Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dog Poop, New Friends, and Carmel Lattes

Today I walked with a new friend down on Bellingham Bay. There is this AMAZING coffee shop with a view from the top floor overlooking the water and if you stand in just the right spot you can't see the ground at all. It's as if you're floating above the ocean or on the deck of a boat heading out to sea. The boardwalk over the water wasn't long enough as we came to it's end more than once, the conversation flowing easily as if we'd known each other forever. This friend had brought their dog and I was enraptured with the amount of attention we drew because of him. One woman went so far as to thank us for picking up his dog poop and throwing it away, "thank you so much! Some people just don't care and it's rude to just leave the poop sitting there!" I couldn't believe the passion she had about dog poop - I mean, there were almost tears in her eyes as she thanked us, handed us another dog poop bag, "just in case", and walked away. Another gentleman approached us as we were sitting on a bench talking. He launched into a long diatribe about his third wife and the fact that she hated dogs and since marrying her he had felt so alone, not able to have his canine companions close by. Mothers with babies came up hoping to pet the dog and got much love, tail wags, and face licks in return.

The bay was scintillating and the clouds...ahhh...the clouds. It was gorgeous today, the right mixture of sea breeze and sun; my toes were frozen by the end of our four hours together - I, of course, was wearing only my flip flops. Although I have to say that this particular pair are the most comfortable I've ever owned. They are from Rio de Janeiro and were a gift from my Brazilian sister, Fernanda. I have this thing about flip friends have always made fun of me for it...I just don't feel comfortable in any other kind of shoe. I was born to live in warmer climates.

I know this is going to sound weird and maybe a little rude, but it's honest. I don't really like making new friends. I have a lot of friends and I make friends easily but it tends to grate upon my need and deep desire for depth and all-consuming relationships. New friendships are so casual and just skim the surface. You're probably laughing at me. I know you can't get to the point of no return with anyone unless you've first met them and gone through the awkward, "what are we?" stage. Are we compatible as friends? Do we have anything in common? Do I like you? Do you seem to like spending time with me? Does this relationship have a point? *sigh* it's no wonder I scare people away sometimes. It's not fulfilling for me to have many such casual encounters with people whom I may like and spend some time with. Oh, I sound so desperately insensitive and selfish. I think what I'm really trying to say is this - I miss my friends. I miss sitting in a room, not saying anything but just knowing that's it's alright because you've gone through so much together. I miss the uninhibited laughter and memories. Jesus had just a few really close friends, right? More than anything else, except Jesus of course, I love getting to know people and becoming known by them with the purpose of more than just casual friendship. Ask me hard questions!!! Show an interest in getting to know the real me!!! I'll do the same for you - and that's what I love.

Ok...I know this is just the mood I'm in right now. Tomorrow I'll probably look back and think, "silly girl, don't you ever think before you write?" Of course I like making new friends...

A Breath, A Breeze, A Fleeting Moment

I was reading in Matthew this morning and was struck once again by Jesus' reminder that we need to be watchful and ready for the day He returns. So often we go about our days not truly thinking about the end or preparing our hearts for eternity with our Lord. I know I am guilty of this. When I sit at home, alone, not pursuing more meaningful relationships and just...existing - I am guilty of this. I woke up this morning thankful for breath in my body! I so often take it for granted, I don't even think about it. Life is so fragile, we are as a breath, a breeze, one fleeting moment. And in this moment that we have Jesus encourages us to be productive and also watchful, ready at any time for when it will all be over. "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time,' and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 24:45-51. Whew...

What would happen, do you think, if we truly began to understand the fragility of our lives, if we really took to heart the fact that we are as a one moment, gone the next? This life that we do have would be so much more meaningful! I know I wouldn't want to waste it watching movies all day, sitting around perusing the internet, and alone as I have been. Every touch, every prayer and interaction, every divine appointment would be so much more significant. What would it be like for me if I knew this day might very well be my last? "He who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." Matthew 24:13-14. Come on, people! Stand firm! Be watchful! Be ready! Live the lives you've been given to the fullest!

Treasure those around you, hold them close, let every interaction be meaningful to some extent. I suppose this creates an urgency to love and to see people come to Jesus, doesn't it? Jesus, give us a glimpse of our lives through Your eyes, today. Precious Father, you have given us the ability to love and give and care for others, to establish ourselves, and to be faithful in your calling to be watchful. We want to live lives of meaning and purpose, right now, where we are and with the people you have surrounded us with. Jesus, help me to be an extension of You, today. Knowing that You are coming unexpectedly should really motivate us to always be prepared. We are not to live irresponsibly, just sitting around and waiting, doing nothing, seeking self-serving pleasure, and using the fact that you haven't come yet as an excuse not to do Your work of building Your Kingdom. We shouldn't develop a false security based on precise calculations of events; or letting our curiosity about the end divert us from doing Your work. I praise You, Lord for You are everlasting and ever-faithful! "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." Matthew 24:35. I cling to that promise today.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Where I'm Headed...Where I've Been

There are so many things I wish I could be doing with my life right now. I read other people's blogs and look at the friends I have around me thinking, "they know exactly what God has called them to do!" I'm so unsure of where I'm headed that I have begun reveling and living in my past - a time when I was in school and had classes, the same friends, and my protected little world that I didn't need to leave or branch out from. The Lord has been reminding me of my passions and dreams lately, encouraging me and challenging me to think outside of myself. I'm learning that it's okay to expect great things from God, in fact - He wants us to! Where are you calling me, Lord? Is it here? In this little community that I have just joined? Is it on the far reaches of the globe in a small travel clinic in the bushes of Africa? Where do you want me to go? Who do you want me to touch? I want to use the skills and desires that He's given me to reflect His glory. It's okay to be content with where I am right now, I have a job in a medical clinic 1/2 mile from the Canadian border, am becoming more and more passionate about loving and serving people and am learning much about my relationship with Christ.

God has created me with a lot of passion. I LOVE people, I LOVE being with them, investing in them, touching them, praying with and for them, spending time talking over coffee, and avidly seeking adventurous moments with them. I LOVE nursing, I LOVE being Jesus' hands and feet here on earth, getting to know and care for people in some of their most vulnerable moments, using my hands, eyes, mind, and heart to provide compassionate care. I love photography and writing: capturing moments of emotion. I want to be able to use both someday for my enjoyment and for the enjoyment of others. I love to travel - to drink of life and other people in ways I never could within the borders of my own limited experiences. Use me Lord!! I love children and families and speaking into people's lives and hearts. This is me...but it's so vague and I don't know what direction to take or where to head next. God, will you call me to a place where I can use my talents and enjoy the things I love to do? That place could be here...and I know that what He is calling me to do - is invest in the life I'm living right now. Create in me a pure heart, Father, one that does not seek after things that are not of You. I don't want to desire and pursue other people's dreams and plans just because they are attractive and seem adventurous to me. I will follow you - wherever you lead me. I'm trusting that you will close doors and open them to the paths you want me to follow. I will be content in this season of my life - choosing each day to honor and pursue you above all else, to bless those I come in contact with today, and to live my life to the fullest, praising and bringing you glory. USE ME, LORD!!

The Greatest of These is Love

"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37-40.

I surmise that it is a basic human need to love and be loved, to know and be known. In some sense we all seek meaning and purpose in our relationships with others. It's a lot more complicated than my simple words can portray, but as someone who has thought much about love, been in love, been loved, and seeks to be more loving I might have something to say. And this is is the point, God is love, God is the point. I have been blessed with a family and many friends who love me deeply, I have loved another human being with all of my heart, I love my Jesus more than the air I breathe and I am so loved by Him that He died for me. I have been blessed in love. I know this is more than many can say. I don't pretend to know what it's like to come from a broken home, to have to try to prove yourself and earn love from the people around you. I don't know what it's like to not have that assurance from those around me so that I have to go looking for it in the dark alleys or in the bars across town. I've never had to seek "love" from a mere stranger just to feel wanted. I don't have to have experienced it to know that the search for love often falls flat. For someone who does not feel loved it is more difficult for them to truly give love. Love is much more than a feeling, but (and those who know me know I thrive on emotion and feelings) they are incredibly important to the sense of well-being and satisfaction in life. I'm just going write what I think. You may not "feel" loved, you may have had to search for "love" in many places which have not satisfied, you may think that love is a luxury only given to the most lucky, and your idea of "love" may have been shaped by abuse, heartache, pain, fear, rejection, and lack of forgiveness. But God's view of love is different. It is all-encompassing, life-changing, life-giving, complete, filling, ever-forgiving, renewing, and pure. It doesn't distinguish between race, gender, or economic status. Sounds great, I know. But it's a lot more difficult for some people to accept and receive the healing love of God than even I would know. I have a hard time grasping the magnitude of God's love for me at times. I'm blown away with the realization that His love is not discriminatory and that no matter how much love I've experienced in my life and no matter how much pain and disillusionment of love others have felt He loves us ALL equally and the same. SO MUCH LOVE!!! And the best kind of love - it is so pure and so filling and all we truly need. The love of God allows us to love others in the same way. He loves us so that we can love Him and love others in order to bring Him glory and reflect His character.

I remember an experience with love that I had back in September 2004: As I looked up from my seat on the bus, I saw her. The familiar swagger of gaunt hips in tight jeans walked airily toward me and plopped down unceremoniously on the seat beside me. She was high on something and as she rolled her small freckled face toward me and looked at me out of her empty eyes I felt a compassion and something akin to love stirring in my soul. Yellow, stringy hair pulled back into a messy ponytail, missing teeth suggesting a recent fist fight, bruises and angry red marks covering her arms and face, the faint whiff of a man's cologne. As someone high on drugs and as a prostitute she was beautiful to me. Desperate and hurting she had come to me before, often latching on to any semblance of love or normalcy she could. My heart broke and all I could do was cry. 'Not here, on this bus, with all these people watching...not in front of her!' I mentally screamed as the first tear slipped down my face. This was our last bus ride together and I couldn't bear the thought of leaving her. She looked at me with her sad eyes and whispered, "don't pretend to care, Kathy, it just makes things worse. Nobody cares. Nobody loves. Everyone pities and despises me. Don't pretend to care, I don't need your sympathy." Her flat, lifeless voice was speaking volumes to me, and her eyes told a different story. I saw an empty shell on the seat beside me and put my arm around her as another tear slipped from between my lashes. I knew she was begging for love and I knew the kind of love she needed most could not be found between the motel sheets or on the street corner. I had prayed that God would break my heart with the things that break His. I knew His heart was broken for this girl and He had given me an overflowing of love for someone I barely knew so that I could demonstrate a love that would last for eternity. She had gotten under my skin, she had invaded my heart and I will never forget her.

"Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you...You have kept your promise because you are righteous...You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love." Nehemiah 9:5,6,8,17.

"Oh God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you." Psalm 63:1-5

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I'd rather be here than on land...

Yesterday I felt thrust into my self in a new way. God has impressed on my heart a great deal of passion for people lately. Moving out of Seattle, although one of the hardest things I've done lately for many reasons, has proved to remind me that life is so much bigger than little ol' me. In fact, I have been stripped bare...back to basics. With no food, no heat, and no real job yet. But I know more than anything, I needed to have a season of quiet, of rest in a place where I could see the stars, have time to write and read, rest, deal with my own selfishness and hear that still small voice of God. I have come to hear God. Alright God, I'm listening...speak. If only my response was always "yes, Lord!" instead of my puny complaints, doubts and fears of impossibilities. Use me, whatever way you will...use me.

I know that the Christian pilgrimage is a long journey of mountain tops and valleys that are as dry as bones. I have been in that place for awhile. But the dry bones are giving way to fresh spring water and little bits of green vegetation coming up around me. It's amazing that leaving Seattle and all the hubbub around me, although not perfect, still has proven to be so refreshing for my heart. Who knows where this year will lead...12 months from now I could be moving somewhere new, going on a new adventure, but in the meantime, this is proving to be just the adventure I needed to crawl out of the valley of dry bones, find my creativity and passion for nature and people again and just BE.
Well, it's officially fall and I'm trying desperately to keep warm and nourished in my little apartment here above the barn. I've made myself some hot soup, I'm drinking hot tea and I nudged my thermostat up to 65 this morning. Whew... I just LOVE being warm and this cold thing is not good for my spirit. I'm looking forward to the day my gas fireplace is set up. Fingers crossed it will only be a couple more weeks. The rain hasn't let up the past few days and I confess, I'm grateful. I love the rain, it has been my muse for years. Nothing can quite inspire and make me feel cuddly and nostalgic and way the rain does; the gentle tip tap tip, pitter patter of the droplets hitting and coursing down my window panes cause me to turn inward and lose myself in wonder. Oh, it feels so good to be writing again!! It's really been years since I've had any sort of consistency and I think it's because I've been asleep. I'm waking up again and I'm amazed at how much of the world and joy in it I've missed. We'll see how long this lasts! I can't believe what a selfish person I am. Things I've done and said, thought...all lead to seeing me advance. "What can this do for me?" "I deserve this more than they do." "I don't care if I'm following God's best for my's not what I want to do." In so many small, unconscious ways that no one else sees - I take what is not mine to have and give in to fleshly desires because its what I want. Oh...Lord, I'm so sorry. I don't want to stay this way. The root of all my sin is pride and selfishness. Break me! BREAK ME!!! Break me of these habits and the mind set that is holding me captive.

Moving On and Letting Go...

Here's the thing: I THOUGHT he was the one. I thought I was in love. Cupid hit me square between the eyes before I had time to duck. It seemed like this relationship dropped into my life from nowhere and after some initial resistance on my part, I finally let go, taking a free fall into my worst fear - being close enough to someone that he could actually hurt me. And guess what...he did. Badly.

It wasn't really his fault. Clearly, God had different paths for us. I know this to be true today and I rejoice. In retrospect, I can say with full conviction that although we were a part of one another's journeys only for a season, it was for a grand purpose. But back then, amidst the long walks and laughing till our sides ached, my silly heart didn't get that memo. My heart didn't know it wasn't for my heart went for it. It plunged.

I'm the type of girl who throws herself 125% into something. Full throttle, hold nothing back. Give it all. And I did. I gave my heart. I'm not ashamed to admit that I loved. I never want to be the girl with a calloused heart who can let go at the drop of a hat. I'm not wired that way. Hardness of heart and ease of separation are the by-products of a broken world where love doesn't last. Love was meant to last. We are supposed to hurt and crumble when our hearts are broken. It seems to me, if we get jaded and stop hurting we are somehow less human. If my heart didn't break, it means I didn't love. And I did love. So, when the relationship ended, I was whacked by the pendulum of emotion that flooded my way. I've never experienced a physical pain that compares to the emotional pain I felt.

I remember thinking, "is there an elephant sitting on my chest? Am I having a heart attack? So this is why they call it heartbreak." Brutal. Raw. I was hemorrhaging with the type of gut-wrenching pain that sears every fiber of your being. The sad thing is, they don't let you take sick leave for heartbreak. Seriously, if people can take off work for the sundry things that we see doctors for, we should at least get a few "grieving days". I stepped back into my life, put on my game face, and choked back the emotions - all the while realizing how pathetically true country music lyrics can be sometimes.Walking through this season of grief, filled with its doubts and fears was a journey for me. Yet, I trekked on - confused, wounded, scared, and yes, at times so very lonely. I remember thinking: "how did I get here? When will I get through a day without crying? God is this really a part of the plan?" Honestly, my grief wasn't so much about missing him or not having a boyfriend; it was about something profoundly deeper - I was grieving the death of hope. It was misplaced hope, yes, but I still mourned, deeply mourned the death of a desire: the desire of being wanted and sought after.

I so badly hoped that he was "the one". I'd hoped that my dating days had come to an end. I hoped that finally I would be the one picking out china and planning a guest list. But when the relationship ended, I was right back where I started, five years earlier. Not only did I feel hurt and alone, I also felt abandoned and left behind, especially since not long after we ended - he met, dated and married someone else.

The problem was that I, like many girls I know, let my heart follow my mind. I painted this perfect little picture in my head of what I thought our life together would be like. Looking back now, I realize I placed the hope of my future security and happiness in this image I conjured up in my mind. And then, one arduous autumn night, we came to the conclusion that our futures weren't entwined and different paths lay ahead of us. was all gone.

So what was I supposed to do now with all my plans? How did I go forward into a future without him that I'd already mapped out in my mind with him? This wasn't the plan. This certainly wasn't my plan. And somewhere in my heart arose anger at the One I knew full well had a hand in this. My anger was unleashed at the God who I loved deeply and served with all my heart. I knew it was God who had said no. I knew God was the one who had closed the door. Yet, I was so confused: I truly thought I was following God's plan. So, if I was following God's will, then why did it feel like an 18-wheeler had driven over my heart?

My life quickly moved from a breakup to a battlefield. The fight was on, and this fight was for my faith. An internal enemy worked over time in my thought life. The questions were the worst part. I'd lie my head on my pillow at night, desperately trying to fall asleep - "if God is so good, then why do you hurt so bad?" And in this grieving and healing time I chose to trust the only One who is truly dependable. When everything else has been striped away I will cling to my Savior who is my firm foundation. I have hope! It has been nearly 3 years since he and I ended our friendship. It has been painful and tearful, but life-changing and renewing. I have learned much about myself in this process and have grown in many ways. Thank you, Jesus, for never letting me go! He no longer fills my heart - only Jesus does and ever will. I have loved, I have learned, I have lost and now...I have completely let go. It doesn't hurt anymore and my heart has healed. I wait in humble anticipation for the one the Lord has for me.

The Joy of the Lord is my Strength

I have been broken and bruised, used and seemingly discarded - yet I will forever praise you, my God, my Rock, my Salvation! Pour out your love and unending favor on me. I will delight in You, my Lord, as You take delight in me, your daughter. This has been a summer and fall of defeat and I feel emotionally and spiritually drained. I beg you Lord, fill me up. Renew me with Your life-giving Spirit. I am empty without You. For months I have tried to do things on my own, to uphold my own integrity, to work towards my goals and to follow my dreams. They have all seemingly fallen flat and I know its because of my lack of faith and trust. Forgive me! Take me back! Don't let me go!! My motivation has been waning and I have accomplished nothing that I've NEEDED to since graduation back in June. Technically, I'm still a student because I haven't finished up my online class that should have been done months ago. I don't have my diploma or degree and cannot work towards taking the NCLEX and getting my nursing license because of it. I was in a car accident in the beginning of the summer and totaled my car. Living without one has been one of the most humbling and expensive experiences! I've needed to borrow cars to get to work each morning and I feel stuck in this place with no motivation to change my circumstances! Andrew got married in August and I went with a few friends. I've let him go, completely and I am genuinely happy for him. But I've also never felt so alone. While nannying the girls I was with all summer I broke my finger in two places, dislocated the joint and damaged the tendon. It's been a few months now and its still not moving as it should be. I'm worried that I might have to have surgery to correct it. This has been so painful! It's amazing how one little part of your body can affect so much. On a hiking trip with the girls one day our purses were stolen out of the trunk of the car we were using. Someone stole all of my credit cards, debit cards and cash. I have been left with nothing and I feel completely stripped. The last several months has been a painful reminder that when I put my security in things instead of in God - they cannot last. Lord, you have been trying to get my attention for months now. I have been stripped of my dreams, my goals, my money, my independence, my car, my health, and my heart. You are calling me, "depend on Me, my child, look to Me only for your guidance and strength. Fear not, do not place your security in things that cannot last. I am everlasting and unchanging. My love for you stretches farther than the seas and I am faithful and true." Lord, I believe! Heal my wounds, hear my cries, fill me to overflowing, receive me, God. I beg You, I need You. I can't do this without You. I am not the person that I want to be - a strong and tender woman of prayer and unshakable faith. I have been shaken and have doubted you. Lord, forgive my unbelief.

Loving too freely...

William Shakespeare once said, "The truth, reason and love keep little company together now-a-days."Truer words were never spoken it seems! So what is it about love that makes intelligent, sensible people into witless, imprudent fools? I, myself, am no exception to the foolhardiness of love. My poor heart has been stretched, squeezed and popped so many times that it's a wonder it is still beating. With my sense of hope, I walk clumsily through my days falling "in love" with everyone I meet. This is not to say that I have a relationship or even a conversation with most of the people I "fall in love" with. Rather, I hold in my mind a wonderfully idealistic view of who everyone I encounter is in their own lives. In my own mind, everyone, from the man who bags my groceries to the fellow who tears my movie stub, is a friendly, happy and romantic being just waiting to share his love with me. I play out these beautiful, poetry-laden conversations with my fantasy Joes all day long. This one smiles crookedly at me, so he harbors a secret passion for French cuisine and is just dying to cook me up a souffle' au fromage. That one says, "How can I help you?" in a voice so smooth it can only be used to sing me a gorgeous and delightful love song. No matter who they are or what they are doing, I can find something to love in everyone, a fact that leaves me extremely open and vulnerable. I dig around the recesses of my mind, searching for the good in every man and woman I come across. Because of this, I wander through the supermarket and the drug store and the deli with a silly grin pasted on my face for every person I meet. Every outing is a new opportunity for love and every new face inspires a fresh round of make-believe confabulation. But no matter how silly this is or how irresponsible I am with my heart at times, I would rather walk around as an over-loving sap than as a hardened emotional statue. So, perhaps Mr. Shakespeare was right, love and reason cannot take up residence in the same heart.

100 Bedtime Stories

She softly strokes the cashmere baby blue blanket that covers his small body. Blond wayward curls poke up from beneath the covers and a tiny hand snakes its way out to touch her arm. His slight breathing deepens and she can feel his body relaxing under her fingertips. She smiles gently to herself, sighing in relief that the munchkin has finally dropped off to sleep. His precious little voice and sweet spirit have made her smile in the past and this night was no exception. "Just one more story," he'd begged as he climbed onto her lap and plastered his small body against her chest. how could she refuse? Getting him settled for sleep was another matter as his tiny hands constantly reached for toy trucks and stuffed animals. "Shhhhh," she would whisper, wondering if he would ever calm down. He turned to his teddy bear and repeated, "shhhhh" looking at her with those big blue eyes. His older sister in the next bed over was still watching her, testing her, legs poked straight up in the air in defiance. The four year old had done nothing but try her patience all evening. Choruses of "NO!! I don't want to go potty! No, I don't want to wash my hands?" and "I don't want to go to bed!" still echoed in the walls around them. The little girl has finally settled down and was content to just watch her gently rubbing her brother's back. Once they've both drifted off to sleep she sits watching them for a few moments. They are so precious. 100 bedtime stories and 1,000 kisses wouldn't be enough. She tucks the blankets tighter around them, bends down and brushes their silky foreheads with her lips. It's the end of another night. She'll go home soon, be paid for giving the children her love, and curl up on her couch alone wishing that she had little munchkins of her own.

A Moment of Uncertainty...

Raindrops stream gently from the frosted purple sky above as I sit in Tully's willing away a headache and fighting the urge to lay my head on the wooden table in front of me. Tiny rivulets of water careen through the cobblestones of the sidewalk stopping only with the resistance of a nearby puddle. Passersby step gingerly, heads bowed and shiny umbrellas perched above their neatly coiffed hair-dos. The reflection of the streetlights and neon signs gracing shop windows bounce haphazardly off the wet pavement ushering in a cacophony of sights and light. The hood of my red sweatshirt is pulled tight over my cold ears and I'm in the process of nestling into my corner; near the window, away from foot traffic, with a small table and plenty of people-watching pleasure. I've been a little sad the last few days. Unhappy with myself, with how I look and the situations I so often find myself in. Why can't life be simple? It's often difficult to step back and intentionally view yourself as others do - why do I act the way I do? Why do I slump so sloppily in this chair? Why do I insist on wearing flip-flops at all times of the year in all sorts of weather? My hair is flat and lifeless, my eyes so often guarded, my hands fidget nervously and find their way to my face more often than not. Do people find me attractive as I walk down the street? Am I an anomaly, an enigma - do I stand out? Is there anything special about me?

Things I LOVE!!

1. Getting lost in good music. Closing my eyes, twirling in the dark, belting it out. I have a love affair with music.

2. Clouds - the way they look as big, puffy brilliant tall statues in the sky. Especially on a bright blue day with sun and snow on the mountain tops.

3. Dill pickles - the memory of getting them for every birthday and Christmas when I was younger. Nothing can cheer me up like a crisp, ice cold, perfectly salted kosher dill pickle. I even went through a snobby stage where the only pickles I liked were Claussen dill halves without garlic from the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

4. My family - I'm convinced that I have the best family in the WHOLE world. My favorite memories are with them; they love me unconditionally, they challenge me, they pray for me, they laugh with and at me, they hold me.

5. Baseball - more specifically, playing catch in the backyard with my dad. One winter we vowed to play every day for 2 months no matter the snow or freezing cold temperatures...and we did it!! He taught me to "throw like a boy" and I'll admit that I have a little pride issue surrounding how well I can catch and throw the baseball.

6. Writing - all sorts of it. Books, journals, papers, poems, songs, letters, emails, sticky notes. I love watching words flow together to make music - it's a passion of mine.

7. Books - whenever I feel sad, I'll smell a book. Weird? I know. :) I have hundreds of them, all well read and loved. My sister has gotten me interested in Russian literature recently and I love it, but don't play favorites.

8. People - watching them, thinking about them, interacting with them, hugging them, talking with them, investing in them, praying for them.

9. Love - I love love and everything it encompasses. :) Butterflies in the stomach, breathlessness, cherished long moments, eye gazing, commitment, passion, working through the hard stuff, laughing until your sides hurt, trust, vulnerability, crazy amounts of talking and getting to know each other,'s love. It's God.

Beauty Around Me...

Is there beauty in homelessness? Is there beauty in poverty? There are thousands of people surrounding me every day and how often do I take the chance to get to know them, how often do I look them in the eyes? How many of them are broken, damaged, hopeless, forgotten? I am just me - who am I to make a difference in even one of these precious lives? What does it mean to see true beauty in people and not in their circumstances? What of the women I worked with each week at the Union Gospel Mission? What of the man selling newspapers on the curbside in front of the coffee shop? What of the hard working single mother who spends every penny on rent with nothing left over for food? Who am I? The sunlight streaming through the large windows in Tully's reflects in my eyes as I watch the people pass by outside. A middle-aged gentleman, one hand stuck in his pocket paces outside the door of a sixties fashioned ostentatious movie theater talking loudly into his cell phone. A young woman bounces a small baby against her chest while trying to make her black lab sit at the end of his leash. A man walks into the coffee shop, his black beard peppered with grey and his spectacles balancing precariously on his prominent nose. College students walk briskly by, their arms loaded with purses, book bags and Starbucks coffee. A man in green cargo pants, leather jacket and racing helmet speeds by on his old motorbike, weaving in and out of traffic. The door opens and I catch a whiff of cigarette smoke drifting in from outside. The noise in here is almost deafening even through my headphones. My feet are propped up on an uncomfortably hard wooden chair. I'm kicking myself now for not buying one of the homeless man's newspapers. I see him gather up his bags and walk down the sidewalk. Ahhh...Seattle in the fall. I can almost smell it through the coffee and smoke. A little girl with blond ringlets stops to watch two men kissing outside of the gay bar across the street; her mother takes her hand and steers her around the corner. Teaming with life and fragility is this world in which I live and take part.

How is it possible to feel empty and yet so full at the same time? To awake with the excitement of a new day knowing that at the end, lonliness will still prevail. To seek comfort in a friend, and yet find none. To feel utterly and completely misunderstood in a room full of people who know you inside and out. To love yourself and who you are becoming and yet recognize all of the dead, black and gross things in you that you need to change. In one moment to be full of laughter and realization and hope and in another filled with doubt and uncertainty. I think that part of it means bearing witness to the fact that I am indeed "awake" to who I am and to who I am becoming. Such a conscious endeavor on my part cannot go unheeded. And I do love myself...and despise myself. It's this room for change and growth that keeps me asleep at night - for who, when learning of their own imperfection simply continued living as they were? I'm always striving to meet that pinnacle, to ascend to the top, and to reach the insurmountable goal of...righteousness. This will never be me. Jesus says, "Be holy as I am holy." How? How can I be like Jesus? I'm supposed to turn from wickedness and to seek after righteousness and to think on things that are pure, holy, right, true, lovely, and honorable. How? How can I train my heart and mind to love godliness instead of fleshly desires?

If everything is lost, thanks be to God. If I must see it go, watch it fade away and die, thanks be to God that He is all I have and if I have Him not, I have nothing at all. If all is lost, thanks be to God for He is He, and I...I am only I.

Friday, November 6, 2009

My Hand in His

All this searching for help has done has made me feel beyond help, unwanted, borderline hopeless, and more and more thirsty for my Jesus. So, in my desperation and fear, I have made a deal with Him that he will hold my hand every second of every day, and that at night, He'd sit with me until I fell asleep. And yet, I cannot physically feel His hand in mine. And while I can feel His love in me, and while that's comforting beyond words, my heart still remains in desperate need of repair. So, I go around hoping to catch a glimpse of Him in the people around me. And when I do, I cannot help but feel drawn to them. I think that's normal. When you're searching for your Lord and you cannot find Him in the way you want to, but then you come across someone who is clearly his child, it just makes sense that you'd find a certain amount of comfort in that. But they just reflect Him. It's just a reflection, not the real thing. Thus, the thirst remains. I have grown so desperately thirsty for Him. I want to be made whole, I want to be okay so that I can be used by Him and so that I can love others more fully and so that I can love myself more as well. And, while I trust in His perfect timing, I would really rather not just sit around and wait. Especially since I do not know what I am waiting for, exactly. "Let my cry come right into your presence, God; provide me with the insight that comes only from Your Word. Give my requests your personal attention, rescue me on the terms of your promise. Let praise cascade off my lips; after all, you've taught me the truth about life! And let your promises ring from my tongue; every order you've given is right. Put your hand out and steady me since I've chosen to live by your counsel. I'm homesick, God, for your salvation; I love it when you show yourself! Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well, use your decrees to put iron in my soul. And should I wander off like a lost sheep - seek me! I'll recognize the sound of your voice." Psalm 119:169-176. Max Lucado says in his book, A Love Worth Giving, "In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus is saying 'I'll walk along side you. We are yoked together. I pull the weight and carry the burden.' I wonder, how many burdens is Jesus carrying for us that we know nothing about? We're aware of some. He carries our sin. He carries our shame. He carries our eternal debt. But are there others? Has He lifted fears before we felt them? Has He carried our confusion so we wouldn't have to? Those times when we've been surprised by our own sense of peace? Could it be that Jesus has lifted our anxiety onto His shoulders and placed a yoke of kindness on ours?"

It's rather a dreadful thing when you have no words to say, and yet so much weighing heavily on your heart. Sometimes in situations like those, it helps to cry and let God interpret your tears and sometimes it helps to pray in the Spirit. but tonight, I just fell silent. I didn't even want the radio on in my car when I was driving home (which is totally strange for me!) I wrestled with myself for a little bit, trying to find words to pray, but then I just gave in and sat in the quiet of my car. I think I was expecting God to speak in that silence, but instead, the little girl in me did. As I was driving, a question bubbled up from the depths of my heart. A timid question, racked with pain. I heard myself ask, "Daddy, is it all going to be ok?" I know He says He will turn our mourning into dancing. he promises to turn our sorrow into joy. But when?

At times...I'm so alone. Completely alone. Empty chasm, gaping wound, might-as-well-be-on-Jupiter alone.

He has my heart. Jesus has my heart. All of it. I am not consciously reserving any of it for selfish behavior or poor motives. He has my heart and He's holding my hand every step of the way. And if my heart is in His hands, how far away can He possibly be? Closer than my skin, yes? Well, that should make it easy for Him to take my hand and lead long as I'm willing to move.

She holds them to her heart,
keeping them where they'll be safe
clasped within her very marrow,
dandelions in a vase.
She sees love where
anyone else would see weeds.
Lord, search my heart,
create in me something clean,
You see flowers in these weeds.

I've been given blessings beyond measure. Such beauty in my life. May I never forget this...even when days are dark and I begin to wallow in self-pity. You have given me life. You have given me hope for a future with you, Lord. You have given me a soul that feels you and a spirit that longs for You. You have given me a wonderful family whom I dearly love and am loved by. You give me opportunities for growth and expansion of my mind through experiences - both good and bad. you have given me best friends who have taught me immeasurable amounts of wisdom and thoughts from You. You have given me health and love. I have loved! You have blessed me with it...through the pain and especially then, you have given me peace and joy. I praise Your name - I glorify You, my Lord, my God.

A Reason to Bless

I donated my plasma this morning. As I sat there in the chair, the large needle stuck into my vein and my blood swiftly pumping, spinning, and whirring through the machine, I began to think about my reasons of wanting to become a nurse. I had forgotten. Through nursing school and after graduation, and now months later...I think I'm missing the point. It's not about who's the smartest or has the best grades. It's about who cares the most. Reflection takes work; it's often painful, often joyous and for me, truly nostalgic. But to remember why I feel called to this profession of caring I have to look back at the patients I've already had and look forward in anticipation to those whom I will touch and love tomorrow. These are some of my memories...

Work at the hospital this summer was enlightening and emotional for me in many ways. I poured my heart and soul out for my patients. I gave them the most gentle, compassionate and loving parts of myself - for what? Some of them still died, some of them still went out and overdosed on drugs trying to kill themselves so they'd end up right back in the hospital to pump their veins full of Ativan and Morphine. Some of them left, taking huge chunks of my heart with them as they went. Danny was one of these - for he had become my friend. There are just some patients I truly connected with and for them I gave my heart and soul. At first, I suppose, I felt sorry for Danny. He was a 27 year old Californian beach bum who loved to surf, BBQ on the beach, and play baseball. And in one day a little over a year ago, his life changed forever during a snowboarding accident. One simple slip off the chairlift resulted in him breaking his neck and becoming paralyzed from the neck down. It's true that for the last week I have thought of little else but Danny. What would it be like to have all these dreams for the future and in one day have them all crushed? What would it be like to know you could never raise a family, write in your journal, or cook a good meal? I ache for Danny and for what he's lost. Each day he is dependent on people to feed him, turn him over, bathe him and dress him - what kind of a life is that? God, it hardly seems fair!! His rough, tattooed exterior didn't matter to me. I poured myself into Danny - into making him smile, in touching him tenderly, in letting him talk and vent his frustrations, in letting him cry. And in doing so - I caught a glimpse of a hurting, sad, and depressed boy who felt that he didn't deserve to be loved. He wormed his way into my heart and I cried when he left to live in a nursing home in Missoula. Oh Danny - I'm so sorry. His life will forever be dictated and determined by the schedules of others. I know in time he'll adjust and live a somewhat normal life, he'll figure out ways to do things and ways to cope with the despair. He'll be alright - but still, my heart feels as if it's being ripped to shreds. Oh God - how will I do this? Will there be any of me left?

I remember another patient - a little old woman with Alzheimer's Disease. She was so confused and as I fed her her dinner she would point at me and yell "why not?" over and over again. They were the only words she remembered. My heart broke for her and I just began to talk - a one sided conversation, and she seemed to calm down some. Immediately I prayed that I would age gracefully and die before any this happened to me. But there is absolutely no guarantee. Some day this woman, scared and alone could be me. And I could be the one screaming "why not?" at whomever was cleaning up after me.

There was another woman who was so grateful for any attention I would give her. She cried as I bathed her, tenderly smoothed lotion over her dry skin and washed her hair. She was so blessed and I was blessed through ministering to her. She affectionately called me her "dark haired angel". This passion I have for loving and serving people, today seems like a curse. It takes so much out of me at times. That night while driving home - I wept - for there was no one to comfort me, to soothe my forehead, to cradle me close to their heart. And I needed my husband to be there for me. To take me in his arms and hold me while I cried. Instead - I mourned. I mourn my aloneness as I slip between my sheets and dream of the day ahead full of more screaming patients and those begging to be loved.

It feels so safe own private little blank slate that I can shape and speak to. Words have power and the feeling behind them is what makes them beautiful. And yet...I still hold to the concept that silence is golden. I sit in silence now, exhausted after an afternoon of tears and more heartache. A sad song plays in repeat on my i Tunes. I had a hard day at the hospital yesterday...and this perhaps, may be one of the main reasons for my melancholy. My patient has AIDS. The story is long and gruesome; her body wracked with mind numbing pain. I held her fleshless body as she lay dying in my arms. Why, Lord? Why this injustice, why so much pain and hurt? Why have you given me this opportunity? I grapple with the realization that not only is nursing not fun...but it's downright ugly. I ache, knowing that there was nothing I could've done to take away her pain. There are no words to describe the scene that met me in that hospital room yesterday morning; no one could have prepared me for the sight of one, unrecognizable as a human being, who was literally falling apart right in front of my eyes. How can I do this? It wasn't the foul odor, or the sight of her dying flesh that turned my insides...but the look in her very eyes. Our souls connected and I knew this young woman understood. I stare now at my smooth hands and am guiltily thankful that my skin is still there. This woman, this one...has again shown me the journey I am on. So, fruitless it seems sometimes - these early morning classes and late nights of care plans and looking up medications. But this...this is why I'm doing what I'm doing. Without becoming calloused, I will move on. And I'll never forget the dying woman in room 316 that the Lord allowed me to cradle in my arms the night before she died.

Tears stream down my cheeks once again. I have heard Your call and I will answer. "Here I am, Lord, send me."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

One Fleeting Moment...

I am worth more than a moment's pleasure or a touch from an uncommitted man. I am worth more than an occasional emotional connection. I am God's beloved, in whom He delights. I am cherished by a King who is enthralled by my beauty, who is captivated by me, His woman. I will not sell myself short for momentary pleasure with a man, nor will I use the power I am capable of to lure God's man into temptation. I will find my worth in God, not in what men say should define me. I am not my hips, my thighs, the curve of my mouth; I am a woman with purpose, a destiny created by and for God. I am not just silky skin and sweet perfume; I am worth more than rubies to a King to will fight for me. I am, in part - this flesh; I am my past, my future, my heart, my dreams, and fears, but I am not confined to that. There is a woman in me who desires to and deserves to be loved and cherished by a man who intentionally seeks me out from the counsel he got on his knees, who knows how to woo my heart with truth, love, and grace. I will find my worth in the One who knows my heart, my wounds and yet loves me deeply still. I am beautiful, forgiven, desirable, cherished, and I will not forget Who's I am anymore.