Doors

Closed doors mean nothing to God. (Hallelujah!)

There are people who have done everything right- who have a good reputation, have been successful in work and relationships and finances, and who, as a result, have more options for their life, more open doors that they could walk through if they chose to. They can buy a plane ticket to Rome, send their three kids to private school, sleep through the night because their spouse is on “middle of the night infant feeding duty,” and get promoted at work because they have the esteem and qualifications they need. They have options that I wish I had, but I don’t.

Admittedly, no one’s life is perfect and everyone deals with their own stresses, but this isn’t about envying someone else’s life, it’s about open doors. Just go with me here. : )

Growing up, even into my early twenties, I thought I’d be one of those people, the kind without financial debt, the kind with a spouse to help me raise our kids, the kind who is well thought of in her profession. But I’m not one of those people. I’m one of those people who have made a lot of mistakes.

Hello, unplanned pregnancy. Hello, serious financial stressors. Hello, inability to get my social work license, former employers (plural!) who don’t think very highly of me, and messy relationships.

Sometimes I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, trying to create a better life for myself, and no matter how hard I try, no matter what path I take, I just keep hitting a wall.

The lawyer can’t help me get my license.
My unemployment has been appealed and now I owe more money than I’ll ever be able to pay back.
The job I got has been really hard for me to show up at day after day.
The baby growing inside of me is turning my body and face into something I don’t even recognize. I can’t even handle seeing myself in a picture or mirror anymore.
My families just keep crumbling.

And it would be so easy to go to feeling hopeless, like I’ve ruined my life, because there are certain things that aren’t options for me anymore given the choices I’ve made.

But running into closed door after closed door isn’t the same thing as living a life without hope.

God’s good plan for my life is still in motion.
And my hope is in HIM, not in my circumstances.
What I can see isn’t the basis of my reality; my reality is that I serve a God who is bigger.

Maybe all these closed doors are just His way of giving me a more narrow path to walk, to keep me from losing sight of where He’s leading me.

Or maybe they’re there to teach me that God is more than capable of opening closed doors.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes.

But I haven’t ruined my life.

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Stream-Of-Consciousness (This Is How I Process)

“I will throw myself, wholly, at the Lord. I will choose to flourish and grow in whatever environment, in whatever season, He has me,” I thought tonight.

It was a thought that came through an act of immense willpower- like choosing to snack on broccoli when all your friends are eating donuts. (Although there’s a time and a place to indulge in a donut, too, don’t let me wrong. ;-))

It’s a good thought. A noble thought. But to put that thought, that desire even, into practice? To walk through this life of people who misunderstand your heart and leave you feeling more alone, to walk through the tangle of fears about finances and change and relationships and What Ifs?, to repeatedly show up for your life even when it’s hard… AND TO WILL YOURSELF TO SEE GOD IN IT? I’m convinced that takes Heaven’s help.

Over and over again I have to remind myself I ultimately have two choices: I can either give up, or I have to do what I just stated above.

There is a third option, of course, but it leads to passivity and depression. No longer expecting God to show up. A sense of “this is just what life is.” I’ve walked that road too. But if “something better than this” is our goal, there’s only one road paved with that hope, and that’s the road that leads to the Lord.

So we choose to say, “Here I am, Lord.” We show up and invest in this day we’ve been given and CHOOSE TO BELIEVE His holy, sovereign hand is working in our midst, even when we’re unaware. We lean in to our lives, going forward, one step at a time, even when doing so feels like the equivalent of choosing to walk through flames.

My therapist told me tonight to be careful not to let things snowball. I don’t have to continually do a complete inventory of the things that are hurting me or scaring me or making me want to dig a hole and crawl in.

What I have to do is ask myself, “What can I control?” And if I can’t control something, I can grieve it, I can process it, and then I have to choose to go forward anyway. It does not do me any favors to cling tight to the things that hurt me, to rage against them and demand they be different when that isn’t something I have any power over. I have to be deliberate in saying: “This thing sucks, this thing hurts, but not EVERYTHING does. And over all things, the sucky and the good, God reigns.”

I KNOW it will be cancer to me if I let myself go down certain trains of thought. I want to, though. I want to sit here and tell myself I’ve ruined my life. I want to hate myself for how my choices have led me to this place I’m in today. And sometimes I even want to hate the baby growing inside of me. I want to scream and cry and claw and beg to go back. I want to undo it.

But I can’t. That isn’t one of my options. Grief? Yes. Processing the very real things I’m feelings? Yes. But over and over again going back to this truth: My God is a God who redeems. To rest my heart on that and let go of all that is out of my hands, to leave it, instead, at the foot of the cross.

The baby in my belly is a blessing. TRUTH. My life is in His hands. TRUTH. He loves me wildly and fiercely and protectively. TRUTH. Is always, always working in my life and in me. TRUTH. There is always, always, always hope. TRUTH.

And so, rather than hating this day I’m in, and rather than dreading what the future holds, I have to embrace what is and accept what isn’t any longer. There’s no other option. Or, there is, but one of them leads to death, and one of them results in living a life of suffering. And I deserve better than that. So I choose to believe. I believe that this day the Lord has made is GOOD. I believe He is working, that He knows my heart, and that my future isn’t doomed and destined to be worse than my past.

My therapist tells me over and over again that she believes in me, that she knows I’m going to be okay, that I’m not a quitter (which is laughable to me given how many times I’ve tried to do just that!), and that she is proud of me. And even when I don’t agree, I take those words to heart. Because I know she really, really means them.

But the key to my okayness doesn’t lie in me. Left to my own devices, this season of my life might come just as close to killing me as past seasons have. So I do what I have to do and I choose life over death and suffering. I choose to throw myself wholly at the Lord, to bury myself in Him, to hide myself in Him.

Perhaps there’s no better time to invest in the going forward than when you think you can’t. Because it’s only in fully committing yourself to the Lord and His will for your life that there’s any hope of things getting better. When life is going pretty well, you can kind of just coast. You can wake up in the morning and let time carry you through the day. But when you need things to change, when you just can’t do it any longer, that’s when it requires us to step, to move our feet, to not just show up for this day, but to engage in it. So I will. And not because I’m super holy and selflessly God-minded, but because I need hope. And there is none of that to be found apart from Christ.

Nothing Is As It Seems

I feel like I ruined my life. I thought things were so hard six months ago. I was wrong.

I am grieving the loss of a lot- people I loved and my job and having a steady income and being able to be a good mom to Arlow by taking him to daycare and who I was before depression came and stole the life right out of me.

When I look around now, everything is uncertain and nothing is secure.

And what needs to align in order to make my future doable seems impossible.

I am scared the best days of my life are behind me, and given that the last three years have been filled with the desire to die, that is a really sobering and terrifying thought.

This has been a week of fears gaining strength. In the insensitive comments of friends who mean well but don’t know better, in the silence of friends who can’t bring themselves to tell me it’s all going to be okay, in my own rapidly beating heart as I try to figure out how to fix everything and realize I can’t.

Lean not on your own understanding…

In so many ways, I can’t fight this. I can’t make myself have a job that will pay me enough to survive. I can’t make people feel differently than they do. I can’t force people to sign off on necessary forms so that I can get my LICSW. I can’t create for myself parents and grandparents and people who will step in and teach me all that I don’t know, who will help me not be alone in this next season of my life. I can’t know that any of it will ever feel okay to my heart again. I worry about Arlow, that I am ruining his life too. And I can’t fix that either.

But I can bathe myself in truth- books and podcasts and scripture. I am reminding myself that nothing, not people or systems or facts, are bigger than my God. I am letting friends speak truth into my life, reminding me of all the times the Bible says not to be afraid, reminding me that life is a gift, and reminding me to be vigilant to the fact that there’s a very real enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy.

I remember who I was as a child and teenager and young adult. My future seemed so bright and promising. I feel like I ruined the life of that child who worked so hard for good grades, who fought so hard to be a good person, who tirelessly chased after a future she believed in. And what for? So that depression could grab me around the ankles and pull me to the ground? So that in my fight to stay alive, that’s all I’d be able to accomplish- my heart would keep beating but all the good I’d worked for would come crashing down? So that I could choose to walk in sin just to make the pain temporarily lessen, only to now have my back against a wall? To be buried in debt, to have no family, to see no way out?

I never, in a million years, would’ve thought this is who I’d be at thirty. I wanted so much more for myself. I feel like I ruined my life.

But how I feel doesn’t determine what is true. The truth is, God redeems.

God doesn’t have a plan B. None of this comes as a surprise to Him. The good He has spoken over my life, the promises and plans to prosper me, they are STILL IN PROCESS. Hallelujah.

He sees a way through where I do not. And He is good. And I am going to stake all of my hope, my entire life, every single breath in my lungs, on that. He is good. Because the second I take my eyes off of Him, I will drown.

I am Peter, walking on waves.

And I can’t control the storm, but I can control what I choose to fix my attention on.

Praying for rescue, praying for deliverance, praying for protection, praying for miracles. Choosing trust. One breath at a time.

And in the meantime, I’m keeping my eyes open. Because while I wait for God to answer the big prayers, I don’t want to miss the ways He’s showing up in my daily life. Every single day, He shows me He’s with me.

I don’t know how anything will ever be okay again. But I know I’m not alone.

  • In the ability to rise above the depression enough to get up early this morning and take Arlow to the vet for his annual checkup.
  • In the gift of getting to weigh Arlow at the vet today and finding out my boy is a healthy, lean 108 lbs.
  • In TV shows that make me laugh.
  • In text message reminders from friends who encourage me to keep my eyes on God, even when my thoughts rage and my feelings overwhelm.
  • In Madison’s ability to come over and stay the night tonight when I really needed to not be alone.
  • In the flicker of life I felt tonight, while I made hot chocolate for Madison and the kids and outside the rain poured and lightening flashed.
  • In the way Arlow rests his head on me.

“We are not subject to the same chance and fate of every other human being on earth. We have been transferred from the kingdom of fear, luck, self-effort, and darkness into the kingdom of light.” -Judah Smith

Holding Hands. And Not.

​When I told her I lost my job, I was sobbing in the grass at a park in Mississippi. “Redefine this whole thing,” she said. “Your future isn’t scary, IT’S WIDE FUCKING OPEN.”

And when I was driving for 100 years through South Dakota, when I was certain I’d never get home, she said, “You are strong. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Breathe.”

And these are the things that I hold on to now. My path isn’t straight. My head and heart are just as tangled. But I grasp at those words and I hold on. I use them to buoy me, to keep my head above water.

I feel like I’m treading water and I’m tired. I am scrambling with my feet and toes, reaching down as deep as I can, trying to find the ocean floor. But I can’t find it. All that’s below me is water. And I’m tired. I don’t know if I can stay afloat.

But those words.

“Redefine.”
“Wide open.”
“Don’t be afraid.”
“Breathe.”

It’s hard to find someone willing to walk a crooked and tangled path with you, especially when they are able to see a path that is straighter and more direct.

It’s hard to find someone to take your hand and say, “This isn’t the path I would’ve chosen, and I’m not sure it’s necessarily even the best or most logical one, but I’m here for you, every step of the way.”

It’s hard to find someone who is willing to set aside their own view of life–their various “should’s”–and make room to respect this path you’ve chosen, (or the path that’s chosen you), even if they don’t understand.

It’s hard to find someone who can simultaneously not understand and still have respect for you, rather than slap a label on you that boils down to “defective” or “wrong.”

And what I’ve found over the last few weeks is that, while there might not be anyone willing to grab tight to my hand and journey with me through the mess and muck, the mystery and the marvel, there are people who pop in along the path, offering words I need to hear, hugs I need to receive, the willingness to continue answering their phone when I call.

And, while I ache for a hand to hold, I’m willing to concede that maybe this is good. Maybe this is just the section of the path I’m walking- a section designed to force me to learn that people can’t save me, that they’ll always let me down, and that my salvation is up God and I alone.

And how do you learn that lesson without growing bitter? How do you realize that there’s no one willing to hold your hand without feeling alone? I don’t know.

It’s lonely, and it hurts, and every single second I have to choose whether to continue to love people, or whether to push them and their negative opinions of me away.

And that’s where my crooked path diverges, over and over again. “Are you going to keep your heart open? Are you going to choose hope and life?” it asks.

And I’m angry, and I feel misunderstood, and everything is so tangled already that it’s hard to figure out what is real, where I rank with the ones I love. What’s safe and secure and stable.

But that’s not the question being posed to me in those moments. The question isn’t: “What’s real?” The question is: “How are you going to choose to posture your heart?”

And always, always I want to choose a heart that’s open to the life before me, and a heart that’s on its knees in surrender to God. Come what may.

My path is crooked.
But my future is wide open.

Living Into The Questions

“[The world is] so beautiful and complex and painful that sometimes you just need   to sit down and write about it.”

*

A lady at the dog park made me cry today.

Arlow jumped on her. But in his defense, he didn’t until her dog jumped on her.

“You need to get control of your dog!” she said to me.

And I thought, “Yeah. I need to get control of a lot.”

*

I am trying to embrace the fact that I am a person. I am trying to honor my heart and who God made me to be. I am trying to stand tall and firm in my own body rather than grasping and begging for other people to validate me and fill me up.

My friend, Erika, and I talked today about how I’m an empath. How I basically go through the world without any skin- feeling everything so deeply.

And she talked about how it’s important that I take care of myself, that I put up boundaries so that the world doesn’t overwhelm me.

I never really thought about that before, about being uniquely wired to be sensitive, about needing to take care of that truth about me, to honor this quality rather than shame myself for it, to give room for my heart to tell me what it needs.

*

We also talked about why I can’t hold love; why I am empty of love almost the second someone says, “Yes, I love you.”

She said that’s a foundational problem because all of the world is, at its core, about love.

She said to be aware of that, of my inability to hold love. To try to live into the question, to try to open myself up to finding healing for whatever part of me in wounded in that way.

*

“Is life worth it?” I asked her at one point. “I just need to know that life is worth it.”

In response, she said something then that I’ve heard before: “That’s black or white thinking.”

She said some days life is worth it, some days it’s not.

She said, “Welcome the tension, because if you don’t, you’re fighting a battle you don’t need to fight. Allow pain to find a home in you without trying to make yourself be somewhere else. Be present with it. And then you’ll discover you’re able to move on.”

*

I don’t know how my story is going to end. I don’t know what happens next.

But I know there’s grace for me in this season.

So many people are pouring love into me.

I’m so blessed.

And still, I hurt.

*

“The funny thing about writing is that more often than not, you write your own way into truth.”

In Every Moment

“I just think that there’s meaning in everything,” my client said a couple weeks ago. “I think God is in everything and that our days matter so much more than we could ever understand.”

Sometimes my clients help me.

Sometimes they don’t. Another client of mine has told me two times in a row that I look crazy.

Her insight is unnerving.

*

I cried at the doggy daycare last week.

I was petting this sweet, little dog with the most gentle eyes, and the woman behind the counter said, “You know, she’s up for adoption.”

And everything in me wanted to take her home and be her mommy.

And I looked at her eyes, so filled with hope and delight at having my attention, and I thought about how she doesn’t have a mommy, and it made me tear up.

Because her tail was wagging and her eyes were gentle but no one loves her the way I love Arlow.

*

How do we stay in this fight?

If I was with God, His love would feel like a hug.

If everything here, everything I love and everything I desire, is just a mere reflection of the goodness that awaits me in heaven, why wouldn’t I want to be there?

Because love chooses well. Love chooses not to abandon people, not to give up on this life that’s a gift. I know that. In my head, I know that.

But inside of me, I’m a child lost at the carnival and everyone around me is laughing and talking and eating cotton candy, and I’m standing there, terrified, with no parent’s legs to grab onto.

And does anyone see? Does anyone see how alone and scared I am? Only Him. Only heaven.

*

Some people think you go to hell if you kill yourself, but I think that’s dumb. It’s professing, in essence, that God’s grace is big enough to cover every sin but one.

Plus, God doesn’t fault us for being sick.

Not to mention, that black and white philosophy leaves so much unanswered. Like what about people who die from an accidental drug overdose? Do they immediately go to hell? Even though they weren’t trying to kill themselves? Even though they might believe in Jesus?

I wonder about my clients sometimes, how a loving God could send to hell a person who can’t possibly believe in Him because they hear cupboards speak to them and think Michael Jackson is preparing a palace for them to live in. How could He fault them for not believing? I don’t think He will.

I don’t think He does.

I watched my client die the other day. I went to deliver her meds, and the next thing I knew, EMTs were trying to get her heart started again.

The only coherent thing she said to me before she died? “I have to say a prayer.”

“You have to say a prayer?” I asked.

And then again, she said, “I have to say a prayer.”

*

My face was pressed against the couch this afternoon. Lies and truths swirling about in my head, fighting for a voice.

And then, I felt God’s gentle urging to just let it be.

“Let the lies and truths coexist for now; it’s not as important to piece them apart as it feels. The real issue at hand is: Who are you?

When it’s just you and the couch, when all your relationships could fall away and it would just be you standing alone, apart from who loves you and who doesn’t, apart from where you belong and where you don’t, apart from what someone thinks of you or if they think of you at all, who are you?”

Yours.

I am Yours, I am Yours, I am Yours.

*

Whenever I need a hug, I watch Narnia.

There’s just something about Aslan. The eyes, the laugh, the roar.

They remind me of home.

*

I don’t know how to do this.

The Heart Of Life

They say “life is hard.”

I think that means something different to me at this season of my life than it used to. When I hear that now, the oxygen gets sucked out of the room. In those words, I hear: “Life is ONLY hard.”

When I tell myself to just accept that life is only hard, the small joys stop mattering to me. Because what the crap does it matter that bees buzz and lilac smells good and beautiful, complicated people walk this planet if life is only hard? I refuse to be placated by nuggets of good if really, at its core, life is just something to get through.

But I don’t believe that. I don’t believe life is just hard. I don’t believe that we’re all just waking up each day in a cloud of depression and drinking ourselves stupid each night just to keep on getting through this unfortunate curse that is being alive.

I believe in magic and hope and laughter and light. I believe in goodness and joy and love. And I believe that all of those things prevail.

I lived most of my thirty years loving life. Truly, delighting in being alive. Back then, the thought that “life is hard” seemed like a given. The thought didn’t cripple me because my desire to be alive was a constant. I could handle the hard because my core belief was that life was worth it.

I still believe that now. I just can’t feel it. I can’t feel that life is worth it.

“Tell me it’s going to be okay,” I said to someone recently. And then, tonight, I said the same thing to my therapist. “I don’t need life to be easy, I just need to be okay. I just need to know that I’m going to be okay and that things will get better. I need to know I won’t always feel this way. Tell me it’s going to be okay.”

I refuse to surrender to the “life is hard” mentality. I refuse to let that become the mantra of my mind, the thing to keep my feet on the ground and my heart subdued when life disappoints or fails to reflect the goodness I believe is inherent in it. Because I think if I just accept that, if I keep telling myself to suck it up and expect life to be hard, then I’ll stop expecting God to show up.

And I refuse to stop expecting God to show up.

I refuse to believe the enemy has more power here than God does.

Today my client and I were driving in silence, and out of nowhere he said: “You’ve just got to endure. Because life is really wonderful.”

“Do you really believe that?” I asked. “Do you feel like life is wonderful?”

“Yes,” he said. “I do.”

I do too.