Embrace in Full

The first day into a new season—it feels like freedom, like light. A lightness in my heart; I have come up for air after being pressed under water and blink my blue eyes into the bright sunny sky. Or I have come into a clearing after plodding through the brambles and dark forest overhang to marvel at what’s wide open in wonder before me.

It feels like rest, respite for these weary bones that ran and moved like a motor for years, an outpouring of heart and soul that nearly bled me dry. And now, I sigh a great release. Life begins again, in a new way, where I can simply be.

It feels like the white and pink peonies scattered around my apartment, petals gently unfurling to release a light and sweet fragrance, damp with the drink of water in glass vases, from clasped bud to gentle unveiling of a beauty that doesn’t beg to be seen. The beauty just is.

Today is a day the Lord has made which I embrace in full. In which I embrace, just be, and allow the beauty to unfurl within my heart, my hands, as I stretch myself out into an unexplored world.

Grace Upon Grace

Snow flurries mix in the sweet blue sky. Today is cold, but tomorrow—tomorrow—should be promising. Full of promises hoped for decades from an innocent heart that beat to know the face that would one day find its way to me. From a heart that cried long and lonely for long stretches through nights, disillusioned by years spent in singleness, no longer certain its desire would come to pass. From a heart wrung with pain and brokenness, splintered and shattered from unmet longing and misplaced trust, worried it was wounded beyond repair.

I fed myself lies to ease the disappointment, played into the charade that my singleness made me strong, prepared my mind to spend life solitary while pushing the desire for love deep into the unseen corners of my heart. I pretended it was all okay. It was all okay.

But my broken heart kept beating, kept keeping time for the right time, over days and weeks and years and soon it was a decade and a half and somehow breath still poured from love’s lungs. Until my heart broke into my brain and struck me down to see that God was at work doing something new. New life, new light in the silhouette of a man with gentle hands and eyes who came to fix my ceiling, who really came to fix my heart. The literal holes in my heart exposed the emotional holes, and in my slow recovery, word by word, kindness by kindness, he showed me who God was and how He saw me, has always seen me, the hopeful girl with wonder at the world, with a brightness at what would come. He revived my dreams, restored the jaded pieces and healed such a scarred and skittish heart.

There is a God who sees and knows. Who dreams, cries, and tries with us again and again, who leans down when we are so tired and whispers, “Let’s keep going. It’s okay, dear one. You can try again. First one step, and then another.” And we walk into such unexpected answers to the prayers we wished many years ago; God remembers, He does not let them go.

Tomorrow will be blue skies, outwardly, but also within. My soul is split wide open and I am ushering in the sun. Promises fulfilled, promises given, glorying in Him who strung this all together. This life is a wonder. This life is a gift. And this forever grateful heart has found its home, grace upon grace.

Follow That Light

This is my favorite angle of the day, so far. From my perch in the living room, on the cushioned chair, sweeping view from a vista of chopped white ice sealing off the ripple of water that churns beneath. Late afternoon light as the sun gravitates lower in the sky. It seems to illuminate the view of island’s end and horizon of sky that stretches on into the inky unknown.

I carelessly look up and meet the moon, orb lit from the late sun and framed perfectly in the asymmetrical slant window, just below the tips of barren tree branches. Suspended in the pale blue air, watching over the bay that expands into the full body of Great Lake.

My breath holds in my throat, lungs rise and fall as quiet as they can. This is magical. This is wondrous. Gift upon gift, surprises and beauty I never could have imagined. An unnamed longing deep within me rouses, nestles closer to my heart. I crave…

Maybe there is no answer. Maybe I simply crave for more than what I experience, and this moment brings it to light.

Follow that light, something in me whispers.

“To where?” I counter.

It answers: Wherever.

Broken

Do you love Me?

I hear this question resound through my head at all times- when I’m in the grocery store, alone in my bedroom, struggling to fill out tedious spreadsheets at work. And each time I hear it, I answer the same way. Yes, Lord, You know I do.

Then He speaks again, softly, yet with an urgent undertone. Do you love Me enough to break for Me?

Break for Him. That would require a rendering of my heart, a vulnerability to extract any self-preservation I hid deep within me and cast it at His crown. Can I do this?

My heart is shielded. By this nothing can penetrate to its core unless I allow entrance. It’s been safe, static. The beat in its chambers are steady. To crack the armor means to welcome pain, welcome feeling, welcome the weeping of others. I am far from perfect, far from forgiving those who have wronged me and left me weary and alone, and I fight this feeling of feeling.

The deepest secrets of me wants to feel, though. Desperately. Do I allow it? I try, but I cover it back up because I am tired of the scraping of my heart until it’s empty. I dance around breaking into my compassion and keeping it at bay. Indecisive. Unsure of the holy incision to sustain being human, breathing alive.

But a pulse pounds in the distance. I lift my ears and follow the sound until I reach Calvary. There, atop a trodden and treacherous hill, lies my Love. His eyes grab my soul, His thorns removing mine. And as the final breath bubbles from His mouth, a flood of restlessness chips my strength, and I am emptied. Moving with no effort, He fills me with a tenderness I could not, would not, possess on my own. Yet this tenderness is solid, striking. My heart beats in time with His, squeezes when I see His face in the lines and curves of those I meet.

I came to Him, walls up, and He met me, palms bleeding at the foot of the cross. He exchanged His heart for mine, giving me the purest form of love imaginable- life. All He asks is for me to share this wonderful gift with hurting hearts, so very similar to my own.

Jesus was broken for me; how can I not be break myself for others in return?

 

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

-John 13:34

Black Space, Dark Matter

Before the canvas of the world was painted, the earth posed black, void, formless.

Intentionally kept dark for creation, for becoming, purpose was published from shadows, from an ink blanket of berth. This was good, part of the order of things.

I allow the same for my soul. Sit in the unshapen, breathless; being. No push to rush away the restless, the flush of alone and feeling of being lost in charcoal soil. I am welcomed in ways I would never experience had I not ventured into hovering waters, deep and endless and uncolored. I have grappled with this way of being, hearing society slap me with a quick, contented fix that inadvertently accuses my faith. Light versus dark. Skin versus spirit. Righteousness versus sin. As if where one side existed, the other couldn’t.

I have not been born to carry continuous happy bubbled within my chest. My burden is my blessing in the underbelly of life, where my tears find themselves falling down the skin of someone else, where my anchored heart magnetizes with the weight of theirs. Where I am constantly standing in line with the loose rise of moon, face deeply creviced and reflecting light in imitation.

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Today I am beyond honored to be featured at Ruminate Magazine’s blog, The Waking. Head over to read the rest.

This life is an incredible gift.

Beginning Always Blooms

Sarah is the first to notice it, among the slices of parmesan and Italian bread, the steaming plate of Swedish meatballs over mashed potatoes sprinkled with parsley.

“Oh, look!” she says to Eric and I across the dinner table, “the rose is growing!”

Our eyes sweep to the yellow rose in a thin bottle vase with a lip that only has room for a single flower. There it is, halfway down the bottle—a tender shoot curving up from the stem, color a delicate shade of green lighter than the rest of the rose’s body. Slight pink arms of a bud topping this new extension.

How in the world…? We marvel for a few minutes, in awe because this is only one cut-off rose slid into a small pool of water.//

Apparently, there are stories of roses and apple trees and all kinds of greenery that have been transplanted or re-rooted into impossible places and began to grow. The resilience of these plants and flowers clinging to life and digging in for it to still make a way forward.

Life will always make a way.

Life will always find ways to attach and push through.

This tiny shoot serves as a reminder that there is always something coming, often quite unexpectedly, and that even in the midst of what seems to be cut off and ending, behind it, a beginning always blooms.

Be kind to those broken branches, those sliced stems. New life is coming. Resilience abounds.

 

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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: Life.   // symbolizes where five minutes started and/or stopped.

 

To Always Have Hope

I don’t like being up early. But here I am, on the couch as the world out my window slowly unveils itself from the misty charcoal. All week, my right arm has felt like a nerve pinched; I still have tiny doses of fear that I’ll fall apart from my health trauma.

God, You have been so good to me.

Sometimes, I am still afraid.

Sometimes, I still don’t see this world as You want me to.

Sometimes, all I see is myself.

 

You bring me from the barren places and set me high on a steady rock; my feet firm in Your truth. Perhaps I will always falter at points, but I will always have hope. You have taught me that much, to ask without doubt, look to joy, to always have hope.

Banana cream oatmeal this morning. Here’s to being healthy, in habits, action, and thought.

God, You have transformed the patterns of my mind.

Sometimes, I wish I were more.

Sometimes, I want to be fearless.

Sometimes, I believe I can use my life to make a difference.

 

You have done deep healing work in my heart—literally, with closing the holes in my aorta, and also emotionally, binding up my scars and wounds and restoring me to my first love in You. Surely, You have shown me great goodness in the land of the living.

Now, light has opened to a pale gray, brush of clouds low in the sky. The street is seeing more traffic—here comes the world awake in my little area of the world.

God, You are my sustenance and strength.

Sometimes, the dreams in me beat against my chest so loud I fear I’ll tear in two.

Sometimes, I wonder if they are enough.

Sometimes, I settle.

 

You have brought me this far not to settle but to live my life in full. For abundant joy, and I am beginning to know for the first time what that looks like, and that it is OK.

You claim more than OK for me, for all who lean into You. Help me not to forget.

Oh God, help me not to forget Your beauty is my breath.

 

But as for me, I will always have
I will praise You more and
more.
– Psalm 71:14

 

 

Always Enough

My tree is aglow with white lights, next to it, red and white block words spell out Believe. On my window ledge, pointing me to the street, the call to come and see, to look for what is ahead.

These have been special days, sitting around the kitchen table with china plates loaded with turkey, soft stuffing, layered Jello and green bean casserole. Sitting with the light of my family, going around the table telling what we are thankful for. There is much to be thankful for. Life. Health. Breath. God’s growth in our hearts. God healing my heart, literally and figuratively.

There is always so much to be thankful for.

//Full from Thanksgiving, the goodness of the day, warmth of home and Eric included in family time. Full-on Christmas mode, lights strung, perpetual gray outside, feeling cozy in my heart. Filling up the empty spaces that were barren for years, God refueling, pouring His good to the brim of my cup.

I am learning to lean in to His crazy, unexpected, roller-coaster plans that are nothing like I was looking for. I think back on what I believed I wanted, how I fought to keep my vision for myself, and how I’ve willed myself to step forward into the unknown, release my grip on my plans, my life, the fear of breath cutting out again, and falling into God palms open and up for Him to fill.

What He does, I am always surprised by. But it brings an unanticipated joy, a swell of heart in contentment, amazement at the care and precision He has taken in my life.

My heart is a balloon that has constant room for His breath, warm air that massages and expands. I am living in full the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. His promise to me, come to pass. Praise His holy name for the miracle work He has done in one broken, love-starved, heart-holed girl. Such restoration by His might only.//

This is the season to celebrate. Step back and wonder at all that has transpired in just one year. In a few days, it is one year when I first met Eric, when he walked in my back door to fix my fallen ceiling. Then, just two days later, the one-year marker of my stroke, hospital stay, subsequent knowledge of a hole in my bleeding heart.

For right now, just rest in the moment. Relive the wonder and simplicity, the small sparks that light this night, these treasured, still-framed days.

Always, there is much to be thankful for. Breath, beauty, beating hearts that take in micro moments of this world. Always, there is enough.

 

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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: Full.   // symbolizes where five minutes started and/or stopped.

Embedded One

Out of nowhere, all wonder has transpired. We’ve gone from random strangers, a stranger who I was mad at because he was late to come fix my ceiling, to being the one embedded in my life on this personal of a level.

How in the world does this happen?

How is it good?

He’s in the kitchen cleaning up the dishes. Turning off the bathroom light. Taking care of things as I get to work.

Taking care of me.

Oh God, this wall of a heart of mine. Something’s cracking, letting in the light. And it scares the daylight out of me.

But the good keeps coming. The light, another opening through that wall. Pieces soften, tumble.

It is good and that scares me.

A sweet, light kiss on the forehead. It reaches down to the soft spot of my heart. I stand with eyes closed, receiving this unexpected grace, this unrecognized affection.

God, how did You maneuver all this, how did you come through the back door of my heart and bring him in, without my ever preparing, unexpected?

This is the unexpected—God’s love, wrapped in flesh, in forearms strong, this towering heart of a man who is patient and kind and keeps no wrongs.

Complete care, come at a time I did not know was needed so deeply within my healing heart.

One Step at a Time

It’s only 6:30 but the darkness swallows up the sky like the bottom of the earth turning itself inside out. It’s pressing in on me, like a hand slapped across my chest. I’ve been cooped up all day, defenses down. My apartment feels small, constricted, the artificial light in here no substitute for the sun. This heavy night slides closer to my windows, leaning on the panes, coming close.

It’s coming close alright, this heaviness. The anniversary of my stroke. Almost one year. When the room and my world rocked, spun with no control, no road map of where I was going.

I have to get out. Go walk around my town, the cozy line of shops in the crisp air. The air cuts me in the best ways, opening up the shrunken cavern of my chest so I can breathe in full again.

These weeks especially have been a tug-o-war over my life, the way I anticipated it to roll out, my plans and ideals yet again balled in my fist. And God, kindly dismantling them and asking me to open my palms.

//I want to control my life, because everything these last eleven and a half months have been out of my control.

I’ve had no say in my stroke. Or the holes in my heart. Or moving out of my beloved flat by the lake. Or a hectic job where the work never ends. Even my relationship with Eric, as beautiful and a sweet gift that it is, I never saw coming.

And I am afraid, because these all came as a surprise to me, out of the blue, and I fear the floor could drop again at any minute.

I know that isn’t a good place to live from, but this is where I am for the moment. It’s OK to acknowledge, but it isn’t OK to stay there. One step at a time, especially when I don’t know where that next step will lead. One step at a time, I lift my eyes unto the hills to find my hope. I cannot see what’s on the horizon, what will come, but I know that I can open up my heart to the One who does.

This life is always unknown. We just get introduced to it each day and cultivate a relationship with it in tiny, eyes wide-open ways.//

These damp sidewalks cause me to concentrate my shoes on each scratch of pavement. It wouldn’t be good to slip. Each step is vitally important, is the focus.

What does it matter if I don’t know what’s coming? There’s nothing I can do about it, anyway.

Just stay with this step. Then the next.

 

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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: Unknown.   // symbolizes where five minutes started and/or stopped.