Monday, February 28, 2011

Amaryllis the Giant

Every day, I chronicle the gifts, His grace, His fingerprints all over my life.  And time after time, your name finds its way into the Journal of Thanks.
#7  The amaryllis that blooms faithfully and sometimes unexpectedly, inspiring poetry and photography alike
#73  Amaryllis buds popping up in late January, surprising and delighting my heart.
#111  First amaryllis blooms laying out horizontal, taking on the color of tangerines

#118  Tangerine-colored trumpets opening atop the amaryllis to greet the sun

#122  Sun-filled photo shoot with Amaryllis the Giant

#133  Second amaryllis bud growing tall and straight, towering over leaves

#165  Three amaryllis blooms open wide, four more just days away from showing face  

#224  Turning the amaryllis twice a day to keep flower stalks growing heaven-straight



It isn't because I don't see Him in other places, don't have a thousand more gifts for which to give thanks.  I do.  Oh, I do.


But I've said it before and now I'll say it again:  You remind me to breathe deep and celebrate the color of joy.  And this journey of thanksgiving, of eucharisteo, is a journey about joy.  Something you were teaching me long before I even counted my first gift.


Is it any wonder, then, that you should be found over and over among the Thousand Gifts?


I found an old picture of you today.  You came to me small, only two leaves to your name.  Even two years and two bloom cycles later, your leaves still numbered only five.  Here you are in the kitchen window of a life I once lived:


And when we left that life I loved, I didn't know if either of us would survive.  Joy fell out through gaping holes in my world, and I tried as best I could to hold on to life itself.  But you had no intention of merely getting by.  You weren't about to let joy fly away.  Two more years and I hardly recognize who you were in light of who you are:



Now I call you Amaryllis the Giant, with your bulb the size of a softball...


...your pot bursting with life, gradually pushing the soil above the rim...


...and all your offspring dancing around you, giving rise to a whole new generation of joy.


Every day, I wonder at the way you grow, the way you bloom, the way you thrive in this temporary home of ours.  And every day, it's true.  You remind me to breathe deep and celebrate the color of joy. 


You are a gift to me, Amaryllis the Giant.  A gift from a dear friend, but really a gift from a near God.  A gift I will never tire of giving thanks for.





#208  Waking up to the sound of rain

#209  Blueberry muffins stowed in the freezer

#210  Wrapping up in a quilt made with love

#211  Buddy cat cradled in one arm, sleeping like a baby

#212  Birds chirping their morning song outside my window

#213  Dark brooding sky threatening to storm

#214  When the brooding sky changes its mind, gives way to blue

#215  Drinking Christmas tea in February

#216  An apple named Pink Lady

#217  Snow flurries!

#218  Sun breaking through clouds while snow falls heavy

#219  When dinner turns out delicious despite shaky beginnings

#220  A tea named Calypso

#221  Crouching in front of the oven, watching cheese bubble and potatoes turn brown

#222  Sneaking a bite of breakfast casserole as a bedtime snack

#223  Promise of snow in the quiet of predawn hours

#224  Turning the amaryllis twice a day to keep flower stalks growing heaven-straight

#225  Peeking out the window at 2 a.m. to check for snow

#226  Strength to press on when weariness grows strong

#227  Strangers who pray, give grace, cheer me on

#228  Hail covering the ground like snow

#229  When the hail finally turns to long-promised snowflakes

#230  Breath fogging up the glass while I watch winter descend

#231  Heating pad heavy in the pocket of my robe, hot against my leg as I climb stairs to bed

#232  Kitty fighting bedtime like a strong-willed child

#233  Making it halfway through the whole of a book...

#234  ...and still being determined to press on

#235  Evergreen trees dusted with snow

#236  Smoke spirals from nearby chimneys

#237  Perfectly green bananas, all firm and starchy

#238  Warm sweaters for cold days

#239  Half-moon over roof peak

#240  Bedtime prayers for the girl in all the photos

#241  Wind blowing snow off rooftops, making glitter clouds in the sunlight

#242  Cat within petting distance while I work

#243  Dancing shadows

#244  Timer announcing tea time

#245  Nine birds perched in one leafless tree

#246  Pie dough

#247  Freshly zested lemons

#248  Golden peaks of homemade meringue

#249  Birthday dinners with family

#250  Laughing with my brother

#251  Walking briskly in frozen night air

#252  Quiet end to a long day

#253  Sitting cozily in the house while harsh storm rages outside

#254  Friend who gave an amaryllis and, with it, gave joy

#255  God Who shows His face in the Joy Blooms

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Cat's Life

Yes, indeed.

These three can tell you:  A cat's life is a hard life.








A hard life indeed.  Wouldn't you agree?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nails of Change

I am only three chapters into the book when the familiar weariness seeps in.  Decades of illness have ravaged my body, left my mind grasping about for comprehension and retention.

I remember now why I haven't finished many books since I entered my 20s, since the symptoms became my life.  I can count those books on one hand and not use all my fingers.

Year by year, I have learned the ways of this strange and muddled brain, found the secrets to weaving information into dark recesses that don't want to be filled.  But they aren't the easiest of ways.

I read each chapter twice, sometimes again, marking the pages with ink to remember what's important.  Then hours writing notes by hand, jotting down the words I've highlighted and recording each thought, each question, each moment of revelation along the way.

In the end, I know the content of a chapter well enough for it to seep down deep to the places of soul change and perspective shift.  Even when I can't recite it from my head, I can feel it in my being and know that I am moving forward, being remade.

But hours of labor take a toll on this body marked by weakness.  I rarely make it halfway through a whole before closing the book and sliding it back into its place to collect dust.

I hit the wall a little sooner with Ann's book.  It is deep and rich, layer upon layer of soul truth reaching me in the place where I am.  I process all of it in my sleep, at my desk, in the grocery store.  And I change and I open and I see how life can never be the same again.

And I want this.  Oh how I want this.

But I grow weary in the journey to understand and remember.  I grow weary and I start to give up.

So I return to Chapter Two and read this again:
"A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit."  Erasmus said that, contemporary and admirer of Martin Luther....  I look down at the pen, this pen I keep wielding, one writing her way all the way to one thousand.  This pen:  this is nothing less than the driving of nails.  Nails driving out my habit of discontent and driving in my habit of eucharisteo [thanksgiving].  I'm hammering in nails to pound out nails, ugly nails that Satan has pierced through the world, my heart.  It starts to unfold, light in the dark, a door opening up, how all these years it's been utterly pointless to try to wrench out the spikes of discontent.  Because the habit of discontentment can only be driven out by hammering in one iron sharper.  The sleek pin of gratitude.  (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, pg 49-50)
And I wonder if I have made a habit of giving in to the weariness that haunts my days.  I wonder if I can hammer out the nail of giving up and giving in by pounding in the new nail of pressing on--and maybe take my life back from the one who always whispers, "You can't do this."

I don't know, but I think it's worth a try, and I pick up the hammer and start in on Chapter Four.  I read it, learn it.  It is beautiful and it changes me a little more.  And I press on, feeling the old nail give way just a bit.

But Chapter Five comes and hits me hard in the place of loss.  I stop marking up the pages, and for the first time, I shut the book and don't want to open it again.  I shut the gratitude journal, too, and only two things find their way onto the list that day.

The second one comes late at night when I awake in the dark and wonder at the light outside my window.  I climb out of bed to pull back the shade, and I see it there high in the sky.  Big, beautiful moon lighting up the night.  As I fumble in the dark to find the Book of Thanks, I know it then that something is different, that I am different.  And I can't stop now just because Truth is hard, cuts deep, asks for everything I have.

It's too dark to see the page, the lines, the words--so I write it slow and crooked, hoping it can still be read when the daylight breaks:  #180  Moon so full and bright I can't look without squinting.

Come morning, I open the book again, pick up the pen, and hammer in a few more nails.  Change is coming.  It has already begun.  And this time, I'm going to see it through.

No.

He is going to see it through.

He hands me the Truth Nails, lets me make a choice.  Today I pick up the hammer and choose to pound them in.  And tomorrow I'll choose the same.  I have to.  The fullest life--the life I want, the life I was created for--my life depends on it.

All our lives depend on it.




#153  Quiet house, lazy morning, day without work

#154  Rainwater streaming into gutters

#155  Drops of rain glistening on tiny branches, like diamonds adorning the trees

#156  Basket overflowing with colorful scarves, brimming with cheer

#157  Raindrops cold on my nose as I hurry into the store

#158  Grocery store aisles laden with flowers for all those Valentine givers

#159  Getting to smell jasmine in bloom in the middle of February

#160  White orchids with deep purple splotches

#161  Stopping in the middle of grocery shopping to write down gifts, give thanks

#162  Stream of hot hair, drying the hair and warming the cold of morning

#163  Annabelle Cate with wild eyes, chasing after things unseen

#164  Reading Ann's words, "Wherever you are, be all there," then opening a teabag to read, "Wherever you go, go with all your heart."  Yes, You are in the details.

#165  Three amaryllis blooms open wide, four more just days away from showing face

#166  Last swish of tea from the cup--all spicy and peachy

#167  Lion-sized purrs from a pint-sized kitty

#168  Purple phone and purple pen sitting atop the purple Journal of Thanks

#169  Smell of oranges lingering on my fingertips

#170  Bright blue sky at day's beginning

#171  Nails of change being hammered into the framework of my life

#172  Morning sun glistening on willow tree buds

#173  Lone bird perched at the tippy top of the tree next door

#174  One small cloud puff adrift in a sea of blue

#175  Kitty ears glowing translucent in the sunlight

#176  Two cats taking baths in separate sun spots

#177  Smooth, silky feel of the scarf draping around my neck

#178  Sound of hail on a tin roof

#179  Down jacket making the cold morning cozy.

#180  Moon so full and bright I can't look without squinting

#181  Frosted rooftops glistening at daybreak

#182  Cat on hind legs, focused hard on birds outside the window

#183  Photos of a girl hanging all in a row, snapshots of my sister who lives a world away

#184  Cold, crisp apple

#185  The way Truth trickles down through cracks in our souls, brings new life from the inside out

#186  The courage to face fears long enough to let words come out

#187  Snow-covered mountain coming out of hiding, looming large on the quite horizon

#188  Bald eagle circling slow in a cloudless morning sky

#189  Afternoon nap in a sun-baked bedroom

#190  Homemade scones baked to perfection

#191 Pink and white slippers on clearance after Valentine's Day

#192  Green plates, purple-flowered napkins for a tea party

#193  Mom who bakes scones, puts up with my angst, loves me

#194  Tea menus

#195  Cat who rolls around on the floor just because

#196  Discovering forgotten photos that bring spring to life

#197  Sunlight lasting longer, days lingering on

#198  Conditioner to keep the curls from running my life

#199  Saying I love you--please be good to the cats when I leave the house

#200  Driving to church while the sun hangs low in a winter sky

#201  That He calls me friend, daughter, sister--that He calls me His

#202  Pink socks peeking out from black shoes

#203  Noodles in a cup, dinner on the run--letting the ministry come first

#204  The impulse to open the gratitude journal when unkind words make my heart hurt

#205  That Jesus calls my singing a joyful noise, even when others only hear noise

#206  Stubborn cat who won't be pushed from a lap

#207  Stubborn God Who won't be pushed from a life.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dear Venti

This week you celebrated your 14th birthday.

Fourteen.

When did you start growing up so quickly, my Dear Sweet Sister?

I remember the year you turned seven.  The year I first learned your name and saw your face.  And I remember that photo of your almost-seven-year-old self--pink frilly dress not quite reaching your knees, black-as-night hair tucked behind a headband full of red, and a sparkle in your eyes defying the very poverty you had been born into.


I was smitten the moment I saw your face.

But I had no idea how deeply you would enter my heart, how hard and how fast I would fall in love with you in the months and years to follow.


You started writing your own letters to me before you even turned nine, calling me "Sister" and melting my heart with your sweet, joyful spirit.  I kept every letter, every photograph, every scrap of paper that passed from your hands to mine, trying to hold you close across oceans and continents.


You told me you liked to dance and play drums, to swim and play games with your friends, to visit your relatives and go on field trips with the Compassion Project.  You asked about my family, my work, my cat, my life here in a world so far from yours.  Our letters took months to reach each other, but still we kept at it, trying to bridge gaps of time and distance and culture just to whisper love into each others lives.


Then came the year you turned 12.  You wrote to me one July day to tell me your dear mom had passed away.  And my heart broke for you, wondered at the injustice of one more loss you had to bear.  I wanted to fly across the world to gather you in my arms and tell you of my love, His love, the hope that would carry us through our grief.  You thanked me for the picture I had sent, told me it had become your courage.  And then you said this:  Let's pray for each other that God will keep on encouraging us, Sister."  Such wise words from a girl so young in years.


A few months ago, I asked what you dreamed of becoming.  I had never asked before, always fearful that the harshness of your life had stolen all your dreams, left you grasping wildly for hope.  But you wrote back and told me you wanted to be a doctor.  I should have known you still had dreams.  I should have known they were big dreams.  I should have known you wanted to change the world.


Some say I have given you a gift.  Some say I have changed your life and breathed hope into your future.  Maybe it's true, but this one thing I know:  It is you who has changed me.  It is you who has given the gift.

You have taught me how to love someone I have never met.  You have shown me what it means to build relationship across time and distance and all the differences that can hang between two people.  And you have humbled and inspired me to live with hope and faith no matter the circumstances.

You've been the little sister I've always wanted.

And I am incredibly grateful for the gift of you.

May the God Who holds us both in His Hands guide and protect you as you grow into the beautiful woman He has called you to be.  May you always feel His presence near and know that you are deeply loved.  In His strength, I know you will change the world.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Sister of Mine.

I love you.

Hugs and Kisses,
Courtney

Monday, February 14, 2011

In Celebration of Love


I used to dread this day every year.

February 14th.  Valentine's Day.

Actually, "dread" is perhaps too small a word for what I felt.  I think "despise with a passion" might be a little more accurate.

It began, I think, way back in those days when we were expected to bring Valentine's cards for everyone in our class.  But not everyone brought something for each person in the class.  They only brought them for the kids in their circle, the popular ones, the ones they actually liked.  And I was never one of them.

I was an outcast.  An awkward, shy, too-big-for-her-age outcast with crazy hair and crooked teeth.

And nothing made that clearer to me than on days like this one, when the evidence of my acceptance was laid out plain for all to see.

Over the ensuing years, Valentine's Day became a kind of symbol to me, a yearly reminder that the love and acceptance I desperately longed for were always out of reach.  Shame held me tight and told me over and over that I would never be loved, never be accepted.  And I believed every word.

But Shame was wrong.

I remember the year my opinion of Valentine's Day began to change.  I was 22 years old.  I had dreaded the Fourteenth of February just as every year before.  But when the day finally came, a sweet friend showed up on my doorstep unexpectedly, her arms laden with a bouquet of pink and white tulips.  She knew of my disdain for this day, knew that it shouted loud about rejection and unworthiness, knew that I desperately needed to be loved on this day of hard reminders.

And something in me came alive that day.

Oh, I still had years of laboring before I would be free from the grip of Shame.  Years of learning to love and be loved in ways I hadn't known before.  Years of opening up the soul and letting healing--and Healer--work their way deep.

But something beautiful began that day.

The tangible, surprising, tulip-filled love of a friend spoke volumes to me about the Lover of My Soul, the One Who had always loved me with an unfailing love, the One Who would keep on loving me for all eternity. 

Finally I started to see.  This Day of Love was not an ugly reminder of what I didn't have.  It was a celebration of all that I did have.  I was loved.  Maybe I hadn't known it for years and years of life.  Maybe it didn't look the way I wanted it to or thought it should.  Maybe it was different than what other people had.  But it was love, all the same.

And in a world full of hurt and broken souls, I didn't want to miss any more chances to celebrate love.

Seven years later, on this Fourteenth Day of February, I am breathing deep, relishing the celebration, and giving thanks for every drop of love He's given me.


Happy Valentine's Day, Dear Friends.

You are loved.




Still counting the endless stream of His love....

#104  Cold winds that make me want to bury my face--but instead I look up and see Him in the clouds.

#105  Creative deliberation paying off, leading to something beautiful

#106  Art project so beautiful that I want to keep going just to see it take shape

#107  Boxes of tea coming home to fill up the empty shelves

#108  Happy little teacups that bring inspiration for a tea party

#109  Tea bag wisdom:  "Sipping thoughts of Peace, Hope floats my way."

#110  Early morning arising after sleepless night

#111  First amaryllis blooms laying out horizontal, taking on the color of tangerines

#112  The way peanut butter and apples are so very different and yet so very perfect for each other

#113  Spice cranberry juice in a pink, heart-covered mug

#114  One patch of sunset sky glimpsed through trees and houses

#115  Morning snuggles with Annabelle Cat

#116  Curls that actually curl--making me look like a girl instead of a lion

#117  Annabelle Cat curled up beneath my chair while I pour over soul-food

#118  Tangerine-colored trumpets opening atop the amaryllis to greet the sun

#119  Pink rose petal flecks visible in my teabag

#120  Long leaf shadows on lime-green metal

#121  God's version of a Happy Light--sunshine so brilliant I have to turn off every light in the house just to keep from being blinded

#122  Sun-filled photo shoot with Amaryllis the Giant

#123  Driving with the sun roof open in the second week of February

#124  Royal blue sky at dawn

#125  Being named by Him, being named His

#126  Afternoon of sunshine and book reading

#127  Amber tea liquid pouring into glass

#128  Sunlight landing on yarn-blanket the color of Autumn

#129  Perfectly pink cup and saucer

#130  Red heart hovering at the bottom of my tea

#131  Cat sneaking into the closet for the umpteenth time

#132  Waking up slow

#133  Second amaryllis bud growing tall and straight, towering over leaves

#134  Hot shower first thing in the morning

#135  Finding rhythm in a hard song

#136  Eastern horizon glowing beneath a clouded sky

#137  Clouds thinning out, letting the blue filter through

#138  Wind making the tree tips dance in morning light

#139  Freshly vacuumed carpet

#140  Unexpected laughter

#141  Saturday afternoon storm

#142  The sound of hard rain splattering against window glass

#143  Clean laundry, folded and back in place

#144  Bedtime snuggles with Buddy Cat while the heating pad gets hot

#145  Quirky old man driving seafoam-green van, bringing laughter to ordinary day

#146  Three skeins of yarn to finish my blanket--and an 84% discount

#147  Valentine's Day--a day to celebrate love

#148  Memory of tulips showing up on my doorstep, of love showing up on my doorstep

#149  Laura--giver of tulips, giver of love

#150  The Lover of My Soul

#151  The way He endlessly pursue me

#152  The way He endlessly pursue us all

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sticks and Stones

When I read the words, I take note, mark them down.  But it's days later when I live them.
Years, I lie listening to the taunt of names ringing off my interior walls, ones from the past that never drifted far and away:  Loser.  Mess.  Failure.  They are signs nailed overhead, nailed through me, naming me.  The stars are blinking out.  (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)
My names sound different, but deep down, they are just the same:  Burden, broken, unlovable, worthless, failure.  For years I carried them, emblazoned across my forehead, across my soul, across my life.  Until that day when chains of Shame fell off me and all the names "nailed through me" fell off, too.

But they didn't leave me unscathed, those names.  They left me marked, wounded.  And always with the fear that names and chains would find their way back to me.

We are bantering back and forth, and I joke first.  Then he does it, too.  The words slip out of his mouth in jest, but they land heavy in a wounded place.  "You're not poor, just sorry."

Someone else jumps in, tries to illuminate.  "He doesn't mean you're a sorry person, just in a sorry state."

I feign playful anger, try to convince them both that what's been said is not only untrue but unkind.  But I'm not angry at all.  Just hurt and sad, fighting desperately to keep the name from sticking, keep it from taking up residence in the marks left by all the names I've held before.

Later I look up the definition of "sorry" and I know why the word wants to find a home in my soul:  Deplorable, pitiful, good for nothing, merit-less.  All these, they echo the names I carried for two decades of life:  Burden, broken, unlovable, worthless, failure.  And when I say echo, I really mean shout.

How do we keep words like these from naming us, from taking up residence in our deep-down broken places?

The spiritual answer declares that it doesn't matter what other people say about us--only what God says.  The real answer is harder to swallow, harder to live:  It doesn't matter what God says about us either--only what we believe about ourselves.

This I learned in those painful healing years when my Shame was slowly being replaced by His Grace.  The day of chain breaking was the day I realized I believed the truth God had spoken over me from the day of my beginning:  I am worthy of love.

Sometimes the names are casually spoken and hardly meant.  Sometimes they are spelled out and ruthlessly given.  Either way, they cut deep, leave us reeling.  And as the names claw their way into our souls, we have a choice to make.  Do we believe the words that echo our worst fears, paralyze us in relationship, confirm what we always thought to be true?  Or do we choose instead to believe the One Who loved us and named us His from the very beginning of all days?

Today I choose the latter.  It isn't a once-for-all decision.  The wounds of Shame names still run deep.  And each time the pain words find voice, I have to choose again.  Today I take the name Sorry and throw it in the fire of His love for me, watch it be consumed by Truth.  And then I trace my fingers slow across the name I've always had but didn't hold until that day Grace delivered me from Shame:  Worthy of Love.

Yes, this is my true name.  The one I've finally let Him nail through me.  The one I never want to be free from.

And it's your name, too, if you will only choose to believe Him.

Choose it, Beloved.  Choose it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Held Together

The sun is still shining when I finish work that day, but I know it won't last much longer.  The shadows are growing deeper in the front garden with just a few patches of light still lingering.   As I walk through the house, I catch a glimpse of something out the back window.  It's the Ribes sanguineum 'Alba,' just coming into bloom, bathed in a stream of late-afternoon sun.

I run upstairs to grab my camera, find the right lens, check the power left on the battery.  I don't even stop to put on a coat before hurrying outside to capture the fleeting perfection I had seen through the glass.  As I bring the camera to my face, settle the viewfinder on a cluster of tiny white flowers, I breathe in deep.


This plant I grew with my own hands, from a twig the length of one hand, now stands taller than me and full of blooms, full of life, full of hope.


And somehow, standing here in the chill of the fading winter sun--this life, this hope reaches into my soul and floods me with joy.  I want to memorize the moment.


And that's the moment when I start to wonder.  Why is it that I never doubt the changing of seasons, the growing and blooming of living things, the signs of life in the middle of darkest winter days, the returning of spring after even the hardest of winters?  Why do I trust this order of creation more than I trust in the goodness of my God, the faithfulness of His love for me?

At first I tell myself it's because I can see this faithfulness of the seasons.  The way summer always follows spring, the way autumn always turns the ordinary of green into the brilliance of red and orange and yellow, the way winter never has the final word, the way tiny blooms brave snow and ice and harshest winds to shout, "Hope is here!  Spring is coming!"  I have seen it with my own eyes, time and time again.

But then I remember.

I have also seen His faithfulness and His goodness.  The way He takes ashes and turns them into something beautiful, the way He uses brokenness to strengthen who we are, the way He brings good things from even the darkest days of our lives, the way He takes us back into His arms after even our worst moments.  Yes, I have seen this, too.  With my own eyes, time and time again.

So why, then, is it far easier for me to trust in creation than in the Creator Himself?

I think I know.

Although the same Goodness, the same threads of Faithfulness run beneath all of life, they rarely appear in the same way twice.  He rarely appears in the same way twice.  And I wonder at the mystery of the God Who never changes but always shows up differently.

I settle on an answer that is more true than deep:  I am small.  And God is big.

Yes, my God is the Creator of all things.  But He is so much more than that.  "Creator" is only one small piece of one very big God.

And in my broken humanity, I am too small to comprehend the fullness of this God Who exceeds everything I will ever know about Him.  This isn't inherently a bad thing.  It means I am held and loved by One Who is bigger and stronger and wiser and more full of goodness than I will ever be.

But this inability to know the God I love, this uncertainty in how He will show up in my life, this fear that something worth hiding from lurks in the fullness of the God I can't comprehend--it all leaves me trembling under the weight of mystery, doubting the depth of His love, questioning whether all the harshness of this life is truly upheld and bound together by His goodness.

I stand there a little longer, watching the bloom clusters open their petals to a quickly fading sun.


 And that's when I hear Him, showing up in this quiet moment on a winter's afternoon.
[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)
I repeat the words again in my head.  In Him all things hold together.  The faithfulness of the created order, the certainty of spring's return, the hope-filled blooms bursting forth from winter's heavy hand--they are held together by the One Who holds me, too.  They are faithful because He is faithful

Even as I grab hold of this glimpse into the mystery, this truth that speaks of things I have yet to fully know, I am certain the journey has only begun.  I am still finding my way in this counting of His graces, His goodness, His fingerprints in everyday places.  But there is now one thing He has whispered loud and clear:  By this endeavor, I am learning to trace the threads of His faithfulness through the pages of my life, to open my eyes to see His goodness no matter how differently or unexpectedly it shows up.

Because in Him all things hold together.

In Him I am held together.

And I am so very grateful for the holding.





#87  Cold air, brilliant sun, blue sky--a perfect winter day

#88  Mending of relationship

#89  Lighthearted conversation after too much heaviness

#90  The giddy anticipation as I watch the amaryllis buds grow taller by the day

#91  Hellebores blushing pink beneath glossy green leaves

#92  Sunshine and clear skies three days in a row

#93  The turning of the calendar page to a new month

#94  Ribes sanguineum bursting into bloom this first week of February

#95  Afternoon sun landing on tiny white blooms, filling my soul with joy

#96  The feel of a new book in my hands--crisp pages, smooth cover, high hopes for soul mending

#97  Purple ink staking a claim in the new book, letting me take words to heart and life

#98  Medicine for kitties, to make the itching stop

#99  Spring bulbs in tiny plastic pots, announcing Joy in the grocery store parking lot

#100  The scent of hyacinth blooms opening in still-cold air

#101  For a glimpse into the mystery of His goodness and my recurring struggle to trust it

#102  For being held together

#103  For the One Who does the holding

Thursday, February 3, 2011

This Is Me...

I belong to the God Who spoke the world into existence, Who knit me together in my mama's womb, Who loved me before I was even conceived.  And in Him, I am held together and have my being.

I come from a past full of brokenness and countless regrets--but because of God's mercy, I have a present full of healing and a future full of hope.

I call myself an artist, and when I say that, what I mean really is that I love to create.  I am not an expert at anything but I find joy in dabbling with things such as photography, painting, collage, and crochet.  In all of these, it is color that calls to me most, and art is the way I play with it, shape it, use it to tell a story.

Sometimes, though, it is words that tell the story best.

I was born a poet, but the poems themselves didn't come to life until the year I turned 10, the year secrets fell into the open and innocence escaped us all, the year death showed up and changed the way I lived.  My poems have been growing up ever since, changing their shape and form, somehow changing me, too, and growing this girl into a woman.

I was also born a writer, but it took far longer for me to know it.  In fact, I didn't come into my own until I started writing here, in this small corner of the world I named "Growing Is Beautiful."  And though I believed it from the beginning, that beauty is always found in the growing, I didn't expect this place to be such a source of my growth.  Word by word I am finding my voice, learning to speak Truth, and letting the life I live be the life you see here.  Now the poetry and the prose mingle together, each informing the other, both of them pieces of who I am becoming.

I am a survivor of chronic illness and a former prisoner of Shame whose been set free by the miracle of Grace.

I am a passionate pursuer of God and growth and relationships. 

I am a giver of gifts and a celebrator of the seasons--both in the garden and in our lives.

I am a lover of tea, of cats, of sunshine, of all blooming things.

I am not yet a wife or a mama, but my God whispers, "Someday you will be,"  and my heart holds to His promise with great hope and sweet joy.

Really, it all comes down to this:  I am just a girl full of faults who is striving to be full of Him.

I am just a girl on mission to be a woman of God.