Wild Like A Puppy

“I think I need to get rid of my cats,” I told my friend.

I know, I know. But it wasn’t me talking, it was the crazy. Lord knows I could never part with a single one of my fur-children.

But in that moment I realized something: Distress Tolerance? Yeah, I ain’t got that.

I always need a solution for things.

When the cats were picking on the puppy, and Bunny couldn’t be allowed to roam the house freely anymore because of him, and I wondered if sweet Mowgli and Tuck were going to be able to adjust, this panicked “FIX IT NOW!” thought came into my brain: “What is all of my fur children are unhappy!? What if I am ruining all of their lives by introducing a puppy to the family? What if Arlow is never accepted by them I ruin his life too?!”

And I was there, all wild-eyed, wondering who I could trust my cats with and grieving the loss of them while they were still in my home… and my friend, in the not offensive but reassuring way only those who love you are able to do, gave me the “you’re being crazy” look. And she told me to just take it a day at a time. She told me it was going to be okay.

And she was right. Each day it’s getting a little less hiss-y and scratch-y at my house.

But I learned something in that moment. God used my moment of crazy (or my moment of crazier than usual! ;-))

I am not good at sitting with things and not trying to fix them. If I can’t see a solution, then I assume it’s going to be like this forever.

The pets don’t like each other now? What if they never do!? I have to fix it!!
I’m feeling sad? What if I never feel okay again!? I have to fix it!!

Sometimes I feel trapped in this life that I didn’t ask for and can’t escape. Deeper than that, I feel gratitude, which isn’t’ something I could say six months ago. God is doing something, working, building from the ground up so that my deepest emotion isn’t despair but trust. Still, there are times when I feel trapped and tomorrow is coming and there’s nothing I can do about it. But I’m reminded, I’m not trapped. I’m held. There’s a difference.

Yesterday Arlow was being a nut–running all over the place, biting people, somehow breaking a blood vessel in his eye–and I tried to hold him tight and shush him, to love him (against his will ;-)) until he was a little calmer. I knew if I didn’t and he kept going, he was going to hurt himself or someone else. But he wasn’t having it. He was thrashing about, throwing his head and body all over the place in his effort to break free.

How often is that my approach to the Lord?

“But you don’t understand! I can’t survive this!” I say. And I kick and scream and cry and complain about how unfair it all is, and all the while He holds me and shushes me and tries to help my panicked, racing heart to slow down.

And sometimes I listen, and sometimes I ignore His gentle call to be still, and I break free, and I rush into doing big (or occasionally not so big), stupid things.

How many of my biggest regrets were the result of me just trying to stop hurting- to fix it in the only way I knew how?

I don’t know how to take this life and love it. So I won’t try to. I’ll just take my God and love Him. And I’ll keep my eyes opened wide, seeking Him out.

And I bet somewhere in the intersection of the things of this world–like tiny flowers and big paws and warm embraces–and my desire to know and love God more deeply, I’ll learn to love this life.

Because my Jesus isn’t the pain and sorrow of this world. He’s the one calling me to lay under the warm sun and rest a while. He’s the one who thought up puppy breath and animal kisses. He’s the fresh air and LIFE I feel when I go for a walk.

 

“Come,” He says. “Come, nap under the sun. Let yourself be loved. Look up at the vast blue of the sky and know I’ve got this. Be still, child. It’s going to be okay.”

One moment at a time.

 

And in this moment?

There’s the steady tick of a clock, reminding me that I’m safe and held by the One who created time and isn’t limited by it.

There’s the quiet of an office where I sit all by myself and can forget a while that not everyone at work likes me.

There’s a good book and a fax confirmation and an energy drink and a sweater that feels like a hug.

And there’s people who love me. Even if they aren’t here with me right this second, it doesn’t mean I’m unloved or forgotten or alone.

And there’s my God. Here. By my side. Promising me that He has a plan for all the empty, hurting places within me.

I don’t understand.

But I know.

I know it’s going to be okay.

I know I’m not alone.

I know I am dearly loved.

And I know He is good.

In His Hand

Tuck was purring, his warm body curled up at the foot of my bed. I adjusted my leg so that we were touching- my leg wrapped securely around his body. And I felt him sigh and nestle his head against my leg, settling more deeply into sleep.

And I am not alone.

The song in the car that resonated so deeply within me that I had to throw my hand over my heart and pray those words over myself: “Lord, we’re desperate for Your touch… Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh again. Come search our hearts and purify our lives… We cry out for Your love to define us… Come purify our hearts… Come cleanse us like a flood.” And hunger for Him isn’t something I could ever take credit for. And so I prayed those words, I prayed they would saturate my soul more deeply than I could manage through willpower. And I hit repeat after the song ended and I prayed them again.

And He is there- His presence in my car, intermingled with my prayers and the voices of Starfield. And I am not alone.

“Preservative,” I said. And she tried to repeat the word. “Pre-serv-a-tive,” I said again, smiling. And we laughed as she tried again, her tongue tripping up over the syllables and the way the letters fit together. “Your turn,” she said. And she had me repeat after her, words in Spanish. And we laughed as we baked and marveled at how what came so naturally for each of us was so challenging to the other person. “It’s so weird to me to think I never would’ve met you if you hadn’t come here for your exchange year,” I said. And she nodded her agreement. And then, after a moment of thought-filled silence, I smiled. “Preservative,” I said again. And she laughed.

And I am not alone.

They smile when they see me, these kids who I love so dearly. Goofy and wild and so special and sweet. And I laugh and listen to their stories and hug them and kiss the tops of their heads, and I pray that as they get older they still let me hug them, and that they still want me to hear their stories. But I give that to God. For now I’m here with them, our legs and feet intertwined on the couch as we watch something on TV. And it’s comfortable and warms my heart and we’re family.

And I am not alone.

Shaky hands lifted to the ceiling as I praise my God. And my voice and heart cry is joined by the rest of the church’s. And we are there, all His children. And I realize this moment of worship will continue into eternity- all of us together, forever, worshiping the One who joined us together when He called us His. And of all I don’t know, of all I don’t understand, that’s enough- that He looks at me with love and kindness and says not to be afraid. And I have been planted–purposefully, not by accident–in this church I love so fiercely. And we’re all there for the same reason- to draw nearer to the only One who can sustain us and give us life and fill us with indescribable, wild joy.

And I am not alone.

I rolled over just before my alarm went off. Opening my eyes, I saw through the three-inch crack between my blinds and my windowsill, pink. Brilliant pink. And I watched as the pink faded as the sun continued to rise, and I realized had I opened my eyes even thirty seconds later, I would’ve missed the best moment of the show.

And I smiled. And I thanked Him. And I am not alone.

Light and Life

I’ve written and deleted this blog three times. Because I could say so many things, but none of it feels like what I want to say.

And so I sat here and I closed my eyes and breathed deeply and tried to silence my brain, waiting for the truest words to float to the surface of my heart.

And then they did. Breathed somewhere within me: “I trust Him to take care of me.”

And if words were a color, these were a dusty rose. And if words were an emotion, these were relief. And if words were an action, these were rest. And I knew, “Yes. THAT is what I want to say today.”

To all that I don’t understand, to all within me that is screaming its hurt, I don’t have answers or solutions. All I have is this: “He is taking care of me.” And those words gently shush the panic and pain and anxiety within me. All I have is that–“He is taking care of me.”–and that’s enough.

Because it means He knows.

“He hears you, anxiety. He sees you, pain. And He cares. He is for me.”

He is taking care of me. All of me. My panic and my joy, my laughter and my tears, my hopes and struggles, my wounds, my family, and my spiritual growth. He is the holder of my future and my past and my today. He is taking care of me.

And so I will raise my arms to heaven and praise Him for what He’s given, and how He’s tending to my heart, and for who He is.

*

The other day I read something that stood out to me- “God leaves the light on for us.”

Light. Oh, how I love that word.

Back before my family dissolved, I remembered feeling really hurt when I’d get home at night and the porch light wasn’t on. It felt like they didn’t care if I came home or not, like they weren’t waiting for me or looking forward to seeing me.

“I ALWAYS leave the porch light on for you when I’m home!” I told them. I told them it hurt my feelings. But nothing changed. I’d always come home to a light-less porch, fumbling in the dark to get the door unlocked, calling out a “Hi!” because if I didn’t say it, no one else would either.

But He leaves the light on for me.

He wants me. Waits for me. Welcomes me.

He leaves the light on for me. For us.

He also leaves the light on for us in the reliable rising of the sun. The sun, which warms us, and gives life, and tells us it’s a new day and we can begin again. Each new day shouts of fresh hope. It screams the promise that He isn’t through yet- this is not the end; we’re all still being held safe and secure in His holy hands.

He leaves the light on for us in Jesus too- the one who came to shine light in our darkness, to clothe us in truth, to give us life.

And scripture, which helps me arm myself against the lies and attacks of the enemy. Scripture, the living God-breathed Word.

Light guides us and directs us and helps us see and keeps us from stumbling.

In all of those ways, He leaves the light on.

And in all those ways, light fuels life within us. Light and life- the two go hand-in-hand.

And when my cats come running when I get home, or Mr. T cranes his head to watch me walk from one room to the next, or Penny leaps up excitedly when I come to open her cage.
Or in “I love you” text messages.
Or warm embraces.
Or kind smiles.
Through all those things, He is saying, “I care.” Through them, He is leaving the light on for me. Filling me with life.

And the more time I spend soaking up the light, the more I be able to radiate it myself- to go like a flame into this world which so desperately needs to see through the darkness to what’s true.

Hands to the sky, I will praise Him for hope.

Hope even when I don’t feel it.

Because regardless of what I feel from one moment to the next, I know God is love.

And He is taking care of me.

Believe

When people talk on the phone near me, I listen to see if they’ll end their conversation with an “I love you.”

I wait to hear the smile in their voice as they say, “I love you too.”

And it makes me glad for them.

Having someone to say ‘I love you’ to is one of this life’s greatest gifts.

*

Occasionally, you’ll hear someone talk about something good that happened in their life and they’ll say, “That changed me forever.”

They’ll assert that what happened–the event or circumstance of their past–has made who they are in the present richer and more alive and entirely different.

Which makes me think- Okay, so it’s possible not just to have something bad change you, but to have something so miraculous or good happen to you that you are no longer the same person.

That gives me hope- knowing there is the potential to be so undone and transformed by something (or Someone) that it warrants the statement “that changed me forever.”

 

“Miracles can happen in a heartbeat.”

*

I was thinking this morning about home-

The chaos of a bunny and a cat chasing each other through the house.
Something spilled in the bottom of the oven setting off the smoke detector.
Christmas music playing on the TV.
Candles lit.
Blowing a fuse because I forgot to turn the heat off before running the microwave.
Another cat meowing to be fed.
Laundry to do.
Cookies to bake.
Flour spilled on the floor.

And I smiled.

Chaos feels like love.

When you have to open the windows because the house is too hot from movement and conversation and baking- that’s love.

When Madison and the kids come over and one wipes their hands on the carpet and another runs off with my cell phone, and Madison is talking and we are laughing and there’s a movie to watch and kids to put pajamas on…

and I have to open the windows…

That’s love.

And when it’s quiet,
and the kids are softly snoring,
and I say goodnight to Madison and go to bed,
and I curl up beneath my blankets and listen to the bunny scratching at her cage,
and the cats jump on the bed and lay at my feet,
and the soft glow of the twinkle lights are coming from the room Madison and her kids are sleeping in…

That’s love too.

*

Today at Starbucks the barista complimented my freckles.

It always takes me off guard when someone compliments my freckles because I forget I have them. I don’t see them when I look in the mirror. So when someone says, “I love your freckles!” my first thought is: “You can see them!?”

But I love that compliment. Not because it makes me feel beautiful, because I know freckles are not traditionally considered beautiful, but I love it because it reminds me that God put me together special. He placed each one of my freckles.

And when the barista said that today, I felt Him smile at me. I felt Him near- bending down to kiss my forehead. The same freckled forehead He created almost 29 years ago.

I wonder if maybe there’s a reason I look the way I do. Young. Innocent. Not intimidating.

Emily and Kim and I were talking about Batman and who would be cast as who. She said I could be Cat Woman. And I laughed and told her I have zero sex appeal. I said it would make more sense to cast me as a kindergarten teacher or Little Orphan Annie.

Would I like to be beautiful? Sure. But I’m not. I’m “cute”. And that wasn’t a mistake any more than my heart or personality were mistakes. God doesn’t make mistakes.

So maybe my feeling young on the inside isn’t a problem to be solved. Maybe God gave me a face to match my insides.

I’m done calling myself and how I feel “wrong”.

God built me. I am His project. And if there’s anything in me that He wants to change, I trust Him to do it. Otherwise I am going to trust that He looks at me with love and calls me “good”. His creation. His beloved daughter. No less good than the sunrise or stars or birds.

It’s not up to me to call things wrong.

It’s up to me to love-

Him,
others,
and myself.

*

This is beautiful.

So is this.

*

“Liminal space is a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the ‘tried and true’ but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are in between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer.

It is no fun.

Think of Israel in the desert, Joseph in the pit, Jonah in the belly, the three Marys tending the tomb.

If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait—you will run—or more likely you will explain. Not necessarily a true explanation, but any explanation is better than scary liminal space. Anything to flee from this terrible cloud of unknowing.’

Maybe the way forward is not finding THE answer right now but learning to live without an answer, or rather, living towards one.

We need to find our way back to the true meanings of trust, wait and patience; a life of hope.”

*

I wonder if all this pain of feeling like I don’t belong anywhere… I wonder how God will use it.

I wonder if someday I’ll be in a position where I can mother those who feel the way I do.

I’d like that.

I’d like to have an open door, to welcome people in- whether or not I have children of my own. I want all to feel included. Wanted. I want them to come into my home and I want to greet them a warm embrace. Because I’m a hugger…

which, ironically, is something I got from neither parent.

Maybe I got it from my Father.

I close my eyes and smile and picture the Thanksgivings and Christmasses and Friday nights of my future. Sleeping people scattered all throughout house- beds, couch, living room floor on blanket beds. And not because they don’t have a home, but because my home is just as much their home as the one where they have their mail delivered.

What if.

What if I let this make me tender?

What if I let Him empty me out. All of me. My sorrows and grief and longings and hopes and joys and every single corner and facet and moment of my life- committed to Him. In His hands.

What if.

What would He do?

It would be good. I have that promise. And maybe it wouldn’t be what I’d expect- maybe I’ll never be a daughter to anyone. Or a sister. Or carry a baby within my belly. Or be the one someone chooses to spend their life with.

And that? The thought of not ever being anyone’s ever again? That breaks my heart. It’s almost intolerable.

Almost.

But He says not to fear. He says to trust Him. He says He IS Love. He says it’s safe to hope.

He says we won’t understand right now. His ways aren’t our ways.

So I have to tell my heart that. I’m not seeing the whole picture right now.

God doesn’t desire for me to live my entire life gripped with sorrow.

This isn’t where I’m meant to stay.

When I worry I’ll hurt forever, He extends His hand.

Because we’re on a journey.

And I can’t see what’s up ahead.

But He can.

And He says it’s good.

*

I was skimming Netflix the other day when I came across a movie that seemed vaguely familiar. It was old- made before I was even born, and yet I had the distinct impression that I had seen it before.

And so I hit play on the movie and watched and suddenly I remembered that yes- I HAD seen it! I remembered being in the living room. I remembered sitting on my mom’s lap. I remembered the scene where the kids are in the car.

And I remembered that was the day of The Penny.

When I was a child, I spent an abnormal amount of time praying. Although my prayer looked more like games of cards and reading library books aloud to God – who, looking back now, I have no doubt delighted in every second of listening to me read or watching me play with Him in mind.

And one Christmas I decided to leave Jesus a birthday present. And so I tucked a penny, a brown penny, between the brown carpet of the stairs and the brown wall. (Lots of brown. It was the early 90’s, folks.)

And I was watching that movie with Mom the next morning when I remembered the penny, so I jumped off her lap to see if Jesus had taken His present.

And it wasn’t there.

And I couldn’t believe it. I looked everywhere. I checked every step because maybe I had just forgotten where I had left it, even though I knew I hadn’t.

And it wasn’t there.

So I ran back upstairs to Mom and told her. And I don’t remember her reacting or seeming nearly as amazed as I did. But neither did she say she had found the penny or maybe vacuumed it up or anything. Rather, she seemed more focused on the movie.

And I crawled back up on her lap and kept watching the movie with her, but I held wonder and love within my chest.

And I remember that still.

When I was a child, God seemed SO near. So real. Alive. No less real or alive than my parents or siblings or next-door neighbor.

And sure, maybe someone found the penny, or maybe my parents vacuumed. But however it disappeared, it was God’s message to a child: “Thank you for thinking of Me. I’m here. And I love you.”

And I don’t know that I’m so far removed from being that child- the one who believes in crazy miracles.

I believe in a God who’d take a penny.

I believe in a God who will tuck me in to bed at night and sit with me until I fall asleep if I ask Him to.

I believe in a God who would sit with a child and listen to her read a Berenstain Bears book.

When I watch movies, movies that would seem impossible, where angels visits or hearts are transformed or someone gets the father or mother or child they’ve always wanted… I believe, in some small corner of my heart, that the movies aren’t just works of fiction and that it’s not naive for me to believe that because our God is our Abba Father and He loves us and NOTHING is impossible for Him.

Nothing we think up even comes close to how big our God is. We can’t dream or hope too big. We can’t out-imagine Him.

*

When I lie in bed at night and sob and tell Him that I need Him or want Him, sometimes it feels as pointless as telling my mom I need or want her. Which can leave me there, wracked with sorrow…

and with something else to grieve.

It HURTS to wanting and needing a God who you think won’t actually show up and be the living and present God He says He is.

And that’s why I am standing firm that there’s more for us.

I’m claiming that nothing is impossible.

I’m going to hope and believe, wildly and irrationally, like a child.

Because God made me.

And I’m done calling who I am wrong.

Maybe all those hours of cards and reading and conversation with God as a child weren’t one-sided. Maybe He used that time to breathe hope in me- the belief in the possibility of the impossible.

*

This year, I won’t be leaving God a penny. But I’ll be loving those who have no one to love them. I’ll donate money and time to people in need.

And I think about how maybe that’s the greatest gift we could give Jesus on His birthday- loving each other. Being together. What could bring Him more joy, after all? Whether we’re loving those we’ve known all our lives or a year or just met in line at the grocery store, we are fulfilling His deepest desire for us, aren’t we? We’re coming together.

He created us individually.

And placed us here lovingly.

And what could bring Him more joy than watching us come together and love each other?

Especially when we’re coming together because of Him.

Oh, happy, happy birthday, sweet Jesus.

*

Someday maybe Christmas will look like hot chocolate going cold on the coffee table and people curled up together on the couch, trying to keep their eyes open as the night comes to a close.

Or maybe it will look like being called someone’s sister. A miracle, undoubtedly, to be grafted into an already established family. But God can do anything.

Maybe I’ll have a husband.

Or a dog.

Maybe I’ll eat dinner alone or serve at a food bank or maybe I’ll be surrounded by people I love.

I don’t know. But I know He loves me.

And He loves them. You.

And He put us together on this big, scary, wonderful, lonely, beautiful planet.

And He whispers in my ear, “Hope wild, child. Nothing is impossible.”

Protected: Expectations and Disappointment and Hope

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

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.”