She prays as she walks

On that street –

the one with the busy cars, the summer breeze drifting around, the storm clouds simmering in the distance –

she prays as she walks.

IMG_0925

Her words are a caress, a salve to the sting of words that have made their way into your heart. The more I mark my days the more I see how words build up,

and oh, how they tear down.

And there are times when those words somersault across the field and bruise the very pieces of our heart we hold out willingly.

So willingly.

And until those prayers over that heart, and those words, find their way to you in the middle of that street,

you don’t even realize how you’d written them into your identity. How they’d shaken you to the core. How they’d minimized your worth, your value,

your Created-ness.

The words are an attack on the very Image you bear.

IMG_0960

And He weeps with you, oh how He weeps with you. The One who knit you together, who knows the hairs on your head –

oh how He weeps, too.

The One who’s thoughts are precious towards you –

precious. Gentle, soft, kind. Just like that prayer. Just like her words. Salve to a heartache.

And so she prays as she walks, and there, on that street in the middle of this city, you meet the One who’s thoughts towards you are precious.

 

 

The Blanket

fullsizeoutput_199d

There’s a blanket on our white couch, blue and white, folded haphazardly on the side of the armrest. It’s quite imperfect. There are two strips of colour in the middle that are slightly smaller than the rest. There’s a missed stitch somewhere that you can notice if you’re looking just right. The blanket was started and torn apart about three times, and the pattern evolved almost as much. It wasn’t just a labour of love, this blanket of mine; it was an offering.

It became prayers stitched in while the big blue hook made it’s way under and over, and under again. It was tears mixed in with the remnants of yarn left behind as it moved across the white couch. Questions were murmured amongst the whispers of praise. I asked Him to meet me when the blanket was finished, each stitch done, beautiful in its imperfection. Would He answer the questions I kept laying down at His feet?

He doesn’t. He just gives me more of Himself.

And I am wondering if the times when He is silent – when He makes His peace more palpable, and His presence more visible in the tears and the laughter and the warm breeze that breaks in through blinds in the middle of the night –

I am wondering if, then, you and I don’t really need an answer. We don’t really need the steps ahead of us illuminated in quite the way we think we do.

I am wondering if His silence and presence are really a whisper –

A whisper that you’re on Holy Ground.

I’ve given you all you need to take the steps forward. To make the decision. To choose the path to walk down. I’ve given it all to you because I am all you need, in every moment, in every decision, in every unknown. I’ve given you a mind and a heart and tears and feet and all you need to do is move, sweet girl. Just move. Take it all in, with a deep breath and a shuddering cry, and just move. Knowing I desire more to be the answer, then to give you an answer. 

That’s all you really need to know right now. Take all that I’ve given you – those eyes that see, that mind that thinks, that heart that feels – and go. Do. Decide. Commit.

And go fully –

Knowing I’m right beside you as you do.

Stitches.

“I think your heart must be mending,” she says as I dance past her. Toes on the floor, hands up, I float by her, collapsing into the chair beside her own. I look at her recently done hair, the eyes hidden behind the glasses. She smiles up at me, waiting for a response.

I think for a moment, feeling the cool leather beneath my hands. The stitches keeping the material tightly bound in place. Does it take just a few stitches to return a heart to its rightful place? What do stitches even look like? What does mending look like, I wonder – does it look like a dance down a hallway, a glimmer in the eyes?

“I guess it is,” I answer her slowly.

But my hands still rest on the stitches.

I wonder why it’s hard to give it up. Sometimes I think we cling to the broken pieces because we aren’t really willing to be healed yet. I think we hold tightly to them, because they tell us a story, of who we once were or hoped to be. Stitches tell the story of what won’t be. They tell the story of broken hopes and promises and dreams.

Sometimes I forget that they also tell the story of healing. Sometimes I forget that in the goodbyes, there’s always hellos, too.

There’s always hellos, too.

There’s new hopes,

new promises,

and new dreams.

Lately there’s been a lot of chapters ending. There will be more goodbyes, and packed boxes, and cracks that will need new stitches.

I confess that the ending of chapters is the hardest for me. Letting go of the broken pieces, even when they are carefully taken out of my clenched hands, is the hardest. I hate the unknown. I hate the blank pages.

And yet, as a week closes in which the beginning of adventures have been written, I am choosing the hellos, too. I am resting hands on stitches and letting eyes see good, see hope, see healing.

Not just endings.

But beginnings, too.

When it’s too easy to miss the moon

She tells a story of a moon. (And yes – I know I talk about the moon a lot, but bear with me in this story).

Beside her, six kids are readying for dinner. Dishes are scattered across the counter and food is ready to be played. Behind her her husband comes over, waving to her. “Come here,” he says. “You need to see this.”

But her eyes are on the dishes and the readied food and the hungry babies. “Now?” She asks

“Now.”

“Can’t it wait until after dinner?” Eyes on the clock.

He’s insistent. And so she follows him, to where he stands, and then his hands are on her shoulders and he steers her to where she can see. The moon. Beautifully high in the sky, casting a glow on the fields below. “I thought you’d want to see it,” he says quietly, and after a nod from him, she picks up her camera and is all legs as she hurries out into the field.

And all I can think about as she writes of this moment is how often we miss the moon. 

We fill minutes with things and people so time passes us by. I never want time to pass me by. I never want to fill it so full that I miss what I’m even filling it with.

I pile expectations higher and higher and higher until I am drowning underneath them. And their weight threatens to destroy me. But I keep piling.

And in the process of to do lists and dreams and unwashed dishes and unfinished laundry and a never perfect body … I miss the moon.

I miss the moon.

And I am so afraid I’ve lived 26 years and missed it. I’m so afraid I’ve done big capital L Living I’ve forgotten life is lived in the moments in between. When we see who’s in front of us. When our feet slow even though we’re late but the lilacs wrap their scent around us and stop us in our tracks. When we laugh at the ducks that waddle up to picnic blankets and dance and bellow and wail in the middle of a traffic jam. When we find ourselves in the middle of a mosquito-filled patio, raspberry pie stinging our tongues with it’s sweet tartness.

I’ve longed to press forward these days. To skip tears and heart breaking and be on the other side of the valley.

But I’m afraid if I did I’d miss the moon.

And so I breathe and I ask God for more grace and more days to see Him in the little things. And to trust that those are what make the long days, the hard days, beautiful.

If only we keep stopping to see the moon.

{ps – the Story and all of her other amazing words can be found here and here}

I told you a story once.

I told you a story once. Probably, many a story. I wear my heart on my sleeve, tattooed into that skin that stretches across my arms. Most days I wear it proudly. Most days I don’t hide the tears, or the brokenness, or the hopeless dreams I tell you of. 

I do my best at telling the truth, and I do my best at opening my heart wide and letting you visit. I think honesty and authenticity are rare and yet the some of the most beautiful things in this world. As much as I search for that in my own heart, I search for it in yours, too. I love realness and cups of coffee curled between us that grow cold because our stories are flowing, mixing, mingling, creating something beautiful that reminds me of the messiness of grace.

I don’t ever want to lose that. I always want to be as real as I can be, as honest as I can muster, and as open as a broken but redeemed heart can be.

Yet somewhere over those cups of coffee, and conversations that cut deep into wounds that just won’t quite heal, I somehow forgot that words are precious. Stories are precious. Hearts are even more so.

And I’ve whispered words upon words, shared dreams upon dreams, let tears run freely down my cheeks without recognizing that stories are not always meant to be shared. They are not always meant to be told to strangers, to be sent up into the airwaves, or whispered into the ears of sweet friends. Sometimes your hopes and dreams are meant for you alone. Sometimes things are engraved on your heart for only you to see. Sometimes moments happen for you to share over one, maybe two cups of coffee. Not three, not four.

Sometimes being honest and being authentic means knowing the value of your story. Maybe it always does. And in that knowledge comes knowing that there are those who will honour you story, and those that won’t – and wisdom lets you discern who those are. You do not need to be all things to all people. You do not need to be an open book, a written love story, a broken heart to each person that you know. All you need to be is you. A heart that loves big and loves deep, that knows the preciousness of one’s story is more valuable than gold.

Especially when it’s her own.

Brushstrokes and Questions

There were Christmas decorations to put away, and a few lunch dishes to wash. But I climbed into my car, and I parked on a snowy street, and I jay walked my way into the National Art Gallery.

I always forget how much I love art until I stand in front of paintings that envelope me. I feel fully alive as I make my way through echoing hallways and stand close to brushstrokes and canvases. I wandered the gallery, getting lost in thoughts and in emotions until I found myself in the middle of the building, a snow covered glass roof above me and an opening to an indoor garden below. I pulled out my new purple Moleskin, fresh and beautiful in its emptiness, and sat down to put pen to paper.

Because today I stared at paintings but I didn’t really see them. Maybe I saw a few – I got lost in Van Gogh’s mesmerizing, thick brushstrokes, so layered I could almost feel his hands moving across the canvas. I stood for what seemed like hours in front of Monet’s representation of London’s fog, bare outlines of whatever lay behind it.

But mostly I was more aware of myself as I moved through the gallery. I saw myself in the way artists sought for their answers in each canvases, as they struggled to make sense of the way they saw and understood life. I felt their questions more than I felt any answers and as I moved from one room to the next, I figured maybe having no answers was okay. Maybe the point is not always to know where you’re going, but just to keep moving. Keep asking. Keep looking.

All my life I have been told to guard your heart. Protect it, they say. Don’t wear your emotions on your sleeve and just stop falling so hard. But I am just not so sure, you see, if what they have told me is true. I don’t know if protecting your heart means running from the hard paces. I think protecting your heart might look a little more like whispering, “You’ll be okay. You’ll be a little broken, maybe even a lot. You won’t be sure of some things, and others you’ll figure out along the way. But those broken pieces? those will create scars that tell the beautiful story, the one that tells of risks and loss and being broken to be put back together again.”

I think that might be what protecting your heart might be like. I think we’ve been told all our lives to avoid the hard places, to treat slowly. But I just don’t know. I just think that we are brave, us humans. I think we need to break and hurt and heal. I think God’s got us, and He’d be the first one to stand next to us on the ledge and tell us that when we jump, it’ll be scary. When our feet hit the water and our body glides into it, it’ll feel strange and our bodies will tingle and our hair will be wet and our skin wrinkly. But that water will remind us of who we are – we’ll get to the shore again, and when we do, our bodies will be changed and altered and we will remember what it’s like to come alive.

Because we’ll have jumped,

we’ll have risked,

and we’ll be okay. And maybe, always, we will be better for it. 

 

It Started with a Letter

When I wrote myself the letter almost three months ago, I was in a delirious, post-birthday scourge of boldness. Words are a lovely way of telling yourself what you should be doing. Life is another story in and of itself. Sometimes courage remains on the page instead of nestling around your heart, but thankfully, this moment was not one of them. 

So I booked the plane ticket and packed my bags and boarded the long flight across the ocean. 

I had visions in my head of what almost three weeks in Europe would do. Everyone talks of the life changing power of time abroad, and this writer’s heart was leaping in excitement for the words this trip might create. My journal, brand new and soft along the leather seam, was packed in my carry on, ready. Waiting. 

It wasn’t opened again past the first stop in Paris for a few days. My heart had words, my mind was full, but the journal sat unopened. I sketched in it instead. 

And that was okay, I came to realize. Because just like a camera, my pen and journal couldn’t really capture what was happening in front of me. The towering old buildings, the ruins, the sound of accents and other languages melting in the pavement around me – that was meant to shape my heart in ways words and photographs never could quite capture. 

   

And I did write a few days later. And I did take many pictures to capture the beauty and life surrounding me. They aren’t as powerful as I would like, because I would rather paint a picture for you in words and in photos that bring you to that place. Words can only do so much. 

Maybe like most moments in life the days I spent abroad shaped and shifted my heart in ways I can’t quite convey in words, yet. But someday. Maybe you’ll see it in the way I drink my coffee: even stronger than I drank it before, just as the Greeks made it. Maybe you’ll see it in the way I create, now, understanding that maybe our cultures’ way of creating for functionality should shift more towards creating for beauty. 

 

Or maybe it will be in the way I realize that boxes were never made for a God who spoke the world into existence. He is big. And loving. And beautiful. And those towering steeples were just meant to point us towards that truth. 

Words are beautiful and I will always love the way they look and tell stories and breath life into a darkened world. But sometimes they are not enough. These moments, captured in my heart, won’t be explained well across the pages. But you’ll see them elsewhere. If you look. Life is so much about what we choose to see. 

  

I don’t have any eloquent words to end this with other than to treasure moments that change you in your heart. Remind yourself of them on days when darkness settles in for a visit. Be like Mary, who held a life in her womb that would bring light to this world: treasure up all these things in your heart. Hold them close. 

Let them shine brightly in your life as only a treasure can. 

Dancing to the Beat of my Heart

Today I found myself sitting in a coffee shop, the Bible open across from me, and a latte safely snug between my hands. This moment was profound to me. Not because of my love for coffee, or because the walls were painted my favorite turquoise.

10665268_10152520567539340_5627082125459341815_n

No, it was profound because in many ways, I didn’t recognize the person I’ve become.

There was a time where I refused to be alone in my own company. I couldn’t go out and eat alone. I didn’t walk to school alone. I certainly wouldn’t live alone. And in one moment two years ago, on a rooftop in Ghana, I realized a horribly ugly truth: I did not love myself. In fact, I loathed most parts of me. And I resolved on that rooftop that I wanted to see myself as my Creator sees me: beautiful, loved, unique. Because how heartbreaking is it if I avoid the one person I can know the best – myself? How could I hope for others to love me, if I alone wasn’t willing to? And what did my lack of love for myself say about the Creator – the One who knit me together, who designed me, who calls me His beloved?

On that rooftop I cried because my heart broke. Because I knew that God wanted me to love what He’d created and died for.

Everyday it’s a journey. I wrestle with choosing to believe who I am in Christ instead of who my insecurities say I am. I wrestle against the idea that pride is loving ourselves and being confident in the things we excel at. That’s not true. Being prideful is finding our identity in those things, not humbly thanking God for them.

I seek the things that I love – and if I want to, I do them alone. I visit the park alone I love so much. I wander the market. I sip coffee in a new coffee shop. I hope someday to have someone to do those things with – but either way, I want to love being with just me. I want to know the person that God has created – to understand what it means that I am made in His Image, to understand the things He’s created that make my heart dance. I want to dance to the beat of my heart.

I think as we understand the created, we too understand the Creator. We are missing a characteristic of the Lord if we deny understanding who we are. Because we’ll see His fingerprints in the very way He designed our heart to beat.

So I’m quietly rejoicing for that moment today. I’m rejoicing that as God forms us into new creation – that slowly, I am being given a new heart to love. To deeply love God, to love others, and to love myself.

I Looked for Love in Your Eyes

I think if there is one thing that has been on my heart lately, it is how much our sin affects those around us. I think we like to live in the imaginary world that the sin we commit only harms our hearts, our lives, our souls. But what we tend to forget is that we are a part of the Body of Christ. And what that means is that when one part of the body is damaged, it affects the others. So when one of us falls, we hurt the others around us. When we sin – the consequences are not only borne on our own souls and bodies, but the consequences are passed to our siblings, to our family, and to our children.

Because sin is never satisfied. Ever.


It seeks to devour. The Enemy seeks to devour whatever it can. And because of this, sin just doesn’t stop at us. It wreaks havocs in families. It wreaks havoc in relationships. It wreaks havoc for generations to come.

Praise God that He offers us redemption. Praise God that He offers us His Spirit to protect, to guide, to lead us away from that path of destruction.

But that path is a wide one, a horrible one that we so easily find ourselves walking. And today my sister passed on this link to me, a poem that a wife wrote to her husband who is addicted to pornography.

Because pornography doesn’t just damage the one who consumes it. It damages one’s spouse, it damages the children, and it damages the woman or man who are onscreen. It’s effects are widespread.

Pornography is something which devours.


And so, with a sorrowful heart, I include her poem here. You can find the original post here.

I Looked For Love in Your Eyes

“I saved my best for you.
Other girls may have given themselves away,
But I believed in the dream.
A husband, a wife, united as one forever.

Nervous, first time, needing assurance of your love,
I looked for it in your eyes
Mere inches from mine.
But what I saw made my soul run and hide.

Gone was the tenderness I’d come to know
I saw a stranger, cold and hard
Distant, evil, revolting.
I looked for love in your eyes
And my soul wept.

Who am I that you cannot make love to me?
Why do I feel as if I’m not even here?
I don’t matter.
I’m a prop in a filthy play.
Not an object of tender devotion.

Where are you?

Years pass
But the hardness in your eyes does not.
You think I’m cold
But how can I warm to eyes that are making hate to someone else
Instead of making love to me?

I know where you are.
I’ve seen the pictures.
I know now what it takes to turn you on.
Women…people like me
Tortured, humiliated, hated, used
Discarded.
Images burned into your brain.
How could you think they would not show in your eyes?

Did you ever imagine,
The first time you picked up a dirty picture
That you were dooming all intimacy between us
Shipwrecking your marriage
Breaking the heart of a wife you wouldn’t meet for many years?

If it stopped here, I could bear it.
But you brought the evil into our home
And our little boys found it.
Six and eight years old.
I heard them laughing, I found them ogling.

Hands bound, mouth gagged.
Fisheye photo, contorting reality
Distorting the woman into exaggerated breasts.
The haunted eyes, windows of a tormented soul
Warped by the lens into the background,
Because souls don’t matter, only bodies do
To men who consume them.

Little boys
My little boys
Laughing and ogling the sexual torture
Of a woman, a woman like me.
Someone like me.

An image burned into their brains.

Will their wives’ souls have to run and hide like mine does?
When does it end?

I can tell you this. It has not ended in your soul.
It has eaten you up. It is cancer.
Do you think you can feed on a diet of hatred
And come out of your locked room to love?

You say the words, but love has no meaning in your mouth
When hatred rules in your heart.
Your cruelty has eaten up every vestige of the man
I thought I was marrying.
Did you ever dream it would so consume you
That your wife and children would live in fear of your rage?

That is what you have become
Feeding your soul on poison.

I’ve never used porn.
But it has devastated my marriage, my family, my world.

Was it worth it?”

Pornography is NOT the Problem

As many of you may or may not know, I have been researching for my Honors thesis in the area of female pornography use and its effects.  It’s been a highly enlightening journey as I’ve spent hours reading, researching, and writing. I am not done writing, although the research part is finished.

During this journey, what I have found is a heartache deep within me for the devastation that pornography, or any sexually explicit material really, causes. It destroys and distorts something God created uniquely and inherently beautiful. It dishonours He who created love, and brings shame and pain to those who walk in its path. It never satisfies what it claims to satisfy, for lust is never satisfied. It always leaves us wanting more.

And yet as I’ve read statistic after statistic, as I’ve read cries from woman who are broken by their addiction, as I’ve read the beautiful redemption stories of Christ redeeming those shattered by pornograpy’s grasp: I am reminded that pornography is not the problem.


Let me explain myself when I say this. All the research I have read is good. All of it! It sheds light on a dark, hidden area so many of us struggle with. But unless we deal with the heart, taking away the pornography will never heal anything. It’s the same when men say that if women were to be more modest, it would prevent them from sinning lustfully in their hearts. One man commented on an article that I read that men are designed with a deep desire to “see a woman naked.” (And that is directly quoted!) And therefore, “While not good for the women, the Taliban understood how to keep men from having sexual thoughts … cover the female with layers and layers of heavy cloth. The most sexually pure time I ever experienced was the summer I spent living among a strict Islamic society.” (You can read the original article and find this man’s comments here.)

And I am reminded, Women are not the problem here. 


Pornography is not the problem here.


It’s something so much deeper. So much harder to deal with. So much of a painful process of being broken and vulnerable before the only Healer, of opening our hearts up to the painful sin that resides there and letting HIM make us clean. If we forget to deal with the heart’s sin and deal only with the outward behaviour, we are missing a huge part of the picture here. We need to recognize that struggles with porn and lust and any sin is a heart issue, and allow God to cleanse our hearts and make us pure … and then the outward behaviour will follow suit.