When Pain is the Best Gift of all

Scattered words when I should be cleaning……..

My heart feels like it could break open this morning.  Several weeks ago, I heard Kara Tippets speak at my Grace church.  It’s so cliche to say I haven’t been the same since but I’ve decided all of life is cliche.

I haven’t been the same since.

She spilled out her broken, beautiful, messy wonder of a story and the Spirit moved in that room.  She laughed more than I expected and didn’t shy away from the unwritten pages of her life.

My 12 year old daughter breathed in Kara’s words and grabbed higher hope from her,so we stood in  line to have our book autographed and then I saw it.

 Philippians 1:21  For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

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We’ve prayed for her often and each day since I await her post on the FB.

It’s just like Jesus said it would be in Matthew 6:10.  Kingdom Come on earth as it is in heaven.  Each day I cry for this woman I’ve never met. And every day, I love these people tucked into my home a little better because of her.

Several years ago, I picked up a copy of the Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis.  I was sinking in the thick muck of it with fresh complications showering me daily and I needed someone else’s words to help me make sense of it. The bible holds words of life, but there are times when we need to hold a book written by a bleeder.

If Lewis  has a handle on anything, it’s the bleeding.

I put it down because it was simply too heavy for the journey at that point.  My pain isn’t acute today as it was then, but I’m coming out of a time when  some of my core beliefs about people have been challenged and I still catch a whiff of smoke every once in a while.

Monday, as I waited for Kara’s post  I wondered for a moment if I was a freak show creeper getting some sick emotional fix from her life.  Sometimes you’re so dead on the inside that  the drama of someone else’s pain is exhilarating in a twisted sort of way because at least you feel alive.

But I relate to her because she’s a mom and close to my age and because I know some children who’ve walked through the deep loss of a mother, but I realized it’s really not any of those things that draws me to her experience.  When I see her unfiltered, beautiful, broken, bald and bold posts of peace, I don’t just see Jesus, I feel him.  As my heart feels like it will bleed out for the hole that will be left on this earth when she’s gone, he transfuses the blood that spilled out of him into me and I feel him, I see him, I become him as I love people here better.

Yesterday was a 13 hour studio day.  I heard the same thing over and over.  Where are the people unafraid of the pain? Every face in the mirror, including my own looking for companionship on the journey.  We are a people who fix when what we really need to be is a people unafraid to feel.   I might finish the Lewis book at some point, but for now I’ve come up with my own conclusions.

Pain is the point of life.

We spend hours and dollars and energy and whole entire lifetimes trying to escape it.  We schedule, chatter, and putter as we desperately try to hide the ugly dysfunctional messes that in essence define us and we spend a lifetime walking parallel to the very thing that would we cross it, could save us.

The Pain.

God’s heart broke when Adam and Eve chose fruit that he knew would bring them Pain.

He chose to send Jesus here so we could identify with someone who spoke our language of Pain.

Jesus’ very conception caused Pain to his mother; his gestation, great Pain to his earthly father.

His life was continually filled with the Pain of rejection and I believe his executioners broke his heart more thoroughly than they could ever have broken his body.

And the Pain of God the Father in that moment?  Beyond our comprehension.

Do you see?

We have to cross the path of our pain before we can ever cross the path of Christ.  We can spend a lifetime talking about God, catching glimpses of the  pain and wondering of the meaning of it all, but until we make the choice to stop living parallel to it,until we cross it boldly,  we will never experience the healing, transforming power of Christ.

Pain has no conclusion, but I believe it holds transformation.

Will you look under the hidden spaces in your soul today?  Will you dare to embrace, just for a moment, the places that hurt the most?  And when you feel as though you want to shop, or clean, or talk, or organize, or exercise, or eat to escape it…..would you ask God to be present in the middle of it?  I promise he’ll show up and I promise that what you find in that moment will change you.

I’d love it if you share your thoughts with me.  There’s a quote bubble at the top right of this post.  It’s there just for you!

Follow Kara’s journey on the FB here.

For the day when you lose a baby

 

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We were looking at her calender after pizza on Sunday night when she asked if I remembered the date.  October 14.  The kids were wrestling in the living room, but we were a distracted audience.  For nine years, she’s remembered  that particular miscarriage and for some reason I just don’t.  I felt caught, found out.  I mean who doesn’t remember something like that, with the exception of someone who wants to forget.

She’s a pro at empathy, trained in social work, and she’s heard some of my toughest junk  but she’s a good friend and even so,  there was no way I could look her in the eye. Baby days are behind me and sometimes that makes me really sad but I will never, ever miss the days I came home empty and I still want to hide when I think about them.

I can tell you every detail about the first time.  How the timing was a few months early so it took me a few days to adjust.   About the two excruciating weeks when there was the slimmest of hope, but we still held on tight.  About the baby kicking safely inside the sonographer’s belly as she asked when I was seeing the doctor, she knew my baby would never kick, I didn’t know enough then.

But mostly, I remember the doctor.

I didn’t know he was handing out condolences when he walked into the room. I’m sorry, he said before the door latched.

Foolishly, I thought it was for my two hour wait. I brushed off his apology, no problem I understand,  and then he tossed me a word, denial.  It linked cold to my hope when I realized he was chaining it to me.

Chaining it.  To me.

That word  pulled heavy, and hard.  I  started to fall inside myself,  out of verbal firing range.  I saw his mouth keep moving and then my husband’s, but the next thing I heard was the door unlatching, followed by, how will you pay today.

For real? They were going to ask me to pay for something I didn’t even have?  I’d storm out of the office like a pro the second time, slam some doors to keep from screaming don’t you people know I just lost my baby, but I was only silently indignant the first time.

I’d felt foolish for worrying my way through the entire two weeks we waited for my HCG levels to rise.  Women have babies all the time, why should you think this pregnancy’s special.  Get over yourself, suck it up, get back to the grind.  

Foolishness turned to shame the moment he accused me of refusing to accept a detail he’d neglected to share.  My sixth pregnancy, or my seventh, I would have understood completely that I’m sorry meant no baby.

But it was my first.

And I didn’t understand.

And it sucked.

Shame hid beneath intense recurring pain the morning of the procedure.  They afternoon before, they’d inserted medication to soften my cervix and I should have known that softening the cervix was just a schmanky way to say labor.

But it was my first.

And I didn’t understand.

And it hurt.

Recurring pain turned to a referred ache that hovered over my heart and started to stab as people tossed around all kinds of careless cliches, sometimes all in one breath. You’re young, there must have been something wrong, heaven needed another angel.   They summed up my life-wide devastation in ten second sound-bytes they dropped between blinks. I’d been kicked out of the Baby-Making Club.  Everywhere I turned was a Baby-Carrying Member.  And those well-meaning but careless words made it worse.

In my first rush of maternal intuition or maybe I had just hoped for a girl we chose the name Isabella Kathleen for its grace and beauty.  I still have feelings of foolishness about this because so many of my friends lost babies they actually held.

Babies in blankets.  Babies with beautiful silent lips and soft cool skin.

Heather and baby Hope Renee.

Ashley and baby Mary Rose.

Cheryl and baby Rachel Lynn.

After our first loss, I wrote for the first time in years and put together an informal gathering with a handful of family.  I can still hear the words of one who couldn’t understand. What are we remembering…..there wasn’t anything…..right?  

There were kind words too, words that knew.  Older women I’d known for years shared their losses, tucked away for seasons,  and women at a support group gulped out  fresh stories of leaving the hospital empty-armed.

I listened to a few songs over and over during dark midnights and read every page I could find on miscarriage and pregnancy loss.

I walked around numb and lonely, feeling like a freak show because I wasn’t pregnant and because I couldn’t just get over it.

I looked for answers in my faith but  theology ground deep into my bones wasn’t worth smack in the middle of the night. Let me tell you what was though.

Jesus.

He’s  worth smack in the middle of the night.

He met me sitting lonely on my green velvet sofa.  He sat with me while I sobbed and tucked me in with his peace.  He held my head when I could only stare at the twinkle lights on my stupid plastic tree hour after hour.  It was the beginning of the first years in my life that I understood he cared about me.  Not just what I did, but who I was, who he’d made me to be.  It was the beginning of the journey that would bring me to write in this place I think……

We didn’t name any of our other children or commemorate their losses.  I think I grew tired of holding the uncomfortable gifts of silence people handed me when they didn’t understand.  I’m wired to swallow everyone else’s feelings.  The only way I knew to escape their awkwardness was to drink my own pain down so deep they couldn’t see it.

Distinctly different feelings wrapped unique DNA around each miscarriage, but my survival strategy was the same loss, after loss, after loss.  Target, to buy new lounging pj’s for procedure day and  Lowe’s, to make sure I had something to do with  my hands.

I found mindless repetitive projects that would pass  time between sentencing and execution although the second time, I wanted nothing more than to bust every window in the  house with a giant sledgehammer.  Most of the time, those stupid jobs distracted my thoughts while I  stripped wallpaper, sorted pictures, or painted walls. More importantly, they held parts of my heart I feared would drop off and disappear until I could manage to begin to put them back together.

I don’t  talk that much about my losses.  They feel private and honestly I don’t know if I’ve processed them as much as I’ve wanted them to go away which is funny to me, considering I process every other last shred of life to it’s bitter shriveled end.

I recognized, just this week that these feelings I’ve been carrying are shame.     It’s a hot, sick feeling that makes me want to hide and I haven’t quite figured it out yet.  I’m thinking it’s not coincidental (since I don’t believe in coincidence)  that last week I picked up a book I’ve wanted to read for a while. Yeah, it’s on shame.

We walk alone a lot of the time as women.  Carry the disappointments of our lives hidden from the crowds, often hidden from ourselves.  I heard William Paul Young say recently that we’re only as strong as the secrets we keep.  I’m learning here how to tell some of mine.  Thank you for treasuring them with  me.

I love music so I linked  below several songs that meant so much to me that first go round.  They look goofy because they’re old, but I still love them.

 

For the day your identity quits working for you

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Today is a day of naked and unashamed.  A stripping down, wiping off, laying aside sort of day. Demands for time have, again, out-lasted my reserves and I can’t figure out how to get in front of it all or just on top of it for one tiny minute and just when I think I might; well, life.

I know too well the cycle in my own life of picking up, putting on, and parading about in my own plans and identities before tossing them right back onto the floor.

It’s the kind of dance we do in front of our closets in the fall, when the weather changes with the hour hand.

Sometimes I feel like what I write in this place is a pronouncement of my next failure because I’m eager to share the ideas I’m processing right now, in real time.  But then life happens and sometimes the stories aren’t mine to share but they still  deeply color my soul and leave me looking again for the sound of my voice.   Sometimes I don’t even recognize my own voice when I hear it.

Do you know what I’m talking about?  When life changes faster than you can inhale?

When you drop to the ground, gravel stuck deep in your knees and you’re forcing air out of your lungs just so they don’t explode.  Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to breathe.

When you  count through the pain because really, it’s been a mess for too long and surely there’s not much left to save, but you must.keep.breathing.  Sometimes our choice to keep going is a lifeline for someone else.  

When the beauty of the fall harvest is shadowed by the latest crisis and you’re taking care of e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g because that’s what you always do, but you keep hearing that sound.  You wonder what it is.

Days go by as you put one weary foot in front of the other and you wake up one morning and realize, it’s crying. Someone’s crying.  And then you realize, it’s you.   Sometimes we walk through life so numb that we don’t recognize the sound of our own cries.

There are days when death grips life fiercely, the moment of a diagnosis or divorce decree or the disorientation of watching a child deal with disappointment and feeling for the love of all things adolescent, that you just can’t peel your own disappointment apart from theirs.

Maybe there hasn’t been a moment for you.  Maybe, it’s been  thousands of moments when hope fights for breath but deep inside you know it’s a loosing battle. You just can’t face it yet, but you know if you sit really still and you’re really honest?  You know there’s a day coming that you won’t be able to hold it all together.  You also know that once the lid’s off from that mess?  You’ll never get it back on.

Our lives change on dimes and in decades and we’re all left standing, at some point, in front of a closet packed with possibility, decisions and  disappointments piled at our feet. We never know what a day will bring and that’s why it feels risky to write here, but it’s good for me because it keeps me evaluating the level of truth I’m feeding into my own soul.

I know my own tendency to live unaware of the life playing out in front of me as I choose pleasant subtitles for some of the uglier unfinished scenes in my life.  Scenes that force me to face fear, loss of control, shame.

 

Pain will happen, we just don’t have one little say in that.  But we do get to choose what we do with it. We have the choice to allow it to strengthen us, make us wise,  and bind us to other people as we share what hurts the most in life; or we can push it down, ignore it and remain blind to the ache of life that is humanity.

I’ve had to learn to ask God to help me know what’s  real in my life. On the heels of that prayer is the one where I ask for help knowing what comes next.  It’s been a radically different way to pray, to live. The pain is absolutely still there but it’s easier to see my way through it.

It’s not my job to fix it for my disappointed kid.  I get to help my children learn how to get through life.  I hope I’m teaching them that sometimes God fixes things for us and sometimes he walks through things  with us.

I’m not responsible for filling in gaps in a one-sided relationships. Several are in the process of changing right now and some have died off but you know what?  God has brought me fulfilling new ones  as I’ve learned to rest the weight of who I am on him, instead of them.

It’s not my job to keep all the plates spinning anymore.  They’re dropping one by one, but it’s not undoing me.  In fact, I’m becoming more  me than ever  as I  purpose to use my time intentionally.

Pain wraps its way around hope as we strengthen  our identity  in Christ.  Then,  the most amazing thing happens.  Hope begins to incubate.   It grow and settles into the deepest parts of us, shoving out piles of shame. And after we stretch reaching to open the new doors in front of us,  once we’re strong enough, we throw out ill-fitting identities and find new ones more comfortable than we ever thought possible.

 

For the day when confusion freezes momentum

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It’s a day I’d like to get away from myself for just a few minutes.  It seems I’m irreparably broken and while I don’t believe the lie that everyone else isn’t, they seem to be more accomplished at filling in the cracks.

These are the feelings that rush in after days heavy with fruitfulness.  I drip the purpose of who I am, conversation after connection after commitment and am understandably empty.

Seems I can cycle pouring, retreating, refilling, only so many times before the next fissure appears.

I wonder why I can’t be content to stand still in my soul while marching ahead in cadence, and why the forward movement always comes with a price higher than the last.

The marchers look accomplished with full cups and pots and there doesn’t seem to be a unit small enough to measure what my soul manages to squeeze out.

Weary from a day of comparison, I want to get away from my needy-self.

But apparently, I am always with me.

So, I refocus, dive in to all I am not to become more of all I am.

We have to speak truth, with a voice of conviction, into the small places where we are the most frail in order to hush the voice winnowing through our humanity.

 

Those very small  moments of frailty allow us to reach into the tiny crack in another’s heart specifically because of our brokenness.  

Today, when momentum is frozen by the confusion of comparison, I remember the recent moments when I’ve held hearts and shared tears and choose to tell myself true things and let the beat of his heart mark my time.

Jeremiah 31:3   I have loved you with an everlasting love.

Psalm 34:18  I am close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit.

II Corinthians 12:10  For when I am weak, then I am strong

 

When the voice inside your head is wrong

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My own voice echoed as the list rolled. 

Remember when you…….

and then you had the nerve to say……..

I bet she thinks………..

and you seem like………

why did you say that………

you should have ………..

you shouldn’t have…..

yep, you’re doing it wrong.

I made a bold statement, said that God thinks you’re some of his best work.  Said that he cares about every detail of your day and speaks to you all the time if you’ll listen, if you’ll look.

I went on with my week and forgot to remember……

That when I make progress in any area of my life; when I live, on purpose, out of the bold yet vulnerable places in my soul, there’s a shady voice always waiting, hellbent on the back-door destruction of my heart.  I mistake it for my own voice if I’m not careful and I bet you do to.

My soft spots always include relationships, people, all kinds of them.  They hurt me young and left me early and I still hold onto the belief that I can be a good enough friend to avoid conflict altogether. Conversations incessantly loop and the voice insufferably auto-corrects with one rotten subtitle:  you did it wrong.

Maybe it’s different for you.  Maybe  you feel the flash of shame when you think about your marriage or your parenting, or maybe it’s a full-blown lightening show.  A burst of insecurity about your education lights up a rod of  dying dreams, blazing a grand finale of deep disappointments from high school to the present.

It makes you feel like you’re in trouble, like when you were a kid and your mama used your full name.

It steps on the softened place that connects to your heart, yanking you backward into a muddy pit of degradation while angry accusations blare from the perimeter.

It triggers a flash that burns hot in the notch behind your ears shooting into your spine, dropping into your stomach or filling up your eyes as the disappointment, failure, or shame physically becomes part of you.

The voice I heard sounded like my own and it took me a while to remember that it’s not.  It’s a lying voice of opposition, not authorship and it contradicts, admonishes.  The one goal of this voice is to drown out the voice that’s Truthful.

You have to remember to close your ears to the lies that want to wreck your soul and begin to speak (out loud)  the truth that’s been whispered into your soul. Truth about who you were created to be.

It begins with a whisper of thanks for Hope and ends with the decision to choose the Voice that speaks life.  In the middle of the night it’s hard for me to remember, but I’ve learned the difference and it’s a game changer.

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What you really need to know about the darkness and God

Monday, I showed up here with some of the darker colors of my heart, not at all how I intended to move back into this space.   As I sit at my desk this morning, I see the sun is trying hard to make a name for itself through all the gray and in that same way, I want to share from the brighter hopeful places inside of me.  Because, it occurs to me that I know that they’re always there, shining between the cloud cover, but maybe you don’t.  

So today, some brighter colors of hope, because I could always use a reminder and I’m thinking maybe you could too.  

darkness and light

What I really want you to know is this….

God thinks you are some of his best work. 

He knows that life has been brutal for you and sometimes you feel like pellets of sharp  driveway gravel  are being aimed at your heart at random intervals.

He can’t wait for the chance to show you how he really feels about you, but he’s waiting for you to give him the teeniest, tiniest chance.

When your mom’s sick and you’re sitting in the hospital until 5 am because the overworked nursing staff might forget her pain meds, he knows that your back is screaming for just 15 minutes in your own bed and your due at work in 3 hrs.

That feeling in the pit of your stomach when someone is tormenting your child, when they’ve picked and pulled and tugged and sneered for so long that your first-born, been-a-gentleman-since-he-was-4-weeks, is ready to thrown-down?  That feeling?  He wants you to know he gets that one, it’s familiar and he’s ready to send in the cavalry if you’ll ask him.

But did you know that God’s a gentleman too?  That  he’s waiting for you to invite him into  your hard places?

People get all choked up over the free will part of insert-your-chosen-religious-term here.  But it’s really not that complicated.

Do you want to feel and experience God who cares about every bit of your daily life? Or do you not?

I’ve got to be honest here, because I can’t imagine anyone answering no to that question.

Part of the human experience is handling life ourselves, but who doesn’t want help if we’re really honest?

It’s the asking though, we really don’t like to ask and so we struggle on, alone.  When all we really need to say is me! me! me!, I need help, I do, because that’s  all it takes to have an all access pass to some of the coolest things you’ll ever experience and it’s not a religious freak show, I promise.

I know, I know, we all know people but forget them for a minute.

Sometimes you see the same people at dinner around 11 pm at IHOP that you see 14 hours later at lunch time at Panera.  You don’t really know why you saw them, but when you’ve included the possibility that there is a God who cares about everything in life, you know that  there’s some reason you saw that woman with the fabulous haircut and her sweet little boy that’s so pretty you call him a girl.  You feel bad and hope you didn’t insult her, but you’re glad you said something because you don’t believe in coincidence.  You know there was a reason and it’s ok if you don’t ever know what it was.

Sometimes, you don’t like the soup that you order at lunch and when the manager takes your tray and finds out I wasn’t your favorite, he asks you what your favorite is and brings it back in a to-go bag.  When he does, you know that the soup is a little shout-out from God.  You just know because you talk to him, sometimes out loud if your kids aren’t around.  You embarrass them enough, you know.

Those details are just slivers of nothingness in comparison to the ways that you’d see him every day if you’d get a little risky and ask him to show up, be a part of your life.

Really, it doesn’t have to be a whole life decision to ask him to show up just a little.  But when he shows up, you just might want to see him more. Because when you see him, and you know it’s him? It’s like crack.  Completely addicting.

He knows you, how he made you.  With fear that leaks out of your eyes at night and a heart that pours and gives and squeezes out every last drop of hope right out there in the fresh clear air.  He knows that you deeply want for someone to swallow down that hope with you, to hold it inside and sit in the sacredness of that shared moment.  And he see’s when they spit it right back at you, without acknowledging your offering.

Did you know that the sadness and the loneliness, he feels that for you, with you? He sees all those things about you and he wants you to know that he feels so much sorrow when he sees the places in your heart that are breaking.

He’s as proud as he can be when you make choices that are good and positive for your life, things that open your heart to seeing more of what he’s really all about, but you should know that when you don’t get it right……..

When you lay out your kid because they ate all the snacks and they’re hungry and it’s 10 pm and you’ve been up since 6:15 and the list never ends and they.always.need.more……

When you choose to destroy yourself by doing that thing that you do because you just can’t feel this much pain for one more minute and need some relief….

When  you catch yourself thinking that you don’t even know if you believe in a god of anything in the first place and then tun around and lay your own self out because what kind of person would you be if you didn’t……

When you make choices that stink because you’re lazy or you’re scared or you just don’t want to be alone, but you know better and so how could you possibly ask God to come be a part of that hot mess.

He wants you to know that he doesn’t love you not one bit less when you makes those crummy choices.  In fact, maybe he loves you more.  Because he knows about the shame you’re pouring on top of your own self behind the smile, the silence, the sincerity or the sneer.

He doesn’t care what a big huge mess your life is or how shiny you think it is for that matter.   He just wants to be there to share it with you.

He understands how he made your fragile heart to work and he’s waiting for you to ask him to help you to understand yourself.  He is I promise.

I want this to become a place where we can declare what’s real in life.    A place to shout proudly all that is good, share freely all that is hard and learn to see him in the middle of it.

A place to whisper the darkness of fear while believing that momentary glimpses of light, momentary glimpses of God, make the darkness bearable.

Protecting a soul

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There is a deep sadness that begs to be ignored in a way that’s consuming.

It’s the kind that by the time you recognize it, you’ve already sunken so deep you have to look up. It’s tucked in so snug, there’s not room for much else.

It’s still, this sadness, like those fresh moments when it’s so dark the only sound are the crickets and that circular black ringing.

It’s the time when even the birds know to be still.

The time you should be drinking restoration but all you can do is sip as you rest your eyes.  When what you really want to do is rest your heart, just for a little while.

Demanding to be heard though it struggles to speak, it’s the kind that’s not going away.

It hides dreams and muffles hope as it buries feet in duties de jour.

It wonders of waste and struggles to salvage a life well-worn.

As who she is, rises to the surface, making room for who she is becoming.

 It’s balance that she can’t find.

There’s a poet resting just on the underside of this semi-suburban sinking life.  She’s so deep inside herself right now, she can barely hear the fingers tapping but knows that tap they must or she won’t find her way out.

Just hours ago, she wrote true words, yellow and pink compared to the black and blue that surface now.

Where is the balance.

Maybe that’s the price of the battle.  She’ll willingly pay it.  She just never expected the lightening would pierce the rainbow.

When she’s up at 3 a.m. these are muffled screams looking for the rungs that lead to Up.  She can’t see and all she hears are crickets, and ringing, and humming air circles and then a teenager, maybe a factory worker.  Someone passing in the darkness heading home from somewhere because the road that runs west, only leads home.

She feels splintered and even more so as she writes third person, because she is splintered.  There are a handful that want know and the rest choose what they see.

If community heals the broken places, why must new places break in order for the old to heal?

She’s not an actress, she’s honest about how she feels, sees, hears, but even still, when the faces choose what they see, it doesn’t matter whether she’s acting.  She still plays a part.

She’s supposed to go there this morning again.  That place that’s rubbing off her edges, and teaching her humility, compassion, purpose, community, it’s that love-lesson.  Must all love hurt so much?

They say there’s a love…she doesn’t feel it.

It’s now as she soaks her feet in the cold coals that they start to sear.  The vacuum might just drown her.  She’ll have to smile, unless she stays in bed.  She’ll feel hollow as she bridges words over depths they won’t understand.

Maybe the charade protects her from falling so deep inside herself she’d not find her way out.  She has to find a way to balance the deep dark with the shaded smile.

Or maybe she doesn’t.

Maybe today, she’ll wear something to simply protect her soul from the shimmer.

Maybe the camo.

What are you searching for?

The search for true and honest is on.

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Creative Commons

 

I’m listening for the ping of the truth detector and more often than not, it’s silent.

When I hear it, just for a moment, there’s sweet relief.

Connection, a sigh, and calm silences my hot soul.

A phone call, the question ragged and needy.  An exchange,  the smallest notch in the belt of relationship.

Trolling in my own head, the ache of need and desire to be known follows hard, stalking my sleep, steering my thoughts, leading me away from the healing.

Who do you think you are? 

Look at the mess!

Just what do you have to say.

Bawdy accusation, a silent squeeze, and the fist of fear chokes out my words.   I walk numb through the day and I numb through the night because the honesty is just out of my reach.

There are moments and glimpses of genuine. They fade so quickly I wonder if they’re figments and I question my ability to know honesty when I see it.

Where are the truth-seekers and will I ever be whole enough to travel with them?

Would I fill my heart with the happy of clinking glasses if I found them?

Would I be satisfied with the bread of laughter and call off the search?

Not-enoughs travel from my hair to my hips, from paint to parties and I’m always looking over my shoulder wondering what comes next.

There are moments I know I don’t want truth.  It’s simply too much to handle.  But authentic is like crack for a cracked soul and once you’ve touched it, or rather, it touches you, there is no way to unsee, to unfeel, to unknow.

I put the skin of words on these silent, raw foundations in my soul.  The click of the keys mocks the art that I’m certain I was born to create and I pound on, one ping closer.

 

Amber Haines started a powerful conversation this week over at The Run A Muck. I’ve been writing lately in fits and snippets and haven’t been making enough sense to post here, but her thoughts fueled my words today.  You’ve been warned, once you read her words, you can’t unknow.

I’m linking to her most recent post here. You’ll find links on that page to the first two posts in her series. Start at the beginning and dare to let her words hook the honesty in your own soul.  

Come back here and let me know what you think?

The reason I’m living with this ugly blue rectangle

Lately, I’m doing a lot of writing from our bedroom.  We’re getting used to a new schedule and while I’m beyond thankful that there’s a routine, I’m still looking for my groove in the middle of the change.

blue stripe

I’ve found myself closing my eyes when I write because if  I keep them open, they stick like glue to the law-enforcement blue strip above the dresser. The previous owner was a police officer and I suppose the color was curiously soothing to him, but I’ve never owned, purchased, or even been gifted anything in this lawful color and I hate it.

Writing is the place I find balance between the substance of who I want to be and the sparsity of who I really am.  I’ve started closing my eyes because of the noise of what I see, the illustrations of my soul reflected on the walls of my home, the canvases of my relationships that distract me from the purposeful woman I’m determined to become.

As my mind is filled with lists of to-do and to-call, to-finish and to-get,  I can’t think for all of the tos screaming loudly, me, me, me, pick me!

When we moved into this house,  there was a hinged TV tray attached to the wall. We tossed the tube right up there and found that if we carefully extended it with just the right angle, we could see it from the shower.  Exactly one time,  I angled it just right so I wouldn’t miss a minute of Law and Order.  I’m slightly embarrassed by this admission, so please remember that it was before DVR.

Apart from the strangely sexy Jack McCoy or perhaps the riveting footage of O.J. in the White Bronco though, there is absolutely no reason to justify watching TV from the shower and I believe that positively no one should have an extra arm reaching into their bedroom, so last year I asked my husband to take it down.  It’s been begging for fresh paint ever since.  Everyday I look at that lawful blue and am reminded of one more thing I haven’t accomplished.

After 43 years of living, 20 years of marriage, and 14 years of parenting, so much of life seems to be like that.  Wherever my eyes land, I see worn out items in need of replacement, projects that have stolen days and sometimes weeks from my family, toxic relationships that I’ve invested in deeply, and more to be fixed than ever before.  I’m searching for the scenes that look pretty or finished, something I can frame, hang up, and be proud of and I’m not finding many.  In fact, the more I see the less progress I seem to make.

The house, relationships, even the paint on my walls looks so messy that closing my eyes is the only way I can think clearly, the only way I can see what really matters for all the landscaping, painting, and purging that beg to be finished  in my home and heart.

As it gets closer to July, I’m thinking often about the trip that my son and I took to Ukraine last year.  The water there smells stale and sulfuric with hints of liquid human waste and was one of the most unpleasant parts of the trip. I’m also spending a lot of time a different ballparks and because park bathrooms aren’t known for their water purification systems, I’ve been surprised to be often pleasantly reminded of our journey.

Ukraine was a two-week exercise in closing my eyes and apart from our crazy adventure in getting there, some the most peaceful days I’ve experienced so far in my life.  With no cooking, cleaning, or volunteering, no ledger sheets from work, no tangible way for me to prove my existence apart from simply being with and loving people, I began to understand just how dependent I’ve been on my daily lists to infuse meaning into the deeper places of my soul that were meant for simply being.

The lists represent unspoken expectations that I have of myself, at times those expectations have been paralyzing. What I found while I was in Ukraine, was that apart from the lists, I still not only existed, but felt more alive.   It was Truth that I found there about who I am as a wife and mother, who I am as a friend, and who I am as a Christ-follower.

I discovered hidden motives in relationships.  The times that I’ve given in order to feel powerful and times that despite aggressively searching for honesty in all kinds of relationships, I was a huge liar, mentally constructing functional relationships out of mangled and sometimes irreparable friendships and associations.  I identified events that I’ve taken part in hoping to extricate an ounce of significance from the satisfaction of my work.  And most importantly, I learned Truth about the divine sanctions I expected from God as a result of my love for and service to him.

It’s now, almost a year later, that I’m starting to piece together larger, life-altering implications from Ukraine.  It seems that  the more I uncover truth about how I’ve avoided pain, the way I spend my time and resources to ensure that I’m as comfortable as possible, the more  I see that needs to be reconstructed.

As truth bridles performancism, my home and relationships look more tattered and worn-down than ever.

I’m faced with daily choices of choosing honesty over falsified self-worth and authentic relationships with depth and substance over distorted intimacies. This means that I don’t pick up the phone like I used to while my inverted sense of responsibility for relationships begins to straight out.

Some of my hardest work  is leaving my home in its glorified shabbiness as I choose to focus on the intangible and this means that my bedroom wall has a bright-blue, holey, rectangle as artwork and the patio is a wreck.

Searching for truth means sometimes embracing the fact that  life, relationships, and sometimes houses have to seem worse before they get better.  It’s hundreds of daily choices to  bypass a fast fix in favor of the long haul.

I believe that our souls peak out through the windows of our eyes.  The view either promotes security as we find that our daily choices match up with our unspoken life-code or turbulence as we witness incongruities between what we thought would be and the reality of our daily choices.  Hope lies in the opportunities we have to change the view.

Do you have any messes in your life that you’re purposefully leaving undone?  Maybe they’re messes you’re just recognizing.  Could they be an opportunity for a different view, a new reality?

 

For when we glory in the cross and forget about the love

The celebration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is settling somewhere new in my heart this year.  I’ve always loved the tradition and liturgy surrounding the weeks before Easter.  It’s a holiday of water-colored hope painting broad strokes of redemption over thin lives.

Tate's cross

Spiritual battles seem to culminate during Holy Week as the antagonism of Satan mocks our walk through the Stations of the Cross.  This year has been no different as I’ve watched friends lose loved ones and dealt with my own challenges, puny in the light of death.

As social media penned words of faith, posted serene pictures of crosses at sunset and dared us all to pass on gruesome depictions of a bloodied Christ as a sign of true belief, I felt a depth of contempt that surprised me. I’ve quietly changed my profile picture in previous years and couldn’t account for the shift in my feelings.

I wondered if voicing my doubts had fueled the feelings and even considered briefly  that maybe I’d lost some faith.  Maybe daring to believe with eyes wide open made for new travelling companions, Thomas or even Judas.

There’s something about loud, accompanied poetry that releases the pressure from my obnoxious thoughts so I turned up the new album from Needtobreathe, Rivers in the Wasteland.  This CD captures the dim reality of life in a fractured world with driving melodies that wrap solaced hope around a soul.

The song Wasteland repeats the simple truth that if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31) and as the song dug into my heart, the massive celebration of Easter was broken down into the most personal understanding that God is for me.

That small change in my focus opened up new thoughts.  Is it possible that our insistence of  walking the way of the cross, complete with reenactments starring a beaten Christ, exploit the anguish of the Father?

We focus on the physical pain of Jesus to the point that we forget the agony and despair that lies in the un-sensationalized, seldom referenced, simple broken heart of the Father who loved us.

The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ symbolize our faith, but in the beginning was the word and the word was God and in him was life and light and the light shone in the darkness (John 1) and the reason there was a light at all was because we were created for communion with God.

When we tell the story of Adam and Eve breaking that communion in the garden, we focus on their shame but what about the depth God’s loss? What about his broken heart way back in the beginning?

The sacrifice of the cross is shocking and absolutely is essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  But  the sacrifice of the Father sometimes gets lost as we glory, to some extent, in the gore of the cross and the miracle of the resurrection; hoping to convert unbelievers with shock and awe.

I have friends who are grieving right now, it’s a sacred time in their lives that deserves respect.  I wonder if our Easter pageantry doesn’t  distract us from the fact that God also continues to grieve as we make choices that separate us from him.  As whole tribes of believers spit hatred at each other does he shake his head and mourn at our insistence of making our belief about us?

Really, if God’s heart broke so deeply because we were separated from him and if  he would allow it to be broken to a greater degree as he watched the physical anguish of his son, shouldn’t we love with that same depth of passion?

Does he watch the rhetoric of Good Friday and the fanfare of Easter Sunday and wish that we’d remember instead the very intimate gift of his broken heart?  Because that’s what  necessitated the crucifixion of Christ in the first place.

It seems to me if we did, that we might all look more like him. We might worship with more humility and love, with deeper abandon.

My heart has changed this year.  It’s smoother in a sandy sort of way.   It’s been broken wide open and spilled all out and as it heals, I’m hoping that it looks a little more like the Father’s as I learn to love to the degree I have been loved.

Maybe I’ll feel differently as Easter rolls around next year, more like embracing the sorrow of the first day and engaging in the celebration of the third, but this year is off beat and I’m going to honor that.

My faith isn’t lost.  I’m wondering if maybe I just  found it.