Align My Hope

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.

A Season of Sun

It comes to me sharp, out of nowhere. After months of wondering where my words went, months of days full and packed with a new life of running a start-up nonprofit, creating blueprints from thin air. After adjusting yet again to another season of life, alternate plans I did not see coming, and attempting to make sense of what I am unable to piece together.

Sweat pools in the dip of my chest as I pant my way along the harbor, breath catching up after my morning run. Clouds pull across the breakwater, give room to the sun streaming sparks of light on the water. Seagulls perch on tops of poles, feathers fluffed and gaze calm and unflinching, as if this was their territory and I and the fishermen with their poles and nets were trespassing. But the fisherman go along with their lines, cast, send their bait beneath the water and wait.

My lips curve a smile in greeting; my eyes catch their weather-whipped skin and scraggly beards. I’ve stopped to chat with a few on occasion, who had been happy to tell me the types of fish that glide the Lake Michigan currents—carp and rainbow trout, small barnacles brushing the underwater rocks. Slowly, I am learning the language.

This new life is languid, restful, healing in ways I was not aware I needed. My lungs take in a dose of fresh wind off the lake with a hint of rose bushes that continue to bloom again and again.

And there it is: I realize why there’s been a drought in my writing.

I am not used to writing happy.

My heart is light and has found joy. I am not familiar with a season of sun. I am used to the shadows, the unseen, the conflict and struggle of spirit, crush of my heart that crumbles, tapes together, and cracks apart in rhythm. How I processed the turmoil and strain, to make sense of my confusion, the wrestling of my will with God’s. Put pen to paper. Poured out my thoughts, my heart. I bled in ink.

Now, I find my heart is calm, even glad. God has come through on His promise that He would yet fill my mouth with laughter and my lips with shouts of joy (Job 8:21). I can hardly believe the change that has come subtly yet is ferociously here.

I am so much better at building up my battered heart in the ditch where I lay broken. But where does that leave me now, when I have nothing to lament?

Lean in to love, my heart whispers. Lean in to the lightness that lifts in your chest, the spark in your eye, the elusive smile that now stays on my face.

The water winks at me, reminding me that it has known this secret long before my life made room for this new rhythm, before I saw the beauty.

Better For It

I was born for something. Born to be someone. But what? And who? This is the question that has hounded me as I gained years, gathered lines in my life. Always, whether I was aware of it or not, my purpose, my deepest desire for approval, has followed me through seasons, through laughter, through furious tears. And always at the end of the day, draw of dark, the edge of my heart stitching itself into the hopes of others.

I’ve longed for a grand amusement set far beyond this bound of land and time. A sacred realm stretched sweetly through the fabric of my soul. Stepping lightly through this world, ears tuned for echoes of Eden.

In the balance, in between. Longing for the memories and events that pierced my heart in the purest sense. Hope that has challenged to never disappoint.

Yes, oh hope-filled girl. Your hope will be challenged, will be battered down. And you will bleed. Oh, how you will bleed.

You will not be the same person as when you began this journey, but you will be better for it. You will survive and stare the miraculous in its startled face.  

She Was A Readheaded Woman

She loved to sing in her bedroom, just before midnight when the world fell asleep but the nocturnal voices drifted through her music.

She worked in a record store, jamming to Jimmy Hendrix and smiling at the boys who browsed the rows of vinyl. At times she would slip into one of the listening booths and slide the headphones over her ears, turn up the volume and fall asleep to the drowsy longing of Jeff Buckley’s “Lover, You Should Have Come Over.”

Her favorite food was cucumber sushi. She’d buy a plate of it from the local market and let the clustered rice collect on her tongue before tasting the coolness of the veggie. She’d read Proust and imagine she was brilliant.

In winter she’d walk in a midnight blue jacket, puffed like a marshmallow and setting the streetlights in imaginary arrangement of a Christmas tree entrapping the city. She’d sip a salted caramel hot chocolate and let the creamy cocoa spill through her body, reminding herself that she doesn’t need arms around her to block the wind’s cruel chill.

There was a man, once. One who lasted for two years and earned the privilege of seeing her in all her vulnerability. He was an architect by day, painter by night, and struggled to break the balance between them, to tip the scales in favor of one over the other. He moved to Saint Louis and packed his brushes and pencils in boxes that were never opened again, just buried deep inside a closet in the one room apartment he rented while he designed dream homes for wealthy lawyers. She never got over him losing his passion.

Sometimes she wondered where life was going, where her currents would sweep her to. Her parents asked if she was ok, if she was still set financially. Maybe it’s time you get a real job, they told her, gently, as if the harsh words could be softened with a smile. She thanked them for their concern, then stopped in a coffee house to grab a mocha.

Real job. Real life. Real problems. What was reality, anyway?

The pulsing in her heart as she listens to a new song for the first time. The lull of the subway car as she watches houses and children pass in a blur. When her heart beats in time and she dances in the park, dusky shadows swaying alongside her and the pieces of autumn in her hair that turn amber in light’s lullaby.

The presence of this life inside her grows so full she makes no room for sadness in its chambers.

Above the Waterline

They say to trust the Lord and He will help get you through your struggles. But I think that’s something the superficial Christians say to keep them from truly experiencing the underside of God, the side where your heart is a razor cutting into the tender hope laid bare in the bones of your soul. When you are breaking every day, a constant thorn in your side that does not seem to be getting any better or going away any time soon. My heart bleeds for the impossible, and I cannot just turn off the way I feel. My head says trust the Lord because He works all things out for me, but my heart, that bruised, lonely piece of me where real life seeps in, it is not so sure, cannot see the other side because it takes every ounce of energy just to take another step.

Trust, to me, is tiny. It’s baby steps. It’s all I can do to place one shaky foot in front of the other. One breath from my lungs into another. It’s holding my eyes above the waterline, refusing to submerge under the sea. It’s deciding to see God’s goodness in the mundane, for only the moment stretched at my fingertips.

I have to keep telling myself to breathe. I have to literally remind my lips to part and exhale the air I’d been subconsciously trapping within, holding off my heart.

Today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow and that’s all I know. In the bowels of the bad and breaking, it has to be a moment by moment walk with my hand stitched to His. It is one tiny whisper of trust, and then another.

Carried Closer

Here I sit, middle of a sun-drenched park with sweet scent of hibiscus heightened by the fresh fall of overnight rain. Sky spread robin’s egg blue before me in loose canopy, fat firs and lithe oak growing into their bark-skin, this is my normal solitude, the kind that curls around my soul and warms me in quiet.

Yet as beautiful as this scene is, and how I am a small, breathing part of it, I do not sit satisfied. God and I, we have been exploring the inner-yearnings of my heart, gently exploding truths into me and safely exposing my desires, my needs, the longings I have long locked dormant. This is self-discovery in this raw form, rare bones of breathing in the new tears in my universe that free me from bondage and into acceptance that this humanness—this womanhood—is actual design and deemed okay from my Creator. Because He knows how I am made—He wired me this way—and I am, for the first time in my scared, shriveled life and always afraid to reattach with my heart, allowed to let these longings in, rub them around my fingers and pull my ear close to listen to what they have to say.

Sometimes alone no longer is enough. When I have a God-placed hunger within for communion, for connection, for the pull of my soul towards another’s, I am taking this new trail as far as it will carry me.

Wind runs its hands along the grass, cups my face. Errant bikers pedal slow and lazy, nowhere intentional to be. The hair on my skin trembles like antennas for my insides. For the length of my years alone has been alright with me. But not today. Not any longer.

Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires, Song of Songs 2:7 reminds me. But it has woken me, and I never noticed its wings unfurl until the pressing beat has brushed my heart alive.

My lungs inflate, balloon against my rib cage, slowly settle. Faith. Hope. Love. But the greatest of these is love, which is calm, patient, kind, always trusting.

Movement in the water. Sparks on the shore. Stirring in the air, circling my heart. Fluid patterns dripped into this mysterious current, one I am willing and eager to lift into and be carried closer to you.

Redemption Song

The Lord redeems all things.

The week that stretched an eternity, knocked away my energy and crashed my computer, accounting for endless hours on the phone, troubleshooting with tech support, taking it in to a repair shop and saying the internal is fried and all my documents and photos, erased—this has been a test of endurance, a realignment of perspective and what matters. No matter what, God is good, and I will hold fast to Him.

After six hours yesterday on the phone with a tech who helped us with a factory reboot so my computer magically runs as if it was brand new, with a clean slate with nothing on it, I was ready to piece documents from an old external drive and what I had emailed to myself over the weeks. But Eric called me over, and we looked at the screen to find it all safely tucked in a cloud-like folder. Hidden and protected somewhere in the sky high above our heads. And now, when I signed in to my account, it all just suddenly was there.

I have no explanation, but I give all praise to God that through this incredibly confusing and frustrating week, He taught us many things, and assured us that He protects, defends, and redeems His children.

A redemption song my soul gladly sings in the middle of a sun-bright morning. He is always good, even in the midst of trial. He is faithful, even when circumstances try to shake our belief. But we remember what matters, what truly lasts—relationship with Him, gratefulness for what we already have, and the privilege to love others well.//

Hallelujah, I have my “life” back with the surprise reappearance of everything. Hallelujah, He has been with me, proving yet again that when I am so very weak, He is strong. He is strong so I can boast all the more gladly in my weakness, showing God for who He is—Protector, Provider, Sustainer, and so much more.

He indeed redeems all things.

 

 

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

Stand Wherever I Am

Tired after just day three back to work and counseling this morning. I’m feeling the effects of the week, up again in the night, thinking and heaving through fears and emotions. But I had a good talk with one of the baristas this afternoon at the cafe, talk of hope and hurt and the will to keep going. This is a reminder to hold fast.

Good. You are good, Papa. In my tiredness, in my fears and suppressed emotions, in my doubts. And You allow rest for restoration.

I’ve been off pace. Show me the right cadence, I briefly pray. And soon enough, I find my response in the vein-like pages of a poetry book I’ve picked up and am combing through.

Sometimes I need
  only to stand
    wherever I am
          to be blessed,

-Mary Oliver, “It Was Early”

 

Poetry is a textbook God uses to teach me beauty and reverence. This alone could be my prayer that reminds me to see and worship where I am, see the small, see the beauty, see the good.

 

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This is part of an ongoing series that will share excerpts of my book-in-progress, tentatively titled Grappling for Good: Revealing grace to light the dark. It’s my journey through a year of unexpected circumstances and soul excavation to discover the goodness of God in surprising ways.

Elements of Silence

Today’s the kind of day where the damp goes straight to your bones.

Where the wind laughs wildly and slaps the waves of Lake Michigan and makes them jump ten feet in the air.

Where rain and snow merge amidst the clouds and storm to earth as slick and sharp sleet. Like your skin’s stitched with daggers.

The boards of this house creak and rock like a ship sloshing through the mass of water. Cold filters through the windows as if there are no panes at all.

I keep the lights off and let the muted gray move its way through the halls; pace the room and collect the silence, save the howl.

Howl.

Is that what this noise in me is doing?

Looking for you in all the wrong places and lashes out in frustration when you’re nowhere to be found? When the truth slips my feet from under me and turns me upside down?

Wind rolls sideways, upturning the tree branches. The sky is turning slate quicker than I would have thought. Can I light a candle not in remembrance, but to forget?

Let the elements roll in. Limbs become submerged in ice and face turns to the tide. At breakwater’s edge atop this hill that holds these howls for what has been, I drink the mist into my eyes, translucent fuse of fog and dusk, become a myth, the silence.