Up the ladder to the roof.

Seven years ago, and almost unbelievable that it’s been that long, seven years ago today my toes were tucked into the famous pink sands of Eleuthera.

I was two days in to what would be the best week of my life.

It was the week that nothing mattered but my hands, my heart, our hands, our hearts.

Six women joined me on three flights to the tiny island that needed Jesus.
Because even tiny islands need Him.

Somewhere between the making breakfast and the painting and hammering and singing and teaching, somewhere around sips of sweet punch and through the indescribable surf, all that mattered was that we wanted to help, we wanted to love.

We went to bed with sunkissed smiles curled on our faces, even if the sand fleas hopped maddeningly around our legs.

And in the days of no makeup and peach skies and kids in our laps and conch shells within every reach, I realized that the nudging to get there, the nudging that’d poked at my insides during a cold Ohio autumn & winter was something that deserved attention.

We helped, we laughed a lot, we knotted tight our friendships, and we came back thankful.  And we were so connected from working side by side, we had a shared experience, and a joyous one at that. The blessing we felt was rich & thick on our spirits… we weren’t hollow from blessing others, from giving, we were more-than-far from hollow.

This last week, tucked under my roof and my old blankets were two beloveds.

Four years ago these two joined me on a not-so-tiny island that needed Jesus.
Because even The Big Apple needs Him.

We spent much much longer than a week working side by side, and this shared experience was seeded with just as much hard hurt as it was with joy.

But here we were, all these years later, and that tight knot of friendship? …not one thread unraveled.
We spent the days laughing. …laughing and talking and daydreaming out loud, asking for advice and passing around hefty heaps of memories.

There was something about that season that we shared that was absolutely, without a doubt, on purpose.

Life doesn’t always seem to be dished on purpose, designed on purpose, enjoyed on purpose, lived on purpose…

And in the nooks between intentional seasons, or, in my case, in the football fields of valley-dom that lie between the eensy crannies of hilltop beauty & purpose… is it about being satiated or is it about fighting for the hilltop?

Do we pray for contentment or do we pray for adventure?

“Many saints are content to live like people in coal mines, who never see the sun.  Tears sadden their faces when they could be anointed with heavenly oil.  I am convinced that many believers suffer in a dungeon when they could walk on a palace roof, viewing the lush landscape and Lebanon. Wake up, believers, from your lowly condition! Throw away your laziness, sluggishness, coldness, or whatever is interfering with your pure love for Christ.  Make Him the Source, the Center, and the One who encompasses every delight of your soul.  Refuse to be satisfied any longer with your meager accomplishments.  Aspire to a higher, a nobler, a fuller life. Upward to heaven! Nearer to God!” -Charles H. Spurgeon

On the night before New Year’s Eve, I pulled sequins over my head and wound leopard around my middle and slipped my arms through bright cashmere,  she wore lace and he tied a double Windsor knot, and we stashed ourselves in a back booth at a favorite swanky restaurant.

We reviewed the year over Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour and Delirium and the uncomfortable advances of our not-so-single waiter.

As is Martin tradition, I asked both of them what the outstanding gem of the last year was as well as the grandest disappointment.

Our shining goods didn’t match, but our hurts did.
Each of the three of us walked through the broken hope that accompanies a romantic relationship dissolving.

We kind of sat there and looked at each other’s faces.
We hurt for each other.
Because that’s what friends do.

So I asked, “Were you… are you… mad at God?”

And without one moment to hesitate or concoct a way to sound righteous and right without feeling it, my angel with the loopy blonde mess ‘o’ curls said “No.”
“No.  Because He sat with me.  He sat with me every day on that porch swing I went to to cry and read and figure it all out, He sat so close to me, He picked up every piece of my heart so sweetly that even, even if I have to walk through another heartbreak like that, I’ll know good will come out of it. Because it did then and it will again, I know that if I get my heart broken, I will be taken care of by the Lord and I will spend so much time with Him.”


I looked across the table at the bespectacled eyes peeking at me over the rim of a glass of pink elephants, and asked “Would you do it all over again? Be with her?”

‘Yes.  Absolutely.  Of course.  Because for awhile there, she loved me.  For awhile she loved me and explained to me what it was about me that was worth loving, and what I could do better, and I have done those things better, and I am a different person now.”

And there we were.
With matching hurts and wildly different views on what happens after.

I was stuck in the coal mine with tears on my face, and these two were grabbing fistfuls of green grass to get to a place where they could see clearly.
…upward to heaven. …nearer to God.

The conversation wandered and wound to what’s next and both of my beloveds have grand adventures ahead of them in the next few days, weeks, months.

Adventures for the heart and the spirit and the mind and the body, the inside and the outside.
Their calendar is full as they work on ‘waking up.’

The next night, the ball dropped and at least three full flutes of fizzy were gulped down. The New Year was danced in until our perfect coifs fell and our dresses smelled of revelry.

Celebrating has never been the issue.
Living has.

Just a few hours under the covers before driving my darling to the airport, and almost immediately after she hauled her suitcase out of the backseat and hugged me goodbye, the days, the months, the year ahead, they loudly announced themselves.

The emptiness of the calendar almost screamed.

And there it was.

Under the docket pages.
Under my skin.

The nudging that’d led me to two islands, that’d led me to being shown what I needed to see and sewed up where I needed to heal, that nudging racked under my skin like too many subway train riders elbowing to get out.

I have seen a God of my history nudge, work, answer.
I have also known a God where no amount of nudging has budged Him seemingly any closer to me.

So Spurgeon, what ladder? what yellow brick road? what roadmap leads to the palace roof?

The coalmine of heartbreak and disbelief, the low low valley of tired and tempted… we all know the dark depths, the seasons without the sun.
But do we all know the robust life anointed with heavenly oil?

…Maybe we know it in pockets, in week-long missions trips, in first kisses, in birthday parties, in nurseries… but do we know what it is to live an adventure!?
Do we know what it is to really live at all?

If we believed in the God that orchestrated the nooks and the goodness, the God of our history who wrought great love even in deeply trying seasons, would we push and shove out of our own way? Would we almost burst to leave the old man behind and lace up the new man’s running shoes?

Would anything stop us?

It’s time to believe, it’s time to pray, it’s time to shake the devil off our backs & scream for adventure.
All the adventure it takes to get upward to heaven.

…& nearer to God.


ladder to the stars

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