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.

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All The Painful Things

I am in a season of growth. Which means, ironically, that I am in a season of dying- dying to myself.

I think people hear that, the call to die to ourselves, and think that means growing up. Maturing our hearts. Pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and accepting that life is hard.

That’s not what it means to me.

Dying to myself is not the same as no longer believing in magic and hope and beauty. To me it means absolutely refusing to give up on those things, but trusting God with the outcomes of my life.

Dying to self means letting yourself be sad about something, without trying to force a solution.

It means lifting your heart up to God, holding firm to the “child-like” belief that life is, at its heart, good, (because HE is good), but letting Him decide what will be. Dying to self is surrender.

And surrender? I think it’s a process of grief. You have to grieve what isn’t, and grieve not having any control over what will be. Surrender is saying, through tears sometimes, “This hurts, but I trust You.”

It hurts.

But I’m reminded there have been many times in my life when I’ve caught myself in a moment and thought, “Nothing right now hurts. Everything, in this moment, is good. And I’m glad to be alive.”

Pain is a liar. It comes blabbing about “forever” and “unbearable” and “pointless”, but none of those words are words God uses when He talks about pain. Rather, He says something along the lines of pain producing endurance, endurance character, and character hope.

Pain, when handled well, causes us to choose surrender. And when we do, we are essentially speaking over our lives that we believe God is good.

And He doesn’t disappoint.

I don’t know how to get from where I am today to where I want to be, but I know that the only way to get there is by choosing to walk this road that God has me on.

I have to choose to engage in this process. Even when it hurts.

Our pain isn’t pointless.

A Little More Wonder

I read recently: “God must be a pretty big fan of today, because you keep waking up to it.”

God’s perspective on today–the day as a whole, and the day that I am individually going to live–is positive.

My perspective is not. Even when I engage in mental gymnastics, trying to will my insides to cooperate, there’s something inside of me that is dead to life. Life doesn’t resonate with me anymore.

*

I was kayaking with my friend today. Good company. Nothing heavy on my heart. Sunny sky. Cool water. All was well. And yet, I looked around me, I took in the lily pads and the cottonwood floating through the air to land on the water around me, and I looked into the face of my friend, and I still could not understand how anyone chooses to live. How is anyone doing it?

And I paddled my kayak and silently willed the dead part of me to come back to life. I reminded myself that GOD HIMSELF CREATED THIS LIFE; there is goodness all around me. There are reasons to live all around me.

The bad doesn’t negate the good. The good is still here. And my inability to commit to living this gift? It isn’t because life isn’t worth it, it’s because something inside of me can no longer register the miracle of simply existing.

I can make a list of bad things and good things about life, but you know what? Neither of those lists carry much weight with me right now. My problem isn’t that life has too much bad or not enough good, my problem is that I can’t feel any desire to be here. I am disconnected from it all.

I need the Lord to teach me how to live. To take me back through a childhood and adolescence and young adulthood. To teach me about wonder and curiosity and awe, about what family and love and security should look like, to create in me a desire to use my life for something that will outlast me.

*

I was watching a medical show tonight, and I found myself wondering if it was fair for the medical team to treat a person’s body if they suspected brain damage. Is it fair to fight for a person’s body to live if their brain is dead? I don’t know. I don’t have the answer for that. But I know what I’d want for myself, or for someone I loved.

Something inside of me is dead. And still, I am daily choosing life.

I am daily facing my giants of depression and dysthymia and panic and screaming aloneness and fear and grief and the desire to sleep forever. Every day I am choosing.

Every day, I show up for the battle, even though I don’t want to anymore. Neither I nor the giants have any desire to be looking each other in the eyes, and yet there I am, back for round two or twenty or two thousand.

But how do I fight for life when something inside of me isn’t even alive anymore?

I don’t know. You just choose, I guess. You choose and just hope you’re able to keep choosing well.

And today I chose to meet my friend to go kayaking. I chose to preach goodness to my soul by engaging in some of the best that life has to offer, even though I can’t feel it right now.

I laughed with my friend and I breathed deeply. I floated on the lake, dragging my hand through the water, and listening to the rustle of nearby trees.

And I prayed, “Lord, teach me how to live.”

The Act Of Living

When I was a kid, I used to watch the cartoon version of Narnia, and my favorite scene was when Aslan breathed on the statues and they came back to life. Hopes restored. Lives restores. Dreams restored.

All it takes is His breath.

Dead things come back to life all the time.

*

“Bless the Lord, O, my soul…”

I place my hand firm over my heart and pray that over myself. Oh, Lord. Teach me to live from that place- from a place of worship. Teach me to wonder at and be in awe over the majesty and mystery and miracle of You.

*

I laugh with people I love. We make eye contact and gently touch each other’s arms and we laugh and it is good. It is so, so good.

I sit quiet on the couch, not alone. There is comfortable silence and books and Mumford and Sons.

Arlow goes to his basket, digging through for the perfect toy. He brings it to me, presents it excitedly- an offering.

The sun surrounds us and the air is cold, but the sun is warm and it’s glowing like an embrace.

The kids and I sit, hip to hip, on the couch. Legs entwined. There is comfort. And I hope that when they look in my eyes, they see Jesus loving them through me.

I watch them play, and listen to them talk about their future. It’s all laughter and dreams with kids. They have so much to teach me. I have so much to unlearn.

Lord, teach me again that life is a gift.

His Face

Have you ever wanted to stop your car in the middle of the road to stare at the sky?

I felt that way this morning. There was no place to pull over, but I wished there was. The sun pressing hard against the fog made everything golden. Hazy. Like a holy blanket.

And this girl loves herself a blanket.

But I drove on, willing myself to keep my eyes on the road where they belonged. And I thanked the Lord for that- for the fog and sun and the holiness of it.

Because if He sustains everything, if everything is held together by Him, then He is in everything.

When I sit in the bathtub, breathing in chamomile bubble bath and squeezing my eyes tight against hot tears, He is there. He is the creater of water. And tears. And the heart beating wildly, or sitting heavily, within me. He is in the fog and the sun and the quick inhale of awe and wonder when the beauty of this world takes me by surprise.

And I got to work and I walked through red and yellow and orange leaves, thick on the cement, wet and trampled but still vibrant. And again, I saw Him there- in the delicate shape of the leaves, in the almost other-worldly hue of them, and in their proclamation that change–letting go, surrendering to the seasons–can be beautiful.

But when I left work for lunch, the leaves were gone- replaced by black garbage bags full of that which had captured my attention just a few hours previously.

And it made me kind of sad to see God and beauty in something that someone else threw into a garbage bag and tied tight.

Maybe everything is holy.

In a book I was reading yesterday, the author said she has made it a habit to bless everything and everyone- to call out (silently or aloud) the God in them.

She let herself stop and marvel at a stick on the ground, wondering how long it had been there, whether or not it had ever been a perch for a bird. And she thought about how some might not understand- after all, it was “only a stick”…

but we are “only” human.

And in the end, we all return to dust and dirt. At least the physical part of us does. And she blessed the stick for its life and for its contribution to this world and for the fact that it shared with her the quality of having been “created by God’s own hand”. And she thanked God for the stick that had stopped her in her tracks.

Maybe everything is holy.

“The world needs you to do this–to bless, offer a benediction, something to send people on their way–because there is a real shortage of people willing to kneel wherever they are and recognize the holiness holding its sometimes bony, often tender, always life-giving hand above their heads. Being willing to offer blessing to one another is miracle enough to stagger the very stars.”

And as I read that yesterday, my coworker sneezed. And reflexively, I said, “Bless you.”

And then I smiled. Because I suspect that God had timed that sneeze with my new-found lesson on the importance of giving blessing, and He gave me an opportunity to put it to practice right away.

Oh, to see the world with a divine perspective.

To see my tears and heartache and longing for Him the way that heaven does.

To see clearly. To be filled up with hope and life and a bubbling awareness of how truly God deserves our praise.

To be so full of heaven that the lies of hell don’t stand a chance- not in my head, and not in my heart.

Who are we but dust?

The only thing about us that makes us magic–that makes us emotional, beautiful, passionate, intelligent beings–is Him. Apart from Him, apart from his breath in us, we are soil.

And so, if we love Him, and we reflect Him, how can we hate ourselves or another?

How then can we look into someone’s eyes and not see Him?

I’m scared. And I will acknowledge that to be sin. I will fight fear with truth. But right now, in this moment, I will also confess that I am afraid.

Life is hard.

And me? I’m hard too. I am a lot of work. My heart and mind and emotions–trying to get them to submit to the authority of heaven–it’s a constant struggle.

And death? Knowing that’s where all our lives are headed? It’s a beautiful promise, the promise of heaven, and one I eagerly await, but dying? Potential suffering? Leaving people grieving? Not knowing exactly what to expect on the other side of this life? That’s really, really hard.

It’s scary.

And there’s no avoiding it. There’s no avoiding life and there’s no avoiding death.

I’ll say it again, everything is a call to surrender to Him. It’s too heavy to hold on my own. I can’t carry the realities of this world, or even the realities of my own soul.

And in that surrender, I readily confess again (and not for the last time, I’m sure) that I am not my own.

If my life isn’t mine, it becomes less scary.

If I’m not striving to feel okay or be loved or bypass this life in exchange for finding rest in His arms, if I’m not trying to take over as the one who numbers my days and has a good plan, then I can just breathe. And come what may, I can say, “It is well with my soul.”

In that same book I referenced earlier, the author tells about a man who was praying big, hopeful prayers. And when she asked if he believed God would fulfill them, he said, essentially, “I don’t know. But I know God cares what I’m feeling. So I say it all aloud and trust Him to sort it out and do what’s right.”

And that made me think- how much of this spiritual walk is done in faith? How many words are said to heaven and then left in the Almighty’s capable hands? And it made me realize that holy things are holy–alive and radiating with His presence and breath–regardless of whether or not we understand. Prayers are holy, even if it feels they are going unheard.

Or in Mexico. Most of the time in church, I didn’t know what was being said. Hands were lifted, shouts of joy proclaimed, tears wept. But I didn’t need to understand the language to know these people had gathered to fall on their knees at the feet of their God. They had met to love each other.

I didn’t need to understand the language or customs to know that I was witnessing something that demanded reverence.

I’ve been meditating on the word “seek”. When scripture promises that if we seek, we will find, our only role in the fulfillment of that promise is to seek. It is He who allows Himself to be found.

And how desperately I need more of Him.

So I want to seek. Earnestly and passionately.

And seek? The original meaning of the word?
Search For
Desire
Require
Demand

It feels dangeroulsy bold to demand anything of the King of the Universe.

But if I need Him like I need air, if I require Him to sustain life… then maybe demanding is appropriate.

You promised You would provide our needs. And I NEED You.

You promised You’d let yourself be found, that we’d see Your glory if we just believed. Lord, remember Your promises. Thank You that You keep Your promises.

Lord, I will wait. I will wait for the fulfillment of those promises.

I will see You in foggy mornings and starry nights and the beating of my heart.

I will see You in scripture and in the people I share this planet with and in the irrefutable holiness of prayer.

And I will wait. Because I know there’s more.

You are not done revealing Yourself to me.

I need You with wholehearted desperation.

I need You because nothing else will satisfy.

I need You wildly, recklessly.

Breath and Life

Okay. I’m going to say something weird. Ready? Here goes.

It’s hard for me to believe I haven’t always existed.

Like, there was a time (a LOT of time!) in which I wasn’t born. I didn’t exist.

I feel so real and alive (I am, and I am!), so how is it possible that there was a time in which I was neither thing!?

I know it’s true, obviously. It just blows my mind.

Me, a person with deep thoughts and genuine emotions and dreams and hopes and fears and a heart that beats and pumps blood through my body… I haven’t always been! I wasn’t. And then I was.

Only God could do that- create us from nothing. And He chose it all- the date and time and location of our birth.

And it might seem irrelevant because everyone has a birthday and was born in a place and so how is my birth-date and location of birth significant at all? But it is. He says it is.

None of it is accidental or by chance. It was planned. Purposed. It matters. I matter.

We didn’t choose to be here. We didn’t will ourselves into existence. Our parents didn’t even will us into existence because how many parents who struggle to get pregnant would have children if it was a matter of WANTING them?

We, humanity, really has very little to do with it.

So why do we think it all depends on us now?

I didn’t always exist.

It’s not up to me to hold it together.

I didn’t always exist.

And when I think about that, how I came to be through none of my own doing, I realize how fragile life is- how we’re here one day and gone the next. And again, not (hopefully!) by our own doing.

Our days are numbered. It’s all in His hands. It has always been. He who tells the night to fade into day; He who tells the leaves to fall; He who keeps the world spinning on its axis; He who numbers our days.

And as real as this seems, as real as I feel, there’s more.

I haven’t always been and this world won’t always be. And that doesn’t have to be scary. Rather, it’s a reflection of the God who is working all things together for good- the God who has a plan.

The Value Of $10

At Fred Meyer the other night, a woman came up to me as I was getting out of my car, asking for money for gas.

Do I think she really wanted it for gas? I don’t know. But that’s not really my job to determine, is it? We aren’t called to be suspicious and skeptical of people. Wise and discerning, yes, but she claimed to have a need, and I had no way of knowing for sure that her need wasn’t real.

Normally I don’t have any cash on me, so I apologize to people when they ask for money and I continue on with my day, just briefly mentioning them in prayer. But this night, I had money. I had a $10, a $5, and two $1’s.

And I gave her the $10.

I chose to give her the $10 and skip buying myself cold medicine- not because I’m a martyr, but because I saw her as Jesus’ child. I looked at her with compassion and some sadness and I thought, “You need Jesus.” And as that thought hit me, I knew what I needed to do. She needed Jesus, and I had the opportunity to be Jesus to her.

After I handed the money over, she practically ran away from me with barely a “thank you”. I felt pretty confident in that moment that she didn’t need gas. She acted like she was getting away with something, and she wanted to get as far from me as possible before I learned the truth and changed my mind.

And so I called after her, “God bless you!” Because I wanted her to know I gave to her not as me, but as Jesus’ hands and feet here on Earth. I gave to her from the love He has for her. It wasn’t about the $10.

And wouldn’t you know, she stopped mid-run. She couldn’t be slowed down to say “thank you” properly, but she stopped when I said that and she turned to look at me. She studied my face for a second. “God bless you, too,” she said.

I pray she didn’t use the money for drugs. I pray she used it for gas.

But either way, I pray she felt the love of Jesus that night. I pray He will take my $10 and use it for much more than I ever could’ve.

And I smile with the ease at which I handed that money over. And it’s not because I’m some saint, but because giving $10 to a stranger was the easiest thing God’s asked me to do in a long time.

There’s growth and blessing in sorrow and struggle.

Sometimes I feel like I have nothing, like it’s just me moving through this world, emptied out on the inside. I feel like I’m having to consciously remind my heart to beat, and not just beat, but beat for one thing alone- God.

And I believe He’ll bring me out of this valley.

But while I’m here, He is teaching me to breathe.

He is teaching me what truly gives life.

He is presenting me with situations I can’t control, and situations I can. And the funny thing is, I can’t control what comes into my life- all I can control is what I give out.

And as I mourn and grieve and tearfully choose surrender and acceptance over and over again all day long, He is reminding me that laying down my life feels like a death, yes, and it is, but it’s not the end.

Things are laid down, but not buried. Not beyond resurrection.

As I leave everything at the foot of the cross, He’ll sift through it. He’ll take each thing, one by one, and hold them. He’ll examine them for their life-giving (or life-stealing) qualities, He’ll search them for signs of heaven, and He’ll weigh whether or not they have the ability to support rather than detract from my higher calling as His beloved child. And some things He’ll toss out because He won’t give me anything less than the best. But some things He’ll bring new life to and hand back to me.

He’ll take my worldly wants and desires and sorrows and fears and trauma, and He’ll breathe holy breath and life and redemption and healing into them. And I’ll appreciate them differently when they come into my life as a gift, or healing, or freedom- all marked with His fingerprints.

And when I can’t see the gift without seeing His fingerprints, I won’t be tempted to worship the gift- I’ll worship the gift-giver.

I can trust Him with my heart. I can trust Him with my pain, my life, with the things I can’t control.

And so I’ll pursue Him. I will invest my energy in the things I can control instead of fighting against what I can’t.

He’s teaching me that when I sink below the surface of the water, like Peter, the only hand reaching out for me will be His. Because only He can walk on water. Everyone else? They’ll be in the boat. Not heartlessly, not without care or concern or love, but the most they can do is row over and toss me a buoy. They can’t walk on water.

He’s the Gift-Giver. The Healer. The Redeemer. The Savior. The true source of the life I so desperately long for.

He’s teaching me that.

And He’s teaching me the value of $10.

$10 isn’t going to keep me from drowning, but grasping tight to His hand will.

*

“Where You go, I’ll go
Where You stay, I’ll stay
When You move, I’ll move
I will follow You
Who You love, I’ll love
How You serve I’ll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow You.