In Every Moment

“I just think that there’s meaning in everything,” my client said a couple weeks ago. “I think God is in everything and that our days matter so much more than we could ever understand.”

Sometimes my clients help me.

Sometimes they don’t. Another client of mine has told me two times in a row that I look crazy.

Her insight is unnerving.

*

I cried at the doggy daycare last week.

I was petting this sweet, little dog with the most gentle eyes, and the woman behind the counter said, “You know, she’s up for adoption.”

And everything in me wanted to take her home and be her mommy.

And I looked at her eyes, so filled with hope and delight at having my attention, and I thought about how she doesn’t have a mommy, and it made me tear up.

Because her tail was wagging and her eyes were gentle but no one loves her the way I love Arlow.

*

How do we stay in this fight?

If I was with God, His love would feel like a hug.

If everything here, everything I love and everything I desire, is just a mere reflection of the goodness that awaits me in heaven, why wouldn’t I want to be there?

Because love chooses well. Love chooses not to abandon people, not to give up on this life that’s a gift. I know that. In my head, I know that.

But inside of me, I’m a child lost at the carnival and everyone around me is laughing and talking and eating cotton candy, and I’m standing there, terrified, with no parent’s legs to grab onto.

And does anyone see? Does anyone see how alone and scared I am? Only Him. Only heaven.

*

Some people think you go to hell if you kill yourself, but I think that’s dumb. It’s professing, in essence, that God’s grace is big enough to cover every sin but one.

Plus, God doesn’t fault us for being sick.

Not to mention, that black and white philosophy leaves so much unanswered. Like what about people who die from an accidental drug overdose? Do they immediately go to hell? Even though they weren’t trying to kill themselves? Even though they might believe in Jesus?

I wonder about my clients sometimes, how a loving God could send to hell a person who can’t possibly believe in Him because they hear cupboards speak to them and think Michael Jackson is preparing a palace for them to live in. How could He fault them for not believing? I don’t think He will.

I don’t think He does.

I watched my client die the other day. I went to deliver her meds, and the next thing I knew, EMTs were trying to get her heart started again.

The only coherent thing she said to me before she died? “I have to say a prayer.”

“You have to say a prayer?” I asked.

And then again, she said, “I have to say a prayer.”

*

My face was pressed against the couch this afternoon. Lies and truths swirling about in my head, fighting for a voice.

And then, I felt God’s gentle urging to just let it be.

“Let the lies and truths coexist for now; it’s not as important to piece them apart as it feels. The real issue at hand is: Who are you?

When it’s just you and the couch, when all your relationships could fall away and it would just be you standing alone, apart from who loves you and who doesn’t, apart from where you belong and where you don’t, apart from what someone thinks of you or if they think of you at all, who are you?”

Yours.

I am Yours, I am Yours, I am Yours.

*

Whenever I need a hug, I watch Narnia.

There’s just something about Aslan. The eyes, the laugh, the roar.

They remind me of home.

*

I don’t know how to do this.

Things That Keep You Afloat

She looked like an animal. Wild-eyed, teeth bared.

“She’s controlling me with her mind!” she screamed to the cop. “She’s only seventeen! She’s lying! Her name is Heidi Klum and her mom’s name is Michelle Obama!”

Two days prior, I looked at her and talked to her and knew her.

This day, she was a stranger before my eyes.

911 was called. Emergency personnel came.

“You’re not going to quit, are you?” my coworker asked, obviously seeing emotion on my face and being unable to read it.

No, I’m not quitting. I am more convinced than ever that this work I’m doing is important. To look wild-eyed people in the eyes and not look away or run, but to feel tender-hearted compassion for them? That’s important.

My coworker said she saw paramedics laughing at the scene unfolding before them. Laughing. No, there’s nothing funny about this. This is sad. Not pathetic, but tragic. Sad.

I wished I could fix it. I wished my relationship with her could serve as some sort of flotation device, something to help her silence the crazy in her head. I wished she could lock her eyes on mine and know I’m real and I’m not going anywhere. And maybe her head is full of things about FBI agents and having her brain hacked, but I’m real and I care, and I wished in that moment, somehow, that could matter.

At one point, I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and be like, “Actually, just take us both. Let’s just allllll go to the hospital.”

Victory happens in the choosing.

God isn’t holding out on me.

He is not deaf to the cries of my heart.

I will choose surrender.

And He will bring the victory.

Pain and Beauty

I don’t know what to do but stand under heaven, arms spread wide, and be.

Be. “You are God and I am man.”

Be. “Help me, help me, help me.”

If sorrow was liquid, if grief was a substance that could be seen and felt, I’d be drowning.

And someone would help me. “She needs help,” they’d say. And it wouldn’t be an accusation or criticism, it would be a call to draw near. To reach out.

But you can’t see emotional pain, and therefore it seems to hold less weight in this life. And rather than draw nearer, people use it as a reason to keep you at a distance. Like if you’re hurting so much you can barely breathe, it’s because there’s something wrong with you, something wrong with your faith or brain, and not something wrong with the life you’ve lived.

Because people live through worse things. And they survive. Right? So, if I’m struggling to survive and I have a roof over my head and a job I love and a church that feels like home, that means there’s something wrong with me. Right? Some weakness or flaw in brain chemistry?

But when I stand under heaven, I know I’m not being judged. God gets it. My pain is real- maybe even more real than what can be seen. After all, aren’t the realest things invisible to us? Like God Himself? And love? And faith?

*

She called, sobbing. “I can’t understand you, hun. Where are you? Tell me where you are. I’m coming right now,” I said. The ‘hun’ just slipped out. I don’t usually refer to my clients that way, but it was my natural response to her pain- to call her by a word that would hopefully feel like a hug, even through the phone.

And someone else today, coming by my office to say that she’s trying to get pregnant again after losing her first baby. Her eyes teared up. “It’s so good to see you,” she said.

And I can see the beauty in both of these stories. The screaming pain of the first person, who called and let herself be nothing more than incoherent sobs on the other end of the phone, but who reached out anyway. Who let herself be buoyed by “hun” and “I’m coming right now. Just tell me where you are.”

And the trying again of the second person. The tentative hope reaching through the tragedy of a baby lost.

And I keep saying “hope, hope, hope” to my life. And I feel like life keeps responding with loss and disappointment. And I am somehow both the screaming pain of the first person and the trying again of the second. And I’m the one who comes when called, who reaches out through the pain with eyes that care and a touch that reassures them they aren’t alone.

And it doesn’t feel beautiful, this story I’m living. It feels like pain. But I suspect that isn’t how God sees it. I suspect He looks at me, His beloved daughter who refuses to give up on His goodness, even when she can’t bring herself to choose life, and He smiles a compassionate, proud smile. Because He loves me even when I fail daily, and He knows how desperate I am to know and love Him more- and is there any greater worship than that? To stand beneath heaven and beg, “Teach me how You are better than all the things my heart thinks it needs.”?

*

This is why I write- not to make sense of the nonsensical, but to make it matter.

It makes it easier to endure if it matters.

When I write, it matters that the sky is gray, and that you cried yourself to sleep last night, and that your car smells like citrus because you dropped an orange peel and now it’s lost somewhere beneath the driver’s seat.

And also, writing seeks out the beauty in the mess and highlights it.

It makes it feel like these lives were living are significant. Every single moment of them.

Bearing Witness To Another’s Pain

Last night around seven, my client called me crying.

I don’t think it was a mistake that I had accidentally left my phone on.

Because my phone was on, I was able to talk to her when she really needed me, and then, when words stopped being appropriate, I was able to just sit here with her while she cried.

Sometimes people aren’t ready to be built back up. Sometimes they aren’t ready to be encouraged or validated. Sometimes they don’t want to HEAR or PROCESS anything. Sometimes they just don’t have the strength to try and get their hearts or minds to believe anything other than what they’re feeling.

And that’s okay because, as my clients are forever teaching me, just sitting with someone while they cry can be as powerful a form of therapy as anything they taught me in school.

Even though I cannot take care of myself right now, even though I’m really struggling… God is still using me. That’s a bafflingly beautiful thing. Only He could use me in this place I’m in. Only He could give me family who loves me even when I’m awkward and depressed and insecure and have literally no words in my head to make conversation.

Our God is so, so big.

Help me not doubt that You are bigger than anything I am or am not.

Paint my life, Lord. Color it beautiful. Stain it with Your undeniable presence and holiness. I need You. Desperately, I need You.

Jesus, fill my heart and mind with TRUTH.

I was laying in bed last night, struggling to fall asleep, when I suddenly became acutely aware of my limbs. I became aware of my heartbeat. My skin.

My eyes and my smile and my hair, all chosen by God.

He knows me. He knows how I sleep and what makes me cry and He, in His infinite wisdom and knowledge gave me cheeks that redden and hair that curls and a tender heart.

He made me quick to love and quick to cry and gentle and quiet and goofy.

He gave me a love for singing and failed to give me a Grammy-award-winning voice to go with it. And that wasn’t a mistake.

There is nothing about me that is a mistake.

I look at my hands and I think, “God gave me these. God chose my hands. He chose the length of my fingers and placed each freckle just where He wanted it.” I am, from head to toe, chosen and designed by the God of the universe. And He knows me.

And I laid in bed last night, overwhelmed by the miracle of being a living being in a body. I exist.

I exist, and it’s a miracle, and yet that’s not where the miracles stop. I exist, I have this life and this body, and yet I am MORE than this life or this body.

I have limbs.

I have a voice that can sing and eyes that can cry and a heart that beats fast when I’m scared.

I have a brain that can contemplate deep thoughts and a heart that can hold dear memories and I can snap and skip and laugh and even whistle when I try really hard.

I have a body, but I am more. I know that I know that I know that I will exist beyond this life.

And I know that I’m not a mistake. I know that God didn’t design me from head to toe and then place me on this earth to suffer and struggle and wait for heaven. Heaven is our home, yes, but this life is a gift. It’s a gift and we’re meant to live it fully.

When I look in the mirror, when I look at my face, the face that God gave me, I see that I am not a mistake. I am not insignificant. I matter.

I see how much detail and love God put into creating me, and in the length of my eyelashes and the funny shape of my ears and the poignant hope that fills my heart when I reflect on how much God loves me, I hear Him saying that HE HAS A PLAN.

He planned my date of birth and my skin color and the size of my feet, and it would be completely insane to think He placed me here on this planet with a “good luck, don’t forget to call!” and started being involved in my life and existence in a more “supervisory” way.

He is still intimately involved. If He cared to place my freckles one my one, certainly He hasn’t stopped caring. HE HAS A PLAN.

He has a plan FOR ME.

Me. With my awkwardness and emotional baggage and tendency to despair. He has a plan for me. My story is ongoing for a reason. I am here for a reason.

I have skin and a heartbeat and eyes that see FOR A REASON.

I don’t feel that in my heart right now. Every day feels impossibly hard and just breathing moment to moment feels like more than I can handle, but last night my brain told my heart it didn’t get to have an opinion anymore. Or, rather, it could have an opinion, but its opinion would be met with a compassionate hug rather than serious consideration.

Last night the truth that God has a plan for me and my life, even in this messy and broken state, hit me like science. It was like someone dropped a highly researched, 100-page article on my chest. Facts and figures and statistics and proven hypotheses. Truth. Unarguable truth.

I am not a mistake.

I am not just a product of my parents.

I am God’s.

And He has a plan for me.

I don’t know what that plan is. I don’t know when I’ll feel okay again. But I will keep breathing.

And when I forget, when I start to think there is no hope, when panic threatens to overwhelm me, I’ll look down at my hands. The hands that God made.

And the hands He is still holding tight to.

I started to cry at a client’s house today. She lost her baby when she was 38 weeks pregnant.

She has baby stuff and no baby to use it.

She had planned on being a mom, having a baby to bathe and feed and wake up to in the middle of the night, and now her future is a question mark.

 

It is heartbreaking. Completely unfathomably heart-wrenching.

But her story is ongoing. And her baby existed for a reason. And I know that.

And I looked at my client with love and compassion and a heart full of prayers for her, prayers for her to be okay again in a way more complete than I am able to help her be. And I told her, “You’re still your baby’s mom, it just looks different than you expected. But you will see her again. I KNOW there is a heaven. And I KNOW your baby is happy. And I KNOW you will be reunited again someday.”

And I said those words, and I didn’t expect it, but my eyes filled with tears. And I think that’s what can happen when you speak truth to someone. Your heart recognizes it as truth, and the beauty of that truth, the truth that this life is just a blink and our suffering is temporary, it overwhelms our hearts with joy and gratitude. And hope.

I exist. And I will continue to exist.

Jesus, hold me. I cannot do a single day without You. I need you every single second.

With all that I have left within me, I will hope. I will inhale and exhale my way through today as best as I can, and I will try not to think too much about tomorrow. I will fill my brain instead with truth. I don’t know what tomorrow brings, I don’t know when or how or I’ll feel okay again, but I know who You are. You are God. And You love me. And I am planned.

And that’s the truth.

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