Life Comes After

Life comes after death.

I am tired of shedding these skins, these layers. I am tired of dying in seasons.

But then, the ground awakes, breaks forth the green shoot of seed that’s been quietly incubating in the patient soil of my soul.

Oh God, open my eyes, my heart.

You are here and with me. In death. In life. In the silent in-between.

Life. My life grows inside me. A new skin, a new heart. A new way of knowing, of being. Abundance, in full.

My lips smile, incredulous. I am softly determined to let it grow, tend it well, and give it sun.

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.

Comes In Quiet

It comes in quiet. Slips through the lights of my tree, curls around the steam of my coffee. Goodness. The new life God has for me.

I inhale and take a sip, test it on my tongue. Rich, yet smooth. Another drink, the taste is still the same.

My friend Janet is proclaiming over me today: victory, joy, freedom, and peace. I am praying Immanuel, God with me. Today is a day of miraculous proportions. Today is a day of sweet simplicity.

Everything is beautiful. Nothing is the same.

There’s a wooden bear that’s turning in half circles on the inside branch of my tree. It catches my eyes, and I see the ornament next to it- in curved metal letters, the word JOY.

Yes, it is a day to rejoice, to remain confident that I will continue to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living, while walking in my unknown.

Taste and see the LORD is good.

I take another sip, let it warm me slow and full. And when I am done with this cup, there is another, ready and just as rich, waiting for me to pour.

Always Enough

My tree is aglow with white lights, next to it, red and white block words spell out Believe. On my window ledge, pointing me to the street, the call to come and see, to look for what is ahead.

These have been special days, sitting around the kitchen table with china plates loaded with turkey, soft stuffing, layered Jello and green bean casserole. Sitting with the light of my family, going around the table telling what we are thankful for. There is much to be thankful for. Life. Health. Breath. God’s growth in our hearts. God healing my heart, literally and figuratively.

There is always so much to be thankful for.

//Full from Thanksgiving, the goodness of the day, warmth of home and Eric included in family time. Full-on Christmas mode, lights strung, perpetual gray outside, feeling cozy in my heart. Filling up the empty spaces that were barren for years, God refueling, pouring His good to the brim of my cup.

I am learning to lean in to His crazy, unexpected, roller-coaster plans that are nothing like I was looking for. I think back on what I believed I wanted, how I fought to keep my vision for myself, and how I’ve willed myself to step forward into the unknown, release my grip on my plans, my life, the fear of breath cutting out again, and falling into God palms open and up for Him to fill.

What He does, I am always surprised by. But it brings an unanticipated joy, a swell of heart in contentment, amazement at the care and precision He has taken in my life.

My heart is a balloon that has constant room for His breath, warm air that massages and expands. I am living in full the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. His promise to me, come to pass. Praise His holy name for the miracle work He has done in one broken, love-starved, heart-holed girl. Such restoration by His might only.//

This is the season to celebrate. Step back and wonder at all that has transpired in just one year. In a few days, it is one year when I first met Eric, when he walked in my back door to fix my fallen ceiling. Then, just two days later, the one-year marker of my stroke, hospital stay, subsequent knowledge of a hole in my bleeding heart.

For right now, just rest in the moment. Relive the wonder and simplicity, the small sparks that light this night, these treasured, still-framed days.

Always, there is much to be thankful for. Breath, beauty, beating hearts that take in micro moments of this world. Always, there is enough.

 

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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: Full.   // 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

 

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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: 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.

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.

You First

The rain is gentle.

So are You.

Reminding me to come back to my first love. Before the world and all its distortions broke my heart, when I walked with You and You were all I could see. All I wanted to watch.

I have forgotten You. Forgotten what it is to love You with all of my heart, soul and strength. Forgotten what it is like to talk to You with intention, with a yearning in my spirit for Your presence, for Your response. To enter into the gateway of relationship, walk beside You and know You are happy being with me.

Love must be loose and not clung to in fear. Love must give of itself freely and let go of what does not matter.

You matter. You alone ask for my love and can receive it.

It is a beautiful thing, to turn and walk toward You, realizing You’ve been waiting. That You have been smiling at me all this time, when I have imagined You off in the distance, stiff and elusive. How have I not seen? How had I gotten so off track that I did not recognize You standing close, watching me, speaking softly to try and get my attention but I could not hear? Maybe I didn’t want to turn from the noise and the echoes, or the clutter tangled me with intent to keep me from listening.

But You are persistent. You were not satisfied to let me go. You would not leave. You remembered when we were one, when we breathed through the same lungs, saw life through the same lens. We were ever evolving, together, and I dared to take Your dreams as mine.

It was You and I, once. Until I lost my way and went ahead, until I strayed. Until I threw my heart in the wringer too many times so it’s turned from red to black and blue. Lifeless. Disillusioned. Frightened. Crestfallen. Careless, I let everything touch me with grimy hands and hearing my head point out where to go. I didn’t stick around to hear from You and my heart paid for it. You alone bring joy. Seeking You, demanding You with desperation. You, in the quiet. You, always finding me. And I, giving my ever-faulty heart back to You. Choosing You, again and again. Daily. Moment by brittle moment. I am fickle and oh so prone to stray. It is a deliberate choice to say each time, “You first. I want You first,” and mean it in my core. To seek You with my soul, and fight for my heart with all my strength, fasten it to Yours.

As this rain drips from the trees, You speak more in this moment than in months before. Maybe because I am ready. Maybe because now it is an active participation. Maybe simply it’s been long enough. I do know this reformation will be difficult. It will require much work of the heart and effort and intentionality on my part. Hour after hour, constant reminders that I am giving You the first fruits of my heart, and everything else that follows comes from You because that’s what You want for me. I am done with idols, though their cold stone has pulled me heavy and are not easy to cast off. But You will pull me through and bring vibrancy to my life that I’ve been missing and haven’t been able to attain.

Every beat of my heart, twitch of my desire, has to be only You. I will learn to love again, as You will teach me all Your beautiful ways that make it sweet to hold open my heart for its fill.

Why Not Me

I believe in God being a God of redemption. There is something in remembering, in strolling through the memory halls of my heart and still holding out my hope.

We ask for the miracle and then doubt reality when it materializes.

We justify it away, fill with disbelief, run questions through our hearts.

I am too tender to take courage in the face of what I want.

And so I ask the million dollar question: Why me?

I am just a shy, simple girl who buried her nose in books when she was young and hoped with every inch of her innocent heart for a way to break out of the monotony of daily rhythm, to find a love that was true and fierce, to connect the poetry of life with beating hearts. And maybe, just maybe, I could change the world with my smile.

Why could I deserve anything great? Get the most treasured desire of her heart fulfilled?

Is God that good? Could what I desperately hope for be something that pleases Him?

Hope is that stubborn flame that will not be quenched. That soft surge of light within that unfurls its rays to break open the tightest corners.

All my life, I’ve been so afraid to hope for what’s been in my heart. I have dreamed about it with every breath in my bones, but I have also been timid with expressing it out loud for fear it would never come true.

And yet I’ve carried this with me year after year, tucked away inside, and as the months and years stretched by the double, I even began to chide myself for it. Began to turn on the hopeful girl within and tell her every reason why she wasn’t worthy. I’d emotionally beat her down until hope was too bent and bruised to dare show its face, retreating to a dark, stifled space in the basement of my soul to stay in hiding.

But the miraculous realization: it stayed.

It stayed with me, this hope upon hope, this young girl’s dream. It stayed with me as I grew disillusioned and jaded. And every time I begin to doubt, to ask myself questions and feel myself sinking back into what God has done to build up my belief, the verse, “Don’t doubt, just believe” comes into my head. Coincidence? My own imagining? How I wish God would lay it out to me in plain terms and tell my all my hopes are good and well-founded.

I do not want to be afraid, but I have been fearful. He calls me deeper, on top of the water, to glide along the waves.

Who am I to deserve anything this beautiful?

But then, who am I not to?

Why me?

Why not me?

Why not, knowing Him who holds the stars, giving me His best.

Remember this, my heart. Remember and awake, believe.