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.”

And Then Six

I could feel my throat closing. The precursor to a panic attack. The tightening of my throat. The seeming widening of my tongue.

“Embrace it,” I whispered to myself. “Accept what you feel. Accept it. Don’t fight it. Don’t fight it.”

“Your throat isn’t actually closing,” I told myself next. “You aren’t in any danger. Your brain is lying to you. But that’s okay, because lies aren’t scary because lies aren’t true. The scary things in your brain right now? The scary way you see life? It’s not true. Accept what you feel. Feelings come and go. This one will go too.”

*

I watched her open presents. Six years old. Every little thing about life still awe-inspiring to her.

“We are meant to still see life with eyes of awe,” I told myself. “We are all still children. We aren’t meant to outgrow our wonder.”

Her grandparents and aunts watched her open her presents. Their eyes shining. Broad smiles on their faces. Phones held up to capture the moment unfolding before them.

And why?

Because life matters.

Turning six matters.

“Life matters.” I breathed in the words. “God says it, the people around you are doing one day after the next because they believe it, and anything you feel to the contrary is a lie. It’s a lie. Lies cannot stand up against the word of God. Life matters.”

*

There are so many people on this planet.

How are they all living? How are all these people doing life?

And do all of their lives have significance?

Certainly in my head I would say an unequivocal and hearty “yes!” …But really? Do I really believe that?

What about the homeless people who sit outside all day bumming cigarettes off passersby? Does their life matter? And why? Because they’re contributing to society? Because someone validates their life by loving them? Because they are trying to better themselves? Or just because they’re people and people matter?

The last one. Obviously. Whole-heartedly I would say their lives matter because they’re people and life is a precious gift.

…So why can’t I believe that my life matters?

There are so many people.

And then there’s me.

What does my life matter?

Is it all meaningless?

What does my life matter?

I’m just one of the many.

There are so many people.

“Life is a gift. I am loved. I am not alone. My life matters. I am loved.”

“God didn’t make a mistake when He created me. And He isn’t making a mistake by giving me this day to live.”

“I am loved. I matter. Just as I am. Not because of what I do or don’t do. And love knows that. Love isn’t fickle or judge-y. It doesn’t ask that we keep proving ourselves. Love is a constant. It doesn’t walk out. I am loved.”

“My life matters.”

*

She talked about happy little things. Bike rides. Movies.

There was a time when I used to list things off like that, all the simple joys of life. I’d mentally list off the good in life and smile because indeed, there’s so many little gifts scattered through our days.

But I can’t do that anymore. Or rather, I can, but the things I list off only increase the throat-closing feeling because I can no longer feel the good inherent in those moments. Which leads to this overwhelming sense of: “What’s the point?”

What do you do when the best things about life stop feeling good? How do you keep going?

You remind yourself your brain is a liar. You remind yourself what God’s word says. You accept the place you’re in. You tell yourself it won’t be forever.

You speak truth over yourself, aloud, until you forget that your throat is narrow and your tongue is too big.

Someday movies and bike rides will matter to me again.

*

I leaned my head over on her shoulder. Just briefly. Just long enough to be reminded there’s someone in this world who will let me rest my head on their shoulder.

*

I am loved.

My life matters.

Life is a gift.

I belong.

I am not alone.

It won’t feel this way forever.

Crises And Smart Choices

I called the crisis line tonight.

I called Laura first. I called her and I cried and she hugged me through the phone as well as anyone possibly can.

But then I hung up and I was alone again. And hysterical. And I realized two things in the midst of this:
1) No matter how much anyone loves you, you can’t take people and shove them into the empty an aching parts of yourself.
2) What’s left empty and aching is meant to be brought to God.

I knew this, even in the midst of my hysteria, but I also knew that the place I was in emotionally was absolutely no good.

So I paced the house, panic heating me up from the inside, tears running hot down my face. I paced and tried to figure out how I was going to fix what I was feeling. Because certainly enduring it wasn’t an option. (I’m saying that last sentence with something like a wink. But also I’m dead serious. If ya feel me.)

And then I grabbed my keys, without knowing where I was heading, kissed Arlow, and left.

The me of the past would’ve done one of two things:
1) Called Laura back and been like, “No, but wait. I’m really not okay. Fix me! Love me! Do you still love me!?” or
2) Vodka.
…Because apparently my status quo is taking a bad situation and making it worse. Praise Jesus for growth, amiright?!

Anyway, I ended up at Starbucks. I had my book and my laptop and was still actively sobbing, but I figured I could go in, take a seat, and let some green tea (and the uncomfortable stares of others) help me pull it together.

But then there was nowhere to park.

Isn’t it funny how something like that can just really throw you over the edge? Because suddenly it isn’t even about the stupid parking spot. Or at least it isn’t entirely about the parking spot. And that’s how you end up bulldozing over every car in the parking lot to “teach them a lesson” or something, (“How dare you get here before me!”), and then the cops come and you’re all, “There was nowhere to park!” And they look back at you like, “Well, you handled that well. Way to go, problem-solver.” But really, that was just the final straw. The whole unfortunate series of events actually began much earlier.

Don’t worry, I didn’t actually bulldoze any cars. That’s not really my style. I’m much more the “park my car in the middle of the aisle so no one can get around me, curl into a ball on the backseat, and cry” kind of girl. Although, really, either way probably ends in cops, so tomato tomahto.

But anyway, back to my story. So, I was sobbing, my brain was on fire with unhelpful thoughts and fears, my insides were all knotted up because “how am I going to survive this night!?”, and then, in a last ditch effort to keep myself afloat amidst the tidal-wave of my emotions, I reached out to Starbucks for a hug and it (metaphorically) slapped my arms away.

Rude.

So I called crisis.

Because sometimes what you need in the moment, the people who love you can’t provide for you. The amount of crazy I was about to bring to the table could only be handled by one person: a stranger.

And you know what he said? A lot of not helpful stuff. But then he said, “You know, a lot of people struggle with being alone, especially at nighttime.”

And my next thought: “Bull. Shit. I am NOT going to be one of those people.”

So I thanked him, hung up the phone, drove my butt home (without getting my green tea, for the record), marched inside, kissed Arlow, looked up at the ceiling and said: “Okay, God. It’s just You and me. Let’s do this.”

And I lit candles, and made tea, and got some nail polish out and decided that I’m done. I’m doing being afraid of being alone. I’m done with the panic. I’m done.

Whatever inside of me is broken, whatever it is that is making panic a recurring theme, I’m not running from it anymore. I’m not running from it, and I’m not going to try to take anything else and fit it into that place inside of me that is broken. Because that isn’t the solution. All it does is keep me spinning in circles, looking to the wrong things to fix my hurt, and completely oblivious to why I’m hurting so much in the first place.

So tonight I hunkered down. I told myself I’d breathe deeply and that any thought I had or activity I did that made me feel even the slightest twinge of panic, I’d stop. I would be gentle with myself.

I told myself I’d give this night to God, letting Him speak to me in the quiet moments- through the things that made me feel fear, the things that brought me peace, the things that made me feel hope. And I would, in that way, find out what it is inside of me that is broken, and also, what is holding me together.

You know what I’ve learned tonight? If you let your brain fill up, and then trust yourself to sort through the thoughts to determine what is true and what isn’t, you’ve already lost. You have to catch the thought on the front-end.

Like a bouncer.

“How does this thought make me feel?” you have to ask as the thought shows up at the door in its party clothes, smacking its gum and twirling its hair. And if the answer is: afraid, panicked, hopeless, defeated, depressed, anxious, etc., then it’s not a thought from the Lord. Send it packing.

You know what else I’ve learned? When you approach uncomfortable emotions with a “how do I fix it!?” mentality, you’re essentially setting yourself up for a panic attack.

At least that’s true if you’re me.

Because most of the time, there’s no immediate solution. And if you’re looking for a solution, and no solution exists, you’re going to feel like a person gasping for air underwater. Enter: panic.

And so, it might feel irrational, but the best way to cope with whatever bullcrap emotion it is that’s causing you so much turmoil isn’t to fix it, but to let it be. You just have to ride it out, breathing deep, and letting the bouncer stand with its hands on its hips at the door of your mind.

And then you can endure without inviting panic in to complicate things.

Your mind is guarded,
you’re breathing deeply,
and your heart is safe because it’s in its Creator’s hands.

There’s nothing to fix.
There is only this moment in which to be present.

Inhale,
exhale.
And when possible, drink some green tea.

Subversive

My voice is a sword.

My brain and heart and eyes are all sorts of drowning in crazy. I can’t trust a damn thing any of them say or feel.

But I can keep speaking good. I can wield that sword.

I can speak of life-affirming things- like how Arlow crouches down with his butt in the air when he wants to play, and every time someone says (in words or actions) that they love me, and warmer days. I don’t have to check with my brain and heart and eyes. I don’t have to ask them to validate the good inherent in life. They can’t be trusted anyway.

I will speak what I know to be good and true, even when everything else in me is screaming in contrary protest.

My voice is the rebel-rouser of my body.

*

I met with my therapist yesterday. I was crying in earnest, completely drowning in the fear of this battle that is so, so much bigger than me. But then she said something that struck me as funny, and with tears running down my face, I started laughing.

And I thought… Is there anything more telling of hope, and that good wins, than when laughter shows up and is somehow bigger than our tears?

I can’t control my sadness any more than I can control my laughter.

I can’t control my depression or my panic.

But I can hold tight to this sword. And I can trust that God is as much in the tears as He is in the laughter.

And none of it is wasted.

A bigger-than-me fight isn’t reason to despair. It’s reason to stand firm and wait on the God for whom nothing is too big.

Truth And Panic

When my brain gets swirly with all the things I can’t control, and panic floods my chest, and my prayers start sounding like: “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!” and: “It’s not okay!”
…When that happens, I close my eyes.

“Tamara,” I ask myself, “do you believe God is real?”
Yes.

“Do you believe He knows your heart?”
Yes.

“Do you believe He cares about your heart?”
Yes.

“Do you believe He can do ANYTHING?”
Yes.

“Do you believe He is good?”
Yes.

“Do you believe He is, in all His ways, Love?”
Yes.

I do.

*

I talked to my therapist about how, when I was a child, I was cuddly, and needed lots of love, and also easily hurt.

My siblings would tease me and, rather than get mad, my heart would break. I interpreted their teasing as a lack of love because I loved them, and I knew I would never treat them the way they were treating me. So, heartbreak- characterized by screaming and crying. Because I was a child. And children don’t come to this earth just instinctively knowing how to deal with heartbreak.

But my parents didn’t know how to deal with it either, turns out.

Mom would drag me to my room because, she’d say, it didn’t matter what my brother or sister did, all that mattered was that the way I was handling it was inappropriate. My emotional reaction was too big for the situation. (Although, in my defense, any negative emotion in that house was considered inappropriate.)

And I’d be even more hysterical as Mom tried to get me to my room. I’d hold on to the stairwell wall, begging my mom not to put me in timeout. “I want a do-over!” I’d wail. “Let’s start the day over!”

But she’d always win, of course.

And I’d be in my room, and she’d lock the door from the outside so I couldn’t get out. Because she knew I wouldn’t stay in there. I wanted to, HAD to, fix it- and not later, but right that second. I had to make it be okay.

So I’d pound on the door, panicked, screaming: “I’m sor-rrry!” But no one ever came.

And I wonder if God is calling that to my memory, not because it still hurts, but because it helps me be compassionate with my present self. It helps me understand why I feel the way I do. And it helps me see that some of who I am today has been learned, yes, but some of who I am is just the way God designed me.

I have ALWAYS been a sensitive, kind-hearted person.

I’ve always needed lots of love and I’ve always been quick to interpret others’ behavior towards me as proof that they don’t love me.

I’ve always had big emotions.

And when those big emotions came, they have never been seen as “okay”, but something to apologize for. They’ve always been something people have used to withdraw or ignore me until I could “pull it together”.

As a result, I’d feel, not only like I was drowning in my emotion, but like I was doing it all alone. There in my bedroom as a child, or now in my home, whenever I feel anything passionately, I believe two things: 1. My emotions ruin my relationships because no one can love this version of me, and 2. No one cares how I feel.

I learned as a child that people leave you when you feel. And that has been reinforced in my life as I’ve grown up. People leave.

And the underlying message is, of course, “I’m wrong.” Even when I don’t consciously believe it, part of the panic I battle in those “emotionally intense and all alone” moments is, “I am wrong for feeling. I’ve ruined everything. I need to make them love me again.”

I never learned to sit with what I was feeling, but to instead panic about it and and NEED to fix it RIGHT. THIS. SECOND. And when I can’t? When everything good feels gone and I’m powerless to do anything about it? That feeling is… I can’t even describe it.

I am still just that little girl, pounding on her bedroom door, begging someone to answer it and reassure me I’m loved–no matter what–and that it’s going to be okay.

Love has always, always, always felt fragile to me. And I’ve always, always, always felt hard to love.

*

I took Arlow on a walk this evening, and watched him play in a fountain, lit up red and pink and blue.

I watched him try to figure out why the water kept disappearing and then reappearing. He’d get close to sniff the place the water just was, only to run over to me when the water would shoot back up, startling him.

And I laughed, aloud–cackled, really–all by myself, while people watched.

And we walked through red and yellow and salmon colored leaves.

“This moment is a gift,” I told myself. And I was relieved to find that, not only did I know that to be true, but I could feel it as well.

And inside of me is so, so much sorrow. And my instinct is to panic, to wail against it like that child locked in her bedroom.

But I’m trying to let God parent me, to do the parenting that my mom and dad were unable to.

And He says, “You are tender-hearted. This is a good thing. You are kind and thoughtful and you have big emotions. This is by design. It is all part of who I made you to be.”

He tells me that I am not put together wrong. I am not unlovable. I am not wrong for feeling.

And I hear Him, but I am still filled with the panic of my child self, pounding on that bedroom door for someone to come and love her and hold her and tell her it will be okay.

And then He opens His arms up wide.

And I get to choose whether or not to let myself be held by the One who showed up for me, or keep staring at that door.

And He pulls me close, my heart still beating like a rabbit’s, and He asks me all the questions I listed above. Do I know He loves me? Yes. Do I know my heart matters to Him? Deeply. Do I believe He can do anything? I do.

And He doesn’t try to talk me out of my panic, He just speaks love over me.

And as I remind myself who He is, I can breathe again.

The sorrow is still there,
but I can breathe.

The Questions We Ask

He whines and tries to push his wet nose between my hands and face when I cry. Which is definitely more endearing when he hasn’t been throwing up all night.

I rolled out of bed and slipped on some Uggs, and my unbrushed hair and pajama-clad self and I went to Albertson’s for some canned pumpkin tonight. Because that’s supposed to help doggy tummies.

And mamas crawl out of bed and go to the store for their babies.

He threw that up the little bit of pumpkin I gave him too, so I wiped his runny nose with my hand and turned out the lights and told him he needed to rest. He’s here at my side now, while we sit in the dark. And I pray for his body, occasionally reaching over and placing my hand on him while I pray.

I pray for his body, and I pray for my heart. He’s throwing up and my eyelids are swollen from crying. It’s been quite the night.

*

Laura spoke at church the other night about serving. And I found myself wondering if God’s call to serve (others and Him) is almost protective. Because when we keep in mind that we’re serving Him, we don’t have to have the answers. We don’t have to understand things or be orchestrating things or hold anything together. That isn’t our role. All we have to know is what the next thing is that God is asking us to do.

It keeps us safe when we go through life remembering He is the one scripting it, and that our job is to surrender and serve.

Surrender and serve, admittedly, are two words that have a traditionally negative connotation. But when I think of them in relation to our God who is Love? All I hear is: “Rest, child. You are held. Be still and know.”

So often my anxiety and fear stems from a desire to control things that aren’t mine to control. I’ll lie in bed all tangled up, analyzing what is or might be, and how I can fix it or undo it, and what that means for my future and life and hope.

And in the midst of all that, God whispers to me: “You’re asking the wrong questions.”

The right questions are more along the lines of: “What are You saying to me in this moment?” “What do I KNOW to be true?”

And it strikes me that, even if God gave me the answers to all of the things I want to know, often times I suspect He’d have to say: “But these things are still in process. The answers I’m giving you might not even be the same tomorrow or the next day or in a month or a year.”

It would be like drawing conclusions about the ending of a book based on paragraph three, chapter six.

So, questions that demand answers aren’t really helpful. Questions that help us feel like we’re able to dig our nails back into our lives in some manner of control? That’s not His goal for us.

He’s protecting us by what He doesn’t reveal.
He’s loving us when He refuses to let us believe we’re in control.
And when He is silent in response to our petitions? Even that is proof of His goodness.

We know we’re asking the right questions when we feel more surrendered and peaceful in the asking. The right questions are those that help us shed the weight of things that were never ours to carry. They leave us with our hearts open to life and possibility, rather than shut down and suspicious.

*

“What are your favorite things about God?” Laura asked that the other night as well.

Mine? He’s always available. He loves to hear what’s on my heart.
He loves me and understands me and delights in me so completely that my heart is always safe with Him.
I never have to be afraid or weigh my words or be scared He’ll yell at me for something I feel.
He always sees me, even when I’m at my worst, through eyes of love.
He is gentle and compassionate and leads me with kindness.
He is invested in me, and He isn’t going anywhere. No matter what.

And as I made that list I thought, “…Isn’t that ironic? All the things about Him that I love the most are the things my heart is so desperate to find in human relationships.”

And I don’t know what that means necessarily. I do believe that those things (although imperfect forms of them) can be found in relationship with others. But I am grateful that in this season, He is teaching me that I can also find what I long for in Him.

*

I spread my arms out wide. “Lord, strip away all that isn’t of You.”

“Teach me, Lord, that it’s enough to go through life as just me.”

“Teach me to live surrendered and at peace. Teach me to live held.”

*

And when I feel out of place and like I don’t belong, I can go lock myself in a bathroom stall and tilt my eyes to heaven.

And because He and I have spent so much time together rehearsing truth, I can meet His eyes and remember that the God of the Universe knows my heart and smiles when He thinks of me. Who I am, just as I am, is enough.

I don’t have to feel in control, even in social situations. I don’t have to be well-spoken or magnetic or present myself “well”. I can let go of that pressure because He’s the one doing the orchestrating, and He knew what He was doing when He placed my silly self there among those people.

And so I can go back out there, just as I am, and know that feeling “out of place” isn’t a reflection of me. And that “not belonging” is a lie because God handpicked me and placed me there for a reason.

I don’t have to stand against a wall, feeling conspicuous and awkward and like there’s a neon sign flashing above my head that reads: “No one wants this girl.”

I don’t have to stand there, palms sweaty, asking: “What is wrong with me?”, “Will I always feel like this?”, “Do they love me even though it doesn’t seem that way right now?”

Because back in the bathroom stall, God reminded me: “Those are the wrong questions, child.”

“Oh. Right.” I am called to serve Him. Which means the right question is: “What do you want me to do right now?”

And He smiles. Because yes, that is the right question. And what He says next almost makes me want to roll my eyes because “what a God thing to say!” 😉

“Go love people.”

Which, oddly enough, is a lot easier to do when you’re not trying to control them. Or yourself. 🙂

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.