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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.