Seasons of life can look so very different from each other; just as different as June looks from January. As I write, I can look out my window and see the potted garden on the back porch, with a banana pepper right in front of me that looks ready for pickin'. The flowers around here have been blooming as if they just can't get enough of it, and I've never seen so many butterflies around the farm as I have in these past few weeks. Everything out there seems to be doing exactly what it was made to do.
This summer of our life looks very different from last summer. 2021 was tumultuous for Matthew and me to say the least, for several different reasons that were really sad and scary and sudden that happened all at once. But this summer, we are settled into the farmhouse at Pilgrims Haven and we are living simply, and we are happy. I've thankfully gained back a lot of the weight I lost last year, and I've slowly been able to expand what I'm able to eat again without my endometriosis having some kind of painful reaction (still no sugar or bread, but an occasional taste of something sweet to make me grateful for those little moments). Matthew has done a beautiful job of making the house I grew up in into a place that reflects us as a couple but still feels characteristic to the house, and it's a wonderful thing to see him so at home here. My parents have their semi-detached house next door looking beautiful and inviting the way only my mom can make it. We have a precious old dog the size of a Buick. I have my art room set up and I absolutely love to spend time in it. I have a garden and lots of flowers for the butterflies and bees (and me!) to enjoy. It's just been one of those seasons of life (like the one little bite of chocolate) that fills your heart with gratitude and the realization of how lovely life is.
Amidst all this, sometimes I get the inkling that I must not be doing the will of God since I'm not stressed out of my freaking mind. I'm living a simple and uncomplicated life for once, and my brain doesn't know how to compute. It can't really translate. Shouldn't I be freaked out? Shouldn't I be dealing with some psychopath or extremely unhealthy person that strings me out every day? Shouldn't I be paranoid about the next step? Shouldn't I be crying all the time? Shouldn't I be obsessed with whether or not I'm doing what God has called me to do and freaking out about whether or not I actually know what it is?
The other night Matthew and I talked until almost midnight. We were just lying in the dark in bed, fully intending to go to sleep, but we started talking and it turned into about 3 and 1/2 hours of conversation. We reviewed how our lives mirror each other in so many ways: we aren't using our degrees, and at the time we entered college, we didn't even know the questions that we should have asked. We aren't doing what we thought we'd be doing when we were younger. We've both been through some serious trauma that changed us significantly. Some parts of life happened to us as individuals, and we both had to start life over from scratch in a lot of ways. And we've had those kind of things happen since we've been together too. But we found each other, and what a blessing. We talked about the fact that even though right now we don't have a clue what we're doing, maybe it's okay. And maybe instead of worrying about whether or not we are doing the Lord's will, we can just trust Him in this time of rest.
Matthew's having been a Trappist monk for almost 4 years has been helpful to me in a lot of ways that maybe he doesn't even know. I think since the time I was 15, I have not really had a period of life where there was true, real quietude and rest. There were probably opportunities, but I most likely hurdled over them. So now, when this time comes, I watch him, and I see that he simply sits in it and soaks in it.
I told him that if I'm not stressed, I feel as if I must not be doing God's will. Isn't God's will stressful? I ask myself. But maybe that mentality is actually more destructive and harmful than I might think. If I only associate stress (and heaven forbid: trauma) to God's will, then my mentality is more likely being shaped by the enemy than by God. Yes, at different times, God's will can involve stress and frustration. But to wonder if you're doing something wrong or sinful because you're not feeling strung out is not of God. God often does call us to do stressful things, but He does not call us to be stressed. He does not call us to worry or be shaken. When we associate God's will with stress and trauma, we negate His gifts of joy and peace, and cut our legs out from under ourselves so we cannot stand in trust. How could I trust God if everything I associate Him with is hurtful and scary and grievous? He is there in those places with us, but He did not put us in those places just so we can be strung out.
I often have this thought that my faith needs to be able to withstand the worst possible thing that could ever happen to me. And while that may be true, I do not need to dwell in and live in and concentrate on that thought. Instead, I need to live in the light of God's peace, joy, and love. There is enough darkness in this life. I need not invite more. The thoughts and worries of the horrible things that could or may happen are not faithful.
Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. -Philippians 4:8
This verse is written on a little chalkboard in our kitchen, and I need to plant its seeds in my heart and actually tend them.
I don't know what God wills for future purposes from this vantage point of life. Everything does seem kind of shrouded, but maybe it's a shield instead of a thunder-cloud.
One thing I am thinking about is my artwork and writing. Having written a children's novel and working on the illustrations in different chunks and stages, I'm not really even sure where I am with that. But thankfully, I'm okay with that, unlike last year where I felt behind and stressed about it. But if I'm in a chapter of rest, I'll take it (now that I'm learning that it isn't a bad thing!). I do feel that God is leading me to do more devotional writing. I want to try to write a blog once every other week or so at most, or maybe even once a month. I don't feel like I have much impact in this world, but if I can share just a little beauty and light from my life, then that's what I can do. All that to say, I'm going to pray about it.
Stuff from life lately!
1776 by David McCullough
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
The Well Gardened Mind by Sue Stuart-Smith
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
I'm listening to:
aubades (album) by Jean-Michel Blais
The Ghost on the Shore (song) by Lord Huron
Falling Asleep with a Book on Your Chest (piano version) (song) by Lullatone
Quintet in B Minor, Op. 115, Adagio (movement) by Johannes Brahms