November 28, 2011

Wrestling to get Ready

Missed the "T" but a plate decorated at Canaan Christmas Party 2010

Winter always surprises me. It rushes in with a whir and retreats just as quickly. One day we will enjoy a cool but “no coat” kind of day, and the next the bitter north wind stings, seeps to the bones in our humid Southern air.

As winter takes its turn outside today, I sit warm in the place God has given me---because all is from him.

I don’t deserve this comfort with every convenience of the modern age. I have already put the second load of laundry in the washer. Soon the warm first load will tumble out of the dryer and I can fold up fresh, clean clothes washed in clean water with no effort from me. The dishwasher was filled last night and awaits an unloading to fill cupboards and drawers with plates and utensils that held a simple Sunday night supper after an afternoon of decorating for Christmas.

I sit here on this laptop writing words. Clicking away, I write down my thoughts, correcting my mistakes with a backstroke. Highlighting, rearranging, erasing, re-thinking what I will share today about a life that longs to bring glory to God but feels so small in this great big world.

I think of women who won’t wash clothes today because water is for drinking, and they won’t wash dishes because there isn’t food to fill them. This day I know I am rich, but my heart is thinking of the poor.

In a couple of weeks, I will leave winter behind to go to Haiti to celebrate Christmas with the kids at Canaan Community. I will load up with eleven other people to go to the poor, the orphaned and I try to prepare my heart because I know that I cannot give them enough or change the fact that they don’t have parents. I go realizing Haiti is a place that faces a long road to find a way out of its distinction as the most impoverished place in this hemisphere. How will a week spent with them help them? What is God up to? This question hangs on the edge of my heart as the days draw closer to our time to go.

So this morning, I started a packing list:

rubber gloves
work gloves
steno pad
pens
contact lens
***find the little Bible
shoes
flip-flops
***borrow a hiking backpack
***PREPARE YOUR HEART

I wonder if it is possible. Can I prepare my heart?

Yes and no.

I can pray and know that there is purpose in all things, even God sending me to children whose lives I can touch for a week. So amazing that He has chosen me to be a vessel of love to the poor even though I am rich. But can I really be prepared for what the reality is for these children that I will share life with for a little moment in time? I am preparing to be flexible and to be amazed.

Like Jesus, I must become poor. He left heavenly riches, laid glory down, to become poor, to be acquainted with our poverty of spirit, his image-bearers lost in the devastation of sin. Sin is the worst sort of poverty. Yet he did not sin, but he took the penalty of it---death for sins, life for sinners--the great exchange.

If I am to become poor before I go to these who have so little on this earth, then I must repent of my sin---for the anxiety I felt because one strand of lights on the Christmas tree went out, and the annoyance that the clothes are beeping to be folded while I sit and write. And I growled under my breath that I need to write another list for groceries----the kind of list those children in Haiti most likely will never have an opportunity to write. Jesus died for my lack of joy in the gifts of this life. Is this not the sin that weighs heavy this morning? The fact is that I am so easily irritated by the very obvious blessings of my life. And last week, I was "thanks-living?" Who do I think I am?

The enemy crouches at the door waiting for an opportunity to strike a blow. He hisses, “Who do you think you are--- you the American Dream Come True, serving the poor is to serve yourself. You do this so you can feel like you are doing something! What you do won’t really matter!”

I heard the accusation but I won’t bite. I don’t believe that lie---I don’t and I won't!

I am a sinner saved by grace. I was placed here in this time and this place for the purposes of God. Each day I seek to love him and give my life to his service. I am not here by chance. My circumstances were known before my first taste of earth air. I go to the poor not because I am rich, but because I am called. I pray I will be a blessing and that I will learn the lessons of the Teacher on my journey of preparation and on the mission. When I return, I trust I will have become more like the Savior who gave up rich to be poor for me.

I wrestle today to get ready.

He says, “Whom will I send?”

"Oh my Lord, send me.”

______________________________________________
Today I join Ann in Counting Graces:

Thank you Lord for:

- Laundry in machines
- Clean dishes
- Lists
- Opportunities to serve here and there
- For battles won in heavenly places
- For laying down your riches to take my sin
- For the incredible life that comes from knowing You
- For the works beforehand that I should walk in them










November 26, 2011

It Won't Be Long


We don't yet see things clearly. 

We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.

But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! 

We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, 

knowing him directly just as he knows us!

(I Corinthians 13:12 MSG)

November 25, 2011

A Year of Thanks-Living

Last year, I read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts when it released digitally. I realized as I read Ann’s journey to the heart of gratitude---in all things, that I had so poorly recognized what it means to “give thanks.”

I think there is a difference between being grateful and giving thanks. Grateful is good but it can be like a blanket that covers so much----leaving the heart with a warm fuzzy feeling but not getting to the heart of how life comes together in its parts.

It is easy to know you are blessed---especially in light the living conditions of most of the world’s population. If we do not know about that reality in this information age it is because we put our heads in the sand and refuse to look at the big world that has become so very small.

Most of those of us who live in America (and the first world) know how blessed we are and we say we are grateful.

But Ann encouraged her readers to slow down and write the blessings down, count them, to single out the gifts of God in a list by “sleuthing” out the blessings. This challenge has changed the way I make the bed, do the laundry, and clean a toilet. It has made me listen to the birds, hold a baby during a long nap, to notice the wind and the clouds, the color of the sun.

This has been a year of thanks-living that began with a book. I am so grateful that Ann was brave enough to live it, write it, and share it with the world.

Those who give thanks, live thanks.  (Paraphrasing Ann.)






November 21, 2011

Fringe-ships {Considering Friendship at Mid-life}

Sometimes we walk circles around each other. How has time changed us? Are we afraid to touch in the here and now because we might risk losing what has been?

Do you feel it like I have? These kids shooting up, then out from under our wings?

They come and go from us in their cars and in their lives. They are like waves, always coming and going and we run out to race after them. They hurry away from us out into the ocean of their lives.

And we live in our houses, our worlds, take care of the ones still on the shore but knowing we’ll chase them too----and we brace.

We look at our parents and glimpse the future and grasp for the now, but we can’t hold time.

We go to church, the one where we laid down our hearts, and we grasp to live in eternity because this can’t be all there is.

Could we be blind to what could be the greatest gift of our lives---the second act?
Are we afraid we will find pain that we cannot bear with ones whom we have shared so much? Could we know each other too well?

Forgive me for walking circles around you, my friends. For loving you from the outside and not bringing you into my life.

I’ve been lost over here, looking for how to live. I haven’t done much intentional living with you. My soul is heavy with regret.

This morning God let me know clearly that I am falling short when it comes to loving well those he has placed in my life for “such a time as this.”

How to love you? I don’t know. Love is there, as is respect, and need, and not least, desire to have your lives intersecting with mine.

I want you to know, that any blame lies with me, not you. I have asked the Lord to forgive, to turn me back to those who He has given me to share life, to love. To live with only treasured memories is not enough.

We have the now. We are not promised another day. We can’t hold back time but we live in it. I want to live with you into the future----its joys, its pain, and the uncertainty of what lies before us.

I am praying you want the same with me. This is not a desperate plea. It is a conviction from the deep part of me that you know and that part you don’t know. I can be a puzzle and I pull the shades and I fold up on myself.

Insecurity still dogs me, but I fight and win with my Savior battling. To settle for fringe-ships, friends on the edges of life, this is not God’s will.

I don’t know how this works out practically, but it is my heart today. I lay it out there and realize that you may scratch your head at my words, laugh, or maybe cry.

I know just as our lives change,so do friendships, and they should. If I have slipped away from you, will you let me slide back in? I don’t want to grow old with out your laughter and your tears, your wisdom and creativity, the beautiful women you are who have taught me so much from your examples, your gifting.

Let's not circle around each other anymore-----unless we are dancing.


November 19, 2011

He Hoed His Row

http://www.flickr.com/photos/calsidyrose/2966085308/sizes/m/in/photostream/
Several years ago, I went to my friend’s father’s funeral. I didn’t really know him. He was older when his son’s life path crossed with mine.

I knew a little about his life. I knew where he grew up over in the delta, what his career had been, and I knew how he had suffered physically during his last years on this earth. I also knew he was loved, and with his going home, he would be greatly missed.

The preacher officiated the funeral using a metaphor that he had taken from this man’s life. Like so many people of his generation who grew up in on the river-bottom farms of the South, my friend’s father took his turn at hoeing cotton.

I can’t quote the metaphor exactly but it went something like this, “He hoed his row. He hoed it clean. He hoed it to the end. Then he laid down his hoe and went home.”

Maybe some of us who were younger at the funeral didn’t really get it’s meaning because we had never hoed a row of cotton. My own grandfather told me when I was running around barefoot on his farm that I wouldn’t really understand what it was like to work until I had my turn with the hoe.

I told him to plant a field so I could understand. He never did. He was way over having anything to do with a cotton patch.

Of course, the preacher wasn’t eulogizing the man’s ability to clean weeds from a row in a field. He was talking about how the man had lived his life.

All who are in Christ have a row, a field, a portion that has been given to each of us to steward. When we get to the end of the row, we want to have accomplished our kingdom purposes. We want to be able to lay down the hoe and leave our plot on this side eternity ready for those who come behind us.

This week as I begin a week of gratitude I want to remember my grandparents. All but one has "laid down their hoe." How I thank God for them! I feel so blessed to have grown up a country girl with many of those days at my Grandma's house. I live in town now, but I can't drive by that clapboard house up on the road without thinking the word "home."

Memaw, Dandy in the back, Naomi, her Momma, and Mom
I particularly thankful for this picture made this past summer of my only living grandmother along with my mother, daughter, granddaughter, and me, of course. The portrait is the second of two five-generation photos I have been in. (The other was when my Annie was a baby.) How blessed to have had godly grandmothers. They were and continue to be great examples to me.

What a precious blessing to be Naomi’s Dandy (my grandmother name). I give her to God everyday and pray she becomes a mighty woman of God in her generation.

One generation shall praise Your works to another, 
And shall declare Your mighty acts.      
(Psalms 145:4 NASB)

__________________________________
Counting the graces with Ann:

Memories of:
- the smell of coffee and biscuits in the mornings at Grandma's
- needle pricks on knees when fitting a dress at Memaw's
- picking strawberries
- digging for worms out by the barn before going fishing
- Pepaw bent over placing the milkers on cows morning and evening
- Grandma singing, face toward heaven, all in love with Jesus









How Thankful?


Do you see what we've got? 

An unshakable kingdom! 

And do you see how thankful we must be?

 Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. 

For God is not an indifferent bystander.

He's actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won't quit until it's all cleansed. 

God himself is Fire!

Hebrews 12:28-29
The Message

Shopping with Bertha


                                                                                                                                                                         
Many of the people who saw me today probably thought, if even to themselves,
"I am glad that I don’t know her.”

This morning I drove to the big airport two hours away so my babies could fly to see their cousins without having to put a second mortgage on their house.

While in the city, I decided I would do a little Christmas shopping for my grandbaby’s first Christmas.

I found a giant Teddy Bear. The lady who checked me out at the store was concerned as to whether or not I could get it in the car. I told her, “No worries, I’ll put it in the front seat and belt her in.” She didn’t believe I would do it. I did.

Let’s just say, if you were ranking teddy bear sizes, you would have to add a few X’s before the word “Large.”

As we puttered around in the city, I learned her name is Bertha. Although she smiles nicely---all the time---Bertha did startle a lady I pulled up next to at the Williams Sonoma Outlet.

I laughed out loud, but I think the lady was thinking that I needed to grow up! I thought she needed to lighten up----the lady, not Bertha.

I love my friends but I wouldn’t ask them to leave at six in the morning to go on the airport drop-off-slash-shopping trip. Instead, I had a fun day shopping for deals with Bertha! She held my purse for me on the way home. Such a doll!

Five Minute Friday’s are good for me. They keep me from mulling over something I have written for days. There are times I need to be doing that--mulling over my words.But on Fridays, God always brings out little parts of the "real" me in my writing. A few weeks ago it was picking my baby up from school for the last time, another week it was an unexpected event at Bible Study with the ladies that I love, and then today, this silly side of me that I needto let out a little more often.

Thanks Lisa-Jo for the prompt. It truly is a blessing.



November 17, 2011

God called the Light Day

And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:3-5 ESV)
The sun has been painting the clouds pink during the warm afternoons we had this November. The exception was yesterday when the day slipped away behind sheets of rain. Cloud crystals have been picking up the reflection of the scarlet star shining. I looked up at cotton candy clouds as dusk fell, another day rolling away into night.

When I was a child, I always colored the sun yellow. But I noticed lately, that the sun is bright white---so bright I must have guessed it yellow when I was a child.

Sunrise comes earlier now that we turned back our clocks. I don’t usually get up to watch for it. I wish I were eager for the day to begin. Instead, I am so grateful the sun rises slowly and doesn't appear suddenly with a flip of a switch.

I love the gentle rhythm of day and night. That rhythm is a gift I have always known, but rarely acknowledge as such.

In the evenings the sun sits still while the earth turns to give the other side of the world a day in the sun. “And there was evening and there was morning,” another day. Showers of blessing, the sun never stops shining.

God could have done it another way. The Trinity chose to set the world rotating, spinning. Every person gets a dose of sunshine everyday. Though I realize it's either shorter or longer for those who live closer to the earth’s poles. The sun's kiss is long or short depending on time and place.

The darkness has it’s own beauty---- but I don’t want to live in the darkness. I have learned to rest in its embrace, to turn the light off in peace. I used to lie down with the past and the future on my mind. Both are out of my hands. I place them in the Hands of the One who holds all things together. I've learned to trust. And I fall asleep in the arms of Love.

Today I haven’t struggled with anything difficult, not yet. But I have lived days with the shades down, hiding in darkness. I didn’t want to be exposed in the light of day. God shone his light there and brought me hope. 

How very grateful I am for this day. I praise the Lord God who called it good. Only He knows if I will get another.

Someone out there is struggling in the midst of this day. Is it you? Can I encourage you while it is today? God loves you. You are beautiful in his sight. He will forgive your sins and heal you from the sins meant to hurt you.

Be encouraged you are not alone when you hide in darkness. He is there. God doesn’t need the light of the sun to see. He is the Light and in Him there is no darkness at all.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 NIV)
Will you believe God loves you, because He does. He proved it when Jesus came to be the Light, to show us the Way out of the darkness. He died and rose on the third day. Because of his gift, our days stretch into eternity.
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV) 
Don’t believe sin’s lies. Not today.

November 16, 2011

Like This Child

She sat among her toys for maybe two minutes. Scattered about were books, stuffed animals, a pretend phone, and the xylophone that her mother played with twenty-five years ago. The yellow mallet with its bulbous ends is taped to its string. The masking tape is brittle with time. I strike up and down the colorful scales and it makes her smile.

Then she was gone. The idea of staying on a pallet was mine not hers. She gets wedged under the end table and I laugh.

With all the effort a ten-month old could muster, she chased the dog who has a keen sense of just how near to let her come before dashing off. Naomi turns and takes off again after her fluffy white friend---a game of tag where Maggie is always it.

We read books and sing about spiders crawling up spouts and monkeys jumping on beds.

Naomi took food from the spoon in my hand. She picked the beans out of succotash from her tray. The corn gathered in her lap escaping her tiny grasp.

Soon she won’t have a bottle though she got a couple during the day. A sippy with apple juice occupied her for a few minutes after her nap.

The schedule that was her life just a few months ago is thrown to the side. Life is about moving from one thing to the next with no hesitation.

I leave her sight for a moment and she comes looking for me, whines a little and reaches up. As independent as she is, as she moves around my house, she needs me. She knows it and I know it.

I pick her up. She kisses mouth wide open. Spinning around in joy, I thank God for this child and we dance. I acknowledge the moment as a gift.

Jesus made clear that only those who become like little children would enter the kingdom of heaven.

I pray am like Naomi---that I don’t sit on a pallet playing with toys when there is world to explore.

I can't remember the last time I was trapped under the table. But more than once, I have gotten myself into dead end places where I got stuck, needed help to get out. My Savior came and pulled me out to chase after wonders.

The God of the Universe sings over me. Sometimes I need the filling of a spoon feeding. Other times, He puts food out for me the pick up for myself. He offers it up and sometimes I take it in, some falls away. I miss the mark.

I am never out of His sight. When I whine wondering, reaching up, I am lifted. We spin around rejoice. And practice for the big dance that is coming.

"What's next, Father?" May my heart be like this child I have watched all day. Let me move there with no hesitation.

For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, "I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me.   (Matthew 18:2-5 MSG)

November 13, 2011

Teach Us to Pray

The prayer broke my heart open, softened it to the sweetness of a moment with others in the Presence of God.

It had been a very long time since I said aloud the Lord's Prayer.

Every Sunday I prayed this prayer in the little church where Jesus found me.

Today I revisit it in a poem of sorts and I am filled again with awe at the opportunity God has given me to enter into His holy Presence. So incredible to know I speak to the One whose words created this world. He hears from heaven.

Words are powerful.

Forty years after receiving God’s gift of grace, the truth that I am one of his children amazes me.

Still, I ask myself, "How often do I take for granted the glorious privilege to pray?"

Our prayers are so precious to God that he keeps them in a bowl. Like incense they fill his nostrils with a sweet scent of his children. (Maybe our prayers smell like babies or little boys after playing outside in the yard, or clothes dried in the sun.)

They are ever before him. He will answer in His perfect time. No prayer is wasted, only treasured.

I needed to be reminded of this prayer. It took me by surprise as I prayed in a circle of women when the leader ended with our reciting together the prayer. The prayer our Father hears over and over, the bowl filling. In every tongue, from every nation, His holy ears never tire from hearing the prayer Jesus taught the disciples.

In the beautiful rhythm I remembered from my youth, we began… “ Our Father…”


(Our Father which art in heaven) 
You made us,
every person formed, 
countless as the stars
those who have breathed 
earth's air,
countless those birthed from womb
into your Presence, 
into heaven.
All reflecting your image.

(Hallowed be Thy Name)
Who is like You?
I AM THAT I AM.
Name above all names.
Mysterious Three in One
Who spoke
and it was, and it is, and forever will be.

(Thy kingdom come,) 
Here now, 
and soon there.
The Bride readies,
Awaits the trumpet.
Ready to rise.

(Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in Heaven.)
Until then, we serve.
We go to the world,
take the gospel, 
bring hope to the dying.
Shine.

(Give us our daily bread)
Open hands receive
manna for this day,
just enough and no more.
The excess rots 
and we decay.

Nourished souls eat your Word.
Bread alone,
and we grumble,
wandering, circling
in the wilderness.

(Forgive us our debts)
Jesus suffering Savior,
straps upon His back
striped wounds, 
His pain brought 
healing.
Upon a tree,
The Sinless died for sinners.

(As we forgive our debtors.)
Empowered, required,
seventy times seven
to extend
forgiveness.
For we have been forgiven much
at great cost
Holy blood spilled
and we are pardoned.

(And lead us not into temptation)
The enemy crouches.
So common these temptations.
We hardly see the way of escape 
until we are snared.
Ready hearts, ready minds 
wield Holy Words
against the tempter.
We battle
and overcome.

(But deliver us from evil)
God is for us.
You are our Deliverer.
Mighty Right Hand
reaches down
rescues.
We sing the victor’s song.
Everlasting joy
upon our heads.

All this, Father.
All this, according to your will.
(For Thine is the 
Kingdom,
And the Power
And the Glory
Forever.)
Amen.

_____________________________________________
Counting the graces with Ann:
- a cooking lesson for sweet Alli
- wind in pines, sounds like the ocean
- lunch with my forever friend, my twin
- a call to Momma from the boy in college
- Naomi called me "Dandy"

November 11, 2011

Unexpected Question, Unexpected Tears



It was the last day of a nine-week Bible Study. I saw her slip in late---sit back away from the other ladies in the class. A few minutes pass and the friend who invited her to come and join us sat down beside her.

She was introduced to us weeks ago as being shy. She had lived here in our community for a year and was still adjusting. Her smile was cautious, her countenance beautiful. In a room of pale skinned ladies, this African beauty could not easily be missed.

I was hoping we could make her feel at home when she was so very far from home.

She spoke not a word for all the weeks until Tuesday.

The discussion surrounded the parable of the prodigal son and how we have all squandered something---money, relationships, and spiritual blessings.

I confessed: I have squandered forgiveness. I haven’t taken it seriously enough. After all that Jesus did for me to forgive my sins, to give me life, I barely make an attempt at forgiveness until I have rolled around in unforgiveness like a prodigal working in a pig pen.

An unexpected hand rose from the back to join the conversation--- a beautiful dark hand with a white palm. Josephine asked, “How?” How could she forgive those who hurt and insult her, even as every day she tries to be good and nice? Kind. Her English is thick with her African accent.

So many unexpected tears from the shy one washed over her beautiful face.

We gathered and laid our pale hands upon this one we barely knew. We pray she can forgive. That the pain will stop. That she will find a home here an ocean and more away from her African home.

November 10, 2011

Four Things





Sunrise-Sky_63315-480x360
Photo source

The early morning sky is marked by a contrail of a jet airliner passing overhead. The roar of its engines follows. I lay back on the concrete patio---stationary, while the earth spins in the middle of vast universe. The sliver of silver moves quickly across the sky with its white cloudy tail trailing behind. Soon the plane will be out of site. I wonder where it will land.

Eleven years have passed so very quickly. The years race by like the plane in the sky.

Memories surface to the time when I had it all. My husband was a successful pediatrician in a small town, well loved and respected. I had three beautiful healthy children, the older two homeschooled while the little one made messes all over our big house on the cul-de-sac.

My life was full. I had taken incredible opportunities to serve God on mission trips to Cuba, served on the board of a crisis pregnancy center, and had a group of really close friends with whom I shared a church and social life, friendships that were deep and real.

But then there was the past. As much as the present was good and beautiful, the past kept creeping in on me.

One morning, I was studying God’s Word when the Spirit urged me, “Let’s take care of the past. It is time to bring to the Light the things you have shoved to the darkness.”

My reply, “No, thank you.”

I was serious. And I did pray, “Lord, You are Sovereign. It isn’t necessary to deal with the past. You know it so you deal with it. I will let you have it. I am moving on.”

I didn’t get far. God’s ways are not our ways. His plan was to redeem the brokenness, the pain, the fear, the need to control. I would not let Him have those things. I would not give up who I really was----the me that no one else knew, the me that I lived with everyday.

For months I struggled to keep the dark things in the dark, but they began to roll over and over in mind. Eventually, they took over and I found myself unable to mother, to sleep or to eat. Having it all would not hold me together. I fell apart.

I turned back to God at His prompting on a beautiful September day just over eleven years ago. I was in a lock-down unit of a mental health facility. My diagnosis: severe clinical depression. God met me in the darkness and brought all to the Light.

Even with an assurance of healing, I had to pick up the pieces to see if I could put my life back together. Where would I start?

When I got up eleven years ago and walked back into my house, time was slow. I couldn’t drive for a while because of medications. Someone had to take me an hour to my counseling sessions. My preschooler went to the babysitter even though his Momma was at home. My kids were in school.

I was healed and being healed. Moment by moment.

I focused on four things:

Everyday I would eat. For me, the menu was coconut yogurt, a banana, and a turkey sandwich until my appetite was restored.

Everyday I would spend time with God in his Word. I wrote in a journal about what God was teaching me. I started with the book of Job.

Everyday I would exercise. I began first with a stroll and then more of a power walk. Eventually I would run.

Everyday I would intentionally talk to someone. I initiated the encounter. This was usually over the phone, but sometimes included a visit with a friend.

I was going to the doctor and seeing a godly counselor, but these four things were the baby steps that got my life moving again.

I made my bed instead of getting in it. I dressed for the day no matter if I was going out. I went through the motions and my heart joined me in the desire to do those things. My open heart believed that God loved me and wanted good things for me---simple things like food, sleep, fresh air and people to share my life.

As quickly as I lose sight of the silver glint of the airplane, eleven years have passed and disappeared into the history of my life. 

I have landed in this time and place to live on the other side of healing. It is a gift of grace that has let me LIVE. My story is a life redeemed by the God of Love who has blessed me more than I could ever dreamed or imagined.

Time still races like that plane. I no longer have to rely on the short list of four things to get me moving. I move because He allows me to awaken to live another day. 

God trusted me with four things, so that he could give me many things. That was His plan all along.

My journey through depression humbled me but did not humiliate me. Still, it is not always easy to live life on the flyway. I gave God my past and I give Him my future.

The contrail marks the sky. And I rise to live in the now. 

November 7, 2011

From the Deepest Well, the Way Up is Up

I awakened in my friend’s guestroom. I say I awakened, but sleep avoided me---as did hunger, and tears, and laughter. My body barely held together, a thin shell of the former me.

My bags were packed. I prepared to leave on a trip of resignation--resigned to the fact that I was going away to never come back.

It didn’t matter anyway. The person I once knew, the one who could function in the world, I had lost. She was somewhere, strewn pieces here and there, all along the path of life. She was gone---never to be found.

Opening the door to leave, a bird swooped into the house. Disoriented, it finally lit high on the two-story foyer sill.

My journey was delayed with finding a ladder, a boy to climb it, and a blanket to throw over the bird. It would be free to fly again in the open air, the brilliant blue of a September sky.

Free bird.

I was headed to lock-down.

We arrived at our destination six hours from home. Walking through heavy metal doors, I was presented to my keepers. Arms enfolded me as good-byes were said. The friends I had shared so much life with walked away from me and my misery.

I couldn't blame them. I would have walked too, but the paths I had taken were dead ends. They loved me enough to leave me there, the shadow of the friend they once knew.

The Puritan prayer The Valley of Vision says, “the way down is the way up,” but for me on that day, the way up was up. Could I have been any lower?

I had trudged right past humility. I dove deep into a well of despair. The darkness would swallow me if I didn't get up. I didn’t know if I could---or if I wanted to.

The doors clanged shut. I sat dazed on a vinyl-cushioned bench near the nurse’s station. The pay phone on the wall above me rang occasionally. I didn’t pick it up.

I observed bedraggled people making their way past me. For hours I sat alone amongst strangers.

My thoughts raced:

“I am not supposed to be here.”

“Where are my children?”

“I am not like these people.”

“They don’t understand where they have left me.”

“I hate this place. This is hopeless.”

Anger boiled ready to spew. I had felt nothing for days upon days. Anger, hot and alive, lept from me; it energized me to fight. I pulled out the silver-tongued sword to lash out at those who loved me.

I swung sharp at my dearest friend, “Why did you leave me in this hell hole?” I was breaking her heart. I didn’t care. She was the first that would feel the heat of my anger. I singed the heart of my sweet friend. 

The truth was:

I was supposed to be there.

My children needed a mother who was healed---who could feed them, tuck them in, read them books.

I was just like those people.

The place they left me was the place I would find healing.

The place I hated was a wilderness place with the “door of hope.”

The anger flames were used of God. He is a Consuming Fire. Anger transformed to hope.

The Spirit filled the empty shell with newness of life. 

“….the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine…” (The Valley of Vision)

The sun was shining the day I heard the small Voice from the Big God.

A gentle blowing, "Psalm 91."

It was morning when I read the healing song. The song reverberated in the recesses of the deep well. Sheltered under the Shadow. Freed from the snare. Guarded by angels. Rescued. God sent his Word and healed me.

From the deep darkness, I bowed down and looked up. I found hope in the song.

The Morning Star shone into my abyss.

Anatomy of a Black Hole
I got up
Climbed up
Owned up
Gave up

pride

anger

control.

Free bird.
I swooped up
into the blue
September sky.

I looked up.
The Morning Star
had never
given up.

He

lifted up

filled up

sealed up.

No longer
tied up.
I was freed up.
Wounds wrapped up 
in grace.

From the deepest well, the way up is up.



Today, I share a small part of a larger story. It is my story of hope. If you would like to read more about the friends that walked beside me through my journey of depression you can read more about their sacrifices for me here.

For those who identify with my story:
There is a Door of Hope. His name is Jesus. Please do not misunderstand, I do not believe that "lock-down"is the answer for everyone suffering with depression. God used a hospital in my life, but it was not the "thing" that brought my healing. It is part of my story of redemption. God brought my healing when I turned to Him to receive it. 

If you know someone who is in the dark, help them find Him. Do what you can. 
Sometimes, it means taking them to someone who can better help them find their path to healing. 

__________________________________________
Counting the graces with Ann:
-eleven years of healing (grace upon grace)
-being called God's child
-God's lavish love 
-for being humbled but not humiliated
-for remembering grace-wrapped wounds healed