tucked away

I might have been about ten years old.  I don’t remember the details of the day I hatched a delightful plan to create my own little “hideout” in the back of the bedroom closet I shared with my sister.  It was a 3-foot x 3-foot storage area on a raised platform above the stairwell below.  So, the clearance might have been a mere 4 feet.

Without asking permission, I began tossing out the stored items that filled that space.  I am sure I created quite a mess in the bedroom – one that I, alone, would have the responsibility to rectify once discovered!  When the space was cleared, I surprised myself with the stubborn determination and strength to haul our wooden play table and chair up into my new hideout, snake an extension cord from the bedroom outlet, and rummage around to find a small lamp to offer a little light.

It is crazy to think that in that tiny, dark space, with NO natural light (my absolutely non-negotiable “must have” for any home or workspace now!), I couldn’t have been happier!  I felt like Thomas Jefferson in the Independence film we had seen a hundred times at the Visitor’s Center in Old Philadelphia – alone in his little row home, secretly writing something bold and daring and yet critically important, by the light of a single candle.

Who knows what wild scenarios I dreamt up to play out in my own little bubble that afternoon.  But I distinctly remember deciding that whatever I wrote in that private space also needed to be written backwards!  Like the words on the front of an ambulance that can only be deciphered with the help of a mirror.  I painstakingly wrote page upon page, all backwards, thinking it would be more difficult for anyone to discover what I was up to.

I was tucked away, in a hideout of my own making, envisioned and created just for me.  It was quiet and uninterrupted.  I felt protected and excited about whatever new ideas would emerge from that time in my own little bubble.

I haven’t thought about that day in decades.  But the ideas presented in my new favorite book, Unseen by Sara Hagerty, took me back to my kid-sized bunker!

IMG_0983

In Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to be Noticed, Sara begins on the flip side of my hideout story, when feeling tucked away, unnoticed, unvalued, misunderstood, or disregarded isn’t so comfortable or desirable.  With raw and vulnerable honesty, she shares personal stories of the times those unseen moments were particularly painful – until … she realized there was One pair of eyes that always saw her.  She discovered that those Eyes were tender and kind, that the One who not only noticed her in those unseen places, intentionally drew her to them.  In secret moments with the Lord, she could begin to ask more important questions than “what do others think of me?”  She began to ask her Creator and Savior, “what do You think of me?  When You see me, especially when no one else does, what do You see?”

In that private dialogue, her love for the One who sees her grew!  Her love for His Words, His heart, and her curiosity to know more about this One who loves her so intimately blossomed into a new hunger.  She began to crave hiddenness and the treasures He would give to her in that place.  She couldn’t wait to uncover more of the unseen things about the Lord, the glimpses into His heart that were hidden in plain sight in His Word.  And she learned to adore Him with those Words, pray those Words, claim those promises.  She learned “the weight of prayer in God’s unseen world” and she made a priority to spend more time talking to Him than investing in any other endeavor.

I used to think that a book was “good” when I couldn’t put it down.  Now I understand a whole new level of “good” when I NEED to put Unseen down so I can process and pray!  Packed with Scripture and bathed in humble, honest prayer, Sara’s raw and vulnerable accounts are captivating and transformative.

I need time to process every time she presents God’s truth that flips the script I have been following.  The secret place she has found with the Lord displays a beauty and depth of an eternal reality I long to know more fully too!  How thrilling to be seen by my Creator, to be drawn aside into my own private space with Him, to be given eyes to see and know the unseen parts of who He is that enable me to see myself in His light, and to look outward from that place with fresh perspective that is otherworldly – His!

Through her words and her passionate heart for others to find this best kept secret, Sara has taken me by the hand and led me faithfully to Him. And in those moments of new understanding, I find myself in a new posture before the Lord, with new language on my lips (often His Words offered back to Him!), and a new longing that daily sounds like this: “What do YOU see, Lord?  Show me YOUR heart for this person, this situation, this new love of just spending time, just me… with YOU.”

It touches me deeply to realize that the Lord, Himself, has been drawing me to this place for a long time.  When I started this blog a year and a half ago, He placed these words on my heart:

“In the cover of His Presence He hides those who trust in Him.” 

Psalm 31:19-20

As I have wrestled thoughts and questions and discoveries into words ever since, my growing desire is to share moments when I am “awed by His Person, steadied by His truth, wrapped in His love!”  Like Mary at Jesus’ feet, I want to linger with Him, learn from Him, and be directed only by Him.

When I was ten years old, I longed for my very own “tucked away” place.  How much sweeter to realize that is exactly what my Savior delights to give me – only better.  He hides me within His very presence.  He has envisioned and created a safe and protected place – just for me!  He welcomes me to enjoy uninterrupted time to learn and grow, to heal and to be renewed – by Him.  As I search His Word, He opens my eyes to find new treasures.  His Spirit holds up the “mirror” so I can read words that seemed backwards to me before! – so I can be lost in the joy and wonder and security of who He is!

“Your life is safe in the care of the LORD your GOD, secure in His treasure pouch.”  I Samuel 25:29

“Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  Luke 2:19

Don’t we all long to be known in this way?  Tucked away in a secret place reserved just for us?  Protected and molded by the Creator and Redeemer and Lover of our souls?

To my readers, I say: don’t take my word for it.  (I believe Sara would say the same!)  Start your own journey to (or back to) a secret place with the Lord, just you… with Him!

[If you think Unseen will help you find your way, it is published by Zondervan and is available (starting TODAY!!) at local book stores and through online distributors.]

As Sara says, “Read it slowly – take your time.”  Our Savior was never in a hurry.  The Father’s plans are exact and eternal and what He longs for you to learn about Him is worth lessons that are slow enough to savor.  Place it all at the Savior’s feet, let Him guide you through the work He wants to do in your heart.

It is unique.  It is personal.  It is sacred.

It is just you… with Him.

Tucked away.

tucked away 5

Read more here:    Psalm 27:8-9 – Psalm 40:16-17 – Psalm 139 – Isaiah 43:1 – Jeremiah 31:3 – Hosea 2:14 – Matthew 11:28-30 – Mark 6:31-44 – Luke 10:42

Advertisements

day unto day

A little bit of honest right here… these early school mornings are dark and my body is slow to adjust.  I drag myself back from the bus stop longing for my pillow but the day marches on without mercy.  The things that didn’t quite pan out the way we thought they might for this new year weigh heavier as the lack of sleep mounts.

But GOD.

He is so faithful to wrap a tender arm around my shoulder and draw me away from it all to my open Bible on the table by the window where the sunrise is just starting to light up the day.  He says “come to Me… come feed on My Words… come aside and rest… trust Me for this day, this year… you never take a step through any of it alone… I am with you… I will help you.”

IMG_0450

This summer was the first that I put words to a struggle I have every year.  The school year with two teenagers (and coinciding bible study year for me with BSF) is full-throttle, played out in staccato – prayers lifted, provisions granted, new lessons, new questions, God moving and working in astounding ways.  And we give praise!!!

And then…. It all comes to a screeching halt.  As much as I love the significantly slower pace and NO alarm clock, all of a sudden I feel like I am in uncharted waters, in a ship with no rudder… and no mates!  Isolated.  Disconnected.  Aimless.  It’s like a morning of thick fog after an evening of dazzling fireworks.  It is deeply beautiful in its own way, I just have to strain harder to see it.

I am more comfortable “doing” than “being,” especially being still.  But I knew this “come aside time” with my Savior over the summer was crucial.  So I prayed to be comfortable being uncomfortable and to trust His perfect work in this place that sometimes felt like a barren desert to me.

Over the past few months, I have become more comfortable!  A sink into a cozy chair with a great Book in the quiet of lazy summer days kind of comfortable.  An embracing of those empty spaces so I can be still enough to hear the Lord speak to my heart kind of comfortable.  A growing confidence in “if I don’t know or don’t understand, just ASK HIM” kind of comfortable.  I have filled another journal with scriptures that have suddenly popped off the page with new meaning.  New thoughts, new questions, new answers.

I began to LOVE those days when the house was quiet until mid-morning and I could linger in that familiar spot by the window.  Just me and Him.  Just the rising sun, His Word, my thoughts, prayers… and new moments of understanding.

Summer is now behind us.  School is back in full swing.  And the pains of transition are taking me by storm.  As much as I needed to adjust to summer’s stillness, I now find myself struggling the shift gears again!

But that is the beauty of this summer.  It has an afterglow!  I am still drawn to those quiet times at the table by the window – with Him.  I now know I cannot live without them.  I crave them.  My days may be packed, but I now understand that I can’t tackle any of it well unless I carve out that time with Him as often as possible.

Time to slow down.  Time to be still.  Time to treasure “being” over “doing.”

For He is faithful.  Day unto day He meets me right where I am.  Day unto day there are new Words from Him to speak truth into my busy or quiet hours.  Day unto day He longs for me to pour out my heart to Him and ask Him to fill in any gaps.

When I don’t know or understand, when I am in need – I am learning to ASK.

When I tune my eyes and ears to see all He is doing – I am pausing to GIVE PRAISE.

When I don’t quite see what He’s doing but can trust His hand moving behind the scenes – I stop to THANK HIM.

When I experience something new about who He is and how His presence steadies my heart, I simply SIT IN AWE of my Savior – and hunger for more!

“Day unto day utters speech; night unto night shows knowledge.”  Psalm 19:2

As sure as the sun rises each day to greet me at the table by the window, I am reminded of my Creator and His desire for our time together – just me, with Him.

“The heavens declare the glory of God.”  Psalm 19:1

“My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me,”

and my heart responds, “I am coming, Lord,””  Psalm 27:8

day unto day

“O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning.

Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but You. 

Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord, each morning I bring my requests to You and wait expectantly.

Because of Your unfailing love, I can enter Your house and worship with deepest awe. 

Lead me in the right path, O Lord… make Your path, Your way plain for me to follow.”

Psalm 5:1-3, 7-8

 

Read more here – Matthew 11:28 – Jeremiah 15:16 – Deuteronomy 31:6,8 – Isaiah 41:10,13

 

just paddle

“So, is this your favorite part of vacation?” my daughter asked from the front of our tandem kayak.  Without even turning around to see my face she said, “I can feel you smiling!  And I’m guessing you’ll have one of these things on your wish list now.  Am I right?!”

Yep.  She was right!  As I have said many times over many years – any boat on any water and I’m a happy camper!  So, the chance to invite my daughter to share my happy place – in a kayak, gliding across a beautiful lake, on a perfect summer day in the mid-West – made my heart sing!  We chatted as we lazily paddled our way around a quiet cove.  It was so peaceful and relaxing.

 

And then… the wind picked up!

Our gentle paddling wasn’t getting us very far and with a hint of panic, my daughter asked, “what do we do now?!”

“Well, my love, this is when we put a little more muscle into those strokes, use some core strength!”  I encouraged.  I didn’t have to ask twice.  She surprised me with strength and determination I hadn’t seen before.  “Where have you been for the past 20 minutes?!” I teased.  “Looks like we’re cruising now!”

Only we had one small problem.  In her zealousness, my daughter wasn’t just paddling, she was trying to steer from the front of the kayak and over-compensating from lack of experience (this was her first time with a paddle in her hand!).

My own words grabbed my attention the minute they left my mouth, “Baby, don’t try to steer.  Just paddle!  If we both try to steer we’ll probably work against each other – and I’m spending more time correcting the steering than actually making forward progress.  So just let me do the steering and you just paddle, ok?”

Hmmm.  Another humbling moment in parenting!  I immediately felt a check in my heart:  how often might the Lord be saying the same thing to me?!  “Don’t try to steer.  Just follow Me.  Just be diligent as I direct you.  When you try to steer, you may very well be working against Me.  If you get too far off course, I may need to step in to correct and redirect.  And that may be more complicated than I ever intended.  So just let Me do the steering and you just follow My lead, ok?”

Wow.  What a gentle way for the Lord to use one of my favorite days on vacation, and such a simple joy with my daughter to help me see His heart.

He leads.  I follow.

When I employ the strength and determination He provides to respond to the direction He gives, I will be amazed by how much He accomplishes!  I can trust Him to steer me safely to shore, no matter how the winds might gust and swirl!

He will lead me

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.  Psalm 32:8

 I am the LORD your God who leads you in the way you should go.  Isaiah 48:17

~ ~ ~

I have a Shepherd, One I love so well;

How He has blessed me tongue can never tell;

On the cross He suffered, shed His blood and died,

That I might ever in His love abide.

 

Following JESUS, ever day by day,

Nothing can harm me when He leads the way;

Darkness or sunshine, whate’er befall,

JESUS, the Shepherd, is my All in All.

 

When I would wander from the path astray,

Then He will draw me back into the way;

Goodness and mercy follow on my track,

With such a Shepherd nothing can I lack.

 

When labor’s ended and the journey done,

Then He will lead me safely to my home;

There I shall dwell in rapture sure and sweet,

With all the loved ones gathered round His feet.

– Leonard Weaver, 19th century –

a stronger pull

It was just past 7 am when I slid behind the wheel to spell my husband who would be driving most of our trek home.  Already a few hours into our trip, we still had a long day stretching ahead of us – a full 18 hours from the Pennsylvania hills to our south FL home.

The sun was up but we still hadn’t seen it.  Honestly thankful for some cloud cover while driving through 90 degree heat, I was also thankful for a low-hung, misty morning.  The envelope of cloud and drizzle seemed to hide me away as I wrestled a fresh round of bittersweet emotions.

The fog began to lift, giving a sneak peak of the stunning valleys as we cut our way through the mountains.  I could see the higher peaks, standing tall and majestic in my rear view mirror.  In the early morning light they were the softest shade of lavender.  With a car full of sleepers, I treasured this solitary moment to soak it all in as long as possible!  I glanced toward the broadening expanse of sky in front of me and took a deep breath.

“Lord, You know my heart.  You know how it breaks every time those northern hills are the ones we are leaving behind.  But I open my hands to You, I open my heart to Your designs, I lift my eyes to the skies and ask for one more reminder that Your thoughts are so much bigger than mine!  Help me reach again for Your hand to lead us to the place You have for us.”

This is not a new ache.  Just 12 hours before we lifted our voices in a wood and stone building in the middle of the woods to sing the opening hymn for an evening service of the family conference we had enjoyed for a week.  I swallowed hard and tried to sing through the tears … and ended up only mouthing the words:

 “Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blessed,

finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.”

– Frances R. Havergal, 1876 –

His promises are true and faithful!  They are!  But sometimes, we NEED to be stayed by Him, because it is hard!  In that moment, the tears welled up and the lump in my throat grew as I remembered a similar moment a decade ago.  We were days from leaving Pennsylvania, my home for 37 years, to move to Savannah, GA.  I stood with dear friends to sing the opening hymn of our Bible Study Fellowship class.  It was the last one I would attend in that place with those dear friends.  I swallowed hard and tried to sing through the tears, but only mouthed the words:

“what He says we will do, where He sends we will go…

trust and obey, for there’s no other way

to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

– John H. Sammis, 1887 –

If I had know the years (years!) we would spend far from the only home I had ever known, I might have held on a little longer before we pulled out of town on that February day over a decade ago.   To this day, this far along in that God-ordained journey, I fight those tears and that mega-lump in my throat.  BUT really… I can’t help but smile too! … that deep down smile of the grateful and blessed!  What a gift to have treasured faces and places that I still ache for after so many years!

The story I’m living is that we had a stronger tug on our heart 10 years ago and all the years since… to follow our Savior wherever He leads us.  His best IS best even when it breaks my heart and loss is real.  I would choose all over again to love deep (deeply enough to really feel those losses)… and to follow Him into the scary and unknown and often lonely… again and again.  For He is faithful… always!!  And His purposes are exact and eternal!

He also knows my heart.  So on that morning, driving south again with the northern hills behind me, He was so tender.  I sensed His nearness, reassuring me.  And when we crossed the border into Florida another 12 hours later, I caught sight of the setting sun dancing off the St. Mary’s River in all its resplendence.  I couldn’t help but smile again.  He knows what will grab my attention, what will bring me a fresh wave of joy.  It was beautiful!  He is beautiful!  And the place He has for us is beautiful too! 

I thanked Him for the extravagant gift of being able to travel back to the northern hills that have such a pull on my heart, for the two weeks we have spent there three summers in a row, for the treasured times soaking in all of those favorite faces and places!  And despite the lump in my throat, I genuinely thanked Him for leading us so faithfully, and for seeing us safely home to the space He has carved out for us here – 1100 miles from those northern hills!  There may be loss, but there is so much more to gain when we choose Him.  When we follow Him, when we offer more of ourselves to Him in love and trust, He gives us more of Himself!  And that gift – more of Him – is beyond priceless!

May my Savior hold the strongest pull on my heart – always!

stronger pull

Jesus said, Come, follow Me!  Matthew 4:19

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him.  Psalm 37:23

Blessed are those who hold His testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart. Psalm 119:2

For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My loving kindness will not be removed from you.  My covenant of peace will not be shaken, says the Lord who has compassion on you.  Isaiah 54:10

~

Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,

Over all victorious, in its bright increase;

Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,

Perfect, yet it growth deeper all the way.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blessed,

Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

 

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,

Never foe can follow, never traitor stand,

Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,

Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

 

Every joy or trial falleth from above,

Traced upon our dial by the Son of Love;

We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;

They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

– Frances R. Havergal, 1876 –

~

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,

What a glory He sheds on our way!

While we do His good will, He abides with us still,

And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way

To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

 

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,

But His smile quickly drives it away;

Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,

Can abide while we trust and obey.

 

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,

But our toil He does richly repay;

Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,

But is blessed if we trust and obey.

 

But we never can prove the delights of His love

Until all on the altar we lay;

For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,

Are for those who will trust and obey.

 

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,

Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;

What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;

Never fear, only trust and obey.

– John H. Sammis, 1887 –