7 years in Narnia…

I can hardly believe it’s been 7 years this month since I moved to San Antonio. Texas is a vast contrast to the life I knew for 20 years in South Florida. Hollywood, FL is a fast paced conglomeration of lives on collision. 20 minutes north of Miami, 5 minute drive to the beach, 15 minutes to just about anywhere else local you need to get to and everything in walking distance. In Florida I was a mermaid… and then God called me away to Texas, like Aslan the Pevensie children. And it’s definitely been a Narnian sized adventure!

San Antonio is definitely a far cry from what it was when I first visited some 15 or 20 years ago. I mean there were no lights or highways anywhere near where my family lived. Now it’s booming but it’s still vastly different than anything else I’ve ever known. The hills, the grass, the land, and above all the trees… it was all so foreign to me. But I had dreamed of a time I would one day wear knee high boots and drive my little red car through hills, on tiny curvy, windy roads. After coming to a Texas and settling in, I’ve realized it’s where my heart has always been- in Narnia.

Texas is my Narnia. It holds vast places of curvy and windy roads, it holds nature as I’ve never experienced it before. It is a place of the wild, where concrete may be present, but it doesn’t run the show.

It’s been raining every day for about 2 weeks now and everything has bloomed. Everything is green and filled with fragrances of sweet earth, bitter rotting tree limbs, musky leaves all rolled together. It’s days like this that I am mesmerized by this natural beauty. This graceful display of tiny worlds hidden underneath nooks and crevasses.

Despite being a mermaid in another life, and desperately loving water, I’ve had to morph into a nymph of sorts and clamber into mossy rivers with all new creatures and different adventures to be had. Still, when a really good rain arrives every 2-3 years or so, I bask in it. I find it irresistible not to go and smell some wet decaying leaves and stick my feet in small torrents of flowing water.

This is a nymphs life in Narnia. Or maybe this month it’s more like Hobbiton. Walking along these familiar trails and hills I almost fully expect Bilbo Baggins to come out of a hole in the side of a hill- so green and fragrant as the world is at current. Still yet… it’s a magical place where Nature and I collide.

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Winds, Birds

Winds weeping

Birds rejoicing.

Unseen currents of force,

some gentle some roar

Tiny creatures of sky,

each unique according to its kind.

Winds, unsettled travelers of life

weeping as they flow past

each sacred place,

rustling through the crannies of earth.

Birds clinging tight

in war torn trees,

each calling out its feeble song

to the Master’s ears.

Winds rush and go, never to return again.

Birds travel on, settling for a bit, then continue on.

Each one a wonderer of its own merit,

but one full of song and one without a tune.

Each with a purpose,

both unseen.

40 Years Wandering…


He left the house at half past 6 in the morning. Today was the day. The day of his freedom. He knew it would come one day. 40 years he’d carried it on his back. Fear. He’d carried it like a hero his sidekick, never too far behind. All these 40 years he’d paid his price for that one day, that one choice that he made. 40 years of fear. 40 years of hiding. 40 years running. He’d paid his demons well. So had they, his family. They paid for his sins too. Out of the four children he had, only one knew, the eldest, and even she didn’t fully comprehend.

His wife knew. Of course, she knew. There was no way he could hide the fact from her. She knew he was a fugitive when she married him. But as they say, you can’t help who you fall in love with. Fate had chosen the two of them to bear his cross together. She knew, rest her soul, that the life they built could be over at any time. They could come like smoke in the night and take his life. He could be here today and gone tomorrow and she, alone in the world, would have to carry on without him.

On more than one occasion they’d fled into the dark recesses of gathering twilight with just the cloths on their backs. To new homes, new friends, new lives they went. But she was gone now. Nora. His Nora. His rock, his anchor, his partner in crime. Heart attack. It was probably one he’d given her. One that came from carrying this fear 40 years. That was when it had started. The yearning. The yearning for freedom, the yearning for rest, the respite of not having to wake up in the night over every sound he heard. No longer looking over your shoulder, even on the best and most precious of days. His relief. He started yearning its taste.

Yet, he’d waited, fully expecting to see himself have a change of heart, but that yearning had not left. Now. Now was the time he’d decided. All of the chicks had grown and flown his coop. They’d grown wings and took off. Six months ago his youngest son had married. He, himself, had just turned 60 two months before. That was when it happened. That’s when he realized he’d had enough. Like Israel wondering the desert for 40 years, his 40 years of desert wandering had been enough.

A week ago he’d filed his latest will and testament. Left a note for his children and mailed one to his eldest. He locked the house that crisp morning, the morning of October 31st and headed to the airport. He booked a plane to Canada, Toronto. In three hours time he’d be at the door of the Caraway family. They were a highly connected and dangerous mob family. Walking onto their doorstep would mean his life would be forfeited, yet he welcomed it. It would be sweet relief he was craving, a relief to know he was going to face his music, join the waltz of violence the Caraways always kept, and satisfy the debt against him.

It was a debt he’d gathered at 20 years old after having accidently informed an undercover police officer of the Caraways involvement in certain crimes. Though, it was a stupid and innocent mistake that only a carefree 20 years old would make. At the very least this whole situation had made him honest. He never again sought out the back alley transactions he was involved with before. Still, his was not a mistake the Caraways forgave. In fact, they were known not to forgive anyone at all. Ever.

In three hours and a half, he landed on Canadian soil. By now, no doubt they’d gotten news he was on this flight, but no fear came. He was beyond fear. He headed for customs. Soon enough he pushed through the crowd and made it outside. He breathed in the cold familiar scents of this city.

He hailed a cab from across the way but a black Lincoln with black windows pulled up in front of him at the curb. The elder Mr. Caraway rolled down the window.

“Jimmy boy, its been a while.” He said wrapped in a shrivel of mystery.

“It has but I’ve come to make it right. Better late than never.” He replied.

He nodded. “Lets talk Jimmy.” Caraway motioned for Jimmy to sit down with him and Jimmy obliged. The car pulled away from the curb and soon lost its significance among the Toronto traffic. However, one never knows how life will pan out, least of all those willing to die.

Dead Things

dandelion-meadow-macro-fluff-161506Death, dead things. They are grotesque to us. So disturbing is the idea of a dead rotting thing. Dreams are no better when they die. They hurt us, haunt us. Their stench in our nostrils, revolting inside us. They break us in ways that no one can know, in places that never have seen the light of day. They burrow their sorrow where the sun cannot reach and their tendrils coiling ’round us, even when we don’t want them to- even when we can’t admit them to anyone, least of all ourselves.

But here is one thing I know. The death of our deepest most vibrant dreams is not the end. Not when God is on the throne and last time I checked, He hadn’t abdicated. This is a new season for me. A season to experience the goodness of God in a whole new light. After all He is the ‘God who brings dead things to life’ and my deadness is just one of His exploits. No not in the context of spiritual salvation. I walked that road long ago, and chose to follow the Fisher of Men. But in the context of my dreams, those longing desires I never revealed to another living soul for fear of hearing the truth: I would never be enough, not if I ever wanted to be on the winning side of my dreams. I knew that was the truth, still, a dream burned within and it never went away. Funny thing is I never thought it was from God. I thought the dream was me, born of my own greed to be recognized. Yet, it wasn’t. 

 

I grew up in church. I know the whole shebang on who God is supposed to be; loving, kind, merciful, a healer, the good father, the God who brings dead things to life. Like Lazarus. Only Lazarus was a big deal, he was not insignificant. What I never realized in the many years of being a Jesus-follower was that God also brings those insignificant dead things to life, not just the ones that are big and significant. But just in the last year I have understood that after 28 years of life and following Jesus, I don’t actually know God. The depths of His unfathomable wonder are so far beyond what I thought possible, what I have ever conceived about Him.

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You see, in the long run, in the grand scheme of things, my meager dreams mean nothing. They are insignificant. But they are not insignificant to me. Thus, because I am significant to God so are my dreams. So are your dreams.

 

In this new season, I am looking back and understanding that in the depths of my despair, God was making a way where there was no way. Where I saw only a dead end, He was carving a path out of stone, like water eroding the banks that contain it. He is bringing my deepest longings, my dreams to fruition. Those dreams I long thought dead. And so I buried them, because that’s what you do with grotesque rotting dead things. You burry them in the earth until only their dry skeletons remain. I mourned the dead dreams and moved on looking for new fertile ground, unwilling to spend my life crying over spilled milk. Only to have God say ‘it’s not over yet- watch and I will bring those dead bones to life.’

 

Yet, here I am, 7 years after the death of a dream, finding myself in the unfathomable places of God, where like in Ezekiel in the valley of bones, He is bringing dead things, my dreams- my deepest darkest longings, to life. I’m learning that God has a back up plan and a backup for the backup. When I miss the mark, am too afraid to trust, am paralyzed by pain and grief and fear of life, He still has another way. He is not limited by our limits. And He will fulfill those things that burn within our hearts because He’s put them there.

 

Yet, this is just barely the shoreline. In 20 years, I’ll probably be saying the same thing still, because there will be so much more to dive into even then. He is the God who brings the broken dead things to life.

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Ezekiel 37:5-6, 12-14

 This is what the Lord God says to these bones:

I will cause breath to enter you, and you will live. 

I will put tendons on you, make flesh grow on you,

and cover you with skin. I will put breath in you

so that you come to life. Then you will KNOW

that I am Yahweh.”…

This is what the Lord God says: I am going to

open your graves and bring you up from them,

 My people, and lead you into the land of Israel.

 13 You will know that I am Yahweh, My people,

when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 

14 I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live,

and I will settle you in your own land.

Then you will know that I am Yahweh.

I have spoken, and I will do it.” 

This is the declaration of the Lord.

 

 

A year of Battling Deepest Darkest Things

A year ago today I was sitting in a surgical waiting room, in Florida, facing my single greatest fear in life, as my mom was getting her womanhood chopped off her body in an attempt to save her life against breast cancer. Her getting sick was always one of those things that has weighed heavily on me since moving to Texas 5 years ago and leaving her behind in Florida. Particularly cancer. I dreaded the thought of it. I hated to even consider what I would do if ever I got that call. So I avoided it like the plague.

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Early January 2016 I did get that call.  My mom called and dropped a bombshell. She was going for a biopsy. That’s never good news. Yeah, I felt sick at that point, but I tried holding it together for her sake. I knew it was a hard thing for her to have to face without me. In February, we got the confirmation that it was breast cancer, though a very early stage and surgery would be needed. In the end, my mom decided for a mastectomy. That way she didn’t have to do chemo or radiation. Then to be extra sure, she decided on a double mastectomy.

So there I was March 1. Sitting in a waiting room filled with people and yet feeling so absolutely utterly alone playing ‘what if’ games in my head, endless scenarios echoing throughout my mind. “What if it spread?” “What if it’s in her lymph nodes?” “What if she needs long term care?” “What if she needs chemo after all?”. I knew i would have to move back and I was ok with that. The scenarios kept coming.

There was no shortage of mind and heart crippling fears to draw from. I went through all the scenarios. I made a game plan for each of them, and waited. I wondered the halls in short bursts, and waited. Eventually some of church friends came and waited with me- a welcomed source of comfort and strength in a trial of limits, my limits. Alas, the surgery went well. None of the scenarios I planned for were needed. I stayed with mom a few weeks, taking care of her. I learned what a surgical drain was and how to empty it and a variety of other medical things. I learned to look at my mom’s beautiful smiling face and aquamarine eyes and not fall to pieces over her missing womanhood when in front of her. Eventually, I returned to San Antonio.

img_3497I returned a hollow shell. I couldn’t even look at the pictures of my mom and me on my mantle that had been taken the month before I had moved away. Those times when she had been whole and never would be again. It hurt volumes just remembering her in my childhood days and then having to remind myself that she would never be the woman I truly knew growing up.

You see cancer takes things away from us. Not just physical parts of ourselves, but mental parts too. Strengths that we once had, love for life and joy that were once full, or at least fuller. Cancer devours us whole and without mercy. Not just those victims of its icy claws but their friends, their families as well.

A few months after my mom’s surgery, I got my own “news”. Abdominal mass, they called it. Well safe to say I had no strength left to fight that battle. None even to process the potential of what the outcome of that news could be. I sure knew where I would not run right away. To my mom. She was already broken. I was shattered, broken even more than I had been before, praying to God for strength, for something supernatural to carry me over this threshold of emotional death.

And He did. He carried me on strong shoulders by the arms, the prayers, the feet of other people who upheld me. Those who grieved with me, and held me close, who prayed with me through the mental battles, the numbness, the despair. There were real friends, who called and checked on me and took me on frozen yogurt dates. My church who asked frequently about updates and held me in constant prayer and battled the demons of fear with me, providing strength in tangible volumes. After my diagnosis was all done and the ‘abdominal mass’ turned out to be an ovarian cyst and not cancerous and new battles arouse like, “would they have to take an ovary with the cyst and would I be able to have children, and who would want to marry half a woman who can’t even guarantee them a child if it came to that?”. Well, my warriors were there too. They still fought for me and never tired. They never strayed from their course of being Jesus and God heard our calls in the darkness and answered.

And when my final pathology report came in and was clear, they also upheld me in my joy, celebrating with me all that God had been faithful in, all that He had done. And my heart is grateful. Grateful to God for giving me them, those warrior hearts whose strength far surpasses my own. In a year filled with despair, despite battling my deepest and darkest fears, it has turned into a year filled with God sized lessons that overflow from a God sized love, which I am only beginning to understand despite having grown up in church. And I am thankful. I am thankful for all God has taught me in this season, despite its hardship. Like learning to lean not just on Him but on His people too.

My heart is grateful. It overflows. It will sing a new song.

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Forever Altered by Their Simple Presence

Door gate
Wooden door gate
I wrote this poem back in 2007 in honor of a friend who had come from Austria. He’d lived in the US for 5 or 6 years with his aunt and uncle and ultimately decided he would go back to his parents in Europe. That was heart breaking. Not just for me, but for all of us in our youth group. He was a kind hearted guy who was like a brother to me growing up in my teen years. This was the very first time someone close to me had left the picture and permanently. I mourned his loss a long time. Not because he died, but because our friendship changed and over time and seas, it died. I know he got married and is a dad now. He’s happy and that makes me happy. Still, I think of all the fun filled times we had together with our youth group fondly. Doing doughnuts in the church parking lot, stints to Miami. Laughing and singing together. Those were the songs of our youthful hearts.

But reading over this poem recently, I’ve realized that this wasn’t just for him. It’s as valid a statement in my life now as ever. And yes, I can say indeed God has been faithful in bringing me the friendships I always need to sustain me in the darkness as well as the light. So here’s to you! A sweet friend, who’s presence alters me forever…

~                    ~                   ~                       ~                        ~                      ~                       ~                     ~

Life is an incredible journey

That takes us to unimaginable places

And brings amazing people into our lives.

 

It is like riding a wave

With many ups and downs.

 

Sometimes we soar

And sometimes we sink

So deep we believe it is the end.

 

But it is in times like these

That a true friend finds us

And pulls us back up.

 

Each friend we make on our journey

Is special in their own way.

 

Many come and go.

Some we know longer than others.

Some we see every day,

 

While others, we may

never meet face to face;

each leaves us with a lesson.

 

Something we learned

through what we survived together.

 

During the course of our lives,

each lesson shapes us.

It makes us into who we are.

 

Though many friends may only

have a small impact on our lives,

There are a few that deeply change us.

 

Even though we don’t know where

Life’s journey will take us,

 

We can hold on to this:

We’ve been changed by these-

Forever altered by their simple presence.

 

They were meant to be- to be there,

In the midst of our lives and help shape

us into who we were always destined to be.

Wells and Faucets

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“There is a current stirring deep inside

It’s overflowing from the heart of God

The flood of heaven crashing over us

The tide is rising, rising…

We come alive in the river.

We come alive in the river.

   -Jesusculture-

Though we all have God’s power available to us, our forgiveness ready for the taking, we do not all have the same strength to fight those battles we need to in order to walk in fullness instead of defeat. For some, they are fighting too many battles already, some of which are not theirs to fight but they have to fight them anyway. They are hurting, dragging on in the life they live. They can’t walk in the same kind of victory as others, at least not yet. There needs to be healing first and that takes time. Sometimes it takes years even for healing to begin. For some of us, it’s a longer and harder process of finding that victory in Christ. Things like depression, anxiety disorder, past hurts, abuse, etc- all come into play in holding us back. We don’t trust easy. We want to but we can’t.

This is how I think of it. If God is the river running through town, all have access to its pure life-giving waters. We all need water to live and can drink whenever we want as much as we want. However, for some of us, all we have to do is to turn on the faucet. Others have to walk a few blocks to the well, dip a big jar into its waters, and haul up the heavy load of life-preserving goodness inch by inch. Then we have to walk home with it on our shoulders and do it all again tomorrow.

Those at the well are the ones battling. We are the ones scared beyond reckoning. Our ability to gain that necessary living water is there, it just takes so much more of our life force in the time and even the effort it takes to get it. We battle and we do it hard, but we cannot be equal to those who have not had those deep, radiating wounds that only heal an inch at a time, those brutal assaults on our minds and hearts.

pexels-photo-5 copy 5 So be kind, remember everyone is fighting a different battle, some for far longer than you and they are tired. They are running at the pace of turtles but they keep going. The last thing they need is for one more person to tell them they aren’t good enough. So do not look down on them and say they should be where you are, offer them a cup of water, instead, and a hand. Fight with them when they can’t fight anymore. Encourage them, cheer them on.

You’ll be amazed at how far they can go when others stand with them.

The Light

The Light

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There is heartbreak in my heart,

A gaping hole in my soul and

fear clutches at my very being.

I fall and cry out,

“Who am I, Oh God?”

but there is only silence.

I curl into a ball and

let the tears of agony fall.

The silence is deafening.

Only my screams are heard,

echoing through the hollow night.

Darkness embraces me, icy and cold.

In the vast darkness a voice rings.

It is soft and tender, inviting.

I strain to hear.

It sounds. It resounds,

In the deep hollow of my soul’s night.

It echos inside my empty heart.

But from within comes a warmth.

It fills me, amazes me.

I can’t explain it, can’t understand it.

“YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE,”

the voice reverberates.

It echos inside me.

My anguished depths cry out:

I once did, but no longer.

My words come without voice.

I am no one. I have become nothing,

This is the rebutal my torn soul gives,

the answer a shattered life spews.

Still, He hears. He hears ME.

Despite my lack of words He vibrates

within those awful confines called body.

Without warning,

out of the darkness

a piercing light comes to life.

It blinds me. Ignites my insides.

It consumes me, yet sustains me.

It is an ecstasy that burns me.

The voice thunders inside me.

YOU ARE MINE,

 A PRECIOUS JEWEL AMONG DIAMONDS.  

“YOU ARE A DELICATE FLOWER,

YET YOU’RE MY WORLD.

YOU HOLD THE LOVE OF THE ANCIENT OF DAYS.  

“YOU EXALT THE HEART OF THE GREATEST

WITH YOUR JUBILATION AND

TEAR IT TO SHREDS AS YOU DESPAIR. 

“YOU HOLD WITHIN YOU THE SPIRIT

OF THE MOST HIGH.

YOU ARE ALL THERE IS. MY EVERYTHING.  

“IT IS FOR YOU THAT I GAVE MYSELF,

FOR YOU I LONG IN THE DAYLIGHT,

AND FOR YOU I WILL ALWAYS FIGHT.

“YOU ARE MY HEIR, MY INHERITANCE

THAT WHICH I DESIRE TO BE NEAR.

BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, I WILL FIGHT FOR YOU.” 

The words penetrate my soul.

They pound with the beats of my heart,

filling the empty spaces.

They fill every space in between.

They are truth, they are Love,

They are Life, eternally.

I open my eyes and let in the Light.

The  darkness falls away.

Fear evaporates into oblivion.

Doubt ceases.

My mind quiets and my heart melts.

Fire consumes me and I soar.

I look into the heart of the God

that sees me, and I remember.

I recall my identity.

It is not in me, but within Him.

His essence creates me, sustains me.

Every moment, it completes me.

There in His soul is love.

Joy floods His heart seeing me fulfilled.

He offers me His hand.

I take it and

Love drowns me.

It makes me new.

Love sweeps me away

to that place of no return.

Where I’ll never be the same.

It is where Love meets us,

In our disparage, our worthlessness

And make us whole.

Love. It gives life.

Love is in the Light

and He is the Light.

Beauty for Ashes…

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The saying “we always want what we can’t have” in life seems to be a prophesy for this season of my life. 6 and a half years ago I wanted a change so bad, a new phase. I felt called away by God and I craved an unknown life- a shift. I craved it for 2 years and then finally I moved halfway across the country in search of a new journey, a path to my destiny. I was ready then- 5 years back when I was boarding a plane to Texas- to fly the coop and never look back. I was ready to leave everyone and everything I had ever known behind. And I did. And it was hard. It still is at times. I’ve considered going back. I’ve considered what I want. I’ve considered what is easy. But I also know there is something greater than myself at work. The God of the universe, El Roi the God who sees, and He sees me.
This year, more than ever, I have found myself yearning deeply for all those things familiar, all those memories of old.

I find myself wishing I could go back and live it again. That time of simplicity. Those familiar faces and routines. But I can’t. Even if I went back physically nothing would be the same. Too much time has passed and as things do, they change. But they changed without me and so they are strange to me.

I can’t go back. None of us can. We can only go forward. That is the only option left for any of us. We can just make the best of the future that’s before us. It might be a strange, unknown future but ultimately it is what we make of it. And I will choose to make it beautiful. I will make it Merry and Bright. Even in the unknown, even in the fear or pain. I know it will be beautiful because God’s hand is in it. I will CHOOSE to see his hand at work and wonder at His greatness, His Love, His ability to make beauty out of ashes. I choose to see hope.

Blades of Grass

Morning DewI once heard a story about a house sitting on top of a field.When it was torn down after hundreds of years, without anyone planting, without anyone interfering a small poppy bud grew out of the ashes. The seed had been dormant below the house for 200 hundred years. In a matter of weeks grass was flourishing and a poppy field grew. The inherent power of life flows in every speckle of every bud, every blade. Nature regenerates and nothing can stop it because it is the inherent word of God. Way back when God said “let there be…” there was. His word creates. It is life. 

 

Pure magic.

A miracle in plain sight.

an ordinary blade of grass, common as the seasons that flow

one into another, predictable as sun and moon rising and falling.

 

The blades of grass,

each one its own singular solitary self,

a lone life amid the masses of singular buds, heads tilted upwards

into the heavens soaking in the invisible rays of light.

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A blade of grass is power.

An ancient power as old as time.

It is the power of a word.

When God created the world, he spoke it into being.

 

God speaks and grass grows.

Its power, pure and simple.

A power, deep and grand as the world has ever known.

Its grows and regenerates without interference.

 

That is power.

That is magic.