Delight

Have you ever followed a toddler around? I think everyone should. It is a crash course in wonder and emotions. In the past week, I spent lots of time with a soon to be two-year old and he does not miss a thing. He notices super small feathers and the tiniest of snails. He brought me a withered spider and a thankfully deceased giant bumblebee carcass.

He lives near cows and a couple of donkeys and is transfixed in place by their sounds. He notices birds, airplanes, trains and helicopters. And tractors, oh my, he’s in love with tractors.

He delights in having a task to do, like feeding the dog, making a tower out of blocks or taking his diapers to the trash can. He’s learning to color but coloring directly on the table seems the most fun.

He is a dramatic one with melting falls to the floor when the tower doesn’t come together like he visualized. He will knock it down and cry “Oh No” before collapsing in despair. In remind him that he did the knocking down and ask what is he going to do about it. Problem solving quickly follows.

But most of all, I love his delight. He’s getting a sense of humor. I love to trigger it. His hat on my head is hilarious. Me pretending to drink his milk is super funny. When he hides in plain sight and I find him, he throws his head back and belly laughs.

His baby brother just received a new super soft blanket. When we laid it on the floor for the baby, big brother had to delight in it first, stretching out his arms for that first good long feel of softness.

Delight. The Bible is full of delight. In some places it is actually a commandment. God delights in us when we are grateful, aware and when we acknowledge our needs. God wants us to delight in creation, people and places. God invites us to a life of delight and mysteriously through that, promises to give us everything we need. Delight yourself in the Lord and God will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Wow. If I delight, I’ll have everything? Money, security, good looks, eternal youth, no problems? No, I think it means delight, savor, notice, be grateful and joyful…that is everything your heart needs.

I’ve noticed joy in the strangest of places, in mothers who’ve lost children, in people living in poverty, in those in the midst of the worst kind of trauma. You’ve seen it too. Laughter at a funeral, the tiniest ray of light in an otherwise dark night, music in a hospital room.

Toddlers know how to delight. They do it in between and throughout all the other emotions of the day. Help me, God, to be like that.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. She is currently enrolled in a course on delight, taught by her grandson.            

Advertisements

Learning to Linger

In my previous life, I didn’t know how to linger. I remember once getting so angry with my son’s baseball coach because he wouldn’t tell me when baseball practice ended. I had two other kids, one was a baby and a full-time job. He said, Practice ends when it ends. I’d end up waiting in the car with that baby 45 minutes to an hour for the coach to be moved to end practice.

What is wrong with him? I fumed. Does he have any idea what I could get done in 45 minutes to an hour? I’m actually still kind of mad about that. You know how I can tell? The baby is 19 years old and I’m still writing about it. Whatever. The beauty of your own blog? You can vent as long as you need to.

Now, I am better at lingering. Subtracting a few big things certainly helps but it seems in any stage of life that lingering is better. In her book, Soulful Simplicity, Courtney Carver learned some lessons after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It’s amazing how a diagnosis can cause us to do what we should have been doing all along. Courtney radically changed her life. Among other things, she learned to linger.

She writes, You can infuse clarity and softness into your everyday life by reclaiming the lost art of lingering….incorporating vacation moments into your every day life is the better choice. This will take practice, intention, and a commitment to reprioritize, but what happens if you are successful is that you enjoy life more, and as a side effect become more loving, creative and productive.

There’s a mysterious Hebrew word in our Bibles, Selah. You will see it often in the book of Psalms and also in Habakkuk. It is used 74 times. The best anyone can figure out it means stop and listen or maybe even stop and praise God or some believe it is a musical directive, like pause here singers and musicians, take a breath. It may even mean stop and get ready for what is next.

I like it because it seems like we are being instructed to linger. Linger in the moment. Linger in God’s Word. Stop. Breathe.

I used to think it was funny when older people were depicted as sitting on park benches feeding pigeons all day. Except now, I get it.

Just today, on my morning walk, I paused a lot. I sat on a park bench. Selah. I noticed how green everything looked and then how the green was dotted with lots of red. Selah. The red was cardinals. More than I’ve ever seen on my walk. Selah. I found a patch of bluebonnets growing in the sun and let my dog linger there for pictures. Selah.

Selah. Lingering in grace.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and lingerer.    

God Kisses

In a class I attended on journaling we were told we should decide whether our journals would be about real life or spiritual life. The teacher said, “It can’t be both.”  “Wrong!” I said to myself then and now.

Real life is tightly braided with spiritual life. I believe that is how it is created to be. In our people, in creation, in little things that happen and all our very real moments, the Holy is always mixed imperceptibly with the Real.

When we sign up to be spiritual people, we are agreeing to Terms and Conditions that include seeing what cannot be seen, hearing what is not spoken aloud and believing in that for which there is no scientific evidence.  It takes faith to keep looking, listening and believing.

Last Monday, seven days ago, I once again witnessed new life come into this world. Pace Ryan, our second grandson, was born. There is nothing more holy than a little one entering the world. Later I marveled over the whole thing…how did my daughter’s body know how to labor? How did little Pace go from his previous life submerged in amniotic fluid to breathing air? How did his blood supply switch over to run on its own? How did he know to cry and clear his lungs? How did he know how to nurse?

And then this, he came with dimples. Dimples! Dimples no one saw coming. Dimples buried far back in his genetics that no one on either side can recall anyone having. It delighted me to the tips of my toes. Dimples!

I told my daughter I’d heard that dimples were a sign that God had kissed someone. It’s not in the Bible. Don’t go looking for it. But the Bible is full of language and teachings about the signs of God. It teaches us that once we have seen God, we are never the same. Hebrews 11:27 speaks of Abraham persevering because he had seen the one who is invisible.  Jesus said, Blessed are those who believe without seeing me. John 20:29  The Bible teaches us that our world is full of the signs and wonders of God for those who can see such things.

I have no doubt, not even one, that little Pace was kissed by God. I see it with my faith eyes, my heart and my soul.

Our God is a kisser. God kisses us with sunrises, sunsets, loved ones, rainbows, new life, wonders and surprises all of the time. Where have you seen a God kiss lately?

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and dimpled Pace, a breast cancer survivor and someone who loves a kiss from God.

FaithWaiting

I enjoy making up words. I loved word play with my children. We now have several words only our family knows. Today I made up this one: FaithWaiting.

FaithWaiting is different from regular waiting.

All waiting is pretty excruciating. Waiting for admission to that certain college. Waiting to turn 16. Waiting for the wedding day. Waiting in traffic. Waiting for the biopsy results…or really, almost any results. Waiting to hear if you got that job. All kinds of hospital waiting is agonizing.

In our family we are waiting on a baby to arrive.  Pregnancy is so long! There are so many unknowns. My daughter is now down to the baby-could-come-at-any-time part of pregnancy. She and I are planners and we are having trouble with our plan making because we DO NOT KNOW WHEN THIS WILL HAPPEN. She is going to the doctor weekly now. Last time I asked her if the doctor said when this will happen and she reminded me rather sternly that they do not tell you WHEN.

I am planning to be there when this impossible-to-know thing happens but I live 5 hours away so how do I plan? How do I wait? How do they wait? How does anyone FaithWait verses plain old anxious waiting?

A few tips for FaithWaiting:

Do what you can. In my case that includes keeping gas in my car, suitcase mostly packed, making lots of casseroles to fill my daughter’s freezer when I get there, keeping my phone nearby.

Remember what you know. God is faithful. All will be well. You are not and never were in control. You are in God’s hands. Waiting is a gift, a discipline and an exercise in faith.

Trust. Today’s entry in Jesus Calling reminds us of God’s word to us, Waiting on Me means directing your attention to Me in hopeful anticipation of what I will do. It entails trusting Me with every fiber of your being, instead of trying to figure things out yourself. Waiting on Me is the way I designed you to live: all day, every day. 

Pray. Pray for peace as you wait.

Keep your routines and rituals. Sometimes keeping a schedule is an act of grace that calms us down and reminds us of God’s presence in the daily routine acts of life. Eat, exercise, work, rest, repeat.

I’ve preached and written before about how hard it must have been for the followers of Jesus on that day of waiting between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. How did they bear it? Can you imagine the sorrow, angst, worry, uncertainty and pain they must have felt? The Bible says very little about that Saturday but I believe it is one of the most important times in the whole Bible because it was a whole day of not knowing when all they could do was FaithWait. I imagine time just painfully crawling that day, oozing with despair.

Waiting is what the Christian life is all about. We do not know the plan. We do not know what the future holds. Most of the time we barely know what God wants us to do.

The difference is we wait as those who have hope. That is FaithWaiting at its finest. Psalm 33:20-22 offers this prayer: We wait in hope for the Lord; God is our help and our shield. In God our hearts rejoice, for we trust in God’s holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you. 

Casserole by casserole, I FaithWait.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor, Mimosa to Keller and his soon to arrive baby brother and one who waits with hope.

Over and Next

At age 93, when asked what his best thinking was about life, TV legend Norman Lear replied, “It can be summed up in two words: Over and Next. If there were a hammock hung between those two words, that would be living in the moment.”

His words were a gift to me. I write and speak often about embracing the season we are in and not trying to rush too quickly to the next season. I’ve compared us to Hobby Lobby the way we start decorating for Fourth of July before Easter even thought about arriving, especially in our real life seasons.

Norman Lear gave me a new concept to think about though. It is equally important, when a season of life is done, to let it be Over. This applies to Empty Nests, Career Changes, Some Relationships, Closet Cleaning and a few hundred other things.

Piece of clothing, too small jeans you have served me well and now your time with me is Over. Season of rearing children in the home: Over. I can miss it. I can want it back. I can look fondly at what was with nostalgia and maybe regret but mostly I need to say, “This is over.” Only then, can I see what is Next.

The prophet Isaiah, tells the people on behalf of God, Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? Isaiah 16:18-20 The Message 

I’ve let go of a few relationships along the way, either by choice or by circumstances: Over. I have new people in my life to treasure: Next.  I used to be 20, now I’m not: Over. I’m wiser, have laugh lines and cry lines and a wealth of treasured memories: Next.

Much of Next, we cannot and probably should not know. That’s why that part about the hammock hung in the middle of Over and Next is so delicious. Living in the moment. Noticing. Being present.

This morning, as I walked, I noticed creation’s new green color mixed with purple, pink and yellow. I noticed everything fresh from last night’s rain. The air smelled clean. I saw the longest earthworm I’ve ever seen. I saw a daffodil growing alone in the brown crunchy leaves of winter. The caption was clearly, “Over and Next.”

I wonder what it is for you? What needs to be pronounced Over? What might be Next? And how about that hammock in the middle?

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller, breast cancer survivor, walker and embracer of seasons.  

Watch Where You Put Yourself

It’s just a simple wisp of an idea; one gentle thought. Author Cheryl Strayed brought it to my mind in a little book of her own quotes, Brave Enough. Put yourself in the way of beauty, she writes. That’s it. She gives a whole page surrounded by white space to those seven words.

It reminds me of another quote by Elsie de Wolfe that I have on a shelf by my kitchen sink in that place I always find myself standing. I’m going to make everything around me beautiful-that will be my life.

Those two quotes connect with the new job description I have assigned myself of being a noticer. I want to notice beauty and pain. I want to notice better what I’m feeling in my body and what my dreams are telling me. I want to notice people, especially the ones right in front of me. I want to see with spiritual eyes and hear with spiritual ears what God is whispering.

Three days in a row a tree in full white bloom has been right in my way on my morning walk. Three days in a row I took a picture of it because I did not know what else to do with that kind of beauty in my way. Three days in a row I noticed a little more springtime edging forth from the winter landscape. For three days, it has reminded me of God’s resurrection promise written on every leaf of springtime. (Martin Luther)

Put yourself in the way of beauty. I can do that.

Quietly, another thought saddled up along side that one. Toss some beauty into someone else’s way as well. I can do that too. And for today, that will be enough.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller, breast cancer survivor and noticer.  

The Counter Pose

I’ve now been practicing yoga for one year. This new year I even added another class each week. I’m hooked. I pictured that one year out, I would have a really lean, healthy yoga body but as these things go, I still have my same body which can now do yoga.

I’ve mentioned before that one thing I love in addition to the stretching, balancing, core strengthening and deep relaxing are the teachings. Every time I practice yoga,I learn something that applies to life.

I’ve discovered the art of the counter pose.  Yoga is about balance, alignment and focus. Our teacher leads us through a pose and then a counter pose, the opposite of what we’ve just done. Picture bending forward arms down, rounding the back, then leaning back with arms extended, arching the back-that is a counter pose.

I’m learning to honor the counter pose. I spent a majority of my life not doing this. A busy, overfilled day was followed by an equally full night and then another overfilled day and on and on. When vacation time came, I was running on fumes, never really winding down. You know how it goes.

We were created to counter pose. The wisdom literature of scripture reminds us in Ecclesiastes 3, There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. The text even spells out activities and counter poses, “A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot….” Fourteen different poses and counter poses are listed for us. The writer of Ecclesiastes knew we needed it spelled out I guess.

It seems so simple like pure common sense. Thirst, then quenching thirst. Work, then rest. Winter, then spring. Feasting, then fasting. Lent, then Easter. Pose, counter pose.

We just don’t seem to be that good at honoring the counter pose. We push. We ignore our season. We seldom stop to ask ourselves what do I need for balance? Is it time to stretch the other direction now?

Jesus had the counter pose perfected. He worked, then rested. He took naps. He ate. He drank. He immersed himself in crowds and then intentionally pulled away. He saw people’s pain and heard their cries and then separated from it. In one particularly stressful time, he withdrew only a little bit (a stone’s throw way) to gather his thoughts, counter pose and pray. Luke 22:41-44.

Where are you right now? Which way have you been bending and stretching lately? What counter pose do you need in order to honor your body, your life or your season? There is a time for everything….

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller, a breast cancer survivor and yoga novice. She especially enjoys wearing yoga clothes when not wearing yoga.