Continuity of Place

I’m sitting in my parents backyard looking out over the valley of Phoenix. The warm dry air surrounds me in a familiar embrace and I remember…

I remember fighting with my mom in the kitchen.
And crying as we made up in the family room.
I remember the surprise of my first car parked in the drive way.
Singing into spoons with my friends as we danced around the house.
Crying on my eighteenth birthday thinking I was so old and feeling so unsure about the path before me (oh, how little I knew).
I remember crying with a broken and hurting heart.
Sobbing so hard I couldn’t stand.
I remember ringing in New Year’s with joy.
Parties and dancing in the family room.
Praying so many prayers.
Learning to trust God, and unlearning it again.
I remember Thanksgivings with all of my cousins.
Gathering around the fire pit in the back yard on Christmas morning.
Cooking with my dad while listening to opera.
I remember standing in the entry way the first time Bryan said he loved me.
I remember wreathing in pain as I brought my children into the world on the floor in front of my parents tub.
The pain and the triumph.
The tears and the joy.

My parents have lived in this house for more than fifteen years. A lot of my life has happened against this backdrop.

As I sit here today all of that comes flooding back to me and somehow the continuity of place throughout the difficult and the sweet helps me remember…the most important thing… everything is going to be ok.

It gives me perspective for this season, this difficult impasse.

I don’t have many places like this. Many tangible places of continuity. Before living in this house my family never lived in the same house for more than about 4 years. In the past nearly 12 years since I left home to go to college the longest I have lived at one residency is 2 years.

I get antsy. I value change in some ways. I tend to be future oriented and looking for that next thing that is going to stretch and challenge me. I had an energy worker tell me once that I had a very nomadic energy and I understand why she’d say that.

But, today I find myself experiencing the value of roots. Of continuity. Of having someplace that reminds you of all the ups and downs of life, reminds you of how much you have already faced, reminds you of how good times always come again following the difficult.

Life is a cycle of growth and change, but there is continuity. When I look out at the Phoenix valley, which from this view looks exactly the same as it did the first time I looked out on it, I feel that continuity. When I look up at the McDowel Mountains towering over the roof of my parents house, and remember the many times I’ve looked up at them before, I feel that stability.

We need places like this in our lives. Places where we can feel our roots. Places where we can feel the consistency and continuity of life even amidst the changing tides.

Life is an ever fluctuating cycle of hellos and goodbyes, of tears and laughter, of pain and joy. As ecclesiastes says “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” All seasons come and go. All seasons change. But, change is not the only constant. There is a consistency of place, of presence, of spirit and essence that feeds the soul and encourages me through every change and possible change. There are places that we can truly call sacred, places that have a presence that stays consistent. They have a continuity of spirit that stands steady and unchanging throughout any upheaval.

My parents house and the walking paths around it have always felt like that to me. They have been for me a “thin place” – to use the celtic term for those physical places where the presence of our consistent God is more easily felt. Those places where the veil between heaven and earth is thinnest.

Being here, under the wide open skies of the valley, makes me feel like I stand in the wide open presence of an expansive God. A God who is all about the AND.

Being here, in the shadow of a vast mountain, makes me feel like I can rest in the shadow of a God who is strong and unchanging.

Being here, in the hot dry air, makes me feel like I bask in the warmth of a loving God who will count and dry every tear.

Being here, in the familiar and familial, makes me feel like I can breathe again deeply, taking the dry beauty of the desert into my soul with every inhale.

Being here, in the place where God has carried me through so much past pain and joy, reminds me that he will carry me through whatever I face in the present and whatever awaits me in the future.
Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Winter Rhythm and Trusting God

Lately, I’ve been feeling really depressed. Honestly, I think some of it is stress from a busy schedule and uncertain future. Some of it is from some things that God allowed to be stirred up and ways he allowed me to hurt over the past month, but I think some of it is just natural and seasonal.

It seems to me that in winter, especially in climates like Prague, there is this natural desire to slow down. With short cold days, there’s a desire to stay inside, to be home and spend a lot of time with family and close friends. There’s a desire for familiar and comforting things. I’ve felt this very tangibly lately. I don’t want to keep long active hours, I don’t want to run all over town, and I don’t want to meet a bunch of new people or spend times in large groups. Instead, I long to reflect, to read, to think, to ponder, to write, to have deep conversations with close friends, to cuddle up with my husband, and to eat and drink warm food.

Today I was trying to catch up on blogs that I’d gotten behind on and I came across this post, by Christine Sine at Godspace. She writes:

“Maybe, we reflected, we need to take notice of our bodies and build a slow down time into our winter schedules. In nature the winter is a time when on the surface there seems to be no activity, but beneath the ground roots are growing deep and strong. In fact shrubs planted in the Fall send down deeper roots than those planted in the spring and so are more resistant to drought. Maybe we too are more resistant to spiritual droughts if we take time to slow down and reflect over the winter, allowing our roots to go down deep…We are not meant to be continually producing fruit or even be continually blossoming. In fact plants that are forced into bloom at the wrong season by florists never recover their natural rhythm. Most of them will never blossom again.”

This struck me so profoundly. I feel this physical and natural urge to slow down, but I realize that this beginning season of winter has been and is and will continue to be incredibly busy for me. I have not been listening to my body or this call I have felt to rest and slow down, and instead I have sped up. And it seems that this pressure and speed of action will continue for some time still.

It seems interesting to me that this is common for many people – winter is actually a very crowded and busy season, not a relaxed or slow season. Especially December is a month filled with stress and activities for people, not a month of reflection and waiting and rest. And January as well, though a slower month in many ways, it is also a time when we set  new goals and try to plunge head first, full speed ahead, into the New Year. January is often a time for making changes, for starting new things, for trying to create fruit in our lives – does this seem counterintuitive to anyone else?

This month will be busy. I can’t really change that. But, what I can do is not add to that busyness. I can choose to take time as often as possible to reflect and be with God. I can be picky about the things that I add to my schedule and the things that I choose to let drop. I can choose not to give into the pressure to perform, to produce, to fill my days with motion. I can choose a different rhythm.

I was talking with a friend the other day and she made a statement about Sabbath and about rest. She basically said that choosing to rest is choosing to trust God.

So, often I choose to produce and perform and crowd my schedule, because I am not trusting God, because I want to control my life and control the outcomes of my life. I choose not to rest, not to slow down, not to take the time to put down deep roots, because I feel that I have to make things happen. But, the truth is that I can’t make anything happen.

The truth is that only God can provide for my needs.
The truth is that only God can really raise financial support for Bryan and I.
The truth is that only God produces a harvest and makes fruit grow and drop from the trees.
The truth is that only God draws people to himself, and only God grows a church.
The truth is that only God can make me or some project that I think is mine succeed.

Really, my job isn’t to make anything happen – I can’t really make anything happen. Yes, God chooses to involve me in his work, but it is HIS work, not mine. Really, what God calls me to is to abide in him, to rest in him, to put down deep roots and stay connected to the true vine, Christ Himself. He calls me to listen to him. Sometimes He may call me to action and sometimes He may call me to rest, but the important thing is that I am connected and listening to Him.

Lord, teach me to trust YOU. Teach me to rest in YOU. Teach me to not grasp at control, or rush forward in my desperation for results.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.