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.

The Turning Page

I read today that our tears reveal something about our hearts- and about the God who created our hearts.

After the author made that claim, he continued by naming things that had made him cry- and in doing so, he painted a sort of portrait of who He is.

I was also thinking about how I couldn’t participate in our church activity last Saturday. When the pastor asked us to think back on 2015 and remember what God did, I just stared at the Christmas tree on the stage and counted the lights and tried not to think or cry. And when we got into groups to share, all I said was, “I can’t talk about it. Not because God didn’t do anything, but because the only reason I am here to reflect on 2015 and welcome 2016 is because of Him.”

And I can’t think about it. My mind feels held captive right now, the horror and shame and desperate grasping and clinging for someone to love me. The images and memories. The terror and “I can’t believe this is my life” and the being alone. The “I can’t breathe.” The phone calls. The long nights. …Just listing things is making my heart beat fast and my cheeks redden. The trauma is as real today as it was five months ago. And if I’m not careful, I could drown in it.

But I do want to recap 2015. I want to look at my tears and my blessings and thank God for both. And the rest of it? The thoughts and memories and images that feel like fire to my brain and heart? I’ll leave them alone. I’ll hand them to God to heal or redeem or restore. I’ll continue to fall to my knees and beg Him to take from me what isn’t of Heaven. I’ll try to breathe and trust and believe in hope.

And so, I’m going to make a list. A list of what has made me cry in 2015. And a list of what I’m grateful for.

And I’m going to call it brutiful.

And worth it.

And holy. Because God has never left my side. He’s been the dryer of my tears and the giver of every good thing.

*

Times this year I’ve cried:

Those nondescript, unsuspecting moments when someone I love is talking or sitting silently or reading a book or watching TV and I look at them and I find treasure there in their face, the slope of their nose and the way their eyes look when they smile and the little intricacies and details of who they are- the curve of their fingernails or freckle on their jawline or crooked smile. There, as if written on their forehead, I see: GIFT. And my heart swells to overflowing with fierce love and tenderness and gratitude to the Lord for placing them in my life. And I say a silent prayer that they won’t ever leave- that we’re in this life together, forever.

In the vet’s office, soothing Theodore with coos and promises that it would all be okay as the vet told me the opposite. Watching him get sick and suffer. The thousands of dollars I spent and midnight trips I made trying to find a way to make him be well only to discover I couldn’t fix it and I had to say goodbye. And having Laura offer to be with me when I put him down. Terrible grief. And a verbal hug.

Jordan singing Great is Thy Faithfulness on The Voice, the truth resonating in those words. The way Adam looked at him with uninhibited joy and undisguised pride. And I knew I was watching someone’s dreams come true. And it was beautiful and poignant and made me smile and cry at the same time.

The mail. Painful letters, returned house keys, bills I couldn’t afford and that triggered hard memories, and a Christmas card from the social worker at Good Sam, which reminded me it was all real; I really did live that. I lived it. The trauma. The gripping horror of it. I lived it. And I survived it. And God won’t leave me here in this place of forever, just trying to survive and battle the trauma. Someday the Christmas card will make me smile because she cared and I survived and I forgive myself, because He has forgiven me, and what was lost isn’t beyond His ability to heal, and what is broken isn’t beyond His ability to mend. And nothing is ruined.

Hugging my niece after seven months. Love and grief and sorrow and joy all mixed up together in that moment. Wrapping her up in my arms, lifting her off the ground and carrying her like I did when she was three. Looking at her face- the gradual maturing of it. Memorizing the features and the words she spoke and begging God to help her still love me and remember me. That baby who I loved with a love I’d never felt before, who I’d comforted and delighted in and cuddled and kissed and played with… now eight years old. And rather than being there, a present person in her life, through circumstances out of my control, we are growing apart instead of together. And I knew that. And I felt that. But she was there, before me, still the one who I loved with my whole heart, and I didn’t care if she loved me too- all that mattered was memorizing how it felt to hug her, taking that with me into the next days and weeks and months. And letting myself love her as best as I could from a distance- through prayer.

The moments of aching aloneness. Feeling unwanted, unconnected, like I don’t belong to anyone. Like no one would choose me. Without family or people who carry me in their heart like a mother or sister or aunt or cousin or husband or child would. And I fear that the love I thought I had is fragile or not real or dependent on my behavior and continual efforts to prove myself as lovable.

Reading blogs or books about how He loves us- how near He is and how safe it is to hope that there’s more of Him to experience and discover. The gentle whisper to my soul: “Continue to maintain that wild, irrational hope, child.”

Watching A Little Princess- that scene where Sara is begging her father to remember her. And then he does. And he runs after her just as the cops are putting her in their car and he shouts, with the fierce protectiveness of a loving parent: “Sara!” And she runs to him and leaps into his arms and he holds her and whispers loving things to her and they cry.

When hope feels as impossible to hold on to as smoke or sunlight.

That event where I felt judged and shamed and love felt performance-based. And I felt misunderstood and confused as to what’s real- caught between the opinions of the people I love and respect and admire, and the convictions of my own heart.

Reading about or hearing about or witnessing good mothers. When mothers look at their children with unmasked, limitless love. When I hear children (even grown children) say they don’t know what they’d do without their mom. And, the stabbing pain of knowing that unless God does a miracle in my life and brings me someone who wants a desperate-to-be-loved 28-year-old daughter, I won’t ever have that again. Nor will I ever get to be a mom without His hand in my life.

Each time I’ve left a counseling session that hasn’t helped and I’ve wondered if the problem is them, or if I’m just too screwed up to be helped, or if maybe I’m not screwed up at all and this is just how I’ll feel forever.

The gift of rainbows in the sky. Particularly last month when I saw the barely-there rainbow in the sky on my way to work. And I smiled and whispered, “Thank You.” And then, there, as I rounded a corner, I saw a bright and vibrant and beautiful second rainbow, the end of which was right beside me not even five feet away. It was incredible. And I realized then that the faint rainbow, which I had been so pleased with, had just been a shadow of the real gift He had to give. I imagined God’s eyes twinkling as I thanked Him for that faint rainbow, all the while knowing He had something even better coming just a few seconds later. And I imagined Him there, holding His breath, so excited for me to see.

Each time I’ve prayed a prayer of surrender and trust. Each time I’ve lifted up my heart tentatively and on shaking hands and said, “Take it. I trust You.”

*

Things I’m Grateful For:

I didn’t spend Christmas alone.

Hard, growing, vulnerability-requiring, bonding conversations.

Being able to cry again.

The laps and shoulders I’ve cried on.

Dancing in the rain.

Life-affirming road trips, particularly the one to Cape Flattery and the spontaneous 6:00 p.m. drive to Ocean Shores.

Having–and keeping–a job I love.

People who’ve been there in hard moments. They’ve showed up or answered their phones. They’ve welcomed me into their homes and lives. They’ve prayed for me.

Good books. Books that help me feel like Jesus is right here at my side, filling me with the sense of “life abundant” that I am clinging to as being my birthright.

The kids in my life who love me and who I get to squeeze and cuddle and love on.

The miracle of leaving Bellevue early. And having a ride home.

Getting my head above the water long enough to choose not to give up.

My church family. The increased comfort I feel there. The post-church shared meals and laughter and conversation.

Every single moment someone’s looked at me with love. I notice it- every time. And I store it up in my heart and use it to battle the lies that seem to constantly be threatening to pull me under.

Every night I’ve gone to bed with hope filling me up inside. Every morning I’ve woke up with joy bubbling within me. Every afternoon I’ve suddenly been struck by the assurance that it’s all going to be okay.

*

I still have to ask Him every single night to tuck me in.

I’m 28 and I can’t sleep–I can’t silence my heartache and fear and desire to take control of things I have no control over–without believing the God who calls me daughter stops by my bed at night and tucks the covers up around me and kisses my forehead.

And I calm my heart by meditating on my belief that He stands vigil while I sleep, looking down on me with love, working in my life even while I rest.

And that is how I’ll begin 2016- needing God with a desperate fierceness.

And trusting Him to never leave my side.

Embracing Our Humanness

“What’s that?” I thought, something on my lap catching my attention as I drove to my friend’s house.

A hole.

There was a hole. In my pants. In the crotch-location.

I couldn’t go home. I couldn’t change. I couldn’t even hide it because it was front and center.

My only option? To just show up. Hole and all.

I could’ve panicked or gotten embarrassed, sure. But how would that have changed anything? The hole wouldn’t have been like, “Oh, you’re right! This is embarrassing!” and then stitched itself back together.

Laughing about it? Showing up anyway? Telling my friend about my discovery? Laughing together? Embracing my humanness? OUR humanness? That was really the only option.

Over and over and over again, all throughout the day, I sense God whispering to me, “In what are you trusting?”

When I replay conversations in my head,

When I beat myself up for all the stupid things I have done or said,

When I worry what people think of me,

My trust is in ME. It’s not in God.

And all good things are from Him. They aren’t a product of me.

I can’t bring good things about by being someone “better”- more eloquent or funny or graceful or beautiful. All I can do is keep my eyes on Him and trust Him with the outcome.

When I say or do stupid things, when I worry I’m not very lovable, God is whispering, “I’ve got this. Remember, I created you. And I have called you worthy of love and belonging. Trust me.”

At no point does He slap his forehead with His holy palm and say, “Why did she stutter when she said that word!? What an idiot! How am I going to redeem this!? Probably now everyone’s going to stop loving her!” Honestly, that thought makes me giggle because it’s so RIDICULOUS. And yet, that’s what I tell myself!

Prove yourself, prove yourself, prove yourself! my brain commands me. And so I try to not look awkward or be awkward or say anything awkward. And really, when that is my goal, when my focus is on not being awkward? I’m even more awkward.

However, when my focus is on being His? When I am trusting Him with me and making loving others the goal of each social interaction, I can breathe. Am I still awkward? Yes, sometimes. But I can roll my eyes at myself when I stutter, or say something stupid, or have to pray out loud with people and don’t know what to say… because I am safe. Regardless of what comes out of my mouth, I am safe because I am His and it’s in Him that I find my security, my belonging, my significance.

Oh, what a lie it is when we believe it’s all up to us. It’s not. The pressure is off, guys. We can be authentic and unafraid because He has a plan. And His plan is never thrown off course when we trip over our own feet or lose our train of thought mid-sentence or raise shaking hands towards heaven.

We are safe. We are secure. We are in the middle of His will. And there’s nothing to fear.

He made us, after all. And He doesn’t make mistakes.

He did not, however, make those pants of mine that ripped. I’m looking at you, Aeropostale. 😉

“Love defined you before anything else did.”

“Have faith in the One who is fully trustworthy is enough to do miraculous things. It’s not a faith that says, by my own strength, determination and power this mountain moves, but faith that steps forward with what is already given us as believers and in the provision and ability of a great and mighty God.”

“Shame has a way of keeping us in hiding. But when there is shame, there are also faulty beliefs about who we really are. How God sees us. We tell ourselves to be strong, and believe we must always show worldly strength. We tell ourselves to be over comers, which we are, but we act out a belief that victory comes from how great a job we’ve done, rather than the greatest work already done for us. In the finished and complete work of Jesus at the cross. Every time we choose to put on a front, knowingly or not, we are choosing to trust in the power of man over the power of God.”

“…But then Peter started seeing something else too. The waves. The storm was raging about him, the swell rose and fell with messy anger, ocean spray filled his eyes and lungs, and he began to falter. The waves were so large and he was so small. Fear crept up from the souls of his feet that only moments before felt secure even upon the water but were now starting to slip on the wet surface, unable to catch a foothold. He started to sink. ‘JESUS, SAVE ME…’ He spluttered and hurled his voice at Jesus desperately hoping to be heard above the storm… He still believed Jesus could save him. He believed Jesus was still standing, was still capable to command the oceans and save his life even though they were out to sea with nothing to hang onto but each other… Belief in Jesus was not the problem. He doubted himself. He doubted whether or not he was chosen. Whether or not he was fit to walk the path. He had been rejected before, would he be rejected again? Belief in God is a two-way street. We believe in God, and he believes in us. It’s a divine partnership. God in me, me in God. What can separate me from the love of God? Nothing. This is what Peter doubted.”

The Redeeming Of Mistakes

When I sit down to write a blog lately, my stomach fills with knots and butterflies and all the other things nervous stomachs fill up with. And I don’t know why. Maybe I’m subconsciously afraid I won’t hear from God (which is the whole point of my writing). Maybe it’s the enemy trying to dissuade me from trying. I don’t know. I just know I won’t let my nervous stomach win.

That said,

The other night, I watched Tomorrowland. I honestly didn’t have huge hopes for it, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was one of those “I have to pee but don’t want to get up” movies. So I just sat there, uncomfortable, willing my body to cooperate until the movie ended.

I’ve heard before that there are two wolves battling inside us, hope and despair, and what wolf wins is whatever one you feed. And yet, there was something about hearing that in the context of this movie that made my heart fill with lightness.

The main character, Casey, was relentlessly, unwaveringly hopeful. Even in the face of really overwhelming, depressing, seemingly inevitable things. She didn’t give up. She was convinced there was something that could be done. Anne Frank-style, she saw the beauty through the tragedy. She didn’t deny that the present was hard, she just opened her eyes up to see that it wasn’t JUST hard. And in doing that, she had the power to create for herself a future that reflected the hope she was holding tight to.

And isn’t that what we’re called to do as Christians? To look at impossibilities and seeming inevitability and overwhelming darkness and say “no”? Demand that it bend its knee to the name of Jesus? We are called to look at hard things and speak hope and life over them, calling them to reflect heaven. On earth as it is in heaven, right?

*

It has only been two and a half months.

The other night, I sat in a car with someone who witnessed that season of my life, and I talked about it. And I felt shame-induced nervousness rising into my throat. But I talked about it anyway.

“I forgive me. She still loves me. It’s in the past. God is doing a new thing,” I kept reminding myself.

I REFUSE to submit to shame. I refuse to not talk about it. Even if it makes my hands shake and my stomach hurt and my eyes tear. Even if it makes my cheeks redden and my insecurities about love and relationships and my own mental health resurface, I refuse to hide. I refuse to just carry truth around with me in a backpack, trying to forget it or only sneaking a peak at it in my most private moments.

I will unpack it–brokenness and embarrassment and shame and all–and lay it before my loved ones and I, and we will all look at it. We will look at the truth and we will talk about what needs to be talked about.

And I won’t hide it.

It happened. It’s part of my story, and I can’t move forward without embracing that. I refuse to carry it around with me on my back for the rest of my life, trying to keep people from noticing the metaphorical backpack I’m always lugging around.

Instead, I choose to ditch the backpack all-together as I lay bare my truth. And in doing so, I choose freedom. I choose humility. I choose to trust God with all of it.

When I look back on that season in my life, I can’t believe it actually happened. I don’t recognize the person I was. But the miracle is that, slowly, shame and embarrassment are being stripped away. And all that’s left is gratitude- gratitude for how far God has brought me, and gratitude for the people who’ve remained.

It’s pointless and exhausting to think through the events over and over again, remembering who saw what, and how I felt, and what people must’ve thought, and the person that I was, and what people remember, and what I remember, and how much they all think about it, and whether or not they still see me the same way. It’s pointless and just keeps me stuck there, trying to think my way out of it- turning things over and over in my mind, as if doing so will eventually make them not have happened.

So I say no. I say it’s done and I can’t undo it. I say, “Here are the contents of my backpack.” And I smile because some run the other way, yes, but not everyone does. And that’s beautiful.

Here’s what I know: I forgive myself. God forgives me. And I am still loved. And really, what more could I want? What else matters?

Yes, loved one, you’ve seen me at my worst. You’ve seen me embarrass myself. And yet, you’re still here. …And how much freedom is there in that?! In knowing you’ve seen me as unlovable as I’ve ever been, and you still love me?

So, maybe it’s not embarrassment I should be feeling. Maybe I should just be feeling incredibly blessed. Blessed to be alive, and blessed to be loved.

And grateful that God, knowing this season was coming, placed me among the people who would be safest for me and best for me and see me through it, administering some “tough love” and all.

And anyway, isn’t that what love does? It sees our embarrassment and says, “No, I will still love you.” And embarrassment can’t continue to exist in that environment. In the face of relentless, unwavering love, when the people who witnessed our embarrassment refuse to call it that but instead say “I love you”, the only way we can still be burdened with embarrassment is if we are refusing to forgive ourselves.

And refusing to trust that God is able to restore and redeem even out biggest mistakes.

And He does.

I don’t ever want to go through an experience like that again. I pray over myself regularly that God will protect me and help me guard my heart and stand firm in truth. But He can (and does) take even our biggest mistakes and make them something beautiful. It’s astounding.

You know, I spent a long time thinking I didn’t matter. That I was unloved. That I didn’t have family, simply because it didn’t look the way I had thought family should look.

And I fell into a deep, dark pit.

And they saw. They watched. I embarrassed myself. I scared them. And still, they showed up.

And who does that–who stands by, even while we are destroying ourselves–other than family?!

It’s not embarrassing because it’s cloaked in forgiveness and love. And the result? All I can see now is that God’s given me a wonderful gift. He’s revealing to me His incredible provision and protection for that season in my life, and my continued recovery.

And oh, how the right people are in my life. People who love me without allowing me to unintentionally project my need for God onto them.

And He did that. He said, “These are the people who will love her without letting her forget that, more than anything else, it’s My love she needs. They will be her family.”

It’s only been two and a half months. Oh, how far He’s brought me…

The pit was dark and deep.

And yet, here I am today, still climbing out, but looking up. Smiling. With the sun on my face.

In His Arms

I was tempted to start off this post by saying: “Sadness sucks.”

But that’s not really true, is it? God can use our sadness. God can grow us and speak to us in our sadness. But we make it harder on Him, I think, when we’ve labeled our sadness as “sucky”, as something to “get through”. I am learning to breathe through the sadness, to ask God how He wants to use it.

I went to the Chris Tomlin and Toby Mac concert last night.

I started the night off feeling kind of awkward in my body, wanting to dance or clap, but feeling self-conscious.

Towards the middle of the night, I was standing, swaying, raising my arms.

And then sadness hit me like a pool of water when you jump off a diving board and belly flop. I wasn’t expecting it. And honestly, it was hard to say what exactly happened.

But there I was, sucker-punched by sadness. And so I sat, and I hugged my knees to my chest, and I wiped tears off my cheeks with the back of my hand, and then wiped my hand on the knee of my jeans.

And I felt embarrassed. I didn’t know if anyone noticed that I was crying, and I was worried that if they did, they would think I was ruining their fun. But I have vowed to myself not to shut my heart down, not to say “no” if the Lord is wanting to do something in me.

And what is worship if not time dedicated to the Lord?

Maybe sometimes that looks like raised hands (even while your knees shake, as I wrote about in a previous blog!) and sometimes it might look like curling your body into as small a ball as you can get it and letting yourself cry.

And yes I was crying, and yes I was sad, but it was more than that. It was more than sadness. I was also crying because I felt deeply moved by how the Lord loves us.

And everything I lack can be found in Him.

No one is going to hold me. I’m no one’s daughter, little sister, wife. But He will. He will hold me.

And that, the grieving of what I don’t have and the mind-blowing beauty of what I do have, it made me cry.

And also, off to the right, glowing like a reminder that I didn’t want, stood the hospital. I’ve been in that ER twice in the past couple of months.

All around me, words about God’s love filled the air, and off to the right stood a reminder that I’ve come so far… and still not that far.

And I cried. I cried because of how my decisions must’ve grieved the Father’s heart. And I cried because HE HAD NEVER LEFT MY SIDE. How astoundingly beautiful that the Jesus who died to give me life would still love me after I had decided that life wasn’t worth it.

I hurt. And I’m sad. And also, I’m full of hope and joy. I laugh and smile. And I cry. And I’ll take that- I’ll take feeling, even when it’s painful, over numbness. I want, as much as possible, to live my life fully alive.

And so I cried at the concert. And I rebuked embarrassment and shame and any depression that might want to creep in and sabotage the good work the Lord was doing, and I prayed, “Holy Spirit, have your way in me.”

And I sat in my seat, chin quivering, breathing in the love of Christ, allowing pain to beat in sync with my heart, and smiling. Because it’s incredible, the beauty that is promised to us, the love that is here for us now, and the people all around me–thousands of people–all worshiping the God who sustains and redeems and never, ever walks out on us.

And I cried for another reason as well. Because I was at that concert, worshiping the God who loves me, and I wasn’t there alone. I went with my church family. People who I fiercely love.

Love is such an incredible gift. Healthy, genuine, unconditional, reminiscent-of-Jesus love.

I’m still terrified of it- of boundaries and vulnerability and not having any signed, unbreakable document assuring me that people won’t leave me. But mostly I’m able to breathe in the gift of what the Lord has provided for me, and marvel at the fact that He has taken such good care of me.

He has given me people–and, miraculously, FAMILY!–and He’s given me victory and growth and comfort and wisdom and freedom. And He’s given me Himself.

I am moved to tears by Him.

I cry because of what I don’t have, and I cry because of what I do. And I think maybe that’s beautiful. Because tears indicate a heart that is fully alive. And smiling through the tears is an act of trust- surrender to a God who knows more and sees more and who is faithfully good.

And maybe I’m not ever going to be the life of the party, the person everyone gravitates toward for a good time. But I’m watching God break off my belief that I have to prove myself to people or show up “a certain way” rather than just showing up. Slowly, but undeniably, He is doing a good work in me.

And I feel the Lord closer to me after last night’s concert. I feel His breath swirling all around me.

And so when I am sad, it’s easier to turn my head against His chest and be embraced by the Lord who understands me and loves me perfectly.

The Lord who holds me.

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