Hand Over My Heart

How tender and scared my little-girl-self crawls into Your lap, sitting in pain yet unable to ask You to make it better. Unable to release the hold I have against the wound, needing assessment, but my fingers can’t help but keep closed against the pain, cannot give You access to where You most desire to work. And yet I long for the love that You say will heal me, the intimacy where I stand before You, bare and beating heart. But I have been so hurt, opening up my cautious heart and eyes on You when I fell so far and struck flat so hard. How can I bleed when there are no more drops left to spill?

“Trust Me,” You whisper in the face of my fear. What is trust? I need a safe place to lay my heart. Can I trust You in the last space of my soul that balances fragile when light spills against my hidden self and I scramble to hide? Trust You when I am terrified? With the very most precious pieces of what’s left of my hope?

What will that take? What that will take…more exposure to pain, more shedding of myself, an awareness that as I open You are right there to meet me. All that I constrict from threatens to collapse. With the last tender fibers of all I am, to gaze into Your eyes and shift my soul to let You love me, because of who You are, who You say You are—good and caring and always here. And that You act as if it’s a privilege to hold my heart.

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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.

Land of the Living

This winter won’t go away.

Mountains of snow stacked along street edges, ice wind blowing from fresh and fierce air off the lake. Nets of gray trap the sky tight so no sunlight is allowed access. Again, the breath-stealing bitter cold, collects the joy right out of the day. Works to make you forget there was ever such a thing as spring.

Except. There is always the memory of what has come before, recollections of bud-dappled trees and smooth birdsong. Spring has happened before, and it will arrive again.

These last two months have been a mountain of endurance. Of plowing through an unreal reality of medical upheavals and hospital stays, loss of bearings?

This is a harsh winter, alright.

Except. I remember.

How my life has been spared and saved more than once in my life. Playback the moments of survival, seal of His heart in mine, watch as He pulls me from the mire and places me on steady rock. How in the storm of heartbreak, His presence through the dead of night assurance that He is still loving. All He does is kind, even when it can feel like fire through my veins.

Remember. Look back on what God has already done. Choose to believe in who He has shown Himself to be.

I am walking through the sludge of this unclear season with a sharp eye out for His good.

// I have come to the edge of this world, sniffed around at the other side, learned how little there lies between this world and what’s next.

And at the base of it all, I have had to ask myself the question: What is it I believe?

Do I believe in a God who is over all, who runs all eternity, and is He where I place my faith, my life?

Where, in the earth-splitting shake up of a stroke and heart procedure, do I stand on firm soil rather than shifting sand? What is solid?

It is not what, but WHO.

He who slung the stars in the sky and gathered grains of sand and offered up a picture of a chosen people. Who has tumbled down towers and met a wounded women in the desert, El Roi, the One who sees.

Confident that He who created a good work within me will carry it out to completion.

To fall full weight in confidence of His character His promises. His goodness and kindness, and that forever faithfulness.

My heart clings to the hope that He is who He says He is, and who He promises to be is faithful. Stake my soul on this. Walk with shuffling feet as I relearn the place I’m planted in this season.

I look out my window and see ice and water roll about the winter lake. The churn of blue and gray clouds hunched low. //

As sure as the lighthouse stands strong against the heaving waves propelled by an angry tide, I anchor to God’s goodness. Confident how He will never leave or forsake, even when the world before me swallows me down into an unexpected abyss.

His faithfulness is a blaze of light that carefully carries me back into wide-open space, land of the living.

I stand certain of His goodness.

I have smelled, touched, tasted it. And it has imprinted deep within my wondering mind, my seeking soul.

All is miraculous; He is mercy. For me, spring is already here; tender shoots of grace unfurl the newly hinged hooks of my heart.

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.   -Psalm 27:14

 

 

**

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

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.