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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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.

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.

 

 

happy.

On a table in the corner we both sit. Words are sparse, and we both know that we aren’t the same as the last time we stood in front of each other. You’re quiet; I’m quiet. Deep breaths – we sit in the weariness together.

For just a small moment, we are quiet.

Until we speak. Slowly. Surely. Heart pieces laid on the table, brokenness shared. We break bread,

breaking,

and we drink

drinking

all lavished in grace.

We break and we drink, hold open hands, receiving His grace. Some days His grace is like water in a dry desert. Today is one of those days.

When I walked by him earlier that morning, he pulled me in for a hug and tucked me under his arm for what seemed but just a moment. “You look happy,” he said to me, his only words, as I walked away. Happy? Joy?

And I think, hours later — breaking bread,

broken.

Drinking wine,

lavished in grace.

Some days – maybe most days – we are broken to meet the Healer. Parched to drink in His grace.

His words still echo in my ear and I hold them close to hear them again.

Happy?

Yes, I finally whisper to myself. Happy.

The Soul Feels Its Worth

Tears threaten to fall and I lean forward, head in my palms, feeling the tear make its way down the side of my cheek. Say what you want, but that first tear? Always a dangerous sign that more are to follow.

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I can feel it welling up in me, and I bite my lip. (Why would pain cause pain to cease? I’m not sure where this rationale comes from.)

I want to weep.

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I pray the words, not sure why, but begging God to give me these two hours until I can weep fully. Until I can stop wrestling to contain the tears.

I flip through the pages of my well-worn Bible until I find the words the preacher says from up above:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of darkness, on them a great light has shone.

img_7581I hear his words from where my head rests again, in my palms.

“Sometimes God breaks you in order to heal you,” he says, like salt to a wound. Moments later: “His silence is sometimes His greatest gift.”

Tears still brim along my lashes and I force myself to sit up again. The Israelites, waiting, wandering in darkness. His silence.

And then there is light.

They walked through the darkness to get to the light. And her words ring true today as they so often do: sometimes we need to walk through what we don’t want in order to get what we need. 

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Because He’s always before us, lighting our way, knowing our deepest needs before we even speak a word. He is seeing us, knowing when we rise and when we sit. He knows when we begin and when we end. He is the knower of our thoughts, our wants, our heartaches, our tears.

He is for me. I scrawl it across the purple notebook, for my eyes to wander back to for salve to heart wounds – He is for me. He is with me. Even in silence, even in darkness – for darkness is not dark to Him – there is not a place where we can go that His love isn’t present.

And I hear it, when my heart is tuned to it –

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I hear that He is for me in the crunch of leaves as my boots glide through, and in the gradient turquoise that reaches for the horizon. I hear Him tell me He is for me as I stir the spaghetti sauce mixed with tears. And I hear it in bright joy-ed faces and whispered I love you’s across a screen.

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He is for me.

He is for me.

Always appearing – 

until finally,

the soul feels its worth.

 

Pills of Grace

Little yellow pills of grace, I call them. I tell her about them as we walk along James Street, heels hurting our feet, fall wind blowing our hair around us.

I tell her the story of the nurse’s hand, of the time I resisted swallowing those pills, of the way that I thank Jesus His hand isn’t absent from any doctor’s written prescription.

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Somehow in this Body of Believers we forget that our brokenness won’t always be made Whole this side of heaven.

I think honouring Jesus can be found in tears and in staying under the covers because the world is too heavy today. I also think Jesus is honoured when I swallow my pills, climb out of bed, and laugh because I feel joy again.

My story might not be your story. You story might be that your cross is to carry the heaviness of depression and offer it to Jesus each day you make yourself climb out of that bed. And I would never tell you that you’re wrong, sweet friend because when our heart’s desire is to Honour our Maker, how can I fault you in the way that you do that? Your story is your story, and I promise to listen and meet you as you share that with me.

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And I hope you’ll offer me that same space. Won’t you meet me there, too?

Because my story is that Jesus’ hand of redemption sometimes finds itself holding bright yellow pills. Bright pills that seek to fix this brain of mine that was birthed into a broken world that won’t be fully healed this side of heaven. Somehow, though, there’s healing in this brokenness. Somehow I am given eyes to see Life again. Somehow, I get out of bed with hope blazing at these fingertips and feet that can walk towards that Light again.

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Jesus works in mysterious ways. He brings Healing in the least likely of places.

And for me –

Healing is found each morning I open that pill bottle and swallow my pride and accept His grace. Grace that He’s found even in this. Grace that His arms have me –

that I am not my depression,

but a Child of the King.

 

Broken Cracks

To the one who feels left behind – 

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I sit in the old wooden pew, the stained glass reaching up to the sky above me. It’s dreary outside – rain softly making its way into swirling puddles below. The umbrella shields us from the rain, but the humidity clings to us in dampened shirts and unruly curls.

It’s silent in the old church. Tall, echoing, we make our way into the old pew. I lean forward and I pray for you. Tears in my eyes, I feel the weight of the burden so deeply upon my heart I can’t help but fold hands as an offer of surrender. I wish words were enough to take away the sting of your hurt. I wish I could tell you, in the most simplistic of ways, you’ll be okay. You’ll walk through the heartache and you’ll cry and it isn’t fair. Oh, how it isn’t fair and words will never take away the unfairness of it all.

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The protective part of me wants to reach forward and take that hurt away from you. I want to take it on me. I want to be the one that is stinging from his rejection, from his back, from his words. I don’t want you to be wrestling with it. 

I want it to be mine.

And yet, in the old church, lit candles that flickering as we walk past – it is all so clear that I cannot take the pain from you.

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And if I keep reaching, keep begging you to lay it on me – I’d miss the point.

It’s supposed to change you. But don’t let it make you bitter. Let it push you to be the one who you were created to be – the one that doesn’t follow in his footsteps. The one that stands taller. The one who lets pain wash over them and break knowing that in a moment, you’ll be healed. Broken cracks are there to let light in. Let line shine in the cracks.

Let light shine in.

I can’t offer you more than that. I can offer you my tears, and I can offer you my prayers, and I can offer you a promise – I’ll be with you every step of the way. I believe in you. You aren’t forgotten and you aren’t left behind.

As we sit there in the pew, I pull out the bound blue book. I assume it to be a book of Common Prayer in the old Anglican cathedral, but it’s not. It’s a Book of Common Praise.

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And I sift through the pages until I come to one of the hymns that I know, Be Thou My Vision. And I wonder why words of praise are in front of me, as tears dry on my cheeks – and I remember – the light. The only way we’ll ever find hope in the midst of broken cracks is to let some of the light in. And so I read the words over and over again – a prayer –

a search for the Light. The Goodness that’s found in all things.

I pray you find some of that light today – in the broken cracks – in the rain filled puddles – in the way a tear makes its way down your face. It’s there.

I promise.

Broken Cake Moments

Today we iced a cake, she and I. I stood on one side of the counter, she on the other, and we dipped rounded knives into chocolate icing and swirled it onto the cake. It crumbled apart, and when we attempted to put on the second layer of cake, it broke even more. The icing ran, the decorating tube got clogged, and we stood, laughter as we looked at this disaster before us.

I handed her sprinkles. “Maybe it will look a bit better,” I said, knowing that this cake was so far beyond rescue.

She poured them on. Red ones, flowing down the white dripped icing. Multi coloured flakes of sugar dusting the chocolate we’d tried to smooth.

It didn’t look better. It was a broken, chocolate covered, sprinkled mess. Every ounce of artistic cell in my body grimaced at the sight.

“Well,” she said, gloves on her hand and hairnet on her head, “that cake looks beautiful.”

And her eyes were on the cake, a smile on her face, and she believed it. She really, truly believed it. And this beautiful woman, wrinkles across her face and dementia an unwanted friend, reminded me how beauty is found in a broken, ugly cake.

I am so quick to forget where beauty is found. I’m so quick to stop looking for grace-seeped moments, that maybe life isn’t always about the mountaintops but the valleys in between.

I hate goodbyes. I’ll write a novel on them someday. I’ll tell you how they’re ugly cries, heartache in an empty car, bare walls littered only with empty nail holes. But I think we all know it. I think we could all write novels on goodbyes and sing our own Taylor Swift love song.

But maybe when we’re done our novel on goodbyes, could we all write how beauty is found in broken cake, too?

Somehow I’m thinking that novel might be just as important

And so this is what I have to say on a quiet Friday night, in an emptying apartment: hold onto the broken-cake moments, too. Write novels on them. Find hope in tear-filled prayers and dwindling bank accounts. Hold onto laughter and the feel of curls against your cheek. Walk for blocks even when the foot aches but the conversation doesn’t.

Find peace in what He gives because it’s always good. Always.

Jump into fear headfirst because there’s always something good on the other side. Some of the hardest, heart shaking words were said to me in a church by a stranger: do it scared. Do it scared. The most important thing is that your lungs are moving, your eyes are seeing, your heart is feeling, and you’re alive.

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Eat that cake.

Even if it’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever laid eyes on, it might be the best thing you’ve ever tasted.

 

El Salvador

It was a conversation on one of the hottest days, under a canopy in a back yard, food on a table behind and loud chatter around. I’d written the days into my story, pencilled my plans into the calendar, and then life shifted and changed and the days were wide open. Blank pages. My plans were gone, and underneath that canopy, in slipped His.

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And here’s the thing I was reminded of, in the midst of thick heat and tangled mosquito nets and cackling roosters:

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He’s a good God who gives good gifts.

Always. Even when His gifts come in the form of chapters ending and empty days. Especially then.

Because He always fills them with goodness. He’s always full of the days, or maybe the days are full of Him, and His love always chases us, pursues us, delights in us.

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I wrote it in my journal that I could have missed this. Tears in my eyes, pen in my hand, with darkness settled around so early that far south. I could have missed it. If I’d written my days, charted out the plans, mapped out the time – I would have missed it all.

I wouldn’t have seen her wrinkled face or felt her kiss on my neck as she hugged me each day.

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I wouldn’t have seen grace in hands held together around the one that wronged, praying for changed hearts instead of bitterness.

I would have missed the way the rain fell so hard against the metal roofs, bouncing as if it had been given life of its own, melting dirt into clay into hard work for these soft hands.

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These moments given – lavishly – to this girl who some days, clings so hard to her own plans that she misses the story being written around her.

I don’t want to miss it anymore. 

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Those days, that began with beans and fresh bread and if I was lucky, sweet sandía – those days were good gifts. I slide through each photo and see the story of a God who sees ahead of us – and knows what we need and when we need it. He sees the things that make this girl’s heart dance – laughter on top of a sand pile, mariposa dancing across bright flowers, sour mango dripping down cheeks – and He gives abundantly. Over and over.

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And He pours Love into the cracks, the broken dreams, the broken hearts –

and the lavish love leaves us changed.

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And that Love showed up, in a sweet little country nestled along the Pacific, in amongst cicadas singing and firecrackers popping.

And I am changed because of it.

 

When Beauty Is Right There


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We walked into the barn, straw beneath our feet, cool dampness in the air.

The heat was held back outside, behind the thick, whitewashed walls.

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The stalls stood empty, long since vacated by the cows that had once made this place their home. Cobwebs stretched wide across the windows and walls, remnants of a life and living tucked safely into yesterdays.

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I pointed the camera again and again, searching for the beauty beneath the layers of dust and webs.

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But with each click, each image saved, the beauty wasn’t hidden.

It was there. In the dirt. In the shadows. In the empty echo of a cat’s cry.

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In the forgotten tag, the cracked walls.

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Waiting – for eyes to stop,

eyes to see,

eyes to behold.

It’s always there. Always waiting.

Food for the joyless soul – the hungry soul – aching for more grace.