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.”

 

 

 

 

A String of Luminous Pearls

I always thought there’d be this moment, this grand, stunning moment when you’d know. You’d know you found your person. It would hit you, like a ray of light bouncing down from the sun, and you’d know from the hairs on your heard to the tips of your toes that this was the person you were supposed to spend the rest of your life with.

Movies tell us this. Sometimes friends do, too.

And so it builds up this image in our hearts of the Moment, the grand moment to end all others, and so we wait. Patiently. For a moment that doesn’t seem to come.

But ‘life is a collection of a million tiny little moments and choices, like a handful of luminous pearls. Strung together, lined up through the days and the years they make a life. It takes so much time and so much work and those beads and moments are so small, and so much less fabulous and dramatic than the movies.’ (Shauna Niequist)

Life isn’t a movie. It was never supposed to be.

Love isn’t a movie. It was never supposed to be.

And for all the times I’ve been told about the Moment,

I think I see that now it’s a string of luminous pearls. It’s the way that he says your name, or the way he grabs your hand to pray. It might be a million small moments of him choosing you, over and over again. It might be grace that pours from his heart in the moments you least deserve it.

Pearls. Strings of luminous pearls. Not the Moment.

It will be a million little moments, strings of precious, luminous pearls, that make you so sure you want to spend a lifetime collecting them.

Wait for the pearls.

Not the big, shiny moment.

Because if you keep waiting for it – 

you might already miss what you’re holding in your hand.

Three

 

 

This Good Friday, I was painfully aware of the lack of good in me. Harsh words. Cynicism instead of hope. Frustration instead of patience. Maybe I’m alone in having these days. But, frustrated, I found myself at the end of my day, with the moon and my God, reaching for the only Good that I know.

The Good that hung on that cross.

I have a feeling we simplify the days in between. We gather to remember the suffering, and the cost, and we slip through the weekend until we gather again to celebrate. We know what will happen: we know that there will be a resurrection, and death will be defeated, and the darkness that hung will now be replaced with light.

But I think of the ones who stood by as He died and did not know.

The lack of good in their hearts –

had no solution.

For three days – darkness remained – and I wonder, what did they do? Did they sink in despair? Did they weep? Were they able to sleep? How did they grapple

with the lack of good in their hearts? How did they understand the loss of the One who hung on the cross?

I think that we do not spend enough time reflecting on those three days – 

just like the three days Abraham spent on the mountain going to sacrifice his beloved son. Or the three days Jesus’ waited to raise Lazarus from the dead.

Because those three days, waiting – 

sums up so much of life. Waiting for God to show up. Waiting for God to answer. Waiting for God to redeem.

Waiting.

And because we know the ending to the story, we skip over the part that talks about waiting. We skip over the darkness that hung in the air, and the lack of breath in His lungs. But when we do, I think we do a disservice to the God who teaches us to wait. Who builds into our lives and our stories seasons of three.

Seasons of waiting.

And so, as the minutes bring us closer to the moment of celebration – I rest in the waiting, too. I savour the minutes – the loneliness, the heaviness –

knowing the celebration will be that much sweeter because of the season that was before it. 

After These Things


I’ve spent a lot of time staring at the stars.

It started years ago, when I was given a small, plastic telescope that I would drag out across our backyard late into the night. I convinced friends to sleep outside without a tent so we could stare at the stars. I was heartbroken when, after doing renovations to our house, I lost my beloved skylight that enabled me to see the glistening lights of the country sky.

We’ve always had a love affair, the sky and I. But I fell in love with him on the other side of the ocean, where I would climb onto the roof and spend my evenings under the African sky. I fell deeper in love with the stars the night I went back to Senegal, showering under a full moon in a tin shanty with a bucket full of rain water.

But I fell truly, madly in love with the full moon and stars when I realized that they were a symbol, a love letter, between the God that I love and the God who loves me. 

The thing is – I forget. I forget, over and over again, of His faithfulness. I push it aside in the dark times, and I am quick to respond in fear when I long to respond with trust.

But the full moon and the stars keep appearing. They are the thin place, the sacred ground, where He and I meet, and I whisper to Him heart cries and He whispers to me faithfulness.

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The very first words in the story of Abraham and Isaac are three words. After these things. Up until these past few months I had skipped over them, barely noticing their place in the story. Abraham and I, though, we keep meeting. We meet in conversations. We meet in words. We meet in names. And I have spent these past months sitting with those nineteen verses, and they have come alive to me. Some day, maybe, I’ll write the story, but for now, this is what needs to be said:

those three words –

after these things

are so important

They aren’t meant to be stepped over – prodded over – pushed aside.

They tell you what has happened and what is to come.

We can’t fully understand the story of Abraham and Isaac until we know the story that was before. And those words – that idea – is as important to us as readers of Scripture as it is for us as doers of Scripture.

Don’t disdain your story. 

Do not disregard the journey it has been to get you to the place you are. The broken pieces, the heartbreak, the loneliest and darkest of nights. All of those things, summed up in three words – after these things.

Before,

during,

and after –

He is there. It’s the only way we can understand who we are:

when we understand who we have been.

And so I keep going back to the stars, and the full moon, to remind me of His faithfulness. The tears I have let fall before Him. The whispers of faithfulness in return.

And I am ever thankful –

that after these things – 

the moon still rises, the stars still glisten,

and He is in the midst of it all.