“The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit’s one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself like a once-blind man unbound. The gaps are the clefts in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God; they are fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through, the icy narrowing fiords splitting the cliffs of mystery. Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock—more than a maple—universe.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (This blog is not even a month old and I’m quoting Annie again. I won’t apologize.)
It was seven days ago I woke at 4 am and drove myself in the bitterly cold and snowy dark to our little airport. I fly alone frequently for medical appointments and in my former life all the time for work, but this was entirely different. Always described as courageous and independent some might not consider this trip to Texas a big deal for me, but it was. My territory has expanded as large as the world through my old blog and facebook connections with people who walk similar roads of pain. My real world has slowly shrunk to my bed, my sofa and the medical professionals who through necessity have become my primary social circle.
I have read The High Calling regularly for a long time. I believe whatever we are asked to do in life is ministry when approached with the heart of Jesus. Their thoughtful posts by many authors give me concrete questions for reflection and soul searching in my own struggle for wanting to be more of a participant in the Kingdom of God.
I know for sure it is a tragedy so many of God’s children are living their lives on autopilot. They experience flashes of inspiration quickly drowned out by the endless monotony of the day to day. It leaves one empty and floating. The stay at home mother, the day laborer, the IT professional and the CFO filter side by side into the pews on Sunday and hopefully hear some exposition of God’s word with a morsel of practical application at the end. They leave. The people in full time ministry scratch their heads at the lukewarm response. In the same bewilderment most of the people drive home to let the dog out, make lunch, watch a football game and as evening approaches begin to feel an angst about the return to work. Plain old work. They pray for an average of seven minutes a day. If they are studying the Bible at all it is fast food packaging with a verse or two attached. Let’s grab our God and go. A Pinterest post with a pretty picture grabs their eye. Oh, there are nice words there too about being strong. Have courage. Trust. Hope. Yes, this is good. Now, back to my email and off to the meeting. The baby needs fed again, and there are no more clean towels. What will we eat tonight? What will I wear tomorrow? Should I buy something I don’t need on the way home so I feel like my work is producing something tangible?
I lived this life for many years.
I’ve been dancing around my call to write “Gauntlet with a Gift” for over a year now. At one point I will admit I considered myself in direct disobedience to God by not moving forward after a brief discussion with my neurosurgeon last summer. It was after I missed the Refine retreat in the spring and was hospitalized for twelve days in Maryland for plasmapheresis, God brought a messenger from Chicago to my room of desperation. She told me I had to write this story. She knew me from facebook and Team Danica. She came knowing nothing about the original call or my fits and starts with outlining the book. I finally took this seriously. Remember my rule for how God guides us? Providence. Provision. Gift.
I began to obey by opening up the hard beginnings of the story. It was much more than just about Danica or myself or our family. I continued to feel the need to find an opportunity to join a community of writers for encouragement and inspiration. I had been a lone ranger for a very long time. The readership of Team Danica grew out of an organic following of people who loved our family. Besides posting on facebook I did not market my blog, but you did. Even though I had a background in marketing, advertising and public relations including an employee who worked under me directly responsible for search engine optimization I did nothing to grow my place in this way either. Still, people from near and very far found us through Google searches including the names of our disorders. It turns out not many people were writing about them when all this began and certainly not someone willing to say the hard things like “HELP!” I never wanted to have links or ads or even change my simple blogger profile. It was my little space to bear my heart. I was humbled and grateful so many wanted to walk along side, continue reading, praying and supporting us.
I already told the Storyline debacle in an earlier post. I had forgotten I applied in the summer on a whim for a scholarship to “The High Calling” retreat. I don’t know what made me think I was even the right demographic to attend, but I had desperately dreamed of visiting Laity one day. An email awarding me the scholarship sent on July 6th had gone to spam. A second email sent on October 6th asked me if I was planning to use the money or it would need to be reallocated. This was happening the same time Shauna Neiquist said Storyline was mine. I thought God was pulling a double whammy, in my face, “Girl, get up and do this thing NOW!”
I wasn’t supposed to go to Chicago. I see God’s hand so clearly in closing that door. I had another surgery on October 22nd and returned home to recover with my heart yearning for retreat and recovery. I dallied around with the book more. I bought my tickets to Texas. I ended Team Danica; four years of story, heart cries and miracles to begin anew here. I decided to write a post from a prompt on The High Calling, and they decided to feature it. I thought it was the least I could do before heading to Laity. One link up gave me some cred, right?
You know the verse about exceeding, abundantly above all you could ask or think? As our little group met up at the airport in San Antonio and headed on the two hour drive to Laity I was in awe. I thrive on new landscapes. I had been to the city before but never the Texas Hill Country. I was smitten. As we entered the 2,000 acre property we had to literally drive in the Frio river to get to Laity. I knew I was entering a sacred place. The rain and cloudy skies from the airport were gone and the sun was seeking me out as I checked in and found my room. I set out to explore and found myself forgetting to breathe. I knew I was ordained to be there. All my anxiety about the new people and unfamiliar situations faded away. My fear about who my roommate would be subsided. I came to the experience with no expectations. I realize now I was perhaps one of the few people there who didn’t have some kind of relationship with the organization, one another, a blogging or book venture or a desire to establish one of these things during the time there.
I came to see just a glimpse of the backside of God in a gap.
My face is still shining.
(I will be writing for the next few days about details from the retreat, sharing photos and talking about why I’ve been practicing personal retreat as a spiritual discipline for most of my life. Consider Jesus words to His disciples in Mark 6:31, “Then because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'”)
Spiritual disciplines are means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. It means somewhere youre not occupied and you’re certainly not preoccupied. It means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned on or counted on.–Henri Nouwen