Pruning the Good

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At the end of each growing season, the vinedresser prunes the branches that were most productive during the season. Rather than have them sap the energy from next season’s fruit by growing the branch, they will cut the branch back drastically. Even though it has been highly productive, perhaps even because it was highly productive, it will be pruned. When the new growing season starts all the energy stored up in the vine is able to find┬áits way to the new fruit rather than the old branch.

When I read this I had an “ah-ha” moment. Finally something made a bit of sense about the last year and a half. You see, while I wasn’t altogether surprised by my move to Chicago, it wasn’t one I was quite ready for. I felt like I still had so much more to do where I was. Not only that but I had people around me that I was able pour into and who poured into me. I had family, impact, and many plans.

Yet God very clearly moved me to the city. I’ve loved living here, don’t get me wrong. As I’ve often mentioned, Chicago is the first place that I’ve truly felt at home. Granted most of that had to do with my internal peace and healing, but still there is something about this city that makes me come alive. The people, the food, the energy, the lake, the opportunities, the diversity, the brokenness, the beauty that arises even out of the worst situations are all things I’ve found in Chicago. This is where I know I’m suppose to be.

Still I feel like my right arm has been cut off. Outside of a small group of people, I’m not involved in the lives of others as I once was. I no longer do life with people who I could call up at a moments notice, who worked side by side with me in my neighborhood, who I was able to disciple and pour into, who discipled and poured into me. For the first year, I attributed it to moving, getting established in my new work and world, and the reality of proximity. But I think there is something more at work. I have a sense that in this second year, there is something that will come out of the pruning of the good.

Rather than bemoan the fact that I’m no longer tightly connected to the people I love so much, I need to see what is right here. Who and what is God raising up in my life right now? What is God about in this moment? If I focus on then and there, here and now will be lost, as will what is to come. I either trust God and let him prune where he sees fit, or I don’t trust him at all. There is no other choice.

God prunes the good for a good reason. Prune away, Master Vinedresser, prune away!

Retreat

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This October is a retreat month. I’m not retreating from life, but retreating to recapture and redefine life. Yet these retreats have been hit or miss, sporadic and unconventional. I started the month praying, “God, what would you have me know or experience by the end of the month?” The only response that came to mind was a prayer to remember who I am, God’s daughter.

Two weeks into the month I disappeared for 24 hours. I had hoped it would be 48 hours hidden away among the prairie grasses, talking trees, and babbling brook. But it was just 24 hours that allowed me to reconnect with the stars and my art. I even got a glorious fire. Surely that escape provided the answer to my question, “God, what would you have me know or experience by the end of the month?” Sadly, no, it did not answer my question. Just the gentle prayer, “Help me remember who I am, your daughter.” And a word to meditate on, “Courage.”

And now the last week of the month is here. Once again I have taken time to retreat from the noise, as least as best I can. I have absented myself from Facebook for the week. Well, mostly. A shooting outside my office on Monday was detailed, and articles that I find worthwhile have been shared. Yet I have restrained from checking and filling the void with the noise of Facebook posts. Rather than looking outside myself, I am forced to look inside. It’s what I wanted, what I’ve longed for all month, but now that I’m looking I find the inside is a little cluttered.

The clutter is my old habits of thought and emotion. I find myself tripping over things that no longer have any use or validity. Whether or not I actively purged them from my life previously or not, I’m now seeing them as something unfitting for my life. The house has changed, the layout is different, yet the same old custom pieces from the old place are here. They don’t fit. They stick out, disrupt the flow of space, and simply look wrong in this new setting. Other pieces have been moved in to fill the gaps, but now the old pieces are ill-suited. They must go.

I’m not a big fan of clutter. This might surprise you if you saw the paper on my desk – at work and at home – or the piles of books that line my bedside, yet those have purpose and flow. Some times the piles are bigger, some times they are non-existent. It is “stuff” that I am constantly purging. If I don’t use it, need it, or love it, I lose it. It is now time to lose some soul furniture that I no longer use, need or love.

It is time to immerse myself in the new world of belonging, engagement and kinship. I need to deepen my understanding and experience of what it means to be God’s daughter. I need to learn a new language of inclusion (of myself) and embracing. I need to know what it means to have the courage required to move beyond “just” healing and reconciliation and into growth, expansion and joy.

Pain & Weakness

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After a fall, sometimes all you can do is pick yourself up and keep going. Sometimes you need to dismiss the pain, take a deep breath, and put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you need to show more courage than you feel in order to keep going. And sometimes you need to let your pain show and your weakness be exposed.

Today I fell. Unable to mask the pain because my neck and shoulder issues are too serious, I was able to disguise enough of the pain to continue with my meeting and then to have dinner afterward. At first I just wanted to go home, because I knew how bad that fall really was to my body. Pain was shooting down my back and not just through my shoulder, though that was bad enough. I knew, however, that as soon as I got home I’d break down, and I did not want to do that. I didn’t want to spend the evening in pain and broken. So I shaved off an hour, distracted myself with good food and company, and ignored the pain and shakes.

As an adult, we rarely have the luxury to be sick or hurt. Work, responsibilities and life wait for nothing or no one. Yet sometimes brokenness happens. In this case, it was physical. In other cases, it is far more complex. For me, this particular physical brokenness highlighted how much I absolutely hate being weak.

For decades I treated personal weakness as the greatest sin imaginable. Others could be weak, but I could not be. If I was weak (which of course I was) then I would deal with it in private, not letting anyone know. Clearly that was a recipe of disaster.

I’ve learned how to embrace my weakness, in all its forms. I’ve learned that my weakness is what will keep me approachable, humble, and connected to others. Yet it is not easy. I don’t do weak well nor easily. My tolerance for pain is quite high. My ability to ignore an ache has been cultivated over many years. Still weakness is not something that sits easily with me.

But tonight I am weak. The pain has eased, but it was greater than I let on. Now I’m simply tired of keeping it at bay. Tonight I let my pain out, so that in the morning I can start anew.