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.

This is the Sound of Loneliness

The monotonous drone of a faucet leaking beads of water. One. Drop. At. A. Time.

Filling a smooth, opaque glass full of those water beads, discerning the raise of noise compiling in the cup.

Taking it into the living room of a small, cluttered apartment on the tenth floor. Standing at the large, open window, forehead against the glass and hearing the muffled sound of cars and stereos and shouts below.

The steady click of the turquoise clock above the bookcase, passing away the time that ushers in evening from the day.

Remembering the life outside the door, once stretching without effort, now gasping at shadows to bring a bit of color to the moment.

Running fingertips against the rough patched couch, the scratch of fabric to fingers a reminder that the ability to feel still exists.

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.  

She Was A Readheaded Woman

She loved to sing in her bedroom, just before midnight when the world fell asleep but the nocturnal voices drifted through her music.

She worked in a record store, jamming to Jimmy Hendrix and smiling at the boys who browsed the rows of vinyl. At times she would slip into one of the listening booths and slide the headphones over her ears, turn up the volume and fall asleep to the drowsy longing of Jeff Buckley’s “Lover, You Should Have Come Over.”

Her favorite food was cucumber sushi. She’d buy a plate of it from the local market and let the clustered rice collect on her tongue before tasting the coolness of the veggie. She’d read Proust and imagine she was brilliant.

In winter she’d walk in a midnight blue jacket, puffed like a marshmallow and setting the streetlights in imaginary arrangement of a Christmas tree entrapping the city. She’d sip a salted caramel hot chocolate and let the creamy cocoa spill through her body, reminding herself that she doesn’t need arms around her to block the wind’s cruel chill.

There was a man, once. One who lasted for two years and earned the privilege of seeing her in all her vulnerability. He was an architect by day, painter by night, and struggled to break the balance between them, to tip the scales in favor of one over the other. He moved to Saint Louis and packed his brushes and pencils in boxes that were never opened again, just buried deep inside a closet in the one room apartment he rented while he designed dream homes for wealthy lawyers. She never got over him losing his passion.

Sometimes she wondered where life was going, where her currents would sweep her to. Her parents asked if she was ok, if she was still set financially. Maybe it’s time you get a real job, they told her, gently, as if the harsh words could be softened with a smile. She thanked them for their concern, then stopped in a coffee house to grab a mocha.

Real job. Real life. Real problems. What was reality, anyway?

The pulsing in her heart as she listens to a new song for the first time. The lull of the subway car as she watches houses and children pass in a blur. When her heart beats in time and she dances in the park, dusky shadows swaying alongside her and the pieces of autumn in her hair that turn amber in light’s lullaby.

The presence of this life inside her grows so full she makes no room for sadness in its chambers.

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.

All Around The Sun

Subtle shades of cream blue, peach, rose petal pink, ivory. 33,000 feet above the earth will make the looming gaps between sky and soil insignificant. Cracks carve bone out of ice; I glide above the Arctic. Down on the planet’s skin lies Russia.

Did I ever think I would witness the rotation of the sun staying bold and unrelenting, of earth’s arc and end up in places wet with new, wide-eyed wonder? How in the world did I end up revolving around it in such surprising measure?

We are just passing through. Always, simply passing through the steps of life that stretch to moments. Russia will slip beyond us as we move along the air, and when we land on the outskirts of Asia, there is still another leg to go.

The man next to me still smells fresh eight hours in. Spice and Caribbean water. Comfort. His voice dances with blend of places, history, family lines, hands with working knuckle creases. I listen to him talk of his mother and how he cares for her as a son’s privilege, and of his insatiable thirst for travel.

There are stories of us scattered around the globe. These are the words that fill the universe’s pages, honed and crafted by life’s curator, the One who knit the worlds alive.

Outside the sun leads us on, but the lights in the belly of the plane are low, lulling us to try and sleep as they schedule us to adjust to the time zone. My body won’t behave and I shift from my side, back braced against the chair, eyes dry and tired but internal wiring won’t let me rest.

I risk arousing my seatmate and crack a slip of shade. Crags of powder jut from below, texturizing the pattern of our passage. A guessing game—what are we over? Sometimes water, sometimes mountain. I study formations as if I am a geologist; if I set my eyes firm over the lines, I hope to see a caribou or even—because I am so seasoned with sharp sight of imagination—a stray polar bear that has lost her way and is content to roam the cold, white expanse.

I don’t know who I am to be in this position, traversing to the other side of the world, but it is not of my own doing. Only by the grace of God. Only by that do I sit wrapped in a blanket with an expectant heart for the way I’ll be allowed to listen to beautiful people share their stories, and, in turn, share them with the world.

Engine rattles constant. I turn again in my seat, stretch, shuffle past chairs and move along the never-ending aisle. Row after row of faces attached to names, attached to hopes and fears and centuries of life passed down to bring them to this point in time. We are all part of a bigger picture, frames moving in and out of the shot, beating hearts bringing still-frame to flesh.

Everything seems to be expanding, and yet frozen where meant to be. All around the sun we revolve, and make glad our hearts at the beauty of being alone in bodies, of being fully together. Of being human, strung with complexity and simplicity, one in the same. All around the sun we go, walk among the clouds, spun with truth and light.

Sleep again rests heavy on my eyes but I cannot succumb to it. And so I lean a bit closer to my seatmate, the man who I had no idea existed just twelve hours ago, who has a name, a story, grit beneath his fingernails—I breathe him in, take myself to anywhere quiet—everywhere: those untouched mountains, cool and cleansing, the safety of my small island back home swallowed by waves of Lake Michigan and lazy sunsets, or exactly where I am, 33,000 feet above, with a few hundred others just like me, uniquely themselves, full of story, bodies resting, hearts longing—always longing—for more.