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.

Patterns of Life

Rain sodden, soggy, fills the earth.

I’m laying around, doing nothing, on recovery.

But what it means to do nothing! To rest my body that still beats and spills songs of the earth.

The miracle of mundane, saint of simplicity. Rhythm or rain sloshing steady down the sky, crusts of ice chip and break away on the lawn.

The world goes on, and so do I. Breathing, blinking, marveling at how gray never looked so good, how a murky, messy winter really glows in early February. And if I press my ear hard enough into my heart, I hear it stretch, blood move about its chambers, testing its walls and routes. Learning its patterns of life.

A Million Atoms

Monday. Like any other. I wake, brew coffee, sit and pour over my Bible, the words in Philippians chapter one roaring in me, the battle within for what is coming. Tomorrow, I go back to the hospital, check in on the cardiology floor, and settle into my new room for the next few days. Then, they’ll send me to sleep with a chemical cocktail and weave through my veins to clamp closed my heart and create the needed chambers. I am amazed at modern medicine, but my hope does not rest in this, but in the One who first gave us healing ability.

Tomorrow is tomorrow, and I will have my game face on, smile ready, on alert to let Him work in me through all things.

But today is also today. The only minutes that are a guarantee as each second pulls its way through time. I lock my front door, take one step, then another, down the stairs and down the hill. Savor the day. Walk slow. Drink in the air. Light chill on my cheek, puddles pool at my feet from the melting snow. I sludge down the harbor, watch the teals churn in the stormy water. Ice caps frozen from the shore bear the brunt of waves slapping their edges. Deep in the distance, a thin shawl of fog rolls across the bluff. Everything is iced over. Even the wrinkles of the sky.

What will be here at the end of it all? What will be in this new beginning?

This is my harbor town, my treasured place where each day is a miracle, with old brick buildings and bay of seagulls. Where fishermen meet to talk shop, set their poles into the half-frozen water. Where I wander, amble, stroll aimless, but straight to where I’m meant to be.

Such gift. Such grace. Every day. Breath, a million atoms bursting to life.

What I want to say is this: I am thankful. I have already been given much, impossible goodness, from God alone allowing me a glimpse of His glory. Such glory, in the mundane and miniscule. In the small fistfuls of rhythmic existence that is miraculous. To be alive, the molecules of my skin kissed awake under a folding cotton sky. To be certain that faith is hinged on what I cannot see, invisible anchor hooked to the navel of my soul. And all of this, God’s breathing in the mist washing my face, drizzle of His presence pulling back the veil of worlds for a preview of what’s coming.

His goodness, ripe for the taking. Richness rolled in simple acceptance. Fasten eyes on Jesus and dare the world to try and break the gaze.

Such simple things in such a simple day. The sun will fall down the western face of earth and in its place, the moon quietly beaming. Another day done. Another day, rife with countless occurrences of beauty we didn’t even see.

What is around us? What is there to come?

I am here. This is enough. I am given my daily bread and clothed like the lily. I am finite in the breakable balance of the world. I am infinite. I see the shapes of heaven mirrored in the clear pulse of Lake Michigan, the swelling pool of water from my shoe. And the beat of my warm heart, blood sweet and spilling, delicate, cautious, strong.

Wide-Open Waters

For years, I was always curious why I felt so much,
why I broke with the news of lives lost,
desperate situations and the heartache confessed
by friends and strangers alike.
Why I bled with the sorrow of the world.
Why, when I loved, I was a typhoon.
There was never halfway with me,
my heart coursed and spilled until almost empty,
then found a way to refill.

They say I have an opening in my heart
that lets extra blood into its chambers.
From birth, a closure left undone
when I came into this life.

That’s why my heart lets in every shard,
every dagger, an ocean of hurt that hounds me
with the howls of humanity.
Why when I am cut, blood pools and falls
over the crumbled wall that was meant
to divide my chambers in order and,
if I choose to believe, emotion and reasoning.
To me, they always run together.

I have lived with a hole in my heart from day one—
it’s filtered every torrent of feeling swept right in
without proper search of self-preservation.
I’ve been drowning in my own heart,
always open, cycling through one hurt to the next—
there’s nothing left to break, I suppose,
as boundary lines shattered when I pulled in
my first breath.

It’s a wonder I’ve made it this far,
that I could take in the aching, magnified pain,
add it to the wide-open waters and grow
this expanding chamber of irregular beats.
Each stutter whispers another name,
another promise to endure.
Endure and never tire, take this blessed burden
burned into my DNA and let my love
spill upon the parched, caked crevices
of every heart that’s cries echo this earth.

Suspend and See

I alternate between walking on sidewalks and the road, depending on what has been plowed and what holds the untainted deep of snow. My neighborhood is draped in white amidst a heavy gray sky sodden still with more snowfall. My hands bury in the pockets of my blue jacket, puffed with cotton and stuck with microscopic shapes of snowflake designs. Earlier, my parents came to shovel my front walk, my steps, my back patio. They are not letting me lift much in my recovery, and today I did not argue. I just trailed my mom and got in my dad’s way, allowed them to bend their backs and clear away walking paths stabilized with salt, thanking God in my heart for their love and kindness, that I am here in this moment.

And then I’m off, out my back-alley and up the street to houses with leftover Christmas decorations, clusters of snow caught on bare branches in front yards. I check the traffic at the curb and cross, not many cars in my quiet town out this morning. I walk under overhanging trees, step around slush piles and find myself hearing silence differently. Lips push crystalized breath into the air, eyes line the lane and find a few people out in the cold for their own reasons. Give a small smile, nod and say, “Good morning,” to neighbors, the tall man masked in a scarf and hat shoveling his walkway, the woman rosy-cheeked and bundled in black parka on her own stroll through town.

This is what it’s all about—small moments stitched together through the seconds, stillness in each breath, snow crackling underfoot. Taking in the sharp, clear air, letting the cold massage my face, bending into the wind and marveling that I’m alive. I am alive, and all this world is glory.

All this world is glory, from God on high who has complete control over each swirl of snowflake, each shape of my scars, the One who holds my delicate, desperate life in His hands.

This day, I am here, inhabiting this Wisconsin winter, fresh snow, the slow and steady rhythm of my heart that is a merciful gift. Nothing is guaranteed. We are all brittlely finite. But this, too, is beautiful. Our porcelain hearts, the days we are endowed. How, then, do we spend them? Are we aware that all is grace, that there is more beyond this veil of earth?

Today, I measure out my steps in boots that bury in mounds of soft white powder. Oh world, I want to say, how beautiful you are. How beautiful the God who made you. How much He loves, how much more there is to come.

I stamp my feet before crossing the threshold into my house, boots already pooling in water as the temperature flares from inside. What a world. The cold still stings, sticks to my body as I light a candle and heat my tea kettle on the stove. Out my window, tips of houses, glimpse of ice-capped lake.

We are here and it is a gift, and I want to recognize the insignificant moments as the parts of life that really matter most.

Because we are not guaranteed tomorrow. We do not know when time is up, what God has planned, and dependence on His breath in our lungs is the only thing that gets us through the hours.

Snow keeps falling. And sweet Jesus, so does grace. It falls for us all.

Will we take it?

Will we slow enough, suspend, and see?

Lord, I want to see. Every second. Let the seconds expand into eternities, split like snowflakes dancing their way down a smiling sky.

 

Grace of Again

Here we go, life.
Another turn around the galaxy.
What will this world spin into?
Are we ready?
Are we watching?
We get another chance
to learn, to love, to leave
an imprint on the soft earth of hearts.
Here we go, life.
Blessed with
the grace of again.

Wanting More

Is it worth it? Wanting more from this life? Daring to hope, suspended breath, afraid the smallest exhale will scatter all you’ve longed for?

Keep breathing out your prayers. Keep walking into the days, daring to hold hope in your heart after all this time.

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.

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!