An Update in Verse

If you have read anything on this blog, you may know something about me: I like stories.  More than that, I think stories are the backbone of how we exist as people in communication and community with other people.  Stories are as simple as language, words, all mixed up and sculpted to accomplish meaning.  Words, and the way we use them matter.

One of the easiest mediums to prove that point is poetry.  The whole idea of poetry is that no word is misplaced, superfluous, insignificant.  Each word, space, and line is the way it is to make a certain meaning.  I have been working with some poetry in a class this semester and using it to puzzle out some of the prominent things in my life lately and I wanted to share them with you so that they do more than just mull around in my notebook.  Words only communicate if there is more than one person involved, right?  So I have posted a couple of the poems I like best and spent the most time developing that also happen to be most relevant to where I am in my processing of life.  I hope these are worthwhile for you and that you enjoy them.

A couple of updates for context really quick before we begin:

  1. I had jaw surgery two years and a handful of months ago and this past summer I began to experience intense pain in my jaw as my muscles suddenly realized my bone structure is now completely different and they aren’t happy about it.  Or that’s my understanding of the technical medical explanation.
  2. I am working on writing a play that talks about mental health, understanding mental illness, and the process of healing.  One of the biggest things I have been wrestling with getting right is talking about how to let others matter more than how they can be helped or solved.  People need space to be heard.

Okay, here goes.

Mandible

Doors are simple things

not quite walls

 

A storyteller needs a voice.

Speaking is motion,

Swinging open and closed.

 

What does a storyteller do

with a broken hinge?

A door that cannot move is no longer

a not quite wall

 

A jaw slathered in agony is not fit

for a storyteller.

Speaking is tearing and knives,

Stillness the only defense.

 

Inside the locked chamber,

the storyteller languishes.

Beating fists against the

no longer not quite wall

until the wood chews them raw.

 

Stillness is a nuanced thing,

not quite empty.

 

Speechless storyteller

sits rife with assets.

Behind the not quite

not quite wall,

other voices have doors.

Other doors have voices.

 

There are other stories to be told

and taken in.

Gathered, nurtured, grown.

Sent out again

through a graphite sojourn.

The door never moves,

and yet the storyteller escapes.

Back Porch Steps

If you just listen you might hear something.

The brain cannot do two things well at once.

You yell and yet complain of being deaf.

So listen.  Close your mouth and just listen.

Hear stories sneaking up the creaky steps

into your home to find a weary seat

outside the light above the kitchen sink

they sink to the small table, rest their weight.

So desp’rate yearn for you to sit across

the table there with nothing wise to say.

Only a mug of coffee to sip on

and ears with no distractions to make deaf.

They walked like thieves but they were refugees.

Just looking for a place to hang their shoes.

They walk so softly lest they hurt their feet,

the ground is harsh and they have little left

to bind beneath their feet and save their soles.

Oh let them in.  Give them a home to have.

And while they’re there, sit back and watch them dance.

And tuck them in at night safe and secure

in their own knowledge that someone somewhere

would give them shelter for one frigid night.

Would see them worthy of the time it takes

To listen.

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A Work in Progress

What happened to the Daily Beautiful?

I started the Daily Beautiful four years ago as something of a response to Neil Pasricha’s The Book of Awesome.  My own take on it.  And then it became an important staple of my blog, my writing, and the way I took in the world.  I hope it has been worthwhile to you over the past few years, but I know for sure it was a good thing for me.

There are currently three and a half years worth of beautiful things published on this blog.  If my math is right, that is 1308 observations of beauty residing in the world.  That’s a lot.  And yet, no matter what that number was, I would never have exhausted all the things I could talk about, and I love that.  I want to keep filling this little corner of the internet up with the multitude of ways God has blessed me and I am grateful to share them with you.

And yet.

Four years is a long time.  A lot happens in four years.  In these four, I mourned, I rejoiced, I graduated, I moved, I took on leadership, I experienced care, I made life changing decisions, I met people for the first time who have since become some of the most important people in my life, I learned a whole bunch of things, some lessons wanted and some not so much, and I have been changed by all this.

I want to continue to find and expose the incredible things this life has to offer, and I want to do it right here on this blog.  But it’s going to look a little different going forward.  I don’t know what that means yet and I don’t know when I will have it figured out, but I will let you know when I do and we can go from there.

Thanks for being incredible and sticking with me.

Weeds and Wildflowers

Hiya folks!  It’s the end of my third-to-last year of education possibly ever and as the academic calendar draws to a close, I thought I would take a little time to give you an update on my year and hopefully do a little reflection just for myself as well.  I can’t guarantee it’ll be organized or come to any conclusion, but I do hope you can get something out of it.  So here goes.

I came into this year riding so many successes and joys of the last.  My first experience coming back to campus was getting to bond with my amazing RA team and get so stinking excited to serve the school I have come to love so much with people that I love so much in a way that I could show so much love to strangers who would become my beloved residents and even friends.

Then I got to actually meet my residents and I was overwhelmed by the blessing that they were from the very first impression.  And trust me, the blessings didn’t stop there.  God gave me a building full of wonderful, scintillating, unique, caring, beautiful girls who have done and grown so much over the course of a mere nine months.  They have taught me about life, how to care deeply, and things I never expected about myself.  They gave me free food, trust, their heartfelt cares and worries, and a place in their lives, which was a luxury I didn’t realize would happen in the way it did.  But I’m thankful for it all the same.

I got to sing with the audition choir this year, which cultivated a new appreciation for music and a dedication to my voice.  There is a heavenly quality about sitting in a room with seventy other people and placing your voices on top of each other and interweaving them together.  And it definitely boosts your confidence to just let your vocal chords do their thing and be unapologetic about it.

I returned to my incomparably fantastic friends and continued to build those relationships as well as create some new, equally stellar friendships.  I got to invest in people and see just how much they invest in me.

But in so many ways, this felt like a year where the resounding word I received over and over again was “no.”

No you don’t get to be an RA for more than a year.

No you don’t get to be on stage in a Shakespeare production in the fall.

No you don’t get perfect residents who don’t struggle with the really deep problems.

No you don’t get to be in a relationship right now.

No you don’t get to be in a senior show.

No you don’t get easily good grades like you used to.

No you don’t have the motivation to invest in your residents and other friendships the way you would like to all the time.

No you don’t get magically better after a break from classes.

No you don’t get to be on stage for the final show of the year.

No you don’t get to make it all the way through the semester with all your classes.

No you still don’t get to be in a relationship.

No you don’t get an anxiety-free semester.

No you don’t get to sing in a specialty group next fall.

No you don’t get to leave the year with confidence and closure.

Just a whole bunch of no.

It was a messy year for sure.  I remember several times in my RA meetings throughout the year, the entire team sat in a weary, forlorn circle keenly aware of the warfare Satan was wreaking on the entire building.  It seemed like every week there was something new thrown at us.

Of course, we were so grateful to be there to help.  That is the sort of stuff we signed up to do because we wanted to be able to make a difference.  But, like parents with their kids, all we wanted for our residents was to see them grow and succeed.  To celebrate with them in their joys and come to know how wonderful they each are.  Relationships are more than the good things though, and that meant we had the privilege and responsibility of being there when life wasn’t so grand.

Beyond my residents, I confess I didn’t have the greatest year either.  Satan weaseled his way into sensitive spaces for everyone on the RA team and left us worn and tattered in our own rights, feeling helpless at times.  I struggled with that tricky word no all year long.  Don’t get me wrong, being an RA was one of the greatest blessings of my college career so far, but there were times when I couldn’t see the blessings through all of the things I didn’t have.

When I knew the fall play was going to be a Shakespeare, I thought for sure I’d be on stage, no problem.  Shakespeare makes sense to me.  I can understand it, I have experience performing it, and I enjoy it.  All admirable traits, to be sure, but when it came down to it I was overconfident and not as prepared as perhaps I should have been with my audition.  So when the audition results went up, I heard a big fat no.

But that isn’t the end of the story.  I was given a role, not on stage but as head student costumer.  I worked closely with our professional costumer and got to make some decisions about how the characters should look and even help assemble costumes.  We built the entire show ourselves and it turned out gorgeous.  Apparently some other people thought so too, because we were selected to showcase our costumes at the regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre festival in January, which was a huge honor.

Had I been on stage, I would not have gotten to dive in to that incredible process and be such a visible part of the show, even though I wasn’t on stage.  In keeping me offstage, I got to engage with a whole different side of theatre and build my confidence with creating a new aspect of the show.

This year, I really felt like I was ready to be dating someone.  I felt ready to invest in a specific individual and grow together.  One of my largest life goals is to be a good wife and mom and I am well aware of how young I am still, but I was disheartened by the fact that I am nowhere near that stage of my life yet.

But when I looked back at the year, I realized that I would never have been able to balance being a student, an RA, a friend, and a relationship.  All of those areas of my life would falter because I would not have been able to keep up with any of them.  Instead, God gave me a primary focus this year: time to be an RA.  I got to invest in my girls because they got to be a priority.

Cheesy metaphor time:  We pick which plants we decide to put in our gardens.  Anything that shows up there that we do not want is called a weed.  Usually weeds are resilient and unruly and not particularly easy to get rid of.

But some of the things we call weeds can exist in a different setting that is not in our way and we call those wildflowers.  We admire their tenacity and ability to spring up in the middle of absolutely nowhere.  They are sparks of spontaneous joy in places that are otherwise unremarkable.

Yet when they show up in places we have already deemed beautiful, we uproot them without hesitation.  I know, in practical gardening terms, that makes sense to keep the plants you want to grow on track, but for the sake of the metaphor, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to notice the wildflowers amid our cultivated garden and admire them as blessings.  Wildflowers instead of weeds.

I didn’t get to be at rehearsal very often this year because I didn’t get to act in any shows, but I did get to spend those evenings in the lounge watching a movie or doing homework or chatting about life instead of stressing about lines.  I also got a whole heap of experience learning how to audition and learned to be proud of the work I had done, even if it wasn’t what I needed to land a part on stage.

I felt guilty and ashamed that I had to drop a class and have a light class load second semester because I was relearning how to cope with stress, but it was an exercise in giving myself grace and acknowledging my limits.  I even took my own advice and talked with the campus counselor and learned a new perspective on how I was treating myself and those around me, which helped me to make some positive changes.

It was a year that forced me, most of all, to rely on God.  Weed or wildflower, I would have wilted if I didn’t have my saving foundation.

The year before this one was the strongest my faith has ever been.  I figured I would start right back where I was at the end of my freshman year with my faith and continue to grow just as easily as I did that year.  It turns out that relationship with Christ doesn’t grow unless you actively remember that it is only by his grace that you are here at all.  I am hopeless without God, but with him there is rest, peace, understanding, and grace.  Even if I feel lost and confused and more than a little bit helpless, my capabilities are irrelevant because I have the unfailing love and protection of my savior.

I won’t always understand why things happen the way they do.  I still can’t say I understand a lot of the heartache of this past year, but already I have seen God working through it and I know he will be faithful.  Sometimes he will send the clear-cut blessings that look like roses and other times they will be the purple flowers springing up on the side of the highway but they are blessings nonetheless.

Rooted

I spent the first four years of my life living in a house I can barely remember.  After that, my family moved into a brand new place we built for ourselves.  We didn’t physically build it with our own hands, but my parents – both engineers – certainly had a heavy hand in all of the planning, down to my mother’s insistence that there must be a light above the bathtub.

Brick and white siding.  Black shutters on the windows, although I spent most of my life absently assuming they were green.  Concentric tiers of landscaping falling away from the front of the house.  A huge green wreath above the garage and garland strung across the porch with bright red bows at Christmas time.  Kitchen cabinets built by my uncle.  The ghost of handprints at the bottom of the stairs where too many eager children have used the wall to stop their momentum.  The heights marked on the wooden beam just inside the doorway of the storage room and signed with our carefully practiced but still childish scrawl.

That’s the house I grew up in.  That’s the neighborhood that sprung up around us and weathered from shiny new houses to lived-in homes.  That’s where I learned to ride a bike, despite the fact that the driveway was too steep to ride up without crashing into the garage door.  That kitchen is where I learned to cook from my dad’s willy nilly concoctions and my mom’s meticulous recipes.  That backyard is where I spent many a barefoot day with my head stuck in the clouds, trying to swing high enough on the playset to brush them with my toes.  I learned to read and write there.  I spent entire days with my legs kicked up on the back of the couch and my head hanging upside down off of the edge of the seat with a book in hand.  I had every adventure imaginable in that basement when it was all concrete and beams, and then I helped choose paint and carpet when my dad finished it by hand.  I have spent hours in the front room at the piano, for nine years it was forced and now it is only ever because I miss the keys.  So many Saturdays have consisted of my mother sitting at the same piano and her expert melodies wafting through the whole sunny house.  I’ve spent countless summer evenings on the wide porch, stuck in a book while my dad worked on crosswords next to me.  And plenty of stormy nights under the shelter of the roof giving scores to the streaks of lightning that shattered the sky.

That house is the place where the ceiling fan in the northeast bedroom will never quite be balanced because I clipped a book light on it and had dance parties.  The door to that bedroom takes a little extra force to latch closed because of the battles to keep the boys out of our fortress when we strove to make the girls the supreme rulers of the club.  The couch is slightly discolored where I sat too many times with my wet hair draped over it after a shower, eagerly sprinting upstairs during commercials of The Amazing Race so I could be ready for bedtime and still not miss the show.  Even though my dad filled it in, I can still see the place in the bathroom wall where my friend fainted and dented it with her head.  I know the exact sound of the front door as it opens into the house and the precise angles that the sunlight spills onto the floor.  The creaking of the garage door, and the clunk of the sump pump.  The way the wind whistles around the corner of the house and where to check if the cat’s bladder has failed her at the sound of thunder.  I have sat on the highest point of the roof and stared down into the pit of the sump pump under the basement.  If there is any nook or cranny of that house that I have not explored, I would be very hard pressed to find it.

That is home.

Shortly after we moved in, the city planted ash tree saplings all the way down the street.  I remember being bummed that I wasn’t going to grow up in a neighborhood where I could climb the trees, but I would sit and daydream about when I came back one day with my own kids and the fledgling trees would be sturdy and weathered.  Perfect for a different generation to strive upward through the branches to see the ground from a new perspective.

By the time I outgrew my desire to be a deft outdoor adventurer, the trees were established, but there were no branches low enough to climb well.  All the way down the street, two rows of ash trees stood like sentinels.  Tall, slender trunks stretching up to a globe of emerald leaves.  In the fall, they always seemed disappointing when they started to change color because the outside layer of leaves would become a brownish purple while the inside was a sickly end of summer green.  But slowly, as the autumn wore on, the color would bleed inward, lightening as it went, until finally looking down the street was looking down twin lines of fireballs.  The outer leaves were still purple, but there were bright red, dappled orange, and at the center brilliant gold.  If you were patient with them, you would see that after most trees had already given up their colorful coverings, ours were truly magnificent.

You may have noticed that I have been describing these trees in past tense.

This past winter, I went home from college to spend time with my family.  On entering my neighborhood, I felt the euphoria of the familiarity until I turned onto my street.  I couldn’t immediately place what was different, but it looked somehow desolate.  Bare.  It was only when I drove all the way up the hill and parked outside my house that I looked at the grass and saw the stump of the once majestic tree forlornly peeking out of the ground.  I glanced around and realized they were all gone.  The whole sloping street had lost its parallel welcoming committee.  I almost cried on the spot.

I ran inside, aghast that no one had thought to give me a heads up before a staple of my childhood was dismembered and removed from my home.  It was only a tree, but it was a tree I had reliably come home to for fifteen years.  I was completely devastated by its absence.

If you keep up with the arborist culture in the Midwest, you may be aware that there has been a little bug called an ash bore ransacking its way through the very types of trees that once lined my street.  This pest has not yet reached my home, and it could be quite a while before it does, but the city decided rather than wait until the trees died, to take care of them before the bore could arrive.  So away they went.

If we’re going to be completely honest, I’m not entirely over it.  They’ve since taken the stump out and filled in the miniature crater it left behind, but there are still no trees.  Nothing to shade the sidewalks or soften the harsh lines of the street.  My neighbors stuck a large stick in their empty plot of dirt, but it didn’t fool anyone.

Here’s the thing though: part of the deal was that although the city took the trees away, they are also planting new ones in their stead.  They won’t be the same ash trees, but soon enough there will be new saplings lining the street once again.  The houses are a little more worn and the yards have more personality than they did last time the trees were small, but that won’t stop the young plants from growing.

I don’t know what they’ll look like or how they’ll change the character of our neighborhood, but the point is that they will grow.  They will put on their annual rings, stretch toward the sky, provide cool havens of shade when the sun beats the rest of the sidewalk to molten torture to bare feet.  Birds will sit in them and poop on the cars parked underneath.  There will be twin rows again, stretching down the street, budding together, changing color together, shedding their leaves together.

That house will still be home.  That street will still be familiar.  The details will shift, but that’s life.  It trundles on forward, always growing, moving, changing.

My car is no longer a staple outside of our house, and I’m not a permanent staple in it anymore.  The family routine doesn’t involve my spontaneous guests every other night of the week or my hogging the shower for too long.  The table is set for three at most meals, not four.  Life changes.  It keeps moving.

It keeps growing.

I don’t live at home anymore, but I am living my own new and exciting life.  In a few years, my sister will be out of the house too and get to have her own new adventures and be her own sprout.  My parents will have the whole place to themselves.  Plus the cat.

And yet, we won’t be gone.  That house will not cease to be home.  In a few years, we could return with spouses and children of our own.  There could be a whole new batch of people that get to make some little slice of home in that house.

The memories that have built that home will not vacate it, and neither will its potential to create more.  Home is an ever-shifting definition.  It never can stay away from a place for long and once it settles in, there is no getting rid of it.  And there’s an undefinable sort of comfort in that knowledge.  No, that’s not quite true.  Perhaps that comfort, that sense of safety and familiarity and assurance of belonging does have a name.  We call it home.

A New Glass Story

Back in October, I posted this little discourse about a piece of art in my life, namely the stained glass that my grandpa made for my mother when she was in high school.

I am beyond excited to share this post as I have been eagerly waiting to give you this update since Christmas, but I was waiting to be a little more acquainted with my big surprise before I spilled the beans.  Are you ready?  Here it is:

My grandpa read the post about my mother’s stained glass and he made a brand new piece just for me for Christmas.  It was easily the greatest Christmas gift I have ever received.  He hadn’t worked with stained glass in probably close to thirty years before he read that post and it was enough to help him dive back into his old hobby.  He also made a scene for my sister and since then he has made a few more decorative pieces.  My grandmother also resurrected an old habit that she had been away from for years by painting pictures for both of my cousins.  They couldn’t wait to give us the gifts and we couldn’t stop admiring them.

My stained glass is up in my dorm room right now.  Like my mother’s, it depicts a young woman, but that is about where the similarities end.  The woman in my scene stands profile in the frame wearing a deep maroon dress.  Her auburn hair lies piled on top of her head, but several locks have fallen down around her face and ear.  She clutches a richly textured cream and tan coat to her chest.  Her chin is angled slightly downward, whether in contemplation or shyness or something else all together it is impossible to tell.  Behind her head, a circle of clear glass is surrounded by shards with a delicate almost lace pattern etched into them radiating toward the edge of the frame.  The whole piece is breathtaking.

I feel like I’m not doing this gorgeous piece of art justice, but perhaps that is just as well.  I wanted to write a blog post telling her story to emulate the other stained glass piece, but after a few months of getting used to her presence, I realized I still don’t know her story.  I’ve not had so many years and such an apt child’s imagination to create the picture outside of the frame yet, but I don’t mind.

She is a new person I get to discover piece by piece as I get to know her.  I am in a part of my life where things are constantly changing and growing and I’m changing and growing with them.  This stained glass girl will get to go through all of that with me and together we can add more experiences and more life to our arsenal.  We can amass stories together.

As I prepared to write this post, I got to thinking about all of the places that I’ll be living over the next few years.  I’ll have dorm rooms and apartments and a house or two isn’t out of the question.  For all of those places, my stained glass girl will set up shop in a window and live there too.  She will look out over all sorts of landscapes before she settles in a real, permanent, lasting home.  And I’m pumped for it.  Because those are adventures and little homes that I get to experience too.

And one day, I hope, she will settle into a window to stay for many many years.  And perhaps, while she looks on over my life, my children will get to survey her.  They will have their own imaginations and spin for her their own tales.  They will share their dreams with her and transpose their thought into her mind.  Then she will have a whole new set of adventures and I will have the privilege of a vantage point much like hers from which to see them unfold.

DSC_0003

 

On the Uncertainty of a Caterpillar

Passionate people don’t have popular opinions.  Everybody sounds crazy when they believe in something.  You don’t have to agree with me, but I believe in butterflies and I’m sticking to my guns about it.  Listen, just because you’ve never sprouted wings doesn’t make it impossible.  When we were kids, the soaring, majestic butterflies were all we ever dreamed of becoming and now you are convinced that was just a fairy tale, designed to make gullible children believe in something better than the truth.  If you just listen, butterflies make sense, or at the very least they aren’t as unrealistic as you make them out to be.  Sure, they seem a little fantastical, but it’s not like we have anything else to explain our lives and I figure this idea is as good as any.

As caterpillars, we spend our whole lives roaming aimlessly and eating.  We know that one day, one day very soon for you and me, we will weave a husk around ourselves and be completely unresponsive for days.  Then, one morning all our friends will come in a somber procession to check on us and find the cocoon broken open and empty.  After that, who knows what happens?  Look, I know it’s scary.  One day you are a perfectly healthy caterpillar, the next you go insane and craft what seems to be a coffin for yourself to settle into and wait for some gruesome murder.  We might as well be preparing for the slaughter from the day we hatch and set forth into the world.  The cocoon is nothing more than a weapon to kill us off with our own dignity instead of being gobbled up by an enormous beast.  That answer might satisfy you, but it doesn’t work for me.  What is the point if all we are here to do is get fat and then die?

No one has ever told us anything that makes sense about what’s happening to us.  The butterfly theory at least gives me something to work with, something to care about, even something to hope for.  You know the stories they tell about butterflies.  If that is true, then when we go into the cocoon, we change somehow, unfurling a pair of wings that has been lying already made in our bodies since we were born.  We become dainty, delicate creatures beloved by all.  Do you know what they say butterflies do?  They create life.  They spend all their time drinking nectar from blossoms and sharing their pollen to grow other flowers.  I even heard once that the reason some of our food can grow at all is because the butterflies bless it.  All we do right now is consume things.  We eat and we sleep and we get up to gorge ourselves all over again. Aren’t you tired of that endlessness?  How exhausting it is to have no dreams or goals.  If this is our purpose, we are nothing more than parasites, disintegrating nature around us.  There is nothing wrong with wanting more out of life.

No, scratch that.  I don’t want more from life, I want to have a reason to be here.  I want to give more to life.  All I have done since I hatched is let the garden feed me.  What does that accomplish?  If the cocoon is the end of us, why do we bother to be here in the first place?  It’s not like we can put it off.  When it’s our time to wrap ourselves up, we can’t say “Oh sorry, I’d rather not let nature take me away permanently and that’s that.”  But if we come out of the cocoon with wings and the ability to scatter life, this whole mindless existence has been preparation.  I can handle preparation.  What I can’t handle is how you can live without any inkling of a purpose.  It doesn’t make sense.  Don’t use the excuse of being just a caterpillar, because if worms can be useful by digging through the dirt then we should be too.

Besides, I have seen butterflies.  We both know butterflies exist.  You told me you saw that one in the garden yesterday.  And I know it was just a glimpse that time, but I saw another one sitting still once.  They are just as beautiful as everyone says.  Awe inspiring.  They have these unreasonably spindly little bodies and wings so thin that they almost disappear when they turn sideways.  They almost don’t look real.  I mean, how can something so fragile do so many things?  You would think trying to fly would be impossible when you are so flimsy, but they manage it.  And they look graceful doing it.  And the patterns.  They are covered in beautiful colors and patterns.  I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.  Their wings are more delicate and detailed than any of the flowers in the garden, and that includes the hydrangeas.  I’m not trying to be vain, but what if we look like that someday?  If we become butterflies, we’ll have beautiful wings and fairy-tale antennae too.  If they are right, we have them already I suppose, just hidden.

You always say that if butterflies were real they would communicate with us every once in a while.  Maybe they want to but they can’t.  Maybe their wings carry them so far that they can’t find their way back to tell us.  Perhaps having a different mouth and throat means they can’t speak in a way that would let us understand them and it is too hard for them to see us and not be able to communicate.  It might be that they are so busy saving the world that they never get the time to come back.  It could be any number of reasons that they don’t come back.  I don’t want to live in a state of vaguely apathetic fear my whole life.  I certainly don’t want to face the cocoon like that.

But if butterflies are real, don’t say anything yet, hear me out.  If butterflies are real, we should be looking forward to it.  The cocoon, I mean.  It would mean that all this monotonous wandering leads to something, something with a purpose.  Flying high above the garden with the wind in our wings as we spread life and color.  We would get to do something that matters, if nothing else you can’t say that’s not thrilling.  Imagine what it looks like from up there.  A kaleidoscope of colors and nectar.  Nature’s nobility, showering our subjects with grace.  We’d have it all in our grasp.  And maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe this is all there is and my incessant determination is just a way of pushing the fear away and looking brave.  But so what if it is?  It won’t make any difference to be if I’m wrong.  The only thing that changes is that I go to the cocoon with hope, which is a far sight better than where you are standing right now.  You see, no one knows what happens in the cocoon so who’s to say we won’t be butterflies.  Right?

Storm-tossed

O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted

behold I will set your stones in antimony

and lay your foundations with sapphires

Isaiah 54:11 (ESV)

I stumbled across this verse this morning and was immediately struck by it.  First of all, can we take a moment to talk about how God has such an incredible way with words.  He would, I suppose, as he created them to begin with.  The language of this verse is so poignantly deliberate about the worth that God places on his people.  God hears the distress of those who love him, and he is aching with the intensity of the salvation that he is bringing to take that distress away.

The thing I kept coming back to was the phrase storm-tossed and not comforted.  Storm-tossed.  What an analogy.  This isn’t wind-swept, an idea that is flushed an a little wild and maybe not perfect but better for it.  Storm-tossed is the heartbreak in the eyes of a family that returns to the shards of their house after a tornado.  This is the child who cannot cry because there is too much water already leaving lines above his growth calendar on the door frame.  Storm-tossed is the shattered  sound of a mother’s heart rending when she feels the gunshot that killed her son.  The shaking of grief.  The college student who has to fight with everything in her to conquer the smothering inability to swing her legs out of bed in the morning.  It is the man who is exhausted and raw, the woman who is worn and haggard.

But God loves the storm-tossed.  He promises to give them the strength to place one foot in front of the other, even when they are one moment away from collapse.  He promises to give the courage to take that next step across the pavement.  He promises to give peace to the storm-tossed, the security to fall onto him in total dependence.  He promises to adorn them with the very best that heaven has to offer.

The verse talks about antimony.  My Bible has a note about it, naming it as a mineral used to garnish stones.  The Hebrew word is the same as the one for mascara or eye paint.  Something beautiful.  God will build a strong place of safety and adorn it with beauty.  He promises not only the haven of stones and foundations, but also the lavish loveliness of joy.  It may not be an immediate promise, but it is a promise nonetheless.

To you who are storm-tossed,  know this: The storm will do as storms do and it will pass.  It may be a long time coming.  Storms leave damage and they don’t always wear themselves out quickly.  They take time to recover from.  But you are not alone, you are cared for, and God will set your foundations in sapphires.