Love Wears Work Boots

I stood in the middle of a two-lane road today and screamed at someone.

I was trying to be thoughtful. I was trying not to inconvenience anyone. And it back-fired. (Yes, that is self-pity you hear in my voice.)

I was going for a walk, and I reached the road. I could’ve hit the crosswalk button, but then the cars would’ve had to stop, and I knew I could cross to the center median before the car to my left even came close, and that I could wait there a few seconds until the car to my right passed.

But instead, just as I was stopping at the center median, the car to my right slammed on his brakes and started screaming at me about not hitting the crosswalk button. He was irate and dropping f-bombs… and so what was there to do but defend myself in typical Tamara style? It’s the social worker in me. I can’t keep my ever-loving mouth closed when something feels unfair.

And so I faced him, moving deliberately out in front of his car, and I screamed: “I WAS WAITING FOR YOU!”

More f-bombs on his end, and then his tires squealed and he drove away.

And I resumed my walk.

Only it only took me a few minutes of processing before I burst into shoulder-shaking, hiccuping sobs. And I walked that way, crying, for the next fifteen minutes, making people uncomfortable while I passed.

And, admittedly, the driver was maybe not even wrong for being mad. I’m sure he thought I was going to cross the road in front of him.

But I also know a typical person, even one who was angry with me, wouldn’t have screamed like that and swore repeatedly at me.

I text messaged Laura after that. “I don’t think I’m feeling very ‘love wins’ today,” I said.

*

I was reading a book description last night.

“…finding strength and courage in the most unimaginable places.”

“Determined to dictate their own fate…”

“…give each other strength and hope as they fight to survive…”

“Brave and defiant…”

“…friendships that will both nourish and challenge her.”

“A beautiful testament to love, family, and the sheer force of will…”

“…a figure of abiding grace.”

If someone were to write a story about my life, I would want it described in that way.

I want to live a beautiful story.

*

I was talking with Pauline yesterday about fighting for truth, about not letting my emotions dictate my behaviors.

I told her how I felt, and then I said: “But the best thing I can do for [this person] is to set my emotions aside and fight for truth. And I want to do that.”

I do. I want to love well. I don’t want to make my emotions, (which, let’s face it, are often the product of lies and fears), the priority of every situation. I want to choose love. I want to choose them over me.

After I said all that, Pauline reminded me that she’s talked with me for a long time about fighting for truth. Admittedly, I have kind of rolled my eyes at it before, believing my emotions to always be the truest, most important thing.

Then Pauline said, “It strikes me that God knows you through and through. He created you. And He knew that, in order to commit to this fight, He’d have to put you face-to-face with something you really valued.” Then she paused and said, “And He knew you’d fight if it was for [this person].”

It’s so true.

God doesn’t put us in situations that hurt, but He uses them.

Our pain isn’t without meaning.

*

Love, love that puts the other person first, that shushes our own scream for comfort and security, it’s hard.

It’s a series of deliberate and conscious choices.

Whether it’s space or a hug, a night out or a long conversation, you show up (metaphorically or otherwise) in the name of love.

And, for all the ways you can’t make things better, you lift that person up in prayer. You plea and petition with the Lord to do for that person what you are incapable of doing.

You take a deep breath and you do the right thing. Over and over and over again. You tell your other emotions to sit down, and you call Love to the bat.

And you text a friend. You ask for prayer. Because Lord knows how hard it is to make smart choices, especially when your emotions are involved. You say, “Please pray with me for strength to make the right choices, and for my perspective to be based only on truth, and for my heart to be filled with peace and patience.”

Because we need each other. Loving well takes being loved well.

*

A few days ago, Pauline asked me how I’d like to be remembered when this life of mine ends.

And, without hesitation, I said: “She loved well.”

Fear and Longing

There have been many long nights. Repenting for thoughts and longings that I don’t understand, but that fill me up with fear and despair and heaviness and confusion and other things that aren’t of God.

I don’t understand.

I’ve said that a lot lately.

When horrible memories flood my brain, when the present grips me with sorrow and insecurity, when the future seems dark… I don’t know what to do. I can speak scripture over myself, but more often it seems that I’m driven to my knees. Forehead to the carpet or the bathtub or my bed- begging the God who is Love to wash me clean.

I don’t know what to do to be okay. I don’t have a plan. Thank You that You do.

Lord, please take away what isn’t of you.

Fill my life with love and joy and peace.

Fill me with You.

Take the trauma, Lord. Take it from me. Help me forgive- others and myself.

Oh, Lord, help me to trust.

I need You, I need You, I need You.

I don’t understand.

I don’t know why my hands and knees still shake during worship. Why it feels so scary to my body, even when my brain isn’t afraid. It’s hard to stand and I know my shaking must be visible and it’s embarrassing and confusing but I do it anyway because I NEED HIM.

I choose You over composure.

I choose You over comfort.

I choose You over the approval of man.

I’ve thought other things would satisfy, but they don’t. I’m left aching. Always. Longing to be held and loved and delighted in. And the only One to who calls me daughter, He isn’t here to cradle my head in His lap when I cry. Not physically at least.

And why should that be a barrier to our relationship? Maybe it doesn’t have to be.

If He promised we’d find Him when we sought Him, that we wouldn’t be disappointed, that He is the fulfillment of all we long for… then there’s got to be more.

Because I love Him, yes. Fiercely.

But it doesn’t replace my desire for a mom.

I try to make Him be the fulfillment of that, but I watch movies where parents delight in their kids, or I hear parents talk about how much they love their children, and I weep. Because it’s a beautiful thing–the love of a parent–and I don’t have that.

There’s so much I don’t know how to do. I don’t know what is appropriate to bring to a potluck. I don’t know how to make something people would want to eat. I don’t know what it means to dress “business casual”.

But I have help. God has blessed me with help.

I have help with the things I don’t know- like how to get a Christmas tree to my house, or how to shop for car insurance, or how to check my oil.

I don’t have help with all of it. I don’t have a mom or older sister to call when I need the comforting presence of someone older and wiser who loves me unconditionally. There’s no one whose door is always open.

And I’m not going to pretend like that doesn’t hurt. I’m not going to make myself feel guilty for wanting what I don’t have- and may never have.

But I am going to beg God to be that for me. I beg him to use this aching to show me how He is more than enough. The God of abundance- abundant life, abundant hope, abundant joy. He is not the God of scarcity. He is not the God of “barely scraping by” or “struggling to survive”.

He is the God who takes our mistakes and heartaches and flaws and failures and our life circumstances and the people we love and the people we need and He says, “I see. I see. I see. I hear You. I care. About all of it, I care. And when you are confused as to why you feel what you feel, when you don’t understand, I do. My plan for you is good, child.” He takes it all. He wraps it all up and ties it all together and folds it nicely. He works in hearts and lives and knows how to meet our needs. He knows how to meet my longing for a mom- whether by being that for me, healing me of that hurt, bringing mother figures into my life, or all of the above.

And I’m grateful. For what He’s given me, for WHO He’s given me, I’m so, so grateful. …Where would I be without them? I don’t know. Oh, God, how I’m grateful.

Lord, show me how You can make my aloneness feel holy. Show me that it’s possible to fill my every moment, every corner of my life, with You. With a You that is real enough to me that I don’t need the world to embrace me and look at me with loving eyes and call me “child”.

I’m still having that recurring dream where I can’t walk. My legs are lead. And I know something’s wrong- it shouldn’t be this hard. And everyone around me seems annoyed because I look fine. What do I mean I can’t move? What do I mean my legs are too heavy to lift from the ground? And I don’t know. I don’t understand it either. And so I struggle to lift one leg, and then the other, I struggle to, literally, walk it off- to suck it up and refuse to let my legs be lead. And it doesn’t work. And people are frustrated because I can’t keep up and they don’t understand. And I don’t either. I miss the days when I could run and hike and do life like everyone else. But I can’t move. Why can’t I move?!

I don’t know how to love this life. I am desperate to. I can love the autumn leaves and the sound of the rain and the faces of God’s creation and the taste of tea, but I don’t love living. I don’t love life. And I should. Because it’s a gift. I know it is. There’s a reason God’s keeping my heart beating and filling my lungs with breath. Every second He is sustaining me. And I need to be grateful. Every second of my life is His whisper that He’s got a plan. “Wait and hope, child.”

I woke up the other morning before my alarm. The pink sunset sky was slipping under the blinds, where the blinds ended and the windowsill began, the pink light pouring into my room. And I rolled over and went back to sleep, but first I whispered a prayer to God, “Help me love this day You put so much thought and care into creating for us. Help me look at life and call it good.”

I read today that gratitude is the only thing that heals our view of the world.

When the news is scary,

When what I feel inside is scary,

When hope feels unsafe…

There’s still more to be grateful for.

I’ve made that a practice. When panic tries to take over, I close my eyes and breathe deeply and I list everything I’m grateful for in that moment. I don’t think about past things or future things, but what I have before me right now, today.

I’m thankful for a warm house,
For my pets,
For health,
For good books,
For the joy I get from the rainbow of colors in my package of Crayola markers.
I’m thankful for laughter,
And music,
Holidays,
Hugs,
A job I love,
And the knowledge that I’m loved.

And I just keep the list going until my panic subsides.

Because no matter how scary this world gets, no matter how many “what ifs” would threaten to flood my mind, the truest truth, truer than what King 5 or Komo 4 for Q 13 Fox would report, is that GOD IS.

God Is.

Hallelujah.

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.

You Are My All In All

I had a dream last night. It was mostly bizarre and nonsensical, but after giving it some thought this morning, I realized that it wasn’t just a silly dream- the majority of my dream was about searching for Jesus.

At first, I kept searching for Him in people. Every glimpse of Jesus that I saw in someone made me want more from them. Love, or time, or energy, or understanding, or whatever. Of course, however, having expectations for people often leads to disappointment, because people are people, they are not God.

But then I saw Him.

He was wearing a baseball hat, which cracks me up, but I saw Him and He looked up at me and smiled like He was there for me alone, like He came because He knew I had been searching for Him.

And at the sight of Him, everything in me rose to a place of worship and awe. And I ran. I ran for Him, through the crowd of people I was in. I ran as fast as I could, fearlessly, even though I knew I was likely to trip over someone’s feet, because I knew Jesus was there and He would protect me and keep me from falling. I knew we were both just waiting for the moment when I finally reached Him and was able to wrap my arms around Him.

It was the best hug of my dream self’s life.

Before bed last night, I had written this prayer:

“Lord, with every time a person disappoints me, help me not grow cynical or disillusioned with humanity. Help me to continue to love wildly and passionately and with an open heart, just free from expectations. Help my goal be to love them and not to get love (or anything else) back in return. Help loving them be enough.

And help me, with every disappointment, only come to know You and love You and appreciate You more. Because, Lord, I know that disappointments are inevitable. I know that it’s only in You that I can find what I need. Thank You that in You, all my needs are met.

And thank You, Jesus, for all the times when I’m more patient and loving and understanding than I know I am naturally. I feel You with me in those moments, Lord, and it feels like a hug. I feel like I can hear you saying in a soft, soothing, loving voice, ‘I see. I see what that person did/is doing to you. I see and I’m here. Let’s navigate this conversation/disagreement/pain together. I know you’re hurting and I know you cannot do it on your own, so just rest in Me and I’ll give you the words. I give you the patience and strength you lack.'”

Thank You, Jesus.

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