Wilderness Living

When He called my name to cross the waters, I did not know where it would lead. What wilderness lay before me, or even that He Himself would be taking me to this place of missing manna, unquenchable thirst.

Still, I wandered through the thicket, brushed against the barren earth on feet aquiver. Pillar of fire by night–I was no more soothed by the dancing shadows just beyond, the black unknown, overgrown, unseen.

I know HIs ways are not our ways, but I wish He’d give a glimpse of what waits for me when I replenish my strength with water pumped from a solid slab of rock. He is the God who breaks forth life, sweet survival, clever guide in the hard elements.

We wish to forge on fast and straight, one swift cross from corner to corner. It never works that well-aligned. There are crooked turns and twists of thorns, head-scratching and heart-rending. The journey never moves the way we mean. And when the day doesn’t go my way, I gripe and curl my fingers into fists and demand answers, bemoan how I should have known better. It is a bitter gall to drink, this mirage of self-sufficiency. God gives quail and I scurry to store up for the days ahead, gather more than what I could possibly take with me.

“Let go,” He says. To only bring what’s best for the hours lest all the excess spoil.

I am slow to understand how I get to the promised Land from here, but maybe it’s in my mud-slung stretch of wilderness living where my bones grow strong and heart, soft. Where I find justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. Maybe through these unmarked roads I will recognize my worth as a helpless child dependent on a full-grown trust. For He who made the waters move will not veer off the path with me now. Where I am is where He wants me. Depleted, dependent, thankful for my daily bread.

Keep to the untidy tides of life, in sorrow and in hope, in want and in plenty. God brings the brambles, I make my course with no clear destination. I allow myself to wander, allow the dusk to set and sun to rise, find water in the valley once more.

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.

Follow That Light

This is my favorite angle of the day, so far. From my perch in the living room, on the cushioned chair, sweeping view from a vista of chopped white ice sealing off the ripple of water that churns beneath. Late afternoon light as the sun gravitates lower in the sky. It seems to illuminate the view of island’s end and horizon of sky that stretches on into the inky unknown.

I carelessly look up and meet the moon, orb lit from the late sun and framed perfectly in the asymmetrical slant window, just below the tips of barren tree branches. Suspended in the pale blue air, watching over the bay that expands into the full body of Great Lake.

My breath holds in my throat, lungs rise and fall as quiet as they can. This is magical. This is wondrous. Gift upon gift, surprises and beauty I never could have imagined. An unnamed longing deep within me rouses, nestles closer to my heart. I crave…

Maybe there is no answer. Maybe I simply crave for more than what I experience, and this moment brings it to light.

Follow that light, something in me whispers.

“To where?” I counter.

It answers: Wherever.

Broken

Do you love Me?

I hear this question resound through my head at all times- when I’m in the grocery store, alone in my bedroom, struggling to fill out tedious spreadsheets at work. And each time I hear it, I answer the same way. Yes, Lord, You know I do.

Then He speaks again, softly, yet with an urgent undertone. Do you love Me enough to break for Me?

Break for Him. That would require a rendering of my heart, a vulnerability to extract any self-preservation I hid deep within me and cast it at His crown. Can I do this?

My heart is shielded. By this nothing can penetrate to its core unless I allow entrance. It’s been safe, static. The beat in its chambers are steady. To crack the armor means to welcome pain, welcome feeling, welcome the weeping of others. I am far from perfect, far from forgiving those who have wronged me and left me weary and alone, and I fight this feeling of feeling.

The deepest secrets of me wants to feel, though. Desperately. Do I allow it? I try, but I cover it back up because I am tired of the scraping of my heart until it’s empty. I dance around breaking into my compassion and keeping it at bay. Indecisive. Unsure of the holy incision to sustain being human, breathing alive.

But a pulse pounds in the distance. I lift my ears and follow the sound until I reach Calvary. There, atop a trodden and treacherous hill, lies my Love. His eyes grab my soul, His thorns removing mine. And as the final breath bubbles from His mouth, a flood of restlessness chips my strength, and I am emptied. Moving with no effort, He fills me with a tenderness I could not, would not, possess on my own. Yet this tenderness is solid, striking. My heart beats in time with His, squeezes when I see His face in the lines and curves of those I meet.

I came to Him, walls up, and He met me, palms bleeding at the foot of the cross. He exchanged His heart for mine, giving me the purest form of love imaginable- life. All He asks is for me to share this wonderful gift with hurting hearts, so very similar to my own.

Jesus was broken for me; how can I not be break myself for others in return?

 

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

-John 13:34

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.

Black Space, Dark Matter

Before the canvas of the world was painted, the earth posed black, void, formless.

Intentionally kept dark for creation, for becoming, purpose was published from shadows, from an ink blanket of berth. This was good, part of the order of things.

I allow the same for my soul. Sit in the unshapen, breathless; being. No push to rush away the restless, the flush of alone and feeling of being lost in charcoal soil. I am welcomed in ways I would never experience had I not ventured into hovering waters, deep and endless and uncolored. I have grappled with this way of being, hearing society slap me with a quick, contented fix that inadvertently accuses my faith. Light versus dark. Skin versus spirit. Righteousness versus sin. As if where one side existed, the other couldn’t.

I have not been born to carry continuous happy bubbled within my chest. My burden is my blessing in the underbelly of life, where my tears find themselves falling down the skin of someone else, where my anchored heart magnetizes with the weight of theirs. Where I am constantly standing in line with the loose rise of moon, face deeply creviced and reflecting light in imitation.

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Today I am beyond honored to be featured at Ruminate Magazine’s blog, The Waking. Head over to read the rest.

This life is an incredible gift.

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.