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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happy.

On a table in the corner we both sit. Words are sparse, and we both know that we aren’t the same as the last time we stood in front of each other. You’re quiet; I’m quiet. Deep breaths – we sit in the weariness together.

For just a small moment, we are quiet.

Until we speak. Slowly. Surely. Heart pieces laid on the table, brokenness shared. We break bread,

breaking,

and we drink

drinking

all lavished in grace.

We break and we drink, hold open hands, receiving His grace. Some days His grace is like water in a dry desert. Today is one of those days.

When I walked by him earlier that morning, he pulled me in for a hug and tucked me under his arm for what seemed but just a moment. “You look happy,” he said to me, his only words, as I walked away. Happy? Joy?

And I think, hours later — breaking bread,

broken.

Drinking wine,

lavished in grace.

Some days – maybe most days – we are broken to meet the Healer. Parched to drink in His grace.

His words still echo in my ear and I hold them close to hear them again.

Happy?

Yes, I finally whisper to myself. Happy.

What would you say?

Fingers wrapped around the steaming brew, I’d find my eyes. The big ones that strangers stop and comment on, the ones that I can’t quite decide if they are blue or green or somewhere in between. I’d lean forward – listening for the words spoken and the things left unsaid. Reading between the lines.

I’d reach across the table – grasping the dry hands I can’t seem to bring back to life. And I think that I’d cry, too.

screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-11-34-39-pmI wouldn’t tell you the words you tend to say, the words that are harsh and that tell you to wipe away the tears and stifle the cries. I’d tell you to feel it. I’d tell you to reach into that heart of yours, and grab the sharp pieces, and let them have their way with you.

And then I’d tell you

I’m sorry.

I’m so sorry for the mess you’re sitting in right now.

But I’d also tell you this –

The mess doesn’t make you less beautiful. The confusion doesn’t make you less sure. The unplanned road ahead of you doesn’t make you lost.

It makes you human.

And there’s something so wonderfully human about being in the desert. Of aching for the water. Of searching for the hidden places. I want to be in that place with you.

Let’s search for the water together.

Two are always better than one, anyways. Walk into the dry land just a bit further – 

you don’t know the oasis your heart might find.

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}

The One Who Weeps

 

The sunglasses weren’t big enough like I had hoped they would be.

They didn’t hide the tears; they simply masked them. They weren’t helpful in getting rid of the red, puffy eyes, or silencing the curse words I muttered under my breath. They weren’t the shield I desperately needed that day.

And as I slid into the classroom, earlier than usual, my student asked me why I had arrived so much sooner than she. “I was wandering,” I answered, although in my jumble of words I’m not sure if those were the ones that came out. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

And it’s true. And in so many ways, I still don’t.

That night, I sunk into the bath water, hoping to wash away the tears and the day. It too, was not enough. I held onto my book, seeking to get lost in words and yet in a painful irony the words only seemed to mirror my day.

I had been walking around in a haze that day. For days before, and days after, the haze followed. It was a familiar, painful, aching sorrow. The kind that you know nothing in this world will fix. Not the words, “it’s for the best,” not the hug from a friend, not the chocolate you dig out from the back of a freezer.

And I’m sad, but I’m also angry, angry at the words I’ve let slip, angry at the resentment I’ve clung to, but also angry at my tears. Angry that I’m sad. Because I think, somehow, in this twisted world, we’ve equated sadness to the absence of joy. As if being sad isn’t healing. As if sadness is holding onto the past. As if we shouldn’t buy the box of Kleenex because the tears shouldn’t be there in the first place.

And so as I’ve wandered through the events scribbled into my day planner, I’ve compared and I’ve been sorry for the tears and the sadness. I’ve stared down at my boots, step, by step, and whispered into my heart that I’m sorry I’m sad, and I’m sorry I’m broken, and I’m sorry I’m grieving.

But this is the thing that Jesus keeps reminding me in this hazy season: He wept.

He is the God who wept.

And I can’t help but think, that as I withdraw in moments and find solace in my sadness, that He too did the same.

That as I try to hide my tears, shame dripping amongst them as I slip on my sunglasses for the umpteenth time, or slide into the solitude of my car, that He tells me He catches them all in a bottle. They don’t fall haphazardly on the ground, or dissolve into the redness of my cheeks. He catches them all. He tells me there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh – a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

We talk a lot about the laughing. There is an entire section in Chapters of the positive mindset, breathing words and false hopes that if you set your mind to the realm of positivity your life will be more fulfilled. We talk a lot about dancing, too. We pull ourselves out into a world that gives us distraction upon distraction upon distraction: alcohol and food and video games and lives filled with hundreds of phone contacts and Facebook friends. But we don’t do a lot of talking about the mourning. We do a lot of the tough love, the “keep your chin up, grow thicker skin and push through.”

But I just keep coming back to those words of my Jesus, that He was the one who wept. And He is the one who catches my tears.

So instead of my shame defining who I am –

today it is Jesus,

he one who wept. The one who laughs and cries,

the one who tells me that I am blessed as I mourn because He is the God who comforts, who holds, who catches, who redeems.

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.

It’s Okay to Swim.

Today, nestled against the old wooden column, you felt the familiar heartache, the one you’ve felt since you were a little girl and you exchanged hurtful words with your hero. Tears threatened to fall, mixing with the peeling paint, as you leaned against it, sure you were in need of the support.

People keep disappointing you – and he will keep disappointing you. He will keep shattering your hopes because you keep expecting him to know what they are when he just doesn’t.

It doesn’t mean it’s not okay to be sad. You fear those tears because you’re afraid you’ll drown in them.

But my darling, sometimes you are so afraid of drowning that you forget it’s okay to swim.

Sometimes you so fear getting your heart broken that you forget it’s still good to fall in love.

Sometimes you fear people leaving so you hold your arms closed, but arms were never meant to be empty for long.

Life is meant to be this delicate, beautiful balance of extremes. Lots of times you’ll get it wrong. But so many times you’ll get it right, too.

Just don’t hold the broken pieces so close. I know it’s hard. I know it’s seemingly impossible. But life is not meant to be a series of safe, calculated risks. We don’t learn on the shore. We don’t grow when life is filled with shallow, meaningless friendships.

We learn and we grow when we cry. When we tell the ones who’ve hurt us that they’re letting us down. When you fall for the boy because his heart and his voice make your heart dance. When you open your arms and hold the broken even though in the process you’ll end up getting a little broken, too.

That’s how we grow.

So next time let the tears fall against the peeling paint of that column. Let it hold you.

You’ll find yourself standing, alone, a little stronger, in no time.

 

Unexpected Welcomes

The memories are vivid. I hadn’t really expected them to welcome us onto the campsite. I hadn’t even expected the swarms of mosquitoes, really – but least of all, had I expected the memories. Blue tarps covering the leaking tent to protect us from rain. First tastes of gelato. Grumpy, drenched family members. Raccoons visiting in the night.

It was our last family camping trip.

And as I stuff newspapers into my teepee of kindling, I wrestle with the familiar feelings of sadness that I thought had long since disappeared into previous chapters of my story. I am not ready for the grief and the tears to revisit.

Meg sits across from me, the fading fire flickering in the darkness, as I offered her my questions and my sadness. How do you be okay with sadness? I wonder. How do you know when you’ve finally moved forward? Or can you move forward and heal and still be sad?

“I just don’t know,” she says. “I just don’t know if it will ever really go away.”

And before us the fire is dying, and I try and I try to get it going again. The embers are bright but the flames are few.

“You can let it go,” she says to me.

Oh but I can’t. I am determined. The one thing I cannot seem to ever control is grief, or push away my sadness even as years pass me by. But the one thing I should be able to succeed at is starting a damn fire.

But I don’t.

So we brush our teeth, and we slip into bed, and it isn’t until we’ve finally quieted and settled onto air-filled mattresses that we see it.

Flickers of the fire, reflecting onto the tent. It’s finally alive.

And maybe, that’s just it. Maybe I need to stop fighting sadness and putting it into pretty boxes and scripting it out on timelines. Maybe, maybe, I just need to be and let life and God lead me as I fall into moments of sadness. Maybe it doesn’t get better but it sure does get easier. And maybe this heart of mine needs to stop questioning feelings and just let them be.

And maybe it’s when I stop fighting, and trying to fix things, and just make everything better – just like that fire – that’s when healing and new life and beauty come alive.

Dear Younger Me

Dear younger me,

I find you on the floor in your bedroom, cuddled into the corner of your closet. You are holding yourself tightly; arms wrapped around your knees, your body curled into the fetal position. Your hair is damp and your moans illicit pain deep within my soul, for your heart is breaking, slowly, into tiny little pieces.
I sit beside you and see these pieces of your heart scattered around you. I see how you have felt a piece chip away every time your parents have passed each other by with silence and a mere nod; I have seen how pieces fell the day your mom packed up her things into bags and boxes. I know that your heart feels scattered right now: you are fragile, and are clutching to your heart’s broken pieces as best you can. I wish I could tell you that a year changes things, and that your heart is put together as time passes, but sadly, the adage that time heals all wounds isn’t true. Only God can do that, and His timing isn’t ours.
I see that your lips are moving slowly, and I can make out your prayer. It’s more of a cry, really, and I hear the desperation in your voice. You are begging God to take you home into His arms, to free you of this pain and darkness. Although you can’t see it then, you will see that God answered your prayer; just not in the way you thought he would.
As you journey through the next year in your life, you will struggle every day. You will feel pain, some days more heavily than that moment in your closet. But what you will find is that in your pain, and amidst the broken pieces of your heart, God is your Home. He is your shelter; He is your strength. He doesn’t leave nor forsake you. This will be a lesson you will have to learn over and over; and it’s a painful one. But you will start to see how this is truth.
You will learn that it is in the broken places that we sometimes discover wholeness. It will take some time, but you will see that your pain has shaped you into a beautiful caring, loving individual. You will learn that what others intend for a curse, God intends for a blessing. Your pain has allowed you to feel more – for you are broken to be healed to be broken for others. You will find beauty in this brokenness, my love. I know you don’t feel like it right now, curled into yourself on the floor in the closet. But you will. This I promise you.
Love always,
Your older self