A, B, C, D, E, F, Grateful

In a book I read recently, the author made a list of things he’s grateful for, alphabetically. He said it was good practice, and y’know, I would have to agree.

I mentally worked on my list the other day when I was sitting in the cold for 2 1/2 hours. (Have I discussed that enough yet? ;-)) And now I am going to share it here.

Hold on to your hats. This is going to be riveting.

Alphabetized gratitude lists. Juuuust kidding. ūüôā Apples. No, not kidding this time. I love myself a good apple. Plus, they keep the doctor away.

Babies. The fact that I get to cuddle babies on a regular basis. The fact that we all start out as babies. The fact that Jesus came as a baby. Tiny fingers, rounded little feet, whispy hair- all of it is good for the soul. Also baby animals. And bike-rides on sunny, seventy-degree days. And books. Especially used books with other people’s notes already in the margins.

Cats. My cats particularly. My cats, who need me, love me, and are always happy to see me. And cereal. Lord knows I love myself a big ol’ bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats or Cheerios.

Dark chocolate. ‘Nough said.

Eyes. People’s eyes are magic.

Family. And the fact that family can be a fluid thing. And that God thinks family is important. Also, frosty windows. Inconvenient when the windows in question are your car windows and you’re running late for work, but even then, frosty windows are beautiful. And they remind you how fortunate you are to be inside where it is warm, all the while still being able to enjoy the beauty of the ice and/or snow and/or white, frost-coated grass.

Good, meaningful, honest, genuine, heart-felt conversation.

Hope. We are never without hope, not even if we feel that we are. Truth says otherwise. And hugs. I am a big fan of hugging. And hot tubs.

Instagram. I love that it keeps me present, eager to capture all the little simple pleasures of my day in a photo, and getting to scroll through others’ simple pleasures- kids with jam-hands, a hot cup of chai tea and a good book, a starry night sky, things we’d otherwise overlook, forgetting to pause and be grateful. Also Indian food and crushed ice.

Juice- orange juice, cranberry juice, and when Emily uses her juicer to provide me with some odd yet delightful concoction.

Kid drawings. Stick-figure people and misspelled words and flowers and butterflies and trains and Spiderman and all the little things that capture a child’s heart. And when the drawings are for me.

Love. I cannot help it, I have to mention love. Life without love (and Love) just isn’t worth it. And laundry soap. Laundry soap that makes towels and blankets soft and fluffy. And freshly laundered bedding. And lotion that smells scrumptious. All good things.

Mountains and mountain ranges and the awe they inspire. And massages.

Nighttime. The quiet, the dark, the stars, the moon, the peace that comes with knowing I don’t have to do anything- no work, no cooking or cleaning, nighttime is just for me. And the feeling of crawling into bed at the end of a long day? That’s got to be a little bit of heaven on earth. Also nicknames. I love nicknames.

Oceans. Sandy shores and the ocean at sunset and the smell of salt and seaweed and kids building sandcastles and toddlers running away from the water with joyful squeals and couples holding hands and walking up the shore in early winter, wrapping scarves tight around their necks. And the bigness of God. And opals, because they remind me of God. And green olives stuffed with jalapenos.

Pretty dresses. Lace and ribbon and flowing skirts.

Quick dinners. Anything that can go from a package to a meal after ninety seconds in the microwave has got to be some kind of miracle. And quilts.

Rest. Thank you, God, that You designed us to need rest. Thank You that we are supposed to make rest a priority.

Smiling. When I find myself smiling alone in my car or at a book or at the toddler in line next to me at the grocery store. And when I can feel Jesus smiling at me; that’s the best smile of all. Also sweaters and scarves and slippers and slouchy, stocking hats. And swimming. And slip-on shoes. And sweats.

Television. Pathetic, but true. Thank you, God, for NBC and Lisa Ling documentaries and sitcoms that make me laugh aloud even when I am all by myself. And tea. And t-shirts. And tennis shoes.

Underwear. Particularly new underwear. Particularly new underwear that’s on sale.

Violin music. And victory dances. And the word ‘velvet’.

Worship. Together as the Body of Christ, or alone, worship is so good for the soul. And the freedom to worship? I can hardly fathom any other way of life, but I know it’s a reality for many. I am grateful that I live in a place where I get to worship my Lord and Savior freely.

X-Rays. Because they are handy and useful and there are only, like, two x words that I recognized when I looked under ‘x’ in the dictionary just now.

Yellow. Seriously, is there a happier color?!

Zippers and zebras and Ziploc bags.

He Is Present

On Tuesday evening, I nearly died.

I’m only kind of exaggerating.

I sat out in the cold in not nearly enough clothing for 2 1/2 hours, waiting for the Tegan and Sara concert to start.

I spent most of the 2 1/2 hours buried in my coat, trying to will my hands and feet and knees to come back to life. I don’t know the last time I was so physically miserable. I’d rather break my wrist again. Or get dental work. Or go for a run.

I didn’t wait in the cold for Tegan and Sara as much as I did for Brittany. My sister wanted to get there early so that we could be close to the stage, and I obliged.

Of course, after obliging, I realized I am too old for that crap. I don’t want to sit in the cold, and I don’t want to follow that sitting in the cold by standing in a crowd of people on my numb, club-like feet, amongst pushing and shoving and jumping people who smell like cigarettes. The concert was fun, don’t get me wrong, but that’s probably the last time I will put myself in that kind of situation. Next time Tegan and Sara come to town, it better be summer, or else there will be no obliging to a 2 1/2 hour wait outside.

You know what else I found myself thinking though, while I was sitting in the cold wondering how it was possible that time was moving so slowly? I thought about how love put me in that position. Loving Brittany caused me to agree to subject myself to bitter cold.

And as much as I love Brittany, how much more do I love the Lord?
And when is the last time I allowed myself to be even half that uncomfortable for Him?

I hesitate to go to church because it’s scary. I choose Gilmore Girls re-runs over time spent with Him because mindless television is “easier”.

Of course, if God asked me to sit in the cold for 2 1/2 hours, He’d also probably say, “Dear girl, bring a coat! And a hat!” He provides for us and walks us through anything He asks us to do. However, would we even get that far? Or would I say, “It’s scary and uncomfortable. He understands. He knows how hard it is for me. If I don’t do it, He’ll forgive me.” I worry I often say the latter.

Desperately, I want the life I live to be one that gives God priority, always. I want Him to be God of every area of my life. I want to love Him more than Gilmore Girls and comfort and mindlessly doing nothing. I want to love Him more than people.

I want to need Him and hunger for Him and thirst for Him and TRUST that when I call on Him, He will show up in a way that is real and not fog- present and real but intangible.

I don’t know what I expect, I just know prayer and Bible study hold a lot less appeal if I don’t open my mind to the possibility of God showing up in some way that blows my mind and makes me take Him out of the box I’ve put Him in for so long.

Maybe now He is still in that box, but the lid is off at least. I have given Him permission to stretch and move and stand up and maybe even step out.

But I know He wants me to seek Him whole-heartedly, and that if I want Him to show up, that is what I need to do. However, as hungry and thirsty as I am for Him, often I quench that desire with something less. I don’t want to do that anymore.

There’s so much power in going through life expecting that God will actually show up.

Life just isn’t¬†worth it without that possibility. People are great and sunsets are breath-taking and my cats make me laugh daily, but I need Jesus. In a world filled with loss and sorrow and suffering, I’ve been reminded over and over again that God is the one thing I can count on never to leave me or be taken from me or break my heart. He has, at many points in my life, been (or felt like) all I had.

I don’t know what I want or need or expect. I just know I’m hungry. I just know I cannot turn off the part of my brain and heart that insist that there’s got to be¬†more.

I want Jesus to hug me. I want Him to kiss my forehead and look me in the eyes and tell me it all matters. That even though it’s part of His plan, and even though He’s going to use it, and even though there’s worse suffering in this world, than what I’ve been through in my life¬†matters- that it wasn’t okay, that my heart is important to Him.

Recently I read something that initially seemed like a pretty obvious statement, but my eyes stuck on the sentence: “The devil fears prayer.”

The devil fears prayer.

When I pray, that makes the devil squirmy and twitchy and nervous and uncomfortable.

BECAUSE HE KNOWS GOD WILL RESPOND.

And maybe God won’t respond in the way I hope, which will give the devil the opportunity to convince me God doesn’t care or love me, but that’s all the power he has- he is armed with nothing more than lies. And even as he tries to get me to believe his lies, he will know that, regardless of how my prayer is answered, it was (or will be) answered. It was heard, and always God will do what is best for His Kingdom.

No wonder the devil is scared of prayer! Our prayers are powerful!

And the fact that we love and worship a God who¬†cares¬†what we want and how we feel?! It’s BEAUTIFUL. It’s an inexpressibly beautiful thing.

I think sometimes that the devil has more faith in the power of my prayers than I do.

How important the Bible is. How quick I am to believe lies. How quick I am to tune out the voice of my beloved God and side instead with the enemy. It’s easier, y’know. It’s the way of the world to believe we have to struggle and beg and worry and fight. It’s the way of the world to be afraid and angry and depressed and hopeless. But God has more for us than that.

God has more for us.

More.

I have to believe that. I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know what I expect. But I trust God with my heart. He understands me so much better than I understand myself. He knows what will be best for me. I trust Him. I trust Him to show up.

That doesn’t mean I’m not going to sob in pillows or scream in my car sometimes. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to occasionally turn away from prayer and instead go to sleep or watch mindless television to cope with what I’m feeling. Life is hard. It just is.

But the beauty of that is, God understands. He will never say, “This will make you stronger. Buck up.” He will never minimize my pain.

It’s like a toddler throwing a fit about not being able to wear their favorite flip-flops when summer fades to autumn. They don’t understand and think their parent is just beign cruel, and honestly, from an adult perspective, their temper-tantrum is kind of eye-roll-worthy.

God easily could roll His eyes at me. He could say, “You don’t understand. Just trust me. Enough of your belly-aching.” But He doesn’t. He isn’t condescending, even though my infantile perspective makes me whiny at times.

Instead, He says, “You’re right. It does matter.” And then He reminds me of scripture. He comforts me with His word. And when His word fails to comfort because my mind isn’t ready to receive it, He is patient with me. “That’s okay,” He says. He’s not threatened, Truth is Truth and it doesn’t change. He will keep reminding me of it because one day it will stick and my perspective will become slightly less infantile.

And in the meantime, He wipes away my tears. They matter to Him.

He holds my hand when I’m scared. He encourages me and comforts me and promises to never, ever leave me. He reminds me I don’t have to be strong because He is.

He is there. Always, always, He is present.

Even when I’m sitting outside in 30-degree weather for 2 1/2 hours.

: )

Pain And The Power Of A Hug

On Friday, a client called me crying. It wasn’t the first time a client has called me in tears, of course, but this time I really wasn’t expecting it. She had been doing so well just a few days prior.

Fortunately, I was able to drop what I was doing and head her way. When I got there, she was standing at the door, waiting for me, tears pooling in her red-rimmed eyes.

And seeing her there, just waiting for my car, no hope in the world beyond my arrival, the compassion in me grew to something mammoth-sized. I didn’t have a plan for her problem, I didn’t have a solution, all I had to offer was my presence. I got out of my car, and I walked over to her, and I hugged her.

We aren’t supposed to hug our clients, but in that moment, her title as Fellow Human Being loomed much larger than her title of Client. Hugging my client in that moment felt like one of the most important things I’ve done for anyone thus far in my career.

I wrapped my arms around her and I rubbed her shoulder, and we stood like that in the doorway for a long time.

I think we like to believe there’s a solution for everything. An answer to every problem. And usually there are things we can do to improve our situation, steps we can take or changes we can make or people we can ask for help, but not always. And often, those things cannot be implemented immediately. Often, at least for the moment, we have no other option but to sit and feel our pain.

After all, how many times when I’m crying is God’s response just to sit down beside me and hold me? Yes, He is always acting in my best interest, but my tears don’t often illicit immediate change. Often, He just lets me cry.

There must be a reason for that. My own tears usually feel annoyingly unproductive and pointless to me. But God must know something I don’t about allowing one’s self to cry.

He sees every tear that falls.

Our earthly parents delight in our existence- our long toes or crooked smile or the random freckle on our earlobe, it all matters to them. They keep baby teeth and locks of hair from our first haircuts. And how much more does the Father love us?! After all, He is our Creator! It was He who chose to give us that freckle; it was He who custom-designed our smile. Everything from our long toes to the hair growing from our heads matters to Him, and our tears are no exception.

The beauty of knowing that I matter¬†to God? It’s overwhelming. Even if that’s all I have, I am blessed.

He loves me, my heart matters to Him, He sees every tear that falls- my pain, our pain, isn’t for naught. If He’s allowing it, and He is Love, then there’s a reason.

If I didn’t have my faith, however, which is where a lot of my clients are, what would I have? I cannot imagine how hard life would be if I didn’t know Jesus.

Even with my faith, I don’t know what we’re supposed to do in those moments when the world flips off its light and everything fades to black, and all you’re left with is sorrow and anger and your heartbeat loud and echo-y in your ears.

And when the world does go black, and all we’re left with is our own heartbeat and tears? The worse part about that, to me, is being unseen. We can see no positive future for ourselves, no hope… and no one can see us. I think that, faster than anything else, can suck the air out of a room.

And yet, God uses that too. “Breathe,” He whispers. And so you do. You inhale and exhale and just take it one breath at a time, and you realize that even when you’re alone and completely incapable of seeing what next steps to take in your life, and you don’t even know how you’ll ever gather the willpower to get yourself up off the ground, you’re not really¬†alone. And you realize that, if you were never alone with your suffering, you might not appreciate the Lord in quite the same way. When you have nothing, you still have Him. And that’s a lot.

Sometimes the only thing to do is cry. Sit and feel our pain and wait and cry. And pray. Even if the prayer is only “Abba” repeated over and over again.

The perspective of a night or a day or a week or a month in a black-as-night world? I think it has made me a better therapist. Especially knowing that, as hard as those times were for me, it’s infinitely harder for my clients who don’t know the Lord. Truly, they have nothing.

As I drove away from my client’s house on Friday, my own eyes burned with tears, but not tears of sorrow, tears of gratitude. How fortunate I am to be able to step in to so many lives when things have gone dark. And how lucky I am to know God, to have Him model for me the best way to love the precious people He brings into my life.

Sometimes it’s just us and our tears. But if we’re lucky, sometimes someone, or Someone, will sit down next to us in the dark and wrap us in their arms.