The Gift And Sorrow Of Today

I watched the rain fall outside as I waited for Firestone to do my oil change.

Next to me, a man watched the Seahawks game on the small TV in the corner.

To my left, a couple was laughing about something.

I watched cars come in and out of the mall parking lot. I wondered if people were shopping for Christmas already. I wondered if the mall was decorated in twinkly white lights.

I thought about church, the people I love so fiercely.

“You are hard to love.
You are awkward. You embarrass yourself.
Everyone has to keep firm boundaries with you because you’re exhausting.
No one really wants you. They only love you because they think it’s what God wants them to do. You’re charity.
Everyone is just waiting for you to fail again. You might as well just end it. You’re exhausting everyone and you’re hopeless and no one wants to keep going through the trauma you’re putting them through. You think this is all about how you’re suffering, but how about the way you’re making them suffer? No wonder you feel alone. Who would sign up for this?
What is your problem? People are trying so hard to be there for you, but no amount of love anyone shows you is enough.
This is as good as it’s going to get. Accept that. Learn to be completely content with being your own parent. Because that ship has sailed. No one will ever love you like that. In that way, you are alone. And you will always be. And if you can’t accept that, you should just call it quits. You’re going to wear everyone out.
No one has to love you. You don’t have parents or siblings or a husband or children. No one has to look you in the eyes day after day and still choose you. You’re all alone. And even in the ways you’re not alone, you will be. You’re going to alienate everyone,”
the Enemy said.

I shook my head free of the torment and took a sip of my third energy drink of the day.

I am a mystery to myself. I feel overwhelmed with grief and overwhelmed with gratitude.

I feel alone and not alone. The only parent I have, the only one who’s going to daily tell me good morning or goodnight is me. It’s too much to bear. And why? Why do I have zero interest in my own company? Why isn’t it enough to be taken care of by myself? Why can’t I hold within me the love people have for me and use that as fuel for the fight?

Why–when all day long I all day long rehearse truth and gratitude, and look for moments to laugh, and pay attention to when I feel joy–can’t I make myself want to live?

I think of the kind gift from Camilla, the prayer Rory prayed for me with her hand warm on my back, the latte from Christie, how I never doubt Pauline is happy to see me, the smile and “I love you” from Laura.

Why isn’t that enough to make me want to live? What is wrong with me?

What do I need? What do I want? How do I fix this?

I sat there, my eyes filling with tears. “It’s too much,” I thought. “There’s too much happening in my brain. Too much happening inside of me. And I don’t understand any of it. I’m so tired.”

The game kept playing. The man to my right stood. I never looked up at his face, but I saw his shoes as he walked past. Gray Vans.

It’s funny how you notice things that don’t matter when you’re standing somewhere between life and death. It’s like the insignificant things keep you afloat. Your brain doesn’t have to be afraid of shoes or the smell of the tires in the waiting room or the gentle hum of the pop machine. They are safe thoughts. Weightless.

I thought about the medication in my purse. I could stop taking it. I could hoard it. I could be done with this exhausting mess.

I watched the rain fall. “I’m done,” I thought. And instantly, I felt relief.

“What does ‘done’ look like?” I thought next. I didn’t know. Does it look like not taking my medication anymore? Does it look like death? I wasn’t sure. But in the moment, it looked like watching the rain, laying down the death grip on this sword I’ve been wielding so long, surrendering to whatever felt like rest. Peace.

“You’re heading down a dangerous path,” a small voice inside of me said.

“I don’t care,” I responded.

The rain kept falling. Cars kept coming in and out of the parking lot. Life, continuing.

*

Twenty minutes later, I was sobbing into the phone, leaving a message for the man who prescribes my medication.

“I don’t want to say goodbye to Arlow. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want Laura to have to bury me,” I wept. “But I’m tired. I can’t make myself want to live. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I’m so tired.”

He called back two minutes later. I didn’t answer. I didn’t want to cry to his actual voice. Machines are safer. Had he answered when I’d called, I would’ve hung up.

“My initial reaction when I got your message,” he said, “was, ‘I’m so glad she called,’ because it means part of you does still want to live. You haven’t given up on the fight.”

Then he reminded me of ways to cope. Things I already know, but I appreciated his effort.

The problem isn’t that I don’t know how to cope, the problem is that I don’t think I want to anymore. I’m so damn tired. All day, every day, I’m “coping”. And sure, I can drag myself from one day to the next that way, but I’m TIRED and what’s the freaking point?

Jesus. Jesus is the point. I know this, of course.

But also, nothing can separate me from His love. And death means heaven. If I died, God would forgive me. And I’d finally get to be held by a Parent and have reprieve from a fight that is so much bigger than me. He’d finally be able to hold me and say, “This is why you were hurting so badly.”

And yet, that thought only brings me comfort until I think about this life of mine, with its so much good in spite of my inability to want to live it.

Nothing can make me weep quicker than thinking of the ones I love who I’d leave behind.

*

I held my medication in my hand for a long time tonight. I looked down at the white pills and I felt angry. No part of me wanted to take them. But I did.

I don’t know what is going to happen to me. I don’t know how this story will end.

And I can’t commit to picking that sword back up. But I can commit to doing one more day.

And there’s a God who fights for me when I’m too weak. He’s coming in power. Even though I can’t see it, He’s doing battle on my behalf.

This situation isn’t hopeless.

I am still Someone’s child.

I am tired.

I am held.

I am so blessed.

I am so loved.

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Conversations With Jesus

Last night I dreamed I was face-to-face with Satan.

And he was smiling at me and speaking in a low voice and doing what he could to terrify me. And it was working.

I tried to scream Jesus’ name, but I was so scared that my breath got caught in my throat. I couldn’t speak. And so I prayed silently. “Help me, Jesus! I can’t even call for Your help without Your help!”

And then I took a deep breath and tried again. I looked Satan in the eyes while he smirked at me, thinking his victory was imminent, and I said: “I BELONG TO JESUS. You HAVE to GO. You’ve already been defeated.”

And once I said Jesus’ name, I saw a look of terror come into the enemy’s eyes and he began to back away from me. I saw instant proof of the power of Jesus’ name, and I knew then that I wasn’t unarmed or powerless. I didn’t have to be afraid because I had the most powerful weapon- the name of Jesus.

And so I kept saying: “I BELONG TO JESUS. You HAVE to GO. You’ve already been defeated,” until the battle was won. All I had to do was speak truth. Jesus did the rest.

 

*

 

I’ve done a lot of weeping today.

 

And in the midst of it, I sensed Jesus tenderly saying: “Tell me what hurts. I’m here.”

And while I cried my pain out to Him, I found myself struggling to breathe. I found myself with panic heavy in my chest and “I NEED TO FIX THIS” swirling about furiously in my brain.

And then He spoke. “I’m holding it, child. Let the pain out. Don’t hold on to it, trying to fix it and make sense of it. Don’t even try to examine it or redefine it in a way that makes it not hurt anymore. Don’t shut your heart down or despair of this pain that feels like it will never go away. Just let it out. Your pain it safe with Me. Just let it out. Speak it and cry it and know that as you do, I’m collecting it in My hands.”

And so I did. I wept until the pain within me was replaced with something like exhaustion.

And He was with me the entire time, hands outstretched to receive it all, as if pain is as physical and tangible a thing as it feels within me.

And through it all, He just listened. The only time He’d speak was to gently ask: “What is TRUE?”

When my brain would run to believing things that I can’t possibly know, He was there to gently redirect me. “You don’t need to carry and grieve the pain of things that may not even be true, child. Let’s just deal with the things we KNOW to be true.”

 

And when I wept to Him about my fear of losing people I love, He drew me close, wrapping me in His arms. “Oh, beloved,” He said with the love and tenderness only a Father could, “I know. I know how your heart has been so betrayed and broken. It has been cruel and unfair. Your pain matters to me so deeply. Do you believe that?”

And when I said I did, He continued: “Your fears about losing the people you love? They’re just fears, not truths.”

And then He paused again, waiting for me to examine what it is I know and what it is I  just feel. And, when I realized that He’s right, that I’m grieving a fear and not a truth, the always-present Jesus nodded slowly and reached His holy hands out and said, “I will take your fears too. Let’s just take people at their word for now, okay? If they say they love you and aren’t going to leave you, let’s just trust that, regardless of how it feels right now, okay?”

I agreed. And as we looked at my pain together, piecing it apart, deciding what parts of it were true and what were not, the pressure in my chest lessened. And I felt like maybe I could endure it, at least for this moment. I felt like I could breathe again, even while I continued to weep.

“Now,” He said gently, “let’s address the part of your pain that is real. Let’s grieve the way that love doesn’t look the way you wish it would.”

Jesus:
Untangler-Of-My-Emotions,
Purifier-Of-My-Thoughts,
Holder-Of-The-Pain-Like-Fire-Within-Me,
Lover-Of-All-Of-Me, (even the messy parts).

And as the pain within me grew numb or hollow or tired or subdued by the truth of who my Jesus is, I found myself, still sobbing, but saying over and over again: “You are good, You are good, You are good.”

There’s something holy and powerful in that, in being able to say, “Yes, I hurt in a way that makes it hard to want to live. I hurt. But that doesn’t change the truth of who my Jesus is. He is good and He is doing a good thing, regardless of how it feels.”

And I said it because it’s holy and true, and I said it because it keeps the wild within me from spiraling down a path of self-destruction, and also I said it because to be able to say that in the midst of this season feels like I’m giving the finger to the enemy. And oh, how I LOVE the thought of him watching me weep with overwhelming pain and STILL PRAISE JESUS. How that must piss him off. Which makes me smile a little bit. And Jesus smiles too, I think. And I think He looks in the direction of the enemy, who would love very much to watch me fail, and I think He nods like, “Are you seeing this? She’s mine.”

Desperate and broken.

Held and loved.

Joy in the pain.

Grief and hands-raised-to-heaven hallelujahs.

*

 

Good things:

  1. Finding a four-leaf clover. Because I am always scanning grass for four-leaf clovers and the sky for rainbows and trees for bird nests. And God knows that.
  2. Baking.
  3. My wiggly-butt pup, who officially knows “sit” and is learning “wait”.
  4. Painting my nails fall colors.
  5. Flickers of hope.

 

 

 

Safe In The Savior’s Arms

“I can’t hurt like this forever,” I pray.

“You won’t, child. Forever is an awfully long time.”

And then all my accusations get stolen from my mouth before I can even complete the sentence, because they FEEL true, but they aren’t:

“You don’t understand!” Yes, He does.
“You don’t care!” Yes, He does.
“You aren’t here!” Yes, He is.
“No one loves me!” Yes, they do.
“I’m no one’s family! Not really!” Yes, I am.

So where does that leave me? With a screaming heart that I have to let scream. I can’t numb it or shut it down. Not if I want to really heal.

I can’t feed it with platitudes that aren’t necessarily true either, like, “It’s all going to be okay.” Maybe it won’t. At least, not in the way I want it to be.

My hope can’t be in a certain outcome, it has to be in God alone. Grief gets cut short, I think, when we tell ourselves it’s all going to be okay and then define what “okay” means. Numbing ourselves to pain can look so many different ways. I’m learning that now.

However, on the other hand, I can’t feed my heart with worst-case-scenarios either. I can’t let my sorrow become panic. Because sorrow? That’s real. Panic is a lie. Sorrow is where God is taking me right now. It’s holy and important. Panic is Satan.

I have to just settle into the not knowing. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know. But I do know who God is.

I do know He is good and He loves me and He has a plan.

And, you know, let’s be freaking honest, that doesn’t feel like comfort right now. But I can sense Him smiling as I type that because He isn’t threatened by honesty. Instead, He smiles because it’s the truth right now and I said it. And He responds, “I know. And that’s okay.”

And then He takes my hand and walks me deeper still into my grief. “Let’s talk about the things that hurt,” He says. “Don’t try to make yourself feel something. Don’t belittle yourself for not being able to know me as More Than Enough. It’s okay, child. Changing how you feel isn’t your task, your task is simply to walk with me. So, let’s talk. Feel, child. Feel. And tell me what hurts.”

“I hurt so badly,” I sobbed tonight. Over and over again, “I hurt so badly.”

And He? “I know, child. I know. Let it out. Let yourself hurt.”

I sobbed worship music in the shower tonight. I sat with arms raised, sobbing and singing, my off-pitch, tear-filled voice embarrassing me, even though I was alone. But I sang anyway. I let worship be an outlet for my pain. Because I can’t fix it. But I can piss Satan off by screaming truth even when I don’t feel it. “MY GOD IS GOOD!” My God is GOOD. Without contingency. No ifs. No buts. He is just good.

“Letting it be” is the hardest thing for me. If I can’t fix it, if I have to just let myself feel… I don’t handle that well. I am a fixer. I want to be able to make it better. And I’m impatient. I want to make it better and I want to make it better NOW. And, on top of all of that, I am not an even-keeled feeler. My highs are high and my lows are low.

But here I am with my grief. And I can’t fix it. I can’t rush it. I can’t make it stop hurting. But I can praise God as good. Here I am. With my grief, and my Jesus.

“It’s so unfair!” I say.
And His response? “I am the God who redeems. I am the God who defends.”

*

I can’t sleep. But I don’t automatically go to, “I will never sleep again!” So why do I do that with my pain? Or with what looks like lost love? Why do I assume I’ll never feel okay again, or never be loved again?
“Never is an awfully long time.”

*

I can’t sleep. And yes, my natural reaction is to panic at that too. Because if I can’t sleep, then I’m still awake, feeling pain. And that is not an option.

Only it is an option because it is what is happening. And I can’t change it.

I can’t change it.

So I’m writing.

And I’m crying.

And there’s worship music playing.

I am under a warm blanket and I made myself tea and I cut myself up an apple.

I’m learning. I’m learning to tend to my heart.

I’m learning how to run to Him for what is true.

I am learning not to rage against the pain, but to walk it out with Him. “Let’s walk, child,” He says. “It won’t be like this forever. I promise. So just take my hand. Let’s walk.”

*

I feel like the grief is going to kill me. But it won’t. Ironically, what would kill me is not grieving at all. Stuffing it down. Letting the unprocessed grief be a depression so heavy that it becomes impossible to feel anything, even joy.

Because we can’t silence our pain without silencing our joy. Right? We can’t selectively numb.

*

I’m been begging for a miracle. A healing that comes like a finger snap. Because, “I can’t fix this! I can’t endure this! This is going to kill me! HELP!” But maybe this is my miracle. Maybe this is my help.

A finger snap wouldn’t really resolve anything. I might FEEL better, but the pain would still be there within me, lying dormant, unprocessed. God can’t make it stop hurting without making my heart less alive rather than more alive. And God, the giver of life Himself, would never agree to create in me a less alive heart. God wants better for me than that.

“Are you going to just let this kill me!?” I scream at Him.
And He? “Oh, child. No. The reason I can’t just make it all better right this second is because I DON’T want to let this kill you. No real life can be gained without your involvement. You have to agree to walk this through with Me. I want life for you, child. Fullness of life. Life for your heart as much as your body.”

And I tilt my head upwards and I blow a kiss to the sky. Because I’m still 7 years old sometimes. I’m 50 when I make myself tea and cut myself up an apple; I’m being my own mom. I’m 7 when I blow Jesus a kiss. I’m 29 when I’m sobbing in the shower, arms raised to heaven, turning my pain into worship.

*

Oh, gentle, tender heart of mine. What do you believe about God?

He is good. He is good. He is good.

*

In The BFG, there’s a scene where the little girl jumps off a balcony because she is desperate for the BFG to show up, to not leave her, and she knows he’ll catch her if she jumps. She knows he’ll have to show up because he would never let any harm befall her.

The 10-year-old in me? She gets that.

But people, and God, they can’t be manipulated. You can’t MAKE someone show up or want you or hold you.

And it’s excruciating.

But what’s worse, really? Being unable to make someone love you, or wondering if they only love you because you forced them to?

What’s worse, being rejected or abandoned, or desperately trying to earn or keep love?

Honestly, I’m tempted to say the former is worse. But God wants life for me. And He wants love for me. Real love. No for me to live a desperate, begging, pleading existence, looking wide-eyed at the people I love and silently begging: “Love me, love me, love me!”

God doesn’t give anything other than the best. Real love. It has to be real. He won’t give me permission to try to earn love. “Love them. And LET THEM LOVE YOU. Not ‘make them love you.'” Love and let. Love and rest. So I have to breathe and stop standing on balconies. I have to let people choose me. Or not.

And God? What’s the better way to draw near Him? Jumping off a balcony, or sobbing until you throw up? Manipulation, a desperate and panicked rebellion… or a sorrow so intense your sobbing feels more animalistic than human.

If my heart is numb, if both joy and grief have become depression, then how am I supposed to really connect with God? Because it’s in my heart that He lives, right?

So I am letting my heart come back to life. An act of healing. An act of worship.

Truth, even when it is painful and raw, that is the best way to draw near to Him.

I can’t fix it. But I can at least welcome Him into the pain.

*

Surrender.

Here with my grief and my insomnia. Here with no way to fix it. Here with my open, broken, nerve-exposed heart all laid bare. Here, alone.

But also not alone.

*

Someday I’ll smile easy. I’ll feel the sun and think, “I’m so grateful to be alive.” And nothing will hurt.

Oh, sure, maybe there will always be an ache in my heart, because this world isn’t our home, but it won’t feel like a scream. Just an ache. A twinge. A gentle, and, let’s face it, probably necessary reminder to keep my eyes on Jesus.

*

I can’t make myself be loved the way I want to be. I can’t make myself be wanted. I can’t make myself belong.

But I can stand firm and say, “I know who my Jesus is.”

And that’s how I know that someday it won’t hurt like this. Because Jesus.

Someday I’ll be able to say, “Remember that time all seemed lost? I’m so glad I didn’t give up. Look at what God has done!”

And I’ll blow a kiss towards heaven and I’ll thank Him for my miracle.

*

I will not die, but live
And declare the works of the Lord
(Ps. 118:17)

I will not die.

God is working.

And it’s going to be so, so good.

When Hunger Keeps You Alive

What do I feel and why do I feel it and is it her or her or him that I want to hear “I love you” from or is it Him?

And am I going to be able to satiate all that’s insecure and lonely within me by soaking up others’ words or hugs or presence? Can I crawl into another’s soul-comforting words and live there- pulling another’s affirmations and love up and over me like a blanket?

No. And I know that. We’re wired in such a way that we need Him. Nothing else will do.

But even that brings about its own questions. Even that comes with a desperate, panicked clinging.

Because how do I wrap myself in His arms? How do I fold myself within the pages of scripture and breathe in the peace and shut out everything that hurts or confuses me or scares me? How do I bury myself so deeply into Him that my thirst for love is met?

Can I spend an hour on my knees and trust that it’s not futile? Can I really, fully believe Him to be as near as my very breath?

Do I have any idea what it really means that He loves me? And if I did, if I had even the slightest sense of how He loves me, wouldn’t that be enough? Wouldn’t He, indeed, finally resonate within me as More Than Enough and Life Abundant and Living Water for my thirst?

I refuse to let myself numb my hunger by feeding myself things that aren’t Him.

But I also refuse to let myself stop looking for Him in all things.

Because the sin isn’t needing to be loved, the sin is putting a higher value on the things of this world than the One who created it.

He knew we’d long to be held by Him. That’s why we have each other.

But He also knew people would fall short, they’d let us down and love us imperfectly and, even when relationships were perfect, there’d still be a part of us hungry for something more.

He is my 3 a.m. confidant and the one who I’ve, on multiple occasions, met with as I cried in a bathroom stall, my head tilted toward heaven, uttering only these words: “Who do I have in all the world but You?”

He is the warmth of the cat curled up and purring against my neck.

He is the comfort I feel when I wrap my favorite blanket around my shoulders.

He is the creator of the ones I love. He is the creator of my heart. He is the one who is orchestrating all things.

Here I am. In this place. For a reason.

And I don’t understand everything that is unsettled within me, but I know that if I keep running to Him, seeking His face, I will come to know Him as More Than Enough. I will come to know Him as the one who can quench my thirst and satiate my hunger.

Because He is good. And He IS enough.

And He’s the giver of good gifts.

And so I’ll wait and trust and breathe in all the blessings around me that are marked with His holy fingerprints.

And I’ll over and over and over again remind my soul to worship Him alone. And to trust.

And I don’t know why it’s so hard for me- why I have to fight so hard against this depression that threatens to pull me down. I don’t know why I only get glimpses–days, moments–in which I see life the way I remember it being- good and worth it and full of light and hope and joy.

But I know the depression won’t win. I know it lies. I will not stop fighting.

And neither will He.

This battle–the battle within my heart and my mind and all that’s broken within me, this battle to know and love Him more and above all other things–it’s not just mine. Ultimately, it’s He alone who can set all things right. It’s He alone who can teach me how to dwell and abide in His love and to never thirst again.

And hunger doesn’t have to be painful maybe. It doesn’t have to be a scream that this world is not my home and that He cannot hold me. Hunger doesn’t have to become a taunting voice, leading me to despair, mocking me as I kneel before the Lord, asking me what that’s actually accomplishing.

I will shut out any voice that isn’t His. Because the voice of my Lord reminds me that hunger is a gift.

And actually, it can become a bubbling well of joy, can’t it? If it keeps driving me toward Him, if I’m living my life with eyes wide open because I believe He has given me this hunger for a reason and knows how to meet it, then hunger can be a source of life and excitement for what’s to come, yes?

But only when I trust Him to provide.

Not when I think I can x, y, z my way to a solution. Because then the process stops being an adventure, rather is becomes a reason to beat myself up and ask if I’m doing enough and think it’s all pointless because I cannot SEE the progress being made. After all, when have we ever been able to say we’ve “earned” our blessings? It’s all grace. Grace upon grace upon grace. It’s not my fault, and it’s not because I’ve earned it.

And so I’ll cling to Truth and hold tight to His hand and keep my eyes locked on His face, while I wait, and trust, and pray for deliverance and peace and love like a waterfall.

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.

He Who Sustains

There’s this screaming chasm within me. The size of it and volume of it depends on the day, the conversation, the circumstance. But it’s there, as part of me as my lungs or kidneys.

It’s not the day itself that’s hard. I can allow myself to cry and feel sad and find comfort in scripture and then tuck myself into bed. It’s when the day becomes days. It’s when all I see before me is reason to weep and ache for a Father who I can’t really feel.

And maybe that ache is a gift. I pray it is. How could I ever credit myself with a hunger for the Lord? It has to be Him in me, working and moving and taking my hand and leading me deeper.

Helping me to know and love Him more.

Who am I? Beloved, sure. But nothing more than a speck in this world- composed of the breath of God. I am not a mystery to Him, this God who spoke light into existence and calls Himself Love.

This screaming chasm scares me. But it doesn’t scare Him.

In between the screaming is the whisper: “Is it worth it? What’s the point?”

But the Fearless One also whispers.

And I have the power to choose what whisper I listen to. Because there’s the whisper that tries to steal life from me, playing on my emotions and circumstances as if they are the truest thing. But more than what I feel or see, there is a Truth that cannot be argued with. And this voice, the voice of Truth, speaks loving, hope-filled things.

It’s like clinging to a flotation device in the ocean. At night. In a horrible storm. And I’m choking on water and fighting not to let my grasp slip. Where is my rescue boat? Where is land? How long will I be out here? I don’t know. And I feel fear gnawing at me: What if this is forever?

And so I’m holding on, fighting to maintain my grasp on the one thing that’s keeping me afloat. I refuse to give up. I refuse to let go and let fear win. Because my God doesn’t speak fear, so I know it’s not Him.

And I’m looking up- at the stars, the heavens, all held steady by His limitlessly powerful hand.

And I’m struggling to fight for truth, for life. I’m being tossed in this ocean and I don’t know when the storm will end. But above me, heaven is unmoving. The stars look back at me and blink their comforting assurance that I am seen. And I thank God that He gave me something to cling to- a way to keep my head above water.

This chasm within me screams. And only now do I recognize that scream for what it is- it screams for Him.

I don’t know how to take Him and fit Him into the holes within me- packing Him in like cotton in a wound to stop the bleeding.

“You’re more than enough!” I yell at heaven. And I demand the scream within me to accept that and grow quiet. But it doesn’t.

Because I remember.
I remember being someone’s child.
I remember falling asleep at night hearing the gentle breathing of my family, the stillness and puzzle-piece feeling. And I remember thinking, “This is how my days, no matter how bad they are, end. And it is so good.”
I remember waking up in the morning with my mom in my bed, whispering to me about the sunrise or bird songs outside my bedroom window.
I remember belonging to someone.

And so I ask God, with more than just a hint of anger, how He could take all that from me (or let it be taken) and then stand before me big but untouchable, invisible, often seemingly distant, and claim to be more than and better than anything this world could offer.

“All good things are from Me,” He whispers.

And so I look back over my list of what I had that was good that I no longer have. And I ask, where was He in all of that? Have I really lost it all in its entirety? Because if all good things are from Him, and He never changes and cannot be lost, if all good things reflect Him, then the truest essence of what we experience that is good cannot be lost- because it’s Him.

Right?

“Show me,” I pray.

And I know. I know beyond what I saw or experienced, the comfort of being someone’s child was meant to whisper to me how my Father loves me.

Feeling held safe as part of a family? That was Him too- my biological family a representation, a mere a shadow, of the spiritual family to whom I really belong. And where love is, He is. He was there among the slow and steady breathing of my sleeping siblings and parents. He was there, sustaining all of us through our sleeping hours, singing over us, protecting us. And maybe that’s what I really heard and found comfort in as a child- not the breathing of my family, but the breathing of my ever-present, trustworthy God.

And while mine is the only human head that rests on a pillow and surrenders to sleep night after night in my home, He is still there. He is there, loving me fiercely. Sustaining me. Singing over me. Protecting me. Reminding me that it is He who holds not only me, but those on whom I had so long depended. “And indeed,” He whispers as I pull the covers up to my chin at night, “I AM holding you.”

He is the reason for the sunrise, the chirping birds. He is the reason my eyes open in the morning. He was the one gifting me for so many years with waking up and having someone ask me how I slept. But I still have that, right? Not the physical presence or eyes that look at me with love, but the sunrise and birds and a brand new day each morning. And I still have Someone who cares how I slept.

The God who breathed me into life. Who holds hold the oceans in His hands. Who orchestrates the dance of the stars and planets above us.

He’s a big, big God. Way bigger than any ache or emptiness within me.

He IS more than enough.

And I don’t know how to get there- how to grasp on to a God I can’t physically hold. I don’t know how to silence the scream when I can’t bury my face against His chest. I don’t know how to let all within me grow still when it’s just–to my physical eyes–me. And the scream. And no one to hold me.

Oh, for eyes to see what’s REALLY happening and how near He REALLY is.
For faith to find comfort in the truth of His nearness, even when I can’t see it.
Even when I don’t FEEL it.

But He gave me this hunger for Him.

And He’s a good Father.

And He is near.

And I am not a mystery.

Somehow, it’s all going to connect. And when it does, I’ll praise Him for every single decision He made in my life, even when it hurt.

Because He knows what I don’t- these waves I cannot see over, they are carrying me to shore.

Not Deterred By The Wind

A week ago, I was in a really lousy place.

It’s funny to me how easy it is to start believing your entire life is crumbling down around you. And how do you do battle against that lie when you don’t know for sure whether or not it even is a lie?

And so you leave teary voicemails on people’s phones, and you send long e-mails to people who will process with you, and you close your office door because you can’t stop crying, and you inwardly curl yourself into a ball and beg God to hold you.

And when you can’t cry anymore because you’re too exhausted, and the energy drink you bought isn’t working, and your mind is awake but you eyes feel like they belong on the body of a ninety-year-old–swollen and heavy and perpetually ready for a nap–you breathe. Because there’s nothing left to do. And you WWJD yourself through the intensity and swirling emotions and confusion and anger. You, unwillingly but out of desperation, choose to rise above yourself and ask Jesus to live and think and make decisions through you.

And it works. Miraculously, against all evidence to the contrary, the storm doesn’t last forever.

And it was awful, the storm. It wasn’t an illusion. It wasn’t all in my head. The sky was black, and the trees were bending as the wind blew, and thunder crackled across the sky and reached downward toward the earth threateningly. And there I stood, soaked from the rain and bruised from the hail, trying not to let the cold wind steal the breath from my lungs.

I chose to hold on. I chose to wait for Jesus to calm the crazy rather than taking matters into my own hands.

I refused to act on the lie that Satan was whispering to me that the storm was going to last forever, and that when it did eventually end, the trees would be blown down and my house uprooted, and that I might as well run now because running will hurt less than watching what I used to have and love come crumbling down around me.

I chose instead to say, “He will rescue me. But even if He doesn’t…” And I held on.

And then, without any warning or indication that I was right to hope, the storm suddenly stops. Not gradually, but all at once. And I hear a bird chirp. Confirmation- “You were right to trust in Me.” And I lift my head and the once-gray sky is dissipating, and the only reminder of the rain is the wet pavement beneath my feet. And above my head there’s a rainbow.

I could’ve bought into the lie. I could’ve made what I was feeling and let it grow and grow within me until I couldn’t breathe and panic was flooding my mind. I could’ve acted out of my fears and anger. But instead, I forced myself to breathe and wait. Even as the wind whipped and whirled around me, sucking the air out of my lungs, I looked to Jesus to provide my breath. And I waited.

And He turned it around. The pavement is still wet. The sky is still speckled with dark clouds. But there are birds and rainbows. And I’ll take the wet pavement in exchange for a rainbow.

And in the midst of the storm, I wrote the following:

Communicating is hard.

Or I’m crazy.

Or maybe both.

I swear I repeat back what I hear people say, word for word. And then they look at me like they are equal parts baffled and frustrated. And usually they are gentle with me, but their response is essentially: “How did you get that from what I said!? What’s the point in even talking to you when you don’t listen?!”

But I do!

But it seems like they think everything’s getting filtered incorrectly through my brain. Which, for the record, makes me feel crazy and ashamed and so frustrated, because I don’t understand what the communication problem is- and now maybe they think I’m crazy and I’m not!

So they’ll repeat themselves, trying to be more clear. And I’ll repeat what they said, also trying to be clearer. And again they’ll say I’m not understanding. And how is that even possible?!

And it works the other way as well. I already feel insecure about my ability to verbally communicate, and lately when I try, things get so twisted so quickly. People will repeat back what they heard me say, that that’s NOT what I said! Or if it was, it wasn’t what I meant. And they’ll say I’m contradicting myself or lying and WHAT!?? HOW?! Why is NO ONE HEARING ME!?

I feel like they speak Spanish and I speak Italian and we KIND OF understand each other because our languages are similar, but mostly there is this incredible disconnect. And everyone on the planet speaks Spanish except for me.

And when I feel this way, misunderstood and ashamed and labeled as a problem to be solved, it makes me want to run. It hurts when it seems like the people I thought loved me and thought highly of me do, indeed, love me, but also see me as someone with whom relationship is hard and with whom they have to guard their heart.

I feel sometimes like everything is going to be used against me, to reaffirm in everyone’s minds that I shouldn’t have left treatment, that I should’ve gotten prayer, that I’m not okay. It makes me furious and ashamed and it makes me feel hopeless and defeated and completely overwhelmed. And it makes me feel haunted- like my identity and value and worth and how people see me will be forever marred because of this last season of my life. Any progress I make undermined because now I carry this label of being mentally unwell.

I laid in bed last Tuesday night, staring out the window at the trees blowing in the dark and focused on breathing slow and deep, and I asked God: “What do I do?”

“Do I leave? Run? Hide?
Continue to show up?
Stop sharing my heart? Feel ashamed?
Call and sob and beg them to tell me they still love me and that I’m completely wrong about what I feel?
Get angry? Be firm about what I think is wrong and right, even if people call it rebellion and turn away from me?”

And I knew, as all those questions swirled in my brain, and my heart beat wildly and threatened to steal the breath from my lungs, I knew God was whispering, “Shhh, child. Don’t do anything. Not yet. Wait. Breathe. Let me be the one to do something. You just tend to your precious heart and try to model Jesus.”

And maybe that’s all I ever need to do when things are confusing and unclear- not find answers or solutions or make sense of the crazy (either the crazy in my own head or that swirls about in conversations and distorts everything), but breathe and trust and wait, and in every second, model Jesus.

Let’s pretend for a moment that Jesus was able of doing something imperfect, okay? (I know, I know. You’re about to call blasphemy on me. Just go with me for a minute here. Because really, the WWJD question doesn’t work unless we momentarily abandon our belief that Jesus is perfect. Otherwise, He’d never find Himself in many of the situations we have to WWJD ourselves through in the first place!)

So here’s what I concluded last night as I wrestled with whether to fight, flight, or freeze.

(And really, making decisions in the middle of intense emotions? That’s never a good idea. The decisions made always tend to be extreme:
“LEAVE! RUN! MOVE TO FLORIDA! NO ONE GETS YOU! YOU CAN’T TRUST ANYONE! NEVER TALK TO ANYONE EVER AGAIN!”
“CALL THEM SOBBING EVEN THOUGH IT’S MIDNIGHT! MAKE THEM TELL YOU IT’S ALL GOING TO BE OKAY!”
“NEVER GET OUT OF BED AGAIN! NEVER! TURN YOUR PHONE OFF NOW!”
And it’s funny because sometimes making decisions, even big, extreme ones, can feel like coming up with a solution- a way to ease the intense pain. But that’s a trick. It might feel good or satisfying in the moment to say you’re going to tell everyone to shut their faces, or cancel your phone service, or quit your job and look into moving across the country, but the outcome of making decisions when everything feels like fire and panic? Usually more fire. More panic.)

Ahem. Anyway, as I was saying. WWJD?

Jesus would be loving. He wouldn’t care about arguing His point or knowing who’s wrong or who’s right, because He’d think it’s more important to show up and love people, to not abandon the people and situations where He believes God has placed Him.

And He wouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about His opinions or decisions. He wouldn’t let His beliefs be stolen from Him. He wouldn’t write them in stone, but He’d not blow them away like smoke either, desperately exchanging them for others’ beliefs just because that’s more comfortable. He wouldn’t turn red with embarrassment and try to pretend like their beliefs were His all along and wonder, “Who am I to think I could have a differing opinion than WASN’T wrong!?”

And He’d trust that while He went on with His life–continuing to love people, listen to them, offer grace–God would sort it all out. He’d trust that God would reveal what’s true and what isn’t. He’d listen to others’ perspectives and opinions, He’d check in with His heart, and then He’d bring it all to God to unravel. He’d set it at His feet and walk back into His life, confident that God would work it all out.

He would walk back into His life as fully Himself- strengths, joys, sorrows, opinions, flaws, failures, snot and tears. He’d refuse to hide or be ashamed because He’d be confident that God made Him who He was for a reason- and that even if others don’t understand, even if He felt marginalized and alone and like He’s the only one who speaks Italian; even if He was wrong, even if His viewpoints were skewed, and He needed to ask for forgiveness, that wouldn’t change how He saw Himself or make Him want to shrink up in shame. He would extend grace to Himself. Because He’d know we’re all in process. God isn’t done with a single one of us. No one is better or worse than someone else. Grace, grace, grace.

And if He felt angry, it would be at the enemy for distorting things and lying, for trying to break up relationships, for trying to break down the ability for people God placed together to communicate openly and trust each other. He wouldn’t be angry at people. Or Himself. Our fight isn’t against flesh and blood.

And He wouldn’t give the enemy a victory by saying, “Fine, I’ll never share my heart again.” Although maybe He’d realize that people, even well-meaning ones–kind, generous, loving, admirable, beautiful ones–are no substitute for God. And maybe He’d share His heart with people a little less and trust that it was enough to share it with God. Even if it felt like God wasn’t listening. Even if sharing it with God and not with people felt lonely and isolating.

But He wouldn’t hold back the sharing of His heart out of shame or fear. He would simply be more conscientious about being gentle with others’ hearts and about protecting His own- because probably the miscommunication couldn’t occur with such intensity, the pain and emotions and opinions so charged, if He and the other person/people didn’t deeply love each other. And when someone loves you, your pain can sometimes become their pain. And maybe it isn’t fair to that person’s heart to give them all of what’s on your heart, even if you’re not expecting help or answers.

And He’d trust, 150% that God would draw near. That He didn’t have to turn from God in search of someone tangible to hug or look at Him with love. He’d trust that, somehow, someway, God can meet those needs. He’d continue to seek and pour out His heart and wait with holy expectation for God to show up, to help Him see He’s never once sent up a prayer that bounced off the ceiling and returned to Him while He sat there, lonely and un-thought of and unheard, within the four walls of His house.

And I know something can’t be 150% because 100% is as high as percentages can go. But when it comes to the spiritual? The supernatural? I think that extra 50% is necessary. Because it says, “I know it’s not possible. But I’m going to hope against all odds. I’m going to look at the not possible and say, ‘With God, all things are possible.'”

A little wild hope. A little crazy believing. A little irrational trust.

Maybe sometimes being a little crazy isn’t a bad thing at all.