Untangle My Chest

I wake to a new day, sleep still lingering in my eyes. As my body stirs, so does my mind, doing a mental scan of my thoughts and emotions. I notice, again, the weight in my chest, gaining strength. It’s been the pattern for weeks, my constant companion in my waking hours. Frustration settles, as I prepare to battle through another day weighed down.

This invisible heavy hand has a hold of my heart, presses down, keeps joy from rising, from excitement growing.

I’m a tangled metal knot with no idea how to lift the oppression. It’s debilitating—how does it dissipate?

I share this with Eric as I brew the coffee, kettle boiling, beans ground into powder for my pour over. He takes me face in his hands and leans me in close, nuzzles my nose.

“It’s like a tangled fishing line,” he explains, the man familiar among open water. “There can be many knots—big ones that take a lot of line, small, tight ones that seem almost impossible to sort. But you work them out, massage the line. It takes time, and you have to be patient, but eventually the knots loosen and come undone, and you’ve got a full, clean line again. Sometimes you have to clip, sometimes you lose a hook, but eventually it works out, if you take the time and care.”

I stare into his blue eyes, still sleepy in their own right, but true and focused, soft. His next words are almost a whisper. “That’s what God’s doing with you. You are uniquely made and it’s beautiful. Something’s gotten tangled inside, and He’s sorting it out with His own hands, helping you untangle.”

I hold to his words, wondering. That’s a new picture I’ve never drawn before. The tender process of becoming undone to be pieced together. The strong and nimble fingers of my Lord, massaging out the clump of knots crimping my life flow. Bending close, breath on my face as He studies what has curled to choke me inside, maneuvers each strand to slip free.

It’s in this intimacy where I find my God Immanuel, the One who wants to be with me. If I lean in, allow Him His work, I find His presence, find healing strength in Him.

Make a Way in Me

You hear, O LORD, the desire of the 
afflicted;
You encourage them, and You
listen to their cry.
-Psalm 10:17

 

You are faithful, even in the midst of the raging storm. You are the God who calms the seas; surely, You can calm the sea in me.

Calm the raging sea in me; say to my mind and soul, “Peace, be still.”
Help me to be still and know Your goodness, Your timing, Your ways, Your presence. Joy and hope amidst the hard, my God. I ask for joy and hope, a sound mind and secure heart.

You are my firm foundation and I climb on top to stand, however unsteady my hands and feet. You are the One who sees and knows all the swirls within me. And You love me, though it’s hard to feel. But faith is not based on sight, but stepping one foot in front of the other in the unknown, choosing to trust You are over all, You are over me.

Be over me, my God. My good Father, whose plans for my life are good, for hope and a future. You are making way for my good future. Just help get me through the storm, get in the boat and soothe me to sleep as You slice through the waves, guiding me. God, steer me through. God, calm me through the middle of the water, when there is no shore in sight, when I tremble with fear and am frantic for land.

Be in the boat with me. You know these waters well. You know me well; call out my name and speak to my deep places where You know better than I do what I need. You know what I need, my Counselor and Comfort.

You are my fixed point on a shaky axis. Rescue me, out of Your great mercy. Restore me through the suffering. Give me Your grace for today, but bring hope to my heart and healing to my body, mind and soul. You are able, and You are near.

Faithful One, be faithful to me. I want to see You, hear You, know and experience You in deeper and new ways. I want a way out, yes, but I want You too.

 

**

Read the rest over at Awake Our Hearts!

Wait

It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
-Luke 23:54

 

We wait for You, we wait through the grave, the darkness, the disappointment. We wait holding our breath, the stillness of our lungs matching Yours. Such uncertainty in these moments, not sure how it will end.

You lay silent, also waiting. “It is finished,” You said, but we do not know what that means. So we wait with You, disbelief still pooling in our eyes, willing You to come back, evidence of otherwise rolled and sealed with a stone.

We prepare the burial spices with shaky hands, hearts numb with the weight of what we’ve seen. You were the One to save, and we are left bewildered, wanting.

We do not understand that it is finished means all is right, restored. Slowly, in the tick of hours as everything lay suspended, an unfolding begins, prepares.
You are coming again, like You said, and You are changing everything.

We wait, ready ourselves for another day, distracted by our sorrow. We forget to lift our eyes to the horizon, count the days and fasten to the dawn that draws near. “Hold on,” our hearts cry out, “just a little longer.” Our tears will dry; something shifts when we are least expectant.

Wait, You have reminded us.
There will come an exhale.

Resurrection Within

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
-John 11:25-26

 

Resurrection never proved so daring.

My dead heart, and how I search for any sign of life within.

But You are in the business of miracles. Of new creation, restoration, calling forth what once was waste now into wonder.

How to hope? How to hold my dreams in my hand? How to believe You see all of me and yearn to breathe fresh feeling into my bones? For so long I’ve been stale of heart, glossed it over, shrunk it away. This life has burned its flesh, scarred my soul and terrified me to try living with my heart again.

To know no emotion is to know nothing at all.

For so long I have merely existed, no nod to beauty that You bring before me, no allowance of lips spread in smile, or true joy full in the springs of my soul.

It is torment to trust You with my most delicate pieces. I am so afraid that You will learn my secret desires and struggles, coax me from my fear, and shatter me again. And so I sit and watch the world go by, each sight seen without eyes, each sense felt with no touch. Scar tissue grows on me like climbing ivy. If I do not allow You to intervene, soon it will wrap around the throat of my heart and choke me. I ask to live; I don’t want to fall asleep breathing toxins of indifference into my lungs.

You say to trust You with all my heart. Its frailty, its hurt, the past that has stung and the future that has not yet touched me. Faith fixed on You, imploring me to bare open in nakedness once more.

I do not know how to live without detaching head from heart, how to stop myself and listen for the quiet beats, its voice stirred alive by the promise of who You are. How to gently stroke its sleeping form and whisper, “Awake, my heart.” Pull back the curtain on a new day that dawns with whatever You choose to share with me, hand in Yours, steady breath, willing to bleed and break and build back up because You offer soothing balm.

Let me listen. May I not forget my heart in the madness that is life. May I remember to let it lead the way, the route that finds its journey with You.

The wind stirs soft beneath my breast. To feel is to face the true grit of grace. Here I plunge from the ledge, leap into the abyss. Hand over my heart, fall onto You to carry every pound of my weight. And as I slip with no ground beneath me, I pry the lock from my stone heart and give permission to venture forth with feeling. To encounter it all, to be known by You in the marrow of this risk. It is a daring faith to let You lead. But I am ready. I am willing. It is time. It is time long overdue.

Come, awake, my heart. Speak your mind. Tell me what I dream to hear. Wander free. Raise in me a greater depth to share the ebb and flow of God’s pulse along my currents. Come awake so I may live, and live in full.

 

 

My heart has been on standby for a long time. Stuck in autopilot, keeping quiet for fear of being hurt and broken again. So much disappointment, disbanded dreams, pain and surprises. My fragile heart longs to lift in hope. Lift my heart, Lord. Open it to listen, to hear Your gentle voice full of truth and grace. I long to place my full weight of trust on You once more. Amen.

His Light, A Loosening

In obedience to the Lord, you may find yourself in the darkness, but do not panic, for He will bring you the light you need at just the right time.
-Warren Wiersbe, Be Comforted

I struggle with where I am, fight with a tightness in my chest, a veil over my heart. This dim light of a season of fatigue, head fog, and anxiety stretches on, longer than I ever would have imagined. This is not something of my choosing, but God knows this. He knows the inside of my heart, the private corners I don’t even like to share with myself. He sees my scared heart, my fears that force their way into my head, the patterns of thinking I can’t seem to stop.

But there is hope. He has guaranteed it. And I am an active participant in this stretching, this suffering. These growing pains result in my good, even in the middle of this process. Even when there’s no timeframe that shows the end. But it will not last forever. He is providing for me right here, right now. Holding on to me when I have no strength to cling on my own.

I lift my heart, my mind, to the sky that is a settling blue today. It’s been so gray for so long, low-hanging clouds dampening the view.

 

For with You is the fountain of life;
in Your light we see light.
-Psalm 36:9

Your light, the glow that brings illumination in the darkness. You have led me into this darkness, the bleak caverns that cover my sight, but You have also given me Yourself, a guiding light that leads me out into the life You have in store, one that results in my good and Your glory.

Every day, I have a choice. To curl up and feebly live through the day, or fight for the faith I know is there despite what I cannot see. Faith becomes sight, and the sliver of light He gives today will grow brighter tomorrow. It’s the mindset of more, more trust, more faith, more of Him making a way. With the God of the universe beside me, what can I truly fear?

Today I am choosing to hold to the light, to stay my eyes on a blue sky. God is faithful. The dark does not last. I open to that tightness in my chest, acknowledge my fear, my disappointment, and I give grace to myself that I have not allowed in a long time. Grace grows to acceptance, a release of burdens I was never meant to bear.

Believe His presence is the fountain of sustaining waters springing forth in my soul. Believe His light is strong enough to penetrate the blackest night.

When I don’t understand, I choose to obey anyway. At just the right time, His light breaks through and goodness will once again flood my soul. Joy will come in the morning. Sorrow gives way to singing. In my weakness, His strength becomes my lifeline. He brings His light, right on time. I take hold to this comfort and let my chest expand a little more, allow a loosening, release.

Heart on Display

I am still confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the LORD

in the land of the living.

-Psalm 27:13

 

Why can I not open up to God with the deep, close things of my heart? I know I want to, but I hold Him at arm’s length at times, keeping my fears and hurts well hidden. There is a link between hoping and waiting. Hope involves groaning, longing. And those longings are stretched and laid bare in the waiting; I am helpless to cover up and hide them. As I wait, I hold open my heart, into those deep places where I want to find comfort and healing and answered prayers.

How much longer can I keep my heart on display? How much longer can I believe that God will make a way, that He will respond and show me His goodness here in the land of the living?

What does His goodness look like?

I turn on a podcast my friend Molly suggested I listened to. Molly, in all her counselor wisdom, points me to the sharpness in my spirit and gives words to the pain.

Hope is letting yourself want.  -Adam Young “Why Your Story Makes It Hard To Hope” podcast episode

Does it make sense to hope? Do I let myself want? Do I use my guttural cries to make myself expectant? Believe? I don’t think so. But part of me desperately wants to, so I keep listening.

In Psalm 27:13–it is before I die, in this life, God will hear my cry and give me what I long for.  -Adam Young

Life within the life. But what about my desires for my life versus God’s? Could they ever match up?

Adam continues to present truths and my ears sharpen to the list.

Living in hope requires three things to happen at the same time:

  1. Bringing our specific longings and desires to God
  2. Expecting God to meet those desires
  3. Wrestling with how He can be a good Father when He hasn’t met the desire yet

 

When disappointments pile up, it creates questions about God, doubts, anger, and resentment. When repeated disappointments make longing for something painful, the tendency is to kill the desire. 

He’s speaking right to me. Yup. I’ve tried to deaden my desire. Over and over.

His next words shake me: But it’s also a deadening of hope in God to do the miraculous.

This hits me sharp, sudden reminder of what I’m inadvertently cutting off. Adam follows up with how when we repeatedly have disappointments, they automatically build to cynicism. Thinking it won’t happen, whatever “it” is.

What can I hope for from God in the here and now? I war against hope–I try to stuff it down or kill it, but somewhere deep down won’t let me. God has put a safety switch in my heart so when I am down at the bottom, my dear, broken heart can realign and grow again.

It begins with barrenness, then buds, and then the bloom.

 

***

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.

Come and Rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

There’s a settled quiet in the bedroom. An occasional car passes on the main street outside the window. I am waking from a nap, my husband, Eric, asleep on the living room couch: a merciful calm from the wild savagery that is COVID-19.

Though it’s late afternoon, dark is already deepening shadows through the apartment. I feel it in me, the cold and black beyond the curtains.

This soreness runs deep as I try to catch my bearings, breathe. Reprieve, I pray, lifting my heart to God, with no strength left. Mercy. Jesus, Your rest.

COVID-19 came for us swiftly and mercilessly. As we do what we can while waiting to be healthy again, one of the things we crave most is that elusive rest that is part of the healing process. We long for an alleviation of the virus and are reminded of the fragility of our bodies.

Craving rest is natural. We all run around and work ourselves into a frenetic pace that will eventually forcibly slow us down or cause our inner “check engine” light to turn on. Whether it’s physical, emotional or spiritual rest, we know there has to be another way.

Jesus has been imploring us for years to find this way. It’s fairly easy to find if we pause and hear the words He’s whispered for centuries:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

He doesn’t ask us to do anything other than to simply come to Him, however burned out or burdened we are, and spend time in His presence. Who isn’t weary? Who isn’t in need of this rest? Jesus is the right refreshment and nourishment we crave. He’s well aware of our overworked hearts and stretched lifestyles and has a softer, gentler way for us.

**

I’m beyond humbled and honored to share about my need for deep soul rest at Proverbs 31 today: will you join me and hear about the rest Jesus offers?

 

Snowflakes and Sunlight

Out for a run on this mid-March day and it’s a balmy 30 degrees here in Wisconsin. Lungs burning in a good way from being outside, fighting the wind, giving my legs room to stretch and move. It’s cloudy, mirroring my season of what seems like an endless winter. Snowflakes swirl through the sky. As I round the turn in the park by the river, ice still half frozen on the water, with some space open to house ducks and geese, I feel an odd sensation on my face. I look up: sunlight and a patch of blue sky between the gray.

Spring is coming, both to this earth and to my spirit. I am in-between the seasons, and it’s symbolic as I run, pound my feet on pavement, believing God will make a way. I have still both the snow and the gray and the cold clouds in my life, through the anxiety and fear and fatigue. But a new sky is growing in me, making a way for warmer life ahead. The blue breaking through the clouds, the stream of sunlight amidst the snowflakes, this is where I am inside. This is where God is growing me and taking me from this season of suffering not that is yet finished. It is still present, but bringing hope, renewed joy as I lift my eyes and look to the Lord, these blue skies parting to pull in puffs of white again in the sky. It is good. He is here. He is doing a work, a good, deep, growing work. Within the bad, He is blending beauty.

I believe He is making a way. I am standing on His Word, His truth, His character, His promises, and His Spirit, alive within me. I don’t know what He’s doing, and we are not done in this season of scarcity, but He is creating a supple bounty in my soul and spirit. As I look ahead and thank and praise Him for taking me from where I’ve been.

I’m living in the not quite yet, but longer am I planted in the what has been.

Snowflakes and sunlight.

Suffering and strength.

Brokenness and beauty.

Everything rolls together like the cadence of the clouds, mixing and moving like a choreographed dance of dichotomy.

 

Spring is coming. Here comes the shift of my heart and mind, making a way for blue beyond these clouds.

Appearing in the Flames

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 
Exodus 3:2

The Lord, appearing in the flames, the fire.

To refine, protect, to show up in the scorch of suffering.

He’s all about intimacy, desirous of deeper relationship. He will use all situations to draw us to His heart. Including a bush that burns deep in the wilderness, where there seems to be no way.

But He has been here, with me, even when it’s been intolerable, unbearably painful.

He is here with you, nestled in the bush, bearing with you in your burden.

Take off your sandals, for where you stand burns holy.

Open up your heart, bare your worry, your struggle, and let the flames purify.

He is here, with us when we can no longer feel our way through. The flames do not go out; they burn but will not consume.

God is faithful through our fears; His flame flickers holy. Be bare before Him; there is purpose in this pain. The Holy One transforms the hard to holy ground.

 

Heavy Winter, Hopeful Dawn

This has been a heavy winter. It’s felt especially dark, challenging, confusing, and stacked with suffering. This whole world heaves its weary chest, ragged breaths drawn from a rundown stretch of months, years.

We all have our pain, our heaviness, the rise and fall of fear and anxiety, the spread of questions gone unanswered, relief seemingly far off. Where do we run to find our way? The way seems run down.

But hope will not stay buried. Even when it’s piled down, hope still springs, still gives a lift to the weight. It shifts the heaviness from our shoulders, loosens the grip we have on weariness, angst, anger, grief, and confusion. Like the turn of light now in the later evening sky, God stays illuminated longer. We lift our eyes to the streaks of color turning in the sky, trace the outline of pines and oaks in the distance and choose to say, “Come, Lord Jesus. Be our refuge. Give us Your yoke you promise is easy.” He promises to exchange our heavy for His lightness, His Spirit gentle as He soothes our sores.

We’ve all been so sore for a long time, and we are done with it. This heavy won’t subside, but we can hand it off to the One whose shoulders are meant to carry it.//

Yes, it’s been a heavy winter. But up ahead holds a hopeful dawn. Spring is coming. The light is here. We’ve been waiting for weeks and months, and now, true to the natural rhythm of this world, time shifts, light shifts, and the biting wind and ice subside. Hallelujah, let that light come to melt this frozen world, melt frozen hearts, and warm the ones who just want to get out of the elements and stop their shivering.

Give us relief, our great God. We shouldn’t feel this heavy. We long for the softness and strength of Your arms, the pastel promises of the sky that brighter days are ahead.

 

 

**

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