The Battle Continues. And So Does The Laughter.

“Your eyes aren’t smiling today,” my coworker said. Which surprised me because that means my eyes are smiley most days.

*

I keep having to remind myself that life is a gift. Life was God’s idea- the same God I desperately want to be held by. This life is a reflection of Him. It IS Him holding us. We are here, breathing in the stuff of miracles, surrounded by the work of His hands. His fingerprints are everywhere.

The suffering of life wasn’t part of His plan, of course, but the good? The good can reveal to us the heart of our Father, if only we have eyes to see.

*

The dysthymia precedes the panic, every time. Suddenly the world goes dark- black. I try desperately, fiercely to keep my head above water, but I can’t. The current is pulling me down to a place where there is no oxygen or light.

How many nights have ended with me squeezing my eyes closed in bed, my throat tight, my heart racing, repeating: “What I’m feeling right now is a lie. I am alive. I am alive. This life is a gift. I am alive.”

There are moments when suddenly I see and feel about life the way I used to. And those moments are like desperately needed oxygen, loosening the tightness in my chest, lessening the weight on my shoulders, showing me how, even in my best moments, I am weighed down by this fight. And but suddenly these moments of clarity hit me and there’s lightness and relief and something like joy, and I think, “Ah, yes, there you are, Life! I knew it wasn’t supposed to be so hard! I knew you were worth it! I knew you were, at your core, good!”

But the moments are fleeting. Like a blink. And suddenly I’m back in this life where every single decision I make throughout the day is a response to the question: “How can I keep from having a panic attack?”

It’s the panic I can’t do anymore. It is hell. And always, in every moment, I am running as hard as I can away from that, that place that feels like hell, that place that makes me feel certain this is a fight I won’t win.

*

There are moments that make me want to weep with relief because I forget I’m fighting. I’m surrounded by the best kind of chaos, and belonging, and love. And I forget that the sun is setting and that nighttime is hard for me.

God is holding me. He is the breath in my lungs. My throat is tight, but He is my breath. And so I close my eyes and remember I am alive and this life was His idea.

*

And it won’t end. The best parts of this life will continue in heaven.

So when I can’t feel any pleasure in the good of this life, when everything feels empty and meaningless and my heart starts to beat with the wildness I’ve become accustomed to before a panic attack, I can tell myself, without a doubt, that my brain is lying to me. Because even if not all of life is good, some of it is good. And that good has His fingerprints all over it. Life was His idea. And death is an illusion. Those of us to love Him will live forever.

Life is a gift.

*

Here are some things I know:
1. Not everyone feels this way. My brain is sick. Life isn’t this hard for everyone. Which means there’s hope for me. There’s hope that my brain will get healthier. There is hope that the life I knew for 20-something years will return to me.
2. God doesn’t blame me. He knows how I’m fighting. He knows my thoughts and my heart. And there is no condemnation in His eyes. Only love.
3. I am human. I am flawed and weak and sinful, and I vacillate constantly between thoughts and emotions, lies and truths, fears and desires. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be human because God’s grace is bigger than the width and depth of my need and depravity.
4. I am never alone.

*

I don’t know if it’s going to be okay this side of heaven. When I ask myself that question, my response is always, “It HAS to be.” It has to get better or I don’t know if I’ll survive. My desire to fight? It’s huge. But the panic is bigger.

And so I surrender. I embrace not knowing. I accept that this is my fight right now. I breathe. And I say, “I don’t know. I don’t know how or when or why or what’s next. But thank You.”

And I do. I thank God for air, for breath and belonging and moments where life feels real to me and worth it. I thank Him for love and family, laughter and sun, Arlow and the moments before sleep when all feels okay.

I thank Him that He holds me.

And I thank Him that whether my head is above water or below, He is there.

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The Waiting

It comes suddenly, in words or moments, while I’m engaging in conversation or watching the sun go down at day’s end.

Today, someone talked about painting their toenails. It was that simple, but I immediately felt the flatness of those words. “I used to enjoy that,” I thought, less with words and more with my heart. And then, “There is no life in that for me anymore.”

A few weeks ago, someone asked if I wanted to watch Shrek. Instantly, I was enveloped in a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe or think or function. And why? Because the best moments of my life feel empty and meaningless and not real to me.

That same day I was sitting on a couch in a house as much like home to me as my own. I was surrounded by so much good- snow and love and food and laughter and togetherness and cuddling. And I thought, “This moment is as good as life gets. I couldn’t want anything more for my day than this.” But I couldn’t feel it. And then someone said “Shrek” and I looked around the room at the faces of people I love and I thought, “How are these people living life? How are they finding the good moments and feeling them and using them as fuel to get them through the less-good moments?” And the panic grew until I had to make an excuse and drive home, the drive itself a blur. It’s terrifying to look goodness right in its eyes and not be able to feel it. Everything is hollow and empty. It’s like I’m watching life unfold through a haze. I can see it and acknowledge it, but I can’t touch it or feel it.

I’m taking it a day at a time, this messy unfolding. I am leaving teary voicemails for the people paid to help me. I am chasing, as best as I know how, after life.

I used to feel alive. I used to find joy in my hands kneading cookie dough, or watching the fading sunlight illuminate small bugs flying near the grass, or breathing in the scent of a new body wash. Simple things. The way my friend’s hands hold a cup of tea across the table from me, the squeaky sound the cats make when they jump from something high to the carpet below, the golden glow of lamplight in the evening.

I can’t feel any of it anymore. I can say, “THIS IS GOOD,” and know it to be true, but the goodness feels flat. Lifeless.

There is still a part of me that wants to pack my backpack with sin and run recklessly at God, daring Him to let me crash.

There’s also a part of me so committed to this fight. So, so committed to life and growth and my future. But also so completely overwhelmed with the pressure in my chest and the depression turning everything gray, and I can’t fathom how I’m going to do this.

The sun is going down. I have a whole night ahead of me, and nothing I can think to do holds any appeal. I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know how to pass the time. I can’t feel any good.

The sun is going down. And panic might be there, ready to greet me when it does.

But right now, I am writing. I am drinking hot tea. Arlow is asleep at my feet. And a shower is calling my name.

I will take care of myself the best I can. I will fight this the best I can. And I will believe, even as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is leading me to fullness of life.

 

Endings and Amen

“Lord, the one you love is sick.” John 11:3

I’m sick.

I can feel it in the way my eyes see the world. The way my heart responds to good things. The way my brain twists everything up so much that nothing feels real anymore.

I can feel it in the panic that hits me out of nowhere, like a freight train, completely leveling me. But, unlike being hit by an actual train, I don’t get an excuse from living life. I don’t get to wave a white flag in surrender. I still have to smile and function and act like I can breathe.

How many times this week have I thought, “I’m going to drive myself to the ER. I need help.”

How many times have I had to force myself to walk away from the vodka at the grocery store?

How many times have I had to cry to heaven: “PLEASE help me choose You! Please, please, please help me remember what I really want!”

Oh, I could write a long, long list of reasons to live. I could write a long list of things I’m grateful for, ways I’m blessed. I’m loved. I’m loved and there’s nothing that matters more on the whole planet. And I love. Oh, how fiercely I love.

But the problem isn’t in the logistics of living. Yes, each day has trouble of its own, but the good outweighs the bad.

“How’s your day been?” I get asked. And always, or almost always, my answer is: “My day itself was good. It’s what I bring to the table that’s hard.”

It’s the panic. The depression. The fact that dying is as unthinkable as continuing to live like this.

My brain is sick.

I called my doctor three times today. I cried. “I’ve done all my coping skills,” I sobbed. “I’ve spent time with loved ones and read and listened to music and worked out. And everything I do makes the panic worse because nothing I do helps me feel connected to life. I can’t break through this inability to feel any good.”

I don’t know what’s worse- thinking someone could save me, or knowing no one can. I felt less panic when I believed there was help outside of me. That illusion has been shattered. No one can fix me. They can only love me. And that should be enough. Love should be enough. I will always preach that love is enough because I believe that right to the core of me. So why isn’t it enough for me right now?

“What if you choose to believe you were safe?” I felt that question linger in my soul this afternoon. What if I stopped fearing lack and scarcity and abandonment and loss and failure? What if I truly saw myself as held, and trusted that God won’t punish me for doing the best I can?

I’m sick.

“Lord, the one you love is sick.”

But if you know scripture, you know the story didn’t end there.

Mermaid Hair and Forehead Kisses

I took a bath tonight.

If I’m being honest, I probably outgrew baths a long time ago. I always go in there with a book or music, and something to drink, but by the time the tub is full, I’m already bored and ready to get out.

Nevertheless, tonight I bathed for as long as it took the tub to get full.

And I thought about Mom. I closed my eyes and remembered being a child.

I remembered feeling my hair sway through the water, while pretending to be a mermaid.

I remembered how Mom would come in with a towel and wrap me up in it when it was time to get out. How my lips would be turning blue because the water got cold a while ago, but I was having too much fun to notice or care.

I remembered cozy pajamas and Mom brushing my hair and Dad tucking me into bed. I remembered saying prayers and feeling Jesus as close to me as the cat stuffed animal I fell asleep hugging every night, my damp hair smelling faintly like shampoo.

And I remembered that being enough. It was enough to have a home and a bed and people who loved me. It was enough. I could sleep and be at peace and look forward to the coming day because I was loved and someone was going to comb my hair in the morning and tuck me into bed again at night and all was well.

Where did things get so twisted up?

*

At church Wednesday night, someone looked me into the eyes with conviction and tenderness and said, “God isn’t going to let you fall.”

I don’t remember who said it, oddly, but then I think maybe that’s okay because the words weren’t really even theirs, but Jesus’.

*

If you asked me even just two weeks ago, I would’ve adamantly told you that yes, all we need is love.

But today I looked person after person in the eyes and I thought: “I love you… and YOU love ME. And why isn’t that enough?”

I don’t know.

That’s the only time in therapy that I start to weep to the point of being unable to speak- when I talk about the people I love and who love me in return. I am so grateful and so blessed. But also, there’s no denying anymore that my actions affect other people- people who I never, ever would want to hurt. People love me. And in some ways, it was easier back when I thought I was all alone.

Here I am, loved, and still struggling to want to do life. And how is that possible? I thought love would fix it all…

And shouldn’t it? If God IS love, and God is enough, then there has to be some truth to the “love is all we need” philosophy, right?

I don’t know. I don’t know very much anymore. I am more questions than I am anything else.

*

And yet,  what good will it do to rage against what is (or isn’t), or demand answers, or demand something of myself that I just can’t deliver right now?

What good will it do to panic over the uncertainty of this road I’m walking?

All I can do is surrender. There’s no peace or joy or hope to be found in raging against what is.

So I breathe in the God who is in every moment and I pray He give me eyes to see.

And my brain is on fire with the constant battle, but a brain on fire can’t stop my heart from perceiving goodness and truth.

So I smile at the face of a little boy who affectionately kicks my foot during church, and the woman who bends down behind me and hugs me, handing me a latte and piece of gingerbread that she brought me just because.

I breathe in, with immense gratitude, the miracle of every single “I love you too”, and conversation that comes easy and makes me laugh.

I smile about bear hugs and basketball games and sunny days and silly selfies and happy nights with people I love.

I surrender, as best I can, to this unfolding of my life and trust that somehow, all that I don’t understand, the tangle within me, doesn’t really matter when I can lift my eyes to heaven and say over all of it: “You are, You are, You are.”

It isn’t my job to untangle it or make sense of it. It’s my job to rest and wait and trust and try not to give up.

My brain is on fire, and every day is touch-and-go, but all around me people love me, and my God is still on the throne.

And He won’t let me fall.

*

And so tonight, I took a bath. And Mom is gone. And I’m not a kid anymore. And no one’s going to be picking out my pajamas for me or combing my hair. But in some ways, things are still the same.

The pajamas I put on? They weren’t picked out for me by my mom, but they were provided for me by my Father.

And the hair I combed? It, like everything else about me, makes my Father smile.

And no one will tuck me in, but I can pull the covers up to my chin and ask God to bend down and kiss my forehead.

I can listen to Arlow snore and smell my freshly shampooed hair and talk to Him like He’s right here in the room with me. I can close my eyes and know He is near. Because a good Father never passes up the opportunity to hear His child’s heart or kiss her forehead.

And my eyelids will grow heavy. And somehow, peace will come. And I’ll know that I know that I know, I’m still Someone’s child.

The Gift And Sorrow Of Today

I watched the rain fall outside as I waited for Firestone to do my oil change.

Next to me, a man watched the Seahawks game on the small TV in the corner.

To my left, a couple was laughing about something.

I watched cars come in and out of the mall parking lot. I wondered if people were shopping for Christmas already. I wondered if the mall was decorated in twinkly white lights.

I thought about church, the people I love so fiercely.

“You are hard to love.
You are awkward. You embarrass yourself.
Everyone has to keep firm boundaries with you because you’re exhausting.
No one really wants you. They only love you because they think it’s what God wants them to do. You’re charity.
Everyone is just waiting for you to fail again. You might as well just end it. You’re exhausting everyone and you’re hopeless and no one wants to keep going through the trauma you’re putting them through. You think this is all about how you’re suffering, but how about the way you’re making them suffer? No wonder you feel alone. Who would sign up for this?
What is your problem? People are trying so hard to be there for you, but no amount of love anyone shows you is enough.
This is as good as it’s going to get. Accept that. Learn to be completely content with being your own parent. Because that ship has sailed. No one will ever love you like that. In that way, you are alone. And you will always be. And if you can’t accept that, you should just call it quits. You’re going to wear everyone out.
No one has to love you. You don’t have parents or siblings or a husband or children. No one has to look you in the eyes day after day and still choose you. You’re all alone. And even in the ways you’re not alone, you will be. You’re going to alienate everyone,”
the Enemy said.

I shook my head free of the torment and took a sip of my third energy drink of the day.

I am a mystery to myself. I feel overwhelmed with grief and overwhelmed with gratitude.

I feel alone and not alone. The only parent I have, the only one who’s going to daily tell me good morning or goodnight is me. It’s too much to bear. And why? Why do I have zero interest in my own company? Why isn’t it enough to be taken care of by myself? Why can’t I hold within me the love people have for me and use that as fuel for the fight?

Why–when all day long I all day long rehearse truth and gratitude, and look for moments to laugh, and pay attention to when I feel joy–can’t I make myself want to live?

I think of the kind gift from Camilla, the prayer Rory prayed for me with her hand warm on my back, the latte from Christie, how I never doubt Pauline is happy to see me, the smile and “I love you” from Laura.

Why isn’t that enough to make me want to live? What is wrong with me?

What do I need? What do I want? How do I fix this?

I sat there, my eyes filling with tears. “It’s too much,” I thought. “There’s too much happening in my brain. Too much happening inside of me. And I don’t understand any of it. I’m so tired.”

The game kept playing. The man to my right stood. I never looked up at his face, but I saw his shoes as he walked past. Gray Vans.

It’s funny how you notice things that don’t matter when you’re standing somewhere between life and death. It’s like the insignificant things keep you afloat. Your brain doesn’t have to be afraid of shoes or the smell of the tires in the waiting room or the gentle hum of the pop machine. They are safe thoughts. Weightless.

I thought about the medication in my purse. I could stop taking it. I could hoard it. I could be done with this exhausting mess.

I watched the rain fall. “I’m done,” I thought. And instantly, I felt relief.

“What does ‘done’ look like?” I thought next. I didn’t know. Does it look like not taking my medication anymore? Does it look like death? I wasn’t sure. But in the moment, it looked like watching the rain, laying down the death grip on this sword I’ve been wielding so long, surrendering to whatever felt like rest. Peace.

“You’re heading down a dangerous path,” a small voice inside of me said.

“I don’t care,” I responded.

The rain kept falling. Cars kept coming in and out of the parking lot. Life, continuing.

*

Twenty minutes later, I was sobbing into the phone, leaving a message for the man who prescribes my medication.

“I don’t want to say goodbye to Arlow. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want Laura to have to bury me,” I wept. “But I’m tired. I can’t make myself want to live. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I’m so tired.”

He called back two minutes later. I didn’t answer. I didn’t want to cry to his actual voice. Machines are safer. Had he answered when I’d called, I would’ve hung up.

“My initial reaction when I got your message,” he said, “was, ‘I’m so glad she called,’ because it means part of you does still want to live. You haven’t given up on the fight.”

Then he reminded me of ways to cope. Things I already know, but I appreciated his effort.

The problem isn’t that I don’t know how to cope, the problem is that I don’t think I want to anymore. I’m so damn tired. All day, every day, I’m “coping”. And sure, I can drag myself from one day to the next that way, but I’m TIRED and what’s the freaking point?

Jesus. Jesus is the point. I know this, of course.

But also, nothing can separate me from His love. And death means heaven. If I died, God would forgive me. And I’d finally get to be held by a Parent and have reprieve from a fight that is so much bigger than me. He’d finally be able to hold me and say, “This is why you were hurting so badly.”

And yet, that thought only brings me comfort until I think about this life of mine, with its so much good in spite of my inability to want to live it.

Nothing can make me weep quicker than thinking of the ones I love who I’d leave behind.

*

I held my medication in my hand for a long time tonight. I looked down at the white pills and I felt angry. No part of me wanted to take them. But I did.

I don’t know what is going to happen to me. I don’t know how this story will end.

And I can’t commit to picking that sword back up. But I can commit to doing one more day.

And there’s a God who fights for me when I’m too weak. He’s coming in power. Even though I can’t see it, He’s doing battle on my behalf.

This situation isn’t hopeless.

I am still Someone’s child.

I am tired.

I am held.

I am so blessed.

I am so loved.

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.

29

“Look at yourself, child.”

That was what I heard as I looked at my reflection in the mirror. It was said with love and compassion, but also with finality.

My eyes were almost swollen shut from crying. My nose was running. I looked scared and overwhelmed and exhausted and sorrowful. I hardly recognized my own reflection.

And He, my loving Father, was calling it quits. “That’s enough, beloved,” He said. And then, as gentle and tender as anything I’ve ever heard, “It’s time for bed.”

He stood by, watching with vigilance and love while I sobbed, gasping for breath. He stood by and He felt my pain. And now He was calling me to be done. To rest. To let Him be God over the nighttime, and God over my heart when I awoke again in the morning.

And so I took a deep, hiccup-y breath and went to bed. And everything in me was so heavy and swirly and confused and grief-ridden that I couldn’t even give words to it.

But it was okay because He was taking control of the situation. He was reminding me, in words as loving as a kiss, that I am His child. Precious and beloved, but human. Small and young and needy. And He is God.

How quick we are to forget that we never stop being children. We never stop needing to be parented.

And this Father of mine, in His infinite wisdom and love, was calling it bedtime.

This has been the most painful birthday of my life. It has been excruciating. And even though it hasn’t been void of love, it has also been full of aloneness and sorrow and grieving all that was lost in my 28th year of life.

It has been full of tough love. Of learning and feeling misunderstood and having to humble myself and listen even when everything in me is screaming THIS IS NOT FAIR!

Tears and hugs and disagreements and embarrassment and vulnerability and words–both comforting and painful–spoken in love.

No rose-tinted glasses here. It’s been real and raw.

And important.

A stripping away of so many things.

A necessary acceptance.

Peace where there once was only screaming grief.

And gratitude–a breath-taking reason to say Thank You–for all this last year that wasn’t lost.

My life.

My faith.

The family God is grafting me into.

It’s been a hurricane- a wild swirling of emotions and hard truths and questions and longings. My eyes haven’t known where to focus.

But of course, the only way to survive, is to look up. To focus our eyes on Him.

Oh, God. There’s so much I don’t understand.

But at least I know where to focus my eyes.

And as I was talking to Him last night about my birthday, as I was telling Him how painful it was, I heard:

“I know, daughter. I know. But it has been important.”

I’m starting my 29th year of life off with some really, really hard things laid out before me.

But in all the pain and swirling, God is building a foundation. Stripping away lies and things I have been blind to. Planting my feet firmly on Truth. Forcing me to ask myself, “Do I trust Him?” even when I’m in intense pain. And, in exchange for my unconditional “yes”, giving me a peace that is greater than any of the sorrow.

And I wouldn’t trade this birthday for one that was more full of smiles and warm feelings. I don’t want to live a birthday like this ever again, but I trust the importance of it.

The pain of God undoing what never should’ve been.

The pain of responding to the call to grow.

The pain of a new beginning- a beginning that “just so happens” (I’m looking at you, God 😉 ) to coincide with the beginning of my 29th year of life.

And I believe, with my whole heart, that is it going to be good, this year.

Because I’m leaving it up to Him. And He loves me fiercely. Protectively. He looks at me and smiles. He sees potential. He whispers over me promises. He calls me dear and beloved.

And He looks at me, with my swollen, red eyes and nose chapped from blowing it so much, and breathes peace into all the wild within me.

And He says, “It’s time for bed, child.”

And I take a deep breath and nod my head. And I surrender.

It’s all going to be okay.