cleft of the rock

Good always startles me. I like that, and it scares me. Why? Big or small, my heart can barely fathom what has been offered. Even more, good touches deep desires and unearths life-giving passion.

I have much good in my life!

Yet, in the midst of pain, I often struggle to hold the good. For me, I wonder if it too will be taken. After all, it’s just a matter of time before the other shoe will drop. So, I get busy. Busy to numb the potential disappointment or pain. Because it will come. And if I can inoculate myself ahead of time, I won’t feel the brunt of the pain as intensely. I won’t die. It’s what I do.

Ah yes, I know. Enjoy the present. Hold what is good with honor.  To fully feel what each moment brings. And. I often struggle. Still.

Because I have had and still have much pain in my life.

You see, this past year painful disruption came to places that once held safety. The spiritual battle was intense. Much has been lost. Sorrow stirred, and my heart was hot within me. So, I got busy. Knowing full well what I was doing. Although, some of the changes required me to be busy. Yet, I knew I was avoiding the disappointment, anger, and grief. Afraid of the depth of my emotions. My passion.

Friends encouraged me to grieve. The words they spoke were not new. Yes, I had been angry and sad but had not plumbed the depths of my sorrow nor considered fully the losses. I resisted the desert experience – afraid of what I might find. Not wanting to be a woman called to grief.

Finally too weary of resisting, I cautiously surrendered.

And the cleft of the rock has been the safest place for me to be. Covered by God’s hand as He protected my soul – I found release. I didn’t die! Nor was I left alone. He has nourished me with truth strengthening me for the battles that will come. But for now, He has called me to the river and I am resting in His good care.

I am a woman called to grief. At least in this season; perhaps in life. But God has carved out a place just for me. Hell may rail against me, but in His hand, no evil can touch me. Things may get difficult and feel overwhelming – and yes, I will be tempted to get busy to hide from the pain – but my soul is safely nestled in His hand.

This past year has brought significant changes to my life. They have affected my mind, body, and spirit. And regardless of good or painful… I have been changed.

And that is a very good thing!

 

Couple dancing salsa at sunset

The first time that I saw him I told my sister that I would marry him. She called me a “spaz”. My heart was undeterred.  And apparently he had his eye on me too. It would be almost a year later of dancing back and forth – him dating another girl, talking together, him breaking up with girl, talking together, me dating another guy, talking together, me breaking up with guy – before we had our first date.
Dance with me, I want to be your partner…
The first date? May of 1979. My high school sponsored senior all-night-party. My friends who were dating guys from the previous graduating class told me they were inviting their boyfriends. They encouraged me to invite my crush; aka: my future husband. I laughed, knowing my very strict step-father. Good Christian girls don’t ask boys out. It was just not done. But by some shift in the heavens, I got to ask him! And he said yes.
Turns out, very few of the girls invited their boyfriends. I wondered how he would feel, but it did not seem to matter. And we had a blast being together that night; talking, eating, bowling… I’m not really sure what else was going on. But there was dancing! A good ol’ 70’s Soul Train line dance. My friends remarked how awesome we looked together dancing. I was ecstatic! I love to dance.
Can’t you see, the music is just starting? Night is falling and I am falling. Dance with me…
We fell hard and early dating for 2 1/2 years before we got married. During that time we never danced again. Oh, we danced in other ways – getting to know one another dating, in marriage, and as parents. Life got busy and the dance floor never seemed to call. Or we didn’t hear it.
It didn’t call in the bedroom either. No, that’s not true. The music and the invitation to dance have always been there – my body was just too war-torn from abuse to dance freely. I participated, enjoyed, responded but always held something back. Lies spoke of always being dirty, never being enough for this man’s love.  A war torn body desiring and afraid to fully let go of my heart and soul – and trust the man in my bed.  In full disclosure, didn’t even trust myself.  For you see, even in bodily response – I have always known there was so very much more to be given and received.
I hope that you are willing. Pick the beat up, and kick your feet up. Dance with me…
Several years ago we were invited to take ballroom dancing. I was excited and he was willing. It was disastrous. He was stressed and forgot steps. I was frustrated and took over. Even when we managed to get it right… it was not fun. For either of us. So we stopped. Although we did learn a few steps that helped us to look like we knew what we were doing at weddings.
Over the past several years we have started dancing at home. At first I was leery. I was not sure I could trust the process. Wouldn’t this just all end up badly. And honestly, it was a little disappointing and rough at first. But something magical happened. We are having so much fun! As we began just doing our own thing and forgeting about focusing on the steps being right or wrong, we have learned to be attuned to one another’s bodies.
Let it lift you off the ground. Starry eyes, and love is all around. I can take you where you want to go…
And you bet. Being more attuned to one another’s bodies has added a new sweetness to our all around intimacy. No, I am still not totally free. Maybe never fully on this earth.  That goes for both of us.  But I no longer fear and look forward to more and more freedom.  It’s about time we beat that demon down! Yes, we did it together – discovering our own dance moves as we listened to the music.
Dance with me, I want to be your partner…
Oh yes, please my love! Dance with me.
Song Credit: Dance With Me by Orleans; Songwriters: JOHANNA HALL, JOHANNA D HALL, JOHN HALL, JOHN J HALL

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There’s been a blue bird in our backyard since January 1, 2018. It arrived as we were still amidst the chaos of hurricane Harvey damage; mingled with relational hurts, death of identity, loss of fellowship, and grief.

My little harbinger of spring. Its presence has reminded me of hope and comforted my aching heart.

This spring day is Good Friday. Solemnly reflecting on Christs suffering, my own agony and suffering fades to a mere taste. Talk about grieving, accusations, chaos, and death.

Yet, I have experienced a death. It took me by surprise. And although unlike the disciples, I know there will be a Sunday resurrection. For now, I’m waiting in an upper room wondering what in the world just happened.

I’ve been tempted to shut down and bury myself in addictions.  I’m weary from the sorrow; I feel it in my bones.  My soul has cried out to God!  I’ve warred to remain present and bear the risk of hope.

And.  Hope is what makes this spring day so good.

Spring and hope seem to be intertwined in my mind, body, and soul. No, my hope did not melt away in the summer of accusations; it was not rendered fallow in autumn as the world seemed to fall all around me; nor did it perish in the deep freeze of winter grief. But there is just something about spring that is unmatched in its bounty of hope.

Truly, it’s the bounty of what Christ has offered to me. What He has offered to us all.

 

 

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When I hear his melodic masculine voice, I’m hooked.  Even though I know the buried monster, the echoing goodness entices my heart.  And, hope swells like wild ocean tides.  I’m five again, and my body aches for his love and attention.  My parched little heart desires for so much more from my daddy.  And my soul gulps his feeble offerings.

Sweetheart is what he names me.  Gosh, even at fifty-something I long to receive this name from him.  Yet.  He doesn’t know me.  His engagement is shallow.  He’s come and gone for decades.  So, I wonder, is this a name that appeases an old man’s lingering guilt – nothing to do with me and all about him?  It’s how it feels as he requests, even demands my presence, combined with the lack of effort on his part to reach out.  In the aftermath, I feel nauseous, stirred up, disappointed, exhausted.  I’m left empty by the presumed intimacy in contrast to reality.

He wants more contact.  And yet, offering nothing more.  How much weather can two people talk about?  A part of my heart screams danger, boundaries, protection!  I know better and understand what he is capable of doing to my heart and body.  Each and every day they bear the pain of long ago.  Walk away, from his meager confessions.  If he really loves you why doesn’t he…?

Do I settle for crumbs?  Allow him to continue the facade?  Or, do I carefully give my heart, desires, and truth –  because I have something to offer like no other to his wounded heart?  Is his life worth more agony for me?  He doesn’t owe me anything anymore.  Yet, he has everything to gain.  But, what if I lose the crumbs in the process?

Today I am not willing to hear or seek the answer.   Perhaps another day…

 

 

 

 

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In kindness he had given up his earned upgrade. I felt both gratefulness and guilt as my husband’s long legs sat back in economy. 2017 was a busy, painful, and glorious year. My aching core melted into the first class seat with a deep sigh.

The plan was to bury myself in a book or a movie. No conversations with my row mate. None. I acknowledged the man sitting next to me with a quick smile. We exchanged the socially accepted pleasantries when sitting in such close proximity. And then it was silent.

Yes!

I had no margin for shallow conversation with a stranger.

The flight took off, our lunch was served, and we ate without a word. Things were going according to plan. And I was breathing deeply.

Then it happened. It was me… I felt compelled to ask a question. The conversation that followed was fascinating, rich, and deep. There is one thing I will never forget that he said…

“You know, we are all healing. And someday we will be healed.”

It doesn’t really matter what we talked about. It doesn’t really matter if you know anything about this man or even me. What does matter is that we were two people sharing and acknowledging one another’s stories.

We hear so much about tolerance these days. I no longer believe tolerance will heal or unite any of us. It is the sitting with one another in our stories, embracing differences, and honoring another’s dignity. That is where the healing begins.

 

 

 

 

Enlight329

Instead of tossing and turning, I decided to get up. In the darkness, I could smell the dust and debris. The light revealed floors marked by countless strangers. Their fingerprints and DNA eventually sealed within the walls.

More than Hurricane Harvey – a confluence of change, disruption, and disaster has kept my body running on adrenaline since August. The chaos, trauma, and grief have been overwhelming at times. I’ve felt fragmented – unable to make decisions, foggy, and forgetful; numb – toughened up to disconnect from the reality of loss; and absorbed – at times drank a bit too much wine to reduce the intensity of the impact. I couldn’t buffet the blast much longer.

What the heck was God doing in all this chaos? Where was He? I needed rest.

“And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.” Isaiah 11:10.

Jesus was born into chaos.

Our salvation comes from something small, tender, vulnerable, something hardly noticeable. God, who is the creator of the world comes to us in smallness, weakness, and hiddeness. — Henri Nouwen 

My eyes could only see the bigness of the messes that surrounded me. I was expecting God to hear my cry and show up in impressive ways to convince me and others of His saving power.

When I have no eyes for the small signs of God’s presence… I will always remain tempted to despair. —Henri Nouwen

I had been crying out for rescue – but I was not looking for Him. This small child of Bethlehem, a refugee, unknown preacher, a naked man on a cross, asks for my full attention. His promises came to me not in loud claims or actions, but in the promise of small things. The hope of a bud that blossoms from a root. Something that hardly anyone notices.

And gosh, I almost missed it!

PC: Alyson Hinkie

Light-of-the-World

                       

         

 

 

 

 

Well, that was an awkward conversation.

I walked away with his words spinning in my head.  That old familiar pit rising in my stomach.

Perhaps he just doesn’t know how to talk to you Robyn. 

You know… he is an awkward man.

The pit filled my gut as I ran his words over in my mind.

Awkward, yes, but surely nothing more. 

He just longs for connection.  Nothing wrong with that. 

I plopped down in a chair next to a colleague.

“Robyn, are you okay?”

“I just had the most awkward conversation.”

She listened intently as I repeated the conversation of moments ago.  Her face betrayed a shudder that made my gut begin to burn and swirl.

“Robyn, you were verbally assaulted.”  I watched as the tears formed in her eyes.

Oh no.  This is not happening.  Not here.  Not now. 

My colleague shared more. I heard, but didn’t.

Inside, I fought the truth.  Everything in me wanted to push through this shadow of darkness – go on like nothing had ocurred.  After all, I’ve had far worse happen to me in my lifetime.

Yet, I could not deny the reaction of my body.

What is coming to the world is the Light of the World.  It is Christ. That is the comfort of it.  The challenge of it is that it has not come yet.  Only the hope of it has come, only the longing for it.      ~Fredrick Buechner

Oh, how I long for the beauty and splendor of the One who is to come.  I am a woman desperate for His presence; for His rescue from the darkness within us all.

And…  The Light of the World will liberate us from the dark and all will be made right.  As I wait for His second advent…  may my heart grow to an inner stillness and joy – realizing for whom I wait has already arrived once and speaks in the stillness of my heart.

 

 

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It’s a hot humid summer day in Louisiana. It’s the summer I turned five and I’m with my grandmother running errands. We stop at the drug store to pick up a prescription.

“Look Grandma Sugar she’s white too!” I say this truth boldly and loudly. The woman of whom I speak smiles. She is dressed in her Sunday’s finest on this mid 1960’s day. I like her smile and hat with all the netting on top.

My grandmother grabs my arm telling me to be quiet using my first and middle names. I’m confused about why I am in trouble. Believing she doesn’t understand, I speak my important discovery louder. “No really look, she’s white too!” The black woman looks concerned as I continue. “See Grandma Sugar, look at the palms of her hands and bottoms of her feet!”

The woman smiled. I liked the sparkle in her eyes as I pointed to her hands and the heel revealed by her sling back shoes. I smiled back. I try to walk toward her.

My grandmother having paid for her prescription, promptly pulls me towards the exit rebuking me to be quiet. “Robyn, we don’t say things like that.” She says harshly under her breath. I try to ask why, but she is not stopping or listening to me. The beautiful black woman now looks sad and the sparkle is gone.

Some responses to Charlottesville have been surprise that racism still exists in 2017. Others say they don’t understand the mindset of white supremacists or racists. While still more have called for the eradication of racism.

At first my heart was pulled into all of those responses. Then a different question, a different response, plagued my heart. Am I a racists? “No, not me!” And then I sadly wondered if indeed I might be more than I care to admit. And perhaps aren’t we all – no matter what race.

I lived in California for my late elementary and early junior high years. We went to a church that asked a mixed racial couple to leave our church. The reason? They were unequally yoked. They were a fun couple, I liked them and I was confused. What happened to “red and yellow black and white they are precious in His sight”? I remember crying they would no longer be at our church.

My growing up was plagued with the words that people who were not white were different: white was better, made the rules, smarter, yes – even privileged. I will not share the more offensive things I heard during my growing up years. By some miracle I did not adopt the belief system of my grandparents or my church.

Personally, I’ve had evil things happen to me from all races. Truly I could tell you many stories of harm. I’ve been searching my heart these weeks. And here’s the thing, we live in a broken world. Sadly, this will not be remedied, whether you believe it or not, until Jesus returns. Evil has reign over our world. The truth, evil is no respecter of persons. This does not by any means say we we should not be intentional about changing what ails our world – in the USA, Burundi, Thailand… the whole earth.

The answer? Love your neighbor as your self. Sounds simple, but it’s not. Many of us do not even love ourselves. So, how can we truly love others? We cannot. Only through the grace, mercy , and healing of our stories through what God has provided through His Son Jesus Christ. It starts with a heart change in all of man/womankind.

There will be those of you who read this that will truly hate what I have just written. Much of who people believe about who Jesus is – reflects on error. I believe that breaks Gods heart.

Truly… He is the only way. We cannot love without Him. He is the answer. The only answer. It is what He came for; to heal the broken hearted and set the captives free. All of us!

Red or yellow black and white; they are precious in His sight.

*And yes, brown included!

PC: Bing Images

Hummingbird (archilochus colubris) in Flight over Purple Flowers

My backyard is once again filled with aerial displays and duels.  The garden is abundant with sweet nectar, as well as insects, and the hummingbirds have staked-out their territories.  The guarding is fierce with loud chatter and puffed feathers.  With iridescent flashes, quick soaring assaults are initiated from towering vantage point lookouts.  I laugh.  You’d think food was scarce.

I grew up in a home with a scarcity mindset.  Whether in abundance or shortage, my mother was certain there would never be enough.  To be fair, there was a short time of single motherhood when things were truly tight.  Even after she was re-married, the panic remained.

Her doubts did not cling purely to money and material possessions.  They bled into relationships, talents and her personal worth.  She lived her life as if there would never be adequate resources to go around, yet she refused to receive from others.  Her heart was constantly comparing herself to everyone around her.   She was never enough.  Sadly, I am not sure she has ever found rest.

I do not know what happened to my mother.  She has alluded to deep hurts in her past.  I do know she lost provision through divorce.  Perhaps this catapulted her into a state of insatiable craving and resource guarding.  I may never know.

Of course as a child I did not understand her fear, but I was pulled into its vortex.

I’ve often found my heart flying around like the hummingbird.  I’ve been taught well to guard my resources, my desires, and to go after only what I can make happen myself; that there really is not enough to go around and that God holds out on me. That’s when my heart runs for the trees for cover.

Recently I went to a writer’s conference and was certain after looking around that I was in the wrong place.  Scarcity haunted my thoughts.  What did I have to offer?  Haven’t all the books been written?  What are you doing here when you have no seat at the table?  I started making plans for what I could make happen – a back up that would sabotage my desires.  And I struggled to remember who I was created to be.  I forgot whose I was.  Gradually throughout the cries of my heart to Jesus, I settled back into my skin.

And yes, there is my own story of harm that adds to scarcity: neglect, lack of protection and victimization.  Part of my healing has been to tell the story of how I got to a place of scarcity.   To lament the lack of protection during my childhood years, name accurately neglect and victimization, struggle with God’s goodness, to hear and speak truth, grieve betrayal and ultimately give thanks to a God, who I now believe is truly good (even when I don’t feel it or see it), for His redemption, healing and care for me.  Not a short process.  At times it seemed to take forever to feel even small changes.  And I am still healing and changing.

I smiled as I heard my husband’s account of a tiny hummingbird attacking a cardinal to secure its patrolled territory.  It’s quiet fascinating that hummer’s fight less when food is scarce.  In those times they are able to rest, to give and receive.

I wonder what exists in your life as a place of scarcity.  What sends you scrambling to have only what you can give yourself?  Will you take the risk to cry out and imagine something different – something more – in abundance or lack?  Or will you fly around frantically guarding your resources?

It is my hope to live my life not killing desiring, while being content with what I have been provided – to rest, have hope and to give and receive.

 

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I have spent the last six mornings awakening to the sunrise from four, twelve foot, window panes.  Without fail, each morning it has gently pried my eyes open to watch.  The glow peeking over the hills, dissipating the darkness and reflected on the water has been nothing short of magnificent.

No, there are no pictures.  I lay in bed and fully took in being present to each moment of the morning colors.  Although the hills, landscape and position of the sun never changed, the palette certainly varied.  My heart enjoyed everything from vivid pinks, oranges, to pale peach and golden yellows.  One cloudy day brought the many shades of grey to the morning painting.  While one dawn so brilliant; my heart still aches for more.

My life is a multifaceted array of colors.  There have been dark, light, grey and colorful days.  Although I’ve walked many different paths, the terrain of my story has never changed.  Nor has the source of light.  There would be those who would say to never, ever look back at the black or grey of your life.  To do so, some might even label you as a person stuck in a victim-hood mentality.  And yet, I cannot ignore the call to beauty these spaces hope to bring.  Yes, I have known dark days where I have desperately wanted them to depart and needed the light to come bursting over the horizon.  I also know to forgo looking carefully at these dark or grey days, annuls the glory of the true beauty to be had when the sun breaks.  To risk letting the light shine in dark places – truly, nothing short of courageous.

I no longer fear the dark, because I know the light.  There is always something deeper for me to glean.  Yes, even if I have visited the space before. I often find something oozing that I have tried to hide.  It needs the kind care of truth from me. To ignore it, brings continued death to a part of who I am created to be. Of course, I hold the healing that occurs and bring it forward; for, I am an over comer.  I believe those who try to hide the wounds of the past are sadly the true victims.

Tomorrow will be my last day to lie before these spectacular windows and anticipate the sunrise.  Regardless of the new day’s tint, my hope is to stand and face the color of the new day.