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.

those three words

 

I always thought that those three words, I love you, were the hinge upon which love rested.

Without them, it was absent – and so I’ve spent a lifetime sprinkling those words in conversations, written at the end of letters, and slipped into hugs goodbye.

And there’s nothing wrong with those words. They are beautiful, and truthful, and carry a heart of meaning. But I wonder if maybe we spend so much time waiting for someone to tell us they love us –

when they’ve already shown us. And we’re so busy listening that we forget to see, too.

Love was never meant to be relegated to three words. It was always meant to be a life lived sacrificed. 

Love is devoid of meaning if there is no action. Words only tell us so much – but a life lived sacrificed teaches us that love is found in spite of and because of

those three words.

It shows up when one drives an hour to bring you the spare keys.

It’s found in the embrace of holding close enough so that your tears mix with theirs.

And it’s found when laughter intermingles with your own, because joy is best felt when its shared.

I wonder if love is best received with hands held open – rather than waiting for those three words. Because maybe then we’ll realize that life is one big love story,

and there will always be enough love,

with or without those three words.

 

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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.

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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.

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?

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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. 

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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.

One

‘I always thought I’d just have one,’ I tell her that night. She’s sitting beside me outside her house, the car running idle, and I’m staring at the lights down at the intersection as we talk. Until I look at her. And I see her meet me in the pain and sorrow, and she responds quietly, ‘I know. I did too.’

One great love story. The one you spend so many of your years waiting for.

And instead of one great love story, you have chapters ending. Beginnings becoming bittersweet memories.

‘I think the hard part,’ I say, ‘is realizing that God uses broken things.’

Broken things. Endings.

She nods beside me.

When you spend your days waiting for the one to end the search, some days you get so caught up in the story you forget God’s goodness isn’t tied to just one.

You realize that they’re all just vessels for His goodness to enter your life,

even if it’s just a season.

When you realize God’s goodness isn’t tied to just that Person, maybe that’s when you realize how to fully love. How you fully risk. How you take the leaps of faith when there is no security on the other end.

And maybe, in the end, we’re all just broken vessels, broken so that His love seeps through the cracks.

The Soul Feels Its Worth

Tears threaten to fall and I lean forward, head in my palms, feeling the tear make its way down the side of my cheek. Say what you want, but that first tear? Always a dangerous sign that more are to follow.

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I can feel it welling up in me, and I bite my lip. (Why would pain cause pain to cease? I’m not sure where this rationale comes from.)

I want to weep.

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I pray the words, not sure why, but begging God to give me these two hours until I can weep fully. Until I can stop wrestling to contain the tears.

I flip through the pages of my well-worn Bible until I find the words the preacher says from up above:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of darkness, on them a great light has shone.

img_7581I hear his words from where my head rests again, in my palms.

“Sometimes God breaks you in order to heal you,” he says, like salt to a wound. Moments later: “His silence is sometimes His greatest gift.”

Tears still brim along my lashes and I force myself to sit up again. The Israelites, waiting, wandering in darkness. His silence.

And then there is light.

They walked through the darkness to get to the light. And her words ring true today as they so often do: sometimes we need to walk through what we don’t want in order to get what we need. 

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Because He’s always before us, lighting our way, knowing our deepest needs before we even speak a word. He is seeing us, knowing when we rise and when we sit. He knows when we begin and when we end. He is the knower of our thoughts, our wants, our heartaches, our tears.

He is for me. I scrawl it across the purple notebook, for my eyes to wander back to for salve to heart wounds – He is for me. He is with me. Even in silence, even in darkness – for darkness is not dark to Him – there is not a place where we can go that His love isn’t present.

And I hear it, when my heart is tuned to it –

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I hear that He is for me in the crunch of leaves as my boots glide through, and in the gradient turquoise that reaches for the horizon. I hear Him tell me He is for me as I stir the spaghetti sauce mixed with tears. And I hear it in bright joy-ed faces and whispered I love you’s across a screen.

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He is for me.

He is for me.

Always appearing – 

until finally,

the soul feels its worth.

 

The Remembering

On a night when I feel less than remembered, when I feel despair and the familiar pangs of depression, the memories of him I’d left behind –

He asks me – reminds me –

“Think of all the ways that I have remembered you.”

I get out of the rowded room, the loud voices blending together into a sound that churns my stomach. I slip out into the darkness, finding a chair and sitting down. I want to cry. Is it the echoing of God’s question that brims my eyes with tears? Is it my shame at losing sight of the truth that He always remembers?

The cicadas and crickets sing songs to me. A dog barks in the distance. Lights of San Salvador flicker below me in the valley.

Today we wandered places where lives were taken. Murdered. Massacred. Horrors, I am sure, so many did not think they would live through. Did they expect to lose their lives that day at Romero’s funeral? Or when one government challenged another? Did they think, in that moment, that God had forgotten them? Or that He had remembered them?

Did they echo the question I echo so often,

God – do you remember me?

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We walked through a church unlike any other I had seen before. Long and high, the building arched across with stained glass stretching along the walls and roof. Slits of glass letting in a rainbow of colours. It was a sea of yellows and blues and greens and reds and purples – dancing shadows across the building. We were told the colours symbolize God’s love – His remembering. God’s love, dancing in colours across the floor, the floor where blood was shed and bullet holes still remain in the door.

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Did those colours in that moment remind them that they were Remembered? Or did their questions alongside the bullets echo in the sanctuary?

I have not watched someone die, nor heard the sound of gunshots fill the air. I have only suffered my own loss and heartache that pales in comparison.

And yet, even with stories so different, I wonder if our questions are similar.

“Do you remember?”

I flip through the stained Bible, with odds and ends tucked in pages, ink long since faded through the thin pages. I find the story again. The story of Hannah. I meet her in these pages so often that I can sometimes picture her kneeling, sometimes feel her tears because they are so like my own. A woman who wept bitterly to the Lord for a son – a woman who, years after years, made each trip to the temple, filled that place with her tears, and laid her heart bare to the One who created her.

I see her cry for a son. But what is far louder – is her cry for God to remember her.

To see her. To know her. To speak to her. To grasp her open hands.

God does remember her. He gives her the son she cries out to Him for. But shortly after, she returns the boy to the temple to serve – and I wonder if it’s because the cry of her soul was not just for a son.

Her heart’s cry was for God to remember her. That was the point.

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I run my fingers over the words again and again – “And God remembered her.” I am nearly convinced: is the question of wanting God to remember us the big question beneath everything else? In loss? In disappointment? In fear? Brokenness? Our hearts cry out to Him – God, where are you? Do you remember me?

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And so I go back to His question, to look for ways in which He has remembered me with love. I list them off:

Quiet time. Cool nights. Luggage that made it. Song of cicadas. Sweet rice and crunchy chicken. Dew drops on leaves. Conor of stained glass dancing on face. Smell of a hundred fires drifting up the hills. The taste of bananas fresh from the branch. Twenty cent washrooms in sight of a full bladder.

And I am reminded:

He remembers. Over and over again, He remembers. He sees. He loves.

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God only gives good gifts. I am so quick to forget.

I pray even in their last breaths, their moments, that they felt remembered. They saw Him in the chaos, in the fall of colour as sun slipped through. That they saw Him remembering in the way He protected, the way He saved, in smiles and in tears and last breaths.

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I keep finding myself back here, asking. And He just keeps on remembering. Maybe it will be a question I will whisper all through my life. And in the tears and in the smiles, I’ll keep listing the good gifts,

the Love,

The remembering.IMG_6308

It Doesn’t Win.

When I turn to face her, she is already gone.

She stands before me, hands on the counter in front of her, body arched towards the sink. Her eyes are up, her face forward, reflecting back at her in the mirror. The dark grey hair frames her face, and as my eyes find her own I realize she has left me and I wonder how to find her.

Her face is contorted, watching the image in the mirror. The reflection back – is it a stranger to her? I wonder

I am mesmerized by her face. I study the laugh lines, the sun spots, but mostly I study the pain. There aren’t any walls up in this moment. It’s just she and the image in the mirror. I see the despair, the vague look of one who is simply lost. Is it a moment of clarity? Or is it a moment of pain, of emotions bubbling to the surface in which she can’t quite decipher?

I reach forward, speaking her name and turning on the tap below her. She comes back. She reaches forward, the hands letting the water rush over the skin, and although the moment passes and is written into history I cannot shake the image of her face.

I try to explain it in our meeting. I think of it that night as I lay in bed. Her face. So lost.

It’s an image I won’t ever forget. The face of a disease that steals memories, that steals words and moments and a lifetime of stories.IMG_5835

But that face?

It sometimes still smiles.

When her love walks in the room, it lights up.

As Irish tunes float from the old piano breaking the silence, her wrinkles reveal years of laughter and joy.

That face might bear the image of a disease but it also tells me another story, of a life lived well and long. Those images are fleeting – but they are there. And I grasp onto them, determined that this disease cannot always win. It cannot steal it all.

And so we play the music, and we wait for the smiles, and we remind ourselves, that in the end – in this moment –

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it doesn’t win.

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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