Just One More

cream casket pink flowers

Such a hard, sad day.

The man stood at the lectern and read the letters the daughters had written. Then he read the husband’s and there was one central theme…

Her husband wanted just one more. One more hug. One more kiss. One more squeeze of the hand, one more fond gaze, one more time to hear her deep belly laugh. He wanted her. He wanted to be with his best friend again, even for just one more moment.

But she slipped away from him early that Sunday morning, unexpected, one moment saying she wasn’t feeling well… then gone before the paramedics could even open their bags.

Just one more.

And as I sat there in the funeral home, a dozen rows back, behind family and so many friends, I felt a surge growing in me. For as with any and every funeral I’ve ever attended — and much more as I grow older — I realize it’s just as the ones who loved them best say: You never know when you’ll be called to leave your body behind and enter eternity. And eternity is forever, whether in Heaven or in Hell.

butterfly on flower

So again it fills me to make sure those around me know, at least as far as I can show and tell them…

Tell them
Love them,
Set self ever aside, tending to
Them, loving – knowing I am
Cared for but they —
They need to know what I know:
Life never ends
Love doesn’t die;
There is one path, a
Single door, a
Narrow way.

But the Door stands wide open, the
Path bright lit, the
Way a Truth, a Life, a
Man, the one and only
Son of Man, the God-Man, and you
Know His name, His name, you know
You’ve known all your life really, that
One name that changes everything:
Jesus.

Fierce kind, not safe, no, but comforting
Life spark, blaze flame, everlasting
Love.

And when we take Him into our deepest
Place, death dies and we can’t help
But live, for death then is only
A shaking off, a dropping off
Soul springing free into forever
Spirit sunshine.

For He, this Jesus, embodies it, thin skin covers
Blaze unquenchable and I couldn’t even
Raise my eyes but He tilts my
Chin and I smile through wet eyes into bearably
Dimmed but never diminished gentle
Blaze tempered, burgeoning because love
Escapes, gushes, knocks me down to
Rise again and I gulp in the
Light, quivering as death’s
Ice fingers curl away, slip slide
Off, can’t find purchase on deathless
Life and I jump
Alive! Laugh with my bright
Big bearded Brother.

small and larger butterfly in clouds

How can I tell them? Is there a way I can impart my freedom to those who sit there with me, wiping tears, knowing she’s everywhere here but nowhere close? How can I tell those boys I rarely see except for times like these, their Mimi’s one desire is to see them laugh into her arms up there? I bow, gaze at empty helpless hands and know I don’t have to do anything for them — she already sowed in them seeds watered by her absence and their own tears today. I see strangers all around, my own mother seated next to me, all of us somewhere in death’s queue, waiting our turn to be the one in the beautiful box, the one the man at the lectern is talking about.

And I realize as I stand and gather my things at the end, what I can do is love well those left behind. I can look into their anguished eyes and give them the hug they need. I can write the letter later telling them how much their mother, his wife, meant to me. I can lift them to the Father when their teary faces shimmer in my mind.

I can look past my own busy pod life to the concentric circles around me: neighbors, acquaintances, friends, closest friends, inner circle, best best friend… and ask Father, What about them? Am I doing your work for me on their behalf? I bow my head and for the sake of the sweet lady whose laugh I’ll not hear till Heaven, I ask, again, Father who can I love today with your love? Who can I tell of your goodness? Who can I draw closer to you today?

So while I stand empty handed at death’s crushing blow, wishing for one more visit, one more deep talk, one more hand-crafted meal and just to sit and do nothing with her… I can love just one more person today. In her honor and in honor of those who have gone before, all for the glory of God and for filling His house with countless redeemed souls. And on the day I enter the gates she and so many I love joyfully entered before me, I will look for her. I will hear her laugh and follow the sound till I get another big, loving Gail hug. Oh, happy day!

little girl releasing butterfly

Weakness Begone

white flowers on black tree branch under sky during daytime

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It was another great day at Kintsugi women’s self-defense class at Ka’en’s, learning how to wriggle out of a chokehold, hip-thrust to knock off the attacker’s center, grab the arm and toss them. Wooo. But when I rolled to the floor the pain of my bruised ribs screamed again and I had to sit and breathe for a while. I cried out in frustration — ugh, here I was rib-hurt again! and couldn’t do half of what I wanted to do in class.

Ka’en urged me to get some sort of mid-section support (yeah, I’d seen something like that down the knee-brace aisle at Walgreen’s). Then she got this spark in her eyes. She said, “I think we need to pray about this.”

She prayed for all my body systems to submit to Christ and function as they were designed. Then, as she placed her hand on my sore side, she prayed a different prayer. She told the spirit of weakness and fear to leave me, and immediately I saw it: bony hands, black curved claws sunk into my side, cloudy charcoal body clinging to me like some hideous parasite.

You see, ever since I entered the world at a mere 5 lbs. 8 oz., I’d been a tiny person. I was skinny, gangly, frizzy-haired and scared. The kids in gym class would “cover” for me, so I rarely got the ball in basketball or had to bump the white orb over the net in volleyball. Softball was terrifying — really, what sane person wants to whack a speeding hard ball (no ball is soft zooming at those speeds) — flying straight at them? Of course I never tried out for any school sport — an avowed anti-sport person embracing music and a happy “bando,” playing first trumpet all the way through to graduation. Secretly I wanted to try out for Track and Cross-country in high school but what if it was too hard? What if I wasn’t strong enough? So I self-protected, retreating to music’s happy bubble, only (barely) doing sports in gym class.

A late-bloomer, I cowered under the voluptuous girls’ taunts, even after my mom bought me bras and taught me how to stuff them. I was weak, small. Still skinny all the way till college when I finally fully blossomed. When I got married I was embarrassed by my frame till I saw my husband’s happy smile, convincing me that at least in his eyes I was enough.

As I began working out at the local Y, I grew muscles and confidence. But deep down I still considered myself to be the tiny victim of life’s cruel jokes, a skinny little woman, small and weak. A spontaneous lung collapse in my mid-30s revealed a possibly congenital lung condition that would likely spiral into a gasping grasping end of  life. Frail, weak.

flickering flame

But in June 2010 the Lord healed my lungs. They still presented as full of blebs or cysts, but I could kickbox and run and lift weights. Still, though, it took several years to not be terrified of another lung collapse every time I experienced the occasional shortness of breath or lung pain. Small, weak, frail.

Even now, as I’m typing this, I’m breathing through some lung pain, a sharp poke in the side, a cramping pain like a stitch in the side. But this time, I’m not afraid.

As Ka’en prayed that day, I saw the creature and I was angry. How DARE you cling to me? I am Leoa, Warrior Princess of the Most High God, and anything demonic has NO place in or on me. As she told it to go, I saw it shrink back, claws pulling out, Holy Spirit puff dissipating it in a terrified cloud.

 

And I felt strength surge into my frame, starting at my feet and burgeoning up through my legs, through my middle, through the top of my head — a blast of power straight from God Himself. I saw Leoa standing on a mountain ledge, head thrown back, roaring golden fiery blast into the sky! And I saw that I was finally free from the lies of:

Weak
Small
Ineffective
Victim
Fearful
Useless.

Instead, I saw with new clarity what had been true for many, many years — I am weak in myself, O yes, every human is. But in Christ I am a fireball of power, and the fear I once held in me is now afraid of me.

I went home and began to claim back territory the enemy had taken from me, from my children. My son hasn’t been able to sleep in his own room, as terrors in the form of sounds and poltergeist-like activity have kept him bound. I went into that room and roared and roared. I saw, in the Spirit, wispy forms blowing out through the walls at the blast.

 All this power held in human frame, this earthen vessel… Is it me? O please, I’m not that good, I’ve never been much in the natural. But as all of us Holy Spirit vessels come to realize (more and more as we are taught and grow in and by Him), a being filled to the full is a mighty force to contend with, and Satan doesn’t mess with us long. Not to say he doesn’t try and I’m no fool to think he won’t try again. But the battle is always as good as won when I stand on what is true.

I am:

Mighty
Strong
Powerful
Fierce
Meek (gentle in harnessed power)
A Warrior.

screaming woman warrior

An awful lot like my Big Brother, Jesus Christ — the God of Angel Armies, my Commander, Lord, Best Friend, Comrade-in-Arms!

And as I assemble my army around me, I see flaming torch eyes in my sisters and brothers. We are mighty in Holy Ghost power, wind like a hurricane blast in the face of all the evil hell itself can throw against us. This is the true Church, my friends.

And as I breathe through the pain of my healing ribs, I no longer see a weakling. I see a Warrior with some battle wounds to show she’s not afraid of a fight. And, through Christ, I can do all things. All things my Commander and Lord calls me to, for I already have all I need. Fear is no longer my enemy. It is my vanquished foe. It is now afraid of me.

“God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
~ Paul in 2 Timothy 1:7

We are called to be more than what we were, what we learned so early on we accepted it as truth. We call lies truth because we see the so-called evidence and human logic says what sure seems to be true. But God’s great Truths always outshine the lies, the “facts” life has taught us. We are not who we think we are. Through Christ we are so, so much more than meets the eye.

What are you afraid of, my friends? What are some of the lies you need to unseat? It’s okay to not know what they are yet. But I dare you to pray the brave prayer:

Father, show me who I really am. Show me what You see when You look at me. And teach me to grow into the image You dreamed for me as You formed me with Your hands.

It’s time to unglue the skins that don’t fit. It’s time to grow into your true image. It’s time to become like Jesus.

Jesus reaching in storm

 

 

O, Love!

art beach beautiful clouds

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

O Love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
That in thy oceans depths its flow
will richer, fuller be…

O Joy that seeks me through the pain
I cannot close my heart to thee
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be…

O love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
And in they ocean depths its flow
Shall richer, fuller be
That morn shall tearless be —
O love…
O love that will not let me go
O love that will not let me go!
~ “O Love” by Elaine Hagenberg

I sat in the sparsely-filled auditorium as my daughter’s choir filed the risers row by row, filling with white-shirted young men in black bow ties and pants, the girls in simple floor-length black gowns. The songs flowed beautifully from their lips, as though pulled forth masterfully by their beloved conductor.

msa choir

I’ve enjoyed every concert, pulling my little brood to the Senior Chorale concerts in our home school community since long before any of them were old enough to stand on that stage — often in the back where I could set up a blanket with toys and scoop up wailing little ones for a quick retreat if necessary.

So sitting there at the choral competition in a private school I’d never been in before, my last-born nearby, his sister on the stage — I didn’t expect anything but the usual excellence. And of course they didn’t disappoint.

But then this song quietly entered the room, slowly filling the room — and me — to the full with its rich harmonies. But it was so much more than that.

O Love, O Love, O Love that will not let me go…

… that will not let me go

Ah, how that simple phrase sank down, down, till it settled warm and thick, fluid flow gentle ebb and flow in my spirit, my soul. That reassurance that I never fully had before finally found its way so deep down it can’t be drained out again or yanked from my clutching hands, my wailing heart!

gripping hands

I know, finally know beyond knowing, that God’s firm grip on me never loosens.

I was never a once-saved-always-saved Christian. I was more the if-I-screw-up-God’s-gonna-strike-me-down-so-I’d-better-watch-my-step Christian. But even then I fought — oh how I fought! — to let MY will be done, only obeying when I decided. The concept of Jesus being Lord of me was simply beyond my grasp and being a hard-headed (and often hard-hearted) person, I thought (O fool that I was!) that I could be a Christian without really submitting to my Master.

At first God was just plain scary so I avoided Him.
Then He swung to the other end — my buddy… Hey, wassup, Jesus?

Truth was at neither pole, it turns out. But He pursued me, O He would not let me get away with being ignorant. He let me flounder in my foolishness, letting me tell Him No, but feeling the sting of it afterwards. Running back into His arms, asking Him to help me bridge the divide between fear of doing what He wanted me to do (Please, don’t send me to Africa…) and fear of what would happen if I didn’t . And, always right there,  the verse that challenged, frightened, and sobered me:

“If you love Me, keep my commands.”
~ Jesus in John 14:15

Simple but impossible. I was dead set in my disobedient ways, thinking He loved me so it was okay. I could basically live on my own terms. But that’s not how it works.

It never was intended to be a “magic prayer so I can go to Heaven” deal. Jesus didn’t die so I could believe a certain creed, even if it meant committing every verse in His holy Book to memory and doing everything just so (or nearly so). He didn’t leave Heaven so I could live any way I please and expect to enter Heaven when I die because Didn’t I say the prayer? Didn’t I believe? Didn’t I do the right things?

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ~ Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 7:21-23

Wow — yep, this is Jesus’ own words, and they couldn’t be clearer. His love that will not let go doesn’t let me get away with a passive head knowledge, keep-away distorted religious facade.

His love pursues my heart — our hearts! Even when I was plunged into mental illness,  unacknowledged bi-polar ripping my mind, psychosis wielding a knife — when I thought I was lost and in Hell, my cell in Chester County Prison a place of death and hopelessness…

When I cried from the floor, “I give up, I give up…” Love not my own swelled into my heart and even when I couldn’t feel it at all, my head was cradled in His lap and the Jesus I thought had let me go sang sweet songs over me. Sweet songs that pulled me from the depths of that prison cell into light and life and more love than I ever thought possible.

O Love that will not let me go!

woman in stripes holding hands with person wearing bracelets

Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

And when I’m tempted to slide away from Him, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love!”* — I hear a quiet whisper, a whoosh in my spirit, my soul breathing deep and I can’t help but gaze into the eyes on fire for me. I breathe in love and join Him in the dance, this dance we share. I bow, eyes aglow, for He is my King.

woman bowing

He is a consuming fire, but His love consumes all sin in me.
He is not safe, He could crush me with His hand and someday He will purify this present Earth with devastating fire. Those who cling to their sins and refuse to obey — well what can He do? He gives us all the choice and the choice leads to Life — or Death — there is no in-between. He would let me choose death, but not without a fight, a struggle for my soul till I breathe my last.

But this Love that will not let me go will not let me but choose to stay with the God I love.  This Love draws me back into endless embrace, and really what more could I ever want? For in Him is all our hearts long for:

Love
Joy
Peace
Friendship
Contentment…
So much more than a lifetime can tally, so much that eternity will explore the heights, the depths, the burgeoning sea of this Love. It’s a daily choice to sink into Him, letting my own agenda melt into His. It’s a Good morning, Jesus, I love You — what shall we do today? It’s walking into every day acknowledging You are the Lord and I’m just me — but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me — so let’s take on today!

O Love, O Love, O Love that will not let me go!

Now, sweet reader, think on these things. What is keeping you from running into His arms, from crowning Jesus Christ King of your heart, your life? Today is the day to choose to embrace this never-ending Love. It’s time to die to that old, dead life that is destined to rot, decay, and fall into endless Hell. It’s time to enter with Jesus into death and rise into new life, a rebirth that springs forth endless life, endless Love with the One you were made for.

It’s time, dear one.

shallow focus of clear hourglass

Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

 

*”Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson

O, Love!

art beach beautiful clouds

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

O Love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
That in thy oceans depths its flow
will richer, fuller be…

O Joy that seeks me through the pain
I cannot close my heart to thee
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be…

O love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
And in they ocean depths its flow
Shall richer, fuller be
That morn shall tearless be —
O love…
O love that will not let me go
O love that will not let me go!
~ “O Love” by Elaine Hagenberg

I sat in the sparsely-filled auditorium as my daughter’s choir filed the risers row by row, filling with white-shirted young men in black bow ties and pants, the girls in simple floor-length black gowns. The songs flowed beautifully from their lips, as though pulled forth masterfully by their beloved conductor.

msa choir

I’ve enjoyed every concert, pulling my little brood to the Senior Chorale concerts in our home school community since long before any of them were old enough to stand on that stage — often in the back where I could set up a blanket with toys and scoop up wailing little ones for a quick retreat if necessary.

So sitting there at the choral competition in a private school I’d never been in before, my last-born nearby, his sister on the stage — I didn’t expect anything but the usual excellence. And of course they didn’t disappoint.

But then this song quietly entered the room, slowly filling the room — and me — to the full with its rich harmonies. But it was so much more than that.

O Love, O Love, O Love that will not let me go…

… that will not let me go

Ah, how that simple phrase sank down, down, till it settled warm and thick, fluid flow gentle ebb and flow in my spirit, my soul. That reassurance that I never fully had before finally found its way so deep down it can’t be drained out again or yanked from my clutching hands, my wailing heart!

gripping hands

I know, finally know beyond knowing, that God’s firm grip on me never loosens.

I was never a once-saved-always-saved Christian. I was more the if-I-screw-up-God’s-gonna-strike-me-down-so-I’d-better-watch-my-step Christian. But even then I fought — oh how I fought! — to let MY will be done, only obeying when I decided. The concept of Jesus being Lord of me was simply beyond my grasp and being a hard-headed (and often hard-hearted) person, I thought (O fool that I was!) that I could be a Christian without really submitting to my Master.

At first God was just plain scary so I avoided Him.
Then He swung to the other end — my buddy… Hey, wassup, Jesus?

Truth was at neither pole, it turns out. But He pursued me, O He would not let me get away with being ignorant. He let me flounder in my foolishness, letting me tell Him No, but feeling the sting of it afterwards. Running back into His arms, asking Him to help me bridge the divide between fear of doing what He wanted me to do (Please, don’t send me to Africa…) and fear of what would happen if I didn’t . And, always right there,  the verse that challenged, frightened, and sobered me:

“If you love Me, keep my commands.”
~ Jesus in John 14:15

Simple but impossible. I was dead set in my disobedient ways, thinking He loved me so it was okay. I could basically live on my own terms. But that’s not how it works.

It never was intended to be a “magic prayer so I can go to Heaven” deal. Jesus didn’t die so I could believe a certain creed, even if it meant committing every verse in His holy Book to memory and doing everything just so (or nearly so). He didn’t leave Heaven so I could live any way I please and expect to enter Heaven when I die because Didn’t I say the prayer? Didn’t I believe? Didn’t I do the right things?

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ~ Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 7:21-23

Wow — yep, this is Jesus’ own words, and they couldn’t be clearer. His love that will not let go doesn’t let me get away with a passive head knowledge, keep-away distorted religious facade.

His love pursues my heart — our hearts! Even when I was plunged into mental illness,  unacknowledged bi-polar ripping my mind, psychosis wielding a knife — when I thought I was lost and in Hell, my cell in Chester County Prison a place of death and hopelessness…

When I cried from the floor, “I give up, I give up…” Love not my own swelled into my heart and even when I couldn’t feel it at all, my head was cradled in His lap and the Jesus I thought had let me go sang sweet songs over me. Sweet songs that pulled me from the depths of that prison cell into light and life and more love than I ever thought possible.

O Love that will not let me go!

woman in stripes holding hands with person wearing bracelets

Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

And when I’m tempted to slide away from Him, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love!”* — I hear a quiet whisper, a whoosh in my spirit, my soul breathing deep and I can’t help but gaze into the eyes on fire for me. I breathe in love and join Him in the dance, this dance we share. I bow, eyes aglow, for He is my King.

woman bowing

He is a consuming fire, but His love consumes all sin in me.
He is not safe, He could crush me with His hand and someday He will purify this present Earth with devastating fire. Those who cling to their sins and refuse to obey — well what can He do? He gives us all the choice and the choice leads to Life — or Death — there is no in-between. He would let me choose death, but not without a fight, a struggle for my soul till I breathe my last.

But this Love that will not let me go will not let me but choose to stay with the God I love.  This Love draws me back into endless embrace, and really what more could I ever want? For in Him is all our hearts long for:

Love
Joy
Peace
Friendship
Contentment…
So much more than a lifetime can tally, so much that eternity will explore the heights, the depths, the burgeoning sea of this Love. It’s a daily choice to sink into Him, letting my own agenda melt into His. It’s a Good morning, Jesus, I love You — what shall we do today? It’s walking into every day acknowledging You are the Lord and I’m just me — but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me — so let’s take on today!

O Love, O Love, O Love that will not let me go!

Now, sweet reader, think on these things. What is keeping you from running into His arms, from crowning Jesus Christ King of your heart, your life? Today is the day to choose to embrace this never-ending Love. It’s time to die to that old, dead life that is destined to rot, decay, and fall into endless Hell. It’s time to enter with Jesus into death and rise into new life, a rebirth that springs forth endless life, endless Love with the One you were made for.

It’s time, dear one.

shallow focus of clear hourglass

Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

 

*”Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson

A Changing Voice

close up of wire against blurred background

Photo by Johnny Mckane on Pexels.com

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
~ C.S. Lewis

I’m not who I was five years ago.

Five years ago. The downward spiral was at breakneck speed. I refused to take communion that day, the first Sunday in February 2014 because I thought I wasn’t a Christian anymore. The biggest lie had settled and rooted in me, rotting my understanding: I had become unsaved. A month later I would do the bidding of the voices in my head and attack my husband. I would sit stunned in a cell in Chester County Prison.

Five years ago I clutched out desperately in what was left… confusion, terror, constant visions of carnage, my own guilt. Mental illness, breakdown. Down, down, down. Yet held in strong, invisible arms. It wouldn’t get to the point of no return. But I didn’t know that yet.

In the process of finally accepting my bi-polar diagnosis and taking medication I began to see I was still in my Daddy God’s arms. I was accepted into the Mental Health Program at Chester County Prison. Moment by moment I began to breathe life in again. I was emerging from death thinking and living, and after five and a half months behind bars, walked out into the sunshine again.

Over the last four years or so since, I was protected like a little baby, snuggled close and rocked, fed, cared for. When the shame of what I’d done knocked me sobbing to the floor, I quickly recovered. I wrote and gave my testimony several times. I felt vibrant and free.

But in these past few months a new paradigm is pushing in. I am being set down on my feet, learning to walk. I’m beginning to feel the pain of growth, the emotionally excruciating process of enduring flash-backs. Instead of trying to push them away and shove in happy thoughts and feelings, I’m being asked to experience the torture. Press in and let it sink down deep. Feel it in a safe place (usually on the floor of my room, crying, worship music playing, a friend — or several friends — praying while I sit alone but not alone). I write and write in my journal, crying till I’m spent.

woman crying, pain

I see that like getting an abscess sliced open so it can drain, submitting to God’s work in this makes sense. I don’t like the sting of it, but if that’s part of the process I’ll grit my teeth and say Do it. Even when He tells me I won’t have anaesthesia this time that I’ll experience every stab, pang and spasm as it’s draining out — so be it. I choose to trust You. Do it.

I say Yes to God because as a Christian this is what I signed up for, not to stay in  dysfunction till it kills me from the inside-out. You see, much as I don’t want it to hurt, way down deep I really want to grow. To see what is actually going on inside. Then to move forward from right here as I am. To face what I did five years ago and to finally heal. To build on what has been happening all my life, accelerated these last few years, especially these last few months. The upheaval of what I had inherited in my family line – all this perfectionism, this inferiority/superiority, this I need correction, who are you to correct me?

And I realize I am so new at all of this and I feel so small, so incapable. I want to get better, though. So with shaking hands I hold the flashlight to see into the darkness of my heart. What is there, what is really there?

I’m waiting for revelation. Because as I begin seeing shapes gelling and forming images, how do I interpret them? And I’m so tired, I just want to sleep, to escape but somehow still move forward. Instead I press in. Feel it. Feel it some more. Yield, give in to the work that is where I am right now, the reality of the pain I carry. I can acknowledge there is a cause even as I have no idea the shape of it.

All my life my  modus operandi has been some form of Flail, Flight, Flee. I am learning now how to fight, to stand for myself. To know myself and accept what I see there. I am learning I am a created wonder, also hand-crafted (it’s not just others who are “special and God loves you very much”). I have inherent value and am worthy because I am born of God. This mind I was given (bi-polar and all), this body, this set of life happenings… my years of skillset-making — all have value.

I reach out to Ka’en, my best friend. A part of me resents that she is farther along, but what is that? She is farther along, this is such a treasure. She is showing me where she has been and it looks a bit like where I need to go. So I choose to humble myself. For foolish pride is like banging my own head with the shovel in my hand instead of using it to dig to the deeper life. To find the hidden path and to follow it, I need the light of one who has walked it before me. She shows me and I learn. We need each other, for where I have been is a new path to her, too. This intertwining of lives is what we were made for. Not in a co-dependent way but a divine integration of lives that builds up, strengthens, reaches out and loves as alone we could never do.

couples sitting in while facing mountain

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And I see that divine intertwining in my marriage. For this oneness is what we have in Christ, a dim representation but the best there is on this earth. So I choose to press in deeper, to see what can be learned here. In this world of marital disintegration, ours will shine as a beacon. There is hope. But where I am right now I don’t see the how of it. But I choose to submit to the path that will take us there. Whatever it takes.  I am willing.  Lord, I trust You for the next steps. That even now You are working in my husband’s heart, too. That he is feeling the pressure to change, too. That when the time comes he will be ready. That we will both be ready.

I am scared, honestly. I don’t see the way and all of this is so new. This generational junk busting, this icebreaking ship that is me, that is pushing forward for there is hard (good) work to do.

This I know:
The self-protection has to go.
The fear of exposure has to go.
The clinging to what is familiar at the expense of going forward into the unknown has to go.
The inferiority I mask with judgmentalism, with I’m better than you when inside I’m self-doubting – has to go.
Unteachableness has to go.

arms up surrender

What will fill its place? For we were made to be full of good things. We were made to embody all the Fruit of the Spirit…
Love:
sweet acceptance, openness, desire to draw out the godly in others, in me; gentle guiding, chiding, encouraging to grow, encouraging the God-seed in them.
Joy:
deep-down bubble in the midst of pain, a steady undercurrent of insight – for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  The settled calm of a weaned child with her mother. Smiling up at her Father, open and free.
Peace:
the all-is-well of understanding, placid sister of joy, the undergirding steadiness. Fruit of trust, I know my Dad is over all and in all. I can rest.
Patience:
I can wait, I can stay here as long as needed, for it will all come to fruition. I am settled in who I am so I can be tolerant, accepting of others. A sweet sister fruit of love, for love compels me to come alongside you and walk with you – however long it takes. Love is patient, love is kind.
Kindness:
sweet flow of patience, I see from others’ perspective and love them as they need in the moment. I give, I speak the very deeds and words of Christ, seeing Him in others, overflowing with hope of glory.
Goodness:
gentle purification, this Holy Spirit work scrubs my inner being till I shine with God-glory. A oneness between motive and action for the good I do pours from the good I have become.
Faithfulness:
Godlikeness looks like this. I don’t give up, never give up on others, never give in to the darkness but cling to my Jesus no matter what. I choose to honor Him and others regardless. I am in it forever. Perseverance is its little sister, its partner here. Unshaken.
Gentleness:
Selflessness breeds gentleness. I can treat others with tenderness in         speech and action. Honor treats with a soft hand, whether from a higher or lower station. A way of preferring them above myself, a stepping aside, a way to express love.
Self-control:
Gentleness flows from self-control. My impulses and urges surrendered, my controlling controlled by Holy Spirit, I can release the one in front of me from my desire to emote. It shows me the way I am to go in harnessed power. Meekness looks like this.

sliced fruits on tray

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A bellyful of sweet fruit, more and more as I am filled again and again – abundance, enough to share. A treasure trove of sweet water, pure and holy, straight from God’s throne, bubbling in my belly up to eternal life. Bucketsful for me and for the thirsty in my way.

Trials are to be embraced and rejoiced in. Counterintuitive, but isn’t that how this paradox works? So I embrace the pain and I decide, here and now, to let it do its work – all of it – in me.

Never done, there’s always a next level, a higher becoming. For becoming like Christ is becoming like God incarnate, and I am not anywhere near there yet. But where I am now is where I’m supposed to be. No condemnation, no shaming. Jesus took my shame on the cross. How horrible, how beautiful. How loving in excruciating illogical agony. You are love and this is what love looks like.

I seek truth, not to be cocooned in any self-deception, in seeing with human eyes only. Dazzle my eyes with what really is, and I will reel in freedom. Living in divinely-revealed reality is what I need. This is what true Christianity looks like and I want the Voice of Jesus to radiate out of my very being.

So I lay down on the surgeon’s table and close my eyes. I know however much it hurts I’ll emerge more like my Savior. It’s so, so worth it.

lioness lying on grey dirt near grey rock

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