Until they could NOT GROW anymore
And then -
With their flowery heads and orange eyes
turned toward one another with a nod -
And the release began -
The letting go
The giving in
The freedom to be
And not reach anymore.
Decorating their earth with white
They sprinkled their surrender around
And let the scent of it float.
And that -
THE RELEASE -
Proved to be -
Their awaited glory.
I think there is something worse than burning out -
And that is being a wet log that doesn't burn at all.
Cheers to the passionate.
I woke up this morning out of a bazaar dream. Sunscreen. I had a dream that I put sunscreen on my face, turned around and looked into a mirror. My reflection in the mirror revealed excessive sunscreen; blobs of caulk-like white plastered around my face. I tried to rub it in, but that only made my face increasingly pale. “I didn’t even need sunscreen!” This clear thought shot through my brain and I woke up.
One foot in front of the other I crawled out of bed. Today is my first day off in a very long time. Two months ago I accepted a full time job, a very full time job. Demands and deliverables have been driving me fast, somehow graced by my own genuine excitement and sense of purpose in the role. Busy, nonetheless, very busy.
Four large trees tower over the roof of our house and I stare at their jagged branches. The leaves on them are full - creating a canopy of shade on our deck. Shade.
The Lord watches over you. The Lord is the shade at your right hand.
The Word washes me and I hear Him, “You don’t need sunscreen, Katie. You need to respect the role of shade. Get into the shade. I am Your Shade.”
In that moment, I understand my dream:
My face – myself
Excessive sunscreen – my fear of getting burned, burned out
Mirror – a reflection of my fear
My thought – an invitation to trust God instead of self-protecting
Self-protection is a big deal. It limits my personal freedom. Trust in God to protect me in what He is calling me to is a bigger deal. It liberates my present.
Is it possible to be in full-time ministry and not burn out? I don’t mean the obvious crash, burn, and quit of external burnout. I mean the subtler, unnoticed, layers of internal burnout where people lose their personal sense of “life abundant” and “my cup overflows.”
I fear that.
The trees shake with the wind and the shade shifts.
I sense my invitation – "Don't fear the increase, Katie, trust Me, make use of the shade."
Its easy when people’s expectations are increasing, to start living in response to them, for them, because of them. In that space plaster me with sunscreen and even then I would probably do well to just hide. It is not safe. But … I believe there is a better way. Instead of self-protecting, I could up my ante on following Holy Spirit's voice. Let Him be my protector; listen, respond.
When Holy Spirit says take a Sabbath – take it.
When Holy Spirit says turn off my phone – turn it off.
When Holy Spirit says walk away from a need – walk away.
When Holy Spirit says do something for myself – do it.
I think that becoming a better follower of Holy Spirit is how we can position ourselves to steward increase in a way that supports rather than threatens our personal needs. This requires a die-hard commitment to Him as the primary leader in our lives.
After all, who is really driving us? Is it Him?
It’s a brilliant hot day in my life and I plan to enjoy it.
But the dazzling favor of man, I refuse to work to maintain.
Sunscreen is not my solution.
The Shade is.
The Lord is the shade at my right hand.
For weeks this field has lived with its mouth wide open; gulping down mounds of snow that compiled during the blizzard. At last it soaks up the last layer of moisture and a full beard of green re-emerges.
Sometimes it takes time, but green always re-emerges.
The sunbeams dance off this plot of land to showcase its' transition. It has become a field again, freshly liberated from the persona of being a stretch of winter on display.
Winter doesn't last forever.
The soil is saturated. You can all but hear the buzz of new things racing to the surface. Sprouts will explode up out of the soil soon, and litter the land with new life.
Winter saturates the ground.
But the air is still cold. The sky will still swell at times with white flakes, the wet land will still become ice overnight. The ground presents itself ready, but the air needs more time.
Premature change ends in freezing.
The fading of winter is a process. But my heart is encouraged because the least I know is that something is changing. I am seeing green again. I have drunk to capacity of winter. The last layer of it is being soaked up.
I was taking a walk recently and saw a boy standing in his driveway blowing bubbles. He had brown knickers on and a shaggy blue shirt. He looked to be about six years old. His hair was dark and his eyes intent. Bubbles.
My sidewalk steps neared his bubble terrain and I noticed a faint sound of speaking coming from his mouth. His sense of personal space, some imaginary drama, was apparent and I obliged to cross the street and walk on the other side.
It was a kind gesture on my part, but not entirely sincere. I was actually quite curious what he was experiencing and feared that my nearness would squash it. I slowed down and leaned into his mumblings as I passed by. To my surprise, I found that he was talking to each and every bubble until it popped, and then he would start again.
Blow the bubble.
Forge a connection.
Let the bubble pop.
Have I ever seen someone so successfully living in the present? I mean, why forge a connection with a bubble that is going to pop? And why not blow a thousand bubbles all at once?
Living in the present - on display.
I have been very busy the last few months. Racing, chasing, pushing, striving, diving, cartwheeling - to get stuff done. This season, however, I want to stop and take a lesson from the boy with the bubbles. I am challenging myself to be present; forge a connection with whatever, whomever, is in front of me.
This is a my season’s greeting: The boy with the bubbles invites you to step out of the raw current of stress and engage in the moments of your life.
Friends, let's not let "busy" rob our joy or validate our excuses for misery. Let's determine to enjoy ourselves - one fleeting bubble at a time!
Sometimes we are the most beautiful
When we feel the most out of control
Because our colors are liberated
When we truly - let go.
I bend down and thumb through a pile of shells. "Victims or survivors?" I think to myself.
On one hand, these shells have been beaten, tossed, lost. They have been separated from their counterparts; textures erased by the pounding of water that spit them out of their home. Shells, literally, are all that are left, victims of the rage of the sea.
On the other hand these shells are the few who made it to the shore. Riding what came against them, they did not drowned, they did not shatter, they rode in on their opposition and are now littering the ground like gems. A whole shell cannot be taken for granted; it is most definitely - a survivor.
I worked for a few years full-time in Anti-Human Trafficking. When I first started with the organization, I was an Administrative Assistant to the Director - a passionate modern day Abolitionist. One of the values she engrained in me from the first day was, "We do not call people victims, they are survivors." I was tasked with sorting through correspondences, articles, and materials to meticulously delete any instance of "victim of trafficking," and replace it with "survivor of trafficking." It seemed to me an odd pet peeve of my boss … until ...
I was sitting in a prominent conference on Human Trafficking. One of the hosts escorted a young girl to the stage who had agreed to share her story. She had been trafficked and sold for sex for a number of years. At the time of this testimony, she was fourteen years old. The room stood to their feet and applauded wholeheartedly as she approached the podium. Tears streamed down our faces as we, the audience, fought to find the honor she deserved. Before she even said a word, I finally understood … survivor. Every minute I had spent deleting the word "victim" from materials about human trafficking felt well worth it. She was not a victim; she was in every sense of the word - a survivor.
Immersed in this work for a few years, I find myself living with long-term effects on my perspectives. One of these is the value of seeing people as survivors instead of victims. People may seem very broken, but what if we don't know the half of it? What if the fact that they are even alive is testament to their strength?
Friend, consider it for yourself. What if you are not a victim of loss, divorce, addiction, abuse, disease, loneliness, rejection, re-location, miscarriages, stress, poverty, disappointment, etc. What if you are a survivor? What if you are one of the few who hit the shore with a determination not to give up on life after internal or external pain that could easily have shattered you and left you on the bottom of the sea?
And consider it for others. What if the pain people have endured needs to be honored before they know they have the strength to heal?
I have found that seeing people as survivors empowers them to understand their own strength, which in turn inspires them to heal. I cannot tell you how many people have begun to heal from the simple recognition of, "Your pain matters, and I am amazed that you have gotten to where you are today."
You, my friend, are in my book - a survivor.
… and so is that tattered homeless man you pass every day.
Dare to see.
Survivor = "a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship or set back."
A pile of shells.
A pile of prized heroes who are - against all odds - here.
I met a man last week who grows purple peppers. His stand was located at the back corner of our local market. I was exiting when his sign caught my eye, "Homegrown Purple Peppers!" My posture perked up and I thought to myself, "I am about to see what I have never seen before!"
My eyes perused the scene for purple and then suddenly I realized that my excitement had drawn the eyes of another to me. Then we met. The farmer behind that stand and me. Simple eye contact was enough to know that we both value an invitation out of the ordinary; an invitation people were likely walking passed all day long.
This weathered man with his wrinkles, bright eyes and queer sign motioned me to his stand and I humbly obliged. He then pulled a basket out from under the table and said to me, "These are my darkest purple peppers, and these are for you."
I stared wide-eyed for a moment and then unashamedly made some loud and happy noise. Twisting those purple peppers in the air, I adored them like diamonds and then plopped them into my bag with a broad smile and satisfied sigh.
The man chuckled. Our eyes met again - as we realized that we had both just made a new friend.
Two grins. Departure.
When I got into my car afterwards my first thought was, “That interaction could not have happened online.” Odd thought? Perhaps … but its something I've been thinking about.
I heard about a man recently who was very lonely. As a result he decided that he was going to start choosing human interaction whenever it was his choice. This meant going into the bank teller instead of using the drive through ATM, shopping in person instead of online, stopping at the cash toll booth to look the person in the eye and say “hi,” … and so on.
In his own account, his feelings of isolation and loneliness began to dissipate. The interactions were not deep, meaningful, or profound. They were just interactions.
Face to face interactions with people breed something in our lives that cannot be fabricated any other way.
Food for thought.
Purple food – for thought.
Katie Luse is a speaker and writer who is passionate about navigating life with eyes on a hunt for beauty.