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.

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.

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.

Wildflowers in the Desert

There’s a thread of web strung between branches I see sparkling in the early morning light. Air is cool and clean, hovers slow, and the temperature will rise as the desert sun burns into the day. To the east, a haze of haggard lines outline the Catalina Mountains. North, the lines and cuts more prominent in the shade of the Tortolita mountain range. There’s a woodpecker pounding away in fast, sharp hammering onto a cactus. Always, cacti abound. It is good to get away.

My aunt has my multi-colored robe ready for me, laid out across my bed. I slip into it and pad to the open kitchen, pour coffee grounds into the filter and set the machine to brew. The cool air hits me as I cross through the sliding door holding books, Bible and journal, say hi to my sister-in-law who is quiet on the patio couch, and set my things down by the cushioned lawn chair next to the pool facing east. I sit and listen–a quiet, clean pause. Such silence in the desert. A few minutes later I wander in for my coffee, picking a beautiful ceramic mug set with green, teal and brown Southwest patterns. Then back out to my chair, to watch the desert sun rise.

I am on assignment from my Bible study group to find desert flowers. To look for the wildflowers that bloom from the brown, the barren.

The sun rising into the endless, cloud-swirled sky nearly blinds me. I am not used to such light.

I am not used to this light within, either. The release of weight in my spirit is nothing short of miraculous.

This morning desert air. Today there are more clouds brushed across the straight blue sky. Wind chimes whistle sweet from the patio. Birds call forth the day. And the sun makes a hazy rise over the mountains, in no rush, knowing its own importance in a simple matter-of-fact way.

This is the Southwest. It is desert, sharp landscape, dry cracks of earth. But look again. Against the bramble, cactus flowers bloom. Beauty exists, if one is intentional with the pursuit of it. There are living things. Life does unfold in the seemingly stagnant places. There is a way being made in the desert. Streams uncorked in the wasteland. Growth and goodwill come again. It takes a lingering eye to see the hidden world unfurl.

Look closer, examine. signs blossom everywhere: growth happens.

Best Left Ambiguous

I will not pretend to gloss over the hard and hurtful things of this life and slap some jargon on answers to the unanswerable. To dig up some saying that states there’s a reason behind the why, something neat and tidy that can rationalize the pain.

No.

Some things are too tender to be treated with such callousness. When asking why, the thought comes from the guttural groans of my heart, the delicate underside that has exposed itself yet again to the madness, daring to trust, risking to love. Knowing full well the chances of bleeding.

And when it arrives—that cruel and inconsiderate tremor of the universe that breaks—shatters—me, I fold into the shards, knees bent, cut, stung. Blindsided again by the mess.

Why?

I may never find the answers I seek, because I am not satisfied with a safe. I believe that these ear-marked inquiries are best left ambiguous. To sit in the discomfort and let God find me there. To unravel, unfold and explore the dark, the question mark, the unending. There, I am real. There, this life, to some degree, feels comforting, less confusing as my hand expands to calm the quivers of my body, the hiccups of my soul.

What Is It

There it is, pressed in dusk blue on my sea foam wall, worn into the creases, tattoo on the skin of my home, reminding me of what I can’t ever forget–Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

What is it that I plan to do with this length of breath I’m allowed?

What has already been in motion.

This is what I will do.

It’s here. Before me. Laughing eyes, secret unveiling in its smile. This world. The heartbeats singing within.

What can I do but live and drink every drop of this earth’s dew, pause and pay attention, marvel, notice, breathe, love, give, and continuously keep praise and thanks poised on my tongue. Let nothing be wasted, even the pain–especially the pain. Pay homage to this delicate and delicious spin of life, our expanding, counted days.

 

Tell me, what would you do if you stared eternity straight in the face then turned to taste time once again?

 

 

Rickety

My world right now is rickety.

Swathed in dense fog, all unknown. This is how to walk by faith. Certainly not by sight.

I stepped off the precipice and entered freefall, but I know in the chaos God is guiding order.

I would not be able to sustain my sanity without the support of those who hold me up. The countless prayer partners lifting me to the throne of Heaven, the countless encouraging words of my father, the endless optimism of my mom, and the solid belief of my siblings who see the good in me.

I walk through the thicket into a new season that I engaged in, yet hardly expected the scene of what it is for the time being. Moving back into the land of the living, one foot in front of the other and recognizing I am still gaining strength.

But my support stands firm with me, backboned in the truth of God’s Word and His sure promises.

I do not know when again I’ll find firm footing, but I do know that I press on with bold courage, a battle against discouragement, and dear friends and loved ones bolstering me with their words and bended knees on my behalf.

Even in the swirl of unsettledness, I trust Him who parts seas and stills the storm. For Him who has kept every last promise He has made, for the glory of His name’s sake.

Here is where faith digs in. Here is where we still shape our character, forge our spirit. We go together, for all the good that is to come.