Thursday, July 28, 2011

What I Learned From an Underwater Squirrel

--

Blue on blue, aquamarine Bay meets a California summer sky, world-famous San Francisco skyline stitching the seam together. Thousands of people around the globe would give their eye teeth to live as close to this view as I do! And yet, I am caught between worlds, between water and steel, sky and concrete, natural wonders and city marvels.

The city is not my home, not my native habitat. I don't mean San Francisco, but city in general. I am as much a foreigner here as a fish out of water, as much a misfit as an eagle living underground. I have lived in California now longer than all my other homes combined, but I don't think I'll ever feel like I'm from here. Even our quiet spot in the suburbs is more city than I'd like in my heart of hearts.

There are times when I have a lot in common with the SpongeBob SquarePants character, Sandy Cheeks, a Texas squirrel living at the bottom of the ocean:




I'm not from Texas, and I don't have to live in a glass bubble in order to survive, but I suppose I will have to confess to a certain squirrely-ness from time to time--my family reads my blog, so I have to tell the truth right? =)  And, if I AM truthful, the constant low thrum of homesickness is something I've lived with a long time, first as a kid from Iowa living in British Columbia, Canada, and for the last 30 years as a country girl living in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Yes, I can identify with Sandy Cheeks.

But wait--PLEASE understand--it's NOT that I am discontent! I am unspeakably thankful for my city boy Hero Husband--I believe he's the reason God brought me here and he's the reason I stayed, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat! I am filled with gratitude for the life we have here with the two beautiful, talented children God has blessed us to raise. I am not here against my will--I chose to follow God here and will continue to choose to be here as long as this is where God has our family.

Yes, like Sandy Cheeks, who misses the place she's from but stays in Bikini Bottom by choice, making a joyful life among her ocean friends, I am here by choice, and so I also choose to be joyful here among the people who are only here.  I also choose to look for and notice the beauty here, beauty like the view of San Francisco across the glittering blue Bay from the charming little town of Sausalito. Looking at the picture above, you might think it's easy, a no brainer, and that I couldn't possibly have to work very hard to find the beauty in this place, and most of the time you'd be right. But sometimes, when I've been too long away from "home," too long out of the mountains, too long away from fresh, smog-free air, too long confined by city streets and traffic and people who look through you, or worse, uncomfortably invade your space, it can be very hard work.

I have this sneaking suspicion that maybe I'm not the only one who, in some aspect of life, feels sometimes out of place, alien, foreign in the place where God has them. No matter the blessings in "this" place, there are longings for people we miss, for those other, unlike-here places, things we can't have here and now, and it is a dull ache that doesn't ever really go away. Anybody???

In a moment of clarity I notice it . . . Jesus left heaven to live on earth . . . He knows. He truly knows.

If you know that achy corner in a heart both out of place and right where it belongs, I pray that God would fill you up with His Presence, with the hominess that comes from being in the arms of the One that makes His home in us. I pray that He would give you a "Sausalito" view to infuse your homesick heart with beauty that will weave new joy right into the place He has you.

"But godliness with contentment is great gain." 


Do you ever feel homesick for somewhere else, loved ones you miss, or a way of life you used to know?
How does God meet you there?
____________________________________

I'm a bit of a "Johnny come lately" today, but
sharing with:

Bonnie's Faith Jam:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Made To Fly

--
For two weeks I had been trying to no avail to block out the raucous and incessant screech emanating from the mulberry tree outside my dining room where I do all my writing. Imagine the sound of a rusty door hinge stuck on infinite repeat!  The noise was so unpleasant and distracting, I had to all but abandon my usual love of an open sliding glass door, just to put something of a buffer between my ears and that horrid squawking sound!

One morning, when I did have the door open to let the cool breeze in, I noticed that the squawking was moving around instead of staying in the mulberry tree.  She So Sweet and I went to investigate.  Finally we saw the noisy little culprit who had been disturbing our peace!!  It was a baby mockingbird who had yet to discover he could make more than one sound!

We tiptoed out toward the baby bird and much to our surprise he didn't make any effort whatsoever to get away. Perched in a flowering shrub underneath the nest in the mulberry tree, the little bird sat absolutely motionless, like he thought if he didn't move we couldn't see him.


We didn't touch him, and we moved quietly and slowly so as not to scare him, but we took full advantage of the photo op his stillness gave us. Right away we noticed a little blood on one side of his beak--apparently, learning to fly can be hazardous!



When we had taken a bunch of pictures, we pulled back a little to watch and see if we would get to witness his first real flight.  With us at a safer distance, the little bird took a deep breath, gathered himself a bit and pushed off the branch, aiming for the top of the wood fence between our yard and our neighbors.

Too low!

We hoped he'd be able to turn and avoid a collision at the last second, but no such luck.  He smacked into the fence and fluttered the 3 or 4 feet to the ground and tried to look dignified while he waited for the stars to stop spinning around his head.

We kept watching as he sat and surveyed his surroundings. He looked rather pitiful what with the now explained bloody beak (I'm guessing this wasn't his first encounter with the fence) and with some of his fuzzy baby down poking out through his grown up feathers.  It's not easy to look cool after being knocked silly by a big bad fence.


Seeming to realize he couldn't clear the fence from the ground, he hopped over to the shrub where he'd started and one branch at a time, hopped back up into his launch position.  Once more, he pushed off the branch . . . would he make it this time??? . . . Noooo!  Too low again, but this time he was able to turn and wound up under the big bougainvillea next to the house.  He was stuck in there for a minute until we pulled a branch back to see where he'd gotten to, and that allowed him to free himself.  He hopped out and sat on a brick nearby.


For the next 13 minutes, the little lone mockingbird sat on that brick, flapping his wings every so often, like he was practicing, getting the feel for what strength he could put into those wings he was still so unaccustomed to using.  A couple of times I almost decided to just go on with what I needed to do, but could never quite bring myself to walk away.  I kept my camera trained on him, shooting several continuous sequences of pictures, just holding the release and letting the camera shoot away, hoping to catch the momentous first flight.

During one such sequence, the bird I had started thinking of as Squawk, turned and squawked directly into my lens and with a determined look in his eye, flapped his wings hard--this was no practice!  This time he meant it, and after some creative flopping, he didn't give up and suddenly you could see it all click in his little bird brain and up, up, up he went!!  This time he cleared the fence, and kept right on going! Squawk could fly!!




Unfortunately I was so excited to see him fly, I didn't actually capture shots of him flying (this blurry one of his wobbly start is the best I got), but trust me, HE FLEW!! That was the last we saw or heard of Squawk the Baby Mockingbird that day, but when I see mockingbirds swooping through our backyard or hear them scrolling through their vast repertoire of bird songs and cell phone ring tones they are so fond of mimicking, I always wonder if he is among them and still lives close by.

"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised."  Hebrews 10:35-36 NIV

The perseverance of one fledgling mockingbird is a living example of the kind of perseverance I need to employ in my pursuit of a life of faithful service to my King.  Everything up to now has just been practice, but today, EACH DAY, I need to mean it when I flap my wings as I continue to learn how to fly.  The learning may be hazardous and I may crash and slither down a fence or two while I work out the details, but if I REFUSE to throw away my confidence, if I WILL NOT give up, if I DO persevere, I will fly triumphantly right into the waiting promises of God, the exhilarating life of flight I am designed for, the life God created me to live!

I wonder if you ever feel bruised and beat up from crashing into something you've tried so hard to light upon or fly over? I wonder if you too sometimes find yourself bewildered on the ground, looking up at obstacles too high? If you, like me (like Squawk), have felt this way, or feel this way right now, don't give up! You're made to fly!! God's design will work! Trust Him enough to persevere, and just watch how soon you will make it over that fence!!

Even though that's the last we saw of the obnoxiously noisy mockingbird we dubbed Squawk, that baby bird is still hard to ignore, and that's a good thing!!



Where will you apply some perseverance this week?
___________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Mondays
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"


#641-655
641. Salmon pink bougainvillea blooming like crazy!


642. Seeing a green, inviting, shady back yard where once there was only sun-scorched dirt

643. Getting my email back up and running
644. Every little step toward getting everything squared away with my beautiful new computer!
645. The rustle of the breeze in the leaves
646. Sparky teaching me how to play tug-o-war with him and his nearly indestructible frisbee
647. She So Sweet's Cranberry Lemonade--prettiest thing I ever drank!
648. Getting to hear Brenda Russell perform Piano in the Dark, live!
649. Finding seats in the shade on a warm evening
650. Music so good you have to get on your feet and clap along!
651. Drummer Boy's EP--one step closer!
652. One delicious bite of Kinder's marinated steak at Costco
653. Checks to deposit and Hero Husband's hard work to provide them
654. Sparkling clean birdbath
655. Discussing theology with Hero Husband!

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button

Joining Laura Boggess for:

and joining Jen and her Sisterhood:


A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Unwitting Drift and the Way Back

--
So slow, so easy, the unwitting drift. Eyes all full of the immediate wave . . . and the wave on its heels . . . and all the waves upon waves after that, unaware I'm being taken slowly, surely further from where I should be . . . from where I meant to be.

 

Father, I want to be well!

I say it again and again, trying a new prayer on for size instead of the generic and inexact Lord help me!  I know, even as I make it known to God that I want to be well, I need to be more specific still, but it's a place to start, a place to launch, a place to set a new course.

I am not sick.

I'm just not healthy and fit and ready to rock the heck out of this gloriously gifted life I've been given.

I have wanted to be. I have wished I was. I have lamented and cringed in shame and yelled at the reflection in the mirror I don't even recognize as me.

I miss me.

I am living beneath my privilege.

"When he came near, Jesus asked him, 'What do you want me to do for you?'
'Lord, I want to see,' he replied.
Jesus said to him, 'Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.'”
Luke 18:40b-42 NIV

Jesus sometimes asked people to answer what must have seemed like an obvious question.

"What do you want Me to do for you?"

It wasn't because He didn't know the answer. It wasn't because He wanted them to grovel and beg.


Matthew Henry wrote of this passage, "Though Christ knows all our wants, he will know them from us."


Though He already knows what I need, what I want, better than I do myself, He longs to hear it from me, whether out loud, in a hushed whisper, or less than a breath lifting the needful thought up to Him.

" . . . ye have not, because ye ask not."

What if I ask not because I trust not?
At least maybe not enough.

Pouring out my need into the dust at His feet is the beginning of trusting Him and following where He leads. Yes, I risk hearing no for an answer, or sometimes having Him say nothing while I wait, but never asking is worse by far.


What do I want Him to do for me?

I want His dust on my feet. I want His breath in my lungs. I want His sight in my eyes. I want His heart beating its timpani-deep rhythm of relentless love in everything I do . . . everything I think, everything I eat, everything I write, every picture I take, every word I say, every prayer I pray, every movement of hands and feet and heart and soul . . . I want His love to rule the day!

I WANT TO BE WELL!


Riding the current of God's mighty and matchless love, no wave can knock me off course, no riptide can take me out of His care, and thrilling adventures await in His endless ocean of goodness.




Do you ever feel like your prayers aren't specific enough?
What would you say if Jesus asked you, "What do you want Me to do for you?"
________________________________

Joining Ann for:

And joining Bonnie for:
And joining Emily for:

A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Monday, July 18, 2011

God Is Not Afraid of the Dark

--

"The light still shines
in the darkness
and the darkness
has never put it out."

Caught and captivated by the spangled darkness of a starry and moonless night; the sky seems a limitless ink well, glossy and liquid and black and . . . somehow comforting in the quiet way of shadows.

Just in case you wondered . . . just in case you thought so, the enemy does not own the dark!

Sometimes,
the dark is just
the best
backdrop for
light.

Nowhere is beauty more stunning than in the vividness of contrast, and God is a Master of it! His Shekinah, His powerful, dwelling Presence, blazed glory-fire in a mighty pillar, lighting up the desert nights for His children.  It was not only to give help and comfort to them, but as a warning to anyone who might try to attack . . .

My people are not alone in the dark!
My people are protected!
My people are MINE!!
I. AM. HERE!!!

God is not afraid of the dark! 

"And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it.
They have already heard that you, LORD, are with these people
and that you, LORD, have been seen face to face,
that your cloud stays over them,
and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day
and a pillar of fire by night."

O Father of Lights, how you light up the darkness of this shadowed planet! How I thank You that You are not afraid of the dark and that You will never leave me alone and unguarded in it!! 

Where is God lighting up the dark in your life?
Tell me how God is teaching you through the beauty of contrast!
___________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Mondays
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"


#626-640
626. Slow motion arc of powerful sprinklers watering a baseball field in the morning sun
627. Sound of a home run hit off a wooden bat
628. She So Sweet teaching herself to play piano
629. Anticipation of something good!
630. A tow-headed toddler, barefoot in the grassy park, squealing the delight of freedom
631. The golden shimmer of sunset at the marina
632. One World Vision child, our Suganya who we have loved for 8 years, no longer needs our sponsorship because her community is now thriving!  We'll miss you sweetheart!  Go with God!
633. A seven-year old beauty named Gudiya who needs our sponsorship now! We love you already!
634. Mother-daughter time together and things only the two of us know
635. Drummer Boy taking a stand as the professional he is
636. That true colors ALWAYS come out
637, Fiona in New Delhi who helped me with my data restoration
638. Hero Husband's excellent cooking!
639. facebook chat, night owl to night owl
640. Best possible outcome to a sticky situation!


Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button

Joining Laura Boggess for:

and joining Jen and her Sisterhood:


A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Through A Knothole . . . Darkly

--
It doesn't always feel like this.

Sometimes the thoughts and words and pictures bubble to the surface so plentifully that I can hardly tap out the keys and snap the shutter fast enough to keep up.

But at the moment, my mind is a blank, a blur, unfocused, unsure. If I want to be any kind of professional at this writing life, how can I withstand and overcome this dryness in my creativity. What am I missing? Why am I so empty of ideas?

My heart and life are not empty.

I am filled with the goodness of God, the blessing of my precious family, a life that is rich with beauty and provision despite an extended period of economic uncertainty both for our family and the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Minutes after I wrote those few grasping words, writing about not being able to write, my computer blue-screened to match the blue-screen in my mind. For the last two days I have tried everything I can think of to rescue my computer, but it appears to be down for the count.

Now, stuck both mentally and electronically, separated from my pictures and all the tools I use to organize my thoughts and ideas and all the little bloggy stuff I do for each post, I find myself at loose ends, longing for the chance to get back in the game. Would I have anything to say if I WAS in the game? Or would I be frustrated and avoiding the discomfort of facing a blank screen with a blank mind? I don't know what words would come if I had my computer back, but I do know that

I WANT to WRITE,

even if it comes hard and haltingly. I WANT TO!! And I WILL.

Only after prayer and careful consideration, the new computer is ordered and with that investment comes the responsibility to make Hero Husband's sacrificial generosity worthwhile.  I am thankful, and humbled . . . hopeful and prayerful. I can't see very far ahead, kind of like trying to see through a knothole from a few feet away. My vision is limited and obscured by angle and shadow, but I know that something good is on the other side of the fence.


Dear one, I hope you're not in a dry spell like I am, but if you are, I pray that you would join me in putting your hope in the LORD, the LORD who made you, the LORD who knows exactly why you write and what His plans for you are going to look like when they come to full fruition!


Wait for Him with all you've got, and WRITE anyway!! 

"I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, 
   and in his word I put my hope." Psalm 130:5 NIV


P.S.  Not sure when I'll have my next post up for you--waiting on that new computer and praying that the transition goes smoothly!  Just don't give up on me--I'll post again as soon as I can!!

What are your favorite ways to get out of a writing slump?
____________________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

#611-625
611. The musical sound of She So Sweet's laughter
612. Twilight Zone marathon!
613. FREEDOM!!
614. 4th of July BBQ as only Hero Husband can do it!
615. Fireworks and the "rockets red glare" they commemorate
616. Cinnamon toast
617. Being excited for Drummer Boy and his trip to Canada
618. Surviving the awkwardness!
619. $3 Freddo Friday at Peet's! Dark Chocolate!!
620. A dent made in the laundry
621. Soothing hot tub on a cool night
622. Spicy, crunchy dill pickles
623. Hero Husband and his inspiring, encouraging words
624. The comedy of errors that turned into a fun day together
625. Praying together as a family, even if I do get tongue-tied

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button



and joining Jen and her Sisterhood:


A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Soft Hands, Gentle Words

--
People who know me now would probably be surprised--at least I hope they would be surprised!--but when I was growing up, I had a very sharp tongue, especially when it came to my two younger brothers. As the big sister, much older than both of them (one by 6 years and the other by almost 13 years), I was sometimes left in charge as the built in babysitter, and unfortunately I got very good at using my sharp tongue as a weapon of control.

During this time I can remember my parents' efforts to help me with this.  My daddy used his sense of humor and would tell me to be "Gentle like Charmin." My sweet mom would gently but firmly work to temper my speech into something more gentle, more loving, less cutting and less superior in my tone (tone of voice was big in our family). She would often remind me of a Bible verse that made God's thoughts on this perfectly clear,

"Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." 1 Peter 3:4 NIV

While I was slowly learning this lesson at home, I was learning a parallel skill in the dusty arena of my horseback riding lessons:

Ride with soft hands.

This is the art of working with a horse, and with the motion of his head as he moves, so you can guide him where you want him to go without jerking or yanking, without unnecessary tugging and harsh pulling on the bit in his sensitive mouth. The simple flex or release of one ring-finger on the reins can be enough to gently tell your horse what you want him to do. Riding with soft hands makes for a much more relaxed horse and a better relationship between horse and rider.


I can thankfully say that I've come a long way since my early struggle to tame the sharpness of my tongue. But sadly, sometimes that old bad habit catches me in an unguarded moment and lashes out when it shouldn't. Yesterday, Drummer Boy was the recipient of my mental lapse and I snapped off a biting reply to a tone of voice I didn't like with no compassionate thought as to why he might be feeling short-tempered and impatient. Hero Husband came alongside me and actually paid me a lovely compliment when he told me that my response to Drummer Boy in that moment hadn't sounded at all like "a Shaunie response." His soft-handed approach to heading me back in the right direction was so gentle, I had no inclination to do anything but agree and go apologize to a very forgiving Drummer Boy, only after thanking Hero Husband for his help.

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, 
   but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1 NIV
~~~
"The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
   but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit."  Proverbs 15:4 NIV

Soft hands and gentle words should never be misunderstood as weakness, just as harsh words and heavy-handedness are never signs of real strength. It takes a strong character, one made strong by the Holy Spirit's enabling, to choose a gentle answer and a soothing tongue, even when emotions are flaring hot. I pray that in all our relationships we will demonstrate the beauty and strength of soft hands and gentle words as we cultivate "a gentle and quiet spirit," which delights God's heart!
How do you think our culture has influenced us away from "a gentle and quiet spirit?"
How will you practice using a soft hands/gentle words approach to your relationships?

___________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"


#596-610
596. An Invitation from Hero Husband
597. The true story Hero Husband can tell of being an overcomer
598. Rain in June
599. Afghan food at the Farmer's Market
600. Homemade Triple Berry Shortcake (and the discovery of golden raspberries!)
601. "The King's Speech"
602. Fleeting look at a Red-tail Hawk up close
603. A Scottish accent
604. Family DREAM Summit around the dining room table
605. Photo shoot fun with She So Sweet and her *friend*
606. Blessed time with friends who have come home after 10 years living in another state!
607. Being able to pray for those same friends who woke up to tragic news today
608. Possible new opportunity for Drummer Boy
609. The smell of bacon frying
610. Knowing that praying, when you're helpless to do anything else, really IS DOING something! (Love you Liaza and Jojo!)

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button

Joining Laura Boggess for:


and joining Jen and her Sisterhood:


A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

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