Friday, July 28, 2017

Finding Puzzle Pieces

Healing is like putting together a puzzle with a million pieces and no picture on a box to follow. Just when you think you've gathered them all, that there couldn't possibly be another piece to add to the puzzle, another shows up. God presents a missing piece you didn't even know you were missing. He drops it into your lap and it takes you by such surprise. It isn't the size or shape of the puzzle piece that shocks you. It is the remarkable realization that you've been so long in missing such an important piece to your puzzle.
A thousand times on my journey to complete my own healing puzzle I've thought I had all of the pieces. I was sure that it was just the placement that was off. What more could I need to be whole? What more could my heart be missing? What more could my body be needing?
With my own eyes and without the precise picture on a box to follow, I've never been capable of seeing the missing pieces I need. Only God has been able to reveal them in His time and by His mysterious methods.
The discovery of a new puzzle piece is always exciting, invigorating and even humbling. It is exciting to be one step closer to a whole image of healing perfection and invigorating to hear from God. But it is humbling to see what massive puzzle pieces I've missed for so long. Pieces of forgiveness, joy and laughter. Pieces that would have brought me peace and other pieces that would have lifted burdens. Along this journey I've picked up precious pieces of my physical body's healing puzzle but the pieces I cherish most aren't the pieces that have helped put my body back together again. My most precious pieces are those that have healed my heart.
The pieces that would have transformed my eternal life are the pieces of salvation and mercy. They are the center pieces of God's grace and love. It's these everlasting pieces that have not only renewed my health here on earth but have put the puzzle of my eternal life together.
God's puzzle piece placement and timing is perfect. He delivers the pieces just when I need them, when I have the eyes to see them and the place in my heart to put them. My puzzle isn't complete just yet. This side of heaven it never will be but one thing I know for sure. The image at the end, on the other side of the gates of perfect healing, the image of complete restoration will be worth every moment spent collecting puzzle pieces along the way.

Monday, July 24, 2017



I wasn't born with an innate love of quiet and stillness. Case in point: Growing up my Dad nicknamed me "M.A." to be utilized in circumstances in which I was acting particularly rowdy. "M.A." stood for Maximum Annoyance. As you might imagine I wasn't fond of the not-so-endearing term but I was even less fond of being still or quiet.
Thankfully, as I matured, so did my behavior. I stayed loud and rambunctious but lost the maximum annoyance flare. By high school my "rambunctious" behavior had transformed into studying for tests and belting out musical productions on the stage and worship songs in church. I grew up but I didn't grow quiet or still, just a different, more agreeable, variety of noisy.
It wasn't until I became sick and weak that my voice began to quiet and my speed began to slow. I didn't take kindly to losing my rambunctious spirit. For years, nearly all seven years of my illness, I fought hard to keep the volume of my life as loud as possible and the pace as quick as I could manage. As I deteriorated physically that fight became an all-out battle with more losses than wins and more tears than celebrations.
When the frailty of my body finally forced me to surrender to the quiet life I threw fits. When I could no longer resist stillness I wailed like I was being tortured. If ever there was a time to don the nickname "M.A." those tantrums were the time.
It took becoming deathly sick and completely physically depleted to realize that stillness isn't a curse. The still, quiet life is actually a blessing.
Before my health became so compromised I thought a full life was defined as one bursting with adventure, excitement, experiences, going and doing. I was blind to the ill effects of needing to be surrounded by constant activity and incessant noise. I was unwilling to surrender to the silence. I didn't want to embrace the quiet.
But God works in mysterious ways. He has used my illness to open my eyes to see the precious blessings found only in quiet life. God has shown me a life of bliss in the stillness.
Despite my reluctance, God's pursuit of my surrender to the quiet life has been relentless. He has pulled me away from the world so that I can experience the serenity of His presence. God has revealed to me that my identity, contentment and fulfillment do not come from doing, accomplishing and experiencing. My worth and purpose are found in Christ. Peace, rest and joy are found in His quiet presence.
Whether ill or in full health, I have life to the fullest because I have my life hidden in the quiet, still and eternal life of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Just call me Wile E.

I'm thinking of changing my name. Wile E. sounds about right. Heaven knows I certainly feel a whole lot like that loony coyote cartoon character on a perpetual chase ending with a brick wall or anvil to the skull. The prey of my chase's pursuit is far more illusive than the coyote's feathered fowl and much trickier, too. The Road Runner's tricks are child's play compared to the feats performed by the object of my never-ending quest.
Health, the illusive prize I covet, has me chasing, running and pursuing it with all of the obsessive (and at times spastic) passion of Wile E. Coyote. I've tried to be level headed and learn from the foolish predator's mistakes. Avoid anvils. Look out for brick walls. Be careful of cliffs. Don't press big "DON'T PUSH HERE" buttons. But, alas, you know how thi story goes. The same place it did for Wile E. With a boulder falling from above, a river damn breaking open, lightening striking a nearby tree and an anvil falling from the clear blue sky - all at once.
Well, at least that's how it feels.
Right when I think I've finally found my prize - it's so close I can smell it, taste it and sometimes even see it - the earth drops out from underneath me. It's all a trick. Health escapes me faster than an animated road runner. Wellness evaporates into thin air.
The crushing reality of defeat takes me down every time in a cartoon like ending all too real to be comical. With a crash and a bang I end up under an anvil weighed down with hopelessness and despair. A brick wall knocks me face down into depression. The storm's thunder disrupts my confidence and the lightening pierces my peace.
But, just like Wile E. Coyote, I always end up back on two feet, standing and ready for the next round of the chase. No matter how hard and steep the fall, how heavy the blow or devastating the defeat the the show goes on. Another episode begins again the next day. My health series has yet to end at the anvil.
The explanation to Wile E. Coyote's death defying survival is simple. An author wrote his story that way.
The answer to my survival is precisely the same.
My author wrote my story this way. 
God, the author of my life's story, has kept the series of my life going through every season of health. His power has pulled me from pits of doom and sure death. God alone has put my feet on solid ground and bandaged my wounds. When I've been too weak to dig out of the boulders of sorrow that have nearly suffocated me, God has been the one to lift the burden and revive me with His eternal life. At the end of my every health episode He refreshes my spirit with springs of hope.
I don't know many more anvils have left to fall in my health series but I know who will be lifting the burden. I know how I'll end up back on my feet.
At the brick wall of my episode's defeat I know God will be there to meet me, restore me and revive me. Just like Wile E.

Look up...what do you see?

I look up and what do I see? 
God's promises surrounding me. 

I look to the leaves on the trees and in their gentle swaying my eye perceives a promise of peace.
I turn my gaze to the birds of the air and see God's glorious promise of protection and provision.

Everywhere I look God's promises are there. 
I see them written on street signs and stacked on store shelves, typed on billboards and delivered in the mail.
They pop up in places I would never expect to see them and reside in spaces I never thought to look.

Dear Friend, look around with me. What is it you see?
Check every nook and don't miss a single cranny. 
Look to the sky and glance to the ground. 
Do you see that all around you are promises of God's everlasting goodness? 
Do you see His everlasting covenant of eternal salvation and endless grace?

Whenever you look, wherever you look, look for God's promises because they are there.
They are everywhere. 

May we never stop looking for them.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Humpty Dumpty (Pippy Love Version)

Humpty Dumpty isn't the only one who has had a great fall. 
I've had plenty of falls without sitting on walls. 
I've fallen on my pride and fallen on my sin. 
I've fallen down in depression and fallen hard in despair. 
I've fallen apart from sadness and difficulty. 
I've fallen into doubt and hopeless defeat. 
I've fallen away from God... away from trusting Him....away from resting in Him...
away from peace in His everlasting and mighty arms. 
But without the help of horses or the might of men, 
the Lord my God always puts me back together again. 
From the brokenness of my sin to the cracks in my soul, 
God knits me back together always better than before. 
It is all my King's power and all my King's love that faithfully, 
graciously and tenderly always puts me back together again.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Honey lasts forever

I was eight year old when a hot and humid July and August turned into "The Summer of the Bees." The hive affixed to the door frame on the front of the house was a constant (and all-too close for comfort) buzz of activity. I did my best to play away from the hive and Mom did her best to remove the residence of the stinging intruders but they were a tough hive to crack. The front door became a danger zone. Apiphobiacs beware. 
I remember my first stinging encounter with that hive and its buzzing residents. I vividly recall shedding alligator tears while cursing all bees. How dare they interrupt my afternoon fun with a pain all-too similar to the injection of a doctor's needle. I never had been one to tolerate vaccinations with bravery or grace and my encounter with the bees was no different. I endured the pain with the help of baking soda, a Mother's comfort and, of course, an ice cream sundae. In time I recovered and by the end of the day I was back outside (by way of the back door) to play.
The Summer of the Bees passed and although I still avoid run-ins with hives, I'm no longer cursing bees or the pain they inflict. I've actually come to love bees. Stingers and all.
I've come to love bees because of what they provide and I'm not talking pain. I'm talking honey. Bees are honey masters. For all of the pain they are capable of inflicting, bees are no stranger to sweet. They are the only buzzing insect capable of making the sticky goodness that give Honey Bun's their name. Bees alone cultivate the liquid gold that supplies a touch of sweetness to freshly brewed cups of tea. They work wonders of pollination to transform nectar into a treasure. I love and appreciate bees because underneath their stinger, they create something incredibly sweet. On the other side of the pain they inflict is the honey they provide.
Bee's aren't the only provider of both stinging pain and gloriously sweet honey. God can deliver both, too. He is a master at bringing beauty out of ashes, restoration out of destruction and sweetness out of a sting. God transforms seasons of pain and difficulty into jars of honey overflowing with His love. He uses the sharp stings of sorrow and loss to produce the sweetness of gentleness, compassion, kindness and grace. God never allows a single stinging pain to penetrate the skin, heart, mind or soul without it producing something gloriously beautiful and eternally beneficial.
May I never try to avoid God's stinger because, although there will be pain, it will only last a moment but the honey will last forever.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

20/20 Vision

Go ahead. Take off your glasses. 

But I need them to see.

Not now you don't.
Take off your glasses. 

The command came with such authority I immediately heeded to its directive. As if my glasses had turned into a hot potato I pulled them off the bridge of my nose, scrunching the tips of my ears along the way in my haste to remove the lenses from my face.
I set my torturous shell frames on the night stand next to my bed and looked straight ahead at a world gone fuzzy. I'm never without my glasses or contacts. They are my security. They give me sight. Without my glasses I am hesitant, unsure of where to go, which way to turn and what danger could come next. I wouldn't dream of driving without my glasses. I barely even walk down the stairs without the help of a corrective lens. But with four words and one command I abandoned my glasses.
I put them on the table and blinked my eyes to adjust to the blurry sight of the room around me.
The bridge of my nose enjoyed being released from the burden of bearing a plastic frame and my ears agreed. Even more stunning than the physical relief was the relief that came washing over my soul. All at once I was overcome with an inexplicable freedom and a new hope that I can and will see clearly again.
God has faithfully restored my most important and eternal sight of the heart and His works of restoration aren't over yet. When I was blinded by my sin, living in a haze of rebellion, I put on a set of glasses that showed me a world I wanted to see and refused to look through God's eyes. But God broke me. He broke into my life and told me to take off my wayward glasses so that He could be my sight. I surrendered my glasses of sin but kept a second set, a set that demanded I have control, securely affixed to my life and heart.
I wonder how long God has been telling me to take off this set of glasses?How long have I been too stubborn to hear God's voice and too rigid to release my way? Too stuck on my own sight to give God control of my eyes?
I've been wearing physical glasses since I was twelve but I've been wearing a heart set on own way and my own control for twenty seven years. I've kept wearing lenses of determination that demand I have some grip on the direction and future of my life. I've been stubbornly trying to be my own vision.
All this time, all my life, God has been directing me take off my glasses. Abandon every last hold of control I have on my life, my future, my security, my comfort. Let it go. Risk being recklessly abandoned and utterly blind to the world so that I can be entirely reliant on Christ, dependent to God for more than my every step. Be dependent on God for my every sight.
I must give up on providing my own vision in order to live with God's 20/20 sight. I have to throw away the prescription lenses that I have had affixed to my very soul in order to have the life I want, the life perfectly united with Christ.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Lacing up my sneakers

For months I have been on a running hiatus. By the end of last fall I had entirely abandoned the exercise on account of worsening health and little hope. Winter passed and I never touched my running shoes. When spring came I didn't even entertain the thought of attempting to take a run or even a snail's paced jog. Some days walking just felt like enough of a task and enough of a victory, too.
By the time this summer arrived I was thoroughly convinced my running days were over and the loss saddened me. Even the sight of posters advertising 5k races depressed me. I used to love running - the wind blowing through my hair, the breath in my lungs keeping time with the steady and strong beat in my heart. I loved feeling power in my tiny little legs and being propelled forward by the sheer will of movement. Running used to ignite in me the joy of overcoming and the perseverance to press on. But when this summer came I was too defeated to even look at my sneakers let alone lace them up and take a run. I surrendered to weakness without even giving strength a try.
Over the first two months of summer the crushing defeat I succumbed to began to seep into my soul. Slowly the hopelessness of my sneakerless feet took root in my spirit and let defeat have control. I willingly let weakness have the final say.
But, thank God, He wouldn't. God wouldn't let the story of my running days end in defeat. My Overcoming, Persevering, All-Powerful God wouldn't allow my jogging days to be conquered by hopelessness. He refused to give up on my frail spirit and saw past my frail legs. God, in all of His grace and unmerited mercy, gave me back my run.
It started out slowly and for the first half of a mile my breathing was terribly labored. I felt every pounding of the pavement against my right foot's tender bunion. The muscles in my left leg began to give a little tug and for a moment I worried that I'd have to give up but a little voice inside told me to keep going. I obeyed the voice and pushed through the pain.
As I looked up ahead I saw a hill coming into view and my heart sank. I had agreed to keep running through the pain but could I carry the pain up the hill? Defeat began to taunt my spirit and my pace slowed ever so slightly but then that little voice returned. Run faster. It seemed like the very opposite of the rational. Running faster and harder felt nearly impossible but the voice sounded confident and sure and so I obeyed. I surrendered to the commands of the little small voice and began to pick up my pace. I lifted my knees a bit higher and let my stride travel further with each step forward.
As I moved onward and up the hill my breathing deepened and became steadier. The run actually became easier. I felt stronger. I felt alive!
When I made it to the top of the hill sweat was pouring down my brow and a smile was written across my face. I didn't think the moment could be any more perfect until I saw what came next. A descent. On the other side of the hill, visible only form the peak of my own personal mountain, was a blissful journey back down.
The rest of my run was so easy and effortless that it felt like flying. I glided down the hill and finished my run invigorated with endorphins and the spirit of an over-comer.
I almost didn't take that run and I nearly quit before the hill but God was faithful. He always is. When I lace up my sneakers with faith and stride forward in Christ's strength, God always shows up to see me through to the end. No matter how steep the hill, tired my legs or defeated my heart, with God breathing life into my lungs and hope into my heart I can stride forward knowing that I will win the race.

Friday, July 7, 2017

To the one who went a different way

I thought you were the one. I was sure we were a match made in heaven - or at least as close a perfect match we could ever hope to find on earth. We loved the same things. We thought the same thoughts. We laughed at the same jokes and sang the same songs. We even dreamed with the same imaginative passion.
You and I could have fit together just right. You could have been the peanut butter. I could have been the jelly. But our perfect sandwich of love was never made. Turns out you and I were the match made in heaven that never made it to earth.  
If only we could could get the timing right. That's what I used to say. If I wouldn't have been with him and you hadn't been with her. If you hadn't been out there and I had, for once, just been here. But our lines, always running with the same beat, never ran in the same direction. You were always going one way while I was always going another; our lives only crossing for fleeting moments so sweet in their tenderness and yet so bitter in their goodbyes.
Oh, how I wish I could have pressed pause on those moments. If only the world could have stopped turning so love could have lingered. If only we could have slowed down long enough to see the stars in each other's eyes. If only we could have seen the perfection that was right there in front of us all along then maybe you wouldn't be my one that got away.
But with a eternal vow the book of what you and I could have been was slammed shut. Your "I do" marked for you a ceremonial beginning but did you know it was my silent end? Your forever became my never. Your love my loss.
Maybe we all have a "one that got away." You're mine. You were the perfect match that is matched with someone else. And I... well I've been here pinning for who I can't have, imagining a life I will never live and dreaming of your love I'll never share.
For years I have lived mourning the loss of what we could have been. It has been secretly breaking my heart and causing me pain but I've never dared to tell a single soul. You closed the book on you and I long ago but all this time I've been keeping my finger in the page, holding out the faintest hope for a different ending. Until now.
I am finally ready to close my book, too. I am ready to say my final farewell because I finally realize you weren't the one who got away. You were the one who had to go a different way.
I am finally ready to declare a happy ending to the story of you and I. What we didn't become is what we were never meant to be. Our lines crossed just as they should have, just as they were meant to, and not a moment longer. You and I were perfect the match for a precisely perfect time in life but not forever.
You had to be my one who went a different way so that each of our lives could one day have their very own perfect story book endings.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Freedom Rings

The Fourth of July is for lovers. Don't let Cupid fool you, Valentine's Day has nothing on Independence Day when it comes to expressing and celebrating love. If you need proof just take a look around during a fireworks display. Starry eyed couples are always holding hands and cuddling on picnic blanket. For love birds, fireworks ignite a free pass to embrace public displays of affection.  But the Independence Day love feast begins long before the sun goes down and the fireworks go off.
Family love begins at sunrise on the Fourth of July. Growing up I remember my whole family gathering together for morning breakfasts at the beach. Dozens of eggs and sizzling bacon were prepared over a charcoal fire to accompany freshly baked blueberry muffins and juicy watermelon slices. In the afternoons hours were spent hunting for beach glass, building sand castles and playing games of catch with a classic Velcro ball and paddles set.
Woven into the heart of Independence Day and its traditions are unity, togetherness and love - love of family, love of God and love of country.

Over the past six years as my health has declined so has my participation in the traditional Fourth of July celebrations. Gone are firework displays enjoyed in the arms of love and on a blanket of companionship.With illness as my mate I spend most every holiday, Fourth of July included, at home in bed by nine. Even the family breakfast picnics have become relics of my past. Thanks to my body's inability to regulate heat a day at the beach is now a sandy torture chamber. So while the rest of my family eats with their toes in the sand I stay home.
All of the observances that used to define my Fourth of July are gone and for years I've mourned the loss. For years I have cried over being alone in bed instead of snuggled up next to someone special for a dazzling fireworks display. I have fought against loneliness while my family has driven off to the beach for the annual July Fourth breakfast.
Sickness has taken away my Fourth of July traditions but it has not and cannot take away the true reason to celebrate on Independence Day. Love of Freedom.
This Independence Day I am celebrating because I am free. I am giving thanks because men and women have scarified their lives to protect my freedoms. I am celebrating the gift of this beautiful nation where I am free to worship boldly and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ without fear or shame.
On this July Fourth I rejoicing in the the true reason for Independence Day: the love, and the gift, of freedom.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Psalm of Sorts

The Spirit of Christ compels me to choose victory over defeat...
To decisively live full of joy instead of sorrow...
To constantly claim healing in spite of pain....To purposefully take captive the light of restoration and flee from the darkness of destruction.

The Word of the Lord instructs me to claim life over death...
To willingly surrender and let God take up my fight...
To acknowledge my weakness and choose Christ's strength...
To reach up from my lowest and grab hold of faith in His Highest.

The voice of God tells me to trust and not worry...
To step into His rest and lay down in His peace...
To find security in His comfort and contentment in His companionship...
To accept forgiveness by His grace and redemption by His mercy.

Although I do not always choose according to Christ's Spirit, He relentlessly pursues my heart...
Even when I do not boldly claim the Lord's everlasting life, He continues to offer salvation for my soul...
When I do not immediately heed the voice of God, He still speaks to my Spirit.

I do not always choose what I must, claim what I should and obey as I ought but God is always gracious to forgive...
Always eternal in patience....
Always everlasting in mercy...
Always abounding in endless love.

I am the Lords...
He has chosen and made me...
He has tethered me to His love and bound me to His heart...
And He won't let go.