In Every Moment

“I just think that there’s meaning in everything,” my client said a couple weeks ago. “I think God is in everything and that our days matter so much more than we could ever understand.”

Sometimes my clients help me.

Sometimes they don’t. Another client of mine has told me two times in a row that I look crazy.

Her insight is unnerving.

*

I cried at the doggy daycare last week.

I was petting this sweet, little dog with the most gentle eyes, and the woman behind the counter said, “You know, she’s up for adoption.”

And everything in me wanted to take her home and be her mommy.

And I looked at her eyes, so filled with hope and delight at having my attention, and I thought about how she doesn’t have a mommy, and it made me tear up.

Because her tail was wagging and her eyes were gentle but no one loves her the way I love Arlow.

*

How do we stay in this fight?

If I was with God, His love would feel like a hug.

If everything here, everything I love and everything I desire, is just a mere reflection of the goodness that awaits me in heaven, why wouldn’t I want to be there?

Because love chooses well. Love chooses not to abandon people, not to give up on this life that’s a gift. I know that. In my head, I know that.

But inside of me, I’m a child lost at the carnival and everyone around me is laughing and talking and eating cotton candy, and I’m standing there, terrified, with no parent’s legs to grab onto.

And does anyone see? Does anyone see how alone and scared I am? Only Him. Only heaven.

*

Some people think you go to hell if you kill yourself, but I think that’s dumb. It’s professing, in essence, that God’s grace is big enough to cover every sin but one.

Plus, God doesn’t fault us for being sick.

Not to mention, that black and white philosophy leaves so much unanswered. Like what about people who die from an accidental drug overdose? Do they immediately go to hell? Even though they weren’t trying to kill themselves? Even though they might believe in Jesus?

I wonder about my clients sometimes, how a loving God could send to hell a person who can’t possibly believe in Him because they hear cupboards speak to them and think Michael Jackson is preparing a palace for them to live in. How could He fault them for not believing? I don’t think He will.

I don’t think He does.

I watched my client die the other day. I went to deliver her meds, and the next thing I knew, EMTs were trying to get her heart started again.

The only coherent thing she said to me before she died? “I have to say a prayer.”

“You have to say a prayer?” I asked.

And then again, she said, “I have to say a prayer.”

*

My face was pressed against the couch this afternoon. Lies and truths swirling about in my head, fighting for a voice.

And then, I felt God’s gentle urging to just let it be.

“Let the lies and truths coexist for now; it’s not as important to piece them apart as it feels. The real issue at hand is: Who are you?

When it’s just you and the couch, when all your relationships could fall away and it would just be you standing alone, apart from who loves you and who doesn’t, apart from where you belong and where you don’t, apart from what someone thinks of you or if they think of you at all, who are you?”

Yours.

I am Yours, I am Yours, I am Yours.

*

Whenever I need a hug, I watch Narnia.

There’s just something about Aslan. The eyes, the laugh, the roar.

They remind me of home.

*

I don’t know how to do this.

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He Calls Me Daughter

“She was afraid to hope. She had nothing left to offer. She was clinging onto her last bit of faith because she didn’t know where she’d be without it. That this wasn’t what she’d expected. That this wasn’t where she’d hoped her life would land when she’d whispered to God that she would follow Him.”

Thank You, Lord, that this isn’t where my story ends.

And thank You for the hope that’s slowly begun to swirl within me.

I don’t have a plan, Lord. And that ordinarily would scare me, but I’m too exhausted and tired to feel fear. So instead, I throw my arms open wide. I surrender all of me to You. Have Your way with me, Lord. Use me. Heal me.

And please, Lord, please bless me.

I feel entitled asking for You to bless me, but it’s the timid, yet passionate cry of my heart. Please, Lord. Please bless me.

I know that all of You is more than enough. I know You’ve already given me the best gift in sending Your son to die for me. It feels selfish to ask for any more than that. But I also know that You delight in giving good gifts to Your children.

You want us to grow and mature and become more like Jesus, but You also want to bless us. You want to know our thoughts, our hurts, our fears, our worries, our questions, our desires, what makes us laugh, and what makes us cry. There is no area of my life, no matter how small, that doesn’t interest You. There is no topic that’s off limits.

And so, I feel safe as Your child to approach You and ask that You bless me. It isn’t the demand of a spoiled child, it is the petition of a child who comes before You in awe and reverence and with a tired, broken heart.

Also, Lord, I ask that You fill me up with joy and wholeness and peace and an all-consuming fire for You.

Take all of me, Lord, and make my life something beautiful and pleasing to You.

Help me to delight in each day. Help me to see life as a gift. And fill my heart up with love and the knowledge that I am loved.

Thank You, thank You, thank You that we’re not meant to do life alone. We’re created in Your image, and You are triune–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–and You are Love. We are meant to do life together. We are designed to love and be loved. Thank You for designing us that way, Lord.

Colors get brighter and life gets richer and deeper and more holy once we know, not just with our heads but with our hearts, that we are loved.

Thank You that You heard my desperate prayers for family. Thank You that You know what I need. Thank You for what You’re doing in my life. Thank You for never leaving things broken, but for being the Master Rebuilder, the Sovereign Redeemer, the Protective Father, the Holy King.

Help me to honor and glorify and praise You regardless of my circumstances. Help me to trust You regardless of whether or not things make sense.

Help my love for You grow daily and be completely independent of whether or not I’m in a season of life where You seem to be giving or taking away.

I am weak, Lord. But I am still Your daughter, and as Your child, I have authority over anything that might try to come against me. Help me to remember that and live that out. I don’t have to feel strong, that’s Your role, but I can stand firm. I am not too weak to stand, to arm myself with Truth, and wait for You to save me. It’s not my job to save myself, (I couldn’t even if I tried), it’s just my job not to forget Who I belong to and what scripture says.

Lord, help me not believe any lies.

Thank You for taking care of me.

Thank You for loving me.

Thank You for not leaving me an orphan.

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.

Family

Today I’ve been giving some thought to what family is.

I know family isn’t one of those unexplored, under-discussed topics. I promise I am not trying to be profound in any way. I am just wanting to be honest. To explore in writing what God has shown me.

I don’t know why God gave me the family He did. I don’t know how He, knowing how things would turn out, could possibly see my family as being the best fit for me. I don’t know how He could possibly have thought it would make sense to put a tender-hearted, family-oriented person into a family that was destined to crumble. But it doesn’t matter. I don’t have to understand. My understanding (or not!) doesn’t make God’s decision and plan any less perfect.

A dear friend of mine used to tell me to love people “with open hands”, which used to make me really mad. “If you cannot depend on someone to stick around, if you cannot rely on them, what’s the point in loving them!?” I used to wonder. But now I know that people will always let us down, and that their flaws don’t disqualify them for our love. I also know that loving people is much less scary when God is our God- and not man. Some people will stay, and some won’t, and that is okay.

God provides.

When I watched my life–everything I thought I could rely on–crumble, I was not alone.

When I thought I was an orphan, I was wrong.

When I thought no one’s eyes would ever light up again when they thought of me, I was foolish.

Every day I’ve felt like I was marching through this life alone, I have been mistaken.

And also, there has been blessing in those days. On the days I thought I walked alone, the days I thought I belonged to no one, the days I felt like no one would claim me as their family, I had no choice but to cling to Jesus. And I am so grateful for that. I am so grateful for those days.

It doesn’t matter if we understand. We will never, in this lifetime, fully understand what God is doing. But it doesn’t make it any less beautiful. We have to trust in Him, and not in our own understanding, right? I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere… 🙂

And now that I can see things more clearly, now that the dust has settled and I am looking at this new life of mine, which is nothing like the life I envisioned for myself, I boldly, and with a smile on my face, will testify that the Lord provides.

I am not without family.

Family isn’t about last name or whose smile most closely resembles your own.

It’s not about who understands you or who even appreciates you the way you most deserve to be appreciated.

It’s not even about who you spend your holidays with.

Family is about who carries you in their heart.

Family is the people who tell you the truth, even when it makes you feel mildly violent towards them.

Family is the people who say to you, “Drive safely. Call me when you get home.”

Family is who you feel comfortable calling “just to say hi”.

Family is the people who know you and still claim you.

And family isn’t forever. It just isn’t. I have had family, biological and otherwise, who were only in my life for a time, for a season. And that is okay. It doesn’t make it any less real.

For instance, I don’t have to question my entire childhood just because things are different now. My childhood wasn’t unreal. I wasn’t unloved. It was just a temporary thing. A sweet, sacred, imperfect, lovable time in my life which I can look back on, both with fond memories and with the objectivity that comes with adulthood.

When I lived in Maine, I had a family. I didn’t realize it at the time, nor did I appreciate it as much as I should’ve, but a small band of individuals claimed me. They took me in. They called me theirs. Even though I did nothing to “deserve” it. That’s another characteristic of family- you don’t have to earn their love or prove yourself or “qualify” in order to belong; they just love you. Again, it’s imperfect love, but it’s still love.

And love, whenever it shows up in life, is a gift from God.

He provides.

There is purpose in the loneliness. God doesn’t waste anything. Not one tear, not one prayer, not one dream or hope or longing, not one single moment of suffering or joy have gone undetected to Him.

He knows me. He knows what makes me laugh spontaneously, even when there’s no one around to hear. He knows what makes me tilt my head toward heaven and thank Him. And He knows what makes me fall to my knees and plead with Him. He knows the empty places in my heart. And He knows what I need.

Infinitely better than I ever could, the Lord provides for me.

He will give me surrogate mothers and sisters, fathers and brothers and grandparents as He sees fit.

And my friends’ children? My nieces and nephew? My clients and their children? Not having children of my own right now enables me to fully embrace and love the other children in my life.

No longer having faces I can rely on seeing around the table on Thanksgiving has enabled me to expand my definition of family. And the beauty of that? Not only does God provide for me, but He provides for them as well. The people in my life who I call family? Not only are they my family, but I am theirs. We are doing life together- combating loneliness with love and laughter and the comfort that comes from really knowing someone. That’s yet another characteristic of family- family is who you do life with.

Lord, expand our narrow view- of family, and love, and what we “need”. Change our definition of what our life “should” look like. Change our perspective. Help us see more clearly just how well taken care of we are. Help our prayers be punctuated with hallelujahs.