Saturday, December 27, 2014

"Chained Melody" {an original poem}

(written June 26th, 2014)

The music storms within me
Strains I can't express
I am a chained melody
These chords left unpressed

My soul aches with feeble hands
When that one song plays
And my brain mimics the band
The hurt lasts for days
Years
And that's when I know
That's when I decide

It hurts
That's the nature of the thing
Maybe
It hurts me more than most

Me, with my trembling heart
Me, with my pain-filled hands

No one thought I could do this
Or should
Not even me
Especially not me

No one except The One
Plus one.

I tried not to hear her and the Infinite
And found myself immeasurably outnumbered
With a guitar in those hands

Call me crazy?
Get in line.
I'm first.

I strum with bum hands
Until I think I've gone mad
Or maybe I always have been
And for once
I'm doing something sane.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Broken Beauty

I'm clueless as to what to write. Father, inhabit my words. So much has transpired since I last wrote ... which is one of the main reasons I haven't written. I've been busy, & in such a whirlwind season of growth, that I feel like I would have to revise my update every day, as I learn more & more ... experience more.
And I've decided that this reality might just be okay. Even if I never become a professional at keeping things up to date.
There are some parts of this season that have yet to come to completion ... I can't share about them just yet. And, honestly, I'm not sure I'll ever share them from this place. Maybe stop by my house for coffee in a couple months. We'll talk.
Where do I begin? Ah. Five weeks ago. That seems like the logical spot. When everything fell, & I with it.
As I think about this, trying to go back to that week, it dawns on me ... though my keyboard went untouched during that time, my paper did not ...

{November 8th, 2014}

It's hard to crave quiet in a house full of loud. Hard to crave comfort when a body writhes with pain. It's hard to crave safety when it seems safety is ripped from one's hands. To breathe with a bruised chest. Walk with a hurt hip. Feel beautiful with a busted mouth & a broken tooth.
And it's painful to write when you feel like this.
But that is why I must.
Words are my oxygen ... writing, as vital as breath.
Only, I haven't the faintest idea of what I should write.
Judy Garland is singing ... telling me that next year all our troubles will be miles away ... & next year is what seems so far away. Tomorrow seems so far away. In fact, I'm dizzied, just counting the hours 'til tonight, when I'll sleep.
And oh, how I need to sleep.
They tell me who I am ... reminding me, because they know how desperate I get ... how messed up my mind can be. How quickly I forget.
When I laid there on the ground, where I had fallen, I wept. Shaking, breaking sobs.
Ordinarily, when I hurt myself, I'm embarrassed. I get back on my feet as quickly as possible, & I pretend it doesn't affect me until the pain completely overwhelms me.
This day was different. I had slept for four hours, worked for ten. I was faced with painful issues & left emotionally & physically exhausted. I tried to sleep, & I did, for a bit, but the noise eventually woke me. So, later, I tried to sleep again. I was in tears, headed to my room, when my sister suggested I stay in hers ... we both knew I needed her, so I agreed. I went to grab my essentials - Bible, pillow, fuzzy blanket.
Walking down the stairs, the fatigue made me lose my balance. I slid, face-first, down most of the 14 steps, landing on my mouth, having hit the hardwood floor.
As I laid there, my mind wasn't yet registering all of the pain I was in. That wasn't my issue. Part of me was angry. Just one more thing to ruin my day - really? I was headed to snuggle with my sister. I didn't need this. Part of me was scared, vulnerable, & trembling. I felt unsafe. Like everything in the world had slipped from under me, not just my feet. My room, my home, my blanket, my plans ... all these were things that made me feel safe. I didn't feel safe any longer. I felt like those things had failed me.
And then I felt the gap between my teeth. I realized that I had broken or lost one. I knew that I would be covered with bruises by & by. And that wouldn't be pretty, but bruises are pardonable. I have a confession to make. It's a very painful one. I have idolized beauty, & I have made myself up to be a judge of what is beautiful & what isn't. Who is & isn't. I've always struggled with self-image because of these standards, but, at the same time, I've always been told I was beautiful. To me, breaking a tooth meant breaking my smile ... & breaking my smile meant breaking my beauty. And that's what hurt the most when I fell: my pride. It was startling to me, how fast my vanity flared. I hadn't expected that. Maybe that was my problem. I forgot how utterly depraved & human I am apart from Jesus.
I tried not to smile for the rest of the night. I vowed I wouldn't leave the house until my dentist appointment. The next morning, I spoke with a friend, & my heart issues were almost immediately visible to her. She spoke beauty & safety over me, & I cried. She didn't relent. Not for days. My identity was affirmed again & again by those around me. I knew it was the Lord's doing, because there were things that people couldn't have known, shouldn't have known, didn't know. The Lord was speaking, directly to my heart. I was loved well ... embraced, blessed, spoken to. Not neglected in the least. I was able to rest, & then, gift of all gifts, I was able to attend church. I was prayed over. A crowd of people I love, all focusing their prayers on me. Their love, on me. Such Truth they spoke. I felt the embrace of Jesus. I was called precious. Beautiful. Intercessor. Prophetess. They blessed my singing voice. Declared healing over me & the power within me to heal others, in Jesus' name. "And no one is looking down on you because you are young." I was called a light; told that my light expels darkness; that the devil flees scared when I pray & declare that Jesus is Lord. They blessed my sleep. Prayed against nightmares. Warred against the devil, whom they perceived to be attacking me. Surrounded by adults, I was told that my life, my spirit, my humility, were building up that circle of people. They spoke against labels of "clumsy" & "accident-prone," saying that was not my identity, & in the same breath, declared that I was not an accident. That I had a purpose. They dismantled every fear. Brought comfort to every ache. Rubbed balm on my soul. I've never felt so loved.
The manifest Love of the Father.
My identity rooted in Him.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

"3 a.m. Refrain" {an original poem}

(written June 7th, 2014)

Oh rambunctious mind
When will you unwind?
You toss & you turn
Like this body of mine

You pound in my head
As if you're filled with dread
From each dream that lurks
Between blanket & bed

We both cry in pain:
3 a.m.'s new refrain
Until God soothes us
& sings His song again



{this is the first of several poems I will be posting here; poems written during some of the hardest parts of my battle with Lyme disease. If you're interested in this story & my journey, I have created a corner of the blog just for writings that stemmed from it. Check out the label: Lyme Disease Journey.}

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Weak" {an original poem}

(written June 8th, 2014)

Bitter tongued
Weak handed
Exhausted
At the thought of waking up

It came down to this

Fragile heart
Weighted mind
Lonely soul
Waiting for an ounce of hope

Can't live in my strength

So He came
Lifted me
Weak made strong
Satisfied in His embrace

Helpless no longer

His power
Made perfect
In weakness
This symphony of mercy

Melody of grace

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Story

I told you once that it would take a miracle for these hands to play the guitar. These hands could never do such a thing on their own, because, in addition to being perpetually weak, they were also burdened with migratory joint pain, from my Lyme disease.

I erected a stone in my mind's path.

A stone marked with weakness & pain.

A stone of memorial.

And, reader, I'm so glad I did.

I love that I wrote during my darkest of days, because now, they are not just a fleeting memory, but they are part of my story; my testimony. I stamped them with ink, like tattooing the internet, my heart, & a half dozen journals. It's marked down in my life as history. The kind that bears repeating.

He met me in the midst of the worst pain week I have ever had.

{If it had hurt less, you would have heard about it, but typing wasn't exactly easy.}

He met me, through His people.

I was surrounded with an army. Prayer warriors lifted me up. Friends comforted me & fought for me. My family members cried out to God on my behalf.

It was difficult to sleep, because of the ache of every position.

I was exhausted, & that makes the symptoms even worse.

I was stressed, & that didn't help matters.

He met me in the dark nights of my soul.

He asked me a question, & I answered plain & simple.

"Lord, okay. If this is what You have called me to, then okay. If I never recover, if I never heal, I still trust You. You've worked through this disease to change me for the good, & to impact those around me, & if Lyme has more to teach me, I will bear it, & I will learn. If You slay me, still I will trust You. You are worth any cost You could ever ask me to pay."

I surrendered.

When humans do that, crazy things tend to happen.

Come Sunday, I was sitting in a pew, massaging my aching, cold hands. The pain was loud.

His voice was stronger.

"What if I want something different for you, My child?

What if I desire to use healing in your life, rather than illness?

Could you trust Me then?

It won't be easy.

You will no longer bear the identity you do now.

No more will your name be Diseased.

That can't be the foundation of who you are anymore.

I will be the foundation.

I am the only Way, & the only way out of this sickness.

Will you trust me?"

I had felt oppressed by the disease that week, & He was revealing to me His heart for justice for the oppressed.

In my mind rang these words:

"And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" {Luke 13:16}

You hold my every moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease
I trust in You, Lord I trust in You

I believe You're my healer
I believe You are all I need

I believe You're my portion
I believe You're more than enough for me
Jesus, You're all I need

Nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible
Nothing is impossible for You
You hold my world in Your hands

{Healer by Kari Jobe}

Basically, His message was clear.

I had trusted Him enough to say that I believed He could heal me ...

But now I was asked to believe that He would.

Those are two very different things, you know.

One feels safer.

I like safe.

I was terrified to boldly ask for healing ... because what if nothing changed?

What if I had to endure the rest of my days, knowing that He had said no, or not yet?

I didn't trust myself, that was the thing. If He didn't answer, I didn't believe I had enough faith to still trust Him ... how does one cope with that?

How could I watch Him answer every other prayer, but not mine?

Could I still trust Him, then?

I pushed my doubts aside, by grace.

I chose to try Him, as Spurgeon would say.

Because He is worth the risk.

And I am not called to a life within my comfort zone.

He said to me, "No more. You're not going to bear this any longer."

So in faith, I prayed.

I laid hands on myself, & I silently, but boldly, prayed for healing.

I called on His name, & asked for the removal of the disease & every. single. symptom.

Each pain & discomfort.

Every weakness.

I asked Him to invade.

My prayers were interrupted by another's.

An elder & friend was praying over the offering, & he responded to the Spirit's prompting by stepping out on a limb & praying healing over those in the church.

Not your average offertory prayer.

I didn't have time to laugh at my own joke before the wave of heat flooded me.

He gave me my miracle.

The pain completely left.

I haven't had any tests done, but I have faith that the disease has left also.

The devil has been trying to discourage me with minor aches & normal human discomforts, but he's just mad.

That's what happens when you lose a fight.

God is the victor, & in Him, we are more than conquerors.

I can bear witness to that.

He hasn't ceased to flood me with blessing & praise since my healing, & I am so excited to see what He does in me next.

This is my story, & I will shout it from the rooftops:

He is my Healer.

He has saved me.


{I kept up with my poetry during the time spent away from the blogosphere, & I am so filled with joy as I reread what I wrote in those days ... what He was stirring within me, even in the pain. I will be posting some of those here soon. The journey I am on is so incredible. I want to let you in on all of it. Stay tuned!}

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Holiness > Happiness {an original poem}

I almost cry
Such foolish tears
I should not cry
I know better

Tears held inside
Blur my vision
Logical thought
Is beyond me

Changes I face
Overwhelm me
Mindful of grace
I can still breathe

Where He leads me
I will follow
Though the pain ebbs
And the tears flow

Thy will be done
Yours and not mine
I count the cost
I choose You still

For holiness
Means more to You
Than happiness
And I'm convinced

That You're faithful
E'en though I fall
You still hold me
And comfort me

I know joy comes
With the morning
Your mercies dawn
And they blind me

And then one day
I will look back
See Your grace, and
Tell the story

Friday, October 3, 2014

Scales

Weighing options, I find myself again thinking about priorities. I need to think about them more often ... maybe then I would keep true to them. This space, for instance has been given little of my attention, though, by my priorities & convictions, it should be higher on the list. Thus, I am found here after the soul-searching, & not beforehand.
My dilemma is that it takes much longer to write a post than to read one. My life grows busier daily, becoming full of new opportunities & commitments. No matter how important something is to me, I cannot always find the time to invest in it, simply because of being otherwise invested.
And so I weigh the importance of things.
Little ones make it high on the list; I love them so dearly ... I often choose them over most other concerns and activities.
My friends. So precious to me. Mamas, sisters, teachers, listeners, talkers ... One glance, text, call, email, etc. from any of these will often take front burner.
Family ties are strong.
Health is something one must consider occasionally.
Feelings are put ahead of their place. I value them too highly ... I'm trying to reshape my actions.
Work must be in its proper priority, for I am committed; responsible. I cannot take it to lightly.
And yet.

There is a priority that must trump all others.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple." {Luke 14:26}

I have learned that this verse is not meant to support cruel children, spouses, or parents ... It simply means that there is a tie that binds far tighter. When we are to choose between following a friend & following the Lord, we must always choose Him. The decision should be that simple. Our love for Him so strong, that any other love might e'en be compared to hatred ... sure, He was using hyperbole, but there are instances, yes, where we must utterly reject the other thing in order to follow Him.

And He's worth it.

He's always worth it.

Worth anything.

Worth the highest price you could ever pay, & trust me when I say, you might be asked to pay it.

But it doesn't matter, because the scales are tipped.

On one side, you have the human lifespan, the place you call home, your health, the people & things you hold dear ... a number of things whose value you consider high ... quite a weight. But in perspective, you see the other side. You realize that no matter what this world offers you; no matter what dreams you have, the value is always outweighed. Because on the other side of the scale is the Infinite One. Eternity. Our inheritance in Christ. The lives He plans for us to touch. The perfect will He has for our lives.

On a scale so tipped, nothing can compare to the side we claim through Christ. If we lose every last thing from this side of eternity, we are undaunted, for we know what lies on the other side ... & we declare that the cost is high, but He is worth it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Make

It's been over a month.
I haven't walked these halls in over a month. Time to sweep these floors, brush aside the cobwebs. A month, & it seems like years. Years since I last sat here with a divine desire to write. Not the kind of writing that defines days. Not the letters & poems I've managed to stay on top of ... but the writing where my soul somehow becomes paint on this canvas called the Internet. It seems so commonplace; too much so to capitalize ... & yet when I do, I feel I bestow some added worth & honor to it, the Internet, & what I do here. It isn't much, assuredly. Lines & curves on a once-blank space.
It reminds me of music.
That's why I'm here, really.
That's what drew me back to this keyboard today.
I wanted to make music.

Isn't that a silly thing?

I wanted to make music, on this ancient Dell Latitude D430. It doesn't even have a space for a CD.
There are far nobler instruments in this house.
A small guitar missing half its strings.
A keyboard I don't know how to play.
An out-of-tune piano whose keys I long to touch with the hands of an expert, rather than the hands of a child.
Acoustic guitars that I've learned to make racket with ... not yet what would be called music by even the kindest of saints.

The list could go on. For one thing, I have a voice. That is no small thing, for I have only just regained most of said voice. It was robbed by a feisty head cold this week. Now, I can finally touch my alto range, be it slightly hoarsely. I sound like some young Indie artist, trying to express myself.
This week, I found my soul as congested as my head. I did not want to pray, think, love, act ... I was a weak flame, wind-whipped & dying ... I wanted only to be extinguished. I wanted my voice to be hushed, not just hoarse. I settled into a pit of darkness. I let the pain of my disease & added sickness exacerbate things. I let my heart fail & my soul faint. I didn't ask for help, feeling I didn't deserve it; that no one would care anyway. I rehearsed the lies in a mirror, like so many lines from a play.
And on the worst day, during the darkest moment, how I longed to make music.
But my voice was gone.
My hands are weak & without skill in such realms.
I yearned to sit at a piano in a dimly lit room. To press the keys with my trembling fingers. Pour all my anguish & feeble strength into some dirge. To let my tears flow as the music swelled.
Music can be a sort of therapy to the broken.
I knew not the kind of therapy I needed ... in my blindness, I missed Truth.
I was blindsided. I lost my way; lost my hope.

I dared not cry out, but cry out was all I needed to do.

Oh, dear Lydia, four days younger ... what were you thinking? Did you not know? How could you not realize? Why didn't you remember? ... I break at the thought, the memory.

He hears us when we call.
He bids us seek Him.

He called to me. Me.
He reached down & beckoned to me as I sat, bloody, beaten, in the mire, & shrank away from the voice who alone could lift me.
So blind.
I would rather have sunk.

So, still calling, as I was still rejecting Him, He climbed into my pit ... crawled through the mud & the stench of it. Picked me up, kicking, screaming, sobbing as I was, & embraced me. Held me there against Him, until finally, I stilled. I was asleep in His arms; overwhelmed by the peace found there.
He carried me out on His shoulders, singing a song of joy & of love.
I am the lost sheep, He is the Good Shepherd.
I, the wayward son, He, the Father.

He has brought me home
and so, I have found a new reason for making music.
Let these keys be beats of a drum. Let my words be a symphony.
Let His name be praised.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Always//Never

It has been a day of deep thought. The kind that stirs the soul ... almost in a literal way, scraping the sides, bringing down what was stuck up ... making something new. A new thought. A new way of thinking. My mind and heart are overwhelmed. I felt God near and I heard His sweet voice. He reminded me of things I already knew, things I'd forgotten, and things I was just learning, and fit them all together to form something new.
It was like that moment in a crime show when they're about to solve the mystery. A new piece of information comes up, seemingly unimportant, but they look into it. They dig deeper. They remember another obscure fact from earlier on in the case. They weave a story that makes sense, and then they fight to find and prove the truth.
Excuse how my brain works, but I am going to invite you into the full reality of my thought process. It's scary. You've been warned.

A friend told me this past week that our God is the only One who can say "always" and "never." His promises are the only ones that hold eternal weight. He alone will never fail. {As a side note, you can imagine that this thinking has greatly curbed my addiction to using the word "always."} We can't depend on anyone else.
I was praying, and I named Him "the God of always and never." I began to run through the promises He gave me that used those words. "I am with you always." (Matthew 28:20) "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6) I focused in on these two and was reminded of His omnipresence. I think of His infinite nature. He is not constrained to earth or our conceptions of time. He holds them both in His hands. I've always believed that in His power, His unlimited knowledge and presence, He is as much in yesterday as He is in today.
That line of thinking leads me to the cross. Where else could I go?
How did I not come to this before? He is ever-present. He has won the victory in my life, but I picture Him on the cross, and thinking His all-knowing thoughts, looking into the future. I picture Him today, looking into the past.
"... but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
On the cross, He saw the victory.
On the cross, He saw my sin and utter depravity.
In my disobedient rebellion, He died for me.
He looked at me as I caved in to temptation, and He poured out blood and water on my behalf.
He wept in Gethsemane, and He knew what a disaster I would make of my life on my own, and He prayed for me. He succumbed to His Father's perfect will.
He hung on the cross and felt the spit of the people He was dying on behalf of. He thought of us. He thought of me. He knew full well my weakness would be evident and my flesh would fail, yet He cried, "It is finished." (John 19:30)
It is finished. Not it will be finished. His name is I AM, not I WILL BE, I MAY BE, or I ONCE WAS. Present-tense words from an omnipresent God ... the God of always and never.
His blood and love intermingled, pouring out for me, even as I broke His heart in my sin and rebellion.
Never have I come across a truth so significant, so relevant. I can do naught but live in this reality. Entirely and wholly, in every minute.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Living Sacrifice

The words are in me. I am full of them to brimming, and if I do not pour, I will burst.

I pray they are not my own.

We hear of presenting our bodies to God as living sacrifices. It is a pretty vivid picture, right? But we've turned it into a mere cliche. It stirs us, but do we even think about it? A living sacrifice. We have the idea of a dead sacrifice somewhere in the corners of our minds, at least. A bloody lamb on an altar. A naked Savior on a cross. But when we think of a living sacrifice, we become much more tame. This is us, after all. No need to be graphic. We form simple thoughts of handing ourselves to God. Constantly. Because if we're alive, then we're obviously moving, right? So we must keep coming back to God and offering up our desires and opinions.

But where are we returning to, again?
Where do sacrifices go?

Oh, right. An altar.
The image I get is of Aslan tied to the stone table. Of Jesus nailed to the cross.

We weren't supposed to have gone anywhere.

A living sacrifice.

Life lived on an altar.

How's that for graphic imagery?

That was the image I had in mind as I prayed for my day. God looking over me, as I sit on this altar. No ropes or nails on me {that whole 'free will' thing, remember?}. But I stay anyway. Because that's what you do when you radically love someone. You lay yourself down for them. My love is fickle and flawed, but oh, may I remain on this altar!

Let every part of my life be lain on that altar. My time - help me strap that to the stone; I don't have the strength to tie that knot tight enough. My work - may I tread on this altar even as I do my chores, as I make food for customers, as I sweat in the sun. Accept even my art as a living sacrifice - not just the pieces I deem 'spiritual;' affect it all. Saturate my life. Me stretched across that altar, all I am and have before you ... covered in and atoned for by Your blood. Literally dripping in crimson grace that so defies logic that it dares make my stains as white before You. Free from condemnation. Bind my wandering to Thee. Amen.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Five-Minute Post

It baffles me how in the most extraordinary moments, God uses the most ordinary things. I sat here, begging for Him to move and speak, and the words, "oh, how He loves us so" played through my headphones. It doesn't get any simpler. Nor does it get any more revolutionary. It is His love that defines all else. Every significant thought or action in my life must first be rooted in His love. This is the love that overwhelms me. That wooed me to repentance, then drew me back to Him when I was most fully aware of my undeserving self. This is the love that died for me, but didn't stay in the grave. The love that moves mountains. Love that calms storms and stirs hearts.
He is love and He is here, and what else matters, really?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Distracted

I am numb and distracted. Inconstant and inattentive. When faced with pain, I have tried to drown it out or become unaffected by it ... and in the process I have lost much more than I bargained for. And I dare confess that I didn't even mind the absence; I hardly noticed.
And then one day, I did.
I heard His voice clearly, and I realized He had been speaking all along ... I had simply drowned Him out. I didn't listen. My prayers were performances and duties, rather than intimate conversation and bloody battle. In the midst of struggles, I ran elsewhere. In the midst of pain, I sought other comfort. In discouragement and drought, I went to those who had been to the Well, rather than to the source Himself. My every act ignored His name and lordship.
And He still speaks.
He still waits for me.
Still, He loves me with a Love unlike any other.

I've counted up the cost, and You are worth it. 

Worth everything He could ever ask me to give up. Worth losing my reputation or my very life. Worth giving up control and plans. Worth letting go of my ideas, opinions, and conceptions. I have caught a glimpse of my Savior and the sight made me drop all else. How could I have ever wanted anything other than?

He holds my hand as we look over my life. I cringe as I see the things I have placed above Him in my life. Some well and good, just far from best. Abused by my hands. Placed over their stations. People whose opinions I placed with or above His. Mindless things I spent hours scrolling through; dumping my time down the toilet and flushing. {At the end of our lives, which of us will be wishing we had spent more time browsing the internet?} Fiction books that I gazed at longingly over the edge of my Bible. TV shows that I stayed up way too late watching, until my eyes were too tired to cry myself to sleep. Movie worlds that I escaped to on hard days, lazy days, too many days. Friends that I ran to when I should have ran to God. Outfits that I spent ages picking out and fretting over. Coffee that I used as a crutch on days when sleep was short. Games that I turned to, in hopes of easing my boredom. The list stretches on and on. Some essentially harmless. Some things good and beautiful ... turned into idols by my doing. Some things worthless.
I resist the urge to turn away in shame - that's not why we're here. I invited Him into my ugly, and He is not here to fill me with guilt. I put these things into a place in my heart that was meant for Him; trying unknowingly to fill a hole that can only be filled by an infinite God.
I am still in this emptying season ... making room for Him in my life and heart.
I'm limiting my distractions. Removing some in entirety. Making others succumb to rules. Seeking my Lord first and consistently.
As I quiet my life, His voice becomes clearer.
As I let go of control, things work in mysterious ways, the results better than I could have planned for.
As I seek Him, I find Him.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Memorial Stone

This is my stone.

This is the stone I am erecting as a memorial.

Years later, I will return to this place

--maybe you will, too--

And I will remember.

I will remember the feel of my not-yet-calloused fingers pressing keys to form these words.

I will remember my tears of inadequacy and defeat.

I'll remember the pain.

Time will tell what perspective I will have when I come back.

I hope I'll be looking down from the mountain that I now squint up at.

...

So here's the thing.

Here's the truth.

Lyme disease.

It has made my hands trembling, twitching, weak shadows of things.

At least I think so.

I actually cannot promise myself that these hands will work again if and when I get better.

Some days I think they're ruined for good.

Most days.

These hands have caused me to give up even the smallest of dreams.

They stopped me short of conceiving the tiniest of notions of big dreams.

I wouldn't even let myself think about such things.

Such impossible, beautiful things.

But though I could stop my thoughts, I couldn't stop that little ache of yearning within me.

My chest contracts when I hear certain songs; when I watch certain people play and perform, but I never let myself think thoughts of hope, longing, or even envy.

It would hurt too much.

I lost the strength to dream of the impossible or improbable.

The unlikely, the uncertain.

The scary.

Somehow I wound up with friends who dreamed for me.

They'd offer encouragement, advice ...

One went farther.

She gave me words straight from Jesus.

Scary words.

Calling.

Challenge.

Miracles.

She dared speak, "Guitar."

...

Remember those hands?

I currently do not have the power to exert strength from three fingers at once.

In fact, if I push two hard enough, the third one shakes.

The fourth forgets how to move at all.

And let's not forget they hurt like the dickens.

...

I responded in disbelief, sarcasm, frustration ...

Meanwhile my thoughts consisted of:

No. No. no no no noooo nononononononono. No.

Is this woman insane?

Is God?

Neither relented.

They bombarded me with big words and dreams for hours.

Days.

She cheered me on and supported me til I was in tears.

So I relented.



I still can't play G yet.

That was the third chord my brother taught me.

The most essential one.

One of the easiest.

It just requires three fingers that work.

Simple enough.

I didn't have that ingredient, so I found a substitute:

A three-in-one God who gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless

He likes miracles.

He also likes using the people who were thought of as useless,

even if only by themselves.

I still have to close my eyes and try not to cry sometimes while attempting G.

Last night I cried and yelled a lot.

His mercies were new with the morning.

I cried a lot and prayed.

Surrendered.

My dreams, ambitions, brokenness, feeble strength, pride, anger ... everything.

I dared believe He could use or remake it all.

His power is perfected in weakness.



So this is my stone.

This is the landmark of my life that I will point to when people ask.

This is me saying that anything I do can never be done well in my own strength.

This is me saying that were I to play a song perfectly on an instrument, you'd better believe it would be a miracle.

That I am nothing and He is all.

That nothing I have is my own; all of it given; every thing grace.

Though God may heal me, may I never forget my brokenness.

My helplessness.

Weakness.

Inadequacy.

May I never depend on myself.

Him alone.

Always.

Ever.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dark Hour Diaries

4:36 a.m.
I shouldn't be awake.
I don't want to be awake.
I am very much Awake.
Not to say that I am having coherent thought processes. No, ma'am. I stopped having those before I even got to midnight.
I unthinkingly ate something I shouldn't have. That didn't turn out so well for me. I spent the day hanging out with a varying crowd of people I'm not sure really like me. I tend to think that of a lot of people. When you know yourself very well, you wonder why people stick around. I mean, really, is the fact that I cry at literally anything and everything that appealing to you?
To add to my problem, before I gave up on the whole 'sleeping' notion, I took my not-so-happy medication. How it makes me feel is implied in my term of endearment for it. Mucho pain.  Mucho mucho. I take it before bed for a reason: trying to sleep through some of the worst.
Bang goes that theory.
2 a.m. found me sobbing. Thinking sad thoughts. Writing an email, and then only sending the not-quite-sad bits.
3 a.m. and I knew sleep was not happening.
3:30. I was on the floor in a ball, reading Psalms, sipping tea, listening to worship music, and still trying not to cry, and failing.
4:46 and I am here, writing. I'm calmer, but as I said, coherent thoughts? I miss them.
I am begging God to show up, because if I have ever felt insufficient, it is now. If I've ever felt weak, tired, broken, it's now. If I ever wanted to give up, it is right here and now.
My words are useless without Him. I honestly cannot make it through this day if He does not intervene.
I am so tired. And not just because I need sleep. I am tired of breathing. This constant inhale/exhale routine is driving me insane, and I don't know how much longer I can keep it up. Eating is a struggle, because it takes so much effort nowadays, and I've never really loved it enough to consider it worth it. So the pounds drop when they oughtn't, and I find myself a shell in more ways than one. I feel empty, and not in quite the way I wanted to.
There was this miraculous, beautiful time of filling up, and I know now, it was to prepare me to be knocked over. To be frank, I sometimes feel like my cup was smashed too, for good measure.
Pain escalated.
Support decreased.
Comforting things were taken away.
Darkness dared try to drown out the light.
Tonight, I felt sure it had nigh succeeded.
I've found the darkness inside of me is the hardest to beat. It's like preparing to battle some scary, obviously evil foe, and then suddenly facing a seemingly innocent habit of your own. That's what you're expected to fight. You feel confident, and then you approach it. You think, maybe you don't have to defeat it; maybe you can turn it into one of the good guys. Your guard is let down, and your foe swings wildly at you, showing the evil you denied existed.
Completely ridiculous. What the blimey.
So I cry on the floor of my sister's empty bedroom and I try hard to breathe.

... Time passes.
I unplug the laptop.
Unlock doors.
Walk outside barefoot, in my pajamas.
The ground is wet with dew, and my breath comes out like smoke.

It's almost here.
A sliver of moon shines brightly as I shiver.
I am waiting for the dawn.
Truth is, I've been waiting for it all night. I've been typing here with no clue what my conclusion would be. These words were me forcing myself to put my thoughts into sentences. Because my brain wasn't cutting it. This has been a prayer of sorts. Call me strange, but yes. I hear God best when I force myself to talk to Him in a way that acknowledges Him. My mind can ramble all night, but I encounter Him most when I speak aloud, put pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard. Because this is me, admitting that my God is real and relevant.
I wait for Him in the morning. The sky is caught between gray haze and the brilliant coming dawn. I relate. The birds sing like madmen, and I have to wonder how I never wake up to their chatter, like a giant crowd speaking over each other, and yet unified.
Like prayer in the Dominican Republic.
I look at the sky again, and it makes me think: does the gray sky have any idea what's coming? In all it's dismal fog, I have to reason no. It's got no blubbering clue. Yet this insignificant girl with her glaring computer screen can see it: the tinge of yellow on the bright blue that is creeping over the trees. I can see how the night was worth it. I can see the beauty and restoration that was done. I feel the dew between my toes, and I know that the rest of the night was worth it. I know that God reigns supreme over the morning. Over the night. Over everything between.
And it's here, on a log, in a field, surrounded by half-light, kept company by a cat, rambling on a blog, that I am forced to acknowledge Him.
Don't think that I mean a shoving kind of force.
He was gentle. He drew me here, barely speaking a word, and just bid me look. And after looking, I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually unable to deny that He is good. I cannot say He does not care. Or that He isn't with me and for me in this and every moment.
I still await the sacred sunrise. The light is revealing everything already, but I want to see the shine; the moment when the sun comes up and all is glory and grace and I cannot help but be in awe.
I already am in awe. Completely stricken by the love of my Savior.
Oh, Jesus. I scarce can take it in.
Minutes pass. The sky turns purple. The cat purrs on.
A rooster crows in the distance and I'm plumb grateful for the patch of country I grew up in.
It's almost here. I can hear this truth as much as I can see it ... feel it, too. In the way the birds sing all the wilder. The way the gray completely dissipates. How I'm no longer shivering.
My heart takes a note: the birds aren't waiting til the dawn is fully here to sing. They've been proclaiming it's coming since they woke up to find darkness.
I think of our coming Lord and I can't help but grin, to think of a Light far more brilliant than the sun I can't yet see.
I practice waiting.
I wish I could show you the way the tiny clouds above the trees are reflecting the light; heralding it's coming as if to drown out the voices of the naysayers, to give faith to the doubter, hope to those who have been waiting all. night.
It's coming.
Just wait a minute more, darling.
He'll show Himself. But He's been here all along. Look.
I stand up, stretch stiff bones, crane my neck because it's here, but it's not here yet.
I climb a hill on my tiptoes. Almost.

I am back in a cold bedroom with a hot cup of coffee. Because my laptop fell asleep. One of us had to.
I stepped backward farther, then fully turned around and realized where I was headed: the garden. The product of hard work, faith, sun, and rain. I sunk my toes in the dirt and examined the things all a'bloom. The green tomatoes. The flowers on the squash plants. More truth of God's faithfulness was rising in my mind and heart, and then I saw it.
There was no dramatic "ahhhhhhhhhhhh" moment as the sun glamorously ascended over the treeline. No. Just three beams breaking through the clouds. Radiant, simple daybreak.
He is here and the earth? Well, it never stopped singing His praises. Can we blame it? I'd rather join in.
6:29 a.m.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Quiet

In this moment, I am keenly aware of my own weakness. Most of my body is pulsating with pain. Sleep hasn't sounded so good in a long time. I join in earth's labor pains for Christ's return; for heaven and restoration. Arms to hold me.
I long to be emptied of something. All of me trembles, and I wonder as to what I could release that would bring relief. It's one of those odd moments when I actually want to throw up; to dispose of whatever's inside me. Or maybe just cry. Long, wailing, freeing sobs. This longing has reached other parts of me also. Spending many a moment in a huddled mass of pain somehow makes you familiar with what's inside you; your true, unfiltered nature. I don't like what I see. I want to expel myself from my body, abandoning pride, self-reliance, selfish ambition, my so-called rights, my plans, my preferences, greed, rebellious nature, judgments, fears ... everything must be surrendered to Him, because I am unable to trust myself. I need Him to take control of my life. In order for me to grow, I must shrink. Less of me, more of Him. Emptying me of my self, to make room for Him. An infinite God doesn't fit into the tiny corner of my heart clearly labeled, "Religion." If I put Him there, I shouldn't be surprised if the only evidence I see of Him in my life is just as small and understated. Suddenly, the phrase, "full of myself" makes so much more sense.
I feel as though I've walked up to an ocean and removed a cup of water from it; emptied it somewhere in the distance. That is what it is like to become aware of the vastness of the dark within oneself.
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5)
It has always been this way, the light being stronger than the dark. If it is my practice to empty myself one "cup" at a time of the darkness, and fill the empty space with light, I am a fool if I think it will make no difference.
I've started by being quiet. Words are such a major part of my life, I know full well the power they can hold. I want that power to be for the good. So I'm practicing. In the areas where my words could make a difference, I try and weigh them before speaking. I don't judge them by my own standards as was once my habit. I don't worry over what people will think of me. I go to God. I ask Him to weigh my words by His standard, and I pray that they would reflect well on Him, and not on me. Many times daily, my prayer has been, "Your words, or none at all." Because, again, I don't trust myself. I shouldn't. I tend to string a lot of words together, making them sound so right and holy, and then I gather up all the acclaim for myself. I hear to respond, not to listen, oftentimes. I rely on my own head knowledge and feeble strength, and it leaves me broken, striving for acceptance. In going to Him, I lay down my thoughts and preconceived notions, and I ask Him to simply take control; to fill my mind, mouth and paper with His truth and wisdom.
I cannot express how beautiful it is to hear His voice. To have words fill my mind, and to know they are not my own; that they are truth.
I've quieted myself so I can hear Him better. I pause the music. Certain music I stopped listening to altogether. I beg God to help me glue my bitter tongue to the roof of my mouth ... to stop the judgement, bitterness, resentment, anger, pride, and discouragement from escaping past my lips. I wish I could say that every word was swallowed. I haven't been writing here much ... realizing that here, my words have more impact than I can determine. I don't want you to open this page to read self-righteous words and almost-truths. I write at my weakest, because it is in it that His power is made most manifest. When I am already at the point of depending on Him to help me breathe through the pain, I find it comes more easily to sacrifice control in other areas as well. So I pray, and I write, and God, please use this. I've stopped sending the sweet little encouragement texts that were really just a way for me to hear from my friends and give myself a little gold star. I seek God now before sending words that speak of Him, offer advice, or encourage. May they hear Him and not I. The more I talk to Him, the more I am aware of my need for Him. The more I am aware of my need for Him, the more I talk to Him. It's the most beautiful cycle I've ever known. The dark is slowly backing away as it becomes evident that my heart is no longer its territory.
Silence has found new meaning to me. It is here that His still, small voice is heard.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fill My Cup

I've never felt so inclined to write. This kind of writing. The pour-out-my-heart and crikey-people-actually-read-this writing.
My soul has been deeply soaked in the love of my Lord, and I am sopping wet, just waiting to drench someone else. I hadn't expected to feel like this today. I'd planned to be a weepy mess while I have a few hours to myself, and to then function when I have to function. That was my plan. That's usually my plan. Get all the emotions and gunk out while no one's watching, and then suck it up and do your job.
It started last night. I was home alone, and though my heart was hurting, I thought I was doing okay. I just needed to recharge, that was all. And what an opportunity. I baked Paleo sunbutter bars (um, delicious) while watching Annie and belting out the songs at the top of my lungs. And then a text came in. I never finished Annie.
She asked for prayer. I had silently prayed some while Annie sang, "Tomorrow, tomorrow." We moved on to talking about my night for a minute. I was smiling and laughing. Then she said, "I'm depending on your covering tonight. Don't leave me hanging." She isn't one to beat around the bush, and she's always got this sixth sense known as the Holy Spirit in her. That's when I turned Annie off and moved to my knees. She sent specific prayer requests, and I started praying out loud. I felt the Lord's gentle leading and I almost wanted to yell at Him.
What the blimey was He thinking anyway?
My mind went back to the day before when had stumbled; when I had sinned. I cringed at the ugliness.
I had failed and I'd expected the silent treatment. Or maybe trust issues.
I mean, if a friend of mine had done something ugly and broken a promise she'd made to me, I might get angry, and even if I was nice about it, I wouldn't trust her for a while. I wouldn't steer her towards my favorite people and tell them to depend on her. It's just not logical.
But there I was. This wonderful, prayer warrior friend, was asking me for help. (Seriously, I am far from a pro pray-er. I know very well that she has people she could ask that would be way better equipped for this task.) I was on my knees, covered in shame, yet overcome by my love for this friend. (People I love are my soft spots. Hurt them and die.) I felt totally under-prepared and inadequate, and then I felt His arms and His leading. I was so undeserving of this. I wanted to tell the omnipresent God to go be with my friend. She deserved His help and comfort. Hello, I was praying for her. This wasn't supposed to be about me.
And then I got a glimpse of what He was doing. My girl was struggling. I was struggling. We were praying for each other. He was guiding us both. We encouraged one another, preached at the other, and ultimately at ourselves. It was an intentional, intimate time of healing and restoration. He was with us. My heart got full to overflowing with joy and truth. I cried on my knees with my head in a couch.
"God is not defined by love. Love is defined by God." (Heard this today, but don't know who said it first.)
This world has such a cheap definition of love. We've been so tricked by it, that we don't know what to do when we see the real thing.
God doesn't just love me when I keep from sin.
Now that I think about it, I think He may have shown me even more love in the sin ... because it made me realize that I was far from perfect. It showed me again how much I needed Him. I think that's more beautiful to Him than the self-reliant good girl act I'd been putting on. Sure, I wasn't stumbling drastically, but my soul was in a desert. I was surviving, but far from thriving. I was not depending on Him. I was an empty cup, desperately trying to make sure I looked full from the outside. God prefers the openly empty cup. It's honest, and admittedly in need of a refill. The Lord delights in filling us up.
Whatever is inside you will spill out when you're bumped. If you're full of anger, that is what people will see when you are jostled. If you are filled with grief, tears are what will spill. If you are empty, like I was, then when you are knocked over, people will see that you have nothing inside. A cup that is empty, but is reliant on it's own shape and ability to hold liquids is useless. It is meant to be filled. In the same way, if you are full of Christ's love and truth, life can throw all it wants at you, but that's what will come out of you.
I had expected to be rejected by my God, maybe just a little, for my blatant failure. I'd expected Him to push me away. God does not stoop to the world's standard of love. He loves me when I've sinned, while I sin, always, no more, no less. Always perfectly. He finds me when I'm covered in the blood of my own sin and shame, and He embraces me with a love so great and wild, I can scarce take a breath.
He whispered truth into my ear and I heard Him. Such a thing makes me want to listen for Him in every moment, and oh, that is not a bad desire at all. I want that habit. In a world full of lies, what else do we dare listen to but the voice of truth. The thought was shared with me today ... "come Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace." Forget the piano image. Think radio. Because His voice is always there. He is always there. He is always broadcasting, per se. We just have our minds and hearts tuned to other stations. Maybe we're so close to that notch, but His voice is nearly drowned out by static and advertisements from other, lesser sources that try and distract us and lead us astray. Oh, tune my heart to hear Your voice, Lord. You have given me a taste of Your presence and nearness, and I just want more. More of You. Less of me.
"And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You." (Psalm 39:7)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maya's Impact -- Words

There are days when I feel like an inspired writer. The image in the mirror actually looks the part. The stars hold hidden meaning. Worship songs hold depth and meaning. I sit like a lady and I write things with actual rhyme and reason to them. My work has structure, points, and sometimes even pictures and poems to go with it.
And then there are these days, or nights, I should say, maybe. Everything makes me want to cry. I'm sitting at the computer, Indian-style, in my grungiest pajamas, past my preferred bedtime, with Pandora playing. Partially because watching The Brady Bunch right now would be considered pathetic by most people. Mostly due to the fact that I was inspired to write today. Not the pretty kind of inspiration, though.
One of my favorite poets died.
Maya Angelou. I knew her story. I had written a paper on her. I'd read her poetry, and I even posted one here. She was not just a name to me. She was one of my heroes. I know she had faults - we all do - but her story ... it wasn't one I could just read and move on from. Even  now, as I Google her to get my facts straight, I have to hold back tears. Everything reads "She was" now ... last I checked, things read "Maya Angelou is." But now she was.
Here is the part of her story that gets into my blood. As a child, she was abused and raped by her mother's boyfriend. She told her brother, and word got around, leading to the man's imprisonment, for one day. Days after his release he was murdered, presumably by one of Maya's male relatives.
She thought her words had killed him.
So she stopped speaking.
For almost five years.
Silence. 
She had gone through all of that, but she kept it bottled inside out of fear for those around her. She had discovered the power of words.
Funny how her voice is now what she is most renowned for. She was silent for all those years, learning to listen, observe, and remember ... and then she learned how to use her voice to bring life instead of death.
I don't have every detail of her life memorized. I'm not here to write a biography. I will not praise all of the choices she made. I do not claim that all her work is classic literature that should be read by all. I only know this: she inspired me with this one bit of herself that was beyond extraordinary.
I have days that I wish I had no voice; wish I had just kept quiet. There are days when I doubt that anyone truly wants to hear what I have to say. There are days when the war inside seems to throw me over and I don't dare put pen to paper. Or fingers to keys. I forget the power of words.
Maya's story tells me that we have three choices when it comes to speaking. We can say words that kill, say words that bring life, or we can be silent. The worst words I've spoken have been the ones that I hurriedly spit out when I felt like I had nothing to say. No adequate comeback. No witty remark. No comforting thought. Sometimes there is exquisite help found in silence. Some things are better left unsaid.
And then there are things that you just cannot keep inside. I've kept things to myself, and have literally become sick from the weight and pressure.
Your story needs to be told. Maybe it can bring beauty. Instruction. Warning. Hope. Inspiration. If discretion is necessary, tell someone you know you can trust (and we have the constant ear of the One who is Truth itself; He longs to hear our heart-cries). The Lord will show you when it is time to tell your story, if you ask Him. That's how I wind up writing bits of mine here. It doesn't seem helpful or beautiful, trust me, but He knows better. He makes stars from the darkness. He can use my tired sentences. He can use my silence.
So I am surrendering. Letting go of my preconceived notions of what is or is not acceptable to tell people. Abandoning my opinion that my opinion actually matters. Opinion never matters. Truth is what matters. Opinion changes how we view the world, but no matter what lenses you look through to see, truth is what remains; God is what remains. So it does not matter what I think, but what He knows. And somehow He uses my past, my experience, my present, my perspective, my hope, my retrospect, my position, my opposition, the fragments of my life that I thought were entirely irrelevant, the dreams that never came to be, and my very life to do something that is completely unique. God's plan is always unexpectedly, extravagantly, hopelessly beautiful.
He gave me a voice. He told me to speak; to write. So here are my words.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Preached and Pondered


I was running on less sleep than I can function with, and praying hard, because oh how I needed to function. And not just your average survival mode functioning, no. I needed to be cheerful, Christ-like, efficient, creative, loving, and focused.
I slow down for a minute because I actually have the chance to. He pours himself a cup of coffee, and I smile at his kindness. We both know that's my job. We ask each other about life. I talk of weeks that just race by, and there's hardly time to even think, let alone make art with my life. He speaks of the busyness too, but there's a difference. In his world, he makes the time. He fixes someone's toilet while preaching truth into their lives. "She told me I should be a preacher. I already am a preacher, I said. I don't need a pulpit or a congregation - I just talk about Jesus one on one."
He's caught onto something and my stressing heart almost can't believe it's that simple. Can we really just live out our faith like that, no platform necessary?
So I pick wildflowers.
I send that text that I was hesitant to.
I stop being afraid to show vulnerability in front of people.
I resist letting my fear of people seeing me weak control me.
I still try and smile to the people who need it. And doesn't everybody?
Love isn't something you can share by preaching from a pedestal (and I'm knocking myself here, not anybody else), so I'm getting in the dirt and living it. Trying to. I still fail consistently.
So I run to my Role Model ... the One who stumbled through the dust and dirt, past the spitting, angry crowd, with a giant tree teetering on His raw and bloody back.



No, this thought process isn't why I've been neglecting this blog space. I just haven't had the time ... and some days, I was just plain uninspired. I was less concerned with my "6:30 a.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday" schedule than I was with other aspects of my life.
I made it past a major milestone of life. There was a party. There were speeches. I have to write thank-you notes. I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and now I have to figure out treatment, diet, and lifestyle. It ain't all sunshine and roses. But I've discovered that even then, He is still good. He is still constant. He is still sovereign. That's crazy and wonderful, and I can't quite get over it. I don't want to.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Answers

To tell the truth, I felt more drained and spent on this day with no to-do's than I felt all that week past that just refused to end. My friend tells me that sick people need rest; everybody needs rest, and if there's anything I've learned today is that I am sick and I am human.
I cough and sniffle as petals fall from the wildflowers I picked the other day. I relate to them. One day, all fresh and dewy, beautiful and fragrant ... then the next day they're fading. Pieces of them are falling off. Nobody look at me, because I'm not supposed to look like this. Give me a second to put on my makeup. I'll be acceptable, I swear.
Because somebody told me that when I wilt, I'm no longer beautiful. I think the name beneath that quotation was my own. 
Breathing is a fight today.
I had intended to rest and prepare myself for another crazy weekend. Halfway through the mandatory TV show, I get an email that changes everything. Finally, a diagnosis for my condition ... but it's so scary. I'm a basket case, caught between laughing and sobbing. So many people were there for me, but I felt absolutely alone. 
I twisted other people's words into insults, then reacted accordingly. I cried while sitting on a freezer in the basement. I ate a fudgesicle. I did my signature flying air kicks of anger. It wasn't pretty. 
I've had the urge all day to sit on a couch crying, with comfort food on one side, and a comforting friend on the other. In my pajamas. 
So the wigging out happened when I was asked to do Grown Up things, and have Actual Thought Processes, and make Decisions. 
I'm worse than a toddler at this point. 

There's also a thought war going on. Because I know better. 
I have voices in my head, from Scriptures, from family members, from friends, etc. 
Cast all your cares.
Take every thought captive.
You're safe with Jesus.
You're safe. 
You're going to be okay.
God is God and God is good.
Nothing can snatch you out of My hand.
He is with us. 
You are for me. 
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Even if the healing doesn't come.
Your love never fails.
He's got this.
You are not alone.

And then my own words hit me just as hard.

So I will run toward all You are,
Take Your hand and embrace Your scars,
Knowing that You bled so I could breathe again. 
Carry me, 
Help me breathe.
Your love alone can heal this fragile heart. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Beautiful, Beloved

(Photo by Anna Hart)
Have you ever wondered how it is that not a portion of nature is considered to clash, color-wise? Think about it. God used every color imaginable, likely inventing new ones as He went along, and we do not say that those willow trees really would look better in a different field ... one not quite so green, maybe. It's unheard of.
We put two articles of clothing together, and suddenly, it's unthinkable to wear that outside of your bedroom. What a disaster.
But we can't look at an unmarred piece of God's nature and call it an eyesore. Because He made it beautiful.
Society tells us differently.
They lie when they chant that age and beauty are not synonymous. They present them to us as enemies. They scorn wrinkles and grey hair, saying they are no longer signs of wisdom and cues for us to respect. Now we look at them as symptoms of a disease: old age. One step closer to the end of the road. It would be a bad thing if the end of the road was something to fear. It used to be. Death. Our greatest enemy. That was then. That was before Love took on flesh and conquered death.
They tell us we must fit in. Conform. Be stylish. How is it that nearly every teenager struggles with acne, yet it always seems like you were the only one? The world tells us it's ugly; detestable. Girls cover their faces to look "presentable." What kind of a world have we turned this into? One where something God smiles upon is suddenly deemed not enough, because of this little thing called puberty. Girls are throwing up on purpose, because someone called them fat.
Listen to secular music for ten minutes, and you'll know we're not okay.
Read the dystopian novels - they warn us of how quickly such a warped society could fall apart.
We've been fed the lies since the cradle, and it's about time the truth was heard.
You don't have to fit the world's idea of perfect to be beautiful.
You don't need flawless skin.
Your hair doesn't have to get immaculately mussed by the wind.
You do not have to wear a mask of makeup to be of value.
You are uniquely you, and we need to hear your story. We want to learn your song.
We cannot risk taking you for granted; you are far too valuable.
One does not cheaply discard what their Savior died to redeem.
If you have been discarded, I. am. sorry. They disposed of Him, too. Not a struggle can you face that He has not faced before you. He died to give you life, and rose to give you hope. Hear you me: nothing you face can change this fact. The world can try to rip you apart, even take your very life, but as long as your soul belongs to Christ, they have no power over you. Death has no sting; in it's stead lies the hope of an eternity with the Lover of your soul. And in that place are no more tears or pain.
That is love if ever I saw it.

(Linking up with Holley Gerth ... here)

Monday, May 5, 2014

An "Artist"

What sort of a thing does one write when the wind is blowing, their head is pounding, and frills and nonsense seem useless?
I'm in a rather practical mood. I am wearing plain, comfortable clothes that take the chill off, and my wild hair is pulled back in a most unbecoming bun.
And yet I should write something worth reading. Shouldn't I?
But who's to judge?

I'm beating around the bush.
I shan't keep you waiting much longer.

Sometimes life doesn't make sense. There comes a time when you realize that all your childhood dreams may not come true.
I found a page in a box under my bed the other day. It's one of those sheets that makes you see just how poor your handwriting and logic once were:
"If I was an Artist"
If I was an Artist I would make tons of pictures and hand some out for free at church. I would sell others at an Art Gallery. I would draw cards and send them to people. I would frame some and use them as gift's. I would use the money I earn for offering and to provide food for myself.
Some things just have to be capitalized, you know? If only all I needed was food. To be honest, I found my artwork in that box, too ... picture giant heads with hot dog buns for lips.
Nowadays, my work has slightly improved. I have a better sense of proportions and facial features. But I'm no Artist. I am simply an artist. I am terrible at drawing hands and feet. I sell most of my work for charity, and the few that I sell personally, usually end up going towards hair product or undergarments. Ah, the life of glamour. I do give some pieces away, and I've drawn a fair share of cards (translate: two), but I have yet to be featured in an Art Gallery, and I doubt that time will come. This is where the train of practical thought leads to ... unless you dare make a stop and acknowledge that our God has mysterious ways.
I am no prodigy, making billions of dollars without a single lesson, but I have seen God somehow use my sketches to make His voice heard.
I've sent a piece of artwork to a friend who was hurting, when I had no idea what to say, and He spoke through it in a crazy real way.
I may not have expensive, professional paints and brushes, but I can use an old mascara tube like nobody's business.
My pictures don't hang in Art Galleries, but they sit on kitchen shelves and office desks, and I think I prefer those displays.
It's not my elementary, picture-perfect plan, but I like it better. Because it doesn't depend on me. Who cares if I draw poor hands, if my hands are miraculously being used to do something good, that I couldn't have, and wouldn't have thought of on my own.
So this is my thought process. A wild and practical one. If I am to remain at home for longer than I had planned, and in a home that is far from my ideal plan, then God must have something amazingly good to do with my life here and now. And I might have missed out if I was able to sit in a cafe that looked out on the Eiffel Tower.
The same principle goes for the rest of my life. If it's not what I dreamed of, it's better, ultimately. Because I could never plan out my own salvation, or organize the redemption of a fallen world ... best to leave my little life in the hands of One who can, eh?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Beauty Time

(Photo by Tara Gourley)
The rain drips gently, steadily, and I have time.
Time to just be.
I've found that it's what you do in these spare hours that defines who you are.
When you're longing for a little peace, what do you do?
Some days, I just browse Pinterest. It's mind numbing, yet you feel almost useful, because who knows? That recipe you just pinned could very well change your life.
Most of the time, I crave something more. I often stop that craving with a heavy dose of laziness, but I know it was there.
Today, I use the moment to think on truth; to write it out in black and white, so I won't forget it ... and maybe you won't either. I'm a day ahead of schedule, and that's satisfying.
I stop that word before it rolls off my tongue. Savor it.
Satisfying.
The secret of life, or at least one of the big ones, is that only Christ can truly satisfy.
Only His love will leave your cup running over.
Only His truth will be firm enough to stand on.
Only He will fill that yearning empty in your heart.
There's no pew beneath me, so I preach it to myself: only Him. Always only Him.
And in these spare hours, I use what He's given me. I think on His name. I trust in His goodness. But not every time, don't get me wrong. I preach to myself in the voice of who I want to be, not who I am. Because how else can I learn?
I try to make beauty from what I have ... stitching fabrics together, writing poems, sketching sweet madness ... because handmade beauty is something precious and irreplaceable.
I try to see the beauty in what is. I count gifts from heaven. I watch the rain pour down. I note the stunning dimple on my sister's cheek.
I make music. Belt out tunes at the top of my lungs. Blare my favorite songs in my headphones. Write my own, when I can.
I aim to bless others. I use the things that I have made beauty from or found beauty in, and I pass them on.
I pray the feeble prayers of a person who still can't figure out why God loves her. Try to wrap your head around it, I dare ya. It's mind-boggling.
I whisper out half-memorized Scriptures, willing them to become the inhale and exhale of my life, because who doesn't need that kind of truth every second?
I write. I read. I am a word-lover. A wordaholic, if you will.
I read classic literature, breathtaking poetry, lovely Christian novels, non-fiction books that blow my mind, blog posts, Pinterest posts, etc.
I write letters, songs, poems, posts, stories, nonsense, texts, emails, and I don't dare shove them in a drawer and forget.
I dream about plants.
I make baked goods.
I snack an awful lot.
Sometimes, I cave in to the reality that we serve a God who offers peace and rest, and I sleep. It takes more bravery than one would think. I have to admit to myself that the world will spin on without me. I have to remember that my God is bigger than nightmares, and that His love casts out my fear. I have to be willing to cry for a while, if that's what it takes.
I pretend to be so brave, holding back tears like a big kid. But there is beauty and strength in the vulnerability it takes to let those tears flow. They say that "big girls don't cry," so maybe it's time I stopped being a big girl. Or maybe I need to start a trend among us Bigs. A group of honest people who don't judge pain and emotion? Sign me up.
So it comes down to this: a dare to find beauty in the here and now. In a blank piece of paper, in an unappreciated object, in the mirror ... God makes beautiful things. It's time we saw and experienced them for what they are.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My Heart is Yours {Coffee for Your Heart}


You won't relent until You have it all. 
my heart is Yours.

I set You as a seal, upon my heart
as a seal upon my arm
for there is love,
that is strong as death
jealousy demanding as the grave
and many waters can not quench this love

come be the fire inside of me
come be the flame upon my heart
come be the fire inside of me
until You and I are one.

//"You Won't Relent" by Jesus Culture//

He wants my heart. All of it. Every beat. Every desire. Every longing. He calls after me, naming me Beloved, asking for this: a sacrifice worthy of Him. How could I hold anything back from such a Love? It's sinking in now, what it means to give everything to Him.
It means that if I never travel outside of my country again, I still love Him. I still trust Him.
If the tests come back, and I have this disease, I still believe that He is in control; that He knows best.
If they give no answers, and I continue to wonder in vain what is wrong with me, I commit it to Him.
If joint pain keeps me from learning the things I wish I could, He is still enough.
If I am left behind by loved ones, or they leave me behind, I cling to Him as my constant.
If every fear I've ever had becomes reality, I believe His love still prevails.
This is what the sacrifice calls for. Abandonment of self. Trust that no matter how this world may chew me up and spit me out, I am still in God's hands, and we. still. win. Because He's already won. 
What a freeing thought. 
If I am destitute, I am still rich according to the kingdom. He is my reward.
If I am diseased, He promises an eternity without pain. I am whole in Him. He endured far worse for me. 
If I am stranded, He can still use me. The fact is, you don't have to move an inch for God to work through you, if you are surrendered to Him. 
So I surrender. 
If my speech falters, I trust that He will speak through me nonetheless. 
He has a history of displaying His strength and glory through those the world deems weak and unlovely. Insignificant. 
He gives value to those the world has shamed. How crazy is that?!
So what in this whole wide world do I have to be afraid of. 
Fear itself. The devil tries to immobilize me, isolate me, and make me ineffective. So he tries to scare me into numbness. He tries to influence me and make me doubt the goodness of God's plan. 
My great-great-grandchildren may hear stories of me. 
Let them hear I fought illness all my life.
Let them hear I had barely a penny to my name.
Let them hear that I couldn't play an instrument to save my life.
Let them hear I never traveled far.
Let them hear I was far from famous. 
So long as they do not hear that I gave up on my God.
So long as they don't hear that I lived in fear of the future. 
So long as they do not hear that I was great by the warped standards of the world. 
Please let the stories be of how I loved my Lord, no matter what.
Now I live with this in mind. 
If I gain the world, but lose my soul, I live in vain. 
If I have it all, but have not love, my life is worthless. 
If I am healthy and wealthy, but do not depend on my Lord, that is true destitution.
May it be known that I consider Him more valuable. 

(Linking up with Holley Gerth ... here)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Confusing Me

(Photo by Tara Gourley)

It's been a blare-my-music kind of week.
I have these emotions that I can't justify, and so I listen to songs that deal with feelings, and I listen to them loudly. I find some sort of insight from their lyrics oftentimes. They aren't always the good-girl worship songs, either. I have discovered profound thought beneath the layers of secular music. Even if it only shows me the reality of my life, if I do not have Christ.
Thank God, I do.
But still, I am confused by myself; puzzled at my trembling and tears. If you were to look at the pages of my journal from this week, you would be as perplexed as I. "What a great day ... It was so happy and wonderful ... I laughed until I cried." Can so much good cause such emotional struggle? No, I do not think it is the cause.
I am frustrated with myself for being upset. God is good. My family members are in relatively good health. My needs are provided for. I got my hair trimmed, and those split ends are gone at last. The pain that we have suffered has somehow brought us closer together. I've had time for art and writing -- actual, real time. Nothing cut from my schedule to make room.
And yet I whimper in my bed when the lights are out.
I have the loveliest conversations, and I watch friendships blossom.
But I sigh at the thought of waking up to one. more. day.
I have moments of rest and tranquility, well-balanced with productivity.
And I feel so weary, spent, exhausted.
But all the good in my life is so convincing and wonderful, that when someone asks me how my week was, how I'm doing, I feel like I'm being fully honest when I tell them how great everything is.
Truly, God is in His heaven; all's right with the world.
But why am I not okay?
It's becoming clear now. I am still struggling with the burdens of weeks passed.
I didn't let them fully heal. Why didn't I let them?! I suffered so under the weight, that when enough good came along to almost outweigh it, I denied its existence. How could I say I was doing poorly when there was so much to be thankful for? I felt guilty for not being "over it," so I just pretended I was.
I'm good at pretending.
I believed myself.
I became so productive; so proactive, that everyone around me got no chance to see the weary pain behind my eyes. Because I made sure my eyes were always focused on something else. I'm not dissing productivity -- it's awesome -- but I think I let it be a crutch ... and nobody could tell I was limping. Not even me.
Oh, some people noticed. Those insightful people that always sense somehow that something is wrong. I told them I was getting through it. I said it was probably just my poor health. I distracted them from my true pain. It's almost funny ... I've been told that when you're ill, if you suffer under stress or burdens, your body takes part of the blow. It can literally make you sick, or in my case, sicker. This week, my health has been poor, indeed. And I wouldn't even let myself sigh over that, because I was stuck in that "everything's lovely" rut. Lying never ends well. Will I ever learn this?
So here I am.
Honestly, I'm not okay.
I am blessed beyond measure, but I feel pain that is very real.
I know the truth, but I often fall for the lies.
I am ill and well taken care of.
I cry for no reason, and every reason.
I relate to sad songs all too well, and so I play them loud.
But I also know my need for joy, so I blare the songs of rejoicing and truth as well.
I need reminded.
Lord, don't let me forget. 
I am still processing pain, recent, and not-so recent.
I am still trying to figure out what in this wide world I am supposed to do with my life.
I am still loved.
And that still blows my mind.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Flawed & Loved


I have flaws.
I have shortcomings.
I've failed over and over again.
I have nasty habits.
I do things I'm far from proud of.
Funny how Someone dares love me anyway.
Always.
Despite.
Because of.
Whether I feel it or not.
Those who know me know.
I can be hard to love. 
I'll accept a compliment, then replay its opposite in my head for days.
I can say what I mean ... shatter hope with stabbing words.
When I treat others like I treat myself, it gets ugly. 
Still He persists.
"Worth it," He calls me.
Beloved.
Redeemed.
Dead to self.
I have wished my-self dead.
Dead to the world.
Dead to the pain.
But I live on.
Maybe that's my problem.
Lydia, you just haven't died yet.
Is that really it?
I have become alive to Him
But have I died to me yet?
Truly?
Answer that in the negative.
No way, Jose.
I keep my-self in my pocket
Stroking it gently as I pray nobody sees that I yet live.
Seriously, I've prayed prayers like that.
He shakes His head at me
The same old Eve, hiding behind a bush.
Hide and seek with perilous consequences.
And He's still calling me Beloved as He searches.
Who does that?
He does.
Love does.
Is it just me, or is that the kind of Person you can trust?
It's not just me. 
I feel like a bungee jumper.
I set my-self aside.
It's no longer controlling my breathing; my actions.
It ain't dead yet, but the time is a-comin'.
I'll attend the funeral, but shed no tears.
I jump off the edge, with grace as my only rope.
Abba, catch me.
The most legitimate trust fall yet.
He catches me.
And this time, I'm not even surprised.
He was holding me before I even jumped.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Keep it Simple


I crave the simple life.
I want to wake up and watch the sunrise, just in awe of my Lord and His beauty.
I am tempted to belt out hymns as I take my morning shower.
You'll find me sometime with a baby on my hip and a smile on my lips.
I want to be able to quote poetry with the finesse of Anne and Gilbert Blythe.
I long for Scripture to be so ingrained in my mind that every other sentence I speak is unintentionally or purposefully founded in Biblical truth. Give me a mouth like that.
I hope to someday be that friend that sews gifts for your littles, and makes her own clothes. The one that gardens and cans; cooks and bakes; knits and makes a killer cuppa tea.
Give me a life that is a gift to others.
I want that.
Please and thank you.
I want to breathe in grace so deeply that it is all I exhale; so it becomes a new sort of oxygen for those around me.
I don't need a Pinterest-perfect life. We all know I don't come near perfection on a webpage. Let my life be a simple reflection of my Lord; let me hold up the mirror until self is lost behind it, and all are caught up in the glory that replaces me.
My name is I Am Not, and I serve the Great I AM.
When this is true, who needs worldly perfections?
Can the song of my days be simply "This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24)
So what if my nails and makeup are left undone?
Who cares if my room is not themed, polished, or organized?
May my soul be His reflection, and may my actions be His masterpiece; every movement a stroke from His paintbrush.
What beauty can come of this odd pairing ... this Divine and this mere mortal. A love that stretches that far ... blood-drenched arms held open on a cross.
You don't get much simpler than a naked man strung on two planks of wood. His crown was less than extravagant. The sign that bore His name was far from elegant. The nails that held Him there weren't Home Depot quality.
My life has been one of those nails. Driving into His flesh until He cries in sheer agony. And now He penetrates me, instead. His is a wound of love; removing my infected heart and transplanting it with His own.
And I lie here, bloodied and loved. Still prone to sin in the worst ways, but trained to run back to the donor of my heart.
Oh infinite God.
Only He could give one human His entire heart, and still live; still have more love left over to give equally to every other broken mess that needs it. His body is broken for us daily.
Broken, and yet whole. Battered, and still beautiful.
Take my life and let it be ...
this.
I don't need marble halls. I don't need a fairy tale life. I don't need to reach for the moon.
I just daily need to reach for Him. Daily I am broken. Daily He is willing to heal and restore. And so I run to Him.
Let this be my simple way of life, following after His leading, loving those that are in my path.

Linking up with Holley Gerth today - come on over!


Monday, April 21, 2014

Hopeful

(Photo by Tara Gourley)

I have seen daffodils break through the ground after one of the longest winters I have known.

I've seen sunshine after the rainstorm.

I've witnessed forgiveness that followed murder and lies.

I have heard the stories of lives transformed from sin and shadows into light and love. I've seen the change firsthand.

I've watched hard hearts melt at the strains of a song and the smile of a child.

I've wondered at how the sun still rises brilliantly after the hardest of days.

I have seen the brightest smiles come from dark, impoverished places.

I've been loved at my ugliest.

I've looked at lives reconstructed from disaster.

I have cried tears of joy after sobbing those of anguish.

I have heard a poor little boy pray in Spanish, accepting Christ into his life.

The most beautiful face I know has a scar.

The loveliest hands have them too, from where they were pierced by nails ... Those hands have held me; they hold me still.

My sin has been washed away by the blood of my Beloved.

So excuse me if I have hope.

Pardon me if I don't believe this world can defeat me.

Forgive me if I refuse to believe all is lost.

I have seen. I have heard. I believe.

The darkness cannot drown out the light.

I may face desperation, discouragement, doubt, despair, or desolation, but I will never face defeat, because He. has. won.

Death fought Him and He conquered.

Satan thought he had the victory for three whole days ... how blatantly wrong he was.

No gravestone reads, "Here lies Jesus," for the grave no longer holds Him. He resides elsewhere.

He's moved into the hearts of His children. He lives in me.

So nothing can take my 

hope.