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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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.

Resurrection

I’m not here without Christ. I’m not full of hope and joy without the promise of what His resurrection means. I have no hope for heaven or anything good without a promise of God. And if I don’t have God, I have no purpose in this world. I must be living for something greater than myself. Nothing else in this world makes sense.

I’ve spent the past year and a half becoming. I think I have talked about this before. I’m on a journey of always becoming what it is God calls me to. The newest portion of that journey has included the labels “wife” and “mother.” And after almost 15 months of marriage, I get to become mother again. This season of becoming hasn’t been easy, but my has it been joyful and blessed. And here I sit facing this new season of unknowns (mainly having a newborn while trying to care for the rest of my family, and taking work off for a time), I hope and pray that I can continue to become just what God asks, no matter the uncertainty of tomorrow.

A gal on Twitter asked back in January what word you would choose for this coming year. What word would you come back to dwell upon as the overarching purpose of the year? What word has God laid upon your heart? I answered woman. I long to be a daughter of the King, content and rested in Him no matter the circumstances. I long to be a devoted, encouraging wife who helps her husband at no care for her own desires. To love as C.S. Lewis said,  is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved one’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained. And I long to be a mother who shows God’s character to her children, to help rear them in a way that glorifies the God who created them. Now that I am married, these are my first priorities. It starts with “the basics” and anything beyond that must come from God for me to pursue.

Without God I can do none of these things. Without the truth of His word I cannot be helpful to those around me. I cannot serve Him or others without Him. So this is my journey. Figuring out how to find Him first, so that I can be the woman He has asked me to be. So this blog has been resurrected to be my companion on this journey.

Books I am reading:
My Utmost for His Highest – Oswald Chambers
Abide in Christ – Andrew Murray
And a few days each week, I continue to write my way through God’s word. I’m anywhere between Leviticus, the last few books of the New Testament (I have yet to start the Gospels, however), and the Psalms.

“This Momentary Marriage”

(Warning: long post ahead. Grab hot tea, or coffee, or a beer AND a snack.)

I’m quite young. I have much to learn. But I have learned much for a young woman my age.

I feel quite overwhelmed with humility for God having placed me where I am right now. I’m honored that He saw me as fit to be the wife of an incredible man who loves Him – not to mention a mother figure in the lives of two wonderful young boys. I’m honored to be chosen for someone, three someones. It’s completely surreal. It’s a life-long dream come true.

The past few months have been a radical life adjustment, a paradigm shift, an exciting new adventure down a similar road I was on before – only this time it’s with someone at my side. I’ve learned so much about myself and how I operate because there’s this man is in my life for good. He is constantly learning more about me, and I about him, because we’re in this together. I’m learning so much about myself: about how I process, how I communicate, how I actually feel at any given moment. When you’re single you can just ignore those things because you’re not accountable to really work on them. With my almost husband (as I like to call him), I have to work on them; I have to open up and share how I am feeling even when I don’t want to because it’s helpful for our relationship to communicate these things.

The great lesson of prioritizing is also on my plate. I used to have a million friends and time for nearly all of them. This is a hard lesson for me to have to give some of that up – to learn that my time first belongs to God, followed by my almost husband and two delightfully sweet boys, followed by my family and close friends, and then whoever else I can manage to make time for. This was a swift change in my life and difficult to remember that I cannot allow myself to feel guilty when I don’t have time to spend with everyone. (Let’s not forget to mention I work 30 hours each week, I’m almost finished with a wedding gown for a client and then will begin on mine, all while planning a wedding. Suffice it to say I’m sleeping a lot less than I’d like and drinking way more coffee than my body appreciates. I know the planning and the wedding gowns are really only a short season. But let me say, it breaks my heart to see my guest list for our wedding and know I’ve only seen a handful of some of my closest friends a few times in the past month.)

Not only have I begun learning a better communication process with Kelly, and am learning to be confident in who I am and how my time is spent, but I’ve learned one other pretty rad thing: God has blessed me with the (or at least some of the) character that I have been asking Him for over the past few years. Kel and I have been reading through “This Momentary Marriage” by John Piper. It’s a really good, foundational book for those who are married – or, forget it – it’s a really good book and you should read it whether you’re married, single, or especially if you’re in a relationship headed toward marriage. And because if you follow the link I attached to the book title, it’s a FREE download, therefore you have no excuse not to read it. Just sayin’.

Of course, the things I’ve prayed to God for over the years have been pretty basic stuff: that the man I will marry should be one who loves the Lord with all of his heart, mind and strength, that he is willing to lead myself and our future family spiritually, that he would protect and guide our family in daily life, that he would be adventurous and willing to do crazy stuff with me, and that he daily follows what God asks him to do with his life. Yes, that’s a laundry list, but to my sheer amazement God fulfilled ALL of those desires of my heart in Kelly and more. (Don’t ask about the “more” part, because I don’t even know where I would begin at this point.) As we read through the first seven chapters I was delighted again and again that God had done such a marvelous work in preparing Kelly and I to meet and be married. All of these little details He orchestrated, things I couldn’t have even begun to hope and wish for lest my heart be crushed. Kelly is – for me – the perfect man to marry. No, he’s not perfect, nor am I, but we are perfect for one another. That’s what’s important. And that’s probably why we’re shotgunning this dating/engagement process – because deep down in our hearts we know that this is God’s will for us. And if you wanna get persnickety in the details, God pretty much told me out of the clear, blue sky that I’m supposed to marry him. But that’s another story for another day. I guess my point in saying all of this is that this book is rad and it has reminded me over and over again (as if I needed a reminder!) that Kelly is the only man for me, the one for me, my match, and a Godly, wonderful one at that.

Then we hit chapter eight in the book, all about the role of the woman in marriage and the mysterious thing of submission. No, I was not dismayed when I read the chapter, I was encouraged; it’s an insightful, beautiful look into Ephesians 5:22. And let me say before my next point, that Kel and I have been going through some rough stuff on the periphery of our lives. It has not been an easy few months for us because it seemed for weeks on end that every time we turned around we would smack right into a difficult situation, a family member with health problems, roadblocks for work or business, you name it. We’ve been put through the fire. Because of these fires, I have become more and more confident in our relationship and our ability to trust God and weather whatever life throws at us. So when we hit the chapter about the biblical and Godly role of a wife I was a little nervous hoping that I wasn’t completely failing. We came to this section, which reads:

She looks away from the troubles and miseries and obstacles of life that seem to make the future bleak, and she focuses her attention on the sovereign power and love of God who rules in heaven and does on earth whatever he pleases (Ps. 115:3). She knows her Bible, and she knows her theology of the sovereignty of God, and she knows his promise that he will be with her and will help her and strengthen her no matter what. This is the deep, unshakable root of Christian womanhood. And Peter makes it explicit in verse 5. He is not talking about just any women. He is talking about women with unshakable biblical roots in the sovereign goodness of God—holy women who hope in God. (p. 97)

At the time I was the one reading aloud sitting in front of Kel as he gave me an exquisite (and much needed) shoulder rub, and he just stopped me, hugged me, and said, “Hey, that’s you he’s talking about. That’s my Annie.” Oh man, and I cried. I’m crying now. I’m quite thankful for the blessings God has poured on me, the strength He’s given me, and thankful for His blessed sovereignty in His orchestration of my life.