The Questions We Ask

He whines and tries to push his wet nose between my hands and face when I cry. Which is definitely more endearing when he hasn’t been throwing up all night.

I rolled out of bed and slipped on some Uggs, and my unbrushed hair and pajama-clad self and I went to Albertson’s for some canned pumpkin tonight. Because that’s supposed to help doggy tummies.

And mamas crawl out of bed and go to the store for their babies.

He threw that up the little bit of pumpkin I gave him too, so I wiped his runny nose with my hand and turned out the lights and told him he needed to rest. He’s here at my side now, while we sit in the dark. And I pray for his body, occasionally reaching over and placing my hand on him while I pray.

I pray for his body, and I pray for my heart. He’s throwing up and my eyelids are swollen from crying. It’s been quite the night.

*

Laura spoke at church the other night about serving. And I found myself wondering if God’s call to serve (others and Him) is almost protective. Because when we keep in mind that we’re serving Him, we don’t have to have the answers. We don’t have to understand things or be orchestrating things or hold anything together. That isn’t our role. All we have to know is what the next thing is that God is asking us to do.

It keeps us safe when we go through life remembering He is the one scripting it, and that our job is to surrender and serve.

Surrender and serve, admittedly, are two words that have a traditionally negative connotation. But when I think of them in relation to our God who is Love? All I hear is: “Rest, child. You are held. Be still and know.”

So often my anxiety and fear stems from a desire to control things that aren’t mine to control. I’ll lie in bed all tangled up, analyzing what is or might be, and how I can fix it or undo it, and what that means for my future and life and hope.

And in the midst of all that, God whispers to me: “You’re asking the wrong questions.”

The right questions are more along the lines of: “What are You saying to me in this moment?” “What do I KNOW to be true?”

And it strikes me that, even if God gave me the answers to all of the things I want to know, often times I suspect He’d have to say: “But these things are still in process. The answers I’m giving you might not even be the same tomorrow or the next day or in a month or a year.”

It would be like drawing conclusions about the ending of a book based on paragraph three, chapter six.

So, questions that demand answers aren’t really helpful. Questions that help us feel like we’re able to dig our nails back into our lives in some manner of control? That’s not His goal for us.

He’s protecting us by what He doesn’t reveal.
He’s loving us when He refuses to let us believe we’re in control.
And when He is silent in response to our petitions? Even that is proof of His goodness.

We know we’re asking the right questions when we feel more surrendered and peaceful in the asking. The right questions are those that help us shed the weight of things that were never ours to carry. They leave us with our hearts open to life and possibility, rather than shut down and suspicious.

*

“What are your favorite things about God?” Laura asked that the other night as well.

Mine? He’s always available. He loves to hear what’s on my heart.
He loves me and understands me and delights in me so completely that my heart is always safe with Him.
I never have to be afraid or weigh my words or be scared He’ll yell at me for something I feel.
He always sees me, even when I’m at my worst, through eyes of love.
He is gentle and compassionate and leads me with kindness.
He is invested in me, and He isn’t going anywhere. No matter what.

And as I made that list I thought, “…Isn’t that ironic? All the things about Him that I love the most are the things my heart is so desperate to find in human relationships.”

And I don’t know what that means necessarily. I do believe that those things (although imperfect forms of them) can be found in relationship with others. But I am grateful that in this season, He is teaching me that I can also find what I long for in Him.

*

I spread my arms out wide. “Lord, strip away all that isn’t of You.”

“Teach me, Lord, that it’s enough to go through life as just me.”

“Teach me to live surrendered and at peace. Teach me to live held.”

*

And when I feel out of place and like I don’t belong, I can go lock myself in a bathroom stall and tilt my eyes to heaven.

And because He and I have spent so much time together rehearsing truth, I can meet His eyes and remember that the God of the Universe knows my heart and smiles when He thinks of me. Who I am, just as I am, is enough.

I don’t have to feel in control, even in social situations. I don’t have to be well-spoken or magnetic or present myself “well”. I can let go of that pressure because He’s the one doing the orchestrating, and He knew what He was doing when He placed my silly self there among those people.

And so I can go back out there, just as I am, and know that feeling “out of place” isn’t a reflection of me. And that “not belonging” is a lie because God handpicked me and placed me there for a reason.

I don’t have to stand against a wall, feeling conspicuous and awkward and like there’s a neon sign flashing above my head that reads: “No one wants this girl.”

I don’t have to stand there, palms sweaty, asking: “What is wrong with me?”, “Will I always feel like this?”, “Do they love me even though it doesn’t seem that way right now?”

Because back in the bathroom stall, God reminded me: “Those are the wrong questions, child.”

“Oh. Right.” I am called to serve Him. Which means the right question is: “What do you want me to do right now?”

And He smiles. Because yes, that is the right question. And what He says next almost makes me want to roll my eyes because “what a God thing to say!” 😉

“Go love people.”

Which, oddly enough, is a lot easier to do when you’re not trying to control them. Or yourself. 🙂

The Turning Page

I read today that our tears reveal something about our hearts- and about the God who created our hearts.

After the author made that claim, he continued by naming things that had made him cry- and in doing so, he painted a sort of portrait of who He is.

I was also thinking about how I couldn’t participate in our church activity last Saturday. When the pastor asked us to think back on 2015 and remember what God did, I just stared at the Christmas tree on the stage and counted the lights and tried not to think or cry. And when we got into groups to share, all I said was, “I can’t talk about it. Not because God didn’t do anything, but because the only reason I am here to reflect on 2015 and welcome 2016 is because of Him.”

And I can’t think about it. My mind feels held captive right now, the horror and shame and desperate grasping and clinging for someone to love me. The images and memories. The terror and “I can’t believe this is my life” and the being alone. The “I can’t breathe.” The phone calls. The long nights. …Just listing things is making my heart beat fast and my cheeks redden. The trauma is as real today as it was five months ago. And if I’m not careful, I could drown in it.

But I do want to recap 2015. I want to look at my tears and my blessings and thank God for both. And the rest of it? The thoughts and memories and images that feel like fire to my brain and heart? I’ll leave them alone. I’ll hand them to God to heal or redeem or restore. I’ll continue to fall to my knees and beg Him to take from me what isn’t of Heaven. I’ll try to breathe and trust and believe in hope.

And so, I’m going to make a list. A list of what has made me cry in 2015. And a list of what I’m grateful for.

And I’m going to call it brutiful.

And worth it.

And holy. Because God has never left my side. He’s been the dryer of my tears and the giver of every good thing.

*

Times this year I’ve cried:

Those nondescript, unsuspecting moments when someone I love is talking or sitting silently or reading a book or watching TV and I look at them and I find treasure there in their face, the slope of their nose and the way their eyes look when they smile and the little intricacies and details of who they are- the curve of their fingernails or freckle on their jawline or crooked smile. There, as if written on their forehead, I see: GIFT. And my heart swells to overflowing with fierce love and tenderness and gratitude to the Lord for placing them in my life. And I say a silent prayer that they won’t ever leave- that we’re in this life together, forever.

In the vet’s office, soothing Theodore with coos and promises that it would all be okay as the vet told me the opposite. Watching him get sick and suffer. The thousands of dollars I spent and midnight trips I made trying to find a way to make him be well only to discover I couldn’t fix it and I had to say goodbye. And having Laura offer to be with me when I put him down. Terrible grief. And a verbal hug.

Jordan singing Great is Thy Faithfulness on The Voice, the truth resonating in those words. The way Adam looked at him with uninhibited joy and undisguised pride. And I knew I was watching someone’s dreams come true. And it was beautiful and poignant and made me smile and cry at the same time.

The mail. Painful letters, returned house keys, bills I couldn’t afford and that triggered hard memories, and a Christmas card from the social worker at Good Sam, which reminded me it was all real; I really did live that. I lived it. The trauma. The gripping horror of it. I lived it. And I survived it. And God won’t leave me here in this place of forever, just trying to survive and battle the trauma. Someday the Christmas card will make me smile because she cared and I survived and I forgive myself, because He has forgiven me, and what was lost isn’t beyond His ability to heal, and what is broken isn’t beyond His ability to mend. And nothing is ruined.

Hugging my niece after seven months. Love and grief and sorrow and joy all mixed up together in that moment. Wrapping her up in my arms, lifting her off the ground and carrying her like I did when she was three. Looking at her face- the gradual maturing of it. Memorizing the features and the words she spoke and begging God to help her still love me and remember me. That baby who I loved with a love I’d never felt before, who I’d comforted and delighted in and cuddled and kissed and played with… now eight years old. And rather than being there, a present person in her life, through circumstances out of my control, we are growing apart instead of together. And I knew that. And I felt that. But she was there, before me, still the one who I loved with my whole heart, and I didn’t care if she loved me too- all that mattered was memorizing how it felt to hug her, taking that with me into the next days and weeks and months. And letting myself love her as best as I could from a distance- through prayer.

The moments of aching aloneness. Feeling unwanted, unconnected, like I don’t belong to anyone. Like no one would choose me. Without family or people who carry me in their heart like a mother or sister or aunt or cousin or husband or child would. And I fear that the love I thought I had is fragile or not real or dependent on my behavior and continual efforts to prove myself as lovable.

Reading blogs or books about how He loves us- how near He is and how safe it is to hope that there’s more of Him to experience and discover. The gentle whisper to my soul: “Continue to maintain that wild, irrational hope, child.”

Watching A Little Princess- that scene where Sara is begging her father to remember her. And then he does. And he runs after her just as the cops are putting her in their car and he shouts, with the fierce protectiveness of a loving parent: “Sara!” And she runs to him and leaps into his arms and he holds her and whispers loving things to her and they cry.

When hope feels as impossible to hold on to as smoke or sunlight.

That event where I felt judged and shamed and love felt performance-based. And I felt misunderstood and confused as to what’s real- caught between the opinions of the people I love and respect and admire, and the convictions of my own heart.

Reading about or hearing about or witnessing good mothers. When mothers look at their children with unmasked, limitless love. When I hear children (even grown children) say they don’t know what they’d do without their mom. And, the stabbing pain of knowing that unless God does a miracle in my life and brings me someone who wants a desperate-to-be-loved 28-year-old daughter, I won’t ever have that again. Nor will I ever get to be a mom without His hand in my life.

Each time I’ve left a counseling session that hasn’t helped and I’ve wondered if the problem is them, or if I’m just too screwed up to be helped, or if maybe I’m not screwed up at all and this is just how I’ll feel forever.

The gift of rainbows in the sky. Particularly last month when I saw the barely-there rainbow in the sky on my way to work. And I smiled and whispered, “Thank You.” And then, there, as I rounded a corner, I saw a bright and vibrant and beautiful second rainbow, the end of which was right beside me not even five feet away. It was incredible. And I realized then that the faint rainbow, which I had been so pleased with, had just been a shadow of the real gift He had to give. I imagined God’s eyes twinkling as I thanked Him for that faint rainbow, all the while knowing He had something even better coming just a few seconds later. And I imagined Him there, holding His breath, so excited for me to see.

Each time I’ve prayed a prayer of surrender and trust. Each time I’ve lifted up my heart tentatively and on shaking hands and said, “Take it. I trust You.”

*

Things I’m Grateful For:

I didn’t spend Christmas alone.

Hard, growing, vulnerability-requiring, bonding conversations.

Being able to cry again.

The laps and shoulders I’ve cried on.

Dancing in the rain.

Life-affirming road trips, particularly the one to Cape Flattery and the spontaneous 6:00 p.m. drive to Ocean Shores.

Having–and keeping–a job I love.

People who’ve been there in hard moments. They’ve showed up or answered their phones. They’ve welcomed me into their homes and lives. They’ve prayed for me.

Good books. Books that help me feel like Jesus is right here at my side, filling me with the sense of “life abundant” that I am clinging to as being my birthright.

The kids in my life who love me and who I get to squeeze and cuddle and love on.

The miracle of leaving Bellevue early. And having a ride home.

Getting my head above the water long enough to choose not to give up.

My church family. The increased comfort I feel there. The post-church shared meals and laughter and conversation.

Every single moment someone’s looked at me with love. I notice it- every time. And I store it up in my heart and use it to battle the lies that seem to constantly be threatening to pull me under.

Every night I’ve gone to bed with hope filling me up inside. Every morning I’ve woke up with joy bubbling within me. Every afternoon I’ve suddenly been struck by the assurance that it’s all going to be okay.

*

I still have to ask Him every single night to tuck me in.

I’m 28 and I can’t sleep–I can’t silence my heartache and fear and desire to take control of things I have no control over–without believing the God who calls me daughter stops by my bed at night and tucks the covers up around me and kisses my forehead.

And I calm my heart by meditating on my belief that He stands vigil while I sleep, looking down on me with love, working in my life even while I rest.

And that is how I’ll begin 2016- needing God with a desperate fierceness.

And trusting Him to never leave my side.

Believe

When people talk on the phone near me, I listen to see if they’ll end their conversation with an “I love you.”

I wait to hear the smile in their voice as they say, “I love you too.”

And it makes me glad for them.

Having someone to say ‘I love you’ to is one of this life’s greatest gifts.

*

Occasionally, you’ll hear someone talk about something good that happened in their life and they’ll say, “That changed me forever.”

They’ll assert that what happened–the event or circumstance of their past–has made who they are in the present richer and more alive and entirely different.

Which makes me think- Okay, so it’s possible not just to have something bad change you, but to have something so miraculous or good happen to you that you are no longer the same person.

That gives me hope- knowing there is the potential to be so undone and transformed by something (or Someone) that it warrants the statement “that changed me forever.”

 

“Miracles can happen in a heartbeat.”

*

I was thinking this morning about home-

The chaos of a bunny and a cat chasing each other through the house.
Something spilled in the bottom of the oven setting off the smoke detector.
Christmas music playing on the TV.
Candles lit.
Blowing a fuse because I forgot to turn the heat off before running the microwave.
Another cat meowing to be fed.
Laundry to do.
Cookies to bake.
Flour spilled on the floor.

And I smiled.

Chaos feels like love.

When you have to open the windows because the house is too hot from movement and conversation and baking- that’s love.

When Madison and the kids come over and one wipes their hands on the carpet and another runs off with my cell phone, and Madison is talking and we are laughing and there’s a movie to watch and kids to put pajamas on…

and I have to open the windows…

That’s love.

And when it’s quiet,
and the kids are softly snoring,
and I say goodnight to Madison and go to bed,
and I curl up beneath my blankets and listen to the bunny scratching at her cage,
and the cats jump on the bed and lay at my feet,
and the soft glow of the twinkle lights are coming from the room Madison and her kids are sleeping in…

That’s love too.

*

Today at Starbucks the barista complimented my freckles.

It always takes me off guard when someone compliments my freckles because I forget I have them. I don’t see them when I look in the mirror. So when someone says, “I love your freckles!” my first thought is: “You can see them!?”

But I love that compliment. Not because it makes me feel beautiful, because I know freckles are not traditionally considered beautiful, but I love it because it reminds me that God put me together special. He placed each one of my freckles.

And when the barista said that today, I felt Him smile at me. I felt Him near- bending down to kiss my forehead. The same freckled forehead He created almost 29 years ago.

I wonder if maybe there’s a reason I look the way I do. Young. Innocent. Not intimidating.

Emily and Kim and I were talking about Batman and who would be cast as who. She said I could be Cat Woman. And I laughed and told her I have zero sex appeal. I said it would make more sense to cast me as a kindergarten teacher or Little Orphan Annie.

Would I like to be beautiful? Sure. But I’m not. I’m “cute”. And that wasn’t a mistake any more than my heart or personality were mistakes. God doesn’t make mistakes.

So maybe my feeling young on the inside isn’t a problem to be solved. Maybe God gave me a face to match my insides.

I’m done calling myself and how I feel “wrong”.

God built me. I am His project. And if there’s anything in me that He wants to change, I trust Him to do it. Otherwise I am going to trust that He looks at me with love and calls me “good”. His creation. His beloved daughter. No less good than the sunrise or stars or birds.

It’s not up to me to call things wrong.

It’s up to me to love-

Him,
others,
and myself.

*

This is beautiful.

So is this.

*

“Liminal space is a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the ‘tried and true’ but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are in between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer.

It is no fun.

Think of Israel in the desert, Joseph in the pit, Jonah in the belly, the three Marys tending the tomb.

If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait—you will run—or more likely you will explain. Not necessarily a true explanation, but any explanation is better than scary liminal space. Anything to flee from this terrible cloud of unknowing.’

Maybe the way forward is not finding THE answer right now but learning to live without an answer, or rather, living towards one.

We need to find our way back to the true meanings of trust, wait and patience; a life of hope.”

*

I wonder if all this pain of feeling like I don’t belong anywhere… I wonder how God will use it.

I wonder if someday I’ll be in a position where I can mother those who feel the way I do.

I’d like that.

I’d like to have an open door, to welcome people in- whether or not I have children of my own. I want all to feel included. Wanted. I want them to come into my home and I want to greet them a warm embrace. Because I’m a hugger…

which, ironically, is something I got from neither parent.

Maybe I got it from my Father.

I close my eyes and smile and picture the Thanksgivings and Christmasses and Friday nights of my future. Sleeping people scattered all throughout house- beds, couch, living room floor on blanket beds. And not because they don’t have a home, but because my home is just as much their home as the one where they have their mail delivered.

What if.

What if I let this make me tender?

What if I let Him empty me out. All of me. My sorrows and grief and longings and hopes and joys and every single corner and facet and moment of my life- committed to Him. In His hands.

What if.

What would He do?

It would be good. I have that promise. And maybe it wouldn’t be what I’d expect- maybe I’ll never be a daughter to anyone. Or a sister. Or carry a baby within my belly. Or be the one someone chooses to spend their life with.

And that? The thought of not ever being anyone’s ever again? That breaks my heart. It’s almost intolerable.

Almost.

But He says not to fear. He says to trust Him. He says He IS Love. He says it’s safe to hope.

He says we won’t understand right now. His ways aren’t our ways.

So I have to tell my heart that. I’m not seeing the whole picture right now.

God doesn’t desire for me to live my entire life gripped with sorrow.

This isn’t where I’m meant to stay.

When I worry I’ll hurt forever, He extends His hand.

Because we’re on a journey.

And I can’t see what’s up ahead.

But He can.

And He says it’s good.

*

I was skimming Netflix the other day when I came across a movie that seemed vaguely familiar. It was old- made before I was even born, and yet I had the distinct impression that I had seen it before.

And so I hit play on the movie and watched and suddenly I remembered that yes- I HAD seen it! I remembered being in the living room. I remembered sitting on my mom’s lap. I remembered the scene where the kids are in the car.

And I remembered that was the day of The Penny.

When I was a child, I spent an abnormal amount of time praying. Although my prayer looked more like games of cards and reading library books aloud to God – who, looking back now, I have no doubt delighted in every second of listening to me read or watching me play with Him in mind.

And one Christmas I decided to leave Jesus a birthday present. And so I tucked a penny, a brown penny, between the brown carpet of the stairs and the brown wall. (Lots of brown. It was the early 90’s, folks.)

And I was watching that movie with Mom the next morning when I remembered the penny, so I jumped off her lap to see if Jesus had taken His present.

And it wasn’t there.

And I couldn’t believe it. I looked everywhere. I checked every step because maybe I had just forgotten where I had left it, even though I knew I hadn’t.

And it wasn’t there.

So I ran back upstairs to Mom and told her. And I don’t remember her reacting or seeming nearly as amazed as I did. But neither did she say she had found the penny or maybe vacuumed it up or anything. Rather, she seemed more focused on the movie.

And I crawled back up on her lap and kept watching the movie with her, but I held wonder and love within my chest.

And I remember that still.

When I was a child, God seemed SO near. So real. Alive. No less real or alive than my parents or siblings or next-door neighbor.

And sure, maybe someone found the penny, or maybe my parents vacuumed. But however it disappeared, it was God’s message to a child: “Thank you for thinking of Me. I’m here. And I love you.”

And I don’t know that I’m so far removed from being that child- the one who believes in crazy miracles.

I believe in a God who’d take a penny.

I believe in a God who will tuck me in to bed at night and sit with me until I fall asleep if I ask Him to.

I believe in a God who would sit with a child and listen to her read a Berenstain Bears book.

When I watch movies, movies that would seem impossible, where angels visits or hearts are transformed or someone gets the father or mother or child they’ve always wanted… I believe, in some small corner of my heart, that the movies aren’t just works of fiction and that it’s not naive for me to believe that because our God is our Abba Father and He loves us and NOTHING is impossible for Him.

Nothing we think up even comes close to how big our God is. We can’t dream or hope too big. We can’t out-imagine Him.

*

When I lie in bed at night and sob and tell Him that I need Him or want Him, sometimes it feels as pointless as telling my mom I need or want her. Which can leave me there, wracked with sorrow…

and with something else to grieve.

It HURTS to wanting and needing a God who you think won’t actually show up and be the living and present God He says He is.

And that’s why I am standing firm that there’s more for us.

I’m claiming that nothing is impossible.

I’m going to hope and believe, wildly and irrationally, like a child.

Because God made me.

And I’m done calling who I am wrong.

Maybe all those hours of cards and reading and conversation with God as a child weren’t one-sided. Maybe He used that time to breathe hope in me- the belief in the possibility of the impossible.

*

This year, I won’t be leaving God a penny. But I’ll be loving those who have no one to love them. I’ll donate money and time to people in need.

And I think about how maybe that’s the greatest gift we could give Jesus on His birthday- loving each other. Being together. What could bring Him more joy, after all? Whether we’re loving those we’ve known all our lives or a year or just met in line at the grocery store, we are fulfilling His deepest desire for us, aren’t we? We’re coming together.

He created us individually.

And placed us here lovingly.

And what could bring Him more joy than watching us come together and love each other?

Especially when we’re coming together because of Him.

Oh, happy, happy birthday, sweet Jesus.

*

Someday maybe Christmas will look like hot chocolate going cold on the coffee table and people curled up together on the couch, trying to keep their eyes open as the night comes to a close.

Or maybe it will look like being called someone’s sister. A miracle, undoubtedly, to be grafted into an already established family. But God can do anything.

Maybe I’ll have a husband.

Or a dog.

Maybe I’ll eat dinner alone or serve at a food bank or maybe I’ll be surrounded by people I love.

I don’t know. But I know He loves me.

And He loves them. You.

And He put us together on this big, scary, wonderful, lonely, beautiful planet.

And He whispers in my ear, “Hope wild, child. Nothing is impossible.”

Neediness and Owls

I was thinking today about neediness and what characteristics make someone refer to someone else as needy. And then it occurred to me that “needy” isn’t a word that God uses to describe anyone. We cannot need Him too much.

Maybe needy people are only those who try to make others their God. Maybe it is dependence and hope misplaced. We are meant to depend on God and hope in God alone, and when we put that on others, it’s unfair to them, and it’s unfair to us. No one but God can live up to our expectations.

The Lord never tires of me.

That truth is sort of amazing to me, honestly. I have constant access to Him, and never does He roll His eyes or plug His ears or hit ‘ignore’ when He sees my name show up on His metaphorical cell phone.

And when I’m needy, when half of my prayers fall somewhere along the lines of: “Tell me some more about how You love me?” Even then, He doesn’t tire of me.

Rather, He invites me to crawl up onto His lap. He invites me to sit with Him for a while and be held.

He looks at me with love and tenderness. He calls me beautiful. He knows my heart. He knows what makes me laugh and what makes me cry. He knows where I’m broken and where I’m blessed. He knows by memory the curve of my nose and the color of my eyes and smiles with love and affection about all the things about my appearance that make me roll my eyes with frustration. My unruly hair? He loves my unruly hair. In His eyes, fly-away hair isn’t a problem to be solved, but just another aspect of the beauty that is His precious child. He calls me special. He sees me. I matter.

God knows that love has to be engrained in us. I think that’s where it all has to begin- any good thing, any peace or joy or good we hope to do has to begin with the firm, unshakeable assurance that Jesus loves us. When that isn’t the source of what fuels us, we run dry. We cannot sustain a loving, godly lifestyle if we are relying on ourselves- our own willpower and abilities. Rather, they have to flow from the part of us that God is transforming, the part of us that cannot help but love others because God’s love is overflowing within us.

A child who knows themselves to be loved can do mighty things. Loving things. Holy, helpful, beautiful things in Jesus’ name.

One of the things I struggle most with is wanting people to love me. Sometimes gaining love and acceptance and approval is my primary focus. But, as I’ve learned the hard way, you cannot go through life wanting people to fill you up- to provide the love you’re so longing for. Desiring love in itself isn’t wrong—we are meant to love each other and do life together—but when you go through life expecting people to step in and fill gaps and mend hurts, that’s when you are liable to cross the line into the territory of neediness.

We are wired to need love and to only be able to find the fulfillment of that need in God. It’s a holy and good thing that we’re unable to be satisfied with the things of the world; it keeps our eyes where they should be- on our Creator.

Lord, help me rely and depend on You alone for all the things I need that only You can satisfy. Help me not get confused and make other people or things my God.

When I let go of expectations–the expectation of love to be reciprocated, or the expectation of someone’s love to swoop in and break down the walls I’ve unintentionally built–I can love freely and without fear because I no longer have anything to lose. I love others because God’s love within me makes it impossible not to love others.

And the walls I referred to? The more I step out and love people, the more I love just for the sake of loving and not for the hope of being loved in return, the less I feel myself needing to self-protect. And as God’s love for me becomes the reality in which I live and breathe, I realize I am safe. I am loved and lovable already- I don’t need to earn it and it isn’t something that can be taken from me.

We do need each other as well, though. We need a community and network of people in our corner. And He knows that. And so, rather than trying to force those people into my life, I try to be the kind of person that other people need- the support and help and safe place for them to go. I don’t try to will and coerce people to love me back, I just love them and trust God with the rest.

We aren’t meant to go it alone. We need family.

Sometimes I feel pouty and I tell God, “You don’t understand! I need love and I need it now!”

And His response, always gentle and loving, is, “You’re right, you do need love. But I don’t want you to get confused. I don’t want you to think you need the love of others more than My love. So come here. Crawl up onto My lap. Stay a while. Let Me call you baby. Beloved. Child. Run to Me. Let Me be the source of the love your soul craves. And trust Me. Trust My timing and My ability to meet your needs. You are lovely and lovable and all that you seek can be found in Me, My child. I’ve got it all under control. It makes Me smile so brightly when I think about all that is to come in your life. It is going to be such a beautiful story. You are going to be just fine. I promise.”

The other night, Brittany came into my room and sat down on my bed just as I was falling asleep. “Do you hear that?” she asked. I didn’t hear anything and told her so.

“Owls,” she said. “Listen.”

And then I heard them. We sat there for a long time, just listening to them.

“Mom would’ve loved this,” Brittany said softly.

“She always used to wake me up for things like this- thunderstorm or the birds singing at dawn or beautiful sunrises or especially powerful dreams that woke her and left her needing to talk about them. She loved moments like these, middle of the night moments in bed with me, talking or listening. She loved them so much,” I replied.

I thought I lost that. I thought I lost the only person who ever made my life feel magical. I thought I lost the only person in my life who cared to share special moments with me.

Our relationship was far from perfect, but Mom brought magic with her wherever she went. Maybe all mothers do. Maybe perceived magic on the part of the child is just a characteristic of the mother/child relationship. The child always wants to know what their mom is thinking or going to do next or what they have planned or what they are hoping for. Magic and mothers just go hand-in-hand.

The other night, though, in bed with Brittany, it occurred to me that I hadn’t lost that at all. And no, I am not referring to my sister as my replacement for magic. Again, that would be an expectation she could never fulfill. I only had one mom, and my mom is gone. I cannot expect anyone else to step in and fill that hole.

At least, I cannot expect anyone other than God to step in and fill that hole.

I didn’t lose the magic. I didn’t lose the only person in my life who wanted to share special moments with me and confide the secrets of their heart to me in the middle of the night. God loves me like that. All that I’ve lost I can find in Jesus.

It is such an incredible gift.

That night, Brittany researched why two owls might spend so much time hooting back and forth to each other, and one of the reasons she found made my heart swoony: sometimes owls hoot back and forth to signify the permanent bond they hold.

Magic.

That owls would love each other with something permanent and powerful enough to cause them to need to express it? That is something only a beautiful, magical God could think up. He created them like that that on purpose. He designed all living things, with all their intricacies, and in them I see Him reflected. God knows knows all about permanent bonds and love that makes you sing. He sings over us, after all. Praise Him.

After Brittany left my room that night, I laid in bed a while longer and listened to the owls. “Sleep well, beloved. Let the owl cry lullaby you,” I felt God whisper to some empty, hollow place within my soul.

There is so much detail in this world in which we live, so much affirmation that He exists and that He loves us fiercely. The owls in my backyard the other night weren’t an accident. They were God’s voice to me- His call to me, reminding me that it is safe to believe in magic and a love that endures.

God will give me a family someday. I know He will. But until then, He is giving me owls. And my cats. And clients who call me crying, and tell me about the things in their lives that make them happy, and send me proud pictures of their pink-faced, doll-lipped, clenched-fist newborns. And I have my church. Thank You, Jesus, for my church.

This time in my life isn’t just a waiting period. It isn’t empty and devoid of meaning. Lord, help me get from today what You have for me. Help me learn to make You my primary family, above anyone else. Be Lord of my heart, no matter what my life looks like. No matter how blessed or how seemingly empty my life is, help me rejoice in knowing that You are mine. Forever.

It’s enough, Lord. You are enough. I proclaim that in faith. Thank You that I have all that I need in You.

Ears To Hear

I’ve been having some really vivid, really bad dreams lately.

But there has been a progression, I’ve noticed.

My dreams this week started out being just bad. Terrifying, really. Dreams in which I was somehow being targeted or victimized. Dreams where I was powerless.

But towards the end of the week, my dreams took a different shape. They were still bad. I was still, on my own, powerless. But the difference was that Jesus loomed larger in my dreams than my victimizer. My dreams were no longer the same intensity of terrifying because my dream self had called on Him. My dream self has stopped trying to do it on her own strength. I called His name and He came. And I knew He was in control. I wasn’t anybody’s victim because I was (am) His child.

During one particularly powerful and vivid dream, I actually felt sympathy for my dream’s “bad guy”. I knew he was blinded. I knew he thought he saw things clearly, thought he saw how they “should” be, but that he was wrong. So wrong. And while he meant me (and many others in my dream) harm, I knew he was confused. And, even though I knew he might retaliate at my boldness, my dream self actually placed her hand over his heart and prayed aloud for him. Not worried I’d offend him, not worried he’d lash out, I prayed that he would be able to see clearly what he was doing. And I prayed God would forgive him.

When I woke up, I felt Jesus smiling at me. Sometimes my awake-self is so fearful, so confused about what really matters, but my dream self isn’t. My dream self has unwavering faith. My dream self has seen the face of God and is changed.

Last night, however, I had a much different dream. I was at my elementary school playground. It was sunny. And I was practicing handstands against the brick wall. Twenty-seven years old, practicing handstands.

Life is so beautiful it makes me cry. Even when it’s excruciating, it is beautiful. There is evil, yes, but this is still the world our God created. These are still the people He knit together in their mothers’ wombs. Every sunrise, every baby, every time someone smiles at you and the smile reaches all the way up to their eyes, every kind gesture, every kind word, every starry night- they are not “just part of life”, they are messages to us about God’s character, His heart for us.

When I watch a mother look at her daughter the way only a mother can do, when I hear someone say their father is their biggest supporter, when I see a husband tenderly kiss the top of his wife’s head, my heart twists with the grief of it all.

But those moments are messages, too. This heart of mine, which feels so grieved and twisted, was created by God. Those things hurt because they weren’t supposed to be that way. He designed us to be loved. We hurt because we were created for more. 

But with every tear, with every moment where I feel paralyzed with the weight of life, God is there. He is so, so present. He says to me, “Come to Me. You are still Someone’s child. look at you the way that mom is looking at her daughter. I am a bigger fan of yours than your earthly father ever could be. If only you knew how often I look at you tenderly and kiss your head. You are so, so beloved. You want so badly to belong, to be treasured, but you don’t realize that you already are. You are MINE.”

In every thing, every laugh, every tear, God whispers to us.

Lord, help us hear You.

Help Us Dance

“Notice that what the serpent told [Eve] was not only plausible; it was even partially true. Eating the fruit would indeed open her eyes to understand good and evil. In her innocence, Eve was susceptible to the devil’s half-truths and lies.”

Of course I am familiar with the story of Adam and Eve and that wretched serpent, but I don’t think I’ve looked at it quite that way before.

Certainly I know that Satan is a liar, but I didn’t realize before how subtle his lies can be. I didn’t realize how his lies might even start out as a small piece of truth. He gets you to agree with that truth and then tries to assign meaning to it. And the meaning he assigns, and the way he suggests you should respond, those are the lies. But he is so subtle about it that you don’t even realize what he’s done. He doesn’t go for the jugular so that you can fight back with what you know to be true, he is sneakier than that.

For instance, rather than say, “God doesn’t love you,” which would do little more than elicit and eye-roll from those of us who know that to be laughably false, he might get you to agree that a certain social situation was uncomfortable. Then he will start with the lies. He might suggest that people don’t like you. That you don’t fit in. That you are hopelessly flawed. That you might as well just stop trying. That you don’t matter. That your future will look just like your present. That you will be alone. That God doesn’t care. That if God loved you, your life would look different. And before you know it, you’re walking around believing that God doesn’t love you.

Satan only asks for a little- at least initially. He only asks you to agree with him on some small thing, and then he lets you run away with that lie. He lets you elaborate on it until your whole way of seeing life and yourself is based on what you FEEL to be true versus what God says is true.

Satan loves to make us act on half-truths.

Lately Satan has been reminding me that there are no guarantees in life. Is that true? Yes. But before I know it, I find myself believing that if I want my life to look a certain way, I need to take matters into my own hands. He tells me God’s timing isn’t perfect and that I deserve better than what God has for me right now.

It is about then that I catch myself running away with the lie and am able to put a stop to it, but it’s so subtle. Satan is so subtle. It would be so easy to overlook the fact that it’s a lie. It would be so easy to march off, nose in the air, believing that it was actually was some deep truth about life that I had wisely and cleverly discerned all by myself.

I am so grateful that God left us the Bible. I am so grateful that Jesus came to earth to show us how to use the Bible as a weapon against the forces of evil. I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit within me can gently remind me when I begin believing something that isn’t biblical.

I am grateful for all the discomforts of life, including having no [good] choice but to trust in God’s timing and His plan.

Over and over again lately I am reminded that my hope HAS to be in God alone.

I cannot hope in a person or a relationship, I cannot hope in the fulfillment of a dream, I cannot hope in myself.

No matter how badly I want to be a wife and a mama, for instance, my hope has to be in God alone. Whether or not I am ever a mama, God is still God. My joy and hope cannot be found in what He gives, but in Him alone. It’s only when we fully abide in His love and His truth that joy and hope are unshakable.

Even when my life looks differently than I thought it would, He is good and He doesn’t make mistakes. And I am blessed. Give or take away, Lord, I know I stand here so very blessed.

And certainly I would prefer the comfort of guarantees and the joy of having my dreams coming to fruition, but none of that compares to the comfort of Your present and the joy of knowing You love me. I choose Your will, Lord.

I choose discomfort if discomfort is what You have for me.

I choose a life of praying fervently for the things that matter to me, all the while knowing You will make the final decision and whatever You decide, it will be good.

I choose unshakable joy.

I choose unshakable hope.

I choose Truth.

Hold our hands, Lord. Hold tight to us. Help us not unknowingly believe any lies. Saturate our minds with truth. Help us feel empowered, armed, and well-equipped to face this life head-on. Help us boldly and confidently do battle against evil. And help us not to be so weighed down by the presence of evil in this life that we forget that we have every reason to rejoice. We belong to You, Lord. Help that truth sink deep into our hearts until we are so overwhelmed by Your love that we cannot help but dance.