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.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Entrust

She sends me the email on a fall day, when the yellow leaves are crunching beneath my boots. The stroller in front of me, I feel the vibration and I open her words.

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Entrust. The word stands out in the middle of her email, a soft but firm reminder: you’ve got to entrust Him with this. 

It’s not what I want to hear because the truth is: I do not know what entrusting even means. What does it mean to hand over to God the things I hold most close? What does it mean to see that all these things – these gifts – are His anyways?

The leaves dance wildly at my feet, and I push the stroller forward and I tuck her words close to mull them over. And I remember her addition at the end of the email:

“But remember to enjoy, sweet girl.

You’ve got this.”

Months later, there’s snow in place of golden leaves. Instead of her words staring up at me, there’s the small voice of His, asking me to entrust. To lay the Isaac down on the altar. To trust the Promiser instead of the promise.

And I wonder again at her words. What it looks like to even entrust what I hold close to Him.

I search for the word in Greek, in Hebrew, in the concordance and lexicons until the notes in my journal are long and in depth. From the Greek word pistis, to entrust means to be persuaded. A gift from God, unable to be produced by people.

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To entrust to Him –

literally means to be persuaded by an act only God can do. 

And because I am a chronic forgetter – I so often forget all that He has shown me, all that He has done, and the ways in which He so persuades me to place my trust in Him. To entrust my plans, my dreams, my love in the only place they are safe – in His hands.

So I pray – for I cannot do this on my own – to entrust what I hold close to Him.

“Persuade me,” I scrawl across my journal, tears brimming.

“Persuade me to entrust you with it.”

And the exchange – of laying it on the altar – is far more painful that imagined. But there is something beautiful in the persuasion, in the exchange, as God reveals love in a way only He can do.

Dear Great Gram

Oh Great Gram.

A couple weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with a start. I felt my ring finger, instinctively, for your ring that rests there. It was gone. I rubbed a little harder, up and down the finger, just to be sure. My stomach dropped.

Hands reaching across the bed, I searched for your ring. I patted down the sheets and shook the duvet and lifted the pillows. It wasn’t anywhere in that bed, and my stomach dropped a little further.

What would I do if I lost your ring?

And then I remembered, and my eyes looked up to the dresser where I’d taken off the ring the night before. Resting in the darkness, unbeknownst to the terror it’s absence had caused.

I breathed a little lighter again.

I wonder about that day he gave you the ring. Were you dancing on air? Did your heart flip? Did you feel confident in your choice of a mate, down to the tips of your toes? Did you look ahead at all the future held, so bright with possibilities and filled with a lifetime of hopeful dreams?

That ring that sparkles in the sun – some days I slip it on my wedding finger and for a moment, I dream about what it feels like to walk down the aisle. I wonder at what a lifetime of choosing another looks like.Choosing another. What a beautiful picture and yet, if I’m honest, one that somedays terrifies me.

Months – maybe even a year ago – I told a friend, “I’m so scared of being vulnerable. Of opening my heart to another. I think I fear it, you know?”

And she looked at me and she said, “Angie, you are one of the most vulnerable people I know.” I laughed because she didn’t know me well enough to know the thoughts that paraded my mind. She didn’t know the fear that crept up at night, or when I sat down to analyze conversations between he and I. She just didn’t know.

But it turns out, she did know. She knew who I was and who I could be. And the thing that I’ve learned in the months since then – vulnerability is damn hard. And yet, the times I feel the most beautiful seem to be the times that I am the most broken because I broke down the walls and I opened the dams and I was true and honest and I chose another.


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And maybe that’s what choosing looks like. It’s hard and it hurts. I am sure your ring did not always shine. I am sure you did not always feel the dance of your heart in the depths of your toes. But you were true and honest and that’s what made you beautiful. Maybe that’s what makes all of us beautiful. When we are broken to be healed to be broken again. When our brokenness brings us closer to the One who broke for us.

Viola – the one who carries your daughter’s name – she made me hot chocolate tonight. Filled to the brim with marshmallows, which I can just imagine you laughing at because of the sweetness. We carry so much of you in us – our creativity, our roots, our love for home. You aren’t just a ring on my finger, Gram. You created a family that loves hard and breaks and somehow finds its way back in the breaking.

She made me the hot chocolate to be the salve to a sad heart. And yet this sad heart? How alive it makes me feel. How full I feel as it beats beneath my skin. That ring of yours – in all its sparkly glory – it’s a reminder to me. Keep choosing. Keep breaking. Keep opening the dams, sweet girl.

Let yourself break.

Sometimes you find that it’s the place you’ll feel most alive.

Always remembering,

Your great-granddaughter

In the Passenger Seat

I watch the condos slip by us, one by one. A Christmas tree glistens through the glass windows, and I have to smile. October 30 – too soon? Never. 

I see the couple in the car that we pass, and I wonder when they fell in love. Was it a whirlwind romance or was it a story built out of a million moments? Another car makes its way by us, and I watch the woman grip the steering wheel and frown. What wearies her heart tonight?

I am used to the driver’s seat. I am used to the feeling of the wheel beneath my hands, my eyes on the road before me. I don’t usually find myself in the passenger seat, watching the world pass me by. I study the streets of this city as we drive over them, watching the lights and thinking of the times I walked their sidewalks. I see the buildings, the windows, the dark sky illuminated by a million city lights.

I miss it all when I hold the steering wheel.

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Do you see what happens when you let go and ride in the passenger seat? I hear His whisper in amidst my thoughts and the heart beneath my shirt that beats wildly.

My eyes are on the story that is passing me by.

I really don’t like letting go.

He answers me back in the images that I see, the billboards and lights and beauty painted across the cityscape. It isn’t really even about the city beside me. But look at what happens when you do. You see this whole world you missed before. You see the Gifts.

Can you count it all as joy?

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He’s been asking me that since yesterday.

Can I let go and count it all joy?

I want to shake my head and tell Him no. I want to tell Him I can’t add it to the list of good things, and count it as joy, and whisper thanks as I offer Him back what’s His. But tears stream down instead.

“Yes,” I say. “Yes. I’ll count it all joy.”

The Other Side of Fear

I moved to Toronto a few weeks ago. It was hardly a move across the world, or a move worthy of a tractor trailer (well, don’t ask my dad that question) – but it was a move nonetheless. It required summoning up some deep breaths, a lot of prayer, and a lot of sleepless nights. But I’m here. And I live in this little apartment on the third floor in the big city, and I have a roommate who makes me laugh and keeps me up too late, and a balcony that looks out on some woods.

Life is sweeter than I imagined it to be on the other side of that move.

I imagined a lot of tears, and a lot of regret, and a lot of missing. A lot of the aching, something’s absent in my life kind of pain.

And I feel inclined to write this here – that sometimes, on the other side of fear is exactly what your heart hopes for.

There are days when my car shakes a little too much, and my bank account is quite empty, and I cry on a beach because everything hits me all at once. Lfe really is never perfect. But on the days when my car shakes a bit too much? I get to where I need to go. And on the days when I close my eyes for a minute before checking my bank account? I have food in my fridge. And on the days when I sit on a beach because life seems a bit too much? There are birds that fly overhead, wind that makes my hair fly wild around my face, and a whispered prayer that God brought me to the water I love so much.

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Change is hard for me, and maybe it is for you too? Sometimes I fall into the pit of depression I wrestle with, and that’s a reality I’ll always face. But when change is written in your story, and God somehow promises to use all things for His glory, can you and I find Him in it all? Will I look for Him? He promises to be found when we look for Him with all our hearts. Do I open my heart wide enough to search for Him even when things don’t look the way I hoped they would? Or even, when they do?

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There’s this city outside my door, and it’s a city I get to plant my feet in. I get to walk the harbour at night with him and dream about where the boats are off to. I get to wonder about the people who walk through the cafe each day, and talk to the mamas at the playground as I watch the little guy who’s stolen my heart. Did anyone ever tell you that the place you are in needs you today? That that city outside your door, the one you packed up to move to, the place that had doors held wide open for you to enter, it needs you? It needs your smile and your hands and your feet? 

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I’m telling you, it needs you. Don’t forget it. You are needed right where your feet are. But are you willing to land? Are you willing to let them rest there, find their way there, find their home there?

Because on the other side of that fear –

There might just be something beautiful.

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