‘the sun is still there… even if clouds drift over it. once you have experienced the reality of sunshine you may weep, but you will never feel ice about your heart again.’
elizabeth goudge, the white witch
so it is tuesday. specifically, tuesday of week nine at thomas edison state college. which means that i have just four more weeks of insanity and this will all be over…or, more accurately, i will be set to take the month of june off, and then take one more course through brigham young university in july, and then it will all be Over, at which point i will apply for graduation, which will, if accepted, occur in december, and then it will all be Over, Well and Truly.
but for now, my calendar is four weeks long. just four weeks.
and i have so many plans for when these four weeks are over: pursuing piano and publication, refinishing furniture, experimenting in the kitchen, running a 10k, accomplishing some much-needed sewing projects, sitting on the beach with nothing but waves and sand on my mind, catching up on so much correspondence, maybe finding a job, working on my flip flop tan, maybe throwing a little camping or travel in the mix…
but for now, my calendar is four weeks long. there are times when i am pumped for them and times when i just don’t know if i’m going to make it through them and most times, i find myself quoting we’re going on a bear hunt to myself: ‘we can’t go under it, we can’t go over it, oh, no, we’ve got to go through it!’
and so, while this quiet place stays even quieter than normal for another few weeks, i will be living on tea, chocolate, and grooveshark. i will be studying and writing and fitting in runs (‘training’ for a rather colorful 5k in a few weeks) and phone calls and baby squishes in between. i will be feeling thankful when i see 100s on my liberal arts capstone course (mini bachelor’s ‘thesis’) and frustrated when i see…well, i won’t mention the grades from the african encounters course. i will be counting down days with ever-increasing anxiety. and most of all, i will be feeling oh, so thankful for Strength that is not limited by my weakness.
‘hold on steady and strong
here’s the dawn coming on, it won’t be long
oh, it’s easy to stand in the light with pain
in the light i will ever remain…’
kate rusby.fare thee well
i never used to think of myself as a beach girl. i always loved the mountains, the scent of the trees, the cool shadow of dark forest, the thinness of mountain air. i didn’t quite get the point of the beach. ‘oh, look, it’s the same ocean we always see when we come. and look, there’s sand, just like there was last time. and hey, guess what? it smells like dead sea lion because there’s a carcass that washed up on the beach.’
but over the past few months, that perspective has changed. i still love and long for mountains. but the ocean has this draw for me that it never did before. something about its infinitude, the scent of the wind. the vastness of the sky. the stretches of sand and rock.
everything seems so clear there, my heart, my mind…my perspective.
maybe that is what pulls my heart there: the perspective. several sundays ago, i ignored the perpetual stacks of homework for the afternoon and went with my family out to goat rock state park for my sister’s birthday. as much as i love to run in the sand, that day i was too worn out to do more than go for a long ramble down the beach with my sister. but the best part of the day was stretching out in the sand, propping my chin on my arms, and just gazing. at nothing. at everything. thinking of nothing and thinking of everything. just being.
i was eye-level with the sand curving in front of me: endless numbers of tiny, wave-scarred rocks, each broken and blunted and beautiful in the unique color and shape given to it by the relentless waves. if i lifted my eyes, ever so slightly, i could see the waves bounding up the beach, curling over the sand, shattering into millions of liquid shards on the rocks. and if i lifted them further, the sky–silver, gold, light, music. it was then that i decided that i wanted to live there.
not at the beach itself, but at that place of perspective.
because life hurts sometimes. the kind of hurt that there are no words for. the kind that takes you by surprise, like a shove in the back. the kind that pulls tears from eyes that were laughing a moment before. the kind of pain that comes of being broken and blunted by the relentless love of God, a love too entirely perfect to leave one single wave unwashed if that wave is what it takes to make me like His Son.‘i thought it was full but it was halfway to the top love is an ocean trying to fill this tiny cup under bright sun and stars we crash into the sand and all that i knew i’m having to learn again…’
it is so easy for me to concentrate on the details of life. the things that, from an eternal perspective, are as insignificant as a grain of sand. my focus becomes fixed on the sand in front of my eyes, on memorials of pain and hurt and brokenness. and i forget to lift my eyes that short distance to see the ocean of sovereign, divine love that provides that pain. because God does not delight in seeing His children suffer, but He does delight in using circumstances–even difficult, painful circumstances–to refine us, to carve us into a more perfect image of the Savior who bought us. that is the love that nailed Him to the cross and paid the debt of all sin that i carried. that is the love that assures me that what i experience is not His wrath but His tender and relentless hand. that is the love that, for some reason, despite its proof, is so easy for me not to see.‘well, Your love is over it’s underneath it’s inside it’s in between… I’ll never forsake you My love never ends it never ends…’
tenth avenue north.times
and if i could just raise my eyes just a little bit, i might see the vastness of God’s glory above it all. the glory that He can wring out of any circumstances, out of any hurt or confusion or chaos. out of missing people so badly that it actually physically hurts. out of the tears that come to my eyes when i’m driving alone in the car. out of the re-emergence of health problems i thought were taken care of. out of anything, He can and does orchestrate it to my ultimate good, and His ultimate glory.
so that i want, more than anything, to live here in the shelter of this ocean. all of this was so far from my mind when i first titled this blog, but now more than ever it seems appropriate: scribbling in the sand. this is what i want. this is life. scribbling about the glories of God, the ocean of His love, in the details of life. all of them. the broken. the blunted. because it is only when we view them in the context of the ocean and sky that those grains of sand appear most beautiful.
so this is what i want. to live constantly and joyfully in sight of the love and the glory of God. to look at each grain of sand in search of the beauty wrought in it by the waves. and to use my life as a reflection of that love and glory and beauty. to write the glories of the ocean and sky in the sand.‘so i lay down what i cannot hold in my hands every sorrow and hope spinning out of control that we might find sweet resolution that comes of letting go. we will find Shelter here.’
this has been a hard week. working odd days and hours, studying in spare hours, staying up late, getting up early (sometimes), getting sick and the cold sores that go hand in hand, stressing out about fast-approaching deadlines and not enough time…
on monday i was feeling especially worn. worried i might be coming down with a cold. headache-y. stressed. mostly just tired and incoherent. the weather didn’t help…normally i like cloudy days, but the day just kept getting darker and darker and it was so dreary and i was so tired and i felt like i couldn’t see, like something kept blocking my vision.
finally packed up my things to drive home from work, hungry, tired, definitely sick by this point, dreading an evening of study because i just wanted to crash when i got home.
and God heaped grace on me.
speeding down the road (too fast probably, because i wanted to get home so badly), i glanced out my window. and there was the most glorious sunset i think i’ve ever seen. beautiful beyond belief. the clouds that had made the day so dark lit up in smoky golden swaths of light, and in the very heart of it all glowed the sun, too bright to look at directly but strong and pulsing with light. and this is going to sound silly, but…i cried. sobbed. while merging onto the freeway. because i had felt so miserable and tired and it was like God decided to tip His hand toward me, to show me in some real and tangible way His glory, which i have no reason to distrust but so often do anyway. like He knew that even though i have the assurance of my dead and risen Savior that my God loves me and is sovereign over all things in my life, it’s easy to be blinded. He knows that the clouds look so dark, make things so dim, so hard to see…and so, sometimes, in a moment of light, His glory illuminates them and the result is beauty far beyond that of a cloudless sky. like the sad notes in music that are the most poignant. so that in a way, i think my weeping was not just the result of a long day and the end of my emotional rope, but because i was in awe of the grace of God. He doesn’t need to give me those glimpses of light. He would have every right to expect me to remember the proof He has already given, to look ahead to the glory to come. but in His tender condescension, sometimes, He tips His hand, lets us see just a glimpse of the final beauty to come, whispers to us, ‘I still Am.’
so often i let my heart cloud over, let circumstances distort my vision, dim my eyes…and yet those difficult periods of time, those clouds — those are the very times that display God’s glory most powerfully. without them His glory would be complete, yes, and beautiful like the sun on a blue day. but the clouds give that beauty dimension so that it becomes more…real. understandable. knowable. touchable. and because of that, we see it more clearly. not only that, but the next gray day, and the next and the next, the memory of that brilliance stays with us so that we can say, the sun is not gone, it is only behind the clouds…and the purpose of all this darkness is a Light far beyond that i could ever dream of.
tuesday night, driving to bible study with my siblings, this song came on the radio, and once again, i found myself in tears.
‘i know i need to lift my eyes up, but i’m too weak and life just won’t let up…and i know that You can give me rest, so i cry out with all that i have left: let me see redemption win, let me know the struggle ends, that You can mend a heart that’s frail and torn. i want to know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life and all that’s dead inside can be reborn…because i’m worn, and my prayers are wearing thin. i’m worn even before the day begins. i’m worn, i’ve lost my will to fight. i’m worn, so heaven, come and flood my eyes…’
i feel worn. and i know where my eyes need to be but the ugly truth is that i can’t put them there on my own. i’m too weak. and this is where redemption comes in — because God delights in taking ugly truths and turning them into something beautiful. i can’t keep my eyes on the cross by my own strength…so He puts them there for me. floods my eyes with light when i have forgotten what it looks like…even the very next night after He has shown me yet again.
so tonight, as i frantically study for a final for which i feel singularly unprepared (with a mix of tenth avenue north, sara groves, audrey assad, and indelible grace in the background)…i’m very much in awe of the goodness of God. His glory. His condescension. His patience. His mercy.
i am worn…and He is good. and that is all.