February 25, 2012

When Life Squeezes Us

The chair creaked as my friend shifted her weight. I never liked that scrawny chair in my office in the counseling center. Its arms, too close for comfort, seemed to intentionally squeeze the pain right out of my clients. Seemed to be having the same affect on my friend visiting me. This chair was too lightweight to carry the load of hurting people and heavy hearts. I sat across from her, hoping her tears shed were lightening her load.

For a week she’d carried the hopeful joy of what she thought was an unexpected pregnancy. But this was a hope to be deferred. It wasn’t time; not yet.

Not for quite a while. And then one day she joined us for dinner; we feasted on good news as we stood in the kitchen. Arms and elation entangled, we cried again. This time, it was time.

I remember the day she was born; a day when life was squeezing the pain right out of me. I shared my hurt with a friend on the way to the hospital. “You must believe He’s faithful. Don’t let the days slip by in doubt, no matter how long this hope is deferred.” I held that truth and I held that sweet baby, Sophie Brooke.

Her name means Wisdom and Peaceful waters. And aren’t those the things we need when the load is painful and hope is put on hold? Wisdom reminds us of His faithfulness to ease our load. And peace calls us to a place where pain doesn’t squeeze us so hard. For every season and stage of life. For when wombs are barren – to when cribs are full – to when the nest clears out … and every moment in between. Because the days are fleeting and I need Him every hour. I need to say yes to seeking His wisdom and resting where He guides me. Even when — especially when — life closes in and hope seems distant.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
Psalm 23

{Sophie’s Sweet Feet}


January 27, 2012

One Good Man

“I see Mercy’s dating you,” she says as if it’s common to say such things. As if I knew this fact. {I didn’t.}

True, there have been glints of Mercy hanging around: softer heart, gentler words. But dating? One must tread lightly; such things could lead to a lifetime commitment.

A laugh tries to move past her statement, but it sticks. Though she and I are editing 10’s of 100’s of 1000’s of so many words during our meeting, hers won’t go away. Days after, they trail me and greet me at my front door and bid me good morning.

There’s this list I etched in the early spring of life. Qualities of a dreamed of man-husband. Some sweet, most naive, like flowers that bloom too early, before the frost has been chased away till winter. Give him blue eyes, tall legs, guitar fingers and a fondness for snow, Lord. And a passion for You, a heart for missions, goofy humor, and desire to have a house full of children . And swirl in this and that and the list went off the margins.

Now? In the summer of my time, the list blooms with  just one characteristic sure to weather all seasons: good.

Because surely goodness and mercy walk hand-n-hand. Dream of giving love and money and peace. Care for the least and the more than enough and everyone in between. Ride the wave of justice to set captives free. Walk humbly with God.

Surely, goodness loves Mercy. This Mercy dating me, asking for my hand, my heart, my life.

I can’t help but think: if this is what the Lord requires of a man… must I need more?

Oh sure, my heart still leans toward many of those things on my adolescent list. I’ll gladly lay them down though for that greater characteristic. Then again, many of them are embedded in good. So, I’ll whittle my list down to that one thing: good. Well, perhaps there’s one more quality I’d want a husband to have: a desire for a good wife.

And so, I’m accepting Mercy’s hand as I wait for one good man.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ~Micah 6:8




December 26, 2011

A New Year, A New Heart


A while back I traveled in El Salvador with Compassion International.

Honestly I was hesitant. Going across the world meant going to a place in my heart I feared. A place a dream was buried. A dream I was afraid to re-awaken — should it die again, the grief would be insurmountable. When this dream is surrendered to the Lord, it ruthlessly, tenderly breaks me. In a thousand good ways. But it’s not been surrendered. It’s been locked up and covered with the dust and debris of hurt, mistrust and disappointment.

Disappointment not in the dream. Rather, in the dream Giver. The Giver of all things… life, faith, desire. I know this is Truth. But my reality had shifted to a lie in which the Giver was the Taunter…dangling the proverbial carrot, always in sight; always out of reach.

He’d been trying to talk with me about this misunderstanding for some time. But life is a superb sound barrier. I didn’t want to hear about it, “If this dream isn’t going to come true by yesterday, don’t mention it again.” As the day to leave for El Salvador drew closer, I desperately buried deeper the place my heart dreaded. Disdained. Hated even. I wasn’t fond of who I’d become. It was ugly. Seriously filthy.

The first night in El Salvador we shared how we could pray for one another.

It was then I heard the knock. My bygone dream rapping. “Let me out. Talk about me. Be accountable.” And so I did.

I told of my love for missions, particularly foreign missions. And the grand temptation to turn my heart off…detach…withdraw from loving the one in front of me well. Because I was given that dream when I was a little girl and carefully tended it for two decades. I was convinced it’d been shut down; I’d been deceived.

It’s scary to trust again. To greet the edge of a dark cliff, jumping takes faith. The possibility that maybe {holding breath here} maybe… the dream isn’t really dead, perhaps it’s just on hiatus… hibernating… germinating… cultivating…well, sometimes that feels like too much to bear. Is a twist on the old adage true? “It’s better to have dreamt and lost, than never to have dreamt at all.” I’m beginning to believe so.

Reality and Truth held my hand in El Salvador and gently eased me away from the lies, hurt, mistrust. Being with children who laid their tiny hands on my head in prayer. Radiated joy though they know more pain in their 6 years than I will ever know in 86 years. Proclaimed the goodness of our God with no reserve. These awakened the dream in my heart. And I know, part of its dormancy is my fault. I must take time to nourish it through local missions, writing letters to my CI kids, loving the ones in front of me well.

An open heart gives way to open ears. Honestly, I still catch myself holding my breath. I’m jumping gingerly. But a miracle happened I can’t ignore. A dead dream came back to life; and hope was resurrected. And each day since, the Holy Spirit has gently tapped me on the shoulder and now I’m listening. He reminds me that yes, indeed, He is the Giver of all things. Life, faith, desires. And Truth. For this I am grateful.

~Does this resonate with you too? I’d love to dialogue. What dream do you pray is revived this year?

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. ~Ezekiel 36


December 21, 2011

When Loneliness Overwhelms

Loneliness is a clever fella. Even when smiles brim over the edge of paper. Red and white stripes wrap families tight. Green jingle bells dance off cards. Happy sentiments and merry wishes burst forth in glossy text.

Even with all these stamped acts of love before me, loneliness taunts. Ahhh… the Christmas photo card.  I love them. Indeed, I bounce to the mail eager for a friend’s warm greetings. Yet.

Yet, it’s hard. Chubby-cheeked babes and pig-tailed little girls and proud moms-and-dads.  They remind me once more “you’re alone.” As my hand cramps, scrolling Christmas messages in old-fashioned ink, I battle bitterness. Knowing if I had a “Plus One” it’d be acceptable to send a picture of two. Or three or four or seven. But just one; that’s odd… unacceptable.

Yet. Yet I know this to be true: loneliness isn’t combated with spouses or children or parents or friends or work or busyness or parties or an abundance of cards. For a little while, yes. These keep loneliness at bay.

Yet traveling the high seas of loneliness, rocked by its storms. Swayed about till sick and tired. We can’t live from wave to wave, only catching our breath when there’s an ebb. The only acceptable thing? The only way to get to the other side of this ocean of doubt and pain and fear?

Call out. Shout above the raging. ’cause only One Voice can calm. “And the disciples came and woke Him, saying, Master, Master, we are perishing!” {Luke 8:24}

When opening your mailbox splashes waves of loneliness over your heart’s sides.
When feeling all alone, even in a house full of family, whips your sails around.
When Christmas movies on TV pull you under.
When  you’re pretty sure this lonely journey will be the end of you.

Speak His Name. Only there. Only there {take that in. Only there, not in anything else. Only there.}, is hope, safety, rescue, guidance. “And he awoke, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.” {Luke 8:24}

Master. Master of the wind, waves, depths and heights. My journey to the other side of fully trusting Jesus is still in transit. Maybe you’re still sailing a particular sea as well? Wherever we are in the course of this voyage, when He asks, “[Why are you so fearful?] Where is your faith (your trust, your confidence in Me–in My veracity and My integrity)?” let’s lift eyes off the waves and answer, “There is surely a future hope for [me], and [my] hope will not be cut off.” {Prov. 23:18}.

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