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.

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He Is The Answer

“I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus. I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.”

I’ve been singing that song the last few days- only, instead of coming back to the heart of worship, I need a whole life remodel. I need to come back to the heart of life.

Aye. How very quick I am to re-prioritize my life, making loving the Lord and seeking Him a second or third or fourteenth priority when it should always, always be first.

I can tell, almost immediately, when my priorities are off. When seeking God stops being first, taking care of myself also plummets. If Seeking God is fourteenth, Taking Care Of Myself hovers right around twenty.

It makes sense, really. If I’m no longer prioritizing my spiritual health and well-being, my physical and emotional health probably aren’t ranking so high on my list of concerns either. And a person cannot do life very long without prioritizing self-care. It becomes as futile as trying to run a car on empty. We have to receive (nutritious food, exercise, time with people, fresh air, Jesus…) in order to function well.

Sometimes during these improperly balanced phases of my life, I will catch myself aimlessly scrolling through things on the internet (*cough*Pinterest*cough*), looking for something unspecific. And not finding it. Looking for something to stir my soul. To inspire hope. To refresh my life. And I know, deep down, that what I’m searching for, longing for, aching for, isn’t going to be found online. I need Abba. Desperately, every moment of every day, I need Him. Downplaying that only leads to my suffering. It only leads to a life less full and rich and worth it.

Do I need to spend more time thinking about how to achieve my goals, or how to love my God? Do I need to devote more energy to worrying about paying my bills, or worrying about fully loving God? He is the answer. He is the answer to all of it. The more I seek Him, the more everything else will fall into place. Pinterest sure cannot say that! 😉

I don’t want to plow through life, low-energy. I want to wake up in the morning and be happy and energized. I want to go through my day present and grateful and tuned in to the voice of God. And I want to go to bed at night fulfilled and at peace. No matter how many “how to love life”, “how to make a difference”, “how to sleep well” Google searches I do, the answer just isn’t going to be found there. The answer is Him. Always, always, always, He is the answer.

Hallelujah!

“Your love is amazing, steady and unchanging. Your love is a mountain, firm beneath my feet. Your love is a mystery, how You gently lift me. When I am surrounded, Your love carries me. Your love is surprising, I can feel it rising, all the joy that’s growing deep inside of me. And every time I see You, all Your goodness shines through, and I can feel this God song rising up in me: Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, Your love makes me sing!”

In other news, I bought a new cat tree today. It is standing tall and proud in my bedroom and it’s about the size of my bed. It is quite the eye-sore. But it’s also totally worth it. Because my cat boys love it. However, should I ever actually get a human boy in my life, I might have to hide the cat tree in the garage for a while- to downplay the “crazy cat lady” thing. 😉

And now, to bring this whole blog full-circle in a way that I hadn’t anticipated and couldn’t have planned, Brittany just came into my room to tell me a story about a couple in Australia who paid a lot of money to save their goldfish’s life.

“That is one spoiled brat of a gold fish! But I am so happy for it,” Britt said.

“Me too,” I agreed. “And I totally get it. Loving a pet isn’t a rational thing. That (I pointed at my cat tree) isn’t rational. But it’s so worth it.”

And you know what? You know what I realized as soon as those words were out of my mouth? That kind of crazy, irrational “cat tree the size of my bed”, “I will spend any amount of money to save my goldfish’s life” love should be how I live out my love for God, too. Only more. Bigger.

Lord, help me love You more than anything. I want to love You with wild, reckless abandon.

That is, after all, exactly how You love me.

Only even more magnified. Magnified beyond comprehension.

“King of endless worth, no one could express how much you deserve. Though I’m weak and poor, all I have is Yours. Every single breath.”

Our God Is For Us

I have discovered that often, during the times in my life when I feel like I need someone the most, a mom or a dad or a loving and compassionate sibling, those are the times when people are least present, the least loving and compassionate.

I used to take that personally. I used to quickly decide it meant that I was unlovable and alone in life. It doesn’t, though. It’s not my fault. It’s not theirs, either. Nor is it coincidence. I think it’s design. Especially since I’ve noticed that people also tend to be the most compassionate and loving when I don’t think I need them, but do.

I think that God, in His wisdom, wants to make it hard for me to make anyone else my god. He wants me to run to Him first. He wants to be the one to comfort me, and He wants me to know He is capable of being my mom and my dad and my sibling. He is capable of being whatever and whoever I need. It would be easy to forget that I need God if people weren’t fallible.

I am SO grateful that He is a jealous God. I am so grateful that He isn’t quick to let me walk away or worship someone/something other than Him.

Not only are we designed to worship Him alone, and not only is He the only One worthy of our worship, but He also knows that nothing else will satisfy. He knows that a life spent worshiping someone/something other than Him will be a life filled with pain, with searching, with hopelessness and depression and feeling like something is missing. He wants more for us than that.

God alone can satisfy.

Lord, capture my heart. All of it. “Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart.”

Oh, how He provides.

On Tuesday night, I wrote something, which I will share with you now:

I was really tired today and wasn’t sure how I was going to make it through work. He provided.

I needed (but didn’t realize it) friends who cared about me. He provided.

I had to take Theodore to the vet and was praying the entire time that he was going to be fine. Again, God provided.

I needed a hug from my Lord and drove past a statue of Jesus hugging a small child. God provided.

I needed the right words to say to an angry client. God provided.

I needed to know that I belong to somebody. I needed to know that someone’s eyes light up when they think about me. And God revealed to me (not for the first time, but afresh) that He is that person. I DO belong to somebody. He calls me HIS. Is there any greater label than that?! Is there any description of me that could possibly bring me more joy than Child of the Lord?! No! I couldn’t feel prouder if I was wearing a gold Olympic medal around my neck instead of a gross necklace! Just thinking about that, the truth that I belong to Him, makes me want to throw my hands towards heaven and dance, even in my tired and teary state.

The vet bill for Theodore was pretty expensive, but even as I paid that, I knew I needn’t despair because of all the ways during the day my God showed me that I could count on Him to provide what I needed. That $200? I didn’t “need” it. Or rather, I did. He blessed me with it knowing I would need it to pay for Theodore to see the vet.

Additionally, I thought on Tuesday that I needed my sister. I thought I needed her compassion. I thought I needed a hug. But I didn’t get that immediately. Instead, I got patience, from Him. And I got the opportunity to seek God for what I thought I needed from my sister. And then? And then I got an apology from her.

Oh, how He provides. And His timing? It’s perfect.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

I need to start looking at my days like that. I think it’s easy to focus on the ways we feel like God didn’t protect us or provide for us, but when I look at things more clearly, when I focus on all the ways He told me throughout the day that He loves me and that I have nothing to fear, I am left with unspeakable comfort and joy and peace.

Ultimately, He knows. He knows what I need. And he knows what will destroy me. And I trust Him. Whole-heartedly, I trust Him.

I, we, are going to be just fine.

We belong to Him!

*

“Hannah’s final response to Eli revealed another of her positive spiritual traits. ‘And she said, ‘Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.’ So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad’ (1 Sam. 1:18).

Hannah cast her whole burden upon the Lord and left her sense of frustration at the altar. She did what she had come to the tabernacle to do. She has brought her case before the Lord. Now she was content to leave the matter in His hands.

That demonstrates how genuine and patient her faith truly was. Scripture says, ‘Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you’ (Ps. 55:22). Some people will pray, ‘O God, here’s my problem,’ and then leave His presence in complete doubt and frustration, still shouldering the same burden they originally brought before the Lord, not really trusting Him to sustain them.

Hannah truly laid her troubles in the lap of the Lord, totally confident that He would answer her in accord for what was best for her. There’s a real humility to that kind of faith, as the apostle Peter noted: ‘Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:6-7).”

 

Oh, Abba. Hallelujah.

More Than Enough

It is incredible to me how, no matter what thought enters my mind, God’s word is the salve. Or the confirmation.

I don’t know how people do life apart from Him. It is way too hard when you go through life without the comfort of His word and the steady assurance that you are loved in a bigger way than you can even fathom, and you are never alone.

He is my best friend.

When I am going to sleep at night, I picture Him bending down to kiss my forehead and smooth back my hair. Because He is Abba. And I am His daughter.

When I see Mt. Rainier in the distance, glowing pink from the sunset, I know He is smiling at my enjoyment of His creation.

When I come home after work and greet my fur-babies, I feel Him delighting in the fact that I am embracing the nurturing nature He gave me.

When something funny happens, I can sense Him laughing with me. And sometimes maybe even laughing at me a tiny bit. 😉

When I don’t feel like I fit in or worry that I don’t measure up, He is there, whispering truth into my ear.

When a semi truck comes into my lane, oblivious to my presence there, but I see it soon enough to slam on my brakes, I feel gratitude. And I know that the only reason I stayed safe was because He was protecting me. And I marvel at how many times a day He protects me and how often I am completely unaware.

When I am crying, He comforts me.

When I’m scared, He is strong.

When I’m lonely, He is present.

When life seems overwhelmingly big, I can rest in the knowledge that my God is bigger.

I’ve known all this for a long time of course, but it’s like a Polaroid that is gradually darkening. I thought I really understood and saw Him clearly, but the more time that passes, the richer and more detailed my knowledge of Him (and love for Him!) gets. And I hope that never changes. I hope I never get so familiar with this religion of mine that it ceases to be a relationship.

Lord, thank You that every single day is an adventure when I go through it with my eyes wide open and my heart tuned in to You.


“God’s word is more certain, more secure, more immovable than any event on earth. Reality itself must conform to the perfect purpose and plan of God.”

I love that. I love that God is bigger than our understanding of reality.

That’s one of the main topics that has been on my mind lately, and I loved seeing it confirmed in writing: any time you make your understanding of reality bigger than God, you are putting Him in a box.

And God doesn’t fit in a box.

He is unchanging, yes, but He is also the creator of this “reality” we think we know so well. The rules of reality don’t apply to Him.

Hallelujah. 🙂


“The disciples are gathered in a room ‘for fear of the Jew’ (John 20:19). Imagine this situation. Feel the oppression of the fear of man in the air. Picture the bars across the doors and the captives inside who only a short time before had wielded power to cast out demons and heal the sick. Had they been stripped of their authority? Of their abilities? No, indeed. Powerless is always the message the enemy sends fear to bring.”

Such a good little liar the enemy is.

Lord, help me to never mistake Satan’s voice for Yours. Or my own. Help me know when I am being lied to, and help me be quick to remind Satan that I belong to You.

Thank You, Lord, for Your word. Thank You that You gave us the Bible and the Holy Spirit. Thank You that we are well-equipped to do this life, whatever may come.

And help us to remember, Lord, that we are never powerless. Help us remember that we never need to do life afraid.


“Don’t default into our past. Don’t jump the gun for our future. Just behold and know. Instructions will come when the time is right. In the meantime, being is so much harder than doing, isn’t it?”

Again, I find that incredibly comforting. Yes, waiting is hard, but the hardest thing about it is that you worry you aren’t doing enough, that you are somehow missing the boat or not keeping up with life.

However, your life isn’t going to rush on ahead without you.

Don’t forget that your life is more than what you hope to achieve or what you dream for, your life is today. It is this moment. And God is in control. And if you have no direction and you sense God telling you to wait, it is for a reason. Your life isn’t just just made up of action and activity, it is also the pauses, the moments of rest and reflection. Your life is continuing to take shape and unfold beautifully, even in the waiting. And so, you can eliminate the fear that you aren’t doing all that you “should” be.

No matter what you are waiting on, whatever God has for you in this moment is just as important.

Lord, I thank You that even in my discomfort and uncertainty, there is the opportunity for growth. Thank You that You are good always and that my needs (both actual and imagined) are familiar and important to You. Thank You that You are invested in my life.

Help me to stay present.

Help me to think of the future, not with anxiety, but with joy and excitement.

No matter what happens between today and the day I die, I know the ending already. I already know heaven awaits me. And so I don’t have to be afraid of what this life holds. I can do life with joy and comfort. I can do it fearlessly and boldly.

Thank You, so much, for every single breath. Help me not to waste this time I am given. Help me not to be overwhelmed by life. Help me remember that You are bigger and that my concept of reality is clouded. Help me to remember the world as I see it now is a hazy Polaroid. I cannot see the whole picture.

And help me, Lord, to rely on You for joy and comfort and boldness and not try to create those things within myself.

I am like a balloon, Lord. I am a balloon, and when I try to do life on my own, I am a balloon filled with CO2. I don’t float. I catch some air occasionally on a bounce, but gravity (reality) keeps me pinned pretty firmly to the earth.

However, when I go to You for life and love and comfort and joy, I am a balloon filled with helium. Nothing can get me down. The rules of reality and the confines of this world don’t call the shots- You do.

And life with You in control is a life that is destined to be beautiful.

So, we can wait with confidence.


“Do you belong to Jesus Christ? If so, the Holy Spirit dwells in you (Rom. 8:9), and He did not cheat you of a single ounce of His power. He came to show off in you. As He does, your whole life will become a living witness just like the disciples. Our assignments may differ, but you and I have exactly the same Holy Spirit that Christ promised to His first disciples. If we only knew what we had, our lives would be so different!”

Lord, help us become aware. Help us never to minimize Your power or presence or what it is You want to do with us today, in this very moment.

Help us not to forget that You are God.