Clouded

I was a fool – clouded by words,

beliefs,

hope.

Is a fool someone who hears,

sees,

believes –

for something that is not there?

 

If it is – I am the definition,

clouded by words,

beliefs,

hope.

 

Or perhaps we were both the fools –

clouded by hearts

not yet ready

for love.

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

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.

 

 

The Valley of Baca

He tells me in his little office that I should think about reading the Psalms.

“There’s a lot in there,” he says slowly, “and it seems to me that David has a lot to say. He expresses his wishes, his hurts, his pain.” He pauses. “And God doesn’t strike him down.”

He says all this to me after I tell him I have a hard time asking God for things. Feeling as if it’s a question of His plan. I leave his office and as I drive home in rush hour traffic, tears stream down my face and I do. I let my heart pour out like David’s did.

Days later, I am still devouring the Psalms. I’m paying attention to the patterns, the words. David says some wild things, crazy things. But he says a lot of beautiful things, too.

 

There is a Psalm that talks about a place called the Valley of Baca. A place that as they walk through, turns into a place of springs and pools of rain water. This valley, some say, was part of the journey to get to Jerusalem or to one of the cities of refuge. Dry, treacherous, dangerous – this valley needed to be walked through in order to get to where the Israelites were going. Some translations call the Valley of Baca the Valley of Weeping – and I am struck by these verses – how the Israelites had to literally walk through the valley of weeping to get to a place of safety and refuge.

David talks about how that valley of weeping is redeemed. How those who rest in the refuge of God find the dry valley filled with springs of water.

To be honest there have been times since that night in his office that I tell God I can’t do it. I can’t walk through sadness, and I can’t walk through pain, and I long for it fixed and made right. But He whispers, to my tired, reluctant soul –

“The Valley of Weeping is meant to be walked through.”

I am always so quick to push away pain. To wipe away tears. Feeling as if, the sooner I get to the other side the better.

But yet – it’s meant to be walked through.

And I sigh deeply, tears brimming – knowing He redeems each valley –

filling them with springs

and pools of water –

because even this is not far from His redemptive touch.

Brushstrokes and Questions

There were Christmas decorations to put away, and a few lunch dishes to wash. But I climbed into my car, and I parked on a snowy street, and I jay walked my way into the National Art Gallery.

I always forget how much I love art until I stand in front of paintings that envelope me. I feel fully alive as I make my way through echoing hallways and stand close to brushstrokes and canvases. I wandered the gallery, getting lost in thoughts and in emotions until I found myself in the middle of the building, a snow covered glass roof above me and an opening to an indoor garden below. I pulled out my new purple Moleskin, fresh and beautiful in its emptiness, and sat down to put pen to paper.

Because today I stared at paintings but I didn’t really see them. Maybe I saw a few – I got lost in Van Gogh’s mesmerizing, thick brushstrokes, so layered I could almost feel his hands moving across the canvas. I stood for what seemed like hours in front of Monet’s representation of London’s fog, bare outlines of whatever lay behind it.

But mostly I was more aware of myself as I moved through the gallery. I saw myself in the way artists sought for their answers in each canvases, as they struggled to make sense of the way they saw and understood life. I felt their questions more than I felt any answers and as I moved from one room to the next, I figured maybe having no answers was okay. Maybe the point is not always to know where you’re going, but just to keep moving. Keep asking. Keep looking.

All my life I have been told to guard your heart. Protect it, they say. Don’t wear your emotions on your sleeve and just stop falling so hard. But I am just not so sure, you see, if what they have told me is true. I don’t know if protecting your heart means running from the hard paces. I think protecting your heart might look a little more like whispering, “You’ll be okay. You’ll be a little broken, maybe even a lot. You won’t be sure of some things, and others you’ll figure out along the way. But those broken pieces? those will create scars that tell the beautiful story, the one that tells of risks and loss and being broken to be put back together again.”

I think that might be what protecting your heart might be like. I think we’ve been told all our lives to avoid the hard places, to treat slowly. But I just don’t know. I just think that we are brave, us humans. I think we need to break and hurt and heal. I think God’s got us, and He’d be the first one to stand next to us on the ledge and tell us that when we jump, it’ll be scary. When our feet hit the water and our body glides into it, it’ll feel strange and our bodies will tingle and our hair will be wet and our skin wrinkly. But that water will remind us of who we are – we’ll get to the shore again, and when we do, our bodies will be changed and altered and we will remember what it’s like to come alive.

Because we’ll have jumped,

we’ll have risked,

and we’ll be okay. And maybe, always, we will be better for it. 

 

The girl who jumps.

You sit across the table from me, the tears fresh but the wound old. You tell me you didn’t expect to cry tears, but here we are, tucked in a corner of the restaurant, with your beautiful eyes filled to the brim.

“I wouldn’t move away for him,” you tell me, as you look at me but your eyes are only seeing him. “And because of that, he will always be the one that got away.”

“Can’t you go back?” I ask, helplessly. “Can’t you change your mind?”

“It’s been too long.” The time in between has built up a wall that you are sure cannot be climbed. Your story whispers to me: don’t be the one who is afraid to jump.

I write down words that stick with me, and my journal tends to be half others’ words, and the other half my own. “To this day, and I am still proud, that I was the girl who saw love and jumped.” They were the words in a horrible film, but the words stuck out, and I determined from that day on that I always wanted to be the girl who jumped.

I don’t know what that girl will look like, really. But I know that she knows that love will cost her, because in the end it’s not really about her. I know that she’ll be a mover and not a stayer; she’ll be the one who is willing to catch and get hurt in the process. She’ll be the one who breaks down because she lets walls fall in, but she will emerge stronger and braver because she knows the beauty that hides behind the walls. She’ll be the one who chases the big Dreams, the ones that are scary and seem silly to anyone that she dares to share them with. But she’ll chase them anyways, because she is the girl who jumps.

And how can you be a girl who is brave and bold and beautiful if you do not dare to jump? If you do not dare to take risks? If you do not dare to see what is on the other side? If you do not walk the paths that others are too fearful of?

I do not think that the girl who jumps is just one who is willing to let herself fall in love, but she is the one who is willing to love the unloveable. She is the one who jumps into the arms of a Saviour who created her for such a time as this, to be brave, to tell the hard stories and cry the salty tears. The girl who jumps does not see herself in a need of the superwoman cape because bravery doesn’t require anything but being willing to show up. To be true to who she knows herself to be, but not what others tell her she should be.

That’s the girl who jumps. And I have determined, scrawled across the pages of my journal: that is the girl I want to be when I grow up.

the little things.

imageI think sadness reminds us to notice the little things. Grief can be paralyzing. You notice the heaviness in your face as you force yourself to lift your lips into a smile. You notice the way the bricks are speckled and grooved because you can’t focus on anything but the wall in front of you. You notice the bright colour of green vines that sprawl up the building and you thank God that beauty still, always, exists.

And mostly you remember the sound of your breathing, shaky, but constant in a new world that’s not.

And that’s enough. That’s the redemption you can cling to, that in a new world that’s feeling a little more broken than it was yesterday, there is always, always, the little things.

Even This.

You’re breaking my heart these days.

It’s being broken in the seasons ending and the goodbyes … spoken and unspoken.

It’s being broken in the offering of my plans, my hopes, my dreams … in exchange for yours.

I don’t know quite what to do with these broken pieces of my heart. I find them scattered on the floor of the dark room in the light of a yellow candle as my tears hit the counter. I find them in the stammering of broken answers in a hot car, and the painful gait of my sweet friend. I find them in the silence … made ever the more silent after loudness is present.

But sometimes … in these broken pieces … I am sensing your Peace. And even in the pain, and the chapters ending, I am just wondering if we need to be broken sometimes so there are cracks to let you in. I am wondering if we need the hard conversations to let You slip in Your answers. And in the losses I am wondering if mostly they are there to remind us that You are the only One that stays and that makes us whole. No family … no person … no relationship. Just you.

I can’t make much sense of the brokenness but I can keep whispering that we are broken to be made whole to be broken again. That in the brokenness our hearts are softened … the cracks let in the light and you redeem even this. Even this. Even this.

Puzzle Pieces

The razor is dull.

I knew it was before I packed it. But I packed it anyways.

The water is rushing beside me as I rub the conditioner on my legs. I can hear her outside in the living room, as we all rush around to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner. My brother is shaving in the sink behind me, and I hear my sister ruffling through her makeup bag in the hallway. The smell of turkey is wafting through the house.

As I slide the dull razor up my leg, it hits me.

That familiar punch of sorrow.

“It shouldn’t be her out there,” I whisper to God in the midst of the running water. I hear my dad’s girlfriend again, and I swallow the lump in my throat. “It should be my Mom.”

He gently responds, “I know.”

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Continue reading “Puzzle Pieces”

A Story Bigger Than Me

I visited their graves today.

Stirling and Daryl.

Sometimes I stumble over their names because they aren’t used very often. I don’t even know how to refer to them, really. Do I refer to them as my grandparents? As my Dad’s parents?

Stories of their lives are few and far between, I assume because the memories are blanketed by sorrow. We will most likely watch our parents die, but not when we are sixteen. I grew up knowing that they had died, knowing there were a few pictures of them scattered about the house, and knowing where they had lived and what they had done.

But I didn’t know what made them laugh. I didn’t know what recipes my Grandmother made for Thanksgiving dinner, or if my Grandfather smoked a pipe on the steps of his store.

It was my first experience of feeling another’s loss: of being desperately sad for my Dad and the loss of his parents. And then, as I grew older, it was my first taste of grieving what wouldn’t be.

There would be no second set of grandparents at school assemblies.

There would be a couple missing at every wedding, at every funeral.

There would be no conversations that began with, “When your dad was young …”

It’s a loss that I wonder about. Even though they passed away long before I was born, they are still a part of me. And I wonder about that part. I wonder what of them I carry with me.

But what they’ve taught me in their absence is to live well. To live between the beginning and the end as fervently as I can. To love deeply, to remember that my life, no matter how short or how long, impacts the next generation. I am a part of a story bigger than me.

Just as Stirling and Daryl were.