Beautiful Times

Eric made corned beef tacos for St. Patrick’s Day. There wasn’t much celebration this holiday, given the unprecedented circumstances, but he made a small effort, excited for cabbage and corned beef bubbled up as he bustled about the kitchen. He’d talked about it for weeks.

Strange, to be so appreciative for something as small as a meal of corned beef and carrots. But it’s actually an appropriate reminder to count all that I have, lean in close and see all the gifts among the struggle. I have hot water to wash my hands and stay sanitized. I have clean clothes to change into. I have a fiancé who loves me, and even though our wedding, two months away, may have to be altered, we will begin our lives together with faith, hope, and love.

These are interesting times.

These are beautiful times.

I am acutely and lovingly aware of the life I lead, the blessings of it all, the people I love who love me, too, and the detailed love of my Father.

In the midst of such seemingly chaos, we can choose to calm our storms inside by seeking after God’s good. He is at work, making His heart known, we just need to be still and know He is there, pause to look for His gentle fingerprints.

Look for the good. The good that goes against the grain of fear and focusing on the negative.

There is always good, because He is good. Count your blessings; remember what God has done.

Hot showers at the end of the day.

The love of family.

Having hope that this is not all there is to life.

Believing that all things work together for good for those who love God.

 

My phone buzzes. It’s a text from Lauren and Heidi. Look out your window!

They are on the other side of the street picking up their coffee from the pick-up window at the café across from my apartment. I motion to them, grab my jacket, and hustle down the stairs and out the door. We stand in a triangle, talking, catching up on life.

It’s a breath of fresh air, in the sting of the cold wind and light flurries fluttering around our faces. Here is the second day of spring; are we seeing signs of new life?

Two other women we know cross the crosswalk and the five of us gather, laughing about it all, grateful for the human connection.

In a world of progressing solitude, I soak in this tiny interaction like I’m gulping down the fresh air swirling around my lips. This is a taste of life. Today, there are good things. Today, there are blue skies and new beginnings. Lean in close to let God show you what else to see.

Find a Way

Birds are chirping out my window, somewhere in the split-wide blue sky.

Spring is coming. The light lingers, air holds hope of warmth in weeks to come.

I have learned to wait through the winter, watching for signs of more welcoming weather.

I have learned patience, and also how impatient I really am.

Life should be enough. Breath, beautiful enough.

I have learned to be content. But is it wrong to want more?

Life in full; overflowing, rich in experience.

Is it wrong to want?

He has promised life in abundance; what was given through a life lived true and perfect.

Is it wrong to hold out my hands and ask for more?

Wrong for my soul to speak and ask for revival?

Peace. All I want is peace to know there is goodness within my grasp.

People are strolling the street, ducking in and out of shops, stopping for homemade bread and chocolate.

This town has its charm, albeit reminiscent of the dark mystery of Stepford Wives.

Lord, I want to break free.

Come alive, dig deep beneath surface and find a way to align my hope with what’s in the world.

Piece together my passion, explore what makes me curious. Connect the dots.

Lord, I want to be obedient.

Follow where I am needed, walk the way woven together for me.

Spring is coming. But where are the buds that should shoot forth from my heart?

Is it wrong to ask for more? For my heart to come alive?

Come alive, heart. Please God, find a way.

All Is A Gift

This life is a gift I could never had imagined.

Earlier this afternoon I drove three hours north, took the snake-wound road to Northport and drove my Verano up the plank of the Arnie Richter on the last ferry run of the day. It isn’t hard to miss, since it only runs from the mainland to the island twice a day during these winter months. Once my car is snugly parked against the right side of the boat, I slip out my door and take the stairs to the top of the ferry, set my blanket and purse down, and scan the waterlines white with giant rocks of ice. The tufts of blue in the air collide nicely with the rolling clouds, and soon I hear the clink of anchor rising from the water to free us into Lake Michigan. The ferry churns to life, and we are off, taking a new route from the summer to avoid the massive expanse of thick ice mid-water. We move east of a smaller island as a flock of winter birds glide through the air, cut above the water and raise as one into the sky. Light slicing catches my ear, and I guess what it is with a smile half playing on my lips. When I rise and peer over the side, I am right. Thin ice creaking and breaking apart by the bow of the boat. The smaller pieces roll over the ice glistening like diamonds in the sunlight before hitting its edge and tumbling down into the black water.

I am the only one outside, seated at the top of the ferry, face welcoming each puff of cold air that wraps itself across my skin. I am warm enough in my oversized teal hat, matching gloves, blue winter jacket, and thin blanket folded over my legs. I’m cutting through Lake Michigan, chancing Death’s Door, and the day is alive with a million molecules that shift and stack into bare-spindly trees and light bouncing off the frozen wake. I am alive, and I am here to drink fully from this cup pressed in my hands.

Hold it all with wonder, with awe, with tender care. All is a gift, glory draped over a split-wide sky. We near the dock and I shake my blanket, stretch my legs and take two staircases to my car. It’s an adventure just to get over here, and my journey just now begins as I wind down familiar roads. Joy can’t help itself jumping from my chest, expanding through my body to fill me with a grace I’m still getting used to. I remind myself to simply receive it, allow the gift and be grateful. To see the divine-drenched shadows dancing across light on the water, listen to the crunch of snow beneath my boots and marvel at how my steps don’t press down into the hard, compact snow. Soak in a peach and raspberry sunset across the bay, dipped in lavender and spread along a blue-dusted dusk. These are the moments it’s best to be alive, the settling of my bones into the right spaces inside me, when I rearrange and find my skin fits more aligned along me than it did hours ago.

All is a gift, glory set at just the right angle.

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

 

 

Sliver of Sun

How in the world has He brought me this far? How has He redeemed such brokenness in me, the crumpled little girl with a gaping heart and hurting hope? He who crafted carefully the course of the stars came close to touch my wounds, stitch them softly, and sing a song of reassurance over my resting body and soul. He calls me by a name I would not answer to before: Beloved.

I couldn’t believe it, refused to see it, and yet each day this past year He set it everywhere before me: Beloved. I am He who brings good because I AM. His saving me in my stroke, His lacing up the holes in my heart, bringing the one my heart loves through my back door—into my busted kitchen, of all places!—my new home, every simple moment, He has smiled as if to say, “See, here is how I love you. You are my beloved and you’d better start believing it.”

With this Christmas, another reminder that a new day has dawned, sliver of sun rising in the blends of gray. Here is a season of hope, a thrill for this weary soul who is made new, restored, and with the lilt of her voice, rejoices.

Comes In Quiet

It comes in quiet. Slips through the lights of my tree, curls around the steam of my coffee. Goodness. The new life God has for me.

I inhale and take a sip, test it on my tongue. Rich, yet smooth. Another drink, the taste is still the same.

My friend Janet is proclaiming over me today: victory, joy, freedom, and peace. I am praying Immanuel, God with me. Today is a day of miraculous proportions. Today is a day of sweet simplicity.

Everything is beautiful. Nothing is the same.

There’s a wooden bear that’s turning in half circles on the inside branch of my tree. It catches my eyes, and I see the ornament next to it- in curved metal letters, the word JOY.

Yes, it is a day to rejoice, to remain confident that I will continue to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living, while walking in my unknown.

Taste and see the LORD is good.

I take another sip, let it warm me slow and full. And when I am done with this cup, there is another, ready and just as rich, waiting for me to pour.

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.

 

**

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.

 

**

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.

The Lasting Memories

On the first day of November, I am greeted by a street of white, brick buildings laden with snow that actually fell the day before. Yes, our first snowfall of the season came in October. Goodbye, fall. Winter wants to arrive early. The beauty of my favorite season, forced to a shuddering end. I tried as best I could to savor it, because I knew how fleeting all the colors, the feel of fall, would be.

Like seasons, this life, too, is fleeting. We are given a little time here on earth to make what we can of it, cultivate relationships, redirect our callings. And when God is satisfied at how our days were spent and wants us home, we go.

Every ounce of what we are allowed here is precious, delicate, important, true.

Time is but a breath, our years but a heartbeat.

What lasts?

The ordinary moments that swell inside me, freeze me in the middle of their actions and sting my eyes with gratitude. Coffee in the morning. Lake Michigan. Eric’s laugh, his honest blue eyes. Every breath. At least, until the last one God gives me is done.//

What lasts?

Living into our legacy that might remain for a few more years. Digging into the dreams of family and friends, encouraging them, believing in them. A charcoal blue sky against mostly barren trees save a few russet leaves that aren’t ready to let go just yet. Sunlight spraying shadows in slants across an angled roof. My fingers, curled around a blue pen.

Find what is precious and hold it to the light, turn it in your hands and notice it from all angles. Watch where it sparkles, where it is smooth.

Don’t waste time on what is trivial. Go deep. Be genuine. Let everything be done in love. Believe for the impossible. Look for what lasts and light it aflame within.

It is a new month. What will be the lasting memories that come from these days? I want to live each one out to the full, focused on the present, giving whole-hearted thanks from my hole-filled heart.

Open wide for the wonder anew. What the Almighty can do. And be ready to be astonished. For there it all begins—at the One who is the first and the last.

 

 

*

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