, when it becomes so casual, the weight of its implications may not be felt until later. The identity of these kids, and they are still kids, is marked by the impact of sex, of rape and of alcohol. They are tailspin. That is too much to carry in the season of life when they are beginning to find their identity as more than children. When that is even more amplified by gossip and rumors…it is no wonder despair results.

Sex should be a beautiful, life giving, wonderous act. Sex should fulfill and deepen a relationship, but when it is shared with so little commitment, or when it is taken forcibly, it shatters the person.

 

When I was in high school I was an awkward kid. I desperately wanted attention and I was too emotional and dramatic for my own good. I was a mess. I also got plugged in to a church early on and it probably saved me. I had a good home life and a good life overall…but that doesn’t always matter. In the midst of things it can seem like your life is the worst ever. In high school everything is amplified. Every insult, every slight, every hurt…it plays again and again in our minds and we can turn nothing into something life shattering.

 

I also got involved with an older guy. We never had sex, but he pushed me beyond my comfort level. It changed me. Thankfully, I had others around me who spoke life, and who spoke of God. Others who reminded me of my identity in Christ.

 

I struggled with thoughts of suicide. I never came to place where I was willing to follow through…never made plans. One night I was the closest as I drove home from church, and I don’t remember what had caused me to be so upset, but as I drove home my thoughts of suicide were interrupted by a car accident. My own.

 

The point is…suicide has been an option and a thought for a very long time. Thirteen Reasons Why is not new.  Teen years are tough, and they have been for a long time. It is the season of figuring things out, the season of finding out friendships are not always what we think, and relationships are exciting and terrifying. The one thing that is new is how quickly rumors can be spread and images or gossip shared. That is part of Hannah’s story in the show, and the impact of rumors and gossip is validly given exposure.

 

Does the show glorify suicide? I agree with Russell Moore, the show does not glamorize suicide, but it makes it an option:

 

“In order to provoke tragedy in a hurting teens life, no one needs to make suicide glamorous; one only needs to make suicide plausible.”

 

The show makes much of what happens in the wake of Hannah’s suicide, and in some ways makes an argument that there is redemption in the characters as a result. Things change. Her death is a catalyst for honesty and even for repair of some relationships, while others end tragically themselves. Apparently, after reading a summary of the novel the show is based on, the show moves far beyond the book. The suicide scene in the show is stark and tragic. Hannah slits her wrists in the bathtub. The book has her take pills.

 

The point is that suicide does not have to be glamorized…it only has to be an option. The show absolutely makes it an option. For those kids who are struggling, who are feeling lost, it would absolutely not be a good show for them to watch. Those of us who are far from the teen years and all the angst, it might be worth watching at least parts as a reminder of all the emotional stress these kids are facing. Hannah’s story may be amplified and sensationalized, but it was a good reminder to me that the kids walking around with their heads hung down and even the kids who are outwardly over cheerful..they need to be seen. They need to not be invisible. They need to be reminded they are loved. They are special.

 

And our kids…they need to hear it from the start, and they need it repeated throughout their lives.

 

 

 

 

You are loved. Life can be terribly hard, and it can be incredibly wonderful. Learn to find that wonder…seek it out and hold on to it because there are times you need to remember the good.  They need to hear as they are older the realities about sex…and why it is not something to be treated cheaply because it is so intimate and precious.

 

 

Life is precious. Life is tenuous. Let’s be gracious with these kids around us, and with the adults as well. Let’s remember what a story can look like when it is completely void of God…the hopelessness and the thinking that there is only one solution. Let’s remember that in God is eternal life is in His Son. (1 John 5:11) Let’s be quick to listen, and quick to share the hope we have.

 

The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. – Buechner

 

 

 

 

 

 

Levity, Laughter and Love

Whew. I opened my computer today and was greeted with powerful news. News of parents praying with fervor for terribly sick children. News of missing children. News of murders and fear and stress…

 

Powerful news.

 

It can take our breath away. It can cause our souls to be downcast. Beyond downcast. To not be able to breathe.

 

Thanksgiving falling in the midst of all of this?

 

Whew.

 

I leave tonight to go back to New Mexico to spend Thanksgiving with my Dad, going through some of my mother’s things. She will be there, and yet she is not there. Such a limbo this Dementia places upon us.

 

Still, 14 of us will gather for Thanksgiving and I know that we will laugh and we will shout and we will eat, and it will be good. Then we will look through things and remember so many memories of laughter and of good, and of trial as well.

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” – Tolkien

 

The laughter is all the stronger, and more healing, when there is mourning mixed. I know this to be true.

This morning I stumbled upon a couple things which brought some light, and some levity, to the powerful news. It made me realize how much I needed some levity, and maybe others do as well. I’m sure most of you will catch this video elsewhere, but I love it and want it here as well.

 

Laughter. I am so thankful for laughter. And music. Books, as well. Coloring books even.

 

Thanksgiving….gratitude for so many things. Even in the midst of peril and darkness, great gratitude for laughter and love.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:15-17

Dirty Socks and Beauty

Oh the difference a week makes!

 

Last week I was still humming in the glow of the conference I had just attended. Tired, yes, but still warm and filled with thoughts of beauty. Filled with hope and with an eagerness to stir imagination in my children. Filled with refreshment from conversations and music and feasting.

 

Today? Well, today there are dirty clothes strewn about the house upstairs. They haven’t quite made it to the laundry room. The laundry basket is overflowing with clean clothes which need to be put away…I was tired after the third round. There are still a few dirty dishes in the sink which couldn’t make it in the load last night. Sweatshirts and shoes are in various places around the family room.

 

Library books are stacked on the kitchen table, next to the decoratively cool turban squash. And an empty Jones Soda can.

 

Somehow there is an empty hair gel container also on the kitchen table…Maddie has been emptying out the bathroom for me.

 

We have a leak in the fireplace that has come under the marble and soaked the carpet during the days of Noah we had recently. Beginning to dry out, but it left an interesting smell and we had to wait until the rain stopped before someone could come to look at what is wrong. Hoping that happens soon.

 

Ah, basking in the beauty.

 

Life is busy; crazy busy. Steve is swamped at work with a project which will culminate the first full week in November. Until then he is working seven days a week. Sports are in almost full swing. Practices are happening and games being attended. Biblestudies are happening and church events. Field trips. Tutorials.

 

Life.

Full and busy and constant. 

Dirty dishes and laundry and leaks.

 

Beauty and afterglow has a hard time elbowing for room. I would love to sit and read for hours, but I have lesson plans to figure out and grading to tend. Where do I fit in this imagination and wonder and creativity?

 

Some seem to do it with an elegance and grace that amaze me, while I feel disheveled and harried. Tacking on my wonder while I hide the dirty laundry.

 

Deep breath.  

That was what I needed.

Mondays are generally a bit messy. I find it difficult to get my rhythm back after the weekend, and I want to start with some silence. The house always bears some battle signs from the weekend, and I know I need to tend to it, but first…I need to tend to my soul. That is part of what I learned last weekend.

 

Beauty, and tending to beauty and imagination and wonder, is not a luxury nor an extravagance. It is a necessity. A priority.

 

That deep breath that gives the strength and the calm to face the litany of things needing to be tackled. It’s not just dirty dishes and laundry. It is parents aging and friends struggling. Jobs with great stress, or friends with no jobs and the great stress of ends not meeting. Deep breath.

 

I need the strength I find in the beauty and the wonder to carry me through the tasks at hand. All of them. Loving well, tending the things in my care…living well. 

So the dirty dishes and the laundry and tidying will wait just a bit longer.

 

A strong cup of coffee and the porch and ancient words of prayer await.

 

Messy Monday….meet a resolved heart.  There will be beauty and wonder here in this house this week, even if a dirty sock is poking out somewhere.