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.

(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.

 

 

In the Middle of a Walmart

When I walk into the store, I see her near the clothing section, making her way into the aisle. She spots me, and with one hand wrapped around a skirt and the other around her purse, her eyes follow me as I make my way towards her. She doesn’t say anything until I come close to her, and her face softens. “Ang,” she says, using the nickname she’s used for as long as I can remember. “You are so beautiful. Do you know that? You really are.”

I brush off my mom’s words, but she repeats them, emphasis in her tone this time. We change subjects and move through wardrobe options, and it isn’t until later, as I climb into my car and drive away from her, that I realize something about that moment. My mom has always been someone who uses her words to convey our worth. Our relationship has not been perfect, but she has never failed to remind me she loves me, to tell me how proud she is of me, or to tell me of my beauty. All of us kids have laughed when, out of the blue, she tells us in a time of silence, “Guys – I love you!” or when we receive a text message in the middle of the night reminding us how much she cares for us. We’ve taken her words for granted, I am afraid.

Three days ago, I am amidst a project for work, paint splattered across my hands and caked beneath my nails. My co worker sits across from me, and as we methodically work, we ask questions. Questions about family and loss and love. We talk about family dynamics and relationships. Conversations flow as does my paintbrush, up and down, finding the masterpiece hidden in the cardboard.

“What is the love that you wanted from him?” she asks me, her face soft and inquisitive. I’ve never been asked that question before. It shocks me to the core, and I look at her, as I had just laid bare the heartbreak that you sometimes carry from hoping for love and never receiving it. Of seeking it, doing your best to earn it, but it never being enough.

Of always feeling as if you weren’t enough.

And so I look at her, shocked at her question, but even more shocked that I do not know my answer.

And then, three days later, I do.

And I find the answer in an old box store called Walmart. I want to tell her, I know the love that I’ve always wanted. It’s the love you don’t always get from everyone, but when you do you cling to it. It’s the love that tells you you’re beautiful in the middle of a row of cheaply made cotton skirts. It’s the love that tells you you’re the best thing that’s happened to her at midnight when you’ve just finally fallen asleep. It’s the love that puts down the phone, looks across the table and says, “I miss you. I’m proud of you. And I love you.”

In the moments that that love finds you, it wraps you in grace and safety.

That’s the love I wanted. I still want. 

I might never receive it from him the way I wanted to. But I’ve got it. And I’ll cling to it, but only so that I can give it away, too. So that I can pour it back out and whisper I love you’s until they are imprinted on hearts and ringing in ears. I’ll whisper you’re beautiful’s until they’re the words that stare back at you in the mirror.

It’s the love that I want, and the love that I’ll give, too. Love that doesn’t let you go to sleep until I’ve told you you’re loved. The kind of love that sometimes find you, of all places, in the middle of a Walmart.

 

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.

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. 

 

Rain & Snow.

Rain.

I walked out of the door and into the soft drizzle. A melodic, spring-like rain in the middle of December. It should have been snow.

Snow.

Making everything new in its wild, beautiful way – but instead, it was rain. And it fell on my face and it mixed with my tears and I hated the way that in that moment, the world around me reflected the world inside of me.

I heard one thing on that drive home, as my hands mirrored the wiper blades and pushed away the unwanted tears. ‘Don’t be afraid of the darkness,’ the Rain said to me. ‘Don’t be afraid of the tears and afraid of the rain. Just walk into them. Let them do what they were meant to do.’

I let the tears run free.

I walked slowly in the rain to my door.

And sadness, when it’s felt, and it isn’t tiptoed around and avoided – somehow becomes a lot less scary.

Somehow it becomes a little more gray than black,

a tattered heard that not’s destroyed but in need of a mending.

And even though it’s rain in the middle of December, and there’s no snow to make things beautiful and whole again – somehow the rain does its job, the one it was always meant to do.

Standing Under the Clouds

Oh, friend.

I need to tell you something tonight. Bundled up in that thick duvet, a Kleenex box and Bible your companions for the night, I need to tell you something that you need to hear but probably don’t want to:

You need to stop letting fear tell you stories.

You know, the ones that you think you write the ending to. The ones where hope is lost, hearts are broken, and tears ensue.

Yeah, you know the ones. You think somehow, based on the past or your version of it, you can climb into the future and pick the disaster that is waiting for you. You need to learn to hope for yourself, friend. You need to hope. And believe. And stop letting fear take the pen to write those endings.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself here.

When you let fear take the pen, you let a whole host of other unwelcome friends visit: anxiety. High walls to keep vulnerability out. Words that tear you down instead of building yourself up.

And the truth is – when you hand fear that pen – you become your own worst enemy.

You need to let Love be your friend first. That’s the only way to stop listening to those stories fear tells you. You need to listen to the louder Voice: the one that hopes, that believes, that’s patient, that rejoices. Those might be pretty words friend, and you might wince at them because you’re still thinking fear makes more sense. But it’s just because you’re used to listening to his voice instead. Trust me. 

Stop going back. Stop listening. I know it’s second nature to you, and I know right now that voice seems loudest. But you haven’t given the others a chance. You haven’t let love speak louder, you’ve covered your ears. You haven’t given hope the chance to shine its face on you because you’ve been too busy standing under the clouds.

Stop standing under the clouds. Stop handing fear the pen. Stop writing the ends to stories you were never meant to touch. Some stories are written for you, friend. You are just meant to live them.

Yours,

a.

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.

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.