Reality

Sometimes it’s hard for me to know what’s real.

I don’t mean to say that I am out of touch with reality, (although that too, sometimes ;-)). I have no problem being able to say, “This happened today,” and know that’s true, but the trouble comes in when I, without realizing it, start assigning meaning to the events of the day.

I look at the facts and start answering for myself “why did that happen?” and “what does that mean?” Like an architect examines a structure for stability, I pace back and forth over the events of my life, examining them second by second, inch by inch, asking the questions: “Is this thing solid? Am I secure? Am I safe?”

I don’t feel very safe today.

And that’s why I say I don’t know what’s real. Because nothing bad happened, it’s my own analysis of events, my own answers to the “why’s” and “what’s” that has me feeling like the ground I am standing on is shaky.

And is it? Am I safe? Is it shaky? I DON’T KNOW. I don’t know what’s real and I’m scared because I need to know I’m safe.

Which brings me to another one of those fork-in-the-road moments though, doesn’t it? I can either choose to act out of my fear, or I can choose something better for myself.

I can choose to view my day through the lens of fear and trauma, or I can choose to view it through the lens of: “Where was God?” That doesn’t make it any easier for me to know whether or not I’m safe, but it does help me get back to the basics of what ACTUALLY happened today.

Remove the emotion, get down to the facts: Where was God?

He was in my slow-start morning.
The willingness of Laura to bring by my medication.
Having people to call when I need to be emotional and messy.
The warm day.
Watching Arlow play at the dog park.
Finding a ball at the dog park, after realizing I forgot to bring one of ours.
The woman I met, who I talked with about her divorce and daughters and dogs.
Not hitting traffic on the drive back home.
A good sermon.
Flickers of hope.
The invitation to have dinner and s’mores at a friends’ house tonight.

*

I heard a sermon today about the men who lowered their friend through the roof of a house to get him to Jesus. They would’ve done anything to get their friend to Jesus. They weren’t concerned about being impolite or interrupting or making a hole in someone’s roof. They just wanted Jesus.

And I heard that, and I thought about my theory about love. How loving someone means doing the least selfish thing.

But what those men did? That was pretty selfish. And it might not have even been motivated by love, but by need. And yet, Jesus still responded to it.

People can’t handle desperation. People can’t handle it when you come to them with a “cut a hole into someone’s roof” category of need. But God can.

With Him, I’m safe.

But He’s not here.

He’s in my day, but He’s not here.

And I wonder if it’s more important for me to love Him well in the midst of this life that is too hard for me, or if it’s okay to come to Him desperate and ruled more by need than by love.

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The Holder Of Every Second

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He holds every single second.

*

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

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

And I agree.

And it hurts.

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I pray.

And I go for walks.

I cry in cars.

I read books that stir hope within me.

I want to give up.

But most days, I don’t let myself.

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

Rain Like A Hug

I stood in the rain, smiling up at the sky.

The other Sunday afternoon Costco shoppers were gathered under the covered area by the door, but I stood in the parking lot, letting the rain wet my hair and face and soak my clothing through to my skin.

Because surrender.

Letting go. Letting go of how my hair looks and whether or not my make-up is smeared. Letting go of whether or not my Toms are collecting water and my sweater is growing heavy with the weight of the rain. Letting go of standing alone. Letting go of being watched. Letting go of looking crazy.

Surrender.

Standing in the rain, arms open wide, ready to embrace what the sky, (or life, or God), has for me.

“It makes me feel like a child again,” I told Irene when I finally made my way to where she stood with the other umbrella-unfolding, coat-zipping, hood-donning shoppers.

And I was smiling.

Because He is in the rain.

And the sun.

And having someone to say goodnight to.

He is in the puppy, with his arms around my waist and his head resting on my chest, snoring.

He is in surrender and living life with eyes open.

He is in the tears I fight and the ones I drown in. He is in the calm and the tired and the laughter that bubbles up unexpectedly.

He is in my inability to find the words to pray, and my willingness to come to Him as child with nothing to offer but my understanding that He is God and I am not.

He is in Monday morning and Friday night.

He is in warm beverages and warm hugs and pulling the covers up to my chin with a contented sigh before I fall asleep at night.

He is in my panic and my desperation and my questions. Because He enters in to even those things He doesn’t author. He enters in and refuses to leave us standing alone.

He is in the huddling together under the covered area at Costco, discussing with loved ones whether or not to make the mad dash for the car or wait for the rain to die down.

He is in the husband offering to pull the car up while his wife and waits, dry and warm.

He is in having shelter from the rain.

He is in choosing to stand beneath the gray sky.

He is in the rain.

And so I spread my arms open wide.

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.

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.

Holding Tight To Heaven

I held her baby. The tiny pencil arms of a four-pound infant. The long fingers. The wrinkly, pink skin. All the features of a grown adult, but miniature. A nose smaller than an M&M. Tiny, perfect, puckered lips that looked like they had been drawn by the hand of some masterful artist. And my breath caught in my chest, held there by awe and tears. And I swallowed hard and smiled softly and said, “Isn’t it incredible that Jesus came to earth as a newborn?”

She nodded solemnly. “It is. He came helpless. Needy.”

“The King of the universe! He came needing to be taken care of! It blows my mind!”

“…And we reflect Him,” I added. “Looking at the face of your baby… she reflects Him because we–man and woman alike–are created in His image.”

I paused.

“And I can feel that, looking at her now and holding her,” I said. “It feels holy. She’s beautiful and perfect, but it’s more than that. I feel like I’m holding a tiny sliver of God.”

And I wasn’t a counselor in that moment. I was just Daughter of the King. Sister of my client. Beholder of the glory of Jesus in the face of her infant.

*

And I cry because this season–both Christmas and this time in my life–is excruciating.

And because it’s beautiful- the decorated trees and houses, the Christmas music. The people who love me, the fur children whose whole worlds are wrapped up in me.

The nearness of heaven.

The place God has brought me to, where I can grieve without wanting to give up.

And I cry because there’s snow falling outside as I type this, and my Father knows how much I love the snow.

And I cry because Jesus came as a baby.

And He knows what it’s like to feel unwanted. To have nowhere to lay His head.

And I cry because He knows the hurt in my heart, and it’s incredible that He’d care to know the contents of my heart. It’s astounding that not a single tear I cry goes unnoticed.

And so I open my eyes, because a God who cares so much about my heart can be trusted. And I know if I just look for His face, for His hand in my life, I will see that He is saying: “I’m here, child. I’m right here.”

When it snows.

As I cradle a diapered rear in my hand and a whispy-haired infant lies in the crook of my arm.

When someone sends me a Christmas card.

When someone seems happy to see me.

Nowhere to lay my head.

But He’s here.

*

And so I’m choosing to go out into this wet and stormy world, heart open.

I’m choosing to wear Him like a garment- a warm coat, boots. He keeps me dry. He protects my heart.

And I will speak love and truth. Because is there any greater weapon in which to go forth into this life?

Heart open.

Entrusted to Him.

*

The mom in the Dolly Parton movie wrapped her arms around her grieving daughter and told her, “Don’t you ever wish you hadn’t loved, baby. There is nothing more powerful on this earth than love.”

Thank you, Dolly’s mom. Thank you for being the voice of my God.

And so I will. I will love.

And at the end of the day, I’ll bury my face against His chest and sob, or talk about my day, or laugh, or muse aloud about the things I wonder.

And that is where I’ll lay my head.

And it will be enough.

*

And I ask Him, “Is this what You want for me? Is this how it will be forever? Will I always feel like this? Will I ever BELONG anywhere again?!” And I’m mad, sure. But mostly I’m hurt. And He knows. He listens with sad, compassionate eyes. And once I finish my teary tirade, He opens His arms for me. And I run towards Him. And that’s enough of a response. Love.

Love as a weapon.

Love as medicine.

Love to cling to like a flotation device.

Love as the calm in the storm.

*

“I miss my mom!” I say. “I miss knowing someone always wants me around- that their every single moment is better if I’m in it.”

And I’m sobbing. I can’t even stand. Wailing. Grieving.

And He opens His arms.

Because the good that Mom brought to my life? It just reflected Him.

He who always wants me around.

He who knows how to make this holiday season feel like magic.

*

He came as a baby.

I will do life eyes open.

I don’t want to miss Him because I’m looking for something else.

*

I don’t know how to feel okay or be okay. And I talked that through with God last night, my hurts constantly rising to the surface while I furiously try to suppress them like a Whack-A-Mole game.

But I can’t fix it.

And staying up, trying to find a way to make everything within me feel okay… it’s just worry calling itself sorrow.

And it’s not trust.

And there’s no way, apart from Him, to feel okay.

I have to trust.

“Rest, child,” He whispers.

“I don’t know how!” I protest. Inside my grief is a squirmy four-year-old. I can’t contain it.

And there, in the silence, I hear, as if spoken through a smile, “Do you have any idea how much I love you?”

And at that, the four-year-old in me pauses. And so I grasp on to that – the only slice of comfort in my grief.

And I close my eyes, my head on the pillow, and tears still leak out involuntarily, and I say, “You love me, You love me, You love me,” over and over again.

And at some point I fall asleep.

My head on His chest.

My heart in His hands.

His love on my lips.

Happy birthday, sweet Jesus.

Thank you for wanting me.

Breath

I told someone recently that I feel like, if life is breath, then where there should be breath within me, there is just a deflated balloon.

And it doesn’t matter what I tell my brain or heart, or what my eyes take in that I label as “Something To Be Grateful For.” None of that fills up the place where breath should be.

I feel like I used to see the world in color and now it’s all black and white.

And I don’t know how to fix it.

What do I do besides fall to my knees and pray and wait for the God who is Healer to come and minister to the broken and empty places within me?

*

The people Jesus healed in the Bible didn’t have to follow a formula. They just had to come to Him.

And sometimes HE came to THEM.

Repeatedly, He healed people in different ways.

So who is to say that receiving prayer in a public venue is the only way for me to be made whole?

I don’t think God would give me a checklist of things to do to be made whole. I think His plan is different and unique for everyone.

If there was a “right” way to do it, we’d start pursuing that rather than Him. Wouldn’t we? What need would we have for Him if we could will healing into our lives through actions?

I think that there’s more than one way to seek healing. And that what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another.

 

*

I was wondering the other day, how often do we shy away from the things of God without even realizing it?

We call it self-protection.

Or none of our business.

Or inconvenient.

But maybe it’s all Love beckoning us to come near.

Love in the homeless man,
Love in the rain,
Love in the sleepless night.

*

Seeing a deer on my evening drive.
Rainbows.
DOUBLE rainbows.
A dog’s head tilted and looking at me with gentle, love-thirsty eyes.
Standing barefoot in soggy grass and letting the rain wet my hair.

I don’t know how to do this life without trying to see Jesus in everything- making everything personal, doing away with the concept of coincidence.

I need to believe in a God who woos us and pursues us and is delighted by us. A God who is involved in every moment of our lives.

Oh, sweet Jesus. Be here, be here, be here. Fiercely, I need You.

Give me eyes to see.

Maybe this side of heaven, He’s the kind eyes of strangers,
and warm embrace of someone you love,
and baby smiles,
and the way the bare trees look orange when the sun sets in autumn,
and the happy crow with the French fry,
and a good song,
and a warm, homemade meal,
and the vastness and depths of the unexplored portions of the ocean.

He knows us. He knows how to whisper to our hearts, “I am here. I love you. You are not alone.”

*

I heard it said recently that the saddest day in history, Christ’s death on the cross, and the happiest day in history, his resurrection, were only three days apart.

It was a three-day gap from That Night to my return home.

Who are we to say how long God is going to take to turn things around?

He created the world in 7 days, spoke Adam to life with dirt and a breath, raised Christ from the dead in three days, and took four days to bring life back to Lazarus’ body.

There’s no pattern. No way to rationalize how He does things and when and why.

Some times it takes three days, three years, three seconds.

Lord, help me to love today, all the while maintaining a hope that persists against all reason. Help me love today while firmly believing for an even better future.

The other day, while I was questioning the practicality of hope (ha!) I sensed Him asking, “Do you believe that my desire for you is a life of suffering?”

To which I responded, “Of course not. I know You are good. But I fear that sometimes the good You will for my life won’t look or feel good to me for a long time.”

And His response? “Open your eyes, child. Look for what I’m doing in your life, even if it’s not exactly what you want. IT IS GOOD.”

*

I was watching a movie the other day in which someone sacrificed their innocent life to give life to someone he loved.

And I found myself watching, wide-eyed, both in awe of and devastated by his sacrifice. “Geez, what kind of love is that! If he’d die for her, what wouldn’t he do for her!? She must’ve felt so safe and adored when he was around!”

Guys, it took me that ENTIRE train of thought to think about Jesus.

I HAVE THAT IN HIM!

Why do I spend so much time questioning His goodness and feeling fearful and unsafe!? It’s ludicrous.

I am convinced that we have so much more in Him than we can even really understand right now.

There is so much reason to rejoice.

How blind we humans are to the truth of His power and goodness.

*

Sometimes I feel like I’m here against my will.

I am trying to love life, trying SO hard, but it doesn’t seem to matter what I do – my insides are a popped balloon.

But I will stand.

I will look into the darkness and speak Light and Love.

And, with my words spoken in faith, I will breathe out the power and presence of God.

With my popped balloon insides, the breath of my voice borrowed from Him.

It’s not me. It’s not my breath- my strength or power.

I am living in a black and white world.

But I have a God who decorated heaven with colors human eyes have never seen.

And I will cry.

Tears that come from that place where the popped balloon exists, at the core of my being, somewhere too deep for me to really analyze or understand or fix.

And the tears will speak the words I don’t even know to speak.

They will be a prayer.

And He will hear.