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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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.

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.

 

 

Safe

There’s going to be a lot of things that won’t make sense to you.

There will be plans set aside, a heart that feels broken, a bank account that’s mostly empty, and an unmapped future – except for those leftovers in the fridge.

You’ll sit on your bed, the elephant patchwork quilt underneath you, and you’ll sit in silence for awhile because a friend suggests you do it. It’s time to listen, she’ll say.

And your mind will keep wandering, and you’ll try to focus on the beeswax candle that is flickering in the corner. But that doesn’t work. And so you rub the frayed edges of the elephants, and you curl into yourself, and you whisper some words because silence is too heavy. And it’s a half hour of you struggling, of you trying so desperately to listen, until there’s only one word that’s whispered to you in the silence: safe.

Safe.

You realize a lot of the unknown, and the pain, and the unmapped future is all simply, unsafe.

And you keep putting a lot of your hopes, and your plans, and your hands cling to all of the things – feeling as if you figure it all out, you’ll finally feel safe.

Oh girl. That’s not how it works (although, you’re stubborn, and sometimes a little controlling, so I’m sure you’ll keep trying).

Unless you place it all in the hands of the One who is safe – you’ll keep wrestling. You’ll keep coming up empty. You’ll keep feeling frayed, and on edge, and lost. The only place you are ever fully safe is in His hands. In that silence. The only place your plans, and your heart break, and your empty bank account, and your unmapped future –

are truly safe – 

are in the hands of the Only One who is.

Keep wandering into the silence. Keep wandering into the unknown. Keep letting your heart break.

For it is in the unsafe places – 

we find that we are truly, always safe –

in the arms of the One who holds us close.

 

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.

Blank Pages

It is always the blank page that is terrifying to me. The beginning. When there’s emptiness, needing to be filled, where does one start? How does one know what is to come, where the words will take you, what they will say?

It starts with one letter, one word, until there’s a paragraph. And then you find that there’s a page. Sometimes the words come quietly, softly, until they’ve filled the emptiness with something whole. Other days – the words come slowly, painfully – and it is more of a laboured journey than a discovery of something beautiful.

I’ve been staring at blank pages a lot lately. Each day that there is a deadline scrawled across my agenda. Afraid to start. Putting it off until time is ticking by and I am desperate to place words on page.

Why do I do that? Why do I fear the emptiness and the unknown?

There is something stark about the blank pages in life. Blank pages haven’t just been on my screen; life has felt a lot empty these days. A lot of unknowns. A lot of sitting in the waiting room of life.

Sometimes I feel like that little cursor, blinking, staring blindly up at me. Sometimes life feels much like these blank pages. I am waiting. Afraid to put words on paper – yet everything in this soul of mine is desperate to fill pages with words and see stories unfold.

It’s the beginning that causes me to sit still, to worry, to wonder.

She asks us in the quietness of the classroom – wearied minds, tired eyes, students entering the end that seems so far away – how have we been looking at this world? What concepts, what perceptions have been shaping how we view what’s before us? 

I bow my head as she reads Scripture and it washes over this broken soul. A broken soul so in need of a Saviour, a Saviour to shape and change these ways in which I view this world.

Hope instead of despair.

Faith instead of discouragement.

Joy instead of cynicism.

I pull out the chalks that night, sketching something across rough paper. The next morning I lay in bed far too long dreaming and hugging blankets closer. When I shower, I stop to feel each drop hitting my body. What am I missing in these moments? I ask myself – rushing, tackling The List, never quite reaching the level of Perfection I clearly outline in the sand?

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Dying trees peer up through the window as I ready for the day, snow melting it’s way down the ravine behind our building and I stare up at the whitened sky above. Oh to be alive, I think. I reach hands overhead and stretch each muscle. Am I really living when I look at blank pages and fear the beginning? Am I really living when I am in the waiting room and refuse to leave? Refuse to find joy in the season of sitting, of waiting, of unknown?

Doesn’t God promise to be here, too?

Doesn’t He promise He’s here in the waiting, in the humble beginnings, in each letter, in each word – in each step forward even when we don’t know where we are going?

Soul weary, my prayer: oh Lord, make me a lover of humble beginnings. Of unknowns. Change this broken heart to rejoice in the waiting – in these seasons of blind faith, knowing that it is in the darkness you are always passing by, in the trembling – You are always passing by
.

 

 

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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Letting Go & Letting In

You ask me late one night how to let go.

Midnight has slipped by us, and the blue message stares up at me boldly. How do I let go? I’ve prayed that question more times than I can count. When chapters ended. When boxes were packed and new keys placed in hand. When friendships faded, or when pain seared my heart. Or when love slipped into the atmosphere like a balloon into the abyss.

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I can’t tell you how to let go when I feel that I am so unskilled at it. I can’t tell you that it looks like a smile and a tearless face, or that it looks like going back. I don’t think we can just go back so easily, you know. I don’t know if we are meant to. We are different people than we were before. And I don’t think we are meant to go back when the writing is on the page and the chapter has ended. We are meant to turn the page to the next one.

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But what I do know of letting go, is that it looks like a lot of letting in.

People will always tell you that time heals wounds. Time will make it better, they’ll say. And in the midst of the pain and the heartache and the endings you won’t really want to hear it. Time won’t matter because what matters in the moment is the breaking. But I can tell you this: pain always needs a healer. And it isn’t Time. It’s the One who made you, the One who’s by you and wants to see the broken pieces made whole. Letting go means a lot of letting in – letting in the light into the broken places.

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I know that letting go won’t always look like what we think it will. It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen until we let the new chapter begin. Endings always mean beginnings. And that’s probably the saddest and best thing you’ll learn about letting go.

I think that letting go is the hardest and best thing we’ll ever do. The other day, as I drove down the highway, I thought a lot about whether it’s easier to be the one letting go, or the one to be let go. I am packing my bags in mere weeks. I am jumping. I am doing the scary thing. It’s scary to be the one let go – the one encouraged to leave – but it’s also scary to be the one letting go. I don’t know if one is worse than the other but I think both will change us. Both will challenge us. If we let it. And that’s what I mean by letting in, sweet girl – you need to be the one to realize that in letting go – you’re going to change. Your hands will be freer. Your heart will be battered. You’ll have let them have the piece of you that no one else will. Some friendships are meant to end. Some relationships are meant to end. Some places are meant to be a home for a season.

And you need to let that change you. It’s supposed to. And when it’s over, and you realize it’s done its work, you need to stop holding so hard. You need to release your fingers and let it go. Let him go. Let her go. Let the ink dry and turn the page. I can’t give you a timeline, but you’ll know. Be the brave one and let go. Let in.

It might be the hardest and best thing you’ll ever do. But you’ll do it. And you’ll be okay. And you’ll be braver for it.

I have been. I will be.

And you will be, too.

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(Im)Perfect Eyes

When I was six or seven, I used to curl up on the scratchy brown couch, the television turned to the local Christian network, and I would watch as the televangelist laid hands and healing came.

I’d close my eyes, the broken eyes as I’d come to see them, and I’d pray that when they would be opened, they would be healed. I wouldn’t need the glasses, words would appear clear, I’d be better than I was a moment before.

The eyes always opened, and each time, the healing didn’t come.

My childlike faith wasn’t shattered, but there was always the question – why not me? Why didn’t God reach down His hands, touch my eyes, and let me see? Was my faith too small, minute, or my words not enough?

I sat outside under the stars tonight, as I always do every evening I can. The stars up in the sky were blurred, the astigmatism letting light be reflected in different directions. The stars weren’t perfect to my eyes. But even to my imperfect eyes, they were glorious.

I thought of those prayers uttered decades ago, unanswered. Sometimes I think it’s so easy to see what’s wrong instead of looking through the lens of what’s right. God made me. He knit me together, each bone coming together and each limb forming. He knows the number of hairs on my body, even the ones I do my best to destroy. Each curve was His design. The pointy nose? He formed me that way. The heart that feels deeply, that loves hard, the eyes that will never see perfectly but know how to weep? The ones that open wide to what’s behind each gaze? His design.

The hands that swell red and wave with chubby fingers? Those hands He designed to hold.

The laugh that I hide too easily because of its high pitch? He delights in that laugh. 

Those were His design.

I am in awe these days that He is a God who sees,

a God who remembers,

a God who designs.

And sometimes in the moments when I pray for change to come, and when I pray for my problems to find their answer, I set my sights on what is wrong and miss out on what is right. God. The Designer. The God who says He works all things together for my good. God who says,

“I see you. I am with you. I uphold you with My righteous right hand.

You are not forgotten. 

I choose you. I have chosen you, and I will keep choosing you. Over and over again. In your worst moments,

and in your best,

in the moments you choose Me, and the moments you turn your face away.

You are chosen,

beloved,

known,

and seen.”

And in the blurry sight of the eyes His hands formed, I watch the stars He hung and named. I am reminded of who He says I am, and tears form in the broken – yet perfect – eyes. Because He’s found in each imperfection, for it is I who call them that.

He, the great I am, calls me chosen.

And I choose to listen to that name, instead.

 

 

I told you a story once.

I told you a story once. Probably, many a story. I wear my heart on my sleeve, tattooed into that skin that stretches across my arms. Most days I wear it proudly. Most days I don’t hide the tears, or the brokenness, or the hopeless dreams I tell you of. 

I do my best at telling the truth, and I do my best at opening my heart wide and letting you visit. I think honesty and authenticity are rare and yet the some of the most beautiful things in this world. As much as I search for that in my own heart, I search for it in yours, too. I love realness and cups of coffee curled between us that grow cold because our stories are flowing, mixing, mingling, creating something beautiful that reminds me of the messiness of grace.

I don’t ever want to lose that. I always want to be as real as I can be, as honest as I can muster, and as open as a broken but redeemed heart can be.

Yet somewhere over those cups of coffee, and conversations that cut deep into wounds that just won’t quite heal, I somehow forgot that words are precious. Stories are precious. Hearts are even more so.

And I’ve whispered words upon words, shared dreams upon dreams, let tears run freely down my cheeks without recognizing that stories are not always meant to be shared. They are not always meant to be told to strangers, to be sent up into the airwaves, or whispered into the ears of sweet friends. Sometimes your hopes and dreams are meant for you alone. Sometimes things are engraved on your heart for only you to see. Sometimes moments happen for you to share over one, maybe two cups of coffee. Not three, not four.

Sometimes being honest and being authentic means knowing the value of your story. Maybe it always does. And in that knowledge comes knowing that there are those who will honour you story, and those that won’t – and wisdom lets you discern who those are. You do not need to be all things to all people. You do not need to be an open book, a written love story, a broken heart to each person that you know. All you need to be is you. A heart that loves big and loves deep, that knows the preciousness of one’s story is more valuable than gold.

Especially when it’s her own.