No quit Monday

Cherub statueDo you see it?
The smile I wear so big and bright.
Do you know I came home and collapsed in a pile on the bed
Tired of being tired.
Mentally drained.
Emotionally exhausted.
Spiritually hungry.

Of course you don’t.
How could you?
I would never say those words.

I wouldn’t tell you that I’m consumed with thoughts of motherless children, the homeless, forgotten, abused, discarded human beings and those plagued by addiction.
Little ones and big ones alike who cannot help themselves, overwhelm my longing to be the hands and feet of Christ.
There are too many, Lord.
Where do I even begin?

I don’t always want to live up to my name.
Sometimes I want to pass by without notice.
Sometimes I want to look down at my feet instead of making eye contact.
Sometimes I wish to blend into the background.

What?

It’s true.
Today.
I miss my friend who died last May, leaving two beautiful children and the man of her dreams behind.
My insides ache for my daughter imprisoned by her own mind.
I countdown to 2 weeks when I no longer have a steady paycheck.
I realize that the only thing that is certain is uncertainty.

What if I’m not good enough?
What if I fail?
What if I made a mistake thinking this could work?
What if I can’t do this?
What if it’s my will, not God’s?

I close the door to my closet,
Flip the light off,
Sit on the floor,
Wall against my back,
Listening to myself breathe.

Deep, calculated, cleansing breath in.
I fill up my lungs until the tingle runs down my scalp.
Slow breath out
the worry, stress, insecurity, doubt and any possible regret exit with it.

Does she know I would be there if I could?
Does she know how hard I fight for her?
I am no longer in the circle of decision.
Doesn’t she know, had I not placed distance there, I could not have recovered?
No.
She doesn’t know.
She shouldn’t know.

It’s okay.
I tell myself…again.
But it isn’t, is it?
Not today.
Today it stings like the hornet.
Today I wallow in mental despondency.
Today I long for sleep and nothing else.

Today is almost gone.
What will I show for it when looking back?
I kept breathing.
In and out.
I got up and put one foot in front of the other.
I kept breathing.

God, please don’t allow me to stay here, in this place, for very long.
Darkness tries to hide you,
But your presence is fierce.
Words try to mask your message
But you cannot be silenced.
Time tries to deflect your promises
But to you, what is time?

Pull me from my melancholy stance.
My inner rantings.
My futile attempts at peace.

No… Don’t.
Stay here with me while the pain escapes through salty tears and silent screams.
Stay here. In the anguish. Until it has all been felt and I can turn towards your cleansing light.

What am I to you, God of the universe.
A mere mortal whose time is comparable to dust.
Who’s life is but a vapor.
Who am I to you?
Whisper the answer to my impatient soul.

Stay with me in the stillness.
Stay until dawn breaks the thickness of night.
Stay until silence is replaced with singing.
Stay.
With me here.
Until I can get up off this floor
And stand on my own two feet.

Then will I know the storm has passed.

‘Tis the Season to…

stop judging.
Fah-lah-lah-lah-lah
la-lah-lah-lah

I mean it. Stop it!

For many of us the holidays are a wonderful time of the year.
It’s a time for celebration and togetherness.
For others of us it’s a time of survival.
A time of trying to get out of bed in the morning and put one foot in front of the other.
A time that we long to end.

I don’t know what place you are in today.
I know where I am. I know from whence I came.
Therefore I can tell you that I have experienced both extremes.
The pain of uncertainty and the joy of security.

My prayer for you today is peace and rest, contentment and delight, meet you right where you are. For an overwhelming sense of well-being to fill your soul. Tangible evidence of love so deep and wide and unconditional that you can’t help but give thanks for the moment.

For my friend who is facing the holidays without her mother for the first time, I pray for the kind of comfort that only a mother can give. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to document a day in the last few weeks of her life. What an incredible honor.

For my friend who’s husband left her a single mother by choice, I pray for God’s provision and protection in the coming year in a way that no earthly man could provide. Thank you for sharing your story with others in hopes of being a light in a dark time. I know that in time, your heart will heal.

For my friend who is explaining thankfulness to his two children who lost their mother six months ago, I pray for words of wisdom to flow from your lips into little ears of understanding. Thank you for accepting “Happy’s” from me wrapped in crazy patterned duct tape and filled with things like “happy hearts” with arms for hugging. I will never forget how during one of the darkest moments in your life, you took the time to tell me about her love of the clinging cross, helping me feel like I was there with her during the agonizing pain even when my physical presence was not.

For my friend who would be less than a month away from celebrating her baby girl’s 1st birthday, I pray for peace as memories of the days that she had in your arms are relived. Thank you for allowing me to be one of the incredibly fortunate ones who got to meet her during her short time on earth. What a gift!

For my friend with a heart aching for the man she loves who was taken too soon. My prayer for you, dearly loved, is that you will dream big! That the purpose in your sorrow would be made known as I believe it is unfolding before us now. I pray that your story would impact others in a way that no one else can. I pray that you will love again and have a long, passion filled, beautiful life. Thank you for letting me come alongside you on this journey. You are teaching me so much about what true strength is and what faith really means.

There are more of you. Please know that you are loved. You are prayed over, you are lifted up, you are thought of.

For those who will be making mad dashes to cash in on the black Friday sales, good luck.
For each of us, may we remember to stop and think before cutting our eyes at the lady with the screaming child or cutting in front of the driver going too seemingly slow. This is a time of reflection. It’s a time to look to the left and the right and ask what we can do for someone other than ourselves. In the end Darling, it’s really all that matters anyway. What we do for others, I mean. Next year you won’t remember what you purchased at the “sale.” For me, I always remember the feeling of doing something for someone else. There is nothing better.

Blessings to you in this coming season and the new year that will follow. May all that is good and true and beautiful be yours.

 

Where is God now?

How could I ever look at anything and ask, “Where’s God?!” All I have to do is look out my window. I can see God everywhere, in everything.
But I have been in that place. More than once. Spiritual desolation where God is nowhere to be found. That corner of hell with gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair.

That place where a young mother is diagnosed with cancer and dies less than a year later leaving a husband and two young children that she worked so hard to have.

The place where baby’s who are “incompatible with life” are carried full-term, the mother’s belly sliced open to give baby life and after a few short days out of the womb the mother is left with memories, photos and a wound far greater than the one from the blade of the scalpel.

The place where ends don’t meet.

There’s no happily ever after.

Where regret is a constant companion and depression is the norm.

Where one begins to doubt heaven and the existence of a God at all.

What kind of God would take the life of a 17-year-old girl with all the promise in the world, one beautiful day after a small town football game? Her mother recalls her saying, “It’s the most beautiful day! I don’t remember a day quite like it?” That was one of the last things she heard her daughter say.

Who wants to know a God that watches two small children lay flowers on their mother’s grave and ask their daddy night after night, “Where’s mommy?”

If God is so good wouldn’t he grant the wish of the young wife who has cried herself to sleep for the last 5 years when the pregnancy test is negative…again.

What about the children who are sold into a world of sex and abuse. Being promised to the dirtiest of men who use them up and throw them away when they’re finished. Surely God doesn’t see or hear their whimper for help. How could he and not do anything about it?!

I don’t know the answer. What I do know, without a doubt in my mind, is that God is good…all the time…even when it doesn’t feel like it. I have crouched, head in hands, digging nails into my scalp, hoping the pain would cure my numbness.

I have been in my corner of self-inflicted hell with seemingly no way out while making promise after promise to my Creator of what I would abstain from if only he would get me out of the current circumstances and save me from myself.I have committed heinous acts thought to push me far beyond forgiveness.

Here is what I know. The same God who calmed the sea when he told Peter to walk out on the water to him, calms my heart when I don’t understand his plan. Just like Peter, when I take my eyes off of him, I sink into the very thing I think capable of overtaking me.

I want to have faith. I do. I want to see every situation through the eyes of a just and loving God with a plan far greater than my own…but more times than not, I don’t. Half the time I shake my fist to the heavens while the other half I lay face down on the floor, arms out, palms open, “Thy will be done, Lord. Not my will, but thine.

I don’t understand his ways. Why should I? I was never promised full disclosure. If I were granted understanding, would there be a need for faith? What would it really change?

He is a God who gives and takes away.

His love endures forever and ever.

I believe.

The only other option is the opposite of hope. A life of uncertainty, waiting for the next “thing” to happen. Asking myself when atrocities occur what I could have done to prevent it, when none of it is within the realm of my control, nor would I want it to be.

God is God and I am not.
All knowing.
All seeing.
All wise.
Infinite.
Immortal.
Unchanging.
The same yesterday, today and forever.

There is one thing I do have control over.
The choices I make.
In this moment,
I choose faith.
I choose not knowing the whole story, but trusting that it will play out as it should.
I choose joy.
I choose grace and mercy.
I choose to see people as God with skin on.
I choose life.
I choose Christ.
I choose freedom.
I choose trust.
I choose forgiveness.

I choose to go out on my back porch, take in beauty that is far too majestic to capture, inhale cleansing breaths through my nose and into every cell in my body, all that is good, all that is well, all that is pure and healing. While exhaling the “what if?” “Why me?” “Why them?” “Why now?” I choose the something far greater awaiting me, if I choose to believe.

Sweet Embrace: A Letter to Elliot

Dear Elliot,

I was browsing through one of my favorite shops in a small North Carolina town when I saw this sculpture. I picked it up and read the description from the artist. This is what it said;
Thankfully I know the owners of the store because I could not hold back the tears that were imminent. While holding the artwork tightly in both hands I was able to tell them about you, your life and your legacy. That makes two more people who know how incredible you are and what a difference you are making in the lives of others.

Mary carefully packed the figure in brown paper to ensure a smooth trip home. That was three months ago. I put the bag in my closet and looked at it several times a day, but left the statue securely wrapped.
I finally sat down and slowly pulled the pieces of tape away from the brown paper. As the image began to appear I was overcome with emotion. It sounds silly, right?

Like certain music, art has the ability to move us from where we are, right back to a moment in time.

I wanted a place where, not only would I see it throughout the day, but others could as well and ask about its meaning.

While admiring it when first getting up this morning, memories began flooding in. Sleepovers with singalongs on our hairbrush microphones and talent shows from the school’s cafeteria stage. Tennis matches in the heat and humidity we had grown accustomed to in the south and seemingly never-ending miles on the church van. It reminded me of the long days of summer and the childlike anticipation of Christmas. A time that was good and innocent. A time when divorce had not been intrusive, cancer wasn’t personal and we were unaware of how incredibly cruel the world can be. I had to smile.

I am quite certain that each time I look at it another memory or emotion will surface. I’m okay with that. I don’t think chance is what took me into the store on that particular day, I think it was God.

Wyatt is celebrating his 7th birthday today. He is so grown up! I love seeing the pictures that Chris posts on your Facebook page. It’s amazing the difference a year makes between six and seven.

El, I still haven’t written those letters. I don’t know how. I don’t know what to say and yet there is so much I want to say. I have things for them that, just like the figurine, remain in a bag, undisturbed. Do you think I will ever have the courage to put my thoughts on paper and stop worrying about whether it’s worded perfectly?

The children are beautiful, Elliot. I know that you are so proud. And Chris is doing a wonderful job. It is evident how much he loves and misses you. We all miss you.

Love and Light,


Related Post:

Oh my soul

To see more sculptures by Cindy Burden click here

Five Minute Friday: Race

The texts started lighting up my phone around 9:30p.m. They continued throughout the night and early morning. By mid-morning Wednesday, I knew I needed to go. I would get in my car and race to the hospital just inside the city line of the town I grew up in.

It was Tuesday when my sister almost died. And though some would say, “But she didn’t die.” The fact that we were hours from losing her is surreal.

I am having quite the time processing every thing from the last few days. I go between anger, sadness, gratefulness, hope and so many other emotions. Truth is, she is in a race. Against time…against disease…against unrealistic expectations… A race that she runs accompanied by those who love her the most. It will be a lifelong event. Life as she knows it must change or an early death is imminent.

We are all running a race. Some days are better than others. If you are in the midst of a time that is more difficult than serene, I am praying Psalm 34 for you;
“God’s angel sets up a circle
of protection around us while we pray.
Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him.”

What / Who are you running to?

Now, set your timer, clear your head, for five minutes to just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

The Skinny on the Book ~ by E. Wierenga

It is my honor to feature Emily Wierenga and a glimpse of her incredible story of experience, strength and hope. Her journey is one that everyone should read, especially females, counselors, ministry leaders, teachers, coaches, those who have daughters, a sister, wife, mother…I think that covers everyone. I am blessed to know this incredible woman and pray that God will bless her, her family, her ministry and all those who come in contact with her.

The nurses murmured to each other under fluorescent lighting as I lay shivering on the metal hospital bed, cold. Later, I would learn that they had marveled at my hypothermic, sixty-pound sack of bones, reasoning, “She should be dead.” I was a breach of science; a modern-day miracle. Yet in that profound moment, all I
could think was: “Why can’t I lose any more weight?”

After four years of slow and steady starvation, I had finally quit eating altogether.

It started when I began to squint my eyes for the camera. I wanted to create laughter lines in a laughter-less face. Then, I began sucking in my cheeks. I liked how it made me look thinner. Model-like. I was nine years old.

The next four years were a blur. Anorexia starved my mind, but I’ll always remember the darkness. Days smudged with counting calories and streaming tears. Days filled with frowns, fierce yells and fists pounding against my father’s chest…

Dad loved us by doing his job so well he put ministry before family. He’d kiss us on the cheeks early in the morning and lead Bible devotions and sigh when we asked him questions on Sermon-Writing day. I hated Sermon-Writing day.

I got baptized at age eight because Dad said I should and I wanted to please him the same way I wanted to please God. I associated God with my father—a distant, unemotional man who said he loved me yet was too busy to show it.

One year later, I realized that even though I’d gotten baptized, Dad still didn’t ask me how I was doing, not really, and so God still didn’t care. Not really.

Food was dished onto our plates at every meal; again, I had no choice but to finish it. This inability to make my own decisions killed my independent spirit. Mum meant well; as a nutritionist, she served healthy but plentiful portions. As a result, we became healthy but plentiful children.

Meanwhile, a woman I’d become very close to, ‘Grandma Ermenie,’ passed away. And life became even more uncontrollable, and disappointment, more certain…It’s a scary place to be in, this place where you have no one, so you have to become bigger than life itself, in order to carry yourself through the pain. A nine-year-old isn’t very big. And all I wanted was to be small. Because the world told me that thin was beauty. And maybe if I was beautiful, Dad would want to spend time with me.

I didn’t know about anorexia nervosa. We weren’t allowed to play with Barbie dolls or take dance lessons or look at fashion magazines or talk about our bodies in any way other than holy, so I didn’t know anything except that Mum changed in the closet when Dad was in the room, and made us cover our skin head to foot.

A kind of shame came with this not talking about bodies and beauty became something forbidden. And I wanted it more than anything. So I stopped eating.

It was a slow-stop, one that began with saying “No,” and the “No” felt good. I refused dessert. I refused the meals Mum dished up for me. I refused the jam on my bread and then the margarine and then the bread itself…

At night, I dreamt of food. Mum would find me, hunting for imaginary chocolates in my bed. I wanted her to hug me and make the fear go away, but was worried that if I did, my guard would be let down and I’d eat real chocolates, so I stopped hugging her for two years.

My legs were getting thin, and that was what mattered, but I dreamt about her arms, and woke up hugging myself.

I slipped from a state of not being hungry to a state of choosing to be hungry. I liked how my pants sagged, how my shirt became loose, my face slim, and my eyes, big. And at some point, I became a different person, intent on being skinny no matter the cost.
***
this is how it starts.

Emily’s book, Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder.
View Endorsements here
Read Sample Chapters here
Follow Emily on Twitter and Facebook

“I know many of you have not struggled with eating disorders, but there are 8 million Americans that do… and many of them are young girls, in families that are desperate for solutions… there is only one solution, and that is Christ, and this book points to Him. Would you help me get the word out about this? 

Will you order a copy for your church library? Your school library? For the family down the street? Thank you.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: HaPpY

Gallery

This gallery contains 12 photos.

Yay! How much do I LOVE this week’s photo challenge?! A LOT! It was tough for me to choose only a few, but I have done it! Are you ready? Here we go. Strings of lights hung above a walkway. … Continue reading