Coming Home

Your words are like coming home.

 

Each line, like a gate enveloping a warm butter yellow house, latch loose and swinging open easily to walk the path up to the painted wood porch that awaits me.

Meaning blooms from the page of Your persistency, fragrant violets and azaleas assailing my senses as the roots You plant in me strike deeply in the soil.

“I will not give you up.” Each letter delves into the fervency of Your declaration.

“You are Mine.” Each syllable strikes through the thunderstorms raining down on me, seeking to drown as I reach for You.

I was a vagabond. Dust-drenched and dry, cracking in a stagnant stubbornness. My own wandering quickly caught me in a trap of thistles. The more I shook to escape my discomfort, the tighter all the thorns stretched around me. I was becoming a wilting vine in a weary plot of land.

But You saw my snare and leapt to pull me from my folly. Tearing apart the weeds wrapped upon my soul, You snatched me from the thicket and brought me to a garden of refreshment, wrapped along a porch filled with laughter and dazzling sunlight, and wide, welcoming arms.

I reveled in the attention and listened to the winds whisper my arrival. How eagerly they swept in to see me, how languidly they lingered and let Your breath wash them through my stains.

This is a retreat and revival I have never known. This is the front porch peace I’ve always dreamed yet never seen. And You are the bright burning streak of light that glistens in the twilight. Your smile stretches across the covered caverns of my heart, filling the void with color and scent central to my prayer. You drift along my memory like a lilac and rose scented sky.

I am here. I am happy. I am closer to the clouds than I have ever known. Wrapped in a blanket of bliss, I serenely stare at the waltzing world, laughing and dancing and waving to me in shared revelry. And as You shift into the seat beside me, I turn to take in Your vibrant eyes and find the space my heart has forever longed for.

 

With Me

You are with me.

I am in silence, in a silky black realm of reality that reaches with needy fingers for my soul. A heaviness presses against my chest, squeezing out my air of expectancy. Who am I to fight this battle, to strike out with soft palms and slap at translucent taunts that laugh when I come up empty?

I squint my eyes to see movement, any sign that I am not alone with this confusion, but my vision is muddied and outlines carve my sight. In the blur, I am begging for breakthrough.

With faltering feet, I wander deeper into my shaded hope and uncertainty prickles my skin. I am surrounded by a ripping feeling that something stirs beneath the earth.

You tell me that You are here with me, tightly tucked to my side. My hand moves to feel You but I grasp at air. Just a fistful of particles that slip between the slivers of my nails. The sky gives no light, no assurance that when I place one foot in front of the other, I will walk with stable support beneath me. You see me standing, see me claw my way through the caverns of this mystery I have tied myself to. I am looking for answers and instead find silence. I reach my voice across the slipping sounds of night, praying they do not tangle with the pleas and prayers of every other enchantment inhabiting this blue space beyond my rational mind.

You are the One who first told me to open my eyes, to dream wide awake and decipher the stars. You brushed my heart with belief and curved my course to Your sails. Walk with Me, You whispered into my ear. Talk with Me and let Me teach you how to come alive.

So I soared into starlight, colored the cosmos with Your hues and floated in fantasy. I walked through waterfalls and slept in beds of beauty untouched by mere mortal magic. You spun me golden blankets of grace; I slept peacefully in their warmth and woke with Your breath in my lungs. Somewhere along my revelry I slipped from Your strength and weakened my will with a course of my own.

Navigate me. I am directionless in this circle of solitude. You say You are here with me, have always been beneath my heart, the key to my unsteady compass. Show me. Inhabit the wind and whisper the way to my craving soul so I will feel the brush of Your mouth on my face, ruby ribbons rushing through this damp and diminishing maze of my mind.

You are with me. Deliberately cupping my heart and leading it to the dawn of dreams once again. My hands may not be able to touch You, but my soul speaks in upturned secrets that spill out from the overwhelming presence of Your map unfolding in my memory.

 

We Said We’d Never Speak of It

We said we’d never speak of it.

How we’d never let our hearts out of their cages. How you couldn’t look at me, half smile upon your lips, and let me lose myself in your eyes.

How I’d never greet you at your door in the middle of a moonless night because I couldn’t bear to be so bold and ask to bathe in your light.

We said we’d always keep it tucked away in some airtight space, nestled between memory and dreams. I promised you that I would be a brave girl, that when someone asked, no matter how recent or distant, that I would pinch my tears and remember in a detached sort of way.

“Cage the heart,” you said. Because a caged bird couldn’t be shot down. Because it could not soar it could not plummet. And being one who listens, I wrapped us tightly in the creases of my mind so we couldn’t see the sun and yearn to fly.

 

 

 

What You Give

I don’t want the world.
I want You.

I want Your goodness, Your light, Your innocence, Your mercy. I want You streaming through my bloodlines, tucked into the snuggest corners of my heart. I want Your voice, a string of satin stars in my bleak and searching sky. I want Your patience helping me up every time I fall and Your strength lifting me when I am weak.

Each day I am surrounded by darkness and discomfort. I crave all that is You, all that You are and all that You’ll ever be. I don’t want what the world wants. I want to be different. I want to stand alone, if alone means bringing You to my side. I am no one, but You stoop down to my level to raise me up and whisper that I am someone, that I am Yours. If there is any way I can bring joy to You, I want to find it and offer it up in my meager, mud-caked hands. Because I have been in the dirt and buried in shame, but You’ve covered my grime with grace.

I don’t want what the world longs for, all the excess, all the glitter and brash brightness that gives pleasure and satisfaction for the moment. I want something that lasts. That will bring me life and satisfaction in my soul. I don’t want what the world gives. I want what You give.

I don’t want to break Your heart. I want to be better. Want to be better for You, to bleed myself of selfish ambition and preservation and lose my life in Your love. I want my ears to perk up at Your calling and my feet to swiftly carry me to the arms of the brokenhearted. When You knock upon my door, I want to warmly welcome You into my heart, into my home. And I want You to take me in Your embrace and fill me with all that is sweet and simple. I want to know You, to intimately and everlastingly know how You live and how You love, what breaks You and binds me to You. All I’m longing for is in Your presence. I am reaching for Your hand, to entwine Your fingers of forgiveness with my hands of hurt and be transformed.

All this life claims to offer cannot, and will not, compare to all You so generously give, for in Your peace I am perfected.

 

As You Give

 

 

Life, Rearranged

I will never know how life arranges itself. I can give up attempting to rope up its wildness, give up trying to run my mind through the unknowns to grab hold of the smallest tangible reality I can stretch to make sense. I open one door; God blows me through another. I step one way; He sets me somewhere else. It’s a constant chess match I’m not meant to win. I’m not even supposed to rearrange the pieces.

The more I strain my brain to take control of the uncontrollable, I wrack my heart and tie it up in greater knots than sailors can structure. Where has this crazy, audacious spirit come from? Certainly not the timid girl who slid her feet across tiles to make sure I marked the right way. But when my heart is shoved into upheaval and I am swimming in the deepest of ends, survival instinct says fight instead of the Spirit that says sink. Sink into the mysterious. Into the One who is invisible. Into the realization that my life, my heart, look nothing like I once had imagined. And to open wide my arms and see how I can float once I find the source that buoys me in this abyss.

Losing my own understanding slunk like a thief inside me and stole away with my rational. It will never be missed. I’ve seen how terribly wrong I’ve gotten this whole guessing of my story, the twists and turns that sprung and I began to deduct where they went. I must be so amusing to the spectators of Heaven, who see me stumble over my own stubbornness.

In the balance of freefall, just before the winds of surrender sweep through, my spirit thrashes against giving up wanting to know how the patterns of my days align. But when I come to the end of myself and collapse against the strain, I am set free.

I’ll keep holding on by letting go. My grasp was cutting off the blood flow, too tight, slowly and unknowingly killing me. The One who knit me together designed me for life, unexpected and full like sudden rain showers.

Let my heart break on its own accord. Let the mystery that is this tremulous life throb in prayer, bloom to faith. May I never wash away the wonder from my pores, push the pride in front of prostrated soul. All I have is the light illuminating my footsteps, glow that grows my world into all I cannot fathom. I breathe, for once relaxing in losing control and leaving space inside to still.

Let It Go

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.   -1 Peter 5:7

I take up my pen and begin relaying my thoughts onto paper. I talk about trust, how I have more ease of life knowing God is taking care of the how. I begin to describe how God is teaching me this week, for the pressing thoughts continually on my mind. Prayer. Petition. Bringing my requests before the great and powerful Oz of the universe who sits on His heavenly throne and rules with authority.

But I am timid. I am weak and I am fearful. I doubt. Myself, the plans God has for me, even the gifts He has given me. I wonder if I’m doing anything with my life that aligns with His will.

I let the fear fester inside, corroding my heart and blocking off the air canals that guide me to God. Soon, I am so consumed with this confusion I am ashamed to even come before Him. Why would He still listen to me? Hear my prayers? My cries seem to carry across a barren sky and dissolve into the night.

Still I write, trying to somehow break through the surface. I try to not bother Him and begin to think of ways to solve my worries on my own. I wonder whether or not the decisions I make today will mark tomorrow. I can fix things, I assure myself. I can do this on my own.

But I can’t. In my decision to fight my own battles my life caves in. The ceiling presses down, I reach for the exit door and find there is no handle. I am trapped, a hostage in my maze of an unknown future, and the more I struggle to break the bonds of baggage upon me, the tighter the hold. My shoulders are frail. I need ones that are stronger.

Meek, all energy drained, I dare to decode my confusion at God’s feet. I stumble before Him, face buried in humiliation as I realize that while I have been doubting my abilities and the haze that appears on my path, I have also doubted God, because He gave me these desires and attributes. I am His daughter, created in His image. And if I think it is impossible to climb out of the muck I’ve stepped in, then I do not fully comprehend the immensity of my God. For when I am weak, He is at His strongest. His shoulders are solid, His mark always on target. And through my utter despair, it is at my lowest point where He can take charge and show that ALL things are possible through Him, because He is incomprehensible in power and love.

When we try to take matters into our own hands, we lunge into the ocean and expect to keep in the shallows. We swim, bob, dog paddle in our own currents until we reach the middle of the sea and find no land in sight. Legs pumping, heart crashing, our bodies tread water, killing time but getting nowhere. Soon, the more we struggle, the more we are swallowed into the abyss.

Until we release the fears and insecurities that keep us weighed down, we slowly sink to the bottom. We whisper in the waters, “Father, I cannot do this on my own,” and He gives strength to our weary limbs, tosses a life vest out to our eager arms. And, with gentle, guiding hands, He lifts us to His side and charts our perfect course.

 

Into The Fire

 

It is a leap of faith
to step into the fire.
Whether or not
God keeps you from singeing,
you place your cards down
on the table and expect Him
to pull the upper hand.
You do not know
how fast the flames may rise,
how eager they will be
to taste your skin,
but no sense is stronger than
sight of the Refiner’s fire,
shaving off your stubborn edges
and smoothing your certainty
into an image that mirrors
His own.

 

Serving in His Backyard

The Kingdom of Heaven often turns everything upside down, and Robbie Smitskamp’s life is no exception.

Robbie has run around the world hoping to escape a broken past that stuck to him in his hometown of Emmeloord, the Netherlands. But through an altering encounter with Jesus and a short-term service trip with OM, the road would lead him back home. He wouldn’t have it any other way than God’s.

Born to a Turkish Muslim mother and Dutch Jehovah’s Witness father, Robbie never quite felt he fit in to either side. His parents split when he was four years old, and he didn’t see much of his father. While raised with a more atheist mindset, Robbie’s mother still instilled a secular Islam into the family, with verses from the Qur’an sewn on pillows and other items around the house.

Amidst further family struggles, he eventually went to live with his father. The relationship was rocky as a young Robbie continued to struggle with his identity, unable to embrace his roots.

As a teenager, he started staying out late with friends, breaking into cars and drinking, and other kinds of trouble. His life quickly began to unravel.

“I started praying to Allah, but Allah never came to me,” Robbie said, noticing the actions of his Muslim friends showed no real-life change and disinterested him.

One day, his father noticed Robbie cooking and suggested he be a chef. Robbie saw this as a way out of the tailspin he was headed and dove into the culinary world.

Robbie worked his way up through the rankings of the hospitality industry, into fine dining, and eventually wound up at a top-end Michelin star education. He was on a reality chef’s competition television show and found work at a 2-Star Michelin restaurant. A good job in the capital city of the Netherlands, a girlfriend, and access to top parties–for the outside world, it looked like Robbie was living the dream. But inside churned an emptiness that wouldn’t go away. He had reached the peak but wasn’t happy.

He spent his mid-twenties living from rave to rave, and when an opportunity to move to Australia presented itself, Robbie went, hoping the environment would change him.

However, he soon found himself in the same lifestyle as before: an endless cycle of drugs, girls, work, and an inability to forgive his father for past relationship fissures. Robbie fell into a heavy depression full of anxiety and exhaustion, and tried a Buddhist meditation to calm himself.

On a day in January 2016, Robbie met a lady at an outdoor techno festival and sensed something soothing about her. After sharing about his struggles, the woman asked to pray for him and invited him to a house group of Jesus followers. While visiting this group a month later, Robbie closed his eyes and had a vision of a man in white robes with a face like the sun.

**Read the rest of the article I wrote about the great work going on in the Netherlands over at OM Stories!

The Sunrise of My Sleeping Heart

My heart hovered over the abyss, gray swirled shadows swathed without form. It longed for light, for love. It waited over time, over hope, over time and again of disappointment and no arrival. Like before creation, my heart hovered over unformed waters, waiting.

Then, a spark of light, a warmth of welcome rising from the depths. One pierce of orange, dusted yellow, dance of blue creasing the edge of the horizon. Your eyes, clear and gentle, alive with love and assurance of a safe place. My heart began to recognize yours, and they began to fit together, align themselves in the sky of an unknown future becoming visible.

You, the sunrise of my sleeping heart, awakening me to dream, to believe in hope, and accept the terrifying and wonderful gift of love. God knit our hearts, helped mend what was broken, and brought glorious color to the skyline of a new life that dawned when you dropped to one knee asked to be mine. //

**

The Story:

February 7, 2020 was full of snow and blue skies. I was already on Washington Island for a solitary writing retreat, and Eric caught the 9:30 AM ferry to join me for the weekend. Around four in the afternoon, we needed to get out for fresh air. Winter on the island doesn’t afford as many opportunities to explore outside for long stretches of time, and we contemplated the options.

It was Eric who spoke up first. “Want to go to the observation tower?” We had climbed the tower back in October, and he had carved our initials into the wood. This was a special place for us, and he wanted to do a bit more clean up work on the initials, so we took the dipping roads to Mountain Road. It looked a little different in February than October, as it took two tries to get the car through the unplowed snow, and then there was the trek up the steep staircase layered with snow and ice. Both of us were on a mission to see this idea through, and the view at the top was worth it, with a span of the island, sun dipped below the trees in the west, and reflective light illuminating the lake.

Eric seemed a bit disappointed that the sun wasn’t over the water, but I reminded him that I had told him the tower faced northeast, not west.

He contemplated it for a while before asking, “Would you like to come back tomorrow morning and catch the sunrise up here?”

I laughed. Get up early in the morning, come back out in the cold, and all before I had my coffee? I declined with an emphatic, “NO.”

He considered the answer with a shrug of his shoulders. “Alright. In that case…”

I turned to see him bend to one knee, look up, and as the sun continued to descend down the trees, I rested my hands on his shoulders, ready for what I’ve been waiting for for nearly thirty-five years. He had one more question. “Sarah Rennicke, will you marry me?”

This one I quickly said yes to, and I wrapped him in a hug. The wind whipped cold around our faces, but the air felt invigorating, with the leading light of pastel colors in the sky, bright moon already making its appearance in the evening, and my favorite person with me in my favorite place, asking me to live life with him for the rest of our days.

 

**Happy one-year anniversary of our engagement, Eric. You have brought such light to my once shadowed heart.

 

**

Continuing my attempt at the Five Minute Friday weekly writing challenge. Five minutes to write on the assigned topic. Raw and unedited. (Yikes!) This week’s topic: Sunrise.   // symbolizes where five minutes started and/or stopped.

Life Comes After

Life comes after death.

I am tired of shedding these skins, these layers. I am tired of dying in seasons.

But then, the ground awakes, breaks forth the green shoot of seed that’s been quietly incubating in the patient soil of my soul.

Oh God, open my eyes, my heart.

You are here and with me. In death. In life. In the silent in-between.

Life. My life grows inside me. A new skin, a new heart. A new way of knowing, of being. Abundance, in full.

My lips smile, incredulous. I am softly determined to let it grow, tend it well, and give it sun.