Breath and Life

Okay. I’m going to say something weird. Ready? Here goes.

It’s hard for me to believe I haven’t always existed.

Like, there was a time (a LOT of time!) in which I wasn’t born. I didn’t exist.

I feel so real and alive (I am, and I am!), so how is it possible that there was a time in which I was neither thing!?

I know it’s true, obviously. It just blows my mind.

Me, a person with deep thoughts and genuine emotions and dreams and hopes and fears and a heart that beats and pumps blood through my body… I haven’t always been! I wasn’t. And then I was.

Only God could do that- create us from nothing. And He chose it all- the date and time and location of our birth.

And it might seem irrelevant because everyone has a birthday and was born in a place and so how is my birth-date and location of birth significant at all? But it is. He says it is.

None of it is accidental or by chance. It was planned. Purposed. It matters. I matter.

We didn’t choose to be here. We didn’t will ourselves into existence. Our parents didn’t even will us into existence because how many parents who struggle to get pregnant would have children if it was a matter of WANTING them?

We, humanity, really has very little to do with it.

So why do we think it all depends on us now?

I didn’t always exist.

It’s not up to me to hold it together.

I didn’t always exist.

And when I think about that, how I came to be through none of my own doing, I realize how fragile life is- how we’re here one day and gone the next. And again, not (hopefully!) by our own doing.

Our days are numbered. It’s all in His hands. It has always been. He who tells the night to fade into day; He who tells the leaves to fall; He who keeps the world spinning on its axis; He who numbers our days.

And as real as this seems, as real as I feel, there’s more.

I haven’t always been and this world won’t always be. And that doesn’t have to be scary. Rather, it’s a reflection of the God who is working all things together for good- the God who has a plan.

Embracing Our Humanness

“What’s that?” I thought, something on my lap catching my attention as I drove to my friend’s house.

A hole.

There was a hole. In my pants. In the crotch-location.

I couldn’t go home. I couldn’t change. I couldn’t even hide it because it was front and center.

My only option? To just show up. Hole and all.

I could’ve panicked or gotten embarrassed, sure. But how would that have changed anything? The hole wouldn’t have been like, “Oh, you’re right! This is embarrassing!” and then stitched itself back together.

Laughing about it? Showing up anyway? Telling my friend about my discovery? Laughing together? Embracing my humanness? OUR humanness? That was really the only option.

Over and over and over again, all throughout the day, I sense God whispering to me, “In what are you trusting?”

When I replay conversations in my head,

When I beat myself up for all the stupid things I have done or said,

When I worry what people think of me,

My trust is in ME. It’s not in God.

And all good things are from Him. They aren’t a product of me.

I can’t bring good things about by being someone “better”- more eloquent or funny or graceful or beautiful. All I can do is keep my eyes on Him and trust Him with the outcome.

When I say or do stupid things, when I worry I’m not very lovable, God is whispering, “I’ve got this. Remember, I created you. And I have called you worthy of love and belonging. Trust me.”

At no point does He slap his forehead with His holy palm and say, “Why did she stutter when she said that word!? What an idiot! How am I going to redeem this!? Probably now everyone’s going to stop loving her!” Honestly, that thought makes me giggle because it’s so RIDICULOUS. And yet, that’s what I tell myself!

Prove yourself, prove yourself, prove yourself! my brain commands me. And so I try to not look awkward or be awkward or say anything awkward. And really, when that is my goal, when my focus is on not being awkward? I’m even more awkward.

However, when my focus is on being His? When I am trusting Him with me and making loving others the goal of each social interaction, I can breathe. Am I still awkward? Yes, sometimes. But I can roll my eyes at myself when I stutter, or say something stupid, or have to pray out loud with people and don’t know what to say… because I am safe. Regardless of what comes out of my mouth, I am safe because I am His and it’s in Him that I find my security, my belonging, my significance.

Oh, what a lie it is when we believe it’s all up to us. It’s not. The pressure is off, guys. We can be authentic and unafraid because He has a plan. And His plan is never thrown off course when we trip over our own feet or lose our train of thought mid-sentence or raise shaking hands towards heaven.

We are safe. We are secure. We are in the middle of His will. And there’s nothing to fear.

He made us, after all. And He doesn’t make mistakes.

He did not, however, make those pants of mine that ripped. I’m looking at you, Aeropostale. 😉

“Love defined you before anything else did.”

“Have faith in the One who is fully trustworthy is enough to do miraculous things. It’s not a faith that says, by my own strength, determination and power this mountain moves, but faith that steps forward with what is already given us as believers and in the provision and ability of a great and mighty God.”

“Shame has a way of keeping us in hiding. But when there is shame, there are also faulty beliefs about who we really are. How God sees us. We tell ourselves to be strong, and believe we must always show worldly strength. We tell ourselves to be over comers, which we are, but we act out a belief that victory comes from how great a job we’ve done, rather than the greatest work already done for us. In the finished and complete work of Jesus at the cross. Every time we choose to put on a front, knowingly or not, we are choosing to trust in the power of man over the power of God.”

“…But then Peter started seeing something else too. The waves. The storm was raging about him, the swell rose and fell with messy anger, ocean spray filled his eyes and lungs, and he began to falter. The waves were so large and he was so small. Fear crept up from the souls of his feet that only moments before felt secure even upon the water but were now starting to slip on the wet surface, unable to catch a foothold. He started to sink. ‘JESUS, SAVE ME…’ He spluttered and hurled his voice at Jesus desperately hoping to be heard above the storm… He still believed Jesus could save him. He believed Jesus was still standing, was still capable to command the oceans and save his life even though they were out to sea with nothing to hang onto but each other… Belief in Jesus was not the problem. He doubted himself. He doubted whether or not he was chosen. Whether or not he was fit to walk the path. He had been rejected before, would he be rejected again? Belief in God is a two-way street. We believe in God, and he believes in us. It’s a divine partnership. God in me, me in God. What can separate me from the love of God? Nothing. This is what Peter doubted.”

God Of The Impossible

When God instructed us to hide ourselves in Him, I don’t think He was being poetic. I think He said it because it’s actually something we can do. We really can take refuge in His arms, find shelter under His wings.

He knew we’d need that. He knew we’d need to run to Him and hide in Him, that life without that as an option would be too hard.

And what if, when He said “come to me!”, He didn’t mean it in the “come to church, say your prayers, read your Bible” sense, but because we really can GO TO HIM? He who is Emmanuel. God WITH us.

Do we believe our God is near? Yes.

Limitless? Sure.

Powerful? Of course.

Do we believe we can grab tight to the hem of His robe? See Him smile? Feel His breath as He leans down to kiss our forehead?

No.

But you know the irony of that? He did those things in scripture. And He can do anything. So maybe that isn’t what He has for us today, right now, but who are we to decide that?

If He promises that those who seek Him diligently won’t be disappointed, and I am desperate to hug Him, how do I know that He won’t, in some way, do that for me?

I’ve learned that the more I go to Him–yes, in the church sense, arms raised in worship sense, Bible before me, kneeling in silence before Him sense–the more I find myself thinking, “I had no idea…”

I had no idea that power could flow from somewhere behind your rib cage when you’re allowing the Holy Spirit to pray through you. Or that the Bible really is comfort and living and powerful and transformative. I had no idea I could really, truly, not just with my brain but with my heart, give my longing for a parent to Him and find that He is able to fulfill it.

He is GOD. He created US, and here we are thinking we can tell you all the ways God does and does not show up! When has He ever followed humanity’s guidelines for possibility?! When He parted the sea? Saved three men from a fiery furnace? Walked on water?

It’s outrageous.

And He knew that if we didn’t believe Him when He said He was present and near and More Than Enough, we’d stop seeking Him. Or only seek Him half-heartedly. He knew that if we didn’t believe He’d sit down beside us on our bed while we read our Bible or kiss our foreheads before we fell asleep at night, we’d grow weary. If we didn’t really believe He was alive and real and not just “somewhere up in heaven” but here, right now, beside us, we’d look for someone or something else–something TANGIBLE–to meet our needs.

We have to keep our minds open. We have to expect Him to come to us. Like rain. Or wind. Or laughter. Or an embrace.

I don’t know anything. I don’t know what He has planned or if what I’m saying sounds crazy. But the truth is, neither do you. And if I don’t know if it’s crazy, I don’t know that it’s NOT crazy either.

And how would you rather live? Within the self-imposed walls of what you perceive to be possible, or with eyes open and head tilted toward heaven and arms spread wide because our God–the one who created this entire planet and our hearts and put within us a desire for Him–can do ANYTHING? Even the impossible.

The Redeeming Of Mistakes

When I sit down to write a blog lately, my stomach fills with knots and butterflies and all the other things nervous stomachs fill up with. And I don’t know why. Maybe I’m subconsciously afraid I won’t hear from God (which is the whole point of my writing). Maybe it’s the enemy trying to dissuade me from trying. I don’t know. I just know I won’t let my nervous stomach win.

That said,

The other night, I watched Tomorrowland. I honestly didn’t have huge hopes for it, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was one of those “I have to pee but don’t want to get up” movies. So I just sat there, uncomfortable, willing my body to cooperate until the movie ended.

I’ve heard before that there are two wolves battling inside us, hope and despair, and what wolf wins is whatever one you feed. And yet, there was something about hearing that in the context of this movie that made my heart fill with lightness.

The main character, Casey, was relentlessly, unwaveringly hopeful. Even in the face of really overwhelming, depressing, seemingly inevitable things. She didn’t give up. She was convinced there was something that could be done. Anne Frank-style, she saw the beauty through the tragedy. She didn’t deny that the present was hard, she just opened her eyes up to see that it wasn’t JUST hard. And in doing that, she had the power to create for herself a future that reflected the hope she was holding tight to.

And isn’t that what we’re called to do as Christians? To look at impossibilities and seeming inevitability and overwhelming darkness and say “no”? Demand that it bend its knee to the name of Jesus? We are called to look at hard things and speak hope and life over them, calling them to reflect heaven. On earth as it is in heaven, right?

*

It has only been two and a half months.

The other night, I sat in a car with someone who witnessed that season of my life, and I talked about it. And I felt shame-induced nervousness rising into my throat. But I talked about it anyway.

“I forgive me. She still loves me. It’s in the past. God is doing a new thing,” I kept reminding myself.

I REFUSE to submit to shame. I refuse to not talk about it. Even if it makes my hands shake and my stomach hurt and my eyes tear. Even if it makes my cheeks redden and my insecurities about love and relationships and my own mental health resurface, I refuse to hide. I refuse to just carry truth around with me in a backpack, trying to forget it or only sneaking a peak at it in my most private moments.

I will unpack it–brokenness and embarrassment and shame and all–and lay it before my loved ones and I, and we will all look at it. We will look at the truth and we will talk about what needs to be talked about.

And I won’t hide it.

It happened. It’s part of my story, and I can’t move forward without embracing that. I refuse to carry it around with me on my back for the rest of my life, trying to keep people from noticing the metaphorical backpack I’m always lugging around.

Instead, I choose to ditch the backpack all-together as I lay bare my truth. And in doing so, I choose freedom. I choose humility. I choose to trust God with all of it.

When I look back on that season in my life, I can’t believe it actually happened. I don’t recognize the person I was. But the miracle is that, slowly, shame and embarrassment are being stripped away. And all that’s left is gratitude- gratitude for how far God has brought me, and gratitude for the people who’ve remained.

It’s pointless and exhausting to think through the events over and over again, remembering who saw what, and how I felt, and what people must’ve thought, and the person that I was, and what people remember, and what I remember, and how much they all think about it, and whether or not they still see me the same way. It’s pointless and just keeps me stuck there, trying to think my way out of it- turning things over and over in my mind, as if doing so will eventually make them not have happened.

So I say no. I say it’s done and I can’t undo it. I say, “Here are the contents of my backpack.” And I smile because some run the other way, yes, but not everyone does. And that’s beautiful.

Here’s what I know: I forgive myself. God forgives me. And I am still loved. And really, what more could I want? What else matters?

Yes, loved one, you’ve seen me at my worst. You’ve seen me embarrass myself. And yet, you’re still here. …And how much freedom is there in that?! In knowing you’ve seen me as unlovable as I’ve ever been, and you still love me?

So, maybe it’s not embarrassment I should be feeling. Maybe I should just be feeling incredibly blessed. Blessed to be alive, and blessed to be loved.

And grateful that God, knowing this season was coming, placed me among the people who would be safest for me and best for me and see me through it, administering some “tough love” and all.

And anyway, isn’t that what love does? It sees our embarrassment and says, “No, I will still love you.” And embarrassment can’t continue to exist in that environment. In the face of relentless, unwavering love, when the people who witnessed our embarrassment refuse to call it that but instead say “I love you”, the only way we can still be burdened with embarrassment is if we are refusing to forgive ourselves.

And refusing to trust that God is able to restore and redeem even out biggest mistakes.

And He does.

I don’t ever want to go through an experience like that again. I pray over myself regularly that God will protect me and help me guard my heart and stand firm in truth. But He can (and does) take even our biggest mistakes and make them something beautiful. It’s astounding.

You know, I spent a long time thinking I didn’t matter. That I was unloved. That I didn’t have family, simply because it didn’t look the way I had thought family should look.

And I fell into a deep, dark pit.

And they saw. They watched. I embarrassed myself. I scared them. And still, they showed up.

And who does that–who stands by, even while we are destroying ourselves–other than family?!

It’s not embarrassing because it’s cloaked in forgiveness and love. And the result? All I can see now is that God’s given me a wonderful gift. He’s revealing to me His incredible provision and protection for that season in my life, and my continued recovery.

And oh, how the right people are in my life. People who love me without allowing me to unintentionally project my need for God onto them.

And He did that. He said, “These are the people who will love her without letting her forget that, more than anything else, it’s My love she needs. They will be her family.”

It’s only been two and a half months. Oh, how far He’s brought me…

The pit was dark and deep.

And yet, here I am today, still climbing out, but looking up. Smiling. With the sun on my face.

Dawn

“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you… Lift up your eyes to see…” -Is. 60:1, 4

I love the phrase “lift up your eyes.” Oh, the wondrous call to take heaven’s perspective. Is there anything more soul-soothing than remembering there’s more going on than what we perceive?

And “arise”! What a glorious command. The Lord reaching His hand out to his daughter, lifting her to her feet, tilting her head up to meet His eyes. And suddenly the darkness disappears from her face; she radiates His light.

The Lord will rise as the sun.

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us, shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace.” -Luke 1:78-79

The sun of righteousness will dawn on those who honor my name, healing radiating from its wings.” -Malachi 4:2

The sun always rises.

We must hope, even when the odds seems stacked against us. We must hold on. Remain steadfast.

The Lord is at hand- not as a cloud of glory, but as a Person.

“’Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,’ says the Lord. ‘Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.'” -Zechariah 2:10-11

Arise. Live. Come Alive.

Our world, troubled though it is, is not cause for despair. We are not defeated.

The sun always rises.

Lord, give us eyes to see the work of Your hand. Give us eyes to see that light (Light) pervades.

Arise.

We have been delivered. We are no longer a people without hope. We know there’s so much more happening behind the scenes.

Our God is bigger.

Our victory has been secured.

The light has come. It’s a new day.

Arise.

Behold.

Come alive.

Rest

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” -Isaiah 30:15

We can’t put our faith or hope in anything apart from Him. Oh, how I have to keep learning that lesson!

We cannot save ourselves, nor can we look to others to save us.

We must run to Him, broken as we may be, elusive as He may sometimes seem.

We have to submit ourselves to His divine will, trusting in His goodness and power and mercy.

And in that, in our quietness and trust (trust = confidence = “faith in practice”) we will find strength.

Quietness is the opposite of haste or fear. Quietness is sitting before Him as His child, clear that He is still on the throne, and choosing to trust in His timing. It is choosing to trust that He is working things together for good.

We let ourselves be held by Him. We come to know His heart more. We discover He CAN be trusted.

We breathe.

Quietness and trust.

2 a.m. A small child after a nightmare. In bed, her father’s hand rubbing her back. Her breathing slows, her eyelids grow heavy once again.

Quietness.

Trust.

Faith like a child.

Just breathe. Let His presence be our comfort and our strength.

God is love. He can be nothing else. He is unfailingly good and unchanging.

He keeps His promises.

Awe

Where do you stand on the concept of coincidence?

Because I’m starting to think there is no such thing. Maybe it’s a myth- like unicorns.

Because if God is holding it all together, if nothing happens without His knowing, then things don’t simply happen “by chance”. Right?

For instance, it’s not “happenstance” that I stumbled across a job posting, applied even though I wasn’t entirely sure what I was even applying for, and miraculously got hired to do a job I love.

It’s not a roll of the dice that I go to a church that feels like home.

And the people in my life? It’s not coincidence that our lives intersected. There’s a purpose for it. A reason. God knew what I’d need, and what they’d need, and He orchestrated our meeting. It’s beautiful and incredible and takes some of the fear out of rejection and vulnerability and abandonment, doesn’t it? Because He holds it all together.

“God places the solitary in families…” -Ps. 68:6

If we do life that way, believing there’s something to give or receive in every encounter and situation, it puts the magic back in life, doesn’t it?

There are no “routine” days. Not from heaven’s perspective.

Maybe God is always speaking to us. And maybe we don’t hear because we’ve grown accustomed to labeling things “coincidence”.

We’ve grown numb to the magic of the sunrise. And the way the leaves turn brilliantly orange in the fall. And the wonder of our lives- the intricacies of the human body, all that has to function properly within us–organs and cells and whatever else makes us up on the inside–in order to make it from moment to moment.

The fact that God bent down and breathed His breath into us. Formed us with His hands. Delighted in creating the whole package of who we are- personality and what makes us cry and our heart and brain and fingernails and how our laugh sounds.

The whole earth, all of life, screams “I AM!” and we don’t hear anymore because it’s all we’ve ever known. We can’t see His hand in it or appreciate the creativity and majesty of who our Lord is and how much detail he put into all of creation, because we don’t know anything else. The trees and grass and clouds and birds and ability to sing (not necessarily in tune ;-)) and snow. My gosh, snow. It’s magical. Wondrous! Awe-inspiring!

“I’m here,” He whispers in the rushing wind.

“I am your Protector,” He says as candles flicker above my fireplace and rain pours down outside.

“I will never stop taking care of you. I am your Provider,” He says as I eat breakfast Sunday morning in my warm house while wearing pajamas and watching my cat play with a toy.

“You’re My child,” He says soothingly to my aching soul when someone I love hugs me or rubs my back or looks at me with love.

He breathed life into us. HIS BREATH, His holy breath, IN US. Sustaining us. He is nearer to us than we know. Within us. Telling our hearts to beat. Giving us air to breathe.

He breathed breath into us to give us life, and when we come to Him, when we sit in His presence or fall to our knees before Him, His breath fills us up again and again. It sustains us- reawakens us to life- to LIVING. To the wonder of being His and being held and existing in a world in which nothing happens without His knowledge. Nothing happens that He cannot use for good.

There’s never a single second we’re not loved, adored, delighted in, and thought about.

He spoke life to the rest of creation. With us, He formed us with His hands and breath and dirt, but with the rest of life, He spoke it into existence.

Which teaches us, there’s so much power in the spoken word.

“I love You.”

“I am Yours.”

“I trust You.”

“I choose hope.”

“You are good.”

“Thank You that You love me.”

“Thank You, thank You, thank You.”

We can know that everything that happens to us is out of love. Holy, perfect love.

The fiery furnace of trials. Softening us. Purifying us like gold. Making us tender and pliable and more wholly His. It’s still love.

And our tears matter to Him.

Even when He knows the outcome is good beyond what we can imagine, even though He knows we have more reason to rejoice than to weep… He hurts with us.

Lord, help me to trust You more. Help me to know I am Yours. I am safely held in Your hands and nothing that happens to me or in my life will be more than I can handle. Nothing is beyond repair. Nothing is cause for despair.

And Lord, thank You for the miracle of what You’ve done in my life. It wasn’t long ago that things looked really, really bleak. You are a mighty Redeemer and Restorer. You are merciful and forgiving and gracious and kind. And I am so in love with You.

Wildly in love. Amazed. Grateful.

Oh, the wonder of it all…