Finding Refuge in the Deluge

“Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory[a] will be a canopy.  It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.”  Isaiah 4:5-6 (NIV)

The other morning, I took my daughter out into our backyard after pleas of “House? Please, house?” I had a plan, too. I was going to plant my chair underneath our mulberry tree and, from there, I would have a good view of her whether she was playing in her playhouse or climbing up the ladder to go down her slide. While I sat in this shady refuge, I was going to continue reading and journaling and had plans to write a short devotional on the refuge of peaceful spaces. It was going to be a lovely time outside.

Unfortunately, the insects had other ideas. It has been hot and muggy and raining off and on the past few days, and the dew was still on the grass when we went out so the bugs were out in force.  My backyard, which is usually a beautifully cool refuge in the morning hours, had turned into a torture zone for me. I am notorious for being bitten by insects. So much so that there are times that I just about flat-out refuse to leave the house. If there are bugs about, I will get bitten, buzzed, and, really, just all-out bugged.

How like life, isn’t it? We sit down and determine that this will be our sacred time, our time with God, when we absorb His Word and listen for that still, sweet voice. This will be our time to center ourselves in the midst of everything, to find silence and calm and peace. And then the thoughts creep in. Or, rather, they pop in, buzzing about our mind while we are trying to be still. Grocery lists, dinner ingredients, errands that need to be run, appointments needing to be kept. They buzz and bite at our concentration, threatening to draw our minds away from God, away from quiet.

Sometimes these thoughts are like annoying insects, interrupting us. Other times, it can be our emotions that interrupt, suddenly washing over us like a sudden storm. I can personally attest to this. Thoughts lead to emotions and those emotions lead to more thoughts and, before I know it, I am lost in the storm. I have no idea what I was thinking or praying about in the first place, or even what I was reading or journaling. Something that I tend to forget, however, is that, even in that deluge, God can still be my refuge. Our refuge. We can still call out to Him, call out His name, and He will meet us in that place. That place of trying and failing, that place of frustration or overwhelm. He will meet us there.

As it says in our key verse, “It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.” The “it” refers to the presence of God. It is there to cut through it all and draw us back. Back to a place of quiet, a place of reflection, a place where we meet God, where He can speak to us, and where we can hear Him with our whole heart.

So, while my backyard might not have been the shelter and refuge I had hoped for of a morning, it served as a great reminder of the God Who is, no matter what.


The Right Reason to Write…Or Not?

My journals since 2000, minus the most recent one.

One of the most interesting things that I will bequeath to Elizabeth (and other children we might have, if we decide to) is my stack of journals. I have ever journal that I have kept since entering college in 2000. I had one when I was a kid but destroyed for reasons I can no longer remember. I love writing here but it will never replace a paper journal. Which leads me to other thoughts.

Why do I need this? Why do I have the need, the compulsion to physically write down my thoughts?

I like writing. I like seeing the words flow out of my pen. Sometimes I don’t know my own thoughts until they are voice and, at the same time, I’m not comfortable voicing them to another living soul. My journals are the reliquaries for my emotions, for my thoughts, my failures, my joys, my despairs, my memories.

I write things down so I can remember them, remember that feeling in that moment for that reason. I wrote down the progression from theatre goer to script contributor for the American College Theatre Festival back in 2001 (though it’s not nearly as glamorous as it seems) because I wanted to remember every step. Every important date of mine and Ben’s beginning relationship is written down and my students were stunned to see that I could recite them all, which even on which date (first date, first kiss, officially a couple, engagement). I wrote down the date I first felt my daughter kick in the wee hours of the morning, the date that we found out that we were indeed going to have an Elizabeth and not a Jeremiah. I write these things down because they are important to me and so that, in my old age and inevitable senility, I can read back and, even if I don’t remember it, I can relive the warmth of it all just a little bit.

I write to hide. Like a friend wrote for his character not too long ago, “I know we’re supposed to feel, but feelings and actions are two different things…” he says. “Isn’t it better, sometimes, with some emotions, to stuff them away til later? Not forever… just til later?” I write to stuff those feelings and thoughts away so I can put on a happy face to the world or least one that doesn’t provoke questions and uncomfortable confrontation. (Oh, but I hate confrontation.) My journal holds those feelings, locked away from anyone else’s eyes. I’m a private person anyway and, though I am way past the journal-with-a-lock days, it is rare to never that I will offer you a peek at my journal. I always keep it near me and my mom was very good about reminding me to take it with me when I left the TV room and put it away. In my journals, My journal serves no other purpose than to keep my secrets and those parts of me that I wish to remain secret and private, ie, the perfect place to hide. Then, with the release valve hit, I can face the world with at least some bit of a lighter heart, maybe.

I write to know myself. Like I said, I sometimes don’t even know my own mind until I start writing it out. Sometimes I don’t like what I am thinking but it’s still does me good to find out just what that is.  And giving myself the space to admit that I don’t like the way I am thinking or feeling is helpful; there’s no one there to contradict me and I am able to be brutally honest with myself about myself.  I may not always be able to be so with people but my journal allows me a place to at least try to be honest about myself and learn about myself.

I’m not saying that there is feasibly no other way that I could gain a depth to myself without my journals but, for me, I think that this has been one of the best ways over the past 13 years. One that I don’t think I’m going to give up any time soon.