Saving Grace

There was a deer.

There were pills.

There was alcohol.

There’s a dog, who puts his head under my chin while I sleep, as if standing watch to make sure I keep breathing.

There is not remembering how to breathe, because the sorrow is too big.

There is: “I promise I’ll fast! I will spend days on my knees before You! I will do whatever I have to do to make You be here now.”

And there is: “I will wait. All I can do is wait.”

There is: “I can’t do this anymore. It’s too big for me, this pain. And all the loss. So much loss.”

And there is: “You’re still working this out.”

There is: “I NEED A MIRACLE!”

And there is this moment. I’m still alive. And that’s a miracle in itself.

My continually beating heart is a miracle. It’s a constant, persistent, screaming at heaven that I KNOW there’s a God who saves and loves me.

There’s me, hanging on to the edge of a cliff. And I’m tired, and I’m screaming for help. And I don’t know that there’s anyone around for miles and miles. I don’t know that any help is coming. I don’t know whether this hanging on is futile.

But I know God is with me. And He works miracles. And so I continue to hold on, and I continue to scream.

*

The deer. I didn’t hit it. Nor did the car behind me hit me when I slammed on my brakes. Nor did I hit the car coming towards me when I swerved into oncoming traffic. And Arlow, although he flew forward and hit the dashboard, he wasn’t injured.

And there was God who, in that moment, said to me: “I AM WITH YOU. Always. You are MINE. And you are LOVED. And I AM GOD. You do not get to jump ship.”

“But, tomorrow is coming, Lord. Another day is coming,” I weep.

“I know.”

“And it’s too big for me! I don’t know how to do tomorrow. I don’t know how to contain all this pain within me. I don’t know how to make it be okay.” More tears. Hysterical sobbing. Cannot breathe. Panicked. Trapped. No way out. Nothing that feels like life. No one to reach out to who will make it better. Nothing on my to-do list that I can check off to make my pain smaller. I can’t do anything to fix it. It just is. And it’s so big that I feel like I could scream-cry into a pillow forever.

But He reminds me, gentle as a butterfly perching on my shoulder: “Child, you don’t have to know how to make it be okay. That isn’t your job, it’s Mine.”

*

There’s the dog who sees me stop writing this to put my face into my hands and weep. And he begins to whine. And he jumps up onto the couch with me and licks my tears.

And there is God in that.

And there’s me, looking at him, my sweet pup, and crying harder because he deserves a better mommy than me. He deserves better than a mom who cannot get off the couch or walk or feed him because of the night before. He deserves better than me, a mommy who’s only half here, committed to this life. And half begging for heaven.

*

I was not put together wrong.

“The INFJ personality type is very rare, making up less than one percent of the population,

Because INFJs are such complex people, they may be reluctant to engage with others who might not understand or appreciate them, and can thus be hard to get to know. When they sense that their values are not being respected, or when their intuition tells them that someone’s intentions are not pure, they are likely to withdraw.

They think deeply and often need time to process and evaluate before they are ready to share their ideas. They seek validation and will take the time to appreciate others and their ideas. 

INFJs want to maintain harmony in their relationships and are highly motivated to resolve conflicts. 

INFJs want a high degree of intimacy and emotional engagement, and are happiest when they feel they are sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings. One of the things INFJs find most important is establishing genuine, deep connections with the people they care about. If there’s anything they have a poor tolerance for in relationships, it is inauthenticity.

They tend to believe that nothing would help the world so much as using love and compassion to soften hearts.

INFJs take great care of other’s feelings, and they expect the favor to be returned.

When INFJs find themselves up against conflict and criticism – their sensitivity forces them to do everything they can to evade these seemingly personal attacks, but when the circumstances are unavoidable, they can fight back in highly irrational, unhelpful ways. When someone challenges or criticizes INFJs’ principles or values, they are likely to receive an alarmingly strong response. People with the INFJ personality type are highly vulnerable to criticism and conflict, and questioning their motives is the quickest way to their bad side.

People with this personality type are likely to exhaust themselves in short order if they don’t find a way to balance their ideals with the realities of day-to-day living.”

I am not a mistake. God made me this way. HE MADE ME. And He is sustaining me even now, guarding and protecting my life in spite of myself. He has a plan. He doesn’t make mistakes. I am not a mistake. I don’t have to be understood or treasured or loved or wanted to be not a mistake. Nothing can rob me of the fact that the God of the universe knit me together and gave me this life and body and personality for such a time as this. I am not a mistake. I am not a mistake.

*

I don’t want anyone or anything fake. I don’t want anything I have to try to hold together. I don’t want to beg for love or help. I don’t want anything but You, Jesus. It’s only with You that I am safe. I just want You. Please, God, PLEASE. Somehow… please answer that prayer. Be here. Be what I need.

Don’t forget, Jesus, that I am Yours. And don’t let me forget that I’m beloved. Help me, Jesus. Help me.

*

There is a Jesus who forgives me over and over again. Who weeps for me. Who whispers, against all that I see and feel, that it’s going to be okay. And there’s me, hanging on the cliff edge, who speaks over myself, over all I feel or see or can fathom: “I trust YOU.”

I trust Him, so I hang on as well as I can in spite of the pain and seeming hopelessness of the situation.

And I trust Him, so I cry out for help. Because I cannot save myself.

*

“This is where I belong, held by the arms of love. Love, don’t let me go.”

Stream-Of-Consciousness

The sky looks like gold and fluff and the sun is setting over the water. And I watch. And I take out my phone to get a picture. And I plead with my soul or mind or heart or whatever within me might be listening, “Let this matter to you.”

And Arlow thinks, if I’d just let him off the leash, he could for sure catch the motorcycles that drive by us. And he breaks into a run, only to be pulled back by the fraying fabric connecting us, and he bites at it and growls and refuses to move, and I pull him along saying “no” as firmly as I can, but I smile because he is his own little being and I love that he is himself and not just an extension of me. And people stop and tell me how beautiful he is, and sometimes he’s good and sometimes he jumps on them or pees on their shoes, and I say, “I’m sorry, we’re still working on manners.” And at night he curls up beside me and I watch his breath fog up the screen on my phone, and I pray that someday I won’t feel so disconnected from a life worth living. And I thank God for the ways He’s sustaining me, even when it doesn’t feel like enough.

And I read about the woman who lives with depression, and something in me turns to fire and I want to run, but I can’t, because the fire is me. And I beg God, with all the hope I have left, to not let that be my story. I can’t live my entire life wishing I wasn’t alive.

And I watch people do their lives. The barista at Starbucks, the man in the truck beside me, the baseball coach. And I think, “How?” And: “Why?” And: “What do you know that I’ve forgotten?”

And I hold babies and love people fiercely and want for them life and love and laughter and happiness. And I would protect them, if I could, from anything that would try to steal that. And I value life. I value their lives. And so why can’t I feel any sort of connection to my own?

And I’m scared.

And I dream I’m sick. Physically sick. And I’m not scared then, I’m relieved. Because no one will expect me to fix myself. No one will blame me for being sick. No one will say it’s because I’m not strong enough or don’t trust God enough. I can rest. No one will lock me away and take away my rights. They won’t withdraw. They will come near. Because it’s not my fault if I’m sick. It’s not my fault. And there’s more compassion and understanding when a high fever or broken bone are involved than when we can’t make ourselves remember that it’s a gift to be alive.

And I read: “I waffled between becoming an animal in a howl and pulling myself together into a tight numbness.” And I get it.

And the doctor calls out of duty to check on me. And no one can fix it.

And I can’t understand this God who supposedly leaves the flock of sheep for the one. And I need Him to do that for me.

And so I pray and worship and beg and sit silent under the fading sun and call everything Him. I let it all be a hug from Him. And I’m tired. I’m so tired. Because it isn’t like actually being hugged. It’s not rest or peace for my soul. It’s effort. It’s grasping and clawing and fighting tooth and nail to do this life and believe it to be beautiful and Him to  be near.

And my therapist and I discuss my life, and I can’t remember a time in the last eight years where I felt at rest. Taken care of. I’m always powering through on my own strength. Alone. Except for the God who feels no nearer than my deceased mom. And it’s not enough. It’s not. enough. But I fight not to let myself believe that. Because our God is a God of abundance and not depravity, right? And so I’m always trying to be okay and call life beautiful and tell myself that what my insides are screaming for is safe in the hands of the God who promises to provide for us.

And the medication and sleep and going through the motions and asking for prayer? I’m sure they help. But it doesn’t feel like provision. It feels like effort. Just another way I’m emptying myself out in the fight for life.

And I don’t see a solution.

And I’m so scared of being left. I’m scared of them leaving, of being unlovable. And I’m scared of leaving myself, of becoming a hollow shell of a person just waiting for God to do what He’s promised to do. And they’ll blame me. Because He doesn’t fail us.

And I wonder if I’ve been believing God to be good, while simultaneously believing He is mean. Because what might be good eternally can feel really mean to us today, right? At least that’s how I’m making sense of where I am and this life I’ve been given. He is good, even when He feels mean.

And that is terrifying. Because what hope do I have then? What hope do I have of a life that is full and rich if I believe the gifts He gives might feel like pain? What hope do I have of a life that, through tears and laughter, I can feel connected to and can say, “I choose you. I choose you through it all. Because this is the life I’ve been given and it’s a gift and God is near and I’m so, so blessed. And the hard? It can’t steal the beautiful. And, my God, is this life beautiful.”

And I want to be able to look hopeless people in the eyes, and hold their face between my hands, and I want to tell them not to listen to the people who want to make sure they don’t forget that life is hard. And I want to say, “You’re not weak for struggling. And yes, life is hard. But nothing you ever face will be as hard as where you are right now. This is as bad as it gets. And there’s better for you up ahead. I promise. I know because I’ve lived this same story- the story of hopelessness and a brain that is trying to kill you. I know how tired you are.”

And then I’ll take my hand and place it over their heart, and I will speak these words over them, and pray them at the same time: “It WILL be okay. Our God is good. He is GOOD. And He loves you fiercely. And this fight you’re enduring right now? He and I are so proud of you. You are not alone, and this won’t be forever.”

And then I’ll whisper to them, as God has done to me many times through another’s words or embrace or the fluffy baby ducks on the water: “Hear me, child. There. Is. Hope.”

I Believe

“I pray that I honor this season and allow God to make the changes in me that he wants to make.”

“Life is busy and it is hard to breathe slow and honor the moments we are in.”

*

I believe in big love.

I believe in “shoulder to cry on,” “I found a shirt on sale!”, “good morning!”, “just wanted to tell you I was thinking of you!” love.

I believe in “you will never lose me,” “call any time,” “my door is always open” love.

I believe in open communication, it’s safe to disagree, no walls up, no punishments, no withdrawing, love.

I believe in “it’s always better when you’re there!”, “happy birth minute!”, “I don’t know what I’d do without you” love.

I believe in “you’re never alone,” “you’re always on my mind,” “we can tell each other anything” love, “laugh until you cry,” “would you hold my hand?” love.

Love that doesn’t seek to meet needs only the Lord can fulfill,
but that points us right back to Him and teaches us to how He loves us.

*

I believe in God’s breath filling the room in which I sit.

I believe in the rumble of His voice and the touch of His hand.

I believe in signs and wonders, prophecy and dreams.

I believe in a head-over-heels, all-consuming, ruined-for-this-world love for Him.

I believe in a relationship with Him that is realer and truer to me than anything I can see or touch before me now.

I believe in living a life so drenched in Him that the only possible explanation for it is the Holy Spirit.

I believe in a God who cannot be contained in any a box or within four walls or even our own minds. Limitless in nearness and power and love.

*

I also believe I’ve spent a long, long time silencing the rainbow-colored unicorn that is my heart.

I’ve told myself to stop being unrealistic and accept my fate. I’ve looked around at my life in shade of gray and thought maybe the problem was me. Maybe my feeler or my thinker were broken.

And when people suggested that, I believed them: “Maybe everything I thought and felt were wrong because I’m broken somehow. Maybe that kind of love doesn’t exist this side of heaven. Maybe that kind of knowing Him doesn’t exist here either.”

So I go through the motions of my life. I trudge and try to find joy in the small things and try not to let panic seize me when I realize there’s no ‘out’ – this is my life, and no matter what comes into my life or goes out of it, we’re stuck together, this life of mine and I, come what may.

And why is life so hard to love?

I can love the blossoms on the trees and my puppy’s sweet eyes and when Mowgli licks my face and the way vanilla ice cream tastes when it’s just begun to melt. I can enjoy THINGS. But life? The whole big picture- circumstances and and the contents of my heart laid out before me? It all seems not worth it.

But I have to rebuke that, that thought that life isn’t worth it. I have to know better than to hold on to that thought and give it any power. Because even when it’s all laid out before me, I don’t see the full picture. Even when I think I see clearly, I don’t. And so, I just have to trust.

But it’s not enough to just not entertain certain thoughts. I have to choose to believe what is true. And so, I will throw myself at it, at this believing that life is so, so worth it- a gift.

I won’t survive otherwise.

Blossoms are beautiful, but they aren’t enough.

Prayer and worship are beautiful, but they aren’t enough.

And I think God is delighted with that- my stubborn refusal to accept that this is all there is. “I NEED MORE OF YOU! I NEED MORE LIFE!” And He smiles because wouldn’t complacency be worse? Wouldn’t thinking I had gotten as close to Him as I was going to get, wouldn’t surrendering to feeling kind of disappointed with my relationship with Him and accepting that maybe this is just what it is… wouldn’t that just be me buying into the lies of the enemy?

And maybe it’s weird. And maybe people will call me broken. And maybe I’ll go it alone.

But I’m not going to stop expecting more.

I’m not going to stifle the rainbow-colored unicorn heart of mine…
because God gave it to me for a reason.

I’m going to stand beneath the sky my Father created and I’m going to look up at the tree branches and birds and I am going to plant my feet on the solid earth and I’m going to stand my ground.

“You gave me this life, You’re providing my breath, and You designed my heart,” I’ll remind Him. “And I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going to give up on a wild, passionate, laughing, singing, dancing, break my heart for what breaks Yours, love-filled, love-fueled, Jesus’ fingerprints, life.”

Lord, fill me up with the hope that it’s real and possible and that, even if everything is gray now, it doesn’t mean that I, like Dorothy, can’t ride the storm from the gray to the world of color.

Fill me up with both boldness and humility- the ability to stand by my heart and honor my experiences, but also apologize when necessary and admit when I’m wrong.

I pray against pride. And I pray against feeling inferior.

“Don’t shrink back, don’t puff up, just stand your sacred ground.”

*

What would I tell my child? What would I want her to believe if she was stuck grappling with what is real and possible?

I’d want her to know you can’t dream too big.

I’d want her to know anything is possible because we serve a God for whom nothing is impossible.

I’d tell her she didn’t need to outgrow the unicorn or trade it in for one that’s not rainbow-colored.

I’d take both of her hands in my own and look into her eyes and I’d say, with words like lead, heavy with importance: “Keep your wild dreams and hope-filled unicorn heart alive, child.”

I’d encourage her to trust in the God who made her heart.

I’d tell her not to ever force herself to ‘grow up’ or ‘outgrow’ anything. After all, doesn’t Jesus encourage faith like a child?

“Trust Him,” I’d tell her. “Trust the way He wired your heart. Treasure the youngness and hope and wonder within you. They are not an accident or a flaw.

In fact, I pray it will grow. I pray for wonder and hope and joy and ‘anything is possible’ and ‘God is RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW’ to overflow within you.

And I pray it will be contagious.

Anything is possible, child. God is a God of miracles and reckless, passionate, unimaginably wild love.”

That’s what I’d tell her.

And I suspect that’s what He’d tell me too.

*

Arise.

He tells us to arise.

Arise. Move towards instead of backing away.

Arise. Be secure in His promises.

Arise. Live as children of light.

Oh, my soul, arise. Arise, my unicorn heart. My every breath is a gift. And I am here, my heart is beating, for a reason.

*

Lord, help me not stop living long before I actually die.

I want to throw myself at You- unrestrained, and helpless without you, and desperate for you to show up.

I want to live like Peter did when he leapt from the boat.

I don’t need a boat. I don’t need calm waters. I don’t need a sky without clouds or a sun to illuminate everything. I don’t need to understand. I can continue to press in, push on, and believe. Because He is there, beckoning me, calling me to Him.

With eyes open and thoughts submitted and my heart in His hands, I am guaranteed life abundant.

Rainbow colors as far as the eye can see.

Unicorns for everyone.

*

“If something is keeping you from throwing open the door and running out wild and free, maybe it’s time to put your something in it’s place too. It’s passion week friends, don’t let anything stand in the way.”

It Is Well With My Soul

“Our own limitations should never inhibit our expectation of God…”

It doesn’t depend on us…

If I want to do well, if I desire to follow Him, that’s enough. I can look forward in hope and anticipation of what’s to come.

Hallelujah.

*

I’ve come to this place in my relationship with God where I say things to Him like, “Fine. I surrender. I give you x, y, z. But if I’m not going to have those things in my life, then I NEED MORE OF YOU.”

And then I read my Bible and pray and worship.

And I don’t feel more of Him.

Nor are X, Y, or Z marching (or even, from my perspective, crawling) into my life.

And so I get frustrated. And I say, “Fine, if I fall to my knees and don’t feel You, if I pray and things don’t get better, then it’s Your own fault if I stop seeking You first. Because You’re not enough. You’re not here and You don’t care and You see that I’m hurting and WHERE ARE YOU?”

And I blame Him. I blame Him for being absent.

But we know He never is.

I base SO much on how I feel.

And because I know He could swoop into my life in some big way and turn all my emotions around, I fault Him for not doing that.

And when I say, “FINE! All I want is You then!” and nothing changes, my heart still hurts, I fault Him even more. Because isn’t that the golden prayer? For more of Him? Him above all else? His face versus His hand?

…But if I’m basing my answer to my prayer for more of Him on what I feel, then it isn’t really His face I’m seeking, is it?

I am asking for Him, but the underlying request is that He prove Himself. “Prove it to me that You’re present. Prove to me that You care about my heart. Prove to me that You heard my prayer.”

…Because if I don’t feel it, then it isn’t happening, right? And, while we’re on the subject of how I’d like to see my prayers being answered, I don’t want to wait either. Because why should I have to?! If He’s here now, then BE. HERE. NOW!

…It’s insanely bold of me!

And also just insane.

Because His ways aren’t our ways.
His timing is perfect.
He is present.
And He cares, deeply, about my heart.

I know all that. But I am so quick to become a toddler before Him, begging my Father to pick me up, to carry me, to let me hide my face against His shoulder. And for all of that to happen in a way that doesn’t require, for just a few minutes, that I “walk by faith”.

I don’t understand. Oh, Lord, I don’t understand.

Scripture says David strengthened Himself in the Lord. It didn’t say, “David despaired and then God gave Him strength.” Although that, too, is true. But there’s a middle part to that equation: David chose to trust God. He chose to cling. Even when what He felt was despair, He chose to hold tight to the truth of who God is. And then, in doing that, God gave Him strength.

Very rarely, I’m coming to learn, is living a godly life a natural reflex for us fallible humans. Almost always, we have to choose– to be consciously aware of what is true and then be deliberate to live out of that truth.

No matter what I feel, I have to choose to keep falling to my knees and raising my hands in worship and praying wordless, tear-filled prayers. Because I KNOW they matter. Each time I run to Him, even when I don’t sense Him standing before me with arms outstretched, I know the spiritual realm takes notice.

I have to live my life with eyes open wide in holy anticipation of what’s to come. BECAUSE HE PROMISES IT WILL BE GOOD. And He has never broken a promise.

I can’t fall to my knees, press my head to the carpet, kneel before Him, and then despair because flame and wind and His voice didn’t fill the room. I can’t rise from the ground and furrow my brow and look up at the ceiling and say, “Don’t You see what I just did!? Man, You really missed an opportunity to win my heart over and speak to me!”

I can’t give up.

And I have to choose to rise from my knees in a room that still feels empty, with my heart that still screams with ache, and say, “You are still what I want above all else. I know that You alone can fill this ache within me. I know that the best, safest place for my heart is here, at Your side. And I know that, regardless of how I feel, I can smile and hope because You are good.”

Because I KNOW it matters. He bends to earth when we pray. EVEN WHEN WE DON’T FEEL IT. And how miraculous is that? How incredible that He do desires for us to speak to Him!?

Will I choose to stay, to say He is good, that what I have in Him is more than enough, even when I feel empty and alone, and He isn’t flooding my emptiness with Himself in a way that I can perceive?

Will I trust that when I open my arms up wide, when tears stream down my face and I need a shoulder to rest my head on, when all that is within me is screaming for relief from the pain, for more–more love, family, belonging, joy, hope, HIM–, will I trust that He comes running?

Will I throw my questions and anger and sorrow at Him, and then still say, “I choose You”?

Yes. Yes, I will.

Because HE IS GOOD- not just when my life reflects His goodness in the ways I want it to, or when I feel His goodness, but always. He is unarguably, unchangeably, unwaveringly, steadily, forever good.

And so I will choose, over and over and over again, to stick this journey out- eyes open in expectation for the wonders He promises to do.

And when nothing else makes sense, I can find comfort in what I know. I can tilt my head towards heaven and say, “You are good.”

And I can know that His eyes meet mine.
And He smiles a gentle smile.
And He says, “Yes, baby. I am.”

I will choose to ENDURE and let the face of Living Hope shine down on me.

I will cling to the One who is I Am.

*

“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying…destiny…in the hand of Almighty God.”

 

One Word

It’s the time of the year when everyone’s claiming a word.

And I–lover of words and growth and claiming something as mine, given to me by God Himself–have always found that to be a sort of exciting way to begin the year.

Pray.
Ask God.
Grasp tight to a word.
Keep that word in the back of your mind (or the forefront of your mind, depending on the kind of day you are having!).
Let it be the filter through which you see your life.
Let it magnify the sound of God’s voice as He speaks into your circumstances.
Watch what He does with that word.
That simple word.
Watch how it doesn’t have the same meaning at the end of the year as it did when you first claimed it.

Last year surrender seemed to be my word. I didn’t choose it, it just became the word forever repeating itself in my head.

Surrender- the resting, the trusting.

Not surrender in the sense of coming out of battle, hands raised, turning yourself over to the enemy,

but surrender as in wrapping Him like a blanket around yourself and whispering “I trust You.” Letting His holiness and love soothe and comfort and be the thing that pulls you through even the most seemingly hopeless circumstances.

Surrender can feel like giving up or losing or resigning yourself to a less positive fate. And sometimes in this broken world, that’s exactly what it means.

But not when we surrender to our loving Father who is infinitely bigger and more capable of turning “hopeless” situations around than we are.

And this year? I am thinking my word might be light.

It has been the new word in my brain lately. The significance of light coming against darkness. How God is light. Light and love and life- all somehow, magnificently the same thing in the character of our Creator.

It has been seeping into my life for a while now, this word, as evidenced by my blog posts of late.

Light. Pressing in. Gradually.

Not a sudden, dramatic: “Let there be light!”, but a gentle glow, slowly warming its way into my life. Illuminating everything.

Light. Sunbeams stretching and spilling into the darkness.

Dust particles floating in the stretches of light as they reach towards me like arms.

And I close my eyes and pray to understand in a way bigger than my consciousness how this light is the Jesus I ache for so fiercely.

 

“Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.'” -John 8:12 

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.”

Soup and Tears and Hope and Peace

The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes yesterday morning was a cross.

Sunlight coming through my blinds created a perfect, glowing cross on the water bottle sitting on my desk. And my eyes landed there immediately.

Do I think it was from God- an “I am here” reminder? Do I think it was just the natural product of sunlight coming through blinds? I don’t know.

But what I do know is that it was confirmation that I am seeking Him. In every moment my eyes are open, I am searching Him out- His promises, His love, His presence.

*

I surprised myself yesterday by getting unexpectedly emotional over something seemingly silly-

soup.

My coworker was talking to me about a new recipe she found for making soup with her leftover turkey. And she was smiling, and her eyes showed joy and excitement and pleasure over this simple thing, and she was talking about how the carrots are cut and what vegetables go into the soup and how she was going to make it for her family. And suddenly my throat was tight and my eyes were filling. Because of soup.

But I wonder if maybe it wasn’t silly at all. Maybe it was God giving me his perspective- His love for her. How He delights in all the things–both little and big–that bring us joy.

The tears weren’t sadness-produced. It was love. My happiness for her–for the recipe that brought her gladness–it stirred my heart with love.

And I prayed, “Oh, Lord. Help her to know You.”

Because she’s beautiful. And kind. And she deserves heaven. Anyone who cares how carrots are cut, and wants to comfort those she loves with warm, homemade soup, deserves heaven.

It is too unthinkably horrible that anyone I know and love and care for would go anywhere else when they die.

Hell should be reserved for the evil only, not just for the unbelieving.

I like to believe that in a person’s last minutes, they get a chance to believe. I hope that heaven is filled with those who spent their life unbelieving, but who, in their final moments, realized they had a choice- and their choice didn’t include atheism. They had to choose- God or Satan.

Lord, save those who can be saved- those who don’t know You but who still reflect You more than they reflect the enemy.

*

One of my favorite things about my job is my clients’ children- how they look up at me shyly and smile, and how when I see them the next time, their eyes meet mine and they remember and they smile a less timid smile.

I played dolls with one little girl yesterday while her mom talked to the OB nurse. We named the doll and fed the doll and rocked the doll to sleep, and I was impressed with my own ability to participate in imaginary play. Cute little kids who look at you with hope that you will join in on their activity, they are very motivating. 🙂

My coworker said, after they left, “You’re just a child at heart.”

She’s not wrong. I swoon over the sky, and collect fallen leaves and pine cones, and pause when I pass a stuffed animal display at Target so that I can pick them up and cuddle them. I have no trouble seeing myself as God’s child. I have no trouble seeing Him as my Father. None.

What I struggle with is seeing myself as an adult-
a bill paying,
tucks herself in at night,
car driving,
no one has to take care of me,
I belong only to myself,
adult.

I have trouble watching A Little Princess and Because Of Winn-Dixie and Annie and not secretly hoping THAT’S actually real life, not what I have come to believe is real as I’ve gotten older. I have trouble telling my timidly-hoping-against-all-odds heart, “That’s not reality.” I have trouble carrying around the weight of what is real and not grieving the loss of my wonder and awe and childhood naivety.

At work, I feel like an adult. With people my own age, I feel like an adult. When I’m caring for a child or cleaning my house or doing volunteer work, I feel like an adult.

But at least 50% of me is a child, wide-eyed and teary, looking for a parent’s hand to hold.

Maybe that’s why I love children so much–playing with them, providing care and nurturing–because I don’t feel that far removed from that time in my life. And it eases the ache in my heart to be able to give to someone else what I don’t have.

*

I read a blog the other day that made me think.

Two of my favorite words these past few months have been “redemption” and “restoration”.

This blog discussed both.

It talked about those times in our lives that threaten our ability to breathe, but how God continues to provide breath for us in the midst of those seasons.

It talked about how redemption comes first–God takes the situation and turns it around–and restoration follows. But we have to choose it. Restoration is a choice.

“We can continue to live with the knowledge that Jesus truly redeemed our situation, but still hold on to those wounds of insecurity.”

We have to allow God to breathe truth into the lies we believed while we were waiting for God to redeem our suffering. We have to stop letting the enemy prey on our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. We have to shed bitterness and insecurity and the sense of being unworthy.

“The enemy is not creative, but he is cunning so as long as we allow him to use our hurts, he will use the same hurt over and over and get us to operate out of it.”

We have to repent for doubting God’s character, and ask Him to reveal Himself to us afresh. We have to pray that the hardened areas of our hearts, the areas that we hardened as a way of surviving, become soft again.

This blog said that if the enemy can’t get us to turn our back on God, He will get us to doubt His character.

And I find, 90% of my pain is the result of doubting who God says He is. It’s not the right now that hurts as much as believing the right now is going to be forever.

When I doubt that God can be found in a way that satisfies my aching soul,
when I wonder if I’ll spend my entire life having to consciously practice gratitude while holding a hot and heavy sadness in my chest,
when I doubt that I have anywhere that I belong,
when I question whether God really does bend near to earth to hear my prayers,
when I start to believe my heart only matters to me…

…that’s when my sadness becomes unmanageable.

I can handle the sadness of today when I have hope for tomorrow.

When I believe that happiness isn’t a myth,
that there are people who are glad to be alive,
that life isn’t just struggle and suffering.

When I tell myself God is smiling down on me,
growing me,
blessing me,
whispering and yet speaking like thunder: “HOPE!”…

…then I can love today.

I practice gratitude daily. I try to notice the little things that are going right.

It’s not today that’s hard, it’s when I start believing I’ll spend my entire life trying to fight disappointment–which I heard yesterday as anger mixed with sadness–with the truth that God is good.

At least 90% of my sadness comes from letting Satan subtly convince me that God isn’t who He says He is.

Or that I misunderstood who He said He was.

Is it possible to hope too much?
Does it make any sense at all to be excited for the future or is it going to be scary and hard and lonely?
What if the only thing worth hoping for is heaven?

Those are the things I wonder. Those are the lies I am tempted to believe. And that? That will completely drain one’s awe and wonder and joy and will to live and ability to see life as a gift.

That’s how I know they’re lies.

Truth brings life.

When God speaks, His words are like oxygen.

When God speaks, His words come like light.

“Let there be light.”

*

I was praying the other night, and I was telling God, “I don’t understand…” and I was emptying out all the situations in my brain that hurt and turning them over and trying to understand them in a way that would make them less painful, but I couldn’t. These situations were, to me, question marks. Would they be okay, as defined by me? Was it appropriate to grieve what I feared losing? I didn’t know. And so, “I don’t understand, I don’t understand, I don’t understand…,” I said.

And I heard Him say, “You don’t have to. Of course You don’t understand. Just LISTEN.”

His ways are not ours. Of course we don’t understand.

And trying to understand things that are beyond our comprehension? It only gives Satan the opportunity to speak hopelessness and fear and worry and insecurity into our lives.

So we have to set aside what we don’t understand and trust God with those things.

We have to focus on what we DO understand.

We have to listen.

We have to silence our questioning to meditate on His truth.

*

“I believe,” I say aloud a lot lately.

Also, “I trust You.”

And, “I know You are real.”

I say them aloud because I believe what I am saying, and speaking truth in spite of what I feel gives me comfort and a sense of peace.

And I say them aloud because I know it makes the Lord smile.

And I say them aloud because I know it pisses Satan off, which makes ME smile. 😉

But the other day while I was driving, after I uttered, “I know You are real.” I sensed God ask me, “Yes, but HOW real?”

As evidenced in my recent blogs, I’ve been really struggling with my hope that God is more than what I currently know, that He’s nearer and more available to us than others might suggest.

But it’s impossible to over-estimate God. It’s impossible to think Him TOO alive or TOO real or TOO present.

At least, I pray that’s true.

…And even as I type that last sentence, there’s a fire burning within me and I know that I know that I know–IT’S TRUE.

And so after He asked me that, I looked around me- at the wind blowing through the trees and the wet pavement and the headlights and taillights of traffic. And I said, “This is all Yours. You made it. We have grown to think this planet belongs to us, but it doesn’t. Every inch and corner, every height and depth, Your hands have created. And it would be silly of us to think that You created this planet and then left, that You are up in Heaven conducting things down here like a surgeon in an ER, reaching out a hand to an OR nurse without making eye contact and demanding, “Scalpel.”

We are not Your job.

We are Your passion.

It would be foolish to believe this planet, which has Your holy fingerprints all over it, is on its own, armed with scripture and prayer and the Holy Spirit, yes, but not the God who is both lion and lamb, the Savior with tender eyes and a warm embrace.

And so I choose to believe, because nothing else would make sense, that You’re here- that Your presence is hovering over this entire earth.

Lord, give us eyes to see.

Come as a rushing wind, come like rain, come like fire, come like a still small voice, coming like a baby in a manger… just COME.

*

You know what I’ve discovered? Sometimes we don’t even know what our hearts need to hear until it’s spoken to us. And the way we know our hearts were thirsty for those words? We cry. At least I cry!

I was fine, sad, but not tearful. And then she said, with authority and firmness, “You. Are. Lovable.”

Tears.

I was fine. And then she called me a gift.

Tears.

I was fine. And then she called me family.

Tears.

I was fine. And then she said, “It’s okay, He knows you’re heart.”

Tears.

I was fine. And then she said, “It’s going to be okay.”

Tears.

I was fine, and then I lifted my head toward heaven and asked, “Are you proud of me?”

And tears.

Because I knew the answer was “yes”.

*

I was going through papers the other day, looking for information about CEs and supervision in an effort to take a step closer to getting my LICSW.

Bills, bills, bills…
Product warranties and instruction booklets…
Admit papers.
Discharge papers.

My hand touched them and then withdrew. They are, to me, like fire.

The memories, the images that flash into my mind, they aren’t from God. I know that. And I believe God has (and continues) to redeem that season of my life.

And I am trying to surrender all to Him so that He can restore me, bring me back to a place of complete functionality- the only fire within me a fire for Him, and not a fire that leaves me burnt when I get too close.

*

When I pray aloud and speak the word ‘Lord’, it feels holy on my lips. Both heavy and light.

It puts me in my place.

And I don’t mind being put in my place. 🙂 There’s comfort and safety and awe and magic when I remember He is Lord over all. He the Creator, and I His creation-

both beloved and dust.

*

The thing I get complimented most on is my smile. And I only say that because it’s funny to me how the thing most often commented on is one of the things I feel most insecure about.

And I wonder how often the thing God’s given us, meant to be good and a gift and a strength, the enemy tries to turn into a weakness and insecurity.

How often does the enemy succeed at making us hide the things God specifically put us here to glorify Him with?

Our lights under a bushel.

*

This video made me cry-

Because the cub was playful and joyful and happy to be alive.
Because the papa (or mama) bear jumped in the water to save his/her cub without giving it a moment’s hesitation.
Because the cub was helpless in the water, but it was okay because he/she had a rescuer.
Because they had each other.

Because of how love is the most powerful force in the universe.