The Holder Of Every Second

I was crying in the car after dinner. I tried not to cry. I tried to focus on the raindrops running down my windshield and the way my headlights were bouncing off the license plate in front of me. I focused on the porch light that seemed to be flickering because of the tree branches waving back and forth in front of it. I scanned the bushes for deer.

My head was empty of thoughts, but the tears still came, flowing from some place in the center of me where all my pain is built up as pressure and poison.

*

People ask how I am and it’s always the same thing: I still can’t feel any connection to this life that I know is a gift.

I look at my therapist and say, “I have nothing to say.” Because it’s all been said already. I just keep saying the same thing. And what’s the point? Speaking my pain, my gratitude, my hopes and fears, joys, needs, and the overriding goodness of the God who loves me, none of it changes anything. It all still just hurts.

Sometimes when I’m not with her, I imagine myself going into my therapy session, sitting on her couch, putting my face in my hands, and sobbing the entire hour. That I could do. I have no words, just pain. But when I am actually there, I never have the guts to just devote an entire hour to weeping. And I still have nothing to say. So instead, I spend the hour avoiding looking her in the eyes and I fidgeting uncomfortably.

I still showed up, though. I got in my car and I drove there. I’m a mess and I have nothing to offer, but I’m still alive to sit on a couch and blink back tears. I’m still showing up, the best way I know how, for this life that I can’t seem to make myself want.

But with His eyes full of promise and love, I can hear my Jesus say: “Don’t give up. Keep your eyes on Me. Just wait, child. Just wait and trust.”

And so I’m trying. I can’t make myself want to live, but I can trust that He is doing something, even when I can’t perceive it. He is working things together even when I hurt.

*

I’ve been watching a survival show lately. It’s the voice of God to me over and over again.

There’s the father who crawls across the ground, his back and legs broken, to reach his child who is calling for him. After the rescue, the doctor says it’s impossible that he could’ve done that with the injuries he sustained. And then they interview the father, his eyes moist with tears, who shrugs lightly and says: “Love is stronger than anything. It’s stronger than pain. It’s the strongest force on earth. My baby was calling for me. Nothing was going to stop me from getting to her.”
And the message to me: Love wins. Love is powerful. God is Love. I am His child. He fights for me. He comes when I call. Nothing will stop Him from running to me.

There’s the woman who is quoted as having worried, in the midst of her crisis: “What must they (onlookers) think of this person I am right now?” And then she paused a moment, thoughtfully, and said: “I don’t care what they think. I am SURVIVING here. They are just going to have to deal with it.”
The message? Sometimes it’s enough just to survive. The opinions of others, if harsh, are from a place of ignorance, a lack of understanding what it means to be looking death in the face and saying no.

There’s the woman whose son survived because she had told him his entire life that, no matter what situation he finds himself in, never to panic because “panic kills more people than whatever the incident is.”
The message? Truth. My experience, too, is that it’s the panic that tries to kill me even more than the pain.

There’s the man who pushed past his child to protect her from a bear. He couldn’t see the bear initially, he didn’t know what he was going to see when he stepped around the corner where she was, but he knew “[his] kid was in danger.” Nothing else mattered. He had to protect her.
The message? My God protects me. Life is full of pain, yes, but there’s the pain meant to grow us, and there’s the pain that will destroy us. The latter pain, the bear-like pain, He jumps in front of and tells it to go. He won’t let it touch me.

In every story of survival, the victims rarely did the “right” thing. Their rescue was never the result of their effort or wisdom or even their begging. They were completely powerless to save themselves. All they could do was wait and hope. And make mistakes. And keep breathing. And pray.

And the most incredible thing to me is how everything had to come together perfectly or their rescue never would’ve happened. And there was no way all those things should’ve been able to connect at the precise moments they did. It was impossible. But then again, nothing is impossible where God is at work.

There was no denying God’s hand in each of their stories. And that makes me feel so safe, so completely assured that nothing will happen to me that He doesn’t allow.

He holds every single second.

*

The people in that show who were rescued, they all said they wanted to give up at a point during their suffering, but then they thought of their families. They thought of their parents or spouses or children, the people whose lives were inseparably connected to their own, bound by fierce love, and sometimes blood. That was why they fought- for their families. For love.

“None of it matters unless you have your family by your side,” one survivor said.

And I agree.

And it hurts.

But then I remember the God who IS my family. The God who has blessed me with family, even though it doesn’t look or feel the way I wish it did. The God whose love heals. The God who is jealous for me.

And I remember the God whose ways are beyond our ability to understand. The God whose love is also beyond what we could comprehend.

And I know that somehow, even when it hurts, I’m held. Every single second.

*

God, where are You in this moment? Where are You when it hurts and I can’t script for myself an ending that makes this feel worth it?

Where are You when I can’t feed myself promises of the “better” to come or of a suffering that has an expiration date?

Where are You when there’s no air to breathe? When no one can make it better and the walls are closing in on me because: “Time keeps passing and how do I do this life that is causing me so much grief?!”

Where are You when my chest fills with panic and help cannot be found?

Where are You when I have no idea how to make anything – my life, my relationships, my heart – better?

Where are You when I’m powerless and desperate and screwing up constantly and terrified of things getting worse? Where are You?

And I don’t say that as an accusation, but as a prayer: “Teach me to see You.”

And He knows. He sees my heart. He hears words even when I have none to say. And in response, He offers a gentle smile. And then: “Trust Me, child.”

And it’s not an answer to all of my questions. It’s not a solution with steps that I can follow, outlined and numbered and clear. It’s not an instantaneous healing. Just a reminder to trust.

Trust- not in a plan or method or clearly marked path.
Trust- not in my ability to see how it’s going to be okay.
Trust- not in someone to swoop in with answers or love.
Trust- not in my efforts to fight this battle, or think all the right things, or pray without ceasing.
But trust in Him. In the character and power of the God of hope and promise.

There is nothing to trust in but Him. Everything else has been stripped away. I have nothing to offer and I can’t fix it.

I’ve tried taking my life in my hands and molding it in such a way that it doesn’t hurt. But that doesn’t work. My life just becomes this fragile, teetering thing. And I have moments of happiness, sure, but I’m also exhausting myself constantly, trying to keep what I’ve built from toppling.

I’ve tried to manipulate people and situations so that they’d fit into the broken, screaming places in my heart. But people aren’t meant to be manipulated. And love can’t be forced. And our hearts are much too reflective of Him to be made whole by being patched with only things of this world.

I’ve tried to make it be better. I’ve tried radical acceptance. I’ve tried not wanting anything but God. Nothing I try works. And maybe that’s the realization I’ve been supposed to come to all along: I can’t problem-solve or analyze my way out of this. I don’t have to have a solution. I don’t even have to have anything to offer. Because it isn’t my job to be the solution-seer. That job belongs to the One who whispers: “Trust Me.”

My job isn’t to take and mold and force and beg and decided how this story is going to go; my job is to let it be written. He writes, I trust. He writes, I stay alive.

And He smiles because I’m giving up trying to script and build and sustain and fix, which means that finally things are going to be built right- by capable, all-knowing, infinitely-loving hands.

No more teetering or wobbling. No more desperate pleading and scrambling to keep things from falling apart.

I don’t have a plan. All I have is the kind eyes and tender leading of my Father.

But isn’t that what I’ve been praying for? “I don’t know what I want anymore. I don’t know how to fix it. I just want You. Teach me to see You.” And so now here I am, where everything hurts and I am, every single second, needing to seek His face because it’s the only thing keeping me in this fight.

Oh, for His perspective. How much less would all this hurt if only I could see the beauty woven through all of the pain?

And so, I pray: “Lord, teach me not to base my truth on what I feel or see. Protect me from anything untrue. Help me to guard my heart and mind so that only Your voice, the voice of Truth, will resound within me.”

I pray.

And I go for walks.

I cry in cars.

I read books that stir hope within me.

I want to give up.

But most days, I don’t let myself.

And I watch night fade into day. Over and over and over again.

Emotional Stability Isn’t My Strong Suit

My [lying, cold-hearted, going to give me a heart attack] boss’ new rules, which require that I sit at a desk for four full days a week, even when there are no patients to be seen, is making my current emotional state a lot worse because I don’t have the option of staying busy. My productivity is plummeting. But at least this way she knows where I am every second of the day, which apparently is the most important thing to her. Arrrrgh. But I digress.

I just went out to my car and called the person I have an appointment with tomorrow. I was grateful she didn’t answer. I didn’t want to talk, I just wanted to be heard.

I told her how I can’t breathe, how everything I eat makes me feel like I’m going to throw up, how my heart physically hurts. I told her how I’m trying so hard to love life, and it’s not working, and what if it never gets better? And I told her I’m sitting at my desk trying to just breathe. “Don’t grab your stuff. Don’t run out,” I remind myself.

But the next sentence that inevitably wants to follow those two, the one I try to shove out of my mind before it takes shape? “There’s nowhere to run.”

I was praying yesterday and talking through surrender and depression with God. I told Him I do choose His plan for my life. I do lay down all that I hope for a dream for in exchange for the “better” He has for me. I do. In my mind, I do. Deliberately and consciously I do. But my body is betraying me and my heart is screaming its pain and even though I trust Him, it’s excruciating. But even still, I’ll choose excruciating over veering away from His plan for my life. I choose excruciating.

And I told Him I know I don’t actually know what I want or need. There’s freedom in that, too. I told Him, “You know what my deepest longings are, Lord, but I don’t even ask for those things anymore. I’m not holding on to them as the solution to how I hurt. I am just telling You I hurt. And I am begging You to fix it. However You see fit.”

*

At the counselor Tuesday, I wanted to just stop talking, stop trying to make her understand, stop hoping she’d say something actually helpful. I wanted to just tip over, curl up on my side, and sleep.

I could’ve too. I felt so disconnected from my body that I could’ve just laid there, eyes closed, and not responded to anything she said or did in response. I could’ve slept through it and not cared at all how insane I looked or how uncomfortable I was making her. I was so tired. I am so tired.

*

When people say things like, “Accept it and move on,” it makes me want to punch them in the nose. Because what do they think I’ve been trying to do!? I am not choosing this! I am begging God for happiness- or at least for joy, a desire to live.

And also I want to punch them because they’re right. What can I do but accept it and move on?

And that thought scares the crap out of me. It makes breathing even harder.

Because I’ve been trying that so hard, for so long, and I am not okay and what if this is forever? What if this constant pain in my chest lands me in the hospital for some sort of medical reason and I die without ever again getting to experience life as a gift?

This can’t be forever. I can’t feel like this–shaky and cold and like all that’s within me could combust and I explode right along with it–forever.

*

I am having such a hard time seeing a reason to push through.

I just know that I have no other choice. The alternatives are worse than what I’m currently experiencing. (Again, that thought, the “no way out” thought, makes it harder to breathe.)

I am enduring. I am enduring and hoping. Because I know God’s giving me this breath for a reason.

And I pray on the other side of this, (because I fiercely pray that there will come a day when I am, in fact, on the other side of this), I’ll be changed.

I’ll be able to stand atop the rubble of my life and not despair.

I’ll be able to suffer alone without losing my desire to live.

And when those I love are not okay, I’ll show up with a movie and dinner and I’ll sit beside them, and I won’t try to fix them or take on their pain, but I will sit there and love them steadily and reliably and unconditionally. And that’s all we need sometimes, I think. Just to know that we’re not alone.

*

And there is good. Amidst it all. It not enough good to make me want to do life, but it still matters. The good is like little reminders sprinkled throughout the day that my Father loves me and sees my pain and is in control.

Sunny days beside the creek, alone except for Arlow.

Sharing my cereal with Theo. One bite for me, one bite for him.

Watching kids blow bubbles.

French braiding Olivia’s hair.

When someone–pet or person–unknowingly moves closer to you in their sleep.

When someone loves you enough to ask, “Have you eaten?”

When you wake up in the morning to let your dog outside, and you’re cranky about not still being asleep, but then you realize the sky is pink, and it’s beautiful, and suddenly you’re so glad you didn’t miss it.

*

All of my days are written in His book. This isn’t a surprise to Him. Nor is it something I’ve chosen. So I will ride it out, believing that it’s all part of the story He’s writing.

*

I’m not in control.

I am not okay and I can’t force myself to be okay and time keeps going and what if I lose my job or my depression gets worse? And remember last summer?

And I’m gripped by horror and trauma and I want to run away from the memories and emotions and I CAN’T run because they’re inside of me.

And I’m terrified. Terrified of not being okay, terrified of needing help, terrified of no one helping or being able to help, terrified of things getting worse, terrified of people blaming me and leaving me because I’m too much work.

I’m scared.

I have no control and I’m scared.

But He’s always gotten me through everything before. I’ve kicked and screamed and made it harder on myself, but He’s still stood by and held my hand and guided me along in this story He’s scripting.

And He’ll get me through this too. This Breakdown Part II. This surfacing of all that’s unresolved, and not better than it was when I first laid it down at the cross in exchange for unfailing hope in the goodness of the Lord.

And I’ll believe that someday I won’t have to “get through” my life. I’ll be able to LIVE it.

And maybe I’ll never get married or have kids. And maybe no one will ever embrace me as daughter or sister. And I don’t know how to be okay with that.

But I do know what God has for me is only the best. He is good and wants good for me, not suffering.

So Lord, help me trust the process.

Help me not fault myself.

And please, help me not be alone. However that looks, Lord. Even if it’s just You and I. Help me go to bed at night feeling safe and held and loved and not alone.

Worship

I believe in beauty. I believe in beauty in the midst of sorrow, and beauty overriding sorrow, and beauty coming at us endlessly from the God who says, “This suffering is necessary for where I’m taking you, but I am here. I am here. I am here.”

And even when He doesn’t take away what we want Him to, or give what we want Him to, He floods our lives with beauty. If only we have the eyes to see.

I believe that.

Where’s the beauty in fighting for life? Real life. Fullness of life. The life abundant promised to us, as opposed to emptiness and aching and simply powering through because there’s no other option.

Maybe it’s in refusing to accept that this is all there is. Maybe it’s in saying, “It hurts because there’s a massive gap between what I’m living and what I know the Lord has for me. And it’s supposed to hurt. It’s supposed to hurt because it’s NOT RIGHT.”

And maybe it’s in giving up.

I can’t make myself be excited about life.
I can’t make my job treat me with fairness.
I can’t ensure I won’t get fired.
I can’t make myself be important to people.
I can’t even put on a brave face all the time.

And that has to be okay.

Yesterday I left work fifteen minutes into it and I called the doctor and said, “I need to see someone today. I don’t care who. Anyone.”

And then I sat in the hallway, waiting two hours for my appointment- shaking, freezing, curled into a ball, my chest tight and my heart physically aching. And my eyelids grew heavier each minute. My body wasn’t my own. I had no control over any of it. Everything in me was screaming: “It’s too much!” My body was done, choosing sleep as a way of preserving itself.

But I didn’t fall asleep. Because I had an appointment to make. Instead, I sat there. I wrapped my coat around myself and stared at the carpet for two hours. And people walked by. And I know I looked crazy. But I didn’t care. I couldn’t care.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay to be a mess. It’s okay to sit on the floor in public and shake. It’s okay because I can’t control it, I’m not choosing this, and I am still here. That’s all that He asks of us, right? Don’t abandon the truth. Stand firm. Stay alive.

He doesn’t ask us to pull it together or move on or suck it up or to present ourselves only in ways that our appearance-oriented society will deem appropriate.

He asks us to stand. To cling.

And so I do. I stand (or sit) and I wait on the Lord.

And I don’t know if it will ever get better. It’s hard to believe it will. But I’m not giving up on life. I’m still here and I am saying, even when my body and mind feel like not my own and I don’t know how to be okay, “I love You. I love You. I love You.”

I can’t control what people think of me.
I can’t make people validate my pain or understand or not blame me.

I can’t make counselors be helpful.

I can’t take in their advice about “coping skills” and “acceptance” and not want to punch them because I’ve been doing that. I’ve done that and I’m still here at this place where I am waking up and trying to love the simple things in my day and I’m doing my best to keep on going, believing in a better tomorrow, but I am not okay. And no amount of fresh air or positive thinking of furbaby cuddles is the solution. It’s not enough.

I’ve done that–acceptance, gratitude, trusting the Lord, embracing the good in today–for so long, but I feel like one by one, things crumble. They walk out of my life by choice or become rubble around me, and I don’t know when this pattern will end. Nothing ever gets rebuilt. Things just keep falling apart.

And at what point is it okay for me to accept that everything around me is rubble and there’s not a single corner of my life that feels safe and secure and stable and reliable?

At what point can I say, “I AM NOT OKAY! And I don’t care that the rubble–the lack in my life–makes it easier to watch the sun set. I don’t care that there are birds and flowers and sunny days. It’s not enough. It’s not enough! And I know You are God and I know You love me and I trust You, I do, but I am NOT OKAY and I need something more. More You. More love. More medication. SOMETHING. This life isn’t sustainable. I can’t keep going on with rubble under my feet and my hands grasping at a God I can’t touch. HELP ME.”

Not being okay doesn’t make me weak. It doesn’t indicate a lack of trust.

My being here, my going on in spite of the fact that I don’t want to, that’s trust.

In fact, it’s worship.

And I believe that He smiles. Even while I’m barely human as I speak to a counselor, and I can’t stop shaking, and refuse to make eye contact because I’m pissed off and done trying to pretend like she is helping just to avoid hurting her feelings, and I just want to lay down while she’s talking at me and fall asleep. Even then, even while He hurts for me, I believe He smiles. Because it’s worship. It’s trust.

And it’s not beautiful by typical standards. It’s not newborn baby, warm embrace, tulips in bloom, beautiful. It’s bloody and raw and tear-stained.

And it’s worship.

And it’s not weakness. It’s not something I’m choosing by dwelling or refusing to embrace the God of hope.

It’s not shameful.

Let me say it again: DEPRESSION IS NOT WEAKNESS. IT IS NOT SIN.

It’s the opposite! Going forward when everything in you is tired beyond what sleep can cure? That’s strength! Knowing He’s good, even while you’re not sure when, if ever, it’s going to get better? That is worship.

You can accept and surrender and trust and be grateful… and still not be okay.

You can believe God is good and only has the best for you, and you can still weep because it hurts.

I believe that too.

 

29

“Look at yourself, child.”

That was what I heard as I looked at my reflection in the mirror. It was said with love and compassion, but also with finality.

My eyes were almost swollen shut from crying. My nose was running. I looked scared and overwhelmed and exhausted and sorrowful. I hardly recognized my own reflection.

And He, my loving Father, was calling it quits. “That’s enough, beloved,” He said. And then, as gentle and tender as anything I’ve ever heard, “It’s time for bed.”

He stood by, watching with vigilance and love while I sobbed, gasping for breath. He stood by and He felt my pain. And now He was calling me to be done. To rest. To let Him be God over the nighttime, and God over my heart when I awoke again in the morning.

And so I took a deep, hiccup-y breath and went to bed. And everything in me was so heavy and swirly and confused and grief-ridden that I couldn’t even give words to it.

But it was okay because He was taking control of the situation. He was reminding me, in words as loving as a kiss, that I am His child. Precious and beloved, but human. Small and young and needy. And He is God.

How quick we are to forget that we never stop being children. We never stop needing to be parented.

And this Father of mine, in His infinite wisdom and love, was calling it bedtime.

This has been the most painful birthday of my life. It has been excruciating. And even though it hasn’t been void of love, it has also been full of aloneness and sorrow and grieving all that was lost in my 28th year of life.

It has been full of tough love. Of learning and feeling misunderstood and having to humble myself and listen even when everything in me is screaming THIS IS NOT FAIR!

Tears and hugs and disagreements and embarrassment and vulnerability and words–both comforting and painful–spoken in love.

No rose-tinted glasses here. It’s been real and raw.

And important.

A stripping away of so many things.

A necessary acceptance.

Peace where there once was only screaming grief.

And gratitude–a breath-taking reason to say Thank You–for all this last year that wasn’t lost.

My life.

My faith.

The family God is grafting me into.

It’s been a hurricane- a wild swirling of emotions and hard truths and questions and longings. My eyes haven’t known where to focus.

But of course, the only way to survive, is to look up. To focus our eyes on Him.

Oh, God. There’s so much I don’t understand.

But at least I know where to focus my eyes.

And as I was talking to Him last night about my birthday, as I was telling Him how painful it was, I heard:

“I know, daughter. I know. But it has been important.”

I’m starting my 29th year of life off with some really, really hard things laid out before me.

But in all the pain and swirling, God is building a foundation. Stripping away lies and things I have been blind to. Planting my feet firmly on Truth. Forcing me to ask myself, “Do I trust Him?” even when I’m in intense pain. And, in exchange for my unconditional “yes”, giving me a peace that is greater than any of the sorrow.

And I wouldn’t trade this birthday for one that was more full of smiles and warm feelings. I don’t want to live a birthday like this ever again, but I trust the importance of it.

The pain of God undoing what never should’ve been.

The pain of responding to the call to grow.

The pain of a new beginning- a beginning that “just so happens” (I’m looking at you, God 😉 ) to coincide with the beginning of my 29th year of life.

And I believe, with my whole heart, that is it going to be good, this year.

Because I’m leaving it up to Him. And He loves me fiercely. Protectively. He looks at me and smiles. He sees potential. He whispers over me promises. He calls me dear and beloved.

And He looks at me, with my swollen, red eyes and nose chapped from blowing it so much, and breathes peace into all the wild within me.

And He says, “It’s time for bed, child.”

And I take a deep breath and nod my head. And I surrender.

It’s all going to be okay.

The Ultimate Gift-Giver

Sometimes I want to weep with the heavy truth that this world doesn’t have to be nice to me.

No one has to return my smile, no one has to match my tender heart with a tender heart of their own, no one has to love me through all things.

This will be the first Christmas I wake up in an empty house. No presents will be under the tree. No stockings hung. No one to make breakfast for.

And that makes me feel really, really sad. Like, “lump of coal in the pit of my stomach” sad. (I know typically people say “rock in the pit of my stomach”, but ’tis the season for coal, right? …Even my sorrow wants to get into the Christmas spirit. 😉 ).

But then, as I nurse that sorrow, I remember the last two years.

I hadn’t been physically alone on Christmas morning, but I had still found myself weeping from the shattered hope that the Christmas I was trying so hard to make special would end up feeling like love. I was trying to look facts in the face and still assert that there was love present in the room- that it wasn’t just me and my hopeful heart, and the lights on the tree adding a soft glow to the room, and the smell of a breakfast I had excitedly made that no one even wanted to eat.

And I think about how every Christmas has been heartbreak and tears since Mom died.

And I think about how the last Christmas she was with us, just a little over a month before she died, she knelt on the floor and made blankets for my sister and I. Tired and in pain, she knelt. She metaphorically washed our feet.

And I think about how, tired as she was, she refused to go to bed. “Stay up with me,” she whispered. And so I did. She didn’t want to say goodnight.

She didn’t want to say goodbye.

And shortly after that, Mom didn’t get out of bed again.

And so I, desperate and shattered inside, knelt. She had bought fabric to make herself a blanket, but hadn’t had the energy to actually make it, so I made it for her.  And as a token of love, I crept into her room–where she now slept in a hospital bed as opposed to her own bed–and I wrapped it around her shoulders.

“Look, Mama,” I said gently. And slowly, she opened her eyes. “I made it for you!”

And she smiled and as she was closing her eyes again, she whispered, “You’re a good daughter.”

And my eyes stung with tears. That’s the only time she ever said that to me. Always, the opposite had seemed to resonate as truer to her.

And so I wonder, how often are there gifts in the suffering?

Is it a gift–to her and to me–that Mom got her blanket before she died- that my token of love was there, wrapped around her shoulders, every single moment until she passed? And that, in response, she was able to gift me with the words that I am a good daughter?

How about the year after Mom’s death, when I poured out the little money I had to create a special Christmas for my father, and I stood there Christmas morning, excited for him to see the surprise I had packed under the tree for him, and he hadn’t even cared? Is that a gift?

Perhaps.

Because in giving to him I got to understand what Jesus did on the cross- pouring himself out for a people who might never appreciate it.

Is it a gift to grasp all the magic of Christmas between my hands and force it into the Decembers since Mom died?

Is there a gift to be found in feeling like I’m alone in my efforts- the only one with a heart beating the slow and steady and tentative beat of hope?

Is it a gift to wake up on Christmas morning looking for evidence that, contrary to what the other ordinary, busier days of the year might suggest, there is magic to be found in this life?

And is it a gift to instead be met with half-hearted, obligatory presents, forced smiles, and a lovingly-made breakfast going unwanted and getting cold?

Maybe.

Maybe the gift is having to run to Jesus and bury my face in His chest and let Him hold me while I weep. Maybe the gift is looking in His eyes alone for hope. Maybe the gift was the shedding of the Hold It All Together role I had taken on. Maybe the gift was the grieving of what no longer was. Maybe the gift was the heart-breaking and beautiful acceptance that His arms were the only ones that would hold me while I cried.

And waking up alone on Christmas morning?

Maybe that’s a gift, too.

Maybe, even in the sorrow and broken-heartedness, He is gifting me with a response to my prayer: “Let me know You as More Than Enough.”

And so I will wake up Christmas morning and look at the no presents, and the no smiling faces, and the empty house that feels like it does any other day, and say, “It’s okay. Because He came. He came. And He has never left.”

It’s an excruciating process, I think, to come to know God as More Than Enough.

But is there any other way to get to that place but to have Him standing there, tender and loving and present, in the middle of your nothing else?

Maybe not having anything to open on Christmas is actually a gift.

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.

On My Knees

It has been a long week.

I have, on more than one occasion, fallen to my knees and wept.

Because sometimes there’s nothing left to do.

And maybe that’s the lesson in all of this- it always comes back to falling to my knees before the Lord. And that’s where it should begin as well–on my knees before the One Who Understands–whether joy and gladness are the dominant emotions, or sorrow and grief.

One by one, all the healthy things I relied on to get through the day are being stripped away. Maybe not forever, but for now. And Satan is asking me, “Are you going to do the things you used to do? What about those unhealthy ways you used to cope? Those are still options.”

And so I fall to my knees.

Because they aren’t options anymore. I refuse to let them be options. But I can’t do it on my own. I can’t willpower my way through sorrow. I have to present myself as a broken mess to the God who created me.

I need His love to fall down on me and be More Than Enough. I need His Truth to resonate in my brain and heart and within the walls of my house as I speak it aloud, often through tears, because it’s beautiful and it’s painful and it’s hard an it’s good.

His breath gave me life, and His breath alone will sustain me.

I wonder if eventually the things I’m laying down before Him, surrendering to His will, will stop hurting. If I continue to lay them at the foot of the cross, will I eventually stop picking them up? Will I eventually stop looking over at them to see whether or not God’s breathing life into them? Will my heart eventually stop feeling so broken over the things I am confessing I want and can’t control?

And that’s my prayer- that surrendering my entire life to the Lord, laying it all down to gain Him, will feel, indeed, like GAIN and not like loss.

All of it–my pain, my joy, my hope, my desires–they are safe only in Him. And if I wasn’t forced to depend on Him right now for my every breath and for the continued beating of my heart and for the ability to smile at the rising sun, I’d be chasing after empty things. I’d be looking to find life in things created, when I should be looking to find it in the Creator alone.

He made my heart. He placed me into this life. He watched it fall apart. He knows where I’m wounded, where I’m growing strong, what I need, and how to set me free.

On my knees is the safest place to be.

Hiding in the shadow of His wings.