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.

 

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.

Those Who Wait

Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.

Those who wait. Who trust. Who cease striving and are still, resting in Him. And as they cease striving, the Lord renews. He gives strength, revives those empty places. It is He who fills our tanks back up, not us trying to fabricate our own extra energy.

It is a big ask to wait. To trust in God’s timing rather than our own. To be OK that answers may come later down the road and we must keep plowing ahead with our head barely above the bramble. To keep eyes fastened to the horizon with no fixed mark except He who is invisible made visible in all that’s around us.

We may not know where we are going, when the dark will end, when we regain our strength, but on we go,// lifting our weight of burden on to Him whose yoke is light.

Wait. He is here, already moving, breathing light into the dark. All will come to pass in good and right ways. For He who promised is faithful, and God deep in the dark with us is really what we need, His strength in our weary bones, His power when we crawl on oh so weak. He is the Light by which we move, the One who massages our tightened shoulders, leans over our ear and whispers, “Trust. Be still and know.”

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.   -Isaiah 40:31 KJV

 

*

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

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.

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.