Love Wears Work Boots

I stood in the middle of a two-lane road today and screamed at someone.

I was trying to be thoughtful. I was trying not to inconvenience anyone. And it back-fired. (Yes, that is self-pity you hear in my voice.)

I was going for a walk, and I reached the road. I could’ve hit the crosswalk button, but then the cars would’ve had to stop, and I knew I could cross to the center median before the car to my left even came close, and that I could wait there a few seconds until the car to my right passed.

But instead, just as I was stopping at the center median, the car to my right slammed on his brakes and started screaming at me about not hitting the crosswalk button. He was irate and dropping f-bombs… and so what was there to do but defend myself in typical Tamara style? It’s the social worker in me. I can’t keep my ever-loving mouth closed when something feels unfair.

And so I faced him, moving deliberately out in front of his car, and I screamed: “I WAS WAITING FOR YOU!”

More f-bombs on his end, and then his tires squealed and he drove away.

And I resumed my walk.

Only it only took me a few minutes of processing before I burst into shoulder-shaking, hiccuping sobs. And I walked that way, crying, for the next fifteen minutes, making people uncomfortable while I passed.

And, admittedly, the driver was maybe not even wrong for being mad. I’m sure he thought I was going to cross the road in front of him.

But I also know a typical person, even one who was angry with me, wouldn’t have screamed like that and swore repeatedly at me.

I text messaged Laura after that. “I don’t think I’m feeling very ‘love wins’ today,” I said.

*

I was reading a book description last night.

“…finding strength and courage in the most unimaginable places.”

“Determined to dictate their own fate…”

“…give each other strength and hope as they fight to survive…”

“Brave and defiant…”

“…friendships that will both nourish and challenge her.”

“A beautiful testament to love, family, and the sheer force of will…”

“…a figure of abiding grace.”

If someone were to write a story about my life, I would want it described in that way.

I want to live a beautiful story.

*

I was talking with Pauline yesterday about fighting for truth, about not letting my emotions dictate my behaviors.

I told her how I felt, and then I said: “But the best thing I can do for [this person] is to set my emotions aside and fight for truth. And I want to do that.”

I do. I want to love well. I don’t want to make my emotions, (which, let’s face it, are often the product of lies and fears), the priority of every situation. I want to choose love. I want to choose them over me.

After I said all that, Pauline reminded me that she’s talked with me for a long time about fighting for truth. Admittedly, I have kind of rolled my eyes at it before, believing my emotions to always be the truest, most important thing.

Then Pauline said, “It strikes me that God knows you through and through. He created you. And He knew that, in order to commit to this fight, He’d have to put you face-to-face with something you really valued.” Then she paused and said, “And He knew you’d fight if it was for [this person].”

It’s so true.

God doesn’t put us in situations that hurt, but He uses them.

Our pain isn’t without meaning.

*

Love, love that puts the other person first, that shushes our own scream for comfort and security, it’s hard.

It’s a series of deliberate and conscious choices.

Whether it’s space or a hug, a night out or a long conversation, you show up (metaphorically or otherwise) in the name of love.

And, for all the ways you can’t make things better, you lift that person up in prayer. You plea and petition with the Lord to do for that person what you are incapable of doing.

You take a deep breath and you do the right thing. Over and over and over again. You tell your other emotions to sit down, and you call Love to the bat.

And you text a friend. You ask for prayer. Because Lord knows how hard it is to make smart choices, especially when your emotions are involved. You say, “Please pray with me for strength to make the right choices, and for my perspective to be based only on truth, and for my heart to be filled with peace and patience.”

Because we need each other. Loving well takes being loved well.

*

A few days ago, Pauline asked me how I’d like to be remembered when this life of mine ends.

And, without hesitation, I said: “She loved well.”

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Choices and Chance

“I don’t know what I want!” I say. My head is spinning and there are options and I don’t know what to do.

And then I’m reminded that my wants should align with His. And my head stops spinning, and my thoughts narrow down, and I know what is right. And there’s peace in no longer vacillating between one decision or another because The Right One is so obvious, but I can’t stop wanting to take the alternate road.

I know there’s no life to be found choosing a path that’s contrary to what He has laid out before me. But sometimes I really just feel like I can’t walk that road anymore.

And I know it’s okay if “I can’t” because He can. But I still have to wake up and be the one to take one step after another. I still have to find it in me to love the hard to love, and take care of myself, and not let the lies (or half-truths) grow so big that my “I can’t” grows right along with them.

And I find comfort in the thought of taking the steering wheel out of God’s hands and crashing myself into a tree. Because then “I can’t” doesn’t matter anymore. Then there’s an ambulance and possibly unconsciousness, and then I’m someone else’s problem.

It’s like tossing a coin. And heads or tails it doesn’t matter because it’s not up to me anymore. The coin is in the air, and so are my hands- surrendering my future to chance. A

But this is where faith comes in. It’s easy to believe when believing only requires faith enough to read the Bible and listen to Christian radio. It’s another thing to believe enough to say, “Because You are who You say you are, I will carry this cross. Even though I’m tired. Even though I don’t want to. Even though I don’t understand. Even though I can’t.”

And this is where love gets put to the test as well. Because true love is bigger than warm, fuzzy feelings and prayers of gratitude for the good He provides. Real love is choosing to do the hard thing.

Lord, grow my faith.

Teach me to love You more.

The Beauty Of Thirst

It’s beautiful, the stories I read, of people triumphing through pain. It’s beautiful how they talk of their tears and their angry prayers and their eventual surrender. And then their hope. Their hope with roots reaching down deeper than before, sturdy and unwavering.

And I ask God questions about that, about the beauty thread through life and about how he sees my life. And then I tell Him how I see my life. And He says, “Do you think their stories felt beautiful to them in the midst of their desert season?”

And I ask Him why He doesn’t meet with me when I put Him first, when I fall to my knees and scream at heaven for something to fill me up on the inside. And He says, “What if I did? What if every single time you prayed, you felt Me as near as a hug? What would you learn about letting your emotions define your truth? What would you learn about which of us is in control? What would you learn about trusting even when you don’t understand?”

“The sorrow? The grief? It’s too much,” I told my therapist. It felt hard to breathe. I thought I might throw up. And she listened. And she nodded that it makes sense that it’s painful. And she reminded me that we don’t yet know how my story will end, that I can grieve what I’ve lost and what I don’t have, but I can’t know that I’ll NEVER have those things.

And I left my therapy appointment with something like an eye roll because even if she’s right, I also don’t know that it’s ever going to be okay. And that thought? It feels like getting punched in the stomach, the wind knocked out of me. And so I ran, terrified and full of need, to God. “The sorrow? The grief? It’s too much,” I told Him. And He bent down low and looked into my wide-eyes and spoke words to my soul, words of strength and comfort and peace in the midst of the panic: “It’s not too much for Me.”

And how do I let that change me inside? How do I let the bigness and trustworthiness of my God be truer to me than the pain? How do I contain more of Him within me than I contain sorrow? How do I breathe when there’s so much loss and so much screaming ache and so much “what if” and “never” swirling about within me furiously?

I can’t think of one not-desperate time in my life since Mom got sick.

I can’t think of a season of my life where I wasn’t trying to swallow Scripture like a pill, guarding my thoughts with a fierceness bordering on panic, trying to hold my entire world and myself together.

I can’t think of a single season where I wasn’t screaming to heaven for help and having to press on alone. I can’t think of a season where I didn’t make excuses for God, speak trust and faith into the air like an exhale- necessary for my existence.

I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t trying to do everything right. To sustain myself. To be okay. To chase after a life worth living.

And I’m so tired. I am so tired of pressing on and fighting so hard and endlessly collecting sorrow and loss and grief within me. I am so tired of containing so much pain and trying to be okay with hurting like I am. I’m so tired.

I am tired of hoping.

And I’m frustrated because, even as I say that, I can hear the Lord whisper: “Where is your hope?”

It is in feeling okay? In having x, y, or z? Or is it in Him?

“It’s in You!” I scream at the sky. “How could You even ask me that when I’ve told You over and over again how I NEED YOU?!” I ask, desperate ache for Him radiating like fire in my heart.

And He’s calm. Listening. “That hope, does it have an expiration date? Is it dependent on what you see Me doing? Or will you cling to it, regardless of the circumstances around you, simply because of who I am?”

And I weep. Because I am in so much pain. But there’s a surrender in the weeping too. A grieving. And I pray over myself: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul.” And I ask for a miracle- the miracle of enoughness found in Him. The miracle of joy in the sorrow. The miracle of knowing there’s nothing but the best in store for me because I am precious and held.

And if it’s hope that is really rooted in Him, then I will cling even when the waiting feels like forever.

When I’m in the desert and the God who created rain seems to be letting me die of dehydration, I will cling to hope. Because He is good. Even if I’m thirsty, He is good.

And maybe that’s how the roots of hope grow deeper. We come thirsty. We come thirsty and there’s no water to be found, and we are desperate. But maybe the water the Lord is providing is coming from within. And so the roots of hope reach deeper and deeper for a water with a source that isn’t coming from outside, but within- flowing like Spirit instead of liquid.

I will cling to what is true. I will let hope grow roots. And I will allow those roots to grow down deep.

And when I can’t, when I can’t even keep my promise to the Lord to trust and hope and believe, I will press my hands over my heart and I will pray: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul.”

Because I bring nothing to the table.

For every single thing, I’m dependent on Him.

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.”

 

I Will Lift My Eyes To The Giver Of Life

Here I am. Wide awake at 5:30. An hour and a half before my alarm.

And I didn’t get to bed early last night. No, quite the contrary. By the time my head finally hit the pillow and I closed my eyes, I had that all-too-familiar thought: “I’m going to be SO tired tomorrow.” And then I had to force myself not to do the math- the “how many hours of sleep will I get if I fall asleep within the next ten minutes” math.

But I’m awake. Illogically and irrationally.

And so I think maybe it’s God. Maybe He wanted this time with me.

I wanted to write this blog last night. In fact, I wrote most of it in my phone as I lay draped over my bed, teary and snotty and praying wildly.

In the car yesterday as I drove, I was pouring out all my anxieties and the unrest in me to God. And I heard Him say, “Let yourself be loved.”

And at first I kind of laughed and said, “You do realize that’s my primary source of pain, right? Wanting to be loved? Ooookay. I’ll ‘let myself be loved’. Noooo problemo!”

(Sometimes I get kind of sassy with God. ;-))

But then I realized that wasn’t actually the full extent of what letting myself be loved looks like. Letting yourself be loved isn’t the same as wanting love, or even keeping your heart open to the people who love you.

When you let something happen, you relinquish control. You rest and trust. Come what may.

And so that is what God was instructing of me. He wasn’t saying I’m not doing a good job of pursuing love, He was saying I need to take a deep breath and stop thinking it’s my job to hold anything together. He wants me to let go. He wants me to rest. To be able to just be grateful for what He’s provided without worrying when it’s all going to fall apart.

Oh my soul, find rest in God alone.

And yet, even as I realized that yesterday while I drove, and even while my mind keeps straying from Him to things that make me feel all uneasy and fretful and desperate, and even while I have to keep pulling my thoughts away and re-centering them on Him, like a badly aligned car that wants to keep veering into the wrong lane, I hear Him say: “Child, REST. You have to let Me love you, too. You are love-starved. Your heart, why you feel and think the way you do, it isn’t a mystery to Me. And it isn’t a flaw. It’s sorrow. So be patient and compassionate with yourself. Let Me do the good work in you that I have planned. Trust, child. Trust that I love you. Trust that I know what I’m doing.”

And so, I pray:

Sweet Abba,

I know if I look anywhere else for the love I need I will be disappointed. Teach me how to not be disappointed with You.

Teach me how to make my home in You alone.

I don’t want to try to find comfort or rest for my soul in anyone else’s love above Yours.

Teach me how I’m not alone when I’m sobbing on my knees on my bedroom floor, hands raised to heaven. I’m. Not. Alone.

Help Your loving eyes and Your reassuring hug be what floods my mind when I’m grasping for something to hold on to- somewhere for my mind to rest and breathe.

And teach me how to desire Your invisible love more than the love of people.

I’m trying so hard to want You above all else, Lord. But I’m not there yet. I need You. I love You. But I feel like it doesn’t matter because You aren’t delivering.

I don’t understand how an invisible God can truly be all that I need.

And I feel frustrated because I feel like I’ve given You ample time to come to me like wind or fire or rain or breath. And I feel like You’re not here. You’re not here and still You’re saying all I need is You. And HOW. IS. THAT. POSSIBLE?!?!

Only I know that it is.

Teach my heart how to know that too.

And I also know, Lord, that it can’t be true that You aren’t delivering or coming to me. Because You are good and You are love and You change not.

So is the problem me?

But that can’t be true either- not because the problem is never me ;-), but because I’m on my knees before You, begging You to make right what is wrong in me and capture my heart and draw me to You. I am BEGGING. And I am trying so hard to keep seeking Your face and not anything else this world has to offer.

And You hear me. And You see me. And You know how hard I’m trying and how desperately I am asking for Your help.

Even when I feel alone and empty inside and I’m wracked with sorrow, You hear.

But Lord, I don’t want my relationship with You to be the equivalent of me wrapping my own arms around myself and saying it’s You. I don’t want to call my own voice resounding in my head and heart You and fight to believe that it is, that it isn’t just me being lonely and needing my God to show up.

And maybe it is You. All of it. But how is THAT enough??

How do I hug myself and comfort myself and speak Your truth over myself and have that matter as much to me as someone letting me rest my head on their shoulder or dry my tears or seeing love in someone’s eyes?

How do I make You be my heart’s desire?

Maybe I can’t. Maybe that has to be all You. And maybe I’m here, trying so hard and beating myself up, and maybe You’re just simply saying, “Child, let Me love you.”

And so I’ll just keep falling to my knees and sobbing, emptying myself out before You, begging You to take me and fill me up everywhere I’m empty and broken. I’ll just keep begging, hands raised to heaven, that You will help me know and love You more.

Abba? That’s all I want for my birthday. Just for You to be my soft pillow, my security blanket, the invisible hug that, even though it can’t be seen, can be felt just as real as anything this world has to offer.

In fact, Lord, more than all I can see and touch and taste and hear in this world, help Your love for me to be the realest, truest thing.

Oh, Lord. Please, please, please don’t take anything else precious from me. But I don’t need You to give me anything else either. Nothing else but You.

Teach me how You are enough and how I’m not alone.

And show me how You looked on me with delight and all-consuming love and fierce protectiveness the day I was born.

And how You look at me that way still.

Only The Best

Today I read about how Jesus says many will be turned away, thinking that heaven is their fate, but instead He will say, “Away from me. I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

That scares the crap out of me. Not as much for myself as for the people I love who I’ve lost touch with- those whose relationship with the Lord is kind of a question mark.

And I wish I could soften the edges of that truth and make it feel less jagged and painful as I hold it in my hand. But sure enough, that portion of scripture seems pretty clear.

And yet, I HAVE to believe in a God that will woo us relentlessly. I have to believe in the earth-shaking power of prayer and that my prayers, even the most poorly worded ones, terrify Satan. I have to believe it isn’t as bleak as that passage of scripture makes it sound.

I believe that because I have to. Otherwise I will be all panic and anxiety and desperately begging people to make changes that only God can really bring about in them. And so I believe that, but I don’t KNOW that.

And that scares me.

But what can I do?

And so I tuck myself under His arm and close my eyes and let Him be God.

*

The baby in the stroller in front of me craned her neck to stare at me as I walked through the parking lot. And I waved. She didn’t wave back or smile, and her mom remained unaware of the conversation taking place between her child and myself, but I smiled and waved anyway.

I smiled and waved almost reflexively. And I realized afterwards, while I continued to smile at the baby, that Jesus would’ve done that too. He would’ve smiled and waved. And that reflex in me is evidence that He is making me to be like Him.

And then I smiled again because how beautiful to see who I am becoming more like Him- sometimes in effortless ways, ways I could almost overlook, and sometimes through extreme, deliberate effort- knees to the ground, tears, prayers, pleading.

*

When someone compliments my ability to write or says I’m smart, there is no part of me that feels proud of that because I didn’t have anything to do with it. It’s how I was made.

Likewise, I have no control over the fact that my hair isn’t thick or that my feet are big or that I can’t sing like Lauren Daigle. As with not taking pride in the things I can do, there doesn’t have to be any shame in what I can’t do, or what I can’t be, because I had nothing to do with it; it’s just how I was made.

Similarly, when I see Him in myself, it doesn’t feel like a thing to be proud of- it feels like confirmation that He is here, working all things together, doing a good thing in me. It is comfort. Promise. Hope. It is all Him in me and growing me and sustaining me.

I can take no credit for the delight I find in the stars or foggy mornings. I can’t be blamed for my love for animals, even when it does border on the slightly ridiculous. I can’t take credit for the fact that I am generally a kind, friendly person. I can’t be blamed because I am unmarried. I cannot take credit for the fact that my hunger for the Lord is as real as fire within me.

Who am I aside from clay- His creation, being shaped and molded?

Additionally, in light of the above, how does it make sense to feel envious of someone else or judge myself as better than them?

So much of it has nothing to do with our own abilities, but His merciful gift-giving and all-knowing, perfect design. We are all His creations. Beautiful and astounding and flawed and fallible and worthy of love, but NOT worthy of a place on a throne or fame or worship, nor deserving of a critical eye or being the subject judgment.

Oh, how twisted this world has gotten it.

In the matter of who we are as people, the playing field is level.

I have control over my decisions. I have control over whether or not I choose to live a godly life. But who I am at my core? That’s all Him. A product of His all-knowing, miracle-orchestrating goodness. A product of my life experiences. A product of genetics. But all of it in His hands.

It’s not to my credit that I am good with children or that my eyes are hazel or that I can write. I don’t know any other way of being. It isn’t something I worked for, it’s just how I was made.

It’s not my fault I am not a brilliant singer.
But I can choose to sing anyway. That I have control over. To hide beneath my inabilities rather than make a joyful noise, that would be a shame. I can embrace who I am–flaws and all–and still choose to live life fully rather than hiding behind “I can’t” and “what will they think of me?”

And it’s not my fault I am terrified of doctors.
But I can choose to go anyway. …Even if I need someone there to hold my hand and drive me because Xanax is required. 😉

There are things we can choose, and there are things we can’t. And how often do we shoulder the weight of things we were never meant to carry- like inferiority or needing to prove ourselves or shame or having to be “better than” someone else?

*

He is all-knowing. The giver of good gifts. This is the life He chose for me. The body. The heart. The personality. There is no other life or personality or appearance that would be better.

And I was thinking about that on my drive to work today, how, essentially, jealously is saying, “God, You made a mistake. I don’t trust You.”

There’s a place for grief and sorrow and laying our dreams down at the foot of the cross, submitting them to Him with tear-filled eyes because we are going to trust Him even if it breaks our hearts. There’s a place for being sad about what we don’t have, but ultimately we have to be able to say that we surrender all to Him, come what may.

We have to live our lives with hearts and hands and minds open to receiving the fulfillment of our prayers, or pleasant and unexpected surprises, or even a “no” in response to our prayers. And when a “no” is the response, we have to be able to hear that and believe that God has better for us, whatever that “better” may be.

And we have to be okay with it not feeling like “better”, and we can grieve that, because what we feel is real and deserves compassion and acknowledgment. But, while our feelings are real, they aren’t reliable at determining what’s true. So we have to be able to cry and grieve and still stubbornly hold firm and unwavering to the belief that He is good and He can be trusted and He never gives us less than the best.

And at the end of the day, whether I’m alone or surrounded by loved ones, I can lay my head down on my pillow and tuck myself there under His arm. And I can close my eyes and breathe in peace and comfort because He is God and I am His. And I trust Him.