Orange Jumpsuits, Low Rumbles, and Momentum: What to do when the World is Breaking

 

imageThis is the day.

I can feel something beginning to rise up but I don’t know what to call it yet.

We live on a busy road and occasionally some kid will drive by with a killer stereo or maybe it’s a mom grooving 80’s style to Taylor or Bruno.  I would have no knowledge of such behavior.

This morning,  I could feel the bass from the back of the house, a shaking that rumbled my stomach but not my toes.  The sound was so powerful it skipped over every visible part of my body and jumped inside, wrapped itself around my stomach and squeezed.

The feeling I have inside of me, whatever it’s called, is like that bass.  It’s coming from a place so low, so deep  that  it hasn’t crossed the sound barrier.  It’s more like a tension or an anticipation.

I’m cautiously excited in a frightened way. I throw around the word awesome all day long but maybe this feeling is what the word really means.  Maybe this is awe.

In the moment last night between my last thought and first dream ,  Psalm 46 wrapped around my sleep.

Nations are in an uproar, kingdoms fall,  he lifts his voice and the earth melts.  (melts!)……. Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted in all the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth.

That chapter has been a long-time favorite but I realized, just today,  that  I’ve always pictured myself on some other planet with an aerial, telescopic view of the nations when they’re up-roaring and the kingdoms when they’re falling.

Maybe it’s because I’ve thought of them as bible stories in bible times.  I’ve had some real-life raging in my own back yard, some crumbling that I didn’t anticipate and have received real comfort from that passage but even then, in my mind I was far removed from the blood and gore of the chaos. Safe.  Extracted from the violence  as I cheered on a winning God, who told me to sit tight.

And then there’s today.

I’m right here in right-now times, where the bloodshed is across the ocean and yet I hear it beginning to trickle a path to my patio door.  There are times  when it seems I’m  inside the crumbling kingdom walls, blood around my feet.

Images play on a screen 12 inches from my face while words words scroll along the bottom.  I read them with pause giving consideration to sources, motives, ideologies.

Colors blaze in my mind.   Orange jumpsuits, black masks, white explosions, and the turquoise coat on a blond child.

Just last night, there was a van, a violin, and the most beautiful daughter. Her view was blocked by a yellow jeep and a colorless car sped by as I heard my own gray gasp.  I watched a nation, my very own kingdom, stumble backward just in time.  She went on in alone and shaken while I sat quickly gathering images of what could have been before they  surrounded and took me captive.

I’d felt the need that very morning to pray protection for my people. It was an urge so specific that even my skin chilled to attention.

Overseas it’s  kingdoms.

Here at home it’s a nation.

Behind my van it was my whole world.

All of these, rumbling as the pounding within me grows strong.and begins to rise out of a quiet place of peace.

I’ve been in the anxious kind of rumble before.   The kind  birthed from fear that moves quickly to indignation and sometimes anger as I try to protect the people I love. The kind that makes me do crazy things and run my mouth from morning til night in a wild, but futile, attempt to convince everyone I’m in control when really I couldn’t sit still and be quiet for one minute even if I tried.

This is different.

This is a holy rumbling.

A reverberating stillness with momentum.

A powerful silence bellowing authority.

The understanding that a Force beyond our control is running this show.  Our job is to do the next thing, the daily thing, the boring thing and the hard thing while we wait with anticipation and in belief of the goodness and sovereignty of the Force.

I don’t know what’s next.  There are dangers seen and unseen everywhere and then there’s the pain, Dave Rod calls it a low-grade fever of sadness. We make choices every day to silence the hard places in our hearts, the stories that bring us pain or to welcome them in anticipation of the day they will be no more.   While we work deliberately to live out of the reality of the places that hurt within us, we can

Sit ready.

Love fully.

Offer  thanks.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for what’s next!

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice,the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields[d] with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

This one trait will make you the very best kind of friend

upside down hearts

I met a new friend recently.  We planned to have coffee while I asked her a few questions within her expertise.  Usually she charges by the hour, but offered to meet me off the clock.

It was all business at first, like clicks of a keyboard, hands working together to type some sense into life.  I asked  questions about mothering and she answered with depth and understanding, the openness of one whose known some pain in life.

I knew we’d share a little bit based on the types of questions I had for her, but what happened next was a rare shift in our conversation, a gift that I will remember for a long time.

We began sharing more personally about some of the hard situations in our lives; painful stories of the barest stretches we’ve walked, while weaving in our stories of faith.   Before long, our standard Times New Roman  conversation  moved into  sweeping Lucinda calligraphy.

Though I’ve learned a lot about the safety of where to rest my heart recently, I still tilt heavy on the sharing spectrum which is a grown-up way of saying that sometimes I practically bleed-out all over people at some of the most inappropriate times.

It’s really just a scavenge to find similar life form. I can stay on the slick surface with the best of ‘em, making halted, chippery conversations about schedules and, well, mostly schedules but I prefer to cut right through the thin flakes of fine, busy, tired and move on to places with meaning.

Mostly, it’s a problem with my own expectations. Making a deliberate choice to stay in touch with all my junk  is something I can’t not do.  (I mean I have to do this or my brain will implode).  Many people that I meet  aren’t comfortable discussing the way life bruises us, or maybe they just don’t care to  discuss those  with me.  Quite possibly, we’re just not meant to share on that deep of a level.  In any case, most of the time I feel like I’m speaking Swahili while everyone else is speaking the King’s English and this new friend spoke fluent Swahili.

All of these things I’ve been learning about recently,  made this unexpected connection shortly after Christmas one of the better gifts I received this year.

Over four glorious hours (I know, Four!) and with not one mention of the word busy, the letters of our hearts began to loop long and broad, flourishes of

loving,

losing,

bending,

believing.

Warm waves of understanding made their way down our cheeks as we shared some of the deepest parts of our stories.  She underlined entire segments of my soul with compassion and we both breathed deeply of grace.

Time breathed deeply as we talked about how real life turned out so much different than we thought….  She let me hold some of her broken pieces for a few moments and then she held mine.

I think the most beautiful thing was that she didn’t try to fix my ragged edges, put them back together for the sake of what was expected in that sort of meeting.

Because of the pain that she’d walked through, that she literally walks through each day, she wasn’t afraid of the edges of my mothering or the ridges in my marriage. My disappointments weren’t too heavy for her and never once did I  sense that she thought I might be inadequate or need to get myself together. She offered me a safe place for a few hours on a Saturday morning and I hope I offered the same to her.

Smooth words curved in just the right place.  They swept strongly, giving courage because we shared a belief  in the value of the pages left out of our stories and  hope in the parts still unwritten.

And also, the shape of her heart?  It’s different, or maybe just situated differently.

Most hearts are puffy at the top.  They  just  don’t have room for the heaviness of life that can lie thick at the bottom of a soul.

I get it, I don’t want to make  room for it either.  I’d rather push all the disappointments and betrayals, the things that hurt the most in life, into that little point underneath the floorboards and pretend they don’t exist too.

But there’s something inside me, a search for truth maybe, or a desire to live beyond the constraining rush of life.  I just can’t  push all of the uncomfortable feelings down anymore.

For years, I lived with the fluffy part of my heart sitting on top.  To be honest, I didn’t know the pointy places of pain at the bottom existed, not in my own life, at least.   From the outside looking in, I had nothing to complain about, not really.

The brokenness in my life was present but I wasn’t able yet to pay attention. Maybe I was I was afraid of what I would learn about myself if I started to cup the pain.  Maybe I didn’t know that a seasoned heart is made to shift and needs to  be cradled like the first cup of morning coffee warming my hands and waking my soul  while  the hearts I love most still sleep.

Whatever the reason,  I couldn’t get away from my own self and and had no idea where my blazing intolerance of all breathing people came from.

The slightest variation from my plans at any point in the day resulted in exaggerated, prolonged annoyance and often rage.   Anxiety about what people thought of me and my preoccupation with their opinions began to turn me into someone I didn’t like. I ended up finding a group of people in another state that could help me and spent a couple of weeks there.

My time away was the beginning of a dark decade, I walked through  buried and painful needs (unmet needs that I believe we all experience, by the way).   I began to to figure some of that  stuff out, to learn that I used my list of accomplishments to validate who I am.

As a result of deciding to open the scariest doors in my soul, I found things that surprised me about myself.  I uncovered deep pockets of pride  and entitlement, began to  sort through their sources and begin,  for the first time,  to allow the Grace I believed in begin to change me.

We all walk this journey, it’s the purpose of life I think, but we have to choose to allow our hearts to be turned upside down as we go along.  We have to make a deliberate choice to sit with the the painful things that we discover about ourselves  and let them settle into the deepest places in our hearts and souls.

I fought it for a while (again, I think we all do)  but when I slowly began to allow my heart to tip?   I finally accepted it into the dark brokenness of my own life and let it begin to heal  the painful things I’d experienced from the bottom on up.  As I poured out some of the fluff on the top and began to be filled with understanding and compassion, with grace that runs heavy?

It  changed me.

Helped me begin to express the love that I felt inside but didn’t ever seem to be capable  of communicating.

For the first time, I was able to offer people around me the same Grace that I said I fiercly believ ed in.  Peace began to flow into my life and my parenting.  My family, and  I hope others around me, began to see in me the love buried underneath all of the pain.

By learning how to rest and receive, I began to be able to pour out and fill.

My new friend and I haven’t met or spoken since.  Our paths aren’t likely to cross consistently and I don’t even know if we’ll have the opportunity to meet again (though I hope we do).

She gave me a rare gift though, that day over a strong brew, the offering of an upside down heart and I won’t ever forget the healing that continued on that morning.

The Way to Really Know Your Own Self

Darkness and the light

In the dark of morning before floorboards crack and pipes fill, I’ve found I write more freely.  It surprises me that I find peace in a place that often leaves me feeling so very lonely.

In the dark there is silence, a swallowing still.

A current lulls and rocks and washes refreshing, steel-blue.

It’s consuming yet intimate enough to curve into the slivers of the soul that fade,

still whispering, with the rising

of the sun.

In the dark, we hear.

In the dark, we listen.

In the dark, we find rest.

In the dark,

the most shadowed corners of the soul are

free from hiding,

free from playing dress-up,

the dark is where our souls rest.

The light shines in

distractions,

refractions,

downright distortions of what is real, of what is true.

But in darkness lies hidden beauty,

glimmering in the pitch of night.

 

There’s  an absence of hiding that  happens at night. An acute knowing of the spaces within ourselves that are not yet what we hope for the fabric of our souls.  It used to frighten me to be that alone with myself.  It was a time and space where fears left unspoken in the daylight, fears of who I was and who I was not, would fill my lungs.

In the light of day, the demands that stream with the sun and the coming and going of a life allow for a measure of distance from fear. But when darkness tucks in around the edges, in our most truthful places we can hear what N.T. Wright calls the echos of a voice.

At night, we’re left unclothed by the demands of daylight and given countless opportunities to make ourselves at home with all we cannot see, cannot know.

I’m learning that making peace with what appears the most frightening by walking straight into it,  is the way to overcome it. Not because darkness disappears once the sun starts to rise in the morning, but because within the darkness, within the hurt and pain, at the very center of the absence of control there is a new dimension of light. A dimension that we hear with our hands and feel with our eyes.

I believe we can spend our whole lives maintaining a measure of distance from our fears but that we can’t escape them completely, because they curl up tightly and rest in the small of a back, the curve of a neck.  They nudge us with a continual insistence that we’ve forgotten or neglected something important.

Does the stillness in the middle of the night unsettle you? Have you found comfort there?  Have you learned things about yourself or things about God that you might share?

 

The stench of the nativity

The stink filled my room.

Before my feet hit the floor, I was already sick of myself, exhausted.

saved

My list probably looked like yours and the only thing I wanted was to escape it.  I could hide from the mounds of laundry and meters of wrapping, but found myself tucked in snug and smoldering with reminders of some relational junk.

Simply, my attitude stunk.

Breathe deeply, in through your nose, out through your mouth. I heard my mother’s voice talking me through childhood nausea.

If I could get through this day, if I  could just breathe through it, I hoped  the bitterness,resentment, and imperfection would keep from puking all over my Christmas.

Did you get the memo?  There shall be no mental or emotional meltdowns the Monday before Christmas. 

Somewhere around the sixth time I slammed my snooze button, I remembered why we we do this to ourselves every year.  It’s the nativity.

We all need it, but maybe not in the way that we think.  Maybe it’s not really about the sweet story of a baby born in a manger after all.

We clean up our families and polish the house and wrap beautiful ribbons around packages we hope will delight.  Romanticism takes over in the light of all things shiny and we picture sweet babies in fresh straw surrounded by pleasant faces on a silent night with one beautiful star shining bright.

But it’s a lie.

That shiny, fresh version of the nativity was never true in the first place.

We focus on the baby, how cute he must have been, how cozy we  feel because that sweet little thing came to save us.

If that’s our focus, we’ve missed the point completely, because the nativity is unseemly, aberrant, and downright grotesque by anyone’s standards.

There’s nothing romantic or beautiful or sweet about it because it’s about the remedy for the stench that filled our earth.

Jesus, the son of a King, took his very first breath in a dung-filled stable.  That deserves more of our attention than  three verses of Silent Night while we try to keep our candles from dripping.

If there was no room in the inn,  I’m assuming that the innkeeper didn’t have the cleaning detail spend much time in the barn.

It stunk in there.  Reeked of urine, sweat, and feces, of discarded food left in the trough for the animals.  Nobody ran for hot water or started a quick load so this prince of a baby would have fresh blankets with the scent of lavender. The stench that night, our stench, filled his nostrils as he became one of us.

One of Us.

With Us.

Someday, in Us.

Joining us in our Ugly.

To be God In us, with us, the hope of Glory.  (Colossians 1:27).

I could have laid there all morning  with my list and  mess.  The odor would have drifted into the  day and likely I would have  emotionally massacred  my children in the course of it.  The entire day would have ended ugly and unproductive.

But he reminded me.  The mess doesn’t preclude him.

That he made his first home and breathed his first breath in the middle of it, that nothing in our lives can repulse him.  That he came not in spite of but because of the junk.  Luke 10:10.

Nothing causes him to say, maybe later, how bout you do some disinfecting first.  

Nothing about us is unlovable to him.

And absolutely everything changes when we ask him to Be With Us.  It’s  his presence that cleans up the mess.

He was born into our mess to eventually save us from it.  We have to invite him into our mess before it starts to change, because it’s the gift of his presence that causes the odors in our lives to be filled with sweet fragrance. II Corinthians 2:15

Our lives are chaotic, but where he is there is peace.

Our hearts can’t see past our pain, but where he is there is hope.

Our love is almost always rooted in selfishness, but where he is there is love.

Our minds can’t make sense of the evil we see, but where he is there is understanding.

God is in the midst of everything that we are not, everything that we cannot, everything that, in our worst moments, we don’t want.

I want to hold my resentment, because it makes me right.  I want to cradle my wounds, because they’re unjust, I want to shout my defenses, because I’ve been wronged.  I want to set the whole world straight in my quest for having all of life as I desire it to be.  And in my most dire moments, I don’t even want him to come.

I don’t think I’m alone in my pile of filth this Christmas. I’m betting you’ve got some junk lingering somewhere as well.  If there’s a list formed in your mind or a shadow resting over your heart would you invite him into it?

Simply say come be with me in my mess. It’s what made that filthy stable worth it to him, the opportunity to be with us.

My youngest son woke up as I was finishing this post. He voice filled with excitement after I reminded him that he’d celebrate Christmas with a dear family friend later this afternoon.  We talked about her home and dinner and the gifts they’d open and that snugly boy summed up everything I’ve tried to say here with this  “mom, the best thing is, we get to be with her.”

He could see beyond the events of the day and you can too.

If we stop when we’re feeling overwhelmed and  issue the invitation for God to come be in the middle of our Christmas, instead keeping him in our sanitary nativity scenes, we’ll experience a Christmas like no other.

May your week be filled with joy in spite of all the mess, friends.  I hope  you’ll come back here and tell us the story of how the impossible became tolerable (maybe even pleasant) as a result of asking God to join you this week.

Faith is contagious and you never know how your story could encourage someone else.

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.

IMG_7910[1]

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

 

IMG_7497

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

Cracks on Yellow Asphalt

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.