The Chasm Between

There’s nothing for me in the in-between.

Pick a side, cuz that chasm falls deep.

Can’t climb out, no second chances,

A black hole pit, a temporary release…

That burns the bridge over the in-between.

There’s nothing for me in the in-between

3 am thoughts

Have you ever took up your life, forgone the seatbelt and purposely crashed into a wall?

Metaphorically speaking. …I believe we all have at times.

You see, unwise decisions and habitual sin lead to devastation.

Injury.

Death.

And, I have done it myself, speeding along at my will, wrecking my life, and all the while God is watching and allowing me to be wounded by my carelessness.

For example, I’m a writer, and I have many pieces that I’ve written that have not been shared. Many are too personal and many are simply waiting to be finished. Many are finished and the timing isn’t right.

Whatever the reason, when I read over them, I am remembering the WHY of why I wrote them. I can see them for what they are, as well. I know when they are ready and when they need work. I know when, let’s be honest, the written work is not very good. The intention and labor behind it was good, but the body needs a lot of work.

My whole point here is that God knows us and knows when we need work. He knows, probably like a writer too,  that even the best piece can be better. But,  at some point, the piece is just ready, and the refining will come along the way.

And I, in my humanity, can’t wrap my brain around this. I can’t comprehend how I could possibly be ready to serve him and so fallen, so imperfect and so undeserving of his attentions.

Especially, knowing that nothing is hidden from God and that on my own, my righteousness is like dirty rags…. God knows this about me, you, for we are all a people naturally bent towards rebellion.

Even more so…..

God knows us and our capacity to forget him.

Can you imagine? What if you had a spouse, and you knew that your spouse’s natural tendency was to forget you? What if you caught your spouse cheating, but it didn’t shock you because you knew it would happen?

But, what if you still loved your spouse anyway? What if you let it go at his or her own detriment, knowing all the while the damage they would do, but vowed  to wait for their return, anyway?

Wouldn’t we question the sanity of the faithful spouse I just depicted?  Yet, that is exactly what God is like. He is our faithful bridegroom.

We deserve divorce papers, but instead, he draws us into his will

We deserve separation, but instead he bridges the gap between heaven and hell with his own body, bent and broken on the cross for his glory and for our benefit

Yet, we continue to turn away from him;  we have little indiscretions, big ones, and sometimes, we plainly forget Him.

Yet, there he is..still waiting, still faithful, and still loving us without wanting to shame us, beating us down with “I told you so’s” or making us atone for idolatry because Jesus….

Because Jesus……who left his glory in heaven to walk the roads of humanity and than later… to die for us all, even those of us who spit upon his brow with our total rebelllion.  He embodies true mercy.

True mercy….

I don’t know about you, but I can’t fathom that. I don’t want to most of the time. True mercy is scandalous and makes us want to say  “he doesn’t deserve it! She doesn’t deserve it.”

But,

mercy doesn’t accuse and it doesn’t follow human moral codes of justice.

Instead, it comes, undeserving and so beautiful…and

It’s for those of us, just like me and like you ….who are violently driving themselves towards their death, ready to wreck against an iron wall upon our own violation.

I see that ….

God has allowed me to be the driver to my own death. I see now that He didn’t swoop down to pull me out at certain times.

And, in light of this, I can see that God allowing me to wreck myself is one of the best gifts he has given me.

Because only in the midst of my deep forgetfulness, can I remember how MUCH I need the wonderfulness of his mercy.

God, may your mercies work miracles through me….

-A

Cancer Free

****I wrote this in February of 2017, the day Natalie received her official cancer free diagnosis.  But, this time two years ago was when Natalie was first diagnosed with cancer, and I’ve asked her mom’s permission to share this story, from my own perspective. I hope you read it…and celebrate Natalie’s beautifully victorious life with me.**** 

I remember it now.

Vividly.

The phone calls came, one after the other.

“Hey, I told Rhonda about the lump on Nat’s tummy, and she said we need to go to the doctor right away.”

“They think it’s a tumor. She will have a biopsy done today.”

“Natalie has cancer….they are hurrying to get us admitted to St Jude’s.”

I didn’t want to believe it; I didn’t want to move. I wanted to stand, frozen in time, pretending that this wasn’t happening to our closest friends.

But it was happening, and so I went to support our friends.

I stayed in the hospital for hours to play guitar for Natalie.IMG_0817

And then, we heard the treatment plan estimate.

Two years!

So, we did what we could. We brought food; we helped pack; we made a care basket for the road. We made a list of how we would help look after their house…

And then, we hugged.

We said goodbye

(Here we are, minutes before they walked out the door.)

All in just TWO days.

As I left their house, I began to weep ugly, big, fat, rolling tears.  I was devastated, scared, and most of all, angry!

I wish I could say I was angry over the injustice and brutality of cancer, especially, childhood cancer.

That would be normal and unselfish and…..righteous, even.

But, at the time, all I could think about was how our life would be forever changed. This cancer was taking away our best friends, leaving us on the outside, in a completely different world, watching, helpless, out of control….

Yet, here I was, angry that our weekly coffee dates were gone. There would be no more last-minute dinner invites. Our weekly habit of putting together our leftovers and other random foods (the extreme opposite of formal dinner parties) would not be resumed.

(In actuality, there would be more dinners.)

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I was angry that my own daughter would lose a very special presence in her life. Natalie, you see, is the closest thing to a sister Isabela has. How could we bring her through this? How could we show her hope in the face of this destructive and life-threatening cancer?IMG_8335IMG_8299IMG_3643IMG_0268

I was angry and there was nothing I could do to save the day….

Because, that’s what I do, you know? I’m that friend who swoops in, brings food, cleans your house, helps you move, takes you to the airport at 3 a.m., watches your kiddos, helps wherever and however  I can. I am there, and I want to be there for my friends.

But this time I couldn’t. There was absolutely nothing I could do but pray, wait, pray, wait, pray wait, pray wait and OH, how hard that is for a broken and fallen person, such that I am.

So, with shaking hands and faith,  I pulled over into the parking lot of a mall and I wept.

Loudly …

I felt like I had experienced a death, yet I knew even in that moment, it wasn’t about me at all.

Still, I wept.

wept selfishly at how everything would change for us, yet I knew that this was the least of things to weep over.

Oh, how I wept.

wept bitterly over the loss of our strongest support system. Yet, I knew that in reality, they were the ones losing their support systems, their home, their community and quite possibly, their daughter…

Yet, however self-consumed I was, I never said a word. I have never shared those feelings about that day. Part of it was shame – man, I felt guilty – but mostly, it was because it wasn’t a story that needed to be shared, from me, at the time. It wasn’t my right, it wasn’t my priority, and most importantly, it wasn’t my truth.

Somehow, even in my anger, even in my grief, I knew this.

It wasn’t about me.

It was about them.

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It was about Natalie, her family and doing everything we could to be positive, even if we were scared out of our minds. It was about sending small gift packages and funny memes, even when we were depressed and questioning God’s providence.

It was about always respecting and valuing their faith and never-ceasing to share scriptures of hope with them. Even when hopelessness was raging inside me so much so that all I could hear was the rushing winds of fear and the howling screeches of anxiety….I could NOT give in. I needed to be strong.

And, in the dark night of my anger,  I realized I could not stay. I could not live there. That knowledge gave me gumption. It gave me the ability to speak back to the storm around me.

You know, looking back, I’m glad I stopped to weep over my selfish concerns. I’m thankful that I got it all out, then and there. I needed to take a few minutes to release my fears over the situation and even the ones pointed at myself, the “what if I won’t know what to say,” and the “what if I won’t know how to be a good friend through it all” kind of things…

I needed to release it so I could see clearly. So, I could stand on the other side of fear, and say, ” No! I will NOT  hide out. I will not be so distracted by my day-to-day that they will have to go through this alone. I will be a constant. I will listen. I will supplement fear with faith. I will pad frustration with gentleness. I will finish negativity with reminders of blessings and truths,  however I can.”

Sitting in that car, I calmed down and made an internal vow to not just encourage my friend, Natalie’s mom, to be strong. But, I also made a vow that I would stay strong too, even if I had to fake it….

My friends, I have truly  failed at a lot of things; I have truly failed a lot of people.

But, this is one thing I might have done good on.

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Still, I do have regrets. 

I wish I had visited more. I wish I had quit my job so I had the freedom to leave and give Natalie’s mom a break when she needed it most (this is a big one).  I wish I had sent more care packages. I wish I had texted more often. I wish I had prayed more; I wish I had cleaned her house more while they were gone.

But most of all…I wished I had loved Natalie more. I wished I had hugged her more. I wished I had enjoyed her laughter and freedom to just be who she was more.unnamed

(Beautiful Natalie, home from St Jude’s)

I wished I had given more attention to her, I wished I had talked to her more. I felt so ashamed when I thought of the type of friend I was to my own best friend’s daughter.

I felt intense regret for not playing with her more or playing the guitar for her more, all day if she wanted……

This precious and beautiful life, our Natalie. So full of joy and perfection, our Natalie.

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This is my greatest regret…..

But yet, there is hope, you see. Read on…

Today, I received a phone call from Natalie’s mom. I had been waiting all morning for this phone call; I knew it was the day of her scan. When the phone finally rang, I ran around the house, desperately searching for my phone, answering it when I heard it.

This silence was tinged with anticipation, and in a split second, I thought “No, please do not let this be the silence of mourning.” But, her voice broke through the tension, choked with tears, saying, “ She is cancer free, Natalie is cancer free!”

I don’t remember what I said. I’m quite certain there were no real words spoken, anyway. Whatever it was, it was lovely, shattering the darkness with one loud, beautiful and deafening crash!

It’s over!

It’s finally over! This time, I can cry tears of joy, defiant joy! No more death, no more disease, no more cancer, fear, anxiety and no more insidious and ruthless cancer lurking behind us!  Life has won today! Life has won; Natalie has won; God has won and hope has returned. Thank you, God. 

Thank you, God.

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(cancer-free and home-coming party)

-A.

“Why do we doubt the Lord of the seas

Who has parted its waves; made a way from the enemy!

Why do we doubt the God of miracles

Who has raised the dead, created the world!

From dust, He made flesh

From death, He raises LIFE

His works never stop

His word stands through time….”

Hosea 13, “God in a Box”

day 18 response to #shereadstruth Hosea devotional

 

I’ve put You high

in unseen places.

 

A shelf with a box has Your name on it.

 

Shall I get You down in emergencies?

Shall I place You next to the band-aids?

 

Bandage of the soul and spirit, You are

In the box, on the shelf, placed high and

just out of reach.

 

But You, You belong on my tongue.

And You, You belong at my dinner table.

And You, You belong on my door frames,

Strong and ever-ready, purposed for entry.

 

Yes, You, You belong in the mundane moments,

In the everyday, spilling into seeds of eternity sown in fertile ground.

 

Yet, You, You’ve been reduced to emergencies,

There, on that shelf, in that box, placed just out of reach.

 

And so I take You down and I place you higher,

I take You down and I place you higher.

In my heart, in that darkest space, under my ribcage,

I place Your light, let it shine, Glory shine!

 

For you, You are Yahweh come,

The only SAVIOR that exists ,

There is no other One but You….

 

Breaking out of the box

Breaking into my heart

Breaking light into dark

Your glory can’t be contained.

Hosea 11

Sow in me righteousness,

Reap in me steadfast love,

Break in me fallowed land

 

It is time to seek You, Lord…

 

Come like the rain,

Your goodness pouring down.

 

For though I run, scattered in sin,

You do not lose me.

 

Your faithfulness reels me in,

Your fences protect my life

The boundaries of Your mercy secure me,

Your blood brings me into Your family.

 

O tender love of God,

It is time to seek Your face.

Even the Wanderer… A Hosea Response

And a wanderer was I,
Living in a house of rebellion
                                         Reclining on furniture of shame,
                                   Snuggling with blankets of humiliation,
                                                                And
                                              Sleeping in chains of sin
Let the sun come up
And shine on me,
For this darkness needs light….
I am the prodigal son
I am the prodigal daughter
But the Lord loves even the wanderer
But the Lord loves even the wanderer
So far away was I
But drawn near to the Messiah
By the blood of Christ
You beckon me to my true home
And
Father, I’m coming, I’m running back
Oh Let the sun come up, 
And shine on me
For this darkness needs light
I am the prodigal son
I am the prodigal daughter
But the Lord loves even the wanderer
But the Lord loves even the wanderer
It’s the great exchange:
My rebellion for contrition
My disobedience for repentance
My sins forgiven,
My humiliation forgotten!
My heart, for Your kingdom
Your plans for my own
My life for your instrument
My wandering for Your home…
For I am the prodigal son
I am the prodigal daughter
And
I’m coming, I’m running back
HOME.

Unedited: “The Sower of the Wind.”

After work, I’ll probably be annoyed that I posted this morning’s journal entry without bothering to edit it. I am compelled  to share this in its raw form though…and I hope even there, that it resonates with someone.
DAY 11, #Shereadstruth devotional
“They sow the wind and shall reap the whirlwind.”
Hosea 8:7
 Here I am, more often than not. Sowing the wind. Plowing through air, planting seeds of air, weeding seeds of air, and, sweating,  toiling and struggling, thinking I am sincere, but forgetting something.
 The WIND is an immovable force of nature,  and here I am sowing into her with abandon and all-intention, putting myself in harms way ….
 IN the face of God, his assurance and hope, his wisdom and beckoning call, I fail, time and time again.
 I try to construct my own safety nets. I run to the sight of false hope, disguised as eternity when in reality they are temporary distractions. I hire out for myself lovers, paying them to fill the void within me, when I should be running and skipping back to the cross, where the stripes of Jesus paid everything in my name….
 And, as I do so, my appetite for destruction grows to such an extent that I began to operate from what I need instead of what I’ve already received. I began to operate as a child of a temporary, fading world instead of a child of an eternal, expanding Kingdom.
 Until I see I’m standing in the path of the whirlwind, her winds turning and funneling before me, swelling and growing and whistling with danger.  And then, I look at my sweaty hands, my calloused palms and remember the LORD.
 And in the light of repentance, I see that I’ve placed my hope in the wrong things. I see that I’ve lived so much out of my own strength until I became the mini-little g- god in my own world. Controlling, stabilizing, manipulating, shopping, laboring at the plow trying to produce security in this fallen world , sowing the wind, and working so hard to fight against the pain in this world that looms like a big dark shadow over me.
 But, at the feet of Jesus, my eyes are opened and I’m so ashamed of what I’ve brought to the throne of grace that I began to fall away. And, as I kneel, bits and pieces of my broken heart, my sinful flesh began to fall and I lay before him in jagged fragments; discarded pottery at the foot of the LORD, I am….weeping and ashamed and SO wrecked before Him because NOW I can finally see and it’s not good folks.
 It’s not good. One glimpse into His glory and I break like glass before His face. I can’t handle all that grace, all that mercy , all that FIRE of truth burning before me. So, I break and then I wait for his hand to sweep me away or to do something with all these pieces that are SO shattered it would require divine patience to mend.
 Then, like a warm oil, I feel His hands. The hands of JESUS, who came for sick, broken people like me. The hand of Jesus, with scars from nails driven in, who know how to minister to pain. The hands of Jesus, who are imprinted with hope and mercy for the undeserving.
 He slowly begins to piece me together, taking choice pieces and leaving out others. Even in the remaking, I do not fear. Even in the discomfort, I do not shy away. For I am in the builder’s hands now and He knows what He is doing. And when all that is usable is done, he sanctifies me for his bidding, filling every empty part with the Spirit of the Living God; tracing over every seamed together piece with fingers readied to forever HEAL..
 And when I say, “Lord, look at what I’ve done! Look at who’ve I’ve been! I am not worthy to be YOURS”… He said I’ve made you worthy. 
 And when I say, “But Lord, my flesh is sinful; I am not holy!” He says, I’ve made you holy!
 And what I say, “But Lord, who am I to be with you? ” He says, YOU are mine.
 And before me, he shows me a cross. He shows me everything I’ve done, the sin I’ve confessed and the secret shames I’ve hidden. He shows me every.single.sin nailed to that cross, and I recoil back in shame as I SEE the face of my sin, JESUS, covered with my shame and everything I’ve ever done…
 You see, even though every bible book has told me,  even though I already knew, I realized I didn’t really KNOW.
 But this isn’t the end because the LORD doesn’t’ leave us in grief, to agonize over what JESUS did for us. You See, this is a gift meant to be received with JOY!
 And as He shows me that NOW, because of THIS, I am free, I am accepted , sanctified and that the beautiful process of remaking was because of JESUS’s work at the cross…
As He shows me that I was able to break apart before him and experience his tender hands of grace….
As He sings his song of love over me…As He rejoices over my deliverance with me …
 I weep and sing and dance, simultaneously experiencing joy and agony because this is what it means to be a child of God…
 Being so full of JOY that you shine like the sun, but so in agony over the destruction of sin that you burn for righteousness; this is my heritage.
 And I, the sower of the wind, am now the sower of righteousness now. Planting seeds of hope and eternity, I labor without exhaustion for the LORD is REST for my soul.
 Indeed.
 Amen.

Change

A few months ago, or maybe many months ago, I was asked to do the Wednesday night service teaching over Genesis 34:1-36:43

This is an tiny excerpt, my conclusion, and my call to allow change to seep into our souls.

  • GOD can bring good out of EVIL.
  • God is able to use the evil that people do, bringing about positive results.
  • God’s has the ability to overcome any obstacle; His covenant will always advance
  • God cannot be bought and his favors are not for sale. Instead, He has purchased our brokeness and our stench of death and mended us! With his blood, He has set the righteousness of His life in us, and he does not even charge us!
  • God is the ultimate changer: life-changer, heart-changer, emancipator King, our God.
  • We cannot pay him or ever afford to pay him. No amount of money in the entire universe would be enough to afford His mercies. We can only give him tokens of love and worship him for who HE is to us and for us.
AND
  • WE can change by renewing our minds and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us, transforming our attitudes, leading with love, not holding God to our humanistic expectations, not trying to fit God into our systems of accountability, and by not treating Him as a mercenary providing favors that can be bought.
  • We CAN change because the Holy Spirit strengthens us with grace! We can change because we are laid down to death with Christ and we are crucified with Him. We live raised to life and seated  with Christ! And, if our God is for us, nothing can stand against us, in between us or separate us!  The accuser cannot condemn because GOD is the judge and He, by  dying for us, paid our debts and won the victory over death’s grip! We out of spiritual debt and  get to thank GOD forever for his abundant mercies.
  • We can change, because we are together in this! I may be one of a few or many who do not have blood family near. You guys are my family. We are a spiritual , covenant, broken family living in a broken world, but we are bound together by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and united in faith, love, worship and the precious blood of Christ.
 God….He does not demand instant perfection. And Hallelujah! For He leads us little by little, making inroads of our self-centeredness and doing his work in our lives one step at at a time.

For us…sometimes the best word we can give to the Lord is “thank you.” Thank you Lord!

 

Healing In Our House, an appeal for Grace

Release grace upon my tongue

Welling up in me

Kindness and tenderness

Be upon me

 
In my home

Manifest

Your goodness

Your gentleness

Through me

 
Release wisdom upon my heart

Curating me

Patience and understanding

Be upon me
 

In my home

Manifest

Your goodness

Your gentleness

Through me


Release yielding in my spirit

Mercy filling me

Peace and humility

Be upon me

 
In my home

Manifest

Your goodness

Your gentleness

Through me
 

Under God,

May we repair, restore,

Mend our brokeness

Every injury- tended

Every failure-  forgiven

Every appeal-  in compassion

Til there is healing in our house.

I am MORE (Poetry): Lessons in Vulnerability, part 2

I am more than my body,
More than my curves.
I am more than my smile,
My looks, my clothes.
I am not a trophy,
Or a symbol of your best.
I’m no prize or property,
No object to cherish.
FOR,
Underneath my clothes,
Underneath my skin,
Underneath my bones,
This is where my beauty lives.
Tell me,
Who has formed the depths of my soul?
Who has fashioned and woven my bones?
Who has touched with their hands
The passion in my veins,
Or seen grace strumming grace across my heart strings?
IF
You have eyes in your head,
You may want to look deep.
Or you will miss out on seeing,
The real beauty in me.