Safe In The Savior’s Arms

“I can’t hurt like this forever,” I pray.

“You won’t, child. Forever is an awfully long time.”

And then all my accusations get stolen from my mouth before I can even complete the sentence, because they FEEL true, but they aren’t:

“You don’t understand!” Yes, He does.
“You don’t care!” Yes, He does.
“You aren’t here!” Yes, He is.
“No one loves me!” Yes, they do.
“I’m no one’s family! Not really!” Yes, I am.

So where does that leave me? With a screaming heart that I have to let scream. I can’t numb it or shut it down. Not if I want to really heal.

I can’t feed it with platitudes that aren’t necessarily true either, like, “It’s all going to be okay.” Maybe it won’t. At least, not in the way I want it to be.

My hope can’t be in a certain outcome, it has to be in God alone. Grief gets cut short, I think, when we tell ourselves it’s all going to be okay and then define what “okay” means. Numbing ourselves to pain can look so many different ways. I’m learning that now.

However, on the other hand, I can’t feed my heart with worst-case-scenarios either. I can’t let my sorrow become panic. Because sorrow? That’s real. Panic is a lie. Sorrow is where God is taking me right now. It’s holy and important. Panic is Satan.

I have to just settle into the not knowing. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know. But I do know who God is.

I do know He is good and He loves me and He has a plan.

And, you know, let’s be freaking honest, that doesn’t feel like comfort right now. But I can sense Him smiling as I type that because He isn’t threatened by honesty. Instead, He smiles because it’s the truth right now and I said it. And He responds, “I know. And that’s okay.”

And then He takes my hand and walks me deeper still into my grief. “Let’s talk about the things that hurt,” He says. “Don’t try to make yourself feel something. Don’t belittle yourself for not being able to know me as More Than Enough. It’s okay, child. Changing how you feel isn’t your task, your task is simply to walk with me. So, let’s talk. Feel, child. Feel. And tell me what hurts.”

“I hurt so badly,” I sobbed tonight. Over and over again, “I hurt so badly.”

And He? “I know, child. I know. Let it out. Let yourself hurt.”

I sobbed worship music in the shower tonight. I sat with arms raised, sobbing and singing, my off-pitch, tear-filled voice embarrassing me, even though I was alone. But I sang anyway. I let worship be an outlet for my pain. Because I can’t fix it. But I can piss Satan off by screaming truth even when I don’t feel it. “MY GOD IS GOOD!” My God is GOOD. Without contingency. No ifs. No buts. He is just good.

“Letting it be” is the hardest thing for me. If I can’t fix it, if I have to just let myself feel… I don’t handle that well. I am a fixer. I want to be able to make it better. And I’m impatient. I want to make it better and I want to make it better NOW. And, on top of all of that, I am not an even-keeled feeler. My highs are high and my lows are low.

But here I am with my grief. And I can’t fix it. I can’t rush it. I can’t make it stop hurting. But I can praise God as good. Here I am. With my grief, and my Jesus.

“It’s so unfair!” I say.
And His response? “I am the God who redeems. I am the God who defends.”

*

I can’t sleep. But I don’t automatically go to, “I will never sleep again!” So why do I do that with my pain? Or with what looks like lost love? Why do I assume I’ll never feel okay again, or never be loved again?
“Never is an awfully long time.”

*

I can’t sleep. And yes, my natural reaction is to panic at that too. Because if I can’t sleep, then I’m still awake, feeling pain. And that is not an option.

Only it is an option because it is what is happening. And I can’t change it.

I can’t change it.

So I’m writing.

And I’m crying.

And there’s worship music playing.

I am under a warm blanket and I made myself tea and I cut myself up an apple.

I’m learning. I’m learning to tend to my heart.

I’m learning how to run to Him for what is true.

I am learning not to rage against the pain, but to walk it out with Him. “Let’s walk, child,” He says. “It won’t be like this forever. I promise. So just take my hand. Let’s walk.”

*

I feel like the grief is going to kill me. But it won’t. Ironically, what would kill me is not grieving at all. Stuffing it down. Letting the unprocessed grief be a depression so heavy that it becomes impossible to feel anything, even joy.

Because we can’t silence our pain without silencing our joy. Right? We can’t selectively numb.

*

I’m been begging for a miracle. A healing that comes like a finger snap. Because, “I can’t fix this! I can’t endure this! This is going to kill me! HELP!” But maybe this is my miracle. Maybe this is my help.

A finger snap wouldn’t really resolve anything. I might FEEL better, but the pain would still be there within me, lying dormant, unprocessed. God can’t make it stop hurting without making my heart less alive rather than more alive. And God, the giver of life Himself, would never agree to create in me a less alive heart. God wants better for me than that.

“Are you going to just let this kill me!?” I scream at Him.
And He? “Oh, child. No. The reason I can’t just make it all better right this second is because I DON’T want to let this kill you. No real life can be gained without your involvement. You have to agree to walk this through with Me. I want life for you, child. Fullness of life. Life for your heart as much as your body.”

And I tilt my head upwards and I blow a kiss to the sky. Because I’m still 7 years old sometimes. I’m 50 when I make myself tea and cut myself up an apple; I’m being my own mom. I’m 7 when I blow Jesus a kiss. I’m 29 when I’m sobbing in the shower, arms raised to heaven, turning my pain into worship.

*

Oh, gentle, tender heart of mine. What do you believe about God?

He is good. He is good. He is good.

*

In The BFG, there’s a scene where the little girl jumps off a balcony because she is desperate for the BFG to show up, to not leave her, and she knows he’ll catch her if she jumps. She knows he’ll have to show up because he would never let any harm befall her.

The 10-year-old in me? She gets that.

But people, and God, they can’t be manipulated. You can’t MAKE someone show up or want you or hold you.

And it’s excruciating.

But what’s worse, really? Being unable to make someone love you, or wondering if they only love you because you forced them to?

What’s worse, being rejected or abandoned, or desperately trying to earn or keep love?

Honestly, I’m tempted to say the former is worse. But God wants life for me. And He wants love for me. Real love. No for me to live a desperate, begging, pleading existence, looking wide-eyed at the people I love and silently begging: “Love me, love me, love me!”

God doesn’t give anything other than the best. Real love. It has to be real. He won’t give me permission to try to earn love. “Love them. And LET THEM LOVE YOU. Not ‘make them love you.'” Love and let. Love and rest. So I have to breathe and stop standing on balconies. I have to let people choose me. Or not.

And God? What’s the better way to draw near Him? Jumping off a balcony, or sobbing until you throw up? Manipulation, a desperate and panicked rebellion… or a sorrow so intense your sobbing feels more animalistic than human.

If my heart is numb, if both joy and grief have become depression, then how am I supposed to really connect with God? Because it’s in my heart that He lives, right?

So I am letting my heart come back to life. An act of healing. An act of worship.

Truth, even when it is painful and raw, that is the best way to draw near to Him.

I can’t fix it. But I can at least welcome Him into the pain.

*

Surrender.

Here with my grief and my insomnia. Here with no way to fix it. Here with my open, broken, nerve-exposed heart all laid bare. Here, alone.

But also not alone.

*

Someday I’ll smile easy. I’ll feel the sun and think, “I’m so grateful to be alive.” And nothing will hurt.

Oh, sure, maybe there will always be an ache in my heart, because this world isn’t our home, but it won’t feel like a scream. Just an ache. A twinge. A gentle, and, let’s face it, probably necessary reminder to keep my eyes on Jesus.

*

I can’t make myself be loved the way I want to be. I can’t make myself be wanted. I can’t make myself belong.

But I can stand firm and say, “I know who my Jesus is.”

And that’s how I know that someday it won’t hurt like this. Because Jesus.

Someday I’ll be able to say, “Remember that time all seemed lost? I’m so glad I didn’t give up. Look at what God has done!”

And I’ll blow a kiss towards heaven and I’ll thank Him for my miracle.

*

I will not die, but live
And declare the works of the Lord
(Ps. 118:17)

I will not die.

God is working.

And it’s going to be so, so good.

Worth The Risk

There is a bruise under my left eye.

It hurts when I smile or touch it, and it is raised up just enough that it interferes with my view.

And I love it.

Because this bruise, the one that’s always visible to me, even when I am not before a mirror, it reminds me of a certain full-of-life little ten-year-old boy who loves me. A child I love who is comfortable enough with me and happy enough to be around me that he regularly spreads open his arms to offer me something that’s a cross between a bear hug and a tackle.

And I’ll take it- a bear hug, a tackle, and even the occasional bruise. Because of love. I love him. And he loves me. And love is bigger and bolder and brighter than any bruise. It’s worth any risk. Every. Single. Time.

Not that long ago, I found myself realizing I couldn’t remember the last time someone hugged me or touched my shoulder or rubbed my back. And as a person whose primary love language is touch, that was excruciating.

And so I started hugging. I started giving what I needed.

There are parts of my heart being mended and made whole. I can feel it happening.

I can counter everything I don’t have with this truth: I have so much more than I did this time last year.

I have people to hug me. People to call when I’m sad or happy or have a question about insurance or baking. I have people to laugh with and be myself with. People who have seen me at my worst and still say “I love you.” People to look up to and admire- people to reflect Jesus to me. And people to whom I can hopefully be a reflection of Jesus. I have people to come over when my cat dies and they know I’m sad. I have people who think of me as a daughter, a sister, an aunt.

And even though the list of what I don’t have is there, pressing in on my thoughts even now, following the points on my above list with sentences that begin: “Yeah, but…” I still have the trump card: GOD IS.

My “yeah, but’s” can take a seat because GOD IS and HE IS NEAR and MY HEART MATTERS TO HIM and I AM HELD.

And I wonder if it’s harder for those of us “physical touch” love language-rs to feel close to God than it might be for those who can feel loved through other less tangible ways. I wonder if I’d feel less grief about being unable to hug Him if I was wired differently- if it was most important to my heart to soak up His words, or spend time with Him, or serve Him, or be aware of the ways He’s acting in my life.

I don’t know why God made me the way He did. But this God, this God of infinite power and wisdom, this God who calls Himself Love, He doesn’t make mistakes.

And in all of this–in the people on my speed dial and the birthdays I make a point of remembering and the bruise under my eye–I hear God whisper: “I’ve got you.”

The Turning Page

I read today that our tears reveal something about our hearts- and about the God who created our hearts.

After the author made that claim, he continued by naming things that had made him cry- and in doing so, he painted a sort of portrait of who He is.

I was also thinking about how I couldn’t participate in our church activity last Saturday. When the pastor asked us to think back on 2015 and remember what God did, I just stared at the Christmas tree on the stage and counted the lights and tried not to think or cry. And when we got into groups to share, all I said was, “I can’t talk about it. Not because God didn’t do anything, but because the only reason I am here to reflect on 2015 and welcome 2016 is because of Him.”

And I can’t think about it. My mind feels held captive right now, the horror and shame and desperate grasping and clinging for someone to love me. The images and memories. The terror and “I can’t believe this is my life” and the being alone. The “I can’t breathe.” The phone calls. The long nights. …Just listing things is making my heart beat fast and my cheeks redden. The trauma is as real today as it was five months ago. And if I’m not careful, I could drown in it.

But I do want to recap 2015. I want to look at my tears and my blessings and thank God for both. And the rest of it? The thoughts and memories and images that feel like fire to my brain and heart? I’ll leave them alone. I’ll hand them to God to heal or redeem or restore. I’ll continue to fall to my knees and beg Him to take from me what isn’t of Heaven. I’ll try to breathe and trust and believe in hope.

And so, I’m going to make a list. A list of what has made me cry in 2015. And a list of what I’m grateful for.

And I’m going to call it brutiful.

And worth it.

And holy. Because God has never left my side. He’s been the dryer of my tears and the giver of every good thing.

*

Times this year I’ve cried:

Those nondescript, unsuspecting moments when someone I love is talking or sitting silently or reading a book or watching TV and I look at them and I find treasure there in their face, the slope of their nose and the way their eyes look when they smile and the little intricacies and details of who they are- the curve of their fingernails or freckle on their jawline or crooked smile. There, as if written on their forehead, I see: GIFT. And my heart swells to overflowing with fierce love and tenderness and gratitude to the Lord for placing them in my life. And I say a silent prayer that they won’t ever leave- that we’re in this life together, forever.

In the vet’s office, soothing Theodore with coos and promises that it would all be okay as the vet told me the opposite. Watching him get sick and suffer. The thousands of dollars I spent and midnight trips I made trying to find a way to make him be well only to discover I couldn’t fix it and I had to say goodbye. And having Laura offer to be with me when I put him down. Terrible grief. And a verbal hug.

Jordan singing Great is Thy Faithfulness on The Voice, the truth resonating in those words. The way Adam looked at him with uninhibited joy and undisguised pride. And I knew I was watching someone’s dreams come true. And it was beautiful and poignant and made me smile and cry at the same time.

The mail. Painful letters, returned house keys, bills I couldn’t afford and that triggered hard memories, and a Christmas card from the social worker at Good Sam, which reminded me it was all real; I really did live that. I lived it. The trauma. The gripping horror of it. I lived it. And I survived it. And God won’t leave me here in this place of forever, just trying to survive and battle the trauma. Someday the Christmas card will make me smile because she cared and I survived and I forgive myself, because He has forgiven me, and what was lost isn’t beyond His ability to heal, and what is broken isn’t beyond His ability to mend. And nothing is ruined.

Hugging my niece after seven months. Love and grief and sorrow and joy all mixed up together in that moment. Wrapping her up in my arms, lifting her off the ground and carrying her like I did when she was three. Looking at her face- the gradual maturing of it. Memorizing the features and the words she spoke and begging God to help her still love me and remember me. That baby who I loved with a love I’d never felt before, who I’d comforted and delighted in and cuddled and kissed and played with… now eight years old. And rather than being there, a present person in her life, through circumstances out of my control, we are growing apart instead of together. And I knew that. And I felt that. But she was there, before me, still the one who I loved with my whole heart, and I didn’t care if she loved me too- all that mattered was memorizing how it felt to hug her, taking that with me into the next days and weeks and months. And letting myself love her as best as I could from a distance- through prayer.

The moments of aching aloneness. Feeling unwanted, unconnected, like I don’t belong to anyone. Like no one would choose me. Without family or people who carry me in their heart like a mother or sister or aunt or cousin or husband or child would. And I fear that the love I thought I had is fragile or not real or dependent on my behavior and continual efforts to prove myself as lovable.

Reading blogs or books about how He loves us- how near He is and how safe it is to hope that there’s more of Him to experience and discover. The gentle whisper to my soul: “Continue to maintain that wild, irrational hope, child.”

Watching A Little Princess- that scene where Sara is begging her father to remember her. And then he does. And he runs after her just as the cops are putting her in their car and he shouts, with the fierce protectiveness of a loving parent: “Sara!” And she runs to him and leaps into his arms and he holds her and whispers loving things to her and they cry.

When hope feels as impossible to hold on to as smoke or sunlight.

That event where I felt judged and shamed and love felt performance-based. And I felt misunderstood and confused as to what’s real- caught between the opinions of the people I love and respect and admire, and the convictions of my own heart.

Reading about or hearing about or witnessing good mothers. When mothers look at their children with unmasked, limitless love. When I hear children (even grown children) say they don’t know what they’d do without their mom. And, the stabbing pain of knowing that unless God does a miracle in my life and brings me someone who wants a desperate-to-be-loved 28-year-old daughter, I won’t ever have that again. Nor will I ever get to be a mom without His hand in my life.

Each time I’ve left a counseling session that hasn’t helped and I’ve wondered if the problem is them, or if I’m just too screwed up to be helped, or if maybe I’m not screwed up at all and this is just how I’ll feel forever.

The gift of rainbows in the sky. Particularly last month when I saw the barely-there rainbow in the sky on my way to work. And I smiled and whispered, “Thank You.” And then, there, as I rounded a corner, I saw a bright and vibrant and beautiful second rainbow, the end of which was right beside me not even five feet away. It was incredible. And I realized then that the faint rainbow, which I had been so pleased with, had just been a shadow of the real gift He had to give. I imagined God’s eyes twinkling as I thanked Him for that faint rainbow, all the while knowing He had something even better coming just a few seconds later. And I imagined Him there, holding His breath, so excited for me to see.

Each time I’ve prayed a prayer of surrender and trust. Each time I’ve lifted up my heart tentatively and on shaking hands and said, “Take it. I trust You.”

*

Things I’m Grateful For:

I didn’t spend Christmas alone.

Hard, growing, vulnerability-requiring, bonding conversations.

Being able to cry again.

The laps and shoulders I’ve cried on.

Dancing in the rain.

Life-affirming road trips, particularly the one to Cape Flattery and the spontaneous 6:00 p.m. drive to Ocean Shores.

Having–and keeping–a job I love.

People who’ve been there in hard moments. They’ve showed up or answered their phones. They’ve welcomed me into their homes and lives. They’ve prayed for me.

Good books. Books that help me feel like Jesus is right here at my side, filling me with the sense of “life abundant” that I am clinging to as being my birthright.

The kids in my life who love me and who I get to squeeze and cuddle and love on.

The miracle of leaving Bellevue early. And having a ride home.

Getting my head above the water long enough to choose not to give up.

My church family. The increased comfort I feel there. The post-church shared meals and laughter and conversation.

Every single moment someone’s looked at me with love. I notice it- every time. And I store it up in my heart and use it to battle the lies that seem to constantly be threatening to pull me under.

Every night I’ve gone to bed with hope filling me up inside. Every morning I’ve woke up with joy bubbling within me. Every afternoon I’ve suddenly been struck by the assurance that it’s all going to be okay.

*

I still have to ask Him every single night to tuck me in.

I’m 28 and I can’t sleep–I can’t silence my heartache and fear and desire to take control of things I have no control over–without believing the God who calls me daughter stops by my bed at night and tucks the covers up around me and kisses my forehead.

And I calm my heart by meditating on my belief that He stands vigil while I sleep, looking down on me with love, working in my life even while I rest.

And that is how I’ll begin 2016- needing God with a desperate fierceness.

And trusting Him to never leave my side.

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.

Soup and Tears and Hope and Peace

The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes yesterday morning was a cross.

Sunlight coming through my blinds created a perfect, glowing cross on the water bottle sitting on my desk. And my eyes landed there immediately.

Do I think it was from God- an “I am here” reminder? Do I think it was just the natural product of sunlight coming through blinds? I don’t know.

But what I do know is that it was confirmation that I am seeking Him. In every moment my eyes are open, I am searching Him out- His promises, His love, His presence.

*

I surprised myself yesterday by getting unexpectedly emotional over something seemingly silly-

soup.

My coworker was talking to me about a new recipe she found for making soup with her leftover turkey. And she was smiling, and her eyes showed joy and excitement and pleasure over this simple thing, and she was talking about how the carrots are cut and what vegetables go into the soup and how she was going to make it for her family. And suddenly my throat was tight and my eyes were filling. Because of soup.

But I wonder if maybe it wasn’t silly at all. Maybe it was God giving me his perspective- His love for her. How He delights in all the things–both little and big–that bring us joy.

The tears weren’t sadness-produced. It was love. My happiness for her–for the recipe that brought her gladness–it stirred my heart with love.

And I prayed, “Oh, Lord. Help her to know You.”

Because she’s beautiful. And kind. And she deserves heaven. Anyone who cares how carrots are cut, and wants to comfort those she loves with warm, homemade soup, deserves heaven.

It is too unthinkably horrible that anyone I know and love and care for would go anywhere else when they die.

Hell should be reserved for the evil only, not just for the unbelieving.

I like to believe that in a person’s last minutes, they get a chance to believe. I hope that heaven is filled with those who spent their life unbelieving, but who, in their final moments, realized they had a choice- and their choice didn’t include atheism. They had to choose- God or Satan.

Lord, save those who can be saved- those who don’t know You but who still reflect You more than they reflect the enemy.

*

One of my favorite things about my job is my clients’ children- how they look up at me shyly and smile, and how when I see them the next time, their eyes meet mine and they remember and they smile a less timid smile.

I played dolls with one little girl yesterday while her mom talked to the OB nurse. We named the doll and fed the doll and rocked the doll to sleep, and I was impressed with my own ability to participate in imaginary play. Cute little kids who look at you with hope that you will join in on their activity, they are very motivating. 🙂

My coworker said, after they left, “You’re just a child at heart.”

She’s not wrong. I swoon over the sky, and collect fallen leaves and pine cones, and pause when I pass a stuffed animal display at Target so that I can pick them up and cuddle them. I have no trouble seeing myself as God’s child. I have no trouble seeing Him as my Father. None.

What I struggle with is seeing myself as an adult-
a bill paying,
tucks herself in at night,
car driving,
no one has to take care of me,
I belong only to myself,
adult.

I have trouble watching A Little Princess and Because Of Winn-Dixie and Annie and not secretly hoping THAT’S actually real life, not what I have come to believe is real as I’ve gotten older. I have trouble telling my timidly-hoping-against-all-odds heart, “That’s not reality.” I have trouble carrying around the weight of what is real and not grieving the loss of my wonder and awe and childhood naivety.

At work, I feel like an adult. With people my own age, I feel like an adult. When I’m caring for a child or cleaning my house or doing volunteer work, I feel like an adult.

But at least 50% of me is a child, wide-eyed and teary, looking for a parent’s hand to hold.

Maybe that’s why I love children so much–playing with them, providing care and nurturing–because I don’t feel that far removed from that time in my life. And it eases the ache in my heart to be able to give to someone else what I don’t have.

*

I read a blog the other day that made me think.

Two of my favorite words these past few months have been “redemption” and “restoration”.

This blog discussed both.

It talked about those times in our lives that threaten our ability to breathe, but how God continues to provide breath for us in the midst of those seasons.

It talked about how redemption comes first–God takes the situation and turns it around–and restoration follows. But we have to choose it. Restoration is a choice.

“We can continue to live with the knowledge that Jesus truly redeemed our situation, but still hold on to those wounds of insecurity.”

We have to allow God to breathe truth into the lies we believed while we were waiting for God to redeem our suffering. We have to stop letting the enemy prey on our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. We have to shed bitterness and insecurity and the sense of being unworthy.

“The enemy is not creative, but he is cunning so as long as we allow him to use our hurts, he will use the same hurt over and over and get us to operate out of it.”

We have to repent for doubting God’s character, and ask Him to reveal Himself to us afresh. We have to pray that the hardened areas of our hearts, the areas that we hardened as a way of surviving, become soft again.

This blog said that if the enemy can’t get us to turn our back on God, He will get us to doubt His character.

And I find, 90% of my pain is the result of doubting who God says He is. It’s not the right now that hurts as much as believing the right now is going to be forever.

When I doubt that God can be found in a way that satisfies my aching soul,
when I wonder if I’ll spend my entire life having to consciously practice gratitude while holding a hot and heavy sadness in my chest,
when I doubt that I have anywhere that I belong,
when I question whether God really does bend near to earth to hear my prayers,
when I start to believe my heart only matters to me…

…that’s when my sadness becomes unmanageable.

I can handle the sadness of today when I have hope for tomorrow.

When I believe that happiness isn’t a myth,
that there are people who are glad to be alive,
that life isn’t just struggle and suffering.

When I tell myself God is smiling down on me,
growing me,
blessing me,
whispering and yet speaking like thunder: “HOPE!”…

…then I can love today.

I practice gratitude daily. I try to notice the little things that are going right.

It’s not today that’s hard, it’s when I start believing I’ll spend my entire life trying to fight disappointment–which I heard yesterday as anger mixed with sadness–with the truth that God is good.

At least 90% of my sadness comes from letting Satan subtly convince me that God isn’t who He says He is.

Or that I misunderstood who He said He was.

Is it possible to hope too much?
Does it make any sense at all to be excited for the future or is it going to be scary and hard and lonely?
What if the only thing worth hoping for is heaven?

Those are the things I wonder. Those are the lies I am tempted to believe. And that? That will completely drain one’s awe and wonder and joy and will to live and ability to see life as a gift.

That’s how I know they’re lies.

Truth brings life.

When God speaks, His words are like oxygen.

When God speaks, His words come like light.

“Let there be light.”

*

I was praying the other night, and I was telling God, “I don’t understand…” and I was emptying out all the situations in my brain that hurt and turning them over and trying to understand them in a way that would make them less painful, but I couldn’t. These situations were, to me, question marks. Would they be okay, as defined by me? Was it appropriate to grieve what I feared losing? I didn’t know. And so, “I don’t understand, I don’t understand, I don’t understand…,” I said.

And I heard Him say, “You don’t have to. Of course You don’t understand. Just LISTEN.”

His ways are not ours. Of course we don’t understand.

And trying to understand things that are beyond our comprehension? It only gives Satan the opportunity to speak hopelessness and fear and worry and insecurity into our lives.

So we have to set aside what we don’t understand and trust God with those things.

We have to focus on what we DO understand.

We have to listen.

We have to silence our questioning to meditate on His truth.

*

“I believe,” I say aloud a lot lately.

Also, “I trust You.”

And, “I know You are real.”

I say them aloud because I believe what I am saying, and speaking truth in spite of what I feel gives me comfort and a sense of peace.

And I say them aloud because I know it makes the Lord smile.

And I say them aloud because I know it pisses Satan off, which makes ME smile. 😉

But the other day while I was driving, after I uttered, “I know You are real.” I sensed God ask me, “Yes, but HOW real?”

As evidenced in my recent blogs, I’ve been really struggling with my hope that God is more than what I currently know, that He’s nearer and more available to us than others might suggest.

But it’s impossible to over-estimate God. It’s impossible to think Him TOO alive or TOO real or TOO present.

At least, I pray that’s true.

…And even as I type that last sentence, there’s a fire burning within me and I know that I know that I know–IT’S TRUE.

And so after He asked me that, I looked around me- at the wind blowing through the trees and the wet pavement and the headlights and taillights of traffic. And I said, “This is all Yours. You made it. We have grown to think this planet belongs to us, but it doesn’t. Every inch and corner, every height and depth, Your hands have created. And it would be silly of us to think that You created this planet and then left, that You are up in Heaven conducting things down here like a surgeon in an ER, reaching out a hand to an OR nurse without making eye contact and demanding, “Scalpel.”

We are not Your job.

We are Your passion.

It would be foolish to believe this planet, which has Your holy fingerprints all over it, is on its own, armed with scripture and prayer and the Holy Spirit, yes, but not the God who is both lion and lamb, the Savior with tender eyes and a warm embrace.

And so I choose to believe, because nothing else would make sense, that You’re here- that Your presence is hovering over this entire earth.

Lord, give us eyes to see.

Come as a rushing wind, come like rain, come like fire, come like a still small voice, coming like a baby in a manger… just COME.

*

You know what I’ve discovered? Sometimes we don’t even know what our hearts need to hear until it’s spoken to us. And the way we know our hearts were thirsty for those words? We cry. At least I cry!

I was fine, sad, but not tearful. And then she said, with authority and firmness, “You. Are. Lovable.”

Tears.

I was fine. And then she called me a gift.

Tears.

I was fine. And then she called me family.

Tears.

I was fine. And then she said, “It’s okay, He knows you’re heart.”

Tears.

I was fine. And then she said, “It’s going to be okay.”

Tears.

I was fine, and then I lifted my head toward heaven and asked, “Are you proud of me?”

And tears.

Because I knew the answer was “yes”.

*

I was going through papers the other day, looking for information about CEs and supervision in an effort to take a step closer to getting my LICSW.

Bills, bills, bills…
Product warranties and instruction booklets…
Admit papers.
Discharge papers.

My hand touched them and then withdrew. They are, to me, like fire.

The memories, the images that flash into my mind, they aren’t from God. I know that. And I believe God has (and continues) to redeem that season of my life.

And I am trying to surrender all to Him so that He can restore me, bring me back to a place of complete functionality- the only fire within me a fire for Him, and not a fire that leaves me burnt when I get too close.

*

When I pray aloud and speak the word ‘Lord’, it feels holy on my lips. Both heavy and light.

It puts me in my place.

And I don’t mind being put in my place. 🙂 There’s comfort and safety and awe and magic when I remember He is Lord over all. He the Creator, and I His creation-

both beloved and dust.

*

The thing I get complimented most on is my smile. And I only say that because it’s funny to me how the thing most often commented on is one of the things I feel most insecure about.

And I wonder how often the thing God’s given us, meant to be good and a gift and a strength, the enemy tries to turn into a weakness and insecurity.

How often does the enemy succeed at making us hide the things God specifically put us here to glorify Him with?

Our lights under a bushel.

*

This video made me cry-

Because the cub was playful and joyful and happy to be alive.
Because the papa (or mama) bear jumped in the water to save his/her cub without giving it a moment’s hesitation.
Because the cub was helpless in the water, but it was okay because he/she had a rescuer.
Because they had each other.

Because of how love is the most powerful force in the universe.

The Value Of $10

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

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

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

And I gave her the $10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s growth and blessing in sorrow and struggle.

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

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

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

He is teaching me what truly gives life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’s teaching me that.

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

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

*

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

When Sadness Becomes Your God

I laughed at work today. The kind of laugh you laugh when something is funny but you’re also kind of embarrassed and so you can’t stop laughing.

The office manager had come into my office this morning with donuts and he asked, “Would you like a diet doughnut?”

But that wasn’t what I heard.

And so I asked him, “…Did you ask if I wanted to buy a doughnut?”

And he laughed and told me what he had actually said, and I laughed too.

And I know it’s silly and not even that funny, but later while I was driving I thought about that and I sat there in my car at a red light and smiled. Alone.

And then I realized I was smiling, and how incredible that I have enough joy within me to smile- and not just to smile, but to smile for me.

No one else was around. I wasn’t smiling to keep up appearances or make other people feel good and I wasn’t even smiling about something that someone else said or did. I was smiling, without even realizing it, because the joy within me bubbled up and a smile is just a human’s automatic reaction to feeling your heart fill with lightness.

I was alone. And I was smiling.

And usually when I’m alone I struggle. I battle all sort of thoughts and feeling and it’s fierce and exhausting and scary and I have to live that time in a constant inward posture of being on my knees at the cross.

But that moment alone in my car was easy.

I was surprised by my smile, yes, but even more than that, I was surprised to find that I was actually just enjoying my own company.

And I turned to Jesus and said, “Do you see this, Lord? I’m smiling!” And I know He was smiling too because yes, of course He saw.

And yesterday on my walk, I cried. I walked and walked and at one point I felt my chin begin to shake and my eyes filled with tears and I just let it happen. Because I was safe. It was safe to feel, walking alone down that neighborhood street as the sun set, with Truth coming through my earbuds and into my soul. It was safe. And important.

And I got home and I was tired. It wasn’t even 9:00 yet, but I showered and went to my room and I slept. I slept really well.

And that’s life, isn’t it? To make space for yourself to exist as a person with physical and emotional and spiritual needs, and not just as a doer- the one responsible for getting out of bed in the morning to an alarm and making it through your to-do list for the day.

I’m having to consciously take care of myself in this season. I don’t have another choice. I have to over and over again sit my heart down and say, “You matter.”

My job matters, yes, but that’s an easy fact to accept. The world won’t try to convince you that your job doesn’t matter because your job is how you get paid and keep a roof over your head. And I’m blessed to have my job matter for much deeper reasons than that. But still, believing my job matters isn’t the struggle because my job is where I am a doer. And doers, productivity, those things always count as far as society is concerned.

It’s the heart stuff, the feelings and experiences that the world shrugs at. Because it’s there that you are just you, not as a doer but as a human being.

And if you wait for the world to say, “Yes, that thing you experienced? It matters! And the things you’re feeling? They matter too!” you might be waiting a long time.

And even if you’re lucky enough to have someone in your life to say those things matter, as I am, having someone to validate your pain is only one of the steps in healing it.

And there’s danger in that, too, I’ve come to learn. Wanting people to validate your pain isn’t a bad thing, I don’t think, but it can become a hiding place. A source of comfort. And when that happens, you keep running back for the reminder that it mattered.

And that makes people tired. And it makes them sad because they love you and they don’t want you to get stuck in that place of self-pity, of needing them to take care of you. And so at some point you have to tell yourself that it mattered, it MATTERS, but other things matter as well.

And that’s when the Lord mercifully will open your eyes to Joy.

It’s not entirely up to me to know how to balance Joy and Sadness, because He is a good Father. And indeed, He is my Father. I am an adult and I am a child, His child. And I don’t always know what’s best for me or how to cope. But He does. He seems to know how much Sadness I can take, and when I keep my eyes open and my heart soft, He also surprises me with Joy. Joy rushes in like a Labrador Retriever puppy.

And Sadness? It used to feel like a heavy wool blanket, but not anymore. Sadness, when it arrives, sits down beside me and places a hand on my knee, offering me a small measure of comfort even in the midst of its presence. With its hand on my knee, it reminds me, “I’m not here to hurt you.”

Sadness? It’s work. It’s spiritual warfare, and healing the brokenness within me, and grieving what was lost and what isn’t and what may never be. It’s work. And if I try to stuff it down and ignore it, or if I run to other people and grasp onto them like a drowning person, pulling them down too, then I’m missing the lesson in the sadness.

Sometimes Sadness requires professional help or medication, yes. And we DO need people. But ultimately, our sadness is between us and the Lord. We have to learn to sit with it rather than run from it or hide beneath it in surrender.

I’ve used that word a lot lately- surrender. And oh, what a mistake I’ve made (and still struggle not to make) when I’ve surrendered to anything other than the Lord- when I’ve surrender to Sadness, or Fear, or my hopes, or other people. How many times I’ve exalted a thing above the Lord.

It’s so imperative, not just because He is Lord, but also for our own well-being, that we keep Jesus on the throne. It is to Him that we must surrender.

And when Sadness comes and the Lord is on the throne, it doesn’t come as a blanket. When I let the Lord use my sadness, when I trust Him with it, Sadness almost comes as a friend. Gentle. Tender. Apologetic. It exists for a reason, after all, and it’s my job to allow it to sit down beside me when it comes.

It’s much easier to sit side-by-side with Sadness than to allow it to cover me like a blanket. And that’s what happens when you don’t make room for Sadness to sit down when it arrives. It becomes a wool blanket.

At first it comes uninvited, and you struggle to crawl out from beneath it, but you can’t. And so you give up. And it’s easy, tempting even, to say, “Okay. Come. And I’ll hide under here because nothing is fair and I can’t fix it and I quit.” Because Sadness is on the throne now and you can’t see anything but the darkness or feel anything but the weight of it on top of you.

One way or another, the matters of your heart will demand your attention.

But if you listen. If you remember that you’re Someone’s child and that your Father is the Ruler and Creator of all, you’ll hear the Lord gently beckon, “Bring that to me.”

For me, Sadness comes with most force when I’m alone with my heart, not being my Doer self, and without anyone to say that my heart, or that I, matter. And I have to tell Sadness, “Yes, you can come, but my Lord is still on the throne, so have a seat beside me please. I’m not going to hide beneath you, curled up, bowed down to you as if you’re bigger than my God.”

And then I have to sit my heart down, me and Sadness side-by-side and Joy panting at my feet–not demanding my attention but still there, present, breathing–and I have to tell my heart, “Yes, we know. It hurts. And it’s going to take time to feel better. Let’s go for a walk. Let’s smile at the rising moon and the setting sun and breathe deeply. And if you need to cry, if you need to talk about what you’re feeling, that’s okay. The Lord will listen. We’ll all listen. We’re not afraid of big emotions or circumstances beyond our control because the Lord will be there with us, rising the moon and setting the sun and reminding us that He’s bigger than anything. He’s bigger than Sadness and Circumstances and He is the author of Joy. And He’s bigger than you, too, Heart. In this world we’re a tangle of emotions and thoughts and it’s hard, but it won’t always be this hard. And we don’t have to be afraid. When it’s hard, we just have to admit it, accept it, and surrender it to the Lord for Whom nothing is hard.”

I am my Father’s child.

And I am the parent of my heart.

I am both child and adult.

I am Sadness and I am Joy.

And that’s okay.