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.

 

 

my why.

This month in Angelic Magazine I wrote a vulnerable piece about being a child of divorce. It was birthed out of a moment at my dad’s wedding, post-vows and post-reception. Just me, God, and my broken story.

I knew it would hurt some people to read it. I fought with myself over a desire to water down the hurt, and truly, I’m not sure which side won. I also fought with the words that kept wanting to whisper, “I’m sorry.” For being broken, for being hurt, for being unhappy that two people had chosen lives apart from one another.

And from those words, and conversations with others, I’ve wrestled with my why.

Why do I write here?

Why do I scrawl words in my journal? 

Does my story matter?

And the thing I’ve been learning is this: if I apologize for my words, I may as well apologize for my story. And then I may as well apologize for me.

For being me.

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The sometimes broken, always being redeemed, me.

The one who is hurt by her parents’ divorce.

The one who is hurt because he walked away.

The one who still takes pills because she refuses to let depression win. 

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I strive for perfection in my words but what matters more is sharing my voice. I do not want to apologize for my voice anymore. I do not want to wait until the broken pieces are glued back together so that no one else cuts themselves on the edges.

Because here is the thing: we cannot heal on our own. I can only cling to hope when I acknowledge my brokenness and my need to be rescued out of it. And hope is the thing that binds us all together, the rope that leads us to Jesus and His redemption.

Healing is messy. We’re going to get hurt. We are going to get offended. We’re going to get it wrong.

But I can’t heal unless I invite others into the mess. You can’t heal unless you invite others into your mess. And the way I make sense of the mess is to scrawl words across a page, when I realize my words are not meant to be hidden, to be watered down, to be tucked behind an apology. Because my story is your story and unless we start sharing our stories, we’ll remain in our corners:

broken and bleeding alone.

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So this is my promise to stop apologizing. I promise to keep writing words on pages. And I promise to keep inviting you to the table,

to break bread and break open

to carry our burdens and broken pieces

together.

Blending

I vividly remember sitting alongside the shore of the St. Lawrence, listening to the church bells signify the noon. I was wondering if anyone else remembered that day – July 25th – the day the two came together as one and promised a lifetime of love.

Did anyone else notice? Did anyone else, as tears slipped down, offer a prayer of thanks for the beginning to an ending?

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When she first left, I prayed for days, for months, even years. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and I’d lift weary heart and hands to the only Holder of my pain.

Months turned into years. Temporary turned into permanent. And you start to forget what it used to be like. You start to forget what it used to be to use the word parents in the same sentence.

There is a tree outside my window, and at the top, half of it blooms gloriously against the blue sky. The other half a stark contrast, is brown – grey, almost, as leaves no longer bloom.

It’s the visual reminder to me that a part of me has died and a part of me still lives. I don’t always experience the death – but there are moments, days, when the ache in my heart bleeds into my bones and my body remembers in a way my memory fails.

There will be a day soon, when people will gather to celebrate that ending and rejoice in a new beginning. And surely, there is much to rejoice over. Yet I cannot hold one without holding the other. As much as I will rejoice on that day, there will be a part of me that will grieve and weep, too.

And maybe that is okay.

Perhaps there is a way to experience both death and life together, like the tree, and hold them both close. Perhaps there is a way to hold the parts of me – the dead, grey limbs and the long, bushy branches – as parts of the whole,

as brokenness that blends and makes one what was deemed irredeemable.

 

 

 

Holding Broken Pieces

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I had been looking at it all wrong.

Holding these broken pieces in my hand, I’d let them define the story. I’d let them become who I was. I’d let them label me unworthy, failure, incompetent.

When all along they’d been broken pieces in need of a Redeemer.

I’d whisper a prayer of forgiveness and still, shame would be nearby and I’d feel the fingers pointed towards me. Never getting it right. Always returning.

Until the morning – with Christmas lights nearby, cold coffee in a mug beside me, the previous late night still effecting this blurred mind –

I read,

“Why are we afraid of broken things?”

I think of the broken pieces I seem to always hold in my hands. The ways in which I fail, and don’t measure up, and the impossible and often confusing stories that are right in front of me.

I hold the mug of coffee closer and I stare at her words again, and I realize in that moment –

I’d been looking at the broken pieces so long I’d failed to see what they really were.

Because broken pieces are really just an opportunity. An opportunity to see that in our weakness, He is made perfect.

When I’d come to Him in desperate need of His grace, I’d stopped short at describing what I held in my hands. I’d stopped short when describing my brokenness – and failed to ask Him to enter into the brokenness and redeem it. To show up. To make something new. To let me see how He is working all things for His glory.
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Broken pieces do not mean broken people. Maybe that’s the Truth I am in need of today.

Broken pieces are in need of Holy Hands to stitch them back into something beautiful. Broken pieces are meant for a Redeemer who was broken in order to make us whole.

And in amidst the cold coffee and the twinkling lights –

I offer Him my broken pieces and ask Him to make them something beautiful.

Chicken Soup for the Soul

I stir the pot in front of me, watching the yellowed carrots and parsnip twirl around in the wake of the ladle. I offer up prayers to Jesus, laying down heavy burdens as I stir. Knowing that there is a paper waiting to be started in the other room but my soul needs this chicken soup instead.

I pick each piece of meat off the cooled bones and drop it into the broth. Growing up, I remember her doing it so well. We would wait anxiously for the pot of soup on the stove, her famous chicken noodle soup. Each time it was a bit different, with a little more carrots or a few more noodles, whatever was found in the pantry. But each time it tasted like only her soup could. I wrote down the recipe the first time I moved away, on a faded pink index card tucked into my recipe box. But recipes made with a pinch o’ this and a pinch ‘o that never could be written down.

When that Crack in our family appeared so long ago, a lot of things washed away in the aftermath. A lot of dreams sifted away. And so did the memories – even the good ones – because somehow they were marked with a Loss now, too.

Years later – sometimes they slip back in. Sometimes it’s the feel of a chocolate milk container that brings me back to when I was five. Sometimes it’s the feel of chicken beneath my bare fingers, bringing me back to cool winter nights and a mother’s famous soup.

I make that soup my own way now. I add parsnips and rice and my own concoction of spices I find in my cabinets. The pink index card with my scrawl and her words rests inside my recipe box, and I make the soup with a little bit of soul and a little bit of hope. Sometimes murmured prayers, too.

And the thing I’ve learned about memories is sometimes they have a way of finding their way back to us. Sometimes it’s years later, when you think you’ve tucked them back into the recesses of your mind where it doesn’t hurt so much. Maybe those memories are just waiting, waiting for the time when you’ll hold them precious again. Waiting ’til your heart’s a little more healed so you hold them close, let the tears go, and remember –

the warmth of the wood stove, smell of soup in the nearby kitchen. Cracked and scarred wooden floors beneath running feet. Blankets nestled over the floor’s vents, heat trapped to warm up cold bodies. Fallen Christmas trees anchored to the wall. 

Somehow they all hurt a little less with a pot of chicken soup on the stove,

made with just the right amount of soul and a little bit of hope.

 

 

The One Who Weeps

 

The sunglasses weren’t big enough like I had hoped they would be.

They didn’t hide the tears; they simply masked them. They weren’t helpful in getting rid of the red, puffy eyes, or silencing the curse words I muttered under my breath. They weren’t the shield I desperately needed that day.

And as I slid into the classroom, earlier than usual, my student asked me why I had arrived so much sooner than she. “I was wandering,” I answered, although in my jumble of words I’m not sure if those were the ones that came out. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

And it’s true. And in so many ways, I still don’t.

That night, I sunk into the bath water, hoping to wash away the tears and the day. It too, was not enough. I held onto my book, seeking to get lost in words and yet in a painful irony the words only seemed to mirror my day.

I had been walking around in a haze that day. For days before, and days after, the haze followed. It was a familiar, painful, aching sorrow. The kind that you know nothing in this world will fix. Not the words, “it’s for the best,” not the hug from a friend, not the chocolate you dig out from the back of a freezer.

And I’m sad, but I’m also angry, angry at the words I’ve let slip, angry at the resentment I’ve clung to, but also angry at my tears. Angry that I’m sad. Because I think, somehow, in this twisted world, we’ve equated sadness to the absence of joy. As if being sad isn’t healing. As if sadness is holding onto the past. As if we shouldn’t buy the box of Kleenex because the tears shouldn’t be there in the first place.

And so as I’ve wandered through the events scribbled into my day planner, I’ve compared and I’ve been sorry for the tears and the sadness. I’ve stared down at my boots, step, by step, and whispered into my heart that I’m sorry I’m sad, and I’m sorry I’m broken, and I’m sorry I’m grieving.

But this is the thing that Jesus keeps reminding me in this hazy season: He wept.

He is the God who wept.

And I can’t help but think, that as I withdraw in moments and find solace in my sadness, that He too did the same.

That as I try to hide my tears, shame dripping amongst them as I slip on my sunglasses for the umpteenth time, or slide into the solitude of my car, that He tells me He catches them all in a bottle. They don’t fall haphazardly on the ground, or dissolve into the redness of my cheeks. He catches them all. He tells me there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh – a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

We talk a lot about the laughing. There is an entire section in Chapters of the positive mindset, breathing words and false hopes that if you set your mind to the realm of positivity your life will be more fulfilled. We talk a lot about dancing, too. We pull ourselves out into a world that gives us distraction upon distraction upon distraction: alcohol and food and video games and lives filled with hundreds of phone contacts and Facebook friends. But we don’t do a lot of talking about the mourning. We do a lot of the tough love, the “keep your chin up, grow thicker skin and push through.”

But I just keep coming back to those words of my Jesus, that He was the one who wept. And He is the one who catches my tears.

So instead of my shame defining who I am –

today it is Jesus,

he one who wept. The one who laughs and cries,

the one who tells me that I am blessed as I mourn because He is the God who comforts, who holds, who catches, who redeems.

the little things.

imageI think sadness reminds us to notice the little things. Grief can be paralyzing. You notice the heaviness in your face as you force yourself to lift your lips into a smile. You notice the way the bricks are speckled and grooved because you can’t focus on anything but the wall in front of you. You notice the bright colour of green vines that sprawl up the building and you thank God that beauty still, always, exists.

And mostly you remember the sound of your breathing, shaky, but constant in a new world that’s not.

And that’s enough. That’s the redemption you can cling to, that in a new world that’s feeling a little more broken than it was yesterday, there is always, always, the little things.

Unexpected Welcomes

The memories are vivid. I hadn’t really expected them to welcome us onto the campsite. I hadn’t even expected the swarms of mosquitoes, really – but least of all, had I expected the memories. Blue tarps covering the leaking tent to protect us from rain. First tastes of gelato. Grumpy, drenched family members. Raccoons visiting in the night.

It was our last family camping trip.

And as I stuff newspapers into my teepee of kindling, I wrestle with the familiar feelings of sadness that I thought had long since disappeared into previous chapters of my story. I am not ready for the grief and the tears to revisit.

Meg sits across from me, the fading fire flickering in the darkness, as I offered her my questions and my sadness. How do you be okay with sadness? I wonder. How do you know when you’ve finally moved forward? Or can you move forward and heal and still be sad?

“I just don’t know,” she says. “I just don’t know if it will ever really go away.”

And before us the fire is dying, and I try and I try to get it going again. The embers are bright but the flames are few.

“You can let it go,” she says to me.

Oh but I can’t. I am determined. The one thing I cannot seem to ever control is grief, or push away my sadness even as years pass me by. But the one thing I should be able to succeed at is starting a damn fire.

But I don’t.

So we brush our teeth, and we slip into bed, and it isn’t until we’ve finally quieted and settled onto air-filled mattresses that we see it.

Flickers of the fire, reflecting onto the tent. It’s finally alive.

And maybe, that’s just it. Maybe I need to stop fighting sadness and putting it into pretty boxes and scripting it out on timelines. Maybe, maybe, I just need to be and let life and God lead me as I fall into moments of sadness. Maybe it doesn’t get better but it sure does get easier. And maybe this heart of mine needs to stop questioning feelings and just let them be.

And maybe it’s when I stop fighting, and trying to fix things, and just make everything better – just like that fire – that’s when healing and new life and beauty come alive.

Hold, hold, hold.

When I got the phone call from Dad saying that Mom was moving out, I was at work in the library. I saw my phone light up with his name across it, and normally I wouldn’t answer my phone at work. But for whatever reason, that night I knew, with a dreading feeling in my stomach, I had to pick it up. So I did.

And mostly I remember the stumbling words, the tears on the other hand, my gasps for breath. And as Dad hung up on me, unable to finish, I too hung up and headed for the door, the tears already forming in my eyes. My hand grazed the front desk and I mentioned to my friend behind the counter that I would be back shortly. It was all I could do to find the door, find my way to the centre courtyard, and push my way into the cold, fall air.

I collapsed on the ground. I wailed and wept and stared at the stars in the sky. There is horror in grief, you know? That encompassing fear of what is to come, what will never be. It all crashes down in one, horrific move.

I don’t know how long I was there, but I knew I had to move and go back to my desk and leave work early. As I walked through the door into the foyer of the school, I saw my friend coming from the library after me. I collapsed into his arms and I cried, and I shook, and I whispered what had just become my life, and he held and held and held.

Before that night, had someone ever come to me, and told me that their parents were splitting up, I probably wouldn’t have known what to do. I probably would have uttered something senseless, like that it’s for the best, or God would use it.

And just for future reference –

Those are probably the worst things to say. Please don’t ever say that loss is “for the best.” Or that “God has a plan.” Quite frankly, it just makes me want to slap the words out of your mouth.

But I can tell you what we do need, us kids who walk brokenness in our family tree.

We do need to be held. Held, held, held. And told that it’s not okay. It’s not fair. It sucks. It isn’t right. You’ve been wronged and I wish there was a way to defend you and give you justice, but I can’t and there may not be that chance this side of heaven.

You can whisper that you are sorry that we don’t have a safe place. You can whisper to us to still hope for marriage and not hurt inside at another’s family dinner. You can tell us that love wasn’t best exemplified by two imperfect people; but Love is found in a Person, who has our name written on the palm of His hand.

You can fight for us. You can hold our hand when new dates are brought home; you can cry silently with us when new family trees are born that we don’t feel a part of. And maybe never will be. You can feel the weight of an empty chair at a wedding or funeral or family dinner, because the words will never be spoken but you will whisper in the silence that all is not right nor will it ever be.

Just be our fighter, our holder, our constant. Enough people in our lives tell us not to feel the way we are feeling, whether it’s a month after the boxes or packed or if it’s five years. But not enough people tell you that it’s okay. It’s okay to be hurt and be figuring out a way to hold this brokenness in your hand and just be okay. It’s okay that fall brings with it memories of loss that are so heavy in the cool air you can almost feel them unfolding again before you.

It’s okay. And if no one else will be that for you: I will be. It’s okay. It’s horrific. It isn’t fair. Let me cry with you. Let me weep over what is not nor ever will be.

And I will be there, and I will take you in my arms and I promise to hold, hold, hold.

Silent Prayers & Creators of Beauty

\It was dark in the studio. I had always hated how it got so dark with the shades drawn. The slingback chairs were the kind you sunk back into, and as we sat across from each other there wasn’t much light but the lamps illuminating the black chalkboard wall behind me.

I am in many ways a seeker of wisdom, and when life began to shatter around me that fall, I sought out those who I knew could speak wisdom in my life. This woman, my professor, an artist, was one of those people. She wore dark glasses perched on her nose, and her dark gray hair was what I hoped someday my own would look like. She was kind, gentle, and taught me so much about my art and how to create. As I poured out my heart to her, and laid bare the broken rubble that had become my family, she spoke quietly into the empty studio.

“Keep creating,” she said. “Keep painting. Keep losing yourself in your art.” I had nodded in response, the familiar tears welling in my eyes because I knew that sometimes brushstrokes were simple prayers when words simply weren’t enough.

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