To Embrace the Turning

I found myself feeling remorseful this morning as I read the verses staring up at me. It was one of those times when my Bible randomly fell open in my lap, exposing my heart with the strength of the letters dancing before my eyes. Like a mixture of raindrops and hailstones, the words coursed and bounced through the crevices of my soul, seeping into its depths with a sensation that was simultaneously refreshing and stinging.

It’s no secret that I have been fighting against the turning of the seasons this year more than ever before. Like a defiant toddler, I’ve been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the beauty of autumn days. I’ve been throwing such a fit, that I’ve denied the beauty of the colorful surroundings and the crisp, starry nights staring me in the face. Stubbornly digging in my heels, I’ve tenaciously clung to the residual signs of summer, grasping for the last vestiges of sunshine and warmth which continue to slip faster and faster through my clutching hands.

And I’ve been irritated by it all. Irritated because I feel gypped out of summer. The days were far too cold, too rainy, too overcast, too short-lived for one so addicted to the sun.

In short, I’ve been facing the approach of what’s before me with a longing for what lies behind.

By looking back to hold onto and hold out for more of the same, I’ve neglected to enjoy what lies before me this day. I’ve failed to gasp in wonder at the debut of autumn’s unveiling, closing my eyes against the buttery yellows, stunning reds, and creamy tans making their way across the treeline. The crunching of fallen leaves has frustrated me rather than issued an invitation to dive into their piling depths with childlike abandon. Instead of being soothed by season’s changing, reminding me of life’s steady continuance, I’ve been saddened by it all.

Could it be that I have simply forgotten?

In my anxiousness to hold onto what is known and loved, have I somehow neglected to remember that God is the Shaper of seasons? Every. One. Of. Them.

With the purposefulness of all that Father does, He brings each season’s changes. He is the One who allows days to either shorten or lengthen, sustaining the precise hours of each with His own timelessness. How’s that for an oxymoron?

He who is timeless holds all time in His hands.

He who spins the axis of Earth upon His fingertips steadily turns the pages of each season of my life – those within and without.

And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.  (Daniel 2:21-22)

God changes the times and the seasons because He realizes each specific moment of every day is imperative to the next. He knows that spring and summer could not produce to their full potential without the rest that winter and autumn afford. As much as I long for all sunshine and warmth, even I can appreciate the cool, reviving rains that fall in order to soothe the soil and bring forth new life.

In the smallness of my wisdom, I turn my gaze heavenward and once more ask for more. I ask God to come and bring a greater abundance of knowledge into my stubborn heart. I pray for a larger portion of  understanding to allow me to see beyond what I feel. For truth to nestle deeply when my faith seems so tiny, so fleeting. I ask for Light to shine brightly when darkness encroaches upon my days, squeezing itself into my waking hours and tempting me toward despondency.

For if He is light… and He is.
If He is always with me… and He is.
If He is both the Shaper of seasons and of souls… and He is.

… Then I can rejoice always.

ALWAYS – whether all is green and sunny with flowers and gardens in full bloom; whether dry and crunchy with wind stripping trees bare; or whether icy and snowy with all signs of the living silenced beneath clouds of gray and heavy blanket of white.

Life is still very much living throughout each and every season.

Not one heartbeat has ceased, no matter how dormant things may appear. The buds are being revived in secret places of hiding – held firmly by the Holder of all creation. Life is being formed anew in the darkness that is not merely fully known, but fully encompassed by the Light of the world warming its depths.

No shadow of turning.

Not one spot of gray able to dim so bright a truth as God in me and me in Him.

So I look to this turning season rushing toward me, and instead of fleeing from its storms or fighting against its cold, I reach out to embrace it.

With wind whipping through my hair and hailstones pounding for all they’re worth, I stand with arms outstretched and face lifted to the heavens as I open my eyes to look upon the One who steadily turns the pages of time.

And I whisper a prayer of thanks for each and every moment, trusting He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.

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Sand Dollar Wishes

I hate to burst the bubble of those who think following God is a somber affair. But I will. Because I simply love the fact that Father makes me smile and even giggle when He shows up in the middle of my life.

In keeping with the line from the children’s song God Knows About Everything, I continue to be reminded that: “He knows what I think before I think it.”

Walking along the ocean’s shore yesterday, this truth was reinforced in a personal way.  While I love the joy that comes with discovering all manner of shells and sea creatures, by far, my favorite findings are sand dollars. There’s something about their delicate frame that fills me with wonder, and when one breaks open to spill forth the contents of porcelain-like doves hidden within its depths, I’m reminded of the peace that God nestles deep within the core of my spirit.

The first day of vacation, God allowed me to find a solitary dollar hidden in the sand. The second day, another. The third day, there was yet another lying in wait for me. As I rounded the sand bar on the fourth day, I found myself thinking, “Well, God, I’m assuming there’s one out here for me again. Not that I believe You owe me anything. But because You’re my Father, I guess I’ve come to expect that You will bless me with it. I hope that’s okay.”

The words were still processing themselves through my mind when I looked down and saw a white sand dollar lying at my feet. And as if to just outdo Himself, there was another resting nearby. I smiled and gratefully scooped them both into my hands while thinking, “Thanks, God. But You know… the small-sized ones are my favorites.” And once again, on the tail-end of my thoughts, I glanced down to see a small, dainty sand dollar resting in the waves. A few feet ahead, there was another equally small treasure. 

Show-off.

I love when God does things like that. Shows off, I mean. As if to remind me that He is always beyond my expectations. A bit larger than I think He will be in my life. Going further than my tiny desires. Challenging me to trust him bigger. To believe for more. Not in a selfish manner, but in an I-believe-You-are-far-more-capable-than-I-give-You-credit-for manner. All to grow me in my faith and cause me to praise Him for the sheer wonder of His greatness. To thank Him for the joy of His presence in my ordinary moments. To acknowledge that He is much more aware of me than I imagine. Even down to the fact that He knows what I think before I think it.

He knows. And He chooses to meet me in the midst of my desires.

The simple sand dollar wishes of my heart.

I continued my walk with songs of praise cast upon ocean waves, words and melody pouring forth from a heart overwhelmed by the goodness of a God who is not only my Savior, but my Friend. A Father who delights in sharing my thoughts and providing for my childlike fancies, just to prove that He is listening. That he cares about the things which bring joy to my days.

Retracing my steps back along the sand bar, I wasn’t really expecting to find any more sand dollars where my feet had already tread. Or maybe I was. Because I did. Two more treasures nestled in grains of sand beneath the receding tide. And just in case I missed His awareness, Father drew my attention to the dry beach several yards inland where others’ feet had passed mere minutes before my own.

Shining white in the summer sunshine, there was another sand dollar glistening atop the surface. And another.

I could no longer contain my laughter. The giggles bubbled to the surface as I acknowledged Father’s not-so-subtleness. Hidden in plain sight. Making it obvious for these finite eyes to view eternity’s appearance in my temporal surroundings.

I’m thankful for these moments. These times when God is so utterly present. Releasing treasures one after the other, as I scurry to scoop them up as fast as I can.

These moments bring more than just a few seconds of joy. They become memorials erected in the recesses of my mind, tucked away for those times when His hand is not so easily seen.

These sand dollar wishes are not swept away with stormy gales, but become building blocks of faith in the foundation of all I believe. Treasures kept, to be pulled out and cherished when life happens and circumstances are not all sunshine and gentle ocean currents.

It’s almost comical that something so delicate and fragile as a sand dollar can become something so strong and enduring in my life.

But perhaps that’s the miracle of faith itself – when something as fragile as my belief in a God who knows me from the inside-out becomes the bedrock of all that I build my life upon.

A faith that steadies itself in the fanciful sand dollar wishes of my heart.IMG_2865How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. ~ Psalm 139:17-18a

My Red Thread of Words

I am never more honest or real than when I am writing. Never more vulnerable or open about the questions and my seeming lack of answers. My ponderings toward praise; my wanderings toward doubt. These words pour across the pages of my journal, emptied out in drops and rivers. The skewed perspective that comes from this solitary view of mine as the writer.

This seemingly insignificant, yet significant, paradox of me.

And God.

And faith.

And not faith.

Sometimes I find myself dangling by a lone, red thread of words connecting what I feel in the moment to what I believe and hold as Truth eternal.

The joys that flit through my days, lighting up my sky like firefly glow twinkling through gathering dusk. The pain that tears through seasons of my soul, swirling angry winds at will, leaving me disoriented and shaken in the wake of so much hurt. The unknowns that rise to threaten this refuge of known and true, thundering their accusations against my firm, if teetering, foundation.

If God is _______ then_______?

The writer in me fills in the blanks with words best describing my wounded heart. From whispers of doubt to shouts of belief, I pen the faith that holds me steady through it all. Words that draw me toward truth even as lies circle their quarry, awaiting the moment I lower my guard. The lion prowls continually, seeking to devour, yet never quite being able to overcome the One who resides within.

The One who holds me steady as I grasp that lone red thread of words unraveling redemption’s story.

My story.

The writer pours line after line upon empty pages, letter after letter falling into place to frame the essence of me. Completing the puzzle with fragments and run-ons and choppy prose bearing my likeness. Scattered thoughts brought together with precise randomness framing this mixed-up, multimedia collaboration of me.

Releasing myself through words only to capture myself more completely, in both the questions and the answers I discover.

The writer journeys day by day.

Leading me toward myself.

And toward God.

And finds us both a little more along the way.

IMG_3906This post was written in conjunction with Five Minute Friday’s word prompt of “Writer.” You can join us here: http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday

 

Behold and Be Held

All beauty is only reflection. ~ Ann Voskamp

It’s true, you know. All beauty is merely a reflection.

A reflection of the imagination and creativity of a God at play. Flinging galaxies across the expanse of infinity. Bouncing stars and planets into perfect precision. Shooting hoops of Northern Lights to sink into Alaskan sky. Carving canyons and mounding Himalayan peaks. Tracing rushing rivers with divine fingertip.

Sand and shells and granite and marble; trees and ferns and toadstools and flowers. From East to West and Northern tip to Southern pole of planet earth, all is filled with beauty and wonder. Catching rays of glory reflecting through pinpricks in atmosphere as heaven leaks drops of ethereal eternal into the here and now.

Some days I see Him.

Some days my eyes are wide open and I notice Him in every mirror of beauty reflecting brightly into my life.

Some days I gasp in awe to catch a glimpse of Father’s face shining through everything. Each grain of sand; each droplet of ocean water; every intricate snowflake falling softly to the ground, piling high to absorb the sounds of earth. And in those moments, God’s beauty absorbs into me, as well.

Some days I give sway to His beauty and allow His presence to tuck me tightly against His chest as I breathe in the scent that is uniquely His own.

Some days I really do see Him. A God who cares enough to reveal Himself here. To me. And I lift my voice with all of creation and join in the song of praise.

But then there are other days.

Other days, I neglect the beauty.

Other days, I refuse to open my eyes to anything but the ugly pain that infects my heart as surely as it infects this sinful world.

Other days, I allow the voices of rocks to outshout my praises to the One and Only who is worthy of them at all times.

Other days, I give sway to temptations and allow my soul to be absorbed by the pit from which I have already been rescued.

Other days, I forget the grace that is mine and the beauty that surrounds these blind eyes too stubborn to accept the healing hand of sight.

But not today.

Today I choose to open my eyes wide and see the gifts.

Today I will lift my voice in praise to the One who instigates His own worship simply by being Himself.

Today I choose to behold beauty… and be held by God.

Join me?

Snowflake-2     A little bit of beauty can create…

Winter_wallpapers_363                                                                                             …a wonderland of awe.

Sentinel of Life

Welcome to another Five Minute Friday where I’ve joined with a group of writers who gather once a week to “just write” without worrying about getting things “just right.” You’re welcome to join in on the fun over at   http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday. Today’s word is “tree.”

Tree

Growing up on a farm with acres and acres of woods, my siblings and I spent hours exploring among the trees. These tall sentinels of the hills opened wide to child mind, transforming into magical kingdoms filled with wonder just waiting our discovery…

Tree – stalwart keeper of castle gates swinging open to welcome imagination at play

Tree – escort through the forest, transformed to pirate ship holding treasure and adventure on the seven seas

Tree – leafed sentry turned tepee providing haven for wild “Indians” who had no concept of political correctness as they whooped and hollered, racing their imaginary steeds through forest filled with danger and discovery

Tree – hollowed protector worn by years of standing firm, holding small body nestled within its cavern during repeated rounds of Hide-and-Seek

Tree – watchman providing shade and solitude as teenage body scales its branches with Bible and notebook in hand

Tree – welcoming protector of frame grown older, enfolding adult child still seeking solace within its canopy

Tree – keeper hewn into Cross of suffering, holding the broken body of Grace as life-breath bleeds out to offer me salvation

Tree – sheltering defender, standing firm through the ages, casting its shadow of love over me.

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Soul-Weary

You sent abundant rain, O God, to refresh the weary land. There Your people finally settled, and with a bountiful harvest, O God, You provided for Your needy people.  – Psalm 68:9-10

O Lord,

I am weary.

I am weary of all the hurt.

I am weary of the phone calls bearing bad news.

I am weary of the relational stress with others.

I am weary of the many needs surrounding me.

I am weary of being weary.

This present heaviness goes beyond a sense of tiredness and settles in the depths of my soul, causing it to sigh with exhaustion.

Yet, You promise to reign Your presence in me. Here in my tiredness. To refresh the weary places of my heart. To bring new strength when I am spent. To revitalize my spirit with a fresh breath of Your own.

How I need Your God-breath to sweep in with its gentle breeze and whisper, “All is well.”

Here in my weariness, I will look for You.

And I will wait.

In this parched land, I will settle my soul and listen for Your whispers.

Looking for the clouds of rain in the distance, I will hide my hope in You until the mist of Your Kingdom springs up in this wasteland. I will flee to the refuge of Your salvation – to the calming springs of Your presence. And there I will stake my dwelling. I will stretch out the ropes of my tent and lay claims to my inheritance as Your beloved.

When the dust of “too much” kicks up its storms, I will hide beneath Your covering, entrusting myself fully to Your care.

And here I will stay until this storm passes.

Until the weary turns to wonder at the sound of Your great name.

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Stubbing My Toes on the Holy

I’m a girl trying to see past the ordinary. I want to see grace in the mundane and humor in the plain and dig deeper than the surface of the things that I think about. I want to take off my shoes and stub my toes on Holy Ground. Maybe that’s why I’ve always loved going barefoot.

As I read the above words from the Stumbling Barefoot blog that I quite literally stumbled upon the other day, I could not help but think that I had found a kindred spirit. A barefooted sister searching for grace in the everyday. Groping for a glimpse of God alongside me as we stub our toes against the Holy, even if purely by accident. Seriously, it was like she was inside my head and pulling words from my own heart.

So often I, too, am straining my eyes to see past the ordinary in hopes of finding a glimpse of God in the mundane moments. Digging through what seems like mountains of dirty laundry in hopes that He has planted a seed of something that I can cling to in my everyday. Something that will grow bigger than the responsibilities that surround me, sometimes threatening to overwhelm me, no matter how precious my “quiet time with Jesus” was just a few sweet minutes before.

Because I need for there to be more to this life than just a list of obligations and appointments. I need to experience the Holy in the here and now.

And I realized that in stumbling upon Stumbling Barefoot, I did indeed stub my toes on a portion of Holy Ground allotted for me. God was unveiling one more piece of truth to fit in the puzzle of my life. He was reminding me that He is always thinking of me, ever aware of my smallest needs, even when I am not intentionally thinking of Him. Even when I am not expecting Him to bless me. And in this marvelous lesson of mercy, I am straining to look harder for the presence of His grace. Everywhere.

Because it is there.

The truth is, I will stumble upon the Holy every day of my life.

Sometimes that encounter will be joyful and exhilarating, and sometimes that stubbing will hurt. Sometimes God will choose to show up in ways that are painful, at least for a season. Like hoeing in my garden in order to sow a seed that will grow into a plant that nourishes me with its fruit, sometimes God must “dig” into my heart to make the site ready for His planting. And sometimes that digging is painful. But it is also necessary.

Unlike our human nature, God does not inflict pain in order to “get even” or “pay us back” for our wrongs against Him. His actions toward us are always motivated by love. A love that wants nothing more than for us to experience the wonder of His presence as we watch the seeds sprout and produce a harvest of love and blessings in our lives. He wants us to trust Him to bring the wonder through the pain of life’s disappointments and through the redemption of a heart drawn back to His side.

So I will choose to look for the wonder in the obvious and hear whispers of holiness in the everyday. I will pray for eyes to see and ears to hear the magic that is happening all around me. To stop overlooking and start experiencing life happening here – hope being realized right now – not just in the somedays still to come.

I will determine to tug the holy out of the ordinary moments that fill my days, to tease the light out of a darkness that encompasses my nights. To breathlessly wait for the sunrise that is promised even as I venture into the midnight hours of the soul. To listen for the whispers of a God who roars through my silence even when I live as one unaware.

I will trust in a Savior who sees me through the rose-colored glasses of Calvary’s blood.

Who loves me as though I have always been and will always be pure and innocent before Him – even when I am cloaked with the filth of a life lived in the streets of self-indulgence. I will grope for His goodness and cling to His grace as I stumble my way to the Holy Ground of Calvary and stub my toes against His glory as I exchange my sins for His forgiveness… again.

And that is enough to make me gasp with the wonder of the Holy for this moment…
and forever.

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