Choosing Fact Over Feeling

I wake with a jolt, heart shocked alert, mind reeling and running a hundred marathons in minutes. The room around me, black like spilled ink, douses my thoughts with slick lies and unreasonable worries. I’ve been wracked by anxiety for the last few weeks, fallout from trauma of three ER visits in a month, my husband and I sick with COVID and absolute terror of the unknown.

I can’t relax, can’t get myself back to sleep for the fear that pushes me awake, taunting that this is all there is, a new way of living that allows me no rest.

In mental anguish, wracked with the worries that stack on top of one another like cement blocks, I blink and call out to God in the night, repeating promises that He has given to me:

I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for You alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8 (NIV)

The thoughts don’t slow, but somehow, His words slip through the stream of scared thinking and my running anxiety. Here, I hold to Him who I can’t see, but believe is at work fighting on my behalf. My husband relays this confirmation as we sit in bed, and I breathe.

**

So incredibly honored to be published in another Proverbs 31 devotion book. This one is especially close to my heart as it’s all about sleeping peacefully in a world full of worry.  You can pick up a copy–FREE–with a donation to P31 Ministries. I know you’ll be blessed by the beautiful devotions and prayers in this book by some incredible women.

What lays heaviest on your heart as you lay your head on your pillow? We understand the anxieties that come right before we go to sleep. That’s why we wrote our newest devotional: Clear Mind, Peaceful Heart: Prayers and Devotions for Sleeping Well in a World Full of Worry. Written by women just like you, these devotions will help you remember the true source of help when you feel anxious and unsteady through reading God’s Word, prayers, and the stories of fellow sisters in Christ. For a limited time, you can get a copy FREE with a donation of your choice to Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Get your copy here!

 

Hope Grows Slow

Hope: that long-buried seed you forget about because it’s dormant. Hearing nothing, seeing less.

Weeks pass, then months, and you get used to the feeling of emptiness, a lack of expectation. It becomes your regular as you begin to wonder if this will be reality.

Has the frost destroyed the soil of your heart? Will this always be the way, living muted, on auto pilot, surviving day by day?

You even wonder whether God intends for this new normal and long for His presence and love that seems to lack.

Where, in these barren fields, is He?

**

This winter doesn’t seem to end, even when the first days of spring officially arrive. The ground is still frozen, grass lay brown and brittle, miles of bare branches and zero signs of life. Snow and sleet still pour down, relentless, and the cold is a constant companion.

You get used to the monochrome.

But you cannot underestimate the determination of the seed, deep buried underground. It is meant to do what it was made for; it listens to the One who first dropped it into the earth of such a fledgling heart.

Though it tarries, wait. You cannot rush the work, the becoming. You do not know when or how, but that is not up to you anyway.

Perhaps that seed you wait on is waiting on its own orders, its own cultivation.

**

Hope grows slow. An important metamorphosis is happening in these slogging, messy months and it cannot be rushed. God is all seasons and shaping and for deep and good transformation, and He does not adhere to time like how you cling to it. For Him, the seed is hidden in a safe place, nurtured, protected from the elements until it is ready for release.

God has been saving you.

God has been savoring you.

God has not stopped caring for you every step of the way.

 

**

It’s a joy to be featured over at Agape Review with my creative essay, “Hope Grows Slow” — I would love for you to read and find a seed of hope for yourself: Hope Grows Slow

He Who Holds the Pillars Firm

When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.” Psalm 75:3 (NIV)

It’s been a roller-coaster time for my family: My 2-month-old nephew has been hospitalized for bacterial meningitis.

His sweet little body flush with fever. Swelling in the brain, at the base by his spinal cord. A PICC line to better receive antibiotics rather than struggle with his tiny veins.

The days drag, slow, uncertain. We don’t have answers to most of our questions, just prayer and possibility, and I feel helpless that I can’t make his body better.

Sometimes, it’s torture to wait. I pray in every style I know how, and still I can’t quite grasp God’s presence in this. I know in my head that He’s here, but the knowledge doesn’t fully make its way to my heart. My heart — my heart is on shaky ground, grasping for sure footing.

What do we hold to in times like these?

With no solid ground beneath our feet, we stand on the Word of God, build our faith on who He is and the pillars of His protection.

  • God is, above all, loving. Our Abba loves us with a fierce, delicate and selfless love that stretches from one corner of the cross to the other.  His affection is gentle, and His tenderness is great. His love is pure.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8, NIV)

  • God is faithful. His eyes never stray; His heart stays fixed on us, and He tenderly keeps us close with unwavering loyalty. From the beginning, God made and kept His promise to never leave nor forsake us. God has our good in mind, and there is nothing that can separate us from Him.
 
 
Incredibly honored and excited to be sharing about this experience over at Proverbs 31 today. Will you join me in standing on the Word of God for a firm foundation when our world is shaky?

Riding with Jesus

Daniel Iuras trained for months for Romania’s national cycling tour, Tour of Romania. He’s cycled in years past, and as a character coach in Romania, prayed this year would be no exception. Iuras trained for months, as this was prime time to share the Gospel with fellow riders.

But when the Romanian Cycling Federation decided to break the tour down into certain town clubs due to COVID-19 regulations, his town of Cluj didn’t make the cut. Iuras would not race. His hope deflated, but God soon brought him in on a bigger plan. He would find a way to ride, though not how he originally planned.

Iuras reached out to the federation and asked to be an assistance car during the race driving up and down the mountain and give water to the cyclists. The federation couldn’t believe he was asking to serve, but quickly accepted his offer.

On race day, Iuras filled his car with water bottles and other fuel for the cyclists and spent the next six hours handing out supplies and speaking words of encouragement to not just the cyclists in the lead, but those in the back. They were grateful for the water yet surprised by the support. Iuras was asked why he volunteered to serve when he couldn’t race, and this opened a pathway to share exactly the reason why.

“When they asked, I said, ‘My Father sent me,’” Iuras noted. “It’s a way to open their minds, a way to talk about God.”

The federation, coaches and riders couldn’t believe Iuras’ desire to serve without receiving anything in return. But the heart of Iuras is to serve, however that looks. It’s what brings him joy, and a way to live out the example of Jesus.

“Jesus loves to be famous with small things, like water,” he said. “All day long, God gave me this huge honor and privilege to see Him this way.”

Although most Romanians are Orthodox, many of them only acknowledge God and believe He stays in Heaven and the church but not in the everyday. “They think it’s just prayer in church, but I show them we can talk to God right here,” he shared.

 

**Read the rest of the article I wrote about the great work going on in Romania through cycling over at FCA!

 

Soft Promise

The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.  

-Psalm 145:9

It has to be a daily surrender of my life and heart.

I am too human and full of a choking selfishness to get through an hour more without turning every fiber of my being over to You. To let You take control. To let go of the life I’ve wanted, the life I’ve clamored to get back to, though You’ve continuously shown me that what I want may not be what You have for me.

I must surrender that You are God and I am not, while I sure try and act like my own mini god. It’s rebellion, pure and simple. When I pull away I am stubbornly saying I know what is right for me, that though You can fight for my calm from the chaos of this world, You can’t possibly handle my little piece of it.

I keep making a mess of this life. And I keep begging You to let me live free from my mistakes. Keep clinging to the rumors of Your goodness, eager to experience for myself. Messier and messier, I leave a trail of my clumsiness behind me. But You keep cleaning up what I have broken and finding ways to rearrange the pieces.

You don’t ask me to understand my struggles, my situations, Your mystery. It’s all just that—mysterious, as You intend. Submit to the holy shroud, take only the step enlightened before my feet. Trust in my heart that Your thoughts are not mine, nor are Your ways anything I can comprehend. And that it’s a good thing, that You really do know best, that You want to rearrange my world to rotate well with You.

One breath. One heartbeat. One blink of my eye. That’s all I get, one moment, and then, perhaps, another. To be okay with that is a beautiful surrender, mindful decision that sets me free to fall on You, fall into You, intake Your soft acceptance.

I may mistake my worth, Your care, but I have grace to get me through. And I must lay my own life down to get to Yours. Push back the screaming fear to hear the gentle tone of Your voice. The one that speaks to me and tells me what I am afraid to know.

Bring me to the truth of it, those deepest parts of me where I feel most exposed. Offer me a soft promise to fall asleep to, new mercies when I wake. Pressure erases when I cast my heart on You.

Merry and Bright

We’re chest deep in the Christmas season, yet I don’t feel merry and bright.

My head is filled with frantic, stuffed to overload.

My brother and sister-in-law are preparing for their last holiday in Omaha before they head to the next stop in his Air Force doctor journey. Changes are coming for our family.

Days roll into one another, so caught in the snare of streamlining my hours, hit the ground running and spin of my spirit just to try and smooth a rhythm in this new off-balance stretch of season.

And, how can I forget—I mustn’t forget—the world’s on fire and the flames edge wilder each week.

Changes are coming for us all.

Where is the calm in the chaos?

The silent night through the storm?

We keep clamoring for more, but more of the stuff that clouds our souls and messes us up. More flesh, more fake, more cover-up to controversy.

But our brittle hearts can’t take much more.

Back home in Wisconsin, the cold cuts deeper here than I remember. Readjustment to here is hard.

In my hand is a mug of deep Ethiopian coffee that was watched as a woman in a bright dress roasted the beans herself over a small fire. Then the bag was packed and stored on board an intercontinental flight, given to me while in Germany for an international conference. I long to board planes that take me to far-off places again and again, a regular routine.

Life sure can bend us backwards.

Come, Immanuel, be with us. Bring us to beyond mere marvel.

Let me bend toward the cradle to a cooing King, where another backwards legacy began.

Such a silent night, tender and true.

But He came at the time when flames of oppression were rising, too. When people needed to breathe, drink in what He later deemed living water. He lived upside down so we would be in right standing with God. It all began with a baby, helpless shiver, soft inhale in of a new world.

I, too, am helpless. We all are. That’s why this hell-bent world is in need of the soothe of heaven’s salve to quench the flames. The merry act of mercy slung low in a stable flashes for us in the dark sky of our soul. Crack of bright white salvation sung smooth among rough edges.

I am reborn once more in the middle of wonder.

Perhaps the snow is falling in quiet tufts of grace.

Fishing Boats and Back Roads

I thought my four-AM wake-up call would come brash and jarring, but it’s soft and quiet instead.

The dark shadows hid my fingers as they made their way across Eric’s back, joining us to a slow world stirred only for early risers who want to get the most of the morning, trick the fish that, too, are still asleep, hungry and angry.

The slightest drops fall on top of the trailer and tell me there’s supernatural help in getting me up–God only knows how I can peel my lids open at this hour, knows only the soft plink of rain on roof will show He’s there with me in the ungodly hour.

Deep, thick voices getting used to being used mumble around me, and I let myself stay in bed on the fold-out futon a few minutes more. Then I stumble through dressing in the dark, slide back the divider and murmur my good morning.

Soon after I emerge, Eric, his parents, and I are off, winding through the maze of gravel and campers to the dock, my father-in-law’s boat buoyed to a twisting wood length of slats on the walkway. He fumbles with buttons until the motor spurts and rumbles to life, gliding with little light down the canal, following the line of boats that leads to open water. There are so many out today, their green and white lights lit up around the vast stretch of Lake Michigan. The water looks like a liquid city.

The blackness turns dark gray, navy, charcoal then coral blue, then bound by crystal light that hovers pastel over the water. On the western horizon, the town’s silhouette cuts into the sky, jagged teeth of church steeple, hotel, old forgotten buildings, and tips of trees. Two water towers help us keep alignment; to the east, sky and lake merge into blue clouds and there doesn’t seem to be a split between sky and sea.

We lay out the downriggers, connect and put out poles, attach planer boards and dip them under the currents. Beneath us, swarms of fish swim by, marked and monitored by screens on the dashboard, but we catch only two–one is a small thing puckering its gills for water-air that we let go. But it’s a great day to be on the boat, out in open water, keeping time to the rising of sun over the sky.

When we roll back into shore it’s a little past the lunch hour; we mow down leftover pizza before piling into Eric’s mom’s Subaru to drive seven minutes to the local high school. Pulling up, we are greeted by towering kites in every color and shape. This is the annual kite festival, parking lot packed and a sea of creatures waving in the wind: black dragons with red wings wriggle in the air, rainbow fish the size of a hot air balloon shakes on its strings, and banners and flags flap furiously when gusts come in. Big bubbles float through the walkway, the soap catching the sun in prisms of color as they move effortlessly above the crowds. In a roped-off grass field, a trio of arrowed kites perform a routine to music, rising and dipping and twirling between each other in tune. This is a time of forgetting, of becoming new.

Eric and I have heaved through these months like explorers hacking a path to new land. Trials by fire and fragility, every step a test to die to self and still my tongue. This is all a gift, exhausting as it is. And this time away has been surprisingly good for the soul. But we are tired, and ready to regroup and go home.

We take the country roads south, keeping as parallel to the lake as possible, until we come to a detour, spin east, and weave our way through back roads to find the shoreline again. It’s almost hidden and we see the sign as we pass, but a park by the water beckons and Eric asks if I want to stop and play catch. We make a U-turn and find a small patch of grass in a clearing of trees, and toss the ball back and forth. It feels good to feel the snap of my wrist on release, listen to the pop of ball in leather. After sticking my phone in the ground for a photo together, we take the slight decline down to the lake, climb over fallen trees and sit on a sturdy log where waves lap at the rocks. The calm clears the clutter that’s gathered in me for weeks, each sentence with Eric a respite from the rampant chaos that has fought to rule for four months. But not today. Today, the wind is slow and our legs are brushing against each other and the world’s swaying like I’m still on my sea legs.

We continue to take back country roads home, admiring the long stretch of sunlight over fields and farmhouses. Windows down, my hand in his, we are at home with our souls, after what seems like an impossible stretch of stretching and growth, merging into one while God’s third cord of rope fashioned itself to ours. It’s felt tight, constricting, but I am learning to lean into the tension. As the familiar bends of land wave us off the main road and we make our way through the closely-lined streets of town, I turn to him and smile, the first rhythms of married life making their way back into our hearts.

Black Space, Dark Matter

Before the canvas of the world was painted, the earth posed black, void, formless.

Intentionally kept dark for creation, for becoming, purpose was published from shadows, from an ink blanket of berth. This was good, part of the order of things.

I allow the same for my soul. Sit in the unshapen, breathless; being. No push to rush away the restless, the flush of alone and feeling of being lost in charcoal soil. I am welcomed in ways I would never experience had I not ventured into hovering waters, deep and endless and uncolored. I have grappled with this way of being, hearing society slap me with a quick, contented fix that inadvertently accuses my faith. Light versus dark. Skin versus spirit. Righteousness versus sin. As if where one side existed, the other couldn’t.

I have not been born to carry continuous happy bubbled within my chest. My burden is my blessing in the underbelly of life, where my tears find themselves falling down the skin of someone else, where my anchored heart magnetizes with the weight of theirs. Where I am constantly standing in line with the loose rise of moon, face deeply creviced and reflecting light in imitation.

**

Today I am beyond honored to be featured at Ruminate Magazine’s blog, The Waking. Head over to read the rest.

This life is an incredible gift.

Come To You

“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

 

You tell me to come to You.

Me, worn and weary, fall into You, and You will give me rest.

 

Just come to You.

Simple.

Straightforward.

Just come.

Am I that brave?

Do I trust You enough to just come?

Leave my worries at Your feet?

Give You my troubles? The uncertainties of my life? Not knowing which way to turn, job elusive, a permanent place or residence aloof, my fears for settling and giving in to mediocrity?

Can I simply let my burdens fall from my heart and take Your yoke, which You promise is light?

Just come, You beckon. As if it’s the easiest solution and I should have thought of it in the first place. Abide in You so our heartbeats are one, steady cadence.

You promise rest. Rest that my soul craves, is parched for. Rest is a given if only I come. Wherever I am, as I am. You want me as me.

Surrender starts with rest, with giving up and letting go. Loosening the hold I have around my heart, the worry in my head. Abandon all to fall into You.

Release and surrender to the current that has already swept me up, I have been fighting.

Cease striving and be still.

Come to the calm. Submerge my spirit in Your quiet strength.

I cannot work my way to You. Cannot strain to see what’s down the road when the road is swathed in darkness. You give me the light enough I need for the moment, and I should fall into that soft light with grace.

Grace to slow, grace to come. Grace to submit and release. Surround my soul with Your gentleness, cool waters drenched in deep rest. Rest upon the waves. For Your burden is easy and yoke so light.

Come, You tell me. As I am. Leave my troubles with You and relax in Your embrace. Bask in Your beauty, Your soothing guidance. Trust that You are enough.

You are always enough.

You First

The rain is gentle.

So are You.

Reminding me to come back to my first love. Before the world and all its distortions broke my heart, when I walked with You and You were all I could see. All I wanted to watch.

I have forgotten You. Forgotten what it is to love You with all of my heart, soul and strength. Forgotten what it is like to talk to You with intention, with a yearning in my spirit for Your presence, for Your response. To enter into the gateway of relationship, walk beside You and know You are happy being with me.

Love must be loose and not clung to in fear. Love must give of itself freely and let go of what does not matter.

You matter. You alone ask for my love and can receive it.

It is a beautiful thing, to turn and walk toward You, realizing You’ve been waiting. That You have been smiling at me all this time, when I have imagined You off in the distance, stiff and elusive. How have I not seen? How had I gotten so off track that I did not recognize You standing close, watching me, speaking softly to try and get my attention but I could not hear? Maybe I didn’t want to turn from the noise and the echoes, or the clutter tangled me with intent to keep me from listening.

But You are persistent. You were not satisfied to let me go. You would not leave. You remembered when we were one, when we breathed through the same lungs, saw life through the same lens. We were ever evolving, together, and I dared to take Your dreams as mine.

It was You and I, once. Until I lost my way and went ahead, until I strayed. Until I threw my heart in the wringer too many times so it’s turned from red to black and blue. Lifeless. Disillusioned. Frightened. Crestfallen. Careless, I let everything touch me with grimy hands and hearing my head point out where to go. I didn’t stick around to hear from You and my heart paid for it. You alone bring joy. Seeking You, demanding You with desperation. You, in the quiet. You, always finding me. And I, giving my ever-faulty heart back to You. Choosing You, again and again. Daily. Moment by brittle moment. I am fickle and oh so prone to stray. It is a deliberate choice to say each time, “You first. I want You first,” and mean it in my core. To seek You with my soul, and fight for my heart with all my strength, fasten it to Yours.

As this rain drips from the trees, You speak more in this moment than in months before. Maybe because I am ready. Maybe because now it is an active participation. Maybe simply it’s been long enough. I do know this reformation will be difficult. It will require much work of the heart and effort and intentionality on my part. Hour after hour, constant reminders that I am giving You the first fruits of my heart, and everything else that follows comes from You because that’s what You want for me. I am done with idols, though their cold stone has pulled me heavy and are not easy to cast off. But You will pull me through and bring vibrancy to my life that I’ve been missing and haven’t been able to attain.

Every beat of my heart, twitch of my desire, has to be only You. I will learn to love again, as You will teach me all Your beautiful ways that make it sweet to hold open my heart for its fill.