how faint a whisper

glimpses of God in a heaven-crammed earth

simplicity

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Echoing in my expressed longing for stillness on here a few weeks ago was a chord that has been resounding in my life for a while: the idea of simplicity. And then, by natural connection, the idea of busyness. The two can be enemies, but they don’t have to be. The reality is, though, that the number of filled physical hours in my life recently has forced me into a new search for stillness and simplicity within and surrounding those hours. To characterize all I do, I hope. I’ve been challenged by scriptures that call me to different definitions of simplicity and rest. I’ve been moved by songs that speak into this reality. I’ve been reading books focused around these themes, some without even realizing it. And I’ve found myself seeking out relationships and resources that push and encourage me in these pursuits. Because honestly, stillness is not something we’re very good at. Not in our society, not in our churches, not in our hearts.

I think I’ve only come to recently realize that in my two and a half years living in the rhythms of the African desert, followed by my year and a half of job searching and the riches of pouring into my family every day, my heart found a natural comfort in the simplicity of life at a pace that is much different than the speed at which most of American culture functions. I saw its beauty, and I saw how the Lord had designed me for it. My heart came home in a new way, to Him and to life. Then He gently, and faithfully, led me on. And now I find myself resistant (in a good way, I hope) to allow the realities of the work and life that He has called me to change the pace at which I walk with Him and see the world. But the more that life holds, the more concentrated effort that simplicity requires, and I find myself in the midst of asking and answering once again the ongoing questions of what I want my life to be defined by. What I am realizing (slowly) in this new season is that the place and the work that the Lord has called me to, and the hours of responsibility that it requires, actually do not need to have any bearing on the pace of my heart. We can be at rest in busyness, and harried in rest. It has everything to do with discipline, and everything to do with trust.

All this to say, in this focus of life and learning and reflection and study right now, I find myself drawn to things that call me to stillness. To rest, to thought, to relationship, to simplification. And drawn away from desires of this world that add nothing of true value to my life, only the shallow possible rewards of recognition or money or acceptance. Which is not to say that I have achieved this division: the weakness of my heart to sway quickly back to those worldly desires was a lesson slammed home even just last weekend on the streets of Chicago. But that’s another story for another time. Maybe I should continue this series…

But today’s story is this: I have a friend whose heart beats similar to mine in these desires, but whose story has arched in the opposite direction over the past year. Just as I was accepting this job last spring, and all the changes it would bring to my life, she was choosing to leave a job of frustrating busyness, but also surety, and pursue alternate dreams. Dreams with no guaranteed outcome, but in which the Lord had created her heart to find life, and for that simplicity and love, and ultimately because He asked her to, she was willing to give up much to run after these dreams. I remember distinctly the February afternoon we sat at a diner table on the north coast of Boston, the two of us and another dear friend. We had just had one of those beautifully simple days – walking along the cold winter ocean, laughing and telling stories and taking pictures and sharing life, and in an effort to get warm, stumbled into the first place we could find with “coffee” in its name. A tad misleading, it was actually a diner, and we felt a bit guilty just ordering drinks and using it for warmth for a few hours. But we did, and gripped thick white mugs of mediocre coffee or deliciously thick hot chocolate (as diners go), and in that booth, my friend shared with me one of her dreams.

Now, I have a lot of dreams, but very few that I have ever had the courage to pursue, especially if they involved any sort of real risk. I’m trying to change that. But as I sat there and listened to her share her dream, I knew, as much as was in her power, she would make it come true. I was, and still am, inspired by her unassuming courage and skill.

Fast forward nine months to now, and the most beautiful part about this dream that she has pursued to existence is that the Lord is using it. In many lives, I am sure, but also in mine. It has become one of those voices in my life that the Lord has used in this season to call me to stillness. It’s called TRIAD, and I’ll let it speak for itself as to its vision:

“TRIAD exists to provide an avenue for enjoying the beauty and wonder of everyday life. Whether simple or complex, abstract or concrete, our aim is to help both our collaborators and our readers pause and consider what so often goes unnoticed in the busyness of our culture. We hope that TRIAD is a tool to assist you in recovering the lost skills of imagination, contemplation, and celebration for the world we live in.”

In writing a further explanation of this vision, my friend says this:

“There is a cause and effect to how we spend time. What you sow with the time you have will reap something, and our souls respond to what we feed them. For me this past year, I found my soul lacking far more than flourishing — a barren harvest. The question that I hesitated to ask before eventually had to be answered: Was I reaping what I wanted to reap with my time, things such as awe, celebration, creativity, thankfulness?

The answer: no. It was undeniable.

Yet, it’s not as if I haven’t reaped them before. There have been many moments in my life when I’ve stepped away from the busyness of my schedule and watched the sun rise in the peaceful silence of the morning, or listened to a friend’s rich stories of sorrow and joy, or shared a well-cooked meal with close neighbors, and it did something fruitful in me. It changed my perspective. It led me to gratefulness, to beauty, to contemplation for those wonderful things in life that tend to be forgotten or skipped over. It did not leave my soul lacking and, in fact, did quite the opposite.

After answering the first question, more questions followed: How do I foster more of these moments that feed my soul well? How do I capitalize on them and not only help my own soul flourish but also do the same for others around me?”

And so came a sleepless night, months of dreaming, the gentle prodding of the Lord, the sharing with others, including that day in the diner, and then the action required: she left her job. She did what perhaps seemed “foolish” in the eyes of the world. And it has not been without trial, it has not been without tears, it has not been without new questions that cause new sleepless nights, but it also has not been without blessing and joy. Through picture and word and beauty and challenge, the Lord is using TRIAD, and the faithfulness of my dear friend and others who create it, to point to the evidence all around us of His beautiful story of redemption and work. And that may be simple, but isn’t it also the calling of our lives? To live for, and pursue, and seek out, and proclaim, that which gives evidence, and to seek to die to all that does not.

Go check out TRIAD. In a world full of words, it contains many worth reading. Some of my favorites so far, unsurprisingly, are found in, “The Discipline of Simplifying” by Stancy Higley…

…but it’s full of beautiful, faint whispers: www.triadmagazine.com

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