a place

the last battle is, in my opinion, the darkest and simultaneously the most beautiful of all the narnia books.

i am always in despair with tirian and jewel as they watch the ape deceive the poor talking beasts until they are tied up in knots, utterly confused about what is True. i weep with them over the talking horses shot by the disillusioned dwarves.  i weep with them over all that was beautiful and good in narnia being twisted and darkened.

equally, i am in raptures with lucy and the narnians ‘in the stable’ as they race over the familiar slopes now bursting with more beauty than they could have ever imagined.  i want to shout as they recognize the places they’ve loved, now made utterly new.  i want to dance as the two delights of nostalgia and novelty collide in warm, sparkling, green-and-golden glory.

and my heart aches with the intensity of their joy… because one day, it will be my joy.

 

‘i can feel it in the middle of the rain, in the warmth of a fire
i
can feel it when my heart starts to break, i was born to desire
where i’m from…’

 

i have a hunch that what sharpened the sweetness of aslan’s land for the narnians was that it was familiar.  all the old places they loved and relished and made their own from lantern waste to the sunny slopes near archenland were there, but more.  they were deeper and lovelier and more real.  the narnians had fallen in love with the copy, and now they were confronted with the real thing.  lewis describes it ‘as if every blade of grass meant more….’

(interesting: if they hadn’t paid attention to things like blades of grass, would their delight at finding each one more real be as sharp? annie dillard: look up. see what’s around you.)

you have residence in a place.  i reside in a place.  northern california, to be more specific.  but do we live here? do we know the smell of each season? what color is a september day here?  what tiny, magical thing do we subconsciously look forward to each february just because the pattern of seeing it yearly is etched into our beings?

some of us are travelers, in a season of roaming, yet desiring that one day we will have a place on earth.  or perhaps some of us are like abraham and God has called us out of a place we loved to a different place, and we are in a season of newness, of making this fresh place our own.  either way,  i hope that you have a place.  i hope that you live deeply and fully and well in it, drinking it in, ‘rubbing your nose in the very quiddity of it’.

and i hope that one day, you will come to a Place where the things you have known and loved so long on earth—the beauty—is there, but is deeper and lovelier and more real.  and you will know this new Place is everything that your place on earth should have been but couldn’t.  and you will have all the feelings of having come home, but this time for real.

An Experiment in Wonder (Or, How to Be Awed by a Magical World)

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If you don’t think the world is magical

or that God doesn’t spin whimsy things,

try buttoning your coat

and traipsing out into heel-deep snow

when somewhere behind stacks of clouds

the sun is almost gone.

 

Make sure the sky is spilling flakes.

Forget gloves,

forget a cap.

If you stomp around enough the blood inside you

will run its course and heat your bones

till you forget the air’s bite.

 

Try to hold your hot breath.

Listen to the silence of the storm.

Clouds are bellowing beauty and all you hear

is your heart under your coat.

 

Let the flakes seep into your hair

and be sure to lick up the ones on your chin.

While you’re at it, scoop up a handful

in your bare hand until it stings.

Watch them melt into you, then drip down your wrist

and back to the earth.

 

Suck in long and deep

so your lungs go frosty.

See how the gumballs hang in dusted clumps off the oak

and how the streetlamp’s glow

silhouettes them.

 

Don’t let Narnia get lost on you.

Breathe it up and call it what it is:

Whimsical.

Magical.

God-breathed.

 

“This is lovely,” said Lucy to herself. It was cool and fresh; delicious smells were floating everywhere. Somewhere close by she heard the twitter of a nightingale beginning to sing, then stopping, then beginning again. It was a little lighter ahead. She went toward the light and came to a place where there were fewer trees, and whole patches of moonlight, but the moonlight and the shadows so mixed that you could hardly be sure where anything was or what it was. At the same moment the nightingale, satisfied at last with his tuning up, burst into full song.”

C. S. Lewis – Prince Caspian

 

 

yesterday

i stopped singing. only to have ears filled with other’s songs. tim was behind me singing unusually high. lashonda was up front with the mic. the mic she didn’t even need. i’m so glad God plants lungs like that in people. bob’s hands were aimed in the direction of his praise. the same direction in which the words raced from his mouth a minute ago. the empty seat by deb was filled; it felt so right.

but it wasn’t the sweetness of the sounds and sights alone which pricked my tear ducts. it was the truth we shared. the truth we spoke to ourself and to each other. mouths which usually balk in embarrassment to speak such truth, now unleash. such a beautiful courage can be born in the mere three-and-a-half minutes of a song.

i knew their stories. the speed bumps, bends, and guardrails of last year’s road. hard, long roads. but here we were. all our roads led to this destination. this sunday service. to put beauty to voice and not only fill the gables above us with decibels but our gaping soul-ears with truth.

the tears kept me from looking, my throat-lump kept me from singing, but nothing could keep my ears from drinking every drop of sweetness.

behold Him there, the risen Lamb
my perfect, spotless righteousness
the great unchangeable I AM
the King of glory and of grace
one with Himself, i cannot die
my soul is purchased by His blood
my life is hid with Christ on high
with Christ my Savior and my God

 

 

thoughts on a hard day working at the hospital

yesterday was hard

more exactly, it was awfully horrific

does it ever get easier, seeing a person much too young, unable to breathe on her own, preparing to give her body so that others may live on?

why her?

“it just shouldn’t be like this” the nurses say

“i don’t want to live in a world where things like this happen”

she has babies at home

she’s young enough to be my sister, only 2 years older than me

does she have to be the one to die?

the doctor speaks to her parents in the hallway

her mother’s anguished cries fill my ears

i can’t shut it out

this is too hard

maybe i don’t want to do this anymore

i don’t think i’m cut out for this job

the needs are too many, the grief too near, the pain too deep, death too close

…..

there’s two ways i can think about it

one option to say, “this is too hard, i want to go home, someone else has to take care of them today, why do i have to be the one to do this”

the other choice to think, “i get to be the one”

the one to hold their hand when the sedation starts to wear off, and they are so frightened

the one to feed him one small bite at a time when his arms can no longer do it himself

the one to reassure her when she is so confused and doesn’t know where she is

the one to bathe him, one last time before his suffering finally ends

the one to be near when the pain is unimaginable

is this a burden or a privilege?

there is beauty in this place

can i see it?

do i choose to look for it?

in the faces of the people

in the way God works in every little situation

in the way love is shown

sometimes in joy, sometimes in sorrow

beauty is there

can i see it?

give me grace, Lord.

it is more than i can handle on my own

is there an end to this sickness and disease?

one day this world will be mended

the great ending of pain, suffering, fear that i see so clearly every time i enter this place

may i serve them well, and look forward to that day more and more

may my hands be a channel for your mercy and compassion

may i show kindness in a way that shows your love for them

give me grace today, Lord.

the faces of the day ~ 12.30.19

i owe them both twenty-six dollars

and a smoothie and a coffee.

i’m glad we got to the door

simultaneously.

“hey, your wallet!”

in harmonious emergency

they squawked.

i followed the invisible laser

traced from their

pointed fingers to

a lonely, opened wallet,

recently freed from

my pocket.

in gratitude i confiscated

the convict at large.

thankful for a

strangers concern.

 

~

out of place. far from home.

you read it with out words.

their clothes do the

talking for them.

and so do the children.

“when do we fly

back to seattle?”

all makes sense.

safe travels.

 

~

she took my order.

crazy how my face is nothing

more than an order

of soup, bread, and

a mug of coffee.

she doesn’t even know anything

about the soul behind the

chicken noodle.

but i don’t

pretend to know her’s either.

i didn’t even read

her name tag. but she was

patient. And wore a smile.

those are easier

to remember

than names.

 

~

i can’t even see their faces

from my seat. but

i still know

they’re twins.

for their hair gives them away.

it looks like my soup

noodles incarnated

atop their heads.

a double order, that is.

I smile at proud grandpa,

showing him a

glimmer of the

joy the twins

brought me.

 

~

they walk in together.

such chasms of experience

and age stands ready

to divide. but

blood is stronger.

he may not understand

the preconceived holes

in her pants. his holes

are scars. reminders of

work done well.

her’s were paid for.

his shoes are practical.

her’s are glowing white.

but such petty differences

seem irrelevant.

he is with his daughter.

that is bridge enough.

 

~

she braves the chill

to de-stress.

a process begun with

a spark and a bellow.

she trades her lungs

for fabricated peace.

peace as fleeting

as the smoke

she breathes.

peace as fake

as her thought process.

 

~

the faces of today

have souls.

but those are

harder to see.

sometimes i have

to squint.

but they’re

there.

the best

teachers of

today are souls.

but no one asked me.

 

 

 

truth

look for truth

look for beauty

look outside myself

these words have been ruminating in my head. they remind me that there is more to life. lies invade my mind all the time, telling me to quit, saying i’m useless.

look for truth.

what is truth? what can i trust?

life is a quest for truth. a battle against the lies.

but the coolest part is that we have the Truth. we know the Truth.

John 17:17

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

John 1:14

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

my anthems:

glory to Jesus

Ancient and Strong

Giver of love

Theme of my song

glory to Jesus

Ancient and Strong

come to Your people

carry us home


in Christ alone

my hope is found


my eyes are open

my heart is beating

my lungs are full

and my body’s breathing

i’m moving forward

i found my freedom

i found the life

that gave me reason to live

books:

lit by tony reinke:

“sin blinds hearts to the glory of Christ, and when the glory of Christ is not seen lives remain unchanged.”

“all beauty finds its origin in the Creator.”

awe by paul david tripp:

“joyful, perseverant obedience only ever grows in the soil of worship… if my heart is not given over to the worship of God, it will give itself to the worship of something else… every element of gathered worship of God’s people is intended to give people their awe back again.”

“God intends every moment of ministry to inspire awe of Himself in his people… we so easily become awe amnesiacs.”

streams in the desert by l.b. cowman:

“we are kindled that we might kindle others.”

a man called ove by fredrik backman- “a gentle reminder that life is sweeter when shared with other people.”

“real life is looking at the stars.”- lizzie

12.1.19-12.30.19:

372. thought-provoking conversation

386. answered prayer

387. sunset walks on the beach

390. beauty incomprehensible, un-recreateable- even my best efforts to display the beauty in nature will never measure up to the magnificent Creator. and that’s good.

395. wildlife- pelicans, seagulls, sandpipers

396. all these point to the awe of God- the Creator

399. switchfoot- soundtrack of my life

415. tears- worshiping with God’s people- may i never forget

417. praise the Lord! His mercy is more!

421. a true gift from God- music

425. being able to find humor in the midst of trials- laughing instead of despair

428. babies to snuggle

443. christmas eve service- a reminder i need- christmas is about the incarnation- Word become flesh- God with us

448. the Light has come! cast the darkness away

453. hammocking with my sisters

455. breakfast tacos

456. new watercolors- phthalo green, buff titanium, cerulean blue

465. vibrant colors- a small smattering of God’s palette

A Hymn for the Weaver

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From before eternity, our Father, the Artist, had determined for my thin, fragile little shred of thread to be a part of the tapestry of time. From the day I was born, the vapor-thin strings of everything that’s happened to me— and all the me that has happened to everything else— was meant to lead to the collision of color at the center of my portion of the design: the glorious, rainbow explosion of the gift of faith, faith that God gave me mere years ago but which he’d stitched into my timeline from the start. Before the start.

I wrote what follows in praise of the Father, who is glorious and terrifying and marvelous and tender and steady-handed, the source of all color and beauty. I also wrote what follows in praise of the Elder Brother, whose faithful sacrifice of his own beautiful blood made it possible for Abba to add the threads of my life to his masterpiece: The Bride.

Critics, gather round. Security guards, relax a little bit, take your leave to come gaze. Sponsors, marvel at the masterpiece you couldn’t even dream of affording. Lean close. Touch the glass. Let nothing separate you from the truth woven into His celestials-old tapestry:

“ALL PRAISE AND GLORY AND HONOR BE TO ABBA: WEAVER OF COLORS, ANCHOR FOR LOOSE THREADS, STEADY CUTTING HAND, MUSE FROM WHOM ALL LIFE AND BEAUTY FLOWS.

BREAK THE GLASS.”


 

2010 – 2019

“We look at life from the back side of the tapestry. And most of the time, what we see is loose threads, tangled knots and the like. But occasionally, God’s light shines through the tapestry, and we get a glimpse of the larger design, with God weaving together the darks and lights of existence.” -John Piper

 

2010

-February 10: moved to Washington. In our first Washington house, I had the entire attic for my bedroom. It was frigid our first night there. But I remember sitting up there anyway, sipping from a raspberry lemonade I’d picked at Schnuck’s, daydreaming about all the fun I’d have in that space.

-March 17: first violin lesson. I walked away bored and discouraged cause I couldn’t jump straight in to playing fiddle pieces.

-Started attending Living Bread Church

-Gabby started public homosexual lifestyle

-First time in an orchestra. We practiced in an elementary school that has since been condemned and demolished

-New acquaintance— met Davis (and the Davises)

2011

-Left Living Bread Church

-First visited Hawai’i. We landed on Maui the night the tsunami washed over from Japan. I didn’t realize yet what a sense of humor God has. Learned to surf. Mom went into denial when we got back to Missouri and there was snow everywhere; she covered all the windows with Hawai’ian newspaper pages.

-Met Riley, new orchestra stand partner.

The Tell-Tale Heart for school: cue Edgar Allan Poe fascination.

2012

-Golden puppy Koa Kamehameha comes home (“koa”: warrior. our Koa: fuzzball.)

-Second visit to Hawai’i: Maui –> Kauai. An elderly Hawai’ian priest helped my parents renew their vows while a homeless man played uke in the background.

Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys: “Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”

-Webster University orchestra

-Started learning guitar and ukulele

2013

-Garage sale— met the Schneiders

-Webster University orchestra

The Help, Kathryn Stockett: Write about what disturbs you, particularly if it bothers no one else.”

-First time to First Baptist Church. First person I met in the building: Molly, who immediately bombarded me with a greeting. Sat by Riley. Loved how many young people were on the worship team. (That I’m a part of now! Isn’t he awesome?)

-Watched The Lord of the Rings for the first time. I fell in love with the truth flowing underneath the fantasy.

2014

-Onset of depression and insomnia

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak: changed the way I look at the sky, and at many other things

-Somewhere in here, I was given faith (!!)

-Introduced to Spotify: music and list-making? Yes!

-Gabby started dating Anthony, her coworker. A while later, they got married, making Anthony’s daughter Ally my second niece. Ally is wicked clever despite her learning disability, and despite all the trauma she’s witnessed, she still thirsts for life, and greets the day with huge dimples and a warm outlook.

-Art classes at church. Lisa, being a good teacher, told us all to pick something we wanted to paint. Mallory and I sort of followed the rules and picked images for each other: I wanted her to paint a close-up shot of Heath Ledger as the Joker, and she wanted me to replicate The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche. We both “paused” on our painting projects (continuing to work on them without telling the other person), and eventually gave the finished products to each other as presents.

2015

-First job

-April 25: Brian & Taylor got hitched

-Read & watched Harry Potter for the first time. I’d finish reading a book and Mallory would watch that movie with me. The Sorting Hat quiz said Ravenclaw, but Mallory passionately believes I’d be a Hufflepuff, and seeing as how she knows me pretty well and I have no preference, Hufflepuff it is.

-Sixteenth birthday, saw Inside Out at the Walt Theatre: “I can’t take you to see a movie at the Calvin, so this is the next best thing.” -Mal

-Learning to live with the thorns. I took refuge in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10: Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

-New Year’s Eve: niece number three— Lorelai. One of the most affectionate and theatrical little girls I’ve ever met, and dimples for days. Like her aunt, she loves bologna and dancing through the house. Ask her to sing How Far I’ll Go from Moana sometime; you won’t regret it.

2016

-Disney World trip

Captain America: Civil War– Liv sided with Cap, I sided with Iron Man. We decided to maintain the friendship though.

-Europe trip: France—> Switzerland—> Austria—> Germany: Fainted on the plane, dragged everyone through the Catacombs, fell asleep on the subway, got dragged out of Switzerland, fell asleep at the dinner table, chased some cows, got separated from the group cause they walked too fast, saw some castles and stuff

-July 21: Coldplay concert– They played Green Eyes, which is one of my favorite songs of theirs. But it’s more obscure, so I thought for sure they wouldn’t do it. But they did, and acoustically, and they even moved closer to where Mal and I were standing! Ahh! Also, I had bronchitis, but I mouthed my heart out.

-Visited Lauren in STL. I convinced everyone to weave in and out of the stacks in the uni library like we were Scooby Doo characters.

2017

-The Oh Hellos Christmas Extravaganza. Before the concert, Mal and Laura and I had chicken and waffles on the Loop. I almost fell off my stool (that I was standing on) when I got too excited during Dear Wormwood. We danced in the street and sang Thus Always to Tyrants while we waited for our ride.

-High school graduation: sat next to Riley

-First semester of college: sat next to strangers

-First Palloween party

2018

-Had a kidney stone. 0/10, would not recommend.

-The Oh Hellos in concert. Mal, Quinn, Laura, and I walked around in art shops and Vintage Vinyl (where I got a vinyl of Bon Iver, perfectly warped) beforehand. We kept the contents of our wallets in our shoes so that we could properly utilize the mosh-pit.

-Idina Menzel at the Fox: a coffee shop customer said she’d gotten the tickets for her clients but they hadn’t shown up, so I asked Mal, Quinn, and Allie to go, and… turns out the seats were the super expensive box seats. People looked at us like we didn’t belong up there, but we had much more fun than they did (they didn’t even sing along to Let It Go).

-Forgiveness four years in the giving to a friend. This statement from John when I told him still rings through my head: “Wow, that’s exciting. That’s so much of the heart of my mom and what she desired for the church. I know she interceded for you.”

Sue & Wanda: apparently my crown achievement.

-Dreadlocks: 14 hours is all it takes to be constantly asked if you have weed

-“God says his light is a lamp unto our feet, but a lamp doesn’t shine light far ahead. It only illuminates the next few steps.” -Becca

-Sing! chats and ttmmh: warmth

-Imagine Dragons in concert with Mallory and Brooklynn. Stargazing during Walking the Wire.

-Wedding practice with Leanna & Mondays with the Meltons. Monday quickly became my favorite day.

-July 11: it’s official, The Lord of the Rings is literally engrained in my skin

-July 14: Elephant Rocks with Mal and Becca

-September 7: you’re so loved, Charlie Denner

-Broke out of a kidnapping (Escape room time: 51:08)

2019

-January: visited the Big Island– flew by myself for the first time and sprinted through the airport to make my flight, drank at the kombucha bar, danced with a hundred sweaty people at a music festival, jumped off a cliff, drank out of a coconut from an elderly Hawai’ian, couldn’t leave the Big Island because of snowstorm Gia, decided I do like orange if it’s the shade of that Hawai’ian sunset on the ocean

-Saw Avenger’s Endgame with enough friends to fill the entire row (not including parents, who are also major nerds)

-May 25: Emily & Ethan got hitched.

-VBS: had Ruthie & Hope for helpers, got my whole team to floss at one point (their hips, not their teeth–I’m not that powerful), played under a firetruck hose

-July 13: Leanna & Drew got hitched.

-July: Colorado with Becca and Mal. Smiling at my sleeping car buddies, Akbar, the three of us cry-laughing over spilling our luggage in the lobby and then using an elevator of Tower-of-Terror-like proportions, spotting an elk as he passes our reading spot in Garden of the Gods, conversation with elderly locals at eccentric coffee shops, vegan matcha ice cream, running down the Rocky Mountains in a heavy downpour, waving to Dane every time we passed the USAFA, cramming into one bed for LOTR, Becca sweetly braiding my hair every day, bubble tea, doing Hapkido flips to Becca on her bed, and so many other lifelong memories.

-Sing! conference: meeting friends in the flesh (but more in the Spirit), chicken fights, worship imitative of eternity, hugging Ellie Holcomb, illuminating Sammy’s calculus homework, arriving back home to a thunderstorm

-Songwriting

-August: answered prayer— a catalyst that shakes my parents to their cores

-Riley’s engaged: looked at dresses for a very brief time (that’s my girl), ate at Olive Garden with she and her mom, and cry-laughed over The Office quotes. Her fiancé Josh is in the Navy, so she’s gonna move to live on base with him this coming summer. I’m gonna miss her so.

-September 13: Wilder Adkins and The Gray Havens in concert. David and Licia told the story of how they met. I talked to (at, he’s charmingly timid) Wilder Adkins about autoharps while he waited for someone to find a Sharpie so he could sign my vinyl. The Gray Havens finished with an acoustic, floor performance of Far Kingdom.

-October 13: music and reading at Moe’s. Uncontainable joy, the supportive faces of so many loved ones, voices of friends who know the words, C.S. Lewis. “For the first in my life, I’m not living a lie, and I hate who I am.” (Eustace Scrubb, Sarah Sparks)

-October 26: praying over the phone with Blair for a miracle– and God so tenderly answered

-November: happiness and hygge on the Harman homestead. Pot stickers, morning greetings from turkeys, Myth Busters, essay-reading with Ruthie, leafy tea from the hands of a master, trail walks, dragging Luke around in a giant pillow case, environmental bio nerd-ing with Lisa, hope of returning.

-God spares a loved one from a suicide attempt.


I’ve often despaired that I’ve had little to no base of family stability on which to build memories. Every day in my childhood and adolescence could have meant a different house, a different city, a different explosion, a different tear in the fabric of my blood-family. And it almost always did end with those things. Consequently, I’ve had little family, or “belonging,” identity to speak of. I made memories, but somewhere along the way, I learned not to grow attached to them. I didn’t claim them. This loose grip on life and its happenings has made slowing down and noting blessings very difficult for me. I suppose I’ve gotten cozy with the lie that life isn’t slow enough to be lived, it just happens to you.

But God’s been kneeling beside my bed. Every morning since I was born, as his song over me faded away and he stimulated my wakening, he’s been softly saying, “Oh, Gia. How I love you so. That you would look into my face and live.”

And now, as the hands that tickle the stars condescend to scrape the stardust from my eyes, I faintly begin to understand.

I can’t ignore the messy stitching of the past, nor can I know what colors await me in the future; I can’t return to my mother’s womb and refuse to come out until the family God gave me puts away its soul-suicidal ways.

But now, right this moment, I can actively ask God to “fill my lungs with joy,” as N.D. Wilson aptly puts it (Death By Living). From this moment of awareness until the light leaves my earthly eyes, I can ask for the grace to devote this vaporous lifetime to careful observation and reckless living of my new life in Christ.  That life means I can begin to make memories now– to take stock of what remains constant– rather than hating God for what does not. I can live with wide eyes and quick feet, ready to laugh and cry and laugh so hard I cry at whatever colors the Lord uses to paint my microscopic dot on his landscape of love. I can drink up life, people, music, moon phases, earthworms, skinned knees, depression in the midst of joy, by the bucket-ful.

Grace upon grace for the moments when I fall back into taking life too seriously; and grace upon grace for the rare moments when I live it well. May holiness and color and tenderness overflow from this vessel. When God comes to reclaim my soul for good, may I remember: stargazing, messes in the kitchen, instruments spread out across the floor, Christmas Eve services, my friends’ laughs, digging for worms, kisses, the sweet scent of rain, rich Scripture. And may I cling to the arms of my Jesus, that I might not only stand, but that I would dance— skill-lessly, drunkenly, joyfully.