Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Over My Head: When the Rains Come

Drafter’s Note: I really did write this in its entirety from my airplane seat. And part of me wants to flesh it out and another part wants to put it in perspective but the ruling voice—majority vote or bossy vocalist is hard to call—says to leave this as I wrote it, because this is why I made this space to begin with: to be who I am.

I can't say that I don't know why I'm crying, why the tears seem to be related to gravity and thus closer to my surface the higher we climb. Last night in my eighth-floor hotel room I could feel the building pressure of them just beneath the surface, shifting every image to one seen through salty water. But today as the gravity lessens and our wheels lift from the tarmac I'm more grateful than I think I've ever been for this two-seater, this window, this two hours all to myself. Because loss seems inevitable—not every day, not all the time, but in some hours it grips across the skin the way I imagine an octopus would, relentless and stinging and impossible to remove. Some days it's brief, painful but passing. 

But there are moments when I cannot see an end but the obvious—and the simultaneously unknown. These tears will not be brushed away, and though they come quietly they will not be overpowered. I don't look for their end or their cause. Up here in the open I let them coast down my cheeks, hit my chest, roll where they will. Because though we coast over neighborhoods and highways there's no one beside me, no one to search for meaning or try to understand. How could they when I myself fall short of words? When only snippets and pieces of the brokenness find their way into focus? When the raw patches draw tears from the deep for the things that, barring a miracle, will never be felt by this heart? 

I let the mess run its course. I let the tears come as they need to and don't analyze their reasons. And I lean, lean reliantly and desperately and utterly into the Holy Spirit who harmonizes with me to make something beautiful, worthwhile and worship-worthy to my Father, my Tatì, the Writer and Remaker, the King and Captain and Comforter, the One who knows what He's doing and always has my hand and never forgets or falls or fails. He has a plan that is perfect for Him, and He draws me in again and again because His Son sacrificed everything to bring me home, and the Father loves me still, loves me too much to leave me out of the story that glorifies Him in every way.

And when the story seems too much for me—when the pages look blank and the words garble in my mouth and I don't know where to set my next step—keep me leaning into You, following after You, never quitting until that day that I am Home and falling at Your feet and having nothing but Your priceless name to cry back in glory, reason, worship, end, beginning.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Over My Head: This Morning

Drafter's Note: This was a prayer journal entry at 4:00am, a Facebook post at 5:30am, and is now shared here with minimal editing: a busy day for these little words. I wobbled on going public to this degree--brave faces are so tempting--but summarizing on social media didn't do it for me. I find myself wondering if this is a small way of speaking out, acknowledging brokenness and unglossed truth, in the face of the devastating and unbelievable in the world. 

Or maybe I'm just crazy.

Here I am, awake again--comfortably enough, with the rain pattering heavily and a little cold lo mein and the knowledge of a day of nothing set out before me.* No pressure to stay awake or rush back to sleep--I can hover in this limbo. Why not.

I can feel the little losses this morning--or maybe I'm just looking at them more head-on, acknowledging them more than usual. Nothing big. Just the pieces that aren't there: plots of books I've too-recently read, details of movies I think I love, names to match with new faces, lost lyrics to songs I can only rhythmically hum. And these are the pieces I notice missing. Are there larger holes, hard to see at a distance but gaping wide, ready to swallow more, gravitational black holes in my memory?

I don't know.

It feels that way sometimes.

But, to be fair, I've always had this melancholic strand woven through me, coming to the surface sporadically. Maybe these little lost pieces harmonize with the near-waltzy sway of melancholia to see those holes where there is, in fact, only good plowable ground. (I pull my dictionary app out here, and I stay with that word not for its first definition of mournful depression but for "sober thoughtfulness"--medievally, a bit too much black bile, which strikes the right note for me in here.**)

So this, too, like joys and dreams and supposed promises, I hold in open hands for You to take--or not.

And the image that comes--from You or me, I'm not sure--is You closing my fingers, letting me hold it while Your hands remain, holding mine. Sobering. Thoughtful.

(In these moments, it is simple to me how those in this legacy who chose a Saviorless life reached instead for a bottle: a supposed steadier for these waves and wobbles.)

So I'll sit here with You, Savior of mine. And together we will own this: the real and the imagined, the solid fact and the melancholic fog. You won't leave and I won't give up. You'll hold my hand until I fall asleep: each time, and then the last time, when you'll raise me out of the bile and into breaking, remaking, transforming light.

For now, in this time of imperfection, we see in a mirror dimly, 
we see a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma. 
But then, when the time of perfection comes, we will see reality face to face. 
Now I know in part, just in fragments, but then I will know fully, 
just as I have been fully known by God.
- 1 Corinthians 13:12, Amplified version 
(parentheses and brackets switched out for natural punctuation)

* Amazing how today ended up--almost like Someone was penning a better story. That "day of nothing" became an early morning of worship and quiet and peace; a later morning of service and great conversations with fellow churchgoers and strangers as we volunteered cleaning our neighbors' homes; an afternoon of great conversation and beautiful walk with a new friend; and later tonight, a game night with friends and other strangers. Prayerfully I'll remain conscious for everything. 

** "Melancholy," according to my dictionary app (combining some definitions but remaining true to order): 
          1) a gloomy state of mind; mournful; depressed; 
          2) sober thoughtfulness; pensiveness; 
          3) Archaic. the condition of having too much black bile. 
          Origin: 1275-1325 Middle English melancholie: condition of having black bile.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Proof of Life

Drafter's Note: I promise, I yet live. I promise, in fact, that I yet write--brief evidence below! Have just fallen off the bloggy wagon, as I seasonally do. (...In this case, three seasons. But who's keeping score.) A couple of items that have lived on my phone since I wrote them (in April and May, respectively), and should see the light of day--though apologies for the whiplash from the one to the other.

If you've returned, faithful reader, all I have is thank you.

Sitting by the Willamette on a Springy Morning

I've always been an ocean girl. The rhythm, the pulse of roaring-rough or quietly lapping waves has had a stilling, restful, spiritual effect on me since my earliest memories. From a girl playing pretend to a teenager's broken heart to the constant mess of "adulting," the sea has been more faithful than fathers, more healing than chemo. That pulse gently reminds me that there is no rush, that things will come in a time that is out of my control but exactly as it should be. A lullaby of rest, a practice of patience.

But this morning I sit in this diner, eavesdropping on the men near me discussing King Kongs they've known in their lengthy lifetimes, their histories and love interests--those of the ape, not themselves--and a few dozen feet away the Willamette (don't be an outsider: "will-AM-it") surges past us with shameless enthusiasm, hunks of ice from the mountains churning through it in an ancient calligraphy. 

And I realize that this might have spun me very differently, had I been raised by mighty rivers. There is no gentleness--what seems still is only skin over tumult and currents--and nothing comes to you, in any frame of time. It passes. It approaches and then flees and does not pause for you to wonder. I have a glimpse of Lewis and Clark, Huckleberry and Jim, of those who could not keep watching things lost but had to see where it went--not how it ended, but where it took them.

I wonder if it's possible to change--not to leave the sea (impossible!) but to let my salty soul get a little brackish as the constancy and rest is sometimes traded for the unknown, the passage, a new world around this next bend. Because no one is called to stay. Not always. Shifts--physical or something larger--may be infrequent but no less necessary. Not running away, not fear of commitment, but knowing that sometimes a churning is good for the soul. Remembering what's passed, what was good and what was lacking, but taking the risk of the new and unknown. 

Like the Kongs, I think, and bring my attention from the surging script of the river, but the conversation has moved past Kongs old and new, traded for self-driving cars. I drain my cold coffee and gather my things--time to move on, even in little ways. 

"Tell me," asks one of them, leaning over and looking into his mug, "how does it know what 'home' means." 

      --      --      --      --      --      --      --      --  

Can I Be a Witness

I don't know where Cain's wife came from.

I just thought I'd open on that note, because it comes up a lot--that, or some other quiz question aimed to stymie Christ-followers who call the Bible a holy text. I've discussed and debated and studied that book over college classroom tables and youth group meetings and in conversation with friends and with my own self. And some things I know and some I don't, but when it comes down to it I can't prove a single one. I won't win this argument--in fact, I'll try not to enter it at all.

I can't prove God created the world, and knit me together while my mother thought she'd just have a son. I can't prove that Jesus, Son of God, gave Himself to pay my sin debt. I'd drown in the details of why God cared enough for broken people to sacrifice the perfect to save them. Thankfully, I don't have to. I can't make it all make fit together--maybe because it doesn't, and mostly because I don't need to.

All I am is a witness.

I've witnessed God step into my life in the wake of brokenness and redirect us to new family and community found in a church. 

I've witnessed Him close my ears to opportunities of wreckage and addiction as a teenager, piecing something else, something less polluted together. 

I've witnessed Him save my life--keep me from acting on my considerations of suicide--by weaving people and books and song lyrics into something that resembled this faith everyone else had talked about and I'd never known. 

I've witnessed Him send me into a foreign country to find how unfathomably big He is, how blessed I am, how to worship Him outside of words I knew. 

I've witnessed Him steer me from place to place, job to job, calling to calling. 

I've witnessed Him heal me of deep wounds, bring me out of habits and thought patterns that owned me, and lead me from puddles that vaguely met needs to springs that overwhelmed and restored. 

And I've witnessed Him take a simple prayer--"come and do whatever you want to"--and weave a seizure and a brain tumor and a biopsy and radiation and chemo and MRIs and bald spots into the best story I've ever had. 

And that's just the highlight reel.

I can't prove to you that my God, this particular God of mine, did all this. 

All I have is my story... and the fact that my story lines up in crazy ways with those of friends of mine... and echoes back to those stories that fill up the pages of that holy book that never sits on a shelf because it is too actively harmonizing with my life to put it away.

Like sitting in a box where the lawyers will argue and accuse and the judge will decide, all I can do is tell what I know. Not because someone told me to or I read it somewhere. Just because this is my story.