Hope

If we don’t protect it, hope can feel like a balloon, filled to maximum capacity for a moment then let go to float into the air, sputtering, and flying unhindered.

Hope is so much more precious than this. I wish it were easy to tie the knot and seal it in all cozy and safe but even inflated balloons lose air over time.

There is only the constant application of pressure to save us. In the pressure, we stretch and hold firm to what we know. God is able. We are not alone! We can stretch farther than we think.

Don’t let gravity, the environmental circumstances of everyday, the pin-hole leaks in our defenses, deflate you. Keep your tank full! Let breath and air fill your lungs and your spirit. Lean in and believe.

Each breath is a moment in time lost once it’s accomplished. Steady your breathing. You can do hard things! And when it’s too much and you feel like you might burst, remember He is stronger than anything and He’s fighting with you and for you.

Breathe!

Hidden

Maybe there’s something poetic about hiding in plain sight.

Or maybe it’s weakness.

Or maybe it’s strength to stay composed while the world crumbles and stirs around you.

Maybe it’s survival. Maybe it’s faith.

Maybe I’m not hiding at all! maybe I’m standing.

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Job 13:15

What now?

There are many inconceivable stories around us every day that we haven’t heard. We have no idea what the person next to us has lived. We can’t conceive the stories that aren’t ours…that aren’t open to the vast space of the known. We hold glimpses not substance. We hold illusions and self-constructed paradigms, based on our own experiences. We can’t fully grasp the depth of the experience another has walked because we aren’t “another”. We are “we”, “us”, something separate peering in from beyond casting opinions.

And it’s almost inevitable. We do it. We can’t help it. I caught myself tonight. The judging voices from my worldview, looking upon someone else’s experience and thinking, huh???? Why is that so easy? Maybe it’s just our nature.

Regardless, I found myself looking at someone. They were saying a trigger from their past was causing them to look at a present circumstance and look for an exit route. My first reaction was (ashamedly) disdain. It seemed such a trivial thing. It seemed like something wholly redeemable. I tend to look at things as opportunities. If something from my past causes me to be triggered in my present, I want to rise above and kill the giant. I want to slay and once and for all triumph above the thing I know I really haven’t killed, but at least pretend I’ve brought light to the darkness. It’s my way of coping I suppose. But not everyone is wired that way and that’s okay.

I admire the strong who can say, “this is too much. I can’t right now.” Honestly, I’ve never been that brave. I have to conquer and do it anyway, damn the consequences to my own mental health. I figure all of that will work itself out eventually. But what if it doesn’t?

What if I’m left at the end with the trophies of my own self-proclaimed victories and an empty soul pleading that I was really trying to be strong? What if my desire for strength stifled my ability to lean in and find a strength to lean on?

I walk each day proclaiming the mantra that “I’ve got this” and all the while, I hear this small voice saying “My strength is made perfect in weakness”. And I KNOW this! And I lean on this, or pretend to, while I hold the world on my shoulders and pray against avalanches and earthquakes. Because I KNOW, I don’t “have this”. I need others. I need more than I alone can bring. I am not really the bionic woman I was named after (true story, I was named after the bionic woman’s character).

Yet, the weakness is the beauty. I am strong when I know I am weak. When I can stare at the wave about to toss me like a pebble and say, “You can’t break me”. Then feel myself being thrown about until the turbulence subsides…and I’m still standing in the end. That is strength. In that way, I am strong. And I hate that I’m so strong. Why do I always have to be so stinking strong?

Still, I can’t help but think that the beauty is in the response. What do we do with the giants we face down? Do we run and hide or dig deeper? Do we know at the bottom of the rockpile, there is a purpose only we can achieve? I suppose that may be the real question.

Maybe we as a people should quit running and face, with eyes ablaze, the next thing and then the next and then the next until we have finished our race.

I don’t know the answers but I know I will not go down without a fight and I will stop trying to be a lone warrior. I will find my army. Maybe it’s one or two to hold up my arms or whisper a quick, “you’ve got this”, when I feel like I’m going to break. Maybe it’s a tribe. But even when I break and crumble into a million pieces I trust the one who always puts me back together and I hope you do too. The breaking isn’t easy, but the beauty that comes from the rebuild is stunning. I’ll try to look for that beauty in others even when I’m tempted to get snarky and I hope you can see it in me as well.

Signs, Confusion and Forever

I confess, I’ve been known to take a shortcut or two. Time is a precious commodity in my life. Somehow, I’m convinced that I have less of it than most people, so occasionally, I improvise. Usually, it gets the job done so I don’t sweat the small stuff.

Still, there are suggested uses provided by manufacturers for a reason. This becomes apparent when I grab my favorite sweater out of the dryer only to realize it now needs to be passed down to an 8-year-old since it was intended to dry flat. Just like that, it’s gone.

Tag

I must also confess that I’ve never taken the time to figure those dumb laundry labels out. When I do take the time to read the label, I’m greeted with Pictionary instead of language. I know I could easily look up their meanings, but ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’. So I guess and just wing it. It’s usually just fine, but not always…

But maybe the world operates on symbols and not just words. I get it in some cases. Road signs could become very tedious if we clearly spelled out the meaning on everyone. How many accidents would be blamed on “I was trying to read the sign”? Some things you just have to make an effort to learn. sign

I haven’t decided which category marriage falls into yet. Sometimes I find myself trying to decode the symbols and I just know I’m shrinking a sweater. I wish we could just find a way to clearly spell it all out so there would never be any confusion. Yet, there’s a lot of wisdom in NOT saying everything that pops into your head in the heat of argument. 

So maybe it’s just part of the adventure. There’s an art to marital communication. It’s a blend of language and charades, verbal and non-verbal, argue and make up.

Sure, I’m going to mess up A LOT, but you better believe I’m going to keep trying. I may be far from perfect, but forever is always worth the effort.

Happily Ever After

I’m not sure where we got the idea that we wouldn’t face adversity. Many well meaning Godly men and women have grabbed ahold of principles about abundance, prosperity and healing and walk around like Job’s friends wondering what isn’t operating in a person’s life if they are going through a trying time. I hear expressions like, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” from folks who are longing for answers, for fairness from the universe. To quote The Princess Bride, (Rob Reiner, dir., 20th Century Fox, 1987), “Who said life is fair? Where is that written?” or “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Every great love story holds within it the need to overcome obstacles. We grew up on fairy tales and somehow got the moral all wrong. True love conquers all. It’s true. Christ proved this on a cross many years ago. Yet, when we are young, we expect to grow up, meet a prince or rescue a princess, find a painless adventure and live happily ever after. We somehow forget that the phrase “happily ever after” denotes that there was something before the present and future that wasn’t so happy. We’ve come through all of this and now, we can begin enjoying the spoils of our victory.

Sleeping Beauty and Prince Phillip overcame a fire breathing dragon and eternal slumber before their happily ever after. Snow White spent time hiding in the forest from a murderer, was poisoned by a witch and was rescued by a team of unlikely heroes only to face death until her prince showed up before her happily ever after. Belle sacrificed everything to save her father. Cinderella suffered slavery and persecution. Ariel and Eric fought a sea witch. Jasmine and Aladdin conquered an evil sorcerer. There’s always peril preceeding the victory.

Real life isn’t so different. I know so many men and women who have overcome tremendous odds in life and fight on. These men and women are the true heroes: The young man I know who lost both legs in a motorcycle accident who lives his life on prosthetics and lives to the fullest in spite of the circumstances, The wonderful woman at my church who suffers from MS yet volunteers consistently, offers a smiling face to those who walk in the door despite the pain she suffers consistently. The mother of seven I call my friend whose newborn twins battled RSV shortly after birth leaving one of them with cerebral palsy. She is light and life where others would falter. There’s the lovely lady I know who is battling cancer who through the agony breathes words of life and love to all those she encounters. There’s the woman I know who lost her baby at 26 weeks gestation and despite the heartbreak, she’s strong. She teaches toddlers the love of God every Sunday. She is a warrior. These are heroes. In their eyes true joy is evident.

My life was not always easy. I grew up in poverty. My family fell apart. My stepmother battled alcoholism and paid with her life at a very young age. My father was a thousand miles away. I married an addict, who abused me emotionally for years and chose substances and other women over me. I went through a divorce. But I am a fighter and refused to give up or give in to the pain. The journey is far too precious for that. My happily ever after didn’t depend on my circumstances. My happily ever after began the day I met Christ. He has carried me through every moment and blessed me abundantly in the midst of them all.

For me and most princesses, there is a happy ending. I have met my prince, I’m carried in the arms of a loving savior. I’m blessed with incredible children and the joy of building my very own fairy tale with my family. Everyday, I pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming. I’m blessed and I’m overflowing with joy. But I know the rains will come. Not everyday is perfect, but real contentment can be found in the middle of the worst situations through the love and refuge of a comforter, Emmanuel, God with us.

Paul was stoned, shipwrecked, beaten with rods and so much more, yet he fought on with joy! It seems to me that bad things may happen to bad people sometimes, but they definitely happen to good people also. Into every life, rain will fall on both the just and the unjust. It’s how we handle the adversity that matters. Jesus Christ is our joy and we can begin our happily ever after right now.