Thursday, March 20, 2014

Taking stock at the end

It happened last night. For the last week, I've known it was just a matter of time.
Yesterday when I opened my blue notebook journal, I realized it would be the last entry I'd write in such a blue composition book. Since I realized I was starting the last book, I've been on the hunt for more of them, but have been unable to find them anywhere. Apparently with the rise of computer/online work for students, such composition books have been rendered obsolete. So it was with a strong sense of sentimentality that I wrote yesterday. You might be able to imagine this. 36 1/2 years and 77 notebooks will do that.

So I thought I'd just lean in today, lean into the moment and take stock. Every now and then it's right to look back. 120 pages each, 37 lines a page, approximately 11 words a line: that's 3,760,680 words. I'm not kidding. My daughter E let her Iphone do the math (which is good, because I was trying to do it myself--math and I are like oil and...well you know, we don't mix!). My point is, it's a whole lot of words. I've written a lot in those thirty plus years.

I've chronicled life on three continents, a dozen countries, and many states. My first word was written when I was 20 and single, away from home for the first time, a college transfer student getting two degrees at two different colleges. I chronicled being single and having a serious boyfriend who broke my heart (about a dozen times), traveling to Europe and reconnecting and falling in love with the man who I now call the Beve. Marrying and learning to be a part of a pair, then becoming the mother of each of the chublets who are now adults (today's our son's 27th birthday!). I write this so quickly for the long serious thought each of these things demanded in my journals as they happened.

In these journals all the cycles of life are contained. Marriages besides ours (I was a bridesmaid 7 times before I was a bride), births of many babies--these were joys I faithfully praised God for along the way. But there were heartaches, too. Marriages ended. Lives were cut short. Our parents died, as did siblings and friends.

You can find mentions in these notebooks of Sunday school we taught, Young Life clubs and Bible Studies we led. Mission trips we led or of which we were part. YWAM, of course. So many forms of ministry are contained in these journals--moments when we prayed with people, times we had people living in our home, conversations and dinners and parties we went to or had or times we gathered with others.

But all these things are the external things, the circumstances of my life. You won't find what I ate, what I wore, and very seldom how I wore my hair (unless I got a very bad or very good hair cut!). There are reflections on sermons, world events, books, sporting events, weather, family (my mother!), reflections on my weight (sadly!), my flaws and shortcomings, reflections on Beve (and his strengths and shortcomings;)).



Tools of my trade--Bible, pens (a different pen each day), journal, Kindle devotional for the year.
But primarily, MOSTLY, these blue notebooks have been where I come to meet God. As I've put my pen to page, He's joined me. He's listened to me rant, allowed me to grieve, brought me to hope, led me through my questions, helped me with my theology. I don't know for sure who I'd be without them but I think it would be a weaker, thinner, watered-down disciple. Yes, that's it: there'd be less substance to me. These blue notebooks--the calm, ordinary continuity of them--have been the order necessary for spiritual discipline in my life.

One of the desert Fathers, Abba Moses, said, "Go into your cell and your cell will teach you everything." I believe these journals have functioned as a cell for me. They've been His instrument in teaching me about who He is. There have been many times when I've come to them, screaming inside. By writing to Him or about Him or both--He reveals His truth, His love and I come out the other side with peace. He meets me at the end of my pen. I realize this sounds strange to people who do not write or journal, but this is true for me. Over and over I've experienced it: I begin to write, not knowing where my words will go, not necessarily even knowing where the next sentence will go. But He guides that pen. Even in the deserts as dry as Death Valley, wildernesses as barren and cold as Antarctica, sooner or later He shows up on the page. I am sometimes very surprised by what is written. The only explanation is that He was there all along, guiding my fingers no matter what I know.

So I praise God for these blue notebooks. I'm a little melancholy that the long season of them is over, but it's pretty silly to think He's limited to my blue notebooks, isn't it?

I'm expecting God to show up in this new kind of journal. It looks different on the outside (I've had it sitting around since college when my mother bought me three of them in different colors, so I'm starting with the easiest transition), but I KNOW it'll be the same on the inside. Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

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