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.

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.

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.”

Silence & Wine

God and I, we met at the kitchen table. Fruit and napkins between us, I would pull out my journal and Bible and I would pray into the silence.

And all I would hear in return was the blinds hitting against each other in the breeze.

It was hard.

I pushed through and I pulled out the Bible day after day and some days it was like pulling teeth to put words into prayers into uttered pieces of grace.

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Until the day when I pulled out the chair onto the patio, in the cold fall breeze and I lit candles and played songs on repeat and finally, finally,

I could feel Him again

I tell her this over glasses of white wine, and she is surprised.

That happens to you? she asks.
I nod.

Yes. Yes, His silence sometimes rests heavily and I wrestle underneath the heaviness. All I want to do is push the blanket off and yet it’s wrapped tightly around me, and we wrestle.

I wrestle and mumble prayers in the midst of it.

I want to cry because I don’t know how to change it.

But maybe, that’s the point.

I cry these days because God’s pulling my hands away from the things I think I can somehow control. God’s silence. Her pain. His timing.

He asks me one night, “Do you trust me?”

His arms are around me and I want to tell him that I do. Of course I do. 

But God and I are still wrestling on that one. When I have the hardest time trusting the God who made me, how can I trust the one beside me? How can I trust the one I know best – myself?

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And so I reach and I grasp and I hold onto things that are not mine to hold onto, thinking that somehow I can make them my own. Thinking that somehow it’s my job to write the story, to finish the chapters with a flourish, when my story is His story and He is the one that holds the pen.

Oh sweet girl, I can hear Him saying, won’t you just trust? Won’t you let go of the fear that holds you back – the fear that my Love will run out? The fear that I am against you, and not for you? The fear that my plans are not good?

And I ask Him to help me believe.

When my hands let go of the things that I cling to –

will your Hands be there to hold me instead?

Two Feet In

Dear Friend,

You’ve moved a lot these past few years. You’ve packed things into boxes, booked plane tickets, filled the cars. You’ve held new keys and opened fresh pages to a chapter.

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But the thing is – and I am learning – you have to be all in.

You can’t really have one foot in, and one foot out. You’ve got to have them both in one place, in one season, in one story.

Life is too short to straddle the fence. It’s too short to let yourself be stretched in two places, between two stories, between two lives. You’ve got to do the life you have well and you’re not big enough to live two lives.

And I think that might mean jumping in – feet first – until you’re all wet. I think it might mean crying the ugly tears that things have ended. I think it might mean holding on tight to the one who’s right in front of you. And I think it might mean saying goodbye, and meaning every syllable.

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You just need to be all there. The ones in front of you need all of you. They can’t just have pieces of you, my friend. You were never meant to be broken pieces but whole. All there.

It might be easier to let go if you let it all go at once. In one breath, as the doors shut and the keys are handed over, you let it end. You don’t cling to it. You don’t live in it. You don’t try with every piece of you to stay – but you keep walking. You don’t know what’s ahead of you but you need to find out.

Goodbyes are never easy but they are as necessary as hellos. I don’t know much more than that, but I know that somehow, endings are always beginnings, too. I know that sometimes you need to find the end of yourself to really find where you begin.

So be all there, sweet friend. Change your address instead of clinging to the old one. Stay close by even when some days you just want what was before. Sit down next to strangers even though your life feels too full to add another. Write the endings because you get to turn the page and find a new beginning.

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Be all there. Two feet in, heart fully present. Even if there’s tears in your eyes, look ahead, because you can,

‘with one eye squinted,

take it all as a blessing.’ 

Always yours,

a.

Needles


He puts the needles in, one by one down my leg. There’s a tap, a pinch, and then release. I see him out of the corner of my eye pick up an old machine and attach wires, and in a moment the pulsing of my muscles distracts me from the fact that there’s needles in my skin.

He tells me to rest. And I try – but I get distracted by the pink walls and the paper covered pillow. And when that loses my interest, thoughts slip in.

In this old room in the middle of Chinatown, all I can think about is how letting go feels a lot like those needles.

I was scared to walk in those doors. Not because of the small Chinese woman who greeted me. But because of the thought of putting needles down my body. Willingly. Was I crazy?

Maybe.

But I was also hopeful too. That on the other side of those needles – that pinch of skin – there’d be healing. Release.

So I laid on the bed and put trust into a stranger that he knew what he was doing.

And I can’t help but think about letting go.

Because I hate it. Because it hurts and I dread it. And there’s a pinch when you do it.

But people were never meant to be things we hold onto.

I’ve got to believe that past that hurt – there’s sweet release, too. With each heartache there’s a healing. There’s hope laced within the releasing. Within letting people be who they were meant to be; not things I hold onto.

And he comes back into the pink room and the lights come on. He moves towards the bed and each needle comes out, and there’s the massaging of tender muscles until there’s pain. And he stops. And the next visit is scheduled.

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And I walk out of there, still hobbling but hopeful. And maybe, in the end, that’s what I really came for.

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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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.

it’s not my job.

I wrote you letters, you know. Tucked in my journal, whispered in prayers, scrawled in daydreams. They were the love letters I would never send, the words I thought were so easily whispered in movies and novels but never found their way out of my lips. I wasn’t brave in those days. I longed to be. I thought of the brave woman I could be, and I dreamt of her. She was courageous, and forward, and had such love for herself that that love flowed out to the ones in front of her. Especially you.

You have long since left the recesses of my heart, and my life, and yet tonight, as I sat down to write, you crossed my mind. Not because I long for you still, but because I think of the woman I so wanted to be in those days. I longed for your love I am sure – but I think, if I look deeper still, I longed to be a woman worthy of love.

I fought for that love, you know.

I thought it was something to be earned, to be grasped, to be handed over once I had won the battle and proved in the war that I was capable of wearing love like the honour it is. 

I thought that’s what love looked like. And yet I kept missing the mark – with you, with others, with friends – and I couldn’t figure out how it came so easily for the others. How did they keep getting it right? How did they love strong enough, speak the right words, wear the right clothes, weigh the tiny number on the scale?

And it’s taken me years but it hit me one late night: it was never my job to make someone love me. It was never the point. Love wasn’t about being earned, or being enough. We need love because we aren’t enough. Love fills the gaps. Love picks up the list of imperfections and sees them as beautiful.

I thought I could make you love me – and what I have learned in these short twenty five years is that was never my job. I fought like it was, though. I still stand in front of the mirror and see curves where I think there shouldn’t be, and I catch myself in conversations stopping mid-sentence because maybe I’m talking too much and maybe love won’t find itself across the table from me if those words slip out.

But you know what else? More often than nought, I see that woman I longed to be. Brave. Beauty in all my imperfections. Loved, and filled with grace, and shining brightly because love is the greatest gift I could ever receive or ever give.

I thought that woman would be found in you. I really did. But what I’ve learned is that woman was here all along, and she didn’t need any man or person to show her that. I am brave. I am courageous. I am loved.

She was there all along.

I just needed to let go and find her.

Letting Go and Being Okay.

Oh my darling –

You’ll be okay. If no one will whisper that to you, because we live in a world that shouts, let me be the one to tell you: you’ll be okay.

You’ll be okay if he is not the one to make you soup when you are sick, or keeps you awake late into the night because your voice is what he wants to keep hearing.

And here’s the other thing: you can’t make him be that. You can’t talk to him enough, persuade him enough to be the one for you.

And you need to stop trying. You can’t make someone be what they aren’t. You’ve spent a lifetime trying to earn love, to make someone care, to make someone else’s heart dance.

But the thing is my friend, that’s not how life works. You don’t get to control others’ hearts. You can choose who you commit to love, to show up for, to keep hoping for – but you can’t control that in someone else.

And oh my darling, I know: it is the hardest thing, letting go of the ways we try to play God.

But you can, and you will, and it will be scary and beautiful and you’ll tell the story in the ways your eyes dance free and your prayers are sweet and surrendered.

I promise.

Always yours,

a.