Blog

It Is Well…

The past two years of my life have seen more change than the previous ten altogether. After a long waiting season, through an unexpected breaking process, God moved in both difficult and incredible ways. He asked me to release a teaching career that had been my passion and security in adulthood. He moved me back home and placed a man in my life to love and to marry. Then, the same month of our marriage, my husband’s mother was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. Within four months, she passed away. We left everything to come to Puerto Rico, see her before she passed, and manage her estate. Months later, we remain here, searching for a solution for a disabled family member she cared for.

 

The more answers we seek, the more doors close. One slight move on the board changes the whole game, perhaps for the rest of our lives. We pray for guidance, but the heavens remain silent. I believe my Father is attentively at work in ways I can’t see or understand. I trust His hand, but sometimes, the weight of the unknown feels like enough to press me into the ground and bury me there. In the midst of it all, I feel ushered into the eye of the storm where one call is certain, “Surrender.”

 

The earth quakes and the storms come, and yet…it is well with my soul. I’ve thought often of the old hymn of that title, written by Horatio Spafford after he lost his family in an ocean storm. “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.” Bethel Music artist Kristene DiMarco recently rewrote the song with words that pierce my soul. “So let my soul go and trust in Him. The waves and wind still know His name.”

 

It Is Well
Bethel Music (Written by Kristen DiMarco) 


Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard
And through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And through it all, through it all
It is well
And through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And it is well with me
And far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see
And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea
And through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And through it all, through it all
It is well
And through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And it is well
It is well
So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name
So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name…

“The Room of Love…”

As a new bride, I’ve thought a lot about the ways earthly love mirrors the love of our Heavenly Father. Without a doubt, marriage provides experience with the complicated mysteries and pressures of relationships, especially under high amounts of outside conflict and stress. It also allows us a window into the transcendent nature of love. Recently, I’ve reread a favorite novel that does a nice job of tackling both themes.

With an expert hand, Wendell Berry weaves the characteristics of a romance into his women’s fiction novel Hannah Coulter. Hannah remembers the pressures she and her husband Nathan were under within their marriage as they worked their farm, “The making of the place was the thing that ruled over everything else, for we were living from the place…. And as our work shaped our workplaces, our work and our workplaces shaped our days. Our work brought us together and drew us apart.” She articulates the tensions that came between them, “We had differences. There were the agreed-on differences of work. There were the accepted, mostly happy differences between a man and a woman. There were the differences of nature and character that were sometimes happy and sometimes not. Some of the things that most endeared Nathan to me—his quietness, his love of his work, his determination—were the things that could sometimes make me maddest at him.”

Most of all, however, Hannah focuses on the love that united them, “The room of love is another world. You go there wearing no watch, watching no clock. It is the world without end, so small that two people can hold it in their arms, and yet it is bigger than world on worlds, for it contains the longing of all things to be together, and to be at rest together. You come together to the day’s end, weary and sore, troubled and afraid. You take it all into your arms, it goes away, and there you are where giving and taking are the same, and you live a little while entirely in a gift. The worlds have all been said, all permissions given, and you are free in the place that is the two of you together. What could be more heavenly than to have desire and satisfaction in the same room? If you want to know why even in telling of trouble and sorrow I am giving thanks, this is why.”

I’m giving thanks too, for the room of love and the big mix that life and love are. I pray I can accept giving and taking as the same, embrace all in my arms and accept them for the gifts that they are.

***All quotes taken from: Berry, Wendell. Hannah Coulter: A Novel. Counterpoint, 2004.***

The Already, & The Not Yet…

I swore I’d give up hoping for a husband at the age of thirty-five, and kept true to my word. Just before my thirty-sixth birthday, however, God allowed my path to cross with the man he intended for me. This wonderful guy exactly fit the bill for what I’d been praying for in the previous twenty years, and I continue to marvel at this. As it turned out, our paths had been crossing for almost seventeen, and we had even attended the same small college together without ever meeting. It’s obvious the Lord had has own plan and timing at work. We can both see ways He prepared us for one another, though the journeys we walked alone were lonely and long. What a wonder to have the opportunity to join my life to his this past December! I couldn’t ask for a better partner to share life with.

That same month, doctors in Puerto Rico diagnosed his mother with Stage Four Ovarian Cancer. The elopement we planned for New Year’s Eve took place three weeks earlier than planned, and I said goodbye to my new husband the next day. Though good friends made it possible for me to travel to spend the holidays with him and meet his family, I needed to return to work two weeks later. He remains with his mom and aunt, attempting to help and care for them. His mom is stable for now, but suffering. He hopes to return here soon, but so much of the future is unknown.
Despite being separated for these first months of marriage, I’m so thankful to have him as a part of my journey. Distance is a challenge, certainly, but he’s wonderful about prioritizing our relationship and times for us to talk. He adds so much to my life, and yet…I miss him desperately. In holding all of this, I’m struck by the reminder of the phrase, “the already, and the not yet” used to describe Kingdom of God. As believers, we have the opportunity to partake in the Kingdom here on earth, and yet, we must simultaneously wait for its full realization. As we choose to reflect Christ each day, we can help bring the realities of Christ’s Kingdom to those around us. It’s a beautiful mystery, and a great opportunity. We live in unity with Christ here and now, but an even greater unity awaits us. My Beloved is mine, and I am His. I am invited to give thanks for what is, and dwell here today. I am invited to eagerly anticipate the great day that is to come.

The Dance of Good Story-

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with what a good friend calls “bad story.” Essentially, bad story is what I am under when I allow insecurities, lies, or the shadows of the past to dominate my thinking and identity, and convince me that I am anything other than the precious daughter God sees. In His sight, I am pure, prized, redeemed, righteous, and worthy of all the blessings He bestows on His children. This is the Gospel, this is good news, this is good story. This, my friends, is the battle of all our lives…to fight off the lies of the critics and the Enemy, and many times, our own. The loudest voice of all can be the critic inside our heads, and that critic can only be silenced by grace of God. I’ve learned I can only extend it to others as I learn to extend it to myself.

It’s a little bit like a dance, a simile I love to use for our relationships with the Lord and our journey through life. He takes a step, and we respond. The moment we step away or fail to follow His lead is the moment our dance loses its elegance and grace. The only way to continually stay tuned to Him is to practice looking in His eyes, following His leads, and choosing to believe His truth.

 
As Margaret Manning Shull of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries wrote, “Becoming a black-belt in karate or a seasoned dancer doesn’t happen instantaneously. Instead, each day offers multiple opportunities to practice whatever it is we want to become….If the grace-full life of Christ is the intended goal for those who claim to follow him, each day presents the opportunity to practice—to grow in the very grace Christ embodies. Each day brings circumstances and events that call for a response. Instead of fear, there can be empathy and hope. Instead of pride, there can be humility and hospitality. Instead of bitterness and resentment, there can be forgiveness or sacrificial giving. There is always a choice. And thankfully, there is always one who extends flawlessly the very grace we need ourselves.” I want to live under good story, to dance the dance of grace with my Father, and to help the world to do the same.

 

***Photo Credits: lovedoes.org

Whether “Down in the Valley” or Standing  “Upon the Mountain of God”…

I’m in a really beautiful, beautiful season of my life right now. I have the opportunity to rest a little and chase a few dreams. I’ve fallen in love with the best man I’ve ever known, and even though there have been a few challenges for a Colorado girl pursuing a long-distance relationship with a Puerto-Rican (mostly three classes 4-5 hurricanes!), overall, I’m filled with gratitude every day for the sweetness of it all. As someone said long ago, it really is the greatest thing we’ll ever learn, just to love, and to be loved in return. This learning process is one that has given me the gift of getting to see the top of the tapestry the Lord is weaving in my life, when the previous thirty-five years have felt mostly like the underside view. In essence, my present in this present time is to stand upon the mountain of God with the one I love, looking back on the valleys we have separately crossed, as well as the deserts and hills we have independently wandered and climbed. We both look back on the last ten years of our lives, seasons that felt mysteriously dark and lonely to us both, and can now see so many ways God used them to prepare us for one another and the ministries to which we feel He is calling us. Our God is truly such a master architect and designer!

 

But, at the same time that my beloved and I are standing on top of the mountain of God, many others in my life are really hurting down in the valley. Good friends face the devastating betrayal and heartbreak of broken relationships. Another continues to desperately miss the husband she lost to illness. One is watching her uncle lose his battle against cancer, and her aunt face the prospect of losing a second husband to a terminal disease. I watch others suffer chronic pain or prolonged economic or relational difficulties. The people of Puerto Rico and México continue to suffer in the wake of shortages and hardships resulting from natural disasters. Many of the residents of Las Vegas grieve loved ones who tragically lost their lives to a mass shooting. As we all know, this world has no shortage of heartaches or joys. It is full of darkness, and it is full of light. And yet, even in the valley, we can hear the winds of promise blow, as a very old American folk song: “Down In the Valley” by Burl Ives says…

 

“Down in the valley, valley so low

Hang your head over, hear the wind blow

Hear the wind blow love, hear the wind blow

Hang your head over, hear the wind blow” (Lead Belly).

 

Whether this reaches you down in the valley today, standing upon the mountain of God,  or somewhere in between, may you hear in the wind the whisper of our Savior saying your name, and speaking of His unchanging and unfailing and unfathomably great love for you. May His voice fill your heart to overflowing; may He bring you peace. It’s funny, because all of this has been on my heart to write for so long, the title has been typed and awaiting me on my computer, and then this morning, I heard a song on the radio that was new to me, that perfectly expresses it all. I hope “Hills & Valleys”, by Tauren Wells, ministers to you, as it did to me. Wherever you are, may you know, without a doubt, you’re “safe inside [His] hand”.

 
“I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven from my lowest place
And I have held the blessings
God, you give and take away
No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love
On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the one who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!
You’re God of the hills and valleys!
Hills and Valleys!
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone!
I’ve watched my dreams get broken
In you I hope again!
No matter what I know
Know I’m safe inside Your hand.”

 

***Photo Credits: Lovedoes.org

Woven…

I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite poems is called The Tapestry, by Corrie Ten Boom. One stanza reads: “My life is but a weaving, between my God and me. I cannot choose the colors, He weaveth steadily. Ofttimes He weaveth sorrow, and I in foolish pride, forget He sees the upper, and I the under side.” This is such a profound poem and life insight to me, especially as written by a woman who survived the horrors of Auschwitz, but saw her family perish there. Though, they weren’t Jews themselves, they were imprisoned for providing “a hiding place”, as her memoir is entitled, to the Jews within Holland.

 

In my own relatively peaceful and unscathed life, still I find that the majority of life is lived as this beloved author painted it, looking at the messy underside of a weaving. The tapestry may indeed be masterful, but from the limited vantagepoint of earth, the larger picture is hard to see or understand. I cry out when a pattern I’ve begun to be able to see or become attached to is suddenly disrupted, or when one color is torn to make room for another that doesn’t seem to belong. I question why so many messy threads hang down and why it’s all such mayhem. I’m ever striving for a tidier picture than the one I have, and a semblance of control. It rarely makes any sense what is happening through my lens. Believing that it’s all a part of “a grand design” takes a giant “leap of faith” most days.

 
But then, there are those moments, when the master weaver beckons to me from the other side of the tapestry, and allows me to come and take a peek at His view. Just for a moment, I see the smile on His face and the twinkle in His eye. I get to take a seat with Him as He points and gestures to the pattern He’s designed and woven. And oh my, how it takes my breath away. A chill crawls down my spine and tears fill my eyes, for I can see that all along, there really has been a plan, and He really is an artist, and every stitch has been joined with the utmost care for its ultimate great beauty and purpose. It’s all sooo beautiful, and He’s been arranging and composing it all along. He looks into my eyes with joy, and I can only look back into His with regret. I’m filled with sorrow for the many moments, or if we’re really being honest here, the lifetime of moments, I’ve filled with distrust. He knows them all, and knew them all when He designed this glorious pattern for me, and yet still, He counted me worthy to be woven into the fabric of His plan. This inclusion, this composition, this revelation…these are His gifts to me. These are the manifestations of His love for me.

Awakening the Senses…

Many can be brought to tears by a field full of wildflower glory and radiant color. For me, a field of grass inspires in such a way. Plain brown stalks of seeds catch a million shades of brown and gold in the sun’s soft light, and its this sight that awakens my senses like nothing else.

It’s a perfect day in mid-September. The grass is blowing in the wind, the sun is shining down, and it all takes my breath away. I see a cloudless Colorado azure sky above, and the mixed variant colors of leaves beginning to change their hues. Mostly mixes of green and yellow, they still carry the faint scent of summer life, though some have grown a crispy golden and fallen. The quaking leaves are framed by the chalky bark of their aspen parents.

I feel a strong breeze touch my skin, rustling the hairs of my bare arms. It’s a bit of an unusual characteristic, but I love wind. Its power captivates, fascinates, and even comforts me, probably one many reasons autumn is my favorite season. I hear the river meander by, low and peaceful.

Days like today bring the taste of remembrance of all things good. Without setting any conscious intention, my chin lifts, my breathing deepens, my step finds a spring, and my eyes gain a sparkle. I came to this moment without agenda or expectation, but it met me, awakening my senses with its presence.