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Monday, April 22, 2013

Amber Waves of Grace






I pack with anticipation. Dreams flood and fly and I reach for them, frantic and flailing. He has a dream for me, I know, but trying to capture it, narrow and clear, is trying to catch a river in a paper cup.

The conference sessions are circled and starred in pink ballpoint. I can’t wait to internalize the holy truth, the power and beauty of the words from the mouths of these women who look like Technicolor Jesus to me, these powerhouses with humble hearts, beautiful speakers and writers, friends and sisters that bring me hard to my knees.

I’ve come here to meet the Divine and it’s all right there in my grasp, right in the retreat center meeting room where I’m sure I’ll meet with Him, where I know He’ll whisper gently that one. next. step. toward His big, beautiful dreams for me.

It’s cost a thousand or so dollars for me to get here, a small price to taste what lies in store, a holy encounter for merely a song, a diamond necklace in a nickel machine container, and I am breathless for it.

We are giddy. Anticipation does that and so does the wine and the salted caramels, the high from our still-bleeding foot tattoos, identical, the forever reminder for our each and every step: Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. I am wrapped in the arms of my sister and the sun will be up soon but time does not exist here. This is not a hotel room in the middle of Nebraska but a sacred space where tears fall easy from eyes which have been dry too long, where the seemingly insignificant trivialities are consecrated gifts, revelations in disguise.

Amy plucks my eyebrows and speaks with the mouth of Jesus and inexplicably, the sky ignites with fireworks and orange-breasted spring robins dance across the icy parking lot and there is somehow nothing strange about it at all. This is a thin place, nothing but a gauzy lace curtain through which we stare right into the eyes of Abba Father, locked in the gaze of El Roi: the God of Seeing.

Sleep is short and morning is hard. Bottles with prescription labels decorate this space, bottles with white caps, impossible caps that taunt these swollen knuckles and frozen fingertips, aid for broken bodies. In the sacred space behind the veil there is no need for these bottles, but here in this broken world these capsules are the currency that buys a few moments of flexibility and function. Last night this was a thin place; today, it’s a thick one. Thick with sickness and pain where the clock hands tick off the rhythm of this temporal world: Eight, Nine, Ten a.m. has gone and now so has eleven, and twelve. The hours pass past the pink ink on our conference schedules and we lament a little because it wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were supposed to be in conference sessions, dancing with the Divine, filling our hearts with His dreams for our lives, jumping off mountaintops in tandem with our sisters, arms locked, hearts beating wild with our one collective yes.

The heart wants what the flesh will not allow. Today there are no fireworks, no dancing robins, no giddy laughter. Today there is vomit, there is throbbing, there is frustration and disappointment and pills that don't do their job. Today the veil is not a veil of lace. It is a brick wall and it is a hard strain to see through it. He holds us still, there is no doubt, but I cannot catch His gaze.

Practical attempts are all that can be done but let the hours pass, let the darkness lift organically through the passing of time and tiptoes through the dark. I fire up the car and veer it toward the conference center, towards the speakers we long to hear, and drive right past. I have not come for this just now. I have come for a cold coke and a chicken sandwich and a prayer vigil held quiet in the driver’s seat of a rented Dodge Avenger.

I have come here, to Nebraska, to be spiritual. I have come here to draw near to the heart of God and I cry out to Him. I ask Him to intercede, to form my words and my prayers to the needs of my sister in the moments that make her feel weak. I am a do-er and I pray for practical steps, for action on her behalf while my own knuckles throb with the rhythm of sickness. I have come here to be spiritual. I try and conjure beautiful prayers, powerful prayers. I try and invoke a healing spirit because I believe in His power, because I know she deserves it, because I still believe that we will meet God here, today.

What does she need, Father? Oh, Jesus, what can I do? How can I help her? How can my words, my empty spirit uplift and nurture, encourage and love in action?

I think of the conference speakers, of the beautiful words, the eloquence of holiness and the leaps I have yet to make to be so eloquent.

And all at once, the brick dissolves. Light spills and there is lace once more. Holiness is not always eloquent. Holiness is messy and holiness sometimes comes with a splitting headache and a runny nose.

What can I do, Jesus?

And there it is.

You can get her a chicken sandwich, Cara. You can stop searching merely for moments of fireworks and lace and start standing in the moments of imperfection and brokenness. You can stop praying and start driving. You can buy a chicken sandwich and sometimes, that’s all.

It’s been a while since the elements held this much significance for me. It’s been awhile since the taste of communion was more than dry bread and sweet wine, and I have forgotten the taste of His body, broken even for broken-up me, broken for my hurting but lovely sister sleeping in the hotel bed upstairs, and I do this in remembrance of Him.

Today there is more than bread and wine. Today there is coke and chicken sandwiches and a veil so thin it vaporizes into air. Today, I have met with the Divine and He has dreamed of me. My time in Nebraska didn’t look like I thought it would. I missed every one of the breakout sessions I’d so looked forward to enjoying. I hugged necks swift with quick smiles and polite words and too few stirred-heart conversations with the beautiful people gathered in this Midwestern God-spot.

And yet, we found Him in Nebraska all the same. Tangible holiness, sacred beauty in prescription bottles and breakfast menus, milk soap and nose rings and airport bathrooms. Thin places, all of them…thin spaces thick with grace and reverie.

I am grateful for the parts of the conference we were able to attend, blessed beyond measure by the words and dreams of Deidra, Jennifer, Emily, Dan, Shelly, Diana, Kelli, Holly and Holley, Sandra, the ViBella team, Amy (of course), and all the beautiful women and men who dreamed big and dreamed scared and slid hands across the table to one another this weekend. We all whispered yes with trembling voices in the middle of the corn fields of Nebraska, catching rivers in paper cups, scribbling on stones with abandon in the amber waves of grace where God-sized dreams unfold. 

12 comments:

  1. Friend, the way your see through all these things - the beauty *and* the hard things - right to the center of it - always you speak to my heart. Cannot wait to hear more about it! Love you, Cara.

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  2. Oh my word how is it possible with didn't get a chance to chat???

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  3. I so have no words for this, sweet friend.

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  4. Thank you for meeting the needs of your friend and for telling this story. I've had a hard day, today. This feels like part of the answer.

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  5. Elizabeth StewartApril 22, 2013 at 9:10 PM

    I would have loved to meet and chat and see the face of the one who writes the beautiful words here.

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  6. Beautiful, hard and true. Grace shows up in amazing places sometimes. Hope you are both feeling okay now - and again, so, so sorry for that hard trip home!

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  7. Thank you for your vision. I took communion this Sunday and it hit me in a powerful way....
    "It is finished" is what I came away with. So why am I striving so?

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  8. "It’s been awhile since the taste of communion was more than dry bread and sweet wine, and I have forgotten the taste of His body, broken even for broken-up me, broken for my hurting but lovely sister sleeping in the hotel bed upstairs, and I do this in remembrance of Him."



    at this, i catch my breath.


    He sees every cup of cold water, every chicken sandwich. her broken body, like His, and what you offer is in remembrance.
    oh Cara. love this. love you.
    (maybe we'll hang out more at a certain bibledude retreat that's in the works ... yes? ;) )

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  9. "And yet, we found Him in Nebraska all the same." This, it's worship, friend. :) The counting of the gifts anyway. The seeing His grace, even though . . .

    {hugs} and rich blessings as He continues to speak to you about all of this and lead you ever closer to His heart.

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  10. Cara, this is so, so beautiful. I scarcely have words for this. But this: "It’s been a while since the elements held this much significance for me. It’s been awhile since the taste of communion was more than dry bread and sweet wine, and I have forgotten the taste of His body, broken even for broken-up me, broken for my hurting but lovely sister sleeping in the hotel bed upstairs, and I do this in remembrance of Him.


    Today there is more than bread and wine. Today there is coke and chicken sandwiches and a veil so thin it vaporizes into air. Today, I have met with the Divine and He has dreamed of me."


    Can I quote that much? I loved the entire thing, but this right here, oh this. Yes, is all I can say. I experienced the same while there, just in a different way. I was sick, too, and my roomie did the same for me. She's pretty amazing. I am so sorry I didn't get to meet you, Cara. I feel you are kindred. Next time?

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  11. Sorry, I just commented on the wrong post. I can't believe you were there and I never met you!

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  12. I'm late here, but oh! this is good. Your writing is just magical.

    And I know it - those times when God doesn't show up in the scheduled slots but in the unexpected and grumpy moments. Thanks for this. I've missed you!

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Your comments are such an encouragement. Thank you for sharing your valuable words.