Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How Love Can Be The Only Home You'll Ever Need

It's the morning after I write about Home and my body, it's fighting off sleep, trying to open eyes to a new day.  That's when the music on the bedside table makes its way right into my dreams and suddenly I'm wide awake.

Because who wants to keep dreaming when God's got something to say?
...I'm lost and found
I'm saved and drowned
I'm everything and nothing all at once
I'm so far gone
but I'm already home
With everything and nothing but Your love...
The new year, it's days away from beginning when I hear these words, but God, He's not waiting another minute to pour out Himself on this woman who's yearning to find her Home in Him.   And maybe there are still a thousand things I don't understand about the One Who is Home, but maybe He's already ripped the veil over the only one that really matters.

God is Home because God is Love.  Yes, Love is our Home.

And I wonder how it is that all these years I've read words so familiar and yet never known what they meant.  Because the Apostle Paul writes it over and over that without Love, we are nothing, we have nothing, we gain nothing.

Why did I not see it before that what he's really saying is this--with Love, we are everything, we have everything, we gain everything?

When we've got nothing at all to our names but His Love, we have everything.

And this is the moment when the mystery takes on skin and I know why I've been longing, aching, straining for Home.  Because it's only been six months since I first laid the full weight of who I am against the full measure of His Love and found the one piece I'd been missing for a whole life.

The truth that I am loved.  A thousand times over.  By the One Who spoke me into being, the One Who is Love.

And this truth, it's already changed me inside and out, turned me into a woman I barely recognize.  But He's still shaping me into His Glory and I'm still learning how to live loved.  Because I spent 29-1/2 years not knowing the Love He's always carried me in and I can't even write those words without the ache raging wild for the girl I was before I knew.  And these six months, they've been a different life than the one that came before, but I wonder if it takes every last one of these days we're given to fully settle into Him, settle into who we're meant to be, settle into being loved

But maybe the settling begins right here with this one thing:  God is Love and Love is Home.

Love is the roof that shelters us in every storm.  Love is the walls that surround us when we feel utterly alone.  Love is the light burning in the window when we need to find our way back in the dark.  Love is the hearth fire thawing out our resistance, our cold-as-ice days, our fear-frozen hearts.  Love is the dinner table laden with food, filling our starving souls with the only Bread Who Lives.

And the most beautiful, glorious, life-giving truth of all?  Love is the Beloved Himself, tending to our wounded lives and our broken spirits, whispering comfort, courage, hope in our ears at every turn, inhabiting every last corner of this House of His Love.

Yes, Love is Home.  And in this Love we're in, we are always, always at Home.

I might've spent long years yearning for a tangible place to call home, but who wants what can only be lost when there's a Home that can never be taken?

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  
~Romans 8:38-39
And maybe I'll spend the whole rest of a life settling into this Home He's given--this Home He is--but maybe this life begins with just two words.  The two words God's been waiting to speak over me since that day I found His Love.

Welcome Home.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

When It's Time To Plant Hope

It's the middle of January when I write about the Joy Harvest and I wonder if anyone really understands what I'm trying to say.  Because who harvests anything at all when the ground is frozen right through and the wind whips harsh and unyielding?

But it's the day when snowflakes start falling that I glance up to see the first amaryllis bud breaking wide open, spilling joy into a day that's cold as ice.  And I wonder how it is that blooms the color of Summer can emerge right here in the middle of Winter.

And these words, they dance at the edges of my thoughts, make it clear that God's not bound by any conventions of mine or yours or anyone at all.

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow {Colossians 3:6}

I'm starting to see that a new year's born right in the center of the coldest, darkest days and we might think there's no reason to harvest or plant until the winter months are over.  But what if He's calling us to believe, to make a new start here, now, when light's still a long way off?

I hear the groaning as the year enters in, people everywhere fighting against the frenzy of resolutions.  Because who can bear to add even one more thing to a list already burdened with responsibilities, expectations, failures?

And I feel it, too, the weight of all that needs doing and learning and being.  But it's after I've harvested the joy from a year that's gone that I realize there's more to a new year's beginning than just adding more things to the unending list.

Because maybe every year needs a whole crop of Hope planted deep into its soil, dug into the frozen ground when Winter's still strong and we're still floundering a bit to find our way in the dark.  And maybe we need to be reminded that it's not us who'll turn the new year into something beautiful and full of God.  No, it's only Him.  The One Who takes all our Hopes, breathes life right into them, and grows a life, a faith, a steadfast love straight from the cold, dark earth.

Maybe we'll plant Hope Seeds and they'll turn out to be something wholly other than what we expected.  Maybe we'll plant Hope Seeds and find they'll take a lifetime to sprout, grow, flourish.  Maybe we'll plant Hope Seeds and realize they're not really what we were hoping for at all.

But see, that's the thing.  There's no need to worry that we're planting the wrong seeds because it's only God Who makes them grow, only God who makes all things beautiful when the time is right {Ecclesiastes 3:11}.

And maybe it seems downright foolish to plant Hope when there's no knowing what a year will bring, even what tomorrow will bring.  But who wants to live the new year without Hope, without the expectant waiting for what God's going to bring right from the ground?

No year's hopeless unless we choose it to be--and even then, He slips in quiet while we're lost in the dark, plants His Hope where we think there'll never be life again.  And, oh, I've had those years, too.  The ones where I'm too broken to plant anything at all, too scared to believe there's any Hope to be had.

But this isn't one of those years and, oh, how grateful I am to stand here at the start of a new year with hands full of Hope ready to be set in the soil.

Today the wind rushes hard and the cold bites deep and the weeks of Winter stretch long into the distance.  But me, I'm gathering up seeds, pondering all the hopes for a brand new year.

Maybe I don't yet know all the Hopes I'm going to plant, but there's this one that's already been laid right down in the ground.  I'm taking the dare to count 1000 more gifts in 2012.  Because the counting of His Grace, the counting of Him, it's already changed the woman I am becoming, changed everything.  Who wants to hold back from letting Him do it all again?

I don't and I won't and, oh, will you join me?

Counting Graces from the past few weeks...

1119.  Full day of work after all the holiday slow days

1120.  Little blue bird perched in a friend's home, a symbol of hope

1121.  Amaryllis buds growing tall in January

1122.  Unexpected post-Christmas gift of tea

1123.  Dutch apple cheese muffins for breakfast

1124.  New calendars arriving in the mail - new year finally seeming real

1125.  Pictures of children I love from afar coming in the mail

1126.  Thank you notes all filled out and ready to whisper blessings

1127.  Reminder to do a long-forgotten task before it's too late

1128.  Money to pay unexpected bills--always, always this

1129.  Late-night reading of Anne of Green Gables

1130.  Always going to sleep with a bit of laughter in my heart

1131.  Cat racing wild as the household goes to sleep

1132.  "Talking tea" over email with a friend

1133.  Friend who counts it a privilege to advise on hard questions

1134.  Wise words to make hard decisions easier

1135.  God who's near when the answers aren't

1136.  Baby amaryllis plants poking buds above the soil at long last

1137.  First steps towards making peace with the past I've stored in boxes

1138.  Dear friend by my side all afternoon

1139.  Rows and rows of stitches finally nearing completion

1140.  Eager anticipation of giving the handmade gift to a friend

1141.  Cat who sleeps on the desktop while I work, just wanting to be near me

1142.  Candles burning on cold January days

1143.  Flock of birds flying straight across this road I'm on

1144.  Glancing at the sky just in time to see them fly by

1145.  Winter sunrise over frosted rooftops

1146.  Amaryllis buds breaking open while the snow falls

1147.  Last stitches in place, gift of beauty finally done

1148.  Pumpkin cheesecake baking in the oven on a Saturday afternoon

1149.  Courage to try a new skill in the late hours of night

1150.  Cat nestling in for bed while I struggle to "cast on"

1151.  God waking me early to see fresh snowfall

1152.  Road covered in white, unmarred by travelers

1153.  Standing at the window in PJs and bare feet, watching snowflakes lit up by street lamps

1154.  Going to bed frustrated by the learning curve, waking up ready to try again

1155.  Snow falling down all day long

1156.  Trip to the yarn store on a snowy day

1157.  Hands that can't wait to begin a new project

1158.  Snow boots with fuzzy fur tops

1159.  Snow flurries against the windshield, roads clear enough to drive

1160.  Meeting up with a friend, bag of new projects in hand

1161.  Telling stories from the week, laughing so hard the tears run free

1162.  Friend who advises on the things I'm still learning

1163.  Birds playing in the gutter while new snow falls

1164.  Mastering the purl stitch at last

1165.  Finally believing I might become a knitter yet

1166.  Resigning myself to no more snow, then waking up to the world all white again

1167.  Amaryllis blooms the color of summer, open wide right in the middle of winter

1168.  World quiet under it's frozen blanket

1169.  Dad helping in the kitchen because I'm tired and there are things that need doing

1170.  Chai topped with marshmallows to end the day

1171.  Standing at the window before bed, trying to memorize the winter's beauty

1172.  One lone gull flying overhead while the freezing rain falls.

1173.  First Hope Seed of the new year planted deep, Joy Dare undertaken.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

When It's Time To Harvest The Past

It's the last day of 2011 when I start yearning for time to slow down.  The hours are slipping away and all I want is to grab hold of this year and keep it here for just one more day.

Because these last twelve months, they've held things too beautiful and glorious for words--they've held God in ways I never saw coming, ways that changed who I am and the woman I am becoming.

And who wants to bid farewell to a year that's held more God than all the ones before?

I remember that very first day of 2011 when I pressed my face against the glass and heard Him whisper what the new year would hold.

But how could I have known what it would really mean for a year to be full of Him?

I was starving for Him and I knew He'd come and I knew He'd fill and, oh, I knew it would be beautiful.  But I'm standing here a year later and there aren't any words to write the story of what He's done.

And I tell myself if I just had more time, if I just had one more day, maybe I could find a way to say what needs saying.

But there's no holding onto the hours and as midnight creeps nearer, I do the only thing I know.  I whisper deep thanks for a year I'll never forget and I let the tears fall free because this heart's too full of Hope and Healing and Him to keep it all inside.  And with just three-quarters of an hour left in the year that's changed everything, I turn out the light and let Him put me to sleep with just this truth.

There's no end to Me.  This brand new year?  It can be full of Me, too.  I'm always waiting, willing, longing to fill up every last one of your days.  Will you let Me?

And He knows I will because there's no going back after what I've seen.

But I wake up in the new year and it feels all wrong and I just want to crawl back under the covers and find the old year still here.  Because sometimes fresh starts feel empty and unfamiliar and it's hard to believe anything can ever be as full of Him as all the months that came before.

And I might've thought I was ready to begin again, plant hopes for the new year, dream of all the ways God can fill up a life.  But the days of January start slipping right past and I can't seem to find the strength to move forward.

Until that day when I read it in the unlikeliest of places, how a woman writes a list every January and calls it Celebration.  Because who wants to let the old year go before we've harvested all the Joy straight out of ground?

And maybe there aren't any words to really tell the story of what He's done, but I know it now that I can't plant hopes in the new year until I've combed the soil with my bare hands, pulled up all the Beauty and Glory and God that He's grown these past months, and counted all the Joy.

So I pick up a pen and I start my own Celebration.  I write down small things and silly things and things that don't mean anything at all to anyone but me.  And I place them right up next to the kinds of things that change a life, change a woman, maybe change the world.  Because who can resist harvesting all His joy from every last row of a year?

My Joy Harvest here, it's imperfect, broken.  I am, too.  But God, He's not.  Not imperfect.  Not broken.  Not like me.

And my heart, it might ache a bit with all the things I can't express, but mostly it just aches with Him.  He's stretched me wide, filled me to the brim with Himself.  And all I want?  To be filled again and always and only with Him.

I might long for words to hold every drop of Him that's poured straight down on me all these months of a life.  But God, He's only asked this one thing--to be the open hands, heart, life that He can flood right into.  And who could ever contain Him in words anyway?  Who would ever want to contain Him at all?

So I'm tilling up the soil of a year that's gone and I'm giving thanks for all the Joy and the Grace and the Beautiful God that's sprung right from the ground.  I'm making room for the new year's Hope Seeds to be sewn deep into a life.

And my face, it's pressed up against the glass of all the tomorrows, and God, He's whispering the one thing I want most for this brand new year.

This year will be full of Me, too.