The Saving Power Of Subtle Love

Sometimes love wins in subtle ways.

You’ve got the pills and you’ve got the vodka,

but there’s an eleven-year-old boy who says all he wants on the day of his birthday is for you to come over.

And there’s a dog who thinks of you as mom. And he’s crazy and wild and it takes a special soul to love him, but he’s yours and you’re his, and at the end of the day you are each other’s home.

And there’s a friend who believes in you. Who sees good in you, even when you’re weak and fragile. A friend who speaks hope over your future and life to your heart.

And there’s another friend who thanks you for loving her children.

And giving up on life no longer feels like comfort. Because life and love are intertwined, and how can you give up on love?

And you call your therapist and you’re angry because it’s not fair. It’s not fair that you’re filled with so much love, and so little desire for life. And you wish no one loved you so that you could give up.

But people do love you. And you do love them.

And that’s how love wins.

Love doesn’t always rush in as power and boldness and the booming voice of God.

Sometimes Love is an eleven-year-old boy who just wants to celebrate his birthday with you.

And so you pour the vodka down the drain, not for the first time, but hopefully for the last. And you flush the pills. And you call your therapist and you sob into the phone, asking him to please, please, please tell you you’re going to be okay, that this battle will be worth it.

But in the meantime, even while Life is elusive, Love is standing tall and strong. Subtle, but impossible to ignore.

And part of you wishes you still had the pills.

But a bigger part of you would rather have the love.

Advertisements

Goodness And Pain

Arlow cries when I cry. I learned that tonight. A tear or two and he’ll just lick my face, but audible sobbing and he joins right in.

Sometimes the only way to breathe is to separate yourself from everything–the things you love, the pain that’s sitting heavy on your chest, the swirl of activity in your brain demanding you find a solution for all that hurts–and remember what is True.

Sometimes what hurts us is true too, but there is something Truer.

And that is how I found myself hysterically sobbing in the shower tonight. I scream-cried prayers to the Father who promises to never, ever leave my side. And then I raised my hands and let the shower water hit my face and I said over and over again: “You are good, You are good, You are good.”

Over all that hurts and scares me, I will speak that: “You are good, You are good, You are good.” Because it’s true and it helps me breathe.

*

I called my therapist tonight, sobbing incoherently: “I want my mommmmm.”

“When our bodies are too broken, we might end up in a coma, giving our bodies a chance to recover,” I also said, later on, via text message, where my sobbing wouldn’t distort what I was trying to say. “I wish the same was true with a broken heart.”

*

I want my mom.

God is good.

I don’t know if I’ll ever stop crying. …Coma from dehydration? Is that a thing?

Pink Counters and Cold Hands

It’s cold.

I don’t like being cold.

I’ll trade the rainy warmer days for blue-sky colder ones, but I want to be able to go home at the end of the day and close my front door and be warm. But instead, my hands are like ice and my tea cools, well, conveniently fast actually. But still. I’m buried beneath four blankets, and last night I turned the oven on just for the comfort that something else in my house was emitting heat.

I learned recently that some people’s brains are designed to handle cold better than others. Some people have brains that register cold as pain. And my first thought was, “What do you mean? Not everyone feels like being cold is painful?”

I remember going to Leavenworth with friends and waiting for the tree lighting. They were all cold too, but without the element of, “No, you don’t understand, I’m going to DIE if I stay out here another second,” that I was experiencing. So I slipped into a nearby store and said peace-out to the dark silhouette of a tree: “Catch ya on the flip side. Let me know when you’re all lit up and I’ll ooh and ahh through this here window.”

My friends thought I was being a baby, or being overly dramatic. But maybe there’s a lot we don’t know about pain. And maybe two people can live through similar events and have two really different emotional experiences. And maybe all that we don’t know or understand is another call NOT TO JUDGE. And maybe we can’t always draw from our own frame of understanding and experience to try to relate to another person. Because we’re not all the same.

*

I just wanted a night that felt festive. I brought home pizza and ingredients to make the most chocolate-y, peppermint-y hot cocoa ever. I got out my reindeer mug and bought another sippy cup for Olivia so she could drink it on the couch.

I wanted to watch a Christmas movie and sit, all cuddled up in our pajamas under a mountain of blankets.

They wanted to watch The Lorax.

And actually, they mostly wanted to play and ask for the iPad and wipe pizza grease on furniture.

But it was okay. Because we were together.

And after dinner, I went to shower. And I exhaled deeply all the stress of the day, and I exhaled relief that I survived another week. And I exhaled the loudness- Arlow barking because there was a dog on TV that he wanted to play with, and the kids being kids.

And just as I felt some tension melt away, my phone rang. And I peeked out of the shower curtain to catch a glimpse of it vibrating on the counter and saw the caller was work.

And I was on duty overnight.

So, barely showered, barely dried off, and more than barely freezing, I called work back, trying not to think: “I just wanted a few moments of peace…” And I dealt with that situation while Theo shoved his sippy cup at me, asking for more hot cocoa, and Arlow swiped pizza off the high chair.

And I went to the kitchen to write down some phone numbers the person on the other end of the phone was giving me, and then back to the bathroom where Olivia was standing outside the door, her mouth in the shape of an “o”, pointing inside. Theo was in there, drinking from my giant glass of red pop.

“NO,” I mouthed to him, pushing the pop back further on the counter and ushering him back into the living room.

Then I went back to the kitchen to read off a phone number and call my boss to ask a question about medication delivery for a client.

Then back to the bathroom, where I saw Theo reach for the pop again, hit it with his fingertips, and spill the entire thing onto the counter and the floor, effectively staining everything pink.

So I grabbed his arm and pulled him from the bathroom while he wailed, and grabbed my bath towel, trying to soak up the mess, all the while talking to work.

And in the distance, the Christmas tree lights flickered, and The Lorax sang some song about hope, and Madison cuddled a crying Theo, and I thought: “NO. You don’t get to be the one crying.”

Eventually, we put on The Grinch, and the kids sat still for approximately fifteen seconds. Long enough to stroke their baby soft cheeks and kiss the tops of their heads and tell them I love them. Long enough to hear them giggle and feel them wrap their little arms around me, their bodies squirmy and full of energy beside me.

And then Olivia burped in my face, and Theo ran off to climb the cat tree.

And isn’t that life? I’ve used this analogy before, but I feel like I’m dying from thirst and someone’s given me a damp washcloth to suck water from. And that’s all I have. And I’m so grateful for it. But it doesn’t feel like enough.

Life is hard. It’s really, really hard.

And I keep trying to create moments of magic, moments that feel not hard and worth it and beautiful.

But all of my best efforts and intentions usually aren’t enough. Things rarely ever end up looking or feeling the way I’d hoped, and instead I’m just left feeling exhausted and sorry for myself.

But where does that leave me? Do I stop trying? Do I stop believing in and fighting for magic and beauty?

I don’t know.

All I know to do is keep my eyes heavenward and wait on my God.

And God? I’ve asked Him to be straight with me, to tell it like it is, and still He hasn’t told me to stop hoping that magic and beauty exist in this crazy world.

So I’ll keep making hot cocoa to warm the hands and put a smile on the faces of people I love. And when the house falls quiet at night, I’ll think about the people currently asleep under my roof, and how fiercely I love them. And I’ll watch the tree twinkle and I’ll listen to Arlow snore and I’ll thank  God for every single moment where the fight for life doesn’t feel quite so hard.

And my hands, they’re cold.

And my head is frazzled with activity and worry and all the “I don’t know’s!” filling me up inside.

But my heart feels held. The God who made my heart, promises to hold it.

And He is.

The Chasm

I had a memory come to me early this morning, as the sun was coming up and my head was still swimming from the mistakes of a couple days prior.

When I was a kid, I went through a period of time where my biggest fear was that there would be an earthquake and the ground would split in two, separating me from everyone I loved.

I must’ve seen that on TV–(The Land Before Time?)–but it became a very real fear for me. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than being able to see your loved ones but never touch or talk to them again.

I started altering my day, as much as possible, staying as close to my mom as I could so, should the ground split in two, we’d for sure be on the same side.

And I’d fall asleep at night, my bedroom beneath the living room, listening to my parents up there fighting–the lullaby of my childhood–and I’d feel okay because they were directly above me, and again, should the ground split in two, we’d all be on the same side.

I don’t know that I’ve fully outgrown that.

*

Over and over the last few days I’ve had to tell myself to breathe. To make inhaling and exhaling my task, more than managing the swirling in my brain or the anxiety pumping my heart.

I’d close my eyes and breathe and hear the voice of my God shushing me back to a place of peace. “All you have control over right now is taking care of yourself, resting, letting your body heal,” He soothed. “That is your only task. The rest of it it out of your hands. But that’s okay, because it’s in Mine. Just rest, child. Just let yourself be held.”

Nothing will separate me from Him. Not sin nor fear nor a chasm in the ground.

And He’s doing a good thing in my life. He is building a life for me that won’t crumble. I know; I can see it.

The safest place for things to be is in His hands and out of mine. I suspect I’ll never have to stop learning that lesson.

“Therefore, Jesus Said…”

I was trying to look at Amazon’s website tonight, but I hit a wrong button and ended up at my next (alphabetically) bookmarked site: Bible Gateway.

And suddenly, where I was expecting to find my search results for Dishwasher Detergent, instead I was looking at Bible Gateway’s Verse of the Day.

“Therefore, Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.'” -John 10:7, 9-10 NIV

He won’t let me fall.

Mermaid Hair and Forehead Kisses

I took a bath tonight.

If I’m being honest, I probably outgrew baths a long time ago. I always go in there with a book or music, and something to drink, but by the time the tub is full, I’m already bored and ready to get out.

Nevertheless, tonight I bathed for as long as it took the tub to get full.

And I thought about Mom. I closed my eyes and remembered being a child.

I remembered feeling my hair sway through the water, while pretending to be a mermaid.

I remembered how Mom would come in with a towel and wrap me up in it when it was time to get out. How my lips would be turning blue because the water got cold a while ago, but I was having too much fun to notice or care.

I remembered cozy pajamas and Mom brushing my hair and Dad tucking me into bed. I remembered saying prayers and feeling Jesus as close to me as the cat stuffed animal I fell asleep hugging every night, my damp hair smelling faintly like shampoo.

And I remembered that being enough. It was enough to have a home and a bed and people who loved me. It was enough. I could sleep and be at peace and look forward to the coming day because I was loved and someone was going to comb my hair in the morning and tuck me into bed again at night and all was well.

Where did things get so twisted up?

*

At church Wednesday night, someone looked me into the eyes with conviction and tenderness and said, “God isn’t going to let you fall.”

I don’t remember who said it, oddly, but then I think maybe that’s okay because the words weren’t really even theirs, but Jesus’.

*

If you asked me even just two weeks ago, I would’ve adamantly told you that yes, all we need is love.

But today I looked person after person in the eyes and I thought: “I love you… and YOU love ME. And why isn’t that enough?”

I don’t know.

That’s the only time in therapy that I start to weep to the point of being unable to speak- when I talk about the people I love and who love me in return. I am so grateful and so blessed. But also, there’s no denying anymore that my actions affect other people- people who I never, ever would want to hurt. People love me. And in some ways, it was easier back when I thought I was all alone.

Here I am, loved, and still struggling to want to do life. And how is that possible? I thought love would fix it all…

And shouldn’t it? If God IS love, and God is enough, then there has to be some truth to the “love is all we need” philosophy, right?

I don’t know. I don’t know very much anymore. I am more questions than I am anything else.

*

And yet,  what good will it do to rage against what is (or isn’t), or demand answers, or demand something of myself that I just can’t deliver right now?

What good will it do to panic over the uncertainty of this road I’m walking?

All I can do is surrender. There’s no peace or joy or hope to be found in raging against what is.

So I breathe in the God who is in every moment and I pray He give me eyes to see.

And my brain is on fire with the constant battle, but a brain on fire can’t stop my heart from perceiving goodness and truth.

So I smile at the face of a little boy who affectionately kicks my foot during church, and the woman who bends down behind me and hugs me, handing me a latte and piece of gingerbread that she brought me just because.

I breathe in, with immense gratitude, the miracle of every single “I love you too”, and conversation that comes easy and makes me laugh.

I smile about bear hugs and basketball games and sunny days and silly selfies and happy nights with people I love.

I surrender, as best I can, to this unfolding of my life and trust that somehow, all that I don’t understand, the tangle within me, doesn’t really matter when I can lift my eyes to heaven and say over all of it: “You are, You are, You are.”

It isn’t my job to untangle it or make sense of it. It’s my job to rest and wait and trust and try not to give up.

My brain is on fire, and every day is touch-and-go, but all around me people love me, and my God is still on the throne.

And He won’t let me fall.

*

And so tonight, I took a bath. And Mom is gone. And I’m not a kid anymore. And no one’s going to be picking out my pajamas for me or combing my hair. But in some ways, things are still the same.

The pajamas I put on? They weren’t picked out for me by my mom, but they were provided for me by my Father.

And the hair I combed? It, like everything else about me, makes my Father smile.

And no one will tuck me in, but I can pull the covers up to my chin and ask God to bend down and kiss my forehead.

I can listen to Arlow snore and smell my freshly shampooed hair and talk to Him like He’s right here in the room with me. I can close my eyes and know He is near. Because a good Father never passes up the opportunity to hear His child’s heart or kiss her forehead.

And my eyelids will grow heavy. And somehow, peace will come. And I’ll know that I know that I know, I’m still Someone’s child.