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.

Who Indeed Restores

You are a restoring God. You number and name the stars, and You know our names, too. You care, You pay attention.

 

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
-Psalm 147:3

 

I want to believe in good things. I want to get excited for what is coming, look forward in expectancy. Such a battle.

Trust is a choice. So is hope. They are also mandates, but it’s a choosing in my heart. Choosing to believe that You are good. Choosing to believe that You have good things for me. Choosing to be expectant, to look in positive anticipation for what You are going to do, what You are bringing.

Such a battle. But You, O LORD, are my banner and strength, the God who indeed restores.

 

***

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.

Recoil

Why do I recoil against life here?

Why am I refusing to let go of my life plans and expectations? Why am I clinging so tightly? Why can I not just open to what is here and embrace what God may have for me? Why am I having such a problem releasing things to God? I stiff-arm.

It feels like my glass box of expectations has been taken out of my hands and cast to the ground and shattered. And I don’t know what to do with it.

Let it go.

Let go.

 

But what’s the point in having plans and hopes and expectations if they don’t come to pass? I feel if I let go of my expectations for my life, then I will be settling for a second-tier life, and I don’t want to settle.

 

“Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”   -Matthew 10:39

 

Why even have hopes and plans in the first place if I have to let them go? And what kind of life will I get in return?

Right now, I have more questions than acceptance.

 

I will not doubt, though all my ships
at sea
come drifting home with broken
masts and sails;
I will believe the Hand that never fails,
From seeming evil works to good for me.
And though I weep because
those sails are tattered,
still will I cry, while my best hopes
lie shattered:
“I trust in Thee.”

-Streams in the Desert

 

***

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.

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.

This, Too, Shall Pass

It’s fitting, the fog outside my window. Mirrors my insides. Mist, milky gray, hovering. This, too, shall pass, but now I’m stuck smack dab in the mire.

In the middle of March, it’s no longer the winter terror that took its place over our state, spring is weak, but she is coming. The warmer temperatures (anything is warmer than the teens we’ve been used to), melts the mounds of snow to smaller bumps, trickles trails of water down the street, softens up the dirt, churning to mud. It’s ugly, it’s messy, branches strewn all over the place that were long buried. This is a mess, the shift between seasons.

And this is where I am, in the in-between, hardly moving. Wrapped in a listless haze while my heart deconstructs a great many distortions.

O LORD, You have searched me
and You know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
-Psalm 139:1-2

Is it wrong to want more? To break out of the vanilla, the blah, and break forth the zest of life.
Somehow, I don’t think it is.
Somehow, I think God is calling me, is calling all of us, to more.
More of His goodness.
More of His grace.
More of His trust.
More of His love.
The ache of knowing, of being known—this, too, shall pass. It is already shifting into light, into redemption and restoration. The call for more—a pass from what if into what already is.

***

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.

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.

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.

 

***

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.

Trying

Main door open so just the screen is closed. I can hear the birds singing this morning. It’s not quite warm enough to sit on the porch, but the fresh air can come in. And I get the gleam of the lake, too.

I want to keep trying to be brave. I want to keep trying to be honest.

I reach for words that will comfort, that will remind me that I am not alone and the winter won’t last.

 

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and take heart
And wait for the LORD.
-Psalm 27:13-14

 

Spring is coming.

It’s already literally here with the season. But the spring of my heart–Your healing work, hope, life, life in full–I hope that spring is coming. It may be a way off, but I hope it is at least in motion, is coming my way, even if it crawls.

It is so hard for me to hope. But I am trying. Oh Lord, You know I am trying.

 

***

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.

Slow Reminder

Spice and fullness of coffee steams and drips from the brewer. That hearty life-saving scent fills the kitchen and living room this morning, where I sit perched in an oversize plush chair with so much to sift through and nothing to say.

It’s been so long since I’ve assessed my heart with words. I hardly recognize the different feel of each emotion, each ripple of hope or sadness, recalling memories I make hard for myself to remember.

Sometimes I can’t bring up the recent past so I make myself busy. If I’m in a constant flurry, there’s no room to see what once was and how much I miss.

I let life here overtake me.

I am tired of trying for the other way. Nothing ends up as I’d like, evidence that the control of life was certainly never mine.

My mug is now nestled in my hand, fingers curled around the handle. There are times when I cannot understand how this is my life, how I seem to be so far away from where I’ve wanted to be. How I keep trading steps forward and back.

Easter is coming soon. Resurrection. Beginning. Life. Do I ask for my own death with Christ so I can come alive? Become empty in attempt to be filled?

To empty myself and make room for another—this is the gift, I realize as I sip slow. The slow reminder to say thanks.