Snipe Hunt

I grew up in the South where Snipe hunting was a rite of passage. Unfortunately for me I was a rather gullible young girl who fell for the challenge of capturing my very own snipe.

For those of you not familiar with Snipe hunting let me enlighten you. According to Urban Dictionary Snipe hunting is:

 A North-American prank and rite of passage wherein older adolescents take younger adolescents into the wilderness for the supposed purpose of “snipe hunting.” Snipes are an imaginary game bird purported to resemble quails or pheasants. Snipe hunts take place on moonless nights; the victims are provided burlap bags with which to catch the birds. The conspirators make birdcalls, throw rocks in the bushes, and urgently cry out “snipe” to make the victims believe that there are actually birds in the area. The victims don’t want to be the only one who can’t see the imaginary birds, so they claim to have seen them also. Pretty soon the victims have convinced each other they are surrounded by snipes and proceed to run about foolishly in search of the non-existent birds. The cycle repeats when this year’s dupes become privy to the joke and then take the new victims out the following year, in search of the ever-elusive snipe.

Snipe hunting is generally harmless fun to entertain teenagers during the long summer months. But lately I feel as if I’ve been on a Snipe Hunt of a different kind. I’ve been tirelessly pursuing an elusive bird of another kind. One that has proven to be just as difficult to find as the imaginary Snipes roaming the Ozark Mountain range.

Joy

I’ve never really been an optimistic type. I’m always placed in the “glass half empty” category. And I struggled with depression for years. People who know me well would use some really kind words to describe me, but I don’t think “joyful” has ever made the list.

Recently my friend, Jennifer, asked me if I was feeling depressed. I’m not. But I do feel like something is missing. I do feel a longing in my soul that just can’t be satisfied. There is this constant feeling that there’s supposed to be something… more. This something has a name, but so does the elusive Snipe. I’ve searched for it, but it always seems to be just beyond my grasp.

I recently learned something about Snipes that has got me rethinking joy. Snipes are real! Can you believe it? There really exists a bird called a Snipe. Now, it happens to be a water bird that lives in wet grassy spots near the shore and not in the Ozark Mountains, but it does exist. So maybe joy exists too. Maybe, like the snipe, I’ve just been looking in the wrong place.

Several years ago I was overcome with depression to the point of considering taking my own life. On my road to healing there were several friends who knew my struggles and committed to walk those dark days with me to find hope again. Over and over again well-meaning friends would hug me and whisper, “the joy of the Lord is your strength”(Neh. 8:10). It used to make me so mad. I had no joy. I had no strength. And I felt like a complete failure. Several months later I stumbled across another verse about joy…

                “In Your presence is fullness of joy” Psalm 16:11

I studied Psalm 16 again last night and I found myself wondering if my hunt for joy has been in the wrong place searching for the wrong thing. I wondered if I’ve been wandering through the woods hunting an imaginary bird instead of scanning the shoreline seeking the real thing. I wondered if maybe I had accepted that joy wasn’t real. Or maybe that it was real, just not for me because my natural bent towards pessimism disqualified me from finding joy.

There are over 200 references to joy in the Bible. I haven’t read all 200 verses on joy, but I have read a lot of them. And so far I haven’t read anything that would disqualify me from receiving joy, other than being separated from Jesus. In John 15 Jesus is talking to His disciples about being the vine and those that belong to Him being branches grafted in. He said to all that abide in Him, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Christ’s joy in me? I don’t know about you, but I want that.

So… I’m going Joy Hunting.

Wanna come?

 

~Keri

 

{confession: for some reason this post is really scary to me. I feel like I’m outing myself. But I really do want to learn what God has to say about joy. I’d love your thoughts on the subject, and your prayers.}

Bloom Anyway

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials

knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be

perfect and compete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

 

I’ve just started Beth Moore’s study on the book of James and this passage is my current memory verse. I’ve been trying to learn it for the last week or so. Not just memorize it, but understand it.

“Various trials” I understanding.

But “all joy”?

That’s a mystery.

Consider it all joy. All? Really?  All as in: sickness, death, severed relationships, job loss, rebellious kids, broken dreams, flat tires, endless traffic, crazy deadlines, mountains of laundry, all?

How is that even possible?

Yet, everywhere I’ve turned in the last week or so He’s presented me with stunning examples of those who consider it all joy. Those who, though life is hard, are living with joy.

I saw it in the face of a mom who wonders if she can carry this pregnancy to term.

I heard it in the voice of a friend wondering if this adoption door will close like the last one.

It’s reflected in the smile of the one who said final goodbyes to her dear mother and is learning to live life without her.

It’s in the text message sent from a friend walking through their own valley who just wanted to encourage me.

It’s the trust of the one who should be worried about paying the bills but instead is confidently trusting.

I see it. I see “all joy”.

The past several days I’ve passed an unusual sight on my way in and out of work. Every day it’s caught my attention and made me smile. It’s just a simple petunia. Not normally a flower I would even notice. Growing up in the nursery and landscaping business I’ve seen enough petunias to last me a lifetime. But this little guy is different. It’s not what he is, it’s where.

Today as I passed by again I saw in this little flower what I’ve seen in the lives of my friends lately. Surrounded by hard circumstances they bloom anyway.

And maybe that’s the goal of trials. Not to get through them, or get past them, or get over them, but to bloom in them. So that when someone walks by and sees us blooming right there in the middle of the hard they smile, they find joy, and they wonder if maybe they could bloom too.

~Keri

The slow and inefficient work of God

I confess… I stole the title from the amazing Anne Jackson who wrote a beautiful post about the slow and inefficient work of God. I stumbled back across it today and took a minute to sit with the truth of her words. I ran my fingers across the once jagged, broken places of my heart and felt a smooth surface where cracks and fissures used to cut my fingers open. It took time to get here, to this place of healing. A long time.

I believe with all of my heart that God can do in one moment what I cannot do in one lifetime. He is well able to completely transform our hearts in an instant. But, most of the time, that’s not the way He works. Generally with God and healing the process is slow and inefficient. Just like waves upon the shore; constant and steady and slow.

Oh sure, there are times when the waves rush in and completely change the landscape. When the white foamed seas transform beaches and cliffs. Times of hurricanes and tsunamis. Times when the waves beat upon us so hard that we struggle for the next breath, desperate to hang on so we won’t get swept out to sea.

And then the storm ends and blue skies and slow steady waves return. And we wonder if we will ever be healed. If the rough edges will ever be smoothed away.

Slow and inefficient.

This is the work of the Healer.

The key, I’ve found, is to stay. Through stormy seas and blue skies I have to stay. Sand in a sand box will never be transformed. Rocks in a landscape will never be smoothed out. It is only when we firmly plant ourselves on the shore of healing that we will be changed. Slowly, inefficiently, sometimes violently, changed.

Staying is hard. And we don’t have to. We can retreat inland, away from the waves. Staying is a choice. For a long time it was a choice that I refused. I retreated from the waves. I was impatient with their slow inefficient work. I wanted results! And I wanted them now! Then a storm would brew and lash out at me and I wanted it to stop! And to stop now! Eventually I grew tired of the constant waves. Convinced that they weren’t actually accomplishing anything, l drew back, just out of reach of the water’s edge.

What a miserable place to live. One step removed from healing. I remember getting mad at God. Shaking my fist at Him. “Why won’t you heal me?” I’d accuse. “Why won’t you come to the water?” He’d reply.

Why indeed.

And so I came. I came and firmly planted my feet along the shore of God. I came and I decided that I would stay her, come what may, and be healed. I would stay here and allow the slow and inefficient waves of mercy and grace wash over me again and again and again and again and… again. I decided to stay through the storms. Stay through the nights. Stay through the quiet. Stay.

The thing about waves is that they never stop. Never. Every time I am fortunate enough to put my toes in salty seas they are there. No matter how much time has passed. No matter what month or day or hour, they are there. Constant. Just like His grace. Just like His faithfulness.

Jesus asked the twelve, “You do not want to leave me too, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” John 6:67-68

I’ve been many places in my life. But only one place offers hope. Here. At the feet of Jesus, on the shores of mercy, where the slow inefficient work of God washes over me.

Here is where I plan to stay.

Join me?

~Keri