Monday, October 27, 2014

Called

Most of us know the story of Jesus asking his disciples "Who do you say that I am?"

We've read it and heard it in Sunday school and in church. Just like I did this past Sunday. The story was told, and as always, it struck a chord with me. It resonates because the answer is true for me- he is my savior. 

But then, working just along the edges of my prayers was this question- "Who do I say YOU are?"

It's a much harder question to answer. It's a question of worthiness and of giving yourself permission to be loved. 

It's about stepping out into the faith that if you love Christ, you are loved in return. And not only loved, forgiven. And not only forgiven, but a new creation. And not only a new creation but righteous.

No pressure. 

Ahem.

This is what I grapple with the most. I want to feel SMALL. I want to feel unworthy. I want to feel lost in the shuffle. I don't want to be important or to be beloved.

Because then I have to wrestle with feelings of being worthy. And those are feelings even pandora would run away from.

I've spent a lot of time trying to be good. Trying to be love able. Trying to serve and give. I've cultivated a mindset of jumping in when others don't because I've been there. I've been the homeless kid asking for money. I've been the kid at school with no lunch. I've been the woman at the grocery store with not enough cash. A thousand different scenarios. 

We've all been there right? When we look around and there's not a friendly face to be found? When circumstances rise up to us and circle like jackals. And we feel alone in the fight, backed up against a wall. 

When we think we've established a life where we need never feel lonely again. But we still end up there, where it's only us with our thoughts and deeds. When we end up misunderstood and judged and left behind. 

That's where all the scripture about crying out in the wilderness, about saving grace and redeeming love should be relevant.

But sometimes you are still alone with just words. Words of life and of truth, yes. But God never promised to remove loneliness and pain. Just that in the midst of it, he would be there.

And so when he asks me "Who do I say that you are?" The answer is loaded with emotion and fear. 

I am His. I am all of the things He has said. 

But to FEEL that...to really be in it, to walk in it -even when everything around you is telling you that you are alone? Well that's another story.


Habakkuk 3:16-19 

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. 



Wow. That's a lot of faith right there. And that's what it comes down to then right? That if we believe God is who he says he is, we have to believe that we are also his creation, made in his image, and beloved by Him.


Despite our circumstances and our sadness. Despite the world that tells us we are unimportant or others who disregard us.


The world and people can and may reject us. The word of man can be betrayed and vows revoked. Nothing in this life is certain.


Nothing but the love of God. Despite how unworthy we may feel or how small we are. How much we want to hide or how much we wrestle with the worthiness of our lives. 



Psalm 34:17-18 

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.



Who does he say that I am? His. Even as work toward being worthy, he calls me by name. 

And despite my feelings of unworthiness, I answer and I follow. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bitterness

I have been laid bare, stripped away of all that was me.

Before what has happened and after what has been wrought are the remains of who I was and the life I was stepping glibly through.

I shouldered my burden of childhood and carried it high and proud on my back. I used its weight to propel me forward, and it's weight reminded me in many ways and in every conversation that I would never go back there.

I was who I chose to be. I was a woman immersed in a life I created. I was loved and I loved in returned. I served and I loved to serve.

And between the then me and the now me lies a shriveling of self, a backstep into who I never wanted to repossess. The hard edged, hard worded person I had left long ago.

The battle with circumstance has poisoned the sweetness of faith I worked so hard to wrap around my heart.

Have you ever been thirsty? So thirsty you would drink anything, anything, to remove the desperate calling of your body for replenishment? And have you ever taken that first sip and realized the water was bitter? Tainted?

But you drink anyway. Because you thirst. 

And this water makes you sick. But still, you are thirsty, so you still drink. And soon the sickness and the bitterness become like nothing. You no longer taste or realize how sick you have become. 

That's how the world, and life, and hurt, can turn your once cared for garden of a soul into a stumbling block of stony field.

It's not an overnight process, but a moment by moment slip and allowance of outside forces to become more important than the truth you know. 

And here is the Truth:

God is bigger than life. That He is and always will be working for your good. That our troubles here, in this plane, create in us a deeper need for Him and a calling home to where we are destined. 

Every tear is counted and every moment we spend in pain or in fear can create a carved path for our feet to tread to the cross.

Or it can lower us into a state of perpetual wrath, of giving over to thoughts of only wrongs and betrayals. It can lower our vision into only seeing the turned back of friends instead of the open arms of our Savior. 

Bitterness is sadness and anger given root and wings. It is savage in its spread and unretreating in its repetitive thought patterns. 

It has hooks and claws. But it is also a slow moving monster, and it has had me without me knowing.

In the tossing storm of the past few months my eyeline has shifted. It has moved from heaven to the horizon. It has turned from caring about God's idea of who I am to who everyone else thinks I am.

I am a bitter Christian with a loving God. One who is faithful even when I am not. One who loves me and wants to give safe haven when the world is storm tossed. 


Hebrews 12:14-15 

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. 




Defiled. It's such an intimidating word, but important. Because defiled is what your mind becomes when you allow your circumstances and your situation to outshine the knowledge that God is sovereign. That He is awake to all things, even when you are asleep. That when you rage and cry and scream and wail He is still in control. 


I lost my way in this. I allowed my life to become bigger than my God. I let my troubles become much much bigger than what I know to be true.


I don't like to give evil a lot of credit. I tend to try to ignore the fact that there is a force other than the One I love and live for in this world. But I can see, step by step, how insidious and easy it is to get a foothold in my thoughts. And once it is there how moment by moment it creeps and finds other thoughts to feed on.

1 Peter 5:8 

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.



In praying to God to change my circumstances and repair the broken things, I never prayed to guard my thoughts. 

Bitterness works it's way in the dark. It twists the actions of others through a lens of fear and hurt, so that everything becomes personal. It makes the innocuous hurtful and casts doubt upon every action others take. 

It twists the victor into a victim, and the hopeful into a wretch.

And I'm weary of being hopeless.

I have an amazing, vibrant, loving God. He has given me more than the world could ever take away from me. 

I'm stepping into a new life, one that is much barer of those I thought would be here for the journey. It's much quieter, and filled with confusion and hurt. 

But it is also filled with the symphony of my husbands voice, my children's calling and singing and laughing. It is filled with God's grace and His open arms and his word that speaks of home and life.

It is filled with all that can edge the bitterness away, push the stony ground beneath the cover of life that can regrow even in the barren places. 

It is filled with Him. 

Colossians 3:12-14 

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Storm

The weather map lit up red. Angry welts broken by bands of dark green, pushing it's way directly across my area. Light flashed outside through purple rain clouds and thunder danced hard and turbulent. The kind you hear and feel all across your body- but mostly in your chest, next to your heart.

I tried to tell myself it was an ordinary storm. A typical Texas dust up that would be over soon. Then the sky turned yellow and the tv blared warning warning warning and I knew. 

I was alone in a small rented apartment in Texas. And I was scared. Right across from the door to my home was a floor to ceiling window overlooking the street and also the monstrous storm heading my way. I was on the second floor. No basement.  No cover. No shelter. 

So I stood. And watched as my world changed.

The sizzle and pop of eletrical lines being taken down by the twister began first. Lighting struck cloud to cloud, the heaviness and urgency of Mother Nature pushing the clouds closer to where I stood, framed by only wood. The dark finger of the tornado touched the horizon just as the first raindrops hit the glass in front of me. 

Hell broke loose. Rain pounded the building, lighting and thunder coming in waves directly over my head. 

Then stillness. 

Silence.

I looked up, watching as the rain began swirling in a gentle arc, the leaves on the trees pulling off and up one by one. A sound like a far off train hit my ears just about when I watched the pool furniture begin to lift slowly up, like ghosts dancing in the air. 

And then nothing. 

It lifted as if it had never been, the clouds skidding away. The thunder echoing farther and farther.

But everything around me was altered. The landscape had changed, touched by something huge and monstrous and bigger than I could have ever anticipated. 

Everything my eyes touched was bitten, broken, missing. 

Damaged and wounded and in need of repair. 

And although this had happend to my world, I was helpless to keep it at bay. 

Storms are like that. Great works of nature that can sow great harvests or ruin entirely the landscape they touch.

And we don't know which until it has passed.


I've been reminded over and over of those moments I went through that day in the past week. The terror mixed with awe. The wonder at the storm and the remains of what it left behind. The hard work of putting things to right after, and how they still were never quite as they were before.

And the lingering fear of another one.

I feel like I've lived that monster over the past few months. The devastation and the fear and the ripping up of what I thought was safe and whole and real. The pulling of the foundation under my feet. 

I have been helpless to change the outcome. I have had to sit and watch, and have faith that it would work out as it was supposed to.

And I still don't know if it has. 

Faith is supposed to be believing everything is as it should be. But sometimes our faith gets pulled up by the storm. It gets worn by the wind and the rain and looks much different after than before. Unrecognizable.

I need a faith I can hold and cling to in the eye of the monster. One that holds true in the wind and rain and silence and destruction. 

I can't say that is true anymore. I have found the altered landscape created a distance to my faith I've never walked before. An ebb. A questioning of what this all was for and why God would allow this monster to unsettle and destroy things I've held dear and loved.

If you're looking for a happy wrap up, it's not here. I'm still there, in the moments you walk out into the life you've knowns forever, and do not recognize it. When you have to feel your way and stumble past things that were not there in your path before. When the landmarks you've used all your life have been pulled down. 

I'm there. Without a map. With a distant God who has a plan I don't understand and maybe don't believe in anymore.

I'm there in the ruins and hoping my own two feet will carry me through. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Broken Things


When I was baptized at 7, I was given a beautiful statue of St Mary. Cream, gold, and light pink, she sat on my dresser and watched me. Her eyes were downcast, her face serene. Sometimes I would take her down and hold her. I would wrap her in a blanket, set her next to me for picnics. She was treasured not just for what she was, but for what she represented- a mother.

I took her on every move, every switch from home to home. She was a tangible reminder of hope and of a home I had lost.

When I was 13, I dropped her. I remember watching in slow motion as she fell, her pieces scattering everywhere on the tile floor. Small daggers rained over my feet, drawing miniscule drops of bright red blood. I could not move for fear of injury. There was no place to go, no movement that would not cause pain.

I feel like I have been living in that very moment for the past several months.

Paralyzed. Held in place by the fear of pain. In suspended motion, waiting for rescue- while the broken pieces of something I held so precious sit around me.

Anger, bitterness, sadness, helplessness. All of these are things we go though. Seasons we live through. These seasons can either make you bitter and turn your back on what you know is true, or they can make you draw closer to God and the truth that no matter what, He is working for your good.

He is sovereign. He knows everthying that is, everything that will be, and everything that has been. Nothing that happens is a surprise to him.

But for us, living down here with our humanity and the dirt and pain that just living can create- this is sometimes such cold comfort.

I have watched, silent and unmoving, as people I have loved for years have turned their faces away from me. I have been quiet as their silence descended on myself and my family like a shroud, weighing us down.

I have listened to the battering ram of words thrown at me. I have sat still in the accusation. Not because I am without guilt or mistakes, but because I cannot defend myself against untruth.

Only God can do that.

I could hurl a million words at this situation. I could wail and weep and cry and wring my hands. I could be loud and bold and angry with those involved.

But in the end, it would get me nowhere. My only defense is my faith.


I have tried to hold tight to the words in Exodus 14:14- "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."


Please don't mistake me- I have shook my hands at God and begged him to reveal the truth. I have cried and broken down so fully that I was afraid for my own sanity.

This has been pain like none other. To keep quiet. To hide my tears. To hold my head up when all I wanted to do was fall on the ground.

Here's the thing though- pain always hurts. But pain always teaches. Always.

When I have felt like ALL was taken from me- my friendships, my good name, my reputation, my peace... He was still there.

When I felt there would never be any rest ever again...He brought me comfort.

When I cried in front of my children and saw the fear in their eyes, He gave me the words to help them understand.

He led my husband to hold me and pray over me- when I was to angry to pray.

He covered me. In the times when I wept and hid and hurt and agonized, he was there. Covering me with His love.

I still don't understand. I don't think I ever will. And even now, months later, there are still fresh wounds and losses.

But what I am learning most of all is this: I can allow this to make me hard. I could let it drain me of the kindness and the love I have worked really hard to be able to show the world. I could let it turn me back into the closed off hurting woman I once was. Or I could use it to propel me even deeper into faith and love than I have ever been before.

Some days I truly don't know which way it will go. Let's just be really honest- if you don't put yourself out there you arent rejected. If you don't reach out, you wont be rebuffed. If you don't give of yourself nobody will tell you you aren't good enough. You won't ever be betrayed if you don't allow anybody close enough to betray you.

But you will be alone.

I don't think God wants us to be alone. I think he wants us to be discerning, and to be careful of our company. But I think surely he wants us to have joy. And I don't know about you, but most of my joy comes from loving others and my interactions with them. Much of my joy comes from being KNOWN and from knowing others and trying to serve them.

It's a hard battle being fought in my heart. From day to day I cannot tell you which way it will go. All I know is God knows. And that enough for me right now.

I remember when I broke my statue. I stood for what seemed like hours, crying and wishing it had not happened. I called out for help, but nobody came.


So I had to move my feet- step down on the glass. I had to kneel among the fragments of what I loved and pick them up. I had to bleed.

I bled and wept as I put her back together, piece by small piece. My hands are still scarred, to this day.

She was never the same, but she was still precious. She was still treasured, although she was not whole. And she was loved even through the brokenness.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Damaged

My mother was beautiful. Fragile, strong, and delicate all at once. She was generous and giving. She was impatient and unkind. She was abusive and took much of her illness out on me.

She was damaged by a lineage of mental illness, and by abuse at the hands of her own mother.

Damaged. Ruined. Beyond repair.

By the time she died, her body showed signs of a life lived on the edge of death. Lungs riddled with cancer, body broken by a life of neglect. Rotten teeth, a face that looked 60 at 46.

She damaged herself on the outside to try to match the inside. She riddled herself with cancer, filled her body with poison, and invited any and all abuse she could find into her life.

And I loved her. Because daughters love their mother. I still love her. I hate what she did to me, and I hate her for leaving me. But I love her.

She damaged me. I am damaged. I am the damaged child of a damaged dead woman.

I own this. I own my past. I own the legacy of abuse. I hold the memory of things nobody should. I carry it every single blessed day of my life.

I carry it, here, in this damaged mind.

But damaged does not mean broken.

I am not broken.

I will never be broken.

Because my life has been filled, from beginning to end, with God's enduring grace.

Every footstep I have ever taken has been dogged by a God that loves me. And every single action that has been taken against me- every wound, every burn, every word, has been redeemed. Every time I was left, abandoned, and betrayed, I may have felt alone, but I was NEVER ALONE.

Damage is ugly. It hurts. In inflicts pain. And long past the point the damage is healed, it can still be felt.

But damage is also beautiful. Because in the silence of being left behind by all of those who were supposed to love me, I reached for His voice. I reached beyond my circumstance. I reached through tears, past wounds, and beyond myself. I pushed past all I have ever known and pressed on until I found grace.

That can never be taken away from me. Ever.

I am damaged. But my damage is a thing of beauty. It is beautiful and holy and sacred. It is pain and it is crushing. It is what happened to me, BUT IT IS NOT ME.

Because what I am is a child of God. Saved. Lifted from circumstance of birth into a life I could never have imagined.

Lifted into motherhood. Given into a role I was terrified of.

I'm scared every single day. Scared of not getting this right. Of passing on the damamge. Of showing the damamge.

I'm scared. But I refuse to be pulled down. I refuse to sink into what I was shown, and instead I walk a path lit by the One who has always guided my steps.

I don't know how to be a mother. I was never mothered. But I know how to love God. And I know how to love my children. And I know how to give them what I wasn't.

Scars are proof you have lived. Damage is proof of life.

It's how you utilize that damamge. To create beauty or to inflict pain. The choice is ultimately up to me.

I choose to love. I choose to use the pain to teach me how to love.

I may not always get it right. And I may struggle with memory and trauma. But I will always choose to love. Nobody can take that from me.

Isiah 61:3

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

This Will Be the Place

Dear Lily and Sam,

It's almost Thanksgiving, a time when many people begin to reflect on the things in life they are most grateful for. As always, you two are at the top of my list. You continue to grow and flourish, to become your own people in ways I never could have predicted. You amaze me with your boundless capacity to love, to forgive, and to be in every single moment.

I've had my alot on my mind about what I am teaching you everyday. How I teach you about love and about kindess. How I reflect Christ to you. I fail alot of the time. I grow impatient and angry at your slow steps, at your distracted attention. At the same time I am impatient, I also envy you. You both SEE the world- really see it. You see all of the bugs crawling across the driveway. You notice the leaves turning colors.

In truth I want to be more like you way more than I want you to be like me.

I can't promise you that I will never lose patience with you again. I will. I will yell. I will watch with sadness as my words make you cry. I will correct you when you are wrong, no matter how my heart breaks. I will love you enough to not let you enter this world without knowing who you are and who you belong to.

But I can promise you this:

One day your heart will be broken. You will be pushed. You will be made fun of. A boy or a girl may hurt your feelings.

And this will be the place you will come home to. Here. My heart. My shoulder will be where you cry. My heart will break with yours, and I may cry too. But I promise you that I will stop crying, get up and make things right for you.

This will be the place you come to when the world is too much for you. You will come to this home, enter these doors, and you will be safe. I will always make you safe.

This will be the place you run when the expectations of the world are overwhelming. When your schoolwork is too hard. When your friendships fracture and fall apart. When the pressures of being yourself hurt and press in to hard. You will come to me. I will help you, always.

This will be the place you come when you are in need. And as long as I have breath, I will help you be strong again. Or I will stand in front of you and be strong for you.

This world breaks people, my loves. It breaks and it hurts. It pushes people beyong their limits. People get lost every single day trying to be what the world wants them to be.

I've gotten lost a few times myself.

But as long as I am here, you will always have a cheerleader. You will always have somebody in your corner, on your side. You will have me, forver.

You will have a home wherever I am. You will have love as long as I live. And you will have somebody who will push you to become who God intended you to be.

You two are my greatest life's work. You are why I was born, and why I lived. You are why I breathe and get up every single day. You are why I chose the life I live. You are why I love God and why I pursue Him relentlessly.

You are my why. My reason. My breath.

This will be the place you come when you are at the very bottom of yourself. You will come now, when you are 3, to have your boo boos kissed. You will come when you are 6 to sit with me and tell me about your world and make sense of it.

And you will return all of your life here, to this space of love and acceptance. To this place where everything you are is okay. Where you can be who you want to be and be loved for every quirk and every flaw.

And as I am YOUR place, you are also mine. Everytime you smile or you laugh you heal me. With every year that passes and you grow into good strong, faithful people you will be saving me.

You are the place I come to when the memories are too much. When the past catches up and I feel the lack of all I know and all I will ever be.

You are my place. You are my medicine. You are my healers and my teachers.

Never forget that you are loved beyond reason, and treasured beyond imagining.

Happy Thanksgiving, my loves.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Tucked

I've spent alot of my life hating myself.

Too fat. Too ugly. Too unlovable. Not enough. Broken. Passed over. Thrown away.

Discarded.

Hating yourself can manifest in alot of ways. Drinking, drugs. Promiscuity.

Food was my drug of choice. It comforted me when I was alone. It was always there.

It numbed me. And I liked that.

Then when I had my babies, I had a huge revelation. I was teaching them how to eat. I was teaching them about their relationship with food. I could decide, more or less, the way they saw food. The way they utilized it.

I have a daughter, who will learn at my hands how to nourish herself. How to see herself. And how to love herself. I was in the absolute throes of self hatred. I had no buisness teaching anyone how to care for themselves.

I needed to get healthy. And I tried conventional means- there isn't a diet I didn't try. I exercised into exhaustion. But I had broken my body beyond it's ability to heal itself and be healthy.

So I had surgery to help my body fix itself.

Nearly 2 years and a hundred pounds lost later, I am confident enough to tell you that I love myself. I love my body for what it can do- how far it has carried me. I love it for housing my babies. And I love it now for the fact that it is easier to move and easier to live in.

I am at a healthy stable weight. I can teach my daughter confidently about nutrition, because I have been educated on what the body needs and wants. She knows that some foods are fo fuel, some for pleasure. She doesn't want to overeat or numb herself with food. This is a victory in many ways.

My body is lighter and it is fueled by quality food.

However, I still struggle.

I carried the majority of my weight in my abdomen, and after losing so much, I am left with an abundance of loose skin. Unlike fat, it doesn't have alot of weight, so it sits low and pulls hard at my back.


There is no high impact cardio I can do without pain. My back aches at the end of the day.

I grappled very hard with the only solution to this problem- abdominoplasty.

In the end, I could do without the surgery to remove the skin. But as I age, it will only get worse. The pain won't go away if I cannot be rid of the source and then build the muscle back up stronger.

So on November 1st, I am scheduled for a tummy tuck.

I'm terrified of the process...because recovery is lengthy and difficult. There is pain involved. Drains, bandages, scarring.

But you know what terrifies me the most? Explaining this to my daughter.

She is 6. She is well aware of everything that goes on with me, and given her caretaker personality, there is no way she will not notice I am in pain.

And also, she has my same body type. Her build, it is just like mine. A little rounder, a little fuller. She is strong and muscular and will never be lithe.

One day she will ask me why I changed my body to not look like hers.

This is what keeps me up at night. That question. What am I teaching her?

How will I teach her to love herself if I am actively changing my body through surgery? Modifying it to be different than what it is?

I don't have the answers.

I do know this- in the end, I am choosing this to better myself. To be more active and to continue to be healthier. I have to pray that she sees this and that in her mind having a healthy momma outweighs the fact that I have undergone 2 surgeries that drastically changed the way I look.

I am hopeful that she will go running with me one day and I will be able to explain to her that all of this was worth it. I hope to be a good example to her of a woman who reaches far past her comfort zone to achieve health.