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)