Your Chosen One

Slow mornings.

Letting the cloud of sleep softly dissipate, bleary-eyed to the coffee pot. That first sip of deep dark roast on the patio. I could swim in this stuff if I were small enough to fit in my cup.

The water sparkles today and I find my words fall short to accurately describe the glory.

You are showing me what it is like to be free, to be Your child, Your chosen one. Sometimes it comes softly, unexpected, in a quiet or silent moment where I’m unaware it’s holy ground until long after the day is done and I find myself cocooned under the covers, remembering how You held my hand and walked with me.

What would it look like to let You lead? Chart out my course and mark my steps on the map? And then follow, with no wondering, even if it appears I wander. There is purpose in the wander. It’s deliberate, thought out.

Let Him lead, dear heart. Let His soft and sure hand guide you through.

No Easy Way

What part of this did You say would be easy?

You didn’t say.

 

You never guaranteed safe passage through this voyage of life. Never said I wouldn’t struggle, that I’d never be thrown curves in a series of fastballs. You said I would have troubles in this life. But You also said to take heart and not be afraid, because You have taken care of all things terrifying.

And that You would be with me every length of the way. Even when Your footprints are not seen.

You keep coaxing me out of the boat, to take a leg and swing it over the side to stand on water. To take one step into the sea, and then another.

So I do. Warily, confidently, I lift my eyes to the light a thousand yards away. I move as if my feet were touching pavement.

Then I sneak a glance over my shoulder and realize how far from the boat I am. And how far off You still seem to be. Suddenly, the ground beneath me shivers, and I find myself sinking. How fast my faith has faltered. How easily I slip beneath the surface.

I am weighed down, but You arrive where I have fallen and reach beneath the surface to grab my arm and anchor me up. You brush off my bruises and hold me as I begin to understand the need to keep straining for the shore. You hand me a life vest in case I slip again, and guide me once more through the waves. And I want to please You, so I keep moving.

You never guaranteed clarity in this murky world. You never stretched the winding streets before me into straight passage. You only warned me that the air would be full of flying arrows aimed at me heart. But You gave me a shield and a strength to navigate and protect me once I hit the open road.

And, along the trail, lingering beside me, a pair of footprints follows, closely entwined with my own.

 

 

You never said it would be easy to take up my cross and follow You. You simply encouraged me to take heart that You are with me along the way. The road is long, the course uncharted. Please navigate me and reach out to me when I veer off course. You promise to be with me. I am holding You to it. Amen.

 

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.

A Season of Sun

It comes to me sharp, out of nowhere. After months of wondering where my words went, months of days full and packed with a new life of running a start-up nonprofit, creating blueprints from thin air. After adjusting yet again to another season of life, alternate plans I did not see coming, and attempting to make sense of what I am unable to piece together.

Sweat pools in the dip of my chest as I pant my way along the harbor, breath catching up after my morning run. Clouds pull across the breakwater, give room to the sun streaming sparks of light on the water. Seagulls perch on tops of poles, feathers fluffed and gaze calm and unflinching, as if this was their territory and I and the fishermen with their poles and nets were trespassing. But the fisherman go along with their lines, cast, send their bait beneath the water and wait.

My lips curve a smile in greeting; my eyes catch their weather-whipped skin and scraggly beards. I’ve stopped to chat with a few on occasion, who had been happy to tell me the types of fish that glide the Lake Michigan currents—carp and rainbow trout, small barnacles brushing the underwater rocks. Slowly, I am learning the language.

This new life is languid, restful, healing in ways I was not aware I needed. My lungs take in a dose of fresh wind off the lake with a hint of rose bushes that continue to bloom again and again.

And there it is: I realize why there’s been a drought in my writing.

I am not used to writing happy.

My heart is light and has found joy. I am not familiar with a season of sun. I am used to the shadows, the unseen, the conflict and struggle of spirit, crush of my heart that crumbles, tapes together, and cracks apart in rhythm. How I processed the turmoil and strain, to make sense of my confusion, the wrestling of my will with God’s. Put pen to paper. Poured out my thoughts, my heart. I bled in ink.

Now, I find my heart is calm, even glad. God has come through on His promise that He would yet fill my mouth with laughter and my lips with shouts of joy (Job 8:21). I can hardly believe the change that has come subtly yet is ferociously here.

I am so much better at building up my battered heart in the ditch where I lay broken. But where does that leave me now, when I have nothing to lament?

Lean in to love, my heart whispers. Lean in to the lightness that lifts in your chest, the spark in your eye, the elusive smile that now stays on my face.

The water winks at me, reminding me that it has known this secret long before my life made room for this new rhythm, before I saw the beauty.

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.

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.  

No More Mourning

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
-Revelation 21:4

 

You came for us while we mourned, while we wailed against the injustice, the suffering, the sting of heart that stayed a companion as we strained our eyes to catch a glimpse of You. Your heart understood ours, cracked and bled and gnarled itself up in sorrow, well acquainted with grief. Did we ever understand? Could we?

How You wept into the city, seeing how we couldn’t see. All around, religious piety and rules, regulations that wrapped us in a choke hold, one You broke free for us. But it took the shadows, the whispers, the exchange of hands for slick coins, the passing of Your body from one inquisitor to the next. And You stood silent, a lamb come for the stain of the world. Your body, blistered from whips and crushed by a crown of thorns, and still they made You climb with a cross close to You, a reminder of what was coming. Hands drilled, ankles torn by nails, a life-size painting perched for all to watch. Breath, rattled, eyes smeared with blood.

Did You imagine what it would feel like, when You nodded consent to the Father and took our  form? Did you knowingly shed glory for gore? Was it my face that crossed Your mind as You trembled on the wood?

All that Your beautiful hands had done. Crafted tables, turned them over, stroked your mother’s hair. Mixing mud and saliva so a man could see, tearing the bread, holding Mary as she wept for her brother. Those mangled hands held galaxies, transformed fish into a banquet.

You have made rough places smooth. Life from death. Light from dark. Air from clumps of earth. While we mourned, You made things new. We came to You, ourselves broken and bleeding, belief on the brink. We were so helpless and scared, yet You took mercy, even while we hurled our insults. Did we know what we were doing? Did we understand?

Our hearts are tired of crying. And You said we’d mourn no more. So we looked to You, as Your voice scratched out that it was finished, and You gave us a lifeline, revival for our searching souls.

 

Prayer:

You made a way where there was none. You gave up Your glory to become like us, misunderstood, mistreated. And You stayed the Father’s course, obedient until the last breath. Thank You for Your sacrifice, thank You for the love that permeated every inch of You, every heartbeat that broke for this world. Thank You that You have made a way for us to see the Father. Amen.

 

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.

Embedded One

Out of nowhere, all wonder has transpired. We’ve gone from random strangers, a stranger who I was mad at because he was late to come fix my ceiling, to being the one embedded in my life on this personal of a level.

How in the world does this happen?

How is it good?

He’s in the kitchen cleaning up the dishes. Turning off the bathroom light. Taking care of things as I get to work.

Taking care of me.

Oh God, this wall of a heart of mine. Something’s cracking, letting in the light. And it scares the daylight out of me.

But the good keeps coming. The light, another opening through that wall. Pieces soften, tumble.

It is good and that scares me.

A sweet, light kiss on the forehead. It reaches down to the soft spot of my heart. I stand with eyes closed, receiving this unexpected grace, this unrecognized affection.

God, how did You maneuver all this, how did you come through the back door of my heart and bring him in, without my ever preparing, unexpected?

This is the unexpected—God’s love, wrapped in flesh, in forearms strong, this towering heart of a man who is patient and kind and keeps no wrongs.

Complete care, come at a time I did not know was needed so deeply within my healing heart.