Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Word For 2014

The kids and I have been down and out with hacking coughs and congestion since the day before Christmas.  For myself, I wasn't entirely surprised, as I'd felt the stress mounting--up, down and up again.  It was stressful this year, even as much as I used to think Christmas was never a stressful time, I felt the pressure accumulating thick.

The funny thing is, when Christmas morning came, there was a release.  All my ideals came to a thudding halt, the noise turned down and there was a stillness.  And I realized how much of my worry and the pressure I was carrying was because of my choice to entertain it.

Woosh, another Christmas gone.

The cold of winter brings a sense of barrenness.  I've been collecting myself, thinking of ways that I can continue to be in awe this season, to be stimulated and filled up, how I can give thanks all season long.

I'm thinking along the lines of less TV and electronics, and more outdoors.  How I'd love to hike around Jones Creek with Husband, and tromp around the property with my Nikon strapped around my neck, documenting winter in images.  There's something in this season for me, beyond the mothering, writing, reading, studying, long runs, and a few winter bathes.  Whatever it is is waiting for me.

I haven't settled on a resolution(s) this year.  I haven't done that for a couple years, as I've learned like many of you that resolutions can become problematic.  I want to breathe in each day knowing I've given my best and it must be simply so.

Last year, I did choose a word to focus on, and I liked doing that because even though it is just one word, it can be all encompassing.

The word for 2013 was WRITE.

What's funny about me and writing in 2013, is that I did less in a sense, but what I did do, was more.  Without plans to do so, I blogged less.  Then later, I decided that my blog needed some fine-tuning.  I felt the authenticity of SFS slipping between trendy-natured posts and a pressure to write more regularly to "have a successfully read blog" (i.e. increase numbers), than to write hard and meaningful for me, and if it so happens, for others along the road of exchange--however that happens over the interwebs.  I've watched a handful of blogs that I love become so overrun with marketing, links, products to buy, etc. that I've actually quit reading.  I'm making it a point to go and seek beautifully written blogs for their content, alone.   I love a good story.

My word for 2014 is EUCHARISTEO.

In the Greek translation, it means to have joy and to give thanks.  I first learned of this word last year when reading, "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp.  It's a book that has altered my thinking; it has firmed me up spiritually.  I've found that in giving such thanks there is an exchange that occurs.  I give You my broken pieces and questions, and You give me Your comfort, unending love, Your beauty, and deepen within me a joy for life in its intricate and fragile mess of wonder.   "Thanksgiving always proceeds the miracle."

"The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace.” Jesus took the bread and saw it as graceand gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy."  Ann Voskamp, The High Calling

The thanksgiving is a way of life.  It's a present term; active and free-flowing.  It's words falling off saddened lips of loss.  It's thanks during disappointments that have penetrated deep.  It's the thanks for the blessings which have miraculously arrived after doors have slammed shut.  The thanks keep me in close relation with God, it keeps me joyful, and it keeps me humble, too.

Here's to eucharisteo; here's to the exciting New Year!

Did you do a resolution or do you have a word for this year?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Merry Christmas!
Blessings to you and yours this holiday and throughout 2014.

With love, The McCully Family
 Nathan, Cassie, Brooklynn--7 1/2 & Asher-- 5 1/2

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Stories and Mourning: These Gifts God Gave

All the stories the rooms could tell...
It was wet, with rain tapping on the skylights for the better part of the weekend.  So wet, that when I noticed the fruit bowl was empty, I decided against walking into the front yard to pluck an apple from our tree, and opted to nap instead.  Rain drains deep, I guess.

Do you ever find yourself in conversations that you aren't sure you're supposed to be in?

Three scenarios took place over the weekend, and each time I felt like I had walked in on a private matter, uninvited.  Except I was invited; I was the receiver on the other end.  But unlike conversations with a beginning, middle and end, I felt like I was getting served a double portion of mystery, ache and struggle, with no conclusion.  Just a whole lot of subject matter to sift through and eventually file away into the compartments of what I've been told about life.

They were stories leaking such heartache, that cause you sit there torn up with emotion for a person who has no idea that you're even thinking of them, or their loss that was so deep, or the tears they fell that finally ran dry; the facet finally shutting off.

It was the news of the mentor, who means well, who may have given very bad advice.  Advice that caused a divide so deep, that it took a hefty stitch from another receiver to repair the tears.  The thought that one who means well, could give divisive advice in the name of Jesus?  Reconcile that on a moment's notice.  

It was the conversation with a new acquaintance that ran circles and circles and circles with long explanations for his life lived unconventional, housed in a VW bus, a week out from being shipped to The Islands.

"I'm living on the sand.  But I don't have a house, cause I'm still running.  But when I build a house, it's going to be on a rock," he said.

Confused by his need to tell me why the VW bus, the sand running, the here, there, everywhere, explained in story, unpacked with analogies, I finally offered,

"You don't need to explain yourself.  Just be."  He looked at me eyes slightly squinted, half smiling.

Though I did manage to say four our five more things in those two hours, I felt it my responsibility to be a receiver that night.  He had much to share, explanations to give and circles to run.  His whys were not for me, but for himself, so I listened on.

One of these days I suspect he'll get tired of running, and just be.  Maybe on the Islands, or maybe back in the Midwest.  Maybe his past love--the one whose visa ran out, will come after him again.  It's hard to catch a person if they're running.

As much as these stories petitioned an unsuspecting visit with mystery, ache and struggle, and as much as I wanted to forget how they made me feel on that long rainy car ride, or on the couch with two sleeping babes curled beside me, wisdom beckons me to scoop them up and take them with me.

It's as though God was telling me, take these stories.  No, here.  I know they're not yours, but have them. Be burdened by them for a minute.  Because they are real.  And of the people around you.  These stories are the people walking by and beside you each day.  I'm building compassion in you.  It's one of my greatest virtues.  To be able to give more, you must know more.

A year and a half or so ago, I had felt that my passion for my work in peer abuse prevention and spreading kindness, was running dry.  I'd been pushing away my dealings with prevention, because I wasn't quite sure that I had yet entirely faced my own story of abuse.  I fought with myself over what healing looked like and whether or not I could in fact be a voice or a vessel of hope.  But on a good day, during that time, I prayed to God with the Hillsong lyrics:

Heal my heart and make it clean / Open up my eyes to the things unseen / Show me how to love like You have loved me / Break my heart for what breaks Yours.

My timing must have been off.

I fell into despair, heart cracked for friends dealing with heartache and loss.  I learned fast that God is quick to answer a prayer that builds compassion.  God shows up when you sit at His table.

He showed me a mother mourning for a son who'd taken his life, and her dealings with on-going depression. He brought to my attention a father, who worked in the trenches of suicide and peer abuse prevention, who succumbed to the pain of his lost child, taking his own life.  He showed me over and over, heartache and mourning, heartache and mourning.

Until I was aching and mourning.  The sky clouded, happy hellos half-filled, a closing in, a double-take at the children, and the deep heaviness in the chest that greeted me in the morning, even as the sky beamed in blue hues.  And I didn't know what to do with it.

Isn't that what He feels for us each day, every hour, every minute as His children walk out life feeling alone, abandoned, rejected, humiliated.  His heart breaks for us while we mourn.  And He waits for us in the mourning.  He waits for the moment that we give ourselves over to His love, to set us free from the leaky facet, the divisiveness, and the race that begs to be ran--the race that He's already finished.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn," says Romans 12.  It was never required of me to know what to do with a double-portion of mourning.  I was only asked to receive and mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice.

So as the stories continue to be given, they don't fall on deaf ears.  Though the lives that they've affected stir in me an emotion to close off and not receive, I agree to receive them anyway.  Because to know is to understand and with understanding we can live with compassion.  The stories make up volumes of books that God has outlined for His children; a compilation of stories shared, to teach, uplift, pages to mourn over, to rejoice over. All leading back to Him.

So I gather the stories, the mystery, ache and struggle and place them in my pack, and continue.  I'll carry them with me, eventually tucking them into the books of compassion that God is writing in me. 

The light is on for you, friend,

“You must write every single day of your life... You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads... may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” ― Ray Bradbury
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