Step Aside A Moment

When life is coming at you full-on force, clarity and intention drain away in the torrent like watercolors bloated with water. The picture we were so carefully painting becomes nondescript, even unrecognizable.

water spray window
Photo by Kimberley Mulder


These weeks tailing our summer feel like this, and I am gasping. At a time when I have emptied my reserves, I find I must rally all strength—not to push through the onslaught necessarily, but to shelter and rest.

Automatically, I push back at force to prove you can’t get me down, and it can seem too vulnerable to go with the flow. It requires strength of spirit, mind, and will to step aside into a quiet space, remember and renew my intentions, and trust I am not losing ground as I catch my breath.
But in these lulls Jesus blots the swollen, running colors until the picture is recognizable again. He is creating my life with me and it is his brushstroke that becomes permanent on my page, not the tearing, striking stormrains motley mess.

So step aside a moment today, take a breath, clear your vision, and let Jesus paint your picture.

Shortly after writing this first part I stopped at the lake nearby to clear my mind. God gave me a speech in the fluid painting of sky, the rush of cloudburst, the whisper of water lapping, the silent wing of swallows, and the flow of colors mutely inscribing awe as it seeped into my heart’s depth with their molten heights. 

sunset over Alum Creek
Photo by Kimberley Mulder

My heart rested in new understanding, in something I didn’t even know I needed to know until God said it through his sunset speech. A sudden intuitive understanding rose within like the glowing gilding of the clouds in relief before me, causing my own cloudburst of relieving tears. And as the sun sank beyond my horizon, I laid some things to rest that had passed away and needed to be let go.

Now the new day can rise without the burden of the old.

I encourage you to turn aside into quiet pockets when life is blasting you with busy-ness or trial to reorient yourself and receive Jesus’s loving strength.

 

I hope and pray you are encouraged by these blog posts, and that your quiet soul is thriving. I want to provide more resources for you, and to do that I have a short questionnaire for you to give me feedback. If you would take a moment to fill it out, it will help me bless you as I build and grow this little ministry. Thank you!

Click here to access the questionnaire.

Also, I am embarking on my Master’s in Ministry at Portland Seminary starting in a week! As I become more equipped to assist you with your spirit thriving, I will need to dial back my blog posts to twice a month rather than weekly. As always, feel free to contact me, comment, share my posts on Facebook, and follow me on Instagram @writerkimberleymulder. I will often write short, in-the-moment, thoughts and observations on Instagram, so it’s a good way to stay in touch.

Courage to Keep Going

Do you have difficulty pushing yourself to try something because you feel self-conscious, or afraid people will either ignore you, make fun of you, or criticize you? Nearly every time I put something on my blog, on social media, invite people over, or want to meet someone, I run into this familiar resistance. Most of the time it’s mild enough I can ride over it like a bump in my path, but sometimes I don’t.

For the last couple of weeks, I have been hearing of others who are making the choice, and asking for prayers, to push past these feelings that hold us back. We can habituate to these common feelings and they become unexamined tendencies. For example, I will retreat quietly, withdrawing to a comfortable status quo. Graciously, Jesus reveals these habits to us so that we can receive his help to overcome them. Those who have been asking me for prayer are responding to Him and taking a vital initial step. 

These habits are a hindrance to taking risks. They are most challenging to overcome. They are the unnoticed, first stones upon a path. At the outset, we veer around them easily and unconsciously, but onward they doggedly, repetitively appear, and we soon tire – didn’t we get past that particular thing long ago? I stepped onto the stage to speak as I trembled in my boots, but I did it, so why is it so hard to do it again? I’ve invited new neighbors over before, even though I knew nothing about them, so why is it so hard to do it again? I’ve applied to jobs like this before, so why is it so hard to do it again?

It’s rather like we set out to climb a mountain, inspired by its grandeur and the challenge, but then are tempted to quit partway because we keep tripping over the gravel and roots. So often it’s the little things that aggravate and exhaust us. We stop partway because we’re tired and the view is good enough.

But courage is not a one-time deal, a rise to one battle and then a long languor in the spoils of victory afterward. It is first a persevering attitude of grit and determination. Second, it is an attitude of grace. Let me show you the difference between straightforward perseverance and one infused with grace.

A persevering person might kick each stone out of the way, frustration mounting, until the path to the top is littered with expletives and pebbles. Yes, she made it, but the joy of it evaporated as the air thinned, taking her patience with it. I confess I have worked hard to make something enjoyable happen, like a special outing to the lake, and not enjoyed it because, during the push of preparation I persevered without grace. By the time we got to the lake, I was so sour that the laughter and happy water seemed to mock me, and everyone (understandably) kept their distance from me!

Whereas a persevering and graceful person kicks the same pebbles away, gets frustrated, but pauses to temper her reactions. She admits her fatigue, the presence of the trials, the thinning air, and she keeps going, but she allows herself enough space and pause to defuse the irritations, accepting her limitations even as she pushes past them.

She paces herself with grace. 

Take this post as an example. I have written, and re-written, and almost posted it so many times. Each time, I’ve run up against frustrations of not liking the writing, or feeling foolish, or excuses of being busy. I’ve felt self-conscious, I’ve thought it would be criticized, and more. Every time I pray about it, Jesus encourages me to keep going. I’ve paused a lot, which is why it isn’t posting at the usual time! However, if you’re reading this, I did it! And I’m glad, even if I’m unsure of it at the same time.

This post is one tiny step toward a larger goal: to minister to the spirits of Christ-following leaders.

One of the most helpful choices I’ve made to progress toward this goal is join Hope*Writers. There is such encouragement, practical help, and wisdom available to people in all stages of writing in this group. This blog, and thus this post, would not exist without them. If you are wanting to take a step toward writing, I can recommend nothing better! Membership is open this week only, Mon. May 21 through midnight (ET) Fri. May 25, 2018. To join, click my affiliate link here. I do make a commission off your membership, which will help me keep writing while also helping you in yours!

Setting out to try your hand at writing is one lofty, challenging choice. Maybe that’s not your path, but you have set out to follow a call, a dream, a degree, a specific spiritual transformation within you, or you are overcoming an addiction, debt, or fighting cancer. For these great and mighty risks, a deep breath, a short pause, or a mantra, are not enough to buoy us over the difficulties. For these we need tenacious grace.

Imagine again our mountain climber. Suppose that, on this gravelly, steep path, a wind also arises, taunting in its vigor as it buffets her wobbly legs side to side. Her hair stings her eyes and cheeks, and the already difficult path becomes almost impossible. When a shocking gust roars at her, she topples, cringing, on a boulder. It would be easier here to stop, beaten. But, with even more tenacious and ever tiny steps, she inches forward. She paces herself with grace – and keeps going even when it means minute progress.

There is one more grace available to her. Her friend is stretching her hand to her. She takes it, and with that grasp, courage rises. We weren’t meant to climb alone. For many it is easier to embark courageously on an achievement than it is to embark on it with someone. We might actually need them! We might be a burden! They might hold us back! But when we go it alone, we deprive ourselves of enormous amounts of grace, and we are MUCH less likely to reach the summit. Hope*Writers are those friends for me.

Our mountain climber summits. She lives out her call, she gets her degree, she becomes more forgiving, she steadily beats the addiction, stays out of debt, or keeps fighting the cancer. And because she’s been tenaciously and gracefully persevering with her friends, the joy is even greater. The grace she employed on the path blooms into a rich, peaceful gratitude that she shares with her friends. The path and the summit each offered her treasures, and she took them both with her attitude of perseverance and grace.

Allow me to ask you, in what situations and what relationships do you need to pace yourself with grace? Do you need to pause more often, slow down, and ask for help? Are you working forward through risk to a goal or a call? How can I, how can your friends and family, your church, or finding a community like Hope*Writers, help you?

Be persevering, be gracious, and be receptive to help.

Pace yourself with grace.

Parenting is a Puzzle

I love being able to look ahead to a goal and work backward from that to establish the step before me today. It’s somewhat like making a puzzle, where you’ve got the top of the box to go by, and a zillion colorful cardboard bits jumbled before you. First step – flip them all right side up. Second step – find the edge pieces. Third step – study the picture and choose an obvious image to assemble first (don’t start with the sky!). Fourth step – keep doing this section by section, until – ta-da! – you have a completed picture!

I apply this in life. To my children. (Do you hear the threatening turn in the music?) As if they were a project, a simple flip of a puzzle piece to be maneuvered into place. The picture I’m trying to make with their lives is obvious – to me.

“You don’t want to do that? Why can’t you just calm down, can’t you see it’s for your best? If you do [insert homework, cleaning, saying sorry, etc.], then you will be prepared for tomorrow by having these skills, so why wouldn’t you do it now?” C’mon, just flip. But instead, the puzzle piece tumbles to the floor, face down, frustrated and unyielding.

If my kids could see and understand the trajectories in my head that thread through their lives today, they might be glad for the direction, but they’d more likely rebel. It’s not their picture. They have their own puzzle box lids to look at and only they can assemble it. God has given them their own puzzle box to follow, and I only see glimpses of it. God shows us parents enough to support them in seeing their pictures, to show them how to assemble a puzzle, but not enough that we can put them together piece-by-piece. What’s inside is between Him and them.

https://pixabay.com/en/child-puzzles-photo-montage-2970588/

Oh, that’s humbling. And it takes a huge amount of confidence in God to not put my hands in the puzzle box, trusting that He will assemble the picture.

When I want my child to behave a certain way, or cooperate with my plans, and I push into steel-edged word-weapons, impatiently enforcing immediate change I know that I am working on my own puzzle, not holding the box to theirs.

As a parent, I know better. I know raising my voice isn’t the right way. I know they have to make their own mistakes. I know that they should choose what I want them to choose because my experience informs that. But that’s my experience, not theirs.

But, dear parent, do you know that Jesus put up with your mistakes and misbehaviors, your past ones and your present ones, even the one you are committing now as your eyes set in hard flint, your voice rises in sharpness, and your blood boils?

“[Jesus] waits, with patience, the opportune moment…Why be more demanding and impatient than God?”

Jesus often waits for years for that opportune moment, for that puzzle piece to click into place. We, parents, need to humble ourselves to the master puzzle maker, for we do not see our kids’ pictures clearly. We, parents, need to have confidence in his ability to work out the trajectories in our kids’ lives. We, parents, need to provide the home for our children to develop their own relationships with God, and we need to show them how to be a puzzle piece in the hands of God, how saying sorry and asking forgiveness is part of our pictures, too.