Beauty, Here

There is beauty, here, now. In this season. Yes, even in this season of suffering. There is a good God who sees, who feels, who emphasizes and emphatically says all is good, because all is God. He is the Waymaker, Deliver, Strong Tower and Soft Place, the One who loves unfathomably and unconditionally. Here, in the dappled sunlight that streaks through the pines, the flash of wing in the cross of Blue jay from one branch to another, the gentle rhythm of the water that never hurries, always sets its course assuredly. There is no rush, no hidden agenda. The waves just move.

And I just move with it all, swept in the current, roll with it under the watchful eye of Him who pulls me close when I am over my head in the deep waters, enclosed by flames. He soothes when I feel scorched, overwhelmed. He is here, in this season, bringing beauty when I pull my heart to hear His heartbeat. Lord, keep showing me where You are in the hard, keep showing me the beauty and grace that gets me through.

You get me through, somehow, in the stillness that somehow suddenly appears, when I am unexpecting, when I am parched and drink my fill.

 

Longing for Life

The Spirit of the Lord shakes the pillars, rattles the roof where we reside. Meet us here, in the whirl of the wind. Rattle our hearts, shake our souls awake.

Bare branches sway in the sky. Bare, but they will bloom, bear buds and leaves and flower petals—each unique to the type of bush and tree.

Bring them to life. Bring us to life, for this is a beginning. We are longing for life, even if we don’t yet know it’s life in You that we are looking for. We seek in all different spaces, each heart moving to make a way for what is missing. Will You make Your way in us? That we may be filled to the measure of Your love, a depth that knows no end?

You have sent Your Spirit to speak the Good News of new life. From death and burial comes newness, breath. From thirst to satisfaction. Dry bones manifest flesh, become whole.

Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.
-Ephesians 5:14

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.

Blessed Reprieve

Sleep. A blessed reprieve.

After weeks and weeks of no sleep, then fragmented sleep, up and down and exhaustion playing with our bodies and minds, our first reprieve and refreshing slumber.

Manna for the day.

We have been gifted in our wilderness with God’s manna, our daily bread, nourishment among the valley.

For over a month, we’ve received in this way: just enough for the moment, enough to satisfy us for the day. We’ve received substance, grace: even in the swirling suffering, lingering unknown, chaos whether night or day, multiple hospital stays, and the monster of the mental battle, He has remained steadfast.

He has remained.

Oh Lord, You have remained.

Glorious gracious each moment, each day. Full of mercy, our manna we wash down with Your love into our weary souls.

Hazy light rises over the yellow painted building across the street. The world is rising into a new day, and so are we. Again, all we can receive is grace for the day, stick our heads outside our tent and pull in the sweet bread placed before us, breathe in our thanks, and eat, remember. God’s sustaining love for the hour, His presence enough, His power made perfect when we are weak. But really, isn’t this the best place to be? Weak, because we are made strong in Him?

Weakness allows the love of God to come through. Open hands and hearts are able to receive His daily bread, His grace for the day, the way He woos us unexpected in the midst of a racing world. We are stilled, satisfied. This is enough for now.

Out of Place

Everything is out of place.

The breath in my lungs,
beat of my heart.
Vision now: shapes and shadows.

Jostled, shaken, stirred
and pressed back in sideways;
nothing’s like it should be.

All I wanted was to
make sense of things;
here, there is no knowing,
no moments understood.
Just a picking apart
of what pieced me together,
a stitch undone,
a snip comes uncurled.

Is this mess or mystery?

Everything is jarred, loose,
unsettled, restrung.
A shedding of soul,
carving of bones.

God in the Clouds

It’s appropriate how incredibly foggy and gray it is. The weather matches my insides.

Why do I have flare-ups of God’s goodness, and I’m grateful and feel lighter, but then I go back to gray? Why an empty, lifeless feeling?

God is there in the clouds.

I can barely muster up the strength or desire for my devotional time today, yet I pry open Streams in the Desert. It’s been a good companion for my darker treks, and today’s entry does not disappoint.

God still has His secrets–hidden from “the wise and learned” (Luke 10:21). Do not fear these unknown things, but be content to accept the things you cannot understand and wait patiently. In due time He will reveal the treasures of the unknown to you–the riches of the glory of the mystery. Recognize that the mystery is simply the veil covering God’s face.   -Streams in the Desert

This speaks to me. This is the only thing I’m able to open this morning. The mysterious veil covering His face. God in the clouds.

In a quick moment, my mind flashes to a story in Exodus. I manage to exert enough strength to find my Bible and move the pages.

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance… The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.    -Exodus 20:18,21

The people were afraid and remained at a distance. But Moses chose to lean in, move closer to the smoke and dark because it brought him to You. You were in the thick darkness.

I take Streams in the Desert back onto my lap from the end table where I set it down, pull out the string bookmark and read the accompanying words:

Do not be afraid to enter the cloud descending on your life, for God is in it.

God is in the darkness, the thickness, the clouds. He is in the waiting, but tells me not to keep away. He invites me not to remain at a distance, hesitant, terrified, but to lean in and approach the gray, the cloud, the dim–He is there, He is waiting.

 

***

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.

I Remain Yours

Blessed is he whose help is the God
of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
the LORD, who remains faithful
forever.

-Psalm: 146:5-6

 

Your faithfulness is a guiding light, soft and warm and reminding me that I am never alone, no matter how dark the night may be or how far off the path I feel. It projects a glow that glistens, a veil of love that trails down to me, envelopes my heart in a comforting embrace.

Your lovingkindness goes on and on, an echo that spreads and reverberates, comes back, repeats. It never ends, always returns, assures my skittish heart that You are here, seeing me, standing with me. There is no reason for it other than You are, and You have always loved me first.

Your goodness is a strong anchor that has saved me. Many times. Held me up when I was sinking, flailing in the water and tempted to be tossed among the weight of waves. Your goodness has remained, pulling me to You, keeping me steady. What a joy when I’m lifted from the tempest and set calmly in Your arms. You have always been good, even in my deepest despair, in the unexpected shattering of life and dreams; it’s been Your love keeping me steady.

You are my Helper. You are mighty to save, soft with my heart, true to Your promise. You guide me when my map rips and the coordinates smudge, when I am standing in the unknown and am unable to see where to go. You lead, You walk beside me, You nudge and get me on my way. Creating calm from chaos, You show the way that is gentle and good, which way is best, and You join me on the journey.

You are my Hope. In You, I no longer need to fear the end, for it is only the beginning. I can trust You with my deepest hopes, my dreams I’ve kept locked away, forgotten, But You remind me to remember Who holds my dreams, too, and to remember You have my best in mind. You have taught me to trust You, to hand over my heart and keep it in Your capable hands. Hope does not disappoint, when I am rooted in the greatest Hope there is.

You are the sliver of light coming through my curtains when the day is stirring me from sleep, the drying flowers on my table fighting still for beauty, the smooth dance of flame from my morning candle. You are in all; You are all. Your presence brings me peace. My God, You have never forsaken me, You have only drawn me closer, longed for more of my love. And while I have strayed at times, forgetting my worth in You and trying to find it in cracked and crooked places, You have always stayed. Waiting, watching, still loving me with everything You are, ready to receive me back in Your embrace when I realize Whose I really am.

You are the One who sees, the One who stays, the One who fights for what is Yours. Blessed am I to find my help in You, to find that I can hope with brightest trust, a foundation that is not shaken. To Your beauty I turn, to Your wisdom I seek, and to Your heart I always run. You remain faithful; I remain Yours.

 

 

Filled to the Measure

… and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 
-Ephesians 3:19

 

Can Your fullness even be measured?

How do I count the numbers, the weight the volume to watch for the exact right amount in me until I reach the full line?

You are immeasurable. You are vast, You are wide and deep, always more. That’s why I’m urged towards the immeasurably more that life in You brings. No stop, no limit, only an overflow.

And this is the life I can have in You? Never enough, always reaching for the next dose, a refreshment that comes in wild and wondrous wave after wave? The waters rise within and my thirst for You is never sated, yet I am never more satisfied than when I am submerged in the measure of this fullness.

You long to be gracious, You yearn to be close, drawing me deeper in and wider out, until all I see is Your love surrounding me, all light and goodness and grace. And You beckon me to more. The immeasurably more that cannot be called or defined or reasoned into existence; it just is, because You are.

Love surpasses knowledge—no numbering and equating, no keeping an eye on the rising level to watch exactly when Your fullness reaches the mark. This love and intimacy cannot be shut out, overrun or diluted. It’s pure, unfiltered fullness that You keep giving and giving, forever and ever, in Christ Jesus, Amen.

Fill me, Lord, with what only You can give. I want to drink deeply and inhale Your love, let it resonate in every part of me, until there is no defining line between You and I, until I live a life aligned with You, until we are full as one.

 

Thank You for this fullness I cannot fathom, for the mystery that is made known in Christ Jesus. The fullness of Your love goes on and on, and there’s always more for me. May I have more of You, more of Your love, more of Your fullness, so I may live a life aligned with You. Amen.