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.

The Opposite of Rejection

The pain of not being chosen is the kind of pain that runs deep. It’s the pain that keeps you up at night, the kind that brings new haircuts, tattoos, tears. Sometimes it happens on a soccer field in fourth grade. Sometimes it happens with that pink slip that you’ve lost your job. Other times it’s their words, casually cruel in the name of being honest, yet you carry them around as if they are a new name:

you’re a mistake.

you’re not enough, or you’re too much.

you’re not worthy.

And you wear that pain around your neck for a long time. Because you believe it to be true, after all, spoken out loud those words cling to you like a static-y sweater. You believe their words are the spoken truth of who you are,

until one day

it’s raining. And there’s a man up front, preaching grace and redemption yet all you can hear are the words you’ve heard spoken. The ones that pierced your soul. You’ve heard them so long you missed the Whisper of truth –

that you are Chosen.

Man calls you a mistake and Christ says, “She’s mine.”

He says you are unworthy and Christ calls out, “I know her by name. I know when she sits and when she rises. I know the numbers of hairs that fall down her back because she was knit together with these fingers.”

And you are hit with a wall of truth: it is often in the rejection of man we discover the acceptance of Christ.

You are beloved, my darling. You are needed and chosen. Do not let the rejection of another determine your worth –

but let it be an opportunity for the grace to seep into the shattered places,

the broken cracks Jesus longs to fill.

 

 

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Ghosts

I’d written the letter in the safe confines of my journal. With the initial written across the page, I wrote the words as they mixed with tears. I’m a letter writer, but some letters are best left unsent.

It had been a movie of all things, on a winter February afternoon, that had made the tears stream and my hands reach for my journal. It was only a few lines spoken to a grieving woman by her friend. “All of us live with ghosts,” she’d said, as she sat on the bed where her friend lay. “We must learn to live with them.

Get up. Eat. Get out there.” And with a pregnant pause I’m sure I’ve added in my memory for effect, she added, “Spring is waiting.”

Spring is waiting.

Sometimes people become ghosts. Dreams become ghosts. Hopes become ghosts.

And there’s a lot of time we find ourselves lying in that bed, holding onto them as if they are real. And we think that if we hang onto those ghosts, and who we were, somehow the world doesn’t change. It won’t go on without us.

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But it does. And we miss it, if we stay with those ghosts. We miss it, if we hold onto the former things.

It wouldn’t be until months later, on a street somewhere in the city, the Holy Spirit would visit and say words that would shake me to the core. “You can’t leave something behind unless you believe what is ahead is far greater.” I get caught up in loss sometimes, you see. Maybe we all do. But I let ghosts cloud my vision and I need to hear those words from that movie months ago:

spring is waiting.

It’s waiting. And spring is beautiful, and glorious, because new life is there. New life that we miss if we hold onto the ghosts.

But the beautiful thing about life is that we learn. We learn to live with the ghosts.  

So get up. Eat. Get out there.

Spring is waiting.

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.

Hallowed.

I buy myself flowers a lot. Sometimes I find them in the clearance section of the supermarket, somedays I find them in Greektown in a big green bucket along the sidewalk. They always find their way to the same spot: on my desk, in the glass vase, next to my typewriter.

I’m learning that the spaces I cultivate matters. Even just to write those words across this page I can feel a tightness in my chest. Does it? the ever-present cynical asks. Does it matter if I create a space I feel welcomed, wanted, creative?

I think it does. I’m learning it does.

Because when we stop to put flowers in a vase, and watch the light filter through the thin petals, we invite God into the mundane. When I open the windows to hear the breeze through the trees and the rain bounce off the roof, I stop and invite God into the moment. When I turn off the distractions on a screen and spend time creating my meal, and watching the way the knife slices through the coloured peppers:

it invites joy into that space.

And I need more of it. I need more of joy, and I need more of God.

Each Tuesday night I’ve been spending in an old Presbyterian church downtown, with an Anglican priest up front, teaching on the Lord’s prayer. In that space, age and denomination and gender don’t matter. He breaks the prayer down, word by word, and invites God into the simple prayer He taught. Simple yet so profound. He reminds us to begin and end our day with the prayer, the way the Lord taught, and I’ve been doing it.

The things I’ve shied away from – discipline, recitation, repetition – there is a life I have found in those things. Because it’s in those spaces we can invite God in, invite Him to breath life where there was none. He alone aids us to see what was hidden before.

And it happens most when I invite Him in, whisper His name, in the places I least expect Him to be. Like flowers on a desk. Rainstorms. Cut peppers simmering on the stove. Repeated words, morning and night.

Although I know God is in all places, as the psalmist eloquently reminds us – I think He becomes most apparent to us when we acknowledge Him. And I’m learning there is great strength in our weakness when we take the time to invite Him in. When we hallow His name.

And so I continue, as the sun breaks open the day and as it draws it to a close, whispering those words:

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name.

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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.

 

 

 

Recognized Weakness

I want you to know that the dream that you’re holding onto,

          it’s not going to make you Whole.

 I want you to know that the family you long for –

          they will not be your Home.

 I want you to know the person you search for in every crowd –

          you will not be Found when you are finally in their arms.

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And these Truths, the ones you’ll discover as your pen flies across the pages of your book, these Truths will shake you to your core and you’ll come undone.

There will be nothing left to strip away. Because it’s in that moment that you’ll discover you are already Whole. Home. Found. Not because of a dream, or a family, or a person –

but because of Who made you.

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That’s what it means to delight yourself in the Lord – to know that He’s the only One who’ll ever fully satisfy the longings tat keep you up at night, the aches that break you wide open.

Only Him.

But because you’re human, you’ll doubt it. You’ll go back to the dream, the family, the person – and you’ll whisper … if only. And here is the only antidote to those words, to those fateful two words that can lead us down the path we’ve just returned from:

Help me.

As the man prayed, so long ago, in that well-worn book you keep close to your bedside but not close enough to your heart – Lord, help me in my unbelief.

It’s the only way. Because in recognized weakness

lies our strength.