The Restoring Power of Wonder

I don’t know about you, but the last week or so has been filled with some heaviness for me. Friends dealing with deep struggles. The things of life that make you deeply aware that we are walking in the midst of brokenness, and that can make us very weary.

I have spoken often on the pages of this blog of the need to seek out and nurture wonder in our lives. Sometimes when our brokenness is most raw, wonder is most vivid. Seeking out wonder is not just a polyanna attitude…it is not just trying to ignore the bad and focus on the good. It is what brings us life when we are most in need.

When I was in college there was a season I was overwhelmed. We were seeing some truly bizarre things happening spiritually, we were young and emotional and raw and we felt like no one was listening to us. My pastor came up to our campus and walked with me and listened. He read through pages of students who were contemplating suicide…kids who felt completely lost who were writing in the public journal in the prayer chapel. Finally he sat down with me and told me that his best advice was for us to stop fixating on all the issues and to begin to worship.

It sounded rather strange in the moment, I’ll be honest, but it was the best advice I’ve had. He was not asking me to ignore the issues, but he was teaching me to refocus. When we fixate on our brokenness and our problems, and the failures and the issues….oh my.

We can become downcast.

We can become overwhelmed, and as a parent especially, that can be a difficult place to be.

When we turn our attention instead to God, when we turn to wonder and to worship…something else happens. When we realize who our God is, when we turn our attention from our struggle instead to Who cares for us, to the God to Whom we belong…that changes things.

Even on the simplest level

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.  Ps 42:11

Sometimes wonder is difficult to find, I know. But I have to tell you…I am so thankful for the musicians around us who are not only gifted in their craft, but who are filled with joy in their craft. They lift us.

The infuse us with wonder.

Sometimes something online goes viral…a music video or a clip of an impromptu performance…and people not only want to watch it, but they want to share it. We want others to see it and be inspired as well.  And I love that. I have written before about the powerful influence of music in our lives, but for today I just wanted to focus on how it can stir wonder.

There are a hundred videos I could post, but this flash mob is one of my absolute favorites…and yes, it was orchestrated (!) by a bank in Spain. I don’t care…the musicians are obviously absolutely loving what they are doing and the crowd is delighted…

Another favorite of ours are The Piano Guys.  Go and check out their website. Take the time to look at their videos, and turn up your speakers. Grab your kids and watch the videos. These guys not only are fantastic musicians, but they bring in music the kids know and they make it fun and engaging…and then they bring in classical music. Still that is not what makes me watch them the most. What gets me the most and makes me come to them when I am overcome with brokenness is the absolute joy they have in the music.

It lifts my soul.

Watch this:

I’m thankful this morning…thankful for the glorious sunshine and a quiet stillness. Thankful for the change of the seasons and for the delight the kids have in seeing the leaves change and the feeling the coolness in the air. I’m thankful for the wonder around me. I am thankful for a God who created us with imagination and with color and with music and with wonder, so that on days when the brokenness is raw and clear the wonder reminds us that there is more. The wonder reminds us that we were made for something more…and that He will restore.

How amazing will that be? If these things are just a taste? Whew…that’s a whole different post.

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Sunroof open, music blaring, taco eating kind of day!

Okay, if you were out today and saw a big blue truck go by and were suddenly assaulted by loud music accompanied by, well, less-than-perfect singing….I apologize.

Today has been a fantastically restoring day. The kids went to their tutorial, and I…to the coffee shop. I started out at Bongo Java, where I read and journaled and sipped coffee.

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FRom there I headed to Mas Tacos por favor…

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This is in a neighborhood where, well, my Mom in her sane days probably would not have wanted to frequent. I walked in and there was a man in line with his wife, who I probably would have avoided if I had Maddie with me. He was missing one leg, and was blind in one eye. He was black. When it was time for him to pay his $18 tab he found it they don’t take cards. He was going to have to walk (on crutches, missing a leg) to a nearby ATM. I am not exactly in the position of lots of extra cash at the moment….but I had enough in my pocket to buy his and his wife’s meal if I was careful with my meal. So I did.

He turned around and thanked me, and blessed me. This rather disheveled, crippled man said, “God bless you, Sarah.” He had asked my name. And I knew very clearly that I had made the right decision and it didn’t matter if I only got one taco.

Then I ordered and the place gave me my meal for free. And I was blessed….and the day continued to revive my soul.

I needed today.

I have been diligent in getting through the tasks of the day, but I have done so with little joy and with more stress because I was viewing the day from the view of tasks to be accomplished. Today was all about enjoying the moment and the place. Today was about a playlist selected specifically for songs that could be played loudly and sung along to with vigor…the kinds of songs that require the windows to be lowered and the sunroof open.

The kids need this version of me…the fully awake, ready to embrace the day me. I know that I will not be able to be is person everyday…but that doesn’t mean I don’t seek it and try to be in this space.

There is so much they will learn about the evil that is in our world…so much about atrocities and hurt that we have committed. I cannot teach them history without their learning these things. Right now though, in these moments where they are still innocent…now is the time to flood them with wonders and joys and glorious things that grab their attention, so that when they face the atrocities they have wonder to balance things.

So. On the list for the rest of this week…for the rest of the school year…more giggles, more dance parties with songs that get their blood pumping and require singing along. More play along with the math and the language. More stories that spark the imagination. More trips to the park. More joy…more intentional seeking out of joy.

Stuck in the Upper Room

The last couple weeks have been strange. I mentioned the other day that I have felt more emotional…felt this need to weep coming on at moments. I’ve been more down than normal, and it has affected the days. The boys have noticed and have been frustrated because I have been more short with them.

I was called out on something and I had to walk away because they were right and I knew if I started talking with them I would just begin crying.

I don’t do that. I usually am not that emotional. Ever, really.

I realized, though, in the midst of this that there are more times than not that I am negative or that I see the challenges rather than the blessing. There are more times that I am aware of the brokenness and the suffering and the challenges around us than the hope…although I strive to seek the hope and the wonder. Sometimes I don’t verbalize the negative, but it is there with me.

When I was rocking Maddie last night, which tends to be my best time for thinking, I thought that I am stuck in that upper room the time after Jesus was crucified and before His resurrection. That time when they did not understand, when they wondered what would happen to them and when they wondered if the suffering and the challenges had been worth the cost.

The world is still broken and although we have the hope of and the knowledge of the Resurrection…I don’t always grasp the reality of the Resurrection. That moment when the hope came into fruition and stood before the disciples and confirmed that the suffering and the cost was worth it.

Sometimes I am stuck in the waiting moment. The austerity of Lent and the discipline of facing toward Jerusalem can be exhausting. The reality of the brokenness and the cost of what it will take to heal that condition. Sometimes I find myself just putting one foot in front of another and staring at the ground…when I should be walking with the awareness of the Resurrection.

I need this rhythm of Lent and Good Friday and Easter each year…the discipline of remembering the cost, the silence of Good Friday and taking in the sacrifice….and the joyous celebration of Easter. The shouts of joy and the music and the celebration and the release from the waiting.

Hope. But not just a vague hope that is unknown…Hope placed in a reality that is difficult to get my head around. I have to learn to watch that door while in the Upper Room…waiting for Him to walk through. Trusting that He will. Remembering all the times that He did what He said. I need to not get stuck in the waiting.

It’s okay sometimes to feel the weight of the brokenness and to long for heaven. I think that is good, actually…Paul understood that well. Things did not become easy after Jesus’ Resurrection, but they changed. The hope is more secure and the cost is seen in light of the victory. I have to live in that balance…not just in the upper room waiting and wondering.

Joy. An Act of Defiance…

“I love you, and I want you to know that I think about you and I am so happy that you are my daughter.”

Words that would have been welcomed, but heard casually, just a few years ago are now words that strike a deep chord and make me pause. In the midst of the diminishing of my mother into dementia there are moments of clarity when I know she truly does know who I am and her statement of love is with knowledge. And there is joy in the midst of struggle as I hear in a way I could not hear before.

When she was always able to tell me she loved me I took it for granted and heard it without much thought. Now, when it comes so infrequently I hear it and I grasp and I listen for her voice and for the change that tells me she knows.

There are, honestly, not many moments of joy in walking through this decaying. Simply watching the graphic diminishing of a strong woman who could challenge you intellectually or cook up a masterpiece, who could play the piano or catch you with her wit…there is no joy in seeing her walk aimlessly, clinging to us for security with frightened eyes.

Joy in the midst of sorrow, in the midst of struggle, like this can only happen when there is hope. Without hope we will simply gird ourselves up for the struggle and wait for it to conclude. We will not allow ourselves vulnerability. When we have hope, we have the freedom to be vulnerable and in that vulnerability to find glimpses of joy.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.” Phil 3:20,21

The hope and the waiting for that Savior, for that transformation is so deepened in watching someone diminish before our eyes. Dementia is such a specific eroding and it steals the thing that makes us so ourselves…our memories. Our history. Our identity. The hope that our God is able to subject all things to Himself…even this loss…is what gives the foundation for joy.

Honestly, without the knowledge that God will do something through this and will restore all this brokenness…there would be no joy. With the knowledge though, we find ourselves laughing in the midst of sorrow and the laughter is all the sweeter. I find myself in discussions with my family that never could have occurred if Mom had not become who she is now. The struggle makes the moments of clarity she has and the intimacy we have as a family all the stronger and all the sweeter.

The joy is an act of defiance in the midst of the struggle. It sneaks up on us and strengthens us when things are bleak…because the joy is the seeping of the truth that we are held by One who has the power to subject all things to Himself. He sees and He knows and He hears and He will make even this new. 

Whatever the struggle we face, we have to have the courage to face it well. Without hope we will just get through it, endure. With hope, we have the freedom to experience the struggle and we will find joy.