Beyond the desolate land.

She knows from passed-down stories that a glance over the shoulder could mean death. Not in this case, it isn’t the point. There is no longing to go backward, to feel that darkness again, to be enveloped in pain or sin or destruction. No. There is a longing to see what protection the Maker provided, to move forward from a place that was necessary to the unseen fortress of faith that she goes to live in now. That fortress didn’t exist before the place behind her.

It was just as dark as she remembered. Desolate. Horrifying, for she could see even more now than before. Those cool streams of water gracing her aching feet were refreshing, and thanks to His goodness she continued her search for them through that land, for they provided a path along the edge of a dark, crumbling abyss. The mist, by now had rolled off the edge and disappeared. Her heart leaped at the danger that once surrounded her and she rejoiced at the small gifts of protection and encouragement that were given to keep her moving forward.

How interesting that place becomes, once one is beyond it. It felt like mourning on the surface, but it had been so much more. Her heart beats steadily and joyfully now, even though the blanket of confusion in the midst of that place had felt so heavy, so burdensome. Each step, faith building forward, had trampled down fear, guilt, shame, confusion, doubt into something solid and beautiful and worthy of the difficulty. It had not existed before, this strength. Each step up and out of that desolate land provided new hope, a horizon of beauty that was unseen beyond the tall, cavernous walls of her heart.

That place she looked back to, her fears, her temptations, had been conquered and transformed into a glorious strength of faith. No, He hadn’t left her, even in the dangerous places, He led her and helped her and showed her the way. The promises that hung on her lips now rang truth and confidence into the world around her. She sang the blessings as she approached the golden light on the hills just above her, a place of peace and restoration just waiting to embrace her heart.

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Look for eternity with the heart.

I see you have lost your understanding of what is good. Just because you mourn? Because you ache? Because you are hated on my account? Did I not tell you ahead of time that these things would be true, and yet you are surprised by them.

Oh, child. You have forgotten to believe in my Spirit above your troubles. You have forgotten that through my Spirit I would continue to teach you, that Christ is always with you. Your unbelief and lack of faith are a sad state to your heart, for I am greater than even your biggest enemy. He has already been judged. His time is already up. You can rejoice in me even in the thickest of sorrows because I am Truth, I am eternal, I am your deliverer.

I chose you. You did not come to me. Nay! You do not have anything good within you apart from my Beloved Son. He came to your rescue because we loved you long before creation.

So I allowed for you to stand on the precipice of faith and unbelief, and you are angry with me for this? For not making each place you go carefully protected? Never. I never said that would be the way of this life. I said the opposite because I want you to believe in me. I want you to stand in the middle of the battlefield, in the midst of the fire, the raging sea, even in the mouth of the lion and declare your faith in the One who will rescue you from the most impossible places. I want you to find your deepest joy in Me without using as a crutch something of this world that will just rot away. Even your body, your health, your family, all of the gifts I bestow on you there I do out of kindness, but! But those things will whither and pass away, they are just a foretelling of my grace and goodness to come. They are a gift to help you understand in your spirit ahead of time what I have planned for you when you are with me.

Everything I have planned for your life, everything I allow, as I did with Job, is for your benefit, though you cannot see now.

Allow my Spirit to teach you in the quiet meditation of your heart. Do not delay the Truth with your human unbelief, your misperceptions, your inability to see the whole picture. Jesus came to free you and bring you the Spirit so that you can learn even more than your mind could possibly comprehend, because He teaches in the heart.

Do not allow your heart to grow cold or hard, but surrender those tendencies and temptations of your human nature and let me do my work. You will see, dear one, but you must be looking with eternity in your heart, not with your eyes, for what is present will soon pass away. Be careful to secure your undivided devotion to me, for I am eternal and have all things in mind each passing moment of your brief life. Watch for eternity with your heart and do not trade what is eternal for what will rot away when my Kingdom is fulfilled.

Land of Mourning

Everything was dark. The sun shone only a dim light when it rose. The fear, the uncertainty, that deep, tangled knot seemed to grow ever larger. His voice was like a silent wall, not to be heard, but standing, unmoving. Nothing came from Him, no encouragement, for anything in His word she had read felt like a useless platitude in this day of despair. And any words addressed to him only came back empty, wanting, measured by the shortcomings of her humanity.

Her feet wandered in this dreary and terrible place. A thin mist of fog covered the places she stepped; even if it were brighter out, she couldn’t watch for her own safety as she explored the land of mourning. She hoped His words were true, but wondered when she uttered them aloud, desperately clinging to promises in her heart. She felt the weight of the oppressor in every sinew of her body; it struck her and slowed her and tried to consume her. And with each step she resisted, counting aloud the words of Him who is eternity, pulling them from the wells deep in her heart. She would not give in.

A rare step, here and there, a cool stream of water would flow over the top of her foot, under her arch, between her toes. These moments were the most refreshing pieces of this dreary place, but of course she could never see where to find them because of the mist. Any one step forward, even in search of the cool water on her feet, took all of her might.

The chains, they pulled at her and creaked and resisted with every movement. Etched in each link of the chain were feelings and words and things that hurt oh so deep.

Torment.

Hurt.

Anger.

Rage.

Bitterness.

Despair.

Lies.

Injustice.

Wrong.

Blame.

Guilty.

Betrayal.

She had to escape, but didn’t know how, and the days extended longer and longer in front of her weary heart.

Mourning

The Word of Hope

She breathed deep, caught her wits, and suddenly she was there again. Clear, perfect, the ambient sound so lovely. Nothing had ever graced her senses as such before. These were the moments that kept her heart hopeful in the midst of such a dark and grueling place.

Aching, she began to speak the wrong questions. Questions too big for her understanding, questions whose answers belong only in the safe grasp of the loving Father. It feels so heavy. Her heart feels as though it’s being pulled behind her by a ship’s anchor. Dragging. Straining. Void of mobility – at least on its own. She reads The Words, so full of hope, but this bleak, bleak mess, they contrast so.

Child, sweet child. Remember that day I prompted you to read to your children before bed? It had been a tough day at school. Angry words were said; tears were shed. And the one thing your heart knew to leave them with was thoughts of me. And in those words one thing rang out above the others, learn to live above your troubles. And you so gracefully explained the hope I offer amidst an anguishing world, a way to rise above into joy and peace and eternity.

Oh but this brokenness, we all live it, grueling, exhausting. The sin, it beckons like a siren on the seas. Alluring, calling out so tempting, so easy to follow, only to end up dead. It’s all darkness. We need light. Are these words on pages, prose and history and promise, are they enough to take us to You? To fill the void that seems so ominous? It’s big, Father.

Remind yourself, little one. Even as you wander in the desert, the place I love to teach you, I will speak tenderly to you. Rise to meet me, child. I have grafted you in, given you redemption through a man who is so perfect, even a fragment of sin in his life would have voided your saving. He was and is and is to come. He is the Word you look to for hope. Live and abide in the Word child! The word is the secret that will unlock the darkness to glorious light.

Springlove

The late rains.

There are moments where her heart simply cracks, a tiny bit, and her spirit is drawn to another place. There is no earth, no land beneath her feet, no sky beyond. Silent, humming with beauty that reaches through the known into truth, what is meant to be. He has found her spirit and caught it up with Himself to commune and encourage and love.

She sometimes loses words to pray with. She has gotten lost in the cares of the world, for they loom ever so close, taunting with disaster and heartache. But here, here, her spirit rests and thrives on love and purity, on promise and grace. She remembers He is jealous for her and how perfect is His mercy and compassion. And she prays.

He tells of His Son, the perfect One who walked where her imperfect feet trod. The blessed Lamb who came to show her what true love means by living to die. He lived to die for her little soul. For that one lost sheep, my love, I did that to show you so much. You are little, but my Spirit quickens yours to strength beyond the skin that ties you to a body that is broken. I do this for you so that you might see and be seen.

She often waits. Wondering about these moments that are neither really heaven nor earth, and why they seem fleeting. Where has He gone? Why do I wait and ache and bear this pain? The suffering is immense, enveloping, and not just in her quietly beating heart, but in flesh and blood everywhere she looks. Suffering. Time passing with no answer.

See child, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your heart, dear one, for I am coming to you. Is my fruit worth the waiting? Has your heart cried out in the interim to meet me? Because that is what I desire. I desire your heart to meet with mine, and sometimes sweet one, you only want to meet me when you cry. Sometimes that crying is what reminds you that I am sovereign. I am the one who was and is and is to come. I dwell in the light, created the sea, opened the vast storehouses of hail, rained to satisfy a desolate place. I AM.

Ragged, and Utterly Beautiful

The cry over the monitor jostled me out of sleep just before seven. I wonder if he’ll go back to sleep. Oh I wish he would. Of course that’s not the case. I stumble into the bathroom, quickly, before venturing into the little room across the hall. There he is, turned around sideways, cooing and talking to himself, a grin appearing across his face as he sees that I’m staring at him. He looks innocently into my eyes, his face full of joy — the unadulterated kind that’s hard to find as an adult in a very broken world. These days when life sometimes feels overwhelming, the circumstances about us loom, threatening all we believe, but somehow making us believe even more. I change his little diaper, pinch those perfect little butt cheeks until he giggles, and carry him back to bed with me for his first meal. (Second meal, really, but I hardly remember 3:26AM except for the quiet, and the view of half my eyelids mixed with his room.)

There’s nothing quite like birth or death to make you really ponder where you are in life. Today it’s my birth twenty-eight years ago, and the birth of my third son nearly five months ago. What an interesting place I have come to. A beautiful one. Or, since it’s full of boys, maybe I should say it’s rather handsome, striking. I never anticipated this place, except for the husband part. My sisters could tell you all about how I anticipated the husband part. Skipping out of my bedroom in my early twenties, I dreamt often of him, though I could only guess at who he might be, what his eyes might look like as he stared into mine. I had no idea that he would bring along with him two of the greatest blessings in my life, two little men who my heart is suddenly, eternally attached to, who my soul prays over daily and begs God to be extra sweet to in all of His holy mercy. Some things you simply can’t prepare for, but thankfully the Lord sends us on courses that prepare us for things we know not, to right our hearts in ways we cannot understand until a point in the future. I keep that hope tucked carefully in my heart, that He’s always working to bring us deeper into oneness with Him, especially when the war rages around us.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last two years, my heart is not my own. We live alone for so many years, looking out for what I want, making friends that I like, making decisions that seem right to me. It all looks so different now, through a few lenses life must be seen differently. Those lenses are hearts and souls and flesh and bones whose every moment and emotion matter to me. So I grow and change out of the life that used to be lived alone, and into a life that looks like nourishing with meals and words and hugs. Into a life that is closer to a man who calls Himself the Christ, to abide in His truth, to live as He did, selflessly, patiently, and overflowing with a love from the Father to bless those he encountered. I’ll do my best in this imperfect shell of a human body because I love Him and am ever grateful for His kindness to me. Oh, it all looks different now. Loving because He first loved me. I see it in the kitchen when the boys are running through the house all loud and covered in dirt, still wearing the shoes they were supposed to remove at the door. I see it in the way I respond to any given circumstance, whether I am annoyed or deeply moved. I see it in the way I hold my beloved’s face after a long, hard day of work, thanking him for taking care of us. I see it in the way I hug my kids when their hearts ache. I see His love. Through me, it’s quite imperfect, but it’s a deeper love than I’ve ever known before. It’s inexplicable.

Love.

It’s sometimes broken in its message, yet ragged, and utterly beautiful.

Honesty.

In my first draft of this post, a bunch of this didn’t really make sense. I guess that’s what happens when I have a limited amount of time and run on less than ideal sleep because of an adorable little three-month-old. So, this is revised and shortened.

I am often thinking about the state of our hearts in relation to a God who has no beginning and no end. He is Almighty, we are nothing and yet so loved. I worry that those who follow the Lord (or those who say they follow the Lord) do not truly cherish Him. And by no means do I cherish Him enough. Never enough. We want what we want without considering, pondering, and resolving to hear and do what the Lord wants of us. We are double minded. We have desires without taking seriously this sacred relationship. We have an agenda and often want to skirt the hard work of letting God burn the chaff and refine us in the process of getting where we want to go. We must accept in humility His discipline and wisdom, and consistently fill our hearts with His word.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act. Psalm 37:3-5

But we want what we want.

“They say to the seers,
‘See no more visions!’
and to the prophets,
‘Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things,
prophesy illusions.
Leave this way,
get off this path,
and stop confronting us
with the Holy One of Israel!'” Isaiah 30:10, 11

And what is it that I really want? Where am I wrong and prideful? It’s a little too private to post online. (This is no cop out. If you really want to know I’ll be glad to tell you privately.) But God has shown me what He wants me to do in the middle of this ugly situation. Of course I’ve growled and thrown fits because God’s truth about our lives isn’t easy. So let’s suck it up, give our hearts and faithfulness to Him, and see what He does with it because He is the definition of faithful. What He does and what He asks of us (rather than us pushing our agenda) will always be better than what we want to do, even if the process is painful or not very sexy. What God does is worthy; let us remember that.