Gimme shelter….

By jennifer | July 2, 2010 |

ripplespeakThe last dregs of June were oppressive with
menacing heat and rain forest stickiness…the
thick humidity causing the gardens I tend to
bolt, clamoring for haircuts all at once. Overly
busy, I began baking as I worked to tame the
overgrowth.

And wilting….my chest feeling tight like my heart
was curling up at the edges. Several times it got
too hot inside my head and I panicked….feeling
trapped and unable to find shelter fast or cool
enough. I longed for breezes to stir the stillness
…to dab at the sweat stinging my eyes.

My vision went wobbly with discouragement like a pond turning a sickly shade of green.
Everything seemed too big, too much, too hard. I needed shade bigger than the trees could make. One afternoon, worn down and drooping like a thirsty plant, my heart oozed out these painful words to God: “what kind of shepherd ARE you?” (Oh yes I did, and out loud too.)

There it was. The accusation my mind had avoided for years….like a shamefaced child fearful of looking up into disapproving eyes, darting away, head low and eyes down . In my foggy fatigue, I ran right into it like a stone wall. And in THAT place….in that no-go zone in my heart…I expected to encounter harsh indifference. Instead, what I received was responsiveness I still can’t find words to describe.

I was drawn into shade I sensed bubbling from deeper waters than I’ve ever experienced before. While the sun beat down, a peaceful calm settled over me….unlike the heat hanging above the ground but just as tangible. I was embraced by love….heaven soaking strands of emotional DNA and tangled perceptions until I felt bathed in cooling light.

My own judgments and opinions had been…well…. off. By miles. I stumbled into wonder and asked the question…..really asked it….instead of simmering in my assumptions. And in response, I was loved. And comforted. Like aloe to my blistered perspective, I was given shelter. Welcome, July….I’ve never felt less alone.

The sea and me….

By jennifer | June 22, 2010 |

summer waveSeven years ago we moved to a large city several hours further away from my beloved North Carolina coastline. With busy teenagers, a fledgling business and financial struggles, my once happily close relationship with the beach suffered neglect. A space in my heart was reserved for it’s powerful beauty; missing the ocean became a daily sigh. My longing to spend hours in the surf….letting it coach me into it’s rhythms…went unfilled like a rain gauge during drought.

Last summer, my toes never even squeezed the sand; I felt cheated out of the sea. Waves of grief rolled me like angry breakers, rising and falling inside me as I tumbled into self-pity. Oh, I was well enough behaved about it, I suppose, but blame and bitterness were turning my heart a crusty lump of hard.
I tried to tweak my attitude but that was a belly up. As the summer droned on, I became worn down with discontent……becoming as hungry for peace as I had been for the sea. Still heartsore, I let go….spent from the internal struggle. With surrender came deep gulps of fresh oxygen to my soul….inviting Love to walk right through the walls of my closed off places.
Funny thing….my eyes seemed to grow keener with the letting go. They began opening to the waves of beauty surrounding me right where I was. Was this always here…these patterns and shades like sunsparkles on big water? Have grasses always danced like this….rolling and cresting and slapping my ankles playfully? As the wind gathered the trees like sea oats, I recognized those same songs. They began to fill my homesick places. The whole earth was wild and alive like the sea; my vision became sharp enough to see it.
Looks like this may be the prodigal summer for the sea and me. But it isn’t a need anymore; not like air or water. There is sweetness in freedom from the longing. Whether kissed by salty breezes or landlocked, I’m still one fabulously wealthy woman!

Cool runnings….

By jennifer | June 19, 2010 |

creative freedomSpringtime pulled and pounded until I was broken down and hungry for rest with no way to feed it. But I can see the summery twinkle lights at the end of this sweltering tunnel and laugh out loud because it’s time to play again….to take a dive from my heavy schedule and let my creativity go offroad to wander freely in open pastures.

So focused on planting and producing, I’ve missed the raw joy of exploring among the wavy grasses and wildflowers growing along the backroads of my mind. Stepping off the paved roads and heading for summertime’s back forty, I feel a spring bubbling up in me where God’s breath stirs….where I feel his aliveness. Here, instead of poking around creek beds looking for shallow pools, I can swim like an otter in deep waters.
For just a moment, my soul squeezes into a nervous little ball, wondering just what I’m doing out here ( is this really responsible? shouldn’t I be earning….PRODUCING….something???).
Accusation, like a crooked scarecrow, warns and taunts “move along now….
make yourself useful. You aren’t worthy to be here.” Blackbirds hovering overhead seem to be
calling down, singing “you were always waiting for this moment to arise.” As I listen and take heart, I inhale how lovely and light it feels to come untangled and get back to the business of becoming what I was born to be.
Returning to this gentle pace, I lose the burden of myself and wander freely into these fields of grace….opening wide for summer to unlock the blue in the sky and release it into my soul. Cool runnings…..peace be the journey.

Windy, weak and wonderful….

By jennifer | June 13, 2010 |

helpless is beautifulStrong winds are turning up the undersides of the leaves in my life; I can smell the coming storm. I’m learning to love the delicious danger

of being small in the path of extraordinary power……like swimming alongside a behemoth fish that may swipe it’s tail and finish me because it’s huge and I’m helpless in contrast.
Dread would swallow me if I didn’t let go, releasing myself to the sweet shelter of One powerful enough to level but so fiercely FOR me that I’m protected, tucked in under His massive form looming overhead. Shadowed by Love, I can trust this mighty heart.
But can I manage Him? Um, decidedly no. These waters we travel are not theme park safe; the danger is real. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Then he isn’t safe? Safe? Who said anything about safe?
‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
Listening to the storm rumbling closer and feeling drops of change pelting my face as I turn into the wind, I let my weakness be what it is and refuse to steel myself against it….quit grasping for control. Going palms up, billowy breezes lift the arms of my soul high into the air and twirl me like a much-cherished daughter secure in her daddy’s firm grip. I’m willing to risk myself to love like this and so, head back, I ride these winds of change like dry leaves in a hurricane.
Even if the landscape of my life is completely altered, it’s going to be okay. Safe? That’s a hopeful wait and see. But good……definitely.

Born free…..

By jennifer | June 10, 2010 |

Yesterday I released my daughter
with all of my quivery heart to fly far
and free…..and away.open sky

Months of preparation rolled onto the shore, breaking and soaking me to the soul. The goodbyes and leaving rained down hard like a downpour. As I write this, she is traveling across country to set up her home on a new coastline. I feel the turning of pages….the closing of a chapter….with every fluttery wobble of my heart.

Putting down the chocolate, I’ve decided to embrace the season….tasting every part and letting the juice dribble down my chin and stain me with it’s ripe, sweet sadness.

I don’t want to numb this…..opening instead to every drop of grace that comes only when you stand in the rain. Not gonna rush this pain; I won’t risk missing the face of God in the breaking.

(Well, okay…..maybe just a little chocolate, too.)

Footloose…

By jennifer | June 5, 2010 |

free bird

Not long ago, while looking for a poem
I’d scribbled down in an old journal, out fluttered a lovingly worn and yellowed newspaper clipping entitled “Bulgaria’s Last Dancing Bears Finally Footloose.” It reports the story of the last three known captive dancing bears being ransomed and released into a sanctuary built for these regal
animals…..captured young, mistreated, shackled, and forced into unnatural positions and roles while
onlookers heckled and stared.
The oldest had performed in streets and carnivals, chains painfully piercing her nose and lip, for the past
nineteen years. The photo of this trapped creature touched me deeply. Her eyes told the story of bitter tears rusted over as they trudged down ancient cheeks grown stony with ache. Now, she and the others were set free to live out the remainder of their lives unshackled….unleashed…unfettered.
I’ve poured over this article these past seven years like a favorite psalm, letting it pull and tug at my deepest heart. Something in their story calls to the hushed places in my own soul….the swallowed lumps in my throat….the disempowered and muzzled places. And as I let love’s eyes meet mine, more of my heart is released to lumber awkwardly into the wild…….footloose.

Hopewatch

By jennifer | June 3, 2010 |

joy

May hope find you watching
as heaven blows you a kiss,
letting it nourish you deeply
…catching it unguarded,
with a barefoot heart.

Heartcries

By jennifer | May 29, 2010 |

restore

I consider it pure gift living on this
magnificent work of art we call Earth.
But so much of what is happening here makes my heart want to sink.
I feel acutely the pain that comes from loving so much and so deeply. I want to live wide awake and aware and available and awash in hope. But seeing can drain and discourage me into drawing back. I love this planet and long to ease her suffering…to be a part of healing her deeply.
But HOW? The list of what I don’t have is long and daunting; I feel helpless and small in the face of searing injustice and destruction. I sense the surging of the river that flows through my heart and colors my own world with the essence of the One I call Lord. It’s life-giving water, this….unseen but real, just the same. There must be some way to release this river into the universe like an organic infusion of the same love that saves me.
I don’t know if I heard or dreamed it, but a certain lyric haunts me at times like this:
“Jenny Wren, when the smothering starts, sing…..sing from your heart.” I think of the gazillion ways to sing a song into this earth….to sling life and love into dirty waters until bitter places become sweet. Those songs live in the artisan wells inside us. They’re nothing more than the art of our lives infused with heaven…when we simply are who we were born to be.
It doesn’t have to make sense, like a chemical treatment or special soap. But the earth needs our art like the ground needs rain. When we let it out…those treasures in our reservoirs…healing happens. The expressions will be as unique and diverse as we are.
The ugliness is epic…..and it’s TRUMPED by beauty. Everytime. There is more than enough of God for this. In releasing my tiny parts, my heartcries, I have to believe that heaven hears and earth responds. If I listen closely, maybe I can hear her sigh, as if a soothing breeze has passed over her feverish pain and encouraged her to take a deep breath and look up…that help is on the way.
When I choose to believe that life swallows death and that joy is for now and it’s stronger than despair, every brush stroke, tree trimmed, weed pulled and story told becomes a prayer. Every act of hope….homemade chocolate icing swirled across warm cake and topped with plump raspberries…an act of defiance against darkness. I do care…and so I live out the everydayness from the bottom of my heart.
justice

Dear me…….lose the cape

By jennifer | May 25, 2010 |

real

Dear me,
It seems as if your boat has been
taking on water the past few weeks.
I know you’ve been counting on life
becoming gentler once summer arrives…work schedule relenting and becoming less demanding soon. And it’s been a grand effort, but from where I’m sitting, it looks as
if you’re still far from getting caught up and calling it a season.
Here’s what I’m wondering: what if you’re the one who needs to be gentler and less demanding………with yourself.
What if you gave yourself permission to take that trip to the bookstore and buy some new books….summer reads. Would you consider letting yourself read them, even with all the work still on the board? And what about Tuesday’s at Topsail? You aren’t going to bail on the daytrip-to-the-beach-on-Tuesdays idea, are you? I agree, it’s impractical…looks pretty near impossible. Still, your eyes light up like fireflies when you think about it. It looks good on you.
Would you consider…how can I say this graciously…..getting out of the way? Seriously, what is the worst that could happen if you take off the cape….let those plates you’ve been spinning just drop? Do you think everything you love and care for will spiral downward and shatter? Maybe it’d get messy, I give you that. But what if you lose the control and things hurtle instead into broken, beautifully flawed freedom? Seems that may interest you. You talk and pray about it with passion…it pops up in your art and writing lots, too. I’m just thinking…..and please don’t take this as criticism because it’s not….that maybe you’d be more relaxed if you lived as if what you seem to stake your life on is true. I’m just saying.
I bring this to your attention because I care about you. I’m FOR you. And, as your friend, I thought you’d want to know. I accept and love you regardless of what you decide.
Pulling for you,
myself (and I)

Blue skies and bruises…

By jennifer | May 24, 2010 |

look with heart

Feels like I’ve got a stone bruise on my heart. I’ve dropped a few pounds trying to walk off the ache; sometimes there just aren’t enough sidewalks.
But there is comfort and new beauty bursting from every nook and cranny…I can see it if I really look. There it is…smiling in blue skies pouring out poetry over my bruised and listing places.
Looking closer, I see seeds bursting from their pods…tiny pieces of my dearest dreams ready to pop with more than I could ask or imagine. I see fields of flowers shouting their colors to prisoners in dull gray chains. My heart is stirred toward spacious places where arts and skills and hearts and freedom grow alongside peaches and pumpkins.
There are some new stretch marks on my heart; I feel my hope gaining weight.

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