Love Wears Work Boots

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I resumed my walk.

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

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

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

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

*

I was reading a book description last night.

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

“Determined to dictate their own fate…”

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

“Brave and defiant…”

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

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

“…a figure of abiding grace.”

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

I want to live a beautiful story.

*

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

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

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

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

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

It’s so true.

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

Our pain isn’t without meaning.

*

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

It’s a series of deliberate and conscious choices.

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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.”

 

When God Speaks

​I had a dream that I was climbing a tree.

But as I climbed, I realized the tree bark had sharp thorns in it.

I inched myself along and hoisted myself up and used the tree to support the full weight of my body, but I kept, unavoidably, coming across thorns. I had to keep stopping to remove them from my hands and feet.

But I had no option other than to climb. There was no “back” to go to. I had to get up the tree, which led to a main road, which would take me home.

So I gritted my teeth and climbed.

And once I made it to the top, I called Laura and told her what I had just gone through.

And she listened. And then she said, “But was the water clean?”

And my dream self was like, “What are you talking about? What water?”

And then I woke up.

And my waking self was lying there in bed, looking up at the ceiling with my forehead all scrunched up in confusion, still thinking, “What water!?” And then I rolled over and went back to sleep.

But when morning came, the dream was still vivid in my mind, so I decided to pray about it and look into some potential symbolism.

And what I feel the Lord is showing me through that dream is that I’ve been trying to do on my own effort what can only be done by His strength and power.

I am climbing, trying to get as far away as possible from where I was three months ago.

And I am convinced that it’s up to me to succeed. I cannot slip up or fail or acknowledge the things that still hurt—the thorns—because I have to make it to the top. I have to keep going.

And you know what water represents? The Word of God. Sanctification.

So in comes Laura, reminding me that maybe it’s less about trying to be perfect through this season, and more about the good work—the sanctification—that God is doing in me.

And I think there’s another very clear parallel in this dream.

There was another time in history Someone hung bloody from a tree, impaled by thorns.

WHY AM I TRYING SO HARD TO DO WHAT HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE!?

My victory and righteousness have already been won!

God isn’t asking me to do penance for the dark season I was in. He isn’t asking me to run from it as fast as I can, full-speed ahead, terrified to even acknowledge that it happened. He isn’t asking me to be strong enough or good enough.

He is asking me to stop trying to earn what I can’t earn and to embrace, instead, the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

He is asking me to stop trying to undo what I did, and instead accept the forgiveness He has already given me.

It isn’t about penance. It’s about sanctification.

He isn’t asking me to climb. He is asking me to release my grip. To surrender.

And to trust that, when I do, when I wait upon Him and stop trying to do it on my own strength, I will find fresh strength. I will walk and not grow weary.

I will mount up with wings like eagles.

I don’t need to climb a tree to get to where I belong. Because, through Him, I can fly.

Rest

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” -Isaiah 30:15

We can’t put our faith or hope in anything apart from Him. Oh, how I have to keep learning that lesson!

We cannot save ourselves, nor can we look to others to save us.

We must run to Him, broken as we may be, elusive as He may sometimes seem.

We have to submit ourselves to His divine will, trusting in His goodness and power and mercy.

And in that, in our quietness and trust (trust = confidence = “faith in practice”) we will find strength.

Quietness is the opposite of haste or fear. Quietness is sitting before Him as His child, clear that He is still on the throne, and choosing to trust in His timing. It is choosing to trust that He is working things together for good.

We let ourselves be held by Him. We come to know His heart more. We discover He CAN be trusted.

We breathe.

Quietness and trust.

2 a.m. A small child after a nightmare. In bed, her father’s hand rubbing her back. Her breathing slows, her eyelids grow heavy once again.

Quietness.

Trust.

Faith like a child.

Just breathe. Let His presence be our comfort and our strength.

God is love. He can be nothing else. He is unfailingly good and unchanging.

He keeps His promises.

In Quietness And Trust Is Your Strength

So, I just finished reading Breaking Free by Beth Moore for the second time.

I don’t think the first time I read it, (a number of years ago), I was ready to receive the truth and lessons within its pages. I had written pouty little comments in the margins, which this time around I scribbled out, trying to feel compassion rather than disgust with my younger self, and marveling at the growth that has occurred in me- a maturing that only God could possibly have done.

A scripture that I’ve been meditating on a lot lately is Isaiah 30:15: “In quietness and trust is your strength.” Beth (as I fondly refer to her ;-)) addressed that scripture in her book as well.

She said that often we try to make positive changes in our lives by repenting and powering on ahead in our own strength, but that Isaiah 30:15 is not asking us to “man up”. Instead, it’s telling us that our strength isn’t found in our ability to power through, but in our ability to be quiet and trust.

Because only He is strong enough to carry us through our weakest times, right? We can’t just “be stronger” or deny our weakness. Doing that isn’t the key to victory, but the precursor to defeat.

She then went on to say that the Hebrew word for ‘trust’ in the above verse is ‘bitchah’, which is a word used only once in the Old Testament. It means, “There is nothing more than anyone can do.”

*insert big-eyed emoji here!*

Seriously! Doesn’t it always seem to come back to surrender!? It blows my mind how that theme keeps repeating itself in my life lately!

Beth then says, “Once we’ve obeyed God, we can do nothing more. We then wait on Him to bring the victory, knowing that the consequences of our obedience are His problem and not ours.”

I am NOT in control of anything but choosing to submit to and follow the Lord. Everything else is up to Him.

And even if that feels scary, my life is so much safer in His hands than my own.

So I keep my eyes on Him. And I rest. And I trust. And in that way, our strength is found.

Admittedly, coming to a place of acceptance regarding the things in my life I can’t change has been really, really hard. I’m still struggling daily with that, as I wrote recently, saying that I over and over again have to tell Him I trust Him. And I also have allow the sadness to exist, without letting it become shaped by lies.

At work I have a picture on my wall with a Venn diagram. One circle is labeled: “Things That Matter.” The other circle is labeled: “Things You Can Control.” And the overlapping part is labeled: “Things You Should Focus On.”

Acceptance.

Surrender.

Trust.

Beth also addressed Isaiah 50:10-11. I honestly think that may have been the first time I’ve ever actually read that scripture. Either that or it just stood out to me this time in a way that it hadn’t before.

It says:

“Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: you will lie down in torment.”

Isn’t that essentially saying the same thing? Trust in the Lord! In quietness and trust is your strength.

The Lord is the only true Light to guide our paths.

And if we try to power through on our own strength, we often grasp hold of other things to provide temporary, artificial light.

He is the sun and we settle for a match- a brief, non-illuminating light, which eventually burns us.

Be quiet, He says.

Surrender all control.

You can trust Me.

He Calls Me Daughter

“She was afraid to hope. She had nothing left to offer. She was clinging onto her last bit of faith because she didn’t know where she’d be without it. That this wasn’t what she’d expected. That this wasn’t where she’d hoped her life would land when she’d whispered to God that she would follow Him.”

Thank You, Lord, that this isn’t where my story ends.

And thank You for the hope that’s slowly begun to swirl within me.

I don’t have a plan, Lord. And that ordinarily would scare me, but I’m too exhausted and tired to feel fear. So instead, I throw my arms open wide. I surrender all of me to You. Have Your way with me, Lord. Use me. Heal me.

And please, Lord, please bless me.

I feel entitled asking for You to bless me, but it’s the timid, yet passionate cry of my heart. Please, Lord. Please bless me.

I know that all of You is more than enough. I know You’ve already given me the best gift in sending Your son to die for me. It feels selfish to ask for any more than that. But I also know that You delight in giving good gifts to Your children.

You want us to grow and mature and become more like Jesus, but You also want to bless us. You want to know our thoughts, our hurts, our fears, our worries, our questions, our desires, what makes us laugh, and what makes us cry. There is no area of my life, no matter how small, that doesn’t interest You. There is no topic that’s off limits.

And so, I feel safe as Your child to approach You and ask that You bless me. It isn’t the demand of a spoiled child, it is the petition of a child who comes before You in awe and reverence and with a tired, broken heart.

Also, Lord, I ask that You fill me up with joy and wholeness and peace and an all-consuming fire for You.

Take all of me, Lord, and make my life something beautiful and pleasing to You.

Help me to delight in each day. Help me to see life as a gift. And fill my heart up with love and the knowledge that I am loved.

Thank You, thank You, thank You that we’re not meant to do life alone. We’re created in Your image, and You are triune–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–and You are Love. We are meant to do life together. We are designed to love and be loved. Thank You for designing us that way, Lord.

Colors get brighter and life gets richer and deeper and more holy once we know, not just with our heads but with our hearts, that we are loved.

Thank You that You heard my desperate prayers for family. Thank You that You know what I need. Thank You for what You’re doing in my life. Thank You for never leaving things broken, but for being the Master Rebuilder, the Sovereign Redeemer, the Protective Father, the Holy King.

Help me to honor and glorify and praise You regardless of my circumstances. Help me to trust You regardless of whether or not things make sense.

Help my love for You grow daily and be completely independent of whether or not I’m in a season of life where You seem to be giving or taking away.

I am weak, Lord. But I am still Your daughter, and as Your child, I have authority over anything that might try to come against me. Help me to remember that and live that out. I don’t have to feel strong, that’s Your role, but I can stand firm. I am not too weak to stand, to arm myself with Truth, and wait for You to save me. It’s not my job to save myself, (I couldn’t even if I tried), it’s just my job not to forget Who I belong to and what scripture says.

Lord, help me not believe any lies.

Thank You for taking care of me.

Thank You for loving me.

Thank You for not leaving me an orphan.

Rainbows and Trust

I saw a rainbow today. Barely. I stared at the sky for a long time, trying to figure out if my eyes were playing tricks on me.

God knows I am forever hunting the sky for rainbows. He knows what they mean to me. To me, they are a hug from Him. A reassurance. He knows that.

And after carefully scrutinizing the sky, I felt something well up inside of my soul. It felt like I was being hugged from the inside. And I knew that my eyes weren’t tricking me. It was there, a rainbow, in muted pink and orange and yellow, arching across the sky.

And I bet no one else even saw it.

But I did.

And that makes me think that God put it there for me.

I was praying when I saw the rainbow. One of those, “You are big and mighty and holy and I am in awe of You… But, Lord, please just tell me that it’s all going to be alright,” prayers. And then I saw it. And my prayer quickly became, “I love You, I love You, I love You, I love You…”

And I do. I do love Him.

But it’s also a prayer, a plea, because I know I cannot trust myself. I know how hard it is to hold on to a God I cannot physically touch, especially when this life feels disappointing. It’s hard to not give up seeking a God who cannot hold me.

And I don’t think I’m alone in that struggle. We love Him because He first loved us, right? Which is selfish and silly and honestly kind of sickening to me, and yet, it’s human nature. And so, I pray His love for me will overwhelm me in such a way that my love for Him continues to grow stronger and deeper all the days of my life.

And I know myself. I know that I am prone to drowning in emotion. If things go poorly, if they don’t go my way, no amount of filling my head with scripture is going to counter the ache that forms like a ulcer in my heart. I know it’s true that He is good, and I know it’s true that He has a plan, but that doesn’t make this moment hurt less.

It does, however, whisper an important truth to my soul: “Do not despair.” And that’s immensely helpful, it is. But as I said before, I am prone to drowning in emotion.

And so I pray that prayer, telling Him that I love Him, because I need to feel Him smiling at me. I need Him to know it’s true. And I need Him to hold tight to me. When I turn away or try to give someone or something else God’s place in my life, I need Him to pull me back. I need Him to consume my heart.

I cannot control anything. I cannot control how my life turns out or whether or not I’m okay. I’ve tried. I have nothing left to offer. I’ve tried to battle my emotions and thoughts with scripture. I’ve tried to begin each day smiling at the sunrise. And I don’t have it in me to try to be okay anymore.

I want joy that is genuine, not happiness that I hold on to relentlessly, even while it’s struggling to get away.

I think for a long time I’ve done life with my happiness like an umbrella in the wind, constantly turning itself inside out. I’m soaking wet from the rain and my umbrella is inside out above my outstretched arm, but I refuse to let go. I refuse to say this isn’t working. Instead, I hold on anyway, insisting everything is great.

I cannot do it anymore.

And, ironically, I think maybe that’s where God has wanted me all along. I don’t think God asks us to be stronger than our pain, I think He just asks us to trust Him.

And I want to. I want my love for Him to be the biggest, realest thing in my heart.

I read last night that sometimes it takes more courage and strength to let yourself fall apart, trusting God to catch you, than it does to try to hold it together. I think that’s really, really true. It’s much scarier to throw your hands up and say, “I can’t do it!” than it is to attempt to power through.

It’s much scarier to give in to gravity, to loosen your death-grip on the ledge you’ve been digging your fingertips into to keep from falling, and to just fall. To let go, knowing that you aren’t going to grow wings on your way down, and knowing that you cannot ensure that your landing will be a soft one. You fall and all you know as gravity pulls you towards the earth is who your God is, that He is holy and mighty and He has a plan, and that You couldn’t hold on anymore anyway. There was no other option but to fall and trust.

Where I’m at right now is really embarrassing. But I cannot hide it or pretend everything is okay or else I know that I won’t survive. So I have to be honest with the people in my life who I love and trust. And that is terrifying. Completely terrifying. Because… I don’t know how anyone could love me through this.

I have no choice, though. It’s either risk losing love or risk not surviving.

And, as a friend of mine keeps telling me, love isn’t fragile. I’m trying to believe that, which is hard because I don’t know that I’ve ever known a love that isn’t fragile or conditional.

My friend says, when someone loves you the way the Bible describes love, they don’t stop. They don’t change their mind. They don’t give up on you. The love of the Bible is strong and unwavering.

And so that is my prayer, as well. That something beneath my feet will be solid, that something in my hands won’t crumble.

I pray this time, this season of my life and the people in my life, are from God. Because if they are, I can breathe. People will always let each other down, I know. We are flawed and imperfect and human and I am completely okay with that. But if God goes before me, if He paves the way, if He knew this time was coming and I’d need someone to help me get through it, then maybe the people in my life right now are in my life for a reason, and maybe I don’t have to be afraid.

And, if not, if things do get worse before they get better–(dear God, please say they’re going to get better!)–at least I’m still the daughter of a King who puts rainbows in the sky for me.