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.
~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 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  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}


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}


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.


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


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
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.