Pink Counters and Cold Hands

It’s cold.

I don’t like being cold.

I’ll trade the rainy warmer days for blue-sky colder ones, but I want to be able to go home at the end of the day and close my front door and be warm. But instead, my hands are like ice and my tea cools, well, conveniently fast actually. But still. I’m buried beneath four blankets, and last night I turned the oven on just for the comfort that something else in my house was emitting heat.

I learned recently that some people’s brains are designed to handle cold better than others. Some people have brains that register cold as pain. And my first thought was, “What do you mean? Not everyone feels like being cold is painful?”

I remember going to Leavenworth with friends and waiting for the tree lighting. They were all cold too, but without the element of, “No, you don’t understand, I’m going to DIE if I stay out here another second,” that I was experiencing. So I slipped into a nearby store and said peace-out to the dark silhouette of a tree: “Catch ya on the flip side. Let me know when you’re all lit up and I’ll ooh and ahh through this here window.”

My friends thought I was being a baby, or being overly dramatic. But maybe there’s a lot we don’t know about pain. And maybe two people can live through similar events and have two really different emotional experiences. And maybe all that we don’t know or understand is another call NOT TO JUDGE. And maybe we can’t always draw from our own frame of understanding and experience to try to relate to another person. Because we’re not all the same.

*

I just wanted a night that felt festive. I brought home pizza and ingredients to make the most chocolate-y, peppermint-y hot cocoa ever. I got out my reindeer mug and bought another sippy cup for Olivia so she could drink it on the couch.

I wanted to watch a Christmas movie and sit, all cuddled up in our pajamas under a mountain of blankets.

They wanted to watch The Lorax.

And actually, they mostly wanted to play and ask for the iPad and wipe pizza grease on furniture.

But it was okay. Because we were together.

And after dinner, I went to shower. And I exhaled deeply all the stress of the day, and I exhaled relief that I survived another week. And I exhaled the loudness- Arlow barking because there was a dog on TV that he wanted to play with, and the kids being kids.

And just as I felt some tension melt away, my phone rang. And I peeked out of the shower curtain to catch a glimpse of it vibrating on the counter and saw the caller was work.

And I was on duty overnight.

So, barely showered, barely dried off, and more than barely freezing, I called work back, trying not to think: “I just wanted a few moments of peace…” And I dealt with that situation while Theo shoved his sippy cup at me, asking for more hot cocoa, and Arlow swiped pizza off the high chair.

And I went to the kitchen to write down some phone numbers the person on the other end of the phone was giving me, and then back to the bathroom where Olivia was standing outside the door, her mouth in the shape of an “o”, pointing inside. Theo was in there, drinking from my giant glass of red pop.

“NO,” I mouthed to him, pushing the pop back further on the counter and ushering him back into the living room.

Then I went back to the kitchen to read off a phone number and call my boss to ask a question about medication delivery for a client.

Then back to the bathroom, where I saw Theo reach for the pop again, hit it with his fingertips, and spill the entire thing onto the counter and the floor, effectively staining everything pink.

So I grabbed his arm and pulled him from the bathroom while he wailed, and grabbed my bath towel, trying to soak up the mess, all the while talking to work.

And in the distance, the Christmas tree lights flickered, and The Lorax sang some song about hope, and Madison cuddled a crying Theo, and I thought: “NO. You don’t get to be the one crying.”

Eventually, we put on The Grinch, and the kids sat still for approximately fifteen seconds. Long enough to stroke their baby soft cheeks and kiss the tops of their heads and tell them I love them. Long enough to hear them giggle and feel them wrap their little arms around me, their bodies squirmy and full of energy beside me.

And then Olivia burped in my face, and Theo ran off to climb the cat tree.

And isn’t that life? I’ve used this analogy before, but I feel like I’m dying from thirst and someone’s given me a damp washcloth to suck water from. And that’s all I have. And I’m so grateful for it. But it doesn’t feel like enough.

Life is hard. It’s really, really hard.

And I keep trying to create moments of magic, moments that feel not hard and worth it and beautiful.

But all of my best efforts and intentions usually aren’t enough. Things rarely ever end up looking or feeling the way I’d hoped, and instead I’m just left feeling exhausted and sorry for myself.

But where does that leave me? Do I stop trying? Do I stop believing in and fighting for magic and beauty?

I don’t know.

All I know to do is keep my eyes heavenward and wait on my God.

And God? I’ve asked Him to be straight with me, to tell it like it is, and still He hasn’t told me to stop hoping that magic and beauty exist in this crazy world.

So I’ll keep making hot cocoa to warm the hands and put a smile on the faces of people I love. And when the house falls quiet at night, I’ll think about the people currently asleep under my roof, and how fiercely I love them. And I’ll watch the tree twinkle and I’ll listen to Arlow snore and I’ll thank  God for every single moment where the fight for life doesn’t feel quite so hard.

And my hands, they’re cold.

And my head is frazzled with activity and worry and all the “I don’t know’s!” filling me up inside.

But my heart feels held. The God who made my heart, promises to hold it.

And He is.

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Only The Best

Today I read about how Jesus says many will be turned away, thinking that heaven is their fate, but instead He will say, “Away from me. I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

That scares the crap out of me. Not as much for myself as for the people I love who I’ve lost touch with- those whose relationship with the Lord is kind of a question mark.

And I wish I could soften the edges of that truth and make it feel less jagged and painful as I hold it in my hand. But sure enough, that portion of scripture seems pretty clear.

And yet, I HAVE to believe in a God that will woo us relentlessly. I have to believe in the earth-shaking power of prayer and that my prayers, even the most poorly worded ones, terrify Satan. I have to believe it isn’t as bleak as that passage of scripture makes it sound.

I believe that because I have to. Otherwise I will be all panic and anxiety and desperately begging people to make changes that only God can really bring about in them. And so I believe that, but I don’t KNOW that.

And that scares me.

But what can I do?

And so I tuck myself under His arm and close my eyes and let Him be God.

*

The baby in the stroller in front of me craned her neck to stare at me as I walked through the parking lot. And I waved. She didn’t wave back or smile, and her mom remained unaware of the conversation taking place between her child and myself, but I smiled and waved anyway.

I smiled and waved almost reflexively. And I realized afterwards, while I continued to smile at the baby, that Jesus would’ve done that too. He would’ve smiled and waved. And that reflex in me is evidence that He is making me to be like Him.

And then I smiled again because how beautiful to see who I am becoming more like Him- sometimes in effortless ways, ways I could almost overlook, and sometimes through extreme, deliberate effort- knees to the ground, tears, prayers, pleading.

*

When someone compliments my ability to write or says I’m smart, there is no part of me that feels proud of that because I didn’t have anything to do with it. It’s how I was made.

Likewise, I have no control over the fact that my hair isn’t thick or that my feet are big or that I can’t sing like Lauren Daigle. As with not taking pride in the things I can do, there doesn’t have to be any shame in what I can’t do, or what I can’t be, because I had nothing to do with it; it’s just how I was made.

Similarly, when I see Him in myself, it doesn’t feel like a thing to be proud of- it feels like confirmation that He is here, working all things together, doing a good thing in me. It is comfort. Promise. Hope. It is all Him in me and growing me and sustaining me.

I can take no credit for the delight I find in the stars or foggy mornings. I can’t be blamed for my love for animals, even when it does border on the slightly ridiculous. I can’t take credit for the fact that I am generally a kind, friendly person. I can’t be blamed because I am unmarried. I cannot take credit for the fact that my hunger for the Lord is as real as fire within me.

Who am I aside from clay- His creation, being shaped and molded?

Additionally, in light of the above, how does it make sense to feel envious of someone else or judge myself as better than them?

So much of it has nothing to do with our own abilities, but His merciful gift-giving and all-knowing, perfect design. We are all His creations. Beautiful and astounding and flawed and fallible and worthy of love, but NOT worthy of a place on a throne or fame or worship, nor deserving of a critical eye or being the subject judgment.

Oh, how twisted this world has gotten it.

In the matter of who we are as people, the playing field is level.

I have control over my decisions. I have control over whether or not I choose to live a godly life. But who I am at my core? That’s all Him. A product of His all-knowing, miracle-orchestrating goodness. A product of my life experiences. A product of genetics. But all of it in His hands.

It’s not to my credit that I am good with children or that my eyes are hazel or that I can write. I don’t know any other way of being. It isn’t something I worked for, it’s just how I was made.

It’s not my fault I am not a brilliant singer.
But I can choose to sing anyway. That I have control over. To hide beneath my inabilities rather than make a joyful noise, that would be a shame. I can embrace who I am–flaws and all–and still choose to live life fully rather than hiding behind “I can’t” and “what will they think of me?”

And it’s not my fault I am terrified of doctors.
But I can choose to go anyway. …Even if I need someone there to hold my hand and drive me because Xanax is required. 😉

There are things we can choose, and there are things we can’t. And how often do we shoulder the weight of things we were never meant to carry- like inferiority or needing to prove ourselves or shame or having to be “better than” someone else?

*

He is all-knowing. The giver of good gifts. This is the life He chose for me. The body. The heart. The personality. There is no other life or personality or appearance that would be better.

And I was thinking about that on my drive to work today, how, essentially, jealously is saying, “God, You made a mistake. I don’t trust You.”

There’s a place for grief and sorrow and laying our dreams down at the foot of the cross, submitting them to Him with tear-filled eyes because we are going to trust Him even if it breaks our hearts. There’s a place for being sad about what we don’t have, but ultimately we have to be able to say that we surrender all to Him, come what may.

We have to live our lives with hearts and hands and minds open to receiving the fulfillment of our prayers, or pleasant and unexpected surprises, or even a “no” in response to our prayers. And when a “no” is the response, we have to be able to hear that and believe that God has better for us, whatever that “better” may be.

And we have to be okay with it not feeling like “better”, and we can grieve that, because what we feel is real and deserves compassion and acknowledgment. But, while our feelings are real, they aren’t reliable at determining what’s true. So we have to be able to cry and grieve and still stubbornly hold firm and unwavering to the belief that He is good and He can be trusted and He never gives us less than the best.

And at the end of the day, whether I’m alone or surrounded by loved ones, I can lay my head down on my pillow and tuck myself there under His arm. And I can close my eyes and breathe in peace and comfort because He is God and I am His. And I trust Him.

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