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Paper and Flame

There’s this Ray LaMontagne song that is hopelessly romantic. Not romantic in the the Hollywood-love-and-lust way. More so romantic in the I see your heart and I accept you for who you are way. And every time I listen I am immediately transported into the presence of Jesus. And no matter where I am I’m not alone and my heart is open and OK with the vulnerability.

Tell me what you’re feeling,

   I can take the pain. 

Tell me what your heart wants,

   Such a simple thing. 

My heart is like paper.

   Yours is like the flame.

And as his voice floats scratchy whispers over liquid velvet of the electric guitar I wonder if romance- the romance we were made for-really can be that easy.

It’s spring here. And yet so much of my soul still feels like winter. It’s been two years now since the Terrible Awful happened. Since we buried not one but three people we loved so dearly, along with hopes and dreams and futures that can never be. Two years and it still aches as though it was yesterday. Two years and I still hurt with the anger of what was taken. Two years and I still wonder if that romance- that romance I was made for- really can be that easy.

Grief and trauma, heart aches and heart breaks, disappointments and distractions: They break down foundations faster than any other thing. And we must be intentional with our rehabilitation or else we will stay broken and angry and cut off. And so maybe-just maybe- that’s why Ray’s song tugs at such deep heart strings.

Tell me what your heart wants.

   Such an easy thing.

My heart is like paper,

   yours is like the flame.  

I know I’m still angry. I know I’m still sad. I know there are days I’m in denial and days I find joy and hope and courage and strength. And I know that the rehabilitation, the rebuilding of this heart is two steps forward and one step back and three steps this way and four steps that. It is cyclical and topsy turvy and every which way but what I expect. And it is hard. And it takes intentionality and commitment and strength and sweat. But also? Also I think it takes romance. Not the Hollywood-love-and-lust kind. But the I see you and I accept you where you are kind. The kind of romance I was made for. The kind of romance that died on a tree for me and comes back for me and whispers the hard and the simple with one line:

Tell me what you’re feeling.

    I can take the pain. 

And suddenly I am transported into the presence of Jesus. The romance I was created for. And no matter where I am I’m not alone and my heart is open and OK with the vulnerability. And no matter what I’m feeling I cannot deny His beauty, and His kindness, and His power, and His ferocity. But most of all, I cannot deny His love. And suddenly my heart is like paper, and His is like the flame.

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Uncategorized

My God is So Big

My God is so BIG, so strong and so mighty there’s nothing my God cannot do.

I have had this song in my head over the past few months. Some days I shouted it with the joy and glee of my childhood self. Some days I pushed it out of my mind because He didn’t seem big, He didn’t seem to be doing anything. And some days, on those sickest days, I heard it circle over me like a lullaby, a reminder of what He has done, could do, and was working on. 

Today is my infusion. The start of a new season. The administration of a medication that may or may not work. And whatever may come, I cannot stop singing “my God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do.” 

I look back on these days, these months, these years. And I remember what He has done. I remember the wilderness we have passed through, the joy we have shared, the tears we have cried. I look back on these days and I am reminded of hope, of a peace that passes understanding, and the truth that we are to set our minds, our hearts on things above and not the things of this earth. 

It gets hard, you know. It gets hard to look around and remember so much of this… this world, this stability, these delights, don’t matter. But then I have mornings like today when the bigness of my God is so apparent, so obvious, and how could I not sing? How could I not shout with joy and giggles? How could I not remember? 

My God is SO BIG. SO STRONG. And SO MIGHTY. There’s nothing my God cannot do-FOR YOU. The mountains are His. The Hills. The Valleys. The stars are his handiwork too. Our God is so big. So strong. So mighty. And how much more will He invest in you. When you look to the majesty of the mountains, remember His handiwork rests on you. When you look to the hills and valleys and your breath gasps in wonder-remember you are worth more. And when you look to the stars, and suddenly beauty overtakes you and magic of the unknown fills your soul with awe, remember how much more He does for you. 

Our God is so big, so strong, and so mighty. And He is moving for you. He is moving for you. Do not be afraid. For our God is so BIG. So big that there’s  nothing our God cannot do. And I will sing out all day. Won’t you join me? 

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A New Day, Broken, life making, The Mucky Stuff, The Vulnerable Side, When It Gets Dark

Coming Home

I let go. I let go of the writing. I let go of the processing. I let go of the feelings in an effort to stop The Terrible Awful I couldn’t seem to get away from. Because to write is to feel and to feel The Terrible Awful? To feel the grief, the pain, the death…So much death. So much loss. No, I could not feel it anymore. Because that pain was too great, and so in my effort to survive, I turned it off. I went numb. But in the going numb, I didn’t just numb the pain. I numbed the joy. I numbed the beauty. I numbed the technicolor rainbow pushing itself out from under the rain clouds. I messed up that day I put pen down. The day I no longer let ink bleed black into notepads, desperately hoping my heart would stop bleeding as well.

Little did I know the avenue I’d be walking a year ago when I started writing again. And now, seven journals later I have more than just words brimming. I have thoughts. I have feelings. I have tears. I have so many tears. But I have laughter. And I have smiles. And I have memories. Memories that do more than just dance around the grief I so much want to ignore. I have memories of joy, and love, and beauty. I have moments forever tucked away in this mind of mine. Moments I cherish. Moments I would sacrifice for a thousand times over. Moments I will never get back, and so I tuck them deep into this soul of mine and I hold them oh the more closer to me. And I have truth. I have so much truth. Truth that shines so much brighter than those lies ever could. Truth that reminds me that there is wonderful joy ahead. Truth that speaks to my soul that this story, this story with so much pain and death and ache and brokenness is not over. That there is a plan and a purpose, and that I am loved with everlasting love. A love that reaches into the fathoms of depths and widths and heights and breadths, more so than any of my imaginations could invent or build. Yes, I have truth. And I have spirit. Spirit made manifest from He who creates. Spirit that will never wither away. Spirit that is fed from the life breath of a God who sees more in me than I will ever know. Spirit from the bread of life, He who feeds me. Yes, I have spirit. And I have truth.

I still have so much to work through. Questions I do not understand. Why my dad died so young, and why he will never walk me down the aisle, or see my children, or have another talk with me. Why my brother at 34 was taken all the more too early. And why he could not be rescued from his disease of addiction, of pain and trauma. Why his healing had to be a heavenly versus earthly. Why this disease ravages my body, and keeps me from the career I’ve always wanted, keeps me at the grace and generosity of others instead of allowing me to support myself. Yes, I have so many questions. And I have anger. I have so much anger, and confusion, and I speak it out to Him daily. “Why won’t you take this thorn from me? And why won’t you change my life, and bring the prosperity you promised? And where are those plans to prosper and not to harm me? Where are they?!”  Yes, I have questions. And they may never be answered in this wilderness of life I walk through. But I will not  be afraid to do the feeling. Because perfect Love casts out fear. And God is Love. And Love is in me, because He is in me. And manna will still fall. And the seas will still part. And the rock will still bring forth life giving water. Even in the question, even in the feeling, even in the grief. That technicolor rainbow will still speaks to the promise even with the rain clouds. But He will not flood the earth again. And He will not flood this soul. And death will not bear a sting.

So here’s to starting over, to the writing I love, to new seasons, to feeling all the feelings, to life abundant even with the chance of The Terrible Awful, to technicolor rainbows and promises they bring. And most of all, to spirit and truth. Beautiful, confusing at times, yet ever so consistent and life giving Spirit and Truth.

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Uncategorized

Sackcloth and Ashes

Sunlight shines through to-the-ceiling windows onto wooden tables, bouncing  from table to table to wall, spilling down, oozing life into cracks and crannies, no spot unturned, no piece missed. I stare at it in wonder, reminiscing. I used to be like that. I used to spill down to the floor, oozing into people’s lives, cracking out smiles and laughter before they even understood what they found funny. Used to. The operative word there is “used to”.

I stare in the mirror and tired eyes look back at me. When did those eyes get tired? When did they start to age?  When did the soul start to? The thing about aging is you don’t realize it is happening. You only realize after it has. One day you feel an ache, or you can’t make as deep a stretch, or joints suddenly crack and skin suddenly has lines. You didn’t notice it happening, you only notice once it has. And it is the same for the soul. One day you look inside and see the lines in your soul that were never there before, you feel the aches, and realize that the stretch that used to be so easy somehow isn’t. You didn’t notice it happening, you only notice once it has.  

I remember driving home from Indiana on that first trip in September. The first time we saw Dad after he got sick. I remember how loud the silence was. I remember how tired our minds were. It was not just a trip to see Dad and driving home we knew time was forever changed. We felt the exhaustion that came with change. We felt the trauma of it. And suddenly, as if my heart were a wall, trauma led to trauma and I could feel each brick crumble and tumble and fall into a heap. I didn’t cry then. I haven’t really cried since. The feeler stopped feeling. And life became still. Not everyone’s life stopped, but mine did. I was no longer revolving with the others. I was simply still as I watched others carry on. I used to spin with them. Like planets, we were spinning and revolving and living. And then one day the trauma set in and I instead stood still. And others went on revolving and spinning but I? I stood still.

Friday morning I woke up crying, my mind already reacting to the pain inflicted by my stomach. And oh the pain. It was so strong, so real. We hear the word breathtaking and we think of fairytales and fantasy. We think of sunsets and love stories and far off places. It’s ok when moments steal our breath, as long as it is in the name of beauty. But what about those other breathtaking moments. The ones that don’t just take our breaths they steal them with every bit the delinquency that you would expect from such an act. The ones that take each breath, leaving you desperate, desperate, desperate! for relief, for just one moment when the pain isn’t so bad, just one moment you can grapple with until another comes along.

I laid in bed at 4 AM working through the pain, realizing that if I didn’t get to the pharmacy down the street the pain would only continue. I thought through all the possibilities of people I could call, realizing with each name called to mind that they were indeed soft asleep in their beds and no call would rouse them. I couldn’t do that to them, I wouldn’t do that to them.  At 4:30 I knew I wasn’t going to get the medicine if I didn’t get it myself. At 5 AM I told myself the pain wasn’t that bad. That I was merely overreacting. I could stand up if I really wanted to. Walking was simply putting one foot in front of the other. A child could do it, and so could I. At 5:40 I put one foot in front of the other, stepping through the pain and down my deck to get to my car. I drove to the pharmacy, chose the medication off the counter, and started walking to the register. Only I didn’t make it there. I woke up on the floor with an employee standing over me. I tried to stand up, but my body refused to hold my weight, sending me back, again, to the floor. I laid on the floor, trying so hard to act casual, pushing back tears. I handed him money and let him walk back to the register while I continued to lay there. He came back to me with my receipt and bag of goods. He scraped me off the floor and walked me to my car. I sat in my car and watched him walk back inside as I felt the retching working up from my stomach to my throat. Over and over I retched, but nothing came up. And finally after what was only 10 minutes but felt like forever, I climbed into my car and began the drive home. I had to get home. I had to get home and give myself the medicine or none of it would stop. I had to get home, and it was just pain, I told myself. But as soon as I pulled onto the road, the retching started again, and this time it was not just the motions. Mess was all over my car. Mess was all over me. And finally after what had been so long, I cried. I cried and I retched and I cried. It was the lowest of the low. Alone, in my mess, I cried.

I don’t have happy words to give you right now. I want to. I want to bring you the words that will inspire and create. I want to give you words that will stir your soul back to its youth, and reminisce with you with childhood abandon while we dream of places over the rainbow. I want to give you happy words, but I have none to give. I only have honest words to give. And those honest words? They are made up of the emotions that I don’t like. The emotions that I don’t want to talk about. Emotions like anger, and grief, and confusion. Emotions that feel like a dead end, no way out destination. And what happens if I start to talk to you about them and they are all I ever talk about? What if I give you these words, honest as they may be, and they are the only thing I am ever able to give? I don’t know if or when I will have happy words to give you. I don’t know if these honest words I abhor so much will ever bring about more than what they are. I don’t know. But I do know this, if I can’t be my most vulnerable self than who can I ever be?

The Hebrews were a people unafraid of vulnerability. They knew grief and they knew suffering. And they were never afraid to share their grief. With sackcloth and ashes they wailed. Wearing their tears in a bottle round their necks, a visible exchange to the truth of their heart.  We are not like these Hebrews. We are not so candid with our grief. Nor do we see the value in such a poetic and vulnerable display. No, we are not like these Hebrews. And in a world full of access and immediacy, we fail to understand process and time. We fail to see the beauty in anything that does not advertise for glamour. Thus, we villainize grief and all its familial emotions.
Sunlight shines through to-the-ceiling windows onto wooden tables. It is noon, now. And that morning sun has thickened into afternoon sun so gooey that shades are drawn to counter the stickiness. And still the sunshine finds way between shades, seeping and pooling onto the floor. And still I stare, and still I wonder, and still I reminisce. I used to be like that. I used to spill down to the floor, oozing. And in my most vulnerable self I could bounce light off those also in the room, giving way to see life within every crook and cranny. And it was beautiful. But for now? I will draw the shades, and I will sit in the after effect. Letting go of what could or should be, I will accept what is. It may be the lowest of the low. It may feel lonely and messy. And I may or may not catch tears in a bottle worn round my heart. But I will not be afraid of this grief. Yes, for now I will draw the shades, and it will still be beautiful.

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Uncategorized

The Quarks and Quirks

I’ve been a lot of thoughts today. A lot of thoughts that seem haphazard and disjointed. And yet, I cannot help but wonder if they go together much more than I think.

I feel. And I feel thick. My pendulum for emotions swings full and hard. And I hate it. It’s never made sense to me, and I’ve tried so hard to bury those feelings deep, deep in the earth of my soul. And yet always, without fail, those feelings prove themselves stronger than I give credit, and erect themselves again only to expose me like the traitors and bullies that they are. And I am the one left there, in the cold, vulnerable, confused, and embarrassed.

I sent a piece to a friend yesterday. “This is me. This is some of me. This is what I’m willing to share.” It said to him. “When did you write it? Do you still feel that way?” he responded. I thought it was an easy piece. Inspiring, encouraging, but easy. No need to throw out all the dirty laundry at once, yeah? But He still picked up on it. On them. On the feelings. “Do you still feel that way?” His question lingers in my mind. I tried to bury them deep in the earth, and still they erected themselves and exposed me. Traitors.

I sit in front of the mirror and stare and think. Think about his words. Think about mine.

“Do you still feel that way?”

“Doesn’t everyone?”

I ask the mirror. Doesn’t everyone? And suddenly I am hit with a thought so heavy it is as thick as a humid, Georgia summer in my mind. Doesn’t everyone? We all feel. Some heavier than others, but we all feel. And yet, what if we don’t know that we feel. What if we don’t know what we feel. What if that is why I am here. What if that is why all the deep feelers are here. What if the deep feelers were made to feel things harder to help the others feel, grief for grief, as it were.

What if it’s not a mistake? What if I’m not a mistake. What if you aren’t a mistake. I know I’m not the only one out there. I know I’m not the only one who walks day in and day out, feeling more than her fair share, walking with heart full, aware of my pain, aware of theirs, trying desperately to make sense of it all.  Grief for grief. And I cannot get the thought out of my head. What if we are made to feel thick to give word and expression to those who can’t?

We live in the thickets, the deep feelers. We live in the thickets, walking through bramble and thorn, feeling each scratch for them. And there are days that it feels weary. And there are days we cannot feel another feeling. And there are days that we wonder why we aren’t like the others. But there are days they wonder why they aren’t like us. Reaching out, hands open, wishing just once to grasp more than enough. Wishing to grasp more, so much more.  

I talk to my friend Amanda about this constantly. Asking her why I am so broken. Why my emotional pendulum does indeed swing full and tears pour easier than the rest of them. Whoever the them is.

“I wish I could feel more.” She says. “I wish I could experience the emotional reaction that comes so easy to you.” She speaks and my world stands still.

Because truth is, we belong together. And we need each other. And just as they help us to step out of the thickets, to live and be free and let go and enjoy, so we help them, to live and be free and let go and enjoy. Tit for tat of the emotional sort. Tit for tat of the healing sort. Because if we never felt the pain, walked in the aching, the uncomfortable, the overwhelming, the great, the beautiful… If we never showed them the extremes, how would they know what to reach for? And if they never walked through the day, balanced, at ease, persistant and consistant, how would we learn to stop and just be?

Truth is, we are bound to each other, woven together through this thing called humanity. Each with a different role, but none less needed than the other. And to see ourselves as mistakes is to alter the story. We are bound to each other. Opposites attracted. Positive and negative charges, each extremes in their own right, and maybe on their own they can seem too much or not enough, but together we create so much balance that life sparks, and the foundations of humanity exists. We are altogether atom. Proton, electron, and neutron, each its own role, each necessary to enhance the other. The scientists say they are composed of quarks, those electrons and neutrons. Up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom.  But could it be we are composed of quirks? The ups, the downs, the charms, the strange, the top, the bottom? Yes, I think so. Each our own charms, each our own bit of strange. The ups and downs, the top and bottom or that is, our own beginning and end, but not mistakes. Never mistakes. We are altogether atom. And when we live our role, life sparks, and beauty is made.

I’ve been a lot of thoughts today. A lot of thoughts that seem haphazard and disjointed. And yet, I cannot help to wonder if they go together much more than I think. I cannot help but wonder if maybe we go together much more than we think. We are not haphazard. We are not disjointed. We are altogether atom, woven together through this thing called humanity. Each with our own charms, our own bit of strange, our own beginning and end, our own ups and downs. But never mistakes. Not a single mistake. We are altogether lovely, altogether perfect, fearfully and wonderfully made.

 

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Christmas, Dear Love, Gospel

Chicken Soup

Its funny the things you took for granted that quickly become memory triggers years later. I stand in my kitchen chopping carrots. I always do it wrong. I never learned the proper way to hold your hands, to hold the knife. My dad did. He was always a good cook. He always knew how to fold his fingers away from the blade to protect them. I remember, even as a young girl, standing next to the counter with him, chopping vegetables for the spaghetti. I remember how he would always look down at me and say, “No, Katie, like this.”- He always called me Katie- and He’d take the carrot in one hand with curled fingers, and the knife in the other, and he’d begin to chop. “This way you won’t cut yourself.” And then he’d hand the station over to me and once again I’d begin to chop with fingers ready but still exposed for a knife waiting to chop. I never quite mastered that trick.

Dad always loved cooking. All of us kids picked it up. In our own way, we all spent our fair share in the kitchen, mastering our own favorite dishes. I don’t know why I’m thinking about that now. I don’t know why, as I stand here chopping vegetables and looking out the window to whispers of winter I’m thinking about that now. Funny the way memory is triggered.

My dad is sick. It was a stroke to the brain stem. And now he’s locked into his body, staring, staring, always staring. Unable to move body or words into the space around him. He’s just there, in the hospital, seven hours away from me, staring. And I keep thinking about his mind. Because his mind isn’t staring. Of that I’m sure. No. His mind? His mind is wandering. Around where I’m not sure, but wouldn’t you? If it was the only movement available to you, wouldn’t you wander? Wouldn’t you journey? And I wonder, what memories has he triggered. Does he remember all those days in the kitchen? Does he remember teaching me to chop vegetables, over and over and over? I don’t know. I don’t know what he thinks about. But I can imagine.

My dad is sick. And for the past five days I’ve been in a flare that has caused my own lock in of sorts. Three of those days I spent in a dark bedroom without moving. My body ached from the marrow out. Even the slightest movement of breath rolled my stomach in a tidal wave of nausea. In and out of  sleep I came. And in the waking, in the sleeping, I thought, I wandered. “Why is this happening? Why won’t you take this away? It would be so easy if you could just take this away. With one touch, you could take it all away. Please, please take it away.” And anger would rise, and suddenly surrender. Because who am I to command a sovereign God? And who am I, a sinner, to complain about a world full of sin? And why would I shoo away a holy moment, wrapped in the comforts of a tender God? It was painful, it was aching, but it was tender, and it was precious. For I am my Beloveds and He is mine. And even in my retching and purging all that was within me, He was there. Holding my hair, holding my heart. It was a lock in of sorts, but it was a lock in I will treasure.

I don’t know why this happened. I don’t know why He would heal me of a disease and then allow it to come back. I don’t know. And believe me, I’ve gone through a web of reasons. But I do know this, Sarah was healed. And God gave her, in that year of healing, a blessing that she would watch grow into her legacy. God gave her Isaac. And then her womb closed, and it didn’t open again. But she was not any less healed. And just as God gave to Sarah, so he gave to me. He gave to me, in my year of healing, a blessing. He gave joy, he gave me a taste of the feast that is coming. He gave me truth to a God we cannot put in a box, a God who heals, a God who loves above all else, and works in mystery, so that His will and His glory is forever put first. And just because that year is over, I am no less healed than Sarah was. And I get more. Because yes, I want healing, I will live everyday with the truth that I have healing, but I get more. Because I get to see through the eyes of my dad. My dad who is sick, and locked in, and angry. My dad who is limited. My dad who doesn’t understand why a God who loves Him would do this to him. I get to be there, in his heart, I get to cry and intercede, because I know limitations. And I know confusion. And I know suffering. But I also know Presence. Holy Presence. And I know True Love. And I know Remedy. And He is Jesus. He is my Husband. He is the One who knows me best, who loves me best. And He is there, with my dad, even when my dad can’t see it. And I get to pray that for him.

Winter feels long. Winter feels like death to some. And snow falls, like a corpse blanket, finalizing, and sealing in that death. And we want to know why? And we want to know, ‘How long Lord?’.  And we want to know where the love is in it all.

I pour the chopped vegetables into the stock. Each piece falling, plopping into thick bone broth made to soothe, made to heal. Vegetables chopped, bones boiled, each destroyed, cut up, broken, killed? All to come together and heal. Death for life. Even in Chicken soup I find the gospel. Death for life. Death for healing.

I don’t have answers today. I have lots of tears. I have lots of tears. I don’t have answers. I just have memories. Memories triggered. And whispers of winter. And daydreams of snow.

But even on the snowy days, Love is alive. And the death that seems so deeply penetrating into this earth of ours, is only rest, is only preparation. Like vegetables chopped, like bones boiled for broth. Each a season, each an ingredient. Dry bones come alive. In a soup made for healing. So we might cry with those who can’t. So we might cry with those who won’t. All for love. All for Love.

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Love Story

To Walk Among the Clouds

I woke up to love songs and a fallen cloud surrounding my house. Am I crazy to say it felt like a fairytale? Like the romance I always hoped for actually came true? He is my greatest romance. He is the peace that passes all understanding. He is the Bright and Morning Star, the Star that shines even on dark mornings when the sun won’t even dare. He is Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He is Perfect Love, calling out all fear. He is the courage to shine when the world says don’t bother. He is Seeker to the brokenhearted, Declarer of the good news, Liberator of captives, Comforter of all who mourn, Healer of the sick. He is my joy made full.  He is Glory lifted high, above and beyond all things. He is the strength that lets me walk in impossible places. He is beautiful. And His banner over me is love. And He is mine. For I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.

I don’t know how my dream came true. I don’t know how I woke up to the fairytale, walking among the clouds while He sings over me with love. But I guess it was never to be my doing. He thought of me. Exhilarated and insistent on my existence. And He created me. Intricately involved in my every detail. Unashamed of all I am. And He loved me. Anxiously awaiting the day I would look with new eyes and see Him. And He came for me. Leaving glory and a thousand and more hallelujahs. God wrapped in human skin, lying in a manger. Indeed, as the carol sings out, “The hopes and fears of all the world did rest on Him that night.” And He pursued me. Walking this earth for thirty some years. Thinking of me. Living for me. Dying for me. And when He died, He died for me. Painful and enduring, exhausting and breath taking. He was beaten, till skin broke open and blood poured fourth. And nails pounded, and He cried out but He never let them stop. Because He loved me. He loves me still. And He forever romances me.

Yesterday, I followed that cloud in the wilderness. Today, He sent the cloud as a reminder. And tomorrow? Tomorrow we walk among the clouds. We walk among the clouds forever. He remembers His covenant forever, the promise He made, for a thousand generations. For I am my beloveds and my beloveds is mine.

 

 

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