The Cougar on the Table: My First 3 Thoughts

I don’t watch any sort of animal or vet shows. Ever.  My creature-loving heart cannot handle it. This is common knowledge. In fact, my 5th grade teacher excused me from reading “Ole Yeller,” and my 8th grade teacher told me I could leave the room when we dissected dogfish sharks (FLA y’all). I also don’t do any sort of nature show where the injured/old/baby/vulnerable anything is being stalked. Nope. I can ‘Greys Anatomy” all day long but don’t put a 4-legged patient on the table.

But…

One night I found myself uncharacteristically flipping the channels when I came across a cougar on a table. By the looks of the uniformed crew surrounding the enormous, sedated cat, I had landed on some sort of zoo program.

I was spellbound.

Maybe it was the size of the cougar- her nose the size of the vet’s open hand, her paws even bigger. Maybe it was the eerie way she lay there so quiet and unmoving. Maybe it was the tender way “her” zookeeper kept speaking quietly into her huge ear, and stroking her golden face- taking advantage of her anesthetized state. Or maybe it was the knowing voice and skill of the old doctor attending her.

The cougar on the table looked fine to my untrained eye. No wounds to be seen. No blood. Strong. Healthy. But the vet knew. He had seen the slight swelling of her mouth. He had watched her turn food away.   He had sensed the hidden infection.  And sure enough, when he pulled back her monstrous lips, there was a huge, festering, abscessed blister.

I sat staring, as we do, unable to look away, as he inserted a large knitting needle type tool into the wound and the sickness poured out. He massaged it, un-phased by the gore, the mess, the smell I imagine, until the flesh was clean, pink, and healthy. Then he gingerly stitched it up, confident in his work and the outcome for the cougar on the table.

Y’all, I have not been able to get her out of my mind.

God has had me on a journey over the last couple of years I haven’t even been able to verbalize fully. But when I saw that cougar on the table, as I watched that old doctor lance the wound, as I witnessed the healing that was taking place as she simply slept, I knew it was the picture of these lessons.

I’m the cougar on the table and I bet you are too.

I believe she will be with me for a long time and the lessons she has for me haven’t all surfaced yet. But today can I process 3 thoughts with you?

1.  LANCE THE WOUND. We all have them.  Sometimes they are on display for all to see, gaping and bloody, and sometimes they are hidden.  I have had both.  The longer I live the more I know this is true: my hard and your hard may be different, but we all have hard.  And the hard hurts.  The hard can wound.  So whatever your hard has been- never assume it doesn’t matter, and never assume you’re the only one hurting.  Life blisters us.

When the blisters rub, and the wounds appear- hidden or gaping- what do we do?   I’m a “ignore it and it will go away” kind of girl… except sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes it gets infected.  Maybe you’re a “WebMD it and obsess over it” kind of girl…. But all that focus and information just scares you.  It doesn’t heal.   

I’m learning we have to recognize the wound without worshiping it.

Naming the wound is powerful.  The whole body can get sick from one tiny sore.  The whole spirit can feel crushed from one ignored wound.  When we find it, when we name it and lance it, it loses the power to spread.

It’s painful.  It’s gross.  Looking at the junk in your life, the mistakes, the hurts, the insecurities, the lies- it isn’t fun.  But until the infection is lanced in the light of Truth, it can’t heal and we won’t be healthy.

2.  SUCCUMB TO THE STILLNESS.  The team of vets would not have been able to help the cougar had she been awake.    She would have been a danger to herself and everyone around if they came at her wound as she roamed her enclosure, walking wounded. But the stillness would have come for her one way or another.  Sickness causes stillness.  Death causes stillness.  That is not the stillness we want.

We have to succumb to the stillness that heals, before it is too late.  I believe this is the biggest lesson God has been trying to teach me over the last few years- REST.  It’s so counter-cultural that we don’t even know it when we see it.  We think it means a few more hours of sleep, a lazy afternoon binging on the couch, a mind-numbing scroll on Instagram.  But we get up less than restored, more frazzled. Unhealed.

The stillness of Sabbath heals.  We are healed in it and we are healed by it.  It was God’s plan from the beginning and it is His plan now.  The whole earth has a Sabbath rhythm built into it.  Why do we think it is optional?  How do we think we can out work, out hustle, out pace it?  Why do we want to?  

I am reading the fascinating book “Sacred Rest” by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith M.D.  In it she describes the 7 ways we become tired, and explains that rest (or restoration) will look different in each area.  We tend to think that sleep is the answer but that may only be true when we are physically drained.  Sleep does nothing to restore life-giving relationships when we are socially depleted, and it can’t fill the void when we are spiritually exhausted, etc.  To rest well we will actually have to pay attention to our lives and intentionally go after what we need for restoration and healing.

And it will take stillness to hear- from our surgeon and from our soul.  Like that cougar, we are dangerous when we are walking wounded.  And like the cougar, stillness is coming for us one way or the other.  Succumbing to stillness is the only path to healing.

3.  TRUST THE SURGEON.  When I come to the doctor with my wound do I trust Him for healing or have I already written my own prescription?  When I allow for stillness and come to God, do I come with my own agenda or can I simply trust His presence to heal?  Do I sprinkle a little “Amen” on top of a bunch of self-help and wonder what is taking so long?

We have to trust our Great Healer for healing.  His path may look different than the spiritual formation plan we have for ourselves.  While we are asleep on His table, we have no control of how he dresses our wounds.  Is His presence enough?  Without the books and studies and plans?  Can He heal simply with His hands and His love?  Do we trust Him?  Do I?

So I’m giving some time to recognizing my wounds- old and new.  I’m doing the work of lancing them through prayer and hard conversations when needed.  I am succumbing to the stillness of Sabbath to listen to the Holy Spirit and my own soul.  And I am trying to trust in the simple capacity of my Surgeon.  His presence is the foundation of all healing.

Those are some pretty deep lessons from 10 minutes of a zoo show.  You just never know where and when God will show up.  I am eternally grateful for the Cougar on the Table.

 

Chasing the Light Together for a Fruitful Summer

Where are my Light Chasers at?  Has Summer taken up residence in your heart and home yet?  Are you with me looking for the light and lightening up?  Maybe the most consistent rhythm of my life is Chasing THE Light and pressing into the Word of God daily on my own, and weekly with a small group of friends.  The growth that happens week in and week out, years upon years, in community cannot be overstated.  The light I have found in others, the way they have pointed me to the light of Jesus- I wouldn’t be the same without it.

If you are looking for a study to do with your own group of Light Chasers this Summer I would love to invite you to Fruitful.  Fruitful is a 6 week study exploring the Biblical principles of fruitfulness, that I wrote and released this year.  Summer is a perfect season to carve out daily time in the Word and to share your heart with women in your life.  It can also be used for individual study as well.

For the month of June, we are offering 10% off of Fruitful with the code: chasethelight.  I can’t wait to get this work in your hands and pray that this Summer is your most fruitful yet!

Chase The Light

I have wanted to get a tattoo since college.  I used to doodle waves and wildflowers, like all 19 year olds I suspect, but my mom swore it would “break her heart” if I did it so I didn’t.  At 42 I am glad I don’t have my college whimsies with me forever but the desire to express myself to the world hasn’t changed.  What has changed, with each new season, is what my imaginary tattoo would be.

I like words.  I’m a words girl.  I read them, I write them, I decorate with them.  So, the imaginary tattoo is definitely words.  I have taken to writing different words on my wrist most every morning as a reminder for the day.  A focus.  Almost a centering prayer.  A tattoo trial.

Today the words I am writing are “Chase the Light.”  I have decided this will be my summer mantra in the Middle Season.  In my life I have chased the dream, I have chased the ideal, I have chased the toddlers, I have chased the schedule, I have chased the clock, but this summer I will chase the light.

I want to chase the light and lighten up.  I want to sit in the sun and linger under the lights in the trees.  I want to light candles for sacred moments alone and wine nights with my friends.

As an enneagram 4, light is not my default.  Whether I like it or not, I usually reside in deep waters.  You may not know it to look at me in my yellow baseball cap and acceptable smile, but my emotions, thoughts, and desires are somewhere on the ocean floor.  Not bad, just deep.  But this summer I’m swimming to the surface.

No matter what personality type you are, what enneagram number, where you live or what stage your are in, the world feels pretty dark a lot of days.  Parenting gets more complicated with every year, no matter how much we dig our heels in.  We can love our life, recognize the blessings of our season, and still be honest that there are some shadowy places of hard, loneliness, and insecurity, can’t we?  But my prayer is that in the space called summer, we can lay down the heaviness, at least for a few moments each day, to chase the light.

God has been teaching me a lot about the spiritual discipline of celebration over the last few years.  Celebration as a discipline seems weird at first but when I look up from the the grind that is my life most days, when I look at the sorrow around, when I look at a culture of distraction and apathy at best and hatred and isolation at worst, celebration seems to be something we’ll have to fight for.

I’m fighting this summer.  I’m chasing the light.  Who is with me?

In his book “The Spirit of the Disciplines” Dallas Willard says this, “We engage in celebration when we enjoy ourselves, our life, our world, in conjunction with our faith and confidence in God’s greatness, beauty, and goodness.  We concentrate on our life and world as God’s work and as God’s gift to us.”  That’s a little long for a tattoo, but it’s good!

The heartbeat of my mothering has always been to honor the childhoods of my children and summer is for childhood!  I will try to say yes more than no and will cultivate a place for creativity, intentionality, and all that good stuff.  But I’m wondering if the biggest gift I can give to my children this summer isn’t another vacation, play date, or pool toy.  What they may want most of all, whether they know it or not, is a happy mom.

Matthew 6:22 says, “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body.  When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.”  This tells me to look for the light first with my eyes, to focus on the good, the beautiful, the fun, the LIFE-GIVING.

So each day, I will look for the light.  I will plan to chase it.  I will plug it into my days.  I know it can’t all be fun and games.  There is laundry to be done and floors to be cleaned.  There are fights to break up and meals to be prepared (so many meals….).   Real joy, real peace, real celebration, real light is found in and about the cracks of real life.

One of my son’s favorite books is a Ninja Turtle story with glow in the dark pictures.  We hold each page up to the lamp and then turn it off and watch them glow.  I think it can be like that.  We reach for the light so that then when the dark moments come, the less-than-fun tasks, the boring invisible days come we still glow from being near it.

We reach for the Light of the World. We reach for the blessings of the ordinary.  We reach for a little delight each day.  I will chase the light this summer on my mango orange bike.  (Have you ridden a bike lately, just for fun?  You should.)  I will eat lunch outside and ignore the patchy spots in the grass for a moment to feel the sun on my face.  I will walk away from the mess for a bit to catch the magic of the sunset and I will force myself to stay up late enough to look at the stars.  I will say yes to the life-giving relationships more, the conversations that leave me filled and fueled up.  I will drink sangria in my kitchen and blast the music I like for a song or two and embarrass my kids with my dancing.  I will work at it like a work out for my soul.  I will look at it like worship because it is.  I will rebel against the darkness and heaviness both out there and in here with a banner of light.

The fish on the ocean floor are weird anyway.

Maybe summer isn’t for a big plan and deep intentions.  Maybe we are overthinking this happiness thing.  Maybe all we need to do is chase the light and turn our hearts to the good.

And maybe I’ll get that tattoo.  (Just don’t tell my mom.)

Tell me what you’re doing to #chasethelight this summer.  Let’s inspire each other and be light chasers together!