Galaxy Rest

galaxy rest

 

Go before me, like a forest dweller with a machete –
Carve a way in the wild.
Make a path for me in the brush of the shadow-life,

And when we reach the flower field on the other side,
Teach me the freedom of dropping the blade
and forgetting the battle.

Teach me to rest among the dandelions,
To fall asleep easy under the blue black
dotted with the light of galaxies that never burn out.

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For Elaine

Dear Elaine,

My darling, the world is so big for you.  I am so excited for you, and you are not even twenty-four hours old.  But, my love – my dear cousin, you are already destined for mighty things.  The God who knit you together did so with such care.  He spent millennia fashioning your precious soul.  Your toes and your lungs and your elbows consumed His thoughts for longer than we could imagine.  He has never and will never grow tired of you.  He longs for you to come to Him with all the musings, desires, and thoughts buried deep within you.  He will always hear you, no matter whether you sing or cry or scream or whisper or laugh or talk so quickly that no one else understands.  He will never grow weary of you.

My darling, our Papa is gentle and perfect.  He is on your side.  You can never go too far out of His arms that you can’t turn back.  He will always welcome you back.

This life you’ve tumbled into is not always simple.  Your path will be twisty at times.  You will scrape your knees and get headaches from too many tears.  Sometimes nights will feel endless here.  You will get scared, and probably sometimes you won’t understand even your own heart.  People will be mean to you, and you will be mean to people – even people you really, really love.  You will lose people who you don’t want to lose: this journey has many paths, and we do not all travel the same one at all times.  Those you love sometimes go one direction, and you will go someplace else.

But listen to me, my dear: this life is so, so glorious, too.  You will learn to run someday.  You will taste freedom and know joy.  You will laugh at goofy jokes and ridiculous movies and even yourself.  You will discover that which makes your heart beat a little faster – those passions created inside you may be many, and they may not make sense, but it is your job to notice what you love and decide to do something about it.  It might take lots of time.  That’s okay.  You have time.  You will find your people – the ones who get you, who anchor you.  And you will see the Father, even before you know Him by name.

Oh, dear heart, you will learn so much.  You will learn of forgiveness, that mysterious and holy gift.  You will learn of grace, an infinite wellspring in a dry-desert life.  And you will learn of love – so many loves, but each one an ultimate and divine expression of the very Essence of our Rescuer.

My love, you will be taken care of.  You have found your way into a good home in this world.  This is a family full of strange and beautiful love, and oh my goodness we can be an odd bunch.  But we fling our arms wide here.  So run into the house – make a mess, in any sense of the term, and allow your soul to be a little wild and unpredictable.

Do not forget that you are loved, supported, believed in, and valued.  I pray the great worth you have rings true within you every day of your time on this earth.  And I pray you live in the spirit of that worth.

I have run this race for only a short distance, but I have noticed this: this life is a grand adventure.  And I have not always lived it as such.  But you, my lovely cousin, were born at a time in my life when I came to yet another agreement with God.  I want more adventure, I told Him.  And in a tempest, in His infinite grace, He answered me: Yes, My child.  Your heart is ready now.

May you ask for the adventures sooner than I did.  And may you trust Him to make your heart ready, again and again and again.

With love always,

Courtney

September 12, 2014

Skimming Stars

skimming stars

When I pray, You come to me in the open fields.

The camera in my mind pans past the Dust Bowl barns
and the dirt roads hemmed with wildflowers.
It is in the rare beauty of expanse that I see You.
When the light is pale-blue-almost-white,
that color I’ve seen only in my head
and in movies about pioneers.
When the air hangs heavy over the plain,
hinting at a promise of evening dew.
When I pray,
I find myself here.
It is the only time I’ve found myself here.
Like You are welcoming me to a country
meant only for me.

When I pray, I am still.
It is the world that moves around me,
the axis not out of importance but out of stilling awe.
And in Your infinite grace You extend the moments
and calm my mind
and bring me closer.
So I know, now,
why we fly over the expanse between our mountains:
There is too much in the middle.
It is why You have me pray there.
Pray in the place where the too-much can be contained.
Pray in the place where my too-much can’t be too much.

Un-stick my feet.
Let me bend the axis.

I will run through the prairies after You,
flinging aside the tall grass,
searching but not because You are hidden.
Seeking the place where my failure
meets Your sufficiency
and my fear collides with rest.

Take me out into the open once more,
Great Heart.
Show me how to be small.

Restoration

I feel useless here.  I know I’m not useless – I know.  But I saw him in the hospital – small and weak and sleepy.  My grandfather was fine in August.  He was young in August.  I left for school the same way I always left: with a hug, and an “I love you.”  If I would’ve known that he would be so small and weak and sleepy in November, I would like to say that I would’ve said something more, in August.  But how could I have known?  How does something take over an entire person in just a few months?  I have never seen my grandfather look old.  And now, he looks old enough to make him like a child again, frail.  Breakable.  But all I am doing is sitting in a classroom, staring a computer, putting together hypothetical projects and trying not to complain too much (and failing, I think).  I could be at the hospital, keeping him company.  I could be at home, making dinners and doing laundry and putting up Christmas decorations.  I could be doing so much more.

But I am giving presentations, rehearsing scenes, making up fake nonprofits, and studying for gen-ed exams.  For the first time in my life, I don’t understand how school makes a difference.  I can’t see how this matters.

I am such a Martha, always moving, always busy – and I think in my mind I am convinced that if only I could just be done with this semester, then I would be less Martha and more Mary, doing what really matters.  I could take care of my family.  I could be present and helpful.  Surely, Martha is concerned with things that do not last, but Mary is content with the meaningful, busy with the important details.  If only I weren’t so busy, if only I weren’t so stuck in a place where I feel useless, then perhaps I could be a better daughter, a better granddaughter, a better servant of the Lord.  I could be more like Mary, if only.

Mary was busy with important things, like family and Christmas decorating and laundry and hospitals and –

Oh.

“Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He taught.”

Even if I thought I could be like Mary, I think I would be an awful Mary.  Because all I’d be doing is trading one busy-ness for another.  One stress for another.  One I-can-do-this-on-my-own mindset for another.  It’s not to say that being with my family isn’t important.  It is.  And yes, maybe school is rightfully on the back-burner.  But something is broken inside of me, and being in another place, even if I would be better off there for now, isn’t going to fix me.

Martha was stressed.  She was concerned with the world: with fixing dinner and tidying the house because oh my word the Lord was in her home.

The Lord was in her home.  But her mind was in a thousand other places besides.  So is mine.  I feel useless because unless I am sitting at the feet of Christ, I am.

So what do I do?  I listen when he tells me that I need to glorify God in my schoolwork.  I trust God to have perfect timing.  I believe my mom, who reminds me that next week will come quickly.  I whisper it to myself over and over: The Lord is with you.  You are going to be okay.  You are going to be taken care of. 

And I pray, with fervor from some dusty corner of my heart, for healing and miracles and peace if miracles do not come.  I pray for my hurting friends, by busy friends, my patient, loving, beautiful friends.  I am loved in different ways, and I do not understand how I deserved any of it.  And I am allowed to love, too.  I am selfish and broken, but I am loved and I love.  As death and stillness hang over me, abundant joy surrounds me, engulfs me.  Nativities appear around me, delicate porcelain babies placed in tiny mangers meant to remind me of the One who vanquished death and stillness.

It doesn’t feel vanquished.  Right now, it feels powerful.

“But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!  There is only one thing worth being concerned about.  Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.'”

So until I find the feet of my Lord, setting aside the projects and the exams and the hospitals and the laundry, I will find purpose in none of it.  The desert is getting tiresome now.  I have been here for too long, dancing on the edge of the mirage and convincing myself that I spend enough time in the oasis to justify my wanderings.  Lead me to the well, draw up a bucket of the good stuff, the living stuff, and pull me into the living room.  I will pull up a patch of floor, and I will listen to Him here.  This will not be taken away from me.

Hearts

There’s this one movie called Serenity.  It’s a Joss Whedon film, and one of my favorites.  The series and film focuses heavily on a character named River – a teenaged girl who is, admittedly, a little bit crazy.  Damaged.  She is strong and fierce and independent and has been transformed into a deadly weapon by the government.  But she is also kind and brilliant and funny and surprisingly gentle in so many ways – because she is, after all, a young girl.  And all the science-fiction brain experiments in the world can’t destroy the heart of a person.  At least, that’s what I believe.  Apparently, so does Joss Whedon.

Anyway.  In the film, there is one point when River collapses, both falling down and falling apart inside.  And she pleads, whispering, “God, make me a stone.”  Joss Whedon isn’t exactly a believer (exactly, he’s an atheist), and one could argue that River is not a believer either, though she has been exposed to God through a relationship with a member of the clergy, Shepherd Book.  But when River pleads with God to make her a stone, she means it.  She wants to be a stone.  Hard, unmoving, unfeeling, unreachable.  When her world has devolved into chaos and noise and destruction and confusion, and when she can no longer make sense of what is real and what is not, she turns to her last resort, to the God who she has logicked away to the far edges of the universe, and begs Him to take everything away.

A week and a half ago, I asked God to make me a stone.  I asked Him to harden my heart, to make me feel less.  When my own world felt like too much, when everything looked so real and so fake, when I was finally convinced that I was too soft – that’s when I prayed for God to pour the concrete, set me in the sun, and forget me.

If you know me well, you know that my heart lives on my sleeve.  Goodness, if you read this blog at all you’ll realize it.  I give my heart to people easily, but not carelessly.  I’m intentional.  If you know me, it’s because I decided to show my heart to you.  With some people, I remain guarded, pouring myself out gradually.  With a few, I am vulnerable almost, some might say, to a fault.  If that’s possible.  I give, because I want to be known.  I long to be known.  There have been times when the place my heart resides ends up hurting me.  But there have also been many times when I have been blessed because I choose to be vulnerable.  I have been trusted in return, allowed to know and love other people.  It is risky.  Yeah.  But I have never regretted taking the risk.  Even when it hurt.

But when I plead with God to make me a stone, I also cursed my soft, stitched-to-the-sleeve heart.  That heart I valued so much.  The one that had encouraged people I love and had made me different.  I have thanked God for my easily-moved, easily-loving heart.  I have called it a blessing.  A gift.  And now I was condemning it, asking for it to be taken away.  Because feeling anything can be really, really hard.  Caring can be painful.  Seeing the hurting, dying world can be awful.  Maybe I feel too much, I thought.  Maybe I care too much.  Maybe I love too much.  What if the person I thought I was – kind, responsive, loving – wasn’t me at all?  I felt already like a brick fortress, as if there was some barrier in me that separated two Courtneys: a real one and an intruder.  But which was which?  I had become a contradiction in my own head.

Amidst my pleas, though, was His voice.  It is always there.  And this time I couldn’t ignore it.  I felt broken.  I wasn’t sure who I was.  But I was sure of Him.

Calm.  You cannot be a stone.  You are My stitched-to-the-sleeve heart.

So, sitting in what I thought was the rubble of myself, I listened to God tell me who I was.

Sinful – yes.  Broken – yes.  Angry – yes.  Confused – yes.  Afraid – yes.  Impatient – yes.  A little stony – yes.  A little lost – yes.

Passionate – yes.  Gentle – yes.  Kind – yes.  Loving – yes.  Hopeful – yes.  Honest – yes.  Real – yes.

Irreparable?  No.

I am so thankful for a God who does not give me what I want, especially when He has created me for more than what I believe I can be.  This year, as I begin my third year of university, I am asking God to make me soft.  To hold tight to my vulnerable heart and allow me to continue to feel deeply.  I don’t want to reject the blessings He’s created in me.  When it seems like it would be easier to hide behind a wall I’ve built myself, I pray that I would have the boldness and the courage and  the trust to step in front of the battlements.  I want to be used by God.  Molded and shaped to look more like Jesus.  If He has given me this heart, it is because He has plans for it.

 

 

 

God, make me a feather.  Make me a sail, and be my guiding wind.  Make me clay in Your hands, Make me water, and pour me into the lives of my family and my friends and those I love and those I fear.  Give me the heart You desire.  Give me the desire for You.  Soften me.  Break me.  Give me your strength.  With that, I cannot fail.