reckon

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                       do you ever wonder how we can find our way back to praise when life has yielded a gutting loss ?                                                                                                               when we are left empty-handed and fear and despair are pulling hard on our shirt tails.

when darkness is haunting and hemming in our fragile hearts…sweat pulsing through face and palms- heart racing.

mind flooded and foggy with grief.

it all feels too much for a soul to endure.
the weight seems unbearable and the deep rips in our flesh feel permanent and irreparable…out of hopes’ reach.

i have been surrounded by stories of deep loss over the past years, and each time i am given the sacred privilege of hearing a story it reminds me afresh how wobbly the ground of grief is.  and how it can make us feel like life is a total loss.  pain has this strange way of eclipsing our view of joy.

all goodness feels hidden and it’s so             058
hard to believe that life could ever be beautiful again.
grief says , I’ve stolen it all- all the good days are gone.

this feels so true when we are weak with heartache and have lost sight of hope.

but this is what i know of grief;  it yields a strange and unexpected understanding of what it looks like to find joy.  it leaves us cut deep and vulnerable and fresh out of strategies for living a nice, good life.

  it catapults us into messy and this is the very place God cuts through.

He comes near to soften and melt off the hardness of winter’s edge.

then, He reckons our pain with His unending mercy. and by reckon, i mean He considers, regards, and looks FULLY upon.  He literally feels every single measure of our suffering and takes it upon Himself.  He is with us in the deepest possible way and feels the sorrow with us.  and that is the very reason we are not destroyed by pain.  He not only understands, but has walked in our shoes and has overcome it.

this alone gives us hope and speaks of life beyond the now of loss.  then little by little He invites us out to places where we can dance on the ashes of this life.  not because we forget the gash or the losses…

but to the contrary, because He has reformed them.036

and so, it’s the very remnant of our brokenness and ache which are now- against all hope- being rendered into beauty.  it’s His signature and unmistakable handiwork.

afterall, He is a God of the impossible.

and so it is from bended knee that i continue to whisper a hushed, gutted and costly yes to the life that’s been rearranged by death.  and from this sacred, tear soaked ground i choose to believe in joy again.  and if you are unable to utter these words dear one, then i will keep walking and weeping with you…and hold onto hope when you cannot.

Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. 
They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.                   Psalm 126: 5,6

for Ginnie, Jenna, Celia, Kathy, Kim, Diane,Eileen & Christi  and all those who walk this holy road of gripping loss.  may you taste of a goodness that is altogether otherworldly … meant to wet the appetite for heaven and hold us in the hope of now.   xxoo jamie

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perspective

_she decided that feeling small against the size of the mountains made her feel just right_

for my whole life …

i’ve loved forests.
i’ve loved oceans.
i’ve loved mountains.

staring out and up at the vastness has always given me that feeling of being small.
it’s a good kind of small though.  because this kind of smallness means i am not the center of life.  there are bigger things.

bigger matters, bigger elements, bigger realms.

realms that have been around since the beginning of time…long before me.  and it’s in these realms that we live our lives.  the heavens and the earth.  and God holds it all.

He’s that big.

and so it is, that in my acknowledgement of God’s  sovereignty , there comes a groundedness and settledness to my very small heart of flesh.  His rule over all of creation means that i don’t have to.

He calls me to live within this tension of His bigness and my smallness and see that this too is His provision for the human soul.  this tension keeps my perspective on this world and this life “right-sized” so that i can find rest.  we can find rest.  true rest in His vastness and love.

so when we are standing at the foot of
big problems
big hurt
big loss

we need only to remember that overcoming has nothing to do with our ability and strength to endure the burden-
but instead the very opposite.
it has to do with our ability to bend.  to surrender.

to let God be a big God.

to believe it fully with hearts that ascend to the heights of mountains because we have allowed the Father to carry them there.

 

yours in the smallness and sacredness of living under the skies of a big God.  keep looking up and staring into that beautiful vastness.
xxoo jamie

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underneath

010

” we cannot attain the presence of God.  We’re already totally in the presence of God.  What’s absent is awareness.”                           – Richard Rhor  Everything Belongs

do you ever forget to notice God’s presence in your life ?

or just think He has forgotten about you ??

we are all prone to lose sight of what’s going on behind the scenes of our everyday story.  because it’s easy to get lost in the immediate and demanding pulls that life circumstances can have,  and our eyes can be blinded by resentment, pain, hurt or suffering as it befalls us.

but what we can’t often see clearly is God’s hand-and that He is writing a beautiful story. and that His story always contains some shaking and unraveling so that we can more fully see Him.   He doesn’t want us to miss it.026

in Hebrews 12:26-28, God even promises He will shake us to sift out and separate us from the things that block our vision or from the false selves we cling to .  because what the Father is after- is our deepest, realest, raw , True self.  the tender heart that reflects His glory.

He knows that the shaking and peeling and cutting are necessary and intended to get beneath the layers that insulate us.  only then can we let the veneer fall away and hold fast to what remains.

His hands are like a sculptor’s, carving His masterpiece from the hard and formless rock…chipping away all that doesn’t belong.  because the Sculptor knows without hesitation that what lies deep within us reveals His glory.

” I once saw a stone cutter remove great pieces from a huge rock on which he was working.  In my imagination I thought…why does this man wound the rock so much ?  But as I looked longer, I saw the figure of a graceful dancer emerge gradually from the stone”   -Henri Nouwen

i’m repeatedly undone by the reality that we are the masterpiece.  we are the dancers emerging from the stone and the Father will go to any length to uncover the beauty He has deposited in us.

192so the question always comes to this…        will i let the stones be cut away and be grateful ?  will i let my eyes and heart ascend to the Father’s sometimes hidden presence and purposes- knowing He is wounding me for Love’s sake?

or will i stand in the rubble and be anxious…wringing my hands at the mess, loss and chaos around me ?

can i somehow hold fast to hope when God is shaking all that can be shaken ?                          can i choose gratitude as i count and take in what remains – and believe it to be enough ?

my soul and heart can disagree on this matter more often than not.  because my soul has come to understand that He is forming and carving me to bring about a birth of beauty from desolation.  but my heart can easily stay stuck in the brokenness and debris left by the shaking.

it hurts.  and it’s hard.

the only hope i have is to cling to gratitude.  to remember that i am flawed but i choose to be grateful for the Father’s higher purposes- even amidst what looks like disaster.          and remember that from underneath the hard stone…

007He is forming a dancer.

a beautifully wounded dancer.

and a dancer is always caught up by the music she hears, not the size or condition of the dance floor.  instead she moves with grace and abandon wherever the music takes her.  trust in the Father is her mark of beauty so  she dances for His sake, not her own.  she has learned that self regard and hesitation are her ruin, so she let’s go and gives in to the melody of grace, going where the Spirit leads .

her heart of flesh beats from under those layers of stone where deep within comes the most glorious rhythm . it’s a raw, real and mysterious rhythm that can be heard by those who’ve walked the sacred road of surrender – and found Jesus there.                                  and the rhythm is His whisper saying all is grace.

will you trust Me to write your story ?  will you dance with Me ?                                     even if the dance means a perilous and exposed leaping from boulder to boulder between the rubble ?                                                                                                                                          even if the dance requires something to be carved out ?  can you dance with Me even then?

can you dance on cancer ?263                              can you dance on loss ?                                    can you dance on death ?                            the only way… is to lean in and listen to My voice above all other noise.  set your gaze on Me my beloved daughter and let your failing flesh hear the song I am singing over you.

hear the rhythm of My deep, abiding, relentless love for you and….come dance with Me.

 

 

Jesus, we can dance because You have overcome death.  You have danced on the grave and offer us Life .  No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in , remind us to take Your outstretched hands and trust You to make our fumbling feet of flesh to dance.

for my dear and precious friend Michelle , may you be caught up by the relentless love of Jesus as He holds you close in this beautiful dance.  i love you.   xxoo jamie

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parts

101

” Despite all,  I shall always return for more,  for I can think of no other place that soothes as it rankles me, crushes yet caresses me, and no place I hold higher.  Times spent on Silver Creek are mercifully not measured by fish count.  They are gauged by the hours spent wading the currents, reveling in the surroundings and relishing the whole, in spite of the sometimes agonizing parts. ”                  A River Journal  -W. David Joye

my daddy wrote about rivers.

he understood rivers- or at least spent the better part of his life trying to.

because every devoted angler must know and understand each curve and current of his playing field.  my dad was more studious than most.  he and the river spoke to each other- and would dance together in the knee deep current for countless hours.

i can still picture him there in his waders with fly rod in hand, standing in the sway of a mountain stream with the warmth of late afternoon sun falling down around him.  these images are intrinsically woven into my childhood.

028so now i sit in this early evening glow of a December day and it all floods back. the golden hour – they call it.

when the sun sheds a golden hue down and the world somehow feels less harsh for a moment.

it stirs my heart and soul with nostalgic thoughts and longings that have been luring me for a lifetime.  luring me to look for beauty and the luster that life can sometimes offer.

its the same luster my father sought so unashamedly after and drove his pursuit for wild beauty until the day he died.  he was tireless and unwavering but he knew the pursuit to be maddening and sometimes wanting.  because perfect beauty most often comes in illusive flashes and parts instead of a satisfying fill.

still he chased on.  after adventure and the ideal. he dreamed and wandered and reached and thrashed under the weight of every dreamer’s affliction.

the affliction of wanting out of life what sometimes it cannot offer.

at least not as a whole.

for it is given only in parts most of the time.  340

and so those of us who carry this affliction must learn to receive those parts as they come.  to let the beauty settle down on us like the warmth of the golden hour.  we can’t hold it tightly- for it vanishes within our grasp.  we must learn instead- to remember.

to hold and keep in our souls,  the beauties of life in their parts.  to somehow absorb them through our skin and let them find a home there.  and to understand that this quest will be met with it’s share of angst and tension and disappointment- right along with it’s glories and breadth.

the clever thing is to figure out how to hold loosely to both parts.  to learn the art of     catch and release.

just like fishing for wild trout.  the end goal can’t be just the catch.  it’s also about the fight, the hope, and taking in the moments on the river.  because an experienced fly fisherman knows he is merely entering into the movement of what already exists.  he is entering the river with as much grace and ease as he can muster to join in nature’s dance and cast his line ,catch his prize, then to let go.  release.

this is what keeps it all in balance.  it’s the creed of all respectable fly fishermen.  this is why my dad always taught me to not take myself so seriously.  he knew the art of holding and letting go and of taking in life’s beauty in it’s parts.

jamie's iphone 365

ironically, we spread my daddy’s ashes in the pristine waters of his beloved Silver Creek. it was a sacred and sober moment for us, his 5 children as we stood creekside at dusk.  with  the warm sun upon us and the evening hatch falling gracefully onto the water’s surface, we said a final good bye.  he would have hated us for dirtying the water but in the end we decided it was where his remains should be left.  because , after all, this is where his parts felt the most whole.

so whenever i can,  i stand in the river’s current and let it wash past.  trying not to miss the parts as they go by…for if there is anything i have learned thus far in life..it’s that if we miss the parts, we’re bound to miss the whole.

for daddy who had a way with words and rivers and fish.  and though he was an imperfect man, he loved me well.  i will always picture him standing knee deep in those gentle waters of the Idaho rivers , waiting and hoping for a fish to rise.  every golden hour reminds me of him and its because of him that i keep fighting to find beauty…wherever it lies.

 

xxoo, jamie

 

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gifts

268this is that time of year i think a lot about gifts.  giving and getting.

i feel much more comfortable in the giving to be honest.  i think it probably has something to do with fear and disillusionment from years when the gifts i received weren’t exactly what i had in mind.

i’m always a little timid to unwrap what others lay in my hand to open. but i have learned that good gifts do come in all shapes and sizes if i hold my eyes open to see into the heart of the giver.

some gifts are wrapped in glitter and bows, some frayed at the edges.  some are impeccably timed, others ill-timed.  some gifts plainly wow us, some stretch us.                  some need peeling back and turning to every angle to finally see the purpose.

and in life, we have no control of those gifts left at our door that we didn’t see coming.

these are the ones that may take some shaking , pondering, processing , lots of unwrapping and time to understand fully.

i’ve had my share of each.  and i’ve had to 240bravely look into the eyes of The Giver and believe Him to be good….no matter what.  even if the gift He gives takes me to my knees.  and the gift of loss does that to me every time.  it takes my feet out from under me.  it leaves me tossing and turning- sleepless.  it hollows me out and leaves me wondering if life will ever be the same again.

in A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis so clearly depicts the human wrestling match with grief and loss. i carry his quote with me always…mostly because i always botch it when trying to quote it from memory.

You never know how much you really believe anything until it’s truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.  It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box.  But suppose that you had to hang by that rope over a precipice.  Wouldn’t you first discover how much you really trusted it ?  Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.                               –  C.S. Lewis

and so it is with loss,  we are putting our belief to the test and asking God if His grip will hold.  i have my own theories as to the nature of how pain impacts our souls- but the truest thing i know is that it shapes us like nothing else can.

it cuts to the marrow of us.                                                                                                                it strips all pretense.                                                                                                                           it reminds us of our frailty with each waking moment -where hanging from that rope is our only option.

and these,  these realities are precious gifts.

087so “why a gift” you may ask?  how can it be that pain and loss can yield something resembling a gift ?

as unlikely as it sounds,  the gift IS the ache.

because amidst pains’ stripping- we can’t muster happiness, we can’t even manufacture a pretty life.  all we are left with is ache and brokenness.  but somehow this is the very soil of the heart that can take in the sacred presence of Jesus most deeply.

in all of our ugliness, emptiness and desperation we cry mercy.  we cry come tend to the ache,  Jesus come !  and in that place, our souls more clearly and fully see God as enough.

pain leaves us so beautifully defenseless and utterly weak-and it is here , in this space that our notion of God’s goodness is stretched and expanded.  then, those gifts of pain become etched in our stories like bookmarks.  holding the places in our lives – like reminders- of God’s extravagant mercy and love.  they are also reminders of His invitation to keep hoping, even against all odds and amidst the dark of night…because He always comes.

so as we unwrap the gift of pain we begin to see how it has yielded desire and ache from it’s acute and insatiable pangs…then with the next layer of unwrapping we understand that the ache has yielded an ascended longing for the Father above all other things.

He knows this is the truest and deepest way we can know Him.  really, completely, irrevocably KNOW it is He.  His voice becomes crystal clear.  and it is He who sweeps low, who tends our pain and calls us by name in the darkness.  this is the place the human heart and soul are unfettered enough to commune with the Father in ways that cut into our very substance and acquaint us with sufferings’ gift.  the pathway to a deep and abiding knowing that God is who He says He is.

and He is a God who invites.

261He relentlessly invites us to stop fighting and refusing His gifts- no matter the cost.  don’t hurry past pain,  but take it in if it comes knocking on your door in the dark of night. open the hand, and let’s whisper a brave yes to the invitation to drink more deeply of Life with God.

 

so come, will you sit at His feet and open the gifts He has for you, even if they’re not what you had in mind this year?

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.  It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift”                                – Mary Oliver

 

 

 

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withholding

016withhold [ with-hold]  ; 1. to hold back; restrain 2. to refrain from granting

i’ve been a chronic withhold-er for most of my life.

i only gave what felt safe- and only in the amount that was tolerable to my soul.  all in effort to not be consumed.  or depleted.  or used up.

something in my story had spoken the lie that i was useful to others but not necessarily seen or delighted in for just being me.  and so began the years of resisting.                         and withholding.

i began to dispense bite size portions of me.  my gifts.  my talents.  my heart.  my truest self.  always keeping back and editing for fear of losing myself somehow.

strangely, i was the one feeling more lost and buried by the hours, days and years of withholding.

162 author Frederick Buechner says it better then i…

“The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather”

and i found the trouble in all my dispensing and managing to be- that I was the one living in lack.  my withholding efforts hadn’t left me fuller-but instead empty.

wanting and empty.

worn out and wary of those who might consume or devour me.

so,  what and how to unravel this tangle of strategies?  how on earth do i learn to live with hand open …and to rediscover my truest, “shimmering self” ?

that’s when i heard Him say let go.  let your heart live in reckless trust with ME.  I’ve got you.  and nothing can destroy or consume you.  NOTHING.  so… give yourself away.

okay okay. so basically the choice is mine…hand closed or hand open.  and i know clearly which choice brings the truest Life.  but all i can take is baby steps.

thankfully His mercy sweeps low and He is always ready to meet us in our lack and fear.  and our giving away of “self” is ALWAYS met with a pouring in.  by living open- we can offer generously and not fear being used up.  for there is no scarcity or limits in the Father’s love.  it is free and lavish.  and His glory is endless.  it is beautiful and it is IN US.

it’s the very thing that makes us shimmer.320

And this is the secret: Christ lives in you . This gives you assurance of sharing His glory.  Colossians 1:27

so, we can give and give and give -and it will never run out.

it’s entirely counter-intuitive to my human heart but that doesn’t make it any less true or real.  God’s economy is almost always mind-blowing and beyond what we can wrap our humanity around.  for He withholds nothing from us-His beloved children.

He is the giver of good things and in Him there is plenty.  always abundance…never “not enough”.

and in Him we are always full, no matter how much is given.  for He fills every empty space with Himself…no withholding.

For the lord God is our sun and our shield.  He gives us grace and glory.  The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.                    Psalm 84:11

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finding

071

“what mattered was utterly timeless. it was the thing that had compelled them to fight for the trail against all odds, and it was the thing that drove me…it had nothing to do with getting from point A to point B.  It had only to do with how it felt to be in the wild.”                                               -Wild by Cheryl Strayed

to be human is to wrestle with our earthly existence .  with our feet firmly bound to this solid ground…yet with hearts that long and wander- and desperately try to make sense of things . all the while, trying to figure out who we are meant to be.

i write a great many words about what matters to me.  some of it-quite a lot of it- is nonsense.  but i give myself permission to write fragments and nonsense- because that’s the journey of getting to the good stuff.  the clarity comes only by sorting through the muck and by getting all the “wrong words” out first.  that’s how i discover what my heart really wants to say.

and so it is with living.  and not just living with the sole purpose of arriving, but living so as to become whole, fully us, and filled with the knowledge of God’s glory deposited in us.

getting there will look different for each of us , and that is okay.   because God doesn’t operate on a “time frame” or a demand from us to always get it right.

He gives us permission to be weak and uncertain as we set out on this journey of discovery.

034then He meets us in the battle , in the failing, in the searching, in the exploring, in the coming-up-empty, and in the getting good and lost.  knowing that the path to “finding” is seldom a straight and narrow line.

and just like any good story, there needs to be some wandering, near-misses and facing those personal demons before there is ever resolve.

how boring would The Lord of The Rings trilogy be if the Hobbits weren’t fearful and flawed.  if they made only the best decisions and came out victorious in every battle…high-fived each other and got in line at the cupcake shoppe.

that’s never how life really goes..right ?!  if there was no getting lost, no near misses and no dilemmas-we wouldn’t cheer so whole heartedly for the courageous triumph !!

i find that i’m always drawn to authors who tell it like it really is.  they aren’t afraid to admit mistakes and they don’t sugar coat the pain of the journey.  they write the raw kind of stories that touch something deep in me, that part of me that needs permission to sort through my nonsense and frailty…the kind that invite me into the hard, courageous  work of finding myself.  and don’t we all need grace and permission to find ourselves in this life?  i think  it’s what our weary hearts need to hear more often.

215after all, we are just human.  and as much as we might dislike it, we can’t disown it.  in fact, the harder we try to run from it, the more it haunts us.  we cannot escape the pains of being made of flesh and blood…wrought through with weakness, errancy and imperfection . instead,  we must make peace with the fact that we are souls trapped in this delightfully vulnerable skin…as author Glennon Melton puts it, “it turns out : I’m just human.  This has been a relief and disappointment. Most addicts suspect we’re subhuman or superhuman. Nope, fully human. Messy and complicated…”

now what?

then comes the hardest part.  the embracing.  the letting ourselves off the hook and forgiving our humanness…all that messy and complicated nonsense.  letting ourselves be weak and believing that somehow in our weakness, Jesus strength is more complete.  huh ? can it be true that the journey is never about getting it “right” but in fact, discovering that His strength is what gives us permission to be imperfect.  and begin to see that through Him our very incompleteness is made complete…go ahead take a minute to re-read that last part.  crazy. but true.

My grace is enough;  it’s all you need.  My strength comes into it’s own in your weakness.                                      2 Corinthians 12:9    The Message

and since He is enough…we don’t need to fear our being not enough.  now take that big sigh of relief.  exhale with those human lungs and breathe in His holy, perfect grace.

the story of Wild isn’t pretty but it is honest. it isn’t a Christian story but it stirred me to the core with it’s message of redemption and of the beautiful recount of life on the Pacific Crest Trail.  it’s the story of a girl who traveled very far from home to find herself.  in fact she traveled 1,100 miles on a two foot wide trail to figure out who she could be and who she always had been..but had gotten lost somehow along the way.

most of all it reminded me that God is less concerned about perfection and more concerned about brokenness.  in Him  there is always freedom to wrestle and press in , even get a little lost now and then, as we are finding our way in this one wild life.

Father grant us mercy in the journey of “becoming” and keep reminding us you are made complete in our incompleteness. one step at a time. xxoo jamie

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