number 53

number 53

I don’t always have the words exactly planned. Sometimes I simply poise my fingers above the keys and I watch the stories of ‘you’ run through my head. Then I begin.

This infatuation with you, what you’re going through and how you live, has manifested within over one hundred journal entries, more than half of these arriving in your email each Saturday since we officially launched the Sanctuary Living Journal just one year ago.

The entry you are reading is number 53.

I am fascinated with how numbers play a mystical role in our everyday lives. Even the most conservative scholars believe the Creator of all things intended It that way. Add 5+3 and you’ll end up with the number symbolizing infinity. And 53 is said to be the number of perfection.

I am reminded that the power in each of us, the knowledge and contribution we bring, is endless and intended. Even still, these past fifty-three weeks have drenched us in the surprises of an infinite universe in ways we will never fully comprehend—

Who would have predicted we would be faced with the notion that it is safer to separate ourselves from humanity when every circuit in our bodies is wired to hold one another when the chaos sets in?

Yet, if we have learned anything it is the vastness of our own profound, solitary strength.

There have been many moments when I’ve wondered where God has been through it all.
And then I read the journals.

He is there in every word. He whispers. He waits.
My part is to turn away from the world’s angst and anger.
My charge is to listen and then connect with my heart.

We struggle. We argue. We commiserate.
And then we discover the power is not in the contending but in the consistency of our singular mission, poured out with a vision of eternity in our view.

Number 53. Our power is infinite when we focus on what we were sent here to do.  

In honor of the one-year anniversary of the Journal I’ve gathered some of my favorite words from the entries we’ve shared. As you read, imagine your lives…and my love for each of you…embedded there.

The people I love are not surprised but energized by the complexity life brings. In fascinating and inspiring ways, they seem to understand the power of harnessing chaos. There are so many daily opportunities to change someone’s life for the better by offering a hand rather than an opinion. 

Art takes time. It’s not something manufactured by machine but crafted by those who understand that the value of a “thing” is not only what can be seen but intrinsic, embedded DNA of the very one who sets to the task of the making. I’ve heard it said that process is meditation. Oh, how I love this phrase. It suggests that getting in touch with our inner being isn’t so much about removing ourselves from life but sacrificing ourselves wholly and completely to one moment…and then the next.

Our sanctuaries take on who we really are— our confusion about priorities, our distraction and lack of focus, our unwillingness to let go of the “unnecessary,” our avoidance of addressing family dynamics, our disconnect from the here and now, our willingness to invite poison in,  our disappointment with the lives we’re living now, our lack of purpose and passion. What is right in front of us, is nearly always the mirror we avoid looking in. That unmade bed? It might be because at some point we intend to crawl right back under those covers. Maybe the energy we lack has more to do with enthusiasm than it does hours in a day.

When the overwhelming longing for peace sets in [and I have a feeling it’s setting in right about now] is your sanctuary the place you long to run from or run to? 

In my favorite book, “The Thinking Hand,” Juahni Pallasmaa describes the pencil as a bridge between the imagining mind and paper. Words are the manifestation of us in the world…our DNA spilling out and made visible one letter at a time. This is why I love sending handwritten cards and letters because tucked away inside each envelope is a little part of me.   

The pause makes room, it is the white space between notes that gives each the opportunity to come alive. To resonate. To develop and build. The pause is the inaudible grace we extend to others between what is meant and what is said. The pause is the peacemaker and neutrality zone that allows thoughts to navigate oceans of emotion before landing on shore.

Those “hard moments” seem to be everywhere now. But in the very definition of “us” is this emergent imperative to put away anger, bitterness, distraction and judgement and find a way to love, starting with the one who lays right next to me in the darkest hours.  There are no limits to love if we are unafraid.

How is it that I allow all of “this” to lure me to the quarrel and commotion before sitting quietly with my own thoughts and that audible Other voice that tells the truth in all situations?

If we were brave, we would admit to ourselves that our daily routines reveal that other people’s lives have become more interesting, more essential than our own.  In so many ways, this “other obsession” has seduced us away from initiating the needed conversations behind the panes of our own sanctuaries, our hands hovered over keyboards instead of calming those we love with a gentle touch. We long for something we can’t name. 

I awaken and open my eyes and even though the heaviness of the world invades my sleep, in the morning I see the flowers. And no matter how twisted and gnarled, the root still raises itself from something buried to something born.  Answers may be tangled and complex, out there to be discovered. But hope is in the simple things, most likely right in view

We are all artists, in how we are moved at the sunset or caught off guard by some simple beauty that crosses our path.  In building Lego castles with our children, growing vegetables in the garden, or kneading dough. In straightening pillows, following recipes, making beds, or setting tables. We all have within us the ability to paint a breathtaking moment in every single thing done or said.

It takes severe mercy, a collision of doubt and faith, to change the trajectory of everything.

We orchestrate our moments, map our strategies and make our plans…but we have forgotten that life has a mind of its own.

Through so many seasons, joy and sorrow inhabit the same space, seemingly shoving and challenging one another on which will go first. The times my spirit is most at peace, are ones when joy and sorrow join hands and together begin the climb. 

The future is held in the hard moment, balanced on the edge of our decision to hesitate or lean in.

 There is so much disappointment and mistrust in abbreviated conversation. I wonder if we are really communicating with anyone at all. And how do we honestly understand our own feelings about a person or situation if we are unwilling to invest the time to sit with our thoughts, dissect them, and work them through? 

Who we are now, especially now, can only be found when we agree to spend some time away—away from opinions and chatter, even away from the closest of friends—until we discover, maybe for the first time, who we are without being surrounded by the familiar.

In conversations surrounding the issues of the day, most of us fail to convey what is “meant,” because we are unwilling or unable to speak from the heart.

Hearsay and gossip are the great walls that divide. They are doors without hinges and dark hallways we enter to avoid being seen.

Authenticity shifts every conversation to one that insists on vulnerability and a kind of evolution of the soul.

Are you experiencing what feels like a free fall? You are not in it alone. In fact, I am willing to bet that this experience you are pushing through, or away, has actually been orchestrated for your benefit. 

Kicking and screaming is the natural response to the cart that has been pushed over. 
Our bounty, the one we have been so careful to assemble, sometimes spills and scatters to the ground. But do not waste those precious first moments attempting to gather all the pieces of what has been lost. Instead, let these words resonate, “behold, I am doing a new thing.”

I am, with all my body, mind, and spirit, trying to keep up with the stunning cadence of the living God. He and I have urgent work to do in every little corner of who I am.

This is the season of lessons, a time for welcoming new, deep wisdom and a time of letting go of long-held beliefs that hold us back and narrow our vision, especially of ourselves.

Did you know that the details of creation prove that God delights in beauty for its own sake?

What if we have misjudged or miscalculated our difficult experience as one to be locked away instead of celebrated?

Did you know that nature abhors a vacuum? The space we make out of anger, resentment, misunderstanding, disappointment isn’t empty for long. Before we are aware, the cracks become real estate wide enough to separate hands reaching for one another in the middle of the night. Nature gives us more of what it thinks we are asking for…and more sadness and isolation fills in.

What part of you is withheld and for what reason?  
Have you wondered that perhaps these quiet corners that we keep all to ourselves are the very ones that may bless others the most?

We are breath. We are light. We are naked and fearful. We are impatient and imperfect and yet, gazing upon us, heaven still dances with delight.

You are glowing. I see it in you. I hear it in your words, poured out in anger and angst. Your voice is cloaked in the trappings of a hurting world that refuses to look up. 

Here’s something to consider— 
as the world dedicates this season to the obsession of the new, I contend that the greatest gain is in not the new thing at all but the willingness to explore and develop every aspect of who we already are.

This feeling of importance, of being needed, of being heard, understood and seen. This terror that we’ve missed it, that we’ve lost it, that someone else has what is rightfully ours. What, my precious friend, is burdening you?

Do not dismiss the grand that can be born 
from the seemingly insignificant. 
What transpires around you 
is there to inspire you 
to become you.

Sanctuary living is not some woo-woo concept that is ethereal and unattainable, but a bearing of the soul that dips into the innermost house of our humanity— to uncover what is both sacred and necessary, to coax the best of who we are [inside ourselves] and manifest that essence in our homes, in our communities, and in the world. I believe with all my heart that the secret to life’s challenges begins with [literally] what is right under our nose. 


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