To Touch His Hem

She winced as her stiff, gnarled fingers pulled the blood-soaked bandages away. Sharp pains radiated through her body and weariness soaked her bones. She no longer believed this constant torment would become bearable one day. Her haggard appearance was a result of harsh years and loneliness rather than old age. The life for which she dreamt as a young girl now a distant memory; she had no husband, no children, no friends. An outcast for a disease of which she had no control. The humiliating bandage changing and cleansing was now a daily reminder of her social exclusion.

Countless doctors with degrading examinations dotted the last 12 years of raw disappointment, leaving her penniless. In the end there was never a conclusion; no closer to knowing the source of her bleeding nor the cure. Always hopeful for good news, each session left her worse off than before. 

Snapping out of the brief reverie, she gathered her empty water vessels to fill from the water set aside for the unclean. Her supply was running low, making the trip unavoidable. 

Covering her head and wrapping in a thick outer garment, she began the long walk. Sliding along the shadows and avoiding eye contact, she carefully navigated the path ahead. Glancing up briefly she saw people step aside, turning their backs to avoid her. They didn’t understand her issue; even she couldn’t offer an explanation. Public rejection caused her intense anguish. Her grief was still an open wound and hope of reprieve but just a tiny flicker. 

The atmosphere was noticeably different in the marketplace and the air seemed on fire. Slowing her pace, she overheard the excitement in people’s voices.

“……a Healer…..”

“The Savior….”

“……and did you hear about the miracle……”

“…….of Nazareth, the carpenter’s boy, is here.”

This wasn’t the first time she heard of this Jesus. From birth her parents taught her the Scriptures, how to pray, and spoke of a coming Messiah. She was aware of the commotion surrounding Jesus and the people’s conflicting beliefs of His claims. Hearing Jesus was close, her chest tightened as if her heart was going to burst. She had to see Him.

The water would wait.

Backtracking, she tossed the water jugs by her door and started out again, this time with urgency. Her leaden feet quickened, pounding years of heartache into the ground beneath her sandals. 

As the woman ran toward the growing crowd of people she could feel Him near. She couldn’t see His face but didn’t need to; His presence surrounded her. The air thick with sweat and desperation, she pushed her way forward.

“If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.” The thought replayed over and over. Her mind knew it and her heart believed. Each labored breath drew her closer to Him. Barely squeezing through the now crushing masses, she was undaunted by gasps from people she touched. 

And there He was. Walking and talking, His face turned in deep conversation with His companions. She inhaled sharply.

All of a sudden dirt coated her teeth. Shoved hard from behind, she had fallen, her knees and palms stinging from newly torn flesh. Scrambling with her last remaining energy, she lunged out to reach Him. 

Her fingertips grazed the frayed hem of his cloak.

Every sinew tingled, every deeply etched furrow softened. Her lungs gulped clean air and the supple skin of youth replaced what moments ago was tired, ashen and dry. Color returned to her eyes. The wellspring of total restoration coursed through her veins. 

She knew.

Overwhelmed with gratitude, tears formed in the corners of her eyes. He stopped, searching the crowd. She no longer heard the deafening noise around them but only His voice asking “Who touched me?” With the number of people surrounding Him, picking out a single person would have been impossible.

But He knew. 

And she knew. 

Trembling, she crawled to Him and, in barely a whisper, affirmed to Him it was she who had touched His clothes. Raising her tear-stained face to His radiant smile, she poured out her heart. 

His loving eyes never moved from her. Despite the continued clamor, He listened intently as though it were only her and Him on that dusty road. When she finished, His clear, gentle voice floated down to her. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”  

Staring deep in His eyes she knew He was who He said. He was the Messiah. He had healed her physical affliction and her deeply wounded spirit.

With that, He continued on the path, the crowd moving with Him. Weeping, she rose and watched as her Healer, the Son of God, got farther and farther away. Unfazed by her presence, followers jostled past her, vying to get closer to Jesus. Reveling in human touch, she savored each push and shove.

Incomparable joy overflowed from deep within her, bursting out in laughter and shouting praise.

The woman stood in the place of her miracle until she could no longer see the crowd. Then turning, she walked boldly into her new life. 

(Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:24-34; Luke 8:42-48)

Five

Lord, today I’m a 5.

My 1-10 scale hit a solid 5.

Neutral. In-between. Not bad, not great.

Just okay.

I’m tired, but I got dressed.

I frequently lost focus, but I wrote.

I received disappointing news, but I didn’t despair.

I yelled in frustration, but I didn’t lock myself away and cry.

I’m okay with 5 because I remember 1.

I’m okay with 5, still striving for 10.

I’m okay with 5 because that’s where You will meet me.

You’re okay with me being a 5 today.

My hope remains in You. Peace drenches my pores.

Despite the wind and waves surrounding me, You’re already in the storm. So I will not fear.

Faith bolsters my courage ~ quickens my heart ~ lightens my burdens.

You are the One that holds me up, my lungs full with Your breath.

Inhale. Exhale.

When pieces of my heart break off and my soul cracks open, You are there to fill the void and lovingly soothe the deep ache.

You don’t need me to be a 10 to use me.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made; You sculpted me into being.

You know every hair on my head, every thought before it escapes my tongue.

You knew today I would be a 5.

And that’s okay.

You can work wonders with 5.

And I know you won’t leave me here.

With Outstretched Arms

Umbilical cord,

If severed, assures my death.

Constant communication.

Internal ~ External.

Verbal ~ Non-verbal.

Pouring out my heart, all of which You already know.

Approaching broken, life in upheaval,

Whispering.

Overwhelmed by Your grace.

Your love.

Your mercy.

Your blessings upon my life.

Amazed by Your plan for my life,

Even when I cannot see with my eyes.

My faith tells me.

You tell me.

“Wait, child!”

This weapon I hold and wield,

Fighting the enemy onslaught.

Even if I’m caught off-guard,

You never are.

You already know.

Limitless, bottomless,

Incomprehensible love for me.

Certainly undeserved.

But I still come to you ~ over and over.

You never tire of my voice, my praise.

Even in tearful approach,

You long for my attention.

And I am so in love with You.

Falling more in love with You each day,

As I learn, listen, and give

Myself to You.

A Widow’s Faith

“For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’ ” 1 Kings 17:14 (NIV)

The widow’s faith awes me. Elijah gives her the word from the Lord that she is to use the very last of her resources to make food for him. Then food for her and her son.

The widow and her son were preparing to starve to death and this was to be their last meal together. Can you imagine her fear? Can you imagine her heartbreak knowing she could not save her son? As a mother, I would lay down my life for either one of my kids. I cannot fathom watching them die a slow death.

While she was collecting sticks to prepare their final meal, Elijah gives her a word from the Lord that she is to use their remaining food to FEED HIM FIRST.

Huh?

Yet, he prefaces this instruction with a key phrase reiterated throughout the Bible.

DO NOT BE AFRAID.

Oh, her faith!

She doesn’t question Elijah. He told her what the Lord said and she went forth to complete the task.

“She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.” 1 Kings 17:15 (NIV)

In order to have food for everyone SHE HAD TO GO DO WHAT ELIJAH TOLD HER TO DO.

There have been many times when I was down to the bottom of the barrel. I thought I had nothing, NOTHING left. And all I needed to do was follow God’s instruction SO THAT He would provide.

Step One: Obey and follow God’s instruction.

Step Two: God provides.

And rarely does His provision come from expected sources. I have seen this time and again in my life. Months when making the rent payment seemed impossible because I needed to buy groceries or insulin, funds would come unexpectedly. Sure, there have been times I’ve asked for help; however, I believe that is the Lord working on my pride issue (that’s another post….).

Being faced with nothing beyond what you are holding in your hands and the Lord telling you to give that away or use it to further His kingdom, what would you do? What would I do?

These are the moments our faith is built and strengthened. And they are moments. We make a decision one way or the other and the opportunity to obey is gone. The widow could have walked away from Elijah but her faith in the Lord directed her steps toward obedience.

What else had she experienced in her life that her faith was so strong? The Bible doesn’t say, but I can imagine living as a widowed mother in those days was anything but easy. What were her thoughts as she gathered sticks? Had she already resigned herself and her son to an impending death?

Yet, she obeyed.

Despite what she was feeling, despite her emotions and the future she THOUGHT she and her son faced, the widow obeyed. When she obeyed, not only was she rewarded, but her son and Elijah benefited from her obedience! Who in your circle of influence or those close to you would benefit from your obedience? What future have you resigned yourself to that could be so different if you just obeyed?

I urge you (and myself!) to put in the work of building faith like the widow ~ possessing the awesome faith to use your resources for His work, with expectation, knowing the Lord always keeps His promises.

Pushing Forward into my Purpose

Admittedly, I spend too much time on the Internet and social media. I read a lot of blogs, I post some memes, and I watch videos. Influential and godly people share and post words that speak to my soul. Friends post funny updates and share adorable photos of their kids.

I find this deep black hole and incredible time-suck accomplishes one thing: keeping me from my purpose. God put it on my heart a couple years ago that I was to use my testimony to share Him and glorify Him for all He has delivered me from and for His amazing grace. While I’ve written here and there and created some art, I’m not truly living out my purpose.

Attempting to draw inspiration from other artists, writers, and speakers left me depressed and very UN-inspired. Watching other writers post about their newest book, all the while knowing my book remained unwritten, filled me with shame. Why do I even bother? Using the excuse of “where do I even start?” became more acceptable and an easy go-to. But in my heart-of-hearts, I know the path before me and I’ve just been too scared to start.

I’ve written and re-written the first Google doc page several times. The same message keeps running through my mind: WHERE DO I EVEN START? Then today, I saw something that altered my train of thought:

God didn’t remove the Red Sea. He opened it. Just because God hasn’t removed your problem doesn’t mean He won’t provide a way through it. (author unknown)

I struggle to begin because my story is ongoing. I am STILL experiencing challenges. I am STILL battling through issues I thought would be distant memories by now.

WHOA.

God provided a way through and today I am using it as my first step.

We were studying Pastor Travis Hearn’s 30-Day Journey with God (volume 2) during our Wednesday night women’s bible study and I was asked to speak on the last two devotions, “Safe Zone” and “Going Through”. Reading through the devotions ahead of time, I knew there was a reason I was asked to speak on these specifically.

They are about running to the Lord as He is our safe zone, our place of refuge and our fortress (Psalm 61:3). Not only that, but He is always there with us (Isaiah 43:2).

I have prayed for deliverance from financial burdens, prayed for addiction to be eradicated from my family, prayed for discernment and wisdom, prayed for God’s favor. I have praised Him for His guidance, for His provision, for His protection, for His forgiveness, grace and mercy.

But what was I giving Him in return? Volunteering at church and serving on a local mission team. Serving as a leader for our Wednesday night women’s bible study. Those are all part of what I SHOULD be doing. We are all called to serve.

I know I am saved and completing a “Christian Checklist” isn’t going to get me MORE saved. I’m not going to receive a super special place in heaven if I read the whole Bible every year or stand on a street corner with a megaphone and a JESUS SAVES sign. But why haven’t I felt fulfilled?

I AM NOT SERVING MY PURPOSE FOR GOD’S KINGDOM.

In preparing for the talk I shared, God showed me over and over that challenges will never vanish ~ I will face them for the rest of my life. They will take different forms and they will ebb and flow; however, I cannot stay stuck in one place waiting for things to get better.

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12 (NLT)

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NLT)

Finding joy in trials is NOT easy; however, the author of Ecclesiastes reminds us:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: ….” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

When facing a season of despair and weeping, remember there is a time of joy and laughing. I cannot allow my trials today derail me from the purpose meant to carry me through my tomorrows. And neither can you.

I recommit to writing. I recommit to sharing what the Lord puts on my heart to share. I recommit to my purpose.

The Lord replies, “Write down the message I am giving you.
    Write it clearly on the tablets you use.
Then a messenger can read it
    and run to announce it.”
Habakkuk 2:2 (NIRV)

LINKS:

A 30-Day Journey with God by Travis Hearn (Vol 1): Click HERE

A 30-Day Journey with God by Travis Hearn (Vol 2): Coming Soon!

Alone

Another night
unsuccessfully
trying to crumple my
Thoughts
Feelings
SADNESS
And shove them as
far down into the 
Abyss - the deep, dark
recesses of my heart
that is so beautifully
Broken.
It gets cold at night.
The Darkness outside 
creeps in under the doors
through the cracked blinds and
eavesdrops.
Listening for the Grief to
catch in my throat, 
for the hushed sob.
That no one else detects.
But Darkness seizes its
PREY.
Patiently waiting for the 
Hour of Exhaustion.
Of Defeat.

Then silently and skillfully 
slides up next to me.
Envelopes me.
Holding me close.
An unwanted yet constant
companion. 
Darkness invites Loneliness.
It appears as a vapor.
Inhaling deep into my lungs,
it becomes me.
Infiltrates my bloodstream
taking over my body.
My heart aches, my bones cry out.
Tears come, but for just a moment.
They are running out and 
Frustrated.
Sinking into the arms of the 
Unwanted Nightly Guest,
drawing in the heaviness of
Sheer Solitude.
Perhaps Rest will arrive
tomorrow.

(05/16/2019)

My Luxurious Hollow Psalm 34:18

Peering into the darkness, I squint my eyes. As if that will help me see farther. Or clearer. Or see anything at all for that matter. I am utterly alone. Too afraid to stretch out my hands for fear the darkness will overtake me. My eyes making the only intentional movements, all in vain.

Taking mental inventory, I become acutely aware of my naked vulnerability. The sudden heaviness of my body bears down on aching bones. Exhaustion seeps from my pores as though no other substance exists in my body. My jaw unclenches to scream out in pain but the cries echo only in my mind.

WHERE ARE YOU? Why did you leave me?

Pebbles underfoot once smooth and stable, now piercing and uneven, cause my unbalance. How was I ever comfortable? I had succumbed to the inky blackness, drawing it deep into my lungs, each breath more labored than the last. Icy gusts cut through my skin. My mind racing, I try to recall anything at all. Any memory that grounds me to you.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want…..”

I cling desperately to those words. Your Word. Reciting them again and again.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,….”

You are with me. Always with me. So why am I alone?

The smallest shift in the ground beneath me, almost undetectable. Almost. A distant thundering of movement, a quaking of my carefully constructed footing. The roaring nears and my eyes slowly adjust. You are in the distance, arms outstretched. Standing where we once stood together. Basking in sunlight, bathed in love. My soul longs for You.

How did I get HERE? So far away? Memories drip slowly into my consciousness. Spindly fingers wrapping themselves around me, pulling me ever-so-slightly away from you with each bruise. A callous word. Self-pity. Envious glance. Jealous desire. Wrath. Pain. Unsaid prayer. Unread verse.

Your words, just murmurs before, now clear and floating softly along the angry winds whipping my face. “Come to me.”

Raising my shoulders, my atrophied muscles ache, knowing I must move. The shaky precipice beneath me urges a swift response. The darkness between us remains. I must move. Take a step. The pebbles shift and one drops into the chasm. Without a sound.

There is no bottom.

“Come to me.”

I must move forward.

You will catch me. Or teach me to fly.

I raise my eyes to You.

And take the first step….

64th St Exit

A decade and thousands of miles away.

I remember falling head first into the deep pool of your soul and

My breath caught in my throat when our eyes first locked.

Where did you come from? I was too far away to see the fire ahead.

Knowing our paths were destined to diverge, even now a dull ache breaks through.

The evisceration of watching you walk away for the last time haunts me.

I carefully constructed an icy wall, surrounding my urge to cry out after you.

A wall built with every misstep and mistake, blocking out shared warmth and laughter ~

An impenetrable defense.

Laying my head down becomes useless;

The shadow of your memory ducks away when I glance.

I know it’s still there. Waiting. Around every corner.

Woven together with threads of my life.

Emotion wells up from the depths of my being

And I turn up the volume to drown the heartache.

Lifetimes have passed since we’ve spoken.

Hours of conversation obliterated by landmines of mortality.

Carnage of past decisions fill my rearview mirror

And I know better than to look too closely.

But your glimmer in the darkness draws me in every time.

The exit fast approaches. Unknown to me.

Do I swerve, risking it all, knowing I can’t turn back?

The road looks dark, yet radiates familiarity.

The surrounding barrenness is kindling;

A tiny spark becomes a raging inferno.

I hesitate, vacillating between the two paths.

Time slows down. My lungs scream for air.

Rolling past the exit, forcing my eyes to focus

On what lies ahead, I hear my pulse.

That’s where you live.

In the space between my heartbeats.

To My Concert Prayer Warrior,

Music. Something about the combination of lyrics and melody, creating a powerful synergy, transports me out of the here and now.

And I love it.

The same song, heard by hundreds in the same room with hundreds of concurrent unique and specific experiences.

Music. The communication method God most often uses to stir the Spirit in me.

It felt like a farce that night, at first.

For the reader, let me give you some context.

The invitation to a worship and praise concert was unexpected. Without a doubt, I was excited but didn’t really know what to expect. The introvert inside was a hot mess. Big crowds. Lots of people. Lots of eyes. At least I was with a friend, close to the back and right by the aisle.

The point to all this?

To the faith-filled believer and prayer warrior two rows ahead, as we sat in prayer together, God put something so profound on my heart.

When you asked for my prayer request, I said cancer. Without even thinking.

As soon as it left my lips I wanted to stop you from praying. Tell you I lied. Tell you I no longer have cancer and that I’ve been declared cancer-free. I wanted to tell you I was a fraud.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I sat in silence and asked for clarity. There clearly was a reason I said cancer.

And clarity came in a deluge. The plague still roamed freely in my life.

“Why are you still talking about the cancer I’ve removed from your life?”, the small, still voice asked.

I knew this wasn’t about the cancer cells that created a tumor in my body. The tumor that cannibalized my life.

This was about the cancer that WAS my life.

Other than the obvious, how else is cancer defined?

Something evil that spreads destructively or a blight. Blight?? That’s anything that causes pain. Impairment. Frustration.

This was no farce. God reminded me that He carved that cancer out of my life. Cancer not only in my body, but more importantly in my mind, in my heart, in my soul.

I had left no room for Him on top of the all-consuming disease. So He ripped it out. I had given Him no other way. If He would’ve waited on me, He’d still be waiting. He knew it was time and I was about to find out.

He broke me back together.

That’s not to say this process has been easy. If it were easy, without struggle and painless, I could explain all the good stuff away and not give that credit to God.

So, to the believer two rows in front of me, the prayer warrior that prayed with me and over me. Who joined our faiths in that moment and appealed to the King of kings that I be restored, thank you. Our God is faithful and does answer prayers.

Sincerely,

The Girl in the White & Gray Striped Shirt, Two Rows Back

“To console those who mourn in Zion,

To give them beauty for ashes,

The oil of joy for mourning,

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

That they may be called trees of righteousness,

The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV)

Of Baldness and Lies

I’m not fond of dwelling on my cancer journey, but I feel God is asking me to talk about my life during that time. Maybe in the event it may help someone else during their struggle. Only He knows the reason.

I knew it was coming. The tests. The waiting. The non-specific language and careful wording with each examination. I suffered my first and only (to this point) anxiety attack on June 15, 2017; Diagnosis Day.

What soon followed was the degrading self-talk. Shame. Unworthiness. Disgust and loathing. Just a small sampling of hideous and (sometimes) self-inflicted emotional trauma. Not to mention the utter physical devastation.

Diagnosis Day. The day the lies began.

I repeatedly reminded myself throughout the ENTIRE process I was going to be okay. I believed my doctor when he told me:

  • “It’s the most common type of cancer.”
  • “We know exactly how to treat this.”
  • “This is just a bump in the road.”

The lies were my own. And embarrassingly, they began on a superficial level.

I was going to lose all my hair.

You see, I was proud of my long, pretty hair. I maintained it well and over the years it had morphed into a self-identifying trait and feature that I nurtured.

I was losing all.of.it. My security blanket, gone.

Bald. Ugly. Sick. Weak. Powerless. Oh, the unrelenting lies.

Mentally resigning myself to a dark, dismal upcoming year, X took me for a haircut. Deciding to take the loss in stages, I cried throughout the appointment as chunk after chunk of my locks hit the floor.

A simultaneous shedding of skin and crawling into my new cocoon. I had no idea who this new creature was or would become. Certainly no longer the person I believed myself to be.

Yet, roughly two weeks later, the first of several empowering moments. After the chemo had begun to wreak its poisonous havoc on my body and I awoke to find my pillowcase carpeted with the first dead and accursed strands, X (at my insistence) purchased a good set of clippers. It was time.

That night, standing alone in front of the spare bathroom mirror, staring at the body that was no longer mine, I shaved my head.

Right up the middle, G.I. Jane-style.

Although I didn’t go on to complete one-armed pushups or sport rock-hard abs, I had never felt more like a badass. Even if it was just in that moment, it was enough. It helped push me forward while the infrastructure of my life crumbled.

  • “You rock the bald look!”
  • “You’re so beautiful!”
  • “You’re so brave!”

Compliments and encouraging words offered in complete sincerity and love, of which I will be forever grateful. They provided a much-needed, if only momentary, positivity injection. And in what was now my parallel and diametrically-opposed existence, my Upside-Down, I couldn’t be: Weak. Sad. Tired. Hurt. Confused.

I was a: Warrior. Survivor. Champion. Example.

Silently suffering a season of anguish, despair and utter loneliness.

And I was so lonely.

Loneliness is haunting. Hollow.

Fake it till you make it. Dress the part. Look good on the outside and you’ll begin to feel better on the inside. I couldn’t even do that much.

Wrap my smooth, bald head? Check.

Cover-up for the dark circles and inevitable tear-stained cheeks during my morning commute? Check.

Confidence –> nope. Bravery –> nope. Fulfillment –> nope.

I know now this was a mountain only for me. God walked me to it so He could help me move it.

But during that time? A ghastly black and desolate landscape.