I love it here. Truly there is never a day when I come down the stairs from our master bedroom and those magnificent pines greet me that I do not offer a silent or audible thanks. Same is true for every time we leave our driveway and plummet the forested hilltop on which we live with merely Pikes peak in front of us. Thank you is all I can muster. Its enough. He knows my heart. It was such a long journey to be back here.
Here today, on this hilltop, this 7000 ft above sea level elevation called Monument Hill where I live, I am practicing my Sabbath. As most of you know, I take Fridays off. Away from my home, my husband, my children and every other thing that typically characterizes my days, including makeup.
I step away.
But as with everything else in my life - marriage, parenting, relationships, prayers, eating, who and what I surround myself with - this Sabbath is something I am growing into, not fully doing well, but exploring and wiggling into.
Over the course of these past few weeks, while I have written more privately than publicly, I have also been reading a few books: Mudhouse Sabbath, The Rest of God and Practicing the Presence of God specifically. Mudhouse is a book written by a Jewish convert to Christianity who missed some of her Jewish traditions in her new found faith and, in a coffee shop called Mudhouse, struggled through ideas of how to incorporate them back into her daily life.
Though I have seriously studied world religions both in my college years and throughout my adult life, I admit I have spent very little time on Judaism. Edith Schaeffer, one of my favorite women of all time, once said that Christianity is Jewish. I remember reading those words long ago and thinking how obvious that fact was... but quickly dismissing its underlying truth. Then when Carole Joy Seid sent out her newsletter last month recommending both Mudhouse and The Rest of God, along with quoting Edith, it all came into focus. I quickly checked out the books at the library and have spend day upon day in the sunshine of our portico or at the dimly lit fireside at night - stealing moments from my day to absorb these thoughts, to test them, to decide how I felt about them. And now I feel ready to write again. At least about a few things.
Sabbath for most people is on Sunday. For me it is not. A true introvert by nature, my energy comes from being alone, not from being with people. My days are given 110% of my person in this lifeseason. Any day that I am with my family is one in which I am not resting. Right or wrong, that is true. Brother Lawrence in Practicing the Presence of God said that it mattered not where he was or what he was doing, but that he was always in the same communion with God. I am not there yet.
I spend my Sabbath Fridays reading, writing, praying, watching these beautiful mountains as they rise and salute, cry out in Glory (they do, you know). I rest in Him and try to remember that the Lord delights in me. That is very hard for me. Honestly one of my greatest struggles is believing that anyone delights in me, especially God. But I try.
This morning as I awoke I pictured a Jewish woman lighting the candles, ushering in the 24 hours of Sabbath to her home. For me, its become a setting aside, a turning from the world, a fast if you will, a physical recognizing that this world is not home. But He is. And thus a priority is placed on that relationship.
I do talk with my closest friends on Fridays. In fact I try to. The women who are the clear Provision of the Lord in my life, I try to encourage and honor on my Sabbath, as a form of recognition and thank you to God for giving them to me. They are pillars here on earth and I want to make those relationships a priority as well. In addition to my closest of all girlfriends, I set aside special time with Doug on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. Those are our weekly dates. Again, a clear Provision from God, my hope is to infuse myself more deeply into Doug on Fridays as well. Ill talk more about that in a bit.
Ive talked much over the past few months about my grainfree and sugarfree food changes. I honestly dont think much about the changes anymore as they have just become lifestyle. But I will say that paying attention to what I am eating and how those foods affect me (stomach aches or not, headaches or not, energy or not) has been a very beneficial endeavor. Is this Sabbath related? It is when I think about how the table is used in scripture. He meets us there in so many ways. We are to meet others there. We will even feast in Heaven! Relationships and opening of the heart happens tableside. I was not taking care of myself at the table for a very long time, was merely stuffing myself unmindfully. Certainly, the dietary changes I have made are not salvific but they are a way for me to pay attention, be mindful and attentive, to be thankful for what He has given me and sustained in me.
The act of letting others in....wow. Asking people into my home, my life, is something I have always done... on a certain level. I have mostly hosted and entertained though, not always shown hospitality. Hospitality is a sustaining reception. Entertaining is showing off. Pardon me, but thats the truth.
Learning to say, by invitation, that my home will never be perfectly clean nor my meals perfectly orchestrated but neither is my life, my marriage. my parenting, my very faith...and then ushering others into a sustaining reception of my imperfect life is something I am learning to do. I am learning to ask others to join me, all of me. Jesus ate with people and there he built relationships. For the love, He set up communion, our reminder of His commitment to us, at the table. Im learning how important hospitality, true hospitality really is.
When I find myself scared, alone, unsure - like yesterday when I had to take myself on a drive to recover from a stomach punch of insecurity and exclusion which left me in tears - its my bible verses and memorized prayers which first come to mind as I begin to preach myself out of the the depths of my despair. I draw from the Lords prayer, from His promises in scripture, from the verses I have taught my children and in doing so have taught myself. I must tell you that I wonder in old age, when I have forgotten much, will these be the things my mind clings to. I do hope so. Or will it be the horrid poems of yesterday that I unknowingly admitted into my heart, seemingly never to let go...though I try. Like this one:
"buying bread from a man in Brussels,
he was 6 ft 4 and full of muscles.
I said, do you speak-a-my language?
he just smiled and a gave me a Vegemite sandwich."
And so you see why I would begin to really pay attention to that which is filling my mind. I stopped watching TV sometime back in 2005 or so, but still so much permeates my thinking and sticks. Doug and the girls think Im on the autistic spectrum in this regard. So far there has never been a song I have not memorized upon hearing it only once. And then I cant rid myself of it, regardless. Dangerous, I tell you. Im not trying to walk about quoting scripture all day and being completely inaccessible to humanity, but I am trying to learn to pray like Jesus did, being mindful of who I am and who I am becoming as scripture states. I am trying to learn to pray scripture more, I guess thats the bottom line.
Ok, so I said I would come back to this "body" point. What will teach ME to live as a body, I wondered one day? In the same way it is so much easier to be a church attendant than a contributing member, it is also much easier to go through my days not fully connected to my own self.
I do not think much of my body honestly. I used to, in a negative way, but them I somehow just began to forget about it all together. Sounds odd, probably. Its just not a priority for me anymore like it used to be when I had to weigh in at Ralph Lauren (no, Im not kidding), get pedicures weekly and shave my big toes or else be sent home to get closed toed shoes (gasp). Or have highlights just the right shade of buttery blond or some other requirement for the stage on which I worked. After that lifeseason, my gym times increasingly became farther and farther apart and walks became a way to enjoy creation but not reduce the hips. I could go on and on, but I wont. You get the picture; the pendulum swung. I stopped paying attention at all because I was tired of caring so much. Other things are more important. But as is the nature of pendulum swings, Im resting somewhere back at middle now and looking around wondering how to learn to live as a body, not as fragmented pieces of a woman - to live wholly inside this skin I was given. I am not trying to pray the baptismal covenant when I bathe for the love, but I am trying to think through what the connection is between my body itself and the work it does for God.
Fasting accomplishes a repositioning in my life. I remember a few years back, and Ive blogged on this before so excuse the repeat, but I was sitting in the sanctuary on 13th Avenue South in Minneapolis, that sanctuary where SO much hit me SO hard SO many times, when John Piper, with hands waving as only he can wave, said, "we fast because we miss Jesus!" What? I looked up. What? What did he just say? We do? I never knew that. I thought we fasted because we wanted something.
Stop laughing. I did. I really did. That was only a few years ago, sweet readers. Mercy. Anyway, thankfully I was allowed some time under Pipers teaching and at least a few knots were untangled in my mind. Like that one. So now I understand that fasting is a repositioning.
With a heart for fasting, precious Taralyn, my soulmate friend of many, many years has fasted alongside me, for me, in spite of me (seriously) and probably taught me as much about the practicality of fasting as anyone I personally know. She has taught me that when I am hungry it is easy to remember from where my Provision comes. And when I am not, it is easy to forget. Next month she will be joining the hands of many in Pray for the Horn - praying and fasting for Africa. She has seen the Lord intervene in her life so many times related to her fasting. Not that she has gotten what she wanted, as I once understood the whole thing, but that she has seen more of Him, known His heart more and differently. She continues to teach me in this regard, in so many regards.
Fasting is a repositioning of Keitha. Back to the place where Keitha really is, not the place Keitha can begin to think she is. Fasting teaches me of who God really is, not who I think He is, but who He really is.
Doug turns 30, I mean 43, on Sunday. If the average life expectancy in the US is 77.6 then both he and I are past midlife. Sobering. I have made an internal commitment to buy books for all of my loved ones for the big days in their life. And to write in their covers (very important sidenote). I wrote about this endeavor on the homeschool blog but am sharing it here as well. There are the birthdays, anniversaries, important holidays and such. There are the job changes, life changes, depressions and triumphs which all deserve books in my mind. And then there are the big days of latter life consisting of retirement, selling of a house where you raised your children, moving into a retirement home, turning in your drivers license, etc. To have books in a family library, with inscribed front covers documenting prayers prayed, hoped sent, love exchanged on these big days is rich in my mind. So Ive committed to it. Why books you ask? Well, the bottom line is that as we age, the most valuable thing we can give one another is a constant reminder of who we are, who we are becoming and where we are headed. Books and stories can help us remember. As Doug turns 43 this weekend I plan to spend the weekend reminding him of exactly those things.
The Light of Christ, Thanks Be to God.
This morning, as I mentioned earlier, I awoke and thought of lighting a candle and welcoming in the Sabbath as a Jewish woman does every Friday night in her home. In frantic houses candles are not lit. You find candles lit in houses where people are trying to pay attention. I am trying to pay attention. Candles help me to remember to do just that.
As darkness falls and exhaustion hits I am prone to curl up into myself and my needs. Not saying that a candle keeps me from that, just saying that training myself to repeat as I light every candle in my life, "The Light of Christ, Thanks Be to God", reminds me.
Did you know that in a traditional Jewish wedding (remember Ive been reading Jewish authors lately) the couple does not honeymoon for a week after the ceremony? Instead they have 7 nights of gatherings, welcoming community into their union. I wonder how much community Doug and I have allowed into our union. Certainly there is a line: a too much involvement from others boundary and a not enough boundary as well. Our marriage has been thorny over the past five years. We are not fully thorn free this moment and I now contemplate how much of that thorny space needs have community invited in. What can I do to be mindful in this area along with all the others of my life?
A mezuzah is a smart reminder to the Jewish family. Affixed to the doorframes and based on the Deuteronomy passage, a practicing Jewish family purchases special tiny scrolls of parchment on which are calligraphied fifteen verses from the 6th and 7th chapters of that fifth book of the bible. The parchment is placed inside a decorative tube and affixed on the inside and outside of the doorways of the home. They proclaim the faith of the household.
I wonder what proclaims the faith of my household? How do I make a Christian space out of our very ordinary house? Do the decorations matter? What is the most important adornment? These are the questions I am asking myself as I create this new space in which my family resides. For it is not our Home, it is our current worldly shelter as Doug prayed the other night before dinner. Our Home is with God, but this space where we dwell, where we live, eat, invite others in, pray, nourish our souls and bodies, live out our days, remember and learn Christ, engage in our marriage and give testimony...this space matters.
Thats a summary of this season in which I sit; my thoughts put to keyboard. I do so enjoy writing here. I pray through what God has for me in the way of my writings. Right now I have no idea.