Counted Sacred

The colors are pressed so bright I am awash in light, serenity of earth changing its garments. Soft leaves swaying to the ground. I am in my peace place, an island at the end of the earth, it seems, where I am allowed to catch my breath, slow my pace, fill my heart with quiet, with love, with God’s presence so palpable I feel His arms around me.

Each breath is counted sacred, a gift. I am here to breathe in the air, gulp the fresh scents of fall as nourishment for my body, my soul.

Slow. Give up the hurry and linger long and soft in the sway of branches swollen with color, the dance of wind on water.

For the first time in a long while, I allow myself to dream. To paint a picture for days to come, months, even years.

For a girl who could not get herself to hope for anything past the current day, this is another gift, a quiet miracle.

The Boy and I are dreaming now, together, and this is unfamiliar to me. But when we curve around the gravel lane arched with burning reds and yellows in a robin’s egg blue sky, windows cracked and glimpsing the diamonds on Detroit Bay and every water in between, we can’t help noting which lots for sale we could make do on, envision life later.

It’s a beautiful thing, to lean into God and let Him lead through the long way right where I most need to be. Where I never expected to meet my blessings face to face, full on, where they have been standing in the sand, watching, waiting to show me around.

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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.

Like Sunlight

It streams in like sunlight through the wide windows, warming the hair on my head, skin across my bones.

Goodness.

Like it can’t help but course in, make itself known and nestle next to the waiting parts of my soul. Burrowing deep, making its home inside me.

What a wondrous feeling. This airy joy that now joins me every day. It has consumed me in the best ways. I chose to believe, and look how God has responded, all He has given and done.

Bouquet of carnations and daisies adorn my coffee table—a reminder from The Boy of all that has transpired and to keep me company while he is away. This is God’s sweet love to me, given a voice and arms, heart and eyes through this man. I have fallen into goodness, utterly submerged. God has unlocked me and set me free with peace.

I am greedy for the sunlight that streams in soft and hastily throw open the shutters of my heart, breathe in the day, and beckon the good closer, make itself comfortable, to stay.

Begin Again

Three more weeks.

I glance at my calendar hanging on the wall on my way to grab my coffee steaming in the kitchen.

Three weeks left in my lake house, in my favorite town.

Yes, God has provided me with my new place, and it is good. But it will be so different.

I can’t believe I am moving again. This will be the third time in 22 months. That’s actually a lot of moving when I think about it. Packing belongings in boxes, taking down paintings and words that make my space feel special, paint on the walls I chose that made me feel safe and calm.

I never thought I would be leaving my lake house so soon. That I would be making my way to a new town again, breaking in a new space.

The memories. So much has happened here in the span of 15 months. Learning to breathe again. Cups of tea with my friend Sarah late at night. Working myself into a frenzy writing freelance until my bleary eyes couldn’t see the screen. Curling up with a quilt and good book to soothe the turmoil within. //

My stroke, right there at my living room table. Coming home to a quiet house on late December and January days for a few hours as I recovered at my parents’, just to get out and keep from going stir crazy.

My heart procedure, two months later. A few minor bouts of anxiety as I reckoned with the aftermath of life turned upside down, magnified in silence, in my aloneness. The deep reconstruction of my soul over an impossibly cold winter and spring. My recovery. God shifting and saving my life.

The hole in my kitchen ceiling for three and a half months, and my landlord finally sending someone to fix it. Opening my door one morning to The Boy who would repair not just my ceiling, but my heart, my joy, my light. Our friendship, then relationship, developing over the months, his constant kindness.

All my walks to the water, wandering out to the lighthouse on a Tuesday morning or Friday evening, just because I could. Hearing bands perform at the restaurant on the lake, people milling about on a summer evening, the softness of a fall weekday when everyone heads back to work and school.

There is so much I am going to miss. Moving on again. Getting used to somewhere else. New seasons I have no say in. Am I not allowed to feel settled in my life? What I wouldn’t give to learn a rhythm I can rest in, find a normal.

My reading room is full of boxes. I should have kept the boxes from last year’s move, but how was I supposed to know?

Always we begin again.

The timeless words of Saint Benedict. A balm for the bumps along the journey.

We are constantly unlayered, always a shift of who we are, who we are becoming. Always, there is good at the end of every tide, the beginning of a beach that leads into a wide berth of land.

I tell myself, treasure what you’re losing, but stay hopeful for what you will gain.

Right now, I am trying to savor every minute, every crow caw, the smooth gleam off the lake. Walking down the hill to the ice cream and chocolate shop. Just walking around downtown, along the harbor. Those sweet, lazy, carefree moments, healing me, watering the soil of my soul, the bloom.

Because I will begin again, grow into the next phase of myself, into the world around me. Because there will be gain. God’s fingerprints are pressed all over the page, ready to turn. Always, what God brings, who God is, is what is good.

 

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

Rest in Remembering

Lilacs push into the bursting blue sky, practically white in their full bloom.

Late afternoon light falls across the towering trees in my front yard. Birds calling out to one another.

Mid-June is chaos. This whole month is, really. I can’t catch my breath, but God in me whispers, “Be still.”

Be still and know how He has held me close through each and every gale that has swept through. How He uses the unexpected to shape me, soothe me, because the best growth I receive comes from receiving His good.

This is a reprieve—a few moments of quiet, of pause, reflection. I cannot operate on constant full speed ahead, another project, never ending grant writing and a million little interruptions to my day. And this He knows, and so He sets me back, nudges me to slow.

Take in the drink of water that is Lake Michigan, shining like the most beautiful jewel on this June day. Dip into the green sea of rippling grass. Hear myself. Feel myself. Feel my soul speak, the poor, uncared for orphan.

Before I know it, the words come. With a melody, with a gentle smile.

I keep singing inside, quiet, steady, like my spirit moves on its own accord.

It is well.

It is well with my soul. //

Oh my soul, let us come home. Rest in remembering where He has brought you. From a stroke, the holes in your heart, to restorative joy, hope, and goodness. On the trunk that is my living room table, purple and gray with pink-tinted wildflowers The Boy gave me, propped in a mason jar. How in the world he found me can only be the nudge God gives again and again.

This is all a miracle. This is all a gift.

Such a light breeze against my flush face, warm from a desperately needed nap. Even my body tells me I am not wired to live in the mode I’ve made for myself.

Slow. Deep breathing. Stop to savor strength in quiet and trust. There is strength in stepping back, His power is in the pause. Everything grows from there.

It is well. Well worth refreshment, my soul’s restore.

 

 

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

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.

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.

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

 

 

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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.

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.