Walking back into the light

I've been walking in the dark. Honing my night vision, spiritually. Psalm 51 has been a great comfort: Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare Your praise. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart You will not despise. I am reminded of a time such as this when repentance healed my broken heart, so broken it felt dead and silent inside me.  I "turn my mind", words so similar to the definition of "repentance", the Hebrew word  שׁוּבָה transliterated "shubah", meaning a return or a turning away from.
I remember, too, that I counted gifts then, wrote them down with paper and ink so they were there, indelible, monuments of God's faithfulness to bless me even in the dark night. And so, again, I pick up notebook, the one with pages and pages of the sins I've committed, the one I wrote my heart out in this past week. Spewing sadness. On top of the new page I tape the template for the tattoo I got on my wrist on Monday, covering up scars: Choose Life, from Deuteronomy 30 - the chapter of Scripture with the heading "The Offer of Life or Death". And then I begin again, at number 2,000, to number gifts. My therapist calls this "accumulating positives". Life hangs in the balance, and I choose to pile more on the side of Life and Joy than on Despair and Death.
The sunlight streams back into my soul, and I have 3 good days in a row. (I whisper this, as if hope may truly BE the thing with feathers that perches on the soul, and perhaps would will take wing if startled.) I have chosen the long, slow road of faith. There are quicker ways to peace, but none other that lasts for eternity. In the carbon black days of depression, I pray the fire in my brain is forming diamonds. For today, I simply give thanks for a good day. A reprieve, a relief, like the sigh as you lay head on pillow after a hard day's work, muscles melting and pain fading as you rest.
Photo credit: Sarah Bessey

#2001 breakfast in bed
#2002 children's morning smiles as they serve it
#2003 skills lab with 50 eager students
#2004 laughing with my mama


Choices in the dark

I strap on the yellow snowshoes given me by my love early in our marriage, because yellow always makes me smile. But today, my face is stuck in fear, grief, despair.
Night is falling, and I trek down the woods path through 4 foot drifts, floating atop, falling occasionally. I'm on a quest to find the big cottonwood, the one it would take 4 grown men to wrap their arms around. Trees like this don't just happen in Wisconsin. This tree is sacred.
I have the vague idea that if I could just sit there a while, my back against the solidness of that trunk, there would be peace for a few moments. I think, too, about staying there in the dark. Wonder if it would be easy to just go to sleep in the cold. My brain catches the thoughts in it's sieve and I turn them over in my mind and reject them. No precious stones there. I thank God for the cottonwood tree, pray that He will help me stand up and walk home. Choose life once more.
Darkness falls quickly in the woods. But I am smiling now. My breath comes hard and fast, I take off my mittens because the work has warmed all the places I felt dead inside. I pace my breathing. I take a chunk of snow in my bare hand and push it against forehead, the cold bringing my soul rushing back inside, ready for the walk home.
And as the sun sets, and the woods turn entirely to shadow, the snow gray instead of white, I emerge from the woods onto the road and home. I have survived, walked through this temptation. I whisper words from the one Psalm that jumps like Living Water from the pages of an otherwise lifeless Bible:
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart. O God, YOU will not despise. (Psalm 51:12-17 exc.)

Danger signs

Black arches up against the pale winter sky, trees stripped bare of leaves standing silently in the windless woods. Black as sin against the purity of Holiness.
Sweat trickles down my back under down parka, and my steps are whispering Danger as I trudge through the drifts down to the water's edge.
The music thunders in my ears against the silence of this glen. "Cold is the water, it freezes your already cold mind, already cold, cold mind; death is at your doorstep, and it will steal your innocence, but it will not steal your substance." (Mumford & Sons, Timshel) Thin ice, open water.
I watch the ducks in the slushy water, see their footprints on the thin ice. I am at the water's edge, where choice are made. I sit down in the snow, letting the cold draw my mind back from the river's current and to life. Breathe in, breathe out.

........................................................

Hours later, I am driving on slippery roads by another river. The truck fishtails around a curve, and I think, "No one would know." I put both hands on the steering wheel, grip so hard my knuckles are white, and by the will given me pull myself out of the river again and back onto the path before me.
A great brush swept smooth the mind, sweeping across it moving branches, children's voices, the shuffle of feet, people passing, humming traffic, rising and falling. Down, down to sink into the plumes and feathers of sleep, sink, and be muffled over. (Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf)
......................................................

The farm I am headed to glows bright with lights, and I shudder at cacophony of welcomes and rush upstairs to a quiet room no bigger than my bedroom closet. Slowly I unpack. Clothes. Toothbrush. A tall stack of books. Computer. Camera. So I trade prison for prison and bind my mind with iron bars as I try to let peace seep in through the gaps.

The next day is bright and windy, cold. I rush out in my pajamas for a walk. Steps beat hurriedly on the packed snow, and shout anxious, anxious, anxious. But the hands shake less, stuffed in pockets. The head slowly lifts to the light. The breath comes more slowly. I have survived the morning's assault.
The dog always walks with, several bounds ahead, sniffing, smiling, cooling himself in the snow. Occasionally he looks back to check on me. Dogs have a sense for the broken. They tend. Beast and the broken in some silent union know the truth.
I wake with a shudder, shake off the latest nightmare. The window glows pink, and I hear just a whisper, that whisper I've been waiting days to hear. I am here. So glows the sunrise, sure and steady, up and around the curve of the earth and down again, plunging us into night. For all mornings of all time, it shall be so. Somehow, in the concreteness of this rhythm, I anchor.
Such are the visions which ceaselessly float up, pace beside, put their faces in front of the actual thing; often overpowering the solitary traveler and taking away from him the sense of the earth, the wish to return, and giving him for substitute a general peace, as if all this fever of living were simplicity itself; and myriads of things merged in one thing; and this figure, made of sky and branches as it is, had risen from the troubled sea as a shape might be sucked up out of the waves to shower down from her magnificent hands compassion, comprehension, absolution. Let me walk on to this great figure, who will, with a toss of her head, mount me on her streamers and let me blow to nothingness with all the rest. (Mrs. Dalloway)


Thoughts from my week of rest at the farm
missing family
seeking sanity

Pray I might find peace?








Five Minute Friday

Books with empty pages


I read a whole book on
the Art of Happiness
by the Dalai Lama
and I learn nothing new.

I read Psalms that have watered my soul
and the words turn to dust in my mouth

...for such a time as this...

He lit up the cathedral on the farm
with white snow-light,
a million crystals suspended
in the wind
reflecting Grace on a chipped paint tack room

And that one thing,
the morning light,
the horse napping

Sara Groves told me in a song

you do your work the best that you can
you put one foot in front of the other 
life comes in waves and makes it's demands
you hold on as well as you’re able



you've been here for a long long time
but hope has a way of turning its face to you
just when you least expect it
you walk in a room 
you look out a window 
and something there leaves you breathless
you say to yourself
it's been a while since i felt this
but it feels like it might be hope 

Where is your face, Father?
Where is your hope?
How do I open hands to receive redemption -
the kind that rescues us from the everyday
not just that moment in heaven
when I see my name in the Book of Life.

I need you now
I need truth to be drink and food
replace these tears
and place before me a fresh cup




Space to breathe

My husband, wonderful husband, has given me a break. Time to breathe. To rediscover. To push tentacles into the Solid Rock. Would you be in prayer for me, my friends? That I would find that spirit of peace HE promises, that I would be impenetrable to the lies of the evil one, that I would heal and grow and come back home more whole?


Today I am in North Dakota with one of the wisest and sweetest 20 year olds I've known. I've cared for her since her infancy, and now she shrouds me with her grace, her embrace, her understanding. Tomorrow, another day here in the drifts. Next week, peace at her mother's farm. I leave house and hearth and husband and children to seek that peace the Savior offers. To refuse other gods, those gods of anxiety and pain and wishing for an end to suffering and an end to hurting those I love. Pray, oh, pray. I am in desperate need of that Grace I whispered "yes" to at 4 years old, the undeserved favor, the sweetness of the all-forgiving Christ love.

Pray it would surround me, bathe me, heal those ancient wounds with the washing of the Living Water and the blood shed for me.

Humbly I come before the Throne, and humbly I come to you, broken, asking that I  might see and believe and take hold to Redemption.


That darn rollercoaster again

The ocean is full of swells, whitecapped, surf blown off their creamy turquoise crests like whipped cream. Joy descends pell-mell into crushing sorrow. Sorrow billows up and out and beyond and there is joy again, waiting.
The choices seems to be diminishing before me as the doors in a long hall as you walk down it, paths untaken disappearing behind your footsteps. Would He - could He - be the funnel that drives me down to this narrow opening? Has He orchestrated so closely? Or am I falling prey to the mind games of anxiety, the whispers of the enemy hissing hesitation into my soul?

Oh, for rest, for rest. Oh for breath, for breath. My mouth is full of seawater. I need strength to keep swimming.


O Lord, I think I'm falling
To my disbelief
I'm cursing like a sailor and lying like a thief
It's hard to heed the calling from the better side of me
When I'm blaming everybody else and no one's coming clean

O Lord, can you see my thick skin wearing thin
And the demons of a lesser me are beckoning me in
Those who gathered 'round me - I'm watching them all leave
Cause I am my own ragged company

You can take a trip to China or take a boat to Spain
take a blue canoe around the world and never come back again
But traveling don't change a thing, it only makes it worse
Unless the trip you take is in to change your cruel course
'Cause every town's got a mirror and every mirror still shows me
That I am my own ragged company

O Lord it's lonely, Lord it's mighty cold
And I don't want to live this way
Afraid of growing old

It's hard to heed the warning when you cannot see the crime
The only way to remember is to forget in a rhyme
And I'm scared to tread the red road that leads to Galilee
Cause I am my own ragged company
Five Minute Friday

Get busy living

Faith is a fragile thing. I close the soft covers of a controversial book with a slam, and dust rises in the sunlight glinting off my bed. Today is not a day to study my faith. Today is a day to live it.

Sun glints through the streamers on the rainbows hung from my kitchen windows, crafts left over from a "spring" birthday party, that warm day a memory now as we are buried in another foot of snow this mid-March. As the light gleams through the transparent paper, it is my faith I see, anchored to the rock, but tenuous, translucent, thin.

I don't know how to correctly interpret the Old Testament hermeneutically. I haven't read the latest from Rob Bell. What I know is this: today, if we don't praise God, the very rocks will cry out. And so that is what I will do today. Notice the gifts before me and praise the Maker for them.

Streamers in the sunlight, fluttering in the breeze of the warm furnace blowing. Children happy at schoolbooks. My Amy, exhausted of school, finding work for her hands, the clean wash water clear and pure in the afternoon kitchen. Oh, the gifts of each day, that crowd in bittersweet and make you want to laugh and cry all at once.

Today is for worship. Today is for gratitude that changes attitude. For joy that staves off darkness.









When I am Unlovely: Letters to Aaron

You curl around my back like my parentheses. Surrounding my body, my whirling thoughts, my discontent with a bracket as if this period of my life is just a passing thing, something added to the sentence for emphasis only.

You have looked into my wounded eyes and seen clear down to my soul and as you reached down there with your passionate gaze, deep, you dropped a handful of comfort into the empty places. You love me no matter what, in spite of, at all times. I cannot understand it.
You weep sometimes because I am weeping. Other times you implore me to see the beauty that you see and to turn away from brokenness. Both I love. You I love.

It's been a long season of me in hiding, me in transition, me in the metamorphosis of suffering. Sometimes I wonder if you will like who I am after this transformation. There is a magnet in the yellow kitchen that says, "I am on the second leg of a return trip to being ME." You met me before I embarked on the journey. Fell in love with me with so many unknowns. As the shroud lifts from my past and I let you into the darkness there, you show no judgment, you don't despise, you look around those rooms and you cry for what is missing and what exists - the emptiness and the pain.

You hold my hand like I am a little child and lead me through memories like an instructor, teaching me to know myself when I would rather turn away. That is brave. You, my prince, knight in shining armor. Foreshadowing of Christ the Bridegroom.

I am stronger because of you. More poetic. I dance because of you, and sing, too. I gather up life, all of it, like a heap of golden leaves in autumn, overflowing armfuls. You hunt joy with me and you hand me these gifts of moments all wrapped up and ready to open like presents. Present. You help me see the presents in the present.

What would I do without you?

I hear this song, and sometimes it is about you, and sometimes it is about God. And isn't that Ephesians 5:25-27, for you are to me as Christ is to church, and to see you similar - two Bridegrooms, one earthy, tangible, and One who waits quietly.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

I can see the pain behind your eyes
It's been there for quite a while
I just wanna be the one to remind you what it is to smile
I would like to show you what true love can really do

Girl, let me love you
And I will love you
Until you learn to love yourself
Girl, let me love you
I know your trouble
Don't be afraid, girl, let me help
Girl, let me love you
A heart of numbness, gets brought to life
I'll take you there
~Let Me Love You, Ne-Yo~






*images from Pinterest

A work in progress

If you are alive today, you are a work in progress. Unfinished. Still being refined. Untangled. Strung with pearls.
Sometimes you have to table your doubts like the dust on a working machine. If your faith is still working, maybe now is not the time to clean the cobwebs, read the books about the doubts you have. Maybe you need to lean on just a few words, like I am today: "Lord, I believe. Help thou my disbelief." (Mark 9:24)
Maybe there is beauty you can see today. Maybe you can mark it down in your mind on that endless list of gifts, blessings sent down from the Father of Lights.
Maybe you are peering into the dark for the beauty. Maybe you are holding your head in your hands, a head full of ache, a soul of distress, on the foggy moorland, wandering through the peat bogs, searching for home. Maybe today is more Wuthering Heights than Anne of Green Gables. Maybe it is an Isaiah day, a Lamentations day, maybe you can't end the Psalm yet with the praise part.

He is already there. Where you are finished, where He is finished with your refinement. He stands at the end of time, at the beginning of time, unbounded and with eyes seeing everything start to finish. As you hold your aching heart tight, against the hurts bound to come today, remember, He is there to bind those wounds. If not today, if you walk today wounded and the Savior does not come with His healing today, there is a day coming. The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted. (Isaiah 30:26).

When you will see the tears in the precious bottle, when you will see your name engraved on the palms of the suffering Savior's hands -reach out and touch those holes from the nails He lay still to be pierced for you - and in the pages of His book of life, when you will be unbounded by the darkness of time and you will see. He is giving you beauty for ashes.


Five Minute Friday

Stepping in front of the lens

It was my 34th birthday. And all I wanted was a picture of the joy we shared as a family. With me in it. 

It wasn't so long ago I hid behind the camera, the family historian. I weigh more than I want to. My hair never seems to cooperate. My everyday clothes are yoga pants and a t-shirt. Who wants to have photos of a person like that?

My husband, my children, my parents, my siblings, my nieces and nephews, my friends. That's who. It wasn't until I was browsing through photos shortly after my cancer diagnosis in 2008 that I realized how few pictures there were of me with my children. And I wanted that to change. I wanted there to be a visual legacy of our relationship.

It's hard. I have to ask someone to take the photo. I have to ask Aaron to go fetch the camera during those spontaneous moments when the last thing you want to do is interrupt it to ask for a photo. But that's what you have to do when you're the photographer in the family, and you want to have photos of yourself.

There are many candids I'd never share here. Pictures of me in my pajamas. Pictures of my belly roll exposed because I'm wrestling with my children. Pictures of yoga and pictures of dancing and pictures of cooking and pictures of wild games and crazy family moments. Those are for my children and my family. Not social media. But the point is - they exist. They are in the photo albums and on the walls of my home and in the cockles of my heart.

Because the point is not perfection.  The point is I was here, I was with them, we did these things, and I want something to remember that by - for me and for them.

How about you? Are you the mom with a plethora of "selfies" on Facebook with your kids? Or are you the mom of whom there are few photos? Be brave, friend. Be courageous enough to be beautiful in all your forms and for the posterity of the camera. You won't regret it.


Happy birthday is my victory song

The back of my purple Survivor t-shirt from the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life says, "Happy birthday is our victory song." Surviving cancer has forever altered how I feel about aging. I will never be one of those women who is 29 forever. Every milestone reached is celebrated, because it could have been missed if my cancer hadn't been caught early, or my surgery had gone poorly, or my cancer wasn't sensitive to the treatments I received.

Everyday miracle. A birthday. Breakfast in bed from my 4 sweet children, who parade in with bagels and coffee on a cutting board tray, and Clementine slices arranged to make the numbers "34".


My morning devotions tell me that the time of singing has come. I am practicing living in the moment, being mindful of the moment, not letting my mind drag me off into the unknown future. This allows me to experience the joy of these verses, because in THIS moment, they are True, "See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come."


Perhaps this is the way you fight depression best: one battle, one day, one moment at a time. Stake your sword in the ground and claim this moment for joy. I can do that, one moment at a time. The insurmountable future is what I cannot face, as the rest of my life disappears like a timeline in the fog. Here, in the moment I can see, it is clear and bright and beautiful. I am 34. I have made it to 5 years post-diagnosis. Today is a victory, and I'm singing my freedom song right along with those who sing Happy Birthday over me.

Thank you, Lord, for today - this moment. Yes, the season of singing has come.


Joining community on the prompt, "Ordinary"