On Waiting for the Birth of a Dream

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There is a place of deepest pain that yields a most intimate spot in the soil of creation. A dark and loamy bed for a seed to rest easy; so miniscule the human eye must labor to see it.

But suddenly, there it is, growth under the surface of your fear and trepidation, watered by your tears He has faithfully collected in a bottle.

A dream is germinating.

Hope is preordained like a time capsule waiting to be opened; His fingernails filled with the dirt of your genetic predisposition, the only evidence.

Dreams are pushing through your doubts and questions, shedding the skin of spiritual youth in exchange for the cloak of wisdom. Obsessed with bravery over matters of prudence, your calling isn’t a naysayer but faithful and determined.

The tree of your life will bear branches for others to rest upon.

Despite what you wrongly assume is silence from the heavenlies, a seedling hatches from Abraham’s genetic microcosm into the ordinary suds of your kitchen sink.

Quiet.

Listen.

A quaking of goodness is unleashing.

Hold fast.

Sabbath is coming.

Exhale.

And welcome Monday as one tiny sprout toward your destiny.

He ordains your seasons and nothing is wasted, not even the compost heap of your failed endeavors.

Happy Sabbath from me to you.

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When You Are Searching for Purpose in the Mess

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What you are created for is not a mystery if you pay attention to the way your heart beats with purpose.

When a random thought causes you to walk faster or a smile to spread across your face at the most inopportune moment; when you begin negotiating with responsibility and prudence over what motivates you toward action – listen to what your heart is saying.

Sometimes and maybe often, these are tiny hints to how God made you to flourish.

When we moved to London, I assumed our lives would be that of simplicity in small spaces. We assumed a yard (or garden in English) would be non-existent.

Now, every morning while my son eats breakfast, I sit in our new brown chair in the corner of the dining room, holding a cuppa while looking through the windows at a wall of ivy fluttering in the breeze. I’m wooed into a trance of awe by God’s provision.

All I expected was one lone box of beauty propped on my window sill. But you should know something about me.

Gardening is like breathing. The act of digging deep and pulling out helps make sense of congested thinking, the same way writing helps  process the pages of life God has ordained for me.

I shipped my bird bath and empty pots all the way across the ocean. I did.

We don’t have a car or Home Depot or even a nursery within walking distance. Transporting soil and plants is a challenge in London.

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On Mother’s Day, shortly after I stepped inside the church, a new friend greeted me and then asked an astounding question. She overbought plants for her garden and asked if I would I like to have the excess?

Um, well, ABSOLUTELY! YES! OH MY GOSH THIS IS THE BEST GIFT EVER!

After church, I devoured a Sunday roast dinner hosted by a lovely family, inspired by the garden view beyond a wall of open windows.

I couldn’t pull my garden gloves on fast enough after we walked home and I didn’t even have the plants in my possession yet. The possibilities sparked creativity, a hint that creating beauty is a challenge I often accept with enthusiasm.

Bent over, while digging up an overgrown, weedy, neglected plot of earth, I heard a small voice above me saying, “Oh look, you’re cleaning your garden up today too.”

Standing on the top rungs of the wooden fence, I spied my six year old neighbor missing his front teeth; satiating childish curiosity.

“My garden isn’t as tidy as yours, I’m afraid.”

“It’s not your fault,” he said with alacrity, “the previous tenants didn’t take good care of it.”

As I scooped another pile of rocky soil into the shovel, something unnatural appeared on the surface.

“Oh look what I found,” I said to my young neighbor.

With eyes wide as saucers and mouth open, he exclaimed, “A dinosaur!”

Brushing the dirt off the small plastic figurine, I handed it up to him and he thanked me like a proper English boy does without thinking.

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When you are awakened out of walking passively through life, tied down like Gulliver by all the little things, Jesus reminds you that the way to the Kingdom is modeled by children.

Be brave about new adventures.

Say what  you think out loud when empathy and compassion are your only motives.

Conquer the walls that keep joy at a distance.

Follow your heart when it races with passion.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

In that uncomfortable middle place between the wilderness of circumstance and the hope of fulfillment, God is looking down and saying, “It’s not your fault. Let’s move forward in cleaning up the messes others left for you.”

He may just give you a gift you never asked for or expected in the process.

 

Why the Color of My Front Door Matters

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One year ago, I sat on an aluminum bench with a journal on my lap, under the live oak of Brookgreen Gardens in my southern hometown. Leaves were twirling from high branches like confetti being poured from skyscraper windows, collecting in puddles of color around my feet.

As I surveyed the landscape of this place where beauty haunts and history speaks through swaying tails of moss, the distant sound of an ambulance mingles with the rit-rit-rit of bird chatter. A gray sky yawns; a backdrop to my unanswered questions.

H was an ocean away walking the streets of London on a scouting trip while I stayed behind, pondering our Macedonian call to England. My journal tells the true tale of my heart.

This place of fountains, statues and flowers, it was a respite of hope during a long, lonely waiting season. And this particular Sunday stroll, as spring buds were just unfurling, I said goodbye to what I came to know as a safe oasis.

Is it a coincidence that the neighborhood we call home now in London is known as Brook Green?

Only if you are callous to the ways of wonder and God’s imagination.

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London is a city of colorful doors and small garden spaces. A few weeks ago I snapped a photo of our front door and asked people to help me pick a new color for it. And I learned you are all some opinionated people with good taste.

When I sat on that park bench a year ago, I dreamt of what I didn’t have but longed for often. True community characterized by hospitality that transforms people from an address to real stories that matter in the Kingdom.

We want to be front door people. Inviting. Intentional. Relational. That’s why we chose turquoise for the color of our front door.

When my friend Kristin Schell started the Turquoise Table movement, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. She painted a picnic table turquoise and placed it in her front yard under a magnolia tree as a gathering place for her community.

Kristin says, “The turquoise table has become a meeting place—kind of like the old village well—for neighbors, friends, and even strangers, to hang out and do life together. The table has spurred a front yard revival in our neighborhood and had become a welcome place to gather and love.”

Turquoise tables are popping up all over the US and beyond.

H and I have talked long about how the turquoise table translates in the UK context because picnic tables and front yards are sparse in London, especially because they aren’t called yards, they’re gardens.

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Last week, I met my new friend Elaine for tea and she handed me a book of matches as we were finishing our conversation. She said God often leads her to give people random objects that result in significant meaning for the recipient.

As she slid them in front of me she admitted she had two and nearly kept this one because it was her favorite color. The one she kept was pink.

When I looked closely, I saw that they were from a local Mexican restaurant called Wahaca and they weren’t matches, they were seed sticks. And the color? Turquoise.

How is this significant? I met H in Phoenix and during the early years of our marriage, our favorite restaurant happened to be called Qaxaca (Wahaca). And the color? I don’t really need to explain that, do I?

While we are waiting, God is planting seeds, not only in us but in the people who He wants us to meet.

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The day I met Elaine, we sat on the concrete wall in front of my house instead of a lonely park bench and I told her why we painted our front door turquoise. She prayed a beautiful prayer of blessing as busy people walked past and puddles of petals swirled in the streets.

Brook Green was always God’s heart for us, in the winter of waiting and the springtime of fulfillment. He stands at the door and knocks waiting for us to answer. (Revelation 3:20) How can we not be front door people?

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How is God stringing the color, design and details of your life together? There are no random doors in the playground of God’s imagination.