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Love Like That

The crowds. The echoing screams. The choice. They released a murderer and sent Him to the cross. As it was meant to be. Because while His face swelled with bruises and lips tasted sour vinegar, as His breathing labored and the sky draped itself in dreary mourning, your face flashed through His mind. Your name rested on His tongue, which was parched and took every last ounce to utter words that sealed fate: “It is finished.” Then He dropped his head, crown of thorns wrapped in matted hair, and the temple curtain tore in two, breaking the barrier between your spot in darkness and the welcoming embrace from the mighty Creator of the heavens and earth. For while He fought sin, became immersed in every thought, word and action you would cast, He know the trade was worth it. Worth the pain and humility this lowly death would take to raise you up with Him into eternity. He chose the blows that bled His breath from His lungs, because He saw the love of the Father reflected in your clear, searching eyes, begging to be rescued.

So He fought. Laid His life down for you to lift yours to sit at His right hand, the hand that held the nails and secured your salvation.

 

You’ve never experienced a love like that before. I guarantee it.

 

Prayer:

Thank You for thinking of me while I was not yet a glimpse in this life. Thank You for the nails, and for the battle against death won to save me from my sins. Please let me remember how You love, so I may show that love to others around me. Amen.

 

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.

This, Too, Shall Pass

It’s fitting, the fog outside my window. Mirrors my insides. Mist, milky gray, hovering. This, too, shall pass, but now I’m stuck smack dab in the mire.

In the middle of March, it’s no longer the winter terror that took its place over our state, spring is weak, but she is coming. The warmer temperatures (anything is warmer than the teens we’ve been used to), melts the mounds of snow to smaller bumps, trickles trails of water down the street, softens up the dirt, churning to mud. It’s ugly, it’s messy, branches strewn all over the place that were long buried. This is a mess, the shift between seasons.

And this is where I am, in the in-between, hardly moving. Wrapped in a listless haze while my heart deconstructs a great many distortions.

O LORD, You have searched me
and You know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
-Psalm 139:1-2

Is it wrong to want more? To break out of the vanilla, the blah, and break forth the zest of life.
Somehow, I don’t think it is.
Somehow, I think God is calling me, is calling all of us, to more.
More of His goodness.
More of His grace.
More of His trust.
More of His love.
The ache of knowing, of being known—this, too, shall pass. It is already shifting into light, into redemption and restoration. The call for more—a pass from what if into what already is.

***

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.

Above the Waterline

They say to trust the Lord and He will help get you through your struggles. But I think that’s something the superficial Christians say to keep them from truly experiencing the underside of God, the side where your heart is a razor cutting into the tender hope laid bare in the bones of your soul. When you are breaking every day, a constant thorn in your side that does not seem to be getting any better or going away any time soon. My heart bleeds for the impossible, and I cannot just turn off the way I feel. My head says trust the Lord because He works all things out for me, but my heart, that bruised, lonely piece of me where real life seeps in, it is not so sure, cannot see the other side because it takes every ounce of energy just to take another step.

Trust, to me, is tiny. It’s baby steps. It’s all I can do to place one shaky foot in front of the other. One breath from my lungs into another. It’s holding my eyes above the waterline, refusing to submerge under the sea. It’s deciding to see God’s goodness in the mundane, for only the moment stretched at my fingertips.

I have to keep telling myself to breathe. I have to literally remind my lips to part and exhale the air I’d been subconsciously trapping within, holding off my heart.

Today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow and that’s all I know. In the bowels of the bad and breaking, it has to be a moment by moment walk with my hand stitched to His. It is one tiny whisper of trust, and then another.

Calm Yourself

Stop yourself for a moment. Do you hear what you are saying? The same words flow off your tongue, the same questions quiver in your mind. Over and over again, you stitch them together so no answer can slip through the barrier you have constructed by your own human heart.

You are wearing yourself thin, spinning in circles as you are. You say you want answers, yet when I speak, you push over My words as if you did not hear them, as if they could not be the answer I would give you. So you press on, raising more doubts, entangling yourself in lies when it has been My truth holding onto you this entire time.

You walk with blinders, you rub yourself raw. You keep your head directed to the ground and tune your ears to the noise that swirls around you. Can you not see Me? I am right in front of you. Lift your weary, heavy head and see Me, leading you on, holding out My hand to guide you.

I am here. Always have been. But you have been so persistent, scanning your eyes for what you already know. Round and round you go, winding yourself up so tightly in your mind your heart has no room to breathe, to beat in tune to what I am singing. You are a broken record that skips the best parts of your favorite song. You are a clinging vine of fear that coils around your mind, squeezes tight and clamps down and spills a paralyzing poison in your heart. How you writhe and in place and choke the most important pieces of you!

Relax; don’t strain. Don’t flail in desperation or forsake how far you’ve come. Don’t get so distracted with the roaming rambles of your worries. Your heels are scratching into the sand from attempting to draw near to Me on your own. And you are not moving.

Stand still. Allow Me to come to you. Loosen your limbs, release what you can never control. Close your eyes and feel the whisper of My voice, flowing in your ear and washing through your heart. Let it take root, find its footing and settle in for the long haul. What I have for you may not be what you expected, but I am with you and wish for you so ardently to see and accept.

So calm yourself, beloved. Calm yourself. Sit down beside Me and open your heart. You cannot let Me love you if you are clutching so tightly to your own thoughts. What you have is fine. The way you are has worked alright until this point. This is true. You have been ok.

But you are meant to be more than ok. You are meant to be so much more.

Will you listen for Me? Can you clear your heart and mind and let Me in to revive you, to untangle you from the webs you have spun so haphazardly around your soul?

Unclench your deepest hurt, that vulnerability you try desperately to hide. Let it into the light. Let Me touch those wounded places, that we may be gentle together and begin in a safe place to heal.

 

I promise, it will be worth it.

 

Prayer:

Father, can I relinquish all that I have been holding to You? You promise me it is worth it, though it isn’t easy. I have held so tightly to my own thoughts and ways, yet I see they have gotten me nowhere. Oh Lord, how I long to release myself and trust You! Help me to be strong, and have the courage to follow where You lead. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Carried Closer

Here I sit, middle of a sun-drenched park with sweet scent of hibiscus heightened by the fresh fall of overnight rain. Sky spread robin’s egg blue before me in loose canopy, fat firs and lithe oak growing into their bark-skin, this is my normal solitude, the kind that curls around my soul and warms me in quiet.

Yet as beautiful as this scene is, and how I am a small, breathing part of it, I do not sit satisfied. God and I, we have been exploring the inner-yearnings of my heart, gently exploding truths into me and safely exposing my desires, my needs, the longings I have long locked dormant. This is self-discovery in this raw form, rare bones of breathing in the new tears in my universe that free me from bondage and into acceptance that this humanness—this womanhood—is actual design and deemed okay from my Creator. Because He knows how I am made—He wired me this way—and I am, for the first time in my scared, shriveled life and always afraid to reattach with my heart, allowed to let these longings in, rub them around my fingers and pull my ear close to listen to what they have to say.

Sometimes alone no longer is enough. When I have a God-placed hunger within for communion, for connection, for the pull of my soul towards another’s, I am taking this new trail as far as it will carry me.

Wind runs its hands along the grass, cups my face. Errant bikers pedal slow and lazy, nowhere intentional to be. The hair on my skin trembles like antennas for my insides. For the length of my years alone has been alright with me. But not today. Not any longer.

Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires, Song of Songs 2:7 reminds me. But it has woken me, and I never noticed its wings unfurl until the pressing beat has brushed my heart alive.

My lungs inflate, balloon against my rib cage, slowly settle. Faith. Hope. Love. But the greatest of these is love, which is calm, patient, kind, always trusting.

Movement in the water. Sparks on the shore. Stirring in the air, circling my heart. Fluid patterns dripped into this mysterious current, one I am willing and eager to lift into and be carried closer to you.

Redemption Song

The Lord redeems all things.

The week that stretched an eternity, knocked away my energy and crashed my computer, accounting for endless hours on the phone, troubleshooting with tech support, taking it in to a repair shop and saying the internal is fried and all my documents and photos, erased—this has been a test of endurance, a realignment of perspective and what matters. No matter what, God is good, and I will hold fast to Him.

After six hours yesterday on the phone with a tech who helped us with a factory reboot so my computer magically runs as if it was brand new, with a clean slate with nothing on it, I was ready to piece documents from an old external drive and what I had emailed to myself over the weeks. But Eric called me over, and we looked at the screen to find it all safely tucked in a cloud-like folder. Hidden and protected somewhere in the sky high above our heads. And now, when I signed in to my account, it all just suddenly was there.

I have no explanation, but I give all praise to God that through this incredibly confusing and frustrating week, He taught us many things, and assured us that He protects, defends, and redeems His children.

A redemption song my soul gladly sings in the middle of a sun-bright morning. He is always good, even in the midst of trial. He is faithful, even when circumstances try to shake our belief. But we remember what matters, what truly lasts—relationship with Him, gratefulness for what we already have, and the privilege to love others well.//

Hallelujah, I have my “life” back with the surprise reappearance of everything. Hallelujah, He has been with me, proving yet again that when I am so very weak, He is strong. He is strong so I can boast all the more gladly in my weakness, showing God for who He is—Protector, Provider, Sustainer, and so much more.

He indeed redeems all things.

 

 

**

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: Redeem.   // symbolizes where five minutes started and/or stopped.

Whole

You are not whole.

 

Can you feel it? The gap between your lungs? Air flickers through the void, aimless, without weight. It clears your soul to hover in an uncomfortable unknown.

Because of it, you feel heavy. Anchored to some invisible line, leading to blackness. It clips your throat and steals your breath. You cycle through emotionless day after emotionless day, forging ahead, filling your mind with trivial details you won’t remember the next week just to keep yourself from acknowledging the aching in your heart. From acknowledging the tear across your aorta where dreams disband and darkness develops. It is forbidden to feel. You will not let yourself admit to your misery because that would mean relying on someone other than yourself.

You’ve attached yourself to a plethora of people who welcome you for a time but rid you when you’ve served your purpose. All you want is for the dullness inside to deepen, to take root and twist around you so you are wrapped in something that won’t let you go. Each day is the same strain to keep together; each night brings terrors that reach for you with chilling hands. How much more heartache can you handle before you slip into nothing, a shell of the woman you once dreamed to be?

You are still a little girl inside. Still vulnerable, still hopeful beyond rational reason. You play with perfection, watch it slip to the molting earth and wonder when it was, that moment you stopped believing.

What can you say when your voice is taken from you, when you call out for answers and are met with silence? There is a mystery in the caverns of your cry, deep enough to hide in yet easily accessible. When you slip the door open a crack, trying to trust, an intruder bursts in and upturns your lamps, the fire that keeps you ignited. It is a whirlwind, tearing through with no warning, and you are left sitting in the ashes of apathy. Better not to give yourself away, you think. Better to burn out than attempt to kindle any kind of resolution from the mistakes you’ve made.

That missing part of yours still longs to be put together. To find its counterpart and feel, for once, that just maybe you are meant to be taken care of. Meant to be treasured, a pearl in a sea of stained stones.

So you dare to look around the darkness. Dare to face the light that is turning on your hope. Because in the depths of your disappointment, you know that there is more outside these walls you’ve constructed. A bridge across the canyon between your ribcage. A soft landing from your hard fall.

You are spinning. So uncertain, confused at the yearning inside. But movement is good. Movement means there is direction. There is a voice that continues to call. And you follow, hesitantly at first, because you are scared to step away from the prison you’ve preserved. But with each step, the voice grows stronger, sweeter. And the indentation in your soul craves to converse with it. Your soul is smart. It knows what it needs. It knows where to tug, where to pull you. It knows it is meant to be whole.

 

 

Lord, I am missing some key pieces. I’ve kept the buried deep in my heart, closed up and refused to bring them to the surface. I am ashes and emptiness. But I long for the light. Help me move towards You, even if it’s a slow pace and with small steps. I want to be closer to You, want the love and the healing You offer. Guide me to those missing pieces, my God. Amen.