lena love story

Moss and sponge-y dirt coat forest floors as we hike through the closest I have ever been to Narnia. Gnats scatter like pixie dust in the rays of sunlight peeking between tree tops, and our eyes focus on tangled roots I am just waiting to see move and trip us, the tree planning to walk away. This is the perfect setting for a fairy tale, and I half-expect the eagles I hear calling in the trees to swoop down and land on someone’s shoulder.

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The path jumps up, then curves around the coast. Glimpses of rocks and water tease us, but as we push through the trees a magnificent view comes into focus. Seaweed and barnacles cover rocks below as the wake of a distant passing ferry gently crashes, the faint smell of salt lingering in the air. A lone sailboat has the cove to himself, and we watch from lichen-covered cliffs 20 feet up. Sunlight reflects off the water, slightly blinding my vision, but I can’t take my eyes off the blue color palette displayed in the waters and sky and staggered mountains in the distance.

A love story happened here.

Not the kind with a chance meet of two strangers in the woods.
Not a Romeo-and-Juliet-esq adventure of running away together.
Not the long-awaited wedding ceremony of a prince to his Cinderella.

But the kind of a Creator wooing a girl to Himself through His creation, her heart stopping in break-taking awe of the detail in every crest of water, in the spray emerging from slight shadows of whales hidden underneath the deep, in the opening of clouds to reveal the sun’s warm rays reaching for her legs.

The kind of love that catches your breath and races your heart, chilling skin with an audacious breeze and drawing her close like arms into an embrace. Safe. Secure. Content. The mark of true love. It continues to pull her near, His presence consuming her every thought.

Waves play tricks on eyes, teasing hope for a second glimpse of the whale.

His love is boundless, cannot be understood. His love is unconditional and foolish in the eyes of those who don’t understand. His love asks her to rest – not perform, not earn, not strive. And in that moment, she wonders why she ever thinks anything else matters.  All of the value of life is contained here, in Him.

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Yet once she leaves the cliffs of Lena, the memory of that moment fades. Not enough to forget the romance – you never forget your first kiss – but enough to cloud the clarity she once had about life and purpose and value.

Her heart longs to be on the cliffs of Lena again. Time seemed to stop in His presence. Those moments had a storybook glow, a picturesque quality unable to be contained in an Instagram post. Yet time does not stop, so she clings to the memories of that love and tries to push forward in a world where things are earned and lost and transient.

But it’s not that easy. One day, she finds herself breaking down as she feels the weight of all of the things she once knew didn’t matter but has since started carrying. The expectations she has placed on herself and the identity she has sought in her accomplishments have grown into something more than she can bear. In the midst of her tears and her racing thoughts, she hears a whisper of GRACE.

Was it possible that He was there, meeting her in the midst of the flood?

When you can’t carry it all, look to Me. I am here, in the everyday pieces of your life.

Her breath caught in her throat, then she slowly exhaled, feeling the beat of her heart calm in her chest. Maybe Lena was where the fairytale began, but life couldn’t stay there. Her failings and her attempts to do it alone wouldn’t negate the happily-ever-after she was hoping for; they would simply be a part of her figuring out how to find that happily-ever-after in ordinary moments and in ordinary ways. That intense, incomparable love had not ended but only changed scenes, showing up in little ways as reminders of what does matter and how she is loved.

Even after leaving Lena Point, the love story continues.

Reminder in the Morning

 

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spindly branches
remniscent of spider legs, or
gangly teenage limbs
stretch out above
leaving gaps for sky

daylight is normally the sign to get up
yet the alaskan sky is the sneaky type,
attempts wake you at 4:30 a.m.
instead of 7.

evergreen smells crawl into my hammock
tempting the one sense exposed
with the rest of me burying self in a mummy bag
wool socks holding in heat down by my toes
eyes closed, hoping for a couple more hours
of sleep

while those trees stand tall:
reaching to touch heaven
to point to their Maker
whether or not you are looking…

but how can you not look?

 

 

low tide at sunset

His mark is everywhere here.

I know it’s everywhere, everywhere – but here, it calls out to you, determined that you not miss a single detail. It’s almost as if the rocks and mountains and moss are crying out their praise; may my response be louder praise.

Last night, we chased the Juneau sunset in a prehistoric Chevy van with blue tape marking racing stripes and the number 7. 20-somethings tumbled in together to drive “out the road” in hopes of bear sightings. In Juneau, it really is called out the road – and you can get to the end of the road. I have done it before, five years ago when I was here for the first time.

His mark was in the sun, that golden ball of fire hiding and seeking between clouds. The reflection of rays across the water, causing turquoise light to shimmer in the distance – that was Him, too. The mountains in the distance – a watercolor masterpiece with muted hues and blurry details – corresponded in color with the sunset as purples and blues and deeper blues. Charcoal and ink sketched details in the closer ones, outlining snow still thick in the peaks.

He’s a creative one, our God. We walked out through moss and sand and rocks to get as close as possible to the water, hoping to see evidence of whales. At high tide, that walk would have been a swim, but the edges of the sea regularly move back to expose the life and death underneath her waters. Her highs and lows affect fishermen and coastline residents and explorers like us, so we were careful to watch for her to slowly start moving back up.

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Removing myself from my everyday life this summer is having a similar effect.

It’s as if the tide is changing in me – not in the cliché sense of new directions, but the ebbing of my routines and my relationships and my regular world has begun to expose the life and death in me, the stripping away of the waters to reveal what’s underneath.

The grime and the mud in my heart is sticky, and I can no longer deny the selfishness and the pride that have been resting below. What is it about life changes that cause the change in tide? The good and the bad come out raw, and I am sure that’s an intentional result by a God Whose mark is, after all, on everything.

The low tide exposes what the dark has hidden.

Yet in the midst of the algae-covered rocks and the still-damp floor, there is beauty. There is life growing in what has been hidden from the eye while the high tide held. And with the laying bare of what’s in me, God’s grace is flourishing with life, spilling over even into the places I wish were not there.

In the end, we aren’t qualified or capable to be used by God. We don’t reach a point where we “have it together” so that we can finally live this life on our own. It’s often only in the change in tides that we (are forced to) stop to notice how broken and dead we are on our own – but it’s also in that place where we are able to see the life God has brought in the midst of our lack. It’s then that we can truly say, “Your grace is sufficient for me.”

Even in the ebb of the waters, His mark is there.

flight to juneau

Rolling over in bed, I dare to open my eyes and see daylight streaming in past the closed blinds. My phone says 5 a.m., and my body begs for more sleep, but daylight begs to differ.

Yesterday felt like a long day. I arrived at the airport before 6 a.m. for my first flight, which took off on time but was delayed in the air due to weather. After attempting to run through DFW’s airport to get to my connecting flight, I arrived to the gate five minutes too late. (I do say ‘attempting to run’ thanks to the 65L Osprey pack strapped to me, causing it to be an awkwardly fast walk that felt like a run.) Having never missed a flight before, I of course started crying while the sweet American Airlines lady did some research and put me on two new flights, since missing that second flight also meant that I would miss my third flight. A new two and a half hour layover in Dallas, then a five and a half hour layover in Seattle meant I would arrive much later than planned in Juneau (and a lot later in central time hours than my body was used to staying awake).

But the last flight from Seattle to Juneau was breathtaking. The moment the mountains were visible, I just stared out the window, unable to stop grinning. At first – they were just watercolor paintings in the distance. But as we got closer, they gained dimension and detail. Sun reflected off lakes below, coloring them a brilliant orange as if liquid gold was pooling together. Clouds, snow, sky blended together, confusing where one ended and another began. Fog curled itself around crests of mountains, intertwining itself just below the peaks.

The descent – we hit the layer of clouds, and visibility was nonexistent. Yet as we continued to descend, a light shone through, a reflection from water. Water, land, and sea began to separate, and mountains rose in greeting.

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And my heart had this strange sense of coming home, even after being away for five years.