Tuesday, October 1, 2013

When It Hurts to Heal


It's the first week of June when I'm out watering the Memorial Tree and my heart just about splits open with joy.  There among the newborn leaves of late spring, I see it clear--tiny clusters of buds just beginning to form.

It's been nearly 5 years since I planted a tree in my grieving, and truth be told, I didn't even know it was supposed to bloom.  I chose this tree for the shape of its leaves and their brilliant, fiery colors in Autumn--who needs flowers on top of all that beauty?

But when I see those first buds growing with abandon, I'm giddy with the surprise of it and I want to shout it out loud that grief's brutal and deep and messier than anything, but it can be beautiful, too.  Yes, a whole life can burn straight to the ground in the wake of what's been lost and God can still grow a tree right out of the ashes.  But God doesn't do anything halfway--He doesn't stop with new life out of death.  He turns it into Beauty and Glory and Grace.  Yes, a whole heap of Grace.

This is what's coursing through me when I see those blooms at their beginning.  But I'm afraid, too.  Afraid they'll shrivel up before they even open.  Afraid that if they open, they'll never mature into a fruit that's meant to last through a whole winter of darkness.

And this fear?  It drives me to do the craziest thing.  I refuse to take a photograph of those beautiful, God-breathed buds.  I refuse to document the grace of this moment because I'm terrified of what's to come.

Oh, yes.  The fear of impending heartache?  It can steal the joy right out of a life if you let it.


Those tiniest of buds, they do open up into yellow-green blossoms, their bright red centers barely peeking out through those curled petals.  But even then, I keep the camera in the house and I keep holding my breath for what's to come.  Because as much as I believe in the God who redeems all the broken bleeding mess of a life, I'm still desperately weary of being the broken bleeding mess.  Yes, I'm more than a little ready for the hard labors of grieving to give rise to an abundant harvest of Hope and Healing and Him.

So I whisper pleading prayers over the Memorial Tree for days.  I beg God to let it bear fruit, let it be a symbol of all the healing that's been and all the healing that's still to come.  And when I see those flowers just beginning to round and redden with new life, I rejoice.

But it's only a matter of days before I know something's not right.  The signs of life fade clean away, dry up into nothing.  And that's when my heart really does split open.


But my heart's not the only thing that's a bit broken.  It's my body, too.  Because it's then that a few weeks of restless nights turns into 3 months of no sleep, and it's as if the bottom's fallen right out of my healing journey.

I stop writing and I stop reading and I stop recording the graces of a good God.  Maybe it's only because I become too weak to stand up or climb the stairs or put thoughts together in any way that makes sense.  But maybe it's also because my heart's a broken bleeding mess and I'm just a little tired of being ripped open again right when I'm beginning to heal.

My doctor keeps the faith and he tells me again and again that we're not getting no where, that the reasons I'm not sleeping might just be the clearest signs of a healing body we've ever seen.  But when you haven't slept for 12 long weeks, there's not much strength left for understanding the hard things.  There's only enough to keep breathing in and out and grabbing hold of every hand that's held out to you.

So that's what I do.  I breath and I hold on and I wait for whatever's coming next.

Because I finally know this deep--being afraid of what's to come, it doesn't just steal joy.  It steals strength, too.  And when you've no longer got enough strength to be afraid, maybe that's when you really start to live again.


It's the first week of September when I sleep through the night for the first time in 3 months.  And I sleep the next night, too.  And the one after that.  And ever so slowly, I find my way back to the healing road and realize that maybe I never left it at all.  Because my doctor's been right all along--my body *is* healing.

It just doesn't always feel like it.

And maybe this is what the year's teaching me more than anything else.  Sometimes it hurts to heal.  Sometimes healing is brutal and deep and messier than anything.  Sometimes healing takes every last bit of courage we've got just to keep on breathing and holding on.

And there may be days, weeks, months when we won't acknowledge those tiny bits of hope and recovery we've seen because we're terrified they won't grow into that big, beautiful Redemption we're so desperately yearning for.  But what if we could just believe that healing doesn't always look the way we thought it would?  What if we could just believe that sometimes healing can be the hardest road of all?  What if we could just believe that when we feel ripped open again, it might just be God rebuilding us from the inside out?

If we could just believe?  Maybe then we'd really start to heal.


I don't know why the Memorial Tree didn't bear fruit this year.  Maybe it was the weather.  Maybe it was the soil.  Maybe it was me.

Or maybe it was only this:  Growing and healing and becoming take time.  They don't happen all at once.  They don't happen the way we expect them to.  But they do happen.

He Who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6b

As the last days of September slip in, I open up the gratitude journal after 3 months of silence and I begin again to record the graces of a good God.  With the simple act of pen to paper, I say no Fear and I say yes to Joy.  Yes, I welcome Joy back into all the broken places--back to where it belongs.

And ever so slowly, I begin to heal.



To read more about the significance of the Memorial Tree:
When You've Been Reborn and You Want to Say Thanks

How to Give Thanks When a Life's Been Buried

Garden Update:  The Memorial Tree in Spring 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Farewell to Spring...






Evening In Spring

Daylight is
Slipping out of sight
To make way for a
Coming silence

As the garden
Breathes
A sigh of relief,
I smile and
Follow suit

The hard work of Today
Is finished
And the pressing
Concerns of Tomorrow
Have not yet
Descended

In the brief
Hours of evening,
Hope awakens
And quietly takes root


I wrote this poem one wild April a few years back but never shared it with anyone.  On this, the last day of Spring, I thought I'd bring it out into the light and let it stretch its wings a bit.

And if you want to savor the beauty of Spring for just a bit longer?  I've posted photos from the RoozenGaarde Display Gardens, taken earlier this Spring, on Flickr, including those featured here in this post.

Farewell, Sweet Spring!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

When All You Have Are Fragments

 

I wonder about it sometimes.

How a writer can still be a writer when she cannot write.

When words flit around the edges, just out of reach, and the story God's writing with a life is too big to find its way onto a page.

The silence, sometimes it really is deafening.

Oh, the writing's never been easy.  More like wrestling with a Great God and somehow, through all the striving and the yearning, giving birth to the story of a life word by word and line by line.

But for long weeks, months even, I have only felt barren.

And I am beginning to wonder if this is the end.  The end of being a writer.  The end of being who I thought I was.

But maybe that's just it.

Maybe the story God's writing with my life is redefining--refining--who I am.  And maybe who I am, maybe she is a writer, too.

Maybe she just needs time to find her voice.

I take courage from a woman who writes broken and unfinished, who tells her story in bits and pieces when she is able--if she is able.  Yes, I believe it deep, that some chapters of a life can only be told in fragments.  And when we aren't the real Author anyway, who are we to say that this is not good enough?

Who am I to say that this is not good enough?

I don't know what I will write in the weeks and months ahead--or how I will write it.  Maybe it will sound different than before, a little stilted and a little unfinished.  But I hope somehow you'll still hear God's heart beating strong for you, for all us.

Because this life?  It's all His story anyway.

And I can't shake the feeling that I am still a writer--that to be who He wants me to be means that I must write.  Even when the words are out of reach.

Thank you for Grace on this journey.  I am grateful to walk the road with you.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


You may have noticed a few changes here at Growing Is Beautiful.  I am slowly working to simplify and beautify the look and feel of the blog.

I have also decided to switch the comment system over to Disqus to facilitate better discussions with you, My Dear Readers.  If you are unfamiliar with Disqus, you may use it to comment on the blog with your existing Facebook, Twitter, or Google accounts or you may simply enter your name and email in the designated boxes and comment as usual.  You can also opt to set up a Disqus account, which is free and generally painless--at least that has been my experience!

Please do let me know if you have any questions or experience any difficulties.  I can always be reached by email, Courtney {at} GrowingIsBeautiful {dot} com.  Again, thank you for Grace!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

When You've Lost Your Way


It's a Sunday morning in the middle of March when I wake up sad.

It's been pressing in for weeks, all this change and uncertainty weighing a heart right down.  But this is the morning when the tears start falling before I even climb out of bed.  And this is the morning when I know it sure and strong.

I am discouraged.

I walked into the month of March with great hope expectation, laying hold of that one promise God spoke over me loud and clear:
See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19

But the answer is no.

I don't perceive anything new at all.

There's no path opening up through the wasteland of a life and there's no stream flowing into this parched soul of mine.  There's only more bad news, more setbacks, more I-can't-take-anymore-of-this days.

The whole world's awakening under the warmth of spring rains, everything growing and blooming and being born.  But what I really want is for Winter to come back and cover us all, so I won't have to be alone--the only one still buried in the mud while everyone else is made new.

I spend the days of March with an emptiness beating inside, my skin wearing thin and my resolve wearing out, and I walk through Resurrection Sunday feeling nothing but broken.  As if God's walked right out of the grave and left me behind in the wreaking dark, still waiting for resurrection.

It's not until the first week of April that I can finally put a finger on what's eating me alive, and it's this:  Hope's left me.  I don't know when it left or where it went or how to get it back.  I only know the aching gaping hole right through the middle of me where hope used to be.

And I can't get that one line of a song out of my head--the one we sang on Resurrection weekend about a merciful Savior and a deep hunger for grace:
Oh, we've hopelessly lost our way!

I see it now, how being lost isn't what makes a person hopeless.  No, it's the being hopeless that makes a person lost.

The kind of lost that can leave a person wondering if there's any reason to keep fighting or if the only way out is that one awful leap from the burning building.

I haven't been this kind of lost for a long stretch of life, but that's the place I find myself as April unfolds.  And the naming of the darkness, it's both devastating and delivering all at the same time.

Because who really wants to say it straight out that hope's left you in the night and you don't know if you're even going to keep breathing?

But then, who can keep from drowning right here in the icy waters when you don't even know which way's up--which way's God?

So I name the dark Hopeless and I decide to keep on breathing and I grab hold of this one thing:  The darkness and I, we are not the same.  We are not one.  This darkness might have itself wrapped clean around me, and it might be trying to drag me straight to the bottom of an ocean.  But I've finally figured out which way's up--which way's God.

Because it's the middle of an April night when that one line of a song comes back to me and I finally remember what's right before it:
You offer hope when our hearts have hopelessly lost our way.

And we might all want hope to be engraved clean through the marrow of us, where it can't be lost or taken or buried under the aching dark of a life.  But it hasn't been that way since the day we fell from grace, right there at the beginning of our story.  Now hope's what we've got to hold onto with our hands and our hearts and our whole lives.

But this is what I finally hear God whispering to me here in the night--when you've lost your hope and you've lost your way, you haven't lost God.

When you've lost your hope and you've lost your way, you're not hopeless and you're not worthless.

The darkness and you, they are not the same.

And precisely when you've lost your hope, God holds out His hand and offers it right back to you.

The saying yes to hope when you feel nothing but hopeless, it might seem like the craziest, most terrifying leap of all.  But it's not a leap in the dark, it's a leap into the light--and aren't we all more than a little ready for that?

I know I am.

I'm saying yes to hope and I'm leaping into the light and I'm holding out a hand to anyone who wants to come with me.

Because there's enough hope for every last one of us and God's lighting up the night to show us the way home.

Won't you come with me?

__________________________________________

The last number of weeks have brought a kind of darkness I haven't seen for a very long time.  I am deeply grateful to all of you who have reached out to offer a hand or a heart or a shoulder without even knowing how desperately I needed it.  You've given me the courage to leap straight out of this dark.  And if anyone's out there and feeling a bit hopeless?  I'm holding out my hand to you--yes, you, Friend--grab tight and we'll make our way home together.

And the song that's been haunting me for weeks?  I recorded this little video of me playing and singing "Wonderful, Merciful Savior" in my parents living room, complete with the antique clock ticking in the background.  Because sometimes, even when you can't speak or write in the dark, you can still sing.

{If your reading this in an email or a feed reader, you can click here to view the video directly}

Thursday, March 7, 2013

When You're Waiting To Be Made New


It's late on a Thursday evening when it finally dawns on me what day it is.  And that one thought?

It's enough to make this overburdened heart beat a little giddy with relief.

The new month's still a couple hours from being born, but I'm not climbing into bed until I've turned every calendar in the house.  It's the one hanging on the fridge, though, that I'm most aching to turn--the one emblazoned with Truth Names for every month of the year.

And I might've once been foolish enough to think I'd chosen those names myself, those pieces of scripture adorning all the pages.  But January wasn't even finished before it was plain as day that God's the One speaking promises over the months of a life.

February's lived up to it's name and who says the shortest month can't hold the longest days on the hardest roads?  All this waiting and hoping and holding on and being brave and taking heart when all you really want to do is run.  Hide.  Bury this hurt and this hope and stick your head in the sand and your heart in a box.

Yes.

February's been a fight to keep breathing, keeping hoping, keeping holding on to the One Who Holds when everything else just falls to pieces.

And what comes next?

I'm just about weeping when I turn that calendar to March and read those words I already know are there:

See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19

New.

Could there be anything more joyous for the weary-boned and the weak-kneed and the wounded-souled than this?  That what's coming next is different than what's come before?  That God's making a way through the impossible dark and He's breathing life right into the deadest place?

It's three days after the turning of the calendars when we're about to take communion and I'm playing this familiar song about a mighty cross, singing of how the dead wood can become a Life Tree when a Savior's been nailed clean through it.  I know all the words and I've sung them a thousand times, but this one phrases catches me off guard and I can barely keep going:  "Love held Him there..."

It wasn't strength or determination or willpower or anger or even desperation that kept Christ on that cross.  It was love.

For me.  For you.  For all of us broken ones.

Love held Him there.  And love holds me here, too.

In the dark days of change and loss and struggle and uncertainty, it isn't strength or determination or willpower or anger or even desperation that keeps me from packing it in, throwing in the towel, and walking away from this whole mess of a life.

It's only love.

Love holds me together and love holds me in place.  This place.  Where He's asked me to stay, to wait, to hope, to be brave in the face of everything I fear.

And I say Yes because I'm loved and I'm in love and who wants to walk away when Love's asked you to stay?  Who can bear to say No when you've waited your whole life to say Yes?

Yes to being loved and being held and being in love.

Maybe the first week of March still feels a lot like February.  A lot like Winter and wounding and waiting.  And maybe I'm still buried in the dark, hoping and praying and expecting something new.

But when you know it's Love Who holds you here, you also know this:  Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

And suddenly the quiet dark begins to feel less like a prison and more like a refuge.

More like Home.




Faith Jam is on hiatus for the moment, but since I missed posting on the topic of Love a few weeks back, I thought I'd write anyway.  You can read everyone else's posts on Love over at FaithBarista.com.

Friday, February 22, 2013

When You Need To Be Brave


Jesus.

I whisper Your Name late at night when I can't sleep, can't breathe, can't find my way in the dark.  It's the changing of the guard, one day giving way to the next, and I lay down this armor of mine just long enough to speak the only word I can find, the only Word Who Is.

Jesus.

But it's Your Name on my lips that's my undoing at last, all this striving and writhing breaking apart and me just lying here broken and open and emptied right out.

Jesus.

Are You near?  Will You come?  The weight of a life, it can press a heart straight into the ground, and oh, Jesus, I am weary.  Too weary to stand.  Too weary to keep breathing in and out.  Too weary to hold on.  Can You hold all this together--hold me?

Jesus.

You've named this month with just one verse, and those are the words echoing here in the night.  But I don't know how to be strong.  How to "take heart" when everything's fallen to pieces.  How to wait for You without giving up, giving in, giving it all away.

Jesus.

It's late and I'm worn through, but Your Word, it calls me into the dark and I'm not turning away.  I open the Hebrew and I'm lost, but I open this and it's right there on the page:

Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.
Psalm 27:14, Amplified Bible

Be brave.

Jesus?

I don't feel very courageous tonight, but I'm taking off the armor and I'm laying my head right down against Your chest.  This is me being brave.  This is me waiting, hoping, expecting You to hold firm when all else gives way.

Jesus.

I feel Your heart beating sure and strong against my cheek and I know it now--this is me taking heart.  And this is You taking me as I am, small and weary and broken through and through.  I am Yours and I am held and I am fiercely loved.

I close my eyes, and I breath in and out, and I sleep for the first time in weeks.


Sharing a day late (aren't I always?) with the community over at FaithBarista.com, all of us whispering thoughts this week on the only Word Who Is--Jesus.  Join us?




Thank you for grace as I walk through these days when the words are short and the demands are long and all I can do is breathe His Name and wait for morning.  Your prayers are strengthening me and I am holding all of you close in my heart, even when I cannot write or read or extend a hand across the miles.  May you know Jesus intimately in whatever path you are walking.

Friday, February 8, 2013

When Everything Falls Apart



Long before the new year even begins, I sit down and christen each month of 2013 with a piece of God-breathed truth.  And I choose the familiar promise of Jeremiah 29:11 to undergird all the days of January because it seems like the only way to really enter into a year.  Believing in a God Who's always at work, always for our good.  Believing we have a future and we have a hope and we're not lost and we're not abandoned.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

But it's not until the fourth week of January arrives that I feel it strong, how God's chosen these words to mark this month of a life and He's speaking this promise right into the marrow of me.  Because it only takes two days and one phone call and one appointment and the whole world starts shaking and shifting and I start wondering who I am and where I'm going and what all this is really about.

I welcome the new year with a new name and I declare it loud that God's the only refuge for a life and I'm choosing to build my home right into Him.  And now I stand here just one month later with everything falling clean apart and I think maybe I'm just a fool to believe this year's going to be a story of rebuilding.

All this falling apart, it feels like the worst kind of deja vu, and I think back to the days of summer when I let grief bury me in silence and I refused to speak this one awful truth out loudI felt abandoned by God.

And some things, they really are the same.  My job hangs once more by the tiniest of threads, frayed and worn and closer to breaking than ever before.  My beloved kitty remains mysteriously ill, only marginally improved after the options have run out.  And a piece of my own treatment has been ripped out of my hands overnight and I'm left grasping about for wisdom and courage and peace.

Just like last summer, I pick up my needles and my yarn and I knit for hours without end, try to keep on breathing while everything else spins out of control.  I stop writing, too, and the irony's not lost on me, how the topic is "Yes" and I say "No," just keeping on knitting and breathing instead.

It's a bit of a broken record--me, this life, all the loss and the grieving and the I-can't-believe-this-is-happening-again's.  And, yes, maybe there's this one long moment when I feel like a fool, caught off guard and thrown off course just when I've begun a new path.  But there's one thing that's different than before, and that one thing?  It changes everything.

I don't feel abandoned by God.

I'm hurt and I'm scared and I'm angry and I'm a bit lost and knocked off my feet.  But God's near and I feel it strong and I'm leaning hard into Him, counting on the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 to carry me through.

Yes, God's got a plan and I've got a future full of hope and suddenly I don't feel like such a fool at all.  Because I've named 2013 the Year of Refuge, the year of learning how to take refuge in God alone.  And who learns to take refuge at all when they're not actively, desperately, wholeheartedly in need of refuge?

When I dig a little deeper into the Hebrew translated "refuge," I look up the verb form and I find this:  to take refuge in, to trust in.

Trust.  For me, right here and right now, trust means this:   Taking Refuge Under the Shelter of the Throne.

The year's only a month old and this is what I'm already learning.  That I'm not stuck in the past, stuck in the old life, stuck in the woman I used to be.  I've grown and I've been changed and I'm learning to take refuge in God, learning to trust Him in the middle of the hard days and the pitch-black nights.  And I don't know how any of this is going to turn out but I do know this:

God's got a plan and I've got a future full of hope and the Year of Refuge might just be the most important year of a life.


Linking up a day late and sharing in community over at FaithBarista.com this week as we consider the word "Trust."  Join us?

Friday, January 25, 2013

When You Need to See God


It's the third week of January when I finally figure it out.

I watch the sun rise and set for days and I snap pictures with an arm stretched out the window and I wonder how all this beauty on the horizon keeps finding me again and again and again.

I think maybe it's this out-of-season weather, all these cloudless skies and no water dripping down.  Or maybe it's just me, hungry for Him and Hope, my eyes always fixed on what's outside the window as I search for Light and Life.

Or maybe it's a bit of both.

But there comes a morning in January when the truth settles deep at last and I'm knocked clean off my feet by this one thing:

I'm seeing the sun when it rises and sets because it's the dead of Winter.

The trees, they've been emptied, stripped right down to their souls.  And me, I'm looking straight through them to what's been there all along--beauty and glory and light.

Yes.  I'm seeing the sun because it's the dead of Winter.

So when I read these words on the pages of a borrowed book, the story of a life begins to make a bit of sense after all the aching months of loss and longing:

Be the Gardener of My Soul

Spirit of the Living God, be the Gardener of my soul.  For so long I have been waiting, silent and still--experiencing a winter of the soul.  But now, in the strong name of Jesus Christ, I dare to ask:
Clear away the dead growth of the past,
Break up the hard clods of custom and routine,
Stir in the rich compost of vision and challenge,
Bury deep in my soul the implanted Word,
Cultivate and water and tend my heart,
Until new life buds and opens and flowers.
Amen.
~Richard J. Foster, Prayers from the Heart

The calendar page bears the name January, and this chapter of a life, I'm calling it January, too.  All the days of a year that came before, they've done their work at last--me emptied out, stripped right down to the soul, and the clutter of a heart swept clean away.

And what I didn't know until now is that I haven't been laid bare just to make room for what's to come.  I've been laid bare so that I might see God.

Yes.  I'm seeing God more clearly than ever before because it's the dead of Winter and the past's been cleared away and the hardness of a heart's been broken right apart.  And I might be just a little overwhelmed by the newness of it all, a little unsure of what really does come next.  But God, He's the one stirring in the vision and the hope, planting seeds of His Truth right down deep.

Yes, God's the Gardener of this soul of mine and He's been hard at work for a whole lifetime of days.  And He won't lose heart and He won't grow weary and He won't give up on me.

He won't give up on any of us.

And I've never been more grateful for the hard days of Winter and the One Who lays us bare.


Sharing a day late with the community over at FaithBarista.com as we ponder the word "Clutter" this week.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

When You Feel Unlovely


Alone in the dark
I bend over a bucket,
let all this pain and nausea
empty me right out

I'm wrecked and undone,
this breath coming
ragged and shallow,
me just grasping about
for something to hold on to--
someone to hold on to me

I whisper His name,
this the only word I can utter
and Him the only
One Who says "I AM"
in sickness and in health--


Him the only One
Who calls me Beloved
when I'm this
shaking mess
on the bedroom floor
and He's
the loveliest One of all

Maybe Love's
unveiling moment
comes right here
in the dead of night,
His hand on my back
and me just
breathing in and out,
us waiting together
for morning



This feels a bit rough and unfinished, but I'm trying to write even when it's hard.  Thank you for grace.  I'm recovering slowly from a bout with the flu this week and pondering the call to live as His Beloved with the community over at FaithBarista.com.  Join us?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

If You're Looking for a Refuge


It's the last weeks of 2012 when I start to wonder if maybe two years can bear the same name.

Because the Year of Home is rushing right up to an end, and I feel it deep, how the living out of this one year's name--it's only just beginning.

Maybe I set out to make my home in Christ, but God, He's emptied me out instead, Christ making Himself at home in this one woman's soul.  And how could a single year ever be enough to really grab hold of this impossible truth?  That God's in me and I'm in Him and I'm no longer the broken woman without a home--I'm the Beloved who's always at home in the One True Lover of us all.

But I wonder if even a whole lifetime could teach me the depth of this one glorious Grace, and maybe what the new year really needs is this:  a new name that roots right into the old one, builds straight up from the year that's come before.

It's a morning in late December when that new name finds me.  I'm just sitting on the edge of the bed, reading through Psalm 27 for the hundredth (thousandth?) time.  This is the song of hope that's been my resting place for months.  And it's right there in the very first verse, that one phrase jumping clean off the page, planting itself in the soil of a soul that's been scraped bare:

The LORD is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?  {Psalm 27:1 NIV}

Stronghold.

That one word might come with a whole heap of baggage, us always the ones trying to break free from the strongholds of fear and doubt and life-searing shame.  But aren't we really just trying to break into the Stronghold Who won't let us go?

Still, this word doesn't quite fit the year that's being born, and I think I see it for what it really is--a signpost saying, "Here!  Look here, Beloved!  Dig down with your own hands and find the treasure I've hidden for you!"

And that's exactly what I do.

I pull out The Amplified Bible first, let these added words flesh out the truth behind this one verse:

The LORD is my Light and my Salvation--whom shall I fear or dread?  The LORD is the Refuge and Stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?  {Psalm 27:1 AMP}

Refuge.

Yes!  That's it, Lord, isn't it?  The name You've chosen for 2013?

But I want to be sure and I look up the Hebrew that's been translated "stronghold" in the NIV and I find it there, too:  refuge, stronghold, fortress, place of protection.

And isn't that the kind of home I've wanted all along?  A refuge.  A place of protection.  A stronghold that can never be shaken or taken.

Yes.

The first day of 2013 slips in quiet and I christen the year with this one word:  Refuge.  I've no doubt that God's the One doing the naming and God's the One Who'll teach me what this year's really about.  But what I already hear Him whispering across all of my days?  It's enough to make this one heart leap clean out of the chest with joy and hope and relief.

"I'm your Refuge, Beloved.  I'm your Place of Protection.  You are home.  You are safe.  You are loved.  You are Mine."

So I throw my arms and my soul and my whole life wide open and I say it straight out:

Welcome, Year of Refuge.  Welcome.





Trying something new and sharing in community over at Faith Barista today.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Homecoming

I set out for home
because all I know is this:
I'm lost and I'm weighed down
and where I've
built the house of a life--
it's not my home

But I'm the foolish one
who's stone-blind
to the one thing
I really need to know:
God's my home
and I'm already in Him--
I'm already home

I wonder how
I've spent a whole life
looking
for what's been here
all along,
but none of that
matters now,
only this:

I've been found
and I've been held
and I've been
given a new name.
Because God is love
and I am loved--
yes, Love is my home.

Now I finally hear it
sure and strong,
every heartbeat
drumming it out loud:
"Welcome home, Beloved.
Welcome home."


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This poem's been a year in the making, my third Psalm of Ascent.  You can read the rest of the story behind the third Psalm of Ascent here:  If You're Looking for a Home .

To catch up on the whole series:
First Psalm of Ascent:
How to Begin the Long Road

Second Psalm of Ascent:
When You're In Need of Protection 
When You Want to Make the Words Your Own



Giving thanks for a week of Him....
 
2301.  Waking up to a new year with hope and anticipation
2302.  Rooftops covered in frost
2303.  Clocking of for work on New Year's Day and finding there isn't any
2304.  Mom and Dad helping me undecorate the Christmas tree
2305.  Dad trying to vacuum up the needles and making a mess of things instead
2306.  Me laughing so hard at Dad that I've got tears running down my cheeks
2307.  Christmas decorations all back in their boxes, and the boxes all back in storage
2308.  That big empty space where the tree used to stand
2309.  Leaving a garland of beads across the window and paper snowflakes all over the walls--a bit of cheer to welcome in the new year.

2310.  Another day without work, a chance to exercise the trust muscles
2311.  God Who always provides, even when the job doesn't
2312.  Dad and me cooking dinner together
2313.  Sunny skies all day, the air cold cold COLD
2314.  That golden horizon at sunset, me stretching the arm out the window to capture the beauty with a camera
2315.  Friend's baby girl arriving safe in the world at long last, her name meaning Balm of God
2316.  Amaryllis bud now half a foot tall

2317.  Work!  A full day!!
2318.  Buddy Cat sunbathing on my desk, him on his back with all four legs in the air
2319.  Sun streaming in the window all morning, me having to strip off sweater and blanket
2320.  Annabelle Cat moving back and forth from sun to shade--too hot!  too cold!  too hot!
2321.  Packing a whole bag of teas to bring to a friend's house
2322.  Celebrating her birthday with tea and pie and one solitary candle
2323.  Afternoon full of laughter and friendship and sweet conversation
2324.  Picking up the knitting project twice in one day, finding a rhythm after long weeks of busyness

2325.  Morning without work, time for writing, knitting, and breathing
2326.  Being emptied out by God, Him making room for Himself
2327.  Feeling it deep that all the heartache of a year has been worth it
2328.  God Who doesn't abandon the work in us, even when we declare it loud that we think He's abandoned us
2329.  Working coming in at last, afternoon hours filled up
2330.  Craning my neck while I work, trying to watch the sun go down
2331.  Giving in to the beauty, pausing work for just a minute while I reach out the window to snap a photo

2332.  Quiet Saturday, only a bit of work here and there
2333.  Learning to trust as the hours of work keeping adding up to "not enough"
2334.  Picking out new teas with the birthday giftcard
2335.  Spending time in the Word, God already teaching me about the name of 2013

2336.  Opening up the curtains just in time to see the morning sun turning the horizon pink
2337.  How the sun keeps rising and setting and I'm staring at the sky, all this beauty breathing hope into a soul
2338.  Writing a poem for the first time in months, that one hard stanza working itself out at last
2339.  Catching the mistake in the knitting pattern before it becomes a mistake in my work
2340.  Making sense of the hard pattern, continuing on with a bit of confidence
2341.  First week of Joy Dare 2013 complete, a whole year of days still stretching out before us
2342.  Being confident of this:  God will *not* abandon.  God *will* be faithful.

Friday, January 4, 2013

When God Does The Impossible

Last Sunrise of 2012

It's the first day of the new year when I pack Christmas away in boxes and drag that dead tree right out to the alley.

And it's true.

I feel a bit of loss here, all these symbols of hope tucked back into hiding for another year and this one big empty space where the Tree of Rejoicing once stood.

But there's also this:  A sense of starting over, or maybe just starting again, a fresh year unfurling right here and now.

And I leave that empty space where it is, maybe because I don't want things to be the way they were before--and maybe because I'm finally starting to sense what this whole year's heartache might really be about.

I named 2012 the Year of Home, and I felt it strong and sure that somehow, some way I'd be making my home in Christ, laying down all these notions of being a woman without a home, a woman who doesn't belong.  But these last 12 months, they've ripped me open and emptied me right out and left me a bit wounded and wondering.  The year I thought would be about rebuilding a life has been mostly about tearing down and throwing out and letting go and laying it all down.

And, oh, it's been hard.

But it's the last week of 2012 when I stumble upon those words of a friend, the ones he spoke over me from the start:  God wants to be a home for His beloved just as much as He wants to be at home in His beloved.  I might've thought I knew a bit of what this meant, but did I really know anything at all?

I said it once, how I have my suspicions about who's really naming who when it comes to the christening of a year.  But I know it now, down in the marrow of a soul, that God's the real Namer of us all.  He asks me to name the year Home because He's asking me this one thing:

Will you let Me be your home, Beloved?

And I say Yes with my whole life because I'm this woman who's weary of all the wandering, laid low by all the loss and the leaving, and what I want most?  It's a home that can't be taken.

It's 12 months later when I finally see it clear, how this wholehearted Yes has opened me up to the God Who doesn't do a single thing halfway.  I might've thought I could build a home in Him with all these pieces of the past, the places I used to call home and the woman I used to be.  But God says No, tells me to let it all go, and I come to the end of a year with the soil of a life scraped bare and a heart that's a bit empty and aching.

But just like that big empty space where a Tree of Beauty used to stand, I don't want to be filled up again with what used to be here.  Because this year's just about cost me everything I've got, and I haven't been ripped wide open so that I can go back to the way things were before.  I'm figuring it out at last that to make a home in Christ, we've got to let Him make Himself at home in us first.

And the only way to make room in a soul for the infinite God?

Say Yes with our whole lives and let Him tear us apart, clear out every last thing that holds Him at bay.

I name 2012 the Year of Home because I want to make my home in Christ.  But God names the year Home because He wants to make Himself at home in me.  And maybe the last thing I expected from all these months was to stand here feeling emptied.

But maybe it's always the last thing we expect that makes the impossible possible.

We say Yes to God and He says Yes right back, does what we don't even know needs doing.

This past year, I've grieved and I've lost and I've ached and I've felt abandoned by God.  But I'm standing here in the wake of all that's been and I'm sure of this one thing:  It's been worth it.

Because God's making the impossible possible.

God's doing the impossible.

God's making Himself at home in the broken body of His beloved.

And I couldn't be more grateful for a year that's cost me everything and given me Everything in return.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Yes, My Friends, it's been a year full of heartache but a year full of Him.  And it's been pure Grace to be companioned on the hard road by each of you.  Thank you, with all my heart and soul, for prayers and friendship and words of truth along the way.  You are each a gift, straight from the hand of Our God.  May the new year bring you the last thing you expect--God making the impossible possible.