A Place for Pain

The Beauty and The Fear

This seemed like an appropriate time to repost this gem from 2013, in a world that existed prior to Bedrocks and Borderlands. The past two days we have been experiencing the Houston Ice-capades of 2018 and I couldn’t help but revisit the wisdom the last real winter taught me.


Houston winters are fickle at best. One day you are traipsing around in sandals and shorts and the next morning, you are searching the deep dark corners of the wardrobe for your winter coat, the one you bought for that one trip up north.

Today is of the latter variety. Last night the thunder rolled in. Trees crackled and snapped all night. And I awoke to icicles adorning every branch and poorly placed power line in my backyard. As I drove, ever so cautiously, to work on the outskirts of this fine city, I began to notice the trees. From the highway, being eye to eye with the treetops in the distance, their adornment was stunning. It was as though they were wearing the most beautiful gown, hand-beaded by the most sought after designer. Their leaves and branches shimmered as the weight of the ice enhanced every curve and crevice of their magnificent figures. Beautiful.

But as I exited the highway and turned off onto the road that takes me daily to my work, I had a new perspective. I was no longer standing among the trees as though they were my peers. Rather, I was beneath their branches, and I felt small. Most days, I drive that road in awe. It is easily the best part of my commute. The way the sun streams through the branches…I am transported to a land of magic and fairy tales and legends of heroes defeating evil, my own personal Terabithia.  But today, those trees were not the guards ushering in life. Today, those trees were bent, heavy with the burden of slowness. This slowness is seen in the ice that weighs them down. It is only water, the very thing that they need to grow and stand tall. But last night, as temperatures dropped, those molecules of water slowed down and changed. Some trees held the weight well, took the change in stride. But, many others were bent so low that I feared that they might come crashing onto me in a moments notice. Others had already met that fate, limbs were strewn about the ground, evidence of a burden too heavy. And honestly, a drive usually marked by warmth and light, was marked today by heaviness and a little fear.

And I see myself in those trees. I see those of us who are shepherding others in those trees. Sometimes, we get into the groove of the normalcy of life, it’s bright and warm and full of the hope of a faraway land. We feel strong, like we could conquer anything in this light, and others see it too, this magical strength, this ushering in of life. But then, sometimes overnight, things suddenly slow. The things that have nourished us transform ever so slightly, molecules rearranged, and we bend under the heaviness. And bending is fine, we were made to bend. Our knees bend to absorb the shock of force when we jump or run. But if our knees are not strong enough, if the trees are not strong enough, too much force and weight will break them. And if we -leaders, parents- are not strong enough, too much of this slow burden will break us. Of course, strength doesn’t come from oneself. It never does, not with trees or people. Strength for those trees is developed over years, from the first sprout of the seed-the depth of the reach of roots and the nourishing quality of the soil they are planted in. Many trees can grow tall without ever growing strong. And you and I can as well. We can reach great heights but if our roots never reached great depths, or if we are not nourished by the soil of Truth and Life, we will be broken by the heaviness of the burden. And if that is our state, if we are not standing in a strength of faith having been built up over the years, we are a danger to those beneath us.

But, when we have grown up with the strength of The Lord soaking into our every fiber, when our strength comes from the Source, then everything looks different. We may bend, but when our view is from the heavens downward, the bending of the branches gleams with a beauty of the intricate work of the most glorious Designer, the Strong Creator, Elohim. He sometimes pours His light through our branches and He sometimes adorns them with the slowness of burdens. When He is our strength, the threat of danger is over shadowed by the careful work of His detailed and purposeful delight and design.

May we be leaders who soak in the gifts of The Light and the days that warm us so that we might stand when the tiny molecules of our plans are rearranged and become heavy.

Watermarks:2016

It has been 51 weeks since my last post. Yes, 51 weeks since I have written anything other than Bible study lessons and seminary papers. So, hello again.

What better way to re-enter the world of Bedrocks and Borderlands than to reflect on 2016 and the last thing I posted. I had chosen a word and a verse for my year and I had no idea how they would take shape.

At the end of 2015, I acknowledged the natural tendency to shake off the past year and storm headfirst into a new one, with a fresh start.

Out of my way, you no good history!                                                                                            I’ve got a new year to dominate!

More than most, 2016, seems a good year to cast out of mind. With so much death, of icons of Hollywood fame and those who would become icons of hashtag fame, who wouldn’t want to forget about this year? With disheartening campaigns, nation-consuming wars, and the civil issues of past centuries revealing themselves to be just as alive as ever, even the cheeriest of optimists must be ready to escape the suffocating grip of 2016. But, as it is with every year, there was hope mixed in with the pain. So, let’s not rush to slam the door shut on the last 365 days. Let’s sit here, with the extra second that earth’s rotation has provided for us, and reflect. Let’s do the dirty and worthwhile work of excavating and unearth the treasures of this last year.

Before the clock strikes midnight, take time to marvel at the days that have passed.

The verse I chose for 2016 was Esther 4:14. “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

My word was “sacred”.

And y’all, I had no idea.

As I mentioned, and perhaps you noticed, this blog went silent for the last year. I wanted to write. But I could not. I thought it was because my writing energy was being funneled toward grad school. That may be the cause in part. However, it was about October when I began to realize that I could not write because I write about my life, the lessons I’m learning, the joys and pains I’m experiencing. This year was full of fodder. But I had asked, through choosing “sacred”that The Lord help me honor those around me. And so, through a most painful year, The Lord took my words. I would not have been able to write about 2016 with kindness, not while it was happening. On January 6th, I wrote:

“I want to simplify, to listen, to honor. I want to create and explore and rest. It is the sacredness of creation that ties all of this together. To listen to others, to not hold their sins against them, is to treat them and the relationship as sacred. To honor who I am created to be, to not compromise myself, to fight for the life that is in me is to honor the sacredness of God’s design. To create sacred space in my home and enjoy the sacred space of God’s creation, these are not the extras of a godly life. They matter. In 2016, I want to learn to see all of life as it is, set in place for the glory of God.”

Reading that paragraph, that prayer, fills me with a somber gratitude. I wouldn’t have chosen to learn of sacredness in the way that I did. I did learn to honor who I am created to be, and it cost me. In the pain of those days, I wanted to write to tell my story, but more than that I wanted to honor the others involved and I feel I have even if imperfectly. Sacred space was created for me as I’ve navigated the last few months and I was given the sweetest gift of enjoying the sacred space of creation in the best way, Autumn in the mountains of Northern California. The Lord took my words so that I could learn to do as Mary did, “treasure all these things” and “ponder them in my heart” (Luke 2:19).

And the verse, well that one is slightly more obvious, isn’t it? The immediate connection is the change that occurred in my employment. I didn’t know my ministry in Kingwood would come to an end when it did. But I still believe that my time there was intentional and purposeful both on my part and The Lord’s. This verse goes beyond my time in Kingwood though. My time in California was purposeful as well, though short-lived. And of course, it was a tumultuous year in our nation and world. I believe that I am here, alive and in the U.S. for such a time as this, to speak truth and hope with conviction and kindness in the midst of polarizing days.

So, yes, I am ready for a different year, a year full of new opportunities and, dear Lord, more joy please. But, I am thankful for a year that taught me of the sacredness of all days, the ones marked by hot tears streaming down my cheek as well as the ones marked by a crisp mountain breeze rushing over my river-soaked toes.

Here’s to you, 2016. May the lessons you taught take root as we stumble, exhausted yet hopeful into 2017.

The Heavy Hope

Last week, I made a comment that may have opened some wounds. I knew it would. I said it anyway, because, though it was not for everyone that has walked that road, it was for some. And at times, words that seem harsh open eyes. And sometimes, those same words are worn by others they weren’t intended for. 

To both the intended and unintended, I want to say that you are loved. So much. The ache you feel is real and valid. Your cries are valid. I wrote a letter awhile ago on my old site. You may need it. 

I too have needed it. I wrote it for you, but this week my heart has been aching, longing for things that seem always just out of reach. I have wept a lot this week. For myself. For the ache. For the pull between wanting to make something work, and wanting to give up the hope altogether. So I needed to read my own words. I needed to preach to myself a bit. 

So today, we’ve already had one letter, but I share this one as well, because I need it and you may as well.


Friend,

I have been carrying an ache in my heart for you these last days.  To see you wrestle with this want, this beautiful, God-woven want…it peels back the covering of put-togetherness we all desperately try to keep tethered to the ground around our feet. But I have seen glimpses of the frayed corners of your covering. A picture. A 140 character sigh. A far-off stare occupied by a deeply rooted thorn in your heart. A one-ton tear breaking through your “I’m fine” eyes and cutting a path of escape down your rose-garden cheek.

You are hurting. And life has not stopped to allow it. Holidays have steamrolled through as a constant reminder of hope deferred.

Hope deferred.

Such heavy words. Such known words.

It is this child. Loved before known. Held in your heart before your arms. Prayed and planned for. And grieved.

I know only a glimpse of this child-longing. I have dreamed of the day I hold my little heart-capturer as well. But, I don’t know it the way you do. I don’t know the creating of space for the expected and having to fill it again with the what once was…not as a mother does. I don’t know the sharp entrance of the arrows of well-meaning questions of “when?”.

It is him. The one with whom you hope to battle all other deferred hopes. He is your delayed desire and as a friend so rightly said, the faces of the others only serve as reminders of him not yet here.

This longing I know. This heaviness of a bare-finger. This canyon of an empty hand. These arrows have left scabs, torn through with every probing “why are you still?”

Friend, I ache for you because I know the ache of Hannah’s heart. I know the sobs and seemingly drunken slurs of words tangled in heartache.  When approached in her mess, Hannah shot life-blood into her ache by breathing out the honest words; and the hearer agreed with her prayer. “May it be.” So I will do for you. “May it be.” May the longing of your heart be met, with all the poorly-timed truths people say when our hearts hurt-yes…with more love for Jesus-yes….with deeper trust-yes…I always want those things for you, for me, but today I will beg for you to find your longing filled, for hope to be deferred no longer, for arms to be filled with the one for whom you have created space, time and again. Let’s, even if for a moment, take down the tents of put-togetherness and trade them in for coverings of grace. Longings are allowed to be spoken there. Aches find a voice. Hope deferred is met with a “May it be.” And lament leads the way to life.

From my Hannah-heart to yours,

Erin