Lessons From The Road

No one can do it for you.

They can love you and care about you, but they can’t fight your fight for you.

People could talk to me and pray for me, but they couldn’t drive for me. No one could come rescue me and bring me home.

*

You can’t control how you feel, but you are in control of how much you suffer.

You can say, “I can’t…” and “This is not okay…” all day long, and it doesn’t change your circumstances one damn bit. All it does is increase your suffering.

You have to breathe.

Don’t rage against what you feel- let it be.

Trust the process.

*

Bad feelings aren’t necessarily bad things.

Stop labeling things as bad just because they feel bad; a lot of good is born out of things that feel really bad.

*

You don’t have to give sucky emotions power by calling them truth.

Emotions come and go. We have to be careful not to let them determine our truth.

*

Some trips are about fun and some trips are about growth.

*

Sometimes it’s important to stop calling the contents of our hearts “wrong” or “bad.”

When you find yourself aware that not everyone sees the world in the same way as you do, maybe it’s better to draw the “wrongness” of your heart closer to yourself rather than push it away. Maybe what feels wrong is actually a unique wiring.

Maybe the key isn’t in making yourself be different, but learning how to embrace what is within you.

Maybe sometimes what we think are our flaws, the ways we struggle, the ways people don’t understand us, maybe the unique way we see the world is actually a secret God whispered into our hearts, and the trick is to learn how to let that widen us up to living bigger and deeper, rather than letting it make us feel discouraged or close us off to life.

*

On the road, all by yourself, you have no choice but to sit with your pain when it arises. You can’t drink it away or overdose it away or refuse to get out of bed, because you’re not home and you have a dog and someone has to take care of him.

And also, being all by yourself, thousands of miles from home, you suddenly realize how terrified you are that you’ll somehow die before ever getting home. You worry about car accidents, mostly, but also murder a little bit when you’re sleeping in a dark parking lot in your car. You worry about your car breaking down and your finances and what if you never get to go home again?

And you realize there’s a whole, beautiful life waiting for you at home. And it’s not perfect, but its yours, and dear God, how badly you just want to be back home where you get to live your imperfect, beautiful life.

So you sit with your pain. And you promise yourself you’ll do that at home too. You promise yourself that even when you’re back in the land where drinking and overdosing and trying to use other people to save you are options, you won’t do that.

*

You have to take some deep breaths and do the things for yourself that you can do- like not text and drive and stop when you need a break and call and talk to people (without begging them to rescue you) when you need to talk.

And you have to trust God with the rest, like no flat tires or car troubles and getting you back home alive.

If you carry the weight of the things God’s responsible for, it will suck all of the beautiful living out of your day and replace it with fear and worry that you were never meant to carry.

*

Every time Arlow makes eye contact with me, I say, “I love you,” or, “How are you doing, baby?” And I do that not because I’m insecure, but because that’s how I communicate.

And that’s how I communicate in my relationships also.

And so when people don’t do that with me, when they go days without talking to me, it feels like they don’t love me.

But not everyone communicates their love in the same way you do. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you.

 

*

Sometimes you can be royally pissed off and sitting in a park in New Mexico and hating everything about life, and then a woman and her kids will come sit with you and want to pet your dog, and you’ll be even more cranky because you didn’t ask for company or small talk.

But then you’ll notice the woman has a tin can labeled “Please Help. Need Food.” And she won’t address it. She won’t ask for anything. She’ll just set it off to the side and slightly behind herself. And she’ll talk about the weather and her kids and where the nearest CoinStar is while she watches her kids wrestle with a dog twice their size.

And you’ll reach into your wallet. Because MFing New Mexico sucks and it’s hot and dirty and no on drives well, but God clearly led you and your bad attitude to this park where a woman with a genuine need and a smile happened to cross your path.

And what a gift New Mexico turned out to be.

*

If you walk your dog in Texas, people will literally stop their cars to conversationally say to you, “That’s a big dog!”

They will also give you the water out of their car and hold the cup for your dog so he can hydrate.

*

The same part of my brain and heart that were terrified to be so far from home are the same part of my brain and heart that feel four years old.

“I’m so scared,” and, “I want my mom,” came in the same breath.

And maybe that’s how we parent ourselves sometimes. We say, soothingly and with a voice laced with love, “I know.”

But we don’t let that stop us from doing the hard, scary thing.

*

If you sit down in a park in Mississippi and sob into your hands, if you’re too weak to hold your dog’s leash anymore and so he runs wild and free while you cry, no one will even notice.

*

I used to think people who picked their scabs were disgusting.

But then I found myself bored and stuck in traffic with a bunch of week-old mosquito bites.

*

A rainbow feels like a personal promise to me in Utah just as much as it does here at home.

*

You can’t outrun your problems or your pain.

You come home at the end of a long road trip and you’re one part, “Thank God, I made it!” And, “Thank God I am back in the right time zone! And thank Him for my bed and my shower and my plants and cats and clean underwear and closet full of clothes!”

And you’re one part complete, black depression.

The road trip wasn’t a solution, it was a lesson.

And now it’s time to put to practice what you learned on your drive.

Now, in this really hard moment, you get to say to yourself, “No, I CAN do it.”

And in the face of blackness, I get to say to myself, “No, I WANT to live.”

*

“You’ve got a big heart. The way you see the world, it got you this far. You might have some bruises and a few scars, but you know you’re gonna be okay. And even though you’re scared, you’re stronger than you know. If you’re lost out where the lights are blinding, if you face the fear that keeps you frozen, chase the sky into the ocean, that’s when something wild calls you home.”

The Blessing In The Seemingly Bad

I’ve lost a lot, especially over the last year, and especially in the form of relationships.

Just ask my walls.

I used to have walls covered in framed pictures of my loved ones, and now many of the smiling faces on my walls need to be replaced. The people don’t have a place in my life anymore. They left me or I left them or, in the case of my cat, they died.

And maybe that wouldn’t hurt so badly if I had other pictures to put in their place, but I don’t. Not really. Not yet. I have people in my life, sure, but the pictures are going to have to decrease. I don’t have enough to fill all the frames.

Maybe I will someday. Maybe I won’t. Either way, sometimes I think loss can be purifying. Holy even. It’s good to let dead things be dead rather than hanging on to them and insisting they breathe again.

What it comes down to really is, do I trust Him? If I can answer yes to that, I can handle anything. Because my hope is in Him, not what I see before me. My hope is in His plan and His goodness and His love and His mercy, and not dependent on my ability to take control of things I can’t control. I can hurt, I can grieve, I can cry, but I can do it all with hope.

One of my favorite songs right now has a line in it that goes: “I want what You want and nothing less.”

I’ve heard that song so many times, but that line jumped out at me a couple days ago.

She says “nothing less“, not “nothing else“.

And I realized that wasn’t random. She could’ve used either word and no one would’ve thought anything of it, but she chose “less”, I believe, because God always gives us His best. Anything else we want, anything apart from what He has for us, is the LESSER thing.

How incredible is that!?

And so, desperately I want to be someone’s child, sister, mom, wife. Desperately I want to be held, loved, chosen, to feel like I have a place where I BELONG and fit and am wanted and needed. Desperately. But He wants even more for me than I want for myself.

We can grieve with hope, and we can hope without fear, because no matter what we’ve lost, no matter what we want, God will always do what’s best for us. Always.

We don’t have to understand in order for that to be true. It’s true either way.

Oh, Lord. More of You. Teach me to be satisfied with all that You are. Maybe someday I’ll have the things I long for, and maybe I won’t. Help me find peace with that because You are good and You are Love and I can trust You even when I don’t understand. Teach me to go to You for every need I perceive to be unmet. Help me to know You as More Than Enough.

With all that I am, I love You.

And still, I pray, help me to love You more.

*

I had an entirely different blog post planned. I was working on it, pouring my heart out with the Holy Spirit’s leading, when I stretched out my legs. And for a second, it was bliss. “Why didn’t I stretch my legs out earlier!?” I wondered. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so comfortable in my entire life!”

And then my foot hit the power button on the power strip and the computer shut off. I lost my entire blog post.

My initial reaction, because I’m me, was to throw a big fit. I wanted to wail and fight and whine and force my words to return to the screen. But no amount of wanting what I’d lost would bring it back.

“Fine,” I thought stubbornly, my mouth tight with frustration, “I’ll just recreate it. I’ll just write the same blog again.”

But I knew that wouldn’t work either. My heart wouldn’t be in it the second time around. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t really recreate what was.

I had to let it go.

I had to accept that it was lost.

I had to create something new.

And then it hit me that this was no accident. This was an act of God.

I had to let go, to accept, to embrace something new- not just in my writing, but in my life.

I can’t force my mom to be alive. I can’t be a child again. I can’t force someone to choose me and call me their own. I can’t make the things I’ve lost come back. I have to grieve them. There is no other choice. I can cry and wail and want until day fades to night and back to day again and fall becomes winter. That won’t change anything.

I have to embrace what is. Because what is? It is GOOD.

What was lost was good, too. And it hurts.

But our God is a good God and He can be trusted with our pain. He never allows pain just for His amusement. There’s a purpose for it. And He will redeem what’s been lost.

I don’t know what that looks like exactly, but I know that trying to force the lost things back into existence is less than what He wants for me.

And so I will choose to grieve the lost things, trust Him with the pain, and thank Him for all the ways He’s providing today.

I wrote that blog post, I sought Him in the writing, and He had decided that it was enough for those words to just be between us. He had something else planned. He had a lesson for me in the loss of those words. They had served their purpose, they had been good and sweet, but they were gone.

And this? It’s different. But it’s not bitter. It’s sweet too.

Of course it is. Our Father doesn’t take away only to give us something lesser. He doesn’t take our sweet and exchange it for bitter. He makes all things beautiful. He gives good gifts.

And hitting the power switch with my foot? It might not have seemed like a good gift initially, but it was.

*

“Whatever it is [that’s been lost, that gets in the way of your relationship with the Lord, that you’re holding on to more tightly than you’re holding on to Him], it has to go. It isn’t good enough to box it up and set it aside. It has to die. It has to be grieved. What has to end or die [in your life so you] can experience a rebirth?”

“‘Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. -Heb 12:1’ So take your injured, beat up life… wounds that have been inflicted by others, or deep-set pain caused by your own actions, and bring them before God. Don’t hold onto them like trophies or hide them away like failures – they’ll only slow you down, hold you up, limp your run and cause you to trip. Strip them off, put them aside, attend to them, allow God to heal you, forgive you, free you. It may take some time to return to wholeness. But if you keep at it, you’ll get there. And your run will be all the better for it.”

“It’s a little bit uncomfortable to wake up from the half-slumber. It awakens a want that I can’t satisfy on my own. I have to hope that He will satisfy. There’s a song by Chris Rice called Thirsty and in it, he says, ‘Could I really be this thirsty if there weren’t something more?’ Surely not.”

“It’s okay to ask Him to make Himself to known. It’s okay to tell Him that I want to experience how much He loves me. It’s okay to tell Him that I want to feel love toward Him again.”

The Value Of $10

At Fred Meyer the other night, a woman came up to me as I was getting out of my car, asking for money for gas.

Do I think she really wanted it for gas? I don’t know. But that’s not really my job to determine, is it? We aren’t called to be suspicious and skeptical of people. Wise and discerning, yes, but she claimed to have a need, and I had no way of knowing for sure that her need wasn’t real.

Normally I don’t have any cash on me, so I apologize to people when they ask for money and I continue on with my day, just briefly mentioning them in prayer. But this night, I had money. I had a $10, a $5, and two $1’s.

And I gave her the $10.

I chose to give her the $10 and skip buying myself cold medicine- not because I’m a martyr, but because I saw her as Jesus’ child. I looked at her with compassion and some sadness and I thought, “You need Jesus.” And as that thought hit me, I knew what I needed to do. She needed Jesus, and I had the opportunity to be Jesus to her.

After I handed the money over, she practically ran away from me with barely a “thank you”. I felt pretty confident in that moment that she didn’t need gas. She acted like she was getting away with something, and she wanted to get as far from me as possible before I learned the truth and changed my mind.

And so I called after her, “God bless you!” Because I wanted her to know I gave to her not as me, but as Jesus’ hands and feet here on Earth. I gave to her from the love He has for her. It wasn’t about the $10.

And wouldn’t you know, she stopped mid-run. She couldn’t be slowed down to say “thank you” properly, but she stopped when I said that and she turned to look at me. She studied my face for a second. “God bless you, too,” she said.

I pray she didn’t use the money for drugs. I pray she used it for gas.

But either way, I pray she felt the love of Jesus that night. I pray He will take my $10 and use it for much more than I ever could’ve.

And I smile with the ease at which I handed that money over. And it’s not because I’m some saint, but because giving $10 to a stranger was the easiest thing God’s asked me to do in a long time.

There’s growth and blessing in sorrow and struggle.

Sometimes I feel like I have nothing, like it’s just me moving through this world, emptied out on the inside. I feel like I’m having to consciously remind my heart to beat, and not just beat, but beat for one thing alone- God.

And I believe He’ll bring me out of this valley.

But while I’m here, He is teaching me to breathe.

He is teaching me what truly gives life.

He is presenting me with situations I can’t control, and situations I can. And the funny thing is, I can’t control what comes into my life- all I can control is what I give out.

And as I mourn and grieve and tearfully choose surrender and acceptance over and over again all day long, He is reminding me that laying down my life feels like a death, yes, and it is, but it’s not the end.

Things are laid down, but not buried. Not beyond resurrection.

As I leave everything at the foot of the cross, He’ll sift through it. He’ll take each thing, one by one, and hold them. He’ll examine them for their life-giving (or life-stealing) qualities, He’ll search them for signs of heaven, and He’ll weigh whether or not they have the ability to support rather than detract from my higher calling as His beloved child. And some things He’ll toss out because He won’t give me anything less than the best. But some things He’ll bring new life to and hand back to me.

He’ll take my worldly wants and desires and sorrows and fears and trauma, and He’ll breathe holy breath and life and redemption and healing into them. And I’ll appreciate them differently when they come into my life as a gift, or healing, or freedom- all marked with His fingerprints.

And when I can’t see the gift without seeing His fingerprints, I won’t be tempted to worship the gift- I’ll worship the gift-giver.

I can trust Him with my heart. I can trust Him with my pain, my life, with the things I can’t control.

And so I’ll pursue Him. I will invest my energy in the things I can control instead of fighting against what I can’t.

He’s teaching me that when I sink below the surface of the water, like Peter, the only hand reaching out for me will be His. Because only He can walk on water. Everyone else? They’ll be in the boat. Not heartlessly, not without care or concern or love, but the most they can do is row over and toss me a buoy. They can’t walk on water.

He’s the Gift-Giver. The Healer. The Redeemer. The Savior. The true source of the life I so desperately long for.

He’s teaching me that.

And He’s teaching me the value of $10.

$10 isn’t going to keep me from drowning, but grasping tight to His hand will.

*

“Where You go, I’ll go
Where You stay, I’ll stay
When You move, I’ll move
I will follow You
Who You love, I’ll love
How You serve I’ll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow You.

The Things I Choose To Hold On To

I sent Pauline a text last night and asked: “How many more nights am I going to have to cry myself to sleep?”

It was a rhetorical question, obviously, but one that hung heavy in my room last night as I sobbed and hiccuped and wiped my nose on my shirt because I am disgusting and a child.

And this morning, my pillow was stained with my mascara. And my eyelids are swollen and puffy from so many hours of tears.

And yet, as miserable as this feels, it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to cry, and I’ll take this–FEELING!–over numbness any day.

I’ll take sorrow and grieving over trying to demand control and being unable to breathe.

It is my prayer that the tears are accomplishing something. I pray for a heart and mind and emotions submitted to the Lord. I pray for tears of grieving and acceptance and surrender, and not tears of self-pity. I don’t want to get stuck. I don’t want to feel sorry for myself. It’s a fine line, I think- feeling without feeling sorry for yourself.

I’m truly at the end of myself. It’s all too messy and too painful, and the battle in my brain and the contents of my heart are TOO MUCH. I know that we can do anything with the Lord’s help, though. And I know He loves me and He is good. So I will continue to battle.

But sometimes I honestly just want to fall to my knees in defeat and surrender and desperation for Him to intervene- to be the lifter of my head.

I did last night.

I worshiped in my living room for a long time, arms raised to the ceiling, tears pouring down my face, some words sung with a smile, some accompanied by a little dance, and some barely understandable through the teary quivering of my voice.

“I will take You at your unfailing word
More than all I want, I will seek Your first
I will bless Your name when the night is long
God, You have my surrender.”

I sang those words. And then I fell to my knees. Because it freaking HURTS to make that proclamation. It’s scary and painful! And yet, it is still what I will choose (with His help!) over and over and over again.

Lord, help me to choose You. Help me to choose surrender. Even when it hurts. Remind me Your way is the only way to true, abundant life. Help me rest in the confidence that You are good, that You have a plan, and that you have a purpose for my pain. But oh, Jesus, how I HURT. And how I NEED A VICTORY.

And yet, I have to choose to surrender even that–my desire for victory, my pain, my weakness, my “I don’t know how I’m going to survive”–to the Lord.

And I have to surrender my concept of family.

Pauline asked me recently how I’d define family. I said family is who shows up at your house unexpectedly, and eats food off your plate without asking, and whose shoulder or lap you can rest your head on while you watch TV in the evenings. Family is the people you belong with, the dinner table that would be incomplete without you there, those who love you unconditionally and are permanently committed to you no matter what. Family is who you can call when you’re crying, or when you’re excited because you got a cute new shirt on sale, or because you’re bored, or just because you want to hear their voice. And family calls you too. Because you are on their minds and in their hearts and you make their lives better.

I don’t have family as defined that way. And maybe I never will again. I don’t know.

But I know I am not doing life unloved.

And I don’t know what His plan it, but I know that the pain in my heart matters to the Lord. And I know that it is safe to hope in Him.

And so I worship, and I cry, and I go for long walks and sometimes I feel better afterwards and sometimes I still feel like crap. And I pray- not for things, not even usually for family, but to love the Lord more. Because I don’t know any other way to stop hurting but to fill my heart up with Him- with He who is reliably loving and present.

“Satisfy me, Lord.
Yeah I’m begging You, help me see
You’re all I want, You’re what I need.”

I don’t know how to get to that place. I don’t know how to achieve victory over all of this. Maybe it’s a “one day at a time” thing. And even though I’m hurting, maybe I can hurt for a little while longer as long as I cling tight to hope. A little hope can go a long way.

I pray for satisfaction and fulfillment in Him. And I give Him my desire for love and family and belonging, even if I have to surrender that over and over again all day long, and frequently through tears. “I choose You,” I say. “I choose to trust You.”

So much of faith and our relationship with God is a choice, isn’t it? You don’t have to feel trust or feel like He is more than enough for you, but you choose to believe those things because of what scripture says. It’s a deliberate choice. One I have to make constantly.

And I pray He honors that.

I pray for less frequently swollen eyelids and less nights of hysterical sobbing.

But more than that, I pray for healing. I pray that I will come to know and love Him more.

And so I say, even as I’m terrified and sobbing, or on my knees with my face pressed against the carpet of my living room, or reaching my arms up to the ceiling like a child raises their arms when they want their parent to pick them up, or dancing in my car because HE IS GOOD and it makes me dance even when I’m struggling to look at my life and call it good, I will say, “I choose to trust You.”

And in the meantime, I will be patient. I will wait on the Lord. And I will trust Him with that, the waiting, too.

I pray also that the surrender is an exchange. That as I lay down everything that matters to me (apart from the Lord), I’m able to grab onto Him with both hands. I pray He comes and fills up every broken place and corner of me that aches.

I want to live in a way that ushers heaven into our world. I don’t know what that would look like, I just have to believe there’s more for us. More Holy Spirit activity. The ability to live so aware of heaven’s reality that we operate in that one instead of this one.

I just feel like there’s got to be more.

That there should be a way for Him to be more real. There has to be a way to live lives undeniably marked by his involvement- to be flames to the world, not just lights, but fire, igniting everyone and everything that we come into contact with.

I don’t know. Maybe that’s not what He has for us right now. I don’t know. I don’t know anything. But that He is good and loves us and delights in spending time with us.

So I will wait.

I will choose hope.

I will choose trust.

I will choose surrender.

I will feel my emotions and refuse to believe lies.

I will hide myself in Him.

I will abide (is that not the most beautiful word!?) in His love.

I will worship, hands to the heavens.

And I will kneel, forehead to the ground, and wait.

He Is The Answer

“I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus. I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.”

I’ve been singing that song the last few days- only, instead of coming back to the heart of worship, I need a whole life remodel. I need to come back to the heart of life.

Aye. How very quick I am to re-prioritize my life, making loving the Lord and seeking Him a second or third or fourteenth priority when it should always, always be first.

I can tell, almost immediately, when my priorities are off. When seeking God stops being first, taking care of myself also plummets. If Seeking God is fourteenth, Taking Care Of Myself hovers right around twenty.

It makes sense, really. If I’m no longer prioritizing my spiritual health and well-being, my physical and emotional health probably aren’t ranking so high on my list of concerns either. And a person cannot do life very long without prioritizing self-care. It becomes as futile as trying to run a car on empty. We have to receive (nutritious food, exercise, time with people, fresh air, Jesus…) in order to function well.

Sometimes during these improperly balanced phases of my life, I will catch myself aimlessly scrolling through things on the internet (*cough*Pinterest*cough*), looking for something unspecific. And not finding it. Looking for something to stir my soul. To inspire hope. To refresh my life. And I know, deep down, that what I’m searching for, longing for, aching for, isn’t going to be found online. I need Abba. Desperately, every moment of every day, I need Him. Downplaying that only leads to my suffering. It only leads to a life less full and rich and worth it.

Do I need to spend more time thinking about how to achieve my goals, or how to love my God? Do I need to devote more energy to worrying about paying my bills, or worrying about fully loving God? He is the answer. He is the answer to all of it. The more I seek Him, the more everything else will fall into place. Pinterest sure cannot say that! 😉

I don’t want to plow through life, low-energy. I want to wake up in the morning and be happy and energized. I want to go through my day present and grateful and tuned in to the voice of God. And I want to go to bed at night fulfilled and at peace. No matter how many “how to love life”, “how to make a difference”, “how to sleep well” Google searches I do, the answer just isn’t going to be found there. The answer is Him. Always, always, always, He is the answer.

Hallelujah!

“Your love is amazing, steady and unchanging. Your love is a mountain, firm beneath my feet. Your love is a mystery, how You gently lift me. When I am surrounded, Your love carries me. Your love is surprising, I can feel it rising, all the joy that’s growing deep inside of me. And every time I see You, all Your goodness shines through, and I can feel this God song rising up in me: Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, Your love makes me sing!”

In other news, I bought a new cat tree today. It is standing tall and proud in my bedroom and it’s about the size of my bed. It is quite the eye-sore. But it’s also totally worth it. Because my cat boys love it. However, should I ever actually get a human boy in my life, I might have to hide the cat tree in the garage for a while- to downplay the “crazy cat lady” thing. 😉

And now, to bring this whole blog full-circle in a way that I hadn’t anticipated and couldn’t have planned, Brittany just came into my room to tell me a story about a couple in Australia who paid a lot of money to save their goldfish’s life.

“That is one spoiled brat of a gold fish! But I am so happy for it,” Britt said.

“Me too,” I agreed. “And I totally get it. Loving a pet isn’t a rational thing. That (I pointed at my cat tree) isn’t rational. But it’s so worth it.”

And you know what? You know what I realized as soon as those words were out of my mouth? That kind of crazy, irrational “cat tree the size of my bed”, “I will spend any amount of money to save my goldfish’s life” love should be how I live out my love for God, too. Only more. Bigger.

Lord, help me love You more than anything. I want to love You with wild, reckless abandon.

That is, after all, exactly how You love me.

Only even more magnified. Magnified beyond comprehension.

“King of endless worth, no one could express how much you deserve. Though I’m weak and poor, all I have is Yours. Every single breath.”

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