Longing that makes the Heart grow Deep

In honor of Saint Aurelius Augustine’s birthday: November 13, 354, Tagaste, Numidia

I remember reading “Confessions” in my senior year of high-school.  I was on the couch with a torn ACL, longing to be on the basketball court with my fellow team-mates for a final season.  Instead, I was engaging in the strenuous activity of being still (my least favorite pastime) – before myself, in my thoughts…and before God.

My body and heart were restless, and as Augustine pointed out, would continue to be until I rested in God.  I wrestled against my situation.  And then, there it was – that beautiful, strange Latin phrase, “desiderium sinus cordis.”

Desiderium sinus cordis?  Huh?  Then, the explanation — “yearning that makes the heart grow deep.”  It was a central theme of his pilgrimage on earth, and the true cry of one’s heart and soul:  “Give me one who yearns; . . . give me one far away in this desert, who is thirsty and sighs for the spring of the Eternal country. Give me that sort of man: he knows what I mean.”

C.S. Lewis then followed in Augustine’s footsteps, expressing this concept so beautifully in my favorite book of all time, Till We Have Faces. The protagonist, Psyche, has fought for justice and fairness her whole life…an intense, continuous longing for a resolution to that which was not right, and to leave the pain of the world: 

“It almost hurt me . . . like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying home. . . . The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born.  Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.”

This hollow hunger of longing to “go back” was her spiritual homing device. She was like that bird in the cage, stuck in a house, when all she wanted to do was fly and go home.  Something, someone beckoned to her, and when Psyche finally comes before God with unveiled face, she voices her complaint.  But, then she falls strangely silent before Him:

“I ended my first book with the words ‘no answer.’ I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face, questions die away. What other answer would suffice? Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words.” 

How can we long for that which is undefined, intangible, untouchable, unimaginable?  How do we live on earth with this tension, this healthy dissatisfaction of longing for redemption – to make right that which is not right, to heal from that which has broken us, to find peace in the chaos and hardships of this life?  And, what does it mean for the heart to be made DEEP?

C.S. Lewis answers this by arguing that no earthly object or experience can satisfy man’s profound and intense feeling of longing. Instead, he calls this feeling of longing ‘JOY’, which he defines as ‘an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction’.  The depth and ache of longing becomes Joy.

Over the past month, I have experienced an intense sense of Desiderium sinus cordis.  I have wept for dear friends who have experienced tragic loss.  I have wept for the loss and fading of my Grandmother’s memory, and my great Uncle Ted’s passing, who inspired my passion for piano and writing and cross-cultural experiences.  I have wept for friends experiencing barrenness, miscarriages, and the longing for a family to call their own.  My heart has ached for those who have experienced broken trust in marriages.  I have longed for things to be made right in the mishaps and mistakes of business.  And, I have cried tears for my country and its divisions between politics and people.

I’m not writing this to express an opinion about the election results.  I’m not writing this to corner anyone with a discourse on religion, morality or ethics.  I’m not writing this to compare or discount others’ longings and hopes and hurts.

But as we enter the holidays, the season of awaiting and longing for our Messiah — the grace of God that physically appears — I am simply writing this to pose the question, Are we not all yearning, thirsting, longing for something – someone – that nothing on this earth and in this life can satisfy or fix?  In the face and frailty of our own humanity, we are all living with yearning that makes the heart grow deep.  We are all – in our own way – wandering, watching, and waiting for the sight of something better, truer…something more satisfying…something more trustworthy.

dsc_4683“Give me that sort of man: he knows what I mean.”  

I mean, do you know what I mean?  I LONG to reach that Mountain, to find that place where all the beauty came from in the first place — my first country, my final country.  Do we think all this longing is meant for nothing?  The longing for a true Home?  Indeed, it now feels not like going, but like going BACK…

These longings have given me fresh perspective for my 30’s. What of my petty arguments, complaints, comparisons, judgments?  Why my selfish choices, prideful ambitions, arrogant words?  What of my tasks, instead of embracing all the divine interruptions of my day as an opportunity to love others more than myself?

All of our yearnings and longings and viewpoints are surely different — we cannot always understand, compare or judge the perspectives and/or longings of our fellow man to our own, and everyone must be accountable to their own moral compass.

But we can all embrace the power of longing together.  The reality of yearning together.  The realization of THAT day coming.

You are yourself the answer.  Before your face, Lord, questions die away.  What other answer or explanation would suffice?  

In the desert of our longings, I think St. Augustine was onto something…it’s not that the sting and pain of our emptiness, longings and sorrows mean nothing.  Our longings precisely mean EVERYTHING.  Our longing is not wasted.  Our longing is not in vain.

It is a language that perhaps only the human heart — in the stillness and quiet of our moments when words do not suffice — can truly understand.  It is the unsatisfied cry of souls for our dwelling place, and safe haven, to finally be found and habited.  It is the aching to see God, and be with God forever.

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At the end of the Bible, The Apostle John writes:  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”   And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

I believe there will be a Day when the dwelling place of man will be with God (Psalm 90). I believe that our faith, the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, will someday be sight (Hebrews 11).  I believe there is a city that has perfect foundations, whose designer and builder is God, and that someday our sojourning through the desert will be over.  Though I have seen and traveled the world, and have loved and embraced the beauty of many  cultures and countries, I believe in a better country, a heavenly one.

But until that Day, I am living with Desiderium sinus cordis. We are living with longing, a yearning that makes the heart grow deep.   And, we are never too young to pledge allegiance to our true Home.   Despite the sorrows and brokenness we face in this world, these afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all – somehow, someway, our longings are not for nought.  I would rather my heart grow deep in longing, than be shallow of love for others.  I would rather my soul be hungering and thirsting, than fat and quenched, satisfied in this temporary life.

And I pray, more than ever before, that God’s love – the perfect Love that casts out all our fears and differences forever — will be the very Love that I extend to others every day.  That I embrace as the source of all of my questions and longings in this life.

He is the Alpha and Omega of our longings, the beginning and the end.  He is the Divine Love that began with a Longing to create and be with and know us…and He is the Divine Love that will be the end of our longings, the glory of redemption, hopes fulfilled, and faith finally seen – in the face of Jesus Christ forever.  And, we will dwell in His House forever.

May the Lord bless you and yours this Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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Seasons Part 2: The State of Waiting

This is Seasons Part 2: The State of Waiting.

I’ve been in a sort of grave for the past three days.  The stomach flu hit me fast and furiously on Friday afternoon, and I have finally risen this morning, feeling normal again.

It was the kind of flu that tears you down, strikes you quickly to your knees, and leaves you frail, weak, and empty.  As it violently hit me and I fell to my knees, tears spontaneously filled my eyes, as I couldn’t help but think that it was 15 years ago this month that my namesake and Oma was approaching her death bed.  She had fought cancer for two years, chemo, sickness, weakness, ups and downs…and she knew what it meant to live on her knees, literally and figuratively.  She knew what it was like to not be able to hold anything down.  Then on March 25, 2001, she passed from death to life into eternal peace.  She had wondered when her hour would come, and she had waited for freedom from her earthly body and the pain and sickness she had battled.

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I don’t know why, of all times to be thinking about someone you love, it hit me while I had the flu.  Perhaps it was because another dear friend’s mother passed away from cancer this week, too, and March always reminds me of Oma’s death, but also the hope of healing and new life…waiting to be healed…waiting to be free…waiting to awaken again and rise.

I couldn’t help but think of Hosea 6:1-3:

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“Let us return to the Lord; he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.  After two days, he will revive us; on the third day, He will raise us up, that we may live before Him.  Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn that breaks; and, he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

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Ironic, isn’t it?  It never occurred to me that this passage reflected the Resurrection of Christ, the three days of stillness, quietness, and waiting that Christ experienced in the grave.  The disciples buried him, the tombstone had been locked into place, and Jesus had died.  Sometimes in our waiting, I think we don’t want to experience being struck down and torn and brought to our knees in weakness.  We don’t want our life to be placed in Another’s Hands, at the mercy of our Father who will revive and raise up back up again. We want to do, not be still, waiting for Him to truly heal us — not just physically, but emotionally and mentally — from whatever has torn us down.

To be strong in our waiting is not the epitome of physical activity and productivity.  It is the essence of stillness.  Only the Father could raise the Son to new life.  And only we can be raised by our Savior in His resurrection power.  To know and trust that “Aslan” (CS Lewis reference to the Chronicles of Narnia) is “on the move,” is not easy.  He is working behind the scenes, in our stillness, to make all things beautiful in His time. But, we KNOW He is on the move – that the ice is melting, that the winter is fading, that green is springing up, and that He is the Great Physician who is ensuring that all of our wounds are healed before we rise up and “live before Him.”  And, He asks us in our waiting, Child, be still – take heart – wait for me.

Psalm 31 is a beautiful reflection of Christ’s suffering on the Cross, entitled “Into your Hands I Commit my Spirit.”  This is what He cried out on the Cross in his moment of death and separation from the Father.

Of Jesus, David says, “I have become a broken vessel. But I trust in you, O God; I say, You are my God. My times are in your Hands. Rescue me. Save me in your steadfast Love.  Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have STORED UP for those who fear you, and worked for those who take refuge in you. In the cover of your presence, you store me away in your shelter. The Lord preserves the faithful.  Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who WAIT on the Lord.” 

In our waiting, God is so very wondrously busy.  He is busy with His goodness. He is busy with His Glory and His kingdom. He is busy sorting out the details.  He is busy preparing our “times” and storing up abundant goodness for His children.  He is holding us strongly as the Rock of Ages, behind the cleft of His rock, so that we can be made whole again and strengthened in that Cleft, and be prepared to “live before Him” and others when the time to Rise Again is at hand.

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As we approach Easter, and the reality that the tombstone was rolled away, the door to Christ was opened up again, let us joyfully ponder 1 Corinthians 15:

“If Christ had not been raised, our faith would be in vain. We would be found to be misrepresenting God, because we testify about God that he raised Christ from the dead. For if Christ had not been raised, our faith is futile and we are still captured in sin and death.  In Christ, we would have hoped in this earthly life only.

But in fact, Christ HAS been raised from the dead!  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam we have all died, so also in Christ we shall all be made alive.  What is sown, is perishable; what is raised, is imperishable. What is sown in dishonor, is raised in glory.  What is sown in weakness, is raised in power.  What is sown as a natural body, is raised a spiritual body. Thus it was written, “The first man Adam became a living being; but the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  Just as we have borne the image of first man of dust (Adam), so shall we also bear the image of the last man of heaven – Jesus Christ.”

In the season of Lent, we wait for our blessed Hope to rise.  In every season of our waiting, our faith is NOT in vain.  In fact, it is being primed, positioned, empowered.  And, He is already on the move…we need only stand still, trust Him, and let His strength shine in our weakness, for we know that our Savior is not held down by death or sin or the grave. He has already conquered it forever.

What a hope, that what we sow in weakness, He raises in power. 

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Seasons Part 1: The State of Being

Take my Life, Let it BE – 
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee; 
Take my Moments and my Days, 
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
The song came up next in my Spotify playlist as I was driving to work this week.  Let it BE, Lord?  Really?  Why doesn’t the song say, “Take my problems, let them go?”  After all, don’t you want our seasons of life to be filled with joy, peace, clarity, direction, love, and everything wonderful in between…?”
I’m a Doer. I walk too fast, and geez, Emily, why don’t you stop and smell the roses?!  Is your life a chase? 🙂  To which I reply, “No, no!  I have things to do, people to see, places to go, and dreams to fulfill!  I’m excited about the next thing!”
The next thing.  We are always looking towards or for the next thing, aren’t we?  My Mom said I crawled at 7 months.  And when I learned how to crawl, I learned to walk at 8 months.  And when I learned how to walk, I wanted to climb up on the counters and tables and chairs to SEE and peer over the heights of whatever I couldn’t see to catch a glimpse of what was BEYOND.  And when I finally got up on the edge of the counter, whoopsies!  I slipped and cracked my chin open and my Mom takes me to the hospital 5 times for stitches before 5….because, well, I was a busy-body-being…
I scan back through the years, through my seasons of life, and not much has changed, I suppose.  I am still so good at running through seasons of life checking things off my To-Be List (I call it the “To-Be List” because there is a difference between the Identity-I-Want-to-Be List and His-Child-State-of-Being list.)  If I’m enjoying a season of life, I go 120% like a madman, living whole-heartedly and soaking it up, and driving myself into the exhaustion of production — and then the season is over, and I look back, and wonder, gosh, maybe I should have stopped and smelled the roses more!  Or, if I’m despising a season of life like a child refusing his green peas, I shrink back in fear, despair, anger, bitterness, sorrow, and doubt, and beg God to get me out of this season, and just grin and bear it and pray-to-God-on-my-knees that I won’t break and crumble and that somehow people will still think I’m confident and brave and getting things done and being a rockstar.
And, I chuckle because in every transition of life — whether a joy or a trial — in every ebb and flow of seasons — in every break of the chapter to the next one where you feel like a Nomad wandering through the Sinai desert, hoping to stumble upon the next camp and the next cloud covering that God promises to provide — I come right back to the same ole’ question: Who am I really, Lord?  And, what do you want me to Be?  And what is my life?
 
In every season of life, I believe we must ask God this question, and let His Spirit answer quietly to our souls as we ponder our true state of Being in Him. And with Spring upon us, I think of Psalm 90 as David numbers his days and discovers the dwelling place we find in God through time, through every season. Bear with me as I slightly modify this passage so that the theme can soak into your heart:
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“Lord, you have been my dwelling place in all seasons...from [season to season], you are God…you return man to the dust.  For a thousand seasons in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.  You sweep them away as with a flood – they are like a dream.  like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning each season flourishes, and is renewed; in the evening, each season fades, and withers away.  For all our seasons pass away under your holiness; we bring our seasons to an end like a sigh.  The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength, eighty; yet their span is toil, and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
So teach us to number our seasons (days) that we may gain a HEART of wisdom.  Satisfy us in the morning, in each season, with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice, and be glad all our seasons.  Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.  Let YOUR work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to our children.  Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands in each season – yes, establish the work of our hands.”
Some things to note about this passage:
1) In every season, we can rest in the fact that God is our dwelling place, the beginning and the end of our travels through seasons.  I’m not just talking about a physical dwelling place — but a dwelling place for our minds and hearts, when they are scattered and detoured and dashing about for answers.
2) 1,000 years is like YESTERDAY to Him. We are so impatient, aren’t we?!  God’s Timetable isn’t our own – to keep us in a season, or to move us on.
3) Our days are (yes, get over your wrinkles and gray hairs growing in!) passing away — and their span is toil and trouble.  My Mom always said to me, “Most of life is lived in the mundane.  God’s love and blessings and the joys we have in this world, family, friends, and loved ones make it extraordinary — but most of life is pretty darn ordinary.”
4) God wants to teach us to number / count / cherish / ponder / treasure our days.  Part of the state of Being God’s child, His daughter, His loved one, His own, is being still and knowing that He is God – the God of our hearts, our problems, our desires, our sins, our days, our seasons.  I like the use the word cherish / ponder / treasure, because I think it isn’t just about having a sober, realistic view of our days, and their fleeting nature — it is about truly cherishing the present, and the present work that God is doing in and through us. Otherwise, He would have said, “Teach us to forecast our days.” 🙂
5) We cherish our days, THAT we may gain a HEART of wisdom. A lot of people are super wise – intellectually, mentally, in a worldly sense, in a professional sense.  Even men and women of God are wise as it relates to their head-knowledge.  But, in various seasons of life, are we letting God season our hearts…?  The deep seasoning of the soul is a process by which we allow God to speak into the cracks of our thinking and logic, and through trial and error, fault and failure, testing and trembling, we allow God to season our hearts with the beauty, and surety, of His wisdom and commands and law and testimonies and statutes (Psalm 19).
 
6) Lastly, God constantly promises to satisfy us with His steadfast love.  Steadfastness doesn’t alter through seasons and changing circumstances.
Last year, someone taught me a very valuable lesson in the art and vulnerability of love.  This person taught me how to let someone love me, how to be cherished, valued, served, blessed, accepted for who I was without make-up, and loved for who I was in the ugliest moments when my true self came out.  I argue that this is hard for Doers and Type-A women.  We are good at loving ourselves, understanding ourselves thoroughly enough to comprehend how best to take care of ourselves, do things that make us feel good about our identity and body and career and status before God and man.  But, we aren’t always good at being dependent, and letting God love us, our husbands love us, our families and best friends love us.  And, we must learn to be loved by others, by first letting God love us — which requires BEING in His presence and open-hearted before Him; to give Him the time of day to declare His intentions towards us, His affections, His ardent and enduring loyalty towards us.
Sometimes familiarity is so much easier than vulnerability.  And this is true of being vulnerable with others, but most importantly, with God. So I meekly stagger back up to His throne and into His arms, and hold up my face with tears streaming down my cheeks, and say, Yep, Here I am again, Lord.  My messy self and my weary heart and my doubting mind and my distrusting thoughts towards you — take my life, let it BE – AGAIN.
BE yours, BE pure, BE holy, BE loved, BE resting, BE hope-filled, BE still, BE established, BE envisioned, BE healed, just BE.  And, through the past 10 years of this cycle, I have been blown away by God’s steadfast love to accept my unveiled face and heart, raw and broken and tainted and bruised.  And despite my heroic (and foolish) attempts to mold my own identity of being in this life and figure out “Who I am,” He says three words to me, season and season again — You. Are. Mine.   
 
And, then I let all my hopes, dreams, visions, longings go up into the cavity of His love, and ceaseless Praise begins to flow out from my heart, because in the making of space for His love, and the letting go of my self-loves and thing-loves and doing-loves, there is a wide open plain for Him to consecrate me. To His covenant, to His promises, to His plan, to His timing for my present season, and future calling.  It’s ironic, isn’t it?  If we clench our fist tightly to hold onto all that we want to hold onto in each season of life, somehow everything seems to slip through the cracks of our fingers, even though we thought our hold was tight enough to keep everything intact.  But, if we loosen our grip, and open up our hands so that He can take my life and let it BE (whatever He wants), somehow He ends up filling our hands with more than we could ever dream or dare to have landed into our lives.
Oh, Lord, truly, you have been our Dwelling place…in every season.  From season to season, you are God.  Establish us for your glory, and for our Good. Give us a heart of wisdom, as we number of seasons.  Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love.  Make us glad for as many days as we have felt afflicted or bruised or battered or broken down by the disappointments of hopes deferred, of longings unfilled, of trials borne, of Your will awaited.
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Simeon

There was a man from long ago,

Who dreamed a dream gone by –

Watching, waiting, for the One –

He’d see before He died.

 

Simeon, they called him,

Righteous, devout and old –

Weathered by his waiting,

Of a promise long foretold.

 

He said the Spirit told him,

The Messiah would be born,

To console and save His people,

And kingdoms that were torn.

 

I sat there in the temple,

He walked by me to pray –

Never here before,

But prompted to come that day.

 

Lo, behold, a mother,

Walked in, with swaddled child –

Helpless in my eyes,

Tender and so mild.

 

I watched as Simeon held him,

And marveled at the way –

Someone could wait a lifetime,

For this moment, on this day.

 

Patient in the journey,

And now, he seemed complete –

The fruition of God’s promise,

And Faith, his greatest feat.

 

I wrestled with my thoughts,

The series of my Whys –

How could this child, now born,

Give peace, for him to die.

 

How could one bank his life,

Upon a word you hear?

How could he simply know,

The Grace of God, appeared?

 

I had so many visions,

Dreams for which I longed –

And in the empty echoes,

It seemed I had been wronged.

 

How could a little baby,

Make his soul fulfilled?

How could new life, make death,

Seem joyful to his will.

 

Perplexed by this occurrence,

He explained it all to me –

This child, a door of Hope,

Into eternity.

 

A vision, old and ancient,

Its appointed time was here,

Hope had come to brighten,

The darkness of our fears.

 

And just as he gave Simeon,

A promise not in vain,

This Christ, had come to redeem,

My sorrow, hurt, and pain.

 

Mine eyes had seen God’s glory,

For years, but not the Lord –

But now, with unveiled face,

I saw true grace that poured.

 

That poured out through this child,

A promise made and kept –

Messiah of the World,

For which he later wept.

 

He’d walk my road with love,

He’d fight for me, to win,

He’d carried that old Cross,

And forgive all of my sins.

 

Hope had come that day,

And hope has come, this Eve –

God with us, we know –

So may our hearts believe!

 

Believe that through the shadows,

The valleys, tears, and nights –

Our Savior Jesus guides us, with

Heaven’s Glorious Light.

 

Amidst the things unseen,

We call this Hope to mind –

While we wait with eager longing,

In Him, our joy, we find.

 

So let your heart make room,

For Jesus on this night –

Hope has come forever,

Our faith has turned to sight!

 

Simeon lived for a moment,

But we, my friends, can sing –

Future, past and present,

Christ lives, our glorious King!

 

And someday, He will say,

Welcome home, my son;

Against all Hope, you stood,

And now your Faith has won.

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Rising Strong

Rising strong, 

He holds me still –
Like the sand,
The Ocean fills.
I’ve swum to shore,
I’ve drifted to sea –
And all the while,
He has asked me to Be.
Still in His Love,
Still in His Strength –
Even when I,
Cannot go the Length –
The length of great Faith,
The width of Love –
The depth of His wealth,
Hope’s Height from above.
And when I am weary,
With the length of this Way,
He speaks to me,
At the break of Day.
The hallways of Time,
Echo so bright –
The good and the bad,
Shine forth in His Light –
What has been, and
All that is Past –
I hand off to Him,
To hold what will last.
Last for my Future,
Endure for Tomorrow –
And, smiling I wave,
Goodbye to my Sorrows.
The scars remain,
And I’ll always recall –
The loves that changed me,
Their rise and their fall.
The fall of mistakes,
The rise to what’s Real –
The fall into Love,
The rising to Heal.
Into a person,
Seasoned and sown –
Wiser, today,
More vulnerable and known.
I look in the mirror,
And wonder just how,
These years have all passed,
And who I am now.
So much has changed,
And much more to come –
But He will remain,
Steadfast like the Sun.
And when others move on,
And my life feels behind –
I look back to remember,
His Goodness, I find.
People have asked,
Why I believe,
Why I have faith,
In this life, He has weaved –
Drawing these shades,
Sketching these stories –
Of love braving pain,
Of heartache to glory.
How could one ever,
Deny such a Gift?
That offers such bounty,
Not a finger, we lift.
To pay or to earn,
This freedom of Peace,
In His Arms, all our
Strivings, simply cease.
Outlandish it seems,
Too good to be true –
And yet it’s more real,
Than all that I knew.
Knew in my head,
Felt in my heart –
It doesn’t make sense,
Being whole, yet apart.
But walking this road,
Between faith and sense,
At some point, we must –
Jump off of the Fence.
To taste and to see,
The mystery of Good –
Beyond this one side,
Past where I’ve stood.
Our logic must go,
When hearing His voice,
Suddenly we realize,
He offers a Choice –
The choice to embrace,
More than we hold,
From our own making,
From all this world told.
And beyond the science,
Told by our books,
The story fits perfect,
When I dared to look.
To look and to savor,
Peace from my fears –
A Shepherd to guide me,
Through all of these years.
Someone I found,
At rock bottom, of Hell,
Empty of Hope,
My Soul, found this Well.
Deep as the ocean,
Full as the sky,
Quenching forever,
Past how and why.
He opened my hands,
He carried my Loss,
He showed me His heart,
Broke at the Cross.
So when I am weak,
And all words are lost –
I remember the One,
Who counted the cost.
To love me, forever,
To love me, in pain-
To love me, so boldly,
His death, my gain.
Still, I will wait,
Still, I will go –
Still, I will sing,
Through all these unknowns.

 

Rising strong, 

He holds me fast –
He whispers to me,
The first shall be last.
The first shall be last,
And finally the Day,
Will break through the dark,
And show me the Way.
The Way He has planned,
Up out of this Well,
And Glory, we’ll speak,
Of His Love, we will tell.
Our children will dance,
Our children we’ll Hold –
And someday these words,
To them will be Told.
So hold onto Hope,
For all that we long,
Falling too weak,
We’ll rise so strong.
Rising strong,
Into His glory –

Rising strong, 

He’ll tell the story.
The story He planned,
Down in the deep,
The things He reveals,
And the details He keeps.
And whatever He shines,
And whatever He shields –
I’ll trust His Hand,
His best to yield.

 

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Fear

The shadows of my fear,
Creep under the door –
I’ve felt them for so long,
Like cracks across the floor.

Phantoms of the night,
Companions of the day,
Sometimes I push back,
Sometimes I give way.

It dances round my soul,
I cannot catch my breath –
Teasing me too long,
It pulls me down, like death.

Then time stands still, my world –
My life and soul on hold,
I’m broken by these dreams,
That wrinkle and grow old.

The Sun, it rises,
But clouds still loom inside –
These Rays of faith are hidden,
By storms of love, that died.

But back behind the light,
This rock is cleft for me!
Strange treasures of the darkness,
I hide myself in Thee.

Unveiled, He see me clearly –
fully known and loved;
Unseen to all the world,
My tears, to Him, still shown.

Surely He has felt,
The fears, my heart, have beat –
My grief upon His shoulders,
I weep down at His feet.

There’s nothing left to lose,
For He lost all for me –
Resting in His love,
From my doubts, I’m freed.

Should my heart and flesh,
Fail to beat again,
In heaven they’ll be healed,
Redeemed, at journey’s end.

I dare not trust Earth’s frame,
Its portion never lasts;
But Christ, my solid anchor,
For future, present, past.

I’m finding now, in loss,
How sweet your hand in mine,
The breaks within my heart,
He’ll heal again in time.

Though the waves they crash,
And with them, former hopes –
I cry out and you throw,
More of faiths long rope.

Your thoughts just like the sand,
Much more than of my own –
Oh, the depth and riches,
This God, by whom I’m known.

Greater glories still,
Ahead, than I can see –
And what is left behind,
Will one day be redeemed.

Empty, Lord, I come,
Make me whole, today –
With eyes fixed firm on you,
Courage will make a way.

Your love is all I need,
To make my life complete –
The gospel is my story,
Faith, my greatest feat.

So fearing nothing now,
Nothing do I lack —
For we are not of those,
Who ever will shrink back.

We are those who live,
Believing in the God,
Who conquered Fear our foe,
Through Christ, His very Son.

If you are afraid,
Of what is yet to come –
Trust, my friend, forever,
In the life, for you, He’s won.

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Not in Vain

My title is not single,
My status is Redeemed.
Once bound to expectation,
I walk forward, Free.

Free to journey forward,
With open hands, I go.
Wherever He will call me,
The road, He’s already known.

Life so vastly different,
Than anything I’ve dreamed.
At times, so deeply lonely,
Too much to bear, it seemed.

I’ve loved and lived and lost,
Strove to be enough,
And over time I’ve found,
Perfection’s race is rough.

More than I can give,
Impossible to be,
And the less that I control,
The more Beauty that I see…

…in people and in life,
In giving, I cannot fake —
The blessing of forgetting,
Myself, however high the stakes.

Time has aged me, true,
And still, my Heart, it waits –
For the Best to come,
I know it won’t be late.

For the pieces I have lost,
Of self, in love, its wars –
They never were for nought,
They’ve always opened doors.

Love is never wasted,
My soul, my heart, its taught –
It marks us, yes, forever –
A gift, that can’t be bought.

So come now friends, believe –
That good still lies ahead,
Within His kingdom come,
To greater things we’re Wed.

I write for you my brothers –
I voice my cry, my friends –
His Call is the beginning,
Marriage, not the end.

The end of life’s long battle,
To feel complete and whole –
In Christ, we find our answers,
Security of soul.

Faith we daily seek,
His goodness, we must claim,
The Gospel is our proof –
That Love is not in vain.

Nothing here replaces,
His presence on our roads,
All we want and need,
He’s proven through unknowns.

And all I once held dear,
Must count as earthly loss,
For the sake of knowing,
My Savior at the Cross.

They say that all in time,
Proves beautiful and true –
Yes, my Savior, Jesus,
Is making all things new.

This pen I put to paper,
How can I not speak?
We each are reaching out,
For strength, when hopes are weak.

I can’t say all my dreams,
Will drop into my hands –
Yet with His promised presence,
Forever firm, I’ll stand.

If the surpassing worth,
Is knowing Him in glory,
We must count all as loss,
To advance God’s greater story.

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Jacob

I saw him walking,
Down the road,
light shone ’round him,
Like an Angel’s glow.

The dawn had broken,
Night was gone –
And Jacob, my Brother,
Was limping along.

This man, had taken,
A blessing, you see,
Blind to my Father,
And stolen from me.

Jacob I loved,
His deed, Oh, I hated,
An inheritance lost,
For which I had waited.

How shrewd and persistent,
His brazen ambition;
Now again, I sensed,
A claim, He had won…

Indeed, he had wrestled,
Through night’s lonely hours,
A messenger from heaven,
gripped with God’s power.

Withdrawn, from all others,
Away in that place,
Jacob, strove,
With God, face to face.

The One who had said,
I will surely do you good —
Now tested His heart,
To believe that He would.

How audacious to claim,
From One’s very foe;
“Until you bless me,
I will not let you go!”

Yet in the struggle,
Brave through the fight,
Jacob prevailed,
Through the dark, into Light.

I don’t think he knew,
The pain that would come,
I don’t think he knew,
Great Faith, would be won.

Like Broken hips,
Limping, our souls,
In the battles,
We fight, the pain, and the pull.

The pull of Fear,
Upon our lives,
Will blessing come?
For hope, we strive.

Grip, grows weak,
The pain seems too great –
Yet, Clinging like Jacob,
For the blessing, we wait.

Morning will come,
The battle will break –
Don’t let go,
Great strength, it will take.

Hold onto hope,
Promises true –
Grace means,
He’s holding you, too.

More broken, you’ll leave,
But not having failed –
Victorious like Jacob,
Blessings will prevail.

Wrestle, then, my friend –
Shrink back, not, to fear –
The morning will come,
Your place, will be clear.

Good things come,
To those who wait –
Onward, He’ll move you,
It won’t be too late.

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Hello again, Africa

This is my story. A bit re-told. Perhaps, redundant. But mostly, re-ignited.

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It’s been so long so I’ve written on my blog. My inbox shows thousands of deleted and sent e-mails after four years of work and development of relationships and efforts achieved, and yet, I haven’t really said anything – about Africa. My vision. This hope sparked five years ago in the heart of a girl who just wanted to make a difference and LIVE.  And, so I take a moment to ponder and write.

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5 years ago, I moved to Kenya. I lived and served there for a year, and was changed more than I changed anything.  I packed and moved and lived and worked and served and loved and cleaned and prayed and wept and laughed and cooked and got sick and cared for 17 surrogate daughters and taught music to little kids.

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I ran long runs and wrote poetry at night and practiced piano and went to the IDP camps and to the slums and saw eyes glazed over by hopelessness and sickness and despair.

I danced in the rain and learned Swahili and sat still and soaked up the Sun and baked bread and shooed monkeys out of my kitchen and picked rhubarb and flowers from my backyard and got my hands and feet dirty and learned how to play Rugby and took Pottery and warded off the H1N1 Swine Flu and killed bugs (a lot of them) and drudged through the Rainy season and fought with teenagers.

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I climbed mountains – physically and spiritually – and ached for home during the holidays and made life-long friends and wrestled with God like Jacob and learned from others and grew up – and then I packed, said goodbye and moved home for a variety of reasons.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me in my early twenties, and the decision to go was easier than the decision to return home.

Now, it is almost 2015.  I do what I do today, and have a strong and happy vision for my life, a future family, service, career, and relationships. But, there is a repeat to be played on this old song, an African beat too catchy to miss, and so I go back.  I saw what I saw, and couldn’t forget. I heard what I heard, and it has bounced off the wall of the globe and echoed back in my ears, too loud to ignore. I know what I know, and can’t ignore this deep conviction that calls me back. And so, this Friday, I’ll fly around the world to South Africa for vacation, and then to Kenya to work with the women of Threads of Hope and help figure out how to get a deed for some land and map out our plan to build an early childhood development center, and see dear friends and reflect and make connections. Three weeks will fly by, and Time will be precious, limited and fast. In many ways, I will have to “meet” an old friend again – after all, Africa has greatly changed, and so have I.

I’d like to think that I return to Africa older and wiser. At 24, I thought that I was going to Africa to be the heroic philanthropic servant. After spending 20+ years of my life in the same county, I felt a healthy discontent stirring within me to go, explore, do good, and help others outside of my own comfort zone and circle. And, yet, I was proud – American hat on, Western habits in hand, I brought my own ideology and agenda with me, more than I realized. How quickly did I see that I was a minnow in a pond of amazing other missionaries and teachers and photographers and musicians and doctors and athletes and professors and entrepreneurs.  And, I was just there to serve others like everyone else. Ego and identity aside, I ate many a slice of humble pie, and slowly but surely, shifted my thinking. I wasn’t there to accomplish – I was there to love, listen, and learn from others.

And, so, I go back, eagerly and gratefully, with a humble watchfulness for the unexpected. When I decided to make this return trip early this year, there were so many questions in my mind. How will I afford it? How am I going to get enough time off work? Who will I go with? How am I going to secure key meetings that will help bolster Threads of Hope’s efforts? When exactly should I go? And, now, a few days away from leaving, I thank God for the ways in which He has literally paved the way for me to do this.

Psalm 126 says: “The LORD has done great things for us; and we are filled with joy. Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! She who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing her sheaves with her.”

When I left Africa in 2010, I left sowing in tears. I wanted to stay a second year, but a family member was battling an intense season of depression, unemployment, and mental sickness, and I would return home to a dark shadow that had cast itself over him, and with it, our entire family.  Little did I know then how difficult that fog of years would be for all of us – the best year of my life in Kenya was followed by the hardest year of my life.  But, I left Africa in faith knowing that He had a good plan and purpose, and would show me exactly when and where and why I needed to go back someday.

While I went out “weeping”, bearing seed for the sowing God had back in DC for me, and with my family, I can now confidently say that I am going “home” with shouts of joy, bringing sheaves of bounty with me.  In some ways, I feel as though I’ve had a spiritual awakening, watching God work and weave His blessings over this trip from Day 1.

The list is endless.  Receiving a book on South Africa from my Uncle last December, planting a small seed of curiosity to travel there. A former supporter e-mailing me in early 2014 asking what was holding me back from making a return trip, and offering a hefty amount of funding to help me get there? Seed-funding pouring in for Threads of Hope, through my Fundly campaign.  God holding me back from returning in August – and, instead, giving me the opportunity to engage in the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington, DC in August, opening doors with local Kenyan government officials and private sector leaders that I would never have met if I had been abroad around that time. A colleague from the South African Embassy inviting me to attend his wedding in November, and my friend Jessica commenting that exact week that we should take a trip together this fall to South Africa.  My friend from South African Airways (SAA) then offering to coordinate discounts/flight deals, bookings, and activities.  Key business meetings falling into place with my work clients in both Johannesburg and Nairobi. Attending a brunch in Austin, TX over Labor Day, only to discover that two friends of my brother’s were going to be in SA at the exact same time that we were!  Discovering that the “random” people we are going to spend Thanksgiving dinner with in Cape Town are mutual friends of some church friends.  Skyping with a representative from Banking without Borders for the Grameen Foundation last week, only to find out that her husband grew up in Malewa, the very town where Threads of Hope exists, and that he has a robust knowledge of the village.  Meeting with Kate Spade’s corporate philanthropy team in NYC in October, leading to an introduction to a girl who works in clothing design in Nairobi and understands the wholesale fabric business in the city – something I need to understand and learn in the days ahead.  Meeting my friend and Barre instructor, who helps hosts a successful fundraiser workout class for Threads of Hope.  Scoping out Air BnB, with many spots falling through, only to eventually land on a 160-year old church-turned into a BnB spot, hosted by a woman who is Dutch and a gardener, just like my Oma. And, even this past weekend, bummed that my own Air BnB booking fell through for my apartment, laughing out loud at God’s ways as I see a notification pop up from a girl would like to book my place because she and her friend will be in DC to renew her South African three-year Visa, and that they are involved in Non Profit and mission work on the Eastern Cape of South Africa.  On and on, it goes.

Coincidences? Perhaps, but I think not.  There is a sovereign, intelligent God ruling over the heavens and earth, who is not far away from us, but is actually quite close to our lives and hearts. Psalm 68 says, “Strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.” This has been my prayer from the beginning. Strengthen, God, – shape, frame, mold, craft, weave, thread – this trip together into a tapestry of grace that glorifies and magnifies your name and worth.

Indeed, He has done this, and I am filled with joy. I’ve been reading in Acts lately – 2:23 says, “And, Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, was crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held down by it. Therefore, David says concerning him (Jesus), “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my flesh will also dwell in hope – for He will not abandon my soul to the grave, or let His Holy One see decay. He has made known to me the paths of life – He will make me full of gladness with His presence.”

I cannot GO to Africa without acknowledging the One who has equipped me for this journey. Just as there was a definite plan for Jesus Christ to die for us, be raised to life, conquering death and sin forever, there too is a definite plan for my next three weeks, and our lives at large. Through all of these ‘serendipitous happenings,’ these divine interruptions to my life and schedule, I see the Lord before me, at my right hand, and I am not shaken, because His ways are good and perfect. My heart is glad, I rejoice, and my flesh dwells in hope – because He will not abandon His own.  He has paved the way.

I’m not afraid. Of Ebola, sickness, of getting lost, of losing luggage, of ‘unplugging,’ of crying, of doing a lot of listening, of reflecting, of not checking X, Y and Z off my lists, of resting, of my plan being interrupted, of navigating complex situations.  God will be with me. He will help me. He will strengthen that which He has wrought for me.

I don’t tell this story to showcase anything that I have done, hope to do, or wish to accomplish. I have my ambitions to help take Threads of Hope to scale and to the next level of success, but I go with tempered expectations.  In America, Time is money, Time is tasks, Time is accomplishments.  In Africa, Time is relationships.  Time is listening.  Time is just, being.  And, so, I don’t tell this story to sugarcoat my trip with noble motives.  I don’t share this story to ask for your financial support for Threads of Hope (although, I welcome it!)  I don’t share this story to be dramatic. I simply share these thoughts before I go, because simple reflection leads to thankfulness.

When we pause to reflect on our lives and relationships and chapters, extraordinary or ordinary, it doesn’t take long to realize that in each of our lives, the Author of our stories is at work.  Something beautiful is unfolding. Something eternal is shining. Something taking root is growing. Something scabbed is healing. Something waiting is coming. Something dry will be quenched. Something shadowed will take the spotlight. Something watched for is on the horizon. Something unknown will be known. Something torn will be sewn. Something lost will be found. Something confusing will be clear. Something let go will be replaced with what is best. Something hum will be sung. Something played will resound. Something emptied will be filled. Something painful will be redeemed.  Something dim will reflect back clearly.

DSC_0048 Something frail, perhaps just a mustard seed of faith, will be strengthened into something Real and True by the Strength which He himself has wrought for us.

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Let Down Your Anchor

Let down your anchor,
Wayfaring soul,
Rest your Trust, and be Still;
For with the Winds,
We give way,
To currents of our own will.

On great waters,
Or close to shore,
Our souls grow weathered like a sail;
We lose our mark,
Tossed by storms,
The compass’s needle tends to flail.

The waves of the world,
Then pull us out,
Lift us high, above the deep;
With a crash,
We ride down,
From heights we cannot keep.

For, when did the Tide,
Ever guide,
The dreams that take us to Sea;
We tac from the stern,
We wait from the bow,
The wind, to move, we plea.

But, then the Captain,
Commands His crew,
To toss our maps aside;
Our own way,
Thrown overboard,
And we are along for the ride.

Strange channel unknown,
How narrow it seems,
With such a wide ocean ahead;
Yet I know,
That with our Guide,
To safe havens, He’ll lead.

Let down your Anchor,
Whenever he says,
He knows when the wind is at bay;
If it seems slow,
Wait for it,
It will come, not a moment delayed.

Based on Habakkuk 2:1-3, 2 Kings 18, Psalm 107, and Acts 28

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