Here is what God is teaching me. My timing is not his timing. Today I woke up dreaming of newness and excitement. I came home feeling dejected, out of hope for the day. What I had hoped to happen, did not happen. The 'out' from this everyday routine did not show itself today.
Waiting. Waiting is so hard, yet I feel like God calls us to it nearly all the time. Most everyone I know is waiting for the next best thing. But today I had a thought, and to be honest, it was a hard one to swallow. I wondered if I would even feel fulfilled if the things I've been waiting for did happen today. If I had received that email, or gotten that package, or had that conversation - would I have come home this afternoon feeling truly and deeply fulfilled in my soul?
I have a hard time asking myself these questions, probably because I already know the answer and don't want to admit it. I don't want to admit that the things I'm hoping for will someday pass away, that I am busying myself with earthly dreams and desires when I have a Savior who will give me all my desires, if only I will desire him. Because sometimes I just want something to hold onto, something tangible that I can see with my own eyes and feel with my own hands.
I am always waiting for something better. Sometimes, we call that dreaming. And I believe that dreaming is good. I think we all should do more of it. But sometimes that waiting takes the shape of something else. Like, making idols out of our success or our stuff. And it makes us lose sight of the poignancy of every day life. Right now, I have a peony candle burning, and it makes me remember my wedding day. It makes me remember the beautiful bouquets which my mother and her friend Anne made with love for us. That's beautiful. Pablo is lying in my lap, and I can feel his heart beat across my legs. Someday, he won't be here to sigh and lick my face. Our home is completely quiet - and someday, it may be filled with children, and that will be lovely - but the silence tonight gives me an opportunity to refresh my spirit. Are the things that I long for - that I'm literally wishing my days away for - really going to fulfill me more than I am in this moment?
I do not like to wait. And I think that is precisely the reason God makes me wait so much. Because there is beauty in the waiting, and there is freshness in the every day. It is a lesson that none of us want to hear, but all of us need to learn. I trust that abundant joy can happen in the waiting, if only we can hold ourselves back from wishing it away.
I woke up this morning feeling a little blue. Christmas vacation has officially begun, and the sky outside our window was gray with the impending snow. Pablo was curled up beside me and the house was quiet... so very quiet. It was everything I have been wanting - a long day sprawling before me, to be filled with books and coffee or the sweet silence of nothing at all.
I squeezed my eyes shut. In that seemingly perfect moment, I felt as though the right thing to be was joyful. And then I panicked, because I wasn't. My soul and my heart and my mind were tired. And when this sort of weariness settles in, so do all of my unwanted worries and insecurities and complaints.
I prayed a simple prayer, because those are the only ones I can manage when I feel this way.
Lord, show me the joy around me today.
God is going to do something through me. He whispered it to me this morning while I contemplated whether the things I want most will ever happen, while I was feeling weary of waiting and was wanting to do it on my own.
I have spent so long dreaming of sharing something important with people through my words. I have longed to put my pen to the paper, my fingers to the keyboard, and to scrawl words that will bring new meaning to this crazy planet.
But as much as I've wanted that, I've never quite felt qualified to do it. I don't know much about a lot. I am younger than many; less experienced than most. I am no wiser than my neighbors, and my words are made up of the same 26 letters that everyone else uses. I, in myself, am no more worthy of publishing words than any other soul I know.
Yet - there was still the whisper. It called me by my name and told me that my desire will be used for something good. It reassured me that it will be more beautiful than anything I can plan. There was no maybe about it; no probablys or ifs. The Holy Spirt doesn't need a potential "out" to His promises, because He always keeps them. When that whisper entered my heart, I knew it would happen.
It hasn't happened yet. I still don't know how it will come to fruition, or when. I've been wanting it for a long time, and it goes against my nature to wait. But I've strived and yearned and tried to go my own way before, and it's always left me just as far away, and even more frustrated. So I will wait in quiet expectation and secret joy. I will rise every day, waiting for the promise that has been made to me.
Friends, what has been whispered to you? There's a lot that I still haven't learned. But I have learned that we can trust those promises that have been whispered to us in the farthest reaches of our souls. And those whispers can be our confidence. We don't have to strive and think of how to make our yearnings happen all on our own. We can wait for the Holy Spirit to nudge us forward, and then know that when we move forward, we will succeed because our Helper is working beside us.
As children we are told that we make our own magic. We can be anything we want to be if we work hard enough. But I tell you that I have worked hard, and there have been many times when I haven't gotten what I wanted. It is time to learn the disciplines of waiting and trust. It is time to start expecting that the promises whispered to us will happen, and their timing and design will be perfect.
This earth is both a lovely and terrifying place. Those two opposites juxtaposed together are sometimes the only thing that can give me hope. Many people have exclaimed about the outpouring of love on Texas and Florida after the hurricanes - and truly it is beautiful. But there are smaller pieces of loveliness tucked into each day, too, right alongside the dark, murky fears that cling to us like unwanted velcro. And if we look for them, there we will find reason to hope.
Loneliness. It is a state of being that forms a cloud of insecurity around your heart and your mind. When you are in that cloud, you feel like there is not and there will never be someone who will care enough about you to be your true friend. You feel as though everyone you meet has already sized you up and found you wanting.
I can't help but reflect on loneliness now. This morning, as I have a moment to breathe in between the hikes and coffee dates and beach days that have filled this week, I feel so much gratitude. Loneliness is not a stranger to me. I know that cloud so well that when I stop in this silent moment to think about it, I am a girl standing amidst the chatter of a dining hall, grabbing a bagel and scarfing it while I walk to class so that I don't have to sit alone. I am a girl who feels utterly different than everyone around me, praying that I will meet just one person who will understand me and like me. And it is painful to be that girl. Loneliness is not something to wave away. It is a big deal. A very big deal.
Have you ever tried to impress somebody? Like when you were in middle school and wore too much eyeliner so that maybe, just maybe you'd look cool enough to get invited to an eighth grade sleepover? Or when you got your first job, and you worked late hours to prove to your boss that you were competent? I know I've applied way too many layers of eye makeup , and I've also done backflips to try to get my boss's attention. And while I may have felt admiration for the people I was trying to impress - I never loved them. In fact, I sort of resented them for not liking me the way I was.
I have always been fascinated by perspective. The fact that every person sees the world through their own positively intrigues me. The fact that mine changes once, twice, or even a handful of times a day puzzles me. Some might say that you need to stick to your guns at all costs, or that it's weak to let your way of thinking be altered by another's. But I say that only the strongest-minded people are aware enough of their own thinking to realize that sometimes there are lies and misconceptions braided into it.
There are some things in this world that I am not scared of. For example, I'm not scared of speaking my mind in a meeting. I'm not scared of cooking a new recipe for guests (although my mother would advise against that). I'm not scared of a classroom full of unruly students. But standing face to face with a stranger and talking with them about the mundane? Terrifying.
I'm not a shy person, usually. But today I was. I met somebody new and they were nice. But for some reason, I felt that they could not possibly be interested in anything I had to say, and so I stumbled on my words. I felt silly and insincere in my expressions. I found myself wanting to blame my discomfort on them, but I knew truly that something was going on within me.
Is this something that goes away as we get older? Do we reach an age, a number, when we no longer desperately hope the stranger or the friend across from us will think we are interesting? Is there ever a day when we will not find it painful to be vulnerable? Even as I write this, knowing that others will read it, I want to protect my ego and pretend I am completely confident in who I am. But I am not always.
There is verse from Psalm 46 that I love. It says, "God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns." She shall not be moved. When we go into new situations, when we talk to new people, we do not have to twist ourselves to be more interesting. We don't have to stumble over our words, searching for just the right one. We don't have to beat ourselves up for not knowing what to say and when to say it. Our insides don't have to be moved. We can be rock solid in knowing that God is in our midst.
It feels scary to admit that I feel uncomfortable, self-conscious, or less-than sometimes. It feels scary to admit that I'm scared. But maybe if we all acknowledge our own insecurities, they can start to feel less scary. Maybe once we know they are there and invite God into the midst of them, they will not be able to move us anymore.
My grandmother Christine was a wonderful woman. There was never a moment that I didn't feel her love. She made plain pancakes that filled an entire dinner plate, and cut them into tiny squares and drenched them in butter. She kept a box of ice cream cones on top of the freezer and pulled out the cherry vanilla ice cream when my sister and I spent the night. I didn't even like cherry ice cream, except when I was with her. When I learned to drive she told me she wasn't scared to ride with me. I knew she was telling the truth because she didn't push her foot through an imaginary brake every time we crossed an intersection.
Last night, my friend Hannah asked me, "Why The Coming Appetite? Why did you name it that?"
Grammie Christine coined the phrase. At least, she's the only one I've ever heard say it. A coming appetite is a noun. It is when you think you aren't hungry, until a plate of food is placed before you and, to your surprise, you eat the whole thing. It's a hunger you didn't know you had. Grammie would often defend her empty plate - shortly after claiming she didn't want anything to eat - by saying, "I guess I had a coming appetite."
I named this site The Coming Appetite to honor her, because I admired her cooking and I loved the way she made me feel. I named it that because it made me remember her, and I hoped others would remember her too. But my conversation with Hannah last night got me thinking. It made me wonder if there is something more to the phrase that Grammie used, and to the notion that we hunger without knowing it.
I mean, it happens to me all the time. A coming appetite. I don't know that I'm hungry for something, until I get a taste. I don't know I'm hungry for rest, until I spend time sitting alone on the porch and then feel refreshed. I don't know I'm hungry for connection, until a girl friend makes me laugh so hard I have to cross my legs. I don't know I'm hungry for Jesus, until I realize that my soul and my every moment is full only when I have dined on His love. And then - it's then that I realize I am positively starving.
Grammie Christine - she never left a full plate in front of her. She tasted it, just to see if maybe she was hungry after all. I think we all have full plates before us, too. Plates of peace and mercy, hot and fragrant. Plates of grace and forgiveness, so sweet on our souls. Maybe it's time that we take a bite - if only a nibble at first - to see if we too have coming appetites. And if so, let's eat until we are completely, utterly, and perfectly stuffed.
I have a ragged notebook in my lap. I spilled some coffee on the front of it and left it in my school bag with a leaky water bottle. The pages are curled and bled through and scribbled on. They don't flip right on the binding anymore, and get stuck and crumpled when I turn them. And right now, this notebook is my most treasured possession.
In November, I was feeling frustrated. It's a feeling that comes when I don't write. It wasn't that I didn't want to - it was that I felt I couldn't. Whenever I sat down to do it, I had nothing important to say. Nothing that anyone would care to read. I would pick up my pen, scribble a page, then flip it and write something new. No matter how badly I wanted to put something important on paper, I felt every word, every line, every idea was a waste of my time, and anyone else's. They weren't right, and I knew it.
But I still felt the quiet urging to write. So I made a deal with myself. I found a notebook that was simple and rugged, burnt orange with a soft leather cover and gold binding. And I decided that I would write in it everyday. One poem. I wasn't allowed to use the excuse that my words weren't good enough or important enough. I had to write. But nobody had to read it.
Was I a regular Pablo Neruda? No, not nearly. Did I ever feel like not writing? Mostly every night. There were many nights when I would climb into bed past my bedtime, and with squinty eyes and a drooping hand I'd scrawl a couple words on the page and call it good. There were a few days I missed. But, there were more that I didn't.
I figured that if I wrote every day for a year, and had over 300 poems to show for it at the end, maybe, just maybe, there would be something of importance there. The statistics were good, I reckoned. This afternoon, I filled my first notebook. For the first time in my life, I didn't put something down because it "wasn't good enough." I wrote the good, bad, and ugly. How precious that notebook is - a reminder of my foremost thoughts throughout the year's daily grind. It is full of thankfulness to the Holy One, sadness in the deep dark of winter, fear and anxieties, and rejoicing in daily pleasures and special treats.
Oh, how thankful I am that I did not put this down. This is the poem that I wrote this afternoon on the final page of my notebook, as I flipped through the pages of my thoughts and held them tightly against me.
Poetry should be
A direct line into
The darkest ponderings
And sweetest proclamations
Of the human mind.
For, everyone is a poet
If only they can be honest.
Is there something that is hard and lovely and imperfect that you, too, need to pick up and not put down? I urge you - start it today. Nobody else has to read it or see it or eat it or know it. But do it every day. The satisfaction is rich and sweet. As for me, I will celebrate tonight. And tomorrow, I will fill the first blank page in my next notebook.