Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Character of Hope



I lay on my right side. The spinning, buzzing of my hyper-manic mind still wreaks havoc in my waking and especially my sleeping. I am curled like a little child, hands under my cheek, eyes on him.

My beloved speaks slow and strong the words of the psalms. I let my eyes close, the honest cries and unbridled faith in the goodness of God wash over me. Everything stills--my spirit, my mind, my body. Sweet sleep like a golden waterfall pours over me.

This blessed rest only lasts a few minutes. But when I awake, I find I have gained something tangible. It's a living thing, though vulnerable, yet real. Fragile yet mine. Vast yet here. Shockingly mundane yet glorious.

It's hope.

Hope is foundational to our very existence. Without it, our spirits die. We have to believe somehow, some way there is something better, greater coming. We have to believe we are more than our tragedies. We have to believe our story is worth a complete and full ending.

Yet hope comes to us tiny and frail. It's life in us is dependent on our thoughts, our words, our actions, our emotions. Hope is vulnerable to the very heart of us, its bearers.

In the mental ward of Szent Imre Kórház hope surprised me. It came after all I had lost, all I had suffered. It came to me naked and tender and asked my quivering soul to believe it was real. It came to reach into my heart and plant its seed. It came with its own hope waiting to be born.
Since those days, I have been looking for hope to bloom. I have been worried that it won't. It is a tenuous blend of strong and weak. How can the vulnerable really rise triumphantly?

In the moments of rest in the mental ward, in those who-am-I, what-am-I, why-am-I days, it was the words of God making this true:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I Peter 1:3-9 (emphasis mine)

These words were soaking into my bones. They met my vulnerability with their own clear strength. They ignited hope. They caused me to rest in their perfection.

And so is the beautiful character of hope. It finds us in the most unlikely of places and offers itself as the thing we most need. It pulls us into things unseen and says promises are real. Hope does not disappoint, especially when this broken world does. 

And if it doesn't bloom when or where or how we plan, it must not be uprooted. Hope has its perfect plan and will make itself known at just the right time and in just the right way.

I have not seen those seeds of my hospital stay bloom. There have been hints, yet what I most desire still lies ahead. And too, this tender shoot keeps rising up strong, urging me forward. 

It is the formidable, the epitome of resilience, the surety of a strong tower, the very truth of God.

Hope. 

Let's lift it up together and maybe we can all learn to trust again. In God. In Jesus. In the Heaven which wants to come to earth. In the audacity which says all of the goodness forming our truest and wildest dreams is real, because we have found it and will not let it go.





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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How to Know Who You Really Are



I stand in front of 500 women. I speak words which sing in my soul. I am filled with overflowing passion as I talk about the elements of story and how God redeems it all.

Less than one month later, I am laying, sedated beyond recognition, in a white-walled mental ward.

How can my story tease me so? How can God stir dreams only to stand idly by while they are crushed? And yet, how can the magnificence of His love break through it all to hold me with tender hands?

When I place my thumb to glide along the ream of my life's pages, there are so many things I would not have written so. But I still bear in deepest of deep the hope which stands firm on the one thing I can't live without. 

For there is a pearl of greatest price. It's the one we sell all to find. And sometimes when we think we are holding onto God, we are holding onto us, our stories. And so in the hardest of ways, this fallen world barrels in and tells us things. For all the pain, we learn in the core of who we are whose we really are.

There is no learning the truth about ourselves without first learning the truth of Him.

He is the altogether lovely One. He is the warmth of embrace in the dark, cold night. He is the One who covers us in his shelter when our stories explode. He is the One reaching in, ever offering life, His life. He is the one giving pieces of His life for our mangled parts until we are all His. He is the One.

And it is here as we come to know who He is, we come to know who we really are. 

I John 4:15-16 says:

 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

We believe in Jesus, the One who gave His life for us. Through Him we learn that God IS love. In turn we come to live in God. We. Come. To. Live. In. God. We become like Him more and more and are perfected. This is the journey of knowing who we really are.

And yet, there is a day when I stand in front of women from many countries and speak my heart, ready to see the redemption of theirs and my story. And that day runs into sleepless days and nights and suddenly I've lost it all (or what I then think is 'all'). Short weeks later I am in the back of a 747 headed to the other side of the ocean. All that took many years to build lies behind me like so much rubble. All my life, who I am, seems to lie empty on the fragile cupped form of a seashell. The tide has drawn it away.

This day comes and goes and who in heaven and earth am I? Can it even be known? How, how do I make sense of a life which holds me captive against my will? How, again, tell me please, do I know who I really am?
 
There is no making sense all smooth and pretty. No

Yet I know that I know that I know in Him, ever still, is the treasure of who I am. I am being known and perfected in the myriad layers of myself. But still are the parts, sometimes like so thick a layer, which are grueling to endure their ripping away. It begs the question 'why must it be so?' 

Some days I don't have an answer. Other times my understanding stretches the span of sky and sea and earth to another world for which I am being made ready. And still other times, I just rest in all knowing arms as I live the in-between.

And so here again, gazing into eyes of love, of perfection, of God, I am found. I have the privilege, often greatest in the pain, to rest in the truth that I reflect His beauty. It is confounding, stilling, gorgeous and compelling. Yet, it is the journey of all true faith in Jesus.

The answers are few when I look at the shattering days before I left Budapest. It is still a great beauty lost to me and my family. I know it was the the ripped, tearing and pulling away of so much that seemed good. 

But who I really am, and who He is, is somehow yet enough. Even an abundance of enough. For I am yet the dreamer who believes what is best is still ahead.

And beloved, held in the unshakable hands of God, is the treasure of who you really are. The iridescence of a pearl, worth everything to find.



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Friday, March 10, 2017

When You Are Torn Apart {Guest Post at SheLoves}



As the sunlight filters its glistening beams across the too-full room in the ICU, I awake. To my right, head bowed, hands bent and clasped, is the psychiatrist who loves Jesus. She lifts her head, smiles and says in a gentle voice, “Good morning, Abigail. I have been praying for you.”

I am in a state hospital in Budapest, Hungary. I have lived in this city the last three years. There are many tubes in me whose purposes I do not know. It is still a mystery why I am in this part of the hospital. Most likely I reacted badly to the load of sedatives shot into my leg my first day here.

No matter. But yes, it matters. The glass has shattered. The shards have pierced. The blood has flowed.

My life will never be the same.

Join me in reading the rest of this dear-to-my-heart piece at SheLoves
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