When You Want To Give Up

I tell myself to suck it up. I tell myself it’s not that big of a deal. I tell myself to choose hope, to remember who God is. I reach over and rub my hand down the length of Arlow’s silky ear and I remind myself that giving up isn’t an option.

And then I just can’t do it. Because everything in me is SO heavy. And so I put my head in my hands and I give myself permission to just FEEL.

And I weep. And I tell God how badly I hurt. How I feel like I’ve ruined my life. How I’ve lost so, so much- jobs I love, a better income, my body, my family, a second family, the ability to have a future that is just Arlow and I…

And I cry because it HURTS. A baby that I don’t want is on the way. And I’m terrified of doing it alone. I’m terrified of finances and how Arlow’s life will change. I’m terrified of not loving the baby and I’m terrified that I’ll love it so much that letting a daycare raise it will break my heart. I am terrified I will fail the baby, that I will fail Arlow, and that I won’t ever again be effortlessly glad to be alive.

I cry because people love me, but also I’m doing my life alone. I cry because there’s no point in hanging stockings, and there’s no one who will be here to teach me how to be a mom, and there’s no dinner table that I belong at. I cry because I have friends, people I can call and text, people who will meet me for coffee or a movie or point me back to Jesus when I get lost on this journey, but there’s no one I’m doing life WITH. I cry because not having a family is excruciating.

And I used to have those things. I think back to when I was twenty and how much brighter my life and future looked. I knew sadness, but I also woke up each morning glad to have another day to live.

I remember what it was like to belong somewhere, to be held in hearts and arms, to know that if the worst happened, people would be there. No matter what. And maybe they’d be cranky and misunderstand me and maybe we’d fight and maybe I’d cry, but they’d show up, and they’d do so sacrificially, ready to help, because that’s what family does. I remember the comfort of knowing I had a safety net.

I never had to wonder if my birthday would go uncelebrated or if I’d spend an entire weekend alone. I could feel warmth and excitement during the holidays because it meant family and baking and taking pictures at Christmas tree farms and wrapping presents and signing them “From: Auntie Tamara” or “Your Sister.”

And I lost all of that.

And so I weep. Because it’s unfair and it hurts and HOW DO I KEEP CHOOSING TO LIVE THIS LIFE!?! And I weep because most of it is my own damn fault. It was the depression and the giving up and the chasing after things that my heart thought it needed to be okay because I tried to chase after God and that didn’t work.

I remember sitting on the floor in a hallway outside my doctor’s office. Nothing felt real. My body felt like lead and I knew I looked peculiar sitting there, but I didn’t care. Peculiar or not, it didn’t matter because I couldn’t have moved or blinked or spoken a coherent sentence even if I tried. I remember trying to think but my brain was filled with cotton. How was I going to get up off the floor? How was I going to get in my car and go home? How was I going to be in my empty house and survive the night? How was I going to do it all over again tomorrow? And so I sat. And my brain stopped formulating questions or the ability to look at my life as a linear, time-shaped thing. It was only the moment I was in, and even that didn’t feel real.

I remember long days where I spent most of my mental energy debating when and how and if I could/should hurt myself again. And it didn’t feel scary or wrong or bad because it felt like the only option. I was living this cotton-headed, lead-body, nothing-is-real existence and I couldn’t fathom continuing to do it indefinitely.

And so it was my fault, how I ruined my life, because the depression turned me into someone who alternated between doing whatever I could just to stay alive and doing whatever I could to die.

And I’m mad. I’m mad that my sickness, which is what depression is, has had such lasting and permanent consequences. I’m mad that I’ve fought so hard to live and now I have to live amidst the rubble of what has crumbled and broken and been destroyed during my effort to survive.

It doesn’t feel fair. But it is the reality of my life right now. And how did I get to this place??! How did I become this person?!?

And so I cry.

I weep long and hard into my hands and I pour my heart out to God in a way that feels like I am turning myself inside out.

And then, when I have no tears left, I sit my heart down and I parent it. I tell it to remember that ultimately I have two options- life or death. And with everything I do and think, I am choosing one or the other.

And death isn’t an option. Not because it isn’t an option for me, because I still haven’t gotten to a place where my life feels worth the fight, but it isn’t an option because of Arlow and the baby. Death isn’t an option. So, by default, I have to choose life.

And so I do. I go back to trust. I go back to leaving it all in His hands. I go back to choosing to see the future with hope.

And I don’t want to.

I want to tell God it’s not fair, that what’s the point of over and over and over again giving Him all this pain inside of me when it doesn’t ever go away?!

I want to yell about how hard it is to every day hold back this river of wrongness–all the loss and grief and disappointment and fear–to not look it in the eye, but to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, to have my arms straining against the weight of holding it back, while I scream my gratitude and praises at the sky. I’ve given it to Him, so I’m not carrying it anymore, but my hands are still on it in an effort to keep it away from me, to keep it from crashing down over top of me. And my arms are tired.

I want to tell Him I’m effing exhausted and will it ever get easier and if not what’s the freaking point??!

I want to scream at him about all that is wrong, all the vast, expansive, seemingly all-consuming ways my life is not worth living.

And I don’t understand. I am angry and none of this makes sense and HOW and WHY and WHEN?!

But I know what scripture says.

I know it says our lives are directly impacted by our thoughts, so to choose our thoughts well.

I know it says to remember who God is and how He loves us and how NOTHING is too hard for Him.

I know it says our mistakes are covered by His grace and that redemption is real, that nothing is ever “ruined” when we invite Him in and surrender to Him.

I know that, even if my life looks wrong in so many big ways, each day is filled with His presence and blessing. I know I have so much to be grateful for.

And I know He is working, that my life isn’t a stagnant, permanent fixture, but that is it a fluid thing, constantly being shaped by His will and His love.

And it doesn’t make the pain any less real, and it doesn’t make any of the loss or grief feel okay in even the tiniest measure,

but I have two options.

Life or death.

And so I have to choose. I can live from the place of “it’s not fair” and “I can’t do it,” or I can take it a day a time and trust God with everything unresolved inside of me.

And that is what I choose to do.

*

Side-note:

Guys, after talking to some of my friends who read my blog, I feel like I need to say this: I’m not sad 24/7.

My blog is not an accurate representation of how I feel moment-to-moment throughout my day because this is where I come when my emotions are big.

Yes, everything I said above is true- I hurt.

BUT that’s not the only thing that’s true.

In addition to my sorrow and struggle, there are also moments, hours, sometimes even whole days where it doesn’t feel so hard. And more than I sit around feeling sad or dreading my future, I rub my belly and pray over the life growing inside of me,
I thank God for Arlow, who I love so much that just thinking about him makes me cry,
I laugh and engage with coworkers,
I smile warmly at clients and ask them how they’re doing,
I make mental lists of things I want to do and even feel mildly excited about the thought of doing them,
And I pray for my friends and meet them for coffee and go home at night feeling loved.

It’s not all sorrow and sadness. My list of things to be grateful for is long.

I hurt, yes.

But God has not, and will not, let me down. And it’s from THAT place more than the sadness that I try to live.

Eyes to see.

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Doors

Closed doors mean nothing to God. (Hallelujah!)

There are people who have done everything right- who have a good reputation, have been successful in work and relationships and finances, and who, as a result, have more options for their life, more open doors that they could walk through if they chose to. They can buy a plane ticket to Rome, send their three kids to private school, sleep through the night because their spouse is on “middle of the night infant feeding duty,” and get promoted at work because they have the esteem and qualifications they need. They have options that I wish I had, but I don’t.

Admittedly, no one’s life is perfect and everyone deals with their own stresses, but this isn’t about envying someone else’s life, it’s about open doors. Just go with me here. : )

Growing up, even into my early twenties, I thought I’d be one of those people, the kind without financial debt, the kind with a spouse to help me raise our kids, the kind who is well thought of in her profession. But I’m not one of those people. I’m one of those people who have made a lot of mistakes.

Hello, unplanned pregnancy. Hello, serious financial stressors. Hello, inability to get my social work license, former employers (plural!) who don’t think very highly of me, and messy relationships.

Sometimes I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, trying to create a better life for myself, and no matter how hard I try, no matter what path I take, I just keep hitting a wall.

The lawyer can’t help me get my license.
My unemployment has been appealed and now I owe more money than I’ll ever be able to pay back.
The job I got has been really hard for me to show up at day after day.
The baby growing inside of me is turning my body and face into something I don’t even recognize. I can’t even handle seeing myself in a picture or mirror anymore.
My families just keep crumbling.

And it would be so easy to go to feeling hopeless, like I’ve ruined my life, because there are certain things that aren’t options for me anymore given the choices I’ve made.

But running into closed door after closed door isn’t the same thing as living a life without hope.

God’s good plan for my life is still in motion.
And my hope is in HIM, not in my circumstances.
What I can see isn’t the basis of my reality; my reality is that I serve a God who is bigger.

Maybe all these closed doors are just His way of giving me a more narrow path to walk, to keep me from losing sight of where He’s leading me.

Or maybe they’re there to teach me that God is more than capable of opening closed doors.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes.

But I haven’t ruined my life.

Stream-Of-Consciousness (This Is How I Process)

“I will throw myself, wholly, at the Lord. I will choose to flourish and grow in whatever environment, in whatever season, He has me,” I thought tonight.

It was a thought that came through an act of immense willpower- like choosing to snack on broccoli when all your friends are eating donuts. (Although there’s a time and a place to indulge in a donut, too, don’t let me wrong. ;-))

It’s a good thought. A noble thought. But to put that thought, that desire even, into practice? To walk through this life of people who misunderstand your heart and leave you feeling more alone, to walk through the tangle of fears about finances and change and relationships and What Ifs?, to repeatedly show up for your life even when it’s hard… AND TO WILL YOURSELF TO SEE GOD IN IT? I’m convinced that takes Heaven’s help.

Over and over again I have to remind myself I ultimately have two choices: I can either give up, or I have to do what I just stated above.

There is a third option, of course, but it leads to passivity and depression. No longer expecting God to show up. A sense of “this is just what life is.” I’ve walked that road too. But if “something better than this” is our goal, there’s only one road paved with that hope, and that’s the road that leads to the Lord.

So we choose to say, “Here I am, Lord.” We show up and invest in this day we’ve been given and CHOOSE TO BELIEVE His holy, sovereign hand is working in our midst, even when we’re unaware. We lean in to our lives, going forward, one step at a time, even when doing so feels like the equivalent of choosing to walk through flames.

My therapist told me tonight to be careful not to let things snowball. I don’t have to continually do a complete inventory of the things that are hurting me or scaring me or making me want to dig a hole and crawl in.

What I have to do is ask myself, “What can I control?” And if I can’t control something, I can grieve it, I can process it, and then I have to choose to go forward anyway. It does not do me any favors to cling tight to the things that hurt me, to rage against them and demand they be different when that isn’t something I have any power over. I have to be deliberate in saying: “This thing sucks, this thing hurts, but not EVERYTHING does. And over all things, the sucky and the good, God reigns.”

I KNOW it will be cancer to me if I let myself go down certain trains of thought. I want to, though. I want to sit here and tell myself I’ve ruined my life. I want to hate myself for how my choices have led me to this place I’m in today. And sometimes I even want to hate the baby growing inside of me. I want to scream and cry and claw and beg to go back. I want to undo it.

But I can’t. That isn’t one of my options. Grief? Yes. Processing the very real things I’m feelings? Yes. But over and over again going back to this truth: My God is a God who redeems. To rest my heart on that and let go of all that is out of my hands, to leave it, instead, at the foot of the cross.

The baby in my belly is a blessing. TRUTH. My life is in His hands. TRUTH. He loves me wildly and fiercely and protectively. TRUTH. Is always, always working in my life and in me. TRUTH. There is always, always, always hope. TRUTH.

And so, rather than hating this day I’m in, and rather than dreading what the future holds, I have to embrace what is and accept what isn’t any longer. There’s no other option. Or, there is, but one of them leads to death, and one of them results in living a life of suffering. And I deserve better than that. So I choose to believe. I believe that this day the Lord has made is GOOD. I believe He is working, that He knows my heart, and that my future isn’t doomed and destined to be worse than my past.

My therapist tells me over and over again that she believes in me, that she knows I’m going to be okay, that I’m not a quitter (which is laughable to me given how many times I’ve tried to do just that!), and that she is proud of me. And even when I don’t agree, I take those words to heart. Because I know she really, really means them.

But the key to my okayness doesn’t lie in me. Left to my own devices, this season of my life might come just as close to killing me as past seasons have. So I do what I have to do and I choose life over death and suffering. I choose to throw myself wholly at the Lord, to bury myself in Him, to hide myself in Him.

Perhaps there’s no better time to invest in the going forward than when you think you can’t. Because it’s only in fully committing yourself to the Lord and His will for your life that there’s any hope of things getting better. When life is going pretty well, you can kind of just coast. You can wake up in the morning and let time carry you through the day. But when you need things to change, when you just can’t do it any longer, that’s when it requires us to step, to move our feet, to not just show up for this day, but to engage in it. So I will. And not because I’m super holy and selflessly God-minded, but because I need hope. And there is none of that to be found apart from Christ.

Trust

“In whom are you placing your trust?” I can feel Him asking me.

In whom am I placing my trust? In what I see, feel, fear, hear? In people? Circumstances? Probabilities and likelihoods?

And inside of me there is this most dangerous swirl:
“I belong nowhere.”
“I’m loved, but I’m alone.”
“My life doesn’t matter.”
“I’m not special to anyone.”

Lies, lies, lies, lies.

And this:
“I have to demand and beg for people to care about me.”
“I have to panic and fight until someone’s hand is in mine, some reassurance that I’m not going to be doing my life alone.”
“I have to plead and beg for someone to WANT me.”

Again: Lies, lies, lies.

But also this:
“I have no family. I’m no one’s wife. I have no parents or grandparents, aunts or uncles, or siblings. I don’t even have a family who has adopted me in as daughter, sister, aunt.”
“I have no emergency contact.”
“I have no one who I can just count on spending Thanksgiving or Christmas with.”
“I have no one to say goodnight or good morning to.”
“I have no way of knowing whether or not anyone will be there for me when I need them.”
“On average, most days, I am doing my life alone.”

Truth.

And how do you carry that, that balance between this very real pain that is NOT a lie, and the lies themselves? The lies that can, if I’m not vigilant, in a split second manifest themselves as truths, as reasons to give up and despair and quit?

How do you wield your sword and scream “no!” in the face of the falsities when your heart aches with a pain that has no solution?

And how do you handle that, the pain that is beyond your control? How do you grieve and feel sad without getting stuck in that place of
“my life is too hard”
“it’s not fair”
“I’m all alone.”?

How do you honor your heart and process your emotions without forgetting that THIS DAY IS A GIFT and you are so, so held within it?

You ask yourself where you’re putting your trust.

And live your life with eyes open to see what God IS doing, not just what it seems like He isn’t.

Because this:
– Yesterday two separate friends loaned me maternity clothes.
– Last night people who love me put their hands on my tummy and shoulder and head and prayed over my life and the life of this baby growing within me. And they called my life, and baby’s life, GOOD.
– Today I called someone to vent, and she let me. I said, “Can you give me three minutes to just be an immature baby and say things I’m not proud of, and then can you just forget I ever even said or thought these things?” And she did. And rather than thinking I’m an “immature baby,” she said she understood completely why I felt the way I do.
– Today I met up with a friend for coffee. And we cried and laughed and spoke all sorts of truths- the hard ones and the ones about Jesus being victorious over all.

Do I have anyone to come home to? No.
Do I know where I’m spending Thanksgiving? No.
But am I loved? Yes.

Alone and not alone.

Lies and truths and half-truths.

But this:
Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.” -Isaiah 43:1-4

And this:
I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” -John 10:10

And this:
God sets the solitary in families…” -Psalm 68:6

And this:
“My child, pay attention to my words; listen closely to what I say. Don’t ever forget my words; keep them always in mind. They are the key to life for those who find them; they bring health to the whole body. Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.” -Proverbs 4:20-23

He won’t fail me.

Sorrow

I miss having my clothes fit.

I miss feeling comfortable in my skin and confident and good about myself.

I miss recognizing my face when I look in the mirror. The face of three months ago is not the face I have today.

I miss feeling confident that I was going to be able to give Arlow a good life.

I miss having a job I know and love and am familiar with.

I miss having my finances (mostly) in order.

I miss not needing a lawyer. I miss not having a court date.

I miss not being scared.

I miss having a family.

I am grieving so much. I am battling fear and shame and self-loathing and despair in almost every area of my life. All day, every day, I am keeping my mind locked up against anything that would come in that wouldn’t be the voice of my God. But the sadness? That’s valid.

And I know, I know that all I can do is cry about what’s been lost, and then pick myself up and move on. But it’s a lot. My entire identity. My entire life. Everything is upside down. Nothing is the same anymore.

And it’s my own fault. None of this is what God had planned for me. These are all consequences of my own actions.

I am so mad at myself.

But I can’t unpack and live there, in the what if’s:
“What if I never feel good about myself again?”
“What if I’m all alone?”
“What if I hate my new job?”
“What if my finances keep getting worse?”
“What if court doesn’t go well?”
“What if I’ve ruined Arlow’s and my life?”
“What if I’m not going to be okay?”

I can’t live in the fear of the future, hating myself in the present, and wishing with everything in me that I could run back to a past that doesn’t exist anymore.

I have to keep going forward.

I have to believe in a God who redeems, even when what needs redemption is a mess of my own making.

I have to believe in a God who still has good plans for my life.

I have to believe that He is in control, He is making a way.

And I do. I believe that.

But everything is different. And tonight, I just want to cry.

Whatever Things Are True And Praiseworthy…

The forest floor is covered in leaves and the sun flickers behind the tops of the trees as I walk.

I’m cold and my fears are pressing at my mind and I can feel myself starting to get cranky.

But Arlow is happy.

He is running, tongue hanging out of his mouth, making sure not to stray too far from his mama.

“He’s such a happy dog!” someone tells me. And I take pride in that, in knowing I’m loving him well, that he’s happy.

Her husband throws a stick for Arlow and their own dogs and I watch them play fetch for twenty minutes.

The sun is shining and my boy is happy.

And all, in this moment, is well.

*

I feel gigantic.

None of my clothes fit and it’s hard for me to look in the mirror. Even my face is fat.

But I try to love myself anyway.

I love myself by eating Thai food tonight with my friend.

I love myself by not remembering the clothes that don’t fit me anymore.

I love myself by not wondering how people see me and what they think and whether or not I’ll ever feel good about myself again.

And I love myself by resting my hand on my belly after I eat, willing myself not to be repulsed by this body that I’ve been given.

I thank God for my health, for my life, for what He’s doing.

*

There was a time when my entire world revolved around the need to belong and be loved. My mental health, well-being, and outlook on life were entirely wrapped up in whether or not I felt hugged, secure, wanted.

And there are times still when sorrow grips me. The loss. The questions.

“Who will I spend the holidays with?”
“Who will be there for me in May?”
“What kind of person doesn’t have anyone to put down as an emergency contact?”

But I’m getting better at leaving those questions in God’s hands.

I don’t carry my sorrows around with me anymore, using them as proof that my life isn’t important, that I’m alone and unloved. Using them as reasons to self-destruct.

I don’t even let myself consider anymore whether I’m “alone” or “loved”. Rather, I take my sorrows hand-in-hand with these truths:

She text me a cute picture of her dog.
She invite me to her house and treated me to dinner.
He affectionately punched my arm.
She called, crying, when she needed someone to be there for her.
She text to ask how I was feeling and remind me that she’s praying for me.
He made a point of connecting with me after church.

It doesn’t look the way I wish it would, but I can trust God with that.

And even now, with things exactly as they are, I can acknowledge that I’m wildly blessed.

*

Phil. 4:6-9

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

 

Standing Firm

Two different people e-mailed me Psalm 27 today.

Psalm 27: “An Exuberant Declaration of Faith.”

I love that. It makes me want to plead with the whole world, “Lift your voice! Scream faith and hope and love and God’s goodness until everything else inside of you–every fear and sorrow and doubt staring you in the face–sits down and shuts up and remembers its place- NOTHING is bigger than our God.”

Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.

Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.

For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”

Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.

When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.

Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

*

I am staking my entire life right now on the words I find in scripture. I am demanding they be true. I am standing on promises the world would love for me to believe I’m taking too literally.

I am repenting for all the times I’ve agreed with the enemy about the character of God.

I am going through my life with my brain and heart guarded, protected. Everything I see and feel and hear and think I hold up to the light, I test it for traces of the voice of God. I refuse to meditate on fear or anger or doubt. I refuse to let my brain become a sifting place, a place that holds both faith and fear, a place where I weigh my fears for validity and examine my faith for holes. I refuse to let fear get that far. If it doesn’t sound like His voice, I refuse to hold it inside of me in any capacity.

I am staking my entire life on His being good, His being present, His having a plan.

“You’re taking this faith thing too far, you fool,” the enemy would love for me to believe. “Sometimes panic is the appropriate response. Sometimes the truth is that no, you are NOT going to be okay.”

I have spent years listening to that voice. I have spent years deciding I know best when hope is appropriate and when it’s foolish. But scripture says hope is ALWAYS appropriate. Faith is ALWAYS appropriate. And so I’m calling the enemy out, recognizing his voice, binding him from having influence in my life. I am standing firm, standing on my title as His child. I am a daughter of royalty. I am not a pawn of the enemy. I am not a victim of this life. I am treasured and adored and held.

I am staking my entire life on this. Everything, every single breath, I depend on Him for. I don’t think I’ve ever been more aware of that than I am right now, in this season.

*

And I thank Him. I thank Him when I wake up and depression doesn’t feel heavy on my shoulders, robbing me of life.

I thank Him that being out of work in this season means I can nap when I’m tired.

I thank Him when I can see glimmers of hope in areas of my life that once looked so decidedly hopeless.

I thank Him when the people in my life sound like Him, or love me in a way that reminds me of Him.

I thank Him when I feel excited for something. It has been so long since I’ve looked forward to my life.

And every single day I thank Him for Arlow. How often does He show up in my life-loving, me-loving pup? In his kind eyes and persistent joy and affinity for resting his head or paw on me?

*

Today Arlow sat at the front door and whined, looking at me with hope-filled eyes.

“I don’t waaaaant toooo,” I whined in response. I was in the same sweats I’d slept in. My hair was unbrushed. Absolutely no part of me wanted to leave the house.

But his eyes. The knowledge that I am his mama. I, alone, have the power and responsibility to give him a good life.

And, oh, the way he started bouncing around the house, tail wagging, when I relented and started putting my shoes on to go.

We stopped at Starbucks before making the fifty minute drive to our favorite dog park.

“He’s so beautiful!” the barista cooed, and then offered him a cup of whipped cream.

And I smiled while I watched him enjoy his treat and listened to the barista tell me how adorable my boy is. I would’ve missed out on that had we just stayed home.

And at the dog park, there were so many dogs there for him to play with. I was worried we’d be the only ones, which sometimes happens, but apparently all the PNWerners wanted to make sure not to waste this rare, sunny day.

And he ran and he played and we hiked. And the weather was perfect and the forest floor littered with the most beautiful colors of leaves, and the sun was coming through the trees in a way that made my heart smile.

And the longer we walked, the more alive I started to feel. The longer we walked, the more I found myself talking with my boy and smiling at him.

After a little over an hour, Arlow got tired and let me know he was ready to go. And as I drove away from the dog park I realized God used my boy today to help me reconnect with the simple joy of living.

He uses everything.

And this day? I’m still unemployed. I’m still battling some fiercely intense battles.

But I can see His hand all over it. The opportunity to rest, the strength to be productive (if only for a couple hours ;-)), and using Arlow to get me out of the house and under the big, blue sky.

These days, these looking for employment days, these waiting days, they are so much more to Him. My not being employed right now isn’t an oversight on His part. He has plans for me, to prosper and heal and guide and protect me, even while I wait.