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.

The Gift And Sorrow Of Today

I watched the rain fall outside as I waited for Firestone to do my oil change.

Next to me, a man watched the Seahawks game on the small TV in the corner.

To my left, a couple was laughing about something.

I watched cars come in and out of the mall parking lot. I wondered if people were shopping for Christmas already. I wondered if the mall was decorated in twinkly white lights.

I thought about church, the people I love so fiercely.

“You are hard to love.
You are awkward. You embarrass yourself.
Everyone has to keep firm boundaries with you because you’re exhausting.
No one really wants you. They only love you because they think it’s what God wants them to do. You’re charity.
Everyone is just waiting for you to fail again. You might as well just end it. You’re exhausting everyone and you’re hopeless and no one wants to keep going through the trauma you’re putting them through. You think this is all about how you’re suffering, but how about the way you’re making them suffer? No wonder you feel alone. Who would sign up for this?
What is your problem? People are trying so hard to be there for you, but no amount of love anyone shows you is enough.
This is as good as it’s going to get. Accept that. Learn to be completely content with being your own parent. Because that ship has sailed. No one will ever love you like that. In that way, you are alone. And you will always be. And if you can’t accept that, you should just call it quits. You’re going to wear everyone out.
No one has to love you. You don’t have parents or siblings or a husband or children. No one has to look you in the eyes day after day and still choose you. You’re all alone. And even in the ways you’re not alone, you will be. You’re going to alienate everyone,”
the Enemy said.

I shook my head free of the torment and took a sip of my third energy drink of the day.

I am a mystery to myself. I feel overwhelmed with grief and overwhelmed with gratitude.

I feel alone and not alone. The only parent I have, the only one who’s going to daily tell me good morning or goodnight is me. It’s too much to bear. And why? Why do I have zero interest in my own company? Why isn’t it enough to be taken care of by myself? Why can’t I hold within me the love people have for me and use that as fuel for the fight?

Why–when all day long I all day long rehearse truth and gratitude, and look for moments to laugh, and pay attention to when I feel joy–can’t I make myself want to live?

I think of the kind gift from Camilla, the prayer Rory prayed for me with her hand warm on my back, the latte from Christie, how I never doubt Pauline is happy to see me, the smile and “I love you” from Laura.

Why isn’t that enough to make me want to live? What is wrong with me?

What do I need? What do I want? How do I fix this?

I sat there, my eyes filling with tears. “It’s too much,” I thought. “There’s too much happening in my brain. Too much happening inside of me. And I don’t understand any of it. I’m so tired.”

The game kept playing. The man to my right stood. I never looked up at his face, but I saw his shoes as he walked past. Gray Vans.

It’s funny how you notice things that don’t matter when you’re standing somewhere between life and death. It’s like the insignificant things keep you afloat. Your brain doesn’t have to be afraid of shoes or the smell of the tires in the waiting room or the gentle hum of the pop machine. They are safe thoughts. Weightless.

I thought about the medication in my purse. I could stop taking it. I could hoard it. I could be done with this exhausting mess.

I watched the rain fall. “I’m done,” I thought. And instantly, I felt relief.

“What does ‘done’ look like?” I thought next. I didn’t know. Does it look like not taking my medication anymore? Does it look like death? I wasn’t sure. But in the moment, it looked like watching the rain, laying down the death grip on this sword I’ve been wielding so long, surrendering to whatever felt like rest. Peace.

“You’re heading down a dangerous path,” a small voice inside of me said.

“I don’t care,” I responded.

The rain kept falling. Cars kept coming in and out of the parking lot. Life, continuing.

*

Twenty minutes later, I was sobbing into the phone, leaving a message for the man who prescribes my medication.

“I don’t want to say goodbye to Arlow. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want Laura to have to bury me,” I wept. “But I’m tired. I can’t make myself want to live. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I’m so tired.”

He called back two minutes later. I didn’t answer. I didn’t want to cry to his actual voice. Machines are safer. Had he answered when I’d called, I would’ve hung up.

“My initial reaction when I got your message,” he said, “was, ‘I’m so glad she called,’ because it means part of you does still want to live. You haven’t given up on the fight.”

Then he reminded me of ways to cope. Things I already know, but I appreciated his effort.

The problem isn’t that I don’t know how to cope, the problem is that I don’t think I want to anymore. I’m so damn tired. All day, every day, I’m “coping”. And sure, I can drag myself from one day to the next that way, but I’m TIRED and what’s the freaking point?

Jesus. Jesus is the point. I know this, of course.

But also, nothing can separate me from His love. And death means heaven. If I died, God would forgive me. And I’d finally get to be held by a Parent and have reprieve from a fight that is so much bigger than me. He’d finally be able to hold me and say, “This is why you were hurting so badly.”

And yet, that thought only brings me comfort until I think about this life of mine, with its so much good in spite of my inability to want to live it.

Nothing can make me weep quicker than thinking of the ones I love who I’d leave behind.

*

I held my medication in my hand for a long time tonight. I looked down at the white pills and I felt angry. No part of me wanted to take them. But I did.

I don’t know what is going to happen to me. I don’t know how this story will end.

And I can’t commit to picking that sword back up. But I can commit to doing one more day.

And there’s a God who fights for me when I’m too weak. He’s coming in power. Even though I can’t see it, He’s doing battle on my behalf.

This situation isn’t hopeless.

I am still Someone’s child.

I am tired.

I am held.

I am so blessed.

I am so loved.

Where Hope And Exhaustion Meet

Every day feels like a series of hard and/or scary things that I have to do alone.

And what do I get at the end of the day as a reward? Just the satisfaction of having to do it all over again tomorrow.

And I pray, constantly, to see God in my day.

And I do. I see Him when I reflexively reach out and place my hand on my client’s unwashed head after she bumps it getting into my car. “Are you okay?!” I ask. And I know that simple love and concern for her is less me than it is Jesus.

I see Him in the sheer awe I feel at the way the mountain looks as the sun is coming up in the morning.

I see Him in how I can’t help but cry during worship, watching my church family, arms raised towards heaven, proclaiming over their pain that our God is GOOD.

And I feel Him, like electricity, running through my veins. It’s like being hugged from the inside.

And yet, somehow it’s still not enough.

I told my new therapist all of that this week.

Yes, I have a new therapist. Because the last one fired me. Which seems like the opposite of therapeutic when my primary source of pain is that everyone gives up on me and walks out of my life.

I had poured my heart out to my former therapist, and yes, in her defense, I’ll admit I’m a mess, but isn’t that sort of to be expected when someone comes into therapy because they can’t make themselves want to be alive?

And this former therapist of mine looked me in the eyes, bi-weekly, and made me feel secure and safe with her…

Only to decide that actually, she was going to contribute to that theme of abandonment in my life.

This new therapist of mine met me for the first time last week. I sat down on her couch, pointed at myself, and said after a brief introduction, “So, good luck with this one.”

We talked and she look at me, expressionless. Then she said she isn’t sure what to do with me. She said she feels like I’m doing everything right.

I’m practicing coping skills and reaching out and guarding my thoughts and trying to pave a future for myself that feels like hope. I can list twenty reasons I’m grateful, and at least half as many times today that I felt joy.

And I can still say, I’d rather be dead.

I can look forward to things, I can laugh, and I am still, every single second, having to battle the constant thought, and resulting emotion sitting heavy on my chest, that this life isn’t worth it.

“Why can’t I make myself want to be alive?!” I asked her. “What am I doing wrong?” And then: “I’m so, so tired.” And then I wept.

She said she doesn’t think I’m doing anything wrong, and that it’s a mystery to her why I can’t feel any desire to live.

“I think,” she said, “this has more to do with how your brain has tried to cope with all the trauma. I don’t think this has anything to do with you not trying hard enough, or being ‘weak’, or ‘not having enough faith’. I think this is about your brain.”

I don’t know if that feels like hope to me or not, but it does help me feel compassionate with myself.

I told Camilla, who asked me that same question, that I wasn’t sure I felt more hope, but that I felt more compelled to give everyone the middle finger every time they look at me with judgment or harbor the belief that, if there wasn’t something wrong with me, something I could control, then I wouldn’t feel this way.

“The human desire to survive is very, very strong,” my new therapist said. “And if you truly can’t feel that, then something is wrong. And I don’t think it’s your fault.”

I’ve been trying to think of a metaphor for what it’s like to live this way, and all I can come up with is that it’s kind of like when you have a cough- not a deep cough that earns sympathy and maybe time off of work and a doctor’s prescription, but a constant tickle in your throat.

And you know everyone around you is annoyed because you can’t stop coughing, and you’re annoyed with yourself too. So you try to tell yourself you don’t need to cough. And all day long, you are fighting against what your body naturally wants to do. All day long, you’re trying not to cough, and the pressure in your head just keeps building from the never-abating tickle, which endlessly reminds you that something isn’t right.

All day long, I am fighting against what my body naturally wants to do- die. All day long, I am battling a part of myself that I have no real control over.

I wonder how much of this is spiritual.

“Look for reasons to laugh!” I tell myself.
“Look for Jesus!”
“Smile at strangers!”
“Don’t let yourself, even for a minute, think hopeless thoughts!”
And so I do.

Last week, on two separate days, I almost left work without telling anyone. I almost just drove away from the building, picked Arlow up, and went home.

And what would I do when I got home? I wasn’t sure. Would I kill myself? Run away? Did it matter?

It scares me to see myself so close to doing something that would so completely derail my life.

I drive across the bridge my client jumped off and I have to tell my brain to STOP. I have to force myself not to think.

I hear in a training about the most deadly combination of pills and alcohol. I hear how alcohol thins your blood and makes you bleed out faster. And I have to yell at my brain to STOP.

I hug the ones I love and look into their eyes and tell myself, “They need you.”

I text Camilla every single night something true. Like, “God has a good plan for my life. This fight is worth it. I have so much to be grateful for.”

I mentally make a list of goals, (getting my LICSW, finding a place to live in Gig Harbor…), and things to look forward to, (Madison coming over, spending Thanksgiving with the Sarnos…).

I count down the days until I can see my therapist again, not because I think she’ll be able to help me, as we’ve both confessed not knowing what to do with me, but because it gives me an hour in which I can stop fighting my brain. An hour of rest. I can lay all my cards out before her and weep over the confusion I feel- all the loss; the so, so much good in my present; the desire to die.

I laugh. I reach out to people and tell them I love them. I force myself to stay present with my clients, letting them know I see them, I hear them, I care.

And I beg God to show up. To supernaturally get me from 6:30 a.m. until I finally pull into my driveway at the end of the day.

And at the end of the day, I arrive home. I take a long shower. I cuddle Arlow. And I crawl into bed.

“This moment is good,” I think.

“I like my job,” I think.

And yet why, if both of those things are true, do I feel so compelled to give up on living?

And so I lay in bed, and breathe deeply, and think of things that are good, even when my emotions don’t recognize them as such. I try to talk myself into looking forward to tomorrow. But it doesn’t work. I just feel panic.

So instead, I soothe myself with all the good in this moment: my snoring dog, his head underneath my chin; being warm in my bed; the gentle hum of the heater.

And I try not to think about the fact that tomorrow is coming.

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.”

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.

It Is Well With My Soul

“Our own limitations should never inhibit our expectation of God…”

It doesn’t depend on us…

If I want to do well, if I desire to follow Him, that’s enough. I can look forward in hope and anticipation of what’s to come.

Hallelujah.

*

I’ve come to this place in my relationship with God where I say things to Him like, “Fine. I surrender. I give you x, y, z. But if I’m not going to have those things in my life, then I NEED MORE OF YOU.”

And then I read my Bible and pray and worship.

And I don’t feel more of Him.

Nor are X, Y, or Z marching (or even, from my perspective, crawling) into my life.

And so I get frustrated. And I say, “Fine, if I fall to my knees and don’t feel You, if I pray and things don’t get better, then it’s Your own fault if I stop seeking You first. Because You’re not enough. You’re not here and You don’t care and You see that I’m hurting and WHERE ARE YOU?”

And I blame Him. I blame Him for being absent.

But we know He never is.

I base SO much on how I feel.

And because I know He could swoop into my life in some big way and turn all my emotions around, I fault Him for not doing that.

And when I say, “FINE! All I want is You then!” and nothing changes, my heart still hurts, I fault Him even more. Because isn’t that the golden prayer? For more of Him? Him above all else? His face versus His hand?

…But if I’m basing my answer to my prayer for more of Him on what I feel, then it isn’t really His face I’m seeking, is it?

I am asking for Him, but the underlying request is that He prove Himself. “Prove it to me that You’re present. Prove to me that You care about my heart. Prove to me that You heard my prayer.”

…Because if I don’t feel it, then it isn’t happening, right? And, while we’re on the subject of how I’d like to see my prayers being answered, I don’t want to wait either. Because why should I have to?! If He’s here now, then BE. HERE. NOW!

…It’s insanely bold of me!

And also just insane.

Because His ways aren’t our ways.
His timing is perfect.
He is present.
And He cares, deeply, about my heart.

I know all that. But I am so quick to become a toddler before Him, begging my Father to pick me up, to carry me, to let me hide my face against His shoulder. And for all of that to happen in a way that doesn’t require, for just a few minutes, that I “walk by faith”.

I don’t understand. Oh, Lord, I don’t understand.

Scripture says David strengthened Himself in the Lord. It didn’t say, “David despaired and then God gave Him strength.” Although that, too, is true. But there’s a middle part to that equation: David chose to trust God. He chose to cling. Even when what He felt was despair, He chose to hold tight to the truth of who God is. And then, in doing that, God gave Him strength.

Very rarely, I’m coming to learn, is living a godly life a natural reflex for us fallible humans. Almost always, we have to choose– to be consciously aware of what is true and then be deliberate to live out of that truth.

No matter what I feel, I have to choose to keep falling to my knees and raising my hands in worship and praying wordless, tear-filled prayers. Because I KNOW they matter. Each time I run to Him, even when I don’t sense Him standing before me with arms outstretched, I know the spiritual realm takes notice.

I have to live my life with eyes open wide in holy anticipation of what’s to come. BECAUSE HE PROMISES IT WILL BE GOOD. And He has never broken a promise.

I can’t fall to my knees, press my head to the carpet, kneel before Him, and then despair because flame and wind and His voice didn’t fill the room. I can’t rise from the ground and furrow my brow and look up at the ceiling and say, “Don’t You see what I just did!? Man, You really missed an opportunity to win my heart over and speak to me!”

I can’t give up.

And I have to choose to rise from my knees in a room that still feels empty, with my heart that still screams with ache, and say, “You are still what I want above all else. I know that You alone can fill this ache within me. I know that the best, safest place for my heart is here, at Your side. And I know that, regardless of how I feel, I can smile and hope because You are good.”

Because I KNOW it matters. He bends to earth when we pray. EVEN WHEN WE DON’T FEEL IT. And how miraculous is that? How incredible that He do desires for us to speak to Him!?

Will I choose to stay, to say He is good, that what I have in Him is more than enough, even when I feel empty and alone, and He isn’t flooding my emptiness with Himself in a way that I can perceive?

Will I trust that when I open my arms up wide, when tears stream down my face and I need a shoulder to rest my head on, when all that is within me is screaming for relief from the pain, for more–more love, family, belonging, joy, hope, HIM–, will I trust that He comes running?

Will I throw my questions and anger and sorrow at Him, and then still say, “I choose You”?

Yes. Yes, I will.

Because HE IS GOOD- not just when my life reflects His goodness in the ways I want it to, or when I feel His goodness, but always. He is unarguably, unchangeably, unwaveringly, steadily, forever good.

And so I will choose, over and over and over again, to stick this journey out- eyes open in expectation for the wonders He promises to do.

And when nothing else makes sense, I can find comfort in what I know. I can tilt my head towards heaven and say, “You are good.”

And I can know that His eyes meet mine.
And He smiles a gentle smile.
And He says, “Yes, baby. I am.”

I will choose to ENDURE and let the face of Living Hope shine down on me.

I will cling to the One who is I Am.

*

“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying…destiny…in the hand of Almighty God.”

 

And Now I Shall Ramble

I don’t know how to make sense of it all.

I don’t know how to say words that will be received with empathy and understanding, and not used against me as evidence that I am mentally unwell.

I’ve put so much effort into trying to handle things well. How is it that, in spite of my best efforts, I am coming off looking so bad? How am I smack dab in the middle of a situation that should never have included me in the first place.

And whenever I try to advocate for myself, it gets to twisted. I’m told I’m mind-reading or not thinking clearly or that my past and trauma are blinding me. And how do I respond to that? How do I argue with that? I can’t. Anything I say will just be used as fuel to support their argument that I’m irrational and unstable and need professional help. And it hurts. It really, really hurts.

Guys, I am an INFJ. We are intuitive. Do I think that sometimes I let my trauma and past experience influence how I perceive things? Sure. But sometimes I think what people call mind-reading is actually me being able to perceive things. And it’s infuriating. It’s so, so maddening to just KNOW something and have people look at me like I’m crazy and impossible to reason with.

*

I don’t understand.

How can one day feel so full of love, and the next so full of conversations about all the ways I am not living up to people’s expectations?

So much feels fragile. So based on my performance. So “I will withdraw if you don’t do x, y, z…”

I feel like, no matter what I do, that possibility hangs heavy in the air. It’s like a sword in the holster on their hip that can be withdrawn it at any moment.

*

I am working so hard to seek God’s heart and thoughts and will for my life through all this- putting my own emotions aside.

And the every single day takes incredible energy and requires intense spiritual warfare. How can anyone say, “I disagree. I don’t think you are trying that hard.”

I’m alive. How does that not count for anything?

I cut unhealthy ties with my family this year. I lost my nieces and nephew.

I lost other people too. Lots of them. They walked away from me. They didn’t tell me happy birthday, clearly conveying to me that my life doesn’t matter to them anymore, these people who once professed to love me unconditionally and forever.

I’m alone in so many ways. Tamara, Party Of One.

BUT I’M HERE.

I am here. And daily, even on my hardest days, I catch myself laughing and thanking God for the good.

I am here and I am grieving, but I am not stuck. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I am determined to keep moving forward, eyes on Jesus.

*

I don’t expect people to understand. It’s lonely to feel misunderstood, but I can’t expect my heart to always make sense to others.

I know that God has built me this way. And it isn’t a flaw. Some of it is trauma, and some of it is the softness and desires He’s woven into my heart.

And I won’t hold tight to the ache within me and demand it be filled the way I see fit, “or I don’t want anything at all!”

Trusting means accepting the today and surrendering to the future God has for me, however it looks. And knowing the future is good. Even when it doesn’t’ always feel good, it is. I don’t have to look forward with fear or sorrow. I can look forward with joy and hope.

And yet, I know God understands my grieving, the screaming ache of my heart. And I know He says, “Yes, child. It’s right to hurt over this.”

*

I can look at someone’s actions and say, “That hurts.” But I have to be careful not to follow that destructive rabbit trail.

I can know it hurts, but I can’t know that it means they don’t care or that they don’t love me or that I’m not important to them.

I can know what I know, but I have to be careful not to assign meaning to it.

*

I am tired of suffering. I am tired.

But He woke me this morning for a reason. My eyes are open, my heart beating, my lungs taking in breath.

And it’s not a mistake.

I am not being propelled forward by my body- my heart, ticking along until it tires and I go home. My body isn’t calling the shots. I am not here, passing time without meaning or purpose.

My body isn’t the boss- my God is.

It is He who sustains my beating heart, it is not the internal clock within me, set to expire at a certain date and time determined at the time my cells all came together to form a living, breathing person.

I am here, in this time, in this place, for a reason.

And I will believe that.

I will trust Him.

*

“Get therapy,” they say.

That isn’t helpful. I know enough to monitor my heart and mind and ask God if I am okay (or okay enough) right now or not, if it’s time to jump back into therapy or time to sit back and soak up His presence and let Him do the hard work in me that I know He’s doing.

But they say I need therapy.

And what I need them to say is, “What you’re feeling is exactly what you should be feeling. Let me stand beside you while you grieve. You are not broken. You are not ill. You are okay and you are going to be okay and I am here.”

*

I will hold on to Him. His promises. His kind eyes. His loving touch. His gentle smile.

I will hold on even when I close my eyes and I can’t see, even when the only one wrapping their arms around me is me.

I will hold on even when words and promises and hope and truth feels slippery and elusive and maybe even mythical. Because–thank God–His promises and truths don’t change, regardless of what I feel.

And so I won’t spend time in my brain, trying to untangle the mess of it all so that I can feed my heart with words that hurt less.

I won’t write my own story in my head, putting periods and “the ends” where God would say, “Shhh, child. I’m the author. And this isn’t the end.”

He’s in the middle of a sentence. He’s scripting a comma followed by “and then”, but I’m taking out my red pen and scribbling periods in places where He never intended there to be a period.

He’s patient with me, though. My red pen doesn’t call the shots any more than my beating heart does.

*

I feel like the losses haven’t stopped in years. I hope and I praise Him for the good and then it fades away like smoke, or crumbles like stone, or stands tall and proud while I crumble from its neglect or abandonment or rejection.

And always, I end up standing alone.

But I keep showing up. I keep hoping. I keep finding things to love about this life I’ve been gifted.

I am ALWAYS doing the hard thing, the scary thing.

How could someone accuse me of not trying?

Not being obedient to God isn’t an option. I have to obey because where can I find life apart from Him?

*

I hurt.

A lot.

But I won’t give up.

I won’t isolate. I won’t stop smiling at people and making conversations and showing up.

I won’t grow angry. I won’t harbor judgment or criticism or think I have it all figured out. I won’t condemn people’s hearts or try to jump into their brains.

I won’t shut my heart down. I won’t label myself as unloved. I won’t say they don’t love me.

I won’t give up on the screaming ache within me for family and belonging.

I need Him. I need Him fiercely. I need Him to hold me and I need Him to act. And my shutting my heart down will only make His job harder. So I will keep it open. I will breathe and trust and hope and believe. I will not deaden my emotions. I will pray, “Lord, I will stand. I will choose to be fully alive.”

I will cry. I will grieve.

And I will believe it won’t last forever. Somehow. Somehow joy is coming.

And regardless–in both the mourning and rejoicing, the desert and the mountaintop, the darkness of night and the brilliance of day–I will follow hard after Him.

*

I am under no illusion that He alone is the air I breathe, the One who sustains me, the ultimate comforter and counselor and lover of my heart.

And if I could choose between Him–an experience with Him as real as anything I’ve ever known in this life–and everything else my heart is screaming for, I’d choose Him. Instantly. Without hesitation.

But He designed us to need each other too. Right?

And maybe He isn’t asking me to choose.

Maybe what He has for me really IS better than anything I could ever imagine. I mean, if scripture says it, it has to be true, right? There is no “maybe” about it. And so I’ll let go of what exactly that looks like, but I will smile because IT IS GOING TO BE GOOD.

*

Give me eyes to see, sweet Jesus. Give me ears to hear. Give me a heart that’s open and soft.

Even when it all looks like loss, destruction, devastation, help me to know that You are creating something good.

You don’t tear down and strip away unless there is a greater good in store.

There is something being built.

There is cause to rejoice even in the suffering.

*

There’s always more than one way to tell a story.

How would I tell it if I could see more clearly? If I could set my heart aside and look at the facts alone?

There’s always more than one way to tell a story.

I could tell about how no one said they loved me.
About the grief that I can’t shake.
The exhaustion and heavy eyelids and sluggish brain.
About how work today has been incredibly slow and very few things have gone my way.
I could tell about mysteriously sore shoulder and mysteriously itchy chest.
I could tell about loss.
About fear.
About belonging and being precious and being held- and their opposites.

Or I could tell about the blue sky.
Time spent getting lost in a book.
The homemade bread gifted to me from a coworker.
The words flowing from within me, relieving some of the overwhelming pressure.
The cats and bunny who are going to be happy to see me when I get home, and the turtle who will crane his neck to watch me as I go about my evening.
The Starbucks employee who smiled at me.
The people I showed kindness to, and how amazing it is that God wired us–even in our heartache–to feel glimmers of life and comfort as we try to reflect Him to those around us.
I could tell about the clients who like me.
The sparkly green fingernails that, each time I catch a glimpse of them, remind me of one of the Disney’s princess’ (Ariel’s?) dresses.
I could talk about the hope of being loved in return, even when I don’t feel it or see it.
I could talk about the forever, steady presence of my Creator- even when I don’t feel it or see it.

I could talk about all that threatens to pull me down, makes me want to give up, sob endlessly, all alone, as the sun goes down and the night stretches before me, daunting and empty, and it’s just my tears and breath and my sorrow filling up the air around me.

Or I could talk about what sustains me. The hope that is always present, the good that God promises to be doing, the light that darkness cannot drown out. The nearness of the One who gives breath and tears and oxygen and has set me here with intention, not by accident.

I cry. I grieve.

But I refuse to give up hope. I refuse to give in to fear.

He has a plan.

Hold me. Abba, hold me tight.

I can’t drown if I’m holding Your hand.