On any given Tuesday at 10:30 A.M. you will find me at City Market on Capital Dr. in Milwaukee with my friends, Lizzy and Ann. Our history together is rich and deep and reaches way back through the years. My mom was there at Lizzy’s birth! I was not.
But the story continues.
We go deep, nothing short of deep in our conversations. In fact, Lizzy often says, “Can I share something deep?”
“Yes!” I say. “When haven’t we?”
I find the people I hang with these days, aren’t afraid of being their real “Velveteen Rabbit” selves.
This particular morning, I’d written an essay (can I call it that?) before I headed over to City Market. I was thinking of them both as I wrote. In fact, our friendship helped me write it! Nothing happens in a vacuum.
It was no surprise that as our conversation began, I listened to Lizzy bring up the very topic I had been writing about.
By the end of our time together, we circled back to those words I’d written and I found the courage to read them aloud. It’s there, in moments like these, that my words come alive…
When the north wind blew through me this week, it shook the rafters. It was as if it came and blew the pages I’d been assembling in my heart right off the shelves and out the window.
I scrambled, but it was too late. Only the sheets of paper on the high shelves remained, those that had been written with my head and not my heart. I wanted back the pages of my heart.
What was I doing? Just as I was coming to the close of one of my new manuscripts, the idea came to change the title. A title which had been the theme and overriding message of the book. A message which had healed my heart to such a degree throughout the journey of writing the book, I believed it could, too, help heal another heart. That title was set aside for something new.
It was as if I were speeding along to the finish line, when the very essence of the book blew right out the window.
What of this north wind that comes and tosses me back and forth like a wave?
I’ve experienced enough inner turmoil in these six decades of living to know when I do things from the right place within me, the place where the Spirit is leading me forward, that opposition will come and present itself.
And I know if I’m on the right track, whether I’m at the start of something new or almost approaching the finish line, I will most probably be hit. Because this is the most inopportune time—I’m vulnerable, doubt comes, or my strength is weakened, or worse, I’m feeling too sure of myself and trusting in my own abilities rather than on you know Who.
It’s not difficult to recall these north winds of the past. They are imprinted on my memory for a good reason. Yes, it’s true, bad things are remembered more readily than the good. Past traumas can certainly sabotage if not dealt with, so we must confront them. But some things are imprinted within us for a greater reason: our own good.
Many years ago, right before an important project was about to begin with my work, one that would benefit many, someone came along and tried to oust me. When it happened, Todd told me to leave. “They’re beating you up, get your things and go,” the man who loves me said.
But I thought, Where would I go? What would I do? I stayed and went into battle. And that decision, as difficult as it was, changed the direction of my life, for the better. My focus had to change. My new mission and our mission collectively, took precedence over any personal agenda. Instead of it being about any single person, it became about what was right and good for the greater good.
This gave me freedom I had not yet, up to that point in my life, experienced. It provided the freedom and strength and courage to proceed and move through the battle.
Now, just as I’m coming to the finish line of a new biography, I sensed that same north wind I’d experienced seventeen years ago, come back. Only this time, it wasn’t about someone else getting in my way. The chilling north wind was within me. It was only me, my self, getting in my own way.
As I stayed with the struggle this week, went into battle with my Bible, the answer came to me this morning.
What is this north wind that tosses me to and fro like a wave?
It’s the soul at war.
Just think how people you know or have heard of, people who have mounted up to the heavens and gone down to the depths instead. They end up alone, isolated from the very thing they loved to the point of it becoming an idol.
It comes in many different forms, this war within and out, and all about. “Be alert!” God warns. “Stand firm!” He commands. For the deceptions are not only alluring, but, oh, so sneaky.
When the storm hits you by surprise, how do I/we stay the course?
This is when I retreat for a time. Into the depths where the quiet place exists I go. Where I live apart from everything and everyone, but God.
Confusion is banished. Clarity comes, peace follows. Then I can rise with renewed vision, rested and refreshed mentally, physically and spiritually, so that I can carry on with the work I have been given.
I have found that my inner life must be as it should be—focused on the greater things of God, the people he loves and cares for, the people he is asking me to care for, and not focused on myself and my own personal goals and agendas—before any lasting good work can be accomplished.
It is never in my rushing about and striving that I am able to accomplish this, but in the battlefield of my soul. This is where things are won, and won for God’s glory, not mine. Action follows.
I am always a little shocked that I have to go through the same lessons over and over, but I do.
I can never avoid it when God asks me, “Are you still seeking great things for yourself…?”
You may wonder what happened all those years ago now, when someone tried to boot me out, right when God was ready to do a mighty work? He blessed us and we prospered greatly. Good people saw and were glad. The opposition stood speechless, they were stopped in their tracks.
This time, I was my own opposition. I found myself reaching high into the sky when the bottom suddenly dropped. I can recognize it now. My heart gets stuck in my throat on the way down and, like a top, I’m spun into confusion. I lose sight of which end is up. My late brother, Ed, used to say, wherever there is chaos, there the enemy stands.
I come to my end then, once again, to the end of myself. I cry out and I have always found God to be faithful there in the wind. God, who can quiet it to a whisper so that I am able to hear his voice again.
Miraculously, I found the pages of my heart that blew out the window, tossed but not lost by the wind.
If I’m wise, I’ll think this over so maybe next time I can avoid the storm, and instead, appreciate God’s faithfulness and amazing love all the more.
Inspired by Psalm 107: 27-30
Feature photo: Allistair MacRobert, Unsplash
To be continued…my journey of writing a book with Marc and Nancy Erickson as they shared their missionary journey together with me. It was a life changing experience. The title? “Just Along for the Ride”!