Beginning Again

Oh, I have something special to share with you today: a guest post from one of my favorite writers on the internet: Tresta Payne. I was encouraged and challenged by what she’s offered here, and I hope you will be, as well.


All creation groans for a new beginning, and here we have January–the clean slate of new calendars and new planners and new expectations. The two-week period after Christmas, when we take down the tree, pack away the Christmas decor, give everything a good cleaning and prepare for a new year, is my favorite.

Often my own groanings are more about regrets and missed opportunities, though, rather than an earnest expectation of glory to come, and a new year can look like the false hope of The Year We Finally Do Things Right.

The trap is in thinking that new equals better, that starting over fresh will create an opportunity to live failure-free. When I wake in the night with the crushing burden of all my shortcomings–some of which are real and true and some of which are just the enemy’s rummaging through my garbage–the way out of the trap is not to develop a new plan or system or list, though I try.

The way out is only ever through Jesus.

If everything had gone perfectly this last year, my eyes would not be refocused on the Jesus Who takes me out of the wilderness where I wander. I would be tempted to think my plans had succeeded, my ideas were brilliant, my life was under my control.

This means that failure is actually a gift to me.

For every time I have asked the Lord to remind me of HIs presence in my life, failure has been readily available to do the work. I am only just beginning to see it that way, and certainly the Lord has given successes and blessings beyond measure; but when I wake in the night under the heavy oppression of failure, I can sometimes manage to turn that sword of accusation back on itself and proclaim the goodness of a God Who even gives a crown to losers.

When all else fails: God is my hope. When everything is a success: God is my hope.

What I always need this time of year is some truthful reflection. Some things worked for me, some things didn’t. In the end, did I learn some lessons and draw closer to Jesus, or did I strive and micro-manage a life that had no margin for error?

Big-picture living keeps me sane in the moments when life wants to boil me down to This Most Important Event or Thing or Success or Feeling. I can pull back from all that and rest, again, in the work that is already finished on my behalf. I can rest, even in my failed attempts to do better and be better and live better, knowing that Jesus is loving me just the same and giving me the strength to begin again.

I am more likely to make a “more/less” list than a particular set of goals for the new year. It will inevitably look something like this:

  • more printed pictures
  • more whole foods
  • more Sunday dinners with the grandparents
  • more nature in the house

 

  • less clutter in the living room
  • less sugar and bread
  • less spending
  • less mindless internet

I do have actual, real, tangible goals to accomplish this year, and I am making plans for them, but these general guidelines of more/less are simple enough to be reviewed monthly without making me feel overwhelmed. Because there are no specific quantifiers, I can adjust expectations according to the need of the moment, rather than trying to live by some lofty ideals I set in January when the whole year was nothing but blank pages and possibility. And when I’ve added the right things and subtracted the wrongs things, I have more space for those goals.

Beginning again is the story of my days: each January, the change of every season, the first of every month, every Sunday, every morning before the sun–and if I’m careful, even every first minute of the hour–I can recalibrate my heart and mind to the work that is already done and the gift I have to spend in this moment.

It is too easy to be tied down with the pursuit of more and better, even in our quest for godly living. But God has sent Jesus into the world that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9), not that we might strive endlessly to do more and be better for Him. All creation groans for the new world of kingdom-come when things will be set right, but we also have the kingdom-now, Christ in us, the hope of glory and new life. Every moment we surrender can be a relief of the burden of our failures.

This very moment is new and Christ gave His life so we could live it through Him. this is the best beginning ever, and it’s endless and always available.


Tresta is a lifelong-learner who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and 4 kids, surrounded by mountains and rivers and the best little community one could ask for. She writes about balance, perspective, and simplicity at trestapayne.comInstagramTwitter and Facebook.

Because Our Moments Matter {Steps Toward Making the Most of Them}

Our Moments Matter {How to Find More of Them)

Cue the music.

It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love. Every song you hear seems to say…

I haven’t noticed the world falling in love, and if we were sitting down together to write that song this morning, the lyrics might play out a little differently.

It’s that time of year when the world …

Celebrates. Decorates. Bakes and eats. Shops and wraps and delivers. And maybe worships—when they can find a moment.

every song you hear seems to say . . . 

Do you know how many shopping days there are until Christmas? Have sent your cards? Have you addressed your cards? Sigh. Have you even bought the cards? What about the gifts? And have you decided what you’ll be serving for Christmas dinner? And maybe when you get a moment you could . . .

A moment. Sometimes that’s all we have. Sometimes that’s all we need.

To connect. To cross a little something off the list. To pursue some sanity-saving soul stillness. To remember just exactly why we celebrate.

Our moments matter. Used well, important and worthwhile things can be accomplished in a moment, or over a series of them, especially this time of year when they seem to be in especially short supply.

Sometimes we carve them out of an already full day. Sometimes they just show up unexpectedly, disguised as a cancellation. Usually, though, they’re already there, buried in our actual, everyday life, camouflaged as something we might lament—something like a long wait at the dental office.

It’s possible to capture the moments that arrive unexpectedly, to redeem the ones that seem so insignificant we’ve grown accustomed to simply giving them away.

Here are a few steps toward making the most of those extra moments this Christmas season:

  1. Decide. Identify what you want to do or need to do with your moments this Christmas season. Is there a project to complete or gift to finish?  A practice you want to pursue? Soul stillness you want to seek? A book you want to read? Knowing what you want to do is a big step toward getting it done.
  2. Prepare. Can some part of that be kept close by or even carried with you, ready for those carved out or unexpected pockets of time? Christmas cards? A book? Yarn and a crochet hook? These things will all fit in a purse or small bag. Five minutes in the pickup line at school is five minutes toward your goal.
  3. Pay attention. Keep your eyes open for small moments. Don’t let them pass without realizing they are there.
  4. Focus: Use your moments. Convert that autopilot scrolling time to invested moments.
  5. Persevere: Accept the fact that you may forget to pay attention. You may not remember to use your moments. Don’t give up. Begin again and use the next ones that come your way.

Path in a Snowy WoodWhat could you do with your extra moments this Christmas season?

Every Day We Show Up

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Dress Rehearsals

Every Monday during the winter, I drive into town. There, twenty young actors and a few directors gather to work.

We block scenes so the actors know where they’re supposed to be, when. We practice dialogue so they know their lines and how to deliver them. We fine tune character development so they know how to inhabit their role. 

In the beginning progress is slow. Details that seemed settled at one practice get lost before we make it to the next. We forget lines and props and which side of the stage to enter from.

But week by week, little by little, we improve. The actors go where they want to end up. They say the right line at the right time. And they become the character they’re meant to be.

It’s a process.

We start with blocking rehearsals. We don’t do the scenes in the order they appear in the script. We work the scenes in an order that helps us make the best use of our time. To an observer it might look as though we’d dropped the script and are performing a mixed up story.

But observers don’t matter at this point.

We just need to figure out what’s happening on the stage: How to get from here to there. How to get the props on. How to get the set changed.

After blocking, we move to polishing. We work on getting on and off stage at just the right time and in just the right way. We work on saying our lines not like ourselves but as our character. We quit relying on scripts because we can’t use them in performance and it’s impossible to act well with a book in your hand.

A few weeks before the show, we begin technical rehearsals– bringing in sound and lights and special effects and the audio-visual crew so that it all flows together. And we continue to polish. We perfect line delivery and placement and postures. We prepare for the inevitable moment when someone will forget a line, when some prop will disappear, or break, or just get forgotten.

And then it’s dress rehearsal, probably the cast’s favorite one of all, with costumes, a dark house, and directors glued to their seats, unable to stop things and ask them to “run that one more time.” It’s the moment they’ve been working toward. They take the stage. They perform the show. Just as they’ve practiced.

When it’s over they’re tired and hungry and ready to go home, but first they sit together on the stage and we talk. They talk about how they think it went, what went well and what they hope doesn’t happen again. Then the directors and even the technical crew do they same, because it’s important to know what went right and what still needs some work.

In just over twelve hours we’ll all be back, putting on makeup and costumes, and–because they’re all teenagers–eating, rested and ready for the show.

The lights will go down. They’ll take the stage. And the show will begin.

The cliché is right. Life is not a dress rehearsal. But it’s not a performance, either. Life is living, one day at a time.

We show up for practice. We block so we know where to go, when. We polish so we know how to communicate, what we need to say and how and when we need to say it, how to make ourselves heard and how to be silent so others can be heard. We practice the technical stuff and grow more and more into who we already are.

Over and over again.

Every day we show up with what we have,  ready to do our part and do our best. Every day we block the new, polish the old, and hold an imperfect dress rehearsal for the day to come. And every day we learn from that day how to better move into the next one, how better to run the race set before us, how better to attend to and apply the Word that lights our path.

Life is not a dress rehearsal. It isn’t a performance. It’s a story, blocked, polished, and lived out one day at a time, with new mercies raining down.

And you?  What are you showing up to today? What’s it teaching?

Linking this post at Jennifer, Lyli, Brenda, Barbie, Jen and  Dawn‘s.

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Winter’s Question

early 08 pictures 051Of Earth’s four seasons, Iowa wears them all. Each has its own look, its own color, its own mood; and each its own job. Winter drives the birds south and the people indoors and the renewal of spring invites them back. Summer’s heat grows the corn and the crisp days of fall prompt every long-lived being to prepare to survive winter.

Just a month in, this winter is deep. The windows and wood stove wage war for temperature territory and we live in the middle of their battlefield. Because the windows have the upper hand I resort to down vests and soft blankets to keep warm. One step out the front door is enough for the wind to whisk away the microclimate of warmth I produce for myself and I know that without shelter I would perish.

Winter was weeks away when our pond froze for the year. My son stalked it daily to assess its progress toward becoming a skating rink. It snowed before it reached the required four inches and he worried over what the snow would do to the quality of the ice. Within days it achieved its depth and as he shoveled with his grandfather and little sister they discovered perfectly preserved but lifeless specimens of bass and carp, bluegill and catfish suspended under clear, black ice.

Our fish didn’t survive into the first week of official winter. It wasn’t the cold that killed them. It was the snow and the seasons which came before. Fish breathe oxygen. When lakes and ponds freeze over, oxygen gets trapped below the surface. Our pond is small, three-quarters of an acre, and while there may not be enough trapped oxygen for the fish to survive whole winter, when the sun penetrates the ice it activates the plant material at the bottom to release oxygen so the fish get what they need to breathe. Snow sitting on the surface is a problem: it blocks the sun and prevents it from carrying out its work.

A half-week of sun-deprivation was more than our fish could tolerate. They should have been able to hold on longer, but the seasons leading up to winter were tough. Fall was dry. Summer was dry. Spring? I don’t even remember. The pond was low and stagnant; its water couldn’t sustain them.

This winter we’ll skate over a scene from Ice Age and lament the loss of our fish. My husband will research ways to aerate the pond and search for a breed of trout suited to Iowa. We’ll anticipate the return of the frogs’ symphony, silenced in recent years by the fish which crowded them out or consumed them. Spring’s thaw will call raccoons and other critters to the pond; their quest to survive will rid it of the remnants of death.

For now we’re in deep winter. The longest months are pages yet to be turned on the calendar and fall’s gathering has worn thin. The news informs us of  a propane shortage. Our woodpile has dwindled below where it was when we lit last year’s final fire and winter’s question hangs in the chilled air: Will what I gathered be enough to last?

Spring will come. The lights in the heavens are not just to separate night from day; they are signs for seasons and days and years. The calendar moves ever on and spring is on its way. Some years I emerge from a long season of wintering with the sense that I’ve barely survived it. This isn’t one of those years; I’m faring better than the woodpile. Still, when spring arrives, I’ll be ready.

And you? How are you wintering?

Sharing stories this week at Michelle’s Hear It On Sunday, Use It On Monday, Denise’s Inspire Me Monday, and Lyli’s Thoughtful Thursday.