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.

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.

 

 

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.

To Always Have Hope

I don’t like being up early. But here I am, on the couch as the world out my window slowly unveils itself from the misty charcoal. All week, my right arm has felt like a nerve pinched; I still have tiny doses of fear that I’ll fall apart from my health trauma.

God, You have been so good to me.

Sometimes, I am still afraid.

Sometimes, I still don’t see this world as You want me to.

Sometimes, all I see is myself.

 

You bring me from the barren places and set me high on a steady rock; my feet firm in Your truth. Perhaps I will always falter at points, but I will always have hope. You have taught me that much, to ask without doubt, look to joy, to always have hope.

Banana cream oatmeal this morning. Here’s to being healthy, in habits, action, and thought.

God, You have transformed the patterns of my mind.

Sometimes, I wish I were more.

Sometimes, I want to be fearless.

Sometimes, I believe I can use my life to make a difference.

 

You have done deep healing work in my heart—literally, with closing the holes in my aorta, and also emotionally, binding up my scars and wounds and restoring me to my first love in You. Surely, You have shown me great goodness in the land of the living.

Now, light has opened to a pale gray, brush of clouds low in the sky. The street is seeing more traffic—here comes the world awake in my little area of the world.

God, You are my sustenance and strength.

Sometimes, the dreams in me beat against my chest so loud I fear I’ll tear in two.

Sometimes, I wonder if they are enough.

Sometimes, I settle.

 

You have brought me this far not to settle but to live my life in full. For abundant joy, and I am beginning to know for the first time what that looks like, and that it is OK.

You claim more than OK for me, for all who lean into You. Help me not to forget.

Oh God, help me not to forget Your beauty is my breath.

 

But as for me, I will always have
I will praise You more and
more.
– Psalm 71:14

 

 

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.