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.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Truth Be Told


My apparel didn't suit the day. I wore mascara that wasn't waterproof ... and boy, did I cry. I skipped all other makeup, because I wasn't up for pretending. My far from practical hat nigh fell off with every hug I received that I desperately needed. My bright dress hardly matched my spirits. It was too hot for my tights. Thank God, I didn't wear heels.
I could never have pictured how lovely the day would end up being. Sure, I cried, sweated, and clung to my hat, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
My day had begun in an acute state of grief. And it wasn't the first day of this. It was not the death of a person that I grieved ... but, perhaps the death of who I thought they were; who they used to be. The news of this loss came after one of the hardest days of my life, physically. I was not in any shape to bear this, so I was crushed beneath the weight.
I didn't expect to ever be lifted.
I couldn't think straight. I lost my appetite. I couldn't sleep. I could not laugh. Breathing was even a chore.
I was devastated, to say the very least.
So how could a Sunday possibly fix anything?
I had underestimated Christian community. What's worse is I thought they wouldn't notice. I partly didn't want them to. I gave up on that when the first person I sat next to saw the pain behind my smile and refused to believe my "fine."
So the next person who hugged me got a double order of truth, with tears on the side. And in the span of a few hours, I received love, prayer, encouragement, sound advice, a gentle scolding, humor to lift my spirits, solid friendship, and cheap books. Oh, and food. Basically, my soul got radically revived.
I didn't get magically "fixed," but I didn't get a band-aid stuck on a stab wound, either. It's almost as if those people cleaned out my wound, took care of me, then tried to cheer me up. (Like the Good Samaritan without social scandal.) The wound is still there. The pain and sorrow remain. But they no longer overpower me. I no longer lie useless on the floor. And I don't drag my spirits through the mud behind me as I walk -- not anymore.
I'm breathing again.
A gift, for sure.
There He goes again, giving me things I don't deserve.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Noise & Pace


Noise, noise -- constant noise.
Sometimes it can be deafening. Other times, it inspires ... such a sensory overload can drive one's mind and heart. It's a rush, in a sense. A steady, pounding noise can move us to action. Maybe this is why many runners blare pulsating music as they push themselves ever harder. Faster. That used to be me. Music pounding, driving my feet to a stronger pace. I could never keep up, and part of me liked that ... the part of me that thought I needed punished.
I'm not proud of that part of myself.
Recently, I had a strange notion: what if I slowed down? ... I'm a runner ... Can I do that, on purpose, and still maintain my dignity? I'm not sure, but does it matter?
So I slowed down. I put my headphones in and played music that calmed me. Then I ran. Not constantly worrying if I would ever be fast enough. I only worried if I was pacing myself enough.
I should probably mention that it had been awhile since I had done the whole running thing - winter, health issues, shortness of breath and all. It hadn't really seemed wise. If I struggled to keep up the pace way back when ... I was taking a genuine risk now.
Part of me loves risks, but only if the risk concerns me alone.
I don't like to take chances that affect those that matter to me. It's a quirk of mine.
So I took a risk; the calculated, down-played kind that I was pretty sure wouldn't cause me to collapse. And I haven't yet.
... But back to the noise.
It's quiet enough that I can still hear the birds singing. They sing, even in the rain, and I am reminded of this, my broken birdsong. It inspires me to run, no matter how sore I may be; how my stomach trembles with every breath. Can something this broken become beautiful and fluid? I am choosing to believe so. And my music. Soul-renewing varieties. Quiet, worshipful, with a certain folksy energy to it. This is what inspires me to keep moving. It doesn't force me to move, though, no. I might have once been embarrassed by how many rest breaks my weakness causes me to have. But His power is perfected. So I run on. Through my noise.
And He feels nearer still.

Friday, April 11, 2014

An Alternative Plan


Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
I had expected this season of my life to be decisive.
I'd seen those around me come to the same crossroads and just linger. And linger. Maybe buy a t-shirt at a nearby shop that says "I don't know what to do next" or "Tomorrow, I'll do something." It's not that extreme, but it feels like that. It looks like that. We can't see what other people are thinking, praying, struggling with on the inside. We can only see their action.
So that is why I had decided I would move forward, in clear, distinct action.
It's a pride issue, I'm well aware.
And here I am, sitting. Wearing the t-shirt.
I have a lot more thoughts to think than I expected to. I thought I would be all gung ho on this thing, rushing forward with little attention to details, yet somehow making perfect decisions and getting from point A to point B.
But where is God in a life like that?
So I abandoned Plan A. Which wasn't very well-planned, admittedly. But I had no second option, t-shirt shop excluded. My tendency is to always have a plan. With no plan, I lean towards panic. Not my brightest moments. Since Plan A had been dropped because of its lack of room for God (and lack of an actual plan, in all honesty), Plan B became simply making room for Him. And from the outside, it may seem like inaction, but trust me, I may not be moving much, but He is. He so is.
I begin by leaving my eyes wide open. I am praying for God to guide me. Not specifically to some giant decision or movement, but in the everyday moments. I have learned that the little moments in life - like choosing to speak to someone you didn't plan to - can have just as much impact as the big ones. Baby steps, I tell myself (thinking of a classic comedy flick). If I am asking Him to show me what to do with my minutes, and as He leads me gently, I follow Him; I do small tasks, I talk to people, I smile at strangers ... when He calls me to do something crazy, will not my ears be well attuned for His voice? Won't my feet be poised to follow Him just one step further? Will I not be all the more prepared to sing His praise through whatever trials follow?
My mind floats effortlessly back to a beloved hymn ... "Come Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy praise."
Yes, He is moving. He is tuning my heart. Using my weakness to further His strength, His power, His glory. I just long to get to the place where I am so close to Him, so familiar with the sound of His voice, that if He tells me to wait, I will, knowing it is His plan; knowing it will bring Him more glory than if I would move. And vice versa. "Where You go, I will go. Where You stay, I will stay."
Maybe I can get that on a t-shirt.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tears {an original poem}

(Photo by Anna Hart)
(Linking up with Holley Gerth here)

Tears fall steadily after the trauma
If you came to grips with it, at least
Those around you whisper things like "drama"
Each of us faces a diff'rent beast

You didn't expect it to hurt so bad
Or you did and you wanted proved wrong
Lost are the logical thoughts you once had
Something so simple lasts for so long

Mascara lines down paling cheeks
Trembling hands clutch bathroom sink
How long since you have felt this weak?
"Give her water," drink, drink, drink

--Inhale
Exhale--

Coherent thoughts
Routine and necessity numbing the pain
You are responsible - think of the gain
This too shall pass

And it does

You do not have to tell yourself to breathe
But you do and it's steady; a habit
Discover the feeling of sweet relief
Tell people it was hard, but you made it

But you don't talk about that first moment

Five minutes, maybe?

Or longer

Are we counting the nightmares?

Much longer

You tell the details, distancing yourself
It happened then, the pain was here
But the emotions you seldom tell
All you felt was panic, fear

You're most afraid it will happen again

And you worry you'll be alone if it does

And it does

When you must relive it, the tears come first
They wait for no one, remembering
You brace yourself for the absolute worst
Then find you cannot do this thing

The prayer He prayed makes sense for the first time

"Remove this cup from me! I'm too weak to sip
I can't bear it--Father, can You hear?
...
Your will be done." The glass comes to my lips
I cry His name, and He says "I am here"

This too passed
But He remained

Monday, April 7, 2014

08. It Is Well With My Soul -- Peace

(Photo by Tara Gourley)
This will be my final hymn study. Well, the final one in this series. There are three questions left to answer, but I felt two of these were more personal, and I've already answered them in my heart and mind. So that leaves just one. Now you can see why I've been putting this off. Things end. Such is life.
"When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll--
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
'It is well, it is well with my soul.'"
Notice something about this: it doesn't say "though sorrows," or "if sorrows," it says, "when sorrows." Peace is next to me in the sorrows that seem to overtake me. They are separated by a single comma. I think of God's names: Emmanuel, God With Us. Prince of Peace. With us. Peace with us. No matter what trial the world has thrown our way; maybe even because of the trial, peace is with us. So why not invite it in? We have a choice, you know. Every moment of our lives asks us whether we want to respond in peace or panic. Faith or despair. Forgiveness or bitterness. "Thou hast taught me to say." It doesn't come naturally. We must learn. The man who wrote this hymn did so after hearing of the deaths of his daughters. Our instinct is to panic and to fall apart, but He teaches us peace.

10) Where does my peace come from? (the story)
"My sin--O the joy of this glorious thought--
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!"
Whatever we face, this is our truth. If we have repented and given our lives to Christ, our sin is washed away; our debt is paid in full. No one can condemn us. He who has seen even our most secret, despicable sins does not accuse us, but fights on our behalf. We are on the winning team. By grace, we've been set free. Praise the Lord! Herein lies my peace: in Christ alone. He has saved me, and now I live for His sake. So why panic? The worst the world can do to me is send me home to my Beloved Maker.
"And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound and the Lord descend,
'Even so'--it is well with my soul."

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Time and Tasks

(Photo by Anna Hart)
Today, I am doing a lot of multitasking. Right now, I'm watching a health video, writing this post (obviously), and sipping the cup of tea I promised myself today. It's dawning on me that the simple pleasures I put on my to-do list aren't as effective if I do things like this. But today, I sort of have an excuse. My schedule got cramped from two directions. I overslept, and my evening plan got moved to an hour earlier, and it probably will end at the usual time, so I'm sitting here, thinking "how in the world am I going to get everything done?" So I multitask. I'm not proud of it, but somehow, all the things on my list must be done. This is a quirk of mine. If I put it on the list, it must be checked off, or else I shame myself for hours and pretty much shoot my self-esteem. I don't like the unproductive me. We're not friends.
But I'm learning something ... I'm learning it slowly, even as I write, but I'm learning. I don't have to be this perfect, productive, nonexistent version of myself. My worth isn't founded in how many things I get done in a day, or how flawless I get my makeup to look. My worth's foundation is Christ. But am I living like this is true? I want to.
The things I am doing are all good ... but I can't let myself get to the point where I spread myself so thin that I am not giving the attention needed to particular areas of my life. I can't multitask people, for one thing. I can't multitask the things that matter; the things that I can't dare avert my eyes from. There's a certain amount of things that you can multitask efficiently, but I can't let this go further. I can't let the things I do suffer. I can't let the people I interact with suffer. I can't let myself suffer, honestly. Because honestly, I suffer for no reason, all because I based my worth in the crossed off squares of my stupid lists.
I'm condemning myself.
There is no condemnation in Christ. (Romans 8:1)
I've read this before. I've quoted this before. When will I let it sink into my life? Into my heart?
I'm preaching it today. To myself. To you.
Productivity is what makes me feel successful. But God doesn't view success in the same way that I do. In God's economy success = faithfulness. No matter how many things I cram into a day, if time with my Lord isn't one of them, I am truly unsuccessful. This isn't me saying that how much time I devote to Bible reading is how successful I am. Quality over quantity. Is this really the lesson that I am learning today? I recited that to my brother when we were trying to decide which toys we wanted to spend our dollars on. (I know I was a weird kid, thank you very much.) So the truth smacks me in the face once again. I can recite that cliche a hundred times a day, but if I don't apply it in my life, it does me no good. If I read my Bible for three hours a day, underlining every other word, and I don't base my life on the truth found inside, that time was nigh wasted.
So I'm looking for this, the quality of life rather than quantity. Meaning instead of monotony. Hunting daily for my Lord rather than desperately striving to do all I can in my own strength.
Honestly, I can't wait to see where I'll end up tomorrow, next year; what He'll do with the time I sacrifice.
Care to join me?