Hannah

I’ve been hanging out with Hannah a lot these days. She and I first met in the pages of 1 Samuel two years ago. I can still remember it – I was out late at night, in a hard backed chair, staring out at the lights of San Salvador. The team was inside playing games, but my heart needed rest. I was emerging from a season of heartache. And my prayer was just like Hannah’s: God, see me. Remember me.

And just like that, God whispered to my weary heart: Think of all the ways I’ve remembered you. And I listed them, one by one, and my broken heart was watered and out sprung life again.

And here we are: two years later, and Hannah and I are still meeting. I love her persistence. I love how we’re told she went to the temple “year after year.” Her broken heart brought her to her knees. Because here’s the thing: the only way to keep your heart soft is by bringing to the Lord the things that make it hard. And for Hannah: that journey was the same, year after year.

When Hannah and I meet, I stumble over the fact that God closed her womb. The very thing she cried to God over was an act of His hand. Did she know? Did she know that God had touched her in a way that had broke her?

I think she must have. Because she also knew that the only One who had the power to close her womb was the only One who could open it.

I am wrestling with a closed womb. Not the same as Hannah – but that deep desire in your heart that keeps you up at night. The dream you’ve held so long – and deep down you know that it’s delay is from the hand of God Himself.

And I am wrestling with the God who both gives … and takes away.

I want to tell Hannah that I get it. I want my feet to be as brave and persistent as hers were, but if I’m honest: I’m weary. I don’t want to travel to the temple anymore. I don’t want to keep bringing it to Jesus. I’m weary and I’m done. My eyes are done letting tears slip by.

I pray for Him to take it away, to dig deep and create new dreams. I wonder if Hannah did. I wonder if she looked at her husband, the life built around her and kept begging God that what was in her hands would simply be enough.

But her dream kept persisting. Her heart kept pushing her down the steps, across the country, and onto her knees in the place she’d find God.

In the wrestling.

I still whisper to God that I’m done. I’m done wrestling. I’m done being on my knees.

But I want God more than what my broken heart tells me. So somehow, I keep walking those steps, slipping into the Temple, and bending close to Hannah –

I murmur the same prayer.

“See me,” I say.

“Remember me.”

Dora

Her name is Dora.

She has short black hair, bold eyes and a smile that reaches every corner of her face. We can’t speak a word of each other’s language – and yet we quickly learn the language of a soccer ball, tickles, and laughter.

I’m amazed at how you can spend hours with someone and not understand a word.

I had said to them the night before, “Don’t miss out on what’s in front of you. Don’t miss out on the faces that are looking at you, bearing the image of God like no other, because your eyes are so focussed on doing you miss the people.”

And those words were as much for my heart as any other. I don’t want to miss out on Christ among us. Mary saw Him, sitting at His feet but Martha missed it. So busy doing – that she missed out on being.

I don’t want to miss You, I pray, as the heat bears down and the breeze breaks through the bushes.

And I have this distinct feeling, as we laugh and play – I’m seeing Him. Seeing Him in the way she glows, in the way her Spanish swirls around us.

Joy – pure joy – pulses through my veins.

And it isn’t until later – when the day has been washed away by a cool shower, and the evening rains have dropped the temperature – that I find out her name’s meaning.

Dora,

I read,

Gift from God.

As Unto the Lord

There’s a prayer I’ve been uttering these days:

Do as unto the Lord.

I don’t know where I heard the old King James words, but they’ve been ringing in my ears since I found the passage in Colossians.

The thing is, you can know a truth in your head but you don’t start believing it until you preach it to your heart.

And I’ve been doing it everyday: reminding myself of the truth.

Because I let fear of man reign in my heart. It’s true: I seek value and approval in others even though I know in my head there is only One who really matters.

I know it – I just don’t usually believe it.

And it’s crippling me, that fear, that need, that desire.

It’s crippling. But there’s a way that brings life, I’m learning.

The thing is when you do it all for an audience of One, you realize God uses you in ways you couldn’t have imagined. God’s glory doesn’t just rest on Him: He pours it out so that we are changed, too. So when you bring Him glory that glory keeps flowing, keeps changing, and your small meagre offering of a few fish and loaves have fed a thousand.

Do it all as unto Him. Do it all as if He was the one in front of you. Love deeply. Seek His reward. Seek His affirmation.

I am saying it as often as I breathe and the miraculous thing is –

My heart is finally starting to believe it.

Do it scared.

It was almost two years ago when I sat across from her, a stranger. It was dark in the auditorium. People were spilling out as we leaned in, her heart and her eyes wide open.

There’s something profound about telling a stranger your story. Something freeing, giving them pieces of you, knowing that their insight and wisdom will come from God above, not a lifetime of knowing you.

I told her what I was scared of, the year ahead, the move – the changes, oh the changes. And she told me words I’ve never forgotten:

Do it scared.

I couldn’t tell you her name, but I can tell you this: her words changed my life.

Because I went home after that weekend and I would soon receive an acceptance letter, and although my future wasn’t clear I would pack my bags and heart and boxes. And I would move,

and I would do it scared.

Because bravery isn’t the absence of fear.

It’s doing it anyways.

And who knew that two years later I’d find myself in that place again, asking different questions but seeking the same answer –

How do you do it scared?

And I’m reminded: you do it by taking a deep breath, trusting God’s in the darkness, and knowing your people are jumping with you.

And then,

you jump.

 

 

Forgiveness

She asks me to write the letters, as she holds her notes close and her coffee nearby. “Write down all you’d say if you could,” she’d said. “We can read them here, and you can process.”

Therapists, I think – they’ve got all these tools and yet none of them can save you from the breaking.

I wonder a lot about forgiveness these days and if those words really heal.

I’m sorry.

‘I’m sorry for the ways that I broke you. I’m sorry that I left. I’m sorry I couldn’t be what you need me to be. I’m sorry that I did the best I could – and still, it wasn’t enough.’

I wonder if she were to say it to me, or if he did – if it would change my brokenness? Would those words – only imagined – really heal the heart wounds that years have brought?

I don’t write the letters yet – because I can’t. I can’t go back, and I can’t enter into the wounds, though I know at some point I’ll have to.

And here is one thing, only one thing I know about forgiveness: forgiveness is about creating your ending. Forgiveness is about building the closure you need to let healing begin. Forgiveness is about living in a world of “I’m sorry,” even if you never hear those words spoken.

There is nothing easy about forgiveness. There is nothing easy about being broken. But forgiveness is the only way forward, the only way to begin to hope

that our brokenness doesn’t define us. 

Healing does.

 

 

twenty eight.

 

Twenty eight.

Somehow it seems momentous, the ending of a new year and the beginning of another. Why is that? What do you take from a year and bring into a new one?

You bring grace. So much grace. Because on that highway along the river, she spoke truth into your heart that you’d carry with you everywhere: we’re all just doing the best we can do with what we’ve got. And those words would shake you to your core, anger you in some ways, because you’d realize everyone else needs grace just as much as you do, and you could speak kindness to the one that broke you just as you could speak kindness to yourself. You’re doing the best. You can do. With what you’ve got.

You bring courage. Courage to pray the bold prayers, courage to stand in front of His throne, courage to sit across from a therapist and break open again and again. You do it, not because you always feel brave but because courage is doing it scared. Doing it anyways.

You bring tears. Not because you’re broken but because tears are the glue that piece you back together. Tears are found in pools at Jesus’ feet, and He’s there, He’s there, I promise you.

And you bring trust. Trust is realizing that there’s a Light that follows you, illuminating just a small circle around your feet. You’ll wish you could see past into the darkness, but that Light – it follows you. Because God, He always gives you enough, just enough for the day. For the moment. And you keep moving, and He keeps walking with you, and you realize – the darkness is not dark to Him – and He knows. He knows what’s out there, even if you don’t, and that is enough. Trust is believing that He’s out there, even if you can’t see Him.

This is what you take into a new year. You leave behind the old year,  but bring into it all that shapes you

into the person you are meant to be.

SaveSave

SaveSave

Myself

It’s a funny thing, going back to the place where we were once beginning.

I remember the night – the newness of putting my arm on your back, standing close to you in the elevator. Leaning against you on the couch. I listened to you as you held the Bible open in your lap, speaking truth and wisdom into the passage. I fell for you a little bit more, in that moment.

I don’t ever long for you, anymore.

But I do sometimes ache over the ending. I do sometimes ache that what once seemed beautiful turned into brokenness.

I laid on the couch tonight, the brown one – not the white one we spent so many nights entwined on – and I thought about time. And I marveled at the fact that what was once so true could seem as if it were a lifetime ago. You, you – you are a lifetime ago.

I’ve spent more days without you now than I did with you, and there’s something profound in it. I think there’s beauty in a softer heart, one that knows heartache. There has to be – because there are meanings in endings too, aren’t there? I once thought that our ending defeated our being, but I’ve learned – it doesn’t. It’s just the ending to a chapter of two people who fell for one another in broken forms and couldn’t find a way to make beauty out of it.

I’ll always love that we tried, though.

And I need to carry that with me, to keep on trying. I want to be one who always tries, who always jumps. I’m glad I cared for you, once. When you walked away, my feelings bounced back. It’s made me stronger –

and it’s made me fall in love with who I am.

And though you’ll never hear me,

I’ll always be whispering to you thanks.

Thanks under full moons, thanks along the waterfront, thanks in the places we once began.

Thank you for letting my heart return to me … for in doing so, I found what I’d been longing for.

Myself.

Both.

I’ll see them today, both of them – with their little bulging bellies, expectant of all life is to bring them in just a few months. My heart aches, but it’s not because I long for it too –

My heart and my hands are full.

What I fear is being left behind,

set aside,

forgotten.

I’d thought the aching was because I wanted the swollen belly, the married name – but I think the ache is less about that and more the sorrow of ink drying and chapters ending.

Most days I love my life – and there was a time I never thought I’d say it and believe it. Depression, grief, loss – they cloud your belief that life is worth loving. But it is. I do.

What I don’t love – is that fear, that ache that you’ll be left behind.

But maybe – maybe I am the one who pushes myself in the box of being left behind.

I am the one that shuts the door, looks through the glass at them and I hold the key.

I hold the key to leave the box – to rejoice over swollen bellies and to sorrow over chapters ending. Two hands I remind myself – two hands: one to hold the sorrow, and one to hold the joy.

Both.

Listening to the silence, too

There are some people enter a room, see that it’s empty, and leave.

Others come in, notice the contents as they walk through once, and find their way back to the exit.

Yet, there are the few of us who walk in and hear the silence. We feel the furniture, imagine those who’ve been there, watch how the light falls through the windows and causes the dust to dance. We feel the temperature prick our hairs awake. We notice our bodies, how the room makes them feel. And although everyone has left, something pulls us in to stay awhile. And so we do.

I frustrate myself easily because I stay in rooms people have long since left. I stay in chapters while everyone else has turned the page, not necessarily because I want to but because something pulls me back. I need to feel all that there is to feel, see all that there is to see, understand all that there is to understand.

It’s not that I’m stuck. It’s not that I’m choosing to stay behind.

I just inhabit a body and have a soul that sees and feels things differently. I feel deeply and seek to understand each experience fully and as completely as I can before moving out of the room. I’ve spent a lifetime apologizing, and a lifetime whispering to myself:

it’s okay.

It’s okay to feel things others don’t. It’s okay to see things that others don’t. It’s okay to see others leave the room when you’re still discovering each nook and cranny, staring out the window to take in all that you can see. It’s okay to lay in the middle of the room to listen for all you can hear, for all you can’t,

and for all you wish you could.

You’ll see things others won’t. You’ll feel things others won’t. And many days, that will make you feel a loneliness even in a full room. It’ll be a loneliness that only some will understand: that pull to stay, that pull to see, that pull to feel.

And you’ll want to attach shame to it, and anger too. You’ll want to run away from it, you’ll want to ignore it.

And you might be able to, for a little while. But no mater how much you numb it, how much you ignore it, and how much you try to forget it –

it will remain.

That pull? It’s in your DNA. It’s in your soul.

And you might have to whisper to yourself every day that it’s okay. Maybe more than that: maybe every hour.

But when you do, and you listen to that pull, and you lay down on the floor and stay in that room,

you might realize you’re actually not alone after all. There is One laying there beside you,

listening to the silence, too.

SaveSave

fieldnotes from the single life

He asks me what I’ve learned in singleness. It takes me a moment, but I can tell you the most important thing that I know:

God is good. God is good at being God, and His goodness is never tied to a person. It’s who He is.

He will be good no matter what. No matter who He plants in your life, even if it’s just a season, and no matter who He takes away.

He might take you onto the mountain top, like He did with Abraham, and He might ask you to lay that person or that relationship down, not knowing what will come next. But this is the thing: you might not know what comes next, but you can know with absolute certainty Who will be there:

God.

What else have I learned? Somehow it’s okay to both desire something and be content. They aren’t mutually exclusive. God gave us two hands for a reason: to remind us we can hold more than one thing at once and still remain balanced. So it is with singleness: you can both love it and desire a relationship, too.

And one last thing: you are whole. You are whole, fully you, complete, not because of your relationship status but because of who you are. You are not lacking because you go to bed alone or because there is no ring on your finger. You are complete. Live life that way. Anne Lamott writes that if you are not enough without the gold medal, you’ll never be enough when you have it. And a relationship is the same: if you are not sure of your completeness outside of one, a relationship will always leave you empty in ways you hoped it would fill you.

You are enough. I am enough.

God is enough.

And this season God’s got you in?

Hold your head up high and keep searching for meaning in it. It’s there. I promise.