this is how you breathe

This is a follow-up letter from our our women’s retreat in October, but really it is for everyone who knows…

We cannot breathe without Christ.

Dear Beloved,

It was a lovely weekend, wasn’t it? I planned it all, you know, perfectly, sovereignly, for you.  I wanted it to be special, all the details, carefully and lovingly sorted through.  My thoughts are always precious towards you, you know?  I love you so much the sand grains on the mighty shores of My ocean’s boundary lines do not outnumber how much I think about you.

Every. Single. Day.

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You are always on my mind.  I loved you before you knew Me.  I thought about you before your mama carefully formed each letter of your name, swirled in ink, a signature handwriting belonging only to her, across that page. Angelic beings stooped in awe as she ran the tips of soft-skinned fingers over the outline of letters, in love and anticipation of the day I would let air touch your wet skin, and they asked, “Another one, God?”  “Yes,” I answered, “another one added to us,

fashioned solely for her First Love,

sent forth on mission, equipped to serve,

isn’t she beautiful?”

Your first cry was a cry of rebellion…a tiny fist raised against Providence,

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and I loved you.

I secured and ordained each day of your life and wrote it down in Heaven’s book.  Most of your days were walked out in self-rising, desires that fed your flesh, wants that robbed our intimate and familiar conversations, distractions that made you forget My scent.

My hands are sheathed in wet clay and I delight in the spinning of your life.  I have fired you in the furnace of affliction, and whispered, “Return to Me with all your heart…surrender to My design.”

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And so I set aside days and times and a season on a sprint into color, brisk with the entrance of Autumn, warm with leftover summer sun, seasoned in fever heat, to remind you that…

I wrote your story…, don’t shut the book, don’t let it collect dust.

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When dust settles, we forget.  But it’s almost as if forgetting is safe. But safety in forgetting means ignoring traces of my Father hands sculpting a masterpiece.  My invisible fingerprints riddle your life, can you see them?  Love your story because I wrote it, not because you are

the star, 

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or the victim, 

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but because it was woven together in holy threads of color, sewn in glory,

by ME.

I often plan special events for my beloved children to remind them of My great love poured out in living blood, leaking through open tears of ripped flesh, running down a trail of holy washing.. A lifeblood that never dries up.  A vine that never withers.  A lion whose roar never wanes.

He roared

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And you ran home, and fell in His arms, unashamed, and He led you in a holy dance, that felt effortless…you inhaled Him and let Him sweep and dip and twirl you until you lay in His arms,

sweetly satisfied.

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He was as close as your breath and your heart joined in unison to His steady, rhythmic beats of Divine pulse.  There was no place on earth you would rather be,

you couldn’t look away. 

The irresistible fire in His eyes locked you in with an intense, arousing love. This was your time…you felt His holy kiss and He fastened Himself to you.

The music is still playing

Can you hear it?

Turn down the noise of the day and turn up His song,

The one He plays for you just before dawn… 

He has been singing over you as you rest in perfect trust….

Wake up and run with Him! Feast on words and the sweet juice of pomegranates, drink deeply and imbibe until you are intoxicated with His love.

This is how you pour out into those who are clawing at every last bit of tethered hanging strength you have.  This is how you:

Keep loving

Keep serving

Keep giving

This is how you breathe.

This is how you respond in love to a harsh comment

Or a whiny child

Or a rebellious teenager

Or a needy neighbor

Or an angry brother or sister

Or the betraying friend

Or the pastor who doesn’t respond

Or the church who hurt you

Or the mother or father who forsake you and sided with another

Or the selfish husband

Or the unbelieving spouse

Or the cruel teacher who hurt your child

Or the mentally ill

Or the poor who can’t find work

Or the hungry

Or those we judge because they are different

Or smell

Or smoke

Or who keep making the same wrong choices over and over

Or the thief

Or the cheat

Or the adulterer

Or the same-sex attracted

Or the prisoner

Or the addict

Or the drunk who ruins every family event

Or the brain injured

Or the child on that wild spectrum.

Fill up and drink from Jesus every day and pour out grace-laden buckets upon buckets on those who can’t see, or hear, or understand, or taste,

yet. 

The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant.” (Psalm 25:14) 

“It will come about in that day, declares the Lord, that you will call Me Ishi (Husband)… (Hosea 2:16). 

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9). 

“When I found Him whom my soul loves; I held on to him and would not let Him go…” (song of Solomon 3:4). 

Consumed in holy fire and intense Divine love,

Trish

 

“Tomorrow is none of my business”~ Elisabeth Elliot

She said, “do not forecast grief” and it got stuck somewhere on a pathway between an axon and a neuron in all that gelatinous gray matter that’s capable of more harm than good inside my skull, and the skipping sentence kept firing itself off every time I saw certain destruction in my future.  This statement flowed right off the tips of fingers that obeyed what her mind had come to believe, to trust, to hope in and to guard.  These same fingers extended in a sacred and transformable grace that physically touched the same savage murderers, a jungle tribe of fierce warriors, who speared down her first husband, the one who gave his life in order that they might hear, see, taste and touch Christ.  These broken and barbaric natives she would return to with her year-old daughter to continue her husband’s legacy of hope to go into all the nations shining the light of Christ.

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She married again and her second earthly love met Jesus face to face long before she would.  A woman of sorrows, and a woman of immovable and monumental faith.  I wish I knew her, but she passed this last year, leaving a legacy of biblical womanhood most of us will never measure up to, though I continue to strive.

I could reason all day long why my mind entertains visions of future grief. I mean its easy to do, isn’t it?  Us moms seem to be prone to being anxious, after all, our families depend on us, right? Take a breath here now before I give you the answer…

Wrong.

I could agree with modern psychology on the subject, recorded in scholarly journals, that argue nurture vs. nature, environmental influences, traumatic events in childhood, etc., are the root cause of my fears…

or, I could stand on ancient truth, swaddle my heart in sovereign Love and providence, and nestle under the wing of my Father, knowing He works out all things for my good and that “tomorrow is none of my business…” as this dear old pillar of Titus 2 echoed in many of her messages.

And so in the grief that was appointed along my path of 45 years and a few more weeks and days added to that, has taught me that my fears are rooted in the pride of desiring a control over that which only God sets in motion, and an unbelief that still sprouts stubborn in my own dark, uncultivated heart.

The reality is we all experience traumatic events that have the ability to shape our lives.  The first one I remember rings about as loud as that wall phone I answered when I was 10. That forever remembered phone call that interrupted our normal and safe American Christmas. I’ve answered two of those in my life now, one when I was just a decade old, the second 26 years later. But on the eve of celebrating Christ’s birth where Santa is no longer real, and you realize your parents go to great lengths to make Christmas everything your heart desires,

it rang.

Our home was warmed cozy with crackling burning oak, grandma’s familiar gooey bars of caramel, and  jovial bickering between dad and his mother-in-law over who belonged in the kitchen, chopping and dicing. Shiny boxes  riddled the floor overflowing from under the boughs of decorated evergreen, this was our storybook backdrop of  waiting.  We had planned and prepared for our familiar guests, we joyously awaited their arrival,

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but their chairs at the feasting table remained empty that year, their presents unopened.

I had waited in anticipation for my favorite uncle who was sure to bring more excitement and added fun to the season,

he always brought more fun…

but that drunk knocked his soul from his body that night instead….and left his family in a heap of twisted metal lying in the wake of  battered shiny wrapped boxes, now splattered with his blood.

How is that for a Christmas celebration?

Do not forecast grief.

And then a few short seasons later, you lose the home you grew up in, the one you still see 27 years later housing fond memories of a sliding hill, a two-story treehouse, a lit-up and bubbling jukebox in the basement where you and your friends danced to the fifties music still stacked inside of it. American greed and a crashing economy that gave rise to inflated interest rates, forced your family out of those four walls that made you feel safe.  This home, the one you still drive to down that old familiar road, where you first learned to navigate that 76′ Caddy, when you visit.

Do not forecast grief.

Then you begin your life as a single mom and meet the man of your dreams  and you’re diagnosed with a benign blood cancer in need of monitoring and constant testing and powerful medication in order to keep it in check so it doesn’t stop your heart or build a sticky dam of a clot and cut off your lifeblood between your brain and your heart, or lodge itself somewhere in your massive spaghetti highway of veins and arteries..

Do not forecast grief.

Ten years and three kids later you fear you are losing your mind as you suffocate under the weight of anxiety and paralyzing fear and it knocks you down into your bed where you stay for two weeks, fighting for every breath and a sane and sound mind.

Eight months later your firstborn slams herself into that interstate tree, still standing…that seems to be stronger than your marriage that fell apart under the weight of it all. And a decade into everything you’ve learned to gauge in time according to either before or after the accident, is inching you forward in a ten-year recovery.  Breathing is getting easier now.

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Do not forecast grief.

And now you are afraid to hope for normalcy,

and a season of rest. 

and yet God says there is a season for everything, and you hope this is your season, and you pray this is your season, and your tears reflect past pain juxtaposed against unexplainable peace and a holy sewing of satisfaction in the appointed grief.

Because in the margin of that Holy sword that you open up morning after morning, the one that keeps piercing you and carving into your soul…the one where you wrote on the first page of James:

“My Trials and the teaching of God”

  • Blood Condition /taught me to trust every day of my life is recorded in His book.
  • Anxiety and depression/taught me who God is instead of who I thought He was.
  • Hannah’s accident/taught me intimacy with Christ and submission to His holy will.
  • An eight month long digestive illness that caused constant pain/taught me God’s discipline and the sweet love He has for His children.
  • Ongoing marriage trials/taught me to love God more than my husband and to keep serving and loving.

And you know that He indeed did work all things together for your good and His glory and taught you that this,

“momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” 2nd Corinthians 4:17-18.

And you come to believe its not your trials that shape you, but the God of the universe whose heart is kind and whose thoughts towards you are precious, is the one who perseveres you through each affliction in order that you begin to look more and more like His Son.

And your heart that once fell out of the nest and hit the ground way too fast and too hard,

is now soaring at the thought of radiating Christ and giving off a holy scent that awakens others who can’t pick their hearts up out of the dirt.

And you stop forecasting grief,

because tomorrow is none of your business,

and today you smell good to somebody, and that life-giving aroma, that scent of a holy mystery that emanates from your pores, that fragrance that smells like the pleasing oils of a King…

someone will catch a whiff,

and breathe His breath,

and rise out of their death slumber.

And the words of Christ will sink into those stubborn fear roots and cultivate the truth that will eventually choke them out and set you free,

“do not be anxious for tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself…” 

Tomorrow is the Father’s business, it always was,

and He is a good, good Father.

and you finally believe you can rest in today.

Held, consumed in hot breath and living love of Christ,

trish

we fit

I noticed it when you slipped your fingers into the soft hollow of my palm, that familiar fit, safe and warm on that Sunday morn last week.  22 years long of sweet sameness, warming one another, exchanging a living heat, created for a lifelong together. The beats in my chest tapered off and a gentle sigh escaped the upward satisfied curve of my lips in response to the slipping in of your fingers.  This was right, and in that moment nothing was wrong.  “This is my gift,”  I thought, “the best earthly gift, given to me to enjoy, play hard with, rest tangled with, wrestle angry with, cry shattered with, laugh til we heal with,

and  it reminded me why covenants are kept by the Keeper,

not the ones who throw away.

Cuz truth be told, we would all throw one another away if it were left up to us.

If there’s one thing we’re good at…

it’s garbage,

and our hearts have become the landfill….

a thick stench rising,  choking out hope, until we are offended by one another.

As if bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh are dispensable,

When we are done with them we can always get a new one, well cuz, this one just isn’t working so well for me, or for us, anymore.

yeah, it’s all a bunch of garbage.

My eyes opened on you one day so many calendars ago, and I loved you.  There was no way around it, really. After they saw you, they kept looking for you, scanning rooms, crowds, bars, in hopes that you would walk in, because when they found you everything in me moved with an energy belonging to an anticipation, filled with excitement, pressing into the unknown.

You noticed me about as quick as I noticed you and the days leading up to our first exchange of awkward words and fumbled touch served only to feed our desires to be known by the other. After all these years, we still find ourselves sinking into the knowing.

We were made for each other, you and me…

We fit.

And then you sang to me before you even said hello.

Who does that?

Our raisings and origins and values were worlds apart.  Yours was pride and responsibility, mine was a different kind of pride mixed with belonging to a strange and foreign tribe and tongue….people who believed Jesus meant what He said and moved in sync to that invisible love…

even when our house was cold deep in Wisconsin frozen, we still shared meals,

and opened our doors.

and that mother-in-law of yours, well…

she taught me to pray

and to fight

for you,

and for us,

and I never saw anyone believe holy words in that ancient book, like her,

and 18 years of that

shaped me for you.

Providence is a strange and mysterious thing and our lives are riddled with prints of holy and breaths of wind led out through glory.

Before these four eyes locked into one another, with the latching of a promise not to look away,

they prayed for you…you know the ones, those other parents belonging to the same tribe who thought you might marry their daughter.

And he prayed for you…

The smoking Catholic priest who opened his home to two best friends a country away from home fresh green out high school, a bit too brave, with invincible confidence, the two of you. And look at both of you now, following after Christ….

These praying ones, these were the ones who cherished life and eternal souls housed in sin-wracked bodies. Cuz they knew how to bow their own sick-shackled frames down low, breathe in dirt and exhale a cry for help.

And somehow

they got all tangled up in the shaping of our joining through cries halfway up the frail pulse of their prayers, where God stooped low to meet them.

And amazingly it all fit in a giant puzzle that’s so hard to put together at times. It often just sits there waiting for someone to start working on it again, connecting pieces until beauty and purpose take shape,

until you see it’s Designer.

And I cry when people won’t work at the puzzle and throw away the most valuable pieces,

like trials, and sadness, and crushed dreams…and shattered people.

And the most important pieces of it all,

each other.  

So the Keeper, the Designer of the pieces, the ones He made to fit together into something lasting, reflecting beauty, radiating intense divine pulsing love…He’ll take our pieces that we can’t seem to find where they fit anymore, and gently press them in for us.

Cuz the cross made us all fit.

And that thought we’ve all believed from time to time, that something, anything , is better than my life,

this marriage….

It doesn’t fit! Cuz somehow pieces of another puzzle got mixed in with yours and it doesn’t belong!  Throw it away and search for the one that fell out and is hiding at the bottom of the dark closet of your heart, the missing piece, it’s still there!

Grace is calling and grace will give you the strength to seek and to find, but the way there is brutal.  The trail is marked with blood and leads to death.  Death of desires, death of dreams, death of wanting anything, everything, something, even one thing  more than Christ.

So my sweet goose, my best friend, my partner in toil and sewing and reaping, and healing from all of our wounding,

So. much. wounding.  

The Keeper of our “perfect fit,”

yeah, Him..when He woos me into that secret place morning after morning, when I leave my side of the bed, next to your side, and you roll over into that warm where my heat still lingers…

It’s there where He fills me, He heals me, forgives me, restores me, strengthens me, and satisfies me so that even when our edges fight our familiar groove,

yeah, We still fit.

I love you, Eric, you’re my goose and my groove.

Trish