Saturday, September 20, 2014

Widen Your Heart

I have felt drawn back to the blinking cursor on this white screen. Yet, I have wanted so badly to avoid posting. Partly because I'm not ready to talk. I have become so lost in what I believed that I'm not sure where that leaves me. After all is said and done what I was so certain of was so contrastingly wrong from the way things turned out.

I read a writers tip that said, "Write from a place of healing not hurt." And well, I just can't do that yet.

To say I'm healed would be saying you could wear a bikini in Alaska. To say I'm not hurt would be like saying the sun will now orbit the earth. It's just so far from the truth at this point, that it just isn't. It's almost absurd to even imagine. With this knowledge in my heart I've let my laptop sit closed for weeks. There are days I can't even open my bible. Not because I don't want too. But I open it and sit and stare and feel so alone. I feel so lost in a world that is so complex. I want to simplify things. I want to love God and have God love me and let that be enough.

But I am afraid to admit that I don't feel like it is. Because if I did would that stop me from staying up until 2 am sobbing uncontrollably? Wouldn't it mean that I was full of joy and not bitterness, anger, resentment? Yet, I've sat by as a prisoner in my own soul these past few weeks watching myself slowly break down into my old self. Surely, if God was enough, I would have remained in the new creation that He made me to be, but I haven't.

A few weeks ago, before I realized how light my grip was on my heart, I was waking up in the morning and spending time with God. I started with a devotional I was given and would look up the few verses of scripture that went with it. I often found myself completely engrossed and reading chapters instead of just sentences.

Every once in a while I will highlight a verse that catches me. I am probably only sure 50% of the time what it's actually saying, the other 50% I know it's important yet I can't nail it down to a point just at that moment.

One of the verses I read that struck me was from 2 Corinthians 6.

As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way .... as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. We have spoken freely to you; Our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak to you as children) widen your hearts also.

I wrote it down that morning and kept hearing the phrase in my own heart... Widen your heart.
In fact, a portion of this verse even came up again this week in one of my emails.

I wasn't sure what God was saying - but it was one of those moments I wrote it down because I knew what Paul was preaching was what I was living somehow. I kept thinking... I have shared every last detail of my broken heart with anyone who dared to ask. I have held nothing back, not even with my readers on my blog here. So in my mind, my heart was already wide.

But tonight, something shifted and I get it. I am so sure of this that I felt drawn to open this little silver machine of life to type it all up while I sip my hot chocolate in this cool autumn air.

I went to dinner with a friend tonight. I have been so blessed to have her in my life and each and every time I spend with her I realize how much she is really beginning to mean to me. In a way that I know will echo for years to come if God allows it too. I met her in bible study last year and during a retreat at the church we realized just how emotionally similar we are. We exchanged numbers and emails at the end of the day and since then she's become such a wonderful friend.

Perhaps meeting with her tonight after holding back tears all day wasn't such a bad idea after all. I have wanted to cancel all week. I've isolated myself from most people and it's benefited me because the few I didn't isolate myself from ended up hurting me deeply this week. As I sat in the restaurant crying she came around and sat next to me, putting her arm around me and hugging me. And it was so nice to have that because I know that was God loving me through her. She listened and sympathized and it was just nice to have someone not try to remedy my situation but allow me just to be in this moment. She's one of a few people who have allowed me just to be.

After I dropped her off at her home I had this desire to stop at Dunkin and grab a hot chocolate. At 10:30 at night I knew it was unlikely to find a place that was open or willing to make one for me. But as I drove home I saw one that was 24 hours and I knew if I was going to get a hot chocolate anywhere tonight, this would be the place. I pulled up to the speaker and said a quiet quick prayer "Please, God, let them have hot chocolate." I know it's so silly but I had this fear that they would tell me their machine was broken or that they don't serve that drink after a certain time. I don't know, I'm kind of crazy... Or used to getting my hopes up only to be let down.

As soon as the woman spoke to take my order, God whispered to me.

"Hi, my name is Sharon, what can I get for you tonight?" The tone of her voice was kind. Willing to serve. Loving. I swear, I know this probably sounds crazy but I could just hear it.

"Hi, can I please have a medium hot chocolate?"

"Sure, did you want whipped cream on top?"

"No, thank you."

"Okay sweetie, did you need any cream or milk to go in that?"

"No, thank you."

Before I had even made it to the drive through window I knew I needed to bless this woman. I knew I had a $10 bill in my wallet that God wanted me to give to her. I also knew that many Dunkin's do not allow the staff to collect tips and instead the money goes to a worthy charity.

When I got to the window seconds later she gave me my total, $2.06. With the $3 in my hand, I asked her if they were allowed to receive tips. She said yes. I slipped out the ten dollar bill to go with my three singles and I told her what happened.

"I feel God wanted me to give you an extra big tip tonight."

As I handed her the money she lit up.

"Oh my goodness. Thank you so much!"

So I told her, "I don't know why, but God wanted me to give that to you."

She shared a few things with me that I know this touched a place in her heart and then I said to her, "God loves you. And I do too."

She was so thankful. So happy. In that moment, I was too.

When I opened up to share God's love with this woman, I felt His love too. I felt it pass through my hand as the woman reached out hers and I took it and we shared a brief moment of kindness.

Driving home I sang praise songs to God and thanked Him for His love.

This woman really touched my heart. I don't know what it was about her but she reminded me so much of my mom. Hardworking. Kind. Soft spoken. Working hard into the hours of the night just to make a living. To support herself and perhaps a family at home.

I thought back to all the nights my mom would come home so joyful with her face beaming as she shared a story of how a customer had done something nice for her. Either spoke something nice or gave her a tip that said they loved her for more than just her ability to pour them a drink. And you know what? I loved nothing more than seeing my mom happy. She spent so much of her life in sadness and whenever she smiled, I did too. Tonight I realized for the first time ever, what a blessing all those customers were to my mom. How they brightened her night. How they carried her home safely. Keeping her awake with joy on her 45 minute car ride down a rural main road. Just so she could come home and share the goodness with her daughters.

And I finally get it.

What it means to widen your heart. It's not only sharing my hurt and my most delicate spots. Not just about sharing my testimony in hopes to encourage someone else. This time it's about sharing my love. It's not about being wide open, but widening... Stretching my heart to extend God's love even when my own heart is breaking. It's giving the one thing I so badly want to have and keep for myself. Sharing the love that God gave me. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Poor, but making many rich. Having nothing, but possessing everything.

And I've been doing this all along. Helping a neighbor carry her groceries up the stairs. Praying for the homeless man I once gave money to on the hottest day of the summer. I used to see him all the time and now I never do and I wonder if he was ordained by God simply to catch my attention. Today a sweet, shy, quiet spanish girl at work did something so helpful for me. I know that God used her to help me as I've been struggling with being in over my head with work. Her one gesture saved me an hour, possibly more, of work and I thanked her up and down and gave her a hug. I know she was surprised, I was too. But it was exactly what God wanted for me and for these others.

In these moments, each and every one of them, I have felt God's love. I feel I have been doing what I've been called to do, even in the day to day. I have learned it doesn't have to be grand gestures of love and piles of money or hours of time. It's the simple every day task of just loving one another that really means the most.

And this is what I want. I want to make more people happy. People like my mom who so desperately need that second look. The moment of kindness. The reminder that God loves them. 

Lord, I pray you continue to widen my heart. Widen my heart so that Your love can more easily flow in and around all the broken pieces of my heart as you make it whole. Widen my heart so there is more space for your light to shine brightly through. Widen my heart so that even though I've been more emotionally exhausted than ever before that I can do kind and wonderful things in the name of Jesus. Lord, let me be unrestricted in my affections for others. Those who are close to me and those I have never met. Lord, I pray you use me, even now, in this broken state, to reach others and draw them closer to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.