Monthly Archives: June 2010

running my neighborhood…

{arriving home…}

Not long ago, my friend, Melanie, asked me a few questions regarding my “running” life. She has recently started a new blog for running moms and graciously allowed me a post all my own. You can read it here. One of her questions centered on my running route—the place I best liked to run. My answer?

The neighborhood behind my house.

When responding to her questions, I still lived there… on a busy highway that prevented my running endeavors. Accordingly, most days I opted for the brief walk through a field behind my house in order to secure a safe running path in the neighborhood that bumped up against my backyard fence. For nearly six years, it was my path. It no longer is my path. Instead, my path has led me to a new neighborhood… one with tree-lined streets and landscaped yards and the sounds of sprinklers and lawn mowers and birds desperately trying to make peace with the scorching summer temperatures. I took to those streets a couple of days ago… paying close attention to landmarks and being careful to notice my surroundings.

I had a good run; I was relieved to get it behind me. There’s a bit of mystery attached to this unknown path. Taking to it rather than retreating from it has been a good approach for me as I navigate this continuing journey of faith. It doesn’t serve the kingdom or my fears to stay isolated within my four walls. Hibernating… hiding only prolongs the process of my becoming, and for those of you who know me at any level, I’m all about my becoming. I cannot abide a stagnant heart and life. Staying stuck in yesterday isn’t an option for me, even though there are moments when I long for the safety of its embrace. Thus, I took to the streets of my new community, and I thought about Melanie’s question and what it means for me as I begin to turn the pages of this new chapter in my journey.

Running the neighborhood.

We all have one, you know… a neighborhood. A place given to us by God for the generous dispensation of our hearts and his kingdom seed. He doesn’t intend for us to stay isolated in our lives, removed from the world and safely entrenched in personal confinement. Instead, God means for us to lace up our shoes and to hit the streets with the witness of our willing faith. To put pavement beneath our feet because, in doing so, we move our faith forward rather than keeping it buried in our ellipses.

{my new neighborhood… Christ UMC}

Your neighborhood may not look like mine. Yours might be altogether different from mine. I will never “live” there with you, and you will never “live” here with me, but all of us share a common interest—a single connection that requires us to move past the fear in order to take hold of a rich faith. To see beyond the old that has kept us and to embrace the new that God has parceled out before us.

For most of us, that’s a scary prospect. Living with the unknown is a difficult abiding for those who enjoy reading the last page of the novel over taking the necessary pains to get there, one page at a time. Some would rather skip the mystery and live the sure reality that precludes any measure of uncertainty, any growth in personal faith. This has been my temptation in recent days, but when I bow my head before the Father, when I engage his heart in the matter, I see a Jesus who didn’t skip the mystery but who was, instead, deeply invested into every page of the story… not just the conclusion.

Jesus didn’t miss anything in his earthly tenure. Jesus laced up his sandals and took to the streets of his neighborhood, paying very close attention to the landmarks and giving special attention to his surroundings. He didn’t miss a thing… not one moment, not one person. Wherever he walked, he lived. Whatever he saw, he touched. No day in the life of Jesus was wasted. He was never “not” in the mood to be Jesus. He didn’t forsake the journey of faith for fear of his making a mistake. He simply did what he came to do… to run the streets of his neighborhood and to elevate his heart rate in accordance with his Father’s.

That’s neighborhood running, friends. That’s what it means to be a kingdom runner, regardless of the soil that claims the soles of your feet… the soul of your heart.

I don’t have clue what this means for me in the days to come; I only know and fully believe that I can run my “neighborhood” because there is One who has gone before me and given me a perfect example of how I might more perfectly and deliberately live my faith on the pavement of real life. I will not let my fear keep me bound within these four walls. I will, instead, let my fear drive me to my knees and to my Father who has promised to run my neighborhood with me and to make sure that I don’t miss a thing.

Oh for the eyes and faith to see and to live like my Jesus! That is the prayer of my heart this night; the prayer I hold for you as well. Keep to the road, friends. Run your neighborhoods and live your faith in the strength and grace of your Jesus who has promised you his courage and perspective for the road ahead. In the midst of all the changes that are going on in my life, I am thankful that my blogging address remains the same—

a good and loving neighborhood to run with you in this season. Thank you for loving me as you do and for allowing me a few moments of gracious entry in and around the streets surrounding your home. You are a landmark worthy of my notice… worthy of our Father’s as well. I love you each one and will endeavor to jog past your place sometime this week. As always…

Peace for the journey,

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living my ellipsis…

living my ellipsis…

“… Come now; let us leave.” (John 14:31).

I’m a fan of the ellipsis—the “dot, dot, dot” (…) that is sometimes used in writing to denote a pause in thought. An ellipsis is a connector of sorts, a bridge linking a previous moment with the next one. Sometimes the link is obvious; sometimes more veiled, but always intentional. Ellipses are my friends. They allow me to explore the inner conversation of my soul on a continuum that keeps the flow of thought fluid and pulsing. Without them, the thinking stops, the conversation ends, and what began as a good pondering gets tucked away for another day’s rumination.

As it goes with my writing, so it goes with my life. Today, I’m living in the midst of my “dot, dot, dot.” Today an ellipsis has arrived on the page of my life, and I am reminded of the importance of its existence. Without this bridge, I’ll never be able to connect my yesterday with my tomorrow. Without the pause, without the indicator that something is soon to follow my “dot, dot, dot,” then all that remains for me is that which has come before—the previous forty-four years’ worth of days that I call my life.

I happen to believe that there is more to my life than what has come before. I happen to believe in tomorrow and in its connection to all of my yesterdays. They cannot be separated even though they will try. What lies ahead… what is lived ahead is intricately linked to every moment that has lived previously. This is the way of a pilgrim’s journey.

For six years’ worth of days, my journey’s been lived upon the hallowed ground known as Rosewood, NC. Mind you, that’s not our official name. My mailing address reads Goldsboro, but for those of us who live within a few square miles of the 581 and Rosewood Rd. intersection, we name our residency accordingly. One doesn’t know that going in; some things about living here are learned… earned over time. Love stands a prerequisite for that learning; without love, Rosewood is just another location between here and there… another obscurely hidden dot on the map easily missed if one isn’t intent on the find.

Six years ago, I was intent on the find, and I am not disappointed by my discovery. What Rosewood lacks in aesthetics is amply made up for by the beauty of its inhabitants. People are what make this place a worthy investment. Long before I arrived here with family, God saw fit to include us in Rosewood’s history. It’s been a very good place to raise a family, an even better place to live a faith. Tonight, we stand in the middle of our ellipsis. We cannot go back and rewrite the previous years’ remembrances. Instead, we can honor their existence by pausing in this “dot, dot, dot,” believing that what has been scripted into our hearts here has counted and will continue to count for what God is going to script into our hearts next—the other side of this ellipsis.

This is our leaving time, friends, a time of going so that the time of God’s up-and-coming can arrive. It’s not an easy advance for any of us; our hearts are tremendously grieved with the good-bye. But as our dear friend, Tom, reminded us over lunch today (thank you Friendship SS Class for showing up in force at Torero’s), we risk something with our loving… we risk the pain of the “letting go.” Still and yet, we wouldn’t choose otherwise. To limit love is to limit authentic living. This, too, is the way of a pilgrim’s journey.

I imagine it will take me a long season to unpack the lessons that I’ve learned over the past six years in this place; some thoughts are better processed on the other side of the bridge. I’m looking forward to reflecting on them in the days to come… to holding them closely as my comfort and to recalling them as stones of remembrance in honor of the faithfulness of my Father’s love and watchful care over me and my family in this past season. I’ve spent nearly one-seventh of my tenure on planet earth in this place, and it’s been a good fit for my heart. I pray the same for the other side of my “dot, dot, dot.” I ask the Lord to be as good to me there as he’s been to me here. I cannot imagine him doing it any other way.

But I’m not there yet; tonight I’m resting in this ellipsis… confident of the words that God has written into my journey up to this point… confident of the words that will arrive via his pen to continue my story until they write me all the way home to heaven.

Perhaps, like me, you’re living in an ellipsis right now. There’s been a pause in your heart that has you wavering in between your yesterday and your tomorrow. You’re not stuck; you’re simply waiting… believing… hoping… dreaming. It’s been a hard bridge for you to navigate, yet to forsake these necessary steps is to miss the other side of your “dot, dot, dot.”

Don’t miss your “dot, dot, dot,” friend. Walk it. Quicken your pace, strengthen your feeble knees, and fortify your faith for the second half of the sentence. There is a tremendous beauty that comes with a finishing thought—a wholeness that replaces the partiality of a single phrase. Don’t be afraid to allow God to complete your pause. Instead, ready your heart for its arrival. God never writes anything into our stories without his corresponding punctuation. It may take a season or two to arrive at the conclusion, but when it comes, we can be sure that it comes in the fullness of a Father’s understanding and with his best intention for our lives. He, alone, can connect the “dots” and have them make sense.

Thus, watch out my tomorrow. I’m walking my “dot, dot, dot” tonight, and I’m bringing Rosewood, NC, with me as I come. You and her will be forever connected because of this pause that resides in my in between… because of this heart that is willing to carry the influence of my yesterday into the seeding of my tomorrow. I’ll see you when I get there; how I pray to live you all the more.

Until then…

Peace for the journey,

PS: Please forgive my absence from your blogging addresses, friends. I’ve barely had a moment to myself and only squeezed this post in because I desperately missed my “pen” this week. I won’t have Internet connection most of the week, but as soon as I’m up and running again, I’ll be sure to stop by for a visit. Thanks for all of your prayers. We’ve felt them all, especially today. We’ll be pulling out Tuesday morning and would appreciate your continuing thoughts. Shalom.

headin’ home…

“… And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.” {Hebrews 11:13-14}.

People who say such things.

When was the last time you said such a thing… made an admission regarding your tenure upon this earth? I suppose we all say it from time to time; if not with words, then with our thinking… maybe even with our actions. On every occasion when we encounter the pull between the temporal ramifications of our flesh and the eternal, hidden pulse within, credibility is given to this faith-filled yearning. We don’t live very long in our skin before feeling the effects of such an understanding. We may not know what to call it—this ache that resides so very close to our hearts—but we cannot deny its existence. We simply feel it as it happens. Some of us receive it as a gift from God; others retreat from its witness in hopes of abating the inevitable—a final moment of final witness with some final answers regarding a final finish. Some of us would rather wait for then, but not me.

I want to be a person who says such things now; not then. Now is when faith happens; not when God reveals himself in final splendor. Faith doesn’t grow in that finishing moment when God is clearly obvious. Faith grows now, when God’s pulse within us quickens with ours and we can no longer keep our silence regarding such things.

I had a such things kind of moment today. I said something this morning during my prayer time that seems to echo the refrain of my spiritual ancestors from Hebrews 11. They may have said it better than me; I fully imagine that they lived it better, but all of our hearts, whether then or now, anchor with the same God. Thus, a few similar words from a similarly captivated heart.

I want to be a better pilgrim, Lord.

It’s a good prayer to pray… an honest prayer of confession. As of late, I’ve been tightly focused on my agenda to the neglect of God’s bigger picture. None of the details that have garnered my attention are unnecessary or unimportant. They are a requirement of the journey that I’m traveling. But because of it all—the packing, the phone calls, the address changes, the good-byes—it’s sometimes easy to miss the pull of heaven. Sometimes the “necessary” gets in the way of my pilgrim focus, and if not carefully guarded, becomes the cloud that blocks my view of home.

I’ve been missing home in recent days. Not this one; in just over a week, I’ll have a new roof over my head and a new life to get to know. No, when I speak about missing home, it’s not this one that I’m pining over. I miss the view of the home that’s coming—the one that’s free of the flesh and full of the Spirit of God. My attachments here have made me weary and have brought me to my knees and my tears and my wondering about their worthiness as it pertains to my pilgrim status.

True pilgrims of God don’t get bogged down in the particulars. Instead, true pilgrims keep their focus. Keep looking ahead. Keep pressing through the “necessary” without ever losing sight of the “next.” True pilgrims share a few common traits. Traits like…

Dreams. Determination. Discipline. Devotion.

Dreams to start the journey.
Determination to make the journey.
Discipline to stay the journey.
Devotion to finish the journey.

Short change any one of these steps, and homeward focus can easily be replaced by temporal visioning.

Long ago and faraway, I had my first dream about home. Today, I am determined more than then to get there. I pray for the discipline to take me there, and above all else, for an unbridled devotion to the Lover of my soul that will land me safely on his front porch where he will carry me through the portal of my forever.

I want to be a better pilgrim. I want to a woman who says such things… who lives such things all the more. I am an alien and a stranger on this earth, in search of a country to call my own. It belonged to God first, and because of his Son, Jesus Christ, it belongs to me now. I cannot see it in this moment, but I can dream it. Tonight, it matters not the roof that serves as my shelter, nor the address that claims me as resident. My temporal cannot replace dreams eternal. It will try, but at the end of the day, the ache that resides deep within me cannot be denied. It must be addressed. It must be remembered. It must be given the honor that it is due.

Home really is where the heart is, and tonight my heart is with Jesus.

People who say such things.

May we all be found saying such things this week. As always…

Peace for the journey,

PS: In honor of the road ahead (my two older boys heading to Bolivia on Wednesday and our impending move in eight days) I’ll be missing from blogland for awhile. I imagine I’ll be checking in with you from time to time, but my pen will be taking a much needed break. My heart? Well, it never takes a break, so there will be more to come down the road. In the meantime, keep looking toward the horizon and keep thinking about home. Our God is so worthy of and honored by our thoughts. We covet your prayers. Shalom.

Copyright © June 2010 – Elaine Olsen

one so blessed…

one so blessed…

My precious friend, Joanne, sent me an e-mail this morning to remind me of the book give-away she is hosting over at her blog. The book? Peace for the journey: in the pleasure of his company. Maybe you’ve heard of it? I have a particular fondness for the work; it strikes pretty close to home, and I’d love for one of my readers to win a copy. Please stop over at Joanne’s place to sign-up, and bring your lawn chair with you as you go. Her blog is like sitting beneath the shade of a favorite tree on a hot, June afternoon. She makes me laugh; she makes me think; she gives me permission to pause from the busyness of my life in order to partake in the loveliness of hers.

Thank you, Joanne, for your interest in me and for the bucket loads of kindness you’ve extended in my direction. You are one of the best evidences of God’s grace and love toward me in the blogging community. I count it a privilege to be walking alongside you in this season of life and to call you my sister and friend.

Peace for the journey,

PS: I’m closing comments on this post so that you can head over to Joanne’s place and start enjoying the fellowship beneath her shade tree! Shalom.

"Let the boy run…"

"Let the boy run…"

As I rounded the corner of mile two on my usual jogging route, I noticed them walking toward me—two middle-school boys getting off the bus… two brothers making their way to the home less than a quarter of a mile from the bus drop. I’ve seen them before; even chatted with them on occasion, but all I received from them in that moment was their cursory nod as they made their approach. It was obvious to me the debate going on between them. I noticed the increasing, accelerated paces that accompanied their “out of the corner of the eye” glances toward one another. A race was about to happen, but not before they passed my observation.

I must have served as their starting line, because as soon as they made it beyond my right shoulder, the competition was on. I don’t know who won the race; the older brother is bigger with a longer stride, but the younger is thinner and perhaps harbors just enough determination to claim victory over his older brother every now and again. I chuckled as they passed, having seen this kind of competitive spirit in my own sons over the years. It has both annoyed me and blessed me, always reminding me of the subtle differences that seem to exist between boys and girls.

I continued with my jog for another mile and with the “chewing” on these differences when a thought occurred to me. A voice really. A whisper that simply and profoundly declared…

Let the boy run, Elaine. Let the boy run.

If there is one thing this woman knows, it’s boys. I live with four of them—one manly boy, two semi-manly boys, and one wishing he were anywhere within shooting range of the older three! There’s just something in them that says “get to the finish line first.” Whether it’s a foot race to the front door, a sprint to claim the front seat of the van, a drive to the hoop, the front runner for the hot shower or for morning pancakes, boys have it in them to be first. When it comes to racing, all other considerations are pushed aside. My boys can’t seem to help themselves. They simply were made for the running.

Let the boy run, Elaine. Let the boy run.

I’ve thought a lot about this whisper over the past couple of days since it first entered into my heart. Thought a lot about all of the ways I’ve tried to squelch the “run” in my boys over the years. As a single mom of two young sons, it was easy for me to justify my taking the lead in all of our matters. When they wanted to run in those younger days, it bothered me. I didn’t understand boys back then; I just tried to control them for fear that I would lose them. Since Billy’s coming into my life, I better understand the nature of the manly “run”; he’s brought depth and insight into the equation. Still and yet, there’s a part of me that cannot fully appreciate the pace of a boy’s heart—the boy’s drive to be first, be strong, be in the lead, be in charge. So much of what they’re wired to be is how I’m wired as well. Thus, the rub. Thus the need for a whisper from time to time reminding me to…

Let the boy run.

I want my boys to run, all of them. I want them to be fully man and fully alive to the paces of their genetic and spiritual predisposition. I don’t want them to wait to run until they’ve passed my shoulder and I can no longer enjoy the display of their manly fortitude. I want them to run in front of me while I can yet witness their strength. I want to see them grow and become and develop into the strong leaders that God has called them to be. I don’t want them to be hindered by my need to be in control; rather, I want them to run past me, all the while because of me and my willingness to tie up their laces, to walk them to the starting line, and then to cheer them onto victory. At my age and in this season of life, I might be running alongside them; not to beat them this time around, but rather to enjoy them and to champion them into doing what they were always meant to do.

To run.

It’s not been an easy conclusion to arrive at; my parents raised me to be a strong, independent woman, unafraid of her shadow and not easily swayed by man’s opinion. I am thankful for the sturdy sense of identity that was embedded into me long before I knew what it was to share a home with a boy, much less four of them. But after years of living with their witness, they’re growing on me, and I am beginning to appreciate their innate need for speed and for the lead.

Let the boy run, Elaine. Let the boy run.

By God’s grace, I hope to follow through on this whisper of heaven. Something tells me I might need the strength of my four boys in the days to come… might need their courage and their pace to buoy me along in my journey toward home. I’m glad I have them. As I grow older, I become less tolerant of my need to be in charge and more willing to concede my front-runner status to those whose legs are better able to handle the pace of life. It’s taken me a long season to get there, and I imagine that I will always prefer my running shoes to high heels. But for now, I’m enjoying the sprint to manhood that is taking place under my roof. It makes me glad to be a woman… to know the differences that exist between me and my four boys and to be perfectly content with the distinction.

And so I say to you, my four boys—Billy, Nick, Colton, and Jadon—

Run boys. Run swiftly and let this wife and mother take it all in. I look forward to watching the race in the days to come and to cheering you on to victory. Home is just around the bend, less than a quarter of a mile from this moment, and the pace you now keep will be worth the company you will then keep for all of eternity.

Let the boy in you run strong. Let the man in you finish well.

This woman loves you and delights in living this life with you. May you now and forever always know…

Peace for the journey,

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Copyright © June 2010 – Elaine Olsen

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