October 29, 2011

Spend Yourself {Day 28} :: Live loved (part 2)

Back up two years and I am carrying baby number three in my belly. I am tending to little children at home and caring for big children at work. I am worn out and when fatigue sets in, fear becomes my  default. I worry all over again about doing and being enough. It is getting the best of me and I feel like I am living with tunnel vision. Sometimes we just lose perspective.

We just need to be refreshed.

My husband reads me like a book and he knows when I am all poured out. For two years I follow this woman, each night, from my computer screen and she writes words that usher me closer to Jesus. In the morning, I kiss him goodbye and speak of a weekend retreat that is full ... she will be there. I sigh. "Oh well," I say.

It is ten hours later when he walks in the front door, tells me I am all signed up. "But how," I ask. He replies with that matter of fact grin. "Sometimes you just need to let me love you."

There are just a few odd factors ...

"You have to go to Arkansas," he says. "And the retreat is silent. And it is in a monastery. I think you should go..."

The whole thing is crazy but he makes a weekend plan for himself and the girls. He writes me a letter that reads, Just go feel loved. Go get some perspective.

So I get on a plane on my birthday with a big baby bulge and then I drive curvy roads with spotty GPS, into nowhere Arkansas. I cry nervous tears and can't remember why this was a good idea. When I arrive, the ladies are lovely. We will begin silence after dinner, get all our talking out over chicken and rolls. Tea.

Her plane is late and she isn't there. I watch for her and I don't see her until the next afternoon when we join monks for routine prayer. They gather here five times throughout the day, every day. Their chanting is melodic, rich, and full of truth. The bell tower chimes, calls us together on the hour, and she is sitting head bowed. Listening. Waiting. And for two days we mingle, quiet. Walk the gardens. Browse the bookstore. Stand in meal lines. I watch as she stands still at the end of the hall, in front of a carved picture of the Last Supper. I won't know until she speaks, writes her book, what reminders like these mean for her now... for us.

We eat supper too, awkward together at a round table, meeting eyes and clinking forks on melamine plates. She closes her eyes at dinner, the way she does in the church. Takes it all in.

Three times that weekend she speaks, for all of us. Every time she stands tall to share her words, I am more certain of Him, not by what she says but by what she does. I can see that this is not where she is  comfortable and she admits it freely ... says she feels "safer in story." She does beautifully. She talks of "Eucharisteo," gratitude and grace -- how these words changed her life, how "gratitude always precedes the miracle." She is brave and she is radiant and I believe her.

In my quiet room alone I can't figure out what I am doing there, silent. Is this silly, I wonder? This quiet weekend so far away. With the monks? I know He is asking me to be still, and know.  But what?

I re-read Todd's card. Go. Get refreshed. Know you are loved.

She speaks again, about how, if we will slow and encounter Him, we will really see. See the gifts. And when we see the gifts, we can know with certainty that we are loved. Blessed. She tells of Abraham and of God when He promised, "I will bless you and you will be  a blessing."

She calls this living loved.

And I know why I am there. It is time to slow and take eyes off of me again. See Him. Everywhere and all over this life. She says "our lives bleed story" and I am sure of it that day. I am blessed . I can bless. These are her words and this is a radical change in living. She teaches us at a horseshoe table to record our gifts so that we may begin to see. My list of 1000 begins that day.

1. husband who loves to be dad
2. anticipation of spring
3. new kindred friends.
4. revisiting old places
5. little girl voices on phone
6. coffee warm and good
7. words that inspire
8. new journal filling page by page
9. tiny boy growing in womb
10. pictures of babes eating donuts
11. warm green house and thoughts of a garden
12. bell chimes on the hour
13. sweet inspired Ann
14. fresh words from the Father
15. learning to live loved ...

I hug her and He has woven her a special place in my little story. She won't know what this time has meant, what her living brave has done for me. What it will do for so many. I fly home to my love and to my life. I am a little lighter. "I am blessed. I can bless ..." (Ann Voskamp)

I pray you stop by at A Holy Experience where Ann whispers pure beauty and grace, daily. For His sake, and for us too. And her book, One Thousand Gifts? Reading it and giving it away this past year has been one of my greatest joys. Again, be blessed.  

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