My Fit

I hear the silence even now.

I see the dark of my closet surrounding me and feel the tears burning as they pour down my face.

I am hoarse from yelling “I don’t want this!” over and over again.

My chest feels like it is going to explode from my heart racing so ferociously. I can’t breathe. Even my lungs are protesting.

The silence is deafening.

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I hear verses float through my head: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

I scream them too.

God, why aren’t you comforting me? Why aren’t you saving me? I’m mourning like I have never mourned before. You didn’t promise me ease, but you did promise me your presence. Where is your presence? Where are you?

Two years later, I still don’t know what to make of the silence. I don’t know why depression hinders the experience of God. I see countless ways God intervenes in my life, but I struggle even now to feel Him as before.

Months ago, I reached an end. I had no fight left.

Then a cloud pulled back. I caught a glimpse of my reality. Somewhere along the way, somewhere in the darkness, I had chosen to do life on my own. I had decided that since I wasn’t experiencing the presence of God, I couldn’t count on Him. I would need to take care of it.

The problem was I was making an outright mess. I was striving with everything I had, and all I could show for it was complete exhaustion.

I had traded in the truth that God is good all the time and the promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me for the lie that God can’t be trusted. It wore me out.

God, in His tender graciousness, allowed me to give it a go.

Now, I believe, He is right here helping me open my hands. He let me throw my fit, and now He’s helping me settle back down and rest in His goodness once again.

I still struggle to feel God’s presence, His comfort. I don’t know why. More days than not, however, I am able to rest in what I don’t know. I am able to trust even though I don’t understand.

Grace to Grace

One of the delights of my Fall was beginning to connect regularly again with a dear friend.

Every other Thursday I show up to her house with life in full-tilt all around. In the midst of the crazy, we sit and break bread together. We lay our souls bare, and it is easy.

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Just before Christmas, I knocked on the door feeling completely empty. It took everything I had just to show up. My energy was being sucked into surviving the season.

I had nothing to offer but two grilled cheese and some truffle oil on potatoes.

She opened the door full of her own exhaustion. The exhaustion that comes from little ones teething, clinging. The exhaustion of preparing to pack her precious family of six into a shoebox for two days on the road to Grandma’s.

She was being poured out to empty.

In the time between comforting a babe and entertaining a princess, we sat down as we always do. We broke our bread and were grace to one another.

We had nothing to offer other than ourselves, which was exactly what we needed. Exhaustion to exhaustion. Brokenness to brokenness.

I realized that often in relationships, even those we hold most dear, we can feel great expectation to be something other than where we are. Brokenness can convince us we have nothing for another.

But most of the time, we just need to show up. On that Thursday in the middle of my exhaustion, I just needed to show up.

My heart is full over the space where we can be broken together. I welcome the grace we can pour over one another because it is only grace that shows up when we are empty.

Let’s keep showing up. Let’s keep knocking on the door and offering the meager loaves we have. It’s an abundance.

 

 

 

A Very Un-Crappy Christmas

Mid-November to mid-January is my least favorite time of year. This did not use to be the case. I used to love it. I would eek out Christmas as long as I possibly could. I loved the lights, the color, the way it seemed to make everyone smile just a little more.

Then trauma entered my holidays. Take-my-breath-away memories. Heaviness and paralyzing fear replaced joy and anticipation.

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Trauma isn’t my reality any more. It is the past. But trauma is a wily thing. It doesn’t seem to want to recognize time. Nor does it distinguish between real versus perceived versus non-existent.

This year the pounding in my chest, the lightheadedness and nausea still visited. They didn’t come with the flooding of memories, and they came less often, but their power was the same. I felt a suffocation to be happy. No one told me that was an expectation. No one shamed me for not being able to smile. But all around me was happiness. And cheer. And delight.

I just didn’t feel it.

As evidence of my changing reality, my love asked boldly on my behalf for a very un-crappy Christmas. Every day he asked the Father. My whole tribe was gracious to make Christmas as simple as I needed it to be. The tree went up, and we baked the memories we hold most dear. But that was it.

Christmas came, despite my protestations, and it was very un-crappy. I would even say it was lovely.

This is the place where I want share the life-changing lesson I learned. I want there to be a piece of enlightenment that will change every Christmas yet to come. But there isn’t.

I made it through the day. It wasn’t traumatic, and I experienced no panic. But I didn’t know joy either. Joy continues to elude me. Slowly I am building the muscle to not beat myself up about that. I am growing in self-compassion.

My simple Christmas did make me see less of the tinsel and more of the babe. My need is so great for the Hope that came into the world that night over 2000 years ago. In the absence of joy, I was acutely aware of my brokenness. I am so, so broken.

I confess this Christmas season what I wanted to know was not my brokenness but my healing.

So I am thankful for my Very Un-Crappy Christmas. I just want more.

An Upgrade!

Just a note that instead of entering the very laborious acrazybeautifullifedotorg.wordpress.com (whew!), you can now find me at simply:

acrazybeautifullife.org

Both links work, but the new address is much easier to share. Enjoy!

The Explosion

I chase the sun now, as I head back to my corner of the world. Behind me the pictures of a world blown wide and before me the loves my heart longs to see.

Five days I was in a foreign land. And yet, I heard lifetimes. Unlike trips of the past, I saw little of the place I went. Instead of meeting the culture outside, I sat with the ones who had come to this place with me.

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I assumed my taking in of a new people would be as it had before. My eyes would widen as I soaked in all the new. My senses would fill to the brim. Every smell, every taste shifting my normal. My heart would grow with wonder and feeling, longing and ache. I would be haunted by the faces of ones who live this new place every day.

This corner was different. My heart feels as though it could explode with fullness over the lives, the dreams, the challenges I saw. I sat with one after another from places covering the globe, and I listened.

Saints from around the world came to this place to talk about the expansion of the Kingdom. Some from homes where governments fear followers of a Savior. Others from places where the work of everyday living almost drains one dry. We met under a blanket of security, caring well for those who risked much to be with us.

I was the most privileged of those who came. I did not talk much of ideas or strategy. Others were there for that. I came only to hear the stories of these saints.

One by one, they share how they have seen God.

One speaks of the war in his country and how God is using it to bring many to faith. Another shares the struggle of burying the young bodies of those killed for believing and rejoicing in seeing a greater passion rise from those who survived. A team in a hidden place tell of the ache, as they long for those around them to know a hope that doesn’t condemn.

My ears hear so much my voice doesn’t sound my own. My thoughts reflect the accented English that has played all week.

The world has faces to me now, and I feel my heart exploding with their realities. I will honor their trust. I will tell others what I have heard so that their faith, their joy, might remembered over and over.

As I race through an airport to catch my way home, the experience of before does capture me. I weave my way through so many languages and peoples I can not take it all in. Few of those around me are believers in Jesus, I am sure. But the glimpse I have is of heaven. Every tribe. Every nation. My world has blown wide.

Can a heart hold such a picture? Mine is exploding.

 

 

Leaving Christmas

Twinkling lights filled our home as I left. We spent the morning pulling out boxes and putting up memories.

The tree showing off our years of life together limps this year. Several branches of light have turned dark. Some blink, while others shine steady. Its glorious cacophony of sight is every bit a picture of our family. Where we’ve been and who we are.

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Hallmark mixes with glue and glitter. Darth Vader with the babe in a manger. Mexico, Hungry, Holland, Italy, Austria—they all dance on our tree and bring back pictures of a different place in our lives. It’s beautiful in its mosaic.

Lunch brought conversation of heaven and play and the Spirit and feasts. The littlest asking each, “What are you most thankful for because Jesus was born?” One by one our hearts are filled with the gratefulness of rescue coming. We feel our brokenness. Christmas brings the reminder we are being made whole again. We know the need of our redemption.

The family packs in the car and makes the drive to the airport. I’m headed away for a week. When I return, a son will be a year older and Advent will be half passed. A lot of life will come in seven days.

I wait my turn to prove who I am, and it is not lost on me to where I go. I will leave Christmas behind, twinkling and making merry, to go where Christmas is not seen.

It will not be the Carol of Bells I hear the next week but the call of a people to prayer. The air will fill five times daily with the reminder to those around me.

There won’t be trees decorated with memories or the signs of a Savior in hay.

My heart already feels the stirring of the world opening. It is being captured once again. My little bubble of sunshine and freedom is breaking wide. I am carried on it like waves taking me out to sea—moved to an unfamiliar place before I’m even aware.

I remember this. I remember how this feels. It speaks to my before.

Hope feels different today. It feels big. I welcome it and ask for its continued beating within.

I don’t feel stuck in this moment. I feel the movement of the one who writes my days. It is calling me back to the place of life.

It is good.

Re-entering Wonder

I am not who I was before.

I have put words to that loss, but I have not fully confronted new normals. Next week I will face a longing of the past.

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My heart once leapt at the opportunity to travel. I loved seeing new places, adventuring through new cultures and people. It spoke deeply to the Spirit in me. Wherever I travel, I am captivated by watching people and wondering what life brings to them. What has their story spoken to them? What weighs their heart? What brings joy?

On Saturday, I leave for a week in a new country. A country bordering war and terror. I will be surrounded by saints from 30 countries, and I will hear their stories. I will hear them talk of how they have seen God.

Before, this trip would have filled me up. I would have soaked it all in and reveled at the blessing of being present.

Now, I am weary. The adventure feels exhausting. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the energy it will take to hear those stories with the presentness they deserve.

I fear days of darkness, in a corner where I don’t have a safe place. Will the pit consume me half way around the world? Will I have the resilience to press on by myself?

It is a different day. I am different. I miss the spirit who would have thrilled in this travel.

There is a hidden place within that hopes to be caught by a new picture of the world. It longs to be stirred again. What if exhaustion gave way to the rest of feeling God’s heart?

I will get on a plane with hope and fear. Fear suffocates, and it is taking a lot to allow hope space. But in the end, I want hope to win. I want my heart to be moved.

Pray for me, friends. This trip feels much bigger than the work I get to do. Pray it would be another glimmer. Pray the Spirit in me would awaken again.

Glimmers

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Hard happens in every life. Most bounce back, whether by health or denial. For me, this season has robbed me of resilience.

Wounds have run deep ruts I have not had the strength or endurance to climb. I have screamed and yelled and begged for rescue.

But I didn’t really know what I was asking.

My picture of rescue was to be lifted out of the valleys. I wanted the pain to go away. Healing would mean the fear that grabs me so tightly would strangle no more, and the explosion of sorrow in my heart would be snuffed. I wanted to be fixed.

In the past days, I have seen the glimmers of healing. Hope flashing in the pit, as if a gem catching the sun.

I saw it, and it caught me. It’s lightness stayed with me. And so did the pain.

I see this to be true: healing does not come in the disappearance of pain but in the learning of how to sit with it.

Healing does not soften the blow of the offenses that run so deep. To lessen the pain would be to dismiss its impact. Part of my healing has been to name those places and agree even with myself that they matter. No, healing does not remove the pain.

My hope glimmered in the place where I sat with my pain and didn’t feel the choking of fear.

At the depths of the pit that consumed me, I fully believed my pain would kill. I felt as if my body were shutting down. Pain was overwhelming me to a point of death, sucking the very air out of my lungs.

To some that sounds dramatic and extreme hyperbole. But to those who have walked through it, it is real. Depression brings despair even to body and bones and breath.

After months of my hope-speaking counselor believing resilience for me, speaking it over me despite my adamant refusal of its existence, I am beginning to believe it for myself.

I’m ok. Hard things have happened and much of the hard still bears its mark, but I’m ok. The paralyzing fear is at bay. I see the light at the top of the pit, and it’s getting closer. Brighter. One day I might even stand atop it.

Hope is precious. Today it is glimmering.

 

 

The Trauma of Yesterday

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Immediately I feel nauseous.

It washes over me like a wave. It fills my belly and begins to squeeze my chest. My heart is racing. Adrenaline flows through my limbs. They begin to tingle. My head tingles. My eyes struggle to focus, and I’m so light-headed I dare not move.

My breathing becomes fast and shallow. I want to close my eyes. I do.

The waves continue to come. Nausea, adrenaline, pounding. My heart literally feels like it’s going to beat out of my chest. I want to throw up.

“Open your eyes,” I remember my hope-speaking counselor say. “Come back.”

He is not here to coach me. I have to fight my own way through. It takes all my will to open my eyes and focus on the cup in front of me.

Stay here. Feel the chair beneath me. The cup is full of pens. They are real. I am here. I am not there. I make myself feel the air on my skin. The hair falling on the back of my neck. My eyes begin to focus. I remember to slow my breathing, and I count.

Inhale. Exhale.1.

Inhale. Exhale. 2. . 3. . 4. . 5. .

Stay here.

It happens in an instant. Trauma revisits me, and I’m sucked into my body’s God-given preservation system. It’s meant to protect me, but it doesn’t discern I’m not in danger right now. Trauma lives in the past.

My body is the one the keeps bringing it to the now.

Today is was a coffee shop. The thought of going to a coffee shop where my world was turned upside down years ago. It was the place where my picture of reality tumbled down like a domino train. Where what I thought was, wasn’t. The explosion of that place, the betrayal, I feel them as if they are happening right now.

My body fights as if they are now.

I hate it. I hate that my body is preparing to flee what no longer endangers me. It holds me captive to a place I want to have no power over me.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. Let me grieve the pain of that place without the panic of today. Free my body of it’s fight. Bring sorrow, but please speak relief over the terror that haunts me.

To Raise My Hands

Moses’ arms were burning. They had been up for hours. The staff of God was raised overhead, the weight of it now unbearable. The fire began in his wrists, burned down his forearms and raged in his shoulders. He willed them not to quiver, not to break. His will was running out.

The Israelites’ fate against the Amalekites depended on him. As fatigue overtook him, and he lowered his arms out of exhaustion, the Israelites wavered. The Amalekites began to win. He pushed the staff back up and Israel regained their footing. They took back the lead. Moses had to keep the staff raised for the Israelites to be victorious. It took all of his concentration to keep the pain from winning. There was no way he was going to make it.

And then his concentration was interrupted. He felt the hands of Aaron and Hur steady his shaking arms. They saw his pain. They saw his need. They would stand with him.

They found a rock for Moses to sit on, and as he sat, they lifted his arms. They kept them steady until sunset, when Joshua overcame the Amalekites with the sword. They did it.

This is one of my very favorite pictures in Scripture of the power, the shear need of community. Moses could not do it. He couldn’t. He tried, and he willed, and he struggled. So his friends literally held his arms up. It’s beautiful.

Can I confess something? In my deepest of places, I wish I didn’t need people. Over and over again, that need brings pain. Disappointment. Rejection. Right now I desperately need my arms to be lifted for me.

I am left struggling.

There are those who pass through. A conversation here, a prayer there. People know my story. But very, very few are staying with me until sunset. I catch my breath for a few, but then I’m back at it again on my own. Trying to hold up the weight of the staff that will save.

Community feels like the key to the puzzle I will search for and never own. I initiate, I pursue, and in need, I am still alone. 

At the end of the day, I can not make community happen. I can ask, I can share, but I can’t force it into existence. If we were created to live in community, and community is where healing happens, why is it so stinkin’ hard to experience?

If I am honest, and I’m pushing myself to be painfully so in this place, as much as I want to be able to go this alone, I cannot. I have been trying. But my arms are so weary. I want to say that isn’t so, but it is. Day after day, I need a few someones to hear my anxiety and not grow tired of praying for it. I need someone who can speak hope when my thoughts turn so dark they scare me. I need someone who will call me and say, “Are you out of bed today? Get dressed. Let’s face the exhaustion together.”

I need a community to raise my hands.

There is a voice lurking, saying I am too much. It says I’m doing it wrong. My perseverance runs so very thin. My hope-speaking counselor curses at that place for me. I will learn to curse at it too.

My husband speaks a different hope. He said I should ask God for it. Ask God for the community I need. Asking bares the risk of disappointment. But I will.

In my brokenness and exhaustion, I will ask.