sanguine sea

“what if I give you the lake?” he asked,

“I wouldn’t know what to do with it,” I said,

what if I took care of it for you until you knew what to do,”

“You’d give it back to me then – when I was ready? But why wouldn’t you just give it when I was ready rather than telling me in advance?”

if I give it to you before you’re ready, it’s yours in the first place. I am simply fostering;

dear one, how would you know what you’re getting ready for if you did not know in advance – you could spend your whole life preparing for a desert, when I am giving you an ocean.”


and if — I know it is a large body of water that I will receive, I no longer ask what it may be.

I therefore ask for timing.

but when I come to understand that time does not exist

I begin to question the character of the promise

and when I find out that it is blue

it is wet

it is deep

and it has waves

I ask where it is

no answer

pause, look left

I see it

I begin to ask what to do with it,

hesitantly

so He builds a boat

He builds a sail

He leaves the boat out in the middle of the water

and I come to find

the whole time I thought He was giving me a lake

it was His way of teaching me to swim.

 

decaffeinate

her coffee cup is a little crooked
on the plate,
sideways enough to tip
but not sideways enough to spill
she turns her head to the left
to see
the yellow flowers, empty glasses
she picks up her cup
and sip, sips
until her vision crosses
unexpectedly
with the boy
sitting across the way
the quiet wrestles
with noise in her heart

but she is brave this time

-s.i.g.

valiant

he said to me,

dear one,

you know what you have seen,

you know what you have asked for.

I asked for courage, I said

and all I see is fear

 

he quieted me in silence,

and spoke:

dear one,

you have no need for courage

if fear remains an illusion.

– s.i.g.

 

pure guts racer

I was 13, unfolding and shaking out the t-shirt that had just been handed to me. It was the men’s high school cross country shirt, but the coach had given the ordering sheets to the middle school team so that we could have a t-shirt for the season.

The front of it said “WD Hawks Cross Country,” the back of it, a quote by Steve Prefontaine.

“I’m going to work so that it’s a pure guts race at the end, and if it is, I am the only one who can win it.”

That shirt traveled with me six years later all the way to college, each year fading a little more, eventually losing both sleeves until finding its way into the trash can at the end of the first year.

I hadn’t thought of the shirt – or the quote – in over 4 years, until Prefontaine’s name came up in a conversation on Saturday afternoon.

I didn’t remember the quote exactly, but remembered it had been from him.

And then, a movie about his life.

I watched half of it Saturday night and fell asleep early.


For those of you who don’t know, I’m running the Chicago Marathon come October.

A little over two weeks ago, I began to throw up every time I ran. I adjusted my water intake, my shoes, my diet, my distance, but when I ran over a mile and got closer to two, I got a stomachache that almost took me to the ground. Then, I would immediately start throwing up.

That is, this would happen if I stopped praying while I ran. If I prayed the whole time until the end, I’d still throw up, but it would not be until the end of my run. But if I stopped praying, declaring healing over myself even for a second, the stomachache would come.

I began to ask God to see in the Spirit what was happening during my run. What I found in my mind’s eye was a giant, blue brick wall that built itself up as I ran. As it grew to a certain height, the sickness kicked in.

I’ll spare you the details of my sickness, but the consistent form of its appearance demanded my attention enough to know that it was there was something in my soul that needed healing.

I knew there had to be a root cause to being sick that went beyond my physical body.

I came into defeat last Friday when I completed a workout that included running at the end, thought I survived gracefully, then threw up on the corner of Michigan and Randolph at 7:30am (downtown Chicago rush hour), and had to get off the train and throw up again (what made for a good ego/pride check).

That day, I finally cried (not a crier), threw my shoes across the room and opened my Bible. Hebrews 12:1 – “throw off everything that hinders”

It hit me: that was not a sentence, it was a promise.

Then, Prefontaine’s name came up on Saturday and after watching half the movie, while I planned to finish it, did not have an exact plan of when that would happen.

I went to church on Sunday at 5pm.

I took my shoes off during worship (not uncommon for me) as the song Surrounded by Michael W. Smith began to play. It was the same song that was playing the first day in the first moment that my marathon training became (lovingly named) a pukeathon.

And in that moment of surrender in worship, music playing, shoes off, I told Jesus that I will run the race. I told him that I will finish. Even if I throw up the entire time. Even if it took everything in me to push through, I was declaring that I knew that He was with me. It was the messy type of worship – snot pouring out of my nose, tears running down my face, one hand up, the other hand clenching the corner of my shirt, shoes off, tripping over my backpack on the ground in front of me.

The sermon was on breaking down shame. It hit me in places I didn’t know existed deep within me.

As the service was ending, my friend leaned over to me. “Do you see it?” she asked.

“What?” I said.”

“The blue brick wall.”

I searched the room and did not see it at first. Then, I looked behind the worship team. Behind the stage of my church, there is a large brick wall with an opening in the center that leads behind the stage. There are lights that shine on it during the service.

The brick wall was lit blue. I heard the Holy Spirit say, “walk through it.”

In my mind’s eye, I imagined an opening in the wall that I had seen when running, just like the opening that I saw in the physical. In my mind’s eye, I walked through it, tears streaming down my face.

Fast forward to today, the next day, Monday. I picked up the Prefontaine movie again on my lunch break (perks of working from home), and the announcer quoted the back of my t-shirt – the first time I had heard the quote in over four years.

I was shocked, overwhelmed, crying (again), excited, enthusiastic, and grinning.

Then, Pre lost the race.

In a single instant,

I saw the 7th grader unfolding and shaking out the t-shirt that had just been handed to her.

I saw her finish 12th at one of the hardest races of the season. I saw her keeping up with the 8th grade team during the 6 mile practice. I saw the victory.

I watched track season unfold in the spring. I watched her get pulled in last minute for the high jump, miss the bar, scrape her back, bleed through the top left part of her jersey. I watched her run two races that same day and finish second and third in each.

I saw her in 8th grade, turning the corner of the second lap of the hardest meet of the year. I saw her left leg tighten up into a twisted form of shin splints. I watched her drop from the top 20 to 130, finishing in 206th place. I watched her finish the race. I watched her tear the ice packs off her left shin for the rest of the season, minutes before the shotgun, finishing every time. Finishing close to the end, if not the last to cross.

Then, a quick spin through the years of the teenager that could barely walk, could barely hold a pencil due to pain. I watched the doctors say she would probably never run again, let alone walk without pain. I watched the chronic pain go away.

I could feel my chest tighten in response to the memories.

I watched her begin to run again, break her foot, and stop. I watched the doctors say she would probably never run again.

I watched her try again. It was hard this time. I watched her stop and exercise differently.

The spinning through of memories stopped.

I watched her baptism.

I watched her run again, differently this time, with the same passion of the 7th grader.

I watched her get sick.

Then, the thought entered my mind: pure guts race.

I laughed in the my middle of tears.

I googled the meaning of “guts” and found

  1. the stomach or belly.
  2. personal courage and determination; toughness of character.

God’s wisdom came over me in a tidal wave.

The root of my sickness was a lack of courage in myself – so simple, and so revelatory that it was completely lost on me. Somewhere through the years, the thief had hidden it away. But courage was engrained in me, and I saw that courage unfold in other ways throughout the past few years. I am the type to get frustrated after a series of battles, but I’m not the type to give up. The enemy can’t steal what we have inside of us, even though he can shield our sight in a certain area.

The courage for my running is being revealed again. And my sickness is going away. I’ll declare it over myself until my lungs are tired. I will throw off everything that hinders. I’ll finish the race. I’ll finish the race if I’m 12th. I’ll finish the race if I can keep up with the eighth graders. I’ll finish the race if my back is bleeding, if my legs are hurting, if anything in me gives way. I’ll finish the race if I’m 206th, if I’m the last one to cross the finish line.

I’ll say it now, and I’ll say it until I believe it: My courage cannot be taken.

I’ll finish the race to reclaim the years that the enemy tried to steal away. I’ll finish the race for the 16 year old girl who could not be touched due to pain. I’ll finish the race for the 7th grade dream of running. I’ll finish the race because I am who God says I am. I’ll finish the race for my God, for my Jesus, for the Kingdom of Heaven that is opening up.

“I’m going to work so that it’s a pure guts race at the end, and if it is, I am the only one who can win it.”

habits

He pulls me close again, but it feels less like a Father this time.

I turn my head upward to face him, but I could not see what I wanted to.

Do you trust Me?”

and I can’t hide it, I say “no.”

My response is countered with, “yes, you do.”

I raise my head again – somewhere between the question and my answer, I had lowered it – and in His presence, everything within me stilled.

I was no longer responding to the love of a Father. I was responding to the love of a Savior.


 

Over the past few years, I grew an affinity for things that were not good for me (as many of us do), and this year I made a decision that created a path away from the habits that I had picked up over time.

In an effort to guard my heart, I will not tell of the habits I am hopeful to break (though they are not particularly bad and primarily have to do with learning to love more and better), I did

well theoretically, had great execution, but developed horrible problem solving patterns in the long term.

And I wish I could wordsmith this to make it sound romantic, as if I had it figured out, but I don’t. It may come out clear, it may come out messy, and I may slur it all together and end up right where I started. I am in the process, I am in the journey, I am in the middle of the story. But in this season of my life, I would take all of the moments of attempted excellence and trade it all for one moment of being a mess.

I recently discovered there is a large difference between breaking habits and avoiding habits and while I have excelled at avoiding, I have failed in breaking, because I wanted to fix and I didn’t want to break.

Think of a crack in a parking lot – if you don’t visit the parking lot, you don’t see the crack, but it doesn’t mean it’s gone. If you visit it often, you could cover it up with more concrete but there will still be a bump there, maybe a mismatch in color. Lastly, you can break up the parking lot more and tear it all out and begin fresh again, as if the parking lot had never been there in the first place.

It seems counterintuitive though, right? Why completely break up something that’s only partially broken?

But I found that is the difference between avoiding and breaking. In order to break the habit, I had to break in full. I didn’t want to. I didn’t have to. But I chose to, so I would heal, and heal in full.

There is one word for love in the English, but there has been six types of love translated from ancient Greek. I do believe that when we assign one word to embody many things, we make up definitions that disguise the word to become something it is not, something it has never been. And that is where excellence and perfection snuck into my perception of perfect love (1 Peter).

I reached out to God as a Father in this season, but ran into feeling antsy and defeated. I did not need a comforting love, but I did not know that. He knew that.

I needed the love of a Savior. I needed a lover for my soul to heal. I needed a lover to break and fix me all over again.

When I make a mistake, I feel my stomach drop and I start spiraling. I don’t know where I picked up that habit, but I have a feeling it’s been around for a lot longer than I could ever be aware. And that feeling takes a hit to my self-love, which takes a hit to the way I feel love for others, too.

Today I woke up at 7:58 for an 8am conference call (thank goodness for working from home), had a SharePoint mishap and did not save the PowerPoint document I worked on for three hours, spilled my lunch across the kitchen counter, didn’t make my bed and then

miraculously found my missing keys and sunglasses in a side pocket of my bag that I did not know existed

fixed the PowerPoint slides that did not save

found the name of a band I had been searching for

and made my bed

I saw that I handled my day differently for the first time. I handled myself differently for the first time.

I almost failed and completely failed, but Jesus revealed to me how to resurrect it all.

His love – the resurrection type of love – claimed the excellence, and left me with peace.

It left me a with lifestyle of resurrection.

 

 

 

city of hope

When I saw the sky, I could see it, even though I couldn’t see it, and I realized — even when I feel like I can’t feel Him, even when my guard is down, when I leave my sword and shield in my closet back at home — He is still fighting, still unwavering, still constant. I had to believe it, because if I didn’t, I had nothing.

 

Take confidence, I hear Him say.


Fear and pride are good fakers.

So I traded my pride and fear for humility and faith and found confidence is not about standing up straight.

Confidence is trusting that anything I need, in any situation, I hold deep within me. That the supernatural power of a supernatural God living inside of me is enough to overcome every hurt, every insecurity, every obstacle, every uncomfortable situation. To resurrect from the ashes and bestow a crown of beauty.

Confidence is knowing it’s ok to look silly, imperfect, flawed and fractured while looking practical, excellent, beautiful and healed all at once, moment to moment, knowing that the breaks in the story are for deep breaths and moving forward, not for being broken.

Even when it hurts, I am safe to heal. I am safe to forgive. I am safe to trade my hesitation for assurance that I will never be unprepared and if I am, I will wait in patience for the answer. I know that it will come. Because all bad things are good in His sight, as all good things are good.


I will try again.

I have decided I will go to great lengths to see the great unfolding come to pass. I continue to wait. I continue to move. I continue to tear out the barriers and draw the chalk line in the dirt, marking boundaries over barriers and crawling over ruins to make it back to the city of hope.

I’ll claim the victory if it’s yours.

 

 

the moment I knew

I knew I had denied the healing

it would take to shake off fear.

If the fear stayed, I stayed.

So I let go

and let in

grace and confidence

to find out

there was nothing be to afraid of

and I was not lost

and I had not made the wrong decision.


As often I wanted to hold on, there was something within me that faltered in that grip. The transition happening before me was futile in stalling, I knew it would come. When it did, it came in like a tidal wave and I was still, until I wasn’t.

When I regained my confidence, it took all that was within me to rest in knowing that what I knew was true is still true. The sand doesn’t change because the water laps it. The sand is sand, and when dries back out it becomes what it was once again. It allows its environment to create impact, ultimately cycling through changes until it becomes what it was meant to be. Sand is still the rocks and shells it was before it was sand. It’s just softer now.

I thought I had surrendered, but discovered that I had exchanged brokenness for rules, and it was rules that disappointed me and kept me locked away. There is a difference between barriers and boundaries, and it was not until that moment that I saw the contrast between the two.

Where God had asked me to write boundaries, I cemented barriers. The barriers became rules, and the rules nudged my heart toward fear. There has never been a time where rules have led us to love. Love is encouraged by freedom, and as much ability as we have to hurt, rules will never heal the broken.

I saw in my life that the barriers were torn down, but the foundations of the barriers were still very present. In times I felt afraid, my response was to rebuild the barriers, but the stones were heavier this time and I could no longer rebuild the barriers I once had kept. My mind began to fill the gap with words that had never been my own, words that filled in blanks and empty spaces in my heart that I knew God was on the verge of breaking and healing instead. As I sorted my mind, the words that were not my own collapsed and dissolved in front of me, leaving me with what He had planned for me in the first place.

 

I knew in that moment that guarding my heart wasn’t sealing my heart, and that in order to guard it with a boundary instead of a barrier, I had to rip out the foundation I had built so long ago.

I began to dig in my heart, tearing out the busted up concrete and exchanging it for lines of chalk in the places the stubborn foundation had been.

The difference in the chalk is that the boundary will move — no hard lines of walls and defenses involved. And because of this, I can pull the line in when I need my space, and expand it when I’m ready to share.

I didn’t know it before, but my heart disguised the barriers to look like healing when all I was teaching myself was to hide. Before I knew it, the Father was enlarging my heart so much that I could not hold the peace inside of me. As my heart enlarged, my boundary expanded.

As my boundary expanded, it became easier for me to run, just as He had said.

This is what it means for me to heal by love.

 

“I will run in the way of your commandments
    when you enlarge my heart”

–   Psalm 119