Things That Keep You Afloat

She looked like an animal. Wild-eyed, teeth bared.

“She’s controlling me with her mind!” she screamed to the cop. “She’s only seventeen! She’s lying! Her name is Heidi Klum and her mom’s name is Michelle Obama!”

Two days prior, I looked at her and talked to her and knew her.

This day, she was a stranger before my eyes.

911 was called. Emergency personnel came.

“You’re not going to quit, are you?” my coworker asked, obviously seeing emotion on my face and being unable to read it.

No, I’m not quitting. I am more convinced than ever that this work I’m doing is important. To look wild-eyed people in the eyes and not look away or run, but to feel tender-hearted compassion for them? That’s important.

My coworker said she saw paramedics laughing at the scene unfolding before them. Laughing. No, there’s nothing funny about this. This is sad. Not pathetic, but tragic. Sad.

I wished I could fix it. I wished my relationship with her could serve as some sort of flotation device, something to help her silence the crazy in her head. I wished she could lock her eyes on mine and know I’m real and I’m not going anywhere. And maybe her head is full of things about FBI agents and having her brain hacked, but I’m real and I care, and I wished in that moment, somehow, that could matter.

At one point, I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and be like, “Actually, just take us both. Let’s just allllll go to the hospital.”

Victory happens in the choosing.

God isn’t holding out on me.

He is not deaf to the cries of my heart.

I will choose surrender.

And He will bring the victory.

Faded Photos

I spend a lot of time during my workday fighting the question away: “What if this is my future?”

I visit clients in inpatient units, or living in one-room apartments with a shared bathroom and living space. And I wonder, “How are we different? How can I draw some clear distinction between you and me so that I can assure myself we’re not the same and that I won’t ever end up like this?”

What if the worst happens? What if I can’t make myself be okay and everything spirals out of control? What if I become my clients? What if I end up being deemed “unable to live independently”? What if I lose my dog and my car and my home? What if everyone I love leaves me for the third time in my life?

I don’t have parents who will let me live with them. I would end up in that linoleum floor bedroom, living in a house with people who hear voices and have been in Western State and have tried to kill their parents because they heard God tell them to.

I’m so scared.

And also, I look into my client’s bright green eyes- the only thing about him that isn’t dirty, and before I leave I hear him say, “Drive safe. And make sure to buckle up. And don’t talk on your phone while you’re driving.”

And there’s the client who was so excited about getting to pass out Halloween candy that he was already sitting in a chair by the door when we came to see him at three o’clock this afternoon.

And, dear God, they’re PEOPLE. People with hearts and minds and desires and joys and fears and a need to be loved. People created in the image of God.

And there’s the client who plopped his twenty-year-old family album on my lap and had me flip through it. “That’s my family,” he said. And he pointed them all out, naming them off.

He carries this album with him from hospital to transitional housing to hospital again because it reassures him he belongs somewhere. It helps him believe he is part of something that matters.

And yet, while I smile at the faces of his family members and thank him for sharing this with me, secretly my heart aches for him. Because the faded pictures from twenty years ago are all he has of his family, really. They rarely come see him. They never call.

And I also feel like I can relate to that in a sense. How often am I falling to sleep at night, metaphorically clutching a photo album to my chest and telling myself, “I’m loved. I matter. I belong.”?

It’s a poor substitution for the real thing. And yet, what else do we have, he and I? If we let go of that, we’ll be gulping pain like a drowning person gulps water.

So we cling to what we have. We take what we can get and we try to stretch it over us and make it be enough, like a blanket that’s too small to cover both my shoulders and my toes at the same time.

And so here I am tonight, tears streaming down my face. It hurts.

But there are good things.

How excited Arlow is to go to daycare in the morning.
How I think I’m going to like my job.
Clients who say funny things.
Coworkers who are kind.
A good book.
Coming home at the end of the day to discover someone (my neighbor?) left a box of dog biscuits and toys on my porch.

And yet, I would give anything to be eight years old again, even if just for tonight. I’d give anything to have someone tuck me in and kiss my head and rub my back and ask me about my day.

And yes, I will close my eyes like I do every night and imagine God bending low to do that. I will imagine Him kissing my head and loving me better than any earthly parent ever could. And I will tell Him about my day.

But it’s still a faded photo album. A too-short blanket.

And I’m so scared my ability to tell myself, “This is enough,” isn’t going to last.

And then what?

Things That Cling: Lint And Me

Sometimes I feel like my body collects heaviness as I move through my days.

The table of laughter and conversation, which I was not invited to be a part of.
The house I had to go by myself to see about renting.
The rude driver.
The Friday night alone at home.
The $900 spent at the vet.
The dog who still isn’t feeling well.

I feel like black pants moving through a white lint and cat hair filled world. (I excel at analogies. I know.)

And how often is The Thing not even really the issue? How often do the experiences of my day hurt so badly because they reinforce things I fear or believe?
“You’re all alone.”
“You’re no one’s child.”
“You better learn to be okay with doing life by yourself, even when it’s hard and scary and you don’t know what you’re doing because no one ever taught you to be an adult before your mom got sick and died and your dad abandoned you.” (Run-on sentences? They are the things of my brain.)
“You have to fight and beg and claw and scrape at this life if you want anything good.”
“Everyone leaves.”
“There is nothing special or purposed for you.”
“There’s nothing lasting or safe to trust in. Everything is fluid and ending. Everything is loss.”
“You are not enough.”

I am this tender, trying-to-heal heart doing life under the suspicion: “Everything hurts and it always will.”

And although my brain would argue vehemently, does that not hint at a belief that God can’t be trusted?

*

I sobbed into a pillow last night. I cried like my tears were a burning acid in my heart, and the more I could get out, the healthier my heart might be. I cried tears that doubled as prayers.

And then I stood. I stood, arms out in the shape of a ‘t’, and begged God to come and rid me of all that clings to me and threatens to weigh me down. (Everything in me wanted to stick with my earlier Black Pants analogy and say I begged God to be my lint-roller. But I didn’t. Until now. Because at least I have partial self-restraint.) “Here I am, Lord. All of me. These heavy limbs and weary heart. I give it all to You,” I said. “Undo me. Heal me. Take away my pain. Draw me to You.”

And then I reached my arms upward and said over and over again: “You are good, You are good, You are good.” Preaching to my soul. Speaking truth and life over my pain.

I don’t know what I’m doing. In life. As an adult. As this person in this body with this life here in Washington.

I don’t know how to carry this heavy heart with me through my day and through experiences that constantly bump up against the wounds I’m working so hard to heal. Can healing still happen when the wounds keep getting poked at?

I don’t know. I don’t know anything and I hurt.

But God.

But there is this God who holds it all together. Who knows and sees and allows (for my ultimate good) every single thing that happens to me. There’s this God who desires my healing and my life to overflow with joy.

There’s this God who says illogical, irrational, crazy things, like that suffering produces hope.

There’s this God who says not to try to comprehend what is happening through our own limited understanding, because He is greater and bigger than what we can conceive.

There’s this God who says the story He is writing is good, even when my heart and the news and so much of what I see over the course of my day is anything but good.

I’m Black Pants in a white fuzz world. Which is ironic because I refuse to buy black pants for that exact reason- ain’t no one got time for such impractical wardrobe choices; I got things to go that don’t involve picking at lint all day.

God is teaching me something, even now. He is healing my heart, even while it is screaming.

He is restoring me to life.

*

I told my therapist the other day, “The pain in me is screaming.” It’s hollow and gaping and making a sound that is more inhale than exhale.

But when my depression was worse, when life felt not worth it, this pain in me has its own gravity or force, like a black hole. It wanted to suck everything into its scream. But not anymore, hallelujah. Now it exists as its own separate part of me. It isn’t all-consuming.

“The pain in me in screaming,” I said. And then I added, “But so is the joy.”

I am equal parts on-my-knees-weeping-with-sorrow and hands-reaching-towards-heaven-rejoicing.

Because:

The table of laughter and conversation, which I was not invited to be a part of.
But the text message conversation that made me laugh. The “I love you, always.” The learning to trust that love means something; that love doesn’t always walk out.

The house I went to see about renting all by myself.
But the person who sent me a list of questions to ask the landlord while I was there, who said she was sorry she couldn’t be with me. And the person who prayed with me beforehand, that I’d hear God’s voice clearly when I went to see the place.
And the God who smiled at me as I stood there in that tiny home with its brand new kitchen, holding my yellow post-it-notepad with questions scribbled on it, trying to look like I wasn’t feeling scared and sad and out of place. The God who clearly whispered: “This isn’t the one for you.”
And the ability to trust Him enough not to get ahead of Him, afraid nothing else would ever come along and that I better take this not-right-for-me home before I was left with nothing at all.

The rude driver.
But I have a car that’s paid-off and reliable. And the driver was rude, yes, and not being safe, but God protected me.
And He is teaching me that other people’s emotions or thoughts or opinions aren’t reflections of who I am; they aren’t problems for me to solve or things I need to internalize and apologize for.
He’s teaching me to breathe through my natural desire to get hot with anger. He is teaching me to pray for these people who are mean, and not in a pious/removed/too-holy-for-anger way, but as a healthier, more productive way of dealing with the anger than swearing. Because the problem of the mean driver is actually a bigger problem, and that is the problem of his soul.

The Friday night alone at home.
But I have a home I love. And there was the sound of rain outside. And tea.
The eventual receding of the panic and tears. The ability to breathe in trust. How every time I get through intense emotional situations, I come to a place of deeper peace and surrender.
And God is parenting me: “Emotions come and go. Let them. Remember, you were laughing earlier today. You’ll laugh again. You’ll feel hope and peace again.”

The $900 spent at the vet.
But I have pet insurance. And people who love me and Arlow, and who have hit the pause button on their day today to pray for us.

The dog who still isn’t feeling well.
But the friend who called and said she’ll bring me chicken broth for him tomorrow. And the other friend who called and gave me advice on how to keep his vomiting at bay so that we could both get some sleep tonight.
And the gift of loving a pet so deeply. And how that is a small reflection of the way God loves me.

*

Mourning what I don’t have, while wildly grateful for what I do.

Panic that leads to peace.

Suffering that leads to hope.

This God who is so much bigger and so much more good than my broken heart would at times have me believe.

 

Life

I wept behind my sunglasses as I drove home Sunday.

“Why am I crying?!” I asked myself. And I didn’t know. But my body did. On some level, the tears were important. And so I let them fall.

And I prayed in the Spirit because I knew I needed words other than my own to communicate to heaven what was happening inside of me.

But these tears weren’t the same as ones I would’ve cried a couple weeks ago because at no point did my brain decide it no longer wanted to be alive.

I feel like the me that has been hijacked by depression for so long is slowly resurfacing. And it’s a holy and tender thing. My body and mind and heart have been through a lot over these last months, and I am somehow exhausted and full of life at the same time.

“I’m proud of you,” my therapist said to me. “I’m so proud of you.”

She said she knew all along it was just a matter of finding the right medication. It wasn’t that I am “lacking faith” or “sick”. I wasn’t doing anything “wrong”. My brain had been hijacked. And it was real and dark and horrible and lonely. And I survived.

“Please promise me I’m feeling better because the medication is working,” I said to my doctor. “Please promise me this isn’t just a fluke. I don’t want to be afraid that I might wake up tomorrow and suddenly not be able to feel joy or life or gladness anymore.”

And he said he could almost guarantee that it’s the medication and that I’m only going to start feeling even better.

And I want to cry with the relief of it. I want to cry because there is life blooming inside of me again. I am not having to spend my entire day trying to stay alive, and that is enough to make me want to fall to my knees and weep tears of gratitude and praise.

I want to cry because God never let go of my hand. He always, always had a plan. The God who whispered to me for so long to just hang on, who watched me drink myself stupid and never once shamed me for it. The God who knew all along the battle I was fighting was real and fierce. The God who tasked me with one thing only: to keep breathing.

I want to cry because my therapist said she’s proud of me. And God is proud of me. And I’m kind of proud of me too.

I want to cry for sad reasons too, because change is scary and relationships are hard. I want to cry when I feel out of place or lonely.

And I want to cry because I am loved. I am so loved. And I feel loved.

I want to cry because I am LOOKING FORWARD to my life again. I’m excited for Christmas and moving across the bridge and continuing to surrender who I am to God. I am excited to watch my life unfold according to His design and plan.

I am excited about the thought of someday being a mama- whether because I marry or because I adopt. And I think maybe I’m okay with either.

I am excited about having people in my life who wrap their arms around me and kiss the top of my head.

I am excited about being able to be a good friend again.

I am excited about this family that God is knitting me into.

I am excited about the book I’m someday going to write.

I am excited for beauty in all its forms- beauty in nature and laughter and hugs and even tears. Beauty in all the things that tell of a God who is Love.

And I want to cry because… it’s me. I can see me.

And this isn’t something I’m doing or forcing. I am not trying to make myself feel excited about life or grateful for the good. This isn’t by my effort; it’s God. (And Celexa. ;))

I am not “making myself feel better”. It’s real; not forced. It’s bigger than me and beyond me and I don’t have to hold anything together or sustain anything; I just get to be here for the holy and miraculous unfolding of it all. I get to watch my life return to me.

My life over the last year and a half has been like trying to see something in a steamed-up mirror. And for so long, nothing looked real or important or worth it. But now I can see.

And there, in that mirror, I see me.

I see this excitement in my chest, and a desire to throw my arms out wide and scream a “HALLELUJAH!” for the life that is springing back up in me.

And I see my eyes. And they are tired, because it has been hard.

But there, in my tired eyes, there’s something else too. Life, sure. But not just life in the “has a pulse” sense. I see there, flickering like flame behind my eyes, the Holy Spirit within me.

I see, in my smile and freckles and slope of my nose, the fingerprints of the God who created me.

And deep, deep in my heart, I see and feel the smile of the Jesus who saw me through the darkest season of my life.

There is breath in my lungs. But it’s not my own; it’s His.

And I am so grateful.

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

The Holder Of Every Second

I was crying in the car after dinner. I tried not to cry. I tried to focus on the raindrops running down my windshield and the way my headlights were bouncing off the license plate in front of me. I focused on the porch light that seemed to be flickering because of the tree branches waving back and forth in front of it. I scanned the bushes for deer.

My head was empty of thoughts, but the tears still came, flowing from some place in the center of me where all my pain is built up as pressure and poison.

*

People ask how I am and it’s always the same thing: I still can’t feel any connection to this life that I know is a gift.

I look at my therapist and say, “I have nothing to say.” Because it’s all been said already. I just keep saying the same thing. And what’s the point? Speaking my pain, my gratitude, my hopes and fears, joys, needs, and the overriding goodness of the God who loves me, none of it changes anything. It all still just hurts.

Sometimes when I’m not with her, I imagine myself going into my therapy session, sitting on her couch, putting my face in my hands, and sobbing the entire hour. That I could do. I have no words, just pain. But when I am actually there, I never have the guts to just devote an entire hour to weeping. And I still have nothing to say. So instead, I spend the hour avoiding looking her in the eyes and I fidgeting uncomfortably.

I still showed up, though. I got in my car and I drove there. I’m a mess and I have nothing to offer, but I’m still alive to sit on a couch and blink back tears. I’m still showing up, the best way I know how, for this life that I can’t seem to make myself want.

But with His eyes full of promise and love, I can hear my Jesus say: “Don’t give up. Keep your eyes on Me. Just wait, child. Just wait and trust.”

And so I’m trying. I can’t make myself want to live, but I can trust that He is doing something, even when I can’t perceive it. He is working things together even when I hurt.

*

I’ve been watching a survival show lately. It’s the voice of God to me over and over again.

There’s the father who crawls across the ground, his back and legs broken, to reach his child who is calling for him. After the rescue, the doctor says it’s impossible that he could’ve done that with the injuries he sustained. And then they interview the father, his eyes moist with tears, who shrugs lightly and says: “Love is stronger than anything. It’s stronger than pain. It’s the strongest force on earth. My baby was calling for me. Nothing was going to stop me from getting to her.”
And the message to me: Love wins. Love is powerful. God is Love. I am His child. He fights for me. He comes when I call. Nothing will stop Him from running to me.

There’s the woman who is quoted as having worried, in the midst of her crisis: “What must they (onlookers) think of this person I am right now?” And then she paused a moment, thoughtfully, and said: “I don’t care what they think. I am SURVIVING here. They are just going to have to deal with it.”
The message? Sometimes it’s enough just to survive. The opinions of others, if harsh, are from a place of ignorance, a lack of understanding what it means to be looking death in the face and saying no.

There’s the woman whose son survived because she had told him his entire life that, no matter what situation he finds himself in, never to panic because “panic kills more people than whatever the incident is.”
The message? Truth. My experience, too, is that it’s the panic that tries to kill me even more than the pain.

There’s the man who pushed past his child to protect her from a bear. He couldn’t see the bear initially, he didn’t know what he was going to see when he stepped around the corner where she was, but he knew “[his] kid was in danger.” Nothing else mattered. He had to protect her.
The message? My God protects me. Life is full of pain, yes, but there’s the pain meant to grow us, and there’s the pain that will destroy us. The latter pain, the bear-like pain, He jumps in front of and tells it to go. He won’t let it touch me.

In every story of survival, the victims rarely did the “right” thing. Their rescue was never the result of their effort or wisdom or even their begging. They were completely powerless to save themselves. All they could do was wait and hope. And make mistakes. And keep breathing. And pray.

And the most incredible thing to me is how everything had to come together perfectly or their rescue never would’ve happened. And there was no way all those things should’ve been able to connect at the precise moments they did. It was impossible. But then again, nothing is impossible where God is at work.

There was no denying God’s hand in each of their stories. And that makes me feel so safe, so completely assured that nothing will happen to me that He doesn’t allow.

He holds every single second.

*

The people in that show who were rescued, they all said they wanted to give up at a point during their suffering, but then they thought of their families. They thought of their parents or spouses or children, the people whose lives were inseparably connected to their own, bound by fierce love, and sometimes blood. That was why they fought- for their families. For love.

“None of it matters unless you have your family by your side,” one survivor said.

And I agree.

And it hurts.

But then I remember the God who IS my family. The God who has blessed me with family, even though it doesn’t look or feel the way I wish it did. The God whose love heals. The God who is jealous for me.

And I remember the God whose ways are beyond our ability to understand. The God whose love is also beyond what we could comprehend.

And I know that somehow, even when it hurts, I’m held. Every single second.

*

God, where are You in this moment? Where are You when it hurts and I can’t script for myself an ending that makes this feel worth it?

Where are You when I can’t feed myself promises of the “better” to come or of a suffering that has an expiration date?

Where are You when there’s no air to breathe? When no one can make it better and the walls are closing in on me because: “Time keeps passing and how do I do this life that is causing me so much grief?!”

Where are You when my chest fills with panic and help cannot be found?

Where are You when I have no idea how to make anything – my life, my relationships, my heart – better?

Where are You when I’m powerless and desperate and screwing up constantly and terrified of things getting worse? Where are You?

And I don’t say that as an accusation, but as a prayer: “Teach me to see You.”

And He knows. He sees my heart. He hears words even when I have none to say. And in response, He offers a gentle smile. And then: “Trust Me, child.”

And it’s not an answer to all of my questions. It’s not a solution with steps that I can follow, outlined and numbered and clear. It’s not an instantaneous healing. Just a reminder to trust.

Trust- not in a plan or method or clearly marked path.
Trust- not in my ability to see how it’s going to be okay.
Trust- not in someone to swoop in with answers or love.
Trust- not in my efforts to fight this battle, or think all the right things, or pray without ceasing.
But trust in Him. In the character and power of the God of hope and promise.

There is nothing to trust in but Him. Everything else has been stripped away. I have nothing to offer and I can’t fix it.

I’ve tried taking my life in my hands and molding it in such a way that it doesn’t hurt. But that doesn’t work. My life just becomes this fragile, teetering thing. And I have moments of happiness, sure, but I’m also exhausting myself constantly, trying to keep what I’ve built from toppling.

I’ve tried to manipulate people and situations so that they’d fit into the broken, screaming places in my heart. But people aren’t meant to be manipulated. And love can’t be forced. And our hearts are much too reflective of Him to be made whole by being patched with only things of this world.

I’ve tried to make it be better. I’ve tried radical acceptance. I’ve tried not wanting anything but God. Nothing I try works. And maybe that’s the realization I’ve been supposed to come to all along: I can’t problem-solve or analyze my way out of this. I don’t have to have a solution. I don’t even have to have anything to offer. Because it isn’t my job to be the solution-seer. That job belongs to the One who whispers: “Trust Me.”

My job isn’t to take and mold and force and beg and decided how this story is going to go; my job is to let it be written. He writes, I trust. He writes, I stay alive.

And He smiles because I’m giving up trying to script and build and sustain and fix, which means that finally things are going to be built right- by capable, all-knowing, infinitely-loving hands.

No more teetering or wobbling. No more desperate pleading and scrambling to keep things from falling apart.

I don’t have a plan. All I have is the kind eyes and tender leading of my Father.

But isn’t that what I’ve been praying for? “I don’t know what I want anymore. I don’t know how to fix it. I just want You. Teach me to see You.” And so now here I am, where everything hurts and I am, every single second, needing to seek His face because it’s the only thing keeping me in this fight.

Oh, for His perspective. How much less would all this hurt if only I could see the beauty woven through all of the pain?

And so, I pray: “Lord, teach me not to base my truth on what I feel or see. Protect me from anything untrue. Help me to guard my heart and mind so that only Your voice, the voice of Truth, will resound within me.”

I pray.

And I go for walks.

I cry in cars.

I read books that stir hope within me.

I want to give up.

But most days, I don’t let myself.

And I watch night fade into day. Over and over and over again.

It’s All Wrapped Up In Him

You know what insomnia does? It makes your brain even more unreliable than usual.

And when your brain is already a lying-liar-face because you’re stinkin’ depressed, adding insomnia to that is just… well, a recipe for success, folks.

Lately, falling asleep is the hardest thing I do all day. Which is doubly unfortunate because being alive is pretty hard too.

“Forget everything,” I was instructing myself last night. I heard Arlow snoring, and Madison and the kids breathing deeply in the next room, and the clock ticking. “Forget everything about yourself- your job (or lack thereof), your family (or lack thereof), all of the things that you think make you who you are. Forget your responsibilities and fears and hopes and dreams. Just for now, strip it all away. Forget everything but this: You are His.”

And then I focused on breathing. “Breathe, don’t think. Breathe, don’t think. You are His, you are His, you are His.”

I could hear my breathing, feel my heartbeat, the sensation of the air on my exposed feet, and I noticed that my eyelids felt hot from lack of sleep. And I breathed deep, to the core of me, somewhere in my abdomen, where spirit and soul and the Holy Spirit all seem to collide.

I am His. I am His. I am His. Nothing else matters. At least for this moment, nothing else matters.

And still, I couldn’t sleep. But at least my head, my lying brain, had been silenced for the moment. There were no words, just my own steady inhale and exhale. And my heart, on its knees, looking and listening and waiting.

*

The irony of insomnia is that the harder you try to fall asleep, the less likely it is that you’re going to be able to.

And that made me think- how often in my life do I lament, despair and exasperation written on my face: “I’m trying SO HARD!”

And how often is that the opposite of what I should be doing?

Hear me out.

While I am a fan of naps, and while I’m probably not gonna be the spokesperson for A Hard Day’s Work, I’m not advocating laziness.

I’m advocating surrender.

Rest.

Waiting on the only One who has the power to bring about what it is you’re trying to do on your own.

The harder I try, the less likely it is that I will be able to fall asleep.

Similarly, the harder I try to “have more faith!” or “have more hope!”, the less I’m able to focus on what really matters- my relationship with Him, the God who promises to finish the good work He (HE! Not me!) has begun in me.

I mean, sure, it’s a blow to evil if we testify that God is the author of ALL good things, that we are nothing without Him, and that He has a good plan for us… but if we forget to live like that’s true? If we start trying to measure up or be “better”? If we forget that it’s not about us (even in regards to how much faith or hope or love we have!) but about Him? If we forget the best use of our time is spent at His feet? If we forget that it is He who is making us like Jesus, and that it is not something we can accomplish on our own (or take any credit for!)? Well, if we do that, if we get caught in that trap, our religion becomes more about us than about Him, doesn’t it?

I can’t do it. I can’t make myself have more faith or hope. I can’t make myself want to live. I can’t make myself sleep.

But He can.

In every situation, if anxiety is replacing peace, you’re on the wrong track.

And how incredible is that?! That our God would structure life that way, that He loves us so much that He’d say: “If the voice you hear makes you feel anxious, IT’S NOT MINE.”

*

This life isn’t going to cut it.

I look around me at all of this–houses and people and stores and nature and traffic and all the things that make up this life–and IT ISN’T JESUS.

It’s like I’m dying of thirst and someone gave me a damp rag. And I’m trying to somehow not be thirsty anymore by sucking the water out of the rag, but it’s a joke. I’m still dying of thirst.

My thirst for Jesus is not being met in this life I’m living.

There must be more.

I have to believe that.

I have to believe I’m here in this place, not because I’m screwed up (although I am), but because He is using my thirst and discomfort to draw me deeper.

I felt Him saying to me today, as my heart twisted and ached within me and my head spun with lies and truths and variations of both, “This isn’t a mistake. YOU are not a mistake. You are tenderhearted in a way that is rare. And some might call it wrong, but it isn’t wrong. It isn’t a flaw. It is My design. YOU are MY design.”

Oh, but this heart of mine has me so aching for heaven. There just isn’t enough Jesus here.

But I’m here for a reason. I’m alive for a reason.

I’m thirsty for a reason.

And if I stop believing that, if I chalk it up to “heaven is my real home”, I’ll shut down the part of my heart that is screaming for more of Him. I’ll stop waiting on Him and begging Him to be more real to me. I’ll tell myself this is all there is.

I think well-meaning, God-loving people tell themselves that all the time. They seek and it seems futile and they’re thirsty and they get tired of living with the thirst. So they tell themselves what I’ve been tempted to tell myself- the lie that there is no more of God to be found this side of heaven. And so they start working on themselves rather than seeking the face of God.

They trade in passion and romance (this is, after all, a love story) and WILD HOPE, and instead talk about their relationship with God in terms of their faith- learning to be okay with less than they’d hoped for, practicing peace in the midst of suffering. “This life is a war, but God is GOOD!” they say. And that is true. It is. But it’s not the face of God. It’s theology and a desperate grasping and clinging at some way to make this life bearable. It’s a love for our Savior and a reverence and an awe, yes. But it isn’t letting ourselves be held. It isn’t knowing and loving Him more.

What does the Bible mean when it says we will find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts? What does it REALLY mean?

Does it mean we’ll be able to walk through our lives with scripture in our heads so fully that the lies of the enemy cannot penetrate? Does it mean we will be able to talk our hearts off the ledge with Truth when life gets hard? Does it mean we weep with hope and rejoice in the midst of sorrow?

I don’t know. I don’t have answers. I just can’t believe that’s what Jesus was promising when He said we’d find Him. HIM.

And I refuse to fabricate my God. I refuse to sit here and say it’s okay if all there is of Him this side of heaven is trees and mountains and baby smiles and the promise that He is using my pain to make me more like Jesus. Those things are GOOD. But they aren’t Him.

Sunsets and stars and hugs? GOOD. But they aren’t the Jesus my heart is screaming for.

They are a damp rag when I’m dying of thirst.

Lord, I’m grateful. I’m grateful. But it’s not enough.

Is “I am Yours and You are mine” just something we say? Or does it truly mean something? Because that would suggest a relationship. A relationship that goes beyond theology and sunsets and even hard-earned faith.

All of that is good and important, but THERE HAS TO BE MORE.

We are called to walk by faith, yes. But we are also called to seek His face.

And you know what the most infuriating thing is? I can’t”try harder” to know and love Him more.

It’s a process, something He is doing in me.

All I can do is refuse to stop seeking. I will knock until the door opens. I will continue to live eyes open, in holy anticipation of the God who IS HERE.

And I will refuse to let my lying brain tell me scripture didn’t really mean we’d find Him when we seek Him.

And sure, I could convince myself scripture meant we’d learn to see Him in the good of this life- warm blankets and shared laughs and good books and people who speak life and hope and love. I can tell myself that. And it might even be the partial truth.

But either the promises of God are even better than we can ever hope or dream or imagine, or they are nothing at all.

It’s dangerous when we try to decide scripture means less than what it reads.

It’s dangerous when we take the God who is more loving and powerful and present and real and near and good than we can fathom, and decide He is capable of less than amazing, miraculous things.

*

“You can’t force these things. They only come about through my Spirit…” (Zech. 4:6-7)

 

 

Saving Grace

There was a deer.

There were pills.

There was alcohol.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is: “I NEED A MIRACLE!”

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

“I know.”

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

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

*

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

And there is God in that.

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

*

I was not put together wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

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

*

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