Grown So Lovely

How has this life suddenly grown so lovely?

Brush of color on the edges of oak leaves, spindled branches curled along the beige brick buildings lining my new street. Sweet tinkle of bells above the coffee shop door across the street, patrons going in and out for lattes, gathering together at the patio tables with bright red umbrellas. The hum of cars grazing puddles from last night’s showers. Sun sifting through hazy clouds to wash the town in a soft cream glow.

And I am still here. Alive, awake. Experiencing the glory of a morning arising in this small town. I do not take a single second for granted.

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.

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.

Life Will Take Root

It has been a long winter. Harsh, with the lashing winds of life and raw sting of medical surprises. Oh heart, you have battled the elements. And you have held with vigor to the seeds planted deep under the earth of your faith.

Still the air strikes breath from your lungs sometimes, but be patient. Keeps seeing through the snow, through the dimly lit nights and savor the spark of grace that illuminates the little moments that look like spring. It is coming. Life will take root once again. Can you not feel it, can you not see? He who has cared for you through the watch will bring to you a new season. He is already at work. Stay patient. Keep wrestling, grappling for the good.

For it will be good. Signs have already arrived, in the breaking down and cleansing cries, breath of truth exhaled in exhaustion. The warmth and laughs of friends around your table, your people, your journeywomen, companions who you never saw coming. And the sleet turning to snow, softening, falling fast and thick. Embrace it. Lean into everything. Winter will not last. But you, my courageous heart, will.

 

***

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.

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.

Only You

It’s only You.

Only You can save my heart, even when You’re the only who can cut down deep enough to excavate what needs to go. It is a surgical procedure, and Your scalpel is swift and sharp, but I am finally at the point where I know You want to help me, it’s necessary to my survival, that I allow this surgery to happen.

So I sign over my permission, release my clutching hands from around my heart, leave my flesh exposed, wound open and sensitive to every small speck that finds its way to touch the surface. I am fully trusting You to operate, and receive me well.

It hurts, though. Oh sweet mercy, how Your incisions are painful! My bleeding heart, cut by Your blade. I cup my hands to catch what flows down and hold it all out to You. These intimate, tender pieces—they are Yours. Absorb them into Yourself. I scream out, for I am awake for this procedure and acutely aware of each place You stitch. Every cut I feel, antiseptic stings like madness. But such a fierce burn soon cools to a nurturing salve, even as I twist and coil, searching for comfort.

My chest parted and most delicate organ on display, I am determined to let Your fingers continue to massage, scrape, rearrange. Use the instruments You must, take time to do it right. This holy healing rips my sensors, strengthens my soul. Only You reach where others cannot, bend Your mouth to whisper words that sustain me in this state of suffering. Only You see what will be; bones must break before they reset, scrapes must be swiped clean as to avoid infection from meddlesome debris.

Strange thing is, I am more certain of Your presence here with me on this cold, metal table, than I’ve been in years. This pain still blazes, sharp and slicing through my raw heart, but You delve in to it with a willingness of Your own, reassurance that there is something eternal going on in the here and now.

Hold me. May I move as You move, bend as You bend, and lay supine for the remainder of this reconstruction. Surrendered to Your steady hand, counting breaths as Yours merge with mine. Eyes calm and locked on You, lovingly tending to this work within. This is for my good and Your glory. Chip away. I trust You with the pain, in the wire cuts, rub of my red heart. Only You feel what I feel. Only You know how to heal. Only You can truly bring me back to life.

 

Lord, this does not feel good. I have never been so acutely aware of the pain, yet also of Your presence. This is You with me, in the tapping of my bones. You are my sustenance, my comfort, my healer. I need to within me, to massage my soul from the inside out. We will walk this together, as I keep holding my heart out to You. Amen.

 

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.

Forgotten to Remember

It is terrible to forget.

And yet I have.

For clusters of months, mounting to a year.

Until I found my way, one Sunday, to Cedar Lake Park, the place that had held me in the storm of my soul’s transition into the life I never wanted, didn’t know I’d need.

I took the wrong exit off the highway like so many times before; I can never remember which one it is, but I don’t mind the turnaround. I am proud that I am now able to maneuver the back roads and find my way to the park’s swan-necked entrance.

It isn’t big, but is sizable enough to find a spot to myself, down twisted gravel lanes where my tires spray pebbles, and straight to the edge of the water’s bank, slant in the grass to the same bench I like to spread my arms and legs.

As soon as I settle on my wood bench, clouds roll over the sun, and when the breeze swings, the coolness catches my skin.

There are many people dotting the lines of the lake, throwing fishing lines into the water. It’s mid-afternoon, not an ideal time to cast, but I guess there’s simply something cathartic about creating another wrinkle in the current.

I have forgotten the quiet, the crescent of trees, call of birds, spread of sky. Forgotten the sound of my own heart when it is breathing. Forgotten what it’s like to let go and surrender up my life. To give it away, to gain it back.

There are people all around me, coming and going, and though I am by myself, I do not feel alone.

A bullfrog throbs its throat and echoes across the wind, finds my ears. There is no need to fear what is not known; this life is meant for exploration, welcome. Mystery discovered and changed into new life unfathomed. Every single piece should be treated as a pleasure and not a puzzle. Let it all go, slip into nothing, transform everything.

It feels good to write for me, because it pleases my soul and not to beat my mind up in pressure to fill a page, some self-prophesied destiny. I had forgotten how it felt to just be, wrapped up in the land, quiet and unhurried, and let the words come, rather than crash about and jam wrong ones together, break their brittle hands.

I had forgotten how good it feels for me to rest, to receive what is necessary for me to remember. In a way, I have forgotten to remember. All that once I thought I lost, now, found once more.

Dear God, let this day last forever.

Sometimes, I even forget such a prayer.

Do not let this go.

I will spend my heartbeats remembering, tell my spirit to never forget the way it moves most alive when it is immersed in simple wonders marked by the earth, loosened time.

Only an hour has passed, but it disguised itself as an eternity. It is good to be myself, bare, sacred. My true, deep, unhidden being. And when I return to the ways of life around me, there is a wiseness around my eyes, clear and soft. And in a way, I have shifted into newness with hope ballooning strong within, still the same, always evolved.

Life Comes After

Life comes after death.

I am tired of shedding these skins, these layers. I am tired of dying in seasons.

But then, the ground awakes, breaks forth the green shoot of seed that’s been quietly incubating in the patient soil of my soul.

Oh God, open my eyes, my heart.

You are here and with me. In death. In life. In the silent in-between.

Life. My life grows inside me. A new skin, a new heart. A new way of knowing, of being. Abundance, in full.

My lips smile, incredulous. I am softly determined to let it grow, tend it well, and give it sun.