Thursday, April 19, 2018

Learning to Walk the Walk~

I'm not a walker -
really, I'm not.

Oh, sure -
I am able to stand up right,
place one foot in front of the other,
and make my way from one place to another
(a huge blessing in of itself
that I don't think we who are able to walk
think to thank God for often enough.)

But a walker
like those you see walking -
on purpose,
decked out from head to toe in athletic apparel,
on a mission walking -
that's just not me.

And yet,
for the last three months
(count them - 1, 2, 3!)
I have been faithfully walking
four to six miles
(count them - 1,2,3,4,5,6!)
every day.

At first,
it was down right awkward.
No smooth glide.
No rhythmic stride.
Just the clomp, clomp, clomp
of shoes on sidewalk
and an overwhelming desire
to head back inside.

But, I kept at it.

Through blisters and leg cramps,
high winds and frosty mornings,
barking dogs and chatty neighbors,
garbage trucks and street sweepers,
and just last week -
a pick up line from a passerbyer:
"Need a ride . . . or maybe not?"

And, now -
with three months behind me -
it's still awkward.
there are some good days.
Days where
my stride is amazing,
my speed closer to 14 minutes a mile than 15,
and I feel like I'm gliding on air.

And each and every morning,
humbly aware I don't have a clue one
about how to walk in such a way
as to maximize each step for optimal benefits,
I pray and ask God
to honor my commitment to "show up"
by partnering with me
to ensure each step
stretches and builds,
tones and sculpts,
restores and strengthens,
molds and transforms.

Sweeter sleep,
increased energy,
a spring in my step,
looser fitting clothes,
and a text from my sister that read:
"Your face is looking thinner.  Keep walking!"
all confirm God is faithfully doing His part
as I step out and try to do mine.

And really,
as we step out into life -
every single moment of every single day,
isn't that where we all find ourself?

Desperately in need of a spiritual trainer
to do for us what we -
on our own,
have no way of doing?

I'm not a walker -
really, I'm not.

I've never walked through life before,
but for the last 52 years of my life
(count them - 52!)
I've been doing just that.

And, at times -
(so many times, in fact)
it has been incredibly awkward,
to say the least.

But, I've kept at it.

Through childhood and adulthood,
congratulations and "Sorry, maybe next time",
address changes and name changes,
"I do" and "Rest in Peace",
uncontrollable laughter and (seemingly) inconsolable heartache,
more than enough and just enough,
"Thank you, Lord",
"How could you, Lord?"
and "I'm so sorry. Please forgive me, Lord".

And even now,
with 52 years behind me -
it's still awkward.
But, there are some good days.
Days where my stride is amazing
and I feel as though I'm gliding on air.

And each and every morning,
humbly aware I don't have a clue one
about how to live in such a way
as to maximize
each moment,
each choice,
each decision,
each emotion,
each opportunity,
each breath
for optimal spiritual benefits,
I pray and ask God
to honor my commitment to "show up"
by partnering with me
to ensure each life moment
stretches and builds,
tones and sculpts,
restores and strengthens,
molds and transforms.

Sweeter resting in Him,
increased faith,
unspeakable joy in my heart,
looser fitting legalism,
and words from friends that read:
"God is really at work in your life.  Keep going!"
all confirm God is faithfully doing His part
as I step out and try to do mine.

And you know what?

I am really starting to love walking.

And you know what?

I am really starting to love life -
not just any ole life -
life and life more abundant -
one step at time,
side by side,
with my faithful God.

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

When Less Becomes More~

I think I'm starting to understand
what makes the terrible twos
(and possibly even the threes and fours)
so very terrible.

It's the natural tension of life.

This overwhelming desire
to do - (whatever it may be)
in your own way,
in your own time,
in your own strength -
coming face to face with
the limitation of
your knowledge,
your ability,
your control,
your just-not-quite-there yet.

And, it's frustrating.
It's upsetting.
It makes you want to fling yourself on the floor
and throw a tantrum the size of Texas.

I get it.

And while I am well past the age of two,
this place of life I find myself now,
two years into widowhood,
has me feeling the exact same tension.

The natural flow of life has me
desiring to
do more,
be more,
accomplish more,
figure out more,
but the age of my grief
and the short amount of time
I've lived in this new season
leaves me coming up short
time and time again.

I feel stuck.
Just like a two year old.

I feel the pull of life
tugging on me to be a part of it,
only I'm not quite "developed" enough
to live it
without frequent messes
and constant meltdowns.

And, it is in this place
that I have come to know God
as never before.

Like a parent
lovingly tries to come alongside
and lend a helping hand,
providing the "extra" their two year old is needing,
God is here for me.

In every "I want to but can't quite do it",
He steps in and helps me,
when I let Him.

Because -
like a two year old -
I have to admit,
I don't always admit my need,
give up my "Me do it" attitude,
or willingly surrender to the help
I so desperately need.

No -
I fight,
I struggle,
I try and try and try,
in frustration and desperation,
I throw my incapable self on the floor,
tears flowing down my face.

no matter how loud my tantrum,
or how messy my emotions,
God always stoops down
and picks me back up again.


He never leaves me in the middle of my mess.

He never turns His back on my failure.

He never walks away
when I sometimes
(in pride and arrogance and anger and frustration)
push Him away.

He comes.
He stays.
He extends His hand.
He wipes my tears.
He lifts me back to my feet.


And, most precious of all -
He understands the tension I feel.
He more than gets the struggle at the root of my actions.

And, He keeps loving me through it.

And I'm starting to understand
as I never have before
that realizing our need 
doesn't make us less, 
it makes us more.

And He said to me, 
"My grace is sufficient for you, 
for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 
Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, 
that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, 
in reproaches, in needs,
in persecutions, in distresses, 
for Christ's sake. 
For when I am weak, 
then I am strong.
~2 Corinthians 12:9,10

And, unlike a two year old,
who will become less and less dependent on their parent,
I am discovering
I am becoming
more and more dependent on my Heavenly Father.

it's a beautiful thing.

This girl needs her Abba Daddy -
He is there.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Living in the Shadow of Hope~

I sit on the patio well past the moment dark first arrives.

Maybe, it's because I am waiting for my man to come to the sliding glass door as he always did.

"Hey, Beautiful.  Are you going to sleep out there, too?"
Then, after giving me that cute look of his, this:
"Here, let me help you bring your laptop and all the rest of you back inside for the night."

When the beautiful of Spring would unfold,
I would always squeeze every last bit of daylight out of the day
and even indulge in some moments of night
because I knew he would always come.

Now, the dark just keeps getting darker.
And my heart still misses him so much, at times,
I wonder if this journey of grief will ever feel different.
And no matter how long I sit on this patio -
the heartbreaking reality of it all is still this:
my Handsome Honey isn't going to come and help me back inside.

It's life,
or the death part of life -
and my head totally gets it.

It's my heart that still wrestles with it all,
on and off,
now and then,
more times than not.

But, honestly,
I'm ok with the battle between the two
because eventually,
the battle becomes so intense a referee is needed,
and thankfully,
each time,
God steps in and does what only He can do.

His sweet Spirit,
knowing my heart better than even my love,
gently draws me to Him,
and helps me find my way back.

Back inside.
Back to what now is.
Back to the reality that even though I feel so very alone,
I am not
because the great I AM is here.

And this same beautiful of Spring
that has me out on the patio in the first place,
is the same beautiful my heart needs to embrace
time and time again.

For just like tulips now risen from well beneath the ground,
Spring reminds us of the blessed hope we have in and through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

And just like today,
on a day when I hate to see night come,
I know if I trust God through the dark,
morning is right around the corner.

Death takes from us the one we love
but it can never take from us
what the Lover of our Soul did for us on Calvary.

Death reminds us of the separation
between this earth and our eternal home,
but it cannot separate us from
the love of our Heavenly Father

Death leaves us wishing for more -
and thankfully
because of the
death and resurrection of our precious Jesus,
we have the beautiful of more coming.

God willing,
tomorrow I will get more hours of daylight.

And soon,
you and I will know the ultimate more we have been promised -

a more that will find us reunited with those who we miss
with a missing that doesn't seem to end,

a more that will find us face to face with The One who we
have longed to worship and adore for all eternity.

Weeping may endure for a night,
but joy comes in the morning.
~Psalms 30:5

But now,
now it's time for me to let God help me make my way back inside.

it's time for me to let God help me with my laptop
and finding my way back here -
back to my keyboard
and back to writing once again, too.

it's time for me to let God bring all the rest of me
to where I now belong
while I wait for the promised more  . . .
abiding and trusting in Him.

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Sunday, February 4, 2018

Given With Me In Mind~

Our rosemary bush was in full bloom
sporting the prettiest blue flowers.

"You should try and get a picture of that,"
my husband suggested as he came out on the patio to check on me.

"Isn't it beautiful? I replied.

He smiled, nodded, asked if I needed anything
and then headed back inside.

Imagine my delight,
when just a few moments later,
a bird came and lighted on a twig
right next to the rosemary bush.

It was a photo waiting to happen.

As I snapped the photo -
(well, several photos
just to be sure I got a good one)
God spoke the words
"Be still and know that I am God"
on my heart.

I couldn't wait to put the two together
and surprise my man.

I didn't get a chance to start on this creation, however,
until a few weeks later -
late in the evening of Feb 3, 2016 to be exact.

"I'm going to bed, Beautiful. It's getting late.
And, you should, too. You need your sleep, Baby.
You can finish whatever you're working on tomorrow."

"I'm almost through.  It'll just take a few minutes more."

My man went on to bed
and I stayed up finishing his surprise.

The next day the hurry of morning rush
found me racing out into a brand new day.
And, later that very afternoon,
a phone call from my man
found me racing home to be with him,
only to find I was too late.

Just like that, he was gone.

He never got to see the picture
I was making just for him,
this very one,
the special surprise I was working on
two years ago tonight.

And yet, sitting here tonight,
I can't help wondering
if this photo was somehow intended
for me instead.

"Be still and know that I am God."

For in the stillness
that has become my life
these last two years,
I have come to know God
as never before,
and to know without a shadow of a doubt
He is God.

And, in it all,
I realize just how beautifully faithful He is.
And, how equally blessed I am.

To have known the love of my husband.
To know and be knowing still
the love of my God.

I am so very blessed.

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

When Out of the Blue Isn't Out of the Blue At All~

"And to think, I almost missed out on it."

Texting my sisters,
I shared with them
a texting conversation
I had had with a dear friend
just the night before.

Not having touched based with each other
in months and months and months,
out of the blue
(the place our God works all the time)
my childhood friend sent me a text.

Worried about her mother's failing health,
we talked about power of attorney,
wills, and other necessary end-of-life details.

seemingly out of the blue again,
(see, I told you - God is always showing up there)
my friend inquired as to whether or not
I had claimed a death benefit
I evidently was entitled to.

"No! I haven't.
I didn't know anything about it.
Can I still claim it?"

"You have two years."

My heart skipped a beat.

"Two years? It'll be two years on Sunday."

"Call them right away and schedule an appointment."

A phone call later
I had an appointment
and was "in process" to receive this benefit.

Here in the United States
through the Social Security Administration,
a surviving spouse or child
is eligible to receive a one time
lump sum of $255.

It's not much,
$255 is still $255 more
than what I have right now.
Truly it is an unexpected blessing
for this equally unexpected season of life
I have found myself in.

And, just like that
God reminded me of two precious truths:

1.  God's timing is always perfectly right on time.

While this text from my friend
seemed random and out of the blue,
God was orchestrating it all.

What are the chances she would decide to text,
then think to mention about the benefit,
4 days before the deadline?

Only God does that!

My friend apologized
for not mentioning it to me two years ago.
But honestly,
with my financial need so much greater now,
it is truly an unexpected blessing
sent straight from the Father's heart
to remind me once again,
"I've got you, sweet girl."

(And of course He does.
He has all of me
and I am so very thankful,
so very blessed.)

2.  You can't claim something if you don't know it's yours to claim.

Naturally, if I'd known about this benefit two years ago,
I would have claimed it right away,

I wouldn't have just let that $255 almost slip right on by.

But, I didn't know.

It wasn't until I found out about it
that I could act upon it
and start the process
to reach out and take hold of
that which was already mine.

Which reminded me again of my sweet sister in law.
Lying in a hospital bed,
cancer ravaging her body
and her life trickling away,
she told me this story.

Years ago, before transatlantic flight was common, a man wanted to travel to the United States from Europe. The man worked hard, saved every extra penny he could, and finally had just enough money to purchase a ticket aboard a cruise ship. The trip at that time required about two or three weeks to cross the ocean. He went out and bought a suitcase and filled it full of cheese and crackers. That’s all he could afford.
Once on board, all the other passengers went to the large, ornate dining room to eat their gourmet meals. Meanwhile, the poor man would go over in the corner and eat his cheese and crackers. This went on day after day. He could smell the delicious food being served in the dining room. He heard the other passengers speak of it in glowing terms as they rubbed their bellies and complained about how full they were, and how they would have to go on a diet after this trip. The poor traveler wanted to join the other guests in the dining room, but he had no extra money. Sometimes he’d lie awake at night, dreaming of the sumptuous meals the other guests described.
Toward the end of the trip, another man came up to him and said, “Sir, I can’t help but notice that you are always over there eating those cheese and crackers at mealtimes. Why don’t you come into the banquet hall and eat with us?” The traveler’s face flushed with embarrassment. “Well, to tell you the truth, I had only enough money to buy the ticket. I don’t have any extra money to purchase fancy meals.”
The other passenger raised his eyebrows in surprise. He shook his head and said, “Sir, don’t you realize the meals are included in the price of the ticket? Your meals have already been paid for!”
~ Author Unknown

This beautiful sister of my husband
had grown up knowing about God,
but sadly,
she had journeyed through most of her life
not really knowing God.

She had grown up going to church,
but until her diagnosis,
had never once opened the pages of God's word, the Bible.

"If only I had known," she had told me.

"What do you mean?" I asked innocently and oh, so ignorantly.

"All the promises!" she said.
"I never knew about all the promises of God.
All my life I lived on cheese and crackers
when I could have been dining on,
and most of all,
standing on
all the promises of God.

I settled for huddling in the corner
with all my fear and doubt,
instead of joining my Father
and partaking of His love, joy, peace, comfort, and strength.

All this time
I could have been living
the abundant life Christ died to give me.

But, praise God,
I know now!
But oh . . .
oh, if only I would have known
my entire life."

Yes, God's timing is perfect.
And maybe just maybe
that's why these words today
have come into your life
from out of the blue.

Losing out on $255 would have been
sad and unfortunate,
but not the end of the world.

Losing out on all you and I have been given
through the life and death of Jesus
simply because
we haven't opened His word
or searched out the scriptures, -
simply because
we have no idea
to reach out and take hold of
of all that is already ours -

That -

that would be tragic indeed.

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Cold Shoulders and The Holy Spirit~

"Aay, Beautiful. Your back's not even covered."

Waking up
to a cold feeling of night air
brushing up against my back,
a tear slipped down my cheek
as I remembered the words my husband spoke
each and every time
he would roll over
and see me sleeping on my side,
covers half way down my back.

"There you go," he would say
as he pulled and tugged on blankets
until I was tucked in all the way up to my ears.

Then, a kiss on the nape of my neck,
followed by his arm settling perfectly
in the crook of my waist
while the whole rest of him snuggled up behind me,
and we would drift back into sweet sleep.

I don't know why.
But try as I may,
I have never been able to cover my own back.

It's why,
now that he's no longer here,
I often awake to the cool night air
brushing up against my back,
followed by a tear rolling down my cheek.

No one likes a cold shoulder.

As my husband
and the one sharing my life and my bed,
covering my back during the wee hours of the night
was something only he could do.

And ,
when he was here,
and when he did -
my man had me completely covered.
There wasn't an inch of skin that wasn't
hidden beneath the warmth of a quilt
or the softness of a blanket.

And I'll admit right now,
this is an uncommon correlation,
probably not something anyone else but me might think of,
but lying in bed one night,
I came to understand in a whole new way this passage of scripture:

Now I am going back to the One who sent me.  . . . 
Your hearts are filled with sadness 
because I have told you these things. 
But I tell you the truth. 
It is better for you that I go away.  
When I go away I will send the Helper to you.
 If I do not go away, then the Helper will not come.
~John 16:4-7

When Jesus,
who was The Word and divine in nature,
became flesh and walked sandal-footed among us,
He chose to live out His days here in human flesh,
as a physical man.

And, as a physical man,
He could only be one place at one time.

Although the great Teacher,
He could only teach those who were within earshot of His words.
Although the great Healer,
He could only heal those who were within reach of His touch,
(or as in the case of the Roman Centurion,
those who were blessed
to have someone approach Jesus for healing
on their behalf.)

It's why Mary and Martha,
Lazarus's sisters,
grieving the loss of their dear brother,
greeted Jesus with the words,
"If only You would have been here
our brother would still be alive."

And, wrestling with covers
alone in bed that night
I kept thinking this:

When the one person
who is able
isn't there to do it,
whatever it is
can't get done.

Not right, anyway.

I can't cover my back like my husband could
and Mary and Martha couldn't heal Lazarus the way Jesus could.

There are just some things we can't do on our own.

It's why,
when Jesus was issuing His very first command
to the newly formed church,
after His resurrection
and prior to His ascension,
He told them this.

While he was eating with them, he gave them this command: 
"Do not leave Jerusalem
but wait for the gift my Father promised
which you have heard me speak about.  
For John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
~Acts 1:4-5

Don't do anything until you have the Holy Spirit.

Reflecting Jesus to the world,
fulfilling the great commission,
being the church that God intended us to be -
we can't do any of it
without the Holy Spirit doing it
in us and through us.

He and He alone
is the one
empowering us,
instructing us,
equipping us,
convicting us,
prompting us,
teaching us,
enabling us,
anointing us to do the work He has called us to do.

He and He alone
is the one who has our back,
willing and able to do all that we can't,
in a way we never could.

And, this is why it was to the disciples greatest advantage
for Jesus to go away
and for the Holy Spirit to come.

Jesus lived and work beside them,
but the Holy Spirit
would live and work within them.

He would literally inhabit their very being.

And, because He would -
Jesus told his disciples
(and I believe this applies to you and me, too,
when we choose to follow our Lord and be His disciple)
they would do even greater works than He did
while He walked the earth.

And what captured my thought
as I pondered all of this
while trying to cover my own back
was a powerful quote I once read:

"If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today,
95 percent of what we do would go on
and no one would know the difference. 
If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church,
95 percent of what they did would stop,
and everybody would know the difference."
~A W Tozer

My man is gone,
and I can't help but notice the difference.

what about the church?

Are we following Jesus' first command?

Do we as the church,
wait until
we have been given
and have received
the Holy Spirit's ok,
the Holy Spirit's green light,
the Holy Spirit's guidance,
the Holy Spirit's wisdom,
the Holy Spirit's power,
the Holy Spirit's anointing
before we try to do what only He can do
in us and through us?

Or do we instead
fumble with our pride
and pull and tug
on our own talents
on our own thoughts,
on our own agenda,
on our own ego
in an effort to cover our own backs?

Yes, there are some things we can't do on our own.

And, when it comes to spiritual matters,
we shouldn't even try.

A cold shoulder in the middle of the night
is one thing.

But what about those who have yet
to come, know, and experience Jesus?

Waking up
to a cold feeling of worldy air
brushing up against their life,
they come seeking refuge in the church,
longing for the only One who
can truly cover their back.

But sadly,
so often,
when they do,
we as the church
are so busy trying to cover our own backs
by "looking spiritual",
we don't even see them and their needs.

And, if we do,
instead of waiting for,
inviting in,
and completely relying on
the Holy Spirit
to do what only He can do,
we aimlessly spin our wheels
trying to do what we can't do
on our own.

And do you know what happens
when this happens?

Not only do we end up getting a cold shoulder -

And, when this happens,
I imagine a tear
slowly makes it way
down the cheek
of the Father,
and the Son,
and the Holy Spirit.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

When Loving Means Walking Away~

Sure, I've got that.

Not the kind that runs 10k marathons.
Not the kind that climbs Mt. Everest.
Not the kind that types away on the keyboard until the last word of a 698 page novel is on paper.
(At least, not yet, anyway.)

No, my kind of perseverance usually shows up
in a beat-your-head-against-a-wall-that-isn't-budging
kind of way.

Blow after blow after blow,
I keep going at it.

Day after day,
month after month.

My latest attempt has been a 5 month one.
And, I am sad to report,
the wall I was up against hasn't budged an inch.
Zip. Zilch. Nada.

In fact,
to an onlooker looking in at this wall,
no visible sign
of any kind of ongoing battle
or attempt to move it
would be seen.

Aahh....but turn your eyes in my direction,
and it's easy to see
battle scars of every kind,
still fresh,
declaring to all,

Five whole months, -
one month short of being half a year's time,
and nothing to show for it but
lessons learned.

(Because we all know,
tucked into every battle,
woven into every challenge,
God is faithful
to instruct us,
to teach us,
to mold us and remake us more into His image
if we are faithful to mine through
all the muck and all the mire
to obtain His treasure,
all the while allowing the Holy Spirit
to have His way in our life.)

Lesson # 1:
(and I will admit this came as a true shock to me!)
Help Can Be Toxic

For the past five months,
I have been trying to help my mother.
Only my mother
didn't want my help.

I felt she desperately needed it,
while she on the other hand,
was desperate for me to stop handing it out.

The more I tried to help,
the more she resisted.

This was our wall.
And, a wall erected in any relationship is never good.
Faster than you can say
"but I was only trying to help",
our relationship turned toxic.

For her. For me.

"Go home."

My mom told me.
My sister told me.
My mom's sister told me.

So, I did.

Shattered. Broken in a million pieces.
Feeling like a complete and total failure.
Three days ago,
I came home.

the words of a text message from my mom
when I arrived home:
I know you were trying to help,
but the help you were giving
was the wrong kind of help needed.

And I learned one of the hardest,
yet most valuable lessons of my life:
When the only kind of help you know to give is wrong,
it's not help at all.
You might as well go home.

Lesson #2:
(only because of lesson #1)
It's Ok to Walk Away Sometimes

this lesson was even harder to swallow
than the first one.

My father passed away 14 years ago.
My mother is now 82.
My mother's home is a day's drive away
from me and my other two sisters.

when you feel your mother needs help,
do you walk away?

when as a child your mother was there for you,
do you walk away?

when you worry and wonder how she will be,
do you walk away?

And most difficult of all,
when you feel God called you there to help her,
do you walk away?

Not easily,
not quickly,
not neatly,
that's how.

That's why it's taken 5 months.
That's why it wasn't until the toxicity level of our relationship
was sucking the very life out of both of us,
that I finally packed my bags for good.
That's why I'm so weary and worn
and completely undone.
(and truth be told,
she probably is, too.)

It's not easy to walk away from the one you love,
but maybe,
it's ok to walk away.

it's the only way.

Lesson # 3:
Knowing Doesn't Take Away the Sting

Just because you've learned your lessons,
and just because you've made your choices
based on the lessons you've learned,
doesn't mean you will walk away "unharmed".

You will still feel the sting.

There is a part of me that stills wonders
if I could have done more,
if I could have done it differently,
if I could have budged that wall -
but wondering doesn't change what has happened,
and wondering doesn't change what is.

And what is
has left a huge sting in my heart.

And maybe,
just maybe,
this is the sting of love.

Love never fails.
~1 Corinthians 13:8

Yep, I've got that, too.

Not the kind of love that knows how to help.
Not the kind of love that knows when to walk away.
Not the kind of love that knows the thrill of victory.
(At least, not yet, anyway.)

No, my kind of love usually shows up
with a sting,
but that's ok.

If true love means

giving the only kind of help you know
(even if it's wrong),

crying a million tears and enduring sleepless nights
filled with "why can't I?"
and "how can I do better?"
and "God, please forgive me",

trying until your heart
(and the heart of your loved one)
is torn, battered, bruised, and beyond exhausted,

walking away when it's the last thing you think you should do,
and one of the hardest things you ever will do,
for the good of the one you love,

than I am a lover extraordinaire.

And, I am trusting in the One
who taught us how to love in the first place, -
believing that -
in the end,
true love
(no matter how it might look,
no matter how it might seem sometimes,
no matter if it looks as though
it has loved and lost)
never fails.

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