72 Hours and Deep Breathing

It has been a brutal last 72 hours.

There comes a moment when everything in me tightens and I can feel my brain spiraling into this panicked state. I start wondering why and what and who and how and when and what if. I start answering those questions for myself based on limited evidence. I make decisions about what is actually happening. I effectively make myself feel completely isolated, unlovable, despicable.

I’m learning to put the brakes on in those moments. I am learning to breathe through it. I am learning not to fight against it or demand it be different. I am learning to breathe.

I am not strong enough to dig deep, trying to get to the foundation of why my pain is so intense. I am not skilled enough to problem-solve my way to a less painful state. I am not capable of changing hearts or minds. I am not able to change the past.

So I breathe.

“You have to love yourself through it. You have to do the brave thing of accepting yourself, good and bad, and continue putting one foot in front of the other,” a friend of mine said recently.

I was so entangled in shame and self-hatred in that moment that I could barely breathe. But I knew she was right. Life is full of crossroads. Choose life or death. Choose. And self-hatred feels a lot like death. All we can do is breathe and love what is, ourselves included.

I love how happy Arlow is when I walk him off-leash.

I love friends who stand by you even when it’s hard.

I love the flicker of candles and the smell of my aromatherapy diffuser.

I love sunny days and flip-flops and starting the morning off with an energy drink.

I love touch. I love when arms or legs are intertwined, when someone reaches over and rubs my back, when I’m able to squeeze someone tight around the shoulders, when someone kisses the top of my head.

I love “dancing” in the car when a good song comes on.

I love feeding the birds in the neighborhood.

I love freshly washed bedding.

I love days spent outside and laughing with friends and impromptu road trips.

And while I can’t add “I love me” to the list, at least not after these last few days, I am working on it. And I do love pieces of me. Bits of who I am that I can hold tight to and say, “That thing about me isn’t a mistake. It isn’t bad or wrong or hard to love.”

I love that I’m a born writer.

I love that I can make people laugh.

I love that I am gentle and nurturing.

There are other things I would’ve added to that list a few days ago. I would’ve said I love that I care for people and that I’m a fighter and that I invest in my relationships. But now I don’t know that any of that is true.

It’s been three days of a battle unlike any I’ve ever known. It’s not a battle against panic or wanting to kill myself, but a battle in which I am trying to stay standing while the wind and rain whip and beat against me. And I feel bruised and bloody, raw and wounded.

It’s hard to see the good in the last few days. It’s hard to see how I can pull myself back up and get back to a place of being able to look myself in the face. But I can choose not to cling tight to the words spoken and fears they brought up.

I can choose to breathe.

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Embracing Our Humanness

“What’s that?” I thought, something on my lap catching my attention as I drove to my friend’s house.

A hole.

There was a hole. In my pants. In the crotch-location.

I couldn’t go home. I couldn’t change. I couldn’t even hide it because it was front and center.

My only option? To just show up. Hole and all.

I could’ve panicked or gotten embarrassed, sure. But how would that have changed anything? The hole wouldn’t have been like, “Oh, you’re right! This is embarrassing!” and then stitched itself back together.

Laughing about it? Showing up anyway? Telling my friend about my discovery? Laughing together? Embracing my humanness? OUR humanness? That was really the only option.

Over and over and over again, all throughout the day, I sense God whispering to me, “In what are you trusting?”

When I replay conversations in my head,

When I beat myself up for all the stupid things I have done or said,

When I worry what people think of me,

My trust is in ME. It’s not in God.

And all good things are from Him. They aren’t a product of me.

I can’t bring good things about by being someone “better”- more eloquent or funny or graceful or beautiful. All I can do is keep my eyes on Him and trust Him with the outcome.

When I say or do stupid things, when I worry I’m not very lovable, God is whispering, “I’ve got this. Remember, I created you. And I have called you worthy of love and belonging. Trust me.”

At no point does He slap his forehead with His holy palm and say, “Why did she stutter when she said that word!? What an idiot! How am I going to redeem this!? Probably now everyone’s going to stop loving her!” Honestly, that thought makes me giggle because it’s so RIDICULOUS. And yet, that’s what I tell myself!

Prove yourself, prove yourself, prove yourself! my brain commands me. And so I try to not look awkward or be awkward or say anything awkward. And really, when that is my goal, when my focus is on not being awkward? I’m even more awkward.

However, when my focus is on being His? When I am trusting Him with me and making loving others the goal of each social interaction, I can breathe. Am I still awkward? Yes, sometimes. But I can roll my eyes at myself when I stutter, or say something stupid, or have to pray out loud with people and don’t know what to say… because I am safe. Regardless of what comes out of my mouth, I am safe because I am His and it’s in Him that I find my security, my belonging, my significance.

Oh, what a lie it is when we believe it’s all up to us. It’s not. The pressure is off, guys. We can be authentic and unafraid because He has a plan. And His plan is never thrown off course when we trip over our own feet or lose our train of thought mid-sentence or raise shaking hands towards heaven.

We are safe. We are secure. We are in the middle of His will. And there’s nothing to fear.

He made us, after all. And He doesn’t make mistakes.

He did not, however, make those pants of mine that ripped. I’m looking at you, Aeropostale. 😉

“Love defined you before anything else did.”

“Have faith in the One who is fully trustworthy is enough to do miraculous things. It’s not a faith that says, by my own strength, determination and power this mountain moves, but faith that steps forward with what is already given us as believers and in the provision and ability of a great and mighty God.”

“Shame has a way of keeping us in hiding. But when there is shame, there are also faulty beliefs about who we really are. How God sees us. We tell ourselves to be strong, and believe we must always show worldly strength. We tell ourselves to be over comers, which we are, but we act out a belief that victory comes from how great a job we’ve done, rather than the greatest work already done for us. In the finished and complete work of Jesus at the cross. Every time we choose to put on a front, knowingly or not, we are choosing to trust in the power of man over the power of God.”

“…But then Peter started seeing something else too. The waves. The storm was raging about him, the swell rose and fell with messy anger, ocean spray filled his eyes and lungs, and he began to falter. The waves were so large and he was so small. Fear crept up from the souls of his feet that only moments before felt secure even upon the water but were now starting to slip on the wet surface, unable to catch a foothold. He started to sink. ‘JESUS, SAVE ME…’ He spluttered and hurled his voice at Jesus desperately hoping to be heard above the storm… He still believed Jesus could save him. He believed Jesus was still standing, was still capable to command the oceans and save his life even though they were out to sea with nothing to hang onto but each other… Belief in Jesus was not the problem. He doubted himself. He doubted whether or not he was chosen. Whether or not he was fit to walk the path. He had been rejected before, would he be rejected again? Belief in God is a two-way street. We believe in God, and he believes in us. It’s a divine partnership. God in me, me in God. What can separate me from the love of God? Nothing. This is what Peter doubted.”

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Our God Is For Us

I have discovered that often, during the times in my life when I feel like I need someone the most, a mom or a dad or a loving and compassionate sibling, those are the times when people are least present, the least loving and compassionate.

I used to take that personally. I used to quickly decide it meant that I was unlovable and alone in life. It doesn’t, though. It’s not my fault. It’s not theirs, either. Nor is it coincidence. I think it’s design. Especially since I’ve noticed that people also tend to be the most compassionate and loving when I don’t think I need them, but do.

I think that God, in His wisdom, wants to make it hard for me to make anyone else my god. He wants me to run to Him first. He wants to be the one to comfort me, and He wants me to know He is capable of being my mom and my dad and my sibling. He is capable of being whatever and whoever I need. It would be easy to forget that I need God if people weren’t fallible.

I am SO grateful that He is a jealous God. I am so grateful that He isn’t quick to let me walk away or worship someone/something other than Him.

Not only are we designed to worship Him alone, and not only is He the only One worthy of our worship, but He also knows that nothing else will satisfy. He knows that a life spent worshiping someone/something other than Him will be a life filled with pain, with searching, with hopelessness and depression and feeling like something is missing. He wants more for us than that.

God alone can satisfy.

Lord, capture my heart. All of it. “Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart.”

Oh, how He provides.

On Tuesday night, I wrote something, which I will share with you now:

I was really tired today and wasn’t sure how I was going to make it through work. He provided.

I needed (but didn’t realize it) friends who cared about me. He provided.

I had to take Theodore to the vet and was praying the entire time that he was going to be fine. Again, God provided.

I needed a hug from my Lord and drove past a statue of Jesus hugging a small child. God provided.

I needed the right words to say to an angry client. God provided.

I needed to know that I belong to somebody. I needed to know that someone’s eyes light up when they think about me. And God revealed to me (not for the first time, but afresh) that He is that person. I DO belong to somebody. He calls me HIS. Is there any greater label than that?! Is there any description of me that could possibly bring me more joy than Child of the Lord?! No! I couldn’t feel prouder if I was wearing a gold Olympic medal around my neck instead of a gross necklace! Just thinking about that, the truth that I belong to Him, makes me want to throw my hands towards heaven and dance, even in my tired and teary state.

The vet bill for Theodore was pretty expensive, but even as I paid that, I knew I needn’t despair because of all the ways during the day my God showed me that I could count on Him to provide what I needed. That $200? I didn’t “need” it. Or rather, I did. He blessed me with it knowing I would need it to pay for Theodore to see the vet.

Additionally, I thought on Tuesday that I needed my sister. I thought I needed her compassion. I thought I needed a hug. But I didn’t get that immediately. Instead, I got patience, from Him. And I got the opportunity to seek God for what I thought I needed from my sister. And then? And then I got an apology from her.

Oh, how He provides. And His timing? It’s perfect.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

I need to start looking at my days like that. I think it’s easy to focus on the ways we feel like God didn’t protect us or provide for us, but when I look at things more clearly, when I focus on all the ways He told me throughout the day that He loves me and that I have nothing to fear, I am left with unspeakable comfort and joy and peace.

Ultimately, He knows. He knows what I need. And he knows what will destroy me. And I trust Him. Whole-heartedly, I trust Him.

I, we, are going to be just fine.

We belong to Him!

*

“Hannah’s final response to Eli revealed another of her positive spiritual traits. ‘And she said, ‘Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.’ So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad’ (1 Sam. 1:18).

Hannah cast her whole burden upon the Lord and left her sense of frustration at the altar. She did what she had come to the tabernacle to do. She has brought her case before the Lord. Now she was content to leave the matter in His hands.

That demonstrates how genuine and patient her faith truly was. Scripture says, ‘Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you’ (Ps. 55:22). Some people will pray, ‘O God, here’s my problem,’ and then leave His presence in complete doubt and frustration, still shouldering the same burden they originally brought before the Lord, not really trusting Him to sustain them.

Hannah truly laid her troubles in the lap of the Lord, totally confident that He would answer her in accord for what was best for her. There’s a real humility to that kind of faith, as the apostle Peter noted: ‘Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:6-7).”

 

Oh, Abba. Hallelujah.

Family

Today I’ve been giving some thought to what family is.

I know family isn’t one of those unexplored, under-discussed topics. I promise I am not trying to be profound in any way. I am just wanting to be honest. To explore in writing what God has shown me.

I don’t know why God gave me the family He did. I don’t know how He, knowing how things would turn out, could possibly see my family as being the best fit for me. I don’t know how He could possibly have thought it would make sense to put a tender-hearted, family-oriented person into a family that was destined to crumble. But it doesn’t matter. I don’t have to understand. My understanding (or not!) doesn’t make God’s decision and plan any less perfect.

A dear friend of mine used to tell me to love people “with open hands”, which used to make me really mad. “If you cannot depend on someone to stick around, if you cannot rely on them, what’s the point in loving them!?” I used to wonder. But now I know that people will always let us down, and that their flaws don’t disqualify them for our love. I also know that loving people is much less scary when God is our God- and not man. Some people will stay, and some won’t, and that is okay.

God provides.

When I watched my life–everything I thought I could rely on–crumble, I was not alone.

When I thought I was an orphan, I was wrong.

When I thought no one’s eyes would ever light up again when they thought of me, I was foolish.

Every day I’ve felt like I was marching through this life alone, I have been mistaken.

And also, there has been blessing in those days. On the days I thought I walked alone, the days I thought I belonged to no one, the days I felt like no one would claim me as their family, I had no choice but to cling to Jesus. And I am so grateful for that. I am so grateful for those days.

It doesn’t matter if we understand. We will never, in this lifetime, fully understand what God is doing. But it doesn’t make it any less beautiful. We have to trust in Him, and not in our own understanding, right? I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere… 🙂

And now that I can see things more clearly, now that the dust has settled and I am looking at this new life of mine, which is nothing like the life I envisioned for myself, I boldly, and with a smile on my face, will testify that the Lord provides.

I am not without family.

Family isn’t about last name or whose smile most closely resembles your own.

It’s not about who understands you or who even appreciates you the way you most deserve to be appreciated.

It’s not even about who you spend your holidays with.

Family is about who carries you in their heart.

Family is the people who tell you the truth, even when it makes you feel mildly violent towards them.

Family is the people who say to you, “Drive safely. Call me when you get home.”

Family is who you feel comfortable calling “just to say hi”.

Family is the people who know you and still claim you.

And family isn’t forever. It just isn’t. I have had family, biological and otherwise, who were only in my life for a time, for a season. And that is okay. It doesn’t make it any less real.

For instance, I don’t have to question my entire childhood just because things are different now. My childhood wasn’t unreal. I wasn’t unloved. It was just a temporary thing. A sweet, sacred, imperfect, lovable time in my life which I can look back on, both with fond memories and with the objectivity that comes with adulthood.

When I lived in Maine, I had a family. I didn’t realize it at the time, nor did I appreciate it as much as I should’ve, but a small band of individuals claimed me. They took me in. They called me theirs. Even though I did nothing to “deserve” it. That’s another characteristic of family- you don’t have to earn their love or prove yourself or “qualify” in order to belong; they just love you. Again, it’s imperfect love, but it’s still love.

And love, whenever it shows up in life, is a gift from God.

He provides.

There is purpose in the loneliness. God doesn’t waste anything. Not one tear, not one prayer, not one dream or hope or longing, not one single moment of suffering or joy have gone undetected to Him.

He knows me. He knows what makes me laugh spontaneously, even when there’s no one around to hear. He knows what makes me tilt my head toward heaven and thank Him. And He knows what makes me fall to my knees and plead with Him. He knows the empty places in my heart. And He knows what I need.

Infinitely better than I ever could, the Lord provides for me.

He will give me surrogate mothers and sisters, fathers and brothers and grandparents as He sees fit.

And my friends’ children? My nieces and nephew? My clients and their children? Not having children of my own right now enables me to fully embrace and love the other children in my life.

No longer having faces I can rely on seeing around the table on Thanksgiving has enabled me to expand my definition of family. And the beauty of that? Not only does God provide for me, but He provides for them as well. The people in my life who I call family? Not only are they my family, but I am theirs. We are doing life together- combating loneliness with love and laughter and the comfort that comes from really knowing someone. That’s yet another characteristic of family- family is who you do life with.

Lord, expand our narrow view- of family, and love, and what we “need”. Change our definition of what our life “should” look like. Change our perspective. Help us see more clearly just how well taken care of we are. Help our prayers be punctuated with hallelujahs.