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.

Dear D (or whoever you are)

Dear D,

Today I sat on a bus whose seats were decorated with blue and yellow swirls. It’s almost as if they opened up Paint, picked a few colours and made a pattern to copy and paste. Not that there’s anything wrong with Paint, really. I’m sure many an artist got their start sitting in front of the old MS Doc computers, clicking away at a grey mouse, discovering what colours could pop up on the screen.

Anyways on that seat I sat, hopeful I’d get to stretch out across the empty seat beside me. No such luck. At the first stop, a man with a beard and an iPhone leaned down and asked, “Is this seat taken?”

We sat in silence for awhile and in between Anne Lamott’s words, I admired his beard and listened to his breaths. Deep, long breathing.

I realize as I write this it’s not as poetic as I imagined, to explain how on a bus to Toronto I listened to a stranger breathe. But there was something about his breaths, the lungs filling with air, that awakened the longing to have someone next to me, breathing. To listen to their heartbeat inside their chest.

Viola reminds me, when I miss his arms and I miss his heartbeat, that “every man has a chest. Every man has arms.”

But how do I know if I just miss the heartbeat or if I miss the person?

It might seem a silly question. But sometimes it’s easy to miss the good and not the whole. And really, do you really miss a person if you don’t miss all of them? Can you? Can you really love a person unless you love the parts of them that make you come alive, and the parts that make you want to run away? 

Learn to love a person not just for their heartbeat but because of who they are. People aren’t things you tuck under your arm when you need them and place back on the shelf when you don’t. If there’s one thing I can tell you, as you stretch into your skin and fall in love and get your heartbroken; love a person for all of them, even if it hurts. Love is supposed to hurt. Because growing hurts, giving hurts, living hurts. But it leaves us more mouldable, shapeable into who God wants us to be.

It’s easy to love the heartbeat. It’s a lot harder – costly – to love the soul.

And it does cost us. You’ll probably spend a lifetime reminding yourself, it’s easy to step away. It’s easy to shut down. But it’s far better if you lean in, get your hands dirty, and fall down.

After all, the brave ones are the ones who get in the arena, fall, and get back up again.

A

those three words

 

I always thought that those three words, I love you, were the hinge upon which love rested.

Without them, it was absent – and so I’ve spent a lifetime sprinkling those words in conversations, written at the end of letters, and slipped into hugs goodbye.

And there’s nothing wrong with those words. They are beautiful, and truthful, and carry a heart of meaning. But I wonder if maybe we spend so much time waiting for someone to tell us they love us –

when they’ve already shown us. And we’re so busy listening that we forget to see, too.

Love was never meant to be relegated to three words. It was always meant to be a life lived sacrificed. 

Love is devoid of meaning if there is no action. Words only tell us so much – but a life lived sacrificed teaches us that love is found in spite of and because of

those three words.

It shows up when one drives an hour to bring you the spare keys.

It’s found in the embrace of holding close enough so that your tears mix with theirs.

And it’s found when laughter intermingles with your own, because joy is best felt when its shared.

I wonder if love is best received with hands held open – rather than waiting for those three words. Because maybe then we’ll realize that life is one big love story,

and there will always be enough love,

with or without those three words.

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

Clouded

I was a fool – clouded by words,

beliefs,

hope.

Is a fool someone who hears,

sees,

believes –

for something that is not there?

 

If it is – I am the definition,

clouded by words,

beliefs,

hope.

 

Or perhaps we were both the fools –

clouded by hearts

not yet ready

for love.

Defined

It’s a Monday morning, a holiday, and I am hit with the realization that everyone in my family is currently with their significant others. Here I am, though, with my textbooks and Bible and worship music and the rain falling outside the open door.

You know the moment? The one where you could sink into comparison, into staring at the green grass on the other side of the fence?

And for the first time in so long, I realize something I’ve always known but have a hard time acknowledging:

I am so far from being alone. The chairs may be empty across the table from me, my companions books instead –

but I am wholly complete. I am wholly me. I do not need another to define me –

for I am already defined.

I’ll tell you the days singleness is hard, and I’ll tell you the days it’s wonderful. But no matter the day, if it’s a hard or good one – that truth doesn’t change. I am wholly complete. I am already defined. A daughter of the King.

Do you take the time to notice how He meets you? In the sound of falling rain, in the absence of another? Do you notice how the Psalms meet your longings and you joys, and that life can hold them both? I want you to know you are allowed to long for a relationship – but do not let that longing define you.

Because you are already defined.

You are defined by the One who made you. You are defined by the way you laugh, and the things that make you crumple to the ground in sadness. You are defined by the way your smile reaches your eyes, and the way your hands hold another. You are defined by the way babies wrapped in your arms make your heart sing. You are defined by your kindness, your strength, your gentleness.

Those things make you, you. Not an empty chair. Not the quietness of a room. Not the questions from a family member, asking if you’ve brought someone home – and your answer should never be a no,

it should be a yes.

You’ve brought you. 

And that, sweet friend, will always be enough.

Helplessness

It’s the words that come on a grey day, the fall temperatures finally making their way through the open window. It’s a week when memories have returned along with the cool temperatures, when you feel as if you’re the same person you were months ago because you can’t figure things out. You can’t even put feelings into words and you come to the Lord with this apology:

I’m sorry for being a broken record. Really, I’m sorry for being broken. Because I’ve failed at figuring things out, and I’ve failed at fixing it all.

But the best part about honest prayers is this:

God reaches down, and He reminds you of the truth your soul needs:

healing always begins with helplessness.

Because the truth is: we cannot heal ourselves. We cannot fix ourselves. It might break you to know this, but this is what I know to be true: it is not until we hold our empty hands up and let the marred hands hold them that true Healing begins.

We cannot invite healing in until we realize we aren’t the ones that usher it into our brokenness.

He is.

And the brokenness we cloak in shame, the tears we get frustrated by – they are all heart longings for the only One who makes us whole.

God.

On Being Enough

It was just a Saturday night. Nothing too special, a day nestled at the end of a long week filled with classes and work and coffee dates. An ordinary week. But it was late, and I was still up, holding a phone I should have plugged in hours earlier to let sleep have its way.

But I didn’t.

So I mindlessly scrolled, through the updates and the photographs until I saw one I shouldn’t have even noticed. But I did. And it was the kind of photograph that reaches down into all of your insecurities, all of the vulnerabilities, all of the places you shove those three words –

I’m. Not. Enough.

And you hear those words, the ones you haven’t listened to in so long, and they are loud. It shakes you to the core. And you cry, shuddering almost – because you believe them.

You believe them. Why wouldn’t you?

And you don’t sleep that night, the tears drying on the pillow cases, and you wake up and you whisper the words out loud to the One who hears you before you even whisper them –

“Why am I not enough, God?” 

And He answers in His way, like He always does. “If you keep thinking this is all about you,” He responds, “you will never be enough.”

And I stop, letting the words echo around me and sink deep into my bruised heart.

Because it’s not about me. It’s not about the ways I fail – because His grace is sufficient.

It’s not about the ways I don’t measure up – because He says I’m redeemed.

It’s not about the unanswered questions – because I AM is the answer.

When I start realizing this life isn’t about me –

that will be when I realize

that I am truly, wholly

enough.

exchanging the good for the best

Most days I write poetically, but sometimes the truth is not easy to paint beautiful: life, in all it’s glory and wonder, sometimes brings days that make you ache. You groan when you realize the stress you carry makes your muscles taught beneath your skin. You measure calories because your waist gets in the way when you bend and it’s hard to remember a supple waist does not make you unworthy of love. There are days that seem monotonous, long, heavy … and you come home to an empty apartment and you can’t decide if it fills you with joy or loneliness. Maybe, it’s both.

I’ve been learning these days though that the salve to these heart wounds are not the things of this world. You might already know this – I hope you do. But I write this to you in case there is something in front of you that is good –

but not best.

There’s a story in that Bible of yours, the story I love to read, of a woman and man who longed for a child. I can tell you this: there’s going to be a lot of times when you long for a child. But your child might be a job, or his heart, or that dream. And you’ll weep over it. It will be what you pray for – or maybe, what you are too scared to pray for.

There are going to be days when you long for it so deeply you’ll do what the world tells you to in order to get it.

And I can’t tell you that it’s wrong. It actually, might be ‘good.’

But it won’t be best.

And you see – those two I told you about? They did what their culture told them was good in order to get what their heart longed for.

But it was not best.

And I’m going to tell you right now: good will seem okay. Good will seem … doable. But I think you’ll know, even if it’s deep down in your bones that it just ain’t best. Jesus, He gives us eyes to see it.

You’ll cling though – you are human and I am human and we like the things we see. I wish I could tell you it’s easy, to give up the good for the best. It’s not. It’s horribly painful.

But this is what I can promise you: you come out refined. You come out broken – but somehow, beautifully whole.

I don’t know all of God’s goodness, but I have tasted and seen and know that He is good. And sometimes God gives us a taste in the good to know what His best will be like – even far grander than we can imagine.

So cling to Him – wait for the best – and offer Him the good.

Like that man, in that Bible, you’ll come down from the offering and know that He is indeed, the God who provides.