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.

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.

 

 

SaveSave

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.

IMG_2566

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.

IMG_2643

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.