Safe In The Savior’s Arms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

*

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

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

I can’t change it.

So I’m writing.

And I’m crying.

And there’s worship music playing.

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

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

And it’s excruciating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

Surrender.

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

But also not alone.

*

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

I will not die.

God is working.

And it’s going to be so, so good.

Pain and Beauty

I don’t know what to do but stand under heaven, arms spread wide, and be.

Be. “You are God and I am man.”

Be. “Help me, help me, help me.”

If sorrow was liquid, if grief was a substance that could be seen and felt, I’d be drowning.

And someone would help me. “She needs help,” they’d say. And it wouldn’t be an accusation or criticism, it would be a call to draw near. To reach out.

But you can’t see emotional pain, and therefore it seems to hold less weight in this life. And rather than draw nearer, people use it as a reason to keep you at a distance. Like if you’re hurting so much you can barely breathe, it’s because there’s something wrong with you, something wrong with your faith or brain, and not something wrong with the life you’ve lived.

Because people live through worse things. And they survive. Right? So, if I’m struggling to survive and I have a roof over my head and a job I love and a church that feels like home, that means there’s something wrong with me. Right? Some weakness or flaw in brain chemistry?

But when I stand under heaven, I know I’m not being judged. God gets it. My pain is real- maybe even more real than what can be seen. After all, aren’t the realest things invisible to us? Like God Himself? And love? And faith?

*

She called, sobbing. “I can’t understand you, hun. Where are you? Tell me where you are. I’m coming right now,” I said. The ‘hun’ just slipped out. I don’t usually refer to my clients that way, but it was my natural response to her pain- to call her by a word that would hopefully feel like a hug, even through the phone.

And someone else today, coming by my office to say that she’s trying to get pregnant again after losing her first baby. Her eyes teared up. “It’s so good to see you,” she said.

And I can see the beauty in both of these stories. The screaming pain of the first person, who called and let herself be nothing more than incoherent sobs on the other end of the phone, but who reached out anyway. Who let herself be buoyed by “hun” and “I’m coming right now. Just tell me where you are.”

And the trying again of the second person. The tentative hope reaching through the tragedy of a baby lost.

And I keep saying “hope, hope, hope” to my life. And I feel like life keeps responding with loss and disappointment. And I am somehow both the screaming pain of the first person and the trying again of the second. And I’m the one who comes when called, who reaches out through the pain with eyes that care and a touch that reassures them they aren’t alone.

And it doesn’t feel beautiful, this story I’m living. It feels like pain. But I suspect that isn’t how God sees it. I suspect He looks at me, His beloved daughter who refuses to give up on His goodness, even when she can’t bring herself to choose life, and He smiles a compassionate, proud smile. Because He loves me even when I fail daily, and He knows how desperate I am to know and love Him more- and is there any greater worship than that? To stand beneath heaven and beg, “Teach me how You are better than all the things my heart thinks it needs.”?

*

This is why I write- not to make sense of the nonsensical, but to make it matter.

It makes it easier to endure if it matters.

When I write, it matters that the sky is gray, and that you cried yourself to sleep last night, and that your car smells like citrus because you dropped an orange peel and now it’s lost somewhere beneath the driver’s seat.

And also, writing seeks out the beauty in the mess and highlights it.

It makes it feel like these lives were living are significant. Every single moment of them.

And Now I Shall Ramble

I don’t know how to make sense of it all.

I don’t know how to say words that will be received with empathy and understanding, and not used against me as evidence that I am mentally unwell.

I’ve put so much effort into trying to handle things well. How is it that, in spite of my best efforts, I am coming off looking so bad? How am I smack dab in the middle of a situation that should never have included me in the first place.

And whenever I try to advocate for myself, it gets to twisted. I’m told I’m mind-reading or not thinking clearly or that my past and trauma are blinding me. And how do I respond to that? How do I argue with that? I can’t. Anything I say will just be used as fuel to support their argument that I’m irrational and unstable and need professional help. And it hurts. It really, really hurts.

Guys, I am an INFJ. We are intuitive. Do I think that sometimes I let my trauma and past experience influence how I perceive things? Sure. But sometimes I think what people call mind-reading is actually me being able to perceive things. And it’s infuriating. It’s so, so maddening to just KNOW something and have people look at me like I’m crazy and impossible to reason with.

*

I don’t understand.

How can one day feel so full of love, and the next so full of conversations about all the ways I am not living up to people’s expectations?

So much feels fragile. So based on my performance. So “I will withdraw if you don’t do x, y, z…”

I feel like, no matter what I do, that possibility hangs heavy in the air. It’s like a sword in the holster on their hip that can be withdrawn it at any moment.

*

I am working so hard to seek God’s heart and thoughts and will for my life through all this- putting my own emotions aside.

And the every single day takes incredible energy and requires intense spiritual warfare. How can anyone say, “I disagree. I don’t think you are trying that hard.”

I’m alive. How does that not count for anything?

I cut unhealthy ties with my family this year. I lost my nieces and nephew.

I lost other people too. Lots of them. They walked away from me. They didn’t tell me happy birthday, clearly conveying to me that my life doesn’t matter to them anymore, these people who once professed to love me unconditionally and forever.

I’m alone in so many ways. Tamara, Party Of One.

BUT I’M HERE.

I am here. And daily, even on my hardest days, I catch myself laughing and thanking God for the good.

I am here and I am grieving, but I am not stuck. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I am determined to keep moving forward, eyes on Jesus.

*

I don’t expect people to understand. It’s lonely to feel misunderstood, but I can’t expect my heart to always make sense to others.

I know that God has built me this way. And it isn’t a flaw. Some of it is trauma, and some of it is the softness and desires He’s woven into my heart.

And I won’t hold tight to the ache within me and demand it be filled the way I see fit, “or I don’t want anything at all!”

Trusting means accepting the today and surrendering to the future God has for me, however it looks. And knowing the future is good. Even when it doesn’t’ always feel good, it is. I don’t have to look forward with fear or sorrow. I can look forward with joy and hope.

And yet, I know God understands my grieving, the screaming ache of my heart. And I know He says, “Yes, child. It’s right to hurt over this.”

*

I can look at someone’s actions and say, “That hurts.” But I have to be careful not to follow that destructive rabbit trail.

I can know it hurts, but I can’t know that it means they don’t care or that they don’t love me or that I’m not important to them.

I can know what I know, but I have to be careful not to assign meaning to it.

*

I am tired of suffering. I am tired.

But He woke me this morning for a reason. My eyes are open, my heart beating, my lungs taking in breath.

And it’s not a mistake.

I am not being propelled forward by my body- my heart, ticking along until it tires and I go home. My body isn’t calling the shots. I am not here, passing time without meaning or purpose.

My body isn’t the boss- my God is.

It is He who sustains my beating heart, it is not the internal clock within me, set to expire at a certain date and time determined at the time my cells all came together to form a living, breathing person.

I am here, in this time, in this place, for a reason.

And I will believe that.

I will trust Him.

*

“Get therapy,” they say.

That isn’t helpful. I know enough to monitor my heart and mind and ask God if I am okay (or okay enough) right now or not, if it’s time to jump back into therapy or time to sit back and soak up His presence and let Him do the hard work in me that I know He’s doing.

But they say I need therapy.

And what I need them to say is, “What you’re feeling is exactly what you should be feeling. Let me stand beside you while you grieve. You are not broken. You are not ill. You are okay and you are going to be okay and I am here.”

*

I will hold on to Him. His promises. His kind eyes. His loving touch. His gentle smile.

I will hold on even when I close my eyes and I can’t see, even when the only one wrapping their arms around me is me.

I will hold on even when words and promises and hope and truth feels slippery and elusive and maybe even mythical. Because–thank God–His promises and truths don’t change, regardless of what I feel.

And so I won’t spend time in my brain, trying to untangle the mess of it all so that I can feed my heart with words that hurt less.

I won’t write my own story in my head, putting periods and “the ends” where God would say, “Shhh, child. I’m the author. And this isn’t the end.”

He’s in the middle of a sentence. He’s scripting a comma followed by “and then”, but I’m taking out my red pen and scribbling periods in places where He never intended there to be a period.

He’s patient with me, though. My red pen doesn’t call the shots any more than my beating heart does.

*

I feel like the losses haven’t stopped in years. I hope and I praise Him for the good and then it fades away like smoke, or crumbles like stone, or stands tall and proud while I crumble from its neglect or abandonment or rejection.

And always, I end up standing alone.

But I keep showing up. I keep hoping. I keep finding things to love about this life I’ve been gifted.

I am ALWAYS doing the hard thing, the scary thing.

How could someone accuse me of not trying?

Not being obedient to God isn’t an option. I have to obey because where can I find life apart from Him?

*

I hurt.

A lot.

But I won’t give up.

I won’t isolate. I won’t stop smiling at people and making conversations and showing up.

I won’t grow angry. I won’t harbor judgment or criticism or think I have it all figured out. I won’t condemn people’s hearts or try to jump into their brains.

I won’t shut my heart down. I won’t label myself as unloved. I won’t say they don’t love me.

I won’t give up on the screaming ache within me for family and belonging.

I need Him. I need Him fiercely. I need Him to hold me and I need Him to act. And my shutting my heart down will only make His job harder. So I will keep it open. I will breathe and trust and hope and believe. I will not deaden my emotions. I will pray, “Lord, I will stand. I will choose to be fully alive.”

I will cry. I will grieve.

And I will believe it won’t last forever. Somehow. Somehow joy is coming.

And regardless–in both the mourning and rejoicing, the desert and the mountaintop, the darkness of night and the brilliance of day–I will follow hard after Him.

*

I am under no illusion that He alone is the air I breathe, the One who sustains me, the ultimate comforter and counselor and lover of my heart.

And if I could choose between Him–an experience with Him as real as anything I’ve ever known in this life–and everything else my heart is screaming for, I’d choose Him. Instantly. Without hesitation.

But He designed us to need each other too. Right?

And maybe He isn’t asking me to choose.

Maybe what He has for me really IS better than anything I could ever imagine. I mean, if scripture says it, it has to be true, right? There is no “maybe” about it. And so I’ll let go of what exactly that looks like, but I will smile because IT IS GOING TO BE GOOD.

*

Give me eyes to see, sweet Jesus. Give me ears to hear. Give me a heart that’s open and soft.

Even when it all looks like loss, destruction, devastation, help me to know that You are creating something good.

You don’t tear down and strip away unless there is a greater good in store.

There is something being built.

There is cause to rejoice even in the suffering.

*

There’s always more than one way to tell a story.

How would I tell it if I could see more clearly? If I could set my heart aside and look at the facts alone?

There’s always more than one way to tell a story.

I could tell about how no one said they loved me.
About the grief that I can’t shake.
The exhaustion and heavy eyelids and sluggish brain.
About how work today has been incredibly slow and very few things have gone my way.
I could tell about mysteriously sore shoulder and mysteriously itchy chest.
I could tell about loss.
About fear.
About belonging and being precious and being held- and their opposites.

Or I could tell about the blue sky.
Time spent getting lost in a book.
The homemade bread gifted to me from a coworker.
The words flowing from within me, relieving some of the overwhelming pressure.
The cats and bunny who are going to be happy to see me when I get home, and the turtle who will crane his neck to watch me as I go about my evening.
The Starbucks employee who smiled at me.
The people I showed kindness to, and how amazing it is that God wired us–even in our heartache–to feel glimmers of life and comfort as we try to reflect Him to those around us.
I could tell about the clients who like me.
The sparkly green fingernails that, each time I catch a glimpse of them, remind me of one of the Disney’s princess’ (Ariel’s?) dresses.
I could talk about the hope of being loved in return, even when I don’t feel it or see it.
I could talk about the forever, steady presence of my Creator- even when I don’t feel it or see it.

I could talk about all that threatens to pull me down, makes me want to give up, sob endlessly, all alone, as the sun goes down and the night stretches before me, daunting and empty, and it’s just my tears and breath and my sorrow filling up the air around me.

Or I could talk about what sustains me. The hope that is always present, the good that God promises to be doing, the light that darkness cannot drown out. The nearness of the One who gives breath and tears and oxygen and has set me here with intention, not by accident.

I cry. I grieve.

But I refuse to give up hope. I refuse to give in to fear.

He has a plan.

Hold me. Abba, hold me tight.

I can’t drown if I’m holding Your hand.

29

“Look at yourself, child.”

That was what I heard as I looked at my reflection in the mirror. It was said with love and compassion, but also with finality.

My eyes were almost swollen shut from crying. My nose was running. I looked scared and overwhelmed and exhausted and sorrowful. I hardly recognized my own reflection.

And He, my loving Father, was calling it quits. “That’s enough, beloved,” He said. And then, as gentle and tender as anything I’ve ever heard, “It’s time for bed.”

He stood by, watching with vigilance and love while I sobbed, gasping for breath. He stood by and He felt my pain. And now He was calling me to be done. To rest. To let Him be God over the nighttime, and God over my heart when I awoke again in the morning.

And so I took a deep, hiccup-y breath and went to bed. And everything in me was so heavy and swirly and confused and grief-ridden that I couldn’t even give words to it.

But it was okay because He was taking control of the situation. He was reminding me, in words as loving as a kiss, that I am His child. Precious and beloved, but human. Small and young and needy. And He is God.

How quick we are to forget that we never stop being children. We never stop needing to be parented.

And this Father of mine, in His infinite wisdom and love, was calling it bedtime.

This has been the most painful birthday of my life. It has been excruciating. And even though it hasn’t been void of love, it has also been full of aloneness and sorrow and grieving all that was lost in my 28th year of life.

It has been full of tough love. Of learning and feeling misunderstood and having to humble myself and listen even when everything in me is screaming THIS IS NOT FAIR!

Tears and hugs and disagreements and embarrassment and vulnerability and words–both comforting and painful–spoken in love.

No rose-tinted glasses here. It’s been real and raw.

And important.

A stripping away of so many things.

A necessary acceptance.

Peace where there once was only screaming grief.

And gratitude–a breath-taking reason to say Thank You–for all this last year that wasn’t lost.

My life.

My faith.

The family God is grafting me into.

It’s been a hurricane- a wild swirling of emotions and hard truths and questions and longings. My eyes haven’t known where to focus.

But of course, the only way to survive, is to look up. To focus our eyes on Him.

Oh, God. There’s so much I don’t understand.

But at least I know where to focus my eyes.

And as I was talking to Him last night about my birthday, as I was telling Him how painful it was, I heard:

“I know, daughter. I know. But it has been important.”

I’m starting my 29th year of life off with some really, really hard things laid out before me.

But in all the pain and swirling, God is building a foundation. Stripping away lies and things I have been blind to. Planting my feet firmly on Truth. Forcing me to ask myself, “Do I trust Him?” even when I’m in intense pain. And, in exchange for my unconditional “yes”, giving me a peace that is greater than any of the sorrow.

And I wouldn’t trade this birthday for one that was more full of smiles and warm feelings. I don’t want to live a birthday like this ever again, but I trust the importance of it.

The pain of God undoing what never should’ve been.

The pain of responding to the call to grow.

The pain of a new beginning- a beginning that “just so happens” (I’m looking at you, God 😉 ) to coincide with the beginning of my 29th year of life.

And I believe, with my whole heart, that is it going to be good, this year.

Because I’m leaving it up to Him. And He loves me fiercely. Protectively. He looks at me and smiles. He sees potential. He whispers over me promises. He calls me dear and beloved.

And He looks at me, with my swollen, red eyes and nose chapped from blowing it so much, and breathes peace into all the wild within me.

And He says, “It’s time for bed, child.”

And I take a deep breath and nod my head. And I surrender.

It’s all going to be okay.

He Who Sustains

There’s this screaming chasm within me. The size of it and volume of it depends on the day, the conversation, the circumstance. But it’s there, as part of me as my lungs or kidneys.

It’s not the day itself that’s hard. I can allow myself to cry and feel sad and find comfort in scripture and then tuck myself into bed. It’s when the day becomes days. It’s when all I see before me is reason to weep and ache for a Father who I can’t really feel.

And maybe that ache is a gift. I pray it is. How could I ever credit myself with a hunger for the Lord? It has to be Him in me, working and moving and taking my hand and leading me deeper.

Helping me to know and love Him more.

Who am I? Beloved, sure. But nothing more than a speck in this world- composed of the breath of God. I am not a mystery to Him, this God who spoke light into existence and calls Himself Love.

This screaming chasm scares me. But it doesn’t scare Him.

In between the screaming is the whisper: “Is it worth it? What’s the point?”

But the Fearless One also whispers.

And I have the power to choose what whisper I listen to. Because there’s the whisper that tries to steal life from me, playing on my emotions and circumstances as if they are the truest thing. But more than what I feel or see, there is a Truth that cannot be argued with. And this voice, the voice of Truth, speaks loving, hope-filled things.

It’s like clinging to a flotation device in the ocean. At night. In a horrible storm. And I’m choking on water and fighting not to let my grasp slip. Where is my rescue boat? Where is land? How long will I be out here? I don’t know. And I feel fear gnawing at me: What if this is forever?

And so I’m holding on, fighting to maintain my grasp on the one thing that’s keeping me afloat. I refuse to give up. I refuse to let go and let fear win. Because my God doesn’t speak fear, so I know it’s not Him.

And I’m looking up- at the stars, the heavens, all held steady by His limitlessly powerful hand.

And I’m struggling to fight for truth, for life. I’m being tossed in this ocean and I don’t know when the storm will end. But above me, heaven is unmoving. The stars look back at me and blink their comforting assurance that I am seen. And I thank God that He gave me something to cling to- a way to keep my head above water.

This chasm within me screams. And only now do I recognize that scream for what it is- it screams for Him.

I don’t know how to take Him and fit Him into the holes within me- packing Him in like cotton in a wound to stop the bleeding.

“You’re more than enough!” I yell at heaven. And I demand the scream within me to accept that and grow quiet. But it doesn’t.

Because I remember.
I remember being someone’s child.
I remember falling asleep at night hearing the gentle breathing of my family, the stillness and puzzle-piece feeling. And I remember thinking, “This is how my days, no matter how bad they are, end. And it is so good.”
I remember waking up in the morning with my mom in my bed, whispering to me about the sunrise or bird songs outside my bedroom window.
I remember belonging to someone.

And so I ask God, with more than just a hint of anger, how He could take all that from me (or let it be taken) and then stand before me big but untouchable, invisible, often seemingly distant, and claim to be more than and better than anything this world could offer.

“All good things are from Me,” He whispers.

And so I look back over my list of what I had that was good that I no longer have. And I ask, where was He in all of that? Have I really lost it all in its entirety? Because if all good things are from Him, and He never changes and cannot be lost, if all good things reflect Him, then the truest essence of what we experience that is good cannot be lost- because it’s Him.

Right?

“Show me,” I pray.

And I know. I know beyond what I saw or experienced, the comfort of being someone’s child was meant to whisper to me how my Father loves me.

Feeling held safe as part of a family? That was Him too- my biological family a representation, a mere a shadow, of the spiritual family to whom I really belong. And where love is, He is. He was there among the slow and steady breathing of my sleeping siblings and parents. He was there, sustaining all of us through our sleeping hours, singing over us, protecting us. And maybe that’s what I really heard and found comfort in as a child- not the breathing of my family, but the breathing of my ever-present, trustworthy God.

And while mine is the only human head that rests on a pillow and surrenders to sleep night after night in my home, He is still there. He is there, loving me fiercely. Sustaining me. Singing over me. Protecting me. Reminding me that it is He who holds not only me, but those on whom I had so long depended. “And indeed,” He whispers as I pull the covers up to my chin at night, “I AM holding you.”

He is the reason for the sunrise, the chirping birds. He is the reason my eyes open in the morning. He was the one gifting me for so many years with waking up and having someone ask me how I slept. But I still have that, right? Not the physical presence or eyes that look at me with love, but the sunrise and birds and a brand new day each morning. And I still have Someone who cares how I slept.

The God who breathed me into life. Who holds hold the oceans in His hands. Who orchestrates the dance of the stars and planets above us.

He’s a big, big God. Way bigger than any ache or emptiness within me.

He IS more than enough.

And I don’t know how to get there- how to grasp on to a God I can’t physically hold. I don’t know how to silence the scream when I can’t bury my face against His chest. I don’t know how to let all within me grow still when it’s just–to my physical eyes–me. And the scream. And no one to hold me.

Oh, for eyes to see what’s REALLY happening and how near He REALLY is.
For faith to find comfort in the truth of His nearness, even when I can’t see it.
Even when I don’t FEEL it.

But He gave me this hunger for Him.

And He’s a good Father.

And He is near.

And I am not a mystery.

Somehow, it’s all going to connect. And when it does, I’ll praise Him for every single decision He made in my life, even when it hurt.

Because He knows what I don’t- these waves I cannot see over, they are carrying me to shore.

How He Came

 

I fell to my knees when I got home from work yesterday afternoon.

I walked inside, set my purse down, pressed my forehead to the ground, and wept.

And I said, “I NEED YOU. I am here, kneeling before You because I NEED You! I need to pee and I’m hungry but I NEED YOU THE MOST!” Because I did. My stomach was growling and my bladder was full but even more than that discomfort, I needed Him. My need for Him hurt more. It was the more pressing issue.

And I cried and cried, the kind of cry that feels like it will never end. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Multiple times a day. In bathrooms and cars and my shower and bed and on the couch and with my face pressed to the carpet. Forever weeping, emptying my heart out to the Lord in tears because words aren’t always enough.

And yet even while I’m teary and snotty and crying audibly like a child, (it’s all quite dignified and mature), I know He’s there beside me.

I know He was there yesterday afternoon, kneeling at my side, His hand on my back. And He didn’t say anything. He was just there. Present. Letting me wail and weep… and not making me do it alone.

I wonder if He ever feels limited. I wonder if He ever aches to hold us, to be physically present with us, to talk face-to-face.

And so I try to soften my heart to that possibility, to filter my pain through the belief that Jesus is there, at my side whispering, “I’m here, child. I’m right here.”

It helps to keep that in mind because otherwise it all feels like too much to bear – Christmas, grief, longing, embarrassment, the involuntary recap of 2015 as it comes to a close, trauma, shame, fear, sorrow…

There’s a vise-like grip on my insides when I think about what I don’t have and may never have,
and what I’ve only fooled myself into thinking I had,
and what I do have,
and why it isn’t what I DO have enough?,
and why isn’t knowing I have Him enough?,
and what is wrong with me??!,
and maybe I’m destined to live this life of being alone forever because I can’t seem to learn my lesson that God is all I need!

But even as I write that I sense Jesus smiling and saying, “Forever is an awfully long time, child.”

And He’s got a point, that all-knowing Creator of mine. And so I try to smile back. I try to roll my eyes at myself, to hold a place for my sorrow–which is real–but to also acknowledge the melodrama.

Forever IS a long time.

And He isn’t up in heaven letting things down here just sort of work themselves out or burn themselves to the ground or whatever. He doesn’t have a “whatever” attitude about anything. He is intimately involved in everything. Not a single thing escapes His notice.

And it doesn’t take Him “forever” to accomplish good things.

Sometimes it only takes a second.

And I try to believe that, to cling to His goodness and foster a bubbling sort of hope within me as I come face-to-face with a new year.

I try to force myself to be excited about it- to praise Him in advance for the good things this upcoming year will hold.

But I can’t seem to really say that without feeling some trepidation and disbelief. Because I’m tired of looking at hard things and calling them good, or seemingly impossible things and calling them possible, or dark situations and modeling my God with a: “Let there be light!”

I’m scared to believe there is good in store. Because I’ve been there, done that. And it didn’t pan out as I had thought it would or prayed it would.

And that HURTS.

And yet, if I stop speaking light and love into this world, if I stop fighting to bring heaven down to earth, where does that leave me? Would it make me any less alone? Any more secure or safe?

It’s scary to hope.

But it’s scarier not to.

And so I look at my situations that seem hopeless and I look at my broken dreams and broken heart and I say, “No. You don’t get to despair. Lift your head. This isn’t the end. God is doing a good thing. Hope on, tender heart. Hope on. Dreams? Stop calling yourself broken. Situations? Stop calling yourself hopeless. Heart? Have you forgotten how much the Lord loves you? Rise up! Take heart! This is not the end!”

And I don’t feel it. But I say it. Because I know it to be true.

It’s hard not to involuntarily recap 2015. My mind is filling with images and memories and things I felt and thought over the course of the year. And I’m remembering… and it feels unreal and too real all at once. It feels both like it never happened (how could it have happened!?) and ongoing.

And it’s too much. It’s terrible. So, so awful.

I can’t bear it.

And so I keep trying to hand those images and memories over to the God, whose ability to heal and make things whole and redeem and restore knows no limits.

And so I say “NO!” to my brain and the panic that threatens to fill me inside. I refuse to entertain those memories or wonder things or replay things or get caught back up in the trauma of it all. Instead, I lay it all down at His feet and I wait. I wait for Him to speak to my sorrow and trauma and fear; I want for Him to heal; I wait for Him to redeem.

And I’m on my knees, and I’m weeping, and I think I could weep forever. But I can’t. I can’t cry forever. Grieving is important, but there’s a limit to what is healthy and what isn’t. And so I demand my heart rest a moment and lift its eyes to heaven. I instruct all that’s within me to take a break from my grieving and sorrow to seek the Lord- to beg Him for comfort or clarity or peace.

And He shows me a baby in a manger.

Helpless. Innocent. Needy. Fragile.

AND FULLY GOD.

And I’m there, with Mary and Joseph and the animals, beholding the Christ-Child. And there’s no place for weeping or sorrow or grief there. Only awe. Reverence. Worship. It’s quiet and still and holy. And hope and love are ALIVE. They are real. They are living. They are a Person.

And I’m there, looking into the face of Wild Hope and Love Unfailing. I am there, beholding the infant Jesus. And I belong.

And I’m there, with Jesus, and I’m also on my floor, tears streaming down my face, needing to pee and thinking a little bit about lunch.

And that is where I was yesterday when Tucker came over to me and started chewing on my hair.

And I laughed. Wracked with grief, unable to do anything but fall to my knees before God and BEG for help, and suddenly I was laughing.

Tears were falling down my face, and JESUS CAME!, and my cat was chewing my hair, and I was laughing.

And maybe that’s life- the good and bad all rolled up together in one brutiful package.

And so we go forward, heads held high, speaking light into impossibly dark situations.

We go forward with hope.

Because we know this is a battle.

And we know who wins.

Love wins.

Hope wins.

Light win.

Joy wins.

And it’s a miraculous thing, but even in the midst of our most intense grief, our loving Father can surprise us with incredible joy.

And so I rise from my knees. I stand, arms outstretched. I lift my head towards heaven. And I hear His gentle beckoning: “Arise, daughter.”

Oh, carry on, warrior heart. The Lord is on your side.

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.