Stones. They are everywhere. Stumbling stones, stepping stones, stones for throwing, stones for piling. In the bible, stones are used for remembering. This is a place for me to pile my own rough stones of remembering along the road I am traveling, one post at a time. They are more than mere words thrown out into the wake of my path. They are a concrete testament of God's faithfulness, provision and goodness along the way.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Patchwork Pieces

One of the biggest challenges that I have personally grappled with over the past four years is a paradox between desiring to be directed by God, and the need to, in a way, "have a plan"- to present to our agency, sending church and partners. In order to do the second, you need to try to discern the first, but pressure often leads you to feel the need to have this upfront, in advance of when it is revealed. While we have found that the discipline of setting and holding ourselves accountable to our ministry vision, mission and objectives have helped keep us focused and protected us from being pulled in any and every direction, they also, due to our own shortcomings, have taken on a life of their own that can very easily distract us from that open 'unknowing and watching' to be merely participants in what God is doing.

In my quiet time this morning I was given the picture of a patchwork quilt. So many pieces to sort through, to cut to size, to fit together, and to stitch together one edge at a time. Within a quilt there are patterns of patches that are designed to fit against one another, working together to merge into a whole. What washed over my heart is that I am not the quilter in the story of my life. We are not the pattern setters in the story of our comings, our goings, our direction, our final pattern. God is. I am the quilt in progress. And my life is made up of a million circumstances and details, colors and patterns. Why is it, that even knowing this, so many times in the daily grind I want to be the one to design this story, to bring the pieces together and see it take shape. Or, in moments of conviction, I realize that this is not my place; but still I strain mentally to try to discern the pattern emerging from the pieces. Like a child looking at an optical puzzle, so often I make out a picture hidden within the picture while missing the big picture completely. 

A dear friend told me yesterday "I feel like I am a number of steps behind in following your journey" to which I replied, 'No, more likely just finding it hard to keep step.' Because as we try to find our way forward, I can honestly say my own steps are faltering at best and at worst I expend a lot of energy pointlessly breaking bush that God has not yet bulldozed before us. So how can I do merit to that in a ministry letter? Sometimes long stretches go buy where I ask myself, "What can I say? We need to say something. We need a plan. We need a goal. We need answers. Well friends, it's easy to make a plan. Especially if you love to plan and dream and pursue dreams. It's a lot harder to just let the pieces of your life take shape as the Master stitches away one piece at a time.

Do you want to know the real, messy, vulnerable truth? As much as we would like to, as much as we have strived to, we realize with increasing humility that we don't know for sure what our future holds. We have felt obliged to 'have a plan' for the sake of our partners, we have sought to piece the patches together as best we can fathom, but the honest truth is we are probably doing an infantile job of it. Living in confidence of the Who and the What and the Why rather than the Where, the When, and the How, this is the discipline we are being challenged to learn. 

We have seen how God sewed the pieces of our past and our last four years together to do something beautiful within us, we do believe without any doubt this was His perfect timing and plan for us. Now He is picking up different pieces, new pieces, old pieces you might even say, and continuing to work this unique pattern of our story that is rich with two worlds, two cultures, two places. But we can't be in two places at once. We can only be in one stitch in time and live fully in the moment.  

Yesterday I was hit with the realization that, while not resisting or rebelling against the pattern that is shaping around our lives, I have not been embracing what God has next.  I have been trying to just skip jump it and live in the dream of where it will lead. Which, if I am going to apply this lesson,  I need to learn to say were it might lead. Living in the future is as futile as living in the past; I can only live fully present in the next moment. Because the next is the now, and the now is all we have. And so I fight all that is in me to stop trying to piece together the patches. To try to see my part as becoming nothing but thread, nothing but present and pliable in the hand of the Master Quilter who is stitching something bigger than I can see from my vantage point. To be present in the moment of one single stitch in time and to trust that He is creating something beautiful.

'Our lives are like patchwork quilts. When we view the pieces of our lives- joys, sorrows, health, illness, marriage, obedient children, willful children- when we can't see the pattern. We're so close to what's happening at the moment that we can't see the whole. But the Master Craftsman, the Ultimate Quilter, Father God, is at work. From our vantage point we can't see that God is creating something beautiful, but He is.' Gwen Ellis, By His Pattern.