10.15.2017

waves

I flew to Los Angeles on Thursday morning for a dear friend’s wedding. I was so excited to see some of my solid seven and celebrate marriage. I was prepared to feel some of the emotions that weddings have brought lately; I knew it would be hard to see the bride walked down the aisle by her dad, to watch the father-daughter dance, to hear the father’s toast and prayer over his daughter’s new beginning. I knew that was coming.


I didn’t prepare for so much more.


I didn’t prepare to be in the place I grew up, the city of my earliest memories, memories full of Dad.


I didn’t prepare for the sound of the ocean to bring to mind those many days on the beach.


I didn’t prepare for the sand to remind me of the sand-castle-building king.


I didn’t prepare for the trees that look like our old backyard where he built our playhouse.


I didn’t prepare for the motorcycles that zoom down the highway between the lanes.


It seemed like everywhere I turned there was a piece of childhood, a piece of Dad, a piece of Mom, Macaela, and me.

There were wonderful moments; seeing the radiant bride, meeting an incredible, self-sacrificial groom, laughing with the bridesmaids, sharing stories around a fire, and eating In-n-Out at every opportunity.

And it was also so hard.


It feels like I was exhausted all weekend long. I didn’t know why. Today, in our last hour before going to the airport, we stopped at Venice Beach. I’ve always hated sand, so while the others sat on a blanket, I ran to the water and watched the waves run to meet me, surround my ankles, and sink back into the ocean. The waves are like lifelong friends, my earliest memories are on the beach, watching how my feet sink down into the sand was the water flows back down the shore. But the waves are also deeply respected, almost feared, engrained in my tiny child mind with Mom’s constant reminder, “Never turn your back on the ocean.” I stood and watched for a long time; my brain felt blank. Emotions came and went, like they had all weekend. Like waves.

Grief is like waves.


Sometimes the water just gently caresses your feet, then runs back to where it came from. Like a bittersweet memory reminding you to cherish it.


Sometimes you see the wave coming, but it’s stronger and faster than you expected. Like a realization you had a long time ago, but realizing it’s reality. Like watching a wedding and realizing ours will not be like that.


Sometimes, as the water floods around your legs, another wave drops on top of it, doubling the intensity. Like watching the father-daughter dance, then watching all the fathers and daughters dancing together, then watching four sisters dancing with their dad, then feeling the arm of a friend who knew what was going through my mind and heart.


You can get out of the waves, out of the constant ups and downs, by going back onto the dry sand. But it’s dry there. And soon you stop feeling anything at all.


And so I stay in the waves. In counseling, my counselor is helping me learn to feel, to experience what is really happening inside. And so I’ve been taking steps away from the dry sand of the beach, slowly wading a little deeper, even though I know that wading in means that the waves will come.


And what if the waves get too big, too strong? I know what will happen. I know because when I was a toddler, I was on the beach not far from here and a wave knocked me down. It started to pull me out, and I wasn’t big enough or strong enough to get myself up. But Dad saw me. He ran out and grabbed me out of the waves, reminded me that I’m safe with him. It wasn’t long before I was back in the water.  



I know my Father in Heaven will do the same.






10.08.2017

psalm 28


To you, Lord, I call;
    you are my Rock,
    do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
    I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy
    as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
    toward your Most Holy Place.
Do not drag me away with the wicked,
    with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
    but harbor malice in their hearts.
Repay them for their deeds
    and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
    and bring back on them what they deserve.
Because they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord
    and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
    and never build them up again.
Praise be to the Lord,
    for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him.
The Lord is the strength of his people,
    a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
    be their shepherd and carry them forever.

10.01.2017

love and lament

I'm trying to learn what it means to face grief head-on, to not numb myself more than is acceptable, to grieve. I finally changed my phone wallpaper to a photo of me and Dad, something I didn't think I was ready to do for months. I didn't want the constant reminder... but it's not like I'm ever "reminded" anyway. It's always there, and I needed to just acknowledge the pain. 

I went to bed last night emotionally drained, close to falling apart, so so ready for a Sabbath. Just get some sleep and things will be better in the morning, I thought. Sleep is better than tears, right? Well, I woke up this morning and it hadn't gone away, the ache and the exhaustion on every level. I didn't want to get out of bed. I finally got up, made my coffee, and got dressed. I was gonna go somewhere to meet with God, have a good solid prayer and Bible reading time, maybe some journaling, but instead I collapsed back onto my bed. 

This week, my counselor asked how I was doing. I was ready to answer. I told her all about the things I'd learned since I last saw her (the last two blog posts, and more!). I talked for probably 5 or 10 minutes about things I'd been processing, conclusions I'd come too, lessons I'd learned. When I got to the end, she said that was great. And then she said, "So how have you actually been feeling?" I had no idea how to answer. It took us a long time of silence to just begin to answer the question. 

So this morning on my bed, I tried to just figure out how I was feeling. Not great. I felt like I should be asking people for help or prayer or company, but I'm not good at that, and then I felt bad for not doing it. Most of all, I wanted to fight for actually finding Jesus in the middle of this. I need people, but I need to know that I can lean on Jesus, actually and truly. 

I finally got up. I wanted to go play the piano, to play and sing some of the songs of worship and lament I've been collecting, but the practice rooms were locked. So I put in a podcast and went for a walk. It was a sermon I've listened to multiple times already. It was from Bridgetown Church, and it was preached on the same Sunday as Dad's memorial service. The topic is Unanswered Prayer and Lament. Here are a few of the quotations from John Mark Comer that stood out to me today: 

God is love. In the universe God has chosen to actualize, love is the highest value, and love demands freedom, it demands a choice. No free will, no love. It’s not that God can’t override human will, that His will is on an equal playing field with mine, or Satan’s, or whatever - not at all. He can, and He does at times. It’s that it’s so against His nature to override our freedom. No matter what you believe about God’s sovereignty, His kingdom is not a dictatorship. Satan is the one who controls, who’s manipulative, who dominates with brute force, who rapes. God is the one who influences, who romances, who woos, who draws, who invites you into relationship. God is love. But the world is a terrifyingly free, dangerous, beautiful place to call home. This freedom is at the heart of all that is right with the world, and sadly all that is wrong with it. 

If God always answered my prayers, His involvement in my life would be limited to my imagination and my insecurity.

If God were to answer every single one of our prayers right away, our relationship with Him would devolve into that of a debit card to an ATM machine, rather than that of a child to his or her father. And what God is after more than a ring is relationship. The main point of prayer isn't about getting what you want from God, it's about getting God Himself.  


Prayer isn't a place to be good, it's a place to be honest. Prayer is when you leak out of your soul with the edit button off and you vent it all to God and you pound the chest of your Father in love and confusion - that is prayer. 

The sermon ends with speaking to the main response to unanswered prayer: lament. Lament makes up 2/3 of the Psalms. Lament is honesty, complaint, confusion, and coming to God in the pain. He ended by reading out Psalm 13. 

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, And day after day have sorrow in my heart?How long will my enemy triumph over me? 

Look on me and answer, Lord my God, Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, And my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"And my foes will rejoice when I fall.  

But I trust in your unfailing love;My heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord's praise, For He has been good to me. 

He said that lament is coming to God in honesty, and that most often that process of coming to God will end in worship. I wasn't so sure. I took his challenge to write a lament of my own if needed. I sat down at the edge of the field where I had walked to as I listened, and wrote this:

Oh God, I have no prayer to pray.  
Everything is done, I didn't know to pray for a miracle before it was too late, and oh God it feels too late.  
How long must I wrestle with my heart and mind? 
What the heck, God?  
God?  
Father?  
I know you are good. I trust your unfailing love.  
But why does my soul feel alone and paralyzed? Why do I have to work so hard to believe you are with me? Everything is hard, why can your presence be easy?
Show up, please Father. Be louder. Be clearer.  
But give me Yourself over immediate comfort, if one excludes the other. Give me Yourself over total peace, if the latter slows the former. Don't give me anything but Yourself and the fruit of You.  
I will trust You, Father who loves me.

And literally in the moments as I finished writing, a saw a group coming across the field, talking with each other. It was an acquaintance of mine, a growing friend whose mom I had met at a Preview Weekend when I worked for admissions last year. When her mom had come back to bring her two oldest to TWU last month, she was happy to see me and asked how my summer had been. We were in the middle of the cafeteria, but I told her anyway. She was heartbroken for me. She said she would be praying, and I knew she would. Today, her daughter walked into the field, and I said hi, and she introduced me to some of her siblings who were with her. She said her family was visiting. "Wait, is your mom here?" I asked, and she said yes. So I had lunch with their family (of 11!), and as we were clearing our dishes in the cafeteria, I told her mom that it was a gift from God that she came today. Moms know everything, and she knew that what I said was just a tip of the iceberg. And she gave me such a long, deep, stand-in-the-cafeteria-and-cry-together hug, and told me about how close heaven and earth are to each other, and how our loved ones are not far away.

God comes. He comes Himself, and He comes through people, and sometimes you can't tell which is which. My trust levels are rising and falling more frequently than waves of the sea, but I know He is with me. He loves me.









9.24.2017

paddle board and praises

Last week's post feels like so long ago.


Last week I was so low, feeling so lost and confused and just sad.


This week has been an unrelenting process of trusting, grieving, trusting, resting, and trusting more.


On Monday, we watched a video called "The Anatomy of Trust," by Brene Brown. And while it is speaking more about interpersonal trust in human relationships, I spent the most time deciphering the factors of my trust in God, and my lack thereof.


On Wednesday, I took the advice of my counselor and wrote a letter to Dad. It was her recommendation as a way to really face the reality of grief head-on, and she was right. It was so hard, but so beautiful, so peace-giving. And I didn't do it alone, Kelly was there, just being present and sharing the heartache. I smiled as I went to sleep that night.


On Thursday, when people in passing asked, "Hey, how are you?" I said "Good!" and I really meant it for the first time in months.


On Friday, we left for the student leadership retreat at a beautiful camp on Vancouver Island. In the sessions of worship and teaching together, I found myself again struggling to trust God, to surrender control of people and situations that I want to fix. I couldn't really sing the songs.


On Saturday, during our four hours of free time for activities at the camp, I spent the entire time out on a paddle board on the ocean. People paddled out, paddled back, came and went, but Jesus was there the whole time. We had so much time. And we talked through so much. He brought to mind so many beautiful passages. He reminded me of who I am and who He is. He opened my eyes to the beauty around me. We worked through every emotion running through my heart, until I was lying on the board, asking, "Is there anything else we need to talk about?" and there wasn't. I left the water full of joy and peace, the kind I had experienced a foretaste of on Thursday, but was expanded through my body and soul.


And today, I'm back at Trinity, about to dive into another week, but amazed at what God has done in just the past seven days. Thank you for praying for me; God has been with me both through people and through His Spirit in me. I know there will still be ups and downs, probably still some deep, deep lows and high highs. But God has been answering my prayers to build trust, trusting people and trusting Him.


Praise Him!




The sunrise this morning at Camp Qwanoes






9.17.2017

oh father, no

I'm trying to learn to be more and more real. Real with myself, real with others, real with God. I'm honestly still trying to figure out what being "real" actually looks like; in a lot of ways I feel like I'm a very genuine, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person. But over this summer, I've felt like some of the deepest parts of me are hiding, even from myself. Especially in the process of grief, I knew I was (and still am) stuffing down a lot of my emotions because I'd just rather not wade through the pain. I haven't mourned like I thought I was going to, and I don't want to avoid it to the point of unhealthy self-ignorance. I want to be real.

During my Sabbath today, I went to the music rooms on campus to play the piano. I needed the music, needed something to make my feelings tangible, even through sound. I wanted to cry out to God in song... but I couldn't find a song that was just... sad. Because I was sad. I even googled "worship songs for grieving," but the top results were things like "Great Songs for Overcoming Grief," which was not at all what I wanted. Grief is like a chain that keeps you attached to your loved one; it's heavy and painful, but you don't want to break it because you still want that connection.

I asked God to help me be real. To face the grief head on. To say what I need to say. This song came out slowly, line by line, chord by chord, but oh, it is so real. This isn't how I feel every second, don't get worried about me, but it's how I feel in the lows. It's how I feel when I'm surrounded by people singing ultra-happy praise songs which are wonderful but not reflective of my heart in that moment. I know God welcomes my point-blank honesty because it's all over the Scriptures, especially in Psalms and Job and in Jesus. So here I say some things that are scary to say, scary to speak out loud because they're questions without answers, or without answers I want to hear.

But singing these words, even as it seems almost disrespectful to God, brought down walls. It brought me closer to Him as I began unveiling more of what might stand between us as I learn to mourn.

I didn't think I would share the words of this song, at least not so soon, but I hope that if anything it will help you to also be real with yourself and with God. Don't be afraid. He will not forsake us. He is with us. He created our hearts, our emotions, our craving for Eden. He says, "Come." This is my heart's cry tonight.





Oh Father, no. 
Oh Father, no. 
Oh Father, I don't understand. 
If You are crying with me, why don't You just fix it all? 
If You are God of power, why don't You just fix it all? 
If You are making all things new, why can't You?


I wanna say I trust You. 
I wanna say I trust You. 
But I don't know if I do. 
What does trust mean to You?


I wanna trust You so bad. 
I wanna trust You so bad. 
But I don't know if I can, yet. 
Trust is not what I had planned.



Oh, I have hope, 
I'm not alone, 
But my heart is breaking.

 
Oh, I have hope, 
I'm not alone, 
But my soul is aching.
 

You're here with me, 
You will redeem, 
But this is not how it's supposed to be. 
This is not how it's supposed to be. 
Oh, this is not how it's supposed to be. 
This is not how it's supposed to be! 
Why did you let this happen to me? 
Oh my God, I don't want this story! 
This is not how it's supposed to be. 
Oh Father, please.









9.10.2017

blessed are those who mourn

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."


Really, Jesus?


I'd rather just not need to mourn and not need the comfort, thanks.


It doesn't make sense. It definitely doesn't feel like I'm "blessed."


Well, I guess it does in some ways. I've been so blessed as I've seen You love and comfort us through people. Through anonymous gifts. Through unexpected insurance policies. Through sweet notes. Through long embraces. Through conversation. Through sitting with me, making sure I'm never alone, like you promised.


Those things have been a comfort, yes. But none of it is comfort enough.


I don't know if I know how to mourn. I'm not good at displaying brokenness or neediness, as You know. I want people to think I have things under control.


I want to be the one who helps, who comforts, who welcomes, who leads.


I don't want to be the one who needs, who seeks comfort, who imposes, who seems to fall behind.


But maybe I'm thinking about everything backwards. Maybe my values are skewed. Because You said "Blessed are those who mourn," which turns upside-down all the values I had.

You said that needy, hungry ones will be filled.

You said that those who seek will find.

You said those who knock will have the door opened.

You said that the last will be first.


So to mourn, to begin to let my inner emotions and outer countenance live in harmony, means believing You. Believing that You will comfort, believing Your opinion matters more than anyone else's.


I feel so comfortable coming directly to You with my heart, letting You see the best and the worst, because I know You already see and love me completely. I so eagerly seek You because I know I will find love.


But this week, I felt like you reminded me that much much more of Your love comes through people. And you told me that I need to seek out people in the same way I would seek out You.


Yikes. I get it. But I don't know if I'm there yet.


But I'm getting there, step by step. Each decision to let out a tear is a decision to believe that "Blessed are those who mourn." Each request, each spoken need, each honest conversation, each knock on another's door is a step toward seeking You in other people.


Still, more often than not, I succumb to the fear of not being comforted, and so I stuff emotions, don't speak up, or don't seek others out to share my burden with, because what if they don't want my burden? Or what if they realize after a while that my burden is heavy on them too, and they resent it? What if it just results in more pain?


That's when you tell me to trust: trust You, and trust others who have You inside them.


Now I understand why You had to seek us first; there's no way we would have believed You really love us unless You sought us out.


Thank You for coming and finding me. Thank you for teaching me that I can trust You. Help me to really believe that "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."







9.03.2017

who is like God?

One night last week, during student leader orientation, we had an open worship and prayer night. I honestly didn't feel like going, and I wasn't sure why, except that I was tired, and other emotions were mixing around unidentified inside me. But I went anyway.

I stayed near the back, curled up on a couch, singing quietly because honestly, I was struggling to shout praises. I so believe our God is worthy of praise, but... I was in a place of lament. Lament for the hope that seems so far away, for perfection that is unachievable, for dreams that won't come true.

I felt like leaving; I thought about all the people I could go to as a refuge, but for one reason after another I didn't go, I stayed on the couch. Michelle, my mentor from my first year at Trinity, was somewhere in the room, and I thought about going to find her for prayer... but I didn't even know what to ask for prayer for. But I knew she knew what was going on in my life. And I knew that we were singing the lyrics, "Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal," and it didn't feel very true.

Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw Michelle moving across the room. She was looking around, and I looked away; I didn't want her to feel like she had to come over to me if she was looking for someone else. Then I realized she was looking for me. She came through the people, sat next to me, and without saying a word wrapped her arms around me.

I cried like I'd been waiting to cry for days. And she cried with me.

The song lyrics were singing, "Fall in His arms." And I thought, this is it. This is what it would feel like to be in the arms of Jesus.

He knows what is going on in my heart.

He seeks me out, even when I make excuses that keep me from seeking him.

He doesn't necessarily say anything, it's His presence that speaks the most.

His arms are firm and unrelentingly holding me.

His body shakes with sobs over the brokenness of this world, over the things that were never supposed to happen, over the confusion and chaos.

I thought that Michelle would sit through the song with me and then go find another student to pray with. But she didn't. She stayed song after song, until the service was over, and even longer still.

And later that night, I thought of how appropriate it is that Michelle's name comes from the Hebrew that means "Who is like God?" She showed me yet another taste of what He is like.

I'm learning to let God love me through people, and this was so tangible and physical and real and flesh and bone.

Thank you, Father, for bringing me into your family, and for giving me brothers and sisters who are like You.