Friday, February 20, 2015

Open




A challenge from Kate Motaung's blog: This is the place where once a week we take the chance to just write, and not worry if it’s just right or not.

For five minutes flat.

Here’s how it game works: you simply stop, drop and write. Set your words free. Don’t edit them, don’t fret over them, don’t try to make them perfect.

Today's word OPEN.

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I am a visual person.

So, today as we listened to the doctor describe my dad's open heart surgery, I was shocked by the description of the procedure.

I visualized the breaking of his chest bone.

The sawing in two, which would enable the surgeon to reach his heart.


This breathing of life, through a surgeon's hands, reminds me of Ezekiel.

The Lord trades our heart of stone for a heart of flesh.

We are cut open and made new by our faith in Christ.

That image of the chest cracked open, then wired shut to heal, and the pain for the the next few months, hurts my heart to think of the wound that will take time to heal.

And our Surgeon, our Father, cuts and molds. Shaping us into vessels which bring Him glory.

The pain, the scalpel, the sawing of flesh. It tears away comforts and peace.

He places my heart and my feet in places which are scary.

I want to close off. Keep it my heart close. Protect myself.

He tells me to step out.

To keep it open.

For His glory, not mine.




                                                             




 



{photo credit}

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Where Did the Baby Go?

  


This is my beloved book from childhood. I am amazed it has withstood the years and remains intact. The pages are antiqued yellow and the edges worn, because I am ancient.

Time has curled the corners; the leafing by little hands has ripped and creased the pages. Transparent packing tape lines the wounds of the spine like a band-aid.

The pink cover is faded and frayed like a pair of well-loved blue jeans. Exterior corners, which jutted sharp in the 1970s, are now a dignified soft, round, and peeling portrayal of its youth. The under skin of brown cardboard reveals its position as the favorite, the only childhood book that survived forty years.
 

 I remember lying on my belly as a four-year old, awkwardly positioning a black crayon in my right hand to scrawl the letters of my name on the front and back interior.It is an endearing story of a toddler uncovering an old picture of a blue-eyed baby in a floppy hat. She does not recognize the baby and asks her mama who it could be. Her mama says the baby is someone she used to see every single day.

The story continues with the little girl scampering through the house in her calico printed dress, thick white tights, and black Mary Janes, in an attempt to find the baby that must still live there.

She peers in every room and closet, finally unearthing a floppy hat. Placing the straw hat on her head, she peeks at her reflection in the mirror. Her neurons fire with recollection, sending her dashing full speed, leaping into her mama’s arms shouting, “Here I am!”

My favorite childhood book is now a huge question mark rattling around in my brain. “Where did the baby go?” It seems like yesterday that I was scribbling my name in the book, a near baby myself. And now, where are my babies that used to live here?   In my home.
They stare back at me, with chubby cheeks, wide eyes, and mouths gaping open with wonder and innocence, from the canvases hovering on nails upon my walls, and behind clear glass, bordered with ornate frames.  My babies.




I think about it every day. Where the time has gone.
How it has been eaten away.

Last night I felt it. Time was heavy, as I tried to lift the last babe from my womb, as she lay sleeping.

She is too heavy to lift now.   My arms too weak to bear her weight, I led her sleep walking to her bed.

Just a blink, it seems-- a flutter of my lashes and the rosy-cheeked baby girl with toes twirling and wiggling round and round only exists in home movies and glossy wall art.

She was all chubby knees and elbows back then, coils of golden hair spiraling wreaths on the back of her little head. She toddled on squishy legs, with milk breath, and eyes glimmering the brightest blue of her great-grandmama's.

There are still remnants of that baby girl underneath the golden spun tendrils, below the layers of her eight-year old locks, near her neck are the baby ringlets, still growing in tight spirals until they become long and straighten down her back.

I twist the curls with my fingers, tugging gently down, like stretching a spring, watching it bounce back.How does it happen?  One moment swaying her as a swaddled newborn, inhaling all the smells of baby, and then my eyes flutter open to this girl of grace and strength.

My arms that bathed and rocked. My arms. Now they can not lift her sleeping form.

It is incomprehensible that God transcends all time. He is timeless: "For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night." Psalm 90:4
As mere mortals, the ticking clock is measured.Time exists for us.The coiling of worry and discontent behind my thoughts is what eats time.

And I can walk dead through life, dry bones.

My thoughts can mutilate the full life. The alive life.

Some days I squeeze the moments and capture them, hold them gently in my heart, like the fragile fluttering wings of a butterfly. For time is fragile.  Just a wisp and it is gone.

May I live with abandon.

Eyes wide open. To really see.

With an awakened soul.

Arms reaching high towards my Savior.

Heart full of delight in His presence and grace.

For it is ALL grace, you know?

No single breath or tick of the clock measured by our performance, but instead measured by His grace upon us. Measured by His perfect life, not by our mess.

Amazingly, that grace spirals down because of the life of a baby. Eternal grace through a babe.

The arms of Jesus open wide, graciously wooing us with His words, "Here I AM!"

In our disappointment, in our grief, in our despair, in our suffering, He tenderly calls "HERE I AM."

Praise Him!

Friday, February 13, 2015

When?



The challenge from Kate's blog is to write for 5 minutes flat with no editing. The word today is WHEN. 


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So, I haven’t participated in Five Minute Friday for a while.

Today I knew I must.  My heart needed to engage with a week that’s felt heavy, like lead weighing upon my shoulders. Pressing me down.

When our life is not as expected.  When we get the phone call bearing bad news.  When

That’s been my week.  Two phone calls with information to make my heart skip a beat.

In the flinging of dinner onto plates and the hammering constant of the woodpecker on the side of the house, me banging the walls, children asking how and why and when.

I’m sent over the edge. Undone.

The pecking of that blasted fellow on the side of my house is like the pecking of worry.  And I'm reminded that's not the core of who I am.

The crinkled, delicate page from Matthew speaks loud 6:25-27: Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Paul learned it.  That contentment.  And I bury hands deep in pockets and refuse to let go.  To surrender.

When

I want control.  I want ease. I want peace.  And I will bow low and claw and scrape the dishes of discontent and drag my family with me.

When…

That’s what I beg for..contentment.

When Father?

The answer comes clear as glass.  Liquid lines my cheeks, and I know.

He’s teaching me now.  To unclench fists. Live for now. Upturn hands.  Surrender to His furious love. 


 










  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dearest Readers










Dearest readers,

Can we talk?

I wanna tell you a secret.

In my not-so-distant past, I've settled for less.

I've journeyed the rugged, tar-black roads of lies about who I am.

Maybe you’ve traveled similar paths.  If so, you know the routes spewing filth and dust.  The kind of dust that sticks to your skin like black tar, lingering for days, weeks, years.  Whispering lies about who you are.

I've stepped up to ride again and again the escalator of temporary.  Welcoming anything in.  An attempt to fill the empty space within my soul.

I’ve settled for less.  When I was made for more.  

Just like the decadent Swiss chocolate my husband brought home from Europe last week,  I swirled the smooth heaven river in my mouth as long as I could, one piece at a time.  But, the splendor was temporary.

Delicious, seductive.  The empty box mocks me like a raven pecking and caw caw cawing from the counter. 

When we settle for less, we settle for empty.

Empty souls, temporary delight.

At the center of my wandering youth, was a broken girl who desperately yearned for deep connection.  Passionately, she desired someone to know her to her core.  To be loved, cherished, and adored. 

That girl had misguided views of true sexuality.  She was riding that escalator of temporary and coming up empty and lonely.

When we, or others, do not recognize our true self-worth— we will often trade beauty for ashes—hands open wide to accept whatever we can get from whomever will give.  We will trade human dignity for mere morsels, dust.

That place may feel like true love and we may press it tightly to our chest, hoping to save it forever; yet it fades and slips through our hands like paper lace soaked in rain, leaving us empty, and often wounded. 

When we don’t know the holy breath of our beating hearts, the treasure of our souls, we will often wander the dust roads and trade the sacred for the temporary and empty.

It’s an ancient story, really.  Since the beginning of all time.

And a daily struggle.  The question of filling our hearts with the timeless treasure of His ways, or going after the enticing emptiness of this world.

As I ponder my past life, the wrecked life before Jesus swept me away, I can’t help but think about Fifty Shades of Grey and the brokenness of our world.

It’s a sad thing when female fans are giddy and giggly over extremely disturbing sexual, emotional, and physical abuse.

But you know what?  I was that girl.  I would’ve stood in line and bought a ticket.  Not so long ago.

Want to know something else?  I don’t drink from the fountain of empty as frequently as in the past.

When you’ve tasted the Living Water, the rich Everlasting Fountain, there’s a stronger pull on your heart towards the eternal and full. 

That hole in our souls, the one we all have, is an empty space made for the One and Only Lover of Our Souls.  Temporary replaced by eternal.  Empty made whole.

When we realize our self-worth in Christ, we don’t settle as often.  We hunger for more from the True Giver of Life.  The Giver of true intimacy and love.

True love is not violent.  It is an assault to the heart of God and goes against all that He is.  Tender.  Merciful.  Gracious. 

There is nothing seductive or romantic about sexual or domestic violence, just ask a child or anyone who’s experienced rape, sex trafficking, or other abuse.

Where have you settled for temporary?  What are your thoughts on our society and Fifty Shades of Grey?


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

When We Feel Undone and Unstrung




I cringe as the shrill noise strikes my eardrums, like the clashing of cymbals or fingernails on chalkboard.  The serenity and first blush of morning is punctured, like a needle to a balloon, as the sharp, high-pitch staccatos ricochet throughout the house.

The little bitty girl in the tip-top loft bed is making happy sounds, but not the normal soft musical rousing.  Her voice careens down the hallway, like a megaphone, reverberating off walls, and shaking the foundation.

After twenty minutes of the piercing noise, I consider it quite plausible a horse or a flock of seagulls has moved in during the dark hours of slumber.  Whatever the creature, it is creating a bizarre high treble whistling or whinnying.

With a steady flow of caffeine coursing through my veins, I journey the honey stained floors to solve the mystery.  Flipping the switch on the wall, a picture illuminates, from my vantage point, of a puppy and a frizzy, raven head.

The woolly, stuffed poodle dances the rim of the pine bed rail.  Four-year old toes peek below the rail, and wiggle the bright snowman fleece pajamas.



"What are you playing?  Is it a horsey?," I guess.  A flock of seagulls is my next bet.

"No, it's a dolphin!," she declares.

"Oh your doggie is a dolphin."  (Of course).

"Yes!," she giggles, revealing her silly wide-toothed grin.  The puppy bounces with the ceaseless, ear-splitting sound of a dolphin.

"Come on sweetie, let’s get up and go potty," my arms stretch high to help her down.  It is the time for rush.  Chaos.  Carpool.

She stops her play, dark brown eyes lock with mine, "I  had a dream last night that all my mommies died."

The tempo of the morning immediately shifts.  For this moment. 

"Really?  What happened sweetie?"

 "The mama with the…

She squints her eyes, and wrinkles her forehead as she thinks hard.  If I listen closely between pink and cream toile curtains and the pine bed, I can probably hear clattering and rumbling of her brain's childlike attempt to reach into the recesses of fading memories.

The name finally comes to her, "The mama with the B name…she died."

Quietly, I say, "Oh, you're talking about your birth mom?"

Somber dark eyes peer over the rail searching for answers.

"Sweetie, it was just a dream.  She’s okay, she’s not really hurt."

"But I dreamed she was killed by a man with poison and a knife," she replies while making the motions of stabbing her chest.

I suck in air.  Deep.

She is right.  This dream, her life, must feel like a death in so many ways.  For the first time in three years, she hasn’t seen her birth mama for the usual two hours, twice a month-- it’s been over six months since she's seen her, and it's unlikely to happen again.

I shift my feet and search for words, "She's not really dead sweetie."

Pensive, she gazes over my shoulder, her mind turning.  Her face scrunches and I know she's devising a plan.  I sense it stirring in the air of the room, like the heater that's circulating warmth, there’s something happening in the space between us.  Her four-year old mind is circulating, solving a problem, as if picking the lock of her past.

Memories have been slipping away like the unstrung beads of her princess pearls, beads bouncing across the floor.  Her life has been upended, unstrung, and she will likely walk this ground of questions for a lifetime-- attempting to fit beads back onto the string and make sense of her world, her story.

Eyes bright, she has the answer.  "I know!  How about you take me to visit her?"

"I’m sorry, sweetie, I can’t do that.  I wish I could."

 "Why?"

"We just can’t, sweetie."

"Well, people used to take me to see her," she remembers transport workers who used to drive her to visits.

"Yes they did.  You had fun with her didn’t you?"

"Yes," she answers.

"I’m sorry you can’t do that anymore honey.  How does that make you feel?"

Tiny hands twist in her lap, the earlier playfulness gone from the room.  All is quiet a second.

Her gaze casts down at her hands, twisting, "It makes me feel sad."

"I know, it makes me sad too.  I’m so sorry.  She loves you so much."

I hold the bitty girl tight and squeeze, wishing I could squeeze the grief away for her.  Just like the fleeting thoughts of a child, she hops down chattering about breakfast and princesses.  The conversation gone for now.

We repeat this on some level almost daily, as memories surface and she has questions.  It used to undo me, send me to my bedroom weeping;  however, people who know much more than I do, tell me this is normal and healthy.  This is her way of processing her story and trying to fit it all together, the jumbled mess that it is.

Isn’t that all of our stories, though, on some level?  A mixed-up, messy picture that only the Father can redeem?

My heart is still sore from the brokenness of her story, but I also know beauty comes through pain-- the walking through, the rescue, the deliverance.  I can only walk beside her, love, and pray, as I do with all my children.

With all my kids, it is messy and imperfect and raw.  Who knows how to parent?  For real?  I sure as heck don't know what I'm doing.  But, I am grateful for the perfect Father who does.

I am confident He is doing a great work in all our hearts.  I am despairing less over Little Bitty's story, and embracing more of my own story along the way, as my eyes focus on the face of the only Rescuer.  The One who restrings the broken pieces of our lives.