How lovely it is to be in love….

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I imagine the title of this post caught your eye, eh? Let me be clear: I am most definitely writing about being in love. But certainly not about a man. I know some good and incredible men, but now is just not the season for my heart to seek them out nor to pay attention if they are seeking me out. I am simply in love these days. 

IN LOVE. I love so many things about my life. I love my family. I love my friends. I love the paths I am going down. This isn’t about that, either. Being in love is not about feelings or emotions – those are fickle things at best. I am finding that being in love is about the state of my heart, a state that cannot be shaken by difficult days, hurtful words, unwanted surprises, or even the good things life has to offer. I am indwelling in love, awash in it, drowning in its beckoning whispers. 

Will Reagan and the United Pursuit Band have a gorgeous song called, “Through and Through.” The lyrics over and over say,

You see me.

You know me.

You love me through and through.

Perhaps that is what I am trying to get at. When in love, it is not about what is happening or what is said or what I feel, it is about the knowing that I am tucked safely away and protected and encouraged and seen and known and LOVED by the Lord, the One who loves and saves. When I know that, when I live that, whether I feel it or not, every day begins hopeful. Every hurtful experience is meant as a way of strengthening and teaching. Every ordinary moment feels alive.

Residing in Love frees my feeble human heart to learn to love myself and to love others with wild abandon.

Without fear.

Without expectation.

Without condition.

How lovely. 

 

 

 

 

When your past threatens to choke out your future…

Perhaps a parent walked out on your life too early.

Perhaps a friend spread a terrible rumor that cost you a lot of friendships. 

Perhaps a lover walked away without even a glance back. 

Perhaps a family member abused you. 

Perhaps a well-meaning clergy said something he shouldn’t have in consolation of a death. 

Perhaps a sibling committed a crime and got you involved.

Perhaps you found yourself in over your head in a relationship and no way to get out and be safe.

Perhaps you, even you, betrayed yourself with the lie that you are not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough. Just not enough.

The vast majority of us have those memories, those bits of us that leave smudges, cuts, sometimes deep, gaping wounds on our hearts. Life leaves us aching something terrible. No matter how hard we fight to forget, how hard we try to be soft and gentle and kind, how hard we say it doesn’t bother us…we still carry our scars on us like a brand. Battle wounds. 

Life, and the living of it, leaves us with two choices in these circumstances: bitter or better. Hope or cynicism. Soft or hard. And the choice is up to us. This is not about pretending the battle never happened. No, no. I would never advise that. It is a terrible and dangerous practice, one that I used to succumb to each and every day, growing ever more weary and burdened. 

This is about using the battle – the good, the bad, and the ugly – for something beautiful.  That said, cynicism is always an option. I chose that one for 23 years. Hard-hearted doesn’t even begin to describe me then. Cynicism wears the scars proudly and uses them to hurt as one has been hurt. Cynicism sees the boyfriends as always leaving, the parents as always unreliable and irresponsible, the friends as always traitors. Even if they aren’t. The cynical life, while relatively safe, offers a future devoid of any hurt. And devoid of any love, too. It is the safest and saddest way. 

Living soft, living hopeful, just living, is also an option. This way is far more dangerous. One’s heart is bound to get broken in this battleground. Hope not only acknowledges past battles, but guarantees more. More scars. More tears. More hurt. Dangerous, yes. Risky, absolutely. Without a doubt, you will get hurt while living hopefully. Painful, awful experiences. Without a doubt, though, you are going to LIVE.

Recognizing hurts and dealing with them rather than sweeping them under the rug is a good thing. A healthy thing. And when they are handled, when they are settled, when your soul is at peace with what has happened to you and why…you can smile again. I promise. You can pick yourself up and you move on. It may take awhile, but I suspect that people are made of far stronger and more resilient stuff than they realize. If we would only give ourselves the grace to grieve and heal, we would be far more likely to grasp at hope instead of hanging ourselves on the noose of our own unmet expectations. Understanding the beauty of pain and healing opens us up to grace. To love. To joy. 

Being hopeful about the future is hard. That man may not call you for a second date. That new friend may start rumors, too. That person you wanted so very badly to stay might leave. Those are scary places to be. Heartbreaking to live. But if we don’t at least try to live them, then the past has already won. The future is choked out and darkened by the things that have not even happened yet. Living ceases. Darkness sets in. We roam about in self-fashioned prisons and we are safe. And dead. 

I cut my hand the other day on a rusty screw. An old friend applied the antibiotic and the band-aid and just when I thought it was ceasing to sting, he playfully stabbed at it a few times with his finger, laughing and saying, “Pain makes you feel alive!” I collapsed in my usual giggles, but in a somber moment, even I would have admitted he spoke some serious truth under that bathroom light. A life that renders no pain renders no release from past pain either. Pain, hurt, heartbreak, ache…it is all part of life and the living. 

I am not dead yet. 

A funny thing happened while I was trying to suss out that normal life.

I took a moment to breathe and reflect this morning and I simply cannot believe how much my life has changed in the past eight months. I have to keep pinching myself to make sure I am still here and really doing all of this. Some days, I am not sure how I am still standing.

I started this year with so much trepidation at having to continue on in a job I wanted to wash my hands of and with a lot of baggage on my heart from a bad relationship and unfortunate run-ins with people I wanted no part of. I was so sad. Just very very sad at how things were going and how I was reacting to them. But…like the stubborn girl I am, I was committed to sticking it out and seeing it through for as long as it took, and loving like crazy along the way. I was determined to have some normalcy for a change. A funny thing happened while I was trying to suss out that normal life.

In only eight months, I have told a man to never contact me again and keep himself to himself. I have had to let go of false friendships. I have made a few friends, too. I have moved to a new city and only two months later, moved to a new state entirely. I have been reminded of what gentlemen are made of. I have walked away from a so-so career. I have met up with old friends and have been reminded I love them something fierce. I have gone from living in a 1200 square foot townhouse to a 9×9 room. (It has been hard, but it has also been a good lesson.) I have ridden fast on a motorcycle, broken bread with people I love so dearly, and hiked a lot of miles. I have seen my writings get some more street cred and a little more exposure. (Stoked about that!!) I have started a Master’s program at a university I love. (Go Wildcats!) And in just two weeks, I will return to finish something I started years ago and will see a dream come true. I have cried. I have lost. I have cursed a blue streak (or ten). I have laughed uproariously. I have loved. I have said goodbye far too much.

I am fond of saying that my life is a comedy of errors. It truly is. The scrapes that a perpetually dreaming, wild, adventurous woman can get herself into are hilarious. Sometimes dangerous. Sometimes heartbreaking. But always good for a chuckle. Life is a good good gift and I fully intend to find every adventure in it as long as I’m here. I am not where I thought I would be. Thank God for that.

The Lie.

In C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, he describes a scene where a group of dwarves are huddled in a corner of a dark and dank barn, fighting over grisly meat and drinking lousy swill from cracked cups. They bicker and hit and bite and complain about their share at the nearly inedible meal placed before them. But they devour it anyway. 

The single saddest thing about that scene is that the dreadful ugliness of it resides in the bitterness of the dwarves’ hearts. The scene is a fallacy of their own design. In truth, they are eating the finest fare in the land, and drinking from beautiful gold cups. They are not even in a barn, but rather, in a beautiful outdoor place. Try as they might, the children there cannot entice the dwarves to look up and see what is true. The bitter, hard-hearted dwarves prefer their misery and settle for the lie. 

Over and over and over we are so like those dwarves. Things have happened to us: breakups, job loss, financial hardships, church disagreements, the falling away of friends, divorce. The list of catalysts for bitterness is a long list indeed. And when those things happen, we not only grieve, but some of us (most of us??) also keep the grief in our deep places and let them fester into ravaging bitterness and fear. Our internal ugliness colors and marks our world and how we see it. When we let that happen, we cannot see any beauty because we believe the lie that it simply does not exist. 

I dare you to stop believing the lie. Life, even when hard, possesses a certain beauty in its recesses. I dare you to lift up your head and see the beauty. Perhaps it will be in the small things: a child’s laughter, a single flower, a snowy field, a sunrise, a hug, an unexpected phone call from a loved one. Take those singular moments and string together beauty for a day. Sometimes joy does not burst forth in grand gestures, but in miniature moments. That’s okay. 

We so often tell ourselves that we will never find another job. That we will never be loved. That we will never regain our financial independence. That we will always fail, always cry, always have a hard time, always be disappointed. We run the risk of getting so caught up in the lies that when the truth presents itself, we do not believe it for fear that we have been wrong this whole time. You might be believing a lie and find out that you are wrong. That’s okay. It is what you do afterward that counts. 

Take a deep breath and look around you with new eyes. The immediate things in this life might be bleak and you may not know what to do, but take comfort in knowing that the one constant in life is that everything changes. Everything happens for a reason. Everything can be a lesson. Life is beautiful and wild and unknown and, at times, terrifying. Let it be all of those things. Learn and laugh and love with wild abandon and live to tell about it.

Stop believing the lies. You don’t have to live them, you don’t have to speak them, and you certainly do not have to swallow them whole. Look for joy, be filled with joy, and you will find it in the most ordinary of things. And sometimes…well, sometimes ordinary is the best place to be. 

 

Because He fights for me.

Because He fights for me.

That is my answer to everything these days. Why do I hug people, friends, family, and strangers all, so very very tight?

Because He fights for me.

Why do I love so crazily and raw?

Because He fights for me.

Why do I find myself having conversations with people I don’t know, people carrying their tired babies in their tired hands, always with their tired eyes fixed on mine?

Because He fights for me.

Why do I listen with such intensity to others’ stories, good, bad, or really really ugly?

Because He fights for me.

Why did I leave a promising career for the SECOND time in my adult life and fling myself into a wild unknown adventure with absolutely no guarantees that it would work out?

Because He fights for me. He always, always fights for this heart. This heart that turned away for 23 years and since that fateful day has never looked back.

I was telling a dear friend, one who has known me over half my life now, what a blessing it is to be reconnecting lately with people I love who have known me both before and after the great divide that neatly and violently split my life in two. I have spent the last several years with people who only know my “after” and not my “before.” While they are lovely, gorgeous souls, they do not know the whole of me. But here, in this Iowa place, my life is daily reconnected to other beautiful souls who knew me before I realized I was being fought for at all. And you know what? Through all that muck and mire, they still got excited when they heard I would be on their soil again and I have been loved and graced by the presence of these people with whom I spent my before. I do not deserve it. None of it. I never will. Nothing I can ever do or say, no matter how much I love and serve, will ever put me in a place of deserving the gifts I have been given over the past few weeks.

And why does that matter so much to me?

Because He fights for me. Because through the love and joy and grace extended daily in this Iowa place, I am ever more mindful of the fact that the battle to keep my broken heart soft is being waged behind the scenes and the people I love here are my proof that the Lord is real and is good and is a warrior keen on keeping me His and making me free. And that love, that grace, that joy, the fact that the battle is even happening, drives me every day to live and love and serve with wild abandon like nothing I have ever known to this point. Because when I’m full of His love, I can’t keep it all in. I’ve tried, believe me. But now I get the privilege to let it all out. Through hugs, through listening, through seeing the aging parents of my friends and being reminded that life is a fleeting gift, through giving, through wild gales of laughter, through crazy outdoor adventures holding tight to the ones who hold me back. All of it. Every bit.

Because He fights for me.