Five Minute Friday: Doubt

I return today to this weekly writing practice of Five Minute Friday: Five minutes on a weekly prompt, no editing, just free-flowing words and stream-of-consciousness. And a supportive writing community hosted by Kate Motaung – head over to fiveminutefriday.com to learn more.

Dear Doubt,

I used to view you as an enemy of faith and faithful ones. You were sent to oppose and destroy those who believed. While acknowledging that yes, sometimes, this is still what happens,* this is not your intended purpose.

You are a missive that comes into my thoughts and is dangerous only if not attended to properly. I learned through seasons of doubt in college and again in my late 30’s, that a faith worth having must be able to (and will) withstand doubt’s power. Faith will be changed, of course, and it will emerge stronger for having withstood doubt. A faith after doubt will be more secure in what matters, and less sure of what’s not essential.

You are not the enemy of faith I once held you to be. So I will not fear you nor suppress you when you come, yes, often unbidden. I will bring you to the Light and let God answer the questions you bring, and give peace for the ones that will stay unanswered this side of heaven.

Signed,

A doubt-filled one held secure by The Faithful One

*I’m thinking of all of the deconstructionism happening in our current day and age.

Five Minute Friday: Simple

  • I return today to this weekly writing practice of Five Minute Friday: Five minutes on a weekly prompt, no editing, just free-flowing words and stream-of-consciousness. And a supportive writing community hosted by Kate Motaung – head over to fiveminutefriday.com to learn more.

Simple: it’s what I find myself longing for even more this time of year, and even more so this particular year than before. As life has returned to “the new normal” after the pandemic, I feel like I wasn’t ready for the rush of Christmas to begin. The last few years we’ve had a collective forced simplification of the holidays. I’m thinking of Thanksgiving meals eaten outdoors, Christmas gatherings limited due to illness and caution about preventing illness, and just an across-the-board less full calendar.

Enter 2022 and I’ve felt like life is roaring back to the pre-pandemic level of activity and busyness and – yes – stress that can accompany all of the joyful holiday activities.

Last year, Advent was intentionally more simple in our home. A friend had asked me “what aren’t you going to do for Advent?” and that guided me into intentional simplification.

This year, I forgot to make space for simple. So in the interest of sticking to my five-minute limit, and my desire to be honest even (especially?) while “in process” – I’m ending here with a few questions for you:

What are you doing to choose “simple” for your Advent season?

Or, perhaps, what aren’t you doing so that you make space for simple to find its quiet way back to the place where we reflect in hushed wonder at the newborn babe sent to save the world?

Five Minute Friday: Root

Where I live, we’re fully in the swing of fall routine, although the weather still feels like summer. In the mornings, the geese calls mix with the lingering music of birdsong, reminding me of the seasonal transition we are approaching from summer to fall. I want writing in this space to be part of my rhythm of this next season, and the one after, and the one after that … so I’m back for “Five Minute Friday” after stepping out for the last few crazy weeks of summer schedule-becoming-school-starting.

  • Five Minute Friday: Five minutes on a weekly prompt, no editing, just free-flowing words and stream-of-consciousness. And a supportive writing community hosted by Kate Motaung – head over to fiveminutefriday.com to learn more.

I think of the weeds I try to uproot in our backyard garden. The ones that are small are much easier to remove because the roots are shallow. But the ones I’ve missed somehow, perhaps because they disguised themselves for awhile, staying hidden in the foliage and blooms, those will take more effort. Their roots have become larger, entangled. And they’re more dangerous to the blossoms in which they’re entwined.

How similar the process of allowing Jesus, my heart-gardener, to uproot the sins in my life! The ones I see and notice small, those are more easily uprooted. But the ones that are more subtle, perhaps they’re the ones that are more dangerous. They’ve entwined themselves into my heart and my life, sometimes even masquerading as “fruit.” Those root systems – well, they can take years to uproot, even decades. My work? It’s to allow the Gardener of my Heart to do His work, painful though it might be. To abide more deeply in His Word, listen more carefully to His Spirit, walk towards the light of community even when it feels painful or blindingly too bright. It is here where the weeds of my life are exposed as what they are – lifeless distractions at best, life-choking deceptions at worst. It is here where sin can be uprooted, and the roots of my heart find space to go deeper into the live-giving Love of Christ.

My work? It’s to allow the Gardener of my Heart to do His work, painful though it might be. To abide more deeply in His Word, listen more carefully to His Spirit, walk towards the light of community even when it feels painful or blindingly too bright.

– Heather Nelson

Five Minute Friday: Together

I return today to this weekly writing practice of Five Minute Friday: Five minutes on a weekly prompt, no editing, just free-flowing words and stream-of-consciousness. And a supportive writing community hosted by Kate Motaung – head over to fiveminutefriday.com to learn more.

As an extroverted introvert – or an introverted extrovert – this question of whether to get together isn’t simple for me to answer. I vacillate between wanting to be together with “my people” (husband, kids, family, neighbors, friends) and craving the quiet solitude that gives my soul space to breathe.

It wasn’t always such a dilemma. I was the “yes girl” all growing up, all through college, and beyond. Then I got married, and we were together all the time – 24/7/365 – and it was great, and it was challenging for us both. But we navigated around it; found ways to be together and to also enjoy being apart. Then twins came barely four years into marriage, and “together” was no longer an option. Their survival very literally depended on it. We were feeding round-the-clock and sleeping in shifts. We were all very together all the time, and it was beautiful and delightful and difficult. I found when given the option during free time, I didn’t choose “together” automatically anymore. I chose “alone” because it became a rare luxury.

But now – these twins are becoming teens, and I find I’m shifting again. I want to be together … and that’s where we all are this weekend, and I’m hoping “together” will be what they want as well in the years and decades to come.

Five Minute Friday: Chance

I return today to this weekly writing practice of Five Minute Friday: Five minutes on a weekly prompt, no editing, just free-flowing words and stream-of-consciousness. And a supportive writing community hosted by Kate Motaung – head over to fiveminutefriday.com to learn more.

“So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” this line from a movie whose title is long forgotten is what first comes to mind. I think the context is a desperate boy trying to convince a popular girl that she should go out with him, and she rebuffs him, but he finds some sliver of a way in through the way she words it.

Chance isn’t something I do a lot, in terms of using it as a verb, and at least not consciously. I recently told a friend, “I’m risk-adverse in everything except for international travel,” and that really does describe me. I’ll never skydive, for example, nor would I do the really crazy high-in-the-air roller coasters. Fun fact: I didn’t ride my first roller coaster until my early 20s!

“Just leave it to chance,” is a phrase I actually profoundly disagree with. I believe in a loving and sovereign God, so I really don’t believe that “chance” exists. There’s a purpose in everything, and a loving hand guiding us. There’s a mystery in this doctrine of providence that I won’t pretend to explain away or understand completely, and I’m the first to admit that I don’t always enjoy the idea of this truth. But if God’s character and nature could be perfectly explained, then He wouldn’t be God – more likely a figment of my imagination. So I won’t leave it to chance, but remind myself to trust the good, the bad, the hard, the confusing, the inexplicable to the loving care of a God who’s over it all and in it all and committed to working all for good.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. … If God is for us, who can ever be against us? … And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. … nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:28, 32, 38-39 New Living Translation

Five Minute Friday: Twenty

The essence of this weekly writing practice of Five Minute Friday: Five minutes on a weekly prompt, no editing, just free-flowing words and stream-of-consciousness. And a supportive writing community hosted by Kate Motaung – head over to fiveminutefriday.com to learn more.

Twenty years ago I was in my 20s. What an odd statement, mostly because it makes me feel so old! Although I wouldn’t go back to my 20s – let me make that clear – it was quite a decade of change. I graduated from college; taught school; volunteered in youth ministry and college ministry and bilingual kids’ ministry; pursued a different calling to seminary and counseling; got married; and lived in Chicago, South Carolina, and Philadelphia. I look back at my 20s as a decade of discovery – discovering who God made me (and who I wasn’t), who God was calling me to share life with, and how I wanted to serve the broken world in which I found myself.

***

I’m going to be honest: as soon as my timer finished, I felt disappointed in how little I had written and I didn’t want to post this. Yet as someone who believes that vulnerability and imperfection actually creates connection and isn’t a barrier to it – I’m going to publish this post. Some prompts are more inspiring than others, and some days I write more fluidly than others. This is part of the struggle of being and becoming a writer. Too often it’s the polished words that find their way into my hands, and I have to remember that’s rarely where they began. Every book has a humble, often bumbling, beginning. So I’m reminding myself of that with today’s words.

Five Minute Friday: Trust

The essence of this weekly writing practice of Five Minute Friday: Five minutes on a weekly prompt, no editing, just free-flowing words and stream-of-consciousness. And a supportive writing community hosted by Kate Motaung – head over to fiveminutefriday.com to learn more.

****

She looks up at me with eyes wide open, innocent, trusting, the question inherent – “will you take care of me?” And of course I draw near, hug her close, whisper a sweet sh, sh, sh in her ear. That’s the only language that makes sense to her as a baby. She doesn’t have words yet.

He looks across joined hands with me at the front of a church, and I know deep in my soul I can trust him. I say “yes” and “I do” and “from this day forward.”

Yet trust can be so tenuous. So difficult to build – and long and hard to maintain. When breached, it can seem impossible to come back from. Have you ever trusted someone who failed you? Have you ever broken the trust of someone you loved?

Yes, and yes.

So there must be One more steadfast than a human heart can be. One whose arms always uphold, who’s ever ready to deliver and stand beside and repair the breaches of trust – the holes in the bridge of this tenuous endeavor called “trust.”

***

Five Minute Friday: Aware

Back by popular demand (you know who you are, friends – thank you for inviting back into this writing sphere with your encouragement last month!) – Five Minute Friday. Five minutes on a weekly prompt, no editing, just free-flowing words and stream-of-consciousness. I’ve been part of this community in its early stages, and it’s amazing what it’s become as of late. Curious? Head over to fiveminutefriday.com for more.

I’ve heard that a parent’s role is to be aware. To be alert, to notice, to watch out for impending danger ahead and warn or reroute as necessary. I’ve been told in my own journey of counseling that there have been blindspots in my own heart that I’ve not been aware of – that I’ve missed so much at times because of this lack of *awareness.* So to be aware is to be alert, but more than that, to be awake to life. Both its hard and its beautiful places. My own perspective can become so skewed – I’m trained by profession and calling to be aware of abusive tendencies in clients and to be aware of how my clients’ issues can bring up my own and to be aware of what’s not quite right so that I can help lead and guide and redirect to the best path forward.

But what God’s teaching me, what my counselor and good friends are inviting me into, is to bring my honed powers of awareness to the good and the beautiful. God is here, too, not just in the hard and the difficult and the sad. In fact, I think in today’s current cultural and political and international climate, to be aware of what’s good and beautiful requires *greater* powers of awareness than to notice what’s not right.

I want to be eyes wide opened to the good. I don’t want to miss a thing (thinking of lyrics by my favorite artist of late, Ellie Holcomb).

**END**

Five Minute Friday: Rush

Five Minute Friday. Free-writing for five minutes on a given topic. Community link-up here – join us!

She texted me, “No rush!” And something inside me breathed again. How many times do I rush, rush, rush? Do I hurry, hurry, hurry? And I hurry making myself harried. I rush and become rash.

Instead, slow. What would slow look like in the midst of a rushing world? I think it feels like a wide open blue sky space when you’ve been walking through a torrential downpour. It’s like a quiet pond with a comfortable bench so you could perch and rest awhile. It gives time for soul work.

pond

A Quiet Pond” by Pietro Fragiacomo

It’s Sabbath every week. It’s sabbatical when needed – or maybe, before it’s needed. It’s vacation that is restful. It’s time away from the demands of your busy life. It’s daily moments to pause, to ponder, to stop.

Just to stop. To stop rushing even when the world around me tells me I must. It’s counter-cultural, and our communities are craving it. Someone, somewhere, to say and really mean it: “No rush.” Just breathe. And pay attention to your life – your one beautiful, wondrous life – and the lives around you.

To stop rushing is to start wondering. And to stop wonder-ing is to start rushing.

Five Minute Friday: Surrender

Five Minute Friday is a writing community I link up with most Fridays. It’s a five-minute free write on a given topic. Learn more about it here.

white flag

When I think of surrender, what first comes to mind is “raising the white flag.” Like surrender as a last resort in a battle when you realize it’s over and you can’t win. You declare that you give in and give up. So it’s no wonder that “surrender” isn’t something high on my list of favorite topics. I don’t want to give up anything to anyone. Not control, not time, not money … surrender seems to imply I’m giving over what I’d rather keep. But I know that in the Christian life, one of the central themes is surrender. The gospel hymn “I Surrender All” comes to mind. We sing about it sweetly in church, yet I think it’s more like the last act of a battle in reality. I would rather not have to surrender to God. But I do. And what changes this action from grit-your-teeth-and-open-your-hands to willing is when I look at God’s surrender for me. In a word, His love. I don’t surrender first. God surrendered all – His one and only perfect Son – in the battle for my soul and yours against an evil to the core Enemy. Jesus opened wide his arms in surrender at the cross. It was bloody and messy and awful, I imagine. But He did that so that I could be welcomed into God’s love. Surrendering to love is sweet and drives out fear. This surrender is less white flag and more like a lover’s embrace after a long time apart. Finally, you’re here, and I’m here, and we’re together at last. I think that’s true Christian surrender.