Whatever Things Are True And Praiseworthy…

The forest floor is covered in leaves and the sun flickers behind the tops of the trees as I walk.

I’m cold and my fears are pressing at my mind and I can feel myself starting to get cranky.

But Arlow is happy.

He is running, tongue hanging out of his mouth, making sure not to stray too far from his mama.

“He’s such a happy dog!” someone tells me. And I take pride in that, in knowing I’m loving him well, that he’s happy.

Her husband throws a stick for Arlow and their own dogs and I watch them play fetch for twenty minutes.

The sun is shining and my boy is happy.

And all, in this moment, is well.

*

I feel gigantic.

None of my clothes fit and it’s hard for me to look in the mirror. Even my face is fat.

But I try to love myself anyway.

I love myself by eating Thai food tonight with my friend.

I love myself by not remembering the clothes that don’t fit me anymore.

I love myself by not wondering how people see me and what they think and whether or not I’ll ever feel good about myself again.

And I love myself by resting my hand on my belly after I eat, willing myself not to be repulsed by this body that I’ve been given.

I thank God for my health, for my life, for what He’s doing.

*

There was a time when my entire world revolved around the need to belong and be loved. My mental health, well-being, and outlook on life were entirely wrapped up in whether or not I felt hugged, secure, wanted.

And there are times still when sorrow grips me. The loss. The questions.

“Who will I spend the holidays with?”
“Who will be there for me in May?”
“What kind of person doesn’t have anyone to put down as an emergency contact?”

But I’m getting better at leaving those questions in God’s hands.

I don’t carry my sorrows around with me anymore, using them as proof that my life isn’t important, that I’m alone and unloved. Using them as reasons to self-destruct.

I don’t even let myself consider anymore whether I’m “alone” or “loved”. Rather, I take my sorrows hand-in-hand with these truths:

She text me a cute picture of her dog.
She invite me to her house and treated me to dinner.
He affectionately punched my arm.
She called, crying, when she needed someone to be there for her.
She text to ask how I was feeling and remind me that she’s praying for me.
He made a point of connecting with me after church.

It doesn’t look the way I wish it would, but I can trust God with that.

And even now, with things exactly as they are, I can acknowledge that I’m wildly blessed.

*

Phil. 4:6-9

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

 

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Standing Firm

Two different people e-mailed me Psalm 27 today.

Psalm 27: “An Exuberant Declaration of Faith.”

I love that. It makes me want to plead with the whole world, “Lift your voice! Scream faith and hope and love and God’s goodness until everything else inside of you–every fear and sorrow and doubt staring you in the face–sits down and shuts up and remembers its place- NOTHING is bigger than our God.”

Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.

Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.

For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”

Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.

When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.

Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

*

I am staking my entire life right now on the words I find in scripture. I am demanding they be true. I am standing on promises the world would love for me to believe I’m taking too literally.

I am repenting for all the times I’ve agreed with the enemy about the character of God.

I am going through my life with my brain and heart guarded, protected. Everything I see and feel and hear and think I hold up to the light, I test it for traces of the voice of God. I refuse to meditate on fear or anger or doubt. I refuse to let my brain become a sifting place, a place that holds both faith and fear, a place where I weigh my fears for validity and examine my faith for holes. I refuse to let fear get that far. If it doesn’t sound like His voice, I refuse to hold it inside of me in any capacity.

I am staking my entire life on His being good, His being present, His having a plan.

“You’re taking this faith thing too far, you fool,” the enemy would love for me to believe. “Sometimes panic is the appropriate response. Sometimes the truth is that no, you are NOT going to be okay.”

I have spent years listening to that voice. I have spent years deciding I know best when hope is appropriate and when it’s foolish. But scripture says hope is ALWAYS appropriate. Faith is ALWAYS appropriate. And so I’m calling the enemy out, recognizing his voice, binding him from having influence in my life. I am standing firm, standing on my title as His child. I am a daughter of royalty. I am not a pawn of the enemy. I am not a victim of this life. I am treasured and adored and held.

I am staking my entire life on this. Everything, every single breath, I depend on Him for. I don’t think I’ve ever been more aware of that than I am right now, in this season.

*

And I thank Him. I thank Him when I wake up and depression doesn’t feel heavy on my shoulders, robbing me of life.

I thank Him that being out of work in this season means I can nap when I’m tired.

I thank Him when I can see glimmers of hope in areas of my life that once looked so decidedly hopeless.

I thank Him when the people in my life sound like Him, or love me in a way that reminds me of Him.

I thank Him when I feel excited for something. It has been so long since I’ve looked forward to my life.

And every single day I thank Him for Arlow. How often does He show up in my life-loving, me-loving pup? In his kind eyes and persistent joy and affinity for resting his head or paw on me?

*

Today Arlow sat at the front door and whined, looking at me with hope-filled eyes.

“I don’t waaaaant toooo,” I whined in response. I was in the same sweats I’d slept in. My hair was unbrushed. Absolutely no part of me wanted to leave the house.

But his eyes. The knowledge that I am his mama. I, alone, have the power and responsibility to give him a good life.

And, oh, the way he started bouncing around the house, tail wagging, when I relented and started putting my shoes on to go.

We stopped at Starbucks before making the fifty minute drive to our favorite dog park.

“He’s so beautiful!” the barista cooed, and then offered him a cup of whipped cream.

And I smiled while I watched him enjoy his treat and listened to the barista tell me how adorable my boy is. I would’ve missed out on that had we just stayed home.

And at the dog park, there were so many dogs there for him to play with. I was worried we’d be the only ones, which sometimes happens, but apparently all the PNWerners wanted to make sure not to waste this rare, sunny day.

And he ran and he played and we hiked. And the weather was perfect and the forest floor littered with the most beautiful colors of leaves, and the sun was coming through the trees in a way that made my heart smile.

And the longer we walked, the more alive I started to feel. The longer we walked, the more I found myself talking with my boy and smiling at him.

After a little over an hour, Arlow got tired and let me know he was ready to go. And as I drove away from the dog park I realized God used my boy today to help me reconnect with the simple joy of living.

He uses everything.

And this day? I’m still unemployed. I’m still battling some fiercely intense battles.

But I can see His hand all over it. The opportunity to rest, the strength to be productive (if only for a couple hours ;-)), and using Arlow to get me out of the house and under the big, blue sky.

These days, these looking for employment days, these waiting days, they are so much more to Him. My not being employed right now isn’t an oversight on His part. He has plans for me, to prosper and heal and guide and protect me, even while I wait.

 

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.

Things That Keep You Afloat

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

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

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

This day, she was a stranger before my eyes.

911 was called. Emergency personnel came.

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

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

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

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

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

Victory happens in the choosing.

God isn’t holding out on me.

He is not deaf to the cries of my heart.

I will choose surrender.

And He will bring the victory.

Faded Photos

I spend a lot of time during my workday fighting the question away: “What if this is my future?”

I visit clients in inpatient units, or living in one-room apartments with a shared bathroom and living space. And I wonder, “How are we different? How can I draw some clear distinction between you and me so that I can assure myself we’re not the same and that I won’t ever end up like this?”

What if the worst happens? What if I can’t make myself be okay and everything spirals out of control? What if I become my clients? What if I end up being deemed “unable to live independently”? What if I lose my dog and my car and my home? What if everyone I love leaves me for the third time in my life?

I don’t have parents who will let me live with them. I would end up in that linoleum floor bedroom, living in a house with people who hear voices and have been in Western State and have tried to kill their parents because they heard God tell them to.

I’m so scared.

And also, I look into my client’s bright green eyes- the only thing about him that isn’t dirty, and before I leave I hear him say, “Drive safe. And make sure to buckle up. And don’t talk on your phone while you’re driving.”

And there’s the client who was so excited about getting to pass out Halloween candy that he was already sitting in a chair by the door when we came to see him at three o’clock this afternoon.

And, dear God, they’re PEOPLE. People with hearts and minds and desires and joys and fears and a need to be loved. People created in the image of God.

And there’s the client who plopped his twenty-year-old family album on my lap and had me flip through it. “That’s my family,” he said. And he pointed them all out, naming them off.

He carries this album with him from hospital to transitional housing to hospital again because it reassures him he belongs somewhere. It helps him believe he is part of something that matters.

And yet, while I smile at the faces of his family members and thank him for sharing this with me, secretly my heart aches for him. Because the faded pictures from twenty years ago are all he has of his family, really. They rarely come see him. They never call.

And I also feel like I can relate to that in a sense. How often am I falling to sleep at night, metaphorically clutching a photo album to my chest and telling myself, “I’m loved. I matter. I belong.”?

It’s a poor substitution for the real thing. And yet, what else do we have, he and I? If we let go of that, we’ll be gulping pain like a drowning person gulps water.

So we cling to what we have. We take what we can get and we try to stretch it over us and make it be enough, like a blanket that’s too small to cover both my shoulders and my toes at the same time.

And so here I am tonight, tears streaming down my face. It hurts.

But there are good things.

How excited Arlow is to go to daycare in the morning.
How I think I’m going to like my job.
Clients who say funny things.
Coworkers who are kind.
A good book.
Coming home at the end of the day to discover someone (my neighbor?) left a box of dog biscuits and toys on my porch.

And yet, I would give anything to be eight years old again, even if just for tonight. I’d give anything to have someone tuck me in and kiss my head and rub my back and ask me about my day.

And yes, I will close my eyes like I do every night and imagine God bending low to do that. I will imagine Him kissing my head and loving me better than any earthly parent ever could. And I will tell Him about my day.

But it’s still a faded photo album. A too-short blanket.

And I’m so scared my ability to tell myself, “This is enough,” isn’t going to last.

And then what?

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.

It’s All Wrapped Up In Him

You know what insomnia does? It makes your brain even more unreliable than usual.

And when your brain is already a lying-liar-face because you’re stinkin’ depressed, adding insomnia to that is just… well, a recipe for success, folks.

Lately, falling asleep is the hardest thing I do all day. Which is doubly unfortunate because being alive is pretty hard too.

“Forget everything,” I was instructing myself last night. I heard Arlow snoring, and Madison and the kids breathing deeply in the next room, and the clock ticking. “Forget everything about yourself- your job (or lack thereof), your family (or lack thereof), all of the things that you think make you who you are. Forget your responsibilities and fears and hopes and dreams. Just for now, strip it all away. Forget everything but this: You are His.”

And then I focused on breathing. “Breathe, don’t think. Breathe, don’t think. You are His, you are His, you are His.”

I could hear my breathing, feel my heartbeat, the sensation of the air on my exposed feet, and I noticed that my eyelids felt hot from lack of sleep. And I breathed deep, to the core of me, somewhere in my abdomen, where spirit and soul and the Holy Spirit all seem to collide.

I am His. I am His. I am His. Nothing else matters. At least for this moment, nothing else matters.

And still, I couldn’t sleep. But at least my head, my lying brain, had been silenced for the moment. There were no words, just my own steady inhale and exhale. And my heart, on its knees, looking and listening and waiting.

*

The irony of insomnia is that the harder you try to fall asleep, the less likely it is that you’re going to be able to.

And that made me think- how often in my life do I lament, despair and exasperation written on my face: “I’m trying SO HARD!”

And how often is that the opposite of what I should be doing?

Hear me out.

While I am a fan of naps, and while I’m probably not gonna be the spokesperson for A Hard Day’s Work, I’m not advocating laziness.

I’m advocating surrender.

Rest.

Waiting on the only One who has the power to bring about what it is you’re trying to do on your own.

The harder I try, the less likely it is that I will be able to fall asleep.

Similarly, the harder I try to “have more faith!” or “have more hope!”, the less I’m able to focus on what really matters- my relationship with Him, the God who promises to finish the good work He (HE! Not me!) has begun in me.

I mean, sure, it’s a blow to evil if we testify that God is the author of ALL good things, that we are nothing without Him, and that He has a good plan for us… but if we forget to live like that’s true? If we start trying to measure up or be “better”? If we forget that it’s not about us (even in regards to how much faith or hope or love we have!) but about Him? If we forget the best use of our time is spent at His feet? If we forget that it is He who is making us like Jesus, and that it is not something we can accomplish on our own (or take any credit for!)? Well, if we do that, if we get caught in that trap, our religion becomes more about us than about Him, doesn’t it?

I can’t do it. I can’t make myself have more faith or hope. I can’t make myself want to live. I can’t make myself sleep.

But He can.

In every situation, if anxiety is replacing peace, you’re on the wrong track.

And how incredible is that?! That our God would structure life that way, that He loves us so much that He’d say: “If the voice you hear makes you feel anxious, IT’S NOT MINE.”

*

This life isn’t going to cut it.

I look around me at all of this–houses and people and stores and nature and traffic and all the things that make up this life–and IT ISN’T JESUS.

It’s like I’m dying of thirst and someone gave me a damp rag. And I’m trying to somehow not be thirsty anymore by sucking the water out of the rag, but it’s a joke. I’m still dying of thirst.

My thirst for Jesus is not being met in this life I’m living.

There must be more.

I have to believe that.

I have to believe I’m here in this place, not because I’m screwed up (although I am), but because He is using my thirst and discomfort to draw me deeper.

I felt Him saying to me today, as my heart twisted and ached within me and my head spun with lies and truths and variations of both, “This isn’t a mistake. YOU are not a mistake. You are tenderhearted in a way that is rare. And some might call it wrong, but it isn’t wrong. It isn’t a flaw. It is My design. YOU are MY design.”

Oh, but this heart of mine has me so aching for heaven. There just isn’t enough Jesus here.

But I’m here for a reason. I’m alive for a reason.

I’m thirsty for a reason.

And if I stop believing that, if I chalk it up to “heaven is my real home”, I’ll shut down the part of my heart that is screaming for more of Him. I’ll stop waiting on Him and begging Him to be more real to me. I’ll tell myself this is all there is.

I think well-meaning, God-loving people tell themselves that all the time. They seek and it seems futile and they’re thirsty and they get tired of living with the thirst. So they tell themselves what I’ve been tempted to tell myself- the lie that there is no more of God to be found this side of heaven. And so they start working on themselves rather than seeking the face of God.

They trade in passion and romance (this is, after all, a love story) and WILD HOPE, and instead talk about their relationship with God in terms of their faith- learning to be okay with less than they’d hoped for, practicing peace in the midst of suffering. “This life is a war, but God is GOOD!” they say. And that is true. It is. But it’s not the face of God. It’s theology and a desperate grasping and clinging at some way to make this life bearable. It’s a love for our Savior and a reverence and an awe, yes. But it isn’t letting ourselves be held. It isn’t knowing and loving Him more.

What does the Bible mean when it says we will find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts? What does it REALLY mean?

Does it mean we’ll be able to walk through our lives with scripture in our heads so fully that the lies of the enemy cannot penetrate? Does it mean we will be able to talk our hearts off the ledge with Truth when life gets hard? Does it mean we weep with hope and rejoice in the midst of sorrow?

I don’t know. I don’t have answers. I just can’t believe that’s what Jesus was promising when He said we’d find Him. HIM.

And I refuse to fabricate my God. I refuse to sit here and say it’s okay if all there is of Him this side of heaven is trees and mountains and baby smiles and the promise that He is using my pain to make me more like Jesus. Those things are GOOD. But they aren’t Him.

Sunsets and stars and hugs? GOOD. But they aren’t the Jesus my heart is screaming for.

They are a damp rag when I’m dying of thirst.

Lord, I’m grateful. I’m grateful. But it’s not enough.

Is “I am Yours and You are mine” just something we say? Or does it truly mean something? Because that would suggest a relationship. A relationship that goes beyond theology and sunsets and even hard-earned faith.

All of that is good and important, but THERE HAS TO BE MORE.

We are called to walk by faith, yes. But we are also called to seek His face.

And you know what the most infuriating thing is? I can’t”try harder” to know and love Him more.

It’s a process, something He is doing in me.

All I can do is refuse to stop seeking. I will knock until the door opens. I will continue to live eyes open, in holy anticipation of the God who IS HERE.

And I will refuse to let my lying brain tell me scripture didn’t really mean we’d find Him when we seek Him.

And sure, I could convince myself scripture meant we’d learn to see Him in the good of this life- warm blankets and shared laughs and good books and people who speak life and hope and love. I can tell myself that. And it might even be the partial truth.

But either the promises of God are even better than we can ever hope or dream or imagine, or they are nothing at all.

It’s dangerous when we try to decide scripture means less than what it reads.

It’s dangerous when we take the God who is more loving and powerful and present and real and near and good than we can fathom, and decide He is capable of less than amazing, miraculous things.

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“You can’t force these things. They only come about through my Spirit…” (Zech. 4:6-7)