The Journey Back

Sometimes I really hate writing. More aptly, I hate reading all of the writing that’s constantly churned out by the masses, leaving me so bone tired trying to process and make sense of it all. I mostly blame the internet. With its allure of a listening audience and its ease of publishing, gone seem the days of silently wrestling with God, chewing over a passage of Scripture or a piece of work until, at last, you dislodge the meat, spitting the fat into your napkin.

I often lament that thinking is a thing of the past, toppled by the ever-present god of doing. We toil and try and if something fails, well, we must pick ourselves up and immediately try again. But what of thoughtfulness? Of patience? Of wisdom and her bed-fellow prudence? Everyone is so ready to share – what they’re doing, what they’re reading, what they’re eating, what they’re feeling.

The voices online shout louder and louder, and it becomes increasingly difficult to determine what is for me, as recommendations about every facet of our lives come at us rapid-fire from every corner of the internet. It’s not even just blatant, “do this and read that” messages. Instead, we are instantly served up a plethora of human existence to scroll through. Being such social creatures, in moments of despair and dissatisfaction, we can’t help but to wonder where we’ve gotten our own lives so wrong.


Two years ago exactly, I stopped blogging. I struggled mightily with trying to tie-up loose ends in my writing which the Lord had yet to bind in real life. I felt convicted by this dissonance and remain increasingly wary of sharing what the Lord continues to sift.

In swathing the banner of vulnerability over the blogosphere, I worry we smoothed away the culpability for duplicity or oversharing. Even just the simple question of should I share this gets overpowered by the urge to produce something, anything to show for all the life we’ve been living. And if I’m honest, it is so much easier to consume the work being wrought in a fellow sister’s life as a spectator than it is to sit quietly under the Word myself.

But sit we must, and sit I did for two long years. Words, which used to come with such ease, stretching into sentences and paragraphs, slowed and then stopped altogether. Yet, in those months of silence, I began to sorely miss this outlet. This space, which gave me a place to process and dream, was something of a friend to me.

I debated starting a new blog but returning here felt right, like coming home after a long time away. Here, I will retrain myself in the art and discipline of regular writing. My hope is to produce words of value, words that don’t simply spoon-feed watery milk, but incite an insatiable hunger for solid food. If you’d like to follow along, you are most welcome.


May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

This Past Year, a Lament

It’s funny really. The way life works out. Sometimes we get just what we asked for. Other times, we get what we deserve. And sometimes, we’re completely blown away by the unexpected.

In the past year, I’d imagine you faced situations that fall into any of these buckets as well. Life happening, more quickly with the passing of each and every day.

As this year draws to a close, I feel her songs still unfurling within my soul, stirring up lamenting and rejoicing in equal measure. After all, can we truly rejoice without lamenting?

This past year introduced fresh losses. A bitter cup at times. But with loss, these dreams expired, relationships released, there is also room. Room for growth and change. So as I spend time grieving the losses of this year, I must also let go and forgive all the hurt I’ve carried in my heart.

Traveling lightly into this new year requires letting go of resentment. To those who have hurt me this year, to myself in my own sins and disappointment, I choose forgiveness. And in this release, the hold on my heart is slowly eased as well.

Wings once clipped are healing, ready to stretch and take on the bright blue sky of opportunity. And in this expanse of grace-filled freedom, I rejoice over the bounty of God’s goodness to me. Each lung-filling breath exhaled in melodious gratitude.

In the giving
In the taking away
In the sun and the rain
You love me everlasting
Even in my ungratefulness
Rescuing me
Breathing new life into my soul
Adding flesh and fortifying my weary bones

And no matter what the coming year may bring, I stand here, content in the right now, unafraid and ready. For I know God, my guide, means good for me.

Homesick

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The Oregon winter is truly something to behold. Magic at play in the forest, freshly-washed and shrouded in fog, each branch cloaked and dripping bright green. A cloudy day parts to reveal the majestic face of the mountain reflecting the last few rays of the day off her snowcap.

I take far less pictures. They don’t even come close.

Some days the difference is so striking. Others, it feels like we’ve just swapped houses.

The status quo a car ride, traveling smoothly. My eye catches a street sign: Ely Street. Little reminders of home coming as small, unexpected blows.

Being away isn’t much trouble at all. Not unless you think about how far, how seemingly impossible home has become.

“But I left home too,” the Voice whispers, “For you, for them, for love.” 

And in this forest world so alien to me, this tide of homesickness binds me to my Savior. And though I may not fully count it joy, I refuse to settle for mere existence.

There’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior” (Philippians 3:20, MSG).

Again, our weary world waits. Pangs of longing thrum deep within the heart of the earth. Advent then, advent now.

Here in this homesick, rain-soaked place, I live, I love, I wait.

Christmas

Just two weeks left until Christmas. Race and rush and wrap and stuff.

So many people chime in with what Christmas is about. I’m positively drowning in the cacophony of what Christmas is and what Christmas isn’t. What we should and why we mustn’t tied with a bow, pleasing all, offending none.

Christmas is about Jesus. But what about those who do not know Him?

Christmas is about family. But what about the orphaned and the abandoned, the slave, the refugee?

Christmas is about giving. But what about those with nothing left?

Christmas is about joy. But what about the grieving among us?

Christmas is about cooking and baking and eating. But what about those who are not invited to the table?

 

This will be our first Christmas away from our families. No big celebrations, no large meals, just the four of us. And in this pared down simplicity, Christmas will still come. Because Christmas is more than a date on a calendar, a winter break. Christmas cannot be contained in the largest gathering or drowned out in a tide of grief.

Christmas is about redemption. Ever, always, and only. 

For those whose homes are filled with family and friends, joy and laughter ringing in the halls, Christmas is about redemption. May we never forget our need for a redeemer. 

For those who cry alone in the dark, “This can’t be all there is,” Christmas is about redemption. May we seek out the margins and shine, for darkness cannot survive the light.

For those outside, simply waiting for an invitation, Christmas is about redemption. May we open wide the door in welcome, remembering we too were once outsiders. 

Redemption is messy work. There are no guarantees of safety. There is no return on investment. There is always a price to be paid. After all, what is the cost of a life? Of our own humanity?

And into this chaos, this raging cacophony of knowledge and noise, Christmas will indeed come, quietly, seemingly unnoticed, under a star-sprinkled sky.

May we remember to go outside and simply look up.

He Is

I am Alex.

I am a wife. A mother. A daughter. A sister.

Beloved.

I am a writer. A teacher. A dreamer.

I am a poet.

A fierce heart and an unbreakable spirit.

I am a reader.

Living wildly in my head.

I am me.

 

The Eternal One to Moses: I AM WHO I AM. This is what you should tell the people of Israel: “I AM has sent me to rescue you.” Exodus 3:14

How I define myself also relates to how I define God. I box Him in and confine Him with my labels.

But God cannot be defined. Will not be confined. He is the breaker of shackles, the destroyer of chains.

Not even death stood a chance. Against Him.

He is.

There is no name, but His. No other name under heaven. He is the bringer of rescue, wearing my deliverance as a priestly robe.

He is compassion. And mercy.

He is slow to anger.

Abundant in loyal love and truth.

He is forgiveness. And justice.

He is matchless.

Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams.

And His name?

His name? His name we’ll know in many ways—
    He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing,
    Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

And He is coming.

Coming back.

He is.

 

Rest

We woke up late again today. I was really excited about moving to the west coast for what I hoped was (finally!) an answer to my lack of early bird worms. The time change should work all that out.

But late nights don’t lend themselves to early mornings, no matter the time zone. Each day begins further behind. Gun missed, the race to catch-up has been underway for hours. I make coffee.

Accepting rest as ultimately flawed, I push on. I drink more coffee.

In these feeble attempts at wholeness, I am getting so tired of trying to fix the broken. In me. In others. In the world. So tired.

What is wrong with me? With us?

After all, what is late? Days, full and complete. School and work and meals and exercise, all checked. Rest and work and joy in equal measure.

I fear for us as people when our yardsticks of success are demarcated in busyness. Each score a real and visceral notch of exhaustion. We feel it in our bones. The drink of progress a brimming cup of blood and sweat and tears. Bottoms up. And we wonder why we’re so empty.

 

9am comes with the stirring of my beautiful oldest. When did she get so tall? So grown up? I glimpse the baby she was in her not quite awake face. I blink. She returns my smile, this lovely girl-woman.

Each new day greeted with joy. So much joy. I know teenagers are supposed to be moody and all, but giving her space to rest her growing body has been just what she needs.

This, I think, another reason to love homeschooling. We empower our children to declare and satisfy their own needs. For learning, for love, for rest.

 

And amidst trying to catch up I stop. I sit. And I catch my breath. For in this space of rest, peace dwells.

I Do Yoga

I do yoga. It used to be just another thing that I was moderately “good” at. And I wanted to be better. I wanted to handstand. For my Instagram. Because what’s the point of doing anything if you can’t do it well?

But now I do yoga because it’s good for me.

When it comes to life, there is mind, there is body, and there is spirit. But when we talk about ourselves and our hopes and dreams, trials and triumphs, we leave everything up to our brains and our hearts.

Yet so much of life is physical, carnal. And our physicality does not make us sinful. Our sin makes us sinful. My physical body remains part of who I am while I walk this earth. I can’t fully appreciate life and living if I’m not fully accepting of the physicality of being alive, read: my body.

Breath in, breath out.

The heady sweet musk of the forest after the rain. Heart pounding in my ears on the hike up. Her small hand in mine. A quiet I love you whispered in the dark. All just as much part of my life as my thoughts, my feelings.

And in my physical body, there are limitations. Since when did limits become bad? My knees don’t like running and my shoulders don’t like handstands anymore. This does not require pushing through, but listening. To MY body.

I am an anorexic. Even in recovery, anorexia loves to spin her lies. And after years of punishments and pain and carrots over cake, I am finally learning to listen to the voice of truth.

Because perfection does not exist. At my most fit, I was also miserable. Sore and tired and so stinkin’ hangry. There was always going to be someone smaller, faster, better, stronger. Nothing I did was enough; it would never be enough.

But as my eldest loves to inform me, “We’re all world record holders once. When we’re born. Because at that moment (and that moment only) you’re the youngest person on earth.” And since she knows pretty much everything, it’s clear my ship has sailed.

Which is why I love yoga. Because yoga is a journey of appreciation for my physical body as the house for my beautiful soul. No one sucks at yoga, because what is unlovely and unworthy about another’s soul? The effort it takes to be present and accept yourself at any given moment, rejoicing in our made in God’s image-ness. Not only did God breathe the breath of life into humans, giving us spirit, but we were formed. He gave us physicality, bodies.

And it is my charge to feed and move and appreciate the body I’ve been given.

In this body, I have sang loudly and laughed really hard and eaten lots of pizza and drank too much wine. I have danced with my favorite people, walked on mountains, and swam in oceans. I have carried and delivered two precious and uniquely beautiful human beings. I have tasted and seen and heard and felt and lived and loved well. All in this body. My body.

The physical, although temporary, is real. And in this time I have, I plan to use everything He gave me, mind, body, and spirit.

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him. Psalm 34:8