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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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.