Saturday, April 22, 2017

{ IT'S YOUR BREATH IN OUR LUNGS }

I've been encouraged to write. Challenged. Read it on pages and in between lines. Heard it in a song. Write, write, write. The ones who know me so well... they tell me. "Where are you? Why aren't you doing this thing that you were given to do?" And... I don't know. I've got kids, man. I've got responsibilities and stuffed calendars and I just sometimes want to sit in my comfy pants and eat Starburst Jellybeans and binge on a favorite show. Sometimes... a lot of times... I think: what could I possibly have to offer? I can't even get caught up on laundry. I feel like I'm kind of a mess. There's not much inspirational about that.

But, I'll admit... when it's quiet? When I have space to hear the strum of my heart and the pounding of dreams racing through my head, like the agile feet of a runner, Reebok's smacking the asphalt? I feel it. I feel it right now. My spirit is knocking on a door I keep on locking up. Oh sure, pull the laptop out and write a little here and there, and then back in the cage you go, you silly creative thing, you.

But when I sit... like today, with the iced coffee and the burning down candle and the sleeping baby upstairs... when I give myself a chance to pause and think about the greatness of God and the smallness of me and the gasping beauty of being chosen, loved, worthy, chased after, gifted... and then I have to ask myself, "Where are you? Why aren't you doing this thing?"

It all leaves me a little breathless.

The whole process steals my air. The stringing together of words, the puzzle pieces of a sentence, the interlocking wave of a paragraph; oh, I love. Tapping it out and then pausing, looking out the window, trying to catch the next wave, to see the otherworldly things just beyond the living room... finding a detail that I would have missed if I hadn't paused. The way a story unfolds. How it always unfolds. It's enchanting. It's an enchanting thing to be a part of.

There's a pure joy and it's not for anything other than the pure joy. And shouldn't we do more of that? Have more of that? Instead of tearing others down or beating ourselves up... what if we unfurled more an more into the blossom we were meant to be? We like to think we need to constantly be transplanted, uprooted, changed. Taken somewhere other than where we are. Like sure, there's better things, but I'm going to have to be stolen away to ever find it.

But what if we could have it? What if we just put down the roots and shot up tall and strong and waveringly lovely? What if we really did bloom right here. Just where we are?

Isn't the greatest beauty the one you see and call out in someone else? That you speak to your own reflection? Seeing a gift unfurl in someone... experiencing and witnessing their bravery and transformation... isn't that what this - creativity, faith, art, books, music - isn't that what it's for? A tool to cause us to come alive? To grow? That's life, isn't it?

If it's not about a kingdom or a treasure incorruptible, what is it about? If it's not about the risen Christ rising in us... of witnessing and speaking truth and seeing it expand in another?

If not that... then what are we doing?

We can get caught in the spider web of should. Of so-called service. We snag our stressed sweaters of shoulders and backbone on being good. Helpful. Showing up on time, showing up early. And we are really busy doing the things. But are we mentoring? Do we know the people we are walking with? Do we pray for them? Intercede for them? Allow them close enough to intercede for us? Do we pray for each other? Get down in the pit with each other? Speak truth over each other?

I thought about it all as I got ready for the night yesterday. About the blooming and the splendor, of the unfurling and the open pods in the earth, of seeds and water and sun. I come out all fresh hair and the stress of the day drained out dry and pick up the book I left bookmarked by draping it over the lip of a basket. I read it right there in my hands, the next words on the page. Curled up on my couch, I feel the weight of the paper against my thumb and freeze my breathing...

"In the end, it's all just violets trying to come to light." ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

In the end... it's all just... oh my.

Just violets trying to come to light. Bloom where they are planted. Grow into what they were always intended to grow up into.

I walk into Target. Killing time at the Dollar Spot. It's the first thing I see. A little $3 wooden plank that says, "Bloom Baby Bloom". I giggle, stupidly. Surprised and delighted, it bubbles before I can stop it. I play it off as me cooing to my baby, so the khaki and red shirted folk won't look at me any stranger than they are already.

Take another cursory glance before moving on and I see it on a simple pot. An embossed word in the clay: BLOOM.

Into the cart it goes.

And so I'm here, with the white screen and the blinking cursor and I think... okay. If this is how I bloom, then this is how I bloom. And there's only silliness to expect to bloom somewhere else, if this is my spot in the gritty dirt. There's a lot I'm not good at. There's a lot I've failed at. There's a lot I mess up, all the time. But sitting here, playing with words? This does something for my heart.

One of my favorite quotes is: "The glory of God is man fully alive." (St. Irenaeus) I first read it in my first apartment, bent over breakfast and a book by John Piper. And it likes to circle through my head like a favorite 90's country tune. It just never goes away. And I've seen it... when someone is so caught up in their calling and their purpose - what God has uniquely gifted them to say and do - how startling and inspiring that is. Because it makes you think, "Maybe I can come that alive, too." 

But we can't all come alive if we're trying to be like someone else or force feed ourselves to paint when we'd rather run or work with kids when we'd rather minister to the elderly, or work outside the home when we'd rather work inside. There are always things you have to do - I'm sorry, but you're just going to have to adult sometimes. But when it comes to the creativity, the giftedness, the uniqueness of you? That's all you. And you should grow wild with it.

I think maybe I should just stay here and try to come to light.

I think you should, too.

#bloombabybloom
"Makers gonna make."
~  U n k n o w n 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

{ WE BURY DREAMS }

It feels extravagant.

A little silly.

I sit down with a plate of eggs, feta, chives. I fill a mason jar with exactly 8 oz. of cold milk. And I sit. I open a window, light a candle, and I sit.

My feet buzz with the history of busy. With the pressure of me on them all day, roaming the house, what could be done, should be done... what I'm too tired, too stressed, too hassled by kiddos to do. My feet pound the paneled floors, the carpeted steps. They think about hitting the treadmill.

The heels cup and burn with the relief of being done. For now.

This morning my alarm went off unexpectedly at 5:30 a.m. I have it preset just in case I think I'm going to get up and have some pocket of quiet before kids and school and diapers and all the all hits. And then before bed, sometimes the middle of the night, I go, "Nah." and turn it off. Tell Jesus that if He wants to meet with me, He can wake me up.

Pretty sure I turned the alarm off.

My husband nudged me this morning as it was going off. Unconscious as I was.

I smiled.

Okay. I told You I'd get up. I'm up.

I pad to the kitchen. Turn on the coffee. Pull closed the door to the boys' room, so they can sleep a little longer before the demands of the day get to them, too. The rain smacks the windows, lightening triggers bursts and rumbling of the earth. I think it's nice. A rainy day, that sounds nice. Grace and coffee and nowhere to be.

A dandelion on my window sill, hangs precariously on the lip of my husband's grandma's sea blue pint jar. I take in the contrast of the bright yellow, tugged from the earth by my four year old and ran to the back door for me only yesterday. The storm rages beyond the glass. The dandelion hangs on.

Gosh. Isn't that just hope? Isn't that just hope and wishes and this busted life?

I read it not even an hour later in a devotional to my 7 year old as he munches on his breakfast. It starts out in bold, "Hope". I smile. We may say that we hope this or that will happen, or that the check will come in the mail or the test results will be positive or maybe that they'll be negative - we hope it'll all work out. Hope it'll happen, somehow. But hope per the Bible? Hope means that ABSOLUTELY SURELY something is going to happen. Our hope hinges on faith.

Faith that God will make all things new. That He works all things for our good. That the best things, our greatest treasures, can never be taken from us. He is, the "God of hope" (Romans 15:13). Not the God of wishes and twisted fingers, hoping for the best. The God of certainty. The God of promise. The God that gives such a hope to us, in the CERTAINTY that THIS hope will, "...fill you with all joy and peace as you trust Him..."

Hope... not that it'll go my way... but hope that I will trust Him? Trust Him in the storm, in the thunder, in the crushing? Hope in Him, certain that He sees myself, much like the dandelion, straining to hang on, to not slip completely under and away. And why? For what? I have a God Who is hope and a God Who is sure and I'm supposed to hope so that I can trust Him more? That I can have joy and peace - in all the times, all the in between spaces - and then what?

"...so that you may overflow with hope."

Overflow. With Hope. Overflow with trust in WHO HE IS.

How would that change my days? My storms?

The sun presses its way through. The two littles and me, we leave the Post Office and there's the sun. Hoping high and burning off the morning rain. I step in an iridescent puddle as I lean in to strap the baby in his seat. We take our time getting to preschool. Drive over the covered bridge. Drive down familiar roads. Stop and take a picture of the morning sky. Think about His pouring out for us... think of the blood and the wine and the storms and the rain. Of the pounding gales in the sea, the feet on the surface of the water, reaching through... to us.

I came across it Sunday... an artistic rendering of Jesus on the water, reaching through the rippling pool, reaching down to pull up. To restore. Just trust. Hope that He will save, hope that doesn't disappoint, hope that doesn't leave us strangled and knuckling the edge of a ledge, terrified we're going under. Hope that we will rise is trust that He will not fail. When has His arm ever been too short? What has He never been able to reach, if it was in His mind to do so?

This kind of hope. This kind of hope has the power to change it all.

Because trust in the love of Jesus... changes everything.

His love... now, that's something extravagant.


"... 'Safe?', said Mr. Beaver.
'Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?
Who said a n y t h i n g about safe?
'Course he isn't safe.
But he is good."
~ C.S. Lewis

















Monday, February 13, 2017

Your Love is Fierce...

I was so angry. So painfully, gut-wrenchingly, angry.

I didn’t know that’s what it was.

January was exhausting, sickly, draining. It clipped fast on the heels of December and holidays and before I knew it, what should have been a day to celebrate my beautiful niece, was a reminder that she wasn’t here. And I was a mess all day. Cried about everything. I had a purple heart on the calendar and I was destroyed.

I went to choir practice the following Wednesday. I usually always want to go. This week, I didn’t. I felt shattered and exposed and I knew that any song, every song, would set me off. I knew I needed to go, something deep in my spirit knew, but I was so apprehensive. One chorus. One bridge. One well-meaning repeat and I would be undone. I had been breaking and re-breaking in a thousand different ways since October. I was falling apart in every direction.

I had to leave during practice once that night. Went into the ladies room and sobbed so loud, before I could stop myself. My grief was tearing its way through me. It wouldn’t stay in and it couldn’t be tamed. I was going to unravel completely. One tug, one hand on my shoulder, I would fracture again and again. Not even an hour later, I stepped off the risers and all but ran out of the church before we finished sound checking for Sunday. I couldn’t do this. Could. Not.

I sat in the parking lot for thirty minutes and cried.

On my short drive home, I started talking to God. I had become a little estranged from Him. I hadn’t intended to. I just thought I was a mess and when I felt better, it would all be better. But I wasn’t feeling any better and He only seemed further out. I seemed further out. I didn’t know what to say... as though we had had an argument and I didn’t know if I should make the first move or keep waiting. It felt uncertain and painful. But I spoke the words against the windshield of my husband’s truck. I spoke into the night and I spoke to Him, because I knew He was everywhere. The truth eeked out.

“You should have told me.” My voice cracked and my spirit severed. 

I gasped for air. The truth was out. The ugly, nasty truth was out and it finally made sense and He heard me loud and clear. I’m mad and I’m hurt and dismayed and it’s all too late, so, so too late - and You should have told me! I know I’m not God, but I could have done something. Would have done anything. I was near Him and listening and seeking and I would have heard. Would have followed through. Anything, Lord. 

I pull into our gravel drive and sit. Crying. Watching the moon. Gritting my teeth, my head pounding. But there was a warmth against my chest, my shoulders. A nearness. He was there, had always been there - holding me together and holding me together still. I had just been fighting and angry; so gosh darned wrecked that I didn’t see that all I was doing was running in the wrong direction. My busted heart in my hands, a hundred thousand miles in the wrong direction.

Thursday I woke up and for the first time in months I felt it. Hope.

On Sunday night I’m sitting with my small group from church and our leader talks about the beauty of Christ. Starts talking about Narnia and Aslan and the stone table. Of sacrifice and love and fierce loyalty. My heart was gasping for air and truth. My eyes blinking too fast against tears. And I just sat there and soaked it up. Give me every crumb, every dusting, every appearance, every nearness and greatness and smallness of Christ. I was starving for Him. I sat there and listened and fell in love all over again. How great, how tender, how beautiful, how fierce. Our God.

I came home and put an image of a lion on my phone as my lock screen. 

And I’m scheduled to play keyboard with the band for the following Sunday morning and we have a new song. A brand new song, simply called, “Jesus”, and I print it out and write in my chords and I swallow every word, eek out harmonies and I’m amazed as we sing of the loveliness of Jesus: “He roars like a lion, He bled as the lamb...” 

He roars. Like a lion. I would wake up in the night for weeks with those words.

My heart finally mended. While loss was certainly making my heart ache, isolating and keeping myself distanced from God was destroying me in ways I couldn’t put into words. I’d glance at the lock screen and my hungry heart would smile and feel safe. At home. Three weeks solid, a lion on my phone, a fierce love taking me back and healing me all over. Whenever I felt like I was suffocating or that my insides were stabbing through my outsides, I would see that image on my phone, hear the words of that song and I would take a deep breath and put myself back in His hands.

Back between those mighty paws, if you’re a Narnia fan.

A full three weeks later and it’s another Sunday. I’m back with the earbuds in my ears, my fingers on the keys, clearing my throat against the mic. And I’m stunned a little silly - we’re doing a new song, but not the new song we had scheduled. I’m a little confused as to what this song is or where it came from. I text my friend, Richelle: “We’re doing another song about God being a lion.” She texts back, “I’m not surprised.” My voice falls in step with our worship leader,  “Our God is a lion, the Lion of Judah. He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles.... Who can stop the Lord almighty?”

And then it’s today, a fresh week,

I’m sitting in my house with my two youngest boys and my friend and a plate of cookies and we’re talking about it all. About where I was in my spirit a month ago and where I am now. How good God is. How near. How aware. How tender. How careful. He’s the most loving, most adoring, most dear. I felt overwhelmed with Him and the sun blinded me as it poured in the windows of my home.

For the first time in like forever, both littles were napping. I opted out of work and settled down with coffee and candle and journal. Decided to take some deep breaths and do a little recon on this lion of a God. I tap “Aslan” into my Pinterest search bar.

I burst into tears the second the page loads.

That’s me. I know that’s Narnia and Lucy. But that’s me.  That’s God. That’s a hundred and twelve times over and over again what has been going on with me. Sit stunned, tears streaming and I take a picture and text it to Richelle. My heart pounding, smiling, freaking out. I keep scrolling and pinning to my new board. So grateful. So released. So seen.

I pin and scroll and scroll and pin and then I’m frozen. My heart stops, skips.

I had no idea about Lucy and her crown. I can’t even say I’ve read the Narnia series completely through. I have a vague recollection of a witch and a wardrobe and some beavers. Right? I know about the stone table. But this? I didn’t know about this. 

He loves me, He loves me. It reverberates through my entire spirit.

My name, Laura, means, “Crowned with laurel leaves.”

You can’t make this stuff up.  

I sit freshly stunned. Just sit and stare and blink at my screen. 

The lyrics to a new song I've been listening to winds itself around my ears for what feels like the first time. It's the words I didn't write and the song I didn't pen, but it's all of me. For the first time in maybe forever, I get it. It all snatches itself together - a long line of stories and truths and moments - and His presence overtakes me. I'm under His wings, in His hands, my face buried in His mane. 

I'm honored and understood and victorious. It's the eve before the day of love and I've never felt so adored. So fought for, so known, so passionately redeemed, so deeply understood. 

Home.


It's not the news that any of us hoped that we would hear

It's not the road we would have chosen, no

The only thing that we can see is darkness up ahead

But You're asking us to lay our worry down and sing a song instead



And I didn't know I'd find You here

In the middle of my deepest fear, but
You are drawing near
You are overwhelming me, with peace

So I'll lift my voice and sing
You're gonna carry us through everything
You are drawing near
You're overwhelming all my fears, with peace

You say that I should come to You with everything I need
You're asking me to thank you even when the pain is deep
You promise that You'll come and meet us on the road ahead
And no matter what the fear says, You give me a reason to be glad

And I didn't know I'd find You here
In the middle of my deepest fear, but
You are drawing near
You are overwhelming me, with peace

So I'll lift my voice and sing
You're gonna carry me through everything
You are drawing near
You're overwhelming all my fear

Here in the middle of the lonely night
Here in the middle of the losing fight, You're
Here in the middle of the deep regret
Here when the healing hasn't happened yet

Here in the middle of the desert place
Here in the middle when I cannot see Your face
Here in the middle with Your outstretched arms
You can see my pain and it breaks Your heart

And I didn't know I'd find You here
In the middle of my deepest fear, but
You are drawing near
You are overwhelming me with, peace

So I'll lift my voice and sing
You're gonna carry me through everything
You are drawing near
You're overwhelming all my fear with peace

Rejoice, rejoice
Don't have to worry 'bout a single thing, 'cause
You are overwhelming me with, peace!

Don't have to worry 'bout a single thing
You're gonna carry us through everything
Overwhelming peace...
~  E l l i e   H o l c o m b ,   " F i n d   Y o u   H e r e "



Thursday, October 27, 2016

{ I've Heard the Whisper ... }

Nobody likes to sit in the dark.

That’s what I tell him as I flip on the light so he can clearly see his granola bar, handful of Froot Loops and his Star Wars vitamins.

No one wants darkness.  It’s heavy and depressing.  Oppressing. It feels sneaky and devious. It can feel scary and hopeless.  It’s a wet blanket on the warm fire of a sun-filled day. It snuffs out all the hope and brilliance, ideas and dreams, that you had during the day. In the dark it all shifts. It all feels worn and tired, old and pointless; you feel lost in a forest of trees with eyes and faces and arms and you wonder why you ever thought you could find your way out or change the world.

The darkness can be such a storyteller of lies.

The darkness can be such a sanctuary for the Teller of all the lies. 

And the darkness can be banished... just. like. that.

“Let there be light.”

God proved in the very beginning, before elephants and man and oceans and babies... He proved first that beyond creating, beyond teaching leaves how to change colors and birds how to migrate and tides to come in... He showed first that He had power over darkness.  Over the void.  Over the nothingness.  

He was and He is and His command, whether spoken or thought, caused the black to tuck its tail and go running.  Skittering into complete oblivion.  Not just hiding.  Not just slipping under a couch or behind a cloud or into a closet for awhile... completely unable to skirt around God’s whispered but thundrous command. Go and it went. 

I find I’ve been holding my breath.  While I’m reading, while I’m writing, while I’m starting laundry. I’m holding my breath and I think it’s because it feels like I’m holding my heart together.  Like if I just pull it all in, the fragments of my heart won’t splinter off and stab themselves through my skin.  

Not that my grief is or can be hidden, but somehow I think that’s what my poor little heart thinks. If I just hold it in... maybe it’ll go away.  Maybe I can have the power to banish all that, too.  Maybe I can pretend that it’s all a terrible, awful dream and I’m going to wake up. 

Surely I will wake up soon.

My lungs are screaming and I don’t even realize it. My sister held me and rubbed my back and whispered, “Just breathe deep.  Deep breaths.” And I didn’t even know I wasn’t breathing.

The darkness dwarfed, outweighed, everything. 

It’s so heavy and I drop everything just to hold it against me. I don’t know what else to do. It’s just there, like a bundle shoved in my arms, bags and bags of heavy groceries and burden and it’s just there, hanging in my hands, slipping heavy off my fingers, and I just stand and hold my breath and hold it all. I don’t know what to do with it. Where to set it down. Where to put it away.

We all have said it in the past week. What do we do? Where do we go? What do you need, what can I do? What can I do, what can I do... 

How do we fix it, explain it, redeem it? It’s silly, but our desperation whispers it quiet in the back, in the farthest room away, we hear it through the walls of our selves... how do we get her back? How do we reverse it?

And we can’t. And the darkness, if you let it, will fill your empty cup to overflowing.

I drag it all out from under my bed on the drive home. I sing it out and cry it out and pray it out. I talk it out and try to think it out. The sun beats down on my dusty minivan and I just want to go home. I want a hug. I want my babies and kindness and someone to be gentle with me, because I’m so thin right now. I feel like I’m transparent and I’m walking around just waiting on someone to step on some stray piece of myself that I’m suely dragging and I know, I know, it will all come unraveling and spinning unwound around my ears.

I pull into Chick-Fil-A for lunch. Opt for a sweet tea over an iced coffee from Starbucks. Why? Because I just wanted someone to be so, so nice to me. I nearly cried with how decently they added my chicken sandwich to my order, did I just want pickles, or could they add tomato and lettuce, too? How they asked if they could help me with anything else (No, no, you can’t. I wish, I wish...) how they wanted a name for my order, how they wished me to have a good day, how they thanked me for letting them serve me today. Tears bit at the insides of my eyelids and I bit on my lip to keep it away. Held my breath, again.

“You’re not going to cry just because someone was nice to you as you bought waffle fries.”

But... in all of this. Guys, that’s all I know. That’s all I know is to be unendingly kind, unceasingly compassionate, unwaveringly aware that we’re all fighting battle after bloody battle. And if we’re not careful with each other, if we’re not open with the tender and open with the acceptance and honest with the truth and the real, the darkness wins. It swallows all the good, all the winning that could come.  That should come.  If we let it, the memories we shared and the laughter we hold onto and the things we love about the bright, funny, creative, talented, joy-giving that we lost... we will lose us.

We will lose on what could be the most beautiful, extraordinary, unexpected, ripple effect ever.  Ever ever.

It only takes one to start it. One drop. One stone. One bubble on the water. 

And it all quakes and lets go and trembles across the surface. Changing the entire thing. Changing the view of things forever.  If you’re watching. If you’re paying attention. If you’re willing to go forward and let go of the rewind.

None of us know how. None of us know how to exist in a new normal when your old normal felt just fine. Just beautiful. Just kind of perfect. But we’re here now and the path is set before us and I watch a new way eat away at the night. The sun struggling up in the midst of a foggy, dusky morning.

And I’m with the sun, struggling to stand on shaky legs in the light of a new day, a shadowy, fog-filled Wednesday. It’s just another day like any other day, but unlike any other day. I’m the same but different. Unprepared. Unexplainable. Just here, beating and breathing and questioning and going on, kind of. 

Every step feels like a betrayal. Every moment of peace I feel, betrays a moment that she didn’t. Every joke I laugh at, every mundane task that I do, every phone call or text to a friend, feels like a tragedy. Like I’m cheating on memory. Cheating on love. And I’m not, I’m just living, but in the face of death, of letting go, of an unprepared for end, we’re all left hanging and living and walking and breathing shallow. And it all feels like a beautiful, tragic, unfair scene.

We keep replaying and simulatenously trying to fast forward, and it’s the in between that has us such a wreck. What do we do with now? We knew what to do then, or thought we did, we know all the things everyone says about the future - that time will heal, that time will tell, that time will give us perspective and more chances to love - but right now? What do we do with the right now? It’s always the inbetween that gets sticky. A little lost or misdirected.

Dark.

But... 

And I smile. Just a little.  Feel it just a bit around the edges.

But... God.

A few weeks ago, I read it to my son before he hopped on the bus with the exuberance only a six-year old can muster at 6:45 a.m. I read how many times that phrase is in the Bible, how the story looks to be this, seems to be that, the whole pot stirring one direction and you think you know the outcome... and then it all changes. The atmosphere itself melts a little, submits. It was this and going to be that, BUT GOD.

It’s dark and feels hopeless... but God.
It’s confuisng and unfair... but God.

And I stutter it to myself, I have for days. “But, God..” but, but. We didn’t get this chance. We didn’t get that warning. We didn’t pick up, weren’t grateful enough, weren’t loving, weren’t present, we just... weren’t. Enough. And the fears and the excuses and the regret bubbles against our bitten lips.  We’ve been biting our lips for days. Trying to keep it in. Trying to let it out. The ragged edges of grief dragging itself up and down our spines, rubbing us raw.

It’s all perspective. Night and day.

The hesitant, fearful, trembling, “But God...” and the tearful, trusting, hanging onto a sliver, or maybe just the simple idea, of hope, “But God...” Can You change this? Can You redeem this? Can You show us what we need to know in all of this, in this hard, hard story?

I nod in the dim dark, the dim light, of my music/office/sanctuary.

Yes.  I believe He can. I believe He will.

The rain splatters like heavy tears onto my sidewalk, onto the roof of my house. The gutters catching and running free, the earth soaking it up, the Fall leaves dancing and almost twirling, like hundreds of tiny dancers on tiny limbs... and I think of her and I think of all of us and I think of God.

I think of what we had and give thanks. I think of what will be... and give thanks.

And I watch the dark run.


"Now the earth was formless and empty,
darkness covered the surface of the watery depths,
and the Spirit of God was hovering over 
the surface of the waters..."
~  G e n e s i s   1 : 2


"He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart..."
~ I s a i a h   4 0 : 1 1  




Thursday, September 29, 2016

{ You Don't Miss a Thing }

There are days when things feel a little winsome.  A little magical.  When I feel like I am those things in those days.  That there is an otherwordly grasp.  A song I can’t hear, have never heard, but completely know.  Every chord.  Every strain.  Every dotted half note.  I hang on every tone as though it’s a good word.  I’m walking around, but I feel like I’m dancing.  I am dancing.

Today was one of those days. It didn’t start out in an extraordinary fashion, but then again, maybe it did.  It started dark and early, like every morning. I actually pushed myself out of bed even earlier in an effort to have a come to Jesus moment. I wanted it. Needed it. Went looking for it, like a nighttime snack.  But instead of my head in the freezer searching for the next pint of mint chocolate chip, my hands were around a mug and my heart was looking for Him.  Expecting Him. 

I read some verses. Said a small prayer. Waited for the alarm to get my oldest up for school, since the sun wouldn’t be up for awhile, yet. I waited.  Told myself to hold in the pause.  To not fight it.  Just let myself be quiet.  Maybe that’s what He wanted me to experience.  Just quiet.  So I held my mug and watched the clock and tried to push away the to-do’s that were already rudely interrupting, begging for my attention.

Over breakfast I read devotions to Joel, just like I always do.  What else do you do at 5:50 a.m. when you’re sitting in your dining room, staring at each other in the dark? He munches a NutriGrain bar. I finish off my coffee.  And I read about the moments in the Bible - the “But God” moments.  The times when things looked like they were headed one direction, but then it all swevered.  It was this and that, but then, God.  He showed up. Shifted the trajectory.  Started playing a whole new song.

As I walk him to the end of our drive to wait for the bus, I hold my phone in my hand. In the weeks since school started, I haven’t done this once.  But I took it with me, anticipating something worth taking a picture of.  The sky was alight with stars and our house glowed like it’s own little city on a hill (except it’s not on a hill).  Once the bus pulled away with my six year old, I stepped across the gravel road into the edge of the neighboring field.  Snapped a photo of my home sweet home against the dusky sky.  Felt thankful for my sweet family and the home we built last year, that my husband and I designed all by ourselves.  Hoping that when I got in the house, the smallest were still sleeping.  Maybe I could have just a little more peace? Hang on to whatever seemed to be bobbing right in front of me?

I had a friend from church planning to show up in a couple hours.  She was sweetly bringing me Starbucks.  I had gulped down my insecurities and my silliness and went live with a request to my team that they pray for me.  My anxieties were riding high and panit attacks were heavy on my chest, clawing at my throat.  My introverted nature made it hard to open up and even harder to allow someone to come and care for me, even if it was just a Grande Iced Salted Carmel White Mocha.  But I relaxed my death grip on my own semi-security and said, why not? Maybe God wanted to take care of me by having this friend bring me coffee. And who am I to argue with God if He wants to bring an exhausted mother of three a Starbucks?

Let’s not be silly.

But I told my best friend... that I kind of wished it was a best friend.  I only have a couple and my heart ached for something that felt like home, I think. I think that’s what I was crying about.  And I told her, “You would know to bring me donuts. You would know to bring me a huge Starbucks and all the donuts and we would just sit and I wouldn’t have to talk.”

And then there’s a knock on my door and a sweet friend, who didn’t have to go out of her way for me, but so did... she shows up all smiles and love and grace, holding my iced coffee.  I let her in and she says my baby is cute (he is) and then she hands me a bag, “Here,...” she says, “I didn’t know what you’d like, but here are some donuts and I got some chocolate ones....” I’m already tearing up as she open hands me a necklace with a sparrow on a chain, reminding me that I’m seen and loved and treasured by God and by others.

I hug her once.  I hug her twice.

She leaves and I melt into my day and my delicious treats and I soak up love, wear it like my favorite socks, wrapping myself in the truth of being seen and valued like a well-worn hoodie.  It was comfort and soul food and that was the best donut I’ve ever had.  Ever.  Ever ever.  And I read in a book that is in a stack in our living room, about how God so loves us, how we’re royal and blessed and all we have to do is ask in His name.  We have an inheriatance and a voice and power in us that raised Christ from the dead.  And we don’t use it.  We don’t walk around trying to wield our swords.  We don’t walk around... expecting.  

I’m padding around my house in my grace and my imaginary “Jesus Loves Me” hoodie and I’m so grateful and full (of donuts and blessing) and it all feels good.  Just like I needed it to.

And just like when you think you have the ending of the story all figured out, have the perfect way to wrap up the day and knot it tight,... but God isn’t done, yet.

Not long before the bus is set to bring my big boy home, I start tackling a cleaning project in the kitchen. I decide to start my organzation dreams by purging the sippy cups and travel mugs we never use. I could use that drawer for something, anything else. I sit down and start sorting. Toss it. Keep it. Toss it.  Never liked it anyway. 

I pull out a glass tumbler, something my sister gave me a few Christmases ago. I actually have never used it. I don’t know if I didn’t trust myself with the glass or what, but I’ve just been storing it. I set it aside to either get rid of or re-gift.  And that’s when I see the verse reflected in the glass, shimmering in my palm: “For I know the plans...”

No. Wait, what? This?

Now?

A quick backstory: about a month ago, my pastor shared how, in a dream, the reference “Jeremiah 29:11” wouldn’t stop running through his mind. He finally woke up and asked God to reveal what this meant.  It all unfolded in a way that the verse refrence, the beautiful reminder that God knows His ways for us, was specifically intended for a handful of people. I’ve honestly kind of glossed over the verse in the past. I’ve seen it’s overuse on graduation cards and new baby cards and “You’ll get through this” cards and I think it lost some allure for me. Surely there were OTHER verses that would hand more to my hungry heart.

But still... I listened on that Sunday of the stories unfolding. And I expected. I mean, didn’t God have a Jeremiah 29:11 experience for me?

I would read my boys their nightly bedtime story, expecting to see the reference there. 

Nothing.

I opened up a devotional and fully expected to see the verses glowing, the text highlited just for me.

It never was.

I anticipated a friend sharing a reminder. Someone sending me a card. A note. Anything. I joked with a fellow staff member at church, “Where’s MY Jeremiah 29:11?! I’m here! I’m ready! I love Jesus!”

Maybe I was living out my purpose. I’m married and have kids and a house. I have beautiful part-time work at the church I love and people that I’m honored to link arms with and do ministry with - wasn’t that my purpose? Why did there have to be more? The dreamer in me probably just needed a kick in the pants and a reality check and to go do another load of laundry for crying out loud.

But here I was, sitting on the (probably needing to be swept) floor of my kitchen, going through a junk drawer of plastic and insulated cups... and God was showing up?  Handing me my own Jeremiah 29:11 moment? I was almost too stunned, too frozen, too freaking loved in and out in that moment, to cry.  The tears pushed gently at my eyelashes.

My dreams?  Are they ever mine? Were they ever? Hunger in my spirit for more times to worship, more opportunities to shatter myself at His feet, more ways to be creative, loving,... words and music and dust and bones and housework and babies and vacations and school field trips and hand holding and song learning and toilet cleaning.... could He be in all of it? Could He be intending, all of it?  Could He be, still, holding... all of it?  While I struggle exhausted and coffee laden through “the little years”, what about my deep love for my Savior? What about the stories I’m dying to tell about the Jesus who loves, loves, loves?  Am I just sitting here, holding another shopping list, watching my dreams die?

Or does He have a deep well of purposes for me? 

For you?

Could I live in expectation and wonder?  Could I do all my jobs and wear all the hats and still... still have my heart catch at the possibility, the ancipated enchantment of a God who never stops telling stories in our lives?  Who never stops purposing and repurposing?  It goes on and on. His goodness.  Our path.  All glory and honor and praise. 

Holy. Holy. Holy.

And it’s found in donuts that she didn’t know you needed, but He did.

It’s unwrapped in the little moments.  It surprises us every time, but it shouldn’t.  He told us this was the way.  When you look for Him with your whole heart.... when you walk heavy to the end of your driveway and watch the sky... when you open up to be used for Him... when you shatter every tender pint of hope and terror and passion and will at His open door... you find Him.

He may not give you a blueprint.  He may just give you a chocolate covered donut.

But the thing is... that small... that tangible... it will always end up being the very thing, the very deep love language that your desperate lungs are gasping for.

And you’ll feel something crack in another world, something that opens up... and you’ll know that that banner - forever and for always waving, billowing, tugging at you to believe His plans and His vast desire for you to come fully alive - you’ll know He is stretching it out for you to see, for you to know...


And it will say, “You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. By me.” 


"When You stand, I feel the floor of Heaven tremble.
As You breathe, we live and have our being
When You speak, oh I feel it in my chest.
When You sing, all my fears are put to rest.
What a wondrous thing, I can stand to sing,
cause when I fall to my knees, 
You're the one Who pulls me up again.
What a mystery, that You notice me!
And in a crowd of ten thousand, 
You don't miss a thing..."
~  A m a n d a   C o o k   /   B e t h e l 




{ IT'S YOUR BREATH IN OUR LUNGS }

I've been encouraged to write. Challenged. Read it on pages and in between lines. Heard it in a song. Write, write, write. The ones who ...