Embrace in Full

The first day into a new season—it feels like freedom, like light. A lightness in my heart; I have come up for air after being pressed under water and blink my blue eyes into the bright sunny sky. Or I have come into a clearing after plodding through the brambles and dark forest overhang to marvel at what’s wide open in wonder before me.

It feels like rest, respite for these weary bones that ran and moved like a motor for years, an outpouring of heart and soul that nearly bled me dry. And now, I sigh a great release. Life begins again, in a new way, where I can simply be.

It feels like the white and pink peonies scattered around my apartment, petals gently unfurling to release a light and sweet fragrance, damp with the drink of water in glass vases, from clasped bud to gentle unveiling of a beauty that doesn’t beg to be seen. The beauty just is.

Today is a day the Lord has made which I embrace in full. In which I embrace, just be, and allow the beauty to unfurl within my heart, my hands, as I stretch myself out into an unexplored world.

The Heat of the World

The world’s on fire, cinder and ash, pluming smoke rising as high as our hearts can see.

Everyone shouts their throats hoarse, spitting anger, confusion, elevating their words to be heard over the clangs and gongs of justice gone wrong. This world is awash in misery and misdirection, desperate for a salve to stop the still-spilling wounds of bent and burning hearts.

Call it what you will, but there’s one name that can’t be covered up: evil. It stalks this earth like a beast enraged, keeps a watchful eye on where to let loose.

Evil is evil and we stare down its pock-marked face every day, howling when we withstand another slash of its fangs. We stand our ground and do our best to fight against this immovable force, but we can’t get a good grip on such a slimy foe. So, we open our lungs and scream all the louder at the ears that refuse to hear and make a way to wholeness. Voices raise and shatter, pile up and fall to a buzzing shore like running into the ocean and getting slapped under a wave that knocks us down with power.

The people shout and wave their arms, eager to find attention to address the fear and hate and upside-down disaster of destroying fellow human beings that has become the normal thing. We rail, and the One who cupped the vast non-existence and blew life across the galaxies bends low His head, heaves His lungs from the bottom of His bloody side, and mourns at the madness of the monster of sin.

We cast stones; Jesus weeps.

Weeps for the hardness of hearts that fuels such hate and callousness, for the vulnerable who are abused and abandoned, for the indifferent who bury their heads in the sand to stay away from anything that might disrupt their ordered and safe life, for how the enemy has terrorized and trapped His children in a suffocating vice.

The whole world’s gone bloody mad and Jesus can’t hold back His tears.

Are we not called to do the same? Allow ourselves to feel the heat of the world, the scorch of pain under our skin, wet our faces with the sadness of reality and throw what tired hope we have on Him who came into our haggard mess in the first place? The One who will prevail, in the end, over this putrid evil, when the battle wounds will stop and we will help one another up from off the ground. When our tears are turned into treasured joy, and all wrongs are finally right.

But until then, we call the pain what it is—our soul shrapnel—and brace ourselves to bleed, hit mid-step with the sear of another set of alarming news, and kneel in agony, crossing hearts and hands, hopeful, still, for cooling waters of comfort in the midst of mourning.

Grace Upon Grace

Snow flurries mix in the sweet blue sky. Today is cold, but tomorrow—tomorrow—should be promising. Full of promises hoped for decades from an innocent heart that beat to know the face that would one day find its way to me. From a heart that cried long and lonely for long stretches through nights, disillusioned by years spent in singleness, no longer certain its desire would come to pass. From a heart wrung with pain and brokenness, splintered and shattered from unmet longing and misplaced trust, worried it was wounded beyond repair.

I fed myself lies to ease the disappointment, played into the charade that my singleness made me strong, prepared my mind to spend life solitary while pushing the desire for love deep into the unseen corners of my heart. I pretended it was all okay. It was all okay.

But my broken heart kept beating, kept keeping time for the right time, over days and weeks and years and soon it was a decade and a half and somehow breath still poured from love’s lungs. Until my heart broke into my brain and struck me down to see that God was at work doing something new. New life, new light in the silhouette of a man with gentle hands and eyes who came to fix my ceiling, who really came to fix my heart. The literal holes in my heart exposed the emotional holes, and in my slow recovery, word by word, kindness by kindness, he showed me who God was and how He saw me, has always seen me, the hopeful girl with wonder at the world, with a brightness at what would come. He revived my dreams, restored the jaded pieces and healed such a scarred and skittish heart.

There is a God who sees and knows. Who dreams, cries, and tries with us again and again, who leans down when we are so tired and whispers, “Let’s keep going. It’s okay, dear one. You can try again. First one step, and then another.” And we walk into such unexpected answers to the prayers we wished many years ago; God remembers, He does not let them go.

Tomorrow will be blue skies, outwardly, but also within. My soul is split wide open and I am ushering in the sun. Promises fulfilled, promises given, glorying in Him who strung this all together. This life is a wonder. This life is a gift. And this forever grateful heart has found its home, grace upon grace.

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.

Beginning Always Blooms

Sarah is the first to notice it, among the slices of parmesan and Italian bread, the steaming plate of Swedish meatballs over mashed potatoes sprinkled with parsley.

“Oh, look!” she says to Eric and I across the dinner table, “the rose is growing!”

Our eyes sweep to the yellow rose in a thin bottle vase with a lip that only has room for a single flower. There it is, halfway down the bottle—a tender shoot curving up from the stem, color a delicate shade of green lighter than the rest of the rose’s body. Slight pink arms of a bud topping this new extension.

How in the world…? We marvel for a few minutes, in awe because this is only one cut-off rose slid into a small pool of water.//

Apparently, there are stories of roses and apple trees and all kinds of greenery that have been transplanted or re-rooted into impossible places and began to grow. The resilience of these plants and flowers clinging to life and digging in for it to still make a way forward.

Life will always make a way.

Life will always find ways to attach and push through.

This tiny shoot serves as a reminder that there is always something coming, often quite unexpectedly, and that even in the midst of what seems to be cut off and ending, behind it, a beginning always blooms.

Be kind to those broken branches, those sliced stems. New life is coming. Resilience abounds.

 

**

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

 

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.

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.

Shift of Seasons

I wake to idling engines and trucks passing by, chatter of old men clustered together at metal tables at the coffee house across the shallow street. This I will get used to, the gentle hum of morning in this quaint downtown.

Chime of bells marking eight o’clock. Daylight softly streams in across my walls, flickers of reflection from cars bouncing light off building windows.

The Boy set up the bare bones of my coffee corner before he left, after assembling my bed and clearing space for me to sit and walk in my living room. He cares for me through serving, arranging my life and heart to let me breathe and relax. I am so grateful.

I prep my coffee, inhale, sink into my grandpa’s plush chair. It’s wide—so wide it could only fit in my kitchen at my lake house. But I wouldn’t part with it, so there it sat, by my stove. Now, it’s at least in the living room, in an appropriate room.

Here begins a new season, a fresh journey in a new town, this historically preserved town with the tagline, Fall in Love with Cedarburg. Let’s see how it woos me.

It’s fitting, the timing of this start. September, which I equate with the start of fall, though technically right now it’s still summer. Fall, for me, has always felt like a time of new beginnings. A crispness, cleanness that gives way to a new layer of myself, God’s presence, the invitations to touch lives and know Him deeper. There is something smooth and serene about the shift of seasons. Both literally and within.

This season, if you would have asked me two months ago how I’d feel, I would have said I was torn. But I have seen God move that’s left me no doubt He is taking care of me that I cannot help but trust and lift a hopeful heart to what He has planned, wants me to see. I know much will be unexpected and upside down to what I thought, and much will stretch and guide me out of my comfort zone. But this has happened before, and I am learning to go with open hands.

Boxes and empty bookshelves and end tables all over the place—my apartment is still a mess. But I’m smiling, because I think of the fun it’s going to be to unpack, put things in place, settle in.

This is a new day. Thank God I am allowed to see it.

Thank God for many things, this birthed moment that blinks its newborn eyes and fills with joy at what’s to come.

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.