Wave the banner.

“He has taken me into the banquet room, and his banner over me is love.” — Song of Solomon 2:4

Thoreau says that we are constantly invited to be what we are. His words have often  left me in quiet and loud wondering and mulling over what I might be. What in the world, this bruised and bleak world am I? In my arrogance, in my ignorance, I have stricken my own heel. Through communicating the darkness to myself over and over again, meditating on it day and night, I have created my own cancer, that which wreaks havoc throughout my bones, killing silently.

I have spoken many untrue words over my life. I have scarred myself with anxiety and anger in ways that many may never see. On many more occasions than I can count, just getting through the day has proven to be a trial in and of itself. The moment by moment choice to believe and hold on has seemed to require too much effort. I lie awake at night facing the turmoil of fear and depression, and at times, it seemed as if that was really all there was to being.

Today was the very monochromatic picture of winter. A chilled rain raced down to muddy earth, whose naked limbs remained still. The sky faded from light to dark gray. This is how the realization comes. I have waved the banner of death, and the white flag of defeat.

But this, the whisper comes, this is not who you are. I have given you fullness of joy, that which you have been created for. 

What grace is this, that life might be redefined? What right does the clay have to ask of the Potter why it is being crafted in such a way? I feel His hands molding me, and what have I to do except offer my own hands to Him in return? I long to give back all that I have broken in my haste and struggle to hold this life together through my own power.

Grace means unmerited favor. Not my power, but Yours, Lord. Scripture speaks of death losing its potent sting in the light of the glory of the Lord. This Creator God, patient with me in my waywardness, whispers a promise of love. Everything I have belongs to you. I have been defined from the foundation of the universe. My frame is not hidden from the Creator. My image, my soul, my emotions, my intellect, my pleasures have been known and, what is more, delighted in. What joy, to know that the Father delights in His children, to know that He still sings over me, still whispers grace, still looks at me and declares that I am good. I have been made holy, without blemish. Finally, joy.

I have been invited, beckoned into the residence of this Goodness. The hall of celebration. The hall of victory. The hall of plenty. In the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy. In the stillness, at the foot of the Mercy Seat, this weary soul finds rest.

Wave the new banner. This, my portion, will more than satisfy.

Bring the blade.

Its three in the morning, and my friend Ryan is looking for God. I am none but compelled to stay up and look with her. The winter bites cold, and my bones shake because I was made this way to withstand the weight of the storm. I used to want to be unmovable, but the tension only brought about pain. Sometimes sturdy means wobbling questions. I am thankful for this.

Ryan can’t seem to find God, and has been looking less and less since the night when the last bit of innocence was stolen from her, and between the two of us, we know what it is to buckle under the pressure. Sometimes it leads her to bleed, self surgery just to feel some release, but it never seems to be enough.

She wants to believe that He still whispers a declaration of goodness when He sees her. She wants to believe that there is a Garden, but there was nothing alive or growing when she said no stop don’t and all that stopped was time. She says she doesn’t know if she wants to get better now.

In Hosea, scripture talks about plowing up the hardened ground of our hearts. Could it be that she is searching, but because her heart is hard, there is no space for the Lord to come and take root? I catch my breath, and I can scarcely imagine a more gory act than the plowing of the heart. A ripping and tearing of everything inside of us that brings about death, everything that we cling white knuckled to. We live in our caves, in our grave clothes, perhaps because the thought of reaching out again is just too painful. And the plowing is painful, too. It leaves us unrecognizable. That is grace. It waves a banner.

Am I really ready for this, I wonder. This miscarriage of the darkness inside me, and I know that my God is able to catch me when I pass out because too much of what has sustained me so far has only been that which brings about the bleak and despair. It is already happening, and I can hardly believe it when I see it. The heart beats stronger, the mind thinks more clearly, and the eyes see through the lens of blessing. Blessed be the Lord, who provides and sustains. Blessed be the Lord who allows the slow of winter’s destruction. He makes us new again. He makes us beautiful, we who were constructed out of the dust, designed to experience His glory.

Call the surgeon, mend the pieces

Everything.

I am quietly reminded tonight of the words of the Father (the Hope, the Good One,) who says “everything I have is yours.” What amazing grace, to live in light of this. He who clothes the lilies and feeds every bird of the air and beast of the earth gave of His very essence to make a way for me. As I sit in the dark, joy silently fills my cup beyond the brim. Peace, strength, wisdom, love, dignity, freedom, victory, truth, every providence is mine. The beauty of the altar is that one might come to be emptied and filled. In the presence of God, there is fullness of joy. What can heal this sickness, fill the cracks, mend the wound, mitigate the distance and dissonance. I crave more of Christ and less of me.

I feel the quiet coming, and though it creeps slowly, it is certain. This peace that passes a feeble understanding that was never meant to be a foundation. My bones thirst for it, surrounded by the winter, the promise of what is new coming to life. “Behold, I am doing a new thing,” says the Lord. The earth is not worried. The very rocks know His name. Not my will, but Yours. God will be good. He will fulfill His promise.

When I think of the bare nakedness of winter, the notion that I can simply breathe in peace is overwhelming. What must it look like to exist fully within grace, to move with all the authority of heaven, everything that belongs to a King Creator? All the residual anxiety leads me to rush to fill the gaps of silence. But He is not in the emergency of the earthquake. He is not in the consuming rush of the blaze. He is in the still and small whisper, inviting me into the moment, beckoning me to come and lay down all that makes me heavy, leaving it to the light of His grace. How much more does the Father long to be gracious to His children, whom He conceived for the simple pleasure of communion. These are the green pastures and the still waters, even in the dead of winter. Manna in a frozen desert. Every single moment, wrapped up in the quiet fullness of joy. Though there are no leaves on the trees, though our skeletons shake in the wind, not my will, but Yours.

Like the earth, I must begin again, here in the quiet space between what is known and what remains hidden to the moment. Here, where I am called to be still. Here, where there is boundless mercy, relentless grace. Here, where everything is made beautiful in its time. Here, where there is fullness of joy.

Selah.

Heart, beat.

I feel the quiet coming, and though it creeps slowly, it is sure. This peace that passes understanding. I crave it deep inside my bones, the winter and the fire and the promise of what is new coming to life again. The earth is not worried. Not my will, but Yours, Lord.

When I think about the bare nakedness of winter, the idea that I could just breathe in peace is overwhelming. I have trouble sitting still, and I tend to rush to fill the gaps of silence, but this is what the Father gives. He is much like the quiet, wandering unobtrusively through the candlelit rooms of my heart, settling at the table. The winter reminds me that things can be made new again. Grace is what lies within the tension of what is taken.

Not my will, but Yours.

Namesake.

Somewhere along the way, my soul must have known what it meant to worship. My name tells me that I am consecrated to God. Consecrated: made and declared sacred, set apart with the dedication of service. Consecrated: to change the elements of bread and wine into the Eucharist. I never knew my name could be so full, and I think to myself that it is nearly ridiculous. A full name for an empty person, a person with holes and scars and bags under the eyes and white knuckles. To say that my life as I know it is unfit for such a definition would be an understatement.

I once told a friend that the times in my life that I have wanted to die have been brought about by the exhaustion from the cycle of brokenness. He told me that perseverance is the willingness to cooperate and remain under pressure. How does a vessel full of cracks truly withstand pressure? How do I truly open my hands to this God who leads me to walk through the trials of the fire, not only receiving that which he gives, but also releasing all of the best laid plans that I cling desperately to? How do I look even death in the face, and plead “not my will, but Yours?” My life has been shaped by an instability which has fertilized and germinated a monstrous anxiety. The enemy is so much greater than me.

No – greater is he that is in me, that drives me, that loves me, the one I am consecrated to. That is the promise. I believe, but help my unbelief. Has there ever been a more honest prayer? There are parts of myself that I don’t really want to hand over, but they only drown with me when I take my eyes away from the one who came to redefine this life. After all this time, I still do not understand what it means to truly be, and let that be enough. I don’t trust this God who tells me that I don’t have to do anything but exist in order to merit his truest, unfathomable affection. Surely, I must have to live up to some obscene level of expectation. And every other graceless standard leaves me entirely alone and full of self loathing.

I’ve written a lot of freedom and the cessation of striving, but that never meant I knew how to make that happen. Simply knowing about someone was never enough to make them personal. Can I really be sustained on what I do not know? What love the Father must have, to allow me to trade my brokenness for daily bread, to lay myself aside and see each moment for what it truly is – an opportunity to react fully and well to the truth of who he is every day. He is still the God who makes a way where there is none. He is not asleep at the wheel. The refuge of his presence  is never hidden from me.

Yes, I believe, but help me in my unbelief. Help me to untangle myself from the lies and pick up the pieces of my brokenness. Grace, help me last another day, and give me just enough strength to pick up the tools to lay the foundation.

So be it.

Steadfast.

On Wednesday, Steve talked about a wedding. Oh, that I might be redefined by love, and clothed in white; that I might walk down that aisle and meet the One who sees me.

Hosea speaks of being betrothed:

“I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will even betroth you to Me in stability and in faithfulness, and you shall know (recognize, be acquainted with, appreciate, give heed to, and cherish) the Lord. And in that day I will respond, says the Lord; I will respond to the heavens [which ask for rain to pour on the earth], and they shall respond to the earth [which begs for the rain it needs]…”

How I crave that. The loss of sight of everything else in the presence of the Lord, knowing only love and mercy, being steadfast. What does it truly mean to be a bride? For better or worse, I crave you. No matter what this life brings my way, be it hell or high water, my hands will remain open.

A wife of noble character: strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the days to come. Father, show me. I am wrought with anxiety. Teach me to smile at the days to come, knowing that you will be good, regardless of the appearance of circumstances.

Do I worry that he is not sovereign and good? Perhaps. But what father, if his child asks for bread, would give him a stone? What is it that I truly fear? If he has clothed the lilies, if he really is so different than anything I have ever known: strength and dignity are but elementary in his craft.

Tear down the walls, Fountain. Burst through and saturate me with grace.