walking in the woods in winter

It’s winter and I’m walking in the woods. My steps are careful, each one calculated. I’m trying not to slip. I want to move quicker but simply can’t.

Walking in the woods in winter reminds us that different speeds are appropriate for different seasons.

Winter is a time of slowing. If we move too quickly when our pace should be slow and careful, we risk hurting ourselves, losing our footing and falling on our faces.

This has been a season of moving slowly. I’ve been slow to make decisions, slow to draw conclusions. I’ve been slow to say or share anything. I’ve been so eager for answers, for clarity, that I’ve been shuffling my feet and keeping my head down. I’ve been trying not to lose my footing and fall on my face.

I’ve found myself wanting so badly to rush through to current unknown just to come upon the next one. I am longing for spring.

I’m learning to just be where I am. It’s hard though--I don’t like where I am. I look towards the future expectantly, but find myself not wanting to be given over to hope for something other.

I am grateful for these simple reminders: each season has its own pace and rhythm. Winter isn’t bad; slow isn’t wrong.

Here’s to current seasons and new seasons and new years and more walking in the woods.

merry christmas!

The holiday season always seem to be a time of questions: When can we get together? What should I get dad this year? How many cookies can I possible eat today? What really matters?

This has been a year of question-asking and I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t been hard. But as a dear friend recently reminded me, I was made to do hard things. Hard things are the things worth doing, the things that draw us towards our true self. They stretch us, like we stretch the waistline of our favorite pair of jeans over this holiday season.

Advent urges us: something new is coming. I feel expectant, excited for what is next. Will there be hard things? Absolutely--but I was made to do hard things; you were made to do hard things.

Doing hard things means believing in yourself enough to take on a new challenge. Doing hard things means saying I’m sorry or I love you or Goodbye. Doing hard things means facing the not-so-certain and walking in that direction nonetheless. Doing hard things means asking for help. Doing hard things means taking the time to listen to and care for yourself. Doing hard things means asking the hard questions.

A full life is full of hard things--relationships, decisions, dilemmas, vulnerable moments, acts of courage. I am grateful that mine is so full!

Many kisses & Christmas cookies,

Alyssa + Olive

christmas card 2018.jpeg

cheerful courage

I’m slowly realizing how much courage it takes to follow Jesus for myself.

I’ve read a lot about the courage and boldness of others, about the Apostles driving out demons and giving strength to the lame and proclaiming the gospel under threat of death and torture. I’ve often wondered what that’s supposed to look like for me, here and now. I suppose it’s not all that different.

Peter and John answered them, “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

The Greek word used for boldness is perresia (Παρρησία). It means free & fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance.

Boldness is seeing and sensing the fear and trudging forward nonetheless.

Boldness is embracing the freedom that we have in Jesus.

Boldness is being sure of His good intentions for us.

Boldness is finding joy in the assurance of the good that lies ahead.

Boldness is speaking freely, living freely, that which we’ve seen and heard.

Living boldly can be devastating. It can be community-shaking and other-people-disappointing. Living boldly can be lonely and isolating.

I firmly believe that God calls and speaks to each of us uniquely. His voice often comes as a whisper, as a slow stirring of a single heart. This inner work goes unseen by others and felt by only a few.

Each of us are asked to leave our fathers and our mothers and our homes and our comforts. Each of us are told to pick up our crosses and carry them daily. And, as each of us are made and woven entirely differently, those things will look, feel differently for each of us. I’m learning that this means that other people won’t, don’t, can’t understand what our journey really looks like. We can’t ask other people to discern our next right step because they are not walking our journey; they must walk their own.

Others may not understand; other will not understand. This journey is our own. We must walk it with boldness, with wisdom, with hearts tuned to His voice. We must take up our cheerful courage and walk in fearless confidence into that which Jesus calls us into.

lighten my darkness

For it is You who lights my lamp; the Lord my God lights my darkness. // Psalm 18:28

When I feel like I am drowning in blackness, gasping for hope but gulping down sorrow, lighten my darkness, Lord.

When my desire for wholeness digs me deeper into brokenness, lighten my darkness, Lord.

When my self-reflection leads not to self-correction but to self-loathing, lighten my darkness, Lord.

When my longing to be known drags me further from Your knowing, lighten my darkness, Lord.

Lord, lighten my darkness.

Lighten my darkness, Lord.

hidden work

“The people [outside in the court] were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering about his long delay in the temple. But when he did come out, he was unable to speak to them. They realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute.” - Luke 1:21-22


I try my best to share; I desperately try to explain, my hands waving in the air. No words will come to do this justice. After hearing from the Lord, after discerning His will, left unable to speak.

I feel like Zacharias.

I try wildly to explain these things growing, living, changing inside of me. Words cannot wrap around them, give them shape. They seem like unknowable things. I feel like an unknowable thing.

The work of God is not for all eyes to watch. For a season, it sleeps, unknown to everyone outside of the soul that sees and feels the pulling, stitching, shifting inside itself.

The work of God lays hidden inside of me. I have scratched at my throat, searching for the syllables to make others understand. The words that have bled out never feel like the right ones, stained by tears and sobs and a heavy heart.

But hidden work is not un-miraculous work. Hidden work is intimate and raw and excruciating. It brings tears and sleepless nights and yet, somehow, closeness.

It is not for all eyes to watch.

My soul knows this well. I feel the hum of the hidden work. It makes me want to sing and scream and tear it open for others to see, though they won’t understand--not yet.

Someday, these words will come easily, to tell the tale of the hidden work. And when they do, I will scribble out the words: I AM is gracious.

openness

A few months ago, I bought The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. I can't stop talking about how beautiful it is to read and pray the prayers of others who lived so long ago and yet served the same God that I serve. God's character is steady and steadfast; He does not change with the ages.

I read this prayer yesterday, on the edge of a few hours wrestling with some high level (for me) anxiety and it gave me such peace.

Banner of Truth Ministries publishes these prayers as part of a devotional series, which you can read here.

LORD OF IMMORTALITY,

Before whom angels bow and archangels veil
      their faces,
  enable me to serve thee with reverence
    and godly fear.
Thou who art Spirit and requirest truth
    in the inward parts,
  help me to worship thee in spirit and in truth.
Thou who art righteous,
  let me not harbour sin in my heart,
  or indulge a worldly temper,
  or seek satisfaction in things that perish.
I hasten towards an hour
  when earthly pursuits and possessions
    will appear vain,
  when it will be indifferent whether I have been
    rich or poor,
    successful or disappointed,
    admired or despised.
But it will be of eternal moment that I have
  mourned for sin,
  hungered and thirsted after righteousness,
  loved the Lord Jesus in sincerity,
  gloried in his cross.
May these objects engross my chief solicitude!
Produce in me those principles and dispositions
  that make thy service perfect freedom.
Expel from my mind all sinful fear and shame,
  so that with firmness and courage I may
    confess the Redeemer before men,
    go forth with him bearing his reproach,
    be zealous with his knowledge,
    be filled with his wisdom,
    walk with his circumspection,
    ask counsel of him in all things,
    repair to the Scriptures for his orders,
    stay my mind on his peace,
  knowing that nothing can befall me
  without his permission, appointment
    and administration.

a plagued journey

I am trying to read more poetry, to make it more of a spiritual discipline.

I read this one today, "A Plagued Journey" by Maya Angelou, and the last stanza found me.

 

Through all the bright hours   

I cling to expectation, until   

darkness comes to reclaim me

as its own. Hope fades, day is gone   

into its irredeemable place

and I am thrown back into the familiar   

bonds of disconsolation.

Gloom crawls around

lapping lasciviously

between my toes, at my ankles,   

and it sucks the strands of my   

hair. It forgives my heady   

fling with Hope. I am

joined again into its

greedy arms.