Wednesday, May 25, 2011

so begins summer

Tonight was a perfect introduction to summer. Kathryn and I packed up a picnic (pretty gourmet -- thanks to Mom's amazing cooking!) and met up with our dear friends, Kim, Anna, and Eva, in the little, artsy college town of Oberlin. Thinking of Oberlin usually brings to mind memories with the Williams girls... dinners at the Chinese restaurant, walking barefoot through the square and gardens, making jewelry in the gazebo...Always wonderful times of catching up that are refreshing and encouraging to my heart. I felt instantly the bonding of kindred spirits that I had been missing when they freaked out just as much as I did during our discussion of the mermaids in the new Pirates film :) and yes, they have already agreed to put several new wraps in my hair.

As we were saying goodbye to them, a huge storm started rolling in, and a tornado warning was issued. Kathryn and I were determined however to find this coffee shop the girls told us about, and just as it began to rain we happened upon it: The Slow Train Cafe. It is so cool! Just the name sounds like a place I'd like to chill at and read. Definitely encompasses the unique, artsy, relaxed aura of a good coffee shop.

Slow Train Cafe

I love discovering new hole in the wall places like this. As we waited for the rain to pass we got ourselves some coffee... and had a deep heart to heart about how perhaps it is time for me to let go of my aspirations of becoming a mermaid when I grow up... not the best moneymaker I suppose... ;)  hm, too bad.

But really, these moments are ones I treasure so. I love that girl. After discussing the topic of possible life careers and alter ego accents, we decided to run through the pouring rain to our car.  When we got home we went for a run through the neighborhood in the rain as well. It was a fun adventure :)

Some thoughts about the summer ~
I hope to visit friends from school, go up to the island and lake as much as possible, garden frequently, spend time in Columbus with the sibs and nephews, explore, and have a pile of books that I can say I finished reading. This fall is going to be different, and full of new challenges and adventures...I am excited for this break, and am praying it's a time of intense spiritual growth and preparation for my new responsibilities in the fall. It's gonna be good! :)

Today was a good day. I'm so thankful for these friends, and that we will be able to spend more time together over the next couple months. So begins summer!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

a matter of contentment

This afternoon finds me sitting at McConn, the coffee shop here at school, actually having some time to relax, read, and write. Occasionally I will reread through the journal I kept while in Kenya, and today I brought it with me to look through. Being there was a solid four month period that God used tremendously to take me deeper in my knowledge of Him and show me how desperately incapable I am of anything on my own. Even though time is distancing me from the experience of living there, I still love revisiting the memories and reading how God was working on me then. Often it either lines up with something else I am learning now, or smacks me upside the head with an "aha" moment.

On September 20th, 2009, I journaled some excerpts from Elisabeth Eliot's book, "These Strange Ashes," an account she tells of her first year as a single missionary woman in Ecuador. I remember writing all this down while sitting outside at the Mara Safari Club, one of our last destinations before Mom and Dad left to go back to the U.S. 

At this point in the book Eliot was referencing a prayer of Betty Scott Stam, something Stam had written just a few years before her and husband's martyrdom in China. 

"Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to thee, to be thine forever. Fill me and seal me with thy Holy Spirit, use me as thou wilt, send me where thou wilt, work out thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever." (Betty Stam) 
then Elisabeth Eliot adds,
"I had never forgotten the picture on the front page of our newspaper of the Stam's baby daughter being carried in a rice basket by a Chinese woman who had found her after her parents' execution...It was a long time before I came to the realization that it is in our acceptance of what is given that God gives Himself." 
Eliot adds another quote she prayed when waiting for Jim,
"And shall I pray thee change thy will, Father, until it be according to mine? But no, Lord, no, that never shall be, rather I pray thee blend my human will with thine. I pray thee hush the hurrying, eager longing, I pray thee soothe the pangs of keen desire, see in my quiet places wishes thronging, Forbid them, Lord, purge, though it be with fire." 

Gosh, I want to follow the examples of these remarkable women of God. The beauty of their characters, selflessness of living, and integrity inspires me. 
I'll be honest though and say that this is quite a load for me to read. My heart resonates so strongly with these prayers, but as I reread them a weight presses upon my heart, one that reminds me of the intensity of these utterances. I know I would readily say the same things, but at the same time my eyes open to seeing the parts in me that need to be surrendered, trusting, and content. As I read it's as if God said, "Here, Mary, remember? This is where you need to readjust your focus. Remain in me, be content, beloved."

I suppose this afternoon has been rather sobering, in a good way. I would rather be challenged in seeing things in me as they are rather than remain in a stagnant oblivion with no growth.

I'm so thankful I stumbled upon these few pages of my journal. For what's been going on in my mind lately, it's perfect timing. 

"And shall I pray thee change thy will, Father, until it be according to mine? But no, Lord, no, whatever shall be, rather I pray thee blend my human will with thine." ~ Elisabeth Eliot

Sunday, May 15, 2011

a sanctuary of sorts

There is a place in the world that I deem my "world between worlds," a place where I can go and read any book and it fits the setting, a place that resonates with everything I love, a place that is treasured by the people I love. For me it is a type of sanctuary, a thing Lemony Snicket describes as "a small, safe place in a troubling world. Like an oasis in a vast desert or an island in a stormy sea." Meaningful times spent here with Jesus also mark it in my memory as a thing of beauty, a place of reflection and quiet. I do not get to be here often, but it seems that when I do find myself sitting on the canyon rocks next to the clear, rushing creek, I am most reassured and reminded of God's ever progressing work on my ragged heart.  

I realize it is rather materialistic to hold a place here on earth so dearly, but honestly I think that in some ways there are places God uses to give you a glimpse of eternity, so perhaps it isn't so materialistic, just an appreciation. Oak Creek Canyon (near Sedona, Arizona) is this place for me. Thinking of it recalls memories of cherished times spent deep in conversation, adventuring, journaling, and just soaking in the stillness of God's presence through the beauty of nature. It's a place where the business of life gets put on hold and the right perspective is readjusted in my mind and heart. 

The North orchard is in Oak Creek, and I use it as the title for this blog for a couple reasons. 
My brother once labeled a passage from Hebrews 11, "The North Country," and perhaps it is self-explanatory: 
"...They were foreigners and strangers here on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country -- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." 

To me this encapsulates the mindset I desire and strive to have. North as in heaven, upward, something Higher than myself, beyond myself, fixed on the Kingdom and not worldly things...the "north country". Perhaps a stretch, but I like it.  

I'm using the term North Orchard instead, because it reminds me not only of the place where I feel the most spiritually refreshed, but also of growth, fruit (the fruit of the Spirit) and the shaping that God does in my heart. That is what I want this blog to be, an expression of myself, my thoughts, interests, and what I'm learning. I do not promise any kind of consistency or pattern to posting, but sporadic and unique is more what I prefer anyway.  Enjoy :)