Letting Go

The night is close, like an embrace. Yes, my old friend, the island, rises up around me and welcomes me home. But it’s as if I never left. Nahant, roots woven deep into my heart. I walk down the sloping street, past the faces of beach houses familiar even in shadow, breathing sweet hydrangea and the salt of the sea, and I am nineteen again. I wonder if I have found The One, flutters in my stomach. I have not yet dreamed Rosé’s name. Prince Edward Island is a faraway dream obscured by the horizon’s cityscape. I glimpse black water glittering between the houses, and waves hush against sand, growing louder, fading, now rushing, drawing me closer—and then I am here. Before me, the pale shore gives way to the sea. I cry like I haven’t cried in a long time. 

Because the truth is I am not nineteen anymore. I moved on from this island to another. I did not find The One here, but there. And yet, for a few moments, here beneath the stars crowning this bewitching crescent in the Atlantic, I really am living it all again. I can smell and see and feel it. But I cannot hold on to it. Memory and reality tear my heart in two. I am bleeding. 

It is the following morning. Nahant is soaked in light, just as on that first morning when I wandered my way to the sea and inhaled the world and God flooded down into me as He never had before. I became a woman on this island. It was here that I finally, truly, came to believe that I am good and beautiful. All was extraordinary, because God showed Himself to me whenever, wherever, He could. I could not doubt His love. Today, I stand gazing at the wrinkled water with a baby perched on my hip. The future is not so unknown and thrilling as it was back then, but I resent its stillness no more than I do the sea’s. Who knows what may lie awaiting me in the deep. 

I carry Rosé into the streets I came to love five years ago. We explore together. My baby’s warmth and the sun’s fire slowly, gently, fuse the pieces of my heart back together. 

I have not often experienced pain like I did the night I returned to Nahant. I don’t cry often either. God must have broken my heart because He knew it was the only way I‘d be able to let go. Because the heart that heals is stronger than ever, and tears cleanse. 

Five years later, I am free to love this place without clinging. 

And free to more fully love my present home. I am married to a man whom I love, and mother to a daughter who has already blessed countless people with her remarkable eyes and smile, and I don’t live on an island of any sort anymore but in a little house beside a farmer’s field. And I may not feel God like I did when I was nineteen, but He is still inside me, blessing me. I am still living life abundantly. 

My heart will keep on singing. 

Pulsating Embers

An ache lives within me. It is like pulsating embers trying to catch fire. At times, my heart is searing with agony, but I am terrified to let the ache dissipate and fill my chest with nothing more than ash. 

But how could I? Once you have felt fire, you cannot forsake its heat.

I try to feed the ache, rather than douse it, despite the pain. Yes, it does grow ruddy and bright when beautiful images illumine my mind and my fingers burn to write. It flares when I pause to behold the grass that grows green with the rain and withers with the drought. Or when I look into the denim-blue eyes of my child and see only adoration. When I am lying in my husband’s arms and listening to his heartbeat. And sparks rain toward Heaven when I behold all I own and remember that one day it will be dust, as will my body.

I ache to live like the immortal that I am. 

Nothing will remain but love. I want only to breathe and write and snuggle and kiss and laugh for love. All to feed the ache, to build the fire that will one day rage and consume me. When I ignore the ache, when I dart through shadows and grasp after the cool, faltering light of fireflies, soon enough I feel the world shifting beneath my feet as if it is already dust. And then I weep, because though eternity stretches before me, I have lost time that can never be restored. 

But if I am careful, if I do not wallow and risk drowning in my misery, these tears do not dampen but rather strengthen the ache. 

Is this the very ache that enabled Joan of Arc to surrender herself to the flaming stake? Or the ache that inspired Francis to strip naked in Assisi? Or propelled Patrick to return to the island of his captivity and offer salvation to Druids?

If so, I tremble before the ache, knowing where it could take me even now, trapped within my mortality. 

My Compass

For a moment, the fog thins, and I glimpse the Island. And I realize I haven’t been off course after all. My heart is true to North. 

Often, I feel as if the compass needle is spinning out of control, testing every direction other than North. But I cannot deny my heart. It yearns for North, for Home, for the Island where my soul was crafted from the clay. Even if I drift, the needle eventually finds its mark again. Even if I am not certain I truly am heading Home, I can only trust my heart and forge on through the waves and the storms and the fog. 

At one time, the horizon was ever clear, never blackened by thunderheads, my ship never rocked by waves swelling from deep in the sea. The Island was a luminescent green crescent resting where the sky meets the water. I never doubted my heart, because I could see without a doubt that I was sailing North. I could not see the Captain standing next to me, but I could feel Him, spurring me forward. 

Today, not only can I not see Him, I rarely feel His presence. And if ever I do—only for the briefest moment—I wonder if it’s really Him, or merely the hallucinations of one who has been alone too long at sea. I fear to hear voices that do not belong to Him and find myself plunging into the depths after sirens. 

The day is often as dark as the night. I grope the beautiful but empty fog that’s swallowed my ship. When storms descend, I find myself careening, battered about by my own weaknesses and fears, struggling not to drown even before I plummet and penetrate the sea. Somehow, though, I never do tumble overboard, as if an unseen hand always pulls me back at the last moment. I am left shaking and cold and exhausted, but I am still alive. Ever alive. I dare to wonder why. Unable to see the light, never mind the Island, I can only cling to the memory that, at one time, I knew where I was and where I am going and why I am going. Yes, I knew I am not sailing without purpose. 

I am not a shell without cargo. I carry the treasure of my love. 

Sometimes, when I am so cold I can barely feel my fingers and toes, I crawl down into the hold and open my weathered wooden chest and gaze at the gold glittering within. I wonder if it’s fool’s gold. I wonder if it’s worth this harrowing journey into darkness. 

But I will only know its worth at the end of my journey. After it has passed through all the perils of my weaknesses and fears, only then will I know its strength. And so, inevitably I find myself crawling back up from the hold to grasp the wheel and peer ahead. Because my compass tells me that if I do not give up now, I will reach my destination. And I’ll know the fight to preserve my love was not for nothing. 

After all, if I let go and lose my love to the bottom of the sea, what is there to live for, let alone suffer for? I thank God that, despite my afflictions, I have not lost my desire to sacrifice everything for love.

The Captain once told me that even when it seems He is not with me, He is indeed, even as He is on the Island and in the sea and in the waters of the sky. If I but embrace all, even the apparent void, I am embracing Him. And so I trust that, even as my compass leads me Home, somehow my love is already safe in Him. 

Not a Gamble

Just beyond the barbed wire and the craggy trees that fringe our home, layer upon layer of honeyed fields (like sweet baklava) roll away into the unfettered sky. I can already see our children worming their way under the fence to dart across the hollow and disappear into the untamed copse. Who knows what rusty treasures will be found among the brambles, what forts will be fashioned from branches. 

How blessed we are—that my desire to live in the country should be wed to my husband’s calling to teach: God found us a house on the brink of this prairie town, a mere walk away from Nick’s college, yet cradled to the bosom of a farmer’s field. We’ve space for a garden, for a small orchard, for a fire pit around which laughter and stories can be shared beneath starlight. And trees enough for a hammock and a swing, for hideaways and sun-dappled tea parties. We may even be able to sneak a few chickens into the back corner. Possibly a goat. At least a cat. 

Here, I can breathe. I can also walk down the street to a friend’s house or the church where Christ is ever waiting. We may have discovered the best of both worlds. 

When we left Prince Edward Island, we had no clue what God had in store for us. We only knew that moving west was the one option that brought us both peace and joy. Day by day, God is confirming that our decision wasn’t merely a gamble or a spontaneous adventure—it was a leap of trust, which He is rewarding abundantly. Looking over my shoulder, I am beginning to see a path emerge from the seemingly random stepping stones that continue to appear ahead. Unexpected this path may be, but not meaningless. Every time we take a deep breath and step forward onto the next stone, the last one suddenly makes a little more sense—and we are encouraged to continue embracing God’s will, whatever may come.

Today, what I see before me are trees inked on faded blue parchment, a black cat with green eyes stealing across the grass, finches in the dirt, snowflakes teasing the spring—and I know God called us into the unknown to give us a home.

Go With the Flow

If Love is a wellspring within me, I need only go with the flow. Indeed, if Love has swept me away, I cannot help but live in harmony with Him; no need to check every word or deed before I speak or do. 

And yet, sharp rocks in my heart disrupt the flow, creating the little waterfalls over which I plunge. Perhaps I will always suffer from these rocks, these faults of mine, and my way to Heaven will ever be tumultuous. But perhaps not. Perhaps one day I will look behind me and see only tranquil water. Perhaps I will discover that the weaker I was, the stronger Love was, wearing those rocks away to nothing. 

But I need only focus on the way ahead, my destination, which I will reach only if I learn not to fight the current, to be docile to the movements of Love in my life. If I surrender myself to Love and let Him sweep me away, I will one day find myself immersed in Him. Letting go, I will let Him in. And only when I am flooded with Love can I share Him with the world, my heart overflowing. I need not fear drowning in Love, for this drowning is the gateway not to death but to eternal life.

Even as Christians are called to be signs of contradiction, so too are we called to go with the flow. 

Good Things Roam Free

Every now and then, my heart is crushed with yearning for a misty heath and sheep to tend and soda bread bronzed from a wood stove. I desire to hear the wind rustling through untamed grass, a cowbell echoing from the heart of a wooded dell, a collie barking in a farmyard—not the ding of a text message, the buzz of the fridge, the rumble of a truck. 

But freedom is not a dream or an idealized fantasy.

Freedom is opening my hands to the sky and receiving whatever God desires to give me.

I feel my heart thrill when the wild horse graces the horizon, dares to wander near. I do not seize a rope or an enticement of oats; I stand at the window and behold. And when the horse snorts and bursts into a gallop toward places I cannot follow, I remain where I am and thank God for His gift—fleeting or otherwise.  

Freedom is also letting go, because good things roam free. And must remain so, lest in the capturing the goodness is broken. 

As I am called to accept life as it comes, so too am I called to accept God as He comes—in fire-bright consolation or in deep-dark desolation. I should not cling to those times when He seemed to be breathing in my ear; I should not reject His hallowed stillness enfolding me now. If I look behind to what was, I am grasping and shredding mere memories, even as I brush aside the Presence in the present moment. If I peer ahead to what may be, I live for a mirage. 

Rather, I gaze up at the pristine blue sky and offer my gratitude to God: whether He leads me through emerald heights or rugged canyons, I have Him. And if I remain open to His will, palms up, goodness will ever be present in my life, and I will ever be free.

Anyone Can Drift

I picture myself in the early morning, when the most devoted fishermen rise and take to the water, floating in my blue-and-white boat, the sail bound tight, because the wind is extinct. I am alone. And the net I have cast is hanging limp beneath the green surface of the mire, because Christ is not beside me. 

Anyone can drift. Continue reading

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It’s a sobering question, one I have long been grappling with.Continue reading

Lost at the Fairground

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A Beautiful Province

How blessed is my life. And how strange. Here I again find myself living in the small town where I was once a teenager pedaling about on Mr. Buntwell (my vintage tricycle)—only now I am married, pushing my six-month-old baby in a stroller. We’ve wandered down every street by this point, Rosé and I, searching for hidden treasure (quaint houses for sale, or a grotto amid evergreen). She likes to ride leaning forward, clutching the tray, ready to take on the world.Continue reading