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.

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.

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.

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.

How Much The World Changed

**Rain falls soft, mist-like, over the moon, shrouding the deep navy sky. I sit on Eric’s couch, Cider Lane candle lit to fill the apartment with the light scent of caramel, crunched leaves, and harvest moonlight. He is in his office doing work, and I am in the living room working on a freelance blog post. It is enough to be under the same roof together. This begins to feel incredibly good, routines with him. Sunday nights at home. The subtle warmth of falling in love. I allow myself to imagine what it could be like, if this turns into an everyday occurrence.

                How much my world changed in such a short amount of time.**

**I knew, back in that September, that I wanted this everyday occurrence with you for the rest of my life. I wanted that more than anything I’ve ever wanted. You were gently teaching me the boundless outpouring of love, what it meant to give of myself for the sake of another.

Eight months later, I walked to you over the water and we stood face-to-face, promising to give ourselves to each other, in all the struggle and softness this world would offer. This past year has been full of adjustments, surprises, and growing pains that have stretched us both into new people, fused as one. My eyes are open to the world with you, and I find myself pausing in the middle of a moment, grateful to God at the great gift I have been given in loving you.

Thank you for being my husband for one year. It’s a chasm that keeps growing, the years of our love. Here’s to the ones to come that draw us deeper, tighter together. You’re my favorite.

 

Know Your Worth

Breathe this in: you are perfect as you are. God doesn’t see imperfection, so stop berating yourself on what you perceive are flaws. Know how much He loves you. Know how delighted in you He is. Know your worth.

I praise You because I am fearfully
and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
-Psalm 139:14

When your mind is tempted to tear yourself down, remember the words you used to sing as a little girl, the line you knew by heart and wholeheartedly believed. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Love yourself. Your Creator does. He took delight in you and rejoices over you with singing, and His creation is always good. This includes you. Wholeheartedly.

 

Borrowed Time

We are all on borrowed time.
Take care of it.
Give it your best.
Leave nothing left when time is ready to return you.
And above all, love with every breath you take. This world, its people, the peonies and promise of what is to come.
Love like Jesus, love Jesus. With all that you are and will become.

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.

Antidote

The antidote to pain…

… is praise.

Slow learner that I am, my heart has soaked in a solitary sadness that fastened steel fingers around its flesh. To dwell upon the dismal aloneness—when life does not bloom the flowers I had hoped to tend, I see wilted petals and mourn my empty garden. I pay no attention to what quietly grows in their place.

But to find a calm in the midst of raging winds, to be weather-stained and beaten down is a desperate position, when my heart swells with poisoned hope that bursts and infects my veins, how do I look up when I am paralyzed from within?

It is a moment beyond myself, a gentle prod of angels, to part my lips and praise the day for its thorns. To reach beyond myself, reminded that I originate from dust, and breath is a given wonder, never even guaranteed. Though my spirit be anchored down, each gift received is named and numbered, lifted to the One who has claim to them all. The more I usher in the blessings of this life, the more aware of just how small I am, what truly matters.

Yes, the pain may blind me. But the supernatural bounty brings sight to my heart more vivid than a snap of light. I am lifted above myself, to eternity’s embrace, and that alone does ease all discomfort.