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.

Commit To Another

When you commit to another, you speak loud your promises, look deep into irises and bind your soul to theirs, life to life. Testing will come, and you stand ready, bright and eager to light the dark ahead. Never to imagine that 38.5 hours into marriage you’d wake to a husband’s inflamed organ, dial 911, and set off on an emergency ferry in the middle of a snowy night, waves rolling five feet in the air, to an ambulance transfer and hour drive down twisted roads of tiny towns. Nor do you consider the strain of his stomach rushing him off to surgery to extract a decaying appendix quickly setting itself up to burst. Bleary-eyed and on the floor, you pray in the corner of the windowed waiting room, text your prayer warriors, run on fumes, wait. Or after successful surgery, you cannot see or stay with him because of COVID so you nap in the back of your Jeep in the parking lot, drive around town looking for a place to stay the night, and constantly call the nurses station to get an update on your new husband’s recovery. And when he’s finally released and you are there waiting by the door to help him into the passenger’s seat, you’re just so thrilled to touch him, breathe him in, you ignore the flurry of fear that had you gripping the steering wheel and praising God for victory on those barren country roads as you lost sight of the ambulance and counted down the miles to the emergency room. The next days are filled with preparing food, helping with clothes, washing and changing gauze on stitches and stilling your own breath at night to make sure you hear his. For better or worse, in sickness and in health. Where the rubber hits the road in marriage, so soon out the gate you exhale, “You’ve got to be kidding!” But you wouldn’t trade it for the world, for God is good, clearly present, and full of grace. This is what you said yes to, a mere days ago, for the rest of your life: serve one another, love each other deeply, for all that comes.

This is marriage week one, and I am so glad for it. So glad to be journeying this crazy adventure that is our life, that has been since day one. We have quite the story, you and I, such a unique love.

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As always, the delightful and breathlessly talented Hannah Toldt Photography did what she does best capturing our special day.

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.

Binding It All Together

Three more weeks until I am married. Three more weeks. In this crazy COVID cycle, life keeps pressing forward. Yes, all of Plan A with the wedding has washed away. Plan B, C, D, G, and L, for that matter, too. But we are innovators, Eric and I, and we care more about the experience and what it means to cleave the old life and tie to the new than we do the venue and gold-rimmed dinner plates that have kept couples pushing their day back by months. So we will say our vows on a metal fish-net walkway over the water, with immediate family witnessing and our spiritual mentor officiating. There will be joy, there will be peace. And most importantly, there will be God’s love, binding it all together.

Love in the time of COVID. There is much of it to be found, if we are willing to see. If we want to see, look for the good.

 

 

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.

One Step at a Time

It’s only 6:30 but the darkness swallows up the sky like the bottom of the earth turning itself inside out. It’s pressing in on me, like a hand slapped across my chest. I’ve been cooped up all day, defenses down. My apartment feels small, constricted, the artificial light in here no substitute for the sun. This heavy night slides closer to my windows, leaning on the panes, coming close.

It’s coming close alright, this heaviness. The anniversary of my stroke. Almost one year. When the room and my world rocked, spun with no control, no road map of where I was going.

I have to get out. Go walk around my town, the cozy line of shops in the crisp air. The air cuts me in the best ways, opening up the shrunken cavern of my chest so I can breathe in full again.

These weeks especially have been a tug-o-war over my life, the way I anticipated it to roll out, my plans and ideals yet again balled in my fist. And God, kindly dismantling them and asking me to open my palms.

//I want to control my life, because everything these last eleven and a half months have been out of my control.

I’ve had no say in my stroke. Or the holes in my heart. Or moving out of my beloved flat by the lake. Or a hectic job where the work never ends. Even my relationship with Eric, as beautiful and a sweet gift that it is, I never saw coming.

And I am afraid, because these all came as a surprise to me, out of the blue, and I fear the floor could drop again at any minute.

I know that isn’t a good place to live from, but this is where I am for the moment. It’s OK to acknowledge, but it isn’t OK to stay there. One step at a time, especially when I don’t know where that next step will lead. One step at a time, I lift my eyes unto the hills to find my hope. I cannot see what’s on the horizon, what will come, but I know that I can open up my heart to the One who does.

This life is always unknown. We just get introduced to it each day and cultivate a relationship with it in tiny, eyes wide-open ways.//

These damp sidewalks cause me to concentrate my shoes on each scratch of pavement. It wouldn’t be good to slip. Each step is vitally important, is the focus.

What does it matter if I don’t know what’s coming? There’s nothing I can do about it, anyway.

Just stay with this step. Then the next.

 

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

The Lasting Memories

On the first day of November, I am greeted by a street of white, brick buildings laden with snow that actually fell the day before. Yes, our first snowfall of the season came in October. Goodbye, fall. Winter wants to arrive early. The beauty of my favorite season, forced to a shuddering end. I tried as best I could to savor it, because I knew how fleeting all the colors, the feel of fall, would be.

Like seasons, this life, too, is fleeting. We are given a little time here on earth to make what we can of it, cultivate relationships, redirect our callings. And when God is satisfied at how our days were spent and wants us home, we go.

Every ounce of what we are allowed here is precious, delicate, important, true.

Time is but a breath, our years but a heartbeat.

What lasts?

The ordinary moments that swell inside me, freeze me in the middle of their actions and sting my eyes with gratitude. Coffee in the morning. Lake Michigan. Eric’s laugh, his honest blue eyes. Every breath. At least, until the last one God gives me is done.//

What lasts?

Living into our legacy that might remain for a few more years. Digging into the dreams of family and friends, encouraging them, believing in them. A charcoal blue sky against mostly barren trees save a few russet leaves that aren’t ready to let go just yet. Sunlight spraying shadows in slants across an angled roof. My fingers, curled around a blue pen.

Find what is precious and hold it to the light, turn it in your hands and notice it from all angles. Watch where it sparkles, where it is smooth.

Don’t waste time on what is trivial. Go deep. Be genuine. Let everything be done in love. Believe for the impossible. Look for what lasts and light it aflame within.

It is a new month. What will be the lasting memories that come from these days? I want to live each one out to the full, focused on the present, giving whole-hearted thanks from my hole-filled heart.

Open wide for the wonder anew. What the Almighty can do. And be ready to be astonished. For there it all begins—at the One who is the first and the last.

 

 

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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: Last.   // 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.