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To Give of My Love

Perfect love casts out fear.  -1 John 4:19

 

“Keep holding out your heart,” You say to me. As if this suggestion will suddenly solve all the pain I’ve worked so hard to ease.

To hang my heart suspended, open, revealed and flesh tender offers it up for continuous misalignment? Not what I have wanted. We have come so far for me to retreat and hide away the core of me, though what You are calling me to is not easy.

To tell the truth, it’s excruciating. To give of my love when it is not returned in the way I desire, to gently encourage another, see them through their own difficulties, when my heart breaks every day because I’ve asked from the start how could it ever end without a battered heart? But I bleed, again and again, for the sake of Your perfect love casting out the fear to flee.

Yet how long, O Lord, will You call me to this constant exposure, this continual brokenness as I bare my soul for the sake of another?

You still hover, motionless, in pause. I still wait, pensive, willing Your move.

How the wait hurts. When there is nothing I can do, simply sit with heart throbbing, worn from its unraveling. The old me has been razed to the ground, leveled, pitched into an abyss. I am not who I was when I said yes to this life, however reluctantly, unaware of the fight and burns that lay ahead.

But I have been as brave as I’ve dared, searching my scorched spaces and staying in the discomfort, digging in to the secrets of my heart and bringing my fears to the table, the timid self that has not been allowed a voice. You’ve coaxed me to admit my desires, to get desperate before you, soul parched for my deepest needs. And You began to bring a newness to my heart I didn’t recognize I needed until one day the veil dissolved before my eyes and I saw in front of me the desires you knit deep inside before my time began.

And now, just as I air my heart’s importance to the front of my days, You hold off on completing my request. Heart hung in uncertainty, clarity of path erased so I literally cannot see the next step in front of me. I feel stuck, though I know You mean for me to move forward with the tender beats of my heart still willing to shine Your love towards the source of sun.

I cannot come out unscathed. Already shaped into someone I do not recognize, I do not remember how my heart beat before it broke. So here I am, told to love as You do, selfless, for another’s wellbeing before my own.

I am willing, but I am also naked before the breath of my heart’s bravery, this hurt as it breaks every day, over again. A cycle of cries begging to be released from this season of extended wait, disappearance of the love I hoped to receive. This is where You tell me to settle. Into the unknown, into the softening of my heart’s skin to believe that You are indeed over that which is completely out of my control.

To love without expectation of return. To steady the flow of blood that streams from my private places and fall onto Your grace when I live and love and have to stare my unfulfilled dreams in the face every day. To trust that You have plans for unfolding my heart inside out, upside down.

But it had better be beautiful. You’d best be breathing it back to life.

Your hovering irritates my already raw heart, as all I feel is the prickle of Your presence. I am not yet stirred to action, yet I don’t know if there ever will be the answer I long to hear.

How long must I love without condition, without return? How long must I be brave to bring my hope and hurt to the life You usher me towards, stay in this undefined state where my heart refuses to fold back into itself?

If I continue to offer my heart open, how will You respond?

Give me strength to love what is now before me, how to gently coax my tender fears, gentle hope to continue when I cannot see, when You call me to face beyond understanding the ways of the heart.

 

Reflection Time:

What does perfect love look like?

How can I combat the fears I have with God’s perfect love?

God, what are You saying to me through this verse?

 

Here I am again, Father, heart hanging in the balance. Again in the unknown, forging forward to live a life I never expected, one I don’t quite know how to handle. Help me, please, to keep my heart open, even when it hurts. Help me to trust You, to know that You are in control over all things. That includes my life, and all that is deep within me. Heal me in this newness, my Lord. Amen.

 

 

Watch Expectantly

But as for me, I will watch expectantly
for the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my
salvation.
My God will hear me.

– Micah 7:7

 

Truths to rest my heart:

Watch expectantly – with hope and anticipation.
Wait for the God who saves me.
He keeps telling us to wait for Him.

My God will hear me.
That is a promise.

He tells me to watch expectantly for Him, and to wait for Him.
He hears me.

He is faithful and trustworthy.
He comes through for His children.

 

Takeaway:

Take heart and trust that He hears me. That He is working out this season.

The Lord hears and answers. Watch expectantly.

 

 

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?

Just Believe

Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
-Mark 5:36

It’s a simple thing, You say. To have faith. Faith in the smallest measure moves mountains, makes a way. Faith is honored, acknowledged, and in faith, I can come closer to You.

But I believe I have a brittle faith, one that still shakes and tremors. I pull into myself, bow my head and make myself unseen, not daring to lift my eyes and open my mouth to agree with You in faith for the deep things of my heart.

Why can’t I just believe? Why am I afraid to believe? I am afraid that if I release myself into freedom of believing You, I’m just tricking myself into creating an excuse to go after what I want.

I cannot equate the way I feel with anything that could be from You.

“Do not be afraid; just believe.” Your words, meant to soothe and build trust, strengthen faith. In context, You raise a man’s dead daughter. You do the impossible like it is simply Your everyday way. Because it is.

I can feel like the man’s dead daughter, lifeless, unmoving. Frozen in fear that what I want doesn’t line up with you, and if I open up to my deepest desires, I’ll be falling into sin and away from Your best for my life. I do not want to sin for the sake of my desires. Though what really calls to me the deepest are those places of desire and need nestled carefully in my tender heart. You tell me to believe, to follow You, and You give me just enough light to see the next step. But how do I know if it is You I am following when where I’m going couldn’t possibly make sense, couldn’t possibly be a part of Your plan? Even when my heart cries desperately otherwise.

Slow down. Remember to breathe. I am still breathing, and You are still here. You tell me to stop thinking, just believe, that I am missing the mark when I manifest my fears and diminish my faith.

Look to You. Look to who You are, who You have shown Yourself to be. Faithful. True. Loving. Kind. You do not want me to torment myself with wondering where I should draw my line on belief, how I should rate myself on my perspective of faith. I’ve already spent too much energy on worry that won’t come to life because it’s all in my thoughts, nothing has happened. I make it a mess and don’t sit still long enough for you to untangle me.

I am tangled, yes; my heart has slowed, yes. But I do not want to stay like this. I will sit still for You to carefully pull apart my confused thoughts, quiet me with Your love, and remind me I am fully Yours and because You are, I am.

You bring my belief back to life when I quiet myself and choose to believe my desires and heart align with Yours. Because we are connected, because I long for what You long for, because my heart beats for what Yours beats for.

It is a new awakening, holding on to hope. Lifting my face and meeting Your eyes, my heart jumping with expectancy.

Don’t be afraid; just believe.

Sometimes, my faith falters and I find myself doubting. But You know my heart, and You know who I can be in You. Thank You that You love me enough to still my racing thoughts and untangle the mess I make in my disbelief. Thank You that You fill me with trust in You, to remember Your character and how You love, and that You align my heart with Yours. Help me to hold tight to You, to stretch my faith and choose to believe Your truth over any fears I may have. I love You. Amen.

Strength in Stillness

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14 (NIV)

The afternoon sun streaks through my living room window, and I settle into my seat, finding just the right spot for the light to warm my body. On my windowsill, books bend into one another, and pens spill from their holder; my daily Bible verse calendar shows an image of majestic mountain peaks and a scriptural assurance of faith I cannot see.

The call to faith in the unseen resonates deeper than I wish it to.

I’ve spent these past six months fighting for my mental and physical health.  I’m still wrestling with the lingering aftermath of COVID-19 and anxiety, comparing my state of exhaustion to where I was before I got sick.

When I see my life as it was, and I see the setbacks I’m battling, I can’t help but be tempted to spiral down the “why me?” rabbit hole. The daily battles leave me worn and wondering just how this will play out.

My camp is close to crumbling, and I need reinforcements. If I have the Lord of heaven’s armies with me, what is His tactic? What is His next move?

Is it to strengthen me supernaturally so I can take ground where I have loosened my hold?

Is it to storm my enemies and knock them down in one motion?

Is it to wait for me to say the right prayer or scripture and believe just a bit more for my faith to come to life and be “useful” in my healing?

Or is it possible God is calling me to something radically different? What if God’s will looks something like this: “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)?

The more I meditate on this verse, the more I realize I’ve been carrying much more stress than I need to. I’ve hoisted the weight of my health on my shoulders, striving to learn answers, comparing what was to what is now, and holding heavy, unrealistic expectations in my heart and mind.

Maybe you are, too. Maybe we’ve all been holding on to our own designs of how life should be and having trouble wrapping our minds around reality.

What do we do with the vice grip we’ve put ourselves in?

 

**

What a joy and honor to be over at Proverbs 31 Ministries today to examine what strength in stillness looks like. Will you join me there?

Good to Come

Plush grass cushions my body as I shift on my blanket, blue pearl of a sky wraps the dome of Port Washington, harbor full of hulls and bows of sailboats. Lake Michigan spreads wide and comfortable out to the eastern horizon, where a thin line of gray clouds gather low. Sparrows, red-winged black birds, and chickadees play in the air, plunging and rising around the park. Sun rests warm on the back of my neck; out in the distance, white-winged caps of wave flank and furl for speedboats flying across the open water.

This early June day is dipped in what it should be, the delight of a drowsy, sun-soaked slowness and as close to perfection as we can get this side of heaven. It’s also my 37th birthday, and the lightness of the environment matches me inside. I have been slow to embrace my birthday, but for some reason, perhaps for the first time, I see this day as a start to another year, a start I can—dare I?—believe will bring new healing and joy that haven’t yet been revealed? What newness is to come? What road to wisdom and wholeness and depth and life?

The wind shifts and blows from the southwest, covers the warmth from the sun with a thin blanket of cool breeze. But the sun still stays, and so does the light blue of the sky. Fishing boats still motor through the marina, make their way to the wild azure water past the lighthouse. Birds still dance and sing, and my heart stills stays open, ready, asking God to move my mind, body, and soul in a restoring direction, let this smooth, simple day be the start of His good to come.

 

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.

 

Toward the Sun, the Healing

Jesus, the sun—such brightness.
The birds—their song is loud; my ears pick up nothing else.
The grass has never looked so green, lush, full.
The flowers, coming into bloom sudden and striking.
I have never known a spring
so desired or welcome.

Can it mirror my mind’s healing, too?
Movement upwards, hope in a season
secure, here to stay?
Safety comes in the promise of
what arrives time after time.

Jesus, You’ve made the spring surge awake.
Will you surge in me and tend
to my mind and heart?
Awaken them to turn
toward the sun, the healing.

How We Have Grown

When I came home from work on a frigid Monday evening, worn out and sick, I found a brown bag full of saltines and Verner’s Ginger Ale at my back door. I barely even knew you. But that was who you are, who you continue to be. You took care of me then and you take care of me now.

How has it been two years since I took your name, took my life and placed it in your hands? My goodness, how we have grown. How we have built each other up and asked for forgiveness, how we have learned how we feel by assessing body language.

You are my support. When my smile is wide and heart is light. When my mind and heart are heavy and my smile turns into sobs. When I lose my way, you bring me back. You are patient, loving, gentle, kind, and more than I ever could have imagined.

What a gift you are, my pillar from God who speaks His love into me with words, with actions, and with nothing at all but strong and secure arms around me. You have held me in my darkest of nights and somehow the light has sifted through because you stay, unafraid.

My love dives deeper into depths I cannot understand or explain. You hold me up and lay beside me, lead and walk with me. Thank you for picking me, for choosing me and understanding me more than I ever could have dreamed. Happy two-year anniversary, Eric. Two years as your wife is just the beginning. My support and love for you only strengthens. You’re my favorite!

 

Untangle My Chest

I wake to a new day, sleep still lingering in my eyes. As my body stirs, so does my mind, doing a mental scan of my thoughts and emotions. I notice, again, the weight in my chest, gaining strength. It’s been the pattern for weeks, my constant companion in my waking hours. Frustration settles, as I prepare to battle through another day weighed down.

This invisible heavy hand has a hold of my heart, presses down, keeps joy from rising, from excitement growing.

I’m a tangled metal knot with no idea how to lift the oppression. It’s debilitating—how does it dissipate?

I share this with Eric as I brew the coffee, kettle boiling, beans ground into powder for my pour over. He takes me face in his hands and leans me in close, nuzzles my nose.

“It’s like a tangled fishing line,” he explains, the man familiar among open water. “There can be many knots—big ones that take a lot of line, small, tight ones that seem almost impossible to sort. But you work them out, massage the line. It takes time, and you have to be patient, but eventually the knots loosen and come undone, and you’ve got a full, clean line again. Sometimes you have to clip, sometimes you lose a hook, but eventually it works out, if you take the time and care.”

I stare into his blue eyes, still sleepy in their own right, but true and focused, soft. His next words are almost a whisper. “That’s what God’s doing with you. You are uniquely made and it’s beautiful. Something’s gotten tangled inside, and He’s sorting it out with His own hands, helping you untangle.”

I hold to his words, wondering. That’s a new picture I’ve never drawn before. The tender process of becoming undone to be pieced together. The strong and nimble fingers of my Lord, massaging out the clump of knots crimping my life flow. Bending close, breath on my face as He studies what has curled to choke me inside, maneuvers each strand to slip free.

It’s in this intimacy where I find my God Immanuel, the One who wants to be with me. If I lean in, allow Him His work, I find His presence, find healing strength in Him.