Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sweetly Broken

This past week has been hard. Not for any particular reason but just because sometimes the weight of my future hopes begins to feel heavy. Sometimes I look around and think that I'm a bit too confident to believe in a future better than my past, when I know full well history repeats itself. Often I find myself taking the truths of the world over the truths of my God as reality. I tend to forget that in God's world things are upside down and backwards and it's in the moments when things make the least amount of sense and seem the most impossible, that God can show up and show off in big ways. It's the things that can be least explained by facts that often show up to surprise us.

So why do I hang my head in defeat and continue to cry for the bitter ache in my heart? Why does the stinging in my heart, burn straight through to my thoughts and spread like wild fire in my actions? It's so hard. To live each day in the grace that I've been given and know that it's sufficient. It's hard to trust and believe that God is on my team when circumstances don't seem to be improving. Many times I find myself questioning the God of the universe. As if I have any right at all to interject with my thoughts and opinions. Some days I laugh and call Him crazy and suggest that maybe just this one time He got it wrong. Other days I find myself convinced that God's good plan for me is directly related to me screwing up the good thing He previously gave me and Him having to make up a consolation prize.

I don't see myself as always being loved by God. Instead, I see the timeframe of our relationship truly beginning when I vowed to turn my life over to Him. I see the messy and broken pieces that I came to Him with and I see Him sighing heavily and picking them all up in disappointment. I imagine that God gets frustrated with how I've let my emotions dictate the course of my life over 31 years and have shamefully continued to do so the past two years. I see God blessing my ex by presenting him with someone who can emotionally handle the gift of marriage. I see His blessings poured out over my ex, who got it, who prayed right and hoped right and trusted God with his life. I see how God honored that with someone who was capable of loving far better than I could.

It breaks my heart. If there's one thing I've tried to do right, it's love. I never meant for things to fall apart and I never meant to hurt anyone. I truthfully couldn't see the forest through the trees and I started running wild in any direction. I tried to escape any way I could, to find some vast open space where I could see the sky and breathe deep in the air of hope. All that running and striving and trying instead left me more lost than when I started and now all that's left is a girl who is tired and full of despair.

However, when I look through God's eyes, I have to imagine that based on His character, He sees me a lot different. I wonder if God looks at me and His heart leaps for joy that I've discovered that He's here with me. I imagine that when He formed me, He smiled as He gave me the gift of art, knowing how much it would make me come alive. I imagine that through the years as I've struggled He's been there walking with me, holding my hand as I cried. I wonder if God rejoiced the moment I gave authority to Him and vowed to trust in Him for the plans of my life. I wonder if He smiled each time I prayed and set out hopeful for the day ahead. Does God look at my past as the building blocks for the things He has prepared me for? Is my future not a consolation prize but the actual prize that I've been hoping for my whole life? I wonder if when I question my worth God silently puts His plans into motion knowing that He's going to totally surprise me beyond what I could hope for.

In church we've been singing the song Good, Good Father by Housefires. I hear this song playing on repeat in the track of my mind lately. "You're a good, good father. It's who You are. It's who You are. It's who You are. And I'm loved by You. It's who I am. It's who I am. It's who I am."

I'm coming to realize that all this brokenness is kind of beautiful in it's own way. There's a part of me that's fighting against the natural urge to resist God and argue with Him and feel like He's cast me out. That part of me is pulling to rest softly in the brokenness. In the confusion. In the unknown. To surrender my hopes and dreams and just quietly sit in the peace of God and know that He will use this for good as well. There's no doubt it's created a desire in me to help others who are struggling with these same emotions and to remind them that they're not alone.

I saw a quote by Henri Nouwen that's been lingering in my mind,
"Just as bread needs to be broken in order to be given, so, too, do our lives."
Then as I've meditated on this I've wondered if it's far better to be broken and then strengthened, than it is to simply be blessed as my ex was. Not that being blessed is bad by any means, Lord knows I'd give anything for that kind of easy, a pleasant but welcome change for my normal cadence of always wondering. Then I read an Ann Voskamp blog post and in it she reverberates the Henri Nouwen quote I have been holding onto since last week. "We could be the community that offers the Emmaus option: Be the bread so broken and given - that a hungry world yearns for more of the taste of such glory." 

I am starting to think that this brokenness is a beautiful gift. I don't know how yet. I can't really figure that out and maybe it's not supposed to be something I find. When I was a kid I never liked to search for my Christmas gifts early. I knew exactly where they were in my parents closet. In fact, our closets connected so it wouldn't of been hard to climb through the hangers of clothes and shoes on the floor to discover what was on the other side. I like being surprised instead and have really come to learn that I hate spoilers. I love the authenticity of truly being surprised. Just as with Christmas, when there were gifts that were more great than I anticipated, I imagine so is the same with God's plan for my life. So I want to learn how to authentically rest in the broken unknown and trust that God has something great planned from this. That it's far better to be broken and used by God than to be broken by and used by the world.

I've loved slowing down this month and just resting. Not keeping up with the Jones' on Instagram and Facebook but instead spending those quiet moments resting my soul. It's involved a lot of episodes of Parenthood, home cooking, and the occasional adventure. It's not my perfect summer, but I am trusting God with the details that the summer I truly yearn for is still ahead for me. The past few days I've been praying a lot. Prayers that ask God to show me my worth, to meet me in my mess and to help me move on. I know that holding onto the anger and bitterness will rot away my soul, slowly but surely. I don't want it anyways and never did. So I'm asking for a lot of grace to work through this and get past it so I can embrace the future with arms wide open. I don't know if I'll ever believe I'm good enough or qualified for a Godly relationship. I don't know if I'll ever be married and have a husband that prays with me. But it's my sincere hope, that even though I don't deserve it and will mostly likely be inadequate in reciprocating these things, that it's in God's plan. One thing I do know, I am so full of love and I want to share this with others. I want to be able to give of myself and encourage someone else in their walk with the Lord. I may fail at a lot of things, but this is the one thing I want to do well. I think this alone is something fundamental to build a relationship from.

All the love.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Potter

The way things work in God's universe are so different than the way things work in the world. In the world, healing and insight come from bouncing back after tragedy. From working out until you're so fit you can run marathons. From starting new businesses and kicking major butt in sales. From getting a makeover and embracing the new life you have. By getting out there and dating new guys to prove your heart isn't broken and moving on from the old into the new.

These things aren't bad in small doses and in tandem with true healing other ways. However, these are just some of the ways the world has told me that I should heal and move on. I knew none of these things were right for me and instead were only covering up a deeper pain that needed to be worked through. As a crafter, quilter, and occasional DIYer, I can tell you that good quality work, the kind that lasts through generations, takes time. It's a slow and detailed process. It gets into every grain and fiber and cuts no corners. 

This is how it's been with me. Slow. Sometimes so slow it doesn't feel like anything is even happening. If we're honest, there have been days more recent than I'd like to admit where I've struggled as if I never knew Jesus. As if I never got the chance to walk into His warm embrace and hear Him whisper promises of hope and a future. 

It's felt a little like starting over. It's felt a lot like not being good enough and not really liking myself and believing with my whole heart that I'm not capable or worthy of being loved the way that I desire. It's ugly, but it's the way I've felt. 

Then I spoke to a friend who is going through something that had me looking back on my journey these past two years. This conversation where I shared my heart opened me up to some truths I haven't wanted to face. I want to share some of what I said.

It all started with accepting God's plan and letting go of our fears. Now, if you give me that Christian Cliche, "Let Go and Let God", I might hit you. I'm sorry, but this quote pops up everywhere. It's not that it's bad advice, but it was handed to me on Day One of the end. It's what my ex said to me as I sat in his car bawling my eyes out because he was dating someone new. I feared so much back then. My fearful imagination ran wild. I foreseen each bend in the road leading him further away from me. I was absolutely terrified that I was going to lose him. He told me, "Let Go and Let God." I could have hit him, too. It felt like a lousy way to escape from having a part in the way my heart was breaking.

One by one I lived through my deepest fears coming true. Each one was painful. Each one caused me to question God. Some caused me to question my life. Two had me with pills in my hand ready to end the pain. I don't say this lightly. These were my biggest fears and I held them tight. I put a cage around them and threw away the key because I was terrified of fear getting out and wrecking havoc on my life. Instead, every day I looked at my fear - terrified of how it would crush me if it escaped. 

I said to my friend, if I could go back and do it again - I would like to do it differently. I suppose what I should say is IF I HAD TO, I would like to do it differently. Cause, I don't really want to go back to the past two years ever again. Nichole Nordeman has a song called "The Unmaking" and it's become the anthem of my life right now. One of the lyrics says "The longer and the tighter that we hold, only makes it harder to let go." Every time she sings that I think, if I turned to God and turned my back on my ex completely in September two years ago, how much less could this have hurt? If I stuck to my words and said I couldn't be friends with him in November, even when he showed up at my door in a tux begging me not to leave, how much easier would it be now? How much quicker would I have healed? 

Bethel sings, "I'm no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God." - I sing it loud and proud but I was a slave to fear, and I didn't even realize it. That fear held me captive - held me as a prisoner in my own emotions and literally has left me clinging for my life. I was fearful of him leaving me. Of choosing someone else. Becoming engaged and then married. Of him never speaking to me again. Truth is, I fought against all these things and they happened anyways. So how much different would it have been if I just trusted God? If I just really let it go the way that Elsa shouts from the mountaintops of her ice castle?

My prayer came to me today and I wrote it down on a miniature post-it note. God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10.

Let me start again. Let me throw off the fear that has hindered me. The fear that held me captive when I thought that I was holding it captive. I want a clean heart, a fresh start, a new beginning. I want a steadfast spirit that hopes and believes in a God that is bigger than my past. I want to believe God when he whispers sweet words of being chosen, being worthy, being precious in His eyes. I am praying for the heart to believe these things, despite my feelings. I recognize that anything of value is not thrown together overnight but is carefully handled and planned. Each detail remarkably thought out and considered before it is presented to the world as complete. I once again turn my life back into the hands of the Potter and let Him continue to shape and mold me into something that can be used for His glory. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

ten years.

In a strange way, today feels like the closing of a decade of heartache.

Today is the 10 year marker of my dad dying.

No one has said anything. I suppose if I wasn't on a social media hiatus that I would have posted something and friends and family would have commented saying something nice. Maybe mentioning how they miss him. But they didn't live through the things I did.

There are things better left unspoken. Things that happened that I'll never repeat. Things that break my heart and make it really hard to trust others, especially guys.

It's hard for others to understand why I have a hard time when I speak of my father. He wasn't always a bad guy, but the times where he was sober minded and loving were few between. No one will understand how my heart breaks that he will never walk me down the aisle. How it makes me sad and mad at the same time. No one will especially understand how when he died I almost breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn't have to worry about him at my wedding one day.

Dads are supposed to love and care. My dad left me drunk voicemails the night of prom calling me a whore and a slut and accusing me of sleeping with my prom date. When I didn't come home he left quite a few of those. He didn't know that the reason I didn't come home was because I forgot my house key and he locked me out. He didn't know that in his drunken stupor that he couldn't hear me banging on the door to let me in. He didn't know that as he laid passed out drunk upstairs, I was standing alone in a parking lot at one in the morning in my prom dress waiting for my mom to come pick me up. He didn't know how much worse he made prom for me. He didn't know that I was being bullied at school by a girl who accused me also of trying to sleep with my prom date, a guy who was like my best friend, who was dating her much younger sister. He didn't know that prom was already a nightmare for me and that he made it worse. He didn't know that he didn't have to worry about me sleeping with this guy because thanks to him I was pretty afraid of guys.

But that all happened and it's in the past now. For ten years I have lived with all the hurtful things he once said and have known I'd never get an apology. No remorse and no attempt to right the wrongs. I'm just left here trying to pick up the mess he made.

Then I dated a guy who appeared to disprove my father. Who made me feel loved and respected and cared for. Then that guy left me feeling a whole lot like my father did, though his actions weren't the same - they weren't that far off. Again, I'll live through this knowing I'll never get a sincere apology or a hint of remorse. Again, I'm left trying to pick up the pieces of my very broken heart.

I look back at the past ten years. Where I lost my very dear and beautiful mother who never got a chance to truly experience a long season of happiness. I look at all the friendships that fizzled out. The many moves I've made. I look back at these past ten years and I see a girl with a very broken heart just trying to get by. Then I look at this girl today and I see so much of that same struggle. I wonder if life will ever stop feeling like such a battle for any ounce of joy. I'm in this really weird place finding it significantly hard to trust people. I have lost the desire to make new friends or meet new people because I expect they'll just keep going. I look back at ten very short but long years and wonder how the heck all of that happened in ten years.

But I also see good. I see two beautiful nephews that were given a second chance to have life abundantly. I see the friends who did stay and who really do love me unconditionally. I thank the good Lord above for them because I know it hasn't been easy lately. I see myself as adopted into a new family. Where I get to have Christmas traditions and family vacations with. I see clearly how the Lord provided for me my own place and the things I needed for it. I see the quiet times I've had to sit and reflect and the brave solo outings I've taken. Sunsets are more beautiful than ever and words of encouragement have never been so coveted. I see dreams and hopes and things that are so far beyond what I believe I am capable for and I believe God has some wildly crazy plan to work in my life. I see relationships as more sacred than ever before. I have experienced a lot of anger and bitterness but the flip side of that is a soft acceptance of life changing. I see moments even more special than ever before, not just because life can end in an instant but also because people can walk in an instant. Sometimes we can't control the changes and other times people choose to make a change and there's something so bittersweet to acknowledging that.

Lately I have been struggling with doubt and worth. The past few weeks I had a mini identity crisis. I'm not sure if I've fully recovered but I'll tell you what I'm praying infiltrates my heart. That I would see myself as good enough, worthy, chosen and loved. That I would look at the future with this hopeful expectation because I trust that God has a plan for my life. Lately this idea that came into my mind and has been exciting me. Right now my future is literally in God's hands. I don't have someone I'm seeing, I can't imagine who that person will be, where we'll meet, what he'll be like. So each and every encounter I've seen as potential open doors. I kind of look at each interaction a little bit differently. Not just because I hope marriage is in God's plans for me, but also because I have this new sense that plans are in fact in God's hands. Each interaction suddenly becomes a chance to change the course of my life and it's kind of exciting. Who will be my friends, what experiences will I have, what jobs will I do. Everything is open right now and I'm not chasing it. I'm letting God guide me to it.

So even though I wish that tonight when the clock strikes midnight that there would be a clean cut from the past ten years of my life, I know that it is not so. I know there's still healing to happen and lies to be removed. I know that tomorrow I will have moments where my heart aches for the losses I've had. But I am praying the next ten years look completely different. That my perspective would change. That God would show me that He is trustworthy and good. I pray I would see hope and that I would learn to lean into the suffering instead of running from it. I can't believe next month I get on a plane to go to Influence Conference. It feels surreal, yet, I can think of nothing better to begin the next ten years of my life than taking a leap of faith. Can you?