Above All

“I think we should bake cookies and watch Halloween movies with the kids tonight!” I said to Madison, excitedly.

I envisioned us all warm and cuddled together on the couch, while outside it poured, and in the oven baked little sugar cookies with pumpkins printed on them.

And that is when I realized that today, I don’t feel depressed.

For the first day in months, I feel like myself.

Yesterday, I wrote this in my journal:

“Sometimes you have to stand right in the middle of the mess of your life–right in the middle of the fear and doubt and depression and grief–and you have to spread your arms open wide and say over all of it, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.'”

Right in the midst of my never-ending mental battle over all that I’m afraid of and sad about, something in my spirit yesterday had enough. Something inside of me was unraveling, breaking loose, and it needed to be allowed the time to properly unfurl. So I opened my mouth and I spoke about God’s holiness until the fuel behind the words lessened, and I found inside of me instead a glowing ember of something like joy.

And I realized yesterday, with a sense of peace that I can take no credit for, that no matter what the future holds, no matter if it’s okay (as defined by me) or not, God will still be God in that moment. He will still be God, He will still be good, and He will still be orchestrating events in my life according to His plan for me. In this moment, I am held. And I will be held in every single moment, good or bad, in which I find myself in the future.

I surrender my fear, I surrender my idea of what my life “has” to look like, and I surrender my rigid belief that almost certainly the me of the future is not going to be okay.

And, of course, I still pray for provision and protection and blessing. But when I say “amen,” I do so, not with this white-knuckled grip on my life, but with a sense of surrender. A sense of peace. The future I am praying for is even more important to God than it is to me. He cares even more than I do. So I can trust Him with it.

Is that why today I didn’t feel depressed, because some deeper-than-my-consciousness part of me yesterday chose worship? I don’t know. Will I still feel like myself when I wake up tomorrow? I don’t know that either. But I do suspect there is a process happening in me that is going to lead me to deeper health and freedom than I’ve known in a long, long time. And I am encouraged.

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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.”

Things That Cling: Lint And Me

Sometimes I feel like my body collects heaviness as I move through my days.

The table of laughter and conversation, which I was not invited to be a part of.
The house I had to go by myself to see about renting.
The rude driver.
The Friday night alone at home.
The $900 spent at the vet.
The dog who still isn’t feeling well.

I feel like black pants moving through a white lint and cat hair filled world. (I excel at analogies. I know.)

And how often is The Thing not even really the issue? How often do the experiences of my day hurt so badly because they reinforce things I fear or believe?
“You’re all alone.”
“You’re no one’s child.”
“You better learn to be okay with doing life by yourself, even when it’s hard and scary and you don’t know what you’re doing because no one ever taught you to be an adult before your mom got sick and died and your dad abandoned you.” (Run-on sentences? They are the things of my brain.)
“You have to fight and beg and claw and scrape at this life if you want anything good.”
“Everyone leaves.”
“There is nothing special or purposed for you.”
“There’s nothing lasting or safe to trust in. Everything is fluid and ending. Everything is loss.”
“You are not enough.”

I am this tender, trying-to-heal heart doing life under the suspicion: “Everything hurts and it always will.”

And although my brain would argue vehemently, does that not hint at a belief that God can’t be trusted?

*

I sobbed into a pillow last night. I cried like my tears were a burning acid in my heart, and the more I could get out, the healthier my heart might be. I cried tears that doubled as prayers.

And then I stood. I stood, arms out in the shape of a ‘t’, and begged God to come and rid me of all that clings to me and threatens to weigh me down. (Everything in me wanted to stick with my earlier Black Pants analogy and say I begged God to be my lint-roller. But I didn’t. Until now. Because at least I have partial self-restraint.) “Here I am, Lord. All of me. These heavy limbs and weary heart. I give it all to You,” I said. “Undo me. Heal me. Take away my pain. Draw me to You.”

And then I reached my arms upward and said over and over again: “You are good, You are good, You are good.” Preaching to my soul. Speaking truth and life over my pain.

I don’t know what I’m doing. In life. As an adult. As this person in this body with this life here in Washington.

I don’t know how to carry this heavy heart with me through my day and through experiences that constantly bump up against the wounds I’m working so hard to heal. Can healing still happen when the wounds keep getting poked at?

I don’t know. I don’t know anything and I hurt.

But God.

But there is this God who holds it all together. Who knows and sees and allows (for my ultimate good) every single thing that happens to me. There’s this God who desires my healing and my life to overflow with joy.

There’s this God who says illogical, irrational, crazy things, like that suffering produces hope.

There’s this God who says not to try to comprehend what is happening through our own limited understanding, because He is greater and bigger than what we can conceive.

There’s this God who says the story He is writing is good, even when my heart and the news and so much of what I see over the course of my day is anything but good.

I’m Black Pants in a white fuzz world. Which is ironic because I refuse to buy black pants for that exact reason- ain’t no one got time for such impractical wardrobe choices; I got things to go that don’t involve picking at lint all day.

God is teaching me something, even now. He is healing my heart, even while it is screaming.

He is restoring me to life.

*

I told my therapist the other day, “The pain in me is screaming.” It’s hollow and gaping and making a sound that is more inhale than exhale.

But when my depression was worse, when life felt not worth it, this pain in me has its own gravity or force, like a black hole. It wanted to suck everything into its scream. But not anymore, hallelujah. Now it exists as its own separate part of me. It isn’t all-consuming.

“The pain in me in screaming,” I said. And then I added, “But so is the joy.”

I am equal parts on-my-knees-weeping-with-sorrow and hands-reaching-towards-heaven-rejoicing.

Because:

The table of laughter and conversation, which I was not invited to be a part of.
But the text message conversation that made me laugh. The “I love you, always.” The learning to trust that love means something; that love doesn’t always walk out.

The house I went to see about renting all by myself.
But the person who sent me a list of questions to ask the landlord while I was there, who said she was sorry she couldn’t be with me. And the person who prayed with me beforehand, that I’d hear God’s voice clearly when I went to see the place.
And the God who smiled at me as I stood there in that tiny home with its brand new kitchen, holding my yellow post-it-notepad with questions scribbled on it, trying to look like I wasn’t feeling scared and sad and out of place. The God who clearly whispered: “This isn’t the one for you.”
And the ability to trust Him enough not to get ahead of Him, afraid nothing else would ever come along and that I better take this not-right-for-me home before I was left with nothing at all.

The rude driver.
But I have a car that’s paid-off and reliable. And the driver was rude, yes, and not being safe, but God protected me.
And He is teaching me that other people’s emotions or thoughts or opinions aren’t reflections of who I am; they aren’t problems for me to solve or things I need to internalize and apologize for.
He’s teaching me to breathe through my natural desire to get hot with anger. He is teaching me to pray for these people who are mean, and not in a pious/removed/too-holy-for-anger way, but as a healthier, more productive way of dealing with the anger than swearing. Because the problem of the mean driver is actually a bigger problem, and that is the problem of his soul.

The Friday night alone at home.
But I have a home I love. And there was the sound of rain outside. And tea.
The eventual receding of the panic and tears. The ability to breathe in trust. How every time I get through intense emotional situations, I come to a place of deeper peace and surrender.
And God is parenting me: “Emotions come and go. Let them. Remember, you were laughing earlier today. You’ll laugh again. You’ll feel hope and peace again.”

The $900 spent at the vet.
But I have pet insurance. And people who love me and Arlow, and who have hit the pause button on their day today to pray for us.

The dog who still isn’t feeling well.
But the friend who called and said she’ll bring me chicken broth for him tomorrow. And the other friend who called and gave me advice on how to keep his vomiting at bay so that we could both get some sleep tonight.
And the gift of loving a pet so deeply. And how that is a small reflection of the way God loves me.

*

Mourning what I don’t have, while wildly grateful for what I do.

Panic that leads to peace.

Suffering that leads to hope.

This God who is so much bigger and so much more good than my broken heart would at times have me believe.

 

The Beauty Of Thirst

It’s beautiful, the stories I read, of people triumphing through pain. It’s beautiful how they talk of their tears and their angry prayers and their eventual surrender. And then their hope. Their hope with roots reaching down deeper than before, sturdy and unwavering.

And I ask God questions about that, about the beauty thread through life and about how he sees my life. And then I tell Him how I see my life. And He says, “Do you think their stories felt beautiful to them in the midst of their desert season?”

And I ask Him why He doesn’t meet with me when I put Him first, when I fall to my knees and scream at heaven for something to fill me up on the inside. And He says, “What if I did? What if every single time you prayed, you felt Me as near as a hug? What would you learn about letting your emotions define your truth? What would you learn about which of us is in control? What would you learn about trusting even when you don’t understand?”

“The sorrow? The grief? It’s too much,” I told my therapist. It felt hard to breathe. I thought I might throw up. And she listened. And she nodded that it makes sense that it’s painful. And she reminded me that we don’t yet know how my story will end, that I can grieve what I’ve lost and what I don’t have, but I can’t know that I’ll NEVER have those things.

And I left my therapy appointment with something like an eye roll because even if she’s right, I also don’t know that it’s ever going to be okay. And that thought? It feels like getting punched in the stomach, the wind knocked out of me. And so I ran, terrified and full of need, to God. “The sorrow? The grief? It’s too much,” I told Him. And He bent down low and looked into my wide-eyes and spoke words to my soul, words of strength and comfort and peace in the midst of the panic: “It’s not too much for Me.”

And how do I let that change me inside? How do I let the bigness and trustworthiness of my God be truer to me than the pain? How do I contain more of Him within me than I contain sorrow? How do I breathe when there’s so much loss and so much screaming ache and so much “what if” and “never” swirling about within me furiously?

I can’t think of one not-desperate time in my life since Mom got sick.

I can’t think of a season of my life where I wasn’t trying to swallow Scripture like a pill, guarding my thoughts with a fierceness bordering on panic, trying to hold my entire world and myself together.

I can’t think of a single season where I wasn’t screaming to heaven for help and having to press on alone. I can’t think of a season where I didn’t make excuses for God, speak trust and faith into the air like an exhale- necessary for my existence.

I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t trying to do everything right. To sustain myself. To be okay. To chase after a life worth living.

And I’m so tired. I am so tired of pressing on and fighting so hard and endlessly collecting sorrow and loss and grief within me. I am so tired of containing so much pain and trying to be okay with hurting like I am. I’m so tired.

I am tired of hoping.

And I’m frustrated because, even as I say that, I can hear the Lord whisper: “Where is your hope?”

It is in feeling okay? In having x, y, or z? Or is it in Him?

“It’s in You!” I scream at the sky. “How could You even ask me that when I’ve told You over and over again how I NEED YOU?!” I ask, desperate ache for Him radiating like fire in my heart.

And He’s calm. Listening. “That hope, does it have an expiration date? Is it dependent on what you see Me doing? Or will you cling to it, regardless of the circumstances around you, simply because of who I am?”

And I weep. Because I am in so much pain. But there’s a surrender in the weeping too. A grieving. And I pray over myself: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul.” And I ask for a miracle- the miracle of enoughness found in Him. The miracle of joy in the sorrow. The miracle of knowing there’s nothing but the best in store for me because I am precious and held.

And if it’s hope that is really rooted in Him, then I will cling even when the waiting feels like forever.

When I’m in the desert and the God who created rain seems to be letting me die of dehydration, I will cling to hope. Because He is good. Even if I’m thirsty, He is good.

And maybe that’s how the roots of hope grow deeper. We come thirsty. We come thirsty and there’s no water to be found, and we are desperate. But maybe the water the Lord is providing is coming from within. And so the roots of hope reach deeper and deeper for a water with a source that isn’t coming from outside, but within- flowing like Spirit instead of liquid.

I will cling to what is true. I will let hope grow roots. And I will allow those roots to grow down deep.

And when I can’t, when I can’t even keep my promise to the Lord to trust and hope and believe, I will press my hands over my heart and I will pray: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul.”

Because I bring nothing to the table.

For every single thing, I’m dependent on Him.

29

“Look at yourself, child.”

That was what I heard as I looked at my reflection in the mirror. It was said with love and compassion, but also with finality.

My eyes were almost swollen shut from crying. My nose was running. I looked scared and overwhelmed and exhausted and sorrowful. I hardly recognized my own reflection.

And He, my loving Father, was calling it quits. “That’s enough, beloved,” He said. And then, as gentle and tender as anything I’ve ever heard, “It’s time for bed.”

He stood by, watching with vigilance and love while I sobbed, gasping for breath. He stood by and He felt my pain. And now He was calling me to be done. To rest. To let Him be God over the nighttime, and God over my heart when I awoke again in the morning.

And so I took a deep, hiccup-y breath and went to bed. And everything in me was so heavy and swirly and confused and grief-ridden that I couldn’t even give words to it.

But it was okay because He was taking control of the situation. He was reminding me, in words as loving as a kiss, that I am His child. Precious and beloved, but human. Small and young and needy. And He is God.

How quick we are to forget that we never stop being children. We never stop needing to be parented.

And this Father of mine, in His infinite wisdom and love, was calling it bedtime.

This has been the most painful birthday of my life. It has been excruciating. And even though it hasn’t been void of love, it has also been full of aloneness and sorrow and grieving all that was lost in my 28th year of life.

It has been full of tough love. Of learning and feeling misunderstood and having to humble myself and listen even when everything in me is screaming THIS IS NOT FAIR!

Tears and hugs and disagreements and embarrassment and vulnerability and words–both comforting and painful–spoken in love.

No rose-tinted glasses here. It’s been real and raw.

And important.

A stripping away of so many things.

A necessary acceptance.

Peace where there once was only screaming grief.

And gratitude–a breath-taking reason to say Thank You–for all this last year that wasn’t lost.

My life.

My faith.

The family God is grafting me into.

It’s been a hurricane- a wild swirling of emotions and hard truths and questions and longings. My eyes haven’t known where to focus.

But of course, the only way to survive, is to look up. To focus our eyes on Him.

Oh, God. There’s so much I don’t understand.

But at least I know where to focus my eyes.

And as I was talking to Him last night about my birthday, as I was telling Him how painful it was, I heard:

“I know, daughter. I know. But it has been important.”

I’m starting my 29th year of life off with some really, really hard things laid out before me.

But in all the pain and swirling, God is building a foundation. Stripping away lies and things I have been blind to. Planting my feet firmly on Truth. Forcing me to ask myself, “Do I trust Him?” even when I’m in intense pain. And, in exchange for my unconditional “yes”, giving me a peace that is greater than any of the sorrow.

And I wouldn’t trade this birthday for one that was more full of smiles and warm feelings. I don’t want to live a birthday like this ever again, but I trust the importance of it.

The pain of God undoing what never should’ve been.

The pain of responding to the call to grow.

The pain of a new beginning- a beginning that “just so happens” (I’m looking at you, God 😉 ) to coincide with the beginning of my 29th year of life.

And I believe, with my whole heart, that is it going to be good, this year.

Because I’m leaving it up to Him. And He loves me fiercely. Protectively. He looks at me and smiles. He sees potential. He whispers over me promises. He calls me dear and beloved.

And He looks at me, with my swollen, red eyes and nose chapped from blowing it so much, and breathes peace into all the wild within me.

And He says, “It’s time for bed, child.”

And I take a deep breath and nod my head. And I surrender.

It’s all going to be okay.

Only The Best

Today I read about how Jesus says many will be turned away, thinking that heaven is their fate, but instead He will say, “Away from me. I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

That scares the crap out of me. Not as much for myself as for the people I love who I’ve lost touch with- those whose relationship with the Lord is kind of a question mark.

And I wish I could soften the edges of that truth and make it feel less jagged and painful as I hold it in my hand. But sure enough, that portion of scripture seems pretty clear.

And yet, I HAVE to believe in a God that will woo us relentlessly. I have to believe in the earth-shaking power of prayer and that my prayers, even the most poorly worded ones, terrify Satan. I have to believe it isn’t as bleak as that passage of scripture makes it sound.

I believe that because I have to. Otherwise I will be all panic and anxiety and desperately begging people to make changes that only God can really bring about in them. And so I believe that, but I don’t KNOW that.

And that scares me.

But what can I do?

And so I tuck myself under His arm and close my eyes and let Him be God.

*

The baby in the stroller in front of me craned her neck to stare at me as I walked through the parking lot. And I waved. She didn’t wave back or smile, and her mom remained unaware of the conversation taking place between her child and myself, but I smiled and waved anyway.

I smiled and waved almost reflexively. And I realized afterwards, while I continued to smile at the baby, that Jesus would’ve done that too. He would’ve smiled and waved. And that reflex in me is evidence that He is making me to be like Him.

And then I smiled again because how beautiful to see who I am becoming more like Him- sometimes in effortless ways, ways I could almost overlook, and sometimes through extreme, deliberate effort- knees to the ground, tears, prayers, pleading.

*

When someone compliments my ability to write or says I’m smart, there is no part of me that feels proud of that because I didn’t have anything to do with it. It’s how I was made.

Likewise, I have no control over the fact that my hair isn’t thick or that my feet are big or that I can’t sing like Lauren Daigle. As with not taking pride in the things I can do, there doesn’t have to be any shame in what I can’t do, or what I can’t be, because I had nothing to do with it; it’s just how I was made.

Similarly, when I see Him in myself, it doesn’t feel like a thing to be proud of- it feels like confirmation that He is here, working all things together, doing a good thing in me. It is comfort. Promise. Hope. It is all Him in me and growing me and sustaining me.

I can take no credit for the delight I find in the stars or foggy mornings. I can’t be blamed for my love for animals, even when it does border on the slightly ridiculous. I can’t take credit for the fact that I am generally a kind, friendly person. I can’t be blamed because I am unmarried. I cannot take credit for the fact that my hunger for the Lord is as real as fire within me.

Who am I aside from clay- His creation, being shaped and molded?

Additionally, in light of the above, how does it make sense to feel envious of someone else or judge myself as better than them?

So much of it has nothing to do with our own abilities, but His merciful gift-giving and all-knowing, perfect design. We are all His creations. Beautiful and astounding and flawed and fallible and worthy of love, but NOT worthy of a place on a throne or fame or worship, nor deserving of a critical eye or being the subject judgment.

Oh, how twisted this world has gotten it.

In the matter of who we are as people, the playing field is level.

I have control over my decisions. I have control over whether or not I choose to live a godly life. But who I am at my core? That’s all Him. A product of His all-knowing, miracle-orchestrating goodness. A product of my life experiences. A product of genetics. But all of it in His hands.

It’s not to my credit that I am good with children or that my eyes are hazel or that I can write. I don’t know any other way of being. It isn’t something I worked for, it’s just how I was made.

It’s not my fault I am not a brilliant singer.
But I can choose to sing anyway. That I have control over. To hide beneath my inabilities rather than make a joyful noise, that would be a shame. I can embrace who I am–flaws and all–and still choose to live life fully rather than hiding behind “I can’t” and “what will they think of me?”

And it’s not my fault I am terrified of doctors.
But I can choose to go anyway. …Even if I need someone there to hold my hand and drive me because Xanax is required. 😉

There are things we can choose, and there are things we can’t. And how often do we shoulder the weight of things we were never meant to carry- like inferiority or needing to prove ourselves or shame or having to be “better than” someone else?

*

He is all-knowing. The giver of good gifts. This is the life He chose for me. The body. The heart. The personality. There is no other life or personality or appearance that would be better.

And I was thinking about that on my drive to work today, how, essentially, jealously is saying, “God, You made a mistake. I don’t trust You.”

There’s a place for grief and sorrow and laying our dreams down at the foot of the cross, submitting them to Him with tear-filled eyes because we are going to trust Him even if it breaks our hearts. There’s a place for being sad about what we don’t have, but ultimately we have to be able to say that we surrender all to Him, come what may.

We have to live our lives with hearts and hands and minds open to receiving the fulfillment of our prayers, or pleasant and unexpected surprises, or even a “no” in response to our prayers. And when a “no” is the response, we have to be able to hear that and believe that God has better for us, whatever that “better” may be.

And we have to be okay with it not feeling like “better”, and we can grieve that, because what we feel is real and deserves compassion and acknowledgment. But, while our feelings are real, they aren’t reliable at determining what’s true. So we have to be able to cry and grieve and still stubbornly hold firm and unwavering to the belief that He is good and He can be trusted and He never gives us less than the best.

And at the end of the day, whether I’m alone or surrounded by loved ones, I can lay my head down on my pillow and tuck myself there under His arm. And I can close my eyes and breathe in peace and comfort because He is God and I am His. And I trust Him.

How He Came

 

I fell to my knees when I got home from work yesterday afternoon.

I walked inside, set my purse down, pressed my forehead to the ground, and wept.

And I said, “I NEED YOU. I am here, kneeling before You because I NEED You! I need to pee and I’m hungry but I NEED YOU THE MOST!” Because I did. My stomach was growling and my bladder was full but even more than that discomfort, I needed Him. My need for Him hurt more. It was the more pressing issue.

And I cried and cried, the kind of cry that feels like it will never end. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Multiple times a day. In bathrooms and cars and my shower and bed and on the couch and with my face pressed to the carpet. Forever weeping, emptying my heart out to the Lord in tears because words aren’t always enough.

And yet even while I’m teary and snotty and crying audibly like a child, (it’s all quite dignified and mature), I know He’s there beside me.

I know He was there yesterday afternoon, kneeling at my side, His hand on my back. And He didn’t say anything. He was just there. Present. Letting me wail and weep… and not making me do it alone.

I wonder if He ever feels limited. I wonder if He ever aches to hold us, to be physically present with us, to talk face-to-face.

And so I try to soften my heart to that possibility, to filter my pain through the belief that Jesus is there, at my side whispering, “I’m here, child. I’m right here.”

It helps to keep that in mind because otherwise it all feels like too much to bear – Christmas, grief, longing, embarrassment, the involuntary recap of 2015 as it comes to a close, trauma, shame, fear, sorrow…

There’s a vise-like grip on my insides when I think about what I don’t have and may never have,
and what I’ve only fooled myself into thinking I had,
and what I do have,
and why it isn’t what I DO have enough?,
and why isn’t knowing I have Him enough?,
and what is wrong with me??!,
and maybe I’m destined to live this life of being alone forever because I can’t seem to learn my lesson that God is all I need!

But even as I write that I sense Jesus smiling and saying, “Forever is an awfully long time, child.”

And He’s got a point, that all-knowing Creator of mine. And so I try to smile back. I try to roll my eyes at myself, to hold a place for my sorrow–which is real–but to also acknowledge the melodrama.

Forever IS a long time.

And He isn’t up in heaven letting things down here just sort of work themselves out or burn themselves to the ground or whatever. He doesn’t have a “whatever” attitude about anything. He is intimately involved in everything. Not a single thing escapes His notice.

And it doesn’t take Him “forever” to accomplish good things.

Sometimes it only takes a second.

And I try to believe that, to cling to His goodness and foster a bubbling sort of hope within me as I come face-to-face with a new year.

I try to force myself to be excited about it- to praise Him in advance for the good things this upcoming year will hold.

But I can’t seem to really say that without feeling some trepidation and disbelief. Because I’m tired of looking at hard things and calling them good, or seemingly impossible things and calling them possible, or dark situations and modeling my God with a: “Let there be light!”

I’m scared to believe there is good in store. Because I’ve been there, done that. And it didn’t pan out as I had thought it would or prayed it would.

And that HURTS.

And yet, if I stop speaking light and love into this world, if I stop fighting to bring heaven down to earth, where does that leave me? Would it make me any less alone? Any more secure or safe?

It’s scary to hope.

But it’s scarier not to.

And so I look at my situations that seem hopeless and I look at my broken dreams and broken heart and I say, “No. You don’t get to despair. Lift your head. This isn’t the end. God is doing a good thing. Hope on, tender heart. Hope on. Dreams? Stop calling yourself broken. Situations? Stop calling yourself hopeless. Heart? Have you forgotten how much the Lord loves you? Rise up! Take heart! This is not the end!”

And I don’t feel it. But I say it. Because I know it to be true.

It’s hard not to involuntarily recap 2015. My mind is filling with images and memories and things I felt and thought over the course of the year. And I’m remembering… and it feels unreal and too real all at once. It feels both like it never happened (how could it have happened!?) and ongoing.

And it’s too much. It’s terrible. So, so awful.

I can’t bear it.

And so I keep trying to hand those images and memories over to the God, whose ability to heal and make things whole and redeem and restore knows no limits.

And so I say “NO!” to my brain and the panic that threatens to fill me inside. I refuse to entertain those memories or wonder things or replay things or get caught back up in the trauma of it all. Instead, I lay it all down at His feet and I wait. I wait for Him to speak to my sorrow and trauma and fear; I want for Him to heal; I wait for Him to redeem.

And I’m on my knees, and I’m weeping, and I think I could weep forever. But I can’t. I can’t cry forever. Grieving is important, but there’s a limit to what is healthy and what isn’t. And so I demand my heart rest a moment and lift its eyes to heaven. I instruct all that’s within me to take a break from my grieving and sorrow to seek the Lord- to beg Him for comfort or clarity or peace.

And He shows me a baby in a manger.

Helpless. Innocent. Needy. Fragile.

AND FULLY GOD.

And I’m there, with Mary and Joseph and the animals, beholding the Christ-Child. And there’s no place for weeping or sorrow or grief there. Only awe. Reverence. Worship. It’s quiet and still and holy. And hope and love are ALIVE. They are real. They are living. They are a Person.

And I’m there, looking into the face of Wild Hope and Love Unfailing. I am there, beholding the infant Jesus. And I belong.

And I’m there, with Jesus, and I’m also on my floor, tears streaming down my face, needing to pee and thinking a little bit about lunch.

And that is where I was yesterday when Tucker came over to me and started chewing on my hair.

And I laughed. Wracked with grief, unable to do anything but fall to my knees before God and BEG for help, and suddenly I was laughing.

Tears were falling down my face, and JESUS CAME!, and my cat was chewing my hair, and I was laughing.

And maybe that’s life- the good and bad all rolled up together in one brutiful package.

And so we go forward, heads held high, speaking light into impossibly dark situations.

We go forward with hope.

Because we know this is a battle.

And we know who wins.

Love wins.

Hope wins.

Light win.

Joy wins.

And it’s a miraculous thing, but even in the midst of our most intense grief, our loving Father can surprise us with incredible joy.

And so I rise from my knees. I stand, arms outstretched. I lift my head towards heaven. And I hear His gentle beckoning: “Arise, daughter.”

Oh, carry on, warrior heart. The Lord is on your side.