Emeralds of Earth

Restless.

Soul shocked in discomfort. Nothing satisfies, nothing sates my thirst.

Jump in my car, windows down, sun roof hatched, music through the speakers. Ditch the condensed city structures for country roads, open air. Span of land that stretches on and on, rolling up and over smooth bumps of earth that spray across the soil.

Two roads diverge at a stop. I coax the wheel left, keep driving, foot on the gas, ease the grip on my heart. Small town appears from nowhere, old shops of downtown, half abandoned, half holding on to the history that built a community from the ground up. Brake into a park, kids spread on ballfields, not enough numbers to form a league, so practice on a Sunday afternoon brings parents to the stands to watch.

Gravel trail at the edge of the park clearing, canopied by tall trees I’ve missed so I have almost forgotten how to crane my neck in wonder. Sturdy ground beneath my feet, I take the trail weaving through open sky and tall grass, hugging the bank of a wide creek that hums easy as the water smooths itself over stone. Chirp of birds relaxed in branches; some black feathered free themselves into the sky, beautiful synchronized liftoff.

Deeper through I go, noting the slap of ball to glove and calm grace it takes to be absolutely still and let the day unfold. Wind speaks to the grass overgrown to a sea of mint; they bow their heads to hear what she has to say. My feet keep the time languid; I do not pick up speed, nor do I slow down.

Around a curve of rooted trees slanting from the creek embankment, a bench beckons. My body folds into its seat and breath slips freely from my lungs, jumps from my lips. Distanced from everything, I am again a little girl lost away from the world. It is a hard thing, searching for God. But the very moment I stop seeking, He brushes a hand across my heart and says, “Here I am.”

Sweet scent of sun on skin, dry and harvested from my flesh filled with the nutrients of nature. Brilliance of green, dappled light cascading through a chandelier of leaves. Cluttered thoughts dissolve in the silence. I have spun myself tight in knots trying to make sense of my life, and in a few slow moments of sitting under tree and sky I am unraveled, loosened by the presence of a God who sees and knows how to hold my heart.

This is enough. To arch my spirit into the emeralds of earth, converse with the Creator of meadow and moss, and settle into the unseen particles of the universe—my universe—soundwaves and matter. Here, in the thicket of nothingness, all makes sense.

Quiet. Faint strum of heart. Lulled to life by soft pulse of solitude. Reading of the holiness of God, He gently guides my eyes to the vines that wrap their limbs around damp soil, fallen bark. For once I am reminded how to feel, the expanse of God’s mystery swollen in the pools of my eyes. The revealing of my heart to just be abounds.

It is good. Breathe in. Static crackles, stills. Undisturbed, the dance of clarity comes forth with calm steps. All settles, without one word spoken. Without breaking the bond of eternity, holiness glides on finite moments, gold-dusted truth touching beyond all expanse between mere body and blood. Belonging bursts; I am called to an other-worldly understanding right where I’ve been drifting before I even came to be.

Restless no more. This gemmed rest renews.

For Me

It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.
-Daniel 4:2

 

For Sarah, You kept a promise to fill her barren lands with fertile soil, producing an heir and assuring her heart of hope.

For Moses, You made his mumbles move Egyptian mountains, pulled back the curtains of the sea to let Your glory gleam a path of rescue.

For Rahab, You sent Your spies into her sultry lair and softened her heart to save her life, to keep her family from crumbling with once impenetrable walls.

For David, You took a shepherd boy and anointed his head with dripping oil, sealing his service to the power of Your kingdom.

For Esther, You held an orphan in Your arms and presented her as Queen of a nation, Your mouthpiece to save Your people.

And for Daniel, You sealed the mouths of mighty beasts and kept their claws from the skin of one who refused to bow before any name but Yours.

For me, You heard a lonely cry and caught my tears pulling me to Your protection and the warmth of Your light.

For me, You walked across the universe and slipped into a waiting world, speckled Your sandals with dust and dreams and took the trail to my redemption.

For me, You called my name upon the cross, carrying my soul through the cosmos to touch the door of death, so You would keep me at the threshold, never allowed to enter.

For me, You reached towards my trembling mouth and set Your speech upon my lips, growing my gladness at Your grace.

For me, You claimed me as Your own and bound me to Your side, where I will stay with sweet certainty and promised peace.

 

Father God, the Most High in the heavens, I thank You for the miracles and wonderful works You have done for Your people! Throughout history You have had Your hand upon Your servants and have led them to You. But what is unfathomable is that You remembered me through the generations, that You called my name to make me Yours. Let me marvel at Your grace and make my life point to You. Amen.

 

Grit and Mercy

Though flames dance and rise
around my tender flesh,
I do not fear the scorch.
There is a cooling hand
that holds my own;
One stands with me
in the middle of the blaze.
God, You are the
Wounded Healer,
the One who has
been burned;
You know well how
to bear scars.

You are here with me,
alone together.
I bear this burden
as You promise
to keep the bladed flames
from engulfing.
You are my shadow
of grit and mercy.

Place of My Own

I am not meant for the fast-paced whirl of the world, for loud sounds and shifting ideas, for the roar of motorcycles out my window, blast of exhaust and engines, crowds of people.

My pace—my soul—is slow, takes its time to expand and receive the world in quiet breaths, savored moments. The tapping of leaves against the wind, ruffle of bird feather, the pull of rain down a heather gray sky. To sit and pay attention, to invest deeply in a few valued relationships, to immerse myself in a small community—this is what fuels me, energizes in the right way. Nature was carved by God and so am I; we are linked in an eternal purpose following the here and now. The slow way of life allows me to notice, to examine, to unearth my feelings, the way of the world and my place in it.

Do not give me a rush, a schedule, an examination. Rather, set me in the middle of a limestone beach, the crest of a jutting cliff, the glass water of Lake Michigan, and let my heart fill, form and feel. Let me wander for the sake of wandering, to pause and praise the One who made the shape of my spirit and set eternity in my mind, one slow breath at a time. //

Languid, listening to the murmur of stars, stretched across time. No hurry, no order, simply being present. This is my gift, my design.

When we slow down, we see, and I don’t ever want to lose my sight. The day is for wonder, and so is dusk, and the deep evening shadows. It all has its place, and in the quiet swing of seasons, of scenes, I nestle in and find a place of my own.

 

**

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

Glory in the Good

God is glorified in our suffering, yes. But He is also glorified in the good. Through joy, hope, wonder.

“I will cause all of My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, the LORD, in your presence.”  -Exodus 33:19

He causes all His goodness to pass in front. On purpose. Intentionally and specifically. I swipe my fingers over the thin pages of Exodus over until I reach 2 Peter, find what I’m looking for, and peer in the page:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.  -2 Peter 1:3

Glory and goodness go together. Appear together in the same breath.

I am learning to grow with God is to grow in goodness, that goodness makes way for glory.

Nine months ago, did I know what this was? Nine minutes ago, I didn’t know.

In the confusion and reset and health mountains, adjustments, so much newness. I have never fully experienced His goodness as an intentional set up for the display of His glory.

But this is what God calls us to. What He invites me to experience. Abounding goodness, displayed for His glory.

Back to Genesis, to look closer at Moses and His friendship with God. Moses isn’t satisfied with simply hearing from the LORD; he hungers for more. He dares to ask boldly: “Now show me Your glory.”  (Exodus 33:18) And, in a surprising response, God grants him a portion of his request. No one can see God’s face, but He hides Moses in the cleft of a rock and walk by, allowing him to see His back.

Moses dares to ask.

What do I dare to do? Do I even dare? Is a part of my hindrance to seeing the glory of God my passivity?

Boldness belies the breadth and depth of my faith. Confidence that I can come before Him with whatever I dare to ask. I may find comfort in the crack of a rock, tucked tight to glimpse the goodness of the LORD and His glory.

 

***

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.

Bottle This Life

I have been around the world, seen the beauty of cultures and places I’ve never imagined I’d step through their soil. But there is nowhere that I love more than the home water of Lake Michigan seen from different places up the shoreline.

The billow of smoke swelling into clouds from the power company across the pier. Curve of cross atop the arch of steeple jutting into break of blue sky from the overcast Monday. Dance of white caps disappearing beneath swirl of cobalt and cerulean.

My dad sits across from me in our favorite harbor cafe in a wicker chair with a view of the water. Glass of Diet Coke fizzes in the buoy of ice cubes. He shares more of himself with me than he has in years, honesty flashing behind his humor, glimpse of his inner-wiring seldom shown.

I want to bottle this moment, this life.

Heading back to work for an appointment, he brushes my cheek with a kiss and thanks me for being his daughter. I switch to his seat so I can have the view of the harbor. He waves outside the window, walks across the street with his blue jacket straining in the wind. His life is nowhere near where he thought it would be, but still he steps on, courageous. Isn’t that the truth for all of us?

A cup of three quarters drunk cocoa stands open on the table, lid face up with remnants of whipped cream, milk, and chocolate. I sip through the cooled liquid.

Here comes a boat speeding from the open water, waves of white spray spread behind like the train of a wedding gown. I miss the rhythm of the lake, cadence of community. Familiar warmth of nipping cold that bites early spring.

I am fully myself here and I don’t even have to think about it. I just breathe. I just am.

Dad snaps a picture of me on his phone through the glass. I am sitting in his chair, cup outstretched in greeting, grin etched on my lips, while behind him is a layer of parked cars and a sliver of blue from the breakwater. He eyes his phone and smiles at the image, and I keep smiling, watching him capture this blink of time.

That Elusive Wonder

It’s bright in the camper cabin, starting at six. I manage to roll back to sleep a few times until the lure of seagulls and other birds calling to each other and the slow motor of boats heading out to the open water pulls me from the bed.

I try out the new by-hand coffee grinder, which is already a game changer, I can tell, brew my Chemex, sit my Bible on my lap, and look straight at God’s promise for me this year.

You have made known to me the
path of life;
You will fill me with joy in Your
presence,
with eternal pleasures at Your
right hand.

-Psalm 16:11

 

You will fill me with joy

Joy, that elusive wonder I have side-stepped for years, and the claim to be full of it this year. Full. With joy. With the presence of my God.

He is already slowing me down, switching me to a new season. Stepping me out of my nonprofit director role, pulling me to Him to simply be.

The sun has already broken in the wide sky over Lake Michigan, calm and slow the pace of today. Eric sleeps heavy as I bang open the door to let more air dance through the camper. To let more space in to breathe.

There is nothing needed to do today; we get the gift to simply be.

Being is a beauty all in itself we never seem to stop and pay attention to.

We keep to the clamor, the frenzy, and pride ourselves on how crammed we can get ourselves, then wonder why we can’t feel our pulse. We are existing, but are we alive?

I am. At least, I am beginning to be again. It is a beautiful thing to remember how my heart sounds, the words it is allowed to say once more, after so much time stifled and constricted.

My Jeep Cherokee is parked on the grass, its forest green paint reflecting the mint-colored tree above it. This vehicle is new now, a new part of me but has somehow always been there inside. This is a season of discovery, set to explore my soul, give it room to move around and get back to what it’s longed to be. To simply be is the best gift we never knew we needed.

The coffee from my Chemex is smooth and goes down easy. I have a feeling this next stretch of time will be the same.

Cadence

I do not want to be part of the world outside my window. With the people swarming like flies, chittering to one another, purses plastered to shoulders and workout clothes exposing body parts that should be kept for home. I don’t want to be part of the blur of cars pushing through, sound of exhaust and motor always moving. Or dogs barking, their throats in constant use just to alert their owners of another being existing down the street. I don’t want the high-pitched peal of laughter for an alarm clock, or waiting five minutes to cross the great divide of the street.

Instead, give me the sleeping pine trees, slowly waking in a warm bath of sun. Or the wind, trailing its fingers across the tufts of grass and wrinkle of leaves. Give me long grass, peonies with their tight fisted balls blooming when, and only when, they choose to be ready. Give me the glass top of the lake, the diamonds cast across its surface, the deep, vast, cerulean and teal waters. The slow pace, the light jacket of nature that fits perfectly around my shoulders. Give me space to breathe, to be, to let my heart rise and be gentle to itself.

Concrete jungles with their robotic inhabitants do nothing for me. I am not made to be boxed in by buildings and hurry. Throw my soul wide open and get me far away, to the edge of myself, to the edge of the world, and be hidden in the brush, the sloping dunes, the sherbet sky tumbling against the horizon, the warblers and loons to soothe me asleep. This is my cadence: the one that’s set by shooting stars.

Hard to Hold

Heartbeats are hard to hold in the palm of my hand when they are new and slippery and never stay in one place.

But here they are, just out of their plastic wrap, not a fingerprint mark on their surface, brought to life by the warmth of blood beneath my skin. Such innocence. Such amazement. Such determination to show me what it looks like to fully break open and out.

I wonder, what does it look like, to begin again? A new life, a thaw from the frozen fields of my heart battered and upturned? To step into the new world, the people and places that swirl about, unfamiliar shapes and colors, all a blur, everything foreign to my eyes.

At the crossroads of my identity, my heart’s skin is patching up the bones. It’s been such a battle to bring breath back into my lungs, to lock eyes with the landscape around me and dare to believe that I can rework the soil, clear space to cultivate something completely different than the forsaken remains of rubble that once housed my dreams.

God and I, we’ve unearthed the underside of my darkest pain, my scarred memories, smashed soul, and belief hammered down before it could climb into sunlight again. Over and over, I spoke a mantra that He is good, that He is good to me, even when I couldn’t keep tucked secure in faith.

But here I am, waking up one weekend with a wave of fresh air, on the edge of coming into my own in an environment where through and through I am completely alone. Starting over, seeking truth, beginning to understand that this continued path will not be easy. It will be messy, ensnared, rough choices every moment to decide to do work for my heart. Lessons lived, truths learned in earnest, catastrophe and incline.

Will I be taught to tie anchor to His strength and gear up for the battle? To reclaim ground, I must be grounded in the fire beneath my veins, remember how it burned so great within once before.

There are still vast wonders to find. Otherworld treasures that glow in the eternal realm, flicker in the here and now.

How to be bold in the face of the excruciating pain it will take to stand day after day in the open, heart hanging in suspension, exposed and aching. Learn what it means to lean into hope, hold onto it like a lifeline, that even when what I ask for doesn’t answer like I desire, that it is not the end. That it is good, because God deems it so. But to continue to hold out my hands in offering, accepting what instead He has to give.

To take heart, stand with a shield of courage banded in front of me, bravery a voice that had forgotten to share its tone with me for many years. Stand in the face of lions baring teeth like swords, stare them in the eye.

Keep kissing the hurt when I am pushed from my protection, of my natural response to shrink back inside myself and push away. No. This time I stay. I do not drop my gaze; I do not hide my heart. If at first it takes a lie to pretend I am someone stronger than actuality, then so be it. Soon enough, the more I speak to this persona, the more it will embed into my DNA and evolve into truth.

Here I stand, breathing out loud in the quiet. Listening to the way my lips exhale this newness, first blink of daylight in darkness long curtained in timid caverns.

I must begin to fight.

For creativity, the aching in my chest that pops like sparklers in July dusk. It’s been a black and white existence burrowed into my marrow, where once flashed multitude of magic shades. Words pierced me, brought this terrible and beautiful world bright and full when I first bloomed into being.

For love. To walk that road with head up and hands waving, smile sewn across my face. Even when it broke my bones and jaded my rose-colored glasses, dare to cast out fear in perfect love. Turn the spigot, spray me with that crimson stream that grows my desolate places. When love hurts, know the pain reminds me that this body, these organs, all particles unseen, are sparked reminders that I am alive.

Battle up for being brave. Because my heart, my hope, my faith, my soul, will take hit after hit, knockdown after disappointment. I want to know how to retain the courage to keep moving. To plow forward with confident determination that though I stumble, I will not veer.

Fight to feel. Break barriers to believe. Fresh cleanse from the musty attic of words I would not say. Refuse to fold. Trust Him alone who heals my hurt, makes all things new. To begin again is to behold the blank canvas, the color wheel, the first slide of step that lights the way.

I am the walking miracle regaled in stories whispered in awe around the world. Believe this. Begin again.

Know Your Worth

Breathe this in: you are perfect as you are. God doesn’t see imperfection, so stop berating yourself on what you perceive are flaws. Know how much He loves you. Know how delighted in you He is. Know your worth.

I praise You because I am fearfully
and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
-Psalm 139:14

When your mind is tempted to tear yourself down, remember the words you used to sing as a little girl, the line you knew by heart and wholeheartedly believed. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Love yourself. Your Creator does. He took delight in you and rejoices over you with singing, and His creation is always good. This includes you. Wholeheartedly.