Encounter: Part 2 of …

Hello!

So that goal of “writing every Monday,” went well didn’t it? Haha. I shouldn’t have expected anything different, but I did go on vacation (and subsequently recovered from said vacation, so let’s blame it on that). ; )

By the way, that vacation was AWESOME. More to come on that too.

In my last post, I talked about reopening wounds I thought were healed and entrusting those places to God. Some days that feels like I am shoving it into His hands gratefully because I am so weary and do not have the energy or emotional capacity to carry it on my own. Sometimes, I do it joyfully with a hymn in my heart. On the hardest days, it feels a lot like throwing it at Him like an angry dart. And still, there are other days when I am hesitant to give it over at all, afraid that somehow God is going to use that vulnerability to wound me.

For me, I think the latter comes from a fear of silence. Giving over our deepest hurts to God takes a lot of faith. A lot of trust. It feels like handing over your most precious thing, and we nervously wring our hands wondering what is to become of it. We give it over with an expectation of answers. And then, we get what we feel is silence.

(For more on that, please read this post here).

For so much of this journey (going on about seven years), this “silence” has been the hardest part. In this perceived silence, my own questions of worth, desire, and God’s goodness have either shouted at me or lured me in whispers. I’ve been tempted to hold my infertility like a mirror, letting it shape the way I see myself, convincing myself that is how God sees me too. Forgotten. Not worthy.

I say this and yet, as I look back over this journey, I know this isn’t true. While at times, I certainly believed the “answers,” would instantly erase my pain, I also know this to be a lie. Because here is the thing…

God has never been silent.

Never.

His presence, which at times, has literally felt physical in my darkest moments SPEAKS. Verbal answers might temporarily ease the cognitive dissonance racing through my brain. But love speaks to my heart. Love is what transforms. Love calls me back to who I am time, and time again.

God’s presence is LOVE. Please believe that as someone who has been in the pit that His love has been the rope that pulls me to life every time. And that is a daughter of a King (shout out to Abby for that reminder!).

I am not forgotten. I am beloved. With or without a child of my own.

Here is the follow-up journal entry to the last post:

*****

December 16th, 2016

Lord, I don’t want to make demands. I don’t want anything that is not from You. And yet, as I read Elizabeth’s story from the Gospels, I feel mine resonate within hers and I know I want something. I want a child by Your miraculous means. I want to know that it is something ONLY from You. Not from a medical procedure (not that I think that is wrong), or by forcing something but rather a grace in tangible form that reminds me over and over again of Your providence, Your love, Your gift. I don’t want to be the source. I want to know and others to know that if I have a child, I am blessed because of You.

And really, the more I think about grace and the gift of it, it’s NOT the child in of itself that is the grace…it’s the tangible reminder of YOU. THAT is the grace. THAT is the beautiful part of any story. THAT is the seed buried permanently in my heart. This world will fade away. Our lives are not our own and often take what seems like an uncharted path.

But it is these reminders, these gifts of Your grace that sustain us. It draws us back to you time and time again. So, God I pray boldly and confidently for this gracious gift. For this gracious reminder. That I, and others, would know You.

That is what I want, Lord. For your Gospel to be bigger. And I will wait for however You choose to display it. For however long it takes. Show me what this means.

*****

God speaks, friends. He speaks in violent roars, and soothing lullabies. He speaks through His presence and the hugs, hand squeezes, and prayers of others. He speaks courage and peace. He speaks through His written word and words scratched in a battered, worn journal. His voice is comfort and conviction. May He speak through me and to me…and may I listen.

More to follow. Let your lives speak.

-R

Encounter: Part 1 of …

There is so much of this story to tell….brimming and stirring within my heart that is begging to be shared. It is a lot to unpack. A lot to write out on this digital space. So I will attempt it to break it down as best as I can in a series of “parts…” and will try to post every Monday for the next few weeks. : ) Grab a cup of coffee or tea and settle in against some comfy cushions, wherever you are and let’s chat.

The winter in Portland has been a long one. Gray, wet, (even some snow!) with rarely a glimpse of sun. In many ways, you get accustomed to the dark and dreariness and you don’t realize how much it impacts your state of mind until you catch that ray of sunshine on your cheeks.

And in many ways, I’ve been in that “winter” for a long time. I realize that I don’t write here a lot but whenever I do, I try to be honest. That means the glimpses of doubt, pain, confusion, faith, and praise I provide in this space are very, very true. Yet, it does not provide the whole journey of my heart. It is an amazing thing to be on a journey…to be able to share pieces of it. But even if I had blogged every week over the last five years it wouldn’t have captured every nuanced thought, the steps forward, and the many, many steps back of this struggle. And that’s okay. That is the part of the beauty of it. Only my journal records the raw and sometimes brutal honesty that pours out of my heart on a regular basis. It’s like my scrawling pen is connected to a deep, hidden place of my heart that I don’t even know exists until I start writing. It records a sacred language. And these entries are what I want to start sharing with you. These raw, vulnerable words that help me tell my story.

In my last post, I talked about “dancing in places where I was once crippled,” and that is true…but there is much more to that story that I feel needs to be shared. There has never been a magic wand that God or I have waved to suddenly make everything “okay.” There has been no band-aid, no self-help book, no erasing of the pain this journey has brought me…even though I am now able to rejoice within it. In many ways, it is (and may always be), a bleeding hole in my heart. The pain is still there, I can assure you.

In fact, last year, in an attempt to take a “break from it all,” I spent nearly a whole calendar year and rarely expended a full, coherent thought to fertility and children. As those that have struggled with this will tell you, sometimes you need that break. Infertility is exhausting…it takes up space in your brain you didn’t even know existed, and month after month (and now year after year), the cycle of hope and disappointment drains you until you feel like you are left swaying on your feet. So, I told myself I was done and busied myself with my new job, and travel plans. I basically shut the door, locked it, and wiped my hands clean of it. And that worked for a while. A long while actually. Over a year.

But that changed on an early morning in early December (2016). This past year, I have been getting up really early before work to spend time with God and it has made a dramatic difference in my life. I was doing an Advent devotional  called Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin Jr. and on that morning the devotion was about Elizabeth and her own struggle with infertility and as I read, the tears saved up from the last year escaped in thick sobs. I think you will see why.

I’d like to share my journal entry from that day:

*****

December 5th, 2016

Luke 1:13-17:  “But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. 16 He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.”

“Who knows when Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed the prayer the angel mentions? Surely it was long ago, before they had grown old. The prayer was a plea to bear children, of course, so it must have begun soon after they had married. It must have grown more anguished as longer and longer grew the time when God did not answer it. But after a certain age reality must have persuaded the childless couple to stop praying for the impossible.

By now they had probably forgotten the prayer itself. Surely, they believe its purpose was past – and that the answer long, long ago had been, “no.”

But here is the first of our lessons today: that God does not forget to answer our prayers. It is in the fullness of time that He answers them. He answers in that rich Kairos, when to answer, at all does the most good for the most people!

And you, my friend, you thought your older prayers had gone unanswered (because we live always in the particular present, forgetting the past, unknowing the future).

And you thought your personal praying had nothing to do with anyone besides yourself and a handful of intimate folk (because our own vision is confined to a particular space, place, community).

But your prayer is never yours alone. It is also God’s, you know.”

-Excerpt from Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin Jr, 1999, Zondervan Publishing, page 38.

I read these words with a heart that had been, or rather has been, drained of hope and anticipation and the realization of it made me weep. I, like Elizabeth, have stopped praying for a child. The words seem hollow, echoing in an empty heart. I’m not mad. I’m not angry or resentful. I just haven’t let the words escape, even in a whisper, in a very long time. I’d like to say it’s because I’m at peace and freed from a longing that is not mine to have, but reading this devotion made me realize that isn’t true. I’ve become resigned out of hopelessness, of exhaustion, of faithlessness. I’ve pulled my prayers because I no longer believe that God wants to hear them…or maybe the real truth is that I am just tried. Tired of a bleeding heart, tired of hanging on to hope, and maintaining expectations MONTH after MONTH, YEAR after YEAR. The answer clearly seems to be, “no.” And so, I’ve tried to move on, and in many ways I have. And a part of me says that is okay. I’ve certainly been more “present,” and grateful for all of the other blessings in my life.

But underneath it all, for all the ways I’ve been moving “forward,” I now realize I’ve just shut a door. And the bad thing is that by shutting that door, and pretending it doesn’t exist, I’ve kept this from You, denying myself an opportunity to experience your full presence amidst pain. Your comfort in my doubt.

And yes, Lord, when I pull back that veil, when I open that door, I realize that my heart is still broken, still longing for a child. I’ve been persuaded by time and disappointment rather than sensitivity to Your spirit.

A part of me WANTS to forget this prayer, because Lord, I don’t know if I can take it. But my sight is so limited and YOU HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN ME. So, forgive me for letting my doubt and human resignation become bigger than faith in Your character.

Let this prayer be constant in the assurance of You and not a demand. And God, even though everything is possible in Your name, not everything is promised and when and IF the time comes when I am to let go of this prayer completely, let it be a gift from the Spirit, and not of my apathy and resignation.

This is where I find myself this morning. Caught between a promise and a possibility and it is a very familiar place. One I know quite well. So, instead of shutting the door again, I will blow the dust off of this called HOPE and ask what promise I am to hang onto.

And that promise is You.

*****

More to follow…..Stay tuned.

-R

Welcoming the Mystery…

“Everything happens for a reason.”

I’ve had an interesting journey with these words. At first it was the thing that brought me comfort. I dutifully clung to it like some kind of religious mantra, desperate to assign it as the meaning behind my infertility struggle. There had to be a reason. HAD TO. And so for years, I placated my hurts, pasted a fake smile on my face, and tried to convince myself it all made sense. It became my Gospel. There was a reason we hadn’t been able to conceive, a special reason. And once I found that reason, my heart would be comforted. God and I would be on the same page. I would understand and then all of this waiting, pain, and dashed hopes would make sense. It would be worth it. I just had to seek enough, pray enough, be faithful enough for this reason to be revealed.

But here is the thing with cliches….one day they aren’t enough.

One day your heart is hurting so much you take a sledgehammer to those words in a fit of anger and grief. You scream “BULLSHIT,” and pound your fists against them and are surprised to find they are nothing but fragile glass. They shatter at your feet and you are left bleeding, your heart pounding in your chest, your breath catching in sobs.

And deep down you find that this is what you feared all along…that you subscribed to a half truth, a half lie, and now you didn’t know what to do with all the pain, all the confusion, all the uncertainty.

After all, if there isn’t a reason to be understood, what does that say about me, and what did it say about God? Was He good? Was He just this far off being that didn’t care? Did I matter? Did He hear my prayers? Did he even exist?

So you do the only thing you can do. You sit in your pain. You sit in the deep struggle of it. You stop trying to turn over rocks. Stop the attempt to interpret life with a decoder ring pulled from a cereal box. Stop blindly following a map that is supposedly going to lead you to the elusive “buried treasure.” All of these are thinly disguised by a well-intentioned, but shallow faith.

And it’s hard. Incredibly hard. The tension is almost unbearable at first. But clarity becomes it eventual companion. And it revealed something.

I was so tired of pursing a Gospel of “getting,”…of having a faith that felt more like a band-aid, or that kept the monsters barely contained under the bed while I slept. Oh, the shallowness of it all.

No wonder it shattered like glass. It can’t hold up to the deep pain of real life. At best it placates. It distracts. At its worst, it completely warps everything around us.

I think a turning point came when I was talking to my mom about the death of her own mother from early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 56. I was talking to her about the “reason” behind everything and she said something profound to me in her own pain. She said, “You know, Bek, it’s been 29 years since she died and I haven’t seen ONE good thing happen as a result. Not one. I’ve accepted that I might not know or understand in this lifetime.”

And her pain, 29 years later was still evident. That holy space of pain and doubt was not hurriedly explained away. There was no band-aid, no rallying of “I’ve found the reason,” but yet her voice was soft in acceptance and pain. That tension. I instantly recognized it.

And I realized something….I had been worshipping the pursuit of the “reason,” versus the One who gives it meaning. I allowed the interpretation of this “reason,” to shape my idea of God, versus letting God’s PRESENCE define the event…define me.

This whole time I thought I would find peace after finding out this “reason” or explanation. But instead, what I had been searching for this whole time amidst my pain had been there right in front of me. In fact, it was WITH me. Beside me, every step. I was just so blinded by my struggles and demands. It was Christ, himself. The very real, the very true, the very good and loving Christ who not only knows my pain, but enters into it with me. It was only after encountering the presence of a Holy, vast, yet personable God in the midst of that struggle, that healed my heart. Or rather, I should say, is HEALING my heart.

So yes, in all of these years of struggle, I’ve finally welcomed and feel at home in the mystery of it all. That tension. It doesn’t scare me anymore. I can appreciate the deep valleys of want and confusion, as well as the contentment and joy of the tallest peaks.

I’ve let go of the dogged quest of the “reason,” and instead worship the One who gives it a purpose. This Christ, this Holy mysterious God, who I can’t even begin to explain, yet I also intimately know, fills my heart more than any earthly “answer” could. HE is the reason I can be courageous in the face of debilitating pain. HE is the reason I can love and rejoice in the pregnancy news of others. HE is the one I can beat my arms against and HE will not shatter. HE will hold me. HE will cry with me. Even if there is a special reason that later is made known to me. Even if there isn’t one, other than just broken body and messed up biology. Maybe one day I will know for certain. Or…maybe I won’t.

Please know that I don’t shrug in apathy.

Instead, I welcome this mystery. I revel in it. Together, God and I twirl and dance in places where I was once crippled. He was always the answer. He will always continue to be that answer.

Don’t be afraid to sit in those places of tension. Ask questions. Know that you are not alone. Know that you are loved. Know that this pain isn’t all there is. oxox.

1-16-17

Hello.

Yes, my last post was over a year ago. And let’s be honest, I didn’t post a whole lot on here to begin with. But lately, I’ve had this urge to flex my fingers, blow the dust of my keyboard, fill my mug with coffee, and continue with this story.

People ask me if I still write. Yes. Constantly. Words tumble, jostle, and perpetually flood my brain and most of them end up in my journal. But they rarely end up here. I think because it can be emotionally exhausting to publicly pull back the layers you have so carefully put in place. We all need that insulation in order to carry on with our daily lives (it is not a bad thing!) and I am quite aware of our tendency to “overshare” in whatever platform we make for ourselves in this day and age. We smile, and present our perfectly curated stage we’ve built and try to ignore the fact it is nothing more than a shivering stack of bone-china tea cups, perched precariously one on top of another.

So I respect the insulation, the fragility of it all….and yet, I also want to rip it open and show the beating heart behind it.

And this is where I find myself this morning. A longing to record some of these words, to share them, which hasn’t happened in a long time.

And maybe part of the reason it was hard to log in to this blog was because I would have to answer the “question,” and type the words, “Nope. Still infertile.”

But guess what, there they are in all of their brutal glory, and it was easier than I thought. And part of that reason is because God has been showing me, that my story, HIS story is so much grander than resolution. For in those in-between places, a life is lived. A beautiful, full, rich life.

That doesn’t negate the pain, confusion, the questions, the bad days…in fact, the horrible days that occur, but it also creates space for beautiful days. Lots and lots of them. The kind that take your breath away and fill you with the most serene sense of contentment and you realize that this story, this wonderful, rich, multifaceted story is not one to be traded for another’s.

For in this space, I have never felt more lost and more known. I have felt despair, and the deep joy that allows me to laugh with grateful tears. This story is not about resolution. It’s about REVELATION.

And yours is too.

These are the stories that are made to be shared. Shivering tea cups and all.

So, it’s nice to see you all again….more to follow.

www.amontheevergreens.wordpress.com

On This Veteran’s Day…

Every so often my job takes me to Washington D.C. and over the years it has become a place that is less of an acquaintance and one of a familiar friend. Every time I go, I retrace the same steps through our national memorials, pause to soak in the same paintings from the same bench at the National Gallery of Art, and stand in the same long lines to see fading script on our Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights.

Last year, I spent 45 days in D.C. and during that stay something changed. As I walked the WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War Memorials, it suddenly hit me that one day I would visit and there would be a memorial for my generation, for the thousands of service members that have lost their lives during OEF/OIF. One day, I will come back here as an old lady, with liver spots on my hands, and I will let the tears run down my wrinkled cheeks and pay my respects to my service brothers and sisters. I wonder what it will look like. I wonder if it will capture the sorrow and heartache felt by everyone who has lost a husband, wife, brother, sister, father, mother, friend. I wonder if it will honor the lives lived and sacrifices made. I wonder if children from future generations will leave roses and crayon-scribbled “thank you” letters at its base.

 

But really, what hit me the most was that a memorial doesn’t exist for the service members who made it home but still lost their lives or in the midst of losing their lives to PTSD. Where is their memorial? Those lives, shattered by trauma and a sense of loss will forever leave them grasping to reclaim what they had. Families broken, they walk like ghosts among us, staring down a saturated oblivion, trying not to get swallowed whole.

Three years ago, I decided to go back to college to get my B.S. in Psychology. This was the third major I would be declaring over a ten-year period and I just wanted to finish my degree for the sake of finally finishing it. I settled on Psychology because I thought it was interesting. But over the course of writing papers, reading books, and seeing it unfold in the lives around me, my heart and interest start drifting towards the study of trauma. And when my university offered a crisis/trauma counseling cognate, I knew exactly that is what I wanted to devote the rest of my studies to.

Part of my graduation requirements mandated a 120-hour internship in my area of study. At first, I was thinking of interning with a Sexual Assault Resource Center to help survivors of human trafficking. Or, maybe volunteer with the Red Cross. But on my last day of that 45 day trip to DC, I was walking down the length of the National Mall one last time, coffee in hand, the early spring air still crisp. I walked by a young man, clean cut, but a bit frayed around the edges, wearing a multi-cam undershirt tucked into his jeans. He looked to be my age, and his eyes were downcast, and he was holding a hand-written sign that said:

“OEF. I’M TRYING. PLEASE HELP.”

And I remember my heart breaking, and my eyes filling with tears because I was looking at the next generation of lives broken by war and he was my age. He might as well have been any of men I work with and in his face I saw theirs. I don’t know why I didn’t stop and talk to him. I kept walking, just like I do when I walk by something that makes me uncomfortable. I guess because it is easier. Because if I can pretend I didn’t see him, I can pretend his struggle and heartbreak don’t exist. That world is easier to live in. That world allows me to live comfortably, buy what I want to buy, enjoy the safety of living in the U.S., without acknowledging that I own part of that cost and yet don’t want to pay any of the consequences.

But about 100 meters later, I knew I needed to go back and talk to him. I needed to look him in the eyes and tell him he mattered. I would give him everything I had in my wallet and try not to cry.

But as I neared him, I saw that another man had arrived and was sitting down next to him. He also looked to be our age and from his haircut and style of dress, I had a feeling he was currently or prior military. And do you know what they doing? They were talking. Simply talking. The man with the sign was doing most of it, with the other man nodding, and listening. And while I couldn’t hear what they were saying, I just knew I was witnessing a holy moment forged between brothers on the dirty sidewalks of D.C.

And in that moment, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to honor the sacrifices listed on the walls of the memorials and the sacrifices that walk among us by continuing my education so that I can help ensure what happened to the returning Vietnam vets doesn’t happen to my generation. But I don’t have to wait for a fancy degree to do that. I need to first stop and open my eyes. Listen. Affirm. Be grateful. Understand that while war is messy, complicated, and horrible, that I as a citizen (and as one who also wears the uniform) have a responsibility to help shoulder the burden that so many carry within them.

When I enlisted into the Air National Guard at the age of 17, it was prior to Sep 11th, and I had only planned on doing six years so I could get my degree and become a high school English teacher. And then the towers fell, and like so many lives, mine drastically changed and completely veered onto a path that I honestly I didn’t want at the time.

But I know now that God used that path to lead me exactly where I am supposed to be.

vanessa

I mentioned earlier that people with PTSD walk like ghosts among us. But I was wrong.

They are not ghosts. They are flesh and blood and they are your neighbors. They are the ones seemingly functioning in society, but carry an unseen wound. They are the men and women, tattered and broken, lining the streets around the Gospel Mission. They wear everything from service uniforms, to power suits, and tattered blue jeans. They serve your coffee, teach your children, build your houses and fight to make the VA better. They hide, unable to leave their house, paranoid, and schizophrenic. They are old and young, and in-between. Some are missing limbs. Some are missing entire pieces of their hearts. They are fighting for their families and some have lost. But no matter their walk of life, they are the men and women bravely TRYING and NEED OUR HELP.

These are my service brothers and sisters and together we make up a living memorial that is carved of flesh and blood. It is held together by our families, who bravely fight their own wars and rarely get the acknowledgement and help they deserve.

So, on this Veterans Day (and really, everyday) do not ignore it. Do not walk by it. Do not trample on the flag, but also, don’t ignorantly wave it without realizing that it drips in blood and brokenness. It is a responsibility we all need to share. It is a collective and solemn “thank you” that is best lived out in taking care of each other.

***In honor of Veteran’s Day, I would encourage everyone to check out and support Returning Veterans Project, located here in Portland, OR. Started by a group of non-military affiliated social workers and mental heath providers, they provide FREE and CONFIDENTIAL mental health and somatic services to returning OEF/OIF combat veterans and their families. I completed my internship with them, and I was overwhelmed by the amount of care and advocacy they do on behalf of our veteran community. This is truly an example of caring citizenship. We owe them so much. http://www.returningveterans.org

And the Birds Sang…

I’ve been in Washington D.C. for well over a month now (for work) and today is Easter morning. Part me is sad I didn’t venture out and find a community of people with which to celebrate. Instead, I’m at my favorite little breakfast cafe, drinking an Americano and overlooking the quaint streets of Old Town Alexandria thinking a lot about this past month and where I find myself today. Being away from Jared, family, and friends has understandably left me feeling a bit hollow. I depend on those relationships. They are much more “home” to me than the physical place in which I rest my head. And in their absence, nagging whispers I once thought gone, begin to creep back in. Sometimes, I’ve caught myself staring back at the woman I see in the mirror and wonder, “how did I get here already?” I see my flaws, the lines that are beginning to settle around my eyes and wonder if my insides are starting to bleed to the outside.  Unsettled, you’d think I would turn more to Jesus. But I haven’t. Because deep down, I am a daughter of Eve. A soul so aware of my own nakedness that I to try to hide it from God, than believe He calls me out to Himself because of it.

So, no. I haven’t really sought You at all these past six weeks, choosing to distract myself with useless things, and even choosing to burrow deeper and deeper into a sense of self-pity hiding somewhere among the shadows of resentment and loneliness. I don’t know why it comes upon me like this. So often, my soul feels full and quiet, marveling in thankfulness for everything You’ve given me. But lately, I’ve once again convinced myself it feels better to lick my wounds than to give them over to You. That I can somehow handle this in my own way. But that way is never better. And before I know it, I’ve dug my way back in with the lingering throbbing of claw marks etched on the walls of my heart.

I’m sorry Jesus. For taking You as some flippant presence that is dependent on my mood, my predetermined expectations, my own version of how I want my story to go. Sometimes, I CHOOSE loneliness. I CHOOSE wallowing as a means of self-protection. But this isn’t what it’s supposed to be.

Do you know how I know this?

Because I hear it calling out to me like the chirps and songs of the birds perched in branches that are just now beginning to show life around this neighborhood. I left a very early spring in Portland to come to a very long, and harsh winter in Washington D.C. One with a biting wind that stings my cheeks and a coldness that inhabits the deepest parts of your bones. For me, it’s been a lonely one too. Waiting and waiting for it to be over, but instead it clings to people like the last frost of the season, set on trying to ruin the life we’ve been anticipating.

Oh, but this morning. This glorious morning. It was so still, so quiet. I walked the cobbled streets before most people were awake. The sky was the most perfect color of hazy blue, almost like the color of faded lavender with wisps of clouds still golden around the edges from the sunrise. And those birds. Hopping from branch to branch, singing perfect little songs regardless if anyone bothered to listen. It was like they were announcing that winter was over. That LIFE was occurring at that very moment, even if it was happening on a scale so small I couldn’t see it. Their song was simple, but so hopeful.

I wonder, over two thousands years ago did the birds sing that morning too? Could they sense the world had forever changed? That the Life my life depends on, took a long, deep breath after the long, desolate winter of Good Friday? Did the birds sing even as the disciples cried, doubted, and panicked?

It’s so easy to wallow in the winters or in the Fridays of life. To think, “this is it.” Souls made tired by dashed hopes and long nights. But morning always comes. And spring always comes. It might not be overnight but one day you are out walking quiet streets and the birds remind you to stop and notice those delicate little blossoms of color, so transparent in their fragility, you can almost see the veins giving life to a tree that until a few days ago, resembled something closer to death. Petal by petal, they unfurl themselves as a sign of wonder, beauty, and proof of LIFE. The birds know this.

It’s almost as if they are signing a song of resurrection.

And because they sing, I can sing too.

www.amongtheevergreens.wordpress.com

Merci Beaucoup

It’s been a week since last Sunday’s post and I’ve listened carefully to what my heart is saying. Overwhelmingly, it is an outpouring of…

THANK YOU.

Thank you for the countless texts, emails, prayers, comments, and FB messages of support. The amount of love I have experienced through each of you has dropped me to my knees. I’m humbled. I’m forever grateful.

This morning, I went online and clicked through the photos of the unity march occurring in Paris after this week’s terrorist attacks. Such pain and horrific loss. Families, a city, and a country find themselves in a place of deep mourning. And yet, I also see a world that is coming alongside them in this moment; to share in the grief and in the heartache. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world have gathered in that place of loss and are waving flags of solidarity, offering hugs of support, and simply offering the comfort of their presence as they walk alongside those hurting. Making themselves vulnerable so that those hurting most can find the courage and strength to keep marching.

Unity March Rally

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And I see love redeeming a place that evil and fear intended to destroy.  

Please understand that I do not equate my infertility to evil. But this week I feel as though I am walking my own streets of Paris. Last Sunday morning, a great sense of loss burrowed itself deep within my heart. And I wanted to stay home, curl myself into a ball and let God quietly heal my heart. But instead, I heard him say, “Come on. Let’s go for a walk.” And so we did. And at first it felt like the streets were deserted, the wind whipping old newspapers across dirty, dusty streets. I’ve found myself on this road before. It can feel so desolate and lonely to carry a hurt that cannot be seen from the outside. And I want to turn back and shut myself in where it feels safe and not so exposed but I trust You when you say, “No, keep walking. You’ll see.”

And suddenly, to my surprise I look to my left and someone else is there. And then I look to the right and see that another person has appeared. One by one, people are joining with me, offering smiles, a simple hand squeeze, and words of encouragement. Some people I’ve known my whole life, and some I have never met. Some share in my beliefs, and others don’t. Some are making me laugh and some don’t say anything at all, but I feel their love and the weight of their prayers. People are now streaming from the houses along this dusty street and lining the sides of the pavement, waving flags, cheering me on, and joining in this march as I pass them by.

“See?” You tell me with a smile. And I nod as I wipe tears from my cheeks because this is the most beautiful and mysterious thing I have ever experienced. Because Your Love is made tangible through the way WE love each other. It redeems a place of vulnerability into one of strength and comfort. Oh, for all the horrible things people can do to each other, and despite what a shitty, broken world this is, I am so convicted that God uses us to tell a bigger story of hope and love that will always break through whatever darkness threatens to claim us.

So everyone, thank you. You made me feel like Paris. You took my burden as your burden and made it your own and reminded me that courage feels a lot like caring and kindness. I want to be one that marches alongside others. To be that reminder that you are not alone in your own walks.

And to Paris, we say Je Suis Charlie and God be with you.

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Vulnerable

I realize I don’t write on this blog a lot and more importantly, I don’t really write in “real-time.” I journal frequently, but if it makes it on the blog it’s usually weeks, if not months after I initially wrote it. That’s because I need that distance to gain perspective and work through the emotions of whatever my heart is going through. But this morning is different. This morning, I am writing from the most vulnerable and real place I can. Because I think it’s important to live out this story from a place of authenticity in hopes that it helps others.

I’m not going to go into a lot of personal details but a few months back I went to a new fertility doctor and he had some great news. I was formally diagnosed with something that might explain my infertility. But even better, it was usually correctable with medication. And that was such a relief to me. All the questions, all the doubt, all the “am I going crazy?” gave way to this incredible ignition of hope. The doc was confident I would conceive within these next few months.

And here we are, a few months later and J and I had every reason to believe this month we were pregnant. Again, not a lot of details but as much as I tried to tell myself, “don’t get too excited,” I couldn’t help but feel this hope fully bloom within my heart. I was peaceful, I was happy, in a weird way, so content.  This month was different. I just knew it.

And so, I got up early this morning, with sun barely glimmering behind Portland’s gray January skies and I took a test. And instead of watching the seconds tick by on my phone, I decided to read today’s entry from “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. And this is what it said:

January 4th:
“I want you to learn a new habit. Try saying, ‘I trust you, Jesus’ in response to whatever happens to You. If there is time, think about who I am in all my Power and Glory; ponder also the depth and breadth of my love for you.

This simple practice will help you  see Me in every situation, acknowledging My sovereign control over the Universe. When you view events from this perspective-through the Light of my Universal Presence-fear loses its grip on You. Adverse circumstances become growth opportunities when you affirm your trust in me no matter what. You receive blessings gratefully, realizing they flow directly from my Hand of Grace. Your continual assertion of trusting Me will strengthen our relationship and keep you close to me.” (scripture referenced: Psalm 62:3, Isaiah 40:10-11, Psalm 139:7-10).

And just that like that, I knew the test would be negative and it was.

One line, not two. And I’m heartbroken and hurting. I tried to be strong when I told my husband, but as soon as the words, “I’m not pregnant,” left my mouth, I crumpled into a million tears and sobbed against his chest. And questions and doubts are whirling around in my head and that assured sense of hope my heart felt just four hours ago? A part of me feels like I need to pluck it from its roots and flush it down a drain.

But amidst my tears, I feel a Hand, heavy with comfort, resting on my shoulder. I felt it there when I walked into the bathroom to see the negative pregnancy test. And I feel it now. And maybe this is what trust feels like. It feels like hurting but able to love. It feels like doubting but knowing there is something bigger going on that I don’t understand. It means crying my eyes out but still hearing a Voice that comforts me. “Just wait,” It says. “Just wait.”

Trust is feeling the true depth of yet another crack running through my heart but knowing Who to turn to for healing. It means feeling so utterly small, but also hugely brave and strong. It means lingering questions but realizing the answers are not what provides comfort.

And so I am writing from this honest place of vulnerability because I want you to know that I’m not clinging to a blind faith that is only able to trust once I look back on something. I can’t necessarily make sense of all of this. I wish I wasn’t going through this. I wish this morning’s test showed two lines. With all my heart I prayed for that. But I need you to know I am not left alone in this. I believe in a Peace Giver that not only allows my tears, but has cried them with me, full knowing that what lies ahead is something more beautiful and extraordinary that my heart can even comprehend.

I know there are so many out there struggling and hurting as I am this morning. Whose wounds feel like they are swallowing you whole. I’m not here to say they shouldn’t hurt or that because you hurt, you aren’t trusting. No, instead I invite you to allow your pain to whisper, “I trust you, Jesus.” For Love can hear even the most quiet of whispers.

Advent: A Holy Paradox

Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright.

This carol about the night Jesus was born is one I never understood. When I imagine the hustle and bustle of travel-worn people arriving in an overly crowded town, I imagine it was anything but silent. Anything but calm.

I think it was probably a lot like it is today. People are tired, lost in both the mundane and busyness of daily life, looking for meaning, looking for belonging but too exhausted or distracted to see the impending miracle pass by. Jesus was born among the birthing screams of a mother in labor. And as His lungs breathed our air for the first time, He cried. And He would later die among jeers and shouting obscenities.

No, the world is not always bright. And no, it is definitely not silent.

And yet, I long for a silent and peaceful world. I long for a heart that is still and quiet. I imagine Mary in the moments after His birth as His cries were hushed. Did she feel the full weight of God’s uncontainable love contained within her arms? I think that is the paradox of Christmas. Christ didn’t enter this world peacefully and He didn’t leave it peacefully either. And yet, this is what we sing about at Christmas.

That is what we long for…a holy silence to interrupt our noise so that we can hear it speak.

And speak it did. In a language of love and contradictions. For some, Christ’s birth snuck by them as they shut the door in the faces of two strangers. For others, it was announced by angels in a meeting of heaven and earth, in a dusty field outside of town. And then there were the those who discovered it because they searched for it out of faith.

Unsuspecting shepherd, and searching kings. A paradox, a contrast of images, a shift in the paradigm.

This is what Christmas is. It set the stage for how He would save the world. Joy & pain. Faithful & forsaken. Silence & angels. Darkness & light. Loved & hated. Miracles occurring & treks across deserts. Fully man & fully God. Death gives birth to life.

As I ponder these supposed contradictions, I feel the true weight of everything Christ did for me. For you. Because in this paradox is where we find our Savior. It where we find Christmas. A paradox so holy it redeems our broken human experience into one of heaven and hope.

A paradox. A hum of the heart. A symphony of the joyful. It is anything but silent.

www.amongtheevergreens.wordpress.com

The Hidden Sacred

“When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” (Luke 19:5)

Last month I had the closest thing to a nervous breakdown that I’ve ever experienced. I was seriously a mess…between school, moving to a new position at work, and a million other things, I felt like I didn’t have a spare moment to breathe. I rarely allow myself to show weakness and admitting I can’t handle something is admitting failure.  So I put a smile on my face while my insides are dying a slow death, suffocating and compressing under the weight of my own expectations until I shatter.

And shatter I did. Into a million pieces with sharp edges and bleeding wounds and zero ability to put myself back together again.  I reached out in desperation to everyone I knew and asked them to pray for me. But strangely found that I couldn’t even mutter a single plea to God myself.

That week at church, we studied Zaccheus and later discussed the sermon in our Home Community.  We talked about how it wasn’t enough for Jesus to simply talk with Zaccheus out in the open but demanded that Zacc take him to his home–the most sacred and hidden thing…a place where our public personas are shed like a jacket left hanging on a hook by the front door.  It’s a place where we walk around in leggings with unwashed hair and unbrushed teeth and while some of us might do a really good job of posting perfectly styled corners of rooms on Instagram, we all know that beyond the lens, dust is collecting in the corners, drawers are disorganized, and kitchen cupboards are overflowing with food while the poor in the neighborhood rifle though our recycle bins looking for cans.

Most of the time, I work really, really hard at keeping up the appearance of my house…well, that’s not true.  I keep it up when I know we have people coming over and as people shower my new, gorgeous kitchen with praise and compliments I “humbly” deflect the comments with a flippancy that inherently implies it always looks this sparkly and wonderful, when I know deep down just one hour ago I was on my hands and knees cleaning every inch in a near state of panic.  So as we talked about Zacchaeus I thought about myself and how stressed I had been, how much of a mess I really was, and how I had come face to face with my own imperfection and was shattered because of it. While I had reached out for prayers from others, somehow I felt too much of a disaster to cry out myself.  The thought of inviting Jesus to see that sacred space at a time when I had no chance to clean it up first, disguise the clutter, and throw crap behind locked closet doors scared me so much.

I’ve realized it brings so much anxiety because I can’t control how I appear.  I can’t keep Jesus at an arm’s distance and try to convince him that because the outside appearance seems to be in order that the rest of me is that way too. What if he tries to open the closets? What if he sees past the disguises I try to maintain?

And I know these questions are ludicrous because He ALREADY sees past it all…all these trivial games I play to convince myself I am someone diferent. The thought of distance is a lie I use as protection. But WHY? Why do I keep myself (or honestly, just a version) of myself tidied up for display? I think it’s because I somehow have come to believe this is the only version God could love. The “pretty one,” the “I have it all together,” one.

Heck, I’m even scared to leave the house without mascara.

I’ve yet to understand the true depth of what it means to be loved by Christ. And I think of that fear and freedom that co-exists when Jesus shows up unannounced at my door. And it’s hard and I want to cry out in shame, but He doesn’t let me.

Instead, You reach into the sink of dirty dishes, rinse two mugs out and make a pot of coffee. I stammer and apologize for the mess and You sit down at the kitchen table anyway and before I can talk myself out of it, I’m sitting down with You and we are talking and I’m laughing and crying all at once. And more importantly, You don’t leave. You.don’t.leave. In fact, You are staying for dinner and it looks like nothing you would find on Pinterest, Martha Stewart, or Real Simple.  You don’t stand in the doorway with a list of items that needs to be cleaned up before you will enter. You come in BECAUSE of that. To show me how you love me amidst the sacred I try to keep hidden.

And I don’t have to be afraid of that. To be loved at the very core of who you are is not a love to run from. It is a love to fling the door wide open to. It lays you bare and changes you forever.

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