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Archive for the tag “love”

living open-handed

IMG_0637Yesterday: I felt strong enough to challenge the big, dark thing creeping behind me, so I wrote—I feel like fear is eating me whole. Why this struggle? Why is this so important?

Today: The panic rose so high I couldn’t breath. I felt thankful for tears that came quick this time. They were the beginning of relief, they opened my soul wide enough to form words to You.  You spoke, as you always do when I lay it all out. Start at the beginning, You tell me. What is true?

God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

I draw lines from power, love, and a sound mind, to their definitions—

power |ˈpou(-ə)r| the ability to do something or act in a particular way…the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events…physical strength and force exerted by something or someone

love |ləv|—I decided the dictionary cannot define it like You, my Great Love, so I recall this definition: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear… 1 John 4:18

sound |sound| in good condition; not damaged, injured, or diseased…competent, reliable, or holding acceptable views

I have a two-handed grip on the throat of my life. The bit between my teeth is clenched so hard they ache and my toes dig into the dirt until my arches explode with pain of muscles unrelieved. I hold on hard to life because I. Am. Afraid.

I never knew it before. I should’ve had a clue every time I gloried in the things that didn’t scare me and laughed when they scared others.

The fear is buried deep down. I give it all kinds of other names—desire, discipline, hard work, responsibility, reputation—but its real name, too often, is fear.

Fear is another layer surfaced, one I had buried below the last layer You just dug out of me. How many more layers I wonder. What lies at the bottom of all this?

Today I’m thankful for sight. First step is to see, acknowledge. I see the fear and I’m asking you to help me live, two hands open flat. I want to live trusting You.

Do you struggle with fear? What shape does it take? How does it hold you back?

LOVE doesn’t disappear

Love is a vast topic. It’s as epic as the Great One himself. My dad asked me if I would be writing another post on love, and I told him I wasn’t sure I had any more to write. But, God wasn’t done…

I woke up tired. It was a mental/emotional tiredness that started last night. I thought I needed to hide out for twenty-four hours (or more) to get myself back on my feet. But I had a list of things that needed doing. I knew I should spend time with God to reorient my compass. But it’s the last thing I wanted to do. In fact, I had an inkling, scratching at the base of my brain, that God was disgusted with me.

I managed to wrestle myself into a chair with a devotional book. I picked a book I knew would tell me how much God loved me. It was the safest bet. If God didn’t want anything to do with me, at least I could make myself feel as if He still wanted me. I started reading…

“Even if you’ve fallen, even if you’ve failed, even if everyone else has rejected you, Christ will not turn away from you. He came first and foremost to those who have no hope. He goes to those no one else would go to and says, “I’ll give you eternity.””

I’m human. I woke up tired. But intrinsically I felt worthless as the fatigue set in. I hated myself for it and believed God was upset with me too. I play this game, if only I had—scheduled better, worked harder, eaten healthier, exercised—then I wouldn’t be here, feeling overwhelmed and in need. But the devotional by Max Lucado went on, “Only you can surrender your concerns to the Father. No one else can take those away and give them to God. Only you can cast all your anxieties on the one who cares for you.”

Suddenly I knew I had to reach out. My fears and anxieties seem so small and human I thought God would want nothing to do with them. But they had broken me down fully. What if I broke the silence I’d cemented myself into? I’m disgusted with me, I told God. I’ve worked so hard and I’m not done, but I’m too tired to go on. I wanted to do something for You, but here I am, tired and needing Your help. I feel lost without You, but I’ve done nothing to deserve You.

Love doesn’t disappear on the bad days, He said.

Maybe that’s true, but I don’t love other people or myself like that. I don’t tolerate bad days. So I certainly don’t deserve this love.

How will you learn to love if I don’t love you well? I don’t subtract love for each of your faults. 

His words sliced straight through me, cutting deep into the knotted roots of my lies. Those lies have kept so much of my heart deadened for years, but His words are bringing me back to life. Today I’m another step closer to becoming who He created me to be. There’s so much glorious freedom in coming alive. The more He heals me the more I want to be in the business of taking His Love to a dying world.

What’s something God has said or done for you that’s changed how you think or act?

 

love is: “immortal as immaculate Truth”

Part 2…

The seven years are up. My soul feels a little softer, a little worn in that good way that makes things more beautiful. Often I wake up with an aching to process my life, to face the good and the bad. And so I’ve begun a little ritual of sitting out on my porch in the mornings and speaking to God. He is helping me sort it out. As Henry Nouwen says, “in prayer we slowly experience a reorientation of all our thoughts and feeling about ourselves and others.” 

Sitting on my back porch I soak in the richness of morning light coming over my fence. I feel Him with me. Lately He’s been using moments in my days to sharpen my vision. It’s becoming more and more clear that I had no idea what love really is. Up until now I would have told you that I loved and loved with intensity. The kind of intensity that meant I would go through fire for the ones I love. But, I think, love must be more than this.

It’s becoming clear that I don’t give love, nor do I accept it from anyone else. Love would leave me indebted. Love would leave me exposed. I think those are two of my greatest fears. But without love all these years, I find that I am barren. That the wall between me, my God, and the rest of the souls out there is not a wall of safety. It is isolating, soul sucking, creativity killing.

I was reminded recently that love is a verb. We must do love. Love is in the little gestures, remembrances, unheard prayers, difficult decisions, the willingness to stay. Love is a force of nature, just like the One who created it. It is unflagging. It brings hope, healing, kindness, truth. Love is the great romancer. It is radical. Contrary to human nature. Love takes great courage, perhaps the greatest courage.

 

“Is love a fancy, or a feeling? No,

It is immortal as immaculate Truth.

‘Tis not a blossom, shed as soon as youth

Drops from the stem of life— for it will grow,

In barren regions, where no waters flow…”        [ Hartley Coleridge ]

 

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

[ I Corinthians 13:7-8 ]

This post isn’t about how nicely I can write about love. It’s about putting fingers and hearts around the radically different way life is lived with love. Living love is the narrow road. But it is from the Great Love, so it’s by far the best road to walk. Lately I’ve been trying to practice love through the small gestures. My ungraceful attempts remind me of how unpracticed I am, but even my bungling attempts are so much better than nothing. Do you live love? Would you be willing to write some of the ways you love others?

 

the richness of lives undone

This is one part of a mini series about love:

“Love is a choice,” one sage soul said to me before I got married. I was too polite to argue with her but I knew, in the glowing light of my affection for my fiancé, that love wasn’t a choice. It was a magical feeling that would transform my life. How unromantic to choose to love! Love was blossoms and golden sunlight and all kindness. Love made life bearable.

I’ve been married for seven years and that one line of advice is literally the only one I can remember out of hundreds of well meaning words from other people. I never expected to write about love on this blog but God has been pressing his fingers into my heart and love is the topic of the hour.

Seven years. It’s almost ironic that this biblical number has become such a significant mark in the life of my marriage. I am no longer the woman I was on that blue-sky, October day, walking down the stone path in my wedding dress. He is no longer the waiting man in the black tux and tie. Today when our fingers touch there is more in that moment than simple maturing that comes with years. There is a knowing.

We are, and are still becoming, lives undone.

Seven years of being undone, to be precise. Seven hard years to redemption. In that space pain, disillusionment, anger, confusion, hopelessness, squirmed into every crack and cranny. Truthfully, I, the girl who dreamed of romance turned bitter. I stopped reading about love. I stopped watching sweet movies with happy endings. I pasted my lips into a tight line in front of young lovers. And I asked God why he would strap me into a lifelong commitment full of disappointment. I blamed my predicament on my husband, on my brokenness, on God. I saw love, life itself, as a fight. I was the weary soldier. And I was alone.

But God was present. He didn’t speak in shouts. That’s not what I needed. He didn’t cut long, unrelenting lines of truth in my soul. That’s not the way of love. He asked for surrender.

I want your heart, the Great Love whispered to me. He whispered this line over and over through those seven years. What I didn’t understand was that love could not begin until it began with Him.

I’d love to hear from you! Do you believe your heart is central to you and how you live your life or is it more superfluous? Do you trust your heart or believe it’s dangerous? Do you let anyone near your heart or do you hide it away?

Stay tuned for part 2…

the romance of boundaries

heather“God respects our boundaries in many ways.  First, he leaves work for us to do that only we can do.  And he allows us to experience the painful consequences of our behavior so that we will change…It hurts him deeply when we don’t.  But at the same time, he does not rescue us; he wants us to work it our for our own good.  He will not violate our wish to be left alone, although he will plead with us to come back to him.

Second, he respects our no.  He tries neither to control nor nag us.  He allows us to say no and go our way…When people say no, he allows it and keeps on loving them.  He is a giver.  And one of the things he always gives is a choice…He respects boundaries.”  [Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend]

God loves me so much that he gave me a role to fill in life, one that I am perfectly tailored to do.  There were many years in my past when I believed I was worth nothing and had no work to do.  It was incredibly dehumanizing.  But then, as I came to realize that God had given me a purpose, I became afraid.  What if I couldn’t do the job?  What if I wasn’t doing it fast enough, or perfect enough?  When would I screw up so bad that God would have no choice but to abandon me?

I have screwed up.  Many times.  Many ways.  And I have effectively told God I would not be a writer.  And he respected my no.  And by doing so he gave me the chance to explore what I can do as a human and as an artist.  He’s allowed me to explore my boundaries so that I can take ownership of what he’s given me.

They say the best thing you can do is set the one you love free.  Let them come back to you.  God set me free.  And now, by choice, I’ve come back to him and back to my calling as a writer.  Lately, as I have begun to slowly embrace the idea of boundaries in my life, I’ve come to realize that God wants to use them to heal me and redefine my relationship with writing.  He wants to eradicate my fears and reignite my passions.  He wants to restore me.

God is not scared by my no, my confusion, fear or failure.  He is not surprised or thrown off.  He isn’t in a panicked rush to fix my mistakes.  He is steady, constant.  He is God.  The pressure is off me to produce perfect work.  I do not have to prove my worth.  I can simply be a human.  But what I think is so amazing is that in the moment I let go – be human, explore my boundaries, show God my pain – at that very moment my work is the best it can be and I am the person I want to be.  I think I’ve said this before, but God is as romantic as he is practical.  So now my question; how have boundaries helped you?

perspective

As an artist I need to see the big picture.  What is all this for?  What is most important?  And at the moment those questions have led me to one single question.  Who am I?

The daughter of Harold and Patricia

Wife of Josh

Writer-straining-to-become

Photographer

Nature lover

None of these answers correctly answer the question.  Me is not where I come from or what I do.  Me, I am a child of God, cosmically and lovingly sown together by His all-encompassing hands.  My soul, my spirit, my essence is a singing work of art – stars, maple trees, blue of the ocean, breathlessness of the mountains strung together.  I am a beautifully unique being.

At my arrival on earth, much of the singing part of me was buried in the rubble of our world.  Because we are, all of us, born into a war.  It is unfair.  War breaks us before we even know what unbroken is.  This war is aimed at destroying humanity.  Aimed at destroying the very essence that makes us, the very tie that connects us to our God.

So the big picture.  In this war-torn world, I am born to remind humankind of Him.  Him who saves.  Him who redeems the unredeemable.  Him who loves us every-single-moment.  The war has made us forget many things like true love and the One who created true love to begin with.  And the war stops us, me, from doing the work of remembering.  It takes perspective and intentionality to borough out of the rubble and become a rememberer.

The question of who am I lends me great perspective.  It is the beginning point on the map.  It is the northern star pointing me to God.  And it is a compass reminding me to stay on track, to do the work I was called to do and not become obsessively driven by the everyday stresses and ‘responsibilities’.

What is standing in the way of me and my calling?  I’m embarrassed to list them.  Everything from simple grocery lists to deadly lies that eat out my core.  God help me, I want to live life in a way that challenges our worldly perspective.  I want to be a bright, clear, burning reminder of the Great Love.  I’m called to do this in many ways, but specifically through writing.

What is standing between you and your calling?  If you were to plan one day of living life the way you believe God was calling you to do, what would it look like?  I have a feeling that if I lived one day the way I believe God was asking me too it would be one of the most responsible, productive happy days of my life.  I’m going to be experimenting with this idea.  I’ll report back as I gather results.

The Little Bits

I am a big-picture gal. All those details that make up that picture? Well, those are a wee bit more blurry to my mind’s eye than the end-game creation. In fact, the small, daily steps along the way can often feel mundane and ordinary and just straight-up boring.

Give me work that is adventure and color and depth and all that is big and beautiful, and well, I feel purposeful. I feel joyful. Mostly, I feel recognized, and for many, many years I have lived for such recognition. But this is a cycle that never quite ends–because you’ve never quite earned enough–and my do your legs ache from all that circular running.

I am learning that God is adventure and color and depth. And He is most certainly big and more beautiful than my human mind can swallow. So, in theory, a day lived with Him, however seemingly ordinary, is far from mundane. A day with Him is purposeful. Joyful. And isn’t that the elusive prize? Joy. In the midst of ordinary. And busyness. And pain and sorrow and shadows. Joy.

God is teaching me this in my art. That He can infuse the joy I crave into the grunt, detail work of actually making art. Because that’s the thing: creating is work. And, for me, it’s all the little bits, the daily bits, of this work that tug at my joy. And then I’m drained.

But I am understanding what it looks like to work alongside the One. To roll up my sleeves, look over, and see His rolled up too. This is so beautiful and so, so much to grasp. I’m still working on that. But there is joy in that kind of work too.

What about you? How do you feel about the little bits of work involved in creating? How do you stay inspired?

the light roars…

As a long-time Christian I’ve spent a lot of unproductive years believing that Jesus was weak.  And, partly because of that belief, I spent a lot of years living a in a very deep dark hole inside myself.  But when God came charging in, his light roared and splintered my darkness.  And there are no words big enough for that moment…

That moment changed my art.  I’m not afraid to explore the dark and expose it because I know no matter how dark it is, the light can’t be shaken.  I want to be honest, truthful, faithful in telling the epic tale that has been told for centuries.  I want the people who read my work to find themselves in the story.  And I want them to know good wins over evil.  God has not forgotten the most broken.   He will never tire of waiting for the worst sinner.

I want those who experience my art to feel the light roaring as they come to the last word.  And by God’s grace, because I have been faithful to him and my calling, I’m praying they will find that they want more of God.  The God who is real.  The God who isn’t afraid of society’s outcasts.  The God who loves in a way that is so radical, so countercultural that we can’t help but want to learn more about him.  To me this is the purpose of my art.  The highest calling.

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