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.

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.

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.

To Find Another

April. Where are the warm rains that bring the trees in bloom and hope for brighter days?

All I feel is brown, brittle grass that cracks and breaks at the slightest impact. All I see is barren space, gray that goes on, body of water without a horizon.

I had been digging in, doing the sacred work of excavation and listening, conversing with You in the deep, hidden places. But I have met an impasse, block of wall that won’t come down. Unfortunately, the block is in my mind and heart.

This season drags on. And I am so tired.

What do You want from me?

How do I let go?

How do I let go in letting go and live from a blank slate, unblemished heart?

Grow me, but don’t make it hurt so much. Save me, but allow me to keep my life.

I know You ask for surrender. Lose my life to find another. Hands clenched, I recoil and writhe in a constricted box of my own making. Refusal to continue the fight, to trudge through the hard. But it is harder to flail against You, a help for my heart if I lean into You instead. Trust Your strength, Your elusive goodness I am ever after.

Too much. It is always too much. I don’t know what I am asking, only some beyond-me yearning that I don’t understand.

My front yard looks like post-storm wreckage, branches and pine cones strewn all over the grass, chunks of trees littering the ground. One day I will get to raking, to begin the work of cleaning up. But now I just look at the scattered pieces of my yard and can’t help comparing to how it mirrors my insides.

One day I will begin the work again. One day I will let God touch these wounded places. But today I have more questions than acceptance. I will meet Him where I am, in the exhaustion, in the translucent, in the fortress of my being.

Where can I go to flee Your presence? For You are everywhere, in the heights and down to Sheol, the place of darkness. And Your hand formed my inmost being, sewn me in and around. You curl into me in these warm and black spaces, and I know You see.

See me again. Watch me, unhinge my closed heart because I have no energy to do so on my own. I am asking, giving permission.

You are not finished. You are on the move, even in my pause, reprieve.

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.

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.

Wide-Open Waters

For years, I was always curious why I felt so much,
why I broke with the news of lives lost,
desperate situations and the heartache confessed
by friends and strangers alike.
Why I bled with the sorrow of the world.
Why, when I loved, I was a typhoon.
There was never halfway with me,
my heart coursed and spilled until almost empty,
then found a way to refill.

They say I have an opening in my heart
that lets extra blood into its chambers.
From birth, a closure left undone
when I came into this life.

That’s why my heart lets in every shard,
every dagger, an ocean of hurt that hounds me
with the howls of humanity.
Why when I am cut, blood pools and falls
over the crumbled wall that was meant
to divide my chambers in order and,
if I choose to believe, emotion and reasoning.
To me, they always run together.

I have lived with a hole in my heart from day one—
it’s filtered every torrent of feeling swept right in
without proper search of self-preservation.
I’ve been drowning in my own heart,
always open, cycling through one hurt to the next—
there’s nothing left to break, I suppose,
as boundary lines shattered when I pulled in
my first breath.

It’s a wonder I’ve made it this far,
that I could take in the aching, magnified pain,
add it to the wide-open waters and grow
this expanding chamber of irregular beats.
Each stutter whispers another name,
another promise to endure.
Endure and never tire, take this blessed burden
burned into my DNA and let my love
spill upon the parched, caked crevices
of every heart that’s cries echo this earth.

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.