When You Want To Give Up

I tell myself to suck it up. I tell myself it’s not that big of a deal. I tell myself to choose hope, to remember who God is. I reach over and rub my hand down the length of Arlow’s silky ear and I remind myself that giving up isn’t an option.

And then I just can’t do it. Because everything in me is SO heavy. And so I put my head in my hands and I give myself permission to just FEEL.

And I weep. And I tell God how badly I hurt. How I feel like I’ve ruined my life. How I’ve lost so, so much- jobs I love, a better income, my body, my family, a second family, the ability to have a future that is just Arlow and I…

And I cry because it HURTS. A baby that I don’t want is on the way. And I’m terrified of doing it alone. I’m terrified of finances and how Arlow’s life will change. I’m terrified of not loving the baby and I’m terrified that I’ll love it so much that letting a daycare raise it will break my heart. I am terrified I will fail the baby, that I will fail Arlow, and that I won’t ever again be effortlessly glad to be alive.

I cry because people love me, but also I’m doing my life alone. I cry because there’s no point in hanging stockings, and there’s no one who will be here to teach me how to be a mom, and there’s no dinner table that I belong at. I cry because I have friends, people I can call and text, people who will meet me for coffee or a movie or point me back to Jesus when I get lost on this journey, but there’s no one I’m doing life WITH. I cry because not having a family is excruciating.

And I used to have those things. I think back to when I was twenty and how much brighter my life and future looked. I knew sadness, but I also woke up each morning glad to have another day to live.

I remember what it was like to belong somewhere, to be held in hearts and arms, to know that if the worst happened, people would be there. No matter what. And maybe they’d be cranky and misunderstand me and maybe we’d fight and maybe I’d cry, but they’d show up, and they’d do so sacrificially, ready to help, because that’s what family does. I remember the comfort of knowing I had a safety net.

I never had to wonder if my birthday would go uncelebrated or if I’d spend an entire weekend alone. I could feel warmth and excitement during the holidays because it meant family and baking and taking pictures at Christmas tree farms and wrapping presents and signing them “From: Auntie Tamara” or “Your Sister.”

And I lost all of that.

And so I weep. Because it’s unfair and it hurts and HOW DO I KEEP CHOOSING TO LIVE THIS LIFE!?! And I weep because most of it is my own damn fault. It was the depression and the giving up and the chasing after things that my heart thought it needed to be okay because I tried to chase after God and that didn’t work.

I remember sitting on the floor in a hallway outside my doctor’s office. Nothing felt real. My body felt like lead and I knew I looked peculiar sitting there, but I didn’t care. Peculiar or not, it didn’t matter because I couldn’t have moved or blinked or spoken a coherent sentence even if I tried. I remember trying to think but my brain was filled with cotton. How was I going to get up off the floor? How was I going to get in my car and go home? How was I going to be in my empty house and survive the night? How was I going to do it all over again tomorrow? And so I sat. And my brain stopped formulating questions or the ability to look at my life as a linear, time-shaped thing. It was only the moment I was in, and even that didn’t feel real.

I remember long days where I spent most of my mental energy debating when and how and if I could/should hurt myself again. And it didn’t feel scary or wrong or bad because it felt like the only option. I was living this cotton-headed, lead-body, nothing-is-real existence and I couldn’t fathom continuing to do it indefinitely.

And so it was my fault, how I ruined my life, because the depression turned me into someone who alternated between doing whatever I could just to stay alive and doing whatever I could to die.

And I’m mad. I’m mad that my sickness, which is what depression is, has had such lasting and permanent consequences. I’m mad that I’ve fought so hard to live and now I have to live amidst the rubble of what has crumbled and broken and been destroyed during my effort to survive.

It doesn’t feel fair. But it is the reality of my life right now. And how did I get to this place??! How did I become this person?!?

And so I cry.

I weep long and hard into my hands and I pour my heart out to God in a way that feels like I am turning myself inside out.

And then, when I have no tears left, I sit my heart down and I parent it. I tell it to remember that ultimately I have two options- life or death. And with everything I do and think, I am choosing one or the other.

And death isn’t an option. Not because it isn’t an option for me, because I still haven’t gotten to a place where my life feels worth the fight, but it isn’t an option because of Arlow and the baby. Death isn’t an option. So, by default, I have to choose life.

And so I do. I go back to trust. I go back to leaving it all in His hands. I go back to choosing to see the future with hope.

And I don’t want to.

I want to tell God it’s not fair, that what’s the point of over and over and over again giving Him all this pain inside of me when it doesn’t ever go away?!

I want to yell about how hard it is to every day hold back this river of wrongness–all the loss and grief and disappointment and fear–to not look it in the eye, but to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, to have my arms straining against the weight of holding it back, while I scream my gratitude and praises at the sky. I’ve given it to Him, so I’m not carrying it anymore, but my hands are still on it in an effort to keep it away from me, to keep it from crashing down over top of me. And my arms are tired.

I want to tell Him I’m effing exhausted and will it ever get easier and if not what’s the freaking point??!

I want to scream at him about all that is wrong, all the vast, expansive, seemingly all-consuming ways my life is not worth living.

And I don’t understand. I am angry and none of this makes sense and HOW and WHY and WHEN?!

But I know what scripture says.

I know it says our lives are directly impacted by our thoughts, so to choose our thoughts well.

I know it says to remember who God is and how He loves us and how NOTHING is too hard for Him.

I know it says our mistakes are covered by His grace and that redemption is real, that nothing is ever “ruined” when we invite Him in and surrender to Him.

I know that, even if my life looks wrong in so many big ways, each day is filled with His presence and blessing. I know I have so much to be grateful for.

And I know He is working, that my life isn’t a stagnant, permanent fixture, but that is it a fluid thing, constantly being shaped by His will and His love.

And it doesn’t make the pain any less real, and it doesn’t make any of the loss or grief feel okay in even the tiniest measure,

but I have two options.

Life or death.

And so I have to choose. I can live from the place of “it’s not fair” and “I can’t do it,” or I can take it a day a time and trust God with everything unresolved inside of me.

And that is what I choose to do.

*

Side-note:

Guys, after talking to some of my friends who read my blog, I feel like I need to say this: I’m not sad 24/7.

My blog is not an accurate representation of how I feel moment-to-moment throughout my day because this is where I come when my emotions are big.

Yes, everything I said above is true- I hurt.

BUT that’s not the only thing that’s true.

In addition to my sorrow and struggle, there are also moments, hours, sometimes even whole days where it doesn’t feel so hard. And more than I sit around feeling sad or dreading my future, I rub my belly and pray over the life growing inside of me,
I thank God for Arlow, who I love so much that just thinking about him makes me cry,
I laugh and engage with coworkers,
I smile warmly at clients and ask them how they’re doing,
I make mental lists of things I want to do and even feel mildly excited about the thought of doing them,
And I pray for my friends and meet them for coffee and go home at night feeling loved.

It’s not all sorrow and sadness. My list of things to be grateful for is long.

I hurt, yes.

But God has not, and will not, let me down. And it’s from THAT place more than the sadness that I try to live.

Eyes to see.

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Sorrow

I miss having my clothes fit.

I miss feeling comfortable in my skin and confident and good about myself.

I miss recognizing my face when I look in the mirror. The face of three months ago is not the face I have today.

I miss feeling confident that I was going to be able to give Arlow a good life.

I miss having a job I know and love and am familiar with.

I miss having my finances (mostly) in order.

I miss not needing a lawyer. I miss not having a court date.

I miss not being scared.

I miss having a family.

I am grieving so much. I am battling fear and shame and self-loathing and despair in almost every area of my life. All day, every day, I am keeping my mind locked up against anything that would come in that wouldn’t be the voice of my God. But the sadness? That’s valid.

And I know, I know that all I can do is cry about what’s been lost, and then pick myself up and move on. But it’s a lot. My entire identity. My entire life. Everything is upside down. Nothing is the same anymore.

And it’s my own fault. None of this is what God had planned for me. These are all consequences of my own actions.

I am so mad at myself.

But I can’t unpack and live there, in the what if’s:
“What if I never feel good about myself again?”
“What if I’m all alone?”
“What if I hate my new job?”
“What if my finances keep getting worse?”
“What if court doesn’t go well?”
“What if I’ve ruined Arlow’s and my life?”
“What if I’m not going to be okay?”

I can’t live in the fear of the future, hating myself in the present, and wishing with everything in me that I could run back to a past that doesn’t exist anymore.

I have to keep going forward.

I have to believe in a God who redeems, even when what needs redemption is a mess of my own making.

I have to believe in a God who still has good plans for my life.

I have to believe that He is in control, He is making a way.

And I do. I believe that.

But everything is different. And tonight, I just want to cry.

Whatever Things Are True And Praiseworthy…

The forest floor is covered in leaves and the sun flickers behind the tops of the trees as I walk.

I’m cold and my fears are pressing at my mind and I can feel myself starting to get cranky.

But Arlow is happy.

He is running, tongue hanging out of his mouth, making sure not to stray too far from his mama.

“He’s such a happy dog!” someone tells me. And I take pride in that, in knowing I’m loving him well, that he’s happy.

Her husband throws a stick for Arlow and their own dogs and I watch them play fetch for twenty minutes.

The sun is shining and my boy is happy.

And all, in this moment, is well.

*

I feel gigantic.

None of my clothes fit and it’s hard for me to look in the mirror. Even my face is fat.

But I try to love myself anyway.

I love myself by eating Thai food tonight with my friend.

I love myself by not remembering the clothes that don’t fit me anymore.

I love myself by not wondering how people see me and what they think and whether or not I’ll ever feel good about myself again.

And I love myself by resting my hand on my belly after I eat, willing myself not to be repulsed by this body that I’ve been given.

I thank God for my health, for my life, for what He’s doing.

*

There was a time when my entire world revolved around the need to belong and be loved. My mental health, well-being, and outlook on life were entirely wrapped up in whether or not I felt hugged, secure, wanted.

And there are times still when sorrow grips me. The loss. The questions.

“Who will I spend the holidays with?”
“Who will be there for me in May?”
“What kind of person doesn’t have anyone to put down as an emergency contact?”

But I’m getting better at leaving those questions in God’s hands.

I don’t carry my sorrows around with me anymore, using them as proof that my life isn’t important, that I’m alone and unloved. Using them as reasons to self-destruct.

I don’t even let myself consider anymore whether I’m “alone” or “loved”. Rather, I take my sorrows hand-in-hand with these truths:

She text me a cute picture of her dog.
She invite me to her house and treated me to dinner.
He affectionately punched my arm.
She called, crying, when she needed someone to be there for her.
She text to ask how I was feeling and remind me that she’s praying for me.
He made a point of connecting with me after church.

It doesn’t look the way I wish it would, but I can trust God with that.

And even now, with things exactly as they are, I can acknowledge that I’m wildly blessed.

*

Phil. 4:6-9

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

 

Nothing Is As It Seems

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lean not on your own understanding…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am Peter, walking on waves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.