Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When You Feel Like Giving Up

I'm sitting in a parked car in the middle of the afternoon when I say those words I can't take back.

I can't do this anymore.  Do you understand that, God?  Do you?

There's no one to hear me except the One I'm accusing and I don't know if I say it because I'm angry or if I say it because I'm scared.

But once the words have tumbled out, it's as if there's nothing left of me but this haunting exhaustion I can't shake.  It's been building for weeks and I've been fighting it hard but this day's come and I'm saying what shouldn't be said.

And maybe this is the thing that really hangs in the air:

I don't want to take it back.

Oh, maybe there's a little piece of soul that wants to retrieve those words, tuck them away in the dark corner from which they've come.  But I've lived long enough and hard enough to know there's no healing in the hiding of the truth, even when the truth is ugly--even when we are ugly.

And mostly it's not the words I'd care to take back anyway.  It's the giving up.

But I'd be deceiving us all if I said I didn't mean it, said I didn't want to give up right here and right now.  Because some days are like that and today's one of those days and who do I think I can fool anyway when I don't say what I really mean?

So I let the words hang where they are and I let the tears slip out where they will and I breath in and I breath out and then I do it all again.

Because there's a trunk full of groceries that need hauling into the house and there's a meal to be made and there are things left in this day that won't check themselves off the list.  And sometimes the only way to get through the giving-up days is to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when we think we can't.

It's hours later when I'm in the car again, driving home under the evening's sky.  And I'm still breathing in and out, still wanting to believe that tomorrow will be better and I'll find a way to stick it out after all.

That's when I'm stopped short by the song coming out of my stereo and He answers my aching questions with a question of His own.
What are you going to say to God
when all you do is pray to God
to take the thorn away

and all you hear Him say is...

"my grace, my grace
my grace is sufficient
my grace is sufficient"

I let the words wash over, point me to the thing always forgotten on the giving-up days:  When we reach the end of ourselves, we reach right into the center of a God Who Is Enough.  Even when we are not.  Especially when we are not.

And I remember it now that Grace isn't a far-off word I don't understand.  Because haven't I seen it, counted it, lived it a thousand times over?

So what's really the answer to the giving-up days?

I shouldn't be surprised when I hear it sung straight out in the closing lines of this song He's singing at the end of this long and longing day.
What are you going to say to God
when everything you pray to God
came your way but you forgot
to thank Him

and all you hear Him say is...

"my grace"

And I'm tempted to say it here and now that this question isn't mine.  Because I'm praying to God for the things that don't change, the answers that don't come, the heartaches that don't mend.  I'm not the one with the answered prayers who forgets to count it all Gift.

Or am I?

Because aren't I really praying for this one thing--Grace to carry me through when there's nothing left to stand on, nothing left to lean into, nothing left at all?

And isn't that what He's already given a thousand times over, a whole lifetime over?

Yes.  Yes.

His Grace, it's sufficient, slipping over and under and straight through every last one of our days.  Even the giving-up days.  Especially the giving-up days.

So before I crawl into bed and wait for a new day to be born, I pull out the record of His Grace and scribble down gift after gift, grace after grace.

Because this is how I know it, this truth that His Grace is sufficient.  This is how I lay myself right down on the One Who holds when everything falls apart.

This is how I don't give up.

Linking up a few days late this week with Ann Voskamp

1275.  First phase complete in the long road of "letting go"

1276.  Last boxes taped up, labeled, stacked

1277.  First knitting project finished

1278.  Making plans to wear these handmade leg warmers

1279.  The doctor who's ready to take charge of my care

1280.  That mark on my arm where the blood's been taken

1281.  The only One Who gives strength for the hard road

1282.  The hard road.  Yes.  This one.

1283.  Day that begins with rain, turns to sun by lunch

1284.  Dinner in the crockpot, already cooking away by 9 am

1285.  All those happy smells filling the house the whole day through

1286.  Date with a friend, even when she forgets and I eat alone

1287.  Her walking through the door, me so happy to see her that it doesn't matter how long I've waited

1288.  All this laughter, love, life shared right across a table

1289.  Strength for all those chores

1290.  Money for all those bills

1291.  Hanging the birthday banner across fireplace bricks

1292.  Cooking dinner for Dad's birthday, all of us gathered around for the meal

1293.  That one song lyric we can't get out of our heads

1294.  Us laughing every. single. time. someone breaks out in that song

1295.  Loading a whole van full of pieces of the past.

1296.  Letting it all go and finding myself still breathing after all

1297.  Hours of clothes shopping with Mom, us trying on every jacket in sight

1298.  Coming home with that bag full of needed things

1299.  Two days of unexpected sun

1300.  Tiniest purple crocuses poking up beside this busy road I'm driving on

1301.  Bundled up with hot drinks in hand so we can sit outside in the winter sun.

1302.  Him singing to me on the drive home, reminding that Grace is sufficient

1303.  Bird's nest in the tree by the highway, silhouetted against evening's sky

1304.  Haze around the crescent moon on this cold, cold night

1305.  Those two planets gleaming bright beside the moon, just for this brief space in time

1306.  God Who fills up all the spaces of time with Himself

Friday, February 24, 2012

When You Need A New Name

It's weeks before the new year's beginning when I start wondering what I'll name the year that's about to be born.

Out of all the years I've lived, I've only named one--and that year, it named me, too.

I called 2011 by this one name, Faith.  And God, He poured out His Grace on a life, filled up every last day of the year with Himself.  I might've given thanks for this a thousand times over, but what He gave in return?  A new name.


And I wonder now if I really named that year at all.

Because maybe this is the truer thing:  Maybe He tore the veil and I caught a glimpse of what He'd bring from a year, if only I'd let Him name us both.  And so I did.

But it's when I stand on the edge of another year's coming that I tremble with the weight of all this naming.  It feels as if a life's emerging and I'm too scared and small and broken to hold it in my hands.

Because I am.

When I write for the last time in 2011, wrestle out one thing He's teaching, I think maybe, just maybe, I've stumbled on the name of 2012:  Home.  But I pull back before I can say it sure because I only know this--I don't want to choose a name.  I want to see this year for what it really is, call it by the name He's already given.

And I'm terrified this blinded soul of mine can't glimpse what He's unveiling.

So the new year's born without a name and the days of January find me digging through the past, doing the one thing I know He's asked:  Letting go.  And it's harder than I thought to clear away the ruins of a life, make room for what He's going to build.  The grief runs high and the strength runs low and it's a day late in January when I'm brought to my knees on that cold basement floor and there's no getting up under the weight of all that loss.

That's when I know it sure.

He's already lifted the veil, shown me the name of this new year and I've just been too scared to take hold.  Because maybe I've been afraid of this very thing.  Maybe I've been afraid of the cost of the naming.

Because finding my home in Christ, it might mean a thousand things I don't understand.  But this one thing I've already figured out and it's ripped me open, laid me low:  Settling into this Home He Is means letting go of every piece of home I've ever known.

And who can stand tall and unbroken when everything's been stripped clean away?

I can't and I haven't and, oh, this stripping away hasn't left me feeling free and unburdened the way I once thought it might.  Because this soul's been scraped bare and raw, pieces of the past wrenched straight out of the ground.

And who doesn't feel a bit of aching emptiness when there's nothing left of the life that once was?

It's the last week in January when I write this out steadyGod is Home because God is Love.  Yes, *Love* is our Home.

But it's not until February slips in and I stammer out what I'm learning--that it's not about letting go but about holding on to Him--that's when I see it clear and strong.

I might've named this year Home.  But my Home?  It's Love.  And this Love?  It's Him.

This year bears His name, just like all the ones before.

And I don't wonder anymore who's naming who.

He's already named me Loved and I can't imagine anything more beautiful, glorious, and life-giving than that one word.  But I remember this promise:

"...'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him'..."  {1 Corinthians 2:9}

And who wants to doubt that what He has in store is better than anything we've known before?

He's named this year Home and there's no telling what He'll name me, too.  But I'm letting go and holding on to Him--because it's only Him Who holds us together anyway.

And He really is the only Home we'll ever need.

Friday, February 10, 2012

When It's Time To Hold On

we don't know
how to hold on.
Soul-storms rage,
long roads stretch endless,
and we let go of
things that used to matter,
even people we once loved,
maybe God, too.

we don't know
how to let go.
Relationships break,
hopes slip away,
whole lives implode,
and we hold on
to all the pieces
with that white-knuckled
grip of fear and
refuse to feel the loss.

Oh, there's beauty in
all of this, all of us,
because there's a time for both--
the holding on
and the letting go.
But we're broken, too,
and our timing--
it's all wrong.

There's only one way
to fill the gaping, aching
emptiness that haunts.
Just this--hold on to Him
and let everything else go.
Then we'll see
what's always been:
It's only Him Who
holds us together

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How The Winter Can Bloom

It's just the first weekend in February and I'm on my way to the letting-go place for the fourth time since the new year's begun.  My body, it's a little weary from all the labor, and my heart, it's a little broken from all the burying of yesterday's dreams.

But today I've left home early and the sun's breaking out and the sky's just as blue as ever it's been.  I can't resist driving a little off course and it's not long before I find my way to the secret place, that forest of beauty where God's never hidden and I'm always at home.

It might be the middle of winter, but who says there can't be beauty here, too?  Who says you can't find Him when the days are hard and the tasks are long and the heart's aching from the cold?

But there aren't any words, really, to tell the story of what I find in the secret place.  Because who can explain the way God wakes up the world with shafts of light, paints the branches with buds and blooms and life?  Who can even speak at all when the breath catches in the chest and there are tears and laughter and oh-so-much joy all at the same time?

So I click the shutter a hundred times over, try to catch glimmers of His reflection.  I bend low and I stretch high and I crane the neck every which way I can--because I can't take my eyes off all this, and who really wants to anyway?

It hurts just a bit to tear myself away from here, wander back to the everyday life where things don't make sense and there's no knowing where the road is leading, where He's really taking me.  But I'm carrying all these snapshots of Hope and Beauty and Light, and I remind myself again and again that if He can bring all this Glory right from Winter's barren womb--is there any place I won't find Him?  Is there any stretch of road, any cracking of heart, any wondering day when He won't be planting and tending and growing that future full of Hope?

There isn't and I know it and I'm leaving the secret place with the one thing I've been thirsting for in all these hard days--a heart full of Hope Himself.

Linking up a day late with Ann @ A Holy Experience

Counting Graces from the last few weeks, still taking the Joy Dare...

1174.  Whole list of chores checked off, nothing avoided or saved for later

1175.  Three hours of progress in "letting go"

1176.  Storage unit a mess but slowly coming together

1177.  Knitting mistakes that turns out to be a gift

1178.  Everyone noticing that I'm learning a new skill...

1179.  ...and encouraging me to keep going

1180.  Hours with a friend, hot drink in hand, knitting projects coming along

1181.  Plans made for overdue visit with another friend

1182.  Brown bag full of happy socks coming home to be loved

1183.  Sun making a long appearance after a whole week without

1184.  God who listens to prayers when the sleepless hours stretch long

1185.  Friend calling me a kindred spirit

1186.  Broken amaryllis bud in a vase, still growing

1187.  Another friend calling me Gift

1188.  Clear skies on a January morning

1189.  Steam rising off frozen rooftops

1190.  Casting off at last -- half of first knitting project finished

1191.  Unpacking boxes of grandmother's glassware, mom recounting stories from the past

1192.  Choosing pieces of history to carry into my future

1193.  Sun on my face in the middle of winter

1194.  Two cats sound asleep in the warm light

1195.  Long overdue catch-up session with a dear friend

1196.  Handing over the gift made with hands and hours and love

1197.  Color of the gift suited perfectly for the one who now wears it

1198.  Unexpected good news

1199.  Strength to press on in the long, hard task of letting go

1200.  God near when the grief brings me to my knees again

1201.  Him picking me up and breathing courage when I just want to turn and run

1202.  A few forgotten treasures found among the ruins of an old life

1203.  Eight gees flying in formation over the freeway

1204.  Friend who says Yes to something out of the routine

1205.  Smelling endless jars of tea, choosing an armload to bring home

1206.  Long walk by the river with a dear companion

1207.  Days of angst loosening their grip a bit

1208.  God who loves enough to break us

1209.  First morning light dappling the housetops

1210.  Salve to mend the cracked hands

1211.  Happy scent of lavender, rosemary, and eucalyptus

1212.  Amaryllis still growing in a vase, petals popping open one by one

1213.  Sunlight silhouetting blooms against purple curtain

1214.  Navy-blue horizon at day's end

1215.  February days of sun

1216.  Long-feared task tackled and finished at long last

1217.  Strength for letting go--can there be enough "thank you's" for this one thing?

1218.  First morning light landing on the Hope Bird

1219.  Cat who purrs at the sound of my voice

1220.  Twenty seagulls lined up on the grocery store roof

1221.  Me sitting in the car laughing as I count all those birds

1222.  Two trips to the arboretum in one weekend

1223.  February days feeling strangely like spring

1224.  Breathing in the scent of witch hazel, daphne, wintersweet, jasmine...

1225.  Chasing sun all over a forest

1226.  Bending low, stretching high, craning my neck to frame glimpses of His beauty

1227.  The way I'm laughing and crying all at the same time because He's near and He's beautiful and I can hardly breathe it all in

1228.  Filling up every last page of the very first gratitude journal

1229.  Choosing a new book to hold the pieces of His love

1230.  Knowing there'll never be enough pages to write down all the Grace

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

If You're Feeling Broken

It's when the darkness slips in and I make my way to the window, reach up to pull the shades on another day that's almost gone.  That's when I find one stalk of the amaryllis plant bent low, leaning all the way over.

I don't know what's happened here and I don't know if there's any fixing what's been broken.  But I gently lift the stem with trembling hands, hold my breath to see if the bending can be undone.  And the smallest of sounds, that tiny cracking, ripping, snapping--it echos loud and I cringe, this piece of green clutched in my hand, its lifeblood pouring right out.

I can almost feel the dying.

It's just one stalk of blooms from a plant that's been faithful to show its joy colors year after year.  But lately there've been too many days of upheaval and I'm clinging to every little piece of beauty, hope, Him wherever I can find them.  And this one piece, it's dying right here in my hand, and me, I'm a little beside myself with the loss.

So I lay that stem on the nearest table and I rummage through cupboards to find something, anything that might stop the dying.  I pull out the smallest vase I find, but it's still too big and it's still all wrong.  The hearts around the edge seem garish, trite, oblivious to the broken beauty that's been laid up against them.

But I watch that stem in a vase for days and the cut bleeds red and I don't know what it all means, only this--there's life after the breaking.

The unborn buds, they still grow, even when everything that's anchored them has been torn clean away.  And that circle of hearts, I see it now for what it really is--Love encircling when we've been broken straight through and the whole world's counted us out, left us to bleed.  Yes, that's exactly when He comes, this Love Who Is, and He wraps His presence all around and He plunges us deep in the Water Who Lives.

And, oh, we still bleed and we still ache and we still wonder how we can open hands, heart, whole lives to any more of these days.  But God, He holds us through it all, lets Love trickle up through the veins until we can't help but heal, hope again, live.

Those amaryllis blooms still growing in their pot, they loom large and loud.  But it's these small, pale buds opening from nothing but water and glass--they're the ones I can't take my eyes off.  Because who's mesmerized by the unbroken whole when He's here doing the impossible, sustaining what's been sheared right off, turning all the bleeding into a river of life?

And this is what He whispers through this one stalk of blooms--sometimes losing everything means gaining what matters most.

I need to hear this again and again because God's digging deep, stretching me out, and some days it feels as if I'm being sheared right off from everything that came before.  And maybe I am and maybe it's hurting more than I thought it would and maybe I wonder why He asks so much of a woman who feels so small.

But I'm breathing slow and steady through the growing, birthing pains and I'm tracing my hand across that string of hearts, believing this one thing:  God is Love and I am loved and this is enough to sustain a life through every last day, every last stripping away.

Because I've already written it here, those words of the Apostle Paul, that when we've got nothing at all to our names but His Love, we have everything.  Maybe He's teaching me this in ways I didn't expect, ways I never wanted to learn, but it's only this that matters--His Love encircling, flooding right over, invading every corner until I can't help but heal, hope again, live.

And this I'm learning through the hard days of living--Love really is the only home we'll ever need.