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.

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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.

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.

 

Wanting More

Is it worth it? Wanting more from this life? Daring to hope, suspended breath, afraid the smallest exhale will scatter all you’ve longed for?

Keep breathing out your prayers. Keep walking into the days, daring to hold hope in your heart after all this time.

Reminders

Cardinal flits across the road, flash of red sticks out among muted brown and gray. Cardinals stay through the winter, through the cold, the barren, the unyielding hard.

I am to do the same.

Water. It calls to me after being cooped up for weeks. I make the short drive to my old college campus, wave to the young girl at the welcome desk kiosk, wind the narrow road that wraps around the lake.

Today, a tired sun is making its way through milky clouds. It lights the world nonetheless. There are shadows cast along the damp grass, my body outlined on the row of rock arched around the bluff. Clamor of metal hitting together of the new business building construction echoes behind me—this campus sure is growing.

Water and sky blur together from the haze, gray foam of cloud barely atop a steel teal of lake—everything seems washed. From somewhere at the bottom of shoreline, soft waves roll to land. Dead prairie grass leans along the sloped bluff, tan and brittle. Long, spindly arms of empty ash trees hold their perch along the ledge.

It’s quiet, and I am alone the day after Christmas. A few hours ago, I unstrapped the four lead electrodes from my chest and abdomen, shut off the phone monitor, packed up the Holter unit and dropped the box at the UPS store in the Pavilions shopping center two minutes from my parents’ house. It will be on its way to Illinois to be processed, results calculated. I don’t know when I’ll learn if they noticed an arrythmia, maybe at my cardiologist appointment in January. I’m again in full trust mode as I acknowledge God as my monitor, His watchful gaze on my heart, on my head.

Another phase down, another step towards healing, or answers, or living in the unknown.

We all live in the unknown, really. Every day. Who ever knows what comes?

Curled leaves lie at my feet, half covered by the overgrown grass. Hints of previous seasons making themselves known well into winter.

There are always reminders of where we’ve been, who we were. They trail behind us quietly, catching hold of the wind to make no sound. Sometimes they pull ahead, catch on our sneakers so we stop to see what’s changed our stride, peel them off and examine all that has transpired, how we have transformed.

Keep watch for the good. Count each detail as a keepsake. Always remember. Taupe, pointed leaves nestled in the grass. Calm of Lake Michigan floating in its own movement. Break of spindled sun, light cutting through days of clouds.

Heart free from its surveillance, no more metal monitor heavy on my breastbone. Every day a miracle. Every miracle, great grace.

Rights All Things

Whirl of images, blurred and unbalanced.

Out of nowhere.

My living room, a spinning funhouse. Walls rocking like sides of a ship, sharp, yet unable to focus and still the swirl.

Then, rubber. Left arm shaking and bucking its control. Loss of feeling, all I could do was watch it move up and down, around, unable to grab hold of anything solid.

The speech. Slow, slurred. My brain knew what it wanted to say, and say at a normal rate, but the words wouldn’t come when called. Stutter, heavy, anchored to another dimension I wasn’t meant to reach.

I am so glad I was sitting on the fold-up chair at my table. If I had been on two legs, I would have found myself buckled by them and on the floor as the world lurched on and I could not catch up. //

How in the world did my brain throw off balance?

How in God’s unfathomable grace, did He still the spin and set me right again?

Monitors blink into the inky night, murmur of nurses muffled down the hall. Here, all begins anew. One breath, one beep, at a time. I hope the needles can come out of my skin soon, but now, they are reminders, along with the leeds strapped along my chest to check my heart, that my life is not my own.

Blinds down, shade the hospital room. The world has righted itself, but still there are pieces of me frightened it will happen again, that I will lose my place in this life and oxygen once more be doused from my brain.

But He is here. In the still, in the holding cell, the sweetness of His presence in a terrifying topsy-turvy turn of events filling me with gratitude more than I could imagine. He is Emmanuel. God with us. Even in the upside down, the out of control.

I rest my mind, my body as best I can with the heart monitor in place and IVs poking my veins. God is near, and He has never removed me from the palm of His caring hand. And so, I believe. Believe in Him who sees me through, whose mercies never cease and watched over my ordeal with careful, unblinking eye. Believe in Him who keeps the stars aligned and time itself in balance. Believe He remains faithful, that there is more left for me to see and love and align with His heart.

He rights all things, our hearts and our heads. Keep believing. Great is His faithfulness.

 

 

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

Clear To The Bone

It’s come again.

That nagging ache of alone. The built-up dreams ballooning in my belly, the air released and shrunk to nothing. I’ve busied myself, distracted and detached, afraid to feel the latest jolt that rocked my heart’s already easily breakable frame.

It’s heavy, the weight of disappointment.

// What cuts clear to the bone? The hopes that I allowed to linger, only to smash in a thousand pieces at reality, unmet expectations, bitter disappointment and heart collapse. This life I live looks nothing like I thought it would. And I don’t know what to do when I fall into myself over and over, to the depths, dusky void black and blue ink stained sorrow.

I had wanted to much from this life. I thought I had so much to offer, to be, to do. But I am shaken, stuck in the manifold mundane, day in and day out, rote and worn.

To the depths, the soul in me cries. Get to the depths, leave this shallow water that has staled and stalled and turned lukewarm. Get to where you have room to breathe, where you can breathe at all, where you can live alive, ignite.

We are all thisclose from going under in our blank hearts and never resurfacing. I am thisclose from settling into mediocrity because I don’t know what else to do, though the fibers of my being reel and recoil against the notion. But what should one do when all they know is disappointment and new worlds they never wanted? //

Oh, how I have wanted.

And here I am, smack in the heartbreak and backwards. Where do I go from here? How do I submerge amid the deep, the faraway and dimly lit scratch of sun from under the waves?

For now, all I have are questions that are left unanswered. And I’ll content myself with this continual quest among the heavy and deep, swathing myself in unknown. Be still. Embrace what has yet to form.

It is a quiet wait, but I want my heart to heal. I want to see this life with new eyes, to be pulled deeper still into what is just ahead. See the surprise of the unexpected, how it just may be better than I dared to dream before.

Just keep trusting. Keep sight of belief, and choose yet again to not settle. It’s too important for my soul not to. For it must keep beating, must keep hope.

Hope is the echo reverberating in dreams yet awakened.

 

 

 

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

Rebuild The Jagged Edges

Too early to rise, yet I am lulled out of bed, wide awake and aware stars still gleam in the sky.

Coffee quickly brewing in the kitchen, my lifeline. This is how I arrive today—heavy eyelids, leaking heart.

This is a lonely season of my life. I am weary from holding back this truth.

Tell me that the night will end. Tell me that the light will come.

Teach my heart to wait in You, to be still and trust.

 

All that is within me wants to see the other side right now, to know the goodness comes my way, that what I sow in rows of tears will reap an abundance of joy.

You are always good, but this does not feel good to my heart right now. How do I hope when days stretch to weeks, to months, and then I somehow notice it’s been years?

You alone know the ways I am to walk, where each step leads, the trails, the turns, the unmarked maps.

How do I listen through the din of despair, when I stare it straight in the eye, stand at its edge, rock my toes over the ledge? How do I be still to see You go before me to make a way where there is a wall?

 

 

It’s been awhile, but I’m back over at ALTARWORK! Head over to read the rest of the post.

Bear The Burden

Sometimes I feel like I carry the burden of a thousand others, of the weight of humanity, the fall of man, the groaning and abuse of the earth. Cries of children caught in slavery, the weak and overlooked passed by with begging eyes no one sees. The violence, the hatred, the insincerity and refusal to hear another. We are all screaming but our voices go nowhere.

How is it a blessing to hold a burden? The hard, the heartbreak, the rending of spirits through disappointment after disappointment beats down the heart to hope?

I watch the sky grow dark early in this new time change, how the gray turns charcoal, deep blue and purple until the air is punctured with tiny stars in the cold black night. It feels like the day is done, when there is still so much time to live. How to pick up the urge to press on, to give it one more day when you’re tired of trying, when the effort is too much and your soul is battle weary?

Lay your burdens down, the old adage goes. Lay them down at the feet of Jesus and He will lighten your load.

It’s all well and good, but what of when you’ve read the words a thousand times but they don’t resonate like they used to? When you’ve become numb from hurting, from caring for the world when it doesn’t seem to offer the same? //

What of your groans that get trapped in the rumblings of injustice, of suffering and abuse and cloistering fears that gnaw on your faith like dogs to a bone? What then? Take that step on water and walk out to Him who holds the sea at bay? Multiply the loaves when the crowd is starving and all you’ve got left is a meager offering in your hands?

Peace. Be still.

It’s hard to be still when the whole of you wants to run from a heart that bleeds and spills for the sorrow of upturned dreams, displaced refugees, closed doors and callous unforgiveness.

When life seems a burden, you do what is best: choose to believe. Again and again. Even if the heart restricts and hoists a wall and guards itself with well placed defenses. Choose to believe that you are blessed when you bear the burdens of another. Remember One who hung with the burden of eternity, who didn’t balk at the sting of suffering.

The room glows yellow with candlelight and low lamps that are on the edge of burning out. We are all just on the edge of burning out.

Hold the Light. Lean in and let it rest soothing in the wounds. Do not shy away from what is sharp. Do not fear the dark. Rest in what you cannot understand. Be at peace and stay still in the burden. Bear the burden. Bear it well, with honesty and reflective truth. Blessed is she who perseveres, who keeps a softened heart to cushion the fallen.

 

 

 

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