Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Hope*Writer Challenge, Days 1-4

I sit at my desk and enjoy the view of God’s creation…green grass, birdfeeders full of brightly colored birds, flowers blooming. I could stay here all day and watch life take place at a snail’s pace in my backyard…sigh.

Stop it! I need to stop putting off what I want to do and get to the heart of the matter. I want to write. I need to write, and make it a priority like it used to be. I need to give it space to grow, and bloom, and not keep it hidden in the soil of my wish lists to do someday.
Someday is now.
Just like the other UFO’s (UnFinished Objects) I have in my creative pile that I need to complete, many of my words are buried under half-basted quilts and just-started paintings. I have journals with pages torn out, and photo albums undone. Never mind the boxes of photos that still need to be sorted! If I think about them I’ll never begin writing!
So today, I START. No matter what else is undone, my words will take hold here. Starting NOW.

Day 2: Morning (but the wrong topic... I looked at the challenge from earlier this year!)

I wake up early. Earlier than I need to. I’m exhausted as it is, having tossed and turned all night, despite medications that promise me a good nights’ sleep. It’s not often I get sick, but when I do, it’s a doozy.

Without saying a word I know I have no voice. My throat rages on fire.

I peek out the window to see evidence of morning. It will be a while before sun streams through my windows as there’s a hill in my backyard that blocks the eastern view—so I see dawn in the shade of hillside and trees. Still the birds come, they have no need of direct sunlight to make their way to the feeders. I’m not so easily coaxed to stay awake. It’s chilly for mid-May and I climb back in bed to the warmth of my cotton sheets and duvet. I snuggle down with my Bible seeking, something to meditate on as I savor these moments and give my body the rest it needs to heal. My eyes land in the Psalms.

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8

Yes, this. It’s not a coincidence that I’m sick as I’ve had a few weeks of busy schedules, good and bad stress, emotional strain. I’ve been around sick people, but usually I can self-care and nurture my system to keep from catching the germs-du-jour. I’ve neglected myself though, and haven’t done the things I usually would do, like doubling up on supplements, using my essential oils, meditating in the Word, or soaking in the bath. When you’re busy, things like that seem a luxury, when in reality—for me—they are a necessity.

I re-read the verse and savor each word, adding emphasis different places each time I read it. My tired soul is trusting in Him today. I will listen and hear from Him, stepping back and resting in the provision of His nurturing care. I may not go anywhere, but even this is the “way I should go.” I’m grateful for His timing, His clearing my schedule to rest in Him today.

He meets me right where I am, sickness and all, in the dawn of the day. I know I can trust in Him because of His steadfast love, every morning.
Day 2: Mantra
It’s barely 70* and I’m sitting on the shady back patio. There’s a breeze that rustles the tall trees to my south, and the birds are hitting the feeders hard for their afternoon meal. They call out from the trees, the fences, and the feeders. The fountain is full and it’s sound sets the backdrop for this peaceful scene. I breathe deep, letting go of my frustration and allowing God’s gift of peacefulness push into my frazzled soul, my foggy brain, my tired, sick body.

“More of You, Jesus... less of me.”
This has been my mantra for some time now, taught to me by an Ozark Christian College student as he led our youth group on a series exercises to focus on Jesus. It’s easily been 15 years ago. It has stood the test of time.
The breathing technique is just as important, using your breath to push out my negativity and create room to receive His Presence.
I use this often enough in daily life; when I can’t get to sleep, or my thought pattern is spiraling in a negative direction, when I’m not able to communicate clearly in conversation. When I need to feel His peace and presence. Just because.
Why haven’t I included it in my writing process? I don’t know. I meditate and pray. I worship. I invite Him to be a part of the process, but I haven’t used my mantra.
This changes now. Mantra and deep breathing becomes a part of my process. Just like stretching my muscles before a long walk, I’ll stretch my lungs and open my heart to hear what He wants to say—to give Him more of my mental and emotional space before writing.
What’s your process? Do you have physical or spiritual exercises that help prepare you for the task of writing? Please share in the comments.

Day 3: FLOW
A part of the challenge with Hopewriters
I peruse the group’s Facebook page, reading about the practices and discipline my fellow writers exhibit.
They rise early, hours before their children, to take advantage of the only time their house is still.
They send their kids and husbands out the door, then do hours of research, morning writing practices, and connect with their accountability partners.
They keep a journal with them, frantically scribbling notes whenever they get a writing prompt, whether it’s for the next post or their next book.
And then there’s me: I write. No set scene or time of day. I don’t have many distractions at home, and none that are much more than a momentary glitch. I write when the Spirit moves me to.
I used to be afraid to say that. Like it was near blasphemy to admit I could feel His prompts, but now I know that others feel it too. More than a few of us write this way, and dare I say, it may be normal?
Oh, we may not ever crank out books at a hare’s pace, we may not publish at all, but our words still have value. Our flow may be slow, and our priority is not likely to get 1000 words a day, but perhaps to get a handwritten note to a friend who is hurting.
And maybe other writers can do it all—that’s amazing! But when I’m Spirit led to write, I’m exhausted when I’m done, and rarely do I remember what I wrote about. It’s like I’ve written in my sleep, but I remember my dreams better! My writing flow comes from deep within me. I can’t quite put a finger on it.
It’s how I learned to write, even before I knew His voice. Now it’s hard for me to think of word counts and writing times and goals when my only goal ever was to be still, listen, and write for One. And I guess for me, that’s ok. That’s my flow.

Day 4: IDEA
I’m never short on ideas, and I’ve usually got some creative project on a back burner—but word crafting is different and ideas bubble up faster with less planning.
Where most of my life is fairly routine and well planned, my writing is mostly spontaneous and catches me off guard. I’ll be unloading groceries from the car and *BAM* a prompt will pop into mind, or perhaps while watching birds a scripture will linger that ministers deeply, and I’ve suddenly got a series of posts to write about.
But a good idea does not a good writer make.

I’ve been told I’ve got to limit my topics, or at least decide one area to write about. Ok. Maybe two. Instead my words cover many diverse topics, from being a parent of a missionary to being a workaholics wife, or sharing biblical inspiration. From cooking to home DIY and being middle-aged. From autoimmune issues to sending missionaries to the field. I think you’ve got the idea. My blog has been called Marina’s Kitchen Table because I wanted it to be a place we could sit and chat about anything, so that’s why I’ve been all over the place.
And the photography. Do my photos still work?
I’ve gotten better about not writing about every little thing, and better still at not posting everything I write, (believe it or not), but the idea of finding my niche and staying there scares me! What if my readers and followers like that I’m always writing about something different? What if they get a kick out of the fact that I write about my life? Can that be my niche? Is it ok to have a niche of many facets, showing the areas of my life from many different angles?
I’m sure someone from @hopewriters would suggest I do a survey and poll my readers what they want to read about most, and then take the top one and focus on it. That’s actually a good idea! It would be good too to see how many people are actually glancing at my blog, my Facebook pages, my side hustles.
I guess I know what my next post will be on...

Monday, April 22, 2019

Lamenting at the Gate

His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done. Psalm 22:31

Even before I read the provided YouVersion verse of the day, my heart was turning towards the Psalms. I asked myself yesterday, “After the Resurrection, where will I go in scripture? After such heartbreaking sacrifices that He endured, the torturous beatings, the humiliation, the graphic descriptions of Holy Week...what can my response be?” My heart longs for moments of lamenting, repenting, awakening to the fact that all of this was because of God’s great love for me (and you).

I came across this photo the other day from about 8 years ago. My daughters’ family was serving in a church in Pennsylvania, and this gate kept the kids from wandering out into the driveway. It was Easter morning, all those years ago, and she was waiting with expectancy for her dad to come and set her free for the rest of the day’s activities.

As much and as often as I love to curl up on my Papa God’s lap to hear His heart beat, I want to be awake and aware of His coming for me. Whether it’s His return, or His preparing me for today’s journey, I want to be found waiting at the gate with anticipation.

Truth be told, in this past season I’d be more often found curled up in bed under warm blankets and hiding from daylight. My heart has been tuned to His, but my body has not cooperated, and physical limitations demanded rest and warm during this never ending very cold and wet winter. Spring has flip-flopped from bits of summer back into winters’ cold and bleak. Just yesterday I finally felt myself turn a corner towards the sunny spring day, my own body responding to His Resurrection power.

My heart longing for lament is falling right into line with that power. I have always loved the “...but still...” of David’s Psalms. My own modern day versions could mimic his with contrasts more suited to my failures:

My body is weak and my mind longs for rest, yet You, oh God, are awake and alive and strong, and call for me to be renewed through the beauty of Your creation.

Though troubles astound me and loneliness plagues me, You, God, have invited me in to Your quiet place. You provide for my every need, and meet me where I am. You comfort me by reminding me of Your unlimited resources and even placed me in a neighborhood of people who show Your loving-kindness in real, tangible ways. Your goodness, God, overcomes my sadness, and you fill my heart with joy.
Much like David’s laments, it’s easy to identify with the vast and varied needs in today’s life—and just as easy to counteract it with God’s qualities and provisions. We just need to be willing to look past ourselves.

What is your need today? What do you lack? What has God provided, if not to solve your problem or fulfill your need, to let you know that He is aware of you, and He is walking with you through this season? The God who gave His son, Jesus Christ, to be tortured and sacrificed for our sins, will not leave us alone at the gate. He continues to write our story, so we can continue to tell others of the great things He does, even today, and for every generation.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Road Often Traveled

I've always been a girl that likes to stop and smell the roses, and take the road less traveled. This happens to be a road we travel all the time, and each time lately I've said "I need to stop and take some photos there..." and drive on by.

I hadn't even driven this road today, but the light was right in the sky, and I knew it would be beautiful. I was actually worried that by the time I got home and the groceries unloaded it might be too late (and they're not even put away yet—they are still in bags on the kitchen floor!).

So when Mark came home behind me, I asked if he wanted to drive me there. I figured I'd have to get out and walk to where I needed to get the view I wanted, and the sun WAS a little lower than I'd hoped, but God pulled it together! He does AMAZING work! Thank you AGAIN Mark, for facilitating my photography!

I'm hoping to get back out there soon, even if I have to wear rain boots and tick spray. It's literally right off the side of the road, but it's so peaceful, so beautiful.

May it quiet your heart and mind as we approach Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and as we prepare to celebrate Resurrection Sunday!

#marinaskitchentable #hopewriters #wordworshipwrite #marinajbromley #roadlesstraveled #roadtraveled #meetinginthemeadow #cullmanalabama #alabama #cullman 

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Workaholic's Wife: Searching for Home

I'm not quite sure why I didn't post this two years ago, when we were first transitioning to Alabama, but I ran across it today and found it's still true. We have moved once more since then, although his job has stayed the same. Yep! Sometimes we choose to move when He prompts us, and it's not involving a job change. Now it's 7 moves in the past 9 years. Each time God has sold our home within 30 days of listing it (and closing it in a timely manner). Nothing says we heard God right, than when He does that for us. We don't know if/when we'll move again, we love it here! However, we're remaining committed to serving Him wherever He leads, and if that means another job change, or house change, or a move for any particular reason that He wants to point out, I'll trust Him with the details and go again.

I hope it's not for many years though!

Now it's been 35 years of marriage, and those grandkids equal 10 (not 9), and 7 of them are living in another country. We still live far from the remaining 3, but it's not so hard. Well, yes it is. I miss them. I think I'd miss them wherever we were though, wherever they were living, if it wasn't close by.

Still, we have to choose the hardest thing, whether it's leaving a house, a job, a life well lived, a friend well loved. We have to choose to walk in faith, trusting that whether we are planning our departure on a trip, losing a job, or facing end of life illnesses, we have to walk in the knowledge that we will not walk the road alone. He will go before us, with us, and come behind us. He will not leave us.

Searching for Home
Marina J. Bromley

I know the drive is boring, but I make myself push through the miles to be by my husband's side at his most recent hotel by dark. He has worked all day, and despite my map blunder, I arrive barely before the sun sets into the hills. The hotel room seems small to me, a little run down, but safe and inviting still. I'm exhausted and sore and slightly wobbly from all the car time. I'll find my feet by morning and all will be well.

I sleep hard, and awake before his alarm goes off, but I've mistaken his normal 4:30 alarm for the 5:30 he set it for, and end up being awake for over an hour while he sleeps. He rises and dresses and heads out the door. I fold my pillow from home in two, roll on to my tummy, and slip down to the bottom of the bed so my toes can hang down, just like home. THIS is when I sleep the best, after he's gone and before my day must begin.

My dreams are vivid and deep and I feel well rested when I wake up next. I've got time to linger, and after the quiet of my room I hurry downstairs, afraid to miss the breakfast offered. My husband returns from work and joins me over bacon and eggs and yogurt and fruit. We're looking over the list of homes we'll tour with the realtor, and by the time we're done eating, the realtor has arrived. We let him chauffeur us around town, looking at homes in neighborhoods and hillsides and lake fronts and precariously perched as if balancing on cliffs. With each one we view, I try to look beyond the paint colors and worn floors, past the peeling wallpaper and cluttered shelves, to imagine my life here. I wonder how my kitchen table will fit in, where the light will sprinkle in through the windows. I try to get a feel on this sunny winter day, will it be too dark in the house when the leaves fill in? Will I see birds come when my feeders are relocated here? Are there neighbors that will go beyond the steep drive to say hello and bring a plate of cookies? Where will I walk to pray over my neighborhood, when there are no sidewalks? Can I steal a look at the lake if we clear the underbrush, and can we even get permission from the TVA powers-that-be to clear it? So many questions and technicalities for houses we won't even make an offer on today. The search is just beginning.

I've been here before. No, WE have been here before. We have done this ritual with other houses in other cities our whole married life. This is our sixth state to live in, over the lifetime of our marriage. This is our sixth move in seven years of working with this company. If you count the temp apartments and short-term rentals (like a month or two, here and there) I *think* we've had at least 22 addresses during our 33 years of married life.

When I was a kid, I liked to travel. I still love taking the road less traveled, though usually it's just a day or two with my camera in tow. I like to eat at local places, get to know the culture and history. Truth be told, I'm a sojourner at heart. I love moving. Usually.

My last move was emotionally really hard, and I didn't want to move. The circumstances of the job change were not on our terms, and I had to leave the area closest to 9 of my grandkids, 7 of them that we lived about 5 miles away from. It was HARD, but even as I set my jaw with tears in my eyes and drove down the road, I remembered the words I clearly had heard God tell me just a few months earlier, "Choose the hardest thing. If you choose the hardest thing, you'll cling more to me and grow in ways you can't otherwise grow."

When He spoke those words to me, I thought we would be leaving when WE chose to, and it involved a move to California, not far from where we started our married life. It would of been hard in so many ways, so far from our kids and grands, we would take a financial hit because of the cost of housing, and it would mean working full-time for both of us—perhaps stretching the comfort of our norm's in marriage too. That is when I thought He wanted me to choose the hardest thing, not 3 months later—then I didn't get to choose at all. The door closed on my husband's "hardest thing" (to stay and work in a place that was difficult), and *BOOM* we had to move to where he was able to find a new position. It was still far from those kids and grands, but closer to others... and now, we've accepted a new "hard thing," choosing to move far from ALL our kids and grands, starting over with making new church and work friendships, building new relationships as we try to minister in our neighborhood (whichever one we end up in), and still investing in the friendships that we made at the last home, and the one before that, and the one before that...

It feels a bit like juggling. Each ball represents all the aspects of a move. The home, neighborhood, friendships, church, and then work—with aspects of job responsibilities, relationships, mentoring, all the new things that have to be learned. Over our 33 years, we are juggling those 6 states we've lived in. 22 moving balls that represent the people we went to church with, co-workers that stay in touch, girls I've mentored and co-workers he has, pushing things into a different order so I can find room for the new people I still want to meet here. I throw the balls higher in the air to keep them moving. They may not be in my hands as often, or for as long, but I'm still keeping them in my life!

This is where the sojourner kicks in, and my adventure begins. I know not to hold my hand too tightly around a house, a church, a child or a friendship. I know not to ask for the promise of "Let's not EVER move again!" as it becomes an instant reminder of Who is in charge of the number of days in any town or job or home. I know that everything can be changed in a house, besides the neighborhood and the physical footprint. It might cost dearly to remodel, but it can be changed. Everything else in life is temporary, and it can change so quickly. Everything can change, except His great love for us.

©2019 Marina J. Bromley, Marina's Kitchen Table, all rights reserved. 

God’s Nature

See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. 1 Thessalonians 5:15

Human Nature says get even; God’s Nature says forgive and bless. Human Nature says take back what’s yours; God’s Nature says turn the other cheek. Human Nature says fight, fight, fight; God’s Nature says peace. Human Nature says you are number one; God’s Nature says the last shall be first. Human Nature boasts pridefully; God’s Nature says to be a servant of all.

•Photo credit Kirsten Nicolette, used with permission.