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.”

Hoping For Holy Fire

Not-rainy mornings in Washington? They are something special.

I can’t do them justice with words or Instagram pictures, so I don’t (and won’t) try.

Instead, I just let my eyes soak up the beauty and wonder and majesty of the sunrise, and mountain, and fog, and clouds, and world still gently cloaked in sleep.

And how all of it proclaims GOD IS.

*

Today at work, (with the help of Pinterest), I made a list of happy things. I tacked it to the bulletin board above my desk where my clients (and I) can see it regularly and be reminded of all there is in this brutiful life to love.

And as I was writing it? I caught myself smiling. I would defy you to read it and not smile as well.

Some of my favorites:

1. Making babies smile.
2. Getting letters in the mail.
3. Looking down at the clouds on an airplane.
4. Friends who are like family.
5. How excited dogs get about everything.
6. Meeting someone with the same birthday as you.
7. Watching someone talk about something they love.
8. Flannels in the winter.
9. Nicknames.
10. Resting your head on someone’s shoulder.
11. 2 a.m. conversations.
12. Making someone laugh.
13. Looking forward to things.
14. “I love you,” “good morning,” “goodnight”.
15. When you can hear a smile in someone’s voice.
16. Sunny rooms.
17. Handmade gifts.
18. Being trusted.
19. Being brave enough to do the right thing.
20. The sound of a crackling fire.

*

I have become that person who sobs in her car, and then walks into the store without checking her face/makeup in a mirror first.

And then I buy myself flowers.

I am also the person who pulled my car over illegally the other day to ask a man in a wheelchair holding a sign if I could do anything for him. Food? Money? Warmth? “No,” he said. “I just need a job.”

Guys, he didn’t want anything but work. He was old and had no legs and no teeth and no home and he was dirty and it was cold, and if ever there was a person who had the right to give up, it was him. But he wasn’t giving up. He wanted to work.

It made the back of my eyes sting with tears. I apologized, sincerely, that I couldn’t provide work for him. And he looked at me with tired eyes and said, “It’s okay. God bless.”

And I returned the blessing. “God bless you, too,” I said. And I meant it.

And I had stopped for him, but I think the real gift in my stopping ended up being for me.

And there I was, in my warm car, with my green tea latte, driving back to work. So blessed. And still I had reasons to cry.

And I felt the warm hand of Jesus tip my chin upward to look Him in the eyes. And He smiled. And that was enough.

It’s enough to look like Him.

And maybe the sadness is, in some ways, a gift. It’s my tender-heartedness, after all, that led me to stop and talk with the man in the wheelchair.

And if I could wish my sadness away, I would. But not if that would mean trading in my tender heart, which I pray is coming to look more and more like Jesus’.

My eyes are on Him. He smiles down at me. And it’s okay. The sadness is okay. Because in His eyes, I see that I am held.

*

At church the other day, Pastor Billy was praying that the kids of our congregation would come to love Jesus- more than television, more than video games.

And I don’t think the problem is the video games. Or the children.

My foolishly bold (and undoubtedly unfair) complaint is with Jesus.

Because if only He was more real to us—if only our seeking paid off in a way that we could perceive—there’s no question in my mind that children (and adults!) would prefer Him to all other things.

And I know there’s this “walk by faith” thing, and that’s an important part of this life. But also, it feels like rejection and abandonment and it feels lonely, when you fall to your knees and come to Him and wait and wait and wait. And your heart grows heavier with every passing moment instead of lighter because WHERE IS HE?

And then, when my heart can’t handle it anymore and I feel defeated by the silence all around me and the heaviness within me–the desperation for Him that seemed to go unmet–I turn on the TV. And I laugh. And I don’t feel so alone because there are other voices filling the air and it’s not just me and my thoughts and my wanting and the silence.

And I know He promises we WILL find if we seek… AND KEEP ON SEEKING.

So I will. I will keep on.

But I’m just saying, I don’t blame kids.

It’s painful to go to Him and hope He’ll meet you, but silently fear you’ll leave feeling even more alone.

We need Him to be more real to us.

And I HAVE to believe that’s possible. Somehow, some way.

And so yes, I pray our kids will love the Lord above all else, but I also pray for that- that His presence will descend on us in a way that we can’t deny, and that our hunger for more and more of Him will make everything else lose at least some of its appeal.

*

I’m desperate for Him, and so I call everything a reflection of Him. I embrace it all.

I believe that God is in the bird flying overhead, and the cool fresh breeze of late autumn, and sound of salt crunching against pavement underneath my feet.
And color and yellow.
And getting inside a warm car, the heat taking the cold out of your limbs with a shiver.
And He’s in frosty windshields and blue skis and even the ability to cry.
He’s in dust particles floating across sunlight, and the smell of snow, and the way the bare trees look orange as the sun sets.

He has to be in those things. Because if He’s not there, if He’s not in those simple, everyday, often over-looked things, where is He?

And it’s beautiful and it’s wonderful, and it’s probably even more beautiful and wonderful than I even realize because it’s all I’ve ever known, so I take it for granted. I need fresh, child-like eyes with which to view the wonders this world has to offer- all of which are marked with His fingerprints.

And yet, even still, if He’s ONLY there–in the smile of a baby and the sound of the wind blowing through grass and the warm, comforting hand of someone you love–how is that the fulfillment of the promise that we will find Him when we seek Him?

It doesn’t make sense that there’s not more.

I want fire from heaven.
Wind that’s alive.
Thunder that carries his voice.
A dove to land on my shoulder.
Waves to cease at the mention of His name.
I want His presence to fall like rain, saturating us all.
I want His face to be bright in my mind and painted on the inside of my eyelids when I close my eyes.
I want my heart to be unmistakably, inexplicably His.
I want the truth that I carry the Holy Spirit within me to feel heavy with significance and purpose, and light with joy and hope.
I want to talk to Him as though we were face-to-face.
I want to feel His arms around me.

And still, as mere human, I have to accept that He knows how to be More Than Enough. Even if it doesn’t look the way I wish it would.

But I’m still going to hope for fire and things so impossible that they have to be holy.

*

I think one of the reasons movies are so deeply impacting to us is that they tell a story in which everything the characters feel and think and experience MATTERS. And that resonates with us, because how much of our lives do we feel like nothing about our hearts and lives really matter?

And not only that–the inarguable truth of the value of the characters’ lives and depths of their hearts–but also, in the end you are (usually) left with a heart-warming, life-affirming sense that it’s all going to be okay.

*

I texted Pauline yesterday afternoon.

I told her that it seems the happier I get, the more content I get with this life, the sadder I get as well. And I said I don’t understand how that’s possible and I’m so frustrated by my inability to just simply love life.

And I posted on Instagram:

“Today I am pondering how happiness and sadness can coexist- how often the happier I feel, the more there is this bubbling threat of tears within me. And I don’t understand it. But I try to welcome it- be gentle and patient with my tender heart.

And sometimes I wonder if what I call sadness is actually something else. Because my brain doesn’t have words for the sadness, and tears can result from many things. Gratitude, for instance. A heart that is reawakening and slowly, timidly coming back to life. Hearing someone say the words you didn’t even know you needed to hear until they’re spoken- hanging there in the air, while your cheeks turn red with the effort to keep tears from spilling from your eyes.

I don’t know what this is- this hope and joy and love and sadness(?). Belonging? Longing? A prayer?

And it’s days like this the child in me wants to reach out to those I love and remind them every hour ‘I love you, I love you, I love you’. Because the words–the truth of them, having someone to say them to–it’s like a hug. And tender, tear-filled hearts need that.

And also, burning within me–teary and holy and shouting ‘hallelujah!’–is this: I am living out, in my life and in my heart, the proof that Light drives out darkness. And He is coming.

And I’m young and fragile and scared. And His.

And it’s more hard and lovely and awe-inspiring and beautiful than words can say.

And so I cry.”

Oh, Jesus… Hold my heart…

I can’t do anything.

But You can do all things.

*

I thought this was beautiful.

*

Be well, friends.

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.

Redecorating

“Empathy isn’t just remembering to say that must be really hard—it’s figuring out how to bring difficulty into the light so it can be seen at all. Empathy isn’t just listening, It’s asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination.”

*

I wrote recently (not on this blog, but privately) about how I’ve spent the last few weeks “decorating” my mind- hanging Scripture on the walls, cleaning out lies, brushing away the dust from memories and experiences that need to be processed, turning on lights.

It’s necessary, this interior decorating process I’m undergoing. I need my thoughts to know that it’s okay if they trail away from the things of heaven, that it’s okay if my mind wants to turn over and ponder the things of this world–the circumstances of my life and the contents of my heart–but that those thoughts will have to submit to what is already there. What is True.

If I don’t fill my brain with Truth, if I let myself take in this world through human eyes rather than the eyes of the Lord, I will believe lies. I will fall victim to defeat and hopelessness. That’s just the way it is. We have to be vigilant about what thoughts we allow. We have to remain tender-hearted so that we can quickly be alerted when our hearts are receiving messages from our brain that aren’t scriptural or life-giving.

But when I fill my mind with Truth, I am protected. Because no matter what I think, no matter what I feel, no matter what I experience, my God is bigger and truer than that. And He says not to fear, that He has a good plan for our lives.

And when my mind starts to wonder if so-and-so loves me, when my mind starts to question my worth or value as it tends to do, I remember that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

He would love nothing more than to undermine the good work God is doing in my life. He’d love for me to take inventory of the hurts in my heart and use them as evidence against the God (and people!) who loves me.

And it’s easy to unintentionally give him permission to do just that. The battle really is in our minds. And if we fail to “take captive every thought”, he will come and infect our brains (and eventually our hearts) like a cancer, until we’re so caught up in hopelessness and pain that it’s all we can see- it has become our new reality. We start living from an earthly perspective, forgetting that we are children of the King of kings and that it is our birthright to be victorious and to have life abundant.

God isn’t the author of hopelessness!

Isn’t that incredible news!? No matter what your life looks like, no matter how painful this season currently is, if you have even a hint of hopelessness residing within you, that is a lie from the pit of hell!

And oh, how much easier it is to get through our painful seasons when we have hope!

And so I am decorating my mind with Truth, with the things of heaven. And I am trusting that in doing that, chains will be broken. Freedom will be won.

In Beth Moore’s book, Breaking Free, she says that the reason God doesn’t come with a magic wand to clear away all our sorrows is because we have to undergo a purifying and renewing of the mind. We have to learn to stand firm in Truth and battle against the powers of darkness or else we will continue to live in that cycle of falling victim to despair and hopelessness.

We are called to walk in His power and authority and truth, and we will never learn to do that if He doesn’t force us to, in fact, walk.

And she says that it’s not enough to dispel lies- that unless we replace the lies with Truth, they will just keep coming back.

And the interior decorator in my brain was pleased to hear that  she was on point in her decorating vision. Buy more frames, little interior decorator- we’ve got more scriptures to hang.

*

And now, before signing off, here are some unrelated Links Worth Sharing:

http://thebloggess.com/2015/08/what-the-shit-me

http://hannahbrencher.com/2015/08/25/sam-will-you-go-to-prom-with-me/

*

“This coup the enemy has staged against my heart is not unique to me. Because he’s a thief, he’s probably stealing something from you right now. Check your pockets.”

A “Scrapbook” Post

A “scrapbook” post- random bits and pieces cut and pasted and glued together to create a picture of my life right now.

*

Everything is disjointed. Pixilated. Smoke and fog. Not tangible and real.

The only tangible, real thing right now, the only thing I know that I know that I know, is Scripture.

There’s nothing else to grab tight to. Everything else is a question mark. Real or unreal, a lie or a truth, a blessing or broken, and I don’t know which.

So I hold it up to Scripture, and I realize that so much of what I don’t know doesn’t really matter, because what I do know is that God is good and He has a plan and I don’t have to have all the answers.

I don’t have to turn every possible scenario over in my mind, trying to force it to come together and make sense to me.

I don’t have to attempt to plumb the depths of my loved ones’ minds or analyze their actions.

I don’t have to go through my life with a fine-tooth comb trying to figure out whether or not I really belong anywhere.

All I have to do is breathe and trust, and guard my mind and heart fiercely. Yes, I will stand guard against lies and I will turn those lies away with one word: Jesus.

*

I was watching Eat, Pray, Love the other day and one of the characters in the movie told the main character, Liz, “You have to pick your thoughts like you pick out your clothes each day.”

Admittedly, that’s not a super great analogy for me because I wear leggings and flip-flops as much as possible, but I understood what he was saying. He was saying that our thoughts are as much in our control, and deserve at least as much attention and consideration, as our outfits.

In response to him, Liz said, “I’m trying!”

Yeah! I thought. She’s TRYING! Cut the girl some slack! What do you think she’s doing there, out of her comfort zone, exhausted?! Can’t you see how hard this has been for her?!

But then he put us both in our place, leaving our mouths hanging open with a combination of outrage and an inability to argue with his logic. Because how do you argue with truth? You don’t. You just sit down and shut up, or stand there with your mouth ajar and scowling at the truth-teller’s audacity to truth-tell right to your face when you’re having an emotional moment.

“Stop trying!” he said. “That’s your problem! Stop trying! Surrender! Fall into trust!”

I can’t remember if that’s exactly how their conversation went, word-for-word, but that was the gist of it. And after my mouth closed, I smiled. Because Liz and I, we’re not that different. Maybe she traveled the world chasing after romance and pasta, and I sit at home with my cats and pray for family and love, but we’re both people. We’re both people under the incredibly false illusion that our brokenness can be fixed by trying more or harder or even at all. Because to say that, to say that it just takes effort, is to say we have control over our brokenness. And we don’t. We have no control.

And I marvel at how God can speak to me through a movie that I was only half-watching, how He even loves me enough to speak to me! And how effectively He was able to get my attention, saying as the scene in the movie progressed, “THIS IS FOR YOU. Put down your book and your tea and pay attention for a minute.”

I’ve said that a lot over the past few months: “I’m trying.” “I’ve tried so hard.” And maybe that’s been my problem all along. Maybe what I was trying so hard to do was FIX, when what I should’ve been trying to do was surrender, trust, accept that this is the way things are right now. Sit with the pain of it and allow God to give me eyes of gratitude and hope and joy in the midst of heart-heaviness.

I was trying the wrong thing. I was trying to take control when what the Lord wanted of me was to put the control back in His hands and rest in the knowledge that He is good even when I’m struggling to look at my life and call it good.

*

“I bring You my heart, I bring you my praise
I bring You my broken dreams I’ve lost along the way
I lift up my voice, I lift up my hands
I lift up the moments in my life that I don’t understand
And I lay it at the cross where I’m surrounded by Your grace
And I marvel at the wonder of Your love
And I stand amazed, I stand in awe
And I stand forgiven in the midst of it all
Before You I bow, before You I fall
Blessed Redeemer, Sweet Savior of all
You are my shelter, You are my King
You are the risen Son of God, the Lord of everything.”

*

I watched Toy Story 3 the other day too.

I related to the toys in a whole new way than I would’ve a month or two ago. I was emotionally invested.

Lotso? He’s the staff at the various facilities I’ve been to as of late. He’s pink and cuddly and smells like strawberries, and everyone thinks he’s so nice and helpful and such a good leader, but he’s not.

Buzz on demo mode? He’s my friends. Suddenly I didn’t recognize them, and they’d have said the same thing about me.

I watched, eyes peeled, desperate to see how this was all going to turn out for them–for us. It was OUR battle. Our shared battle. Separate, but parallel. I related. I knew how it felt to have the doors locked, to be misunderstood. To be entrusted to Lotso by the friends who you no longer know how to relate to. I know the terror of having no options or control or escape.

When I was in treatment, the only thing apart from my Bible that gave me even the slightest relief from my inability to breathe–(just typing that, remembering what it was like, is making my body feel tense and hot; it was truly the most terrible experience of my life)–was looking outside. I’d sit on the windowsill and watch people go to work and I was SO jealous. And also so comforted. It reminded me that there was a life out there, that there was fresh air and freedom and that even if I was trapped and panicked, there was more to life than what I was currently experiencing.

And I thought about how my life, with its various sorrows and disappointments, was SO much better than I had ever given it credit for. Being locked up with Lotso and not knowing if Buzz would ever look me in the eyes again with love and respect and recognition and hug me, that was excruciating. It made me fiercely miss everything I had been so desperate to run away from just days prior.

In the movie, Mr. Potato Head has a similar change of perspective. “You know all the bad stuff I said about having to live in Andy’s attic?” he asks. “I take it all back.”

Me too, Mr. PH. Me too.

*

“I felt like I was spinning.
Didn’t know what was up from down.
I tried to fix what I had broken.
It was scattered all around.
It seems that every time I try walking by myself,
I end up on my face with nowhere else to go.
So I surrender all my ways.
Take all of these impurities.
I’m giving you this wretched soul.
I’m giving you these insecurities…
Giving you all control.
I’d set myself up for the lies that this world satisfies,
But you’re all that I need.
And I have peace inside
So keep tearing out all of my pride.
I’m taking all my fears and layin’ em at your feet now.
I’m resting in the fact that everything is safe now,
When I let go of all the things I know will fade out.
Every word that you have said I know I’ll never doubt.
Purify this tainted soul
I’m tired of living life a fool
Soften up this heart in clay
To be a servant this I pray
A reflection of You I long to be
So Your kingdom I will see
I Surrender to Your throne
And I will make my heart Your home
Oh I Surrender to Your throne.”

*

I love Glennon. I love that she gives people permission to be a mess. She assigns meaning to the messiness, and purpose to our pain. And she helps me believe in a person’s ability to triumph.

Click!

*

I had a dream the other night that I had moved into a new house with my mom. She was still alive. It was just the two of us in my dream. We were walking through the house together, looking at all the rooms and nooks and crannies. The house, I realize now that I’m awake, was a bigger version of my childhood home.

My dream self was excited because the house had so many windows. I kept saying that in my dream how I loved all the windows. The house was flooded with sunlight. I just kept going from window to window to see what view they each provided and reporting back to Mom.

In dreams, looking out a window is representative of looking to the future.

“To dream of looking out a window represents insight into what’s happening or your outlook for the future. Seeing ahead or what you feel is going to happen. It may also reflect your hopes for what is about to come.”

Yes. That. Hope. I have hope. And it’s such a miracle. It makes me want to giggle just thinking about how incredible it is that the Lord has fostered a hope in me that I was lacking for so long.

I have hope and I want to laugh. And what’s even more striking about all of this, this unshakable hope and joy that only the Lord can provide, is that I was just crying. Sobbing. Heartbroken over something in my life unrelated to this post.

But now here I am, smiling about the hope I have.

And it’s beautiful. It’s so beautiful that we can cry AND laugh.

We can grieve AND hope.

*

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” -James 1:2-4

I had never read The Message version of that verse before, and this line stood out to me: “Don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.”

How much in my life have I done just that? With any negative emotion, with any painful experience, I tried to fix it. I tried to make it better, make it go away.

Above I talked about how hard I’d tried for so long, and how I had been trying the wrong thing. I had been trying to fix instead of trying to trust.

And isn’t that exactly what this Scripture is cautioning against? Of course if you CAN fix something, that’s great, do it! But if you can’t? And so, in response you decide instead to just take matters into your own hands, looking for other ways to make it not hurt? Denial or drugs or working long hours or drinking large quantities of booze? Well, what this Scripture is saying is that if you try to escape the pain, you are also escaping the lesson. And the pain doesn’t really go away. Rather, you only create for yourself even more pain.

I am learning to sit with pain instead of panic about it and do whatever I can to make it go away. I can’t even begin to tell you how hard that lesson has been for me.

But the more I let myself feel my pain? The more I can also feel joy.

And the more I trust in the Lord? The more I stop trying so hard and just rest? The less my pain scares me.

Nothing is bigger than my Jesus. Nothing.

*

I liked this blog. Wanted to share.

*

Goodnight. 🙂

Questions And Answers

Sometimes I feel like my list of what I don’t know is so much longer than my list of what I do know. Maybe there’s power in accepting that to be true, not just for me, but for anyone alive. Maybe it’s when we think we have things figured out that we end up in trouble.

I’m trying to stay in the moment. Amidst this season of not knowing, I am trying to soak up what I do know–what is good–and hand the rest to God under the assurance that He sees hope where I see question marks.

And He keeps in perfect peace those whose minds are focused on Him.

Anything that tries to rob me of my peace right now, I hand to my Jesus. I’ll do the hard stuff- I’ll do the work, learn the lessons, and grow. But I can do all of that, I can hurt and cry, without having it rob me of my peace or my hope. As long as I keep giving it to Him and as long as, when I close my eyes, I allow myself to picture His face and not my perceived (or actual) problems.

Jesus is with me
and I’m His child
and He knows what He’s doing.

I don’t have to give in to fear or despair or panic because no matter what comes my way, no matter what consequences I might have to endure, I won’t be doing it on my own. I can trust all of my question marks with the God who loves me.

*

There’s a lot that isn’t marred by consequences right now, too. There’s a lot that is just GOOD. (Praise Jesus!)

When someone hugs me or laughs with me, I don’t question it. I don’t wonder what they’re thinking or try to evaluate the fragility of the good thing before me. I just embrace it. I hug back. I let the laughter cause me to throw my head back. And I thank the Lord that, even though there’s a lot that is broken, that isn’t.

Tonight I played on a playground. I got dizzy on a spinning toy and played on swings and went down slides, and when the sprinklers came on, I ran through them laughing for at least a half an hour until I collapsed, soaking wet, on the grass. There’s a lot I don’t know, but I know that God watched me play tonight and he was smiling. Not everything is broken. The Lord is sustaining me.

Life is a gift.

*

I keep having nightmares. I think my subconscious is trying to process the trauma and tragedy (and miracles!) of the past month.

I had a dream I was in Sudan and the military was storming into the building where I was hiding because they were going to shoot anyone who was white. I was laying face-down on the ground with Sudanese people and I was praying for a miracle. I was praying my life would be spared. And I felt the boot of a military man step on my back, and I knew any second he was going to shoot me, and I pivoted. In a last-ditch effort to stay alive, I moved to face him and beg him not to shoot me. And I woke up mid-pivot. I woke up flinging myself from my stomach to my back and begging for my life.

I also had a dream I was in Hawaii and I really wanted to swim. The water was blue and warm and I was dying to jump in, but I was scared of sharks. Everyone was assuring me that I’d be fine, that people swim in Hawaii all the time without getting attacked by sharks, but I was too scared. And I felt so frustrated with myself because I had this opportunity presented to me to do something fun–something life-giving–and I was too scared of what could go wrong.

And I dreamed I was somewhere, I don’t know where, but I think I was with people from church, and the floor kept giving out. The foundation of the place where we were was precarious, and you couldn’t tell if where you were about to step would be solid or if it would collapse beneath you and threaten to pull you down into the murky water below. Everyone else seemed to know where to step, but I didn’t, and so I was asking for help. They knew better than I how to navigate the unstable floor, and even as the building continued to fall down and crumble around us, they didn’t panic. I had no choice but to surrender and let them help guide me to a place of safety. I just had to step and hope.

*

I am standing firm in truth.

I am embracing (out of necessity) humility.

And I am surrendering (also out of necessity) all to God.

I am done trying to force my life and relationships look or feel a certain way. I am breathing through the hard stuff and finding that surrender brings peace. When I surrender what I cannot control (and accept that I cannot control it!) to our loving God, I can let go of trying to force things to be different from what they are.

God has a good plan. I don’t have to be afraid.

I am still Someone’s child.

And so, rather than trying to control things and battle the inevitable resulting panic, I am making obedience my focus instead. I will stand firm in truth. That I CAN do.

And I will leave the healing and heart-work to God.

It’s all so hard. But at least my focus is finally right- not on trying to fix things (myself, relationships, my life) that are beyond my ability to fix, but on loving the Lord and taking Him at His Word.

*

I had another dream. I was writing on a whiteboard for a class, writing the numbers 1 through 10 in preparing to make a list. I was going to survey the class and ask them to volunteer what God’s been doing in their lives. The first thing I wrote, however, which isn’t really even an answer to the question I was supposed to be asking, was “receive”.

I woke up after writing that on the board, and I suspect that was God’s message to me. Receive.

He has so much He wants to do, I just have to be willing to receive, to walk this through, even when it’s hard, and to trust that He sees more than I do- He sees the good that will come from all of the pain. He can use this for good in my life, and maybe even in the lives of the people I’ve hurt. That is my prayer.

Lord, prepare my heart to hear from You. Help me to obey. Help me to receive whatever you have for me.

*

This week I keep hearing and reading that freedom in our lives is tied to giving God proper authority. Where God reigns in our lives, we can claim freedom. I want to allow, once again, God to to be Lord of every area of my life.

*

A quote:

“‘How do  you see me, God?’ isn’t a question we really need to ask when the world treats us as we feel we deserve.”

Everything that’s broken? It’s forcing me to run to God. To get His opinion. To let Him hold me. To accept His loving guidance.

I’m actually grateful for that.

I’m sad for the brokenness, but grateful for how the Lord is using it.

*

I’m so, so grateful for all the things that aren’t broken. They scream to me that God is big and He loves me, and He desires to give me good gifts even when I’ve really, really messed up.

Everything that’s still in tact, everything that is effortlessly good, it’s a miracle. A hug from the Father who loves me fiercely and is going to see me through this.

I am thankful for:
Being home.
My church.
Love- even “tough love”.
That God will never, ever leave me.
The ability to learn.
The ability to cry.
My pets.
Children.
Hugs.
Glennon.
A job, a house, and a car. And wifi. 😉
That my needs are met.
That I don’t have to hold anything together.
Laughter.

*

Also, this blog post is beautiful. (Click!)

Lord, Give Me Eyes To See. (A Quote)

“I kept waiting for God to come in strength and power. I kept staring at the doors that had slammed closed, willing Him to walk through one of them. And then I read that line from the story of Noah: ‘And the LORD shut him in [the ark].’ (Gen 7:16) I don’t know how many times I had read it without seeing it. I don’t know how many times the driving rain had shifted my attention from the hand of God.

I thought that I was building a boat. It turns out I was building an ark. I had anticipated an exciting destination. God had anticipated the storm. I had expected direction and purpose. God had planned preservation and rest.

When the doors slammed shut, and the waters started rising, I looked around that dimly lit ark, and I wondered where in the world my God had gone. But it was the LORD who shut Noah in the ark.

Sometimes God’s protection isn’t ‘pretty’. Noah’s certainly wasn’t. His was filled with the chaos of every kind of animal. His was tossed upon a raging sea that had consumed all evidence of land. With every creak of the wooden vessel, they probably wondered if the water would engulf it. They probably got seasick. They probably got sick of each other. They probably wondered if it would ever end.

Haven’t we all?
I did.

I wore myself out banging on the door of my ark. Then I dropped to my knees and cried for rescue. And then I just lay there. Exhausted. Disillusioned. More than a little confused. Until I whispered my confession: That I didn’t know where God was. That I didn’t know where I was. Then I saw it, the faintest impression of the hand of God upon the sealed-shut door. And I knew, in a place much deeper than my mind, that I had been tucked away in what felt like isolation, protected by what felt like obscurity, and all the while, my faithful God had been working hard on my behalf.

He hems us in, and we balk as we lose the illusion of control. The ark is not always clean. His protection is not always pretty. Sometimes the rain destroys all that was familiar. Sometimes the ark feels more like a prison. Sometimes the days are long and dreary. Sometimes the flood keeps tossing us upon the waves long after the storm has stopped. Finally, we lie down or cry out or look up, and we find hope where we did not expect it. We find God right there where we thought He had left us.”

(Quote from here.)