Soup and Tears and Hope and Peace

The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes yesterday morning was a cross.

Sunlight coming through my blinds created a perfect, glowing cross on the water bottle sitting on my desk. And my eyes landed there immediately.

Do I think it was from God- an “I am here” reminder? Do I think it was just the natural product of sunlight coming through blinds? I don’t know.

But what I do know is that it was confirmation that I am seeking Him. In every moment my eyes are open, I am searching Him out- His promises, His love, His presence.

*

I surprised myself yesterday by getting unexpectedly emotional over something seemingly silly-

soup.

My coworker was talking to me about a new recipe she found for making soup with her leftover turkey. And she was smiling, and her eyes showed joy and excitement and pleasure over this simple thing, and she was talking about how the carrots are cut and what vegetables go into the soup and how she was going to make it for her family. And suddenly my throat was tight and my eyes were filling. Because of soup.

But I wonder if maybe it wasn’t silly at all. Maybe it was God giving me his perspective- His love for her. How He delights in all the things–both little and big–that bring us joy.

The tears weren’t sadness-produced. It was love. My happiness for her–for the recipe that brought her gladness–it stirred my heart with love.

And I prayed, “Oh, Lord. Help her to know You.”

Because she’s beautiful. And kind. And she deserves heaven. Anyone who cares how carrots are cut, and wants to comfort those she loves with warm, homemade soup, deserves heaven.

It is too unthinkably horrible that anyone I know and love and care for would go anywhere else when they die.

Hell should be reserved for the evil only, not just for the unbelieving.

I like to believe that in a person’s last minutes, they get a chance to believe. I hope that heaven is filled with those who spent their life unbelieving, but who, in their final moments, realized they had a choice- and their choice didn’t include atheism. They had to choose- God or Satan.

Lord, save those who can be saved- those who don’t know You but who still reflect You more than they reflect the enemy.

*

One of my favorite things about my job is my clients’ children- how they look up at me shyly and smile, and how when I see them the next time, their eyes meet mine and they remember and they smile a less timid smile.

I played dolls with one little girl yesterday while her mom talked to the OB nurse. We named the doll and fed the doll and rocked the doll to sleep, and I was impressed with my own ability to participate in imaginary play. Cute little kids who look at you with hope that you will join in on their activity, they are very motivating. 🙂

My coworker said, after they left, “You’re just a child at heart.”

She’s not wrong. I swoon over the sky, and collect fallen leaves and pine cones, and pause when I pass a stuffed animal display at Target so that I can pick them up and cuddle them. I have no trouble seeing myself as God’s child. I have no trouble seeing Him as my Father. None.

What I struggle with is seeing myself as an adult-
a bill paying,
tucks herself in at night,
car driving,
no one has to take care of me,
I belong only to myself,
adult.

I have trouble watching A Little Princess and Because Of Winn-Dixie and Annie and not secretly hoping THAT’S actually real life, not what I have come to believe is real as I’ve gotten older. I have trouble telling my timidly-hoping-against-all-odds heart, “That’s not reality.” I have trouble carrying around the weight of what is real and not grieving the loss of my wonder and awe and childhood naivety.

At work, I feel like an adult. With people my own age, I feel like an adult. When I’m caring for a child or cleaning my house or doing volunteer work, I feel like an adult.

But at least 50% of me is a child, wide-eyed and teary, looking for a parent’s hand to hold.

Maybe that’s why I love children so much–playing with them, providing care and nurturing–because I don’t feel that far removed from that time in my life. And it eases the ache in my heart to be able to give to someone else what I don’t have.

*

I read a blog the other day that made me think.

Two of my favorite words these past few months have been “redemption” and “restoration”.

This blog discussed both.

It talked about those times in our lives that threaten our ability to breathe, but how God continues to provide breath for us in the midst of those seasons.

It talked about how redemption comes first–God takes the situation and turns it around–and restoration follows. But we have to choose it. Restoration is a choice.

“We can continue to live with the knowledge that Jesus truly redeemed our situation, but still hold on to those wounds of insecurity.”

We have to allow God to breathe truth into the lies we believed while we were waiting for God to redeem our suffering. We have to stop letting the enemy prey on our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. We have to shed bitterness and insecurity and the sense of being unworthy.

“The enemy is not creative, but he is cunning so as long as we allow him to use our hurts, he will use the same hurt over and over and get us to operate out of it.”

We have to repent for doubting God’s character, and ask Him to reveal Himself to us afresh. We have to pray that the hardened areas of our hearts, the areas that we hardened as a way of surviving, become soft again.

This blog said that if the enemy can’t get us to turn our back on God, He will get us to doubt His character.

And I find, 90% of my pain is the result of doubting who God says He is. It’s not the right now that hurts as much as believing the right now is going to be forever.

When I doubt that God can be found in a way that satisfies my aching soul,
when I wonder if I’ll spend my entire life having to consciously practice gratitude while holding a hot and heavy sadness in my chest,
when I doubt that I have anywhere that I belong,
when I question whether God really does bend near to earth to hear my prayers,
when I start to believe my heart only matters to me…

…that’s when my sadness becomes unmanageable.

I can handle the sadness of today when I have hope for tomorrow.

When I believe that happiness isn’t a myth,
that there are people who are glad to be alive,
that life isn’t just struggle and suffering.

When I tell myself God is smiling down on me,
growing me,
blessing me,
whispering and yet speaking like thunder: “HOPE!”…

…then I can love today.

I practice gratitude daily. I try to notice the little things that are going right.

It’s not today that’s hard, it’s when I start believing I’ll spend my entire life trying to fight disappointment–which I heard yesterday as anger mixed with sadness–with the truth that God is good.

At least 90% of my sadness comes from letting Satan subtly convince me that God isn’t who He says He is.

Or that I misunderstood who He said He was.

Is it possible to hope too much?
Does it make any sense at all to be excited for the future or is it going to be scary and hard and lonely?
What if the only thing worth hoping for is heaven?

Those are the things I wonder. Those are the lies I am tempted to believe. And that? That will completely drain one’s awe and wonder and joy and will to live and ability to see life as a gift.

That’s how I know they’re lies.

Truth brings life.

When God speaks, His words are like oxygen.

When God speaks, His words come like light.

“Let there be light.”

*

I was praying the other night, and I was telling God, “I don’t understand…” and I was emptying out all the situations in my brain that hurt and turning them over and trying to understand them in a way that would make them less painful, but I couldn’t. These situations were, to me, question marks. Would they be okay, as defined by me? Was it appropriate to grieve what I feared losing? I didn’t know. And so, “I don’t understand, I don’t understand, I don’t understand…,” I said.

And I heard Him say, “You don’t have to. Of course You don’t understand. Just LISTEN.”

His ways are not ours. Of course we don’t understand.

And trying to understand things that are beyond our comprehension? It only gives Satan the opportunity to speak hopelessness and fear and worry and insecurity into our lives.

So we have to set aside what we don’t understand and trust God with those things.

We have to focus on what we DO understand.

We have to listen.

We have to silence our questioning to meditate on His truth.

*

“I believe,” I say aloud a lot lately.

Also, “I trust You.”

And, “I know You are real.”

I say them aloud because I believe what I am saying, and speaking truth in spite of what I feel gives me comfort and a sense of peace.

And I say them aloud because I know it makes the Lord smile.

And I say them aloud because I know it pisses Satan off, which makes ME smile. 😉

But the other day while I was driving, after I uttered, “I know You are real.” I sensed God ask me, “Yes, but HOW real?”

As evidenced in my recent blogs, I’ve been really struggling with my hope that God is more than what I currently know, that He’s nearer and more available to us than others might suggest.

But it’s impossible to over-estimate God. It’s impossible to think Him TOO alive or TOO real or TOO present.

At least, I pray that’s true.

…And even as I type that last sentence, there’s a fire burning within me and I know that I know that I know–IT’S TRUE.

And so after He asked me that, I looked around me- at the wind blowing through the trees and the wet pavement and the headlights and taillights of traffic. And I said, “This is all Yours. You made it. We have grown to think this planet belongs to us, but it doesn’t. Every inch and corner, every height and depth, Your hands have created. And it would be silly of us to think that You created this planet and then left, that You are up in Heaven conducting things down here like a surgeon in an ER, reaching out a hand to an OR nurse without making eye contact and demanding, “Scalpel.”

We are not Your job.

We are Your passion.

It would be foolish to believe this planet, which has Your holy fingerprints all over it, is on its own, armed with scripture and prayer and the Holy Spirit, yes, but not the God who is both lion and lamb, the Savior with tender eyes and a warm embrace.

And so I choose to believe, because nothing else would make sense, that You’re here- that Your presence is hovering over this entire earth.

Lord, give us eyes to see.

Come as a rushing wind, come like rain, come like fire, come like a still small voice, coming like a baby in a manger… just COME.

*

You know what I’ve discovered? Sometimes we don’t even know what our hearts need to hear until it’s spoken to us. And the way we know our hearts were thirsty for those words? We cry. At least I cry!

I was fine, sad, but not tearful. And then she said, with authority and firmness, “You. Are. Lovable.”

Tears.

I was fine. And then she called me a gift.

Tears.

I was fine. And then she called me family.

Tears.

I was fine. And then she said, “It’s okay, He knows you’re heart.”

Tears.

I was fine. And then she said, “It’s going to be okay.”

Tears.

I was fine, and then I lifted my head toward heaven and asked, “Are you proud of me?”

And tears.

Because I knew the answer was “yes”.

*

I was going through papers the other day, looking for information about CEs and supervision in an effort to take a step closer to getting my LICSW.

Bills, bills, bills…
Product warranties and instruction booklets…
Admit papers.
Discharge papers.

My hand touched them and then withdrew. They are, to me, like fire.

The memories, the images that flash into my mind, they aren’t from God. I know that. And I believe God has (and continues) to redeem that season of my life.

And I am trying to surrender all to Him so that He can restore me, bring me back to a place of complete functionality- the only fire within me a fire for Him, and not a fire that leaves me burnt when I get too close.

*

When I pray aloud and speak the word ‘Lord’, it feels holy on my lips. Both heavy and light.

It puts me in my place.

And I don’t mind being put in my place. 🙂 There’s comfort and safety and awe and magic when I remember He is Lord over all. He the Creator, and I His creation-

both beloved and dust.

*

The thing I get complimented most on is my smile. And I only say that because it’s funny to me how the thing most often commented on is one of the things I feel most insecure about.

And I wonder how often the thing God’s given us, meant to be good and a gift and a strength, the enemy tries to turn into a weakness and insecurity.

How often does the enemy succeed at making us hide the things God specifically put us here to glorify Him with?

Our lights under a bushel.

*

This video made me cry-

Because the cub was playful and joyful and happy to be alive.
Because the papa (or mama) bear jumped in the water to save his/her cub without giving it a moment’s hesitation.
Because the cub was helpless in the water, but it was okay because he/she had a rescuer.
Because they had each other.

Because of how love is the most powerful force in the universe.

Quests and Questions

Is there a God who is bigger than the incredible, yet intangible promise that He is with us?

Is there a God who is bigger than the promise of heaven someday?

Is His “more than enough-ness” just in the form of me comforting myself with the assurance that He has a plan and He is good and He is love?

Is THAT what I’m supposed to wrap my arms around at night when I have no one’s shoulder to cry on?

Is the God who satisfies a God we have to conjure up in our minds and feed to our hearts whenever grief and fear arise?

I know that even if that’s all there is of Him on this earth, we’re blessed. Incredibly blessed. Jesus came. He died for us. We are loved more than we could possibly imagine. He is on the throne. It’s all in control. That alone is so much more than we deserve. It’s raise-my-hands-skyward-and-shout-for-joy WONDROUS.

And yet.

This life? Taking in scripture like medicine because what else do we have of Him here on this planet? It feels unfair.

And maybe that makes me sound entitled. It’s pretty bold to suggest that the God of all creation isn’t being fair.

But it’s not coming from a place of entitlement. It’s coming from a place of love. Wild, crazy, unyielding NEEDING HIM.

And desperate, clinging, grasping faith that MORE is possible.

“It feels cruel,” I said to Him last night through tears, “that You gave me this life, knowing it was going to nearly kill me with its difficulty, and all I have of You is what I struggle to convince myself I feel. All I have of You is promise.”

Is that more than enough? Yes. In faith, I know it is.

But does it FEEL like more than enough? Not even kind of.

Is that all there is? Does seeking Him mean watching clouds float by? Does seeking Him mean reading the Bible for an hour every night, and praying instead of worrying, and worshiping as I drive to work in the morning? Does finding Him mean seeing Him in the faces of loved ones and in fresh buds on trees in spring and in the tiny curled fists of a newborn?

Because that’s enough. It is. I know He is good. Even if that’s all there is of Him on this planet, it’s good.

But I feel like He’s asked me to lay down everything- my life, my desires, my hopes, my dreams, my sorrows, my griefs…

I have. And I will continue to- sometimes tearfully, reluctantly, and fearfully, but I will.

But in exchange? I want Him.

I want Him in a way that will fill me up the way I imagine my dream life would have.

Because He’s a better exchange anyway. He’s better than anything this world can give me.

And yet…

What if He is just a Bible?

How can the promise that He is with me and that He loves me be better than actual physical presence and actual face-to-face love? How can the promise that He never leaves me be better than having someone to come home to, who asks how my day was and says “I love you” before bed?

There’s got to be more… right?

Am I the one who’s being unfair? Is He up in heaven, shaking His head, and saying, “Isn’t this enough? Isn’t the breath in your lungs and the moments of joy and the promise of eternal life enough?”

What if He keeps taking from me? What if He wants me to learn a lesson?

Sometimes it feels that way. That He is trying to beat me so low to the ground that the only thing I have to keep me going is Him. And so I’m crawling. I’m dragging myself across gravel because HE IS and giving up isn’t an option.

And He could do that, couldn’t He? He could take everything from me and make me feel so completely worn out and defeated by life that I just want to give up. But I can’t. So I give in. I give it to Him because I don’t want it anymore and giving up isn’t an option. I don’t care anymore. So it’s His.

He could do that and still be a God who is love.

Because He could call it “refining”. He could say that what I don’t have will make me thirst for Him.

Okay. I’ll take it. I’ll take thirst.

But where’s the water? How long will I be sitting here with plastic tea cups and a plastic teapot having imaginary tea parties and trying to convince myself that I’m satisfied with that?

How is this–crouching around a child-sized table, trying to smile and be grateful for imaginary tea and thirst–how is that abundant life?

How is sipping at air and telling myself that when I die the tea will be real and tangible, but that for now, this is enough to sustain me- how is that what God wants for me?

I don’t know what to pursue. Should I go to the store for a Diet Coke, hoping that I have enough money–that a Diet Coke is His will for me–and thank Him either way?

Or should I continue to sit here and pray that miraculously my plastic tea cup will fill with actual tea?

What, God of Life and Love, Know-er of All Things, God who is Living and Good and REAL… What do You want me to do?

Where, how do I find my okayness?

And if Better Than Okay is what you have for me but I don’t even feel sort of okay, is the problem me?

I will wait.

I will thank You for what is good.

You are the One who lifts me up off the gravel and strengthens my legs to walk.

I will wait.

Fear and Longing

There have been many long nights. Repenting for thoughts and longings that I don’t understand, but that fill me up with fear and despair and heaviness and confusion and other things that aren’t of God.

I don’t understand.

I’ve said that a lot lately.

When horrible memories flood my brain, when the present grips me with sorrow and insecurity, when the future seems dark… I don’t know what to do. I can speak scripture over myself, but more often it seems that I’m driven to my knees. Forehead to the carpet or the bathtub or my bed- begging the God who is Love to wash me clean.

I don’t know what to do to be okay. I don’t have a plan. Thank You that You do.

Lord, please take away what isn’t of you.

Fill my life with love and joy and peace.

Fill me with You.

Take the trauma, Lord. Take it from me. Help me forgive- others and myself.

Oh, Lord, help me to trust.

I need You, I need You, I need You.

I don’t understand.

I don’t know why my hands and knees still shake during worship. Why it feels so scary to my body, even when my brain isn’t afraid. It’s hard to stand and I know my shaking must be visible and it’s embarrassing and confusing but I do it anyway because I NEED HIM.

I choose You over composure.

I choose You over comfort.

I choose You over the approval of man.

I’ve thought other things would satisfy, but they don’t. I’m left aching. Always. Longing to be held and loved and delighted in. And the only One to who calls me daughter, He isn’t here to cradle my head in His lap when I cry. Not physically at least.

And why should that be a barrier to our relationship? Maybe it doesn’t have to be.

If He promised we’d find Him when we sought Him, that we wouldn’t be disappointed, that He is the fulfillment of all we long for… then there’s got to be more.

Because I love Him, yes. Fiercely.

But it doesn’t replace my desire for a mom.

I try to make Him be the fulfillment of that, but I watch movies where parents delight in their kids, or I hear parents talk about how much they love their children, and I weep. Because it’s a beautiful thing–the love of a parent–and I don’t have that.

There’s so much I don’t know how to do. I don’t know what is appropriate to bring to a potluck. I don’t know how to make something people would want to eat. I don’t know what it means to dress “business casual”.

But I have help. God has blessed me with help.

I have help with the things I don’t know- like how to get a Christmas tree to my house, or how to shop for car insurance, or how to check my oil.

I don’t have help with all of it. I don’t have a mom or older sister to call when I need the comforting presence of someone older and wiser who loves me unconditionally. There’s no one whose door is always open.

And I’m not going to pretend like that doesn’t hurt. I’m not going to make myself feel guilty for wanting what I don’t have- and may never have.

But I am going to beg God to be that for me. I beg him to use this aching to show me how He is more than enough. The God of abundance- abundant life, abundant hope, abundant joy. He is not the God of scarcity. He is not the God of “barely scraping by” or “struggling to survive”.

He is the God who takes our mistakes and heartaches and flaws and failures and our life circumstances and the people we love and the people we need and He says, “I see. I see. I see. I hear You. I care. About all of it, I care. And when you are confused as to why you feel what you feel, when you don’t understand, I do. My plan for you is good, child.” He takes it all. He wraps it all up and ties it all together and folds it nicely. He works in hearts and lives and knows how to meet our needs. He knows how to meet my longing for a mom- whether by being that for me, healing me of that hurt, bringing mother figures into my life, or all of the above.

And I’m grateful. For what He’s given me, for WHO He’s given me, I’m so, so grateful. …Where would I be without them? I don’t know. Oh, God, how I’m grateful.

Lord, show me how You can make my aloneness feel holy. Show me that it’s possible to fill my every moment, every corner of my life, with You. With a You that is real enough to me that I don’t need the world to embrace me and look at me with loving eyes and call me “child”.

I’m still having that recurring dream where I can’t walk. My legs are lead. And I know something’s wrong- it shouldn’t be this hard. And everyone around me seems annoyed because I look fine. What do I mean I can’t move? What do I mean my legs are too heavy to lift from the ground? And I don’t know. I don’t understand it either. And so I struggle to lift one leg, and then the other, I struggle to, literally, walk it off- to suck it up and refuse to let my legs be lead. And it doesn’t work. And people are frustrated because I can’t keep up and they don’t understand. And I don’t either. I miss the days when I could run and hike and do life like everyone else. But I can’t move. Why can’t I move?!

I don’t know how to love this life. I am desperate to. I can love the autumn leaves and the sound of the rain and the faces of God’s creation and the taste of tea, but I don’t love living. I don’t love life. And I should. Because it’s a gift. I know it is. There’s a reason God’s keeping my heart beating and filling my lungs with breath. Every second He is sustaining me. And I need to be grateful. Every second of my life is His whisper that He’s got a plan. “Wait and hope, child.”

I woke up the other morning before my alarm. The pink sunset sky was slipping under the blinds, where the blinds ended and the windowsill began, the pink light pouring into my room. And I rolled over and went back to sleep, but first I whispered a prayer to God, “Help me love this day You put so much thought and care into creating for us. Help me look at life and call it good.”

I read today that gratitude is the only thing that heals our view of the world.

When the news is scary,

When what I feel inside is scary,

When hope feels unsafe…

There’s still more to be grateful for.

I’ve made that a practice. When panic tries to take over, I close my eyes and breathe deeply and I list everything I’m grateful for in that moment. I don’t think about past things or future things, but what I have before me right now, today.

I’m thankful for a warm house,
For my pets,
For health,
For good books,
For the joy I get from the rainbow of colors in my package of Crayola markers.
I’m thankful for laughter,
And music,
Holidays,
Hugs,
A job I love,
And the knowledge that I’m loved.

And I just keep the list going until my panic subsides.

Because no matter how scary this world gets, no matter how many “what ifs” would threaten to flood my mind, the truest truth, truer than what King 5 or Komo 4 for Q 13 Fox would report, is that GOD IS.

God Is.

Hallelujah.

His Face

Have you ever wanted to stop your car in the middle of the road to stare at the sky?

I felt that way this morning. There was no place to pull over, but I wished there was. The sun pressing hard against the fog made everything golden. Hazy. Like a holy blanket.

And this girl loves herself a blanket.

But I drove on, willing myself to keep my eyes on the road where they belonged. And I thanked the Lord for that- for the fog and sun and the holiness of it.

Because if He sustains everything, if everything is held together by Him, then He is in everything.

When I sit in the bathtub, breathing in chamomile bubble bath and squeezing my eyes tight against hot tears, He is there. He is the creater of water. And tears. And the heart beating wildly, or sitting heavily, within me. He is in the fog and the sun and the quick inhale of awe and wonder when the beauty of this world takes me by surprise.

And I got to work and I walked through red and yellow and orange leaves, thick on the cement, wet and trampled but still vibrant. And again, I saw Him there- in the delicate shape of the leaves, in the almost other-worldly hue of them, and in their proclamation that change–letting go, surrendering to the seasons–can be beautiful.

But when I left work for lunch, the leaves were gone- replaced by black garbage bags full of that which had captured my attention just a few hours previously.

And it made me kind of sad to see God and beauty in something that someone else threw into a garbage bag and tied tight.

Maybe everything is holy.

In a book I was reading yesterday, the author said she has made it a habit to bless everything and everyone- to call out (silently or aloud) the God in them.

She let herself stop and marvel at a stick on the ground, wondering how long it had been there, whether or not it had ever been a perch for a bird. And she thought about how some might not understand- after all, it was “only a stick”…

but we are “only” human.

And in the end, we all return to dust and dirt. At least the physical part of us does. And she blessed the stick for its life and for its contribution to this world and for the fact that it shared with her the quality of having been “created by God’s own hand”. And she thanked God for the stick that had stopped her in her tracks.

Maybe everything is holy.

“The world needs you to do this–to bless, offer a benediction, something to send people on their way–because there is a real shortage of people willing to kneel wherever they are and recognize the holiness holding its sometimes bony, often tender, always life-giving hand above their heads. Being willing to offer blessing to one another is miracle enough to stagger the very stars.”

And as I read that yesterday, my coworker sneezed. And reflexively, I said, “Bless you.”

And then I smiled. Because I suspect that God had timed that sneeze with my new-found lesson on the importance of giving blessing, and He gave me an opportunity to put it to practice right away.

Oh, to see the world with a divine perspective.

To see my tears and heartache and longing for Him the way that heaven does.

To see clearly. To be filled up with hope and life and a bubbling awareness of how truly God deserves our praise.

To be so full of heaven that the lies of hell don’t stand a chance- not in my head, and not in my heart.

Who are we but dust?

The only thing about us that makes us magic–that makes us emotional, beautiful, passionate, intelligent beings–is Him. Apart from Him, apart from his breath in us, we are soil.

And so, if we love Him, and we reflect Him, how can we hate ourselves or another?

How then can we look into someone’s eyes and not see Him?

I’m scared. And I will acknowledge that to be sin. I will fight fear with truth. But right now, in this moment, I will also confess that I am afraid.

Life is hard.

And me? I’m hard too. I am a lot of work. My heart and mind and emotions–trying to get them to submit to the authority of heaven–it’s a constant struggle.

And death? Knowing that’s where all our lives are headed? It’s a beautiful promise, the promise of heaven, and one I eagerly await, but dying? Potential suffering? Leaving people grieving? Not knowing exactly what to expect on the other side of this life? That’s really, really hard.

It’s scary.

And there’s no avoiding it. There’s no avoiding life and there’s no avoiding death.

I’ll say it again, everything is a call to surrender to Him. It’s too heavy to hold on my own. I can’t carry the realities of this world, or even the realities of my own soul.

And in that surrender, I readily confess again (and not for the last time, I’m sure) that I am not my own.

If my life isn’t mine, it becomes less scary.

If I’m not striving to feel okay or be loved or bypass this life in exchange for finding rest in His arms, if I’m not trying to take over as the one who numbers my days and has a good plan, then I can just breathe. And come what may, I can say, “It is well with my soul.”

In that same book I referenced earlier, the author tells about a man who was praying big, hopeful prayers. And when she asked if he believed God would fulfill them, he said, essentially, “I don’t know. But I know God cares what I’m feeling. So I say it all aloud and trust Him to sort it out and do what’s right.”

And that made me think- how much of this spiritual walk is done in faith? How many words are said to heaven and then left in the Almighty’s capable hands? And it made me realize that holy things are holy–alive and radiating with His presence and breath–regardless of whether or not we understand. Prayers are holy, even if it feels they are going unheard.

Or in Mexico. Most of the time in church, I didn’t know what was being said. Hands were lifted, shouts of joy proclaimed, tears wept. But I didn’t need to understand the language to know these people had gathered to fall on their knees at the feet of their God. They had met to love each other.

I didn’t need to understand the language or customs to know that I was witnessing something that demanded reverence.

I’ve been meditating on the word “seek”. When scripture promises that if we seek, we will find, our only role in the fulfillment of that promise is to seek. It is He who allows Himself to be found.

And how desperately I need more of Him.

So I want to seek. Earnestly and passionately.

And seek? The original meaning of the word?
Search For
Desire
Require
Demand

It feels dangeroulsy bold to demand anything of the King of the Universe.

But if I need Him like I need air, if I require Him to sustain life… then maybe demanding is appropriate.

You promised You would provide our needs. And I NEED You.

You promised You’d let yourself be found, that we’d see Your glory if we just believed. Lord, remember Your promises. Thank You that You keep Your promises.

Lord, I will wait. I will wait for the fulfillment of those promises.

I will see You in foggy mornings and starry nights and the beating of my heart.

I will see You in scripture and in the people I share this planet with and in the irrefutable holiness of prayer.

And I will wait. Because I know there’s more.

You are not done revealing Yourself to me.

I need You with wholehearted desperation.

I need You because nothing else will satisfy.

I need You wildly, recklessly.

When God Speaks

​I had a dream that I was climbing a tree.

But as I climbed, I realized the tree bark had sharp thorns in it.

I inched myself along and hoisted myself up and used the tree to support the full weight of my body, but I kept, unavoidably, coming across thorns. I had to keep stopping to remove them from my hands and feet.

But I had no option other than to climb. There was no “back” to go to. I had to get up the tree, which led to a main road, which would take me home.

So I gritted my teeth and climbed.

And once I made it to the top, I called Laura and told her what I had just gone through.

And she listened. And then she said, “But was the water clean?”

And my dream self was like, “What are you talking about? What water?”

And then I woke up.

And my waking self was lying there in bed, looking up at the ceiling with my forehead all scrunched up in confusion, still thinking, “What water!?” And then I rolled over and went back to sleep.

But when morning came, the dream was still vivid in my mind, so I decided to pray about it and look into some potential symbolism.

And what I feel the Lord is showing me through that dream is that I’ve been trying to do on my own effort what can only be done by His strength and power.

I am climbing, trying to get as far away as possible from where I was three months ago.

And I am convinced that it’s up to me to succeed. I cannot slip up or fail or acknowledge the things that still hurt—the thorns—because I have to make it to the top. I have to keep going.

And you know what water represents? The Word of God. Sanctification.

So in comes Laura, reminding me that maybe it’s less about trying to be perfect through this season, and more about the good work—the sanctification—that God is doing in me.

And I think there’s another very clear parallel in this dream.

There was another time in history Someone hung bloody from a tree, impaled by thorns.

WHY AM I TRYING SO HARD TO DO WHAT HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE!?

My victory and righteousness have already been won!

God isn’t asking me to do penance for the dark season I was in. He isn’t asking me to run from it as fast as I can, full-speed ahead, terrified to even acknowledge that it happened. He isn’t asking me to be strong enough or good enough.

He is asking me to stop trying to earn what I can’t earn and to embrace, instead, the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

He is asking me to stop trying to undo what I did, and instead accept the forgiveness He has already given me.

It isn’t about penance. It’s about sanctification.

He isn’t asking me to climb. He is asking me to release my grip. To surrender.

And to trust that, when I do, when I wait upon Him and stop trying to do it on my own strength, I will find fresh strength. I will walk and not grow weary.

I will mount up with wings like eagles.

I don’t need to climb a tree to get to where I belong. Because, through Him, I can fly.

Tug-Of-War and Clogged Sinks and Redeeming Love

God has been revealing something to me this past week.

There is absolutely no area of my life, even in my relationship with Him, where I rest in the love being offered.

Constantly, I am trying to earn love, keep love, and prove I’m lovable.

Because that was how I was raised.

My father was absent, which is a topic for another time, but my mother? Her love was very contingent upon what I did and how I felt. I had to earn it and keep it.

And, y’know, human love is fallible. People will do the best they can, and they will let us down, and sometimes the love they offer will keep us afloat, and then we’ll fail them, and we’ll need to ask for forgiveness, and it’s okay. That’s life. It’s messy and it’s beautiful and it’s worth it.

Human love? It’s a gift. Undoubtedly. It’s a reflection of Jesus here on earth. Jesus with skin on, to use a kind of disgusting but really appropriate description of godly love. And we NEED that. We need to be loved.

But love shouldn’t be something we strive for.

It has to be freely given.

How long have I spent viewing love as a game of tug-of-war? It’s exhausting, trying to maintain my hold on something I cannot control- pull the rope further and further towards me, terrified it will slip from my hands completely, desperate to find security in what I will never be able to find security in- human love.

But only God can love us in the way we long to be loved.

And His love is perfect. He isn’t my mom. And He’s not my father. And He never loves me more or less. And He’ll never walk out.

I need to unlearn my way of relating to Him (and others) as though love is fragile and dependent on what I achieve or say or do, how I look or feel, or whether I’m funny or sad or hopeful or messing up royally.

Oh, God. How I need a deeper revelation of how You love me. Help me be consumed by the beauty of who You are. Help me be captivated by the wonder of Your goodness and power.

Help me stop trying to earn Your love.

*

I spend a lot of time sitting in the shower, praying. It’s one of my favorite parts of my day. But every time my mind wanders, every time I stop focusing on His face and start worrying about the things in my life I have no control over, I begin a mildly abusive mental dialogue, criticizing myself for not loving the Lord “enough”.

And I think somewhere deep down, I feel like the Lord’s ability to love me is dependent on how well I’m loving Him.

Which is such a lie. Obviously.

And yet, when my mind wanders while I’m praying, or when I choose to watch TV over reading my Bible, or when I find myself making an idol of human love, I worry that He turns His back on me.

I know in my head that He doesn’t, but He’s revealed to me this past week that my heart still approaches Him with that underlying belief.

And if I don’t stop beating myself up when I feel like I’m not loving Him above all else, the joy I get from my relationship with Him will start to fade.

If I know my mind will wander when I pray, and if I know it will make me feel like I’m not enough for Him, and if I know that I will start to believe that my “not enough-ness” ensures that I will never know and love Him in the way that I’m desperate to, then I’ll stop seeking Him. Time with Him will stop feeling like a place of rest for my soul and start to feel like work. Boot camp. Training on how to be better. And disappointment when I, inevitably, don’t measure up.

If you know you’re going to fail every time you try, you just stop trying.

But even that–failure–is a lie.

Because we are human! And He knows that. He doesn’t expect perfection from us. He doesn’t even ask us to work towards perfection. He just asks us to love Him.

He’ll do the rest.

Being “better” isn’t something I have the power to be. It’s something only the Holy Spirit within me can achieve. But He can’t do that if I stop spending time with the Lord. My God, who created this heart of mine, and is intimately familiar with all that is within me, and isn’t baffled or angry with me for how I struggle. My God who loves me forever and always, independently of how I feel or what I want or all the ways I fail.

*

I have felt really off this week. Not depressed. Not even really sad. Just… subdued? Mellow? Contemplative? And teary. Desperate for the God who loves me so fiercely. I need to be washed, clothed, blanketed in that love. I feel broken and fragmented and I need Him to hold me together.

I’ve made so many mistakes. And I don’t know how to even process all of it. Everything that’s happened over the last few months… it feels unreal. And sometimes I just weep about it. I don’t even have words, just tears.

God’s spoken with me about my shame. We’ve worked on trauma. He’s forgiven me. And I repeatedly praise Him for the incredible work He’s doing in me and in my life.

And yet, all of it, the fact that it actually happened, the heaviness of it all, the darkness of that season, the fact that it’s only been three months… it just makes me weep. Not tears of despair, but tears that are a prayer for the things too deep for words.

Last night I asked Him to show me where He was on That Night. I told Him I needed to add His face–His holy, comforting, presence–to my mental image of That Night (and the surrounding events).

Instantly, I saw me laying on the couch, my head on His lap. And He was stroking the hair out of my face. And He wasn’t crying, He wasn’t angry, He was just looking at me with love.

Because He knew the road ahead was going to be harder than anything I’d ever done in my life. But He also knew it was going to be good. He knew I was going to be okay.

That was my rock bottom, and He knew it was coming, and He was there. Holding me.

And I trust He was holding everyone else as well. Cradling their hearts. Ministering to them. Speaking words of comfort. Validating what they were feeling- anger, fear, confusion, helplessness, whatever. And in doing that, in validating them and comforting them, He was essentially giving them the apology that I wasn’t yet able to give.

I hope they knew, somewhere within them, that I was so, so sorry.

In fact, the further I get from that place (thank you, Jesus!) the more repentant I become. The less it feels reasonable and logical and the more I cannot believe it actually happened, that I actually got to that place. Oh, if only I could undo it…

I feel like I could apologize forever.

I wish apologies could erase things and make them not have happened.

And yet, wishing that is a waste of energy and will just keep me stuck.

And besides, what need do I have for wishes when I have the guarantee that God will make something beautiful of this?

Only our God could take such a mess and use it for good.

Even though it wasn’t His will for me, He can transform it in such a way that my life is actually more beautiful because of it.

There is a definite Before and After surrounding That Night. But the After isn’t marred and scarred and doomed to be less good than it could’ve been had That Night never happened.

I am not living a lesser destiny because of it.

Hallelujah!

Lord, help me really believe that.

God knew I was going to fall. He knew I was going to hit rock bottom. And He knew it was going to hurt.

But maybe, because He is such a loving and good Father, He created the safest, softest landing for me possible. He surrounded me with love that would see me through, that wouldn’t walk out on me. And He held me. He caught me.

And so when I picture That Night now, when I think about everything that happened in the weeks before and after, I will add Him to the scene. Because in all of it, in the darkness and heaviness and despair, He is light and life and love. And where He is, everything is illuminated. Nothing is as heavy when I keep in mind that the battle is His and I am beloved and it’s not up to me.

I can’t undo it.

I can’t make it all feel okay.

But I am His.

I will speak that over myself. I am His. I am His. I am His.

I am held.

When I’m standing, He holds my hand. He hugs me. He looks at me with love.

And when I can’t stand? He holds my hand. He cradles my head. He looks at me with love.

It’s going to take time to work through all of it, I think. But that’s okay. I’m leaving it at the foot of the cross. I’m not going to keep holding on to it, turning it over in my hands, looking at it, feeling pale and shaky and regretful and ashamed. I am going to leave it in God’s holy hands and let Him do the work in me that He wants to do… in His perfect timing.

I am done trying to seek healing or wholeness.

Or love.

At least, in my mind I’m done. My heart is still reluctant to let go of the tug-of-war rope. But we’re working on that- my heart, the Holy Spirit, and I.

*

All I want is Him. Because there’s no other answer for everything in me that isn’t okay.

And honestly? I sometimes feel like my prayer for more of Him never reaches Heaven, regardless of how many times I ask. I feel like… the drain is clogged.

But if I start to believe that’s true, I will stop asking. I will stop seeking. And then what will I have?

About a month ago, the right side of my kitchen sink was clogged. No matter how much water I ran, no matter how many times I tried to use a plunger on it, the sink wouldn’t drain. It just kept filling up with water. And I lost hope. I didn’t know how to fix it, so I stopped trying. I just stopped using that side of the sink.

I don’t want to that to become the way I view my prayer to know and love Him more.

Especially since scripture says if we seek Him, we won’t be disappointed (Jer. 29:13-14).

Aye. I don’t know, guys. I don’t know what that means. I don’t know what His plan is or how He will answer my prayer. But I know He hears it.

And if I stop seeking Him, if I stop falling on my knees and petitioning and begging and crying and believing Him for more–not more things, but more of Him–where else can I find life? If I give up, if I stop seeking Him, where does that leave me? There is no life for me apart from that.

And so, regardless of what I feel or perceive, I will trust that the time I spend with Him accomplishes something. That it makes Him smile because He’s been waiting for me to realize that there’s nowhere else I can go to find what my heart longs for. Which, really, is the best thing that could’ve possibly come out of my Rock Bottom.

And He isn’t going to leave me in this place. This isn’t where my pursuit of Him ends- with this realization and aching and longing for more, without some way to dig deeper. He isn’t saying to me, “Okay, good. I’m glad you finally realize I’m everything you want and need,” and then walking away in ‘my work here is done’ fashion. That’s impossible because it completely contradicts the character of our God.

Maybe, instead, this is where it all really begins.

And so, I command my soul to listen to this truth: I will never, not on earth or in heaven, come to know all of who He is.

He is still holding my hand and taking me on this journey to fall more deeply in love with Him. The sink isn’t clogged. Together, He and I are still walking forward. Even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.

And so maybe that’s why I’ve felt off this week. My heart is aching and longing to be held by my Jesus, and I don’t know anything else that will satisfy… and I can’t play tug-of-war with God.

All I can do, ever, is surrender. Life is a constant practice in surrender and trust, isn’t it?

Lord, teach me how to rest in Your unfailing love.

Help me trust that You hear me and that You are the mighty, holy, relentlessly good and benevolent and generous answerer of prayer.

Help me let go of the rope and instead hold tight to the truth that You want me to know You even more than I want to.