Hope Grows Slow

Hope: that long-buried seed you forget about because it’s dormant. Hearing nothing, seeing less.

Weeks pass, then months, and you get used to the feeling of emptiness, a lack of expectation. It becomes your regular as you begin to wonder if this will be reality.

Has the frost destroyed the soil of your heart? Will this always be the way, living muted, on auto pilot, surviving day by day?

You even wonder whether God intends for this new normal and long for His presence and love that seems to lack.

Where, in these barren fields, is He?

**

This winter doesn’t seem to end, even when the first days of spring officially arrive. The ground is still frozen, grass lay brown and brittle, miles of bare branches and zero signs of life. Snow and sleet still pour down, relentless, and the cold is a constant companion.

You get used to the monochrome.

But you cannot underestimate the determination of the seed, deep buried underground. It is meant to do what it was made for; it listens to the One who first dropped it into the earth of such a fledgling heart.

Though it tarries, wait. You cannot rush the work, the becoming. You do not know when or how, but that is not up to you anyway.

Perhaps that seed you wait on is waiting on its own orders, its own cultivation.

**

Hope grows slow. An important metamorphosis is happening in these slogging, messy months and it cannot be rushed. God is all seasons and shaping and for deep and good transformation, and He does not adhere to time like how you cling to it. For Him, the seed is hidden in a safe place, nurtured, protected from the elements until it is ready for release.

God has been saving you.

God has been savoring you.

God has not stopped caring for you every step of the way.

 

**

It’s a joy to be featured over at Agape Review with my creative essay, “Hope Grows Slow” — I would love for you to read and find a seed of hope for yourself: Hope Grows Slow

To Give of My Love

Perfect love casts out fear.  -1 John 4:19

 

“Keep holding out your heart,” You say to me. As if this suggestion will suddenly solve all the pain I’ve worked so hard to ease.

To hang my heart suspended, open, revealed and flesh tender offers it up for continuous misalignment? Not what I have wanted. We have come so far for me to retreat and hide away the core of me, though what You are calling me to is not easy.

To tell the truth, it’s excruciating. To give of my love when it is not returned in the way I desire, to gently encourage another, see them through their own difficulties, when my heart breaks every day because I’ve asked from the start how could it ever end without a battered heart? But I bleed, again and again, for the sake of Your perfect love casting out the fear to flee.

Yet how long, O Lord, will You call me to this constant exposure, this continual brokenness as I bare my soul for the sake of another?

You still hover, motionless, in pause. I still wait, pensive, willing Your move.

How the wait hurts. When there is nothing I can do, simply sit with heart throbbing, worn from its unraveling. The old me has been razed to the ground, leveled, pitched into an abyss. I am not who I was when I said yes to this life, however reluctantly, unaware of the fight and burns that lay ahead.

But I have been as brave as I’ve dared, searching my scorched spaces and staying in the discomfort, digging in to the secrets of my heart and bringing my fears to the table, the timid self that has not been allowed a voice. You’ve coaxed me to admit my desires, to get desperate before you, soul parched for my deepest needs. And You began to bring a newness to my heart I didn’t recognize I needed until one day the veil dissolved before my eyes and I saw in front of me the desires you knit deep inside before my time began.

And now, just as I air my heart’s importance to the front of my days, You hold off on completing my request. Heart hung in uncertainty, clarity of path erased so I literally cannot see the next step in front of me. I feel stuck, though I know You mean for me to move forward with the tender beats of my heart still willing to shine Your love towards the source of sun.

I cannot come out unscathed. Already shaped into someone I do not recognize, I do not remember how my heart beat before it broke. So here I am, told to love as You do, selfless, for another’s wellbeing before my own.

I am willing, but I am also naked before the breath of my heart’s bravery, this hurt as it breaks every day, over again. A cycle of cries begging to be released from this season of extended wait, disappearance of the love I hoped to receive. This is where You tell me to settle. Into the unknown, into the softening of my heart’s skin to believe that You are indeed over that which is completely out of my control.

To love without expectation of return. To steady the flow of blood that streams from my private places and fall onto Your grace when I live and love and have to stare my unfulfilled dreams in the face every day. To trust that You have plans for unfolding my heart inside out, upside down.

But it had better be beautiful. You’d best be breathing it back to life.

Your hovering irritates my already raw heart, as all I feel is the prickle of Your presence. I am not yet stirred to action, yet I don’t know if there ever will be the answer I long to hear.

How long must I love without condition, without return? How long must I be brave to bring my hope and hurt to the life You usher me towards, stay in this undefined state where my heart refuses to fold back into itself?

If I continue to offer my heart open, how will You respond?

Give me strength to love what is now before me, how to gently coax my tender fears, gentle hope to continue when I cannot see, when You call me to face beyond understanding the ways of the heart.

 

Reflection Time:

What does perfect love look like?

How can I combat the fears I have with God’s perfect love?

God, what are You saying to me through this verse?

 

Here I am again, Father, heart hanging in the balance. Again in the unknown, forging forward to live a life I never expected, one I don’t quite know how to handle. Help me, please, to keep my heart open, even when it hurts. Help me to trust You, to know that You are in control over all things. That includes my life, and all that is deep within me. Heal me in this newness, my Lord. Amen.

 

 

Good to Come

Plush grass cushions my body as I shift on my blanket, blue pearl of a sky wraps the dome of Port Washington, harbor full of hulls and bows of sailboats. Lake Michigan spreads wide and comfortable out to the eastern horizon, where a thin line of gray clouds gather low. Sparrows, red-winged black birds, and chickadees play in the air, plunging and rising around the park. Sun rests warm on the back of my neck; out in the distance, white-winged caps of wave flank and furl for speedboats flying across the open water.

This early June day is dipped in what it should be, the delight of a drowsy, sun-soaked slowness and as close to perfection as we can get this side of heaven. It’s also my 37th birthday, and the lightness of the environment matches me inside. I have been slow to embrace my birthday, but for some reason, perhaps for the first time, I see this day as a start to another year, a start I can—dare I?—believe will bring new healing and joy that haven’t yet been revealed? What newness is to come? What road to wisdom and wholeness and depth and life?

The wind shifts and blows from the southwest, covers the warmth from the sun with a thin blanket of cool breeze. But the sun still stays, and so does the light blue of the sky. Fishing boats still motor through the marina, make their way to the wild azure water past the lighthouse. Birds still dance and sing, and my heart stills stays open, ready, asking God to move my mind, body, and soul in a restoring direction, let this smooth, simple day be the start of His good to come.

 

Toward the Sun, the Healing

Jesus, the sun—such brightness.
The birds—their song is loud; my ears pick up nothing else.
The grass has never looked so green, lush, full.
The flowers, coming into bloom sudden and striking.
I have never known a spring
so desired or welcome.

Can it mirror my mind’s healing, too?
Movement upwards, hope in a season
secure, here to stay?
Safety comes in the promise of
what arrives time after time.

Jesus, You’ve made the spring surge awake.
Will you surge in me and tend
to my mind and heart?
Awaken them to turn
toward the sun, the healing.

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.

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.