Heartache

My heart aches and heaves with the slow pulse of the city. I smell the bleach in the hallway — an olfactory reminder of what we are dealing with. I put my hand on my chest.

It seems I’m always telling my heart to buck up and toughen up — it’s too vulnerable, takes on too much, breaks too easily, cries too much, and bears too quickly the burdens of others.

This time seems no different as tears spring up from my heart that is not broken nor hopeless nor joyless, but simply heavy with emotion. It’s heavy inside my chest, holding hurts that aren’t even directly my own.

I start to scold my tender heart for how quickly it takes on pain and burdens. Then I stop. Maybe the weight is for my good and the good of those I know.

If I let the weight of it all take me to Jesus — on my behalf as well as on behalf of those I love — it’s good and it’s a burden I will gladly bear. There I am, bringing things and people and situations to Him that I wouldn’t have brought if my heart didn’t ache.

And there I find myself with a secure identity and an unshakable joy, held up by Him who never changes and never fails. I will not shy away from the pain around me, because as it sends me to prayer, I bring the ones I love (and the ones I don’t know) over and over again to our kind Father.

We all carry on day by day, unaware of how much our own daily being is sustained and upheld by prayers we don’t even know are being prayed; by God’s intervention whether or not we see it or acknowledge it. I pray my own share of secret prayers, trusting not in my strength to pray them but in the Lord who hears them and cares.

The Helpless Trust Of Coronavirus

I heard the click-clacking of high-heeled shoes in the hallway — an eerie sound of normality among such silence and seclusion. Was she going to the grocery store? Probably. There’s really no other place we are allowed to go.

As I sat on my couch with a mug and a Bible, I imagined her: well-dressed like a good Spanish woman, color on her lips, purse on her arm, maybe carrying a grocery bag or wheelie cart. And now, most likely, wearing a face mask.

The streets are mostly empty when I look down from my balcony, but, among the police car that often circulates our block, a handful of cars can be spotted. Maybe they’re hospital staff, headed in to work. There are the occasional dog-walkers and grocery-shoppers, outside to do the only two things we can do outside. The ambulance sirens are loud, no longer hiding among other traffic noises.

And here I sit inside, working on my computer and writing and watching movies and studying the Bible and getting creative with living room workouts and reading in the sliver of sun that hits the balcony. And feeling very helpless.

It’s time for creative love, unceasing prayer, and kindness to my neighbor, which very well may only be the person I’m living with. And maybe most of all, it’s time for a new breed of trust in the Lord.

As I’m forced to embrace my helplessness and frailty right now, I remember that my strength was never the force that turned the universe anyway. I’ve always been helpless (it’s a human trait), but here it is, staring me in the face a bit more than usual.

So I’ll do what I can to creatively help and love those around me, but also really flex my trust muscle — standing on the Rock, putting my eyes on our faithful Jesus, and constantly bringing my burdens, and those of the people I love, to Him.

Then, I’ll keep sitting at home with peace and joy, knowing that Christ can never be taken from our hearts and knowing that He who has given grace over and over will give grace for whatever comes.

“For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” – 2 Chronicles 20:12

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge, and my savior.” – 2 Samuel 22:2-3

Refuge

My feet scuffed the dirt as my legs carried my heart down the trail and across the field, over and between the strong, solid rocks that reminded me of my Refuge.

I breathed Psalm 57:10 with every inhale and exhale. The very air I sucked into my lungs brimmed with His love and faithfulness that stretch up up into the sky above me.

Palms turned upward to the sky, I felt the sun touch them as the rays whisked away the beads of sweat. The wind played between my fingers.

I shut my eyes and opened my soul and imagined my heart in my upturned hands, holding it out and up to the One to whom it belongs. Knowing His hands are much safer than mine.

Coffee Money

I looked up from the work I was doing on my computer and he said to me, “Te lo prometo que no es para drogas.” It’s not for drugs, he said, the money he’s asking for.

I told him no, that I didn’t want to buy his trinkets or give him money. He asked again and I said it more firmly and averted my eyes from the pair of eyes staring back at me; turned away from the human being standing before me.

Steeling myself to stare at my computer until he went away, in the same instant something inside of me turned toward him to ask if I could buy him a cup of coffee. The words just came out of me. Un café solo is what he wanted and I hopped out of my chair to order it. Of course I would buy him a coffee. Why wouldn’t I?

Why didn’t I give him money? Several reasons (were they reasons or excuses or some of both?) ran through my head.

That night at Bible study we read Proverbs 3 and my heart listened: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”

I know all the reasons not to give money to panhandlers and beggars. I know them from a social work perspective as well. And they’re not necessarily incorrect. But still, God prompted me to check my heart.

Whether it’s a cup of coffee or cash, do I need to be a bit more reckless with giving my money when people ask me for it?

Throw it around more freely as if I don’t depend on it (I don’t).. as if I’m not the judge of what people do with it (I’m not).. as if it’s not mine in the end (it’s not).. and as if the other humans in front of me are as important, or more important, than me (they are).

2019

2019 was good! And it was weird. Very unusual. I’m having trouble coming up with another word for it.

And here I am, almost two weeks into 2020, and having the marker of an old year and a new year does seem appropriate as I figure out how to categorize 2019 and how to be in 2020.

I’m ending 2019 and counting it as the past. I move on from the unsure choices I made (even if I’m still unsure about them). I move on from the decisions that were made for me and the ones I didn’t want to make. I move on from the confusion and all questions I asked. I learned so much.

I leave those things behind, having grieved what needed to be grieved, knowing that I brought decisions to the Lord for guidance, trusting that I made the best choices I could, and rejoicing that I have been shaped in tangible ways by the things that happened to me.

Still open to learning from all that 2019 held, on a practical level, I leave it behind and focus on and look forward to the things to come. I don’t know what they are, but I know they’ll be good. Why?

La imagen puede contener: árbol, cielo, exterior y naturaleza

John Steinbeck said this in a letter to his son: “Nothing good gets away.” I don’t think he was thinking along the same lines as me when he wrote it, but I can get behind it. (If you’ve never read this lovely letter, read it here.)

Because for me, a daughter of God, secure in Christ, nothing good gets away! I strive toward goodness, holiness, and choices that honor Christ. I see God working in me and I actively receive the gifts I see the Lord giving me. And in the end, no matter what a given year holds, I can live freely and with great hope because none of my “good” gets away.

The best things in my life — my identity in Christ, the joy, hope, and love I have in God — are secure. I have them forever and always. There is no losing from here on out as I walk with Jesus. My future is bright. So, I process the past as I need to, then move forward to more learning, growing, and serving the Lord and those around me.

In 1 Samuel 16:1, the Lord says to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul…? Be on your way.”

Be on your way! Process it, mourn it, grieve what you need to, and then be on your way. Upward and onward to a good unknown.

I move forward unsure of myself, but sure of God. I move forward with a spirit of adventure, trusting as I live this story.

 

 

Loneliness

it was run-of-the-mill loneliness. Nothing that other people don’t experience now and then, I guess. What do I know? I can’t feel other people’s feelings.

Either way, it was real, weighty, and it was mine to feel. No one else could feel it or take it or fix it. Where should I heave the weight of it?

My friend’s confused response made sense when I thought back about what I had said: “I feel lonely. I need some alone time.”

As I sat there slumping, thinking about what I needed, feeling the ache of aloneness, I tried to pull myself out of it. I took mental stock of the wonderful people in my life. I also reminded myself that this too would pass. But the loneliness was there, despite the true reminders of all the good in my life. And I had to decide what to do.

I wanted to cut the loneliness and ease the ache. But I knew that the people I could bring around me would only mask the ache for a time.

It’s not that I don’t need people in my life. I do (we all do). Sometimes we need someone to shake us out of a slump and get us out of the house. Sometimes the best thing we can do is awkwardly call on someone to enter into our pain with us rather than sit alone in our spiraling darkness. But this wasn’t the time for that and somehow I knew it.

My loneliness was no sickness that needed to be cured. I just needed to sit alone in the school of loneliness, even if it was uncomfortable or sad.

In his new book, Andrew Peterson talks being alone and meeting God: “The loneliness of the dark field was a prerequisite for the company I felt.”

The aloneness ushered in the company of Christ, our brother and King.

Elizabeth Elliot, no stranger to loss and loneliness said, “Loneliness is a wilderness, but through receiving it as a gift, accepting it from the hand of God, and offering it back to Him with thanksgiving, it may become a pathway to holiness, to glory and to God himself.”

I will not mope and moan, stunting my growth, but I won’t hastily look for a quick fix for loneliness. I won’t let it conquer me, nor will I run from it.

So, for that evening, I sat alone in the loneliness of my own dark field and sought Divine company — to which I have astounding access through Christ! — or no company at all.

Idols

I bent over my journal, pen in hand, trying to deal with good things that have turned into supreme things in my life.

“Just take this idol from my hands. I want to be done with it!” I cried inside my head, a lump in my throat. As soon as I glimpsed the reason behind that plea, the lump in my throat turned into tears in my eyes. I wanted the idol stripped from my hands — that’s all well and good — but my motive was sobering to me.

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I realized that I only wanted the idol gone now that it had turned on me. Now that it was causing me pain. Now that it was controlling me, not the other way around.

Big tears fell over the realization that in that moment, my desire to smash my idol came out of a need to self-protect in the midst of pain, not out of grief over hurting my Savior and replacing him with a poor substitute.

I want my desire to dethrone idols to stem from a deep realization that they’re offensive to the God I love, that they’re taking his rightful place in my heart. I want to work daily to dethrone them, asking the Lord to do what I can’t do in myself, prying open my hands and changing my heart.

CS Lewis talks about how our love for God is deeply based in our need for Him and goes on to say “… our whole being by its very nature is one vast need; incomplete, preparatory, empty yet cluttered, crying out for Him who can untie things that are now knitted together and tie up things that are still dangling loose.”

What a comfort to know I belong to a God who can untie the knots in my life and my heart and tie up the loose ends that my hands are grasping at.

The idols to which I turn do a shabby job of filling the spaces in my heart that ache with emptiness. That is true. And they are an act of unfaithfulness to the one who loves me again and again.

May the good things in my life that I have given a supreme place be ousted to the proper position in my life as I am overcome with the beauty of Jesus and grieved by my sin that throws His faithfulness in his face.