Bear The Burden

Sometimes I feel like I carry the burden of a thousand others, of the weight of humanity, the fall of man, the groaning and abuse of the earth. Cries of children caught in slavery, the weak and overlooked passed by with begging eyes no one sees. The violence, the hatred, the insincerity and refusal to hear another. We are all screaming but our voices go nowhere.

How is it a blessing to hold a burden? The hard, the heartbreak, the rending of spirits through disappointment after disappointment beats down the heart to hope?

I watch the sky grow dark early in this new time change, how the gray turns charcoal, deep blue and purple until the air is punctured with tiny stars in the cold black night. It feels like the day is done, when there is still so much time to live. How to pick up the urge to press on, to give it one more day when you’re tired of trying, when the effort is too much and your soul is battle weary?

Lay your burdens down, the old adage goes. Lay them down at the feet of Jesus and He will lighten your load.

It’s all well and good, but what of when you’ve read the words a thousand times but they don’t resonate like they used to? When you’ve become numb from hurting, from caring for the world when it doesn’t seem to offer the same? //

What of your groans that get trapped in the rumblings of injustice, of suffering and abuse and cloistering fears that gnaw on your faith like dogs to a bone? What then? Take that step on water and walk out to Him who holds the sea at bay? Multiply the loaves when the crowd is starving and all you’ve got left is a meager offering in your hands?

Peace. Be still.

It’s hard to be still when the whole of you wants to run from a heart that bleeds and spills for the sorrow of upturned dreams, displaced refugees, closed doors and callous unforgiveness.

When life seems a burden, you do what is best: choose to believe. Again and again. Even if the heart restricts and hoists a wall and guards itself with well placed defenses. Choose to believe that you are blessed when you bear the burdens of another. Remember One who hung with the burden of eternity, who didn’t balk at the sting of suffering.

The room glows yellow with candlelight and low lamps that are on the edge of burning out. We are all just on the edge of burning out.

Hold the Light. Lean in and let it rest soothing in the wounds. Do not shy away from what is sharp. Do not fear the dark. Rest in what you cannot understand. Be at peace and stay still in the burden. Bear the burden. Bear it well, with honesty and reflective truth. Blessed is she who perseveres, who keeps a softened heart to cushion the fallen.

 

 

 

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

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Blessed Silver Lining

Trail of rain pulls down the sky like tufts of seagrass before a storm. A shift in water’s hues—silver to steel to aqua. Drops fall through tree branches, splattering my porch roof, the yard. I tuck my arms into my sweatshirt, huddle my body warmth as close as possible. This is the underside of autumn, shadowed spaces sprawled across the sky. The pieces no one leans in to examine closely. But these details—the sodden trails, hiccups of gray along a color-stitched lawn, bite of wind snapping at my skin—are part of the shift of seasons, necessary for the earth to evolve as it is meant to in the swing of spring to summer, summer to fall, fall inevitably into winter.

Seasons shift in my own life as well. One full year has passed since I moved from Kansas City to Wisconsin and back to my hometown, where I fought tooth and nail to stay away. It’s hard to believe I’ve been back for a year, on top of four previous turns of the earth that tightened my chest and tested my will, molded my spirit and made me wonder how in the world the struggle could make me stronger.

I’ve been sad, afraid and discouraged more times than I’d like as I fought the calling to stay in Kansas City and work for an international sports ministry. It was a beautiful place, but I was barren inside. How many months I railed against God at my discomfort, my unhappiness, the unraveling of my well-tended dreams for life that gave way to guttural growing pains tending a path I never saw as part of my story. Each time I couldn’t stand the strain, he’d bring a little consolation and larger confirmation that, yes, I was indeed meant to be smack dab in the middle of right here, right now.

 

**Read the rest of my essay in the Redbud Post!

 

 

 

Counted The Cost

 

I gave up my dreams for You.

 

Look—see them spilling into the yard, how light their faces, easy their smiles, twinkle in their eyes! The wind chimes of their laughter rising into the air.

Aren’t they precious?

Full of life, pulsing with wonder.

Breathing in amazement and impossibility.

There is no shore that keeps them from exploring, venturing into the wide world to expand it even more.

 

I was proud to call them my own.

 

Still they walk among the earth, dew-eyed and brilliant. I watch them from afar now, smile at how they’ve grown. With twisted heart I know they’ll go to someone else, who will nurture them with care and guidance until they mature and fully embrace their calling and are released to do what they’ve been created to do.

They will belong to another who will dance joyously in their success.

No longer are they mine.

 

See what I have given for You?

 

I am like another woman, living in another time. As if those soul-birthed dreams had never existed for my life, at most, a whisper of a thought quivering on the breeze of my mind.

 

So do not say I have not counted the cost, to let You lead me as You do.

 

 

Forgotten No More

Soft waves lap the shore. Beyond into the open water, it is calm, hardly a ripple. Clear blue across the sky, light wisps of clouds swirl above.

There is the tiny whisper of wind across my skin, teasing my shirt. And the serene slide of wave to sand. Other than that, mostly silence.

Here is the quiet, solitude and line of trees angled on the bluff. Beautiful, restful. I walk and walk, correcting my breathing to slow to the cadence of the tranquil morning.

But they follow me, these stories of forgotten children.

Hop into my heart and come along for the ride. The cries, screams of sorrow, haunted eyes and lips refusing to speak of inhumane tragedies they’ve been forced to witness. Walking eight miles a day to flee the horror of home and find respite in an unfamiliar town for the night, away from the fighting and mutilation and the fear-infested streets where many are forced to make their bed. Their young years have lived far too much unimaginable pain.

This should not be.

Unrest and sleepless nights shaken in fear and sorrow. This should not be anyone’s reality. And yet they still hope. Hope, the elusive and mysterious element that buoys the heart and gets them through one more day.

 

I remember the poem by e.e. cummings and hoist it like a flag across my mantra:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

 

I carry you with my, my darlings, I carry your hearts with me in my own. Wherever I go. Tucked in the safe pocket of my heart.

At work, in my air-conditioned café, frothing milk for a latte, stringing words upon a page, piling lettuce, cheese and carrots in my salad container at the grocery store—they are always there. Close. Beating within my heart. Their smiles are my own.

It feels good to be so connected.

I cannot forget their faces, their stories, their heart’s cries and desire for love. Can a mother forget her child? Even closer, the LORD God remembers, engraves on the palm of His hands. They are not forgotten. Not for one moment.

And not for a moment must we forget, either. It is our heart’s charge to break and wring for the ones the world overlooks and disdains, does not understand with eyes aglow with agape. Once we have been bathed in love, we see the tired and undeserved who have been waiting for us. Waiting to know their lives have value and they have a creator God who loves them and embraces them into His family.

Break my heart for what breaks Yours. Pour me out to the hurting and displaced, for whom hopelessness hangs heavy upon their hearts. Let me lift the yoke from their shoulders, or, at least allow me to slip the yoke to mine and shift the weight so they won’t carry the burden alone.

 

It is a beautiful morning. Clean air, clear sky. It is a good day to go about my Father’s business.

I am coming, little ones, I am coming. You may already be with me now, but there is so much more that I will bring for you. Do not be afraid. Dawn is here. Light has come. You are forgotten no more.  Love always makes a way.

 

**

Want to help make a way with me for these forgotten children? More to come in the months ahead (hopefully!), but for the time being, consider partnering with Saving Grace Children’s Village to give street children a place to live and heal and grow.

 

 

Bring Forth To Become

Summer’s swinging in after a long and barren spring, which wasn’t much of a season in Wisconsin, like always.

There is a warmer sun that can border on hot on a given day, breeze off the lake that stalls the scorch. Beds of lilac bushes burst in fragrance and color, the routine bloom that comes around my birthday.

I am finishing my move into the lower flat in a neighborhood atop a hill in my favorite harbor town. A space I never imagined, I have carefully constructed the insides to bring color and comfort—National Anthem and Free Sky blues in the living room, buttercream honey yellow across the kitchen.

When I cross the threshold, slip to my porch in the early morning, my eyes migrate immediately to the sprawl of Lake Michigan gleaming like one majestic jewel against the sky.

This is my view.

Every day.

Who am I to receive such a gift?

Kansas City and its jazz, barbeque and battle remnants of growth within me still reside in my rearview mirror. It’s hard to believe it has been seven months since my tires rolled through Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois to find their way back to Wisconsin, to the house of my childhood, to family, to a new season, new job, new life to forge, including a new home to call my own.

I still cannot believe this is the direction of my life.

Back where I fought so hard to stay away.

Back to the moments, ways and prayers that made me part of who I am today.

Back with burst dreams and difficult beginnings.

Back home.

// Though you return to a place, a memory, people, have you ever really gone away?

The senses, words spoken, emotions spread through your bloodstream, it’s all still there, swirling in your past, pointing to your present.

Though I have traveled thousands of miles, dug my faith deeper and cracked open the skin of new soul, I have found my way back to land familiar, lanes shaded with crab apple trees and dips of gravel and pavement broken from years of wear. Though I am back to my hometown, after fighting to free myself from its constriction as I forged a life in Kansas City, here at the edge of the water I realize I never truly had rid it from my body, from my history. It was always still a part of me, even in learning the ways of a city smack dab in the middle of the country, it sat dormant, this quiet call for simple, as I pushed it to the farthest pieces of my mind.

I tried to be free of the town and people that raised me up, to be my own person. And I am, in gentle and needed ways. But I am also still tethered to the small towns with young and old lined up along the street for Memorial Day parades, for walking through the grocery store and someone calling my name. //

How I’ve missed the sound of my name from the tongue of someone familiar.

Listen to the way they speak, to the way they welcome you again.

I cannot go back, but I can bring forth what I have become. In ways I was too stubborn to recall, maybe a part of me is returning that has long been forgotten. The girl who ran through fields and marveled at the beauty of long grass billowing in the breeze. The girl who held wonder in her hands, believed the best in everyone and was not afraid to imagine incredible things. Who hoped with heart wide open, and refused to let the world and its troubles beat her down.

I am glad for the salt on my skin, tan arms and light that has come back to my eyes. I am glad to roll the windows down while I drive the highway, let the air course through the car, ruffle my hair. Feel that what has already happened may just be a precursor for what is to come.

Sometimes we need to return to where we came to remember where we will go.

 

 

**

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

Elements of Silence

Today’s the kind of day where the damp goes straight to your bones.

Where the wind laughs wildly and slaps the waves of Lake Michigan and makes them jump ten feet in the air.

Where rain and snow merge amidst the clouds and storm to earth as slick and sharp sleet. Like your skin’s stitched with daggers.

The boards of this house creak and rock like a ship sloshing through the mass of water. Cold filters through the windows as if there are no panes at all.

I keep the lights off and let the muted gray move its way through the halls; pace the room and collect the silence, save the howl.

Howl.

Is that what this noise in me is doing?

Looking for you in all the wrong places and lashes out in frustration when you’re nowhere to be found? When the truth slips my feet from under me and turns me upside down?

Wind rolls sideways, upturning the tree branches. The sky is turning slate quicker than I would have thought. Can I light a candle not in remembrance, but to forget?

Let the elements roll in. Limbs become submerged in ice and face turns to the tide. At breakwater’s edge atop this hill that holds these howls for what has been, I drink the mist into my eyes, translucent fuse of fog and dusk, become a myth, the silence.

Hosanna

What did the people think, as they saw You heading towards the Jewel City? What did they believe they would see? The survival of Your people? The placement of a new King? They had waited for Your arrival for millennia, and now You appeared, shifting Your weight on the seat of a donkey’s foal. How their eyes must have lit up, sparked to life by the glimpse of their Savior. How the whispers glided from mouth to mouth: “He is here! He has come! To free us from our chains of burden!”

Branches snapped away from trees, laying as pavement on the dusty road ahead.

“Hosanna!” They shouted, dirt-specked faces full of hope.

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Sandaled feet slapped the ground as the crowd ran beside You, arms and palm branches swaying in the air as You continued Your entrance into Jerusalem. How excited they grew. How expectant they were of Your reign.

You saw them coming from a distance. Felt their eagerness in Your heart. To fulfill Your Father’s words, the final stretch was spent on the back of a placid mule. The chanting reached Your ears.

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

 

 

**Read the rest over at ALTARWORK.