Counted Sacred

The colors are pressed so bright I am awash in light, serenity of earth changing its garments. Soft leaves swaying to the ground. I am in my peace place, an island at the end of the earth, it seems, where I am allowed to catch my breath, slow my pace, fill my heart with quiet, with love, with God’s presence so palpable I feel His arms around me.

Each breath is counted sacred, a gift. I am here to breathe in the air, gulp the fresh scents of fall as nourishment for my body, my soul.

Slow. Give up the hurry and linger long and soft in the sway of branches swollen with color, the dance of wind on water.

For the first time in a long while, I allow myself to dream. To paint a picture for days to come, months, even years.

For a girl who could not get herself to hope for anything past the current day, this is another gift, a quiet miracle.

The Boy and I are dreaming now, together, and this is unfamiliar to me. But when we curve around the gravel lane arched with burning reds and yellows in a robin’s egg blue sky, windows cracked and glimpsing the diamonds on Detroit Bay and every water in between, we can’t help noting which lots for sale we could make do on, envision life later.

It’s a beautiful thing, to lean into God and let Him lead through the long way right where I most need to be. Where I never expected to meet my blessings face to face, full on, where they have been standing in the sand, watching, waiting to show me around.

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Soft Promise

The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.   -Psalm 145:9

It has to be a daily surrender of my life and heart.

I am too human and full of a choking selfishness to get through an hour more without turning every fiber of my being over to You. To let You take control. To let go of the life I’ve wanted, the life I’ve clamored to get back to, though You’ve continuously shown me that what I want may not be what You have for me.

I must surrender that You are God and I am not, while I sure try and act like my own mini god. It’s rebellion, pure and simple. When I pull away I am stubbornly saying I know what is right for me, that though You can fight for my calm from the chaos of this world, You can’t possibly handle my little piece of it.

I keep making a mess of this life. And I keep begging You to let me live free from my mistakes. Keep clinging to the rumors of Your goodness, eager to experience for myself. Messier and messier, I leave a trail of my clumsiness behind me. But You keep cleaning up what I have broken and finding ways to rearrange the pieces.

You don’t ask me to understand my struggles, my situations, Your mystery. It’s all just that—mysterious, as You intend. Submit to the holy shroud, take only the step enlightened before my feet. Trust in my heart that Your thoughts are not mine, nor are Your ways anything I can comprehend. And that it’s a good thing, that You really do know best, that You want to rearrange my world to rotate well with You.

One breath. One heartbeat. One blink of my eye. That’s all I get, one moment, and then, perhaps, another. To be okay with that is a beautiful surrender, mindful decision that sets me free to fall on You, fall into You, intake Your soft acceptance.

I may mistake my worth, Your care, but I have grace to get me through. And I must lay my own life down to get to Yours. Push back the screaming fear to hear the gentle tone of Your voice. The one that speaks to me and tells me what I am afraid to know.

Bring me to the truth of it, those deepest parts of me where I feel most exposed. Offer me a soft promise to fall asleep to, new mercies when I wake. Pressure erases when I cast my heart on You.

You First

The rain is gentle.

So are You.

Reminding me to come back to my first love. Before the world and all its distortions broke my heart, when I walked with You and You were all I could see. All I wanted to watch.

I have forgotten You. Forgotten what it is to love You with all of my heart, soul and strength. Forgotten what it is like to talk to You with intention, with a yearning in my spirit for Your presence, for Your response. To enter into the gateway of relationship, walk beside You and know You are happy being with me.

Love must be loose and not clung to in fear. Love must give of itself freely and let go of what does not matter.

You matter. You alone ask for my love and can receive it.

It is a beautiful thing, to turn and walk toward You, realizing You’ve been waiting. That You have been smiling at me all this time, when I have imagined You off in the distance, stiff and elusive. How have I not seen? How had I gotten so off track that I did not recognize You standing close, watching me, speaking softly to try and get my attention but I could not hear? Maybe I didn’t want to turn from the noise and the echoes, or the clutter tangled me with intent to keep me from listening.

But You are persistent. You were not satisfied to let me go. You would not leave. You remembered when we were one, when we breathed through the same lungs, saw life through the same lens. We were ever evolving, together, and I dared to take Your dreams as mine.

It was You and I, once. Until I lost my way and went ahead, until I strayed. Until I threw my heart in the wringer too many times so it’s turned from red to black and blue. Lifeless. Disillusioned. Frightened. Crestfallen. Careless, I let everything touch me with grimy hands and hearing my head point out where to go. I didn’t stick around to hear from You and my heart paid for it. You alone bring joy. Seeking You, demanding You with desperation. You, in the quiet. You, always finding me. And I, giving my ever-faulty heart back to You. Choosing You, again and again. Daily. Moment by brittle moment. I am fickle and oh so prone to stray. It is a deliberate choice to say each time, “You first. I want You first,” and mean it in my core. To seek You with my soul, and fight for my heart with all my strength, fasten it to Yours.

As this rain drips from the trees, You speak more in this moment than in months before. Maybe because I am ready. Maybe because now it is an active participation. Maybe simply it’s been long enough. I do know this reformation will be difficult. It will require much work of the heart and effort and intentionality on my part. Hour after hour, constant reminders that I am giving You the first fruits of my heart, and everything else that follows comes from You because that’s what You want for me. I am done with idols, though their cold stone has pulled me heavy and are not easy to cast off. But You will pull me through and bring vibrancy to my life that I’ve been missing and haven’t been able to attain.

Every beat of my heart, twitch of my desire, has to be only You. I will learn to love again, as You will teach me all Your beautiful ways that make it sweet to hold open my heart for its fill.

Why Not Me

I believe in God being a God of redemption. There is something in remembering, in strolling through the memory halls of my heart and still holding out my hope.

We ask for the miracle and then doubt reality when it materializes.

We justify it away, fill with disbelief, run questions through our hearts.

I am too tender to take courage in the face of what I want.

And so I ask the million dollar question: Why me?

I am just a shy, simple girl who buried her nose in books when she was young and hoped with every inch of her innocent heart for a way to break out of the monotony of daily rhythm, to find a love that was true and fierce, to connect the poetry of life with beating hearts. And maybe, just maybe, I could change the world with my smile.

Why could I deserve anything great? Get the most treasured desire of her heart fulfilled?

Is God that good? Could what I desperately hope for be something that pleases Him?

Hope is that stubborn flame that will not be quenched. That soft surge of light within that unfurls its rays to break open the tightest corners.

All my life, I’ve been so afraid to hope for what’s been in my heart. I have dreamed about it with every breath in my bones, but I have also been timid with expressing it out loud for fear it would never come true.

And yet I’ve carried this with me year after year, tucked away inside, and as the months and years stretched by the double, I even began to chide myself for it. Began to turn on the hopeful girl within and tell her every reason why she wasn’t worthy. I’d emotionally beat her down until hope was too bent and bruised to dare show its face, retreating to a dark, stifled space in the basement of my soul to stay in hiding.

But the miraculous realization: it stayed.

It stayed with me, this hope upon hope, this young girl’s dream. It stayed with me as I grew disillusioned and jaded. And every time I begin to doubt, to ask myself questions and feel myself sinking back into what God has done to build up my belief, the verse, “Don’t doubt, just believe” comes into my head. Coincidence? My own imagining? How I wish God would lay it out to me in plain terms and tell my all my hopes are good and well-founded.

I do not want to be afraid, but I have been fearful. He calls me deeper, on top of the water, to glide along the waves.

Who am I to deserve anything this beautiful?

But then, who am I not to?

Why me?

Why not me?

Why not, knowing Him who holds the stars, giving me His best.

Remember this, my heart. Remember and awake, believe.

Shift of Seasons

I wake to idling engines and trucks passing by, chatter of old men clustered together at metal tables at the coffee house across the shallow street. This I will get used to, the gentle hum of morning in this quaint downtown.

Chime of bells marking eight o’clock. Daylight softly streams in across my walls, flickers of reflection from cars bouncing light off building windows.

The Boy set up the bare bones of my coffee corner before he left, after assembling my bed and clearing space for me to sit and walk in my living room. He cares for me through serving, arranging my life and heart to let me breathe and relax. I am so grateful.

I prep my coffee, inhale, sink into my grandpa’s plush chair. It’s wide—so wide it could only fit in my kitchen at my lake house. But I wouldn’t part with it, so there it sat, by my stove. Now, it’s at least in the living room, in an appropriate room.

Here begins a new season, a fresh journey in a new town, this historically preserved town with the tagline, Fall in Love with Cedarburg. Let’s see how it woos me.

It’s fitting, the timing of this start. September, which I equate with the start of fall, though technically right now it’s still summer. Fall, for me, has always felt like a time of new beginnings. A crispness, cleanness that gives way to a new layer of myself, God’s presence, the invitations to touch lives and know Him deeper. There is something smooth and serene about the shift of seasons. Both literally and within.

This season, if you would have asked me two months ago how I’d feel, I would have said I was torn. But I have seen God move that’s left me no doubt He is taking care of me that I cannot help but trust and lift a hopeful heart to what He has planned, wants me to see. I know much will be unexpected and upside down to what I thought, and much will stretch and guide me out of my comfort zone. But this has happened before, and I am learning to go with open hands.

Boxes and empty bookshelves and end tables all over the place—my apartment is still a mess. But I’m smiling, because I think of the fun it’s going to be to unpack, put things in place, settle in.

This is a new day. Thank God I am allowed to see it.

Thank God for many things, this birthed moment that blinks its newborn eyes and fills with joy at what’s to come.

Be Still And Know

Be still and know.

Be still.

And know.

Be assured.

He’s got me covered.

Has my best interests at heart, my dreams within His own, the people and places already set before Him before time began.

See what He does for the sparrow, the panting deer. They find their nest, are led to the stream.

When I worry, I take my trust away from Him who ordered the stars. I try to misplace Him in my heart and strain to satisfy my own desires.

There was manna from the sky, quail from the brush, seas parting and walls that tumbled down. Story upon story shapes the history of His character, solid in faithfulness.

He has brought me this far; how can I not place my hope that He will stay true to His word?

When I flail, may I subdue my spirit. When I scramble, may I stop and fall back into His arms. His assured, capable arms that have carried me through more than one storm.

Taste and see His strength. Especially when I have none.

He will provide.

He always does.

Always.

Like Sunlight

It streams in like sunlight through the wide windows, warming the hair on my head, skin across my bones.

Goodness.

Like it can’t help but course in, make itself known and nestle next to the waiting parts of my soul. Burrowing deep, making its home inside me.

What a wondrous feeling. This airy joy that now joins me every day. It has consumed me in the best ways. I chose to believe, and look how God has responded, all He has given and done.

Bouquet of carnations and daisies adorn my coffee table—a reminder from The Boy of all that has transpired and to keep me company while he is away. This is God’s sweet love to me, given a voice and arms, heart and eyes through this man. I have fallen into goodness, utterly submerged. God has unlocked me and set me free with peace.

I am greedy for the sunlight that streams in soft and hastily throw open the shutters of my heart, breathe in the day, and beckon the good closer, make itself comfortable, to stay.

Begin Again

Three more weeks.

I glance at my calendar hanging on the wall on my way to grab my coffee steaming in the kitchen.

Three weeks left in my lake house, in my favorite town.

Yes, God has provided me with my new place, and it is good. But it will be so different.

I can’t believe I am moving again. This will be the third time in 22 months. That’s actually a lot of moving when I think about it. Packing belongings in boxes, taking down paintings and words that make my space feel special, paint on the walls I chose that made me feel safe and calm.

I never thought I would be leaving my lake house so soon. That I would be making my way to a new town again, breaking in a new space.

The memories. So much has happened here in the span of 15 months. Learning to breathe again. Cups of tea with my friend Sarah late at night. Working myself into a frenzy writing freelance until my bleary eyes couldn’t see the screen. Curling up with a quilt and good book to soothe the turmoil within. //

My stroke, right there at my living room table. Coming home to a quiet house on late December and January days for a few hours as I recovered at my parents’, just to get out and keep from going stir crazy.

My heart procedure, two months later. A few minor bouts of anxiety as I reckoned with the aftermath of life turned upside down, magnified in silence, in my aloneness. The deep reconstruction of my soul over an impossibly cold winter and spring. My recovery. God shifting and saving my life.

The hole in my kitchen ceiling for three and a half months, and my landlord finally sending someone to fix it. Opening my door one morning to The Boy who would repair not just my ceiling, but my heart, my joy, my light. Our friendship, then relationship, developing over the months, his constant kindness.

All my walks to the water, wandering out to the lighthouse on a Tuesday morning or Friday evening, just because I could. Hearing bands perform at the restaurant on the lake, people milling about on a summer evening, the softness of a fall weekday when everyone heads back to work and school.

There is so much I am going to miss. Moving on again. Getting used to somewhere else. New seasons I have no say in. Am I not allowed to feel settled in my life? What I wouldn’t give to learn a rhythm I can rest in, find a normal.

My reading room is full of boxes. I should have kept the boxes from last year’s move, but how was I supposed to know?

Always we begin again.

The timeless words of Saint Benedict. A balm for the bumps along the journey.

We are constantly unlayered, always a shift of who we are, who we are becoming. Always, there is good at the end of every tide, the beginning of a beach that leads into a wide berth of land.

I tell myself, treasure what you’re losing, but stay hopeful for what you will gain.

Right now, I am trying to savor every minute, every crow caw, the smooth gleam off the lake. Walking down the hill to the ice cream and chocolate shop. Just walking around downtown, along the harbor. Those sweet, lazy, carefree moments, healing me, watering the soil of my soul, the bloom.

Because I will begin again, grow into the next phase of myself, into the world around me. Because there will be gain. God’s fingerprints are pressed all over the page, ready to turn. Always, what God brings, who God is, is what is good.

 

Continuing my attempt at the Five Minute Friday weekly writing challenge. Five minutes to write on the assigned topic. Raw and unedited. (Yikes!) This week’s topic: Again.   // symbolizes where five minutes started and/or stopped.

Already Full

Sweet tufts of grass soften the river bank. Sunlight jets along the water’s surface, pulling downstream with the gentle current.

The river doesn’t worry. It just moves, in stride with its course. There is no anxious breath beneath its surface.

It doesn’t worry, simply carries itself lightly down the curves and dips of earth.

It does not worry.

This morning is breathing room amidst the chaos. My life is a constant juggling act and I cannot get a grip on the balls churning through the air. I am not good with so many things in flux.

Am I built for something different, or is it growing pains, labor pains, birthing in me something different?

Do not worry.

It smells good to be outside, the clear air, light scent of grass. With these girls from a writing camp I’m helping to lead, spread along the bridge, some with legs dangling over the edge, some tucked underneath their frame, hearing the chime of bells, chirp of birdsong.

I imitate their actions and curl myself down on the wooden beams warmed by the sun. This is a calm that I can hold in my hands.

To feel the fullness of air, alive.

To let my legs linger over the edge.

These are my pay attention moments, my life blood.

More of this. Of quietness of soul, of silence, of drawing out the love of words and wonder of this world.

It is important. It is necessary and good.

The river keeps coursing. I run my fingers over the rough rust-shaded wood. It’s been smoothed, but there is still a wildness that hints at its home hundreds of miles away, deep in a slumbering pack of trees towering over flowers and fauna.

That quick glance of wild.

That quickening of beauty, revealed.

A wildness of my own heart that hears the call from long ago, the split-wide beauty that first breathed me to life, set skin to my bones and burned a fire that set to spread.

Do not worry. Remember. Let go. Let it all fall down in front of you. Stand empty, already full.

Rest in Remembering

Lilacs push into the bursting blue sky, practically white in their full bloom.

Late afternoon light falls across the towering trees in my front yard. Birds calling out to one another.

Mid-June is chaos. This whole month is, really. I can’t catch my breath, but God in me whispers, “Be still.”

Be still and know how He has held me close through each and every gale that has swept through. How He uses the unexpected to shape me, soothe me, because the best growth I receive comes from receiving His good.

This is a reprieve—a few moments of quiet, of pause, reflection. I cannot operate on constant full speed ahead, another project, never ending grant writing and a million little interruptions to my day. And this He knows, and so He sets me back, nudges me to slow.

Take in the drink of water that is Lake Michigan, shining like the most beautiful jewel on this June day. Dip into the green sea of rippling grass. Hear myself. Feel myself. Feel my soul speak, the poor, uncared for orphan.

Before I know it, the words come. With a melody, with a gentle smile.

I keep singing inside, quiet, steady, like my spirit moves on its own accord.

It is well.

It is well with my soul. //

Oh my soul, let us come home. Rest in remembering where He has brought you. From a stroke, the holes in your heart, to restorative joy, hope, and goodness. On the trunk that is my living room table, purple and gray with pink-tinted wildflowers The Boy gave me, propped in a mason jar. How in the world he found me can only be the nudge God gives again and again.

This is all a miracle. This is all a gift.

Such a light breeze against my flush face, warm from a desperately needed nap. Even my body tells me I am not wired to live in the mode I’ve made for myself.

Slow. Deep breathing. Stop to savor strength in quiet and trust. There is strength in stepping back, His power is in the pause. Everything grows from there.

It is well. Well worth refreshment, my soul’s restore.

 

 

Continuing my attempt at the Five Minute Friday weekly writing challenge. Five minutes to write on the assigned topic. Raw and unedited. (Yikes!) This week’s topic: Well.   // symbolizes where five minutes started and/or stopped.