Closer, Not Better

Closer, not better. That phrase has been settling like a warm blanket over my head and heart.

I want better. God wants closer.

To be honest, I want closer. I want better too. Is there some reason I can’t have both? I wish I could stop asking those kinds of questions.

I’m not getting better, so I crawl a little closer.

I gave up the fight again. I think that’s okay. God never promised I would be able to handle this. It’s more than I have in me. But that’s not really true. The Holy Spirit is in me. 

For reasons not mine to understand, that doesn’t make me better, so I inch a bit closer.

Fight for me, God. In this moment I want nothing more than to come even closer to You. I don’t want anything to come between us, even the better.

I lay down the better, so You can pull me closer.

As I lie on the floor, my head in Your lap, the tears come again. Somehow I never lack the strength to cry.

You know me so well. You know I’m going to pick up the better again. Maybe I’ll leave it at Your feet longer this time. Maybe one day I’ll leave it there for good. 

In this place of surrender, I may not be better. But You’re closer.

That’s enough. I tell myself that’s enough.

You’re so close, I can almost hear Your heartbeat. I pray mine beats with Yours in more ways than one. I can almost see Your tears. You don’t like this any more than I do.

Somehow this time I can’t even get mad at You. All that comes is, “I love You.” And I do.

Because even though I’m not better, You’re closer.

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Narnia

Narnia: “An imaginary land of strange people and talking animals.” I’m not making that up. That’s how Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines it.
A year ago today, God gave us a gift. Narnia is our home. Of course, this Narnia is a real place. That’s not to say there hasn’t been a lot of imagining going on.
Strange people? Well, I don’t need to tell you that part’s probably true.
Talking animals? You’ll just have to judge for yourselves.
The name “Narnia” was given to our home because it looks like a magical place. There are so many nooks and alcoves. You walk in and it just keeps going where you think it should end. It makes you wonder what exactly might happen if you enter that wardrobe. I confess, I have yet to try.
Aslan proudly but humbly guards his land, graciously allowing delusional reign to June, Queen of the castle. He welcomes all.
But, back to the strange people.
Who knew we would need a magical home in which to weather the 2020 calamities? Aslan did.
Who knew the sun would rise and set over the mountains out the most breathtaking of windows? Aslan did.
Who knew countless purple flowers would spring up from the ground just for pure delight? Aslan did.
Who knew the only place to put the bed would angle it in just such a way that the cross is the first and last thing we see each day? Aslan did.
This house is an embodiment of God’s extravagance. I asked Him to show me how He loves me. And when God answers a prayer, He knows how to show off.
Houses are not always God’s heart on display. But I believe He knew my heart would understand the meaning of this gift. It’s a significance only He and I know in the intimacy of our love story. I feel special, loved, seen by the One who knows me better than I know myself.
I could not have dreamed it. I would not have allowed myself to dream it. God dreamed it for me.
Why He cares enough to dream when I can’t is beyond me… but this gift is a reminder, each of the many times I seem to need it, that He does.
He extravagantly does.
Happy Anniversary, Narnia. Thank You, God.

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Consider the Birds

I wonder what they think of me. I can’t believe I just said that. Did you see what I did? How embarrassing. What if they don’t understand my meaning? What if my words hurt someone? What if? What if? What if?

Go outside and watch a robin.

What if I never get better? What if my husband’s health breaks down? What if I lose Disability? What if our car breaks down? What if we lose this house?

Go outside and watch a robin.

Am I doing this right? My days are wasted. They have no purpose. Maybe I have no purpose…

Go outside and watch a robin.

Is simply existing enough? We’re meant to do more than survive, right? What about the days that’s all I have the strength to do? Is it enough? Am I enough?

Look out the window and watch a robin.

Robins don’t wonder if God will provide. He just does… and that is enough for them. It’s enough for me too.

Robins don’t wonder about their purpose. They just do robin things… and that is enough for them. If I’ve mustered up the strength to just do human things today, that’s enough for me too.

Maybe the real question is… Is God enough for me? He doesn’t give me any task He doesn’t strengthen me to do. Of course He is enough. I’d say there isn’t even a question, but then I look above at all the questions and realize, there is. But they all boil down to just one: Is God enough?

YES.

Will He provide? Yes.
Can He soothe any hurt I cause or receive? Yes.
Does He infuse my words with His power? If I let Him.
Did He create me? Yes.
Does He sustain me? Yes.

God is mighty, powerful, living, loving, compassionate, omnipotent, creative, saving, redeeming, wise, perfect.

He is enough.

We were meant to worship God. Did I do that today? It’s enough. I have a purpose. It’s enough.

I’m enough… because God is enough.

Robins don’t worry about hurting anyone. They don’t wonder if they are enough. They just do what they were put on this earth to do. They rest in the provision of their Creator. And that rest is worship.

So, I’ll do what I’m meant to do. I breathe. I praise God. I live. I rest. I love. I bring my offering: I let the words flow, take a ragged breath, click “publish”… and go outside to watch a robin.

“Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.”- Ezra 3:3

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”- Matthew 6:26

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Dams

I want to find the right words. How can I when I’m not even sure I know what’s in my heart?

It feels a little flooded in there.

I wish my words flowed easily… but dams don’t break evenly.

I built this dam for protection. I’m not even sure I knew I was doing it. It served me for awhile… or so I told myself.

But the protection of anything other than God is an illusion.

I built this dam so I could live. Life outside of it felt a bit too hard. I told myself I was living… but the truth is, I was dying.

Beaver dams encourage nourishment to come and stay awhile.

That’s not how human heart dams work. Eventually we starve for community and drown in unshed tears.

Isn’t it just like me to learn lessons in the most difficult way?

Dammed-up ponds are home, solace, refuge for beavers.

Thanks be to God, I don’t need any of those. He is my refuge. He leads me beside still waters.

I no longer need this dam. Truthfully, I never did. Sometimes lessons are learned in the strangest of ways.

So, I break…

Maybe I start by pulling out just one piece at a time… you know, to test the waters a little.

Water doesn’t musically glide out of a dam at first. Sometimes it spews with such force we think we may drown. We won’t.

Sometimes it trickles or drips so infrequently that we think maybe we’re drying up. We aren’t.

Sometimes it trips and spurts over leftover pieces of a dammed-up heart. I think that’s more than okay.

We may think we’re babbling… but doesn’t a brook with rocks breaking up the water sing more beautifully?

I have to believe that God enjoys words sloshing out of a ragged heart just as much as those pouring rhythmically out of a heart that long ago burst its walls.

Both are captivating music to his ears…

Both fill His heart with love…

And isn’t it pure lavishness that His overflowing love pours right back into us…

To nourish us…

To protect us…

To overflow us back into Him.

Flow on, little brook. Broken pieces of a heart never get in the way. And sometimes, if we listen really closely, we’ll hear what God hears…

An offering poured over the altar we built with the rubble of our dams.

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Fireflies

God, there are a lot of things I don’t understand about You.
I conclude my wonderings with, “You’re God and I’m not.”
I wish that was always enough for me, and sometimes it is. But other times…
I question. I doubt. The lowest of times find me hurt, angry, and wondering where I can find some sort of point to anything.
From my bed of suffering, I watch the fireflies out my window glittering up the night and I think…
What a special grace.
Is there a point to suffering?
Is there a point to fireflies?
I think maybe there is.
Creating a light in the tail end of a bug is one thing. Making it one of life’s most beautiful gifts is downright funny.
Do You laugh when You watch Your children delight in bug butts?
I may not light up but I have to believe that You do in the moments I scoot up closer to hear Your heartbeat.
Do You delight in my sufferings? No. But if bug behinds can count as worship then my weary, nonsensical ramblings can too. I sure appreciate that.
I don’t understand You, but I see the fireflies and I think…
You must have the best sense of humor.
In fact, it stands to reason that You have the best of everything.
You’re God. We’re just a reflection and image of You.
I think of the person who makes people belly laugh until breathless, the one with the best sense of humor and I think…
How amazing that Yours is better.
I think of the person who instantly makes people feel safe and welcome, the one with the most compassion and I think…
You have even more.
I think of the biggest heart and suddenly I realize…
Yours is bigger.
So that must mean that Yours breaks bigger. Loving bigger means breaking harder, right?
How can You stand it?
Doesn’t Your heart shatter when You see this place?
How can You stand to love us with Your broken heart?
Because Your love is bigger.
Your love is perfect.
Perfect love casts out fear.
You are not afraid of a broken heart if it means You get to love.
I can’t imagine a more extravagant love than One that turns suffering into beauty and makes bug behinds light up the night sky simply to delight the ones You adore.
When I watch the fireflies… how can I not adore You right back?
My beautiful, hilarious, loving, heartbroken, compassionate, creative, longsuffering, incomprehensible God.
I adore You.
Thank You for the fireflies.

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The Precious in the Difficult

We have another God story to tell. Most of you know that I passed Lyme disease to Jason. His symptoms aren’t as debilitating as mine yet but I feel a little bit like I’m living with a ticking time bomb. We can’t afford for both of us to receive treatment so I kept trying to convince him that it’s more important for him to be treated because he has the job. He did not agree and how could I continue arguing when I’m so miserable? Honestly, we were getting to a point where we couldn’t even afford treatment for one of us so we decided to open back up our Go Fund Me page a few months ago.

During the time that has lapsed since I saw Dr. Sunshine, he has learned how to better treat MTHFR, a gene in our bodies, the mutation of which causes all kinds of problems. This gene is involved with methylation, which has its hand in the proper function of all kinds of things in the body. I have two mutations of this gene. So it had been in the back of my mind to go see Dr. Sunshine again and I had a fleeting thought that it would be great if Jason and I could receive treatment together but I never thought it could happen. God is so good.

My dad is the one who finally convinced me to call Dr. Sunshine and ask about getting Jason in. New patients have a nearly two-year wait list. But, since Jason is my husband, they are waiving that list. It’s very common for Dr. Sunshine to treat entire families at the same time because Lyme devastates households. The wait list was the first hurdle crossed.

Our hearts were touched as money started coming into the Go Fund Me page. After awhile, we thought the campaign was over. But again, God is so good.

I opened the mail one day and what I found took my breath away. The card said something along the lines of, ‘We were challenged to take big steps of faith. We trust God will meet your needs.’ The check was the exact amount we needed to get Jason in as a new patient with Dr. Sunshine. Only Jason and I, along with our good God, knew the needed amount. That, along with all the other gifts, allowed us to schedule our appointment for the four-day treatment program, June 8-11.

As if that wasn’t enough, we contacted the owner of the AirBnb we stayed at last time. It’s impossible for me to stay in a hotel because I have to be able to cook. This AirBnb is perfect for us, just three minutes from the Knoxville office and practically in the backyard of the famous used bookstore, Makay’s. Haha. I truly believe God led us there last time because the owner is so caring, washed everything in unscented detergents, and prayed for me. She is a retired Special Education teacher so she and Jason can talk shop. And, because we seem to develop special relationships everywhere we go, she is opening her place specifically for us in spite of all the insanity of 2020 and is giving us a truly generous discount. God gives extravagant gifts.

We do need to be covered in prayer during this time. Specific prayers are needed that treatment will not be too hard on at least one of us so we can take care of each other. I can’t drive and Jason needs to feel good enough to drive. Prayers of peace in and around our car would be so appreciated. Preparing to go anywhere is exhausting, as it requires much planning, meal prep, etc. Our luggage looks like we’re moving. Please pray for smooth preparations, the ability to sleep, and minimal stress. We appreciate my parents coming to stay at Narnia with June, Queen of the Castle.

Jason seems to have some sort of bug and I have had very little relief from my symptoms for several weeks and, believe it or not, there’s a certain balance needed for feeling okay enough to make it to the doctor in the first place. Please pray for us to feel better, for my blood pressure to rise to a stay-conscious level and for Jason to feel strong and well enough to drive. I’ve had intense pain in my left lower abdomen on and off for years. Doctors have fought over whose specialty it is, ultrasound technicians basically call whatever it is a UFO (Okay, I may have added the FO part, but it was definitely labeled “unidentified”). I’m not joking when I say ETSU asked me to sign a release so the students could study me. It’s hard to describe the agony of this pain on and off for weeks, but just as quickly and intensely as it shows up, it calms down for a day or so. Do thorns in the side show up on ultrasounds? Dr. Sunshine helped rid me of this pain for almost a year so, if nothing else, I hope to have less pain and higher blood pressure upon returning, and I have very high hopes for Jason’s treatment experience. Please pray for guidance for Dr. Sunshine, that he will address the things that will help us function better, and address them in an order that will not cause me to pass out. Can you tell I have all kinds of trauma issues surrounding this? We will have very long, difficult days of treatment, sitting under fluorescent lights and I will sometimes have to be alone while Jason receives his treatment as well. Please pray for protection, settled anxiety, and for our bodies’ strength under these extra burdens. God is good and we trust Him.

I usually choose a verse to carry with me for these days of treatment but I think I’m just going to continue thinking about “extracting the precious from the difficult.” I actually don’t think it’s necessary to remove the precious from the difficult in order to appreciate it so I’m thinking of it more like being saturated with God’s love and extravagant gifts, and squeezing out that love for His glory through a constant searching for Him, even in the difficult. Recognizing Him in the hard things and pouring out praise is the goal.

It would also be difficult for me to see Dr. Sunshine without thinking of my friend, Traci, who was also his patient. She saw heaven’s healing before earth’s, but I carry a piece of her with me. She would be rooting for us, celebrating our victories, as we celebrate hers. She is never far from my mind.

As you pray for us, please share any words or verses the Lord brings to you. We will have long days to ponder them. We appreciate all of your love, prayers, generosity, and support. There are no words to adequately express our gratitude. May you be blessed by the part you play in our lives. To our good and faithful God be the glory.

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