Noticing, Day 26: lovingkindness

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.

Maine, October 2012

Maine, October 2012

His love does not depend on me or on my ability to compose thoroughly satisfactory blog posts every day of this month. (Or my ability to do anything at all — praise the LORD!)

Tonight, after a day in which I’ve noticed many things but can’t seem to put words to them, I am grateful to notice — to remember — this heavens-high love, which has removed my transgressions from me as far as the east is from the west, which knows my frame and remembers that I am dust.

noticing

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Noticing, Day 24 (and Five Minute Friday): dare

How should I presume to write about daring on a day which I have spent almost entirely in being afraid?

dare

Oh, I’ve done lots of things today, but woven through all of it is the stripe of fear: fear of disappointing other people, fear of not being enough, not being good enough, not accomplishing enough, fear because of the past and fear for the future.

In short, y’all, I was afraid.

“Fear not,” He says; “I am with you.
“Be not dismayed for I am your God.
I will strengthen you . . . help you . . . uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

He tells me to be anxious for nothing, and yet I let anxiety ache along my spine, wore it as weights on my limbs all day, and looked out through it at so many gifts I might have noticed.

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And He says that I am to cast all my anxieties on Him, because He cares for me. But I didn’t.

It was a long day, a day without daring. Yet He showered me with grace in the love of my loved ones.

So that here, at the end of it, Christ is my hope. I have been afraid, but I’m on my way to His table. He makes me able, makes me brave to come to Him, to be healed.

Five-Minute-Friday-4-300x300

Today I join Kate Motaung and her Five Minute Friday writers to write on her prompt, Dare. The button above will take you to her site, where you can read more and join in.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Noticing, Day 23: counting graces

and cotton

and cotton

Today I noticed the wonderfulness of a two-days-old baby squirming and sleeping in my arms: long expected, but only so recently visible, new and perfect and so very loved.

I noticed the way a student twirled a finger in his curly hair, so that he seemed like a much younger boy than he is, looking shyly out from under thick eyelashes.

I noticed the flavor and scent of cinnamon-orange tea. It really does smell like Big Red gum, but, while the idea of a steaming hot cup of liquid Big Red isn’t all that appealing, this tea is delightful.

I noticed how God can take a day when there is not enough of me and fill in all the holes, complete the incompleteness, make of it something beautiful.

Which reminded that He does that every day, I just don’t always feel how much I need it.

Which reminded me to thank Him.

noticing

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Noticing, Day 21: doing

Today I notice that NOTHING I do is EVER perfect.

1. That isn’t the sort of thing I’ve been trying to notice this month.

2. That isn’t new information.

He calls me to let go of my doings and rest . . . .

He calls me to let go of my doings and rest . . . .

But, y’all, I’m not perfect, and I don’t do perfect things. I misspelled a word on a literature test study guide — not just any word, one of the words in the title of a poem; and not just misspelled, but put a completely wrong word — and accidentally included a quote from our last exam on the test I gave today.

And I know it has something to do with the fact that I took too much time off from carefully preparing this past week, but it also has something to do with the fact that I’m generally flawed and fallen. So that even though I’d like to project and feel that I’m a thoroughly put-together teacher, an example in all my ways and materials, I’m not permitted to do that. Because it isn’t true.

I’m a doer. I always have been. No matter how much you tell me that it isn’t about what I do at all, that ultimately I CAN’T do enough or do well enough, no matter how much I try to believe you, there’s a corner of my soul that continues to be sure that my doings are what give me value, that my doings define me.

That, friends, is idolatry. Because it isn’t my doings at all; it is all Christ. I am valuable because He values me. While my doings only ever earn me death, His doing on my behalf gives me life and defines me. When I put my doings in the primary place, I put them in the place of Christ. Another doing that deserves death.

And so He reminds me: NOTHING I do is EVER perfect. He doesn’t do it to hurt me; He does it to drive me to Himself. This is grace. He calls me to let go of my doings and rest in what He has done.

Because even though I can’t do perfect things, the perfect God loves me. Because even though my doings are never enough, never good enough, He defines me as precious — not because of my doings, but because of Himself.

This God, His way is perfect and His all words prove true. 

I notice, and rejoice.

noticing

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Noticing, Day 12: Unexpected

noticing

Sometimes, if you’re noticing on a scattered-showers Sunday afternoon, you might see two people riding horseback up Main Street with a rainbow spread overhead.

I reckoned it a peculiar thing, and yet it made me glad.

I was driving, and failed to get a photo, but I do have this photo of Main Street, sans riders and rainbow, but including the authentic remains of insects on my car windshield; I leave the rest to your imagination.

Main StreetIn this I am reminded of another inexplicable sighting which I had downtown last year: fourteen red balloons released into the sky. Here are a few of the things I wrote about that:

The essential usefulness of a shiny red balloon is arguably small, how much smaller when let go into a wide sky, out of reach of human hands and eyes? And yet.

And yet, watching the balloons rise up and up out of reach of all measures of usefulness, I was filled with the delight that comes with things which exist quite outside practicality: glad, inexplicable things. There they were, reflecting sunlight, defying gravity, going who knows where to astonish who knows what placid birds with gratuitous shining.

What might it do to our doings if we were to take this approach to them? If we were to give up on measuring results, make them for the sheer joy of it, and let them go?

It gladdens me to remember, and to know that inexplicable gladness is there for the noticing.

Isn’t God good?

©2014 by Stacy Nott

Noticing, Day 6: poetical

noticingToday it’s the way the mosquito hawks skim the tops of the tall grasses in the field outside the window.

It’s the way curly hair dries into perfect corkscrews: an astonishment to me, even though I’ve seen it happen on my head for as long as I can remember.

It’s the contented feeling of being tired and having a slight headache, but not having anything much that needs doing, so that you can rest.

It’s the beautiful relief of being within a mile of consummated car-sickness — another mile would have meant revisiting my breakfast — and being saved by a parking lot and a soft pretzel from Target. (Times like that, I am utterly in agreement with G. K. Chesterton that “the most poetical thing in the world is not being sick.”)

It’s the sighting of a sunbeam after a day spent under clouds.

It’s the different ways the wind moves: through cedar branches, through oak leaves, through head-high grass.

It’s having time and reason to stop, to notice.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

September. Eleventh.

I was fourteen years old, belly-down with an Algebra book on the brown carpet of my little white bedroom with its window that opened onto the back porch, but I didn’t finish the Algebra lesson that day, or do any other school work.

Mississippi College, 2014

Mississippi College, 2014

Living within the barbed-wire-topped fences of a military installation, I felt at once more safe and more vulnerable than I might have felt somewhere else. Guards with guns all around, but in a war, aren’t military installations targets?

On the radio, news of the unthinkable, and later, at our neighbor’s house where there was a TV — we didn’t have one — the images played, over and over. So that now, I have to make a conscious effort to see them, to remember that these are people, that this happened, that it was terrifyingly real.

My freshmen were five years old then, so they probably don’t remember the times before it: how we walked all the way to the arrival gate to pick up my cousins at the airport and no one scanned us or checked our IDs or even really paid attention to us; how our military wasn’t involved in perpetually futile attempts to squelch terrorism all over the world; how there was nothing specific that we were supposed to remember on September eleventh.

Today, our campus is adorned with flags, they had a special bell-ringing at 9:11 this morning, and I read this poem to my class, because it’s a good poem, and because today is today.

That year, the girl we sponsored in Uganda wrote a letter expressing her condolences for our troubles in America, her sorrow over it, the fact that she prayed for us. From Uganda, where children are taken and pressed in armies, trained to kill one another with machetes, where war and disease are not tidily kept in news reports and hospital rooms, she extended sympathy to us.

I think of the hand of a Sudanese man, covering an ugly painting in an art history book, so that I wouldn’t have to look at it. And I marvel at this grace.

We observe today as a day when the world changed, when American life became more dangerous. A marker between how it was and how it is. But how is it? Still comfortable, still safe and prosperous, still free and at ease in our borders. They scan us at the airports, check IDs, keep non-passengers away from the gates: but still we fly, with minimal anxiety, and reach nearly all our destinations in perfect safety.

And so, thirteen years older, sitting up in bed in a pale blue room with its window that opens onto the front porch, with all the day’s school work complete, I wonder, I remember, and I rejoice.

 

©2014 by Stacy Nott