a safe place

Their kindness unraveled me.

There were no expectations.  There were no admonitions.  There was no condemnation.

They listened with calm patience and peaceful understanding in their eyes.  They encouraged with loving words of counsel and wisdom for every aching sigh and wretched confession.

Without judgement or correction, they drew near and waited for this unwilling flower to open.  They were not appalled when a long wilted petal fell to the ground.  The stench of long neglected wounds did not make them flinch.  Nor were they scandalized to see that what remained was lacking.

And when the tears fell and the dam broke and my speech became slurred and incomprehensible, they laid solemn hands over me and called on the Comforter to minister where they could not.

Over and again, another blemish would be revealed as we addressed the last.  I was appalled that the breaking was cyclical, there seemed to be no end.  The healing a wrestling of persistence and stamina.

But these mothers, these Titans, she that had walked in the ways that I was entering, created a holy haven with their Being.

They provided for me what no other had attempted or had fathomed was needed.

These women of faith surrounded me with a shield of anointed protection.  Rescuing me from the harsh elements of this earth, they created a safe place.  They sustained a covering in which I finally felt the confidence to heal. A gentle gathering where truth could be spoken and received.  Where the poignancy of honesty was delivered in the sanctuary of acceptance.

There is a resistant protection built up in every broken person.  When there has been a shattering, the frantic makeshift triage has left a thick scar. Only in a harbor, a place of refuge can we even entertain a thorough repair.

We all need a cove, where our hearts and minds find soothing balm, a place we feel content.  It’s where the violent waves meet the breakers far from the shore.  A shelter where there is love and calm waters and we don’t fret the tides. Tears well up in our eyes from just the thought of being there and our longing to return overwhelms us until the breath in our lungs presses against our heart and all we hear is the deafening beat in our ears.

That is where the layers begin to fall away and  the walls start to crumble.  When we stop trying to pick up the broken pieces with dust-covered hands and press them back into the walls that imprison us.

It’s where the tears begin to wash away the soot and our stories start to fall like vibrant petals from our tongues.

This is the space that every broken girl needs.  It is a gift of grace and love.  It is a place of  beauty and courage where brokeness, weakness, flaws and fragility are not uncomfortable but unconditionally accepted.  It is where you are called blessed because of them.

Beautiful alabaster box, pouring out your sin and hurt and shame at the feet of Christ.

Oh mighty women of valor!  We need you to pass on your knowledge, your intentional acceptance and willingness to serve and save.  So many of us need you.

So many need us to take up that mantle of rescue.  To lift our hands in service and call on the Comforter to abide in the spaces we keep.  To restore warrior princesses and high priestesses to their rightful, whole and fortified selves.

And show your own self in all respects to be a pattern and a model of good deeds and works, teaching what is unadulterated, showing gravity [having the strictest regard for truth and purity of motive], with dignity and seriousness.And let your instruction be sound and fit and wise and wholesome, vigorous and [a]irrefutable and above censure, so that the opponent may be put to shame, finding nothing discrediting or evil to say about us.  Titus 2:7-8 (AMP)

of shadows and light

I don’t remember much. 

The doctors and nurses asked me repeatedly about what had happened that afternoon.  And to this day I have no recollection of it.  My consciousness stops when we rolled under the shadow of the maple tree at the end of the street, and resumes much later in my mother’s arms.

She was crying.

I couldn’t speak.

But I could see the sun peeking through the trees as we passed beneath them.   Their shadows invited me into unconsciousness.  And with each slip it seems my subconscious buried the truth of what had transpired deeper each time.

I couldn’t breath.

The blood was choking me.

I slipped in and out of light.

Urgent voices surrounded me.

I awoke abruptly.

My mother was gone.

The sterile white light was terrible and now I couldn’t speak or move.

I was strapped to a metal table.  Strange men and women with surgical masks surrounded me.  I heard one say “she’s awake.” And another respond, “we’re almost done.”  And then there was pain, and I succumbed again to sweet darkness.

Confused, afraid, in pain, alone, believing I was abandoned, my heart was broken.

That was the day I met fear.

We all meet fear at some point in our lives.  It lies and it bullies and tells us that there is no good in the world.  It says there is no freedom.  It says there are no safe places.  It tells us our hearts will forever be broken and that we are abandoned.

That little girl accepted these lies as truth.

Truth had not yet been fully established in her mind.  How could it? She was 5.  She had no idea who she truly was or the potential and the power that was within her.   And fear made sure that with each slip into unconsciousness she buried any knowledge of it along with the pain and the hurt.

Knowing from the start how her path in life would be altered, the devastation that heartbreaks, broken trust and suffering would cause, could I call it good?

God knew.  And He did.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good. – Genesis 1:31

He knew that His perfect creation would become imperfect. He knew that His image bearers would become disfigured.  The beginning, knew all the mess of the middle that would ensue and yet He stilled called it good, very good.  He still loved us and believed in us.  He allowed the story to unfold.  He knew He still held the end in His hands.

It is so difficult to embrace the wounds of the past.  To accept that they are an important and integral part of what is good in me.  It is easier to despise all the imperfections that were left behind and the intimidation that fear can still threaten.

The darkness still presses and tempts me to give in.

But I remember the light peaking through the canopy of trees.  And while I do not recall how I suffered lacerations to my hands, feet and face,  I do remember the warm light cutting through the shadows.

Why?

Because God was there. 

He embraced me each time I slipped under, and whispered:  Don’t fear.  I am with you.  I will always be with you.  With every fall into oblivion, he was constant and lifted me from the abyss.

He never left me.

I didn’t know it then, but I know now what I cannot deny:  my wounds brought me into the light of God’s love and the beauty of His grace

Because I suffered confusion, pain, isolation, abandonment and a broken heart so very young, I learned early to rest in the arms of my Father and press into the comfort of his unfailing love.

Yes.  I can call that good.

…………

Today I’m linking up with the Story Sisters on this International Women’s Day as we tell stories of the girls we once were.

be gentle

Lent is upon us.

We withdraw.  We look inward.  We reflect.  We go deep.

Lent is a time for prayer, repentance, sacrifice and good works.  It is a time when we deny ourselves that which is taking up the spaces where we need more of God.

In my deep there is darkness.

His deep is pure light.

In me there are shadows of fear and doubt.

In Him only trust and hope.

And while I want to enter into great spiritual exercises, measure out disciplines, and enter into a deep mourning and grief over the shortcomings and failings in my life, a tender voice sighs:  Quiet.

It’s the whisper in the frigid wind, the blinding sun reflecting on a frozen landscape, the deafening silence of the earth buried in a heavy blanket of snow.

It is still winter.

And while I am inclined to strain myself in the birth of spring, with rituals of purification and cleansing, He gently persuades…give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live…for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.

It is not yet Spring, but it’s coming.  And we must prepare,  not by human force, but by God’s own gentle path.

He calls me to his tender, merciful arms.  He invites me to walk in communion with His Holy Spirit.  He encourages me to abide in the aroma of his goodness and illuminated in His refining light.

Because where there is light the darkness is pushed out.

I cannot win this struggle by my own might.  I will achieve nothing with my own spiritual calisthenics.

Only the light can overcome darkness.

I cannot do what only He can do for me. But I can heed his voice.  I can abide in Him, so that He in turn can abide in me.

Then, when I am in full communion with the love and peace of the Holy Spirit, and I’ve invited Him to tame the monsters of my deep – doubt, control, anxiety, ambition, pride – then I can exist as He intended:  to know Him, to receive and speak life, to love.

Spring is coming, and we must prepare, so that Christ can resurrect again through each one of us in our words and in our service.

“I choose gentleness… Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. ” – Max Lucado