On Writing

You ask me to tell you about my writing. Wherever we end up – after church in the chairs, or on that picnic blanket, or over text – you always ask. You’re always in my corner, cheering me on and reading my words, and I hope you’ll always be in that corner with me.

I don’t know much about writing but I can tell you the way it makes me feel: it makes me feel as if puzzle pieces are slipping into place. I have this feeling, and maybe one day I’ll find out I’m wrong about this, but when ink meets the page you are standing on holy ground. You need to break open; it’s not an option. Unless there are pieces of you in between your words, they will be shallow and empty. No one likes a wading pool. We always want the silky, navy water that disappears into the horizon, and that’s what you must be. You must be the water that holds both the mystery and familiarity: the sound of the waves you hear in the shells and the depth of the ocean you feel in your bones.

You must be willing to lay bare the broken pieces to see Redemption in them. To write requires a vulnerability, a willingness to invite others into the brokenness with you.

An invitation which (and this is the part that often stings)

may or may not be accepted.

But we must write and extend the invitation anyways.

To write is the solace you slip into when chaos bounces around you. To write is to learn what you know and what you long to know, and the places where you feel lost. It is to feel the humanity of grief and joy and discover that we all break. We all heal. And we all just don’t want to do it alone.

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Because isn’t that what we are all really searching for, seeking Someone to meet us in our loneliness?

And maybe that is what writing is: putting pen to page and discovering our loneliness is just a masked invitation, a hand held out, a whisper in our darkness. We don’t have to be alone. We aren’t alone. We are all just puzzle pieces waiting to click into place, and words help us do that. Words help us see the things we missed … or maybe the things we just didn’t want to see.

And that’s the beauty in it. So can I tell you how to write? No. But I can tell you that when you do, and you feel those puzzle pieces clicking into place,

you’ll feel like you’re coming home.

 

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.

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.

Dancing Along the Way

I watch the dandelions dance across the air, little white tufts floating lazily above me. I’ve never seen them like this before. I can’t stop staring, mesmerized by the way the air lifts them up, twirls them around and spins them out to dance.

Everywhere you look they are dancing. Atop the trees above the ravine; in between the leafy branches that lead down to darkness. They dance against the peach of the summer horizon, and gently graze my skin. They rest a moment until they are off again.

I can’t help but wish that I was as open to dancing through this life as the dandelions are, letting the wind take them where they may. Without a care in the world, trusting the journey instead of the destination.

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She told me today, with her thick brown curls spiralling in a myriad of directions, the sound of a dozen classmates around us –

that she’s learned to trust the journey.

I leaned in closer, watching her brown eyes behind her glasses, but getting distracted by the way her hands moved with her words. They’d echoed around me, taken residence up in my heart, and I couldn’t shake her eyes and her words all day.

Learning to trust the journey.

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And so I watch the dandelions dance across the air, little white tufts floating lazily above me. Dancing across my balcony and my sky and I can’t help but hear her words again. With each swirl of a dandelion, each delicate dance into the unknown,

I’m mesmerized.

And I want to be her, and I want to be the dandelions –

trusting the journey.

Unaware of just where I might end up.

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But sure that somehow, someway,

I’ll get there –

and maybe the point isn’t so much landing

but dancing along the way.

 

And it’s enough.

She’s illuminated by the streetlight above us, the jacket hanging off her thin body. She’s talking to me about my eyes and the dress I’m wearing until she comes a little closer. Her hands are moving quicker than her words and she asks for some change for a muffin.

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I am so quick to classify her by her lack of a home, until that night, under the streetlight, I ask her her name.

Sarah.

And she’s no longer a person who lives on the street –

she’s a woman who has a heart, a story,

a name.

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A name that means princess.

And in a moment my heart changes, and love overflows. Compassion. The words that have been following me for days – what if she’s doing the best she can? What if? Would I see her differently? Would I offer her the bus tokens in my purse, the only change I’m carrying?

I do. I do. And it’s not enough. It’ll never be enough.

So I hold her close and I pull her in to hug her. Three times. And she holds onto me, and I onto her and for a brief moment it feels enough.

And for a moment we are just two women

doing the best we can.

She prays as she walks

On that street –

the one with the busy cars, the summer breeze drifting around, the storm clouds simmering in the distance –

she prays as she walks.

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Her words are a caress, a salve to the sting of words that have made their way into your heart. The more I mark my days the more I see how words build up,

and oh, how they tear down.

And there are times when those words somersault across the field and bruise the very pieces of our heart we hold out willingly.

So willingly.

And until those prayers over that heart, and those words, find their way to you in the middle of that street,

you don’t even realize how you’d written them into your identity. How they’d shaken you to the core. How they’d minimized your worth, your value,

your Created-ness.

The words are an attack on the very Image you bear.

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And He weeps with you, oh how He weeps with you. The One who knit you together, who knows the hairs on your head –

oh how He weeps, too.

The One who’s thoughts are precious towards you –

precious. Gentle, soft, kind. Just like that prayer. Just like her words. Salve to a heartache.

And so she prays as she walks, and there, on that street in the middle of this city, you meet the One who’s thoughts towards you are precious.

 

 

you are more than your broken heart

Dear sweet girl,

There’s a chapter in your life, a chapter that’s found its way into many girls’ stories. You fell deeply for a man who promised you dreams and full moons and laughter in the middle of washing dishes. And you believed it all (and rightly so). You opened your heart, you handed him the key, until one day he returned it. You discovered the man who held you while you cried, grabbed your hand to pray – he wasn’t who you thought he was, and now you’ve got this key you’re holding so tightly, and the empty words nestled at your feet.

The thing is, though, you have this opportunity to build something with them. They don’t have to stay there, staring up at you, reminding you of the heartbreak and the ending and the feelings of deception. You get to take them and make them into something beautiful. You get to tell the story of having loved and lost and how it didn’t destroy you. You’re still standing. You’re still breathing. You’re still putting one foot in front of the other.

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You get to choose to listen to the Words of your Father who calls you

loved

cherished

seen.

You get to take that story and wear your scars proudly, reminding the world around you that one person’s actions do not define you.

Always be proud that your words are true. Always be sure your love leaves people changed. Always let your scars be a reminder to handle another’s heart gently, surely, carefully, truly.

You are more than your broken heart. You are more than empty promises. You are one who is loved beyond measure. One who is cherished. One who is seen.

Do not let the key in your hand convince you to hold it closer. But truly believe it was never meant for him to hold after all. There will be one who will hold it, who will speak words and mean them,

who will never hand it back to you.

You are far braver than you can imagine. The brave are the ones who get in the arena,

fall,

and get back up again.

Always yours,

a.

The Coffin

The roof above me glistens as the light makes its way through the stained glass. I always notice something new each time I find myself sitting in the hard, wooden pew: the way the lines intersect above me, the way the golden tiles shimmer behind the cross at the altar. Hours earlier she’d asked me what it meant for me to rest. Bowls of steaming soup between us, she’d asked, “What does rest look like to you?

After a moment, I tell her I am afraid. Afraid of the silence that rest often brings.

And as I stare at that ceiling, whispering a few words up above, I ask Him: “It always comes back to a fear of being known, doesn’t it?”

A fear of being seen. It was what Adam and Eve feared that day in the Garden; it is what I fear and yet long for the most. To be seen, remembered, known.

How is it that our greatest fear can also be our greatest longing?

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I am convinced – that the longing for love and to be known – may also be what we fear the most.

Because we tend to build up walls, and push others away, and put on our masks – and yet all the while we are hoping that One will climb the walls,

pull us back,

and peel off the mask.

We fear and yet hope simultaneously. Why do we give so much voice to fear, and yet hold so loosely to hope?

CS Lewis writes in the Four Loves that to love at all is to be vulnerable. To be seen may require heartbreak. And if you want to, you can bury yourself in the coffin of your selfishness –

because that is what living in fear does. 

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When we are convinced that we need to protect ourselves from being seen we actually rob others of experiencing love through us.

(Does that not shake you to the core?) Being seen was never meant to stop at us. It opens our eyes to see others, to hold others, to love others.

And if we protect ourselves from being seen,

from being vulnerable,

from being loved,

in our need to protect (our self) we hurt ourselves and those around us.

I hear the echoing Voice of the One who asked Adam and Eve so long ago where they were. Fearful, perhaps – but I emerge out of the coffin, dusty and withered, and in a shaky voice I answer:

“Here I am.”