Lessons From The Road

No one can do it for you.

They can love you and care about you, but they can’t fight your fight for you.

People could talk to me and pray for me, but they couldn’t drive for me. No one could come rescue me and bring me home.

*

You can’t control how you feel, but you are in control of how much you suffer.

You can say, “I can’t…” and “This is not okay…” all day long, and it doesn’t change your circumstances one damn bit. All it does is increase your suffering.

You have to breathe.

Don’t rage against what you feel- let it be.

Trust the process.

*

Bad feelings aren’t necessarily bad things.

Stop labeling things as bad just because they feel bad; a lot of good is born out of things that feel really bad.

*

You don’t have to give sucky emotions power by calling them truth.

Emotions come and go. We have to be careful not to let them determine our truth.

*

Some trips are about fun and some trips are about growth.

*

Sometimes it’s important to stop calling the contents of our hearts “wrong” or “bad.”

When you find yourself aware that not everyone sees the world in the same way as you do, maybe it’s better to draw the “wrongness” of your heart closer to yourself rather than push it away. Maybe what feels wrong is actually a unique wiring.

Maybe the key isn’t in making yourself be different, but learning how to embrace what is within you.

Maybe sometimes what we think are our flaws, the ways we struggle, the ways people don’t understand us, maybe the unique way we see the world is actually a secret God whispered into our hearts, and the trick is to learn how to let that widen us up to living bigger and deeper, rather than letting it make us feel discouraged or close us off to life.

*

On the road, all by yourself, you have no choice but to sit with your pain when it arises. You can’t drink it away or overdose it away or refuse to get out of bed, because you’re not home and you have a dog and someone has to take care of him.

And also, being all by yourself, thousands of miles from home, you suddenly realize how terrified you are that you’ll somehow die before ever getting home. You worry about car accidents, mostly, but also murder a little bit when you’re sleeping in a dark parking lot in your car. You worry about your car breaking down and your finances and what if you never get to go home again?

And you realize there’s a whole, beautiful life waiting for you at home. And it’s not perfect, but its yours, and dear God, how badly you just want to be back home where you get to live your imperfect, beautiful life.

So you sit with your pain. And you promise yourself you’ll do that at home too. You promise yourself that even when you’re back in the land where drinking and overdosing and trying to use other people to save you are options, you won’t do that.

*

You have to take some deep breaths and do the things for yourself that you can do- like not text and drive and stop when you need a break and call and talk to people (without begging them to rescue you) when you need to talk.

And you have to trust God with the rest, like no flat tires or car troubles and getting you back home alive.

If you carry the weight of the things God’s responsible for, it will suck all of the beautiful living out of your day and replace it with fear and worry that you were never meant to carry.

*

Every time Arlow makes eye contact with me, I say, “I love you,” or, “How are you doing, baby?” And I do that not because I’m insecure, but because that’s how I communicate.

And that’s how I communicate in my relationships also.

And so when people don’t do that with me, when they go days without talking to me, it feels like they don’t love me.

But not everyone communicates their love in the same way you do. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you.

 

*

Sometimes you can be royally pissed off and sitting in a park in New Mexico and hating everything about life, and then a woman and her kids will come sit with you and want to pet your dog, and you’ll be even more cranky because you didn’t ask for company or small talk.

But then you’ll notice the woman has a tin can labeled “Please Help. Need Food.” And she won’t address it. She won’t ask for anything. She’ll just set it off to the side and slightly behind herself. And she’ll talk about the weather and her kids and where the nearest CoinStar is while she watches her kids wrestle with a dog twice their size.

And you’ll reach into your wallet. Because MFing New Mexico sucks and it’s hot and dirty and no on drives well, but God clearly led you and your bad attitude to this park where a woman with a genuine need and a smile happened to cross your path.

And what a gift New Mexico turned out to be.

*

If you walk your dog in Texas, people will literally stop their cars to conversationally say to you, “That’s a big dog!”

They will also give you the water out of their car and hold the cup for your dog so he can hydrate.

*

The same part of my brain and heart that were terrified to be so far from home are the same part of my brain and heart that feel four years old.

“I’m so scared,” and, “I want my mom,” came in the same breath.

And maybe that’s how we parent ourselves sometimes. We say, soothingly and with a voice laced with love, “I know.”

But we don’t let that stop us from doing the hard, scary thing.

*

If you sit down in a park in Mississippi and sob into your hands, if you’re too weak to hold your dog’s leash anymore and so he runs wild and free while you cry, no one will even notice.

*

I used to think people who picked their scabs were disgusting.

But then I found myself bored and stuck in traffic with a bunch of week-old mosquito bites.

*

A rainbow feels like a personal promise to me in Utah just as much as it does here at home.

*

You can’t outrun your problems or your pain.

You come home at the end of a long road trip and you’re one part, “Thank God, I made it!” And, “Thank God I am back in the right time zone! And thank Him for my bed and my shower and my plants and cats and clean underwear and closet full of clothes!”

And you’re one part complete, black depression.

The road trip wasn’t a solution, it was a lesson.

And now it’s time to put to practice what you learned on your drive.

Now, in this really hard moment, you get to say to yourself, “No, I CAN do it.”

And in the face of blackness, I get to say to myself, “No, I WANT to live.”

*

“You’ve got a big heart. The way you see the world, it got you this far. You might have some bruises and a few scars, but you know you’re gonna be okay. And even though you’re scared, you’re stronger than you know. If you’re lost out where the lights are blinding, if you face the fear that keeps you frozen, chase the sky into the ocean, that’s when something wild calls you home.”

And Then Six

I could feel my throat closing. The precursor to a panic attack. The tightening of my throat. The seeming widening of my tongue.

“Embrace it,” I whispered to myself. “Accept what you feel. Accept it. Don’t fight it. Don’t fight it.”

“Your throat isn’t actually closing,” I told myself next. “You aren’t in any danger. Your brain is lying to you. But that’s okay, because lies aren’t scary because lies aren’t true. The scary things in your brain right now? The scary way you see life? It’s not true. Accept what you feel. Feelings come and go. This one will go too.”

*

I watched her open presents. Six years old. Every little thing about life still awe-inspiring to her.

“We are meant to still see life with eyes of awe,” I told myself. “We are all still children. We aren’t meant to outgrow our wonder.”

Her grandparents and aunts watched her open her presents. Their eyes shining. Broad smiles on their faces. Phones held up to capture the moment unfolding before them.

And why?

Because life matters.

Turning six matters.

“Life matters.” I breathed in the words. “God says it, the people around you are doing one day after the next because they believe it, and anything you feel to the contrary is a lie. It’s a lie. Lies cannot stand up against the word of God. Life matters.”

*

There are so many people on this planet.

How are they all living? How are all these people doing life?

And do all of their lives have significance?

Certainly in my head I would say an unequivocal and hearty “yes!” …But really? Do I really believe that?

What about the homeless people who sit outside all day bumming cigarettes off passersby? Does their life matter? And why? Because they’re contributing to society? Because someone validates their life by loving them? Because they are trying to better themselves? Or just because they’re people and people matter?

The last one. Obviously. Whole-heartedly I would say their lives matter because they’re people and life is a precious gift.

…So why can’t I believe that my life matters?

There are so many people.

And then there’s me.

What does my life matter?

Is it all meaningless?

What does my life matter?

I’m just one of the many.

There are so many people.

“Life is a gift. I am loved. I am not alone. My life matters. I am loved.”

“God didn’t make a mistake when He created me. And He isn’t making a mistake by giving me this day to live.”

“I am loved. I matter. Just as I am. Not because of what I do or don’t do. And love knows that. Love isn’t fickle or judge-y. It doesn’t ask that we keep proving ourselves. Love is a constant. It doesn’t walk out. I am loved.”

“My life matters.”

*

She talked about happy little things. Bike rides. Movies.

There was a time when I used to list things off like that, all the simple joys of life. I’d mentally list off the good in life and smile because indeed, there’s so many little gifts scattered through our days.

But I can’t do that anymore. Or rather, I can, but the things I list off only increase the throat-closing feeling because I can no longer feel the good inherent in those moments. Which leads to this overwhelming sense of: “What’s the point?”

What do you do when the best things about life stop feeling good? How do you keep going?

You remind yourself your brain is a liar. You remind yourself what God’s word says. You accept the place you’re in. You tell yourself it won’t be forever.

You speak truth over yourself, aloud, until you forget that your throat is narrow and your tongue is too big.

Someday movies and bike rides will matter to me again.

*

I leaned my head over on her shoulder. Just briefly. Just long enough to be reminded there’s someone in this world who will let me rest my head on their shoulder.

*

I am loved.

My life matters.

Life is a gift.

I belong.

I am not alone.

It won’t feel this way forever.

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.

I Believe

“I pray that I honor this season and allow God to make the changes in me that he wants to make.”

“Life is busy and it is hard to breathe slow and honor the moments we are in.”

*

I believe in big love.

I believe in “shoulder to cry on,” “I found a shirt on sale!”, “good morning!”, “just wanted to tell you I was thinking of you!” love.

I believe in “you will never lose me,” “call any time,” “my door is always open” love.

I believe in open communication, it’s safe to disagree, no walls up, no punishments, no withdrawing, love.

I believe in “it’s always better when you’re there!”, “happy birth minute!”, “I don’t know what I’d do without you” love.

I believe in “you’re never alone,” “you’re always on my mind,” “we can tell each other anything” love, “laugh until you cry,” “would you hold my hand?” love.

Love that doesn’t seek to meet needs only the Lord can fulfill,
but that points us right back to Him and teaches us to how He loves us.

*

I believe in God’s breath filling the room in which I sit.

I believe in the rumble of His voice and the touch of His hand.

I believe in signs and wonders, prophecy and dreams.

I believe in a head-over-heels, all-consuming, ruined-for-this-world love for Him.

I believe in a relationship with Him that is realer and truer to me than anything I can see or touch before me now.

I believe in living a life so drenched in Him that the only possible explanation for it is the Holy Spirit.

I believe in a God who cannot be contained in any a box or within four walls or even our own minds. Limitless in nearness and power and love.

*

I also believe I’ve spent a long, long time silencing the rainbow-colored unicorn that is my heart.

I’ve told myself to stop being unrealistic and accept my fate. I’ve looked around at my life in shade of gray and thought maybe the problem was me. Maybe my feeler or my thinker were broken.

And when people suggested that, I believed them: “Maybe everything I thought and felt were wrong because I’m broken somehow. Maybe that kind of love doesn’t exist this side of heaven. Maybe that kind of knowing Him doesn’t exist here either.”

So I go through the motions of my life. I trudge and try to find joy in the small things and try not to let panic seize me when I realize there’s no ‘out’ – this is my life, and no matter what comes into my life or goes out of it, we’re stuck together, this life of mine and I, come what may.

And why is life so hard to love?

I can love the blossoms on the trees and my puppy’s sweet eyes and when Mowgli licks my face and the way vanilla ice cream tastes when it’s just begun to melt. I can enjoy THINGS. But life? The whole big picture- circumstances and and the contents of my heart laid out before me? It all seems not worth it.

But I have to rebuke that, that thought that life isn’t worth it. I have to know better than to hold on to that thought and give it any power. Because even when it’s all laid out before me, I don’t see the full picture. Even when I think I see clearly, I don’t. And so, I just have to trust.

But it’s not enough to just not entertain certain thoughts. I have to choose to believe what is true. And so, I will throw myself at it, at this believing that life is so, so worth it- a gift.

I won’t survive otherwise.

Blossoms are beautiful, but they aren’t enough.

Prayer and worship are beautiful, but they aren’t enough.

And I think God is delighted with that- my stubborn refusal to accept that this is all there is. “I NEED MORE OF YOU! I NEED MORE LIFE!” And He smiles because wouldn’t complacency be worse? Wouldn’t thinking I had gotten as close to Him as I was going to get, wouldn’t surrendering to feeling kind of disappointed with my relationship with Him and accepting that maybe this is just what it is… wouldn’t that just be me buying into the lies of the enemy?

And maybe it’s weird. And maybe people will call me broken. And maybe I’ll go it alone.

But I’m not going to stop expecting more.

I’m not going to stifle the rainbow-colored unicorn heart of mine…
because God gave it to me for a reason.

I’m going to stand beneath the sky my Father created and I’m going to look up at the tree branches and birds and I am going to plant my feet on the solid earth and I’m going to stand my ground.

“You gave me this life, You’re providing my breath, and You designed my heart,” I’ll remind Him. “And I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going to give up on a wild, passionate, laughing, singing, dancing, break my heart for what breaks Yours, love-filled, love-fueled, Jesus’ fingerprints, life.”

Lord, fill me up with the hope that it’s real and possible and that, even if everything is gray now, it doesn’t mean that I, like Dorothy, can’t ride the storm from the gray to the world of color.

Fill me up with both boldness and humility- the ability to stand by my heart and honor my experiences, but also apologize when necessary and admit when I’m wrong.

I pray against pride. And I pray against feeling inferior.

“Don’t shrink back, don’t puff up, just stand your sacred ground.”

*

What would I tell my child? What would I want her to believe if she was stuck grappling with what is real and possible?

I’d want her to know you can’t dream too big.

I’d want her to know anything is possible because we serve a God for whom nothing is impossible.

I’d tell her she didn’t need to outgrow the unicorn or trade it in for one that’s not rainbow-colored.

I’d take both of her hands in my own and look into her eyes and I’d say, with words like lead, heavy with importance: “Keep your wild dreams and hope-filled unicorn heart alive, child.”

I’d encourage her to trust in the God who made her heart.

I’d tell her not to ever force herself to ‘grow up’ or ‘outgrow’ anything. After all, doesn’t Jesus encourage faith like a child?

“Trust Him,” I’d tell her. “Trust the way He wired your heart. Treasure the youngness and hope and wonder within you. They are not an accident or a flaw.

In fact, I pray it will grow. I pray for wonder and hope and joy and ‘anything is possible’ and ‘God is RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW’ to overflow within you.

And I pray it will be contagious.

Anything is possible, child. God is a God of miracles and reckless, passionate, unimaginably wild love.”

That’s what I’d tell her.

And I suspect that’s what He’d tell me too.

*

Arise.

He tells us to arise.

Arise. Move towards instead of backing away.

Arise. Be secure in His promises.

Arise. Live as children of light.

Oh, my soul, arise. Arise, my unicorn heart. My every breath is a gift. And I am here, my heart is beating, for a reason.

*

Lord, help me not stop living long before I actually die.

I want to throw myself at You- unrestrained, and helpless without you, and desperate for you to show up.

I want to live like Peter did when he leapt from the boat.

I don’t need a boat. I don’t need calm waters. I don’t need a sky without clouds or a sun to illuminate everything. I don’t need to understand. I can continue to press in, push on, and believe. Because He is there, beckoning me, calling me to Him.

With eyes open and thoughts submitted and my heart in His hands, I am guaranteed life abundant.

Rainbow colors as far as the eye can see.

Unicorns for everyone.

*

“If something is keeping you from throwing open the door and running out wild and free, maybe it’s time to put your something in it’s place too. It’s passion week friends, don’t let anything stand in the way.”

Believe

When people talk on the phone near me, I listen to see if they’ll end their conversation with an “I love you.”

I wait to hear the smile in their voice as they say, “I love you too.”

And it makes me glad for them.

Having someone to say ‘I love you’ to is one of this life’s greatest gifts.

*

Occasionally, you’ll hear someone talk about something good that happened in their life and they’ll say, “That changed me forever.”

They’ll assert that what happened–the event or circumstance of their past–has made who they are in the present richer and more alive and entirely different.

Which makes me think- Okay, so it’s possible not just to have something bad change you, but to have something so miraculous or good happen to you that you are no longer the same person.

That gives me hope- knowing there is the potential to be so undone and transformed by something (or Someone) that it warrants the statement “that changed me forever.”

 

“Miracles can happen in a heartbeat.”

*

I was thinking this morning about home-

The chaos of a bunny and a cat chasing each other through the house.
Something spilled in the bottom of the oven setting off the smoke detector.
Christmas music playing on the TV.
Candles lit.
Blowing a fuse because I forgot to turn the heat off before running the microwave.
Another cat meowing to be fed.
Laundry to do.
Cookies to bake.
Flour spilled on the floor.

And I smiled.

Chaos feels like love.

When you have to open the windows because the house is too hot from movement and conversation and baking- that’s love.

When Madison and the kids come over and one wipes their hands on the carpet and another runs off with my cell phone, and Madison is talking and we are laughing and there’s a movie to watch and kids to put pajamas on…

and I have to open the windows…

That’s love.

And when it’s quiet,
and the kids are softly snoring,
and I say goodnight to Madison and go to bed,
and I curl up beneath my blankets and listen to the bunny scratching at her cage,
and the cats jump on the bed and lay at my feet,
and the soft glow of the twinkle lights are coming from the room Madison and her kids are sleeping in…

That’s love too.

*

Today at Starbucks the barista complimented my freckles.

It always takes me off guard when someone compliments my freckles because I forget I have them. I don’t see them when I look in the mirror. So when someone says, “I love your freckles!” my first thought is: “You can see them!?”

But I love that compliment. Not because it makes me feel beautiful, because I know freckles are not traditionally considered beautiful, but I love it because it reminds me that God put me together special. He placed each one of my freckles.

And when the barista said that today, I felt Him smile at me. I felt Him near- bending down to kiss my forehead. The same freckled forehead He created almost 29 years ago.

I wonder if maybe there’s a reason I look the way I do. Young. Innocent. Not intimidating.

Emily and Kim and I were talking about Batman and who would be cast as who. She said I could be Cat Woman. And I laughed and told her I have zero sex appeal. I said it would make more sense to cast me as a kindergarten teacher or Little Orphan Annie.

Would I like to be beautiful? Sure. But I’m not. I’m “cute”. And that wasn’t a mistake any more than my heart or personality were mistakes. God doesn’t make mistakes.

So maybe my feeling young on the inside isn’t a problem to be solved. Maybe God gave me a face to match my insides.

I’m done calling myself and how I feel “wrong”.

God built me. I am His project. And if there’s anything in me that He wants to change, I trust Him to do it. Otherwise I am going to trust that He looks at me with love and calls me “good”. His creation. His beloved daughter. No less good than the sunrise or stars or birds.

It’s not up to me to call things wrong.

It’s up to me to love-

Him,
others,
and myself.

*

This is beautiful.

So is this.

*

“Liminal space is a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the ‘tried and true’ but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are in between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer.

It is no fun.

Think of Israel in the desert, Joseph in the pit, Jonah in the belly, the three Marys tending the tomb.

If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait—you will run—or more likely you will explain. Not necessarily a true explanation, but any explanation is better than scary liminal space. Anything to flee from this terrible cloud of unknowing.’

Maybe the way forward is not finding THE answer right now but learning to live without an answer, or rather, living towards one.

We need to find our way back to the true meanings of trust, wait and patience; a life of hope.”

*

I wonder if all this pain of feeling like I don’t belong anywhere… I wonder how God will use it.

I wonder if someday I’ll be in a position where I can mother those who feel the way I do.

I’d like that.

I’d like to have an open door, to welcome people in- whether or not I have children of my own. I want all to feel included. Wanted. I want them to come into my home and I want to greet them a warm embrace. Because I’m a hugger…

which, ironically, is something I got from neither parent.

Maybe I got it from my Father.

I close my eyes and smile and picture the Thanksgivings and Christmasses and Friday nights of my future. Sleeping people scattered all throughout house- beds, couch, living room floor on blanket beds. And not because they don’t have a home, but because my home is just as much their home as the one where they have their mail delivered.

What if.

What if I let this make me tender?

What if I let Him empty me out. All of me. My sorrows and grief and longings and hopes and joys and every single corner and facet and moment of my life- committed to Him. In His hands.

What if.

What would He do?

It would be good. I have that promise. And maybe it wouldn’t be what I’d expect- maybe I’ll never be a daughter to anyone. Or a sister. Or carry a baby within my belly. Or be the one someone chooses to spend their life with.

And that? The thought of not ever being anyone’s ever again? That breaks my heart. It’s almost intolerable.

Almost.

But He says not to fear. He says to trust Him. He says He IS Love. He says it’s safe to hope.

He says we won’t understand right now. His ways aren’t our ways.

So I have to tell my heart that. I’m not seeing the whole picture right now.

God doesn’t desire for me to live my entire life gripped with sorrow.

This isn’t where I’m meant to stay.

When I worry I’ll hurt forever, He extends His hand.

Because we’re on a journey.

And I can’t see what’s up ahead.

But He can.

And He says it’s good.

*

I was skimming Netflix the other day when I came across a movie that seemed vaguely familiar. It was old- made before I was even born, and yet I had the distinct impression that I had seen it before.

And so I hit play on the movie and watched and suddenly I remembered that yes- I HAD seen it! I remembered being in the living room. I remembered sitting on my mom’s lap. I remembered the scene where the kids are in the car.

And I remembered that was the day of The Penny.

When I was a child, I spent an abnormal amount of time praying. Although my prayer looked more like games of cards and reading library books aloud to God – who, looking back now, I have no doubt delighted in every second of listening to me read or watching me play with Him in mind.

And one Christmas I decided to leave Jesus a birthday present. And so I tucked a penny, a brown penny, between the brown carpet of the stairs and the brown wall. (Lots of brown. It was the early 90’s, folks.)

And I was watching that movie with Mom the next morning when I remembered the penny, so I jumped off her lap to see if Jesus had taken His present.

And it wasn’t there.

And I couldn’t believe it. I looked everywhere. I checked every step because maybe I had just forgotten where I had left it, even though I knew I hadn’t.

And it wasn’t there.

So I ran back upstairs to Mom and told her. And I don’t remember her reacting or seeming nearly as amazed as I did. But neither did she say she had found the penny or maybe vacuumed it up or anything. Rather, she seemed more focused on the movie.

And I crawled back up on her lap and kept watching the movie with her, but I held wonder and love within my chest.

And I remember that still.

When I was a child, God seemed SO near. So real. Alive. No less real or alive than my parents or siblings or next-door neighbor.

And sure, maybe someone found the penny, or maybe my parents vacuumed. But however it disappeared, it was God’s message to a child: “Thank you for thinking of Me. I’m here. And I love you.”

And I don’t know that I’m so far removed from being that child- the one who believes in crazy miracles.

I believe in a God who’d take a penny.

I believe in a God who will tuck me in to bed at night and sit with me until I fall asleep if I ask Him to.

I believe in a God who would sit with a child and listen to her read a Berenstain Bears book.

When I watch movies, movies that would seem impossible, where angels visits or hearts are transformed or someone gets the father or mother or child they’ve always wanted… I believe, in some small corner of my heart, that the movies aren’t just works of fiction and that it’s not naive for me to believe that because our God is our Abba Father and He loves us and NOTHING is impossible for Him.

Nothing we think up even comes close to how big our God is. We can’t dream or hope too big. We can’t out-imagine Him.

*

When I lie in bed at night and sob and tell Him that I need Him or want Him, sometimes it feels as pointless as telling my mom I need or want her. Which can leave me there, wracked with sorrow…

and with something else to grieve.

It HURTS to wanting and needing a God who you think won’t actually show up and be the living and present God He says He is.

And that’s why I am standing firm that there’s more for us.

I’m claiming that nothing is impossible.

I’m going to hope and believe, wildly and irrationally, like a child.

Because God made me.

And I’m done calling who I am wrong.

Maybe all those hours of cards and reading and conversation with God as a child weren’t one-sided. Maybe He used that time to breathe hope in me- the belief in the possibility of the impossible.

*

This year, I won’t be leaving God a penny. But I’ll be loving those who have no one to love them. I’ll donate money and time to people in need.

And I think about how maybe that’s the greatest gift we could give Jesus on His birthday- loving each other. Being together. What could bring Him more joy, after all? Whether we’re loving those we’ve known all our lives or a year or just met in line at the grocery store, we are fulfilling His deepest desire for us, aren’t we? We’re coming together.

He created us individually.

And placed us here lovingly.

And what could bring Him more joy than watching us come together and love each other?

Especially when we’re coming together because of Him.

Oh, happy, happy birthday, sweet Jesus.

*

Someday maybe Christmas will look like hot chocolate going cold on the coffee table and people curled up together on the couch, trying to keep their eyes open as the night comes to a close.

Or maybe it will look like being called someone’s sister. A miracle, undoubtedly, to be grafted into an already established family. But God can do anything.

Maybe I’ll have a husband.

Or a dog.

Maybe I’ll eat dinner alone or serve at a food bank or maybe I’ll be surrounded by people I love.

I don’t know. But I know He loves me.

And He loves them. You.

And He put us together on this big, scary, wonderful, lonely, beautiful planet.

And He whispers in my ear, “Hope wild, child. Nothing is impossible.”

Where Hope Is Found

What is it about not feeling well that makes me want to cry?

And I don’t even want to cry because I can’t sleep and my eyes burn and my nose is running and my throat hurts and I keep coughing. No, none of that makes me sad or teary. It’s inconvenient and annoying, sure, but apart from that, I don’t really “mind” being sick.

In some ways, I kind of appreciate that my body is demanding my attention. When I’m sick, my body requires that I recognize that I am a person with needs. It demands I slow down. That’s not a bad thing. It gives me permission to make myself a priority without feeling selfish.

When I’m at work at my nose is running while I talk to a client, I remember I’m more than a therapist- I’m a living, breathing, human being. That becomes the bigger, truer thing in all aspects of my life when I’m sick- I am a person and I have needs.

I want to cry because being sick makes me feel sensitive and young and small. Why does my birth certificate say that I’m 28, because I’m pretty sure I’m still a child, and who’s going to make me dinner and tuck me into bed and kiss my forehead as my eyes close?!

I don’t know what to do when I feel this way. And I think that’s because there’s nothing I can do.

I can’t point at someone and say, “You. I choose you to be what I need. I choose you to come over and sit with me on my couch and let me rest my head on your shoulder. I choose you to love me the way I think I need to be loved.”

Everything, it seems, is a call to surrender- to give up my desire for control and fix my eyes instead on the face of the Lord, who loves me passionately and relentlessly and forever.

I’ve believed for a long time that I could find security in my relationships if only I had some sort of guarantee that the people in my life love me, that they carry me in their hearts and minds even when we’re apart. But the irony is that looking for security in relationships only breeds insecurity.

It’s a freaking waste of time.

Not only that, but it kills relationships. Trust me, I know. People don’t want to have to reassure you constantly that they love you.

The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. And that? The fear of losing love? Needing reassurance and validation? That’s got his name written all over it. I see you, Satan. I see you and I’m calling you out.

We can’t find our security in anything apart from the Lord because the hard, undeniable truth is that life doesn’t come with any guarantees.

Help us to fix our eyes on You, Jesus. Help us to know You as the source of all our hope.

No matter how many times someone says they love me, it won’t be what I need. The anxiety in my brain won’t shut off like a switch after the 31st “I love you”.

Because relationships are fluid things built on trust. They are not contracts.

I mean, Jesus Himself modeled that. His life demonstrated that we cannot make anyone love us. But that our mission, regardless of the love we receive, is to love.

I have to learn to live with the anxiety when it arises. I have to tell my anxiety to sit down, stop ranting and raving about how scary everything is, and remember that our God is still on the throne.

When I ask God for some promise that so-and-so will love me forever, when I ask Him if I’ll ever have someone to hold me when I’m sad, He gently whispers that I am asking the wrong questions. My focus is on the wrong thing.

He keeps in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on Him. (Is. 26:3)

We are to seek Him with our whole hearts and He will provide for our needs. (Jer. 29:13, Ps. 119:2, Amos 5:4, Deut. 11:13)

Over and over again in scripture He reminds us that our focus HAS to be Him.

If I focus my eyes on anything else, that’s when anxiety replaces peace. Even if I don’t understand how it’s possible, I know from scripture that He is all that I need. And I know I can trust Him with my heart, with my life, with my needs.

My focus is wrong when I look to the world for love, with big, questioning eyes.

When I look to the world, it should be to love, not to be loved.

And when I need love? It’s then I should look to Jesus.

All I can do is that- keep my eyes on Him and leave the outcomes in His hands. Everything surrendered, everything at the foot of the cross, and my arms wrapped around His waist- too full of Him to hold on to anything else.

I’m sick. And no one is going to cover me with a blanket if I fall asleep on the couch or make me soup.

And that’s okay. It’s sad, but it’s okay because God is good and He can be trusted. He knows what He’s doing, and even when I don’t understand, I know He doesn’t make mistakes.

And because He is my Father, because He loves me so wildly, He beckons, “Arise, daughter. Let hope arise. Take heart. Abide in My love. And when you fall asleep on the couch, I’ll cover you- not with a blanket, but with My love.”

*

“Home is where you’re made to feel like a big deal. More than welcome, you are wanted.”

“There’s nothing better than the warm embrace of belonging.”

Needing Jesus and Being Jesus

At therapy a couple weeks ago, I was in the waiting room when a kid, probably about seven years old, came running out of his therapy appointment and excitedly scanned the room for his mom. He started to run towards a woman he thought was his mom for a second, but then he realized it wasn’t and I watched his face fall.

For a while, he stood against the wall and watched the door for his mom to arrive. I tried to smile reassuringly at him a couple of times, but I felt like I was triggering his Stranger Danger alarm, so I mostly just read my book. When I looked up again, he had disappeared around the corner.

And then I heard something.

It sounded like crying.

So I got up to investigate, and sure enough, the little boy had waited bravely for his mom for a solid five minutes or so before collapsing into a chair and crying.

I was kneeling to talk to him, reassuring him that his mom would be there any minute and offering for him to come sit with me until she arrived, when she came through the door.

My initial reaction? Anger. Who leaves their small child alone at a therapy session? And what kind of therapist dismisses a child after his therapy appointment without first checking to see if his parent is there?!

Immediately, before she had even walked through the doorway, her son jumped up and, still sobbing, ran to her, wrapping his arms around her.

That kid? He’s me. Maybe he’s all of us.

Maybe we’re all just scanning the room for a familiar, loving face. Someone to wrap our arms around. And when no kind eyes and loving embrace can be found, maybe we all struggle to maintain a brave face. Maybe we’re all tempted to slink down into a chair and cry hopeless, scared tears into our hands.

I suspect that is, indeed, all of us.

And the reason I suspect that is because we’re all wired to need Jesus in that way. We’re fragile, us humans. We need Someone strong and loving to hold on to.

I think we get taller and older, but that we’re all still our child selves deep down.

We all still need love and belonging. We all crave feeling safe and wanted. We all want to know someone is waiting for us- sitting in the waiting room after our therapy session or awaiting our arrival at home at the end of the day.

We want to know our names and faces and hearts matter because of who we are, and not because of what we do. We want it to matter that our favorite color is yellow and that we bite our fingernails and that sometimes when the moon is full it makes us think of heaven and Jesus and our eyes tear with the wonder of it all.

When we are children, the hope is that our parents can be that for us. That they can model Jesus for us and point us to Him. Of course, that’s unfortunately not the way it always works out, but that was God’s plan, I believe.

Either way, however, when we get older the Lord is meant to be that for us- the one person who will never walk out, never leave us standing alone in the waiting room, watching the door with a trembling chin.

He can’t wrap His arms around me, not yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t run to Him.

And sometimes He blesses us with people who can wrap their arms around us- people who can reflect His love for us.

And sometimes He blesses us by allowing us to be that to someone else.

This morning on my way to work, I witnessed a car accident. It was bad enough for one of the cars to be rendered not drive-able, but thankfully no one was injured.

I pulled over to the side of the road. I expected to be dismissed when I walked up to the car nearest to me and asked if there was anything I could do, but instead, she nodded slowly. “You saw the accident happen?” she asked me, teary and trembling. I confirmed that I did. “Would you like me to stay?” I asked her. And she looked down at her hands and nodded.

I reached in through her window and rubbed her shoulder. I asked if she was hurt. She told me her coffee spilled. She said that she saw the car coming up behind her but that there was nothing she could do. She said that it all happened so quickly.

And then she got out of her car. And suddenly she was that little boy in the waiting room, trying to maintain a brave face as she surveyed the wreckage around us and tried to wrap her mind around how quickly her day had been turned upside down.

She started to cry.

“Is it okay if I hug you?” I asked.

Again, a nod.

And so I hugged her and she cried.

I am so glad I stopped this morning. I hadn’t thought it would matter if I was there, that I would just get in the way, and really, what could I do anyway? And so I almost kept driving.

But because I didn’t, because I obeyed the tiny whisper inside of me and pulled over to the side of the road, I got to be Jesus to the people involved in the accident today.

I got to be His arms and kind eyes and gentle smile. I got to be His affirmation that “YOU MATTER! YOUR PAIN, YOUR FEAR, YOUR TEARS- THEY MATTER!”

I stayed there, comforting each driver, for about an hour. Thirty minutes after I left, I got a text message from the woman who had cried on my shoulder. She thanked me for stopping. “Not many people would’ve stopped on their way to work,” she said.

It was an honor to be there for them in that moment, to be there when they needed someone to rub their shoulder and witness their tears and ask if they were okay.

And so I responded and told her that being there this morning was the most important thing I could’ve possibly been doing with my time. And I reassured her that my boss understood.

It’s beautiful, this life.

As I’ve said in my recent posts and am going to echo now, it bring tears to my eyes- both what I don’t have, and what I do.