Myself

It’s a funny thing, going back to the place where we were once beginning.

I remember the night – the newness of putting my arm on your back, standing close to you in the elevator. Leaning against you on the couch. I listened to you as you held the Bible open in your lap, speaking truth and wisdom into the passage. I fell for you a little bit more, in that moment.

I don’t ever long for you, anymore.

But I do sometimes ache over the ending. I do sometimes ache that what once seemed beautiful turned into brokenness.

I laid on the couch tonight, the brown one – not the white one we spent so many nights entwined on – and I thought about time. And I marveled at the fact that what was once so true could seem as if it were a lifetime ago. You, you – you are a lifetime ago.

I’ve spent more days without you now than I did with you, and there’s something profound in it. I think there’s beauty in a softer heart, one that knows heartache. There has to be – because there are meanings in endings too, aren’t there? I once thought that our ending defeated our being, but I’ve learned – it doesn’t. It’s just the ending to a chapter of two people who fell for one another in broken forms and couldn’t find a way to make beauty out of it.

I’ll always love that we tried, though.

And I need to carry that with me, to keep on trying. I want to be one who always tries, who always jumps. I’m glad I cared for you, once. When you walked away, my feelings bounced back. It’s made me stronger –

and it’s made me fall in love with who I am.

And though you’ll never hear me,

I’ll always be whispering to you thanks.

Thanks under full moons, thanks along the waterfront, thanks in the places we once began.

Thank you for letting my heart return to me … for in doing so, I found what I’d been longing for.

Myself.

SaveSave

The Opposite of Rejection

The pain of not being chosen is the kind of pain that runs deep. It’s the pain that keeps you up at night, the kind that brings new haircuts, tattoos, tears. Sometimes it happens on a soccer field in fourth grade. Sometimes it happens with that pink slip that you’ve lost your job. Other times it’s their words, casually cruel in the name of being honest, yet you carry them around as if they are a new name:

you’re a mistake.

you’re not enough, or you’re too much.

you’re not worthy.

And you wear that pain around your neck for a long time. Because you believe it to be true, after all, spoken out loud those words cling to you like a static-y sweater. You believe their words are the spoken truth of who you are,

until one day

it’s raining. And there’s a man up front, preaching grace and redemption yet all you can hear are the words you’ve heard spoken. The ones that pierced your soul. You’ve heard them so long you missed the Whisper of truth –

that you are Chosen.

Man calls you a mistake and Christ says, “She’s mine.”

He says you are unworthy and Christ calls out, “I know her by name. I know when she sits and when she rises. I know the numbers of hairs that fall down her back because she was knit together with these fingers.”

And you are hit with a wall of truth: it is often in the rejection of man we discover the acceptance of Christ.

You are beloved, my darling. You are needed and chosen. Do not let the rejection of another determine your worth –

but let it be an opportunity for the grace to seep into the shattered places,

the broken cracks Jesus longs to fill.

 

 

SaveSave

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.

IMG_0607

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?

IMG_0658

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. 

IMG_0623

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.

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.

IMG_5743

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.

IMG_5713
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.

IMG_5729

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.

IMG_5664

 

Dear sweet girl

Dear sweet girl,

The other night you came up to me, leaned against the brick wall as I bent over for a drink from the water fountain. You asked me how my love life was and as I responded, you bemoaned the fact that you were single, while everyone around you had a boyfriend.

I told you, “Don’t be afraid to wait. Wait for the one who’s worth getting your heart broken over.”

I told you to wait. Avoid the heartache. I told you to do the very thing I hated that everyone told me.

And I’m sorry.

The thing is, you’ll learn, my girl. The world will hand you tools to build up the walls. The world will tell you to run from heartache, and it will tell you not to risk until you’re sure. Until you feel it in your gut that he’s the one for you, until the stars align and spell out his name across the sky.

Because heartbreak hurts and it’s hard. There’s nothing that quite compares to not being chosen. Because to put it simply, that’s what heartbreak is: not being chosen. 

And we hate that feeling, and so we run from it, and we build little walls and safety nets around our hearts so we avoid it at all cost.

But what I should have told you, that night next to the fountain, is this: you always have the power to choose you. To pick you. The thing is, my girl: if you believe in yourself, you’ll show up for yourself. 

The world needs a lot more people that show up. Show up for others, yes – but also, show up for ourselves.

We need to speak the words to the mirror that no one else does somedays: you are beautiful, you are whole, and you are an image no one else in the world carries. And I’ll keep choosing me. I’ll keep showing up. I’ll keep dreaming and believing that I’ll get there.

You don’t need to run from the possibility of heartache, love. I’m sorry for telling you to minimize the risk and avoid the pain. You don’t need to take the tools that the world hands you to build up those walls so high.

But what you can do, is choose you. Show up. Love hard and risk and jump and be proud that you did. Heartbreak will break you but it won’t destroy you.

I promise.

Tell him you like him. And let him hold your hand. Let your eyes find his in the crowd, even if it’s scary. Laugh when he makes you laugh, so that you feel it all the way to your toes. Take risks, and don’t wait to do it. You’ll learn when you fall.

And you’ll pick yourself up again,

look in the mirror,

and even when the rest of the world is silent,

you’ll whisper: ‘I choose you. On the darkest days, when life seems safer under the blankets, I choose you. I’ll show up. I’ll believe in you even when you’re bruised. I promise –

you’re broken, 

but whole.

and chosen.’

Love always,

a.

Stitches.

“I think your heart must be mending,” she says as I dance past her. Toes on the floor, hands up, I float by her, collapsing into the chair beside her own. I look at her recently done hair, the eyes hidden behind the glasses. She smiles up at me, waiting for a response.

I think for a moment, feeling the cool leather beneath my hands. The stitches keeping the material tightly bound in place. Does it take just a few stitches to return a heart to its rightful place? What do stitches even look like? What does mending look like, I wonder – does it look like a dance down a hallway, a glimmer in the eyes?

“I guess it is,” I answer her slowly.

But my hands still rest on the stitches.

I wonder why it’s hard to give it up. Sometimes I think we cling to the broken pieces because we aren’t really willing to be healed yet. I think we hold tightly to them, because they tell us a story, of who we once were or hoped to be. Stitches tell the story of what won’t be. They tell the story of broken hopes and promises and dreams.

Sometimes I forget that they also tell the story of healing. Sometimes I forget that in the goodbyes, there’s always hellos, too.

There’s always hellos, too.

There’s new hopes,

new promises,

and new dreams.

Lately there’s been a lot of chapters ending. There will be more goodbyes, and packed boxes, and cracks that will need new stitches.

I confess that the ending of chapters is the hardest for me. Letting go of the broken pieces, even when they are carefully taken out of my clenched hands, is the hardest. I hate the unknown. I hate the blank pages.

And yet, as a week closes in which the beginning of adventures have been written, I am choosing the hellos, too. I am resting hands on stitches and letting eyes see good, see hope, see healing.

Not just endings.

But beginnings, too.

When it’s too easy to miss the moon

She tells a story of a moon. (And yes – I know I talk about the moon a lot, but bear with me in this story).

Beside her, six kids are readying for dinner. Dishes are scattered across the counter and food is ready to be played. Behind her her husband comes over, waving to her. “Come here,” he says. “You need to see this.”

But her eyes are on the dishes and the readied food and the hungry babies. “Now?” She asks

“Now.”

“Can’t it wait until after dinner?” Eyes on the clock.

He’s insistent. And so she follows him, to where he stands, and then his hands are on her shoulders and he steers her to where she can see. The moon. Beautifully high in the sky, casting a glow on the fields below. “I thought you’d want to see it,” he says quietly, and after a nod from him, she picks up her camera and is all legs as she hurries out into the field.

And all I can think about as she writes of this moment is how often we miss the moon. 

We fill minutes with things and people so time passes us by. I never want time to pass me by. I never want to fill it so full that I miss what I’m even filling it with.

I pile expectations higher and higher and higher until I am drowning underneath them. And their weight threatens to destroy me. But I keep piling.

And in the process of to do lists and dreams and unwashed dishes and unfinished laundry and a never perfect body … I miss the moon.

I miss the moon.

And I am so afraid I’ve lived 26 years and missed it. I’m so afraid I’ve done big capital L Living I’ve forgotten life is lived in the moments in between. When we see who’s in front of us. When our feet slow even though we’re late but the lilacs wrap their scent around us and stop us in our tracks. When we laugh at the ducks that waddle up to picnic blankets and dance and bellow and wail in the middle of a traffic jam. When we find ourselves in the middle of a mosquito-filled patio, raspberry pie stinging our tongues with it’s sweet tartness.

I’ve longed to press forward these days. To skip tears and heart breaking and be on the other side of the valley.

But I’m afraid if I did I’d miss the moon.

And so I breathe and I ask God for more grace and more days to see Him in the little things. And to trust that those are what make the long days, the hard days, beautiful.

If only we keep stopping to see the moon.

{ps – the Story and all of her other amazing words can be found here and here}