The Day Jesus Wore Pink

I got a pedicure the other day. I had to withdraw money from the ATM in advance because I didn’t actually know if I had enough. And cash is safer than debit when you’re in that situation. Because what would I have done if it was time to pay and my card got declined!? I would’ve been like: “Uh… do I have to give you my toes now? Is that how this works? Or… do I work here until I can pay off my debt? Or, hey, how about this, can’t we just call it good if I pinkie promise you I’ll come back when I get paid Friday?”

Sorry. That’s not actually the point of the story. But I still have my toes. And I’m still unemployed. So, hurrah for all the small victories.

Anyway, this is the point:

At the nail salon, I met a woman who was probably in her eighties. She was sitting next to me and smiling down at her bright pink toes as the manicurist (er, pedicurist?) painted them. And we made small talk about traffic and Puyallup and the color pink, this woman and I, but what struck me wasn’t our conversation, but her. She looked so happy. Just… like, deeply okay. She wasn’t giving off an “everything is perfect!” vibe, (because, y’know, traffic and all), but she just seemed so glad to be alive.

She seemed a little like Jesus.

And I have been thinking about her since. Because eighty. Eighty and glad for life. Not bitter or depressed or disillusioned or mean, but smiling and making happy small-talk and painting her toenails bright pink.

And I wanted to ask her, “How did you do it?!”

I also wanted to ask if she was a Christian. Although, I suspect she was because sister had Jesus all over her- especially in those kind, smiley eyes.

I wanted to ask how she did life. “How are you still here? How are you glad to be?” But I just sat silent instead. And after the small talk fizzled out, I leaned my head back in my chair and closed my eyes. And I prayed for her. I prayed that whatever measure of the Holy Spirit is in her, it would grow even more. I prayed she’d feel, every single second, pursued by Love.

And I thanked God for sending her to cross my path. Her, who gently and kindly made me question my outlook on life. Because eighty. And not emotionally worn out, ready for the grave. Just joyfully soaking up every moment of life. At eighty.

When I try to picture myself at eighty, (which is really hard to do right now), I can’t imagine anything but grief and boredom. Because life is hard, so, grief. And by that time I’ll have had eighty years of sunsets and conversation and pizza, so, boredom.

I wonder what she was like at my age. I hope she was a freaking mess. (Rereading that sentence made me laugh. What a horrible thing to hope!) But I’m just gonna go ahead and assume she was, in fact, a Freaking Mess. Because I feel like I need to make her my inspirational “comeback” story. Because if she can do it, maybe I can too.

She was probably not even human, but an angel. 😉 Jesus was probably totally punking me, all up in heaven like: “Lenore? (#madeupname) Tamara is just leaving the ATM. It’s time to get down to the nail salon. Be sure to give off a peaceful, happy vibe, mmmk? Think WWJD.” 😉

Regardless, human or angel, Jesus is probably super proud of “Lenore”. Because peaceful/happy? The gentleness of Jesus? Yeah. She nailed it. (No pun intended.)

It’s funny to me- I don’t even want to be alive at twenty-nine; I can hardly imagine fifty more years of this nonsense. I have no idea what was happening in the world eighty years ago. For real. You could be all: “Holocaust” and “Baby Ruth” and “The Hand Jive” and then throw in “Christopher Columbus” for good measure and I’d be like, “Okay. Sure. Seems legit.” But regardless of her actual past, Lenore certainly also had pain in her life. And somehow she stuck it out. It didn’t ruin her. Maybe, even, it softened her.

And when I close my eyes, when I ask Jesus to speak, when I stop allowing my pain to skew my perception, when I refuse to allow my pain to speak over my Jesus… I hear this: “Don’t give up, child. Give Me a chance to redeem this.”

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of That Night.

And I thought I’d reach this day and be so proud of myself for the fight, for my life. But instead, I’m looking at everything else I’ve lost over the past year. I’m looking at the ongoing fight. And I feel so, so deeply: “What’s The Point!?”

I don’t want to do it anymore.

But maybe there’s an eighty-year-0ld version of me fifty years in the future, beckoning me to keep fighting. And promising to treat me to a pedicure.

*

(Alternative titles in consideration for this post: “How Many Times Can I Use The Word ‘Eighty’ In One Post?”)

😉

Safe In The Savior’s Arms

“I can’t hurt like this forever,” I pray.

“You won’t, child. Forever is an awfully long time.”

And then all my accusations get stolen from my mouth before I can even complete the sentence, because they FEEL true, but they aren’t:

“You don’t understand!” Yes, He does.
“You don’t care!” Yes, He does.
“You aren’t here!” Yes, He is.
“No one loves me!” Yes, they do.
“I’m no one’s family! Not really!” Yes, I am.

So where does that leave me? With a screaming heart that I have to let scream. I can’t numb it or shut it down. Not if I want to really heal.

I can’t feed it with platitudes that aren’t necessarily true either, like, “It’s all going to be okay.” Maybe it won’t. At least, not in the way I want it to be.

My hope can’t be in a certain outcome, it has to be in God alone. Grief gets cut short, I think, when we tell ourselves it’s all going to be okay and then define what “okay” means. Numbing ourselves to pain can look so many different ways. I’m learning that now.

However, on the other hand, I can’t feed my heart with worst-case-scenarios either. I can’t let my sorrow become panic. Because sorrow? That’s real. Panic is a lie. Sorrow is where God is taking me right now. It’s holy and important. Panic is Satan.

I have to just settle into the not knowing. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know. But I do know who God is.

I do know He is good and He loves me and He has a plan.

And, you know, let’s be freaking honest, that doesn’t feel like comfort right now. But I can sense Him smiling as I type that because He isn’t threatened by honesty. Instead, He smiles because it’s the truth right now and I said it. And He responds, “I know. And that’s okay.”

And then He takes my hand and walks me deeper still into my grief. “Let’s talk about the things that hurt,” He says. “Don’t try to make yourself feel something. Don’t belittle yourself for not being able to know me as More Than Enough. It’s okay, child. Changing how you feel isn’t your task, your task is simply to walk with me. So, let’s talk. Feel, child. Feel. And tell me what hurts.”

“I hurt so badly,” I sobbed tonight. Over and over again, “I hurt so badly.”

And He? “I know, child. I know. Let it out. Let yourself hurt.”

I sobbed worship music in the shower tonight. I sat with arms raised, sobbing and singing, my off-pitch, tear-filled voice embarrassing me, even though I was alone. But I sang anyway. I let worship be an outlet for my pain. Because I can’t fix it. But I can piss Satan off by screaming truth even when I don’t feel it. “MY GOD IS GOOD!” My God is GOOD. Without contingency. No ifs. No buts. He is just good.

“Letting it be” is the hardest thing for me. If I can’t fix it, if I have to just let myself feel… I don’t handle that well. I am a fixer. I want to be able to make it better. And I’m impatient. I want to make it better and I want to make it better NOW. And, on top of all of that, I am not an even-keeled feeler. My highs are high and my lows are low.

But here I am with my grief. And I can’t fix it. I can’t rush it. I can’t make it stop hurting. But I can praise God as good. Here I am. With my grief, and my Jesus.

“It’s so unfair!” I say.
And His response? “I am the God who redeems. I am the God who defends.”

*

I can’t sleep. But I don’t automatically go to, “I will never sleep again!” So why do I do that with my pain? Or with what looks like lost love? Why do I assume I’ll never feel okay again, or never be loved again?
“Never is an awfully long time.”

*

I can’t sleep. And yes, my natural reaction is to panic at that too. Because if I can’t sleep, then I’m still awake, feeling pain. And that is not an option.

Only it is an option because it is what is happening. And I can’t change it.

I can’t change it.

So I’m writing.

And I’m crying.

And there’s worship music playing.

I am under a warm blanket and I made myself tea and I cut myself up an apple.

I’m learning. I’m learning to tend to my heart.

I’m learning how to run to Him for what is true.

I am learning not to rage against the pain, but to walk it out with Him. “Let’s walk, child,” He says. “It won’t be like this forever. I promise. So just take my hand. Let’s walk.”

*

I feel like the grief is going to kill me. But it won’t. Ironically, what would kill me is not grieving at all. Stuffing it down. Letting the unprocessed grief be a depression so heavy that it becomes impossible to feel anything, even joy.

Because we can’t silence our pain without silencing our joy. Right? We can’t selectively numb.

*

I’m been begging for a miracle. A healing that comes like a finger snap. Because, “I can’t fix this! I can’t endure this! This is going to kill me! HELP!” But maybe this is my miracle. Maybe this is my help.

A finger snap wouldn’t really resolve anything. I might FEEL better, but the pain would still be there within me, lying dormant, unprocessed. God can’t make it stop hurting without making my heart less alive rather than more alive. And God, the giver of life Himself, would never agree to create in me a less alive heart. God wants better for me than that.

“Are you going to just let this kill me!?” I scream at Him.
And He? “Oh, child. No. The reason I can’t just make it all better right this second is because I DON’T want to let this kill you. No real life can be gained without your involvement. You have to agree to walk this through with Me. I want life for you, child. Fullness of life. Life for your heart as much as your body.”

And I tilt my head upwards and I blow a kiss to the sky. Because I’m still 7 years old sometimes. I’m 50 when I make myself tea and cut myself up an apple; I’m being my own mom. I’m 7 when I blow Jesus a kiss. I’m 29 when I’m sobbing in the shower, arms raised to heaven, turning my pain into worship.

*

Oh, gentle, tender heart of mine. What do you believe about God?

He is good. He is good. He is good.

*

In The BFG, there’s a scene where the little girl jumps off a balcony because she is desperate for the BFG to show up, to not leave her, and she knows he’ll catch her if she jumps. She knows he’ll have to show up because he would never let any harm befall her.

The 10-year-old in me? She gets that.

But people, and God, they can’t be manipulated. You can’t MAKE someone show up or want you or hold you.

And it’s excruciating.

But what’s worse, really? Being unable to make someone love you, or wondering if they only love you because you forced them to?

What’s worse, being rejected or abandoned, or desperately trying to earn or keep love?

Honestly, I’m tempted to say the former is worse. But God wants life for me. And He wants love for me. Real love. No for me to live a desperate, begging, pleading existence, looking wide-eyed at the people I love and silently begging: “Love me, love me, love me!”

God doesn’t give anything other than the best. Real love. It has to be real. He won’t give me permission to try to earn love. “Love them. And LET THEM LOVE YOU. Not ‘make them love you.'” Love and let. Love and rest. So I have to breathe and stop standing on balconies. I have to let people choose me. Or not.

And God? What’s the better way to draw near Him? Jumping off a balcony, or sobbing until you throw up? Manipulation, a desperate and panicked rebellion… or a sorrow so intense your sobbing feels more animalistic than human.

If my heart is numb, if both joy and grief have become depression, then how am I supposed to really connect with God? Because it’s in my heart that He lives, right?

So I am letting my heart come back to life. An act of healing. An act of worship.

Truth, even when it is painful and raw, that is the best way to draw near to Him.

I can’t fix it. But I can at least welcome Him into the pain.

*

Surrender.

Here with my grief and my insomnia. Here with no way to fix it. Here with my open, broken, nerve-exposed heart all laid bare. Here, alone.

But also not alone.

*

Someday I’ll smile easy. I’ll feel the sun and think, “I’m so grateful to be alive.” And nothing will hurt.

Oh, sure, maybe there will always be an ache in my heart, because this world isn’t our home, but it won’t feel like a scream. Just an ache. A twinge. A gentle, and, let’s face it, probably necessary reminder to keep my eyes on Jesus.

*

I can’t make myself be loved the way I want to be. I can’t make myself be wanted. I can’t make myself belong.

But I can stand firm and say, “I know who my Jesus is.”

And that’s how I know that someday it won’t hurt like this. Because Jesus.

Someday I’ll be able to say, “Remember that time all seemed lost? I’m so glad I didn’t give up. Look at what God has done!”

And I’ll blow a kiss towards heaven and I’ll thank Him for my miracle.

*

I will not die, but live
And declare the works of the Lord
(Ps. 118:17)

I will not die.

God is working.

And it’s going to be so, so good.

Love and Sin

He lifts her up to the telescope so she can see the bald eagles in their nest. He cradles her too-long-to-be-held body and waits for her confirmation that she sees.

And I smile because it’s beautiful, watching him be her dad. And also, my heart aches. Because no one will love me like that again. No one will call me daughter or know and delight in all the details about me, like the way my hair curls after a shower or slant of my nose or how only my right eye squints when it’s sunny outside.

And I remind myself, he’s her father, yes, but he’s still human. He was once a boy and now he’s a man. He grew up. He is an adult. But he was once just a child. He is human. He has flaws and areas where he falls short. And I remind myself, what my heart is screaming for, what I see in him, it’s just a reflection of the One who loves perfectly. And He calls me daughter.

But He isn’t here. He isn’t here to kiss the top of my head or cover me with a blanket when I fall asleep on the couch. He isn’t here.

*

I read about people who met Jesus in their lowest moments. People high or drunk or contemplating death, who were ambushed by the very real, living God. “I wouldn’t be alive still if He hadn’t met me in a really, really real way,” they say.

And I want that. I need that.

But I have to surrender even that to the One who has a plan. I can’t pray or fall to my knees or worship with an ulterior motive. I can’t do it to get something in return. I have to do it just because He is deserving and He promises to hear.

I have to knock… and keep knocking.

*

I watch them talk and laugh and play a game in the fading sun. I’m swaddled in a blanket, legs draped over the arm of a lawn chair.

And I wonder, what fuels them? How do they want to be here- talking, laughing, doing life? Their happiness both inspires and confuses me.

And I know they have moments where they’re desperately unhappy, moments of pain and fear and tears. But I also know that each day they wake up and they live this life. And they don’t have to consciously choose to stay alive. They’re grateful for this gift of a new day, even with its highs and lows. And when they get together with each other, their laughter and conversation comes easy and is life-affirming.

And I can’t imagine that. I can’t imagine, even in my happiest moments, being grateful for this life. Or rather, being excited about it. Because in my head I know that it’s a gift. And I AM grateful. One by one, throughout the day, I am listing off things that make life worth living. But it’s a practice, a desperate dialogue in my brain in hopes of retraining my heart to want to be here.

I’m grateful.

But more than that, I want the Jesus who can make my pain go away. And I don’t want Him as something conjured up within me. I want Him as real- as being in me and a part of me, but bigger than me and more real than anything I can see or feel- the fulfillment of every desire.

*

I hovered behind their circle, listening to the conversation, trying to look like I was a part of it. But I wasn’t. There’s a difference between being welcomed and being a part of something. And I’m grateful for being welcomed, and I don’t fault them for the rest. Because you can’t make yourself feel something. You can’t make something be what it’s just not. They can’t make me be a part of it. They can welcome me in, they can choose to let me be a part of it, but in their hearts? In their hearts I am separate. And they can’t control that.

I can’t make myself be safely held in their love. I can’t make us have a shared past. I can’t make my future be dreamed of and protected by them.

They welcome me. And I’m not alone. And I smile because there truly is nowhere on this planet I’d rather be.

But I am alone too. And I’d rather be in heaven.

*

She said my name. I didn’t even know she knew it. We’ve worked in the same office for years without ever talking. But we were passing in the hallway and I smiled at her and she said my name. And she said it right. “This matters,” my brain reflexively said.

And my heart asked: “What if she only knows how to say your name because she’s heard so much gossip about you?”

And my heart responded: “So what?”

Let’s be honest, this version of me does provide for lots of interesting gossip. I’ll let them have their gossip. I’ll let them debate among themselves what is true and what is false and what is true but exaggerated. Because it doesn’t matter. Their gossip is no more going to fuel my desire to live than it is going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It is just a thing, like the weather or what’s coming on TV tonight. Or the fact that she knows my name.

*

“Don’t be mad at me,” I pray. Because I know my thoughts, my heart, I know they aren’t always obedient to the will of God. Wanting to give up on this life? That’s a sin. I know it. But I think it grieves Him more than it angers Him. Does He hold up a hand and keep me from coming closer when my being is flooded by a pain that I don’t understand? Does any good parent do that? Who, even when their children are wrong, tells them no, they will not hug them? When I beg God to hold me, all the while holding sin in my head as an option, does He not draw nearer? He does. The God I know, the Jesus I love, He will never turn me away.

And I don’t want to exalt my pain above Him. But even that, even that is beyond my ability to promise Him. And so I beg for help. I come to Him honest about my sin and my failings and my desire to do right and my desire to be with Him in a way that is tangible. And I pray He’ll sort it all out.

And in the sorting, I don’t think there’s anger. He remembers I am but dust. He remembers.

And when I tell Him I love Him, even when I don’t always live out my love for Him the way I should, I think He believes me.

And maybe right now what I’m bringing Him is more need than love, but I think that’s just as heartwarming to Him. “I need You,” is just as much worship as, “I love You.”

That’s what I think.

And nowhere in that, in my sin and desire to do right and pain and love and faith and despair, do I think He is going to punish me with hell.

Because I believe. Oh, how I believe. But I’m tired. And weak.

And so I come to Him, and I pray prayers that cannot be articulated because they’re too deep and too full of emotion. But they sound a little bit like: “Forgive me.” And, like a small child crying for her daddy, they sound a bit like: “Abba.”