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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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.

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.

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.

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

Dear Heartache

Dear Heartache,

When you visited me that night, I was hoping your visit would be short. I figured you’d move in, settle in for a bit, but once we visited you’d be on your way to the next home.

For awhile I pretended you hadn’t taken up residence in my heart. But one day I came home, and you’d unpacked your bags, changed the curtains, and settled on the sofa. I sighed with reluctance.

Still, I was sure that quick visits here and there would be enough. Every once in awhile we’d have a chat, some days ending a few hours after it had begun. Always, though, your presence was there. When I woke up, when I went to bed. You were always nestled away somewhere, as if I could feel you even when we weren’t talking.

I began to resent your presence in my life. I wondered how I could pack your bags when you weren’t looking. I wondered if I could somehow leave the door open, the place too draft-y, so you’d go find residence elsewhere. Hadn’t you had enough of me?

But until those long days, when I finally curled up on the couch with you, I hadn’t realized that you had something to say. You’d been whispering it when I was around, but I was too busy to notice. I was so focussed on figuring out how to get you to leave that I hadn’t even asked you if you’d had something to say.

But you did.

“Don’t rush me,” you’d said. “I have something to say to you.

If you let me, I won’t just remind you of the memories you feel have slipped away. I’ll remind you of what’s ahead, too. I’ll whisper to you your worth when you’re curled up beside me. I’ll remind you that hearts hurt because that’s what happens when love bounces back from the place you sent it off to.”

And finally, with a deep breath, you whispered,

“For so long you’ve been asking me to leave. But you’ve missed it: there’s room on this couch for one more. Heart pain,” you’d said slowly, as if for me to catch the words and hold them close, “always needs a healer. I can’t heal you. Visiting with me won’t heal you. But I can point you to the One who does.

And with a deep breath that I feel all the way to my bones, I see Who’d been sitting behind you on the couch. The only One who had the power to rush in, to turn a heart of stone into something soft. To heal the bruises where love had bounced back. The only One who could hold these broken pieces and make them into something beautiful.

Oh heartache – I am so sorry. If I’d rushed through our visit, I could have missed this.

Broken pieces

being healed

by the Broken. 

Lovingly,

A.

One

‘I always thought I’d just have one,’ I tell her that night. She’s sitting beside me outside her house, the car running idle, and I’m staring at the lights down at the intersection as we talk. Until I look at her. And I see her meet me in the pain and sorrow, and she responds quietly, ‘I know. I did too.’

One great love story. The one you spend so many of your years waiting for.

And instead of one great love story, you have chapters ending. Beginnings becoming bittersweet memories.

‘I think the hard part,’ I say, ‘is realizing that God uses broken things.’

Broken things. Endings.

She nods beside me.

When you spend your days waiting for the one to end the search, some days you get so caught up in the story you forget God’s goodness isn’t tied to just one.

You realize that they’re all just vessels for His goodness to enter your life,

even if it’s just a season.

When you realize God’s goodness isn’t tied to just that Person, maybe that’s when you realize how to fully love. How you fully risk. How you take the leaps of faith when there is no security on the other end.

And maybe, in the end, we’re all just broken vessels, broken so that His love seeps through the cracks.