i have experienced moments of unsettled discomfort in the recent months. i have felt sad when things have not gone my way. there has been frustration when the plans i write out have been thwarted or derailed. i have been, most certainly, impatient with life and have [many times] wanted to give in to quick, rash decisions. and none of this, none of these feelings or reactions to my present space in life, really surprises me. i am a fairly self-aware woman. i know when i am feeling things and i know when my actions are healthy or unhealthy responses to those feelings. i know my tendency in these particular seasons is to either shoot up with proverbial novocain: default to numbness and an insincere exhibition of carefree delight, or to retreat and wallow alone in the sadness. and i am well aware that these tendencies are not my best options. neither grant me comfort and neither are life-giving [for myself or my community].

recently i heard a pastor speak on psalm 90, a psalm written by moses and referencing the israelites in the wilderness. throughout his beautiful message the pastor spoke boldly of being people who live into the purpose for which we were made. he spoke of mindfulness. he addressed ideas of how our faith informs our identity. he asked questions about how our daily choices reflect our salvation. it was a beautiful message throughout which God spoke to me in very personal ways. finally, he discussed the people of israel and their perpetual dissatisfaction with their context. they didn’t like the dessert. they didn’t like the leadership. they didn’t like the food. they didn’t like the timing of God. they were always wishing their context was different. this is when the sermon went from being very personal, to downright piercing. i sat there, a guest in that community, and as i listened to the words being spoken i felt my body physically melt, and tears began their journey down my cheek. i don’t like my desert. i’m not a fan of this particular spot. i am irritated with the process. i am deeply hurt by friends who have given up on me. i am insecure about what’s next. fighting self-pity has exhausted me. unfortunately, i have allowed the setbacks too great a voice in my life, resulting in destructive doubt. today my unrealized dreams have lost their luster, color, and possibility. the perpetually dissatisfied israelites were me.

when i feel stuck, i fixate on my context. but my context is not the problem. as i was reminded that sunday morning, despite the context, i am surrounded by matchless beauty and cause for joy and gratitude. in the midst of speaking, somewhere along the way, the pastor spoke these words:

THE BIRDS ARE STILL SINGING, EVEN WHEN YOU’RE STUCK IN TRAFFIC.

that is what i took away. right now my context may feel [or actually even BE] similar to the grossness of being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. but the birds are still singing. the past two weeks have been an exercise of listening for the proverbial birds in my life. i have been writing them down as i’ve noticed them, because, for me, writing them down makes them real. and tangible. and as i have felt gratefulness grow, my context has become less visible and his kingdom has become brighter.

so these are my birds, at least the one’s i have noticed…

the gift of two hours every morning to read, write, and find space. the fighting sunshine that wants to warm everything. the smell of fresh cut grass recently invading my neighborhood. the voices of friends who have not given up on me and desire to love me well. the conversations i get to have with people more than twice my age. fluffy snow to play in with my father. a group of women who gather to share pains, perspectives, & joys. honest hugs from amelia. the opportunity to work for a dear friend and learn. books filled with stories that generate emotion. the promise of irish adventures. slumber parties. a healthy family. a so-ugly-he’s-cute pug that snuggles with me every time i sit on the couch. a porch swing saturated with afternoon sun. conversations in broken swahili with friends in another hemisphere. hot coffee every morning. walks through pike place market with the freedom to dream and ask “what if?” the sound of neighborhood children playing a game of kickball. answered prayers for health and life for a dear ministry. hot bubble baths. new life springing up in the garden outside my front window. boys who strike up conversations in new coffee shops. a kiss on my forehead given by an incredible 95 year old woman. the clouds that come and go continually changing the face of the sky. a clove cigarette shared with ty on the front porch. memories of the way God spoke to me in that dusty land. the dad who, every morning, kneels down in front of the register counter of the coffee shop to allow his two-year-old son to stand on his knee so that he might use his own voice to order his breakfast bagel [with strawberry jam]. moments when i am honored to provide a comforting touch to an uncomfortable patient. surprising new friendships. ben crawling into my lap because, “it just looks like a good spot.” snuggling into my bed each week with three lovely ladies to study, discuss, share, struggle, and grow in faith together. celebratory dancing at weddings. falling asleep to the sound of heavy rain on the roof.

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