Finally

I undress my soul
in the dark.
Your razor eyes
are sharp to see
and miss nothing
as I slip each layer
quietly to the floor.

I reach the end of myself;
You smile and pierce my
shallow breathing with one word
that says it all:
“Finally.”

Uninhibited

First, a finger. Grazing the water at the edge of the shore, a dainty swipe of hand beneath the cool, silky water of the lake.

The sun is hot, air heavy with humidity. Above, only blue with no covering of cloud.

Shoes come off, along with the socks, and the soles of my bare skin press into the burning sand. I make my way across the stones, step into the small waves lapping the shore. Submerge my feet, my ankles, wade to cover my shins.

This is not enough. I turn and trudge back up the sand to where my shoes lie next to washed driftwood, where my house key and phone perch on the wood. I strip off my tank top and shorts and place them over my phone, feel the air on my bare belly, my thighs, and walk slow back into the water. Lower myself in the cool currents bobbing through, take my time submerging. And then I freak out for a moment that I am in a lake with fish and they could swim up to me at any moment. My crazy phobia keeps me wary of wandering under the water, and I take a few moments in sun and water and the quiet of waves to coax me into giving in.

With a quick intake of breath, I plunge myself under the surface and am immediately swept up in the light, smooth hands of the water enveloping me into part of itself. I am weightless, rolling with the current, brush against the sand at the bottom.

I look at the wrinkles and ridges of sand under the water that current and wave have formed washing over again and again, untouched for days. But now I am here, ruffling the sand prints and smoothing them as grains dance upturned in the water.

With legs crossed, I let the waves lap against my shoulders, caress my skin. Stare above at the swirl of greenery along the shoreline, trees waving in the breeze, color pops against the clear blue.

I blink away the drops of water running down my face, feel the warmth of the sun begin to dry them. This is freedom, unabashed, joyous freedom at its most natural state. This, I believe, is how God intended us to live, uninhibited.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Better For It

I was born for something. Born to be someone. But what? And who? This is the question that has hounded me as I gained years, gathered lines in my life. Always, whether I was aware of it or not, my purpose, my deepest desire for approval, has followed me through seasons, through laughter, through furious tears. And always at the end of the day, draw of dark, the edge of my heart stitching itself into the hopes of others.

I’ve longed for a grand amusement set far beyond this bound of land and time. A sacred realm stretched sweetly through the fabric of my soul. Stepping lightly through this world, ears tuned for echoes of Eden.

In the balance, in between. Longing for the memories and events that pierced my heart in the purest sense. Hope that has challenged to never disappoint.

Yes, oh hope-filled girl. Your hope will be challenged, will be battered down. And you will bleed. Oh, how you will bleed.

You will not be the same person as when you began this journey, but you will be better for it. You will survive and stare the miraculous in its startled face.  

Empty and Alive

When things are empty, it’s usually not a good sign.

An empty wallet signifies a lack of money, hardest when bills pile up and income wobbles.

An empty glass means you’re out of your favorite beverage, or out of a positive outlook.

An empty brain signals no one’s home upstairs. Usually not good in a school setting.

An empty room- void of warmth and activity.

An empty promise is a hard burden to bear.

An empty heart cries out from the depth of its echo, longing for another soul to smile and let them know they are not alone.

 

But an empty tomb… now that is a very good thing.

A beautiful sign.

A refreshment to our souls.

Because an empty tomb means a risen King! Because the stones scraped together could not contain the power and the glory of the One whom was placed behind the boulder three days previous. When the tomb was opened and no one lay inside, a light pierced the hearts of those who turned and saw the Savior standing before them, with a beating heart and mankind’s hope fulfilled.

A chamber cleansed of death. A new arrival that lifted us to life. A symbol of sadness turned to joy. A bare room, empty and alive. The Son of God, full of flesh. Vibrant. Victorious.

 

An empty tomb took us to a place of astonishment, as the impossible turned possible before our eyes and the breath in our hearts cried out, “Hallelujah! He is risen!”

 

He is risen, indeed!

 

Prayer:

You conquered death and the wrath of God for my sake. Not simply for the whole of the earth, but for ME, the tiny one who stumbles and shakes with fear. You have made me victorious through Your scars, so I may stand cleansed in front of the Father. Because of Your triumph, I am Yours. Thank You for this new and enchanting, eternal life! Amen.