Tuesday, December 5, 2017

It's A Colorful Life

Wow.. I haven't blogged since January.. here's a post I started to write two nights ago.

I think blogging became scary and I had to retreat to my private journal where I didn't have to worry about others reading my thoughts. Plus, when you write something and hit "publish" it makes it feel final.. like you've got it figured out.. and there's a lot that I don't have figured out.

Tonight, the tide is out.. way out.. and the moon is full (probably why I'm still awake and typing). Eva and I just had a wonderful "romp" on the beach with our dog Koda. When they saw the huge expanse of sand before them, both the dog and the child had to run free. And I walked steadily behind them, stopping to stare at the moon a few times.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. I decided to read a little something to the kids after dinner tonight. It brought about some honest conversation and some honest prayers. Honesty is always a great place to start. It can be messy. They ask questions I don't know how to answer, but I feel like I am doing my job when I teach them that it is ok.. and the most important really.. to be honest with God, and others, and ourselves.

I still have a hard time with that. The truth gets blurred by my intense desire to make people happy. I can start to think that doing what someone else wants is actually what I want.. but really I just forgot what I wanted because what they wanted became so much more important. You know? I am (slowly, but surely) getting better at listening to myself though, and that seems to be making me a much healthier person.

I've had three disturbing dreams in the last week, and that's not normal for me.

Some precious friends of mine got some really bad news today and we are grieving. It was something specific that I talked to God about. I said, "You know her.. hasn't she had enough pain in her story? Please, have mercy..".  And yet, we did not get the answer we asked for. That door is closed. And somehow these darling people still have to get up and do life.

Last week, I sat with a group of what I would call powerful people (those who have been down difficult paths, and have managed to stay soft, honest, and loving). We had a beautiful discussion on faith and emotions. The leader of the discussion brought up the story of when the disciples were in the boat with Jesus and he was sleeping while the boat was being rocked by a storm. He was sleeping! They said, "Don't you care?" As he told the story, I had a fresh wave of emotion hit me for situations in my life that have felt like God is sleeping and doesn't care to calm the storm.
And yet, there's still something comforting about knowing He's with me in the boat. I tell my kids that there's a lot that I don't understand about God or His ways, but I can't deny that I have felt His love carrying me and comforting me through so many different seasons of life. And, a lot of times, when I can't feel that love directly from Him, it comes through the people around me.

I have a lot of unresolved issues. There's quite a bit of stuff that I still feel angry or confused about. I'm living in the tension between the "it is not yet," and "it will be". I might have to write another blog about dissonance (in music, dissonance happens when a chord is unresolved) and why that will be the theme of the album I am working on.
And, speaking of my album, when I was venting to my producer/friend about some of the hard things going on.. he said "You have a colorful life, Ashley. It is a good one. Mine is too, and I wouldn't trade it for anything."  So, here's to colorful lives?!!  I'm really not a fan of darkness, but here's an interesting quote to end with that seems appropriate (and lo, and behold, it's from one of my childhood heroes- which suits this blog because its all about my life journey):

"Without black, no color has any depth. But if you mix black with everything, suddenly there's shadow- no, not just shadow, but fullness. You've got to be willing to mix black into your palette if you want to create something real."  Amy Grant

Makes me think of what Jesus said in John 10:10- "I came to give you life, and life in its fullness." He didn't say life in all its happiness or perfection.

Thanks for reading, my friend.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Honesty is Such a Lonely Word

Honesty? Haha! 

Honestly, I feel like a broken record. 

I have been writing about the same theme since at least 1996.. back when I got one of my first songs “downloaded” to me during Mrs. Sweigart’s American History class. I always found it so hard to stay awake in that class, so it’s kind of a miracle that I actually wrote the lyrics down. I was probably in a dream like state and maybe that’s how the song came to me. 

Faces. Masks. Behind our guards we hide and hope no one will ever ask. 
Reality. Pain. Frozen smiles and empty eyes that tell of silent shame. 
When will we learn to remove the veil? To empty our black hearts and be free?
Oh, it’s cold in the bottom of this empty well, but still we choose to hide inside ourselves. 

I was terrified of people being fake. I think I was terrified that if I didn’t know how to be real with people that I would turn out like my mother. Isolated and dying on the inside. And then, dying for real. 

The truth is, it isn’t safe to be honest with everyone. I sure have learned the lesson of “casting my pearls before swine.”

However, sometimes you find people you can trust. And sometimes, those people help you realize it is ok to say what’s really on your heart. And then, you realize that maybe it would be a good idea to tell God exactly how you feel.. since God actually knows you better than the people you are staring at and He really enjoys honesty too. 

In 2010, I was doing some counselling with a beautiful person with whom I felt very safe. I borrowed a book from her shelf, “Till we Have Faces” by C.S. Lewis. It moved me. And, the other day, I had this moment that took me right back to that book. 

I was sitting at a round table with four other women. I guess you could say the five of us are on a journey together. It’s pretty brutal. Honest. Messy. Admitting our weaknesses. Sharing our fears and our dreams. It was while one of these dear ones was sharing that I got a big smile on my face and thought “that was a ‘till we have faces’ moment.”  She said how she used to go for drives and just yell the f-bomb at God. I had this strange (well, maybe not strange.. more like refreshing) feeling as I felt like the smile on my face was also on God’s face. In those moments of crazy rage.. she was being real.. and I think maybe He said, “now, finally.. here’s something I can work with.”

And here are the words that came to mind from the book:

“When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech
which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

I love that line: “the babble that we think we mean”. Good intentions. We say what we think we’re supposed to say. We say stuff to try to muster up some faith or courage that we might not actually possess yet. When it would be a whole lot more helpful if we just stopped and listened to what is actually going on inside and spoke from that place. 

Something is happening in me lately. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I feel like I am being awakened to a whole bigger picture.. uh.. like finding out that God is way cooler than I thought He was.. like that verse says about being able to comprehend the “breadth and length and height and depth” (Ephesians 3). I’m finding out that He is EVERYWHERE and He is loving on EVERYONE. He just keeps showing up: in support groups, in the trees, in the skies, in the words of friends, in songs I hear, in books I read.., etc.. 

Tonight, when I was starting to write all this out, an old song by an old friend came to mind (which is another small miracle because I haven't heard this song in years). The dear soul who wrote this song, Keith Naylor, went home to Glory around this time last year. I listened to this song tonight and I’m so grateful for these words which really describe what is going on for me lately, and I cherish the memories of how Keith lived and loved. 

The Face of God  by Keith Naylor
I see the trees they’re growing in the forest, I feel the wind on my face
I see the clouds they’re painting a picture, and I see the face of God

Won’t you look up and see oh life all around you
won’t you open your eyes to the world
Won’t you free your mind from the chains that bind you
And see the face of God

I see a woman slowly dying I see her husband sing her songs
and I see a rose gently lying on her casket
and I see the pain of God

I see a young boy no longer living
I see his mother cry out
and I see a pain that seems to go on forever
And I see the tears of God 

Won’t you look up and see oh life all around you
won’t you open your eyes to the world
Won’t you free your mind from the pain that binds you
And see the face of God

I see the ocean waves as they’re crashing 
I taste the saltwater breeze 
and I see a setting sun build an ocean sidewalk
And I see the face of God

Won’t you look up and see oh life all around you
won’t you open your eyes to the world
Won’t you free your mind from the pain that binds you

And see the face of God