It’s my dad’s birthday today and I’ve been looking through photos of him and I. I just stumbled across a picture of my family circa late 2007 and my stomach turned and I got the worst chills through my body. My family. My family of 5 all smiling in a Christmas photo taken outside a Christmas show my mom had gotten us tickets to. I remember that all of the clothes we were wearing we had worn a couple weeks earlier at Thanksgiving time because we had taken a Christmas photo for the first time I could remember. We were so happy running around the muddy forest taking goofy and staged photos, thinking of Christmas time and happy to be together all coordinating for the first time since we could all dress ourselves. I remember taking this particular photo too. My grandma was with us and she made us take this photo after one of my parents took one with her and the rest of us. I remember that night, not in great detail, but when I look at that picture feelings come flooding back to me replacing days of events my mind has blocked out of recollection. This was the lowest month of my life, one I barely lived through.
It’s crazy looking at this photo because I never thought much of it. Even the last couple of times I’ve lightly passed over it I haven’t thought much about it except for stray stupid thoughts about my appearance. But tonight was different. Tonight I went there. Tonight I couldn’t help but think that if things had gone my way it would have been the last family photo we had ever taken together. If I had completed what I thought I had needed to we would never be the five of us together again, ever. As I look at this photo I can see the hidden strained expressions in our faces, the exhaustion that weighed on us. As I look at this picture, I stare at myself and see almost what this picture could have been. A picture that would haunt the people I love the most in the world. A picture they would never let go of.
It breaks my heart all over again. Not what happened because that is so far behind me, but the pain that I caused them during that time, the pain I almost caused them.
Dear ones, if you ever read this, I need you to look at those pictures. I need you to know how cherished you are. I need you to realized that when one part of your heart breaks that there are people that are willing and wanting to hold you together until you heal. I need you to know it’s possible. I need you to consider the people in your life who risk everything to be with you, forget the ones who don’t, look at the ones who are. It’s too painful to look back at a last photo. Don’t make them do it.
I was driving the other day, and all of the stresses of the day/week/month just seemed to culminate all at once on this simple 45min drive. Without warning or subtlety, a fully staged anxiety attack hit me out of nowhere. Here I am stuck in traffic, with drivers who seemed to have forgotten how to drive, late for a class and stressed out of my mind. I started to feel that old sinking feeling like all of my insides were falling into a sinkhole. Not knowing what else to do, and maybe because I’ve finally learned something, I started to pray. I desperately started asking God for help, help me out, help it go away, help me be ok, make me numb. Make me numb. Make me numb. Make me numb. I kept praying that line over and over, just wanting it to be done or at least feel immune to it. I couldn’t bear it anymore and I just wanted to stop feeling it. I had no faith God could make it stop, or make me strong enough to overcome it, but that He could just make me not feel it.
In the midst of my desperate repeating of this line, a new thought that didn’t sound like me gently spoke: “Honey, if I make you numb you can’t learn.”
If I make you numb, you can’t learn. My heart felt like it sank and swelled simultaneously. Right there, stuck on the 580 in rush hour traffic my car became a classroom. Carefully I started to process this line. Asking to become numb isn’t an act of faith, it’s an act of fear. It’s the desperate plea of a person who doesn’t believe that God has the power to overcome it, to stop it, to heal it, or to make her stronger than it. It isn’t a prayer for rescue, or for wisdom to grow from it. Gently I felt him reassure me that I wasn’t going to become numb to it, but He was going to be with me every step of the way. If I became numb to it, I would pretend like it didn’t exist. I would pretend like I didn’t need God to help me through the day or calm me down at night. I could pretend like everything was fine all the time because I wouldn’t feel anything other than fine. I know me, and apparently He does too because He answered my prayer with a ‘No.’ If I became numb to the pain and the struggle I would lose my connection, my empathy for other people.
I think God knows how important feelings are. As fleeting as they are, they are real, and they mean something to us. Maybe that is part of the reason Jesus had to come to earth as a man-as a person who feels like we do. The strength that come with them, the weakness they bring to us, all of it. God does not cause all of those feeling but He can use them good and bad to reach out to us.
If you are feeling tonight, anything… great, terrible, lost, comforted, whatever it is-it is a blessing. It is a trait of our heavenly Father, one that was not below Him when molding us in His image. Know that your Lord relates, that He cares about those feelings and that they are not in vain. That they are capable of inspiring your eyes to dwell on your Lord. That they can be used to strengthen you, to grow you, and to help you. That even the worst of feelings can help push you through the gates to your Fathers open outstretched arms.
[Read the link above (not too long) before you read the rest]
"Live your story. The one you were given. The one no one else was given."
This really convicted me in a very powerful way. I love stories. I process though stories, I understand through stories, I learn through stories, stories, are my bread and butter, my career, my perspective of the world. And yet, never once have I stopped to believe I have a story too. Maybe that sounds stupid, maybe it is stupid, but it’s true. I’ll admit I have a weakness for looking at other peoples lives, whether their perceived lives or really knowing them personally, and I see their stories. I see their PERFECTLY PUT TOGETHER stories. I see the big picture, I see how God is using them, I see their momentary struggles and although I feel for them, and deeply and empathetically ache for their hurts I always see the way out. I always see how it can fit into their big picture blessed life. I can ALWAYS see God present in the lives of other people. I don’t know what you call that, a blessing or a curse, to each his own and maybe both because as great as that sounds, I don’t see it in mine. I can look in the bloodshot tear-filled eyes of my sister and hurt more than I knew was possible for her and yet not be able to explain to her the hope I feel for her at the exact same moment. But I can get cut from a show and literally feel like the walls are crumbling down on me. And as I stand in the middle of a storm blown house all I can do is look up to heaven and whisper, “What are you doing?” as if I was let go from the heavenly plan I had once been a part of.
What do you call this? Selfishness? Lack of faith? Fear? It scares me. Because all to often I have stood there while my house of protection and sufficiency crumbles down on top of me and every time I have never felt more alone, and every time I doubt, and every time it tears just a bit more at the seams of my quilted heart. And every time, after the wind has died down and the dust has made everything grey and gritty, I have built that same house back up again, using the same broken materials and the same method of building with the same hope that it will stand next time. And every time the storm comes, my hopes break.
I remember very clearly from my childhood in Sunday school and my own Biblical readings, the parable of the man who built his house upon the sand, and the man who build his house upon the rock. I remember the song (it still get’s stuck in my head from time to time) and I remember all of the lessons (basically the same lesson many times over) about building your life and you trust and faith on God, in God, and not on “shifting sand.” Great. Great lesson, obvious lesson, no doubt. Much like the tale of the three little pigs. It’s basic logic. A couple of things always left out though: SAND IS AWESOME. Sand FEELS good. Sand is pretty, and it has pretty views, and it is accessible by many, and it can be manipulated to look and seem like what I want it to. Rock sucks. Rock hurts. Rock is heavy as freakin’ anything. Rock is usually unmovable. Rock is what it is, take it or leave it, you’ve got to build your whatever around whatever shape the rock decided to give you because you can’t change it. Rock does not feel good on your bare feet, nor when you fall on it. It hurts, it tears, it bleeds, it gets hot and it gets cold. Rock is often in hard to get places and it often gives you a stunning view of more rock. And can we talk about something for a second? How the heck do you build something on rock? You can’t penetrate it’s strength with nails and hammers… you can’t tie ropes around it very well… you can’t bring it to where you want it! You just pitch your little tent on it (which can move because, remember, you can’t stake into rock) and pray that when the storm comes, your little tent doesn’t move, for you know the rock wont.
"Build your house on the rock." That’s the lesson right? Can we talk about HOW? Can we ever talk about how you do what you’re supposed to do? Not that you’re supposed to do it, we know that. And not how we are supposed to get it done and how not to do it. But physically… really… HOW. DO. YOU. DO. THAT? We get so vague because …why? Because we don’t know? Because we’ve never done it? Because we’re afraid to make a recipe book for eternal salvation? Here’s the deal though: I don’t want a recipe book, I mean, yes I do, but I know I can’t get one. I know that it looks different for everyone at points. I know you can’t look it up on google maps, I get that ok. But can we talk about how for a minute? How can you build your home on God? How can you see your life as a complete and beautiful story that God is writing? How can you still see it when that storm is on you? I don’t want a petty answer, and I don’t want a vague answer like trust. Yup, there it is and it’s right. But it’s not all the way right. It’s not all the way right because it doesn’t meet you where you are. Just that word doesn’t come to where you are and hold your hand while the walls of your home are being carried away. That simple answer doesn’t save you from the crushing weight of your own fallen house. It just doesn’t. God does.
But here we go, let’s not get vague in the truth, and let’s not dumb it down or put it into a recipe book. Let’s just look at it and talk about it and see what He has to say about it. How. You know, I have searched the Bible for answers to my “how?” questions, literally from front to back. And sometimes I find the answers, and sometimes I just find Jesus. Don’t leave me here, because this is the dot connector. Jesus was God. Jesus was Rock. But Rock couldn’t move to find you broken on the sand, Jesus could. Rock couldn’t answer your how questions from where it stood, Jesus could. Rock couldn’t lead you to Rock, Jesus could. Jesus could, even though He was Rock in a different form, because He showed the relational side of Rock. Because He told you and showed you that the answer wasn’t a recipe or a set of directions, the answer was Him. The answer was a conversation, a hand holding yours when no one else’s would. A presence when you were alone. A hope when you had none. A plant when you offered up a seed. A relationship that was more than a facebook conversation, more than a sarcastic update followed by a more truthful hashtag, more than a question-answer forum. He doesn’t give you a recipe book because He knows how to make it and He wants to make it with you. He doesn’t want to tell you how to do it and then judge you when you’re doing it wrong. He wants to teach you how to do it, and walk with you through it, and correct the mistakes that happen.
So, the answer to my question is… ask. Stop asking how, because self-sufficiency never got us anywhere but hiding in a house on the sand feeling judged and less than. Ask Him to take your desires and the house you want so desperately to make home and ask Him to help you build it. See where He meets you, and the first step (because it will be only the first step) He directs you to and and then, do it.
In Russia’s Kronotsky Nature Reserve, there is a bear population that huffs jet fuel from old barrels until they get high and pass out.
Too funny to not reblog…the pictures..hahahaha