Friday, August 30, 2013

Those Hands of Loss

It's at the top of the stairs I find myself falling, falling into the hands of loss. It finds me in these strange places. There is makeup to be put on, my bag to be unpacked, my rain jacket to be found. But I can't move. It always seems to be that in the moments when I least want to hear them that I do: I hear those memories echoing in the silence of a quiet house. I wonder at the pain it must bring to be a parent in an empty house, one that was never supposed to be empty. I wonder and hurt at the intense loneliness that this breaking brings.

My hand drops from the knob and I take the stairs. One at a time, I whisper to myself. That's all. Just one. step. at. a. time. And it's hard not to fall over, in this grip of loss, because it's only in these rare moments loss has its opportunity to stare at me face to face. Oh sure, it seems to always be there, but most days it seems more like an unwelcome companion.

It does not always have the boldness it has today.

And I walk by the boxes that fill the basement, and the boxes contain the memories that refuse to be left safely inside. Because there are journals open, with her scrawl across them, that remind me of that other life. There are letters and framed photographs that once graced the wall of a family home. They once told a story. And now their story is in a box, in a basement, hidden away.

And I stop walking. Because loss is too heavy. It stops me in my tracks, and I'm frozen there until the crunch of gravel in the driveway outside brings me back.

Because there's makeup to be put on, a bag to be unpacked, and a jacket to be found. And so I leave the journals and stories in their boxes. And I walk away.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Signs of Blessing, Too.

The sign welcoming us into my hometown appears before us, a beacon on a hill that I had driven by all my life. I'm excited to show one of my best friends where I grew up, giving her glimpses into the life I had before I knew her. We pass by one of the side streets, blocked off for construction, and I make a left by the restaurant, immediately feeling enveloped by the maple lined main street.

We make our way down the road, and I find myself pointing out landmarks as we turn onto the street where I grew up. I tell her of neighbours as we round the corner, feeling myself driving as if on autopilot. And then I see the large green evergreens, the pool peeking out from behind, and I feel my breath catch as I'm brought back to a lifetime ago. We get closer to our house, and I slow down, feeling my heart hurt as we approach. I study the grey siding, the new gardens in the back brightening up the large backyard. I see evidence of the new family that's moved in; the new deck, the different cars in the driveway. In every way it feels as if someone has taken over my life, has moved in while I was away. I swallow and pull the car ahead away.

We're silent for a little while, until I point out the place where my dad's childhood home once stood. I wave to an old neighbour and then we're driving past the public pool and I'm remembering T-ball games and babysitting trips to the park. As we turn back onto main street, heading out of the village, I feel the tears well in my eyes and I grip the steering wheel harder.

"I think what makes everything so hard," I hear myself say, "is that it feels like I lost my whole life." As the words leave my mouth, I feel her hand on my shoulder. "I know," she answers quietly, and I'm infinitely grateful for the absence of empty, sympathetic words.

I can feel my sorrow and grief entering into the car with us, and I sit with them for a moment. I feel the weight of sadness and my heart is heavy. As the maple trees disappear into my rearview mirror, I swallow my remaining tears and look ahead. "Please God," I feel my heart pray, "some day let those memories not just be signs of loss. Let them be signs of blessing, too."

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fighting for What We are For

"I'll give you $15 if you'll move to another seat so I can have these two to myself." I looked up from where I was sitting on the bus to see a six-foot woman, red hair and sharp bangs, tattoos across her arms, carrying two overloaded bags on her shoulders. She smiled brightly, and I looked back at this crazy woman. In my summer-cold, foggy brain state, I mumbled a sure, and got up, but then she said, "Well, maybe let's wait until we see if the bus fills up anyways or not."

The bus did fill up, with one space available in between two people squished into three seats at the back. She offered me $20 to move once the bus was on its way, but at this point I was settled and sick and grumpy and didn't want to bother.

So we sat next to each other, and somehow she started talking about her studies in psychology and her plans to become a sexologist of all things (her dyed red hair wasn't the only thing bold about her!). I heard her life story, from her parents' split when she was two to leaving home at 14 and living on her own. I heard how she become addicted to drugs and hit rock bottom at 21, and after two tries finally getting clean. She exuded this confidence about her - whether it was the way she was listening to the cranky old woman setting across from us, or the way she shared whatever she thought or felt without a care.

And then the questions began. "So you said you're a Christian, right?" she asked, a bit of an amused smile on her lips. "So does that mean you're - you're saving sex for marriage?" Her amusement wasn't masked, and when I answered her she just laughed. "But like, what about compatibility with one another?" And we talked some more about what I believed and valued and she defended and disagreed but then the book was closed and she was onto her next question.

"So what about homosexuality, then?" she prods. I am infinitely aware of the lesbian couple sitting right behind us, and I squirm in my seat knowing they can hear every word. "So you think it's wrong? You think God says it's a sin?" And I sigh and answer as best as I can, knowing that the line is being drawn and I'm being looked at as if I'm the craziest person she has sat next to on a bus.

"And so you think I'm going to hell if I don't believe what you believe then, right?" she continues in amidst her other questions. Her eyes give away her incredulity and I can't help but feel like in this conversation, something has gone wrong.

Because somewhere along the line I had begun to fight for what we as Christians are against instead of also fighting for what we are for.

What if, instead of explaining why sex before marriage is wrong, I had also defended why sex only within a marriage is good?

What if, instead of explaining why homosexuality is wrong, I had also defended why relationships between man and woman are good and whole and perfect?

I felt like everything I had said to her wasn't heard because in my defence of what was wrong I'd lost sight of what we are for. Maybe what we are against and what we are for go hand in hand - but sometimes when we are attacked it's easy to lose sight of both sides and focus on just one. Because what's right is just as important as what's wrong. 

As hard as that conversation was, I'm thankful I didn't take the $15. The lessons and the conversation and the doubts and the answers were worth far more than that.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

When Being a Girl is an Insult

"Come on, girls," she shouts to the nearly all male baseball team from the sidelines, the annoyance clear in her voice. "Let's get it together." She offers a little chuckle, to lighten the insult, but beneath the laugh is the clear evidence of a type of thinking that was thought to have disappeared a century ago.

Earlier, another insult was hurled across the ball field, this time by one of the players at first base. As the ball came across the field, not close enough for him to make the catch, his response to the player at fault was, "Come on! You throw like a girl!"

I sat on the bleachers, hearing my femininity thrown around as an insult, as something inside my little heart broke.

Because since when is it okay to use who I am, a woman, designed in the image of my Creator, as an insult? Since when is it okay to admonish someone that they are less than they should be because they are doing something as a woman or girl would? Since when is it okay to use a male as a standard, and a woman as sub-par?

And most importantly, why are we still okay with this way of thinking? Why do we still allow those comments a place in our sports fields, and a place in our thoughts?

It has taken me years and years to just begin to hold my femininity in my hands and be okay with it. It has taken me a long time to see that as a woman, I hold beauty and emotions and a wonder that Christ has delighted in blessing me with. It's a challenge every single day to counter the lies that this culture tells that our beauty is found in an outward appearance or that as women, we need to throw femininity aside to be equal to men. As a woman, I am delightfully different than a man because we were designed that way. I am in no way superior. I am in no way inferior. I am equal, amidst our differences.

And so when I hear those insults echoing across a ball field, and echoing through this society, that kind of thinking breaks my heart.

Because we are beyond that. We are better than that. We have come so far in our understanding of who men and women are and who they were designed to be - and those insults? They should be a heartbreaking thing of the past. They should be no longer.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

When Water Washes Away Your Words

When we had the flood in the basement, it washed away not only books, drywall, shoes and clothes, but it washed away something very precious. It washed away my words.

It was a blue journal, with purple binding along the side. On the front was a tree, raised leaves that I can still feel on my fingertips. I remember the moment in the bookstore, slipping it out of the bookshelf from among the myriad of others calling out for my attention.

In that journal were my words. It held words from the ending of my time at university, and the beginning of my trip to Africa. It held tears. It contained joy and triumph. Across its pages were the paintings I had created with my words, bits of my soul slipped in between the strokes and lines.

I long to live a life not only in the present, but a life that looks back, too. My journals let me do that. They let me see where I've come from, because as I see where I'm coming from I see where I'm going, too. I want to look back and see how life, how God, how people have shaped me. I want to remember who I was then so I can know more deeply who I am now.

The water stole my journal, blurring the words and marring the book with destructive mould. The book was slipped into a garbage bag with junk, the meaning and worth known only by me.  It shouldn't bother me as much as it does. I'm struggling to remind myself that the process of holding my pen to paper was just as important as the end result of the filled journal. I'm trying to remember, and be thankful for the fact that although water stole my words, it can never steal my voice.

{But still my heart is hurting a little bit to know those precious words have slipped away forever.}

Friday, January 25, 2013

Surpassing all Understanding

The other day I sat across from my doctor and listed the symptoms. Anxiety. Racing heart. Nausea. Shaking. 

Before he responded with his diagnosis, I could already hear the words he was about to speak whisper into my ear. Panic attack. And sure enough, seconds later, he proceeded to confirm what I already knew. We talked about options; we talked about a solution and thankfully, underlying his words was the reaffirmation that I needed to hear: you'll get through this.

The other night, as my mom sat across from me on my bed, and I recounted to her the conversation between my doctor and I, she frowned and put words to questions I too have wrestled with. "But I don't get it," she said. "How can you have panic attacks when you have the peace of God?"

And I sat, stumped by her question, because in all reality I just really don't know.

But tonight, questions stir in my heart because I wonder.

Does the peace of God mean the absence of anxiety? 

If there's anything my life has taught me, it isn't that Christ necessarily seeks to take away trials from us but rather He seems to want to walk through them with us.

And I just wonder, if even in the midst of a panic attack, His peace is found in the Hand that holds mine and gently whispers, "Breathe. You've got this. You'll be okay." And in doing so, those times of severe anxiety don't reflect a lack of peace but rather peace that surpasses all human understanding. Instead those times reflect the great presence of Peace.

I'm reminded of the verse in Exodus, "The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still." The battle was never averted but rather God promised to fight it for them. He was just as present in the midst of the battle as He would have been in its absence!

And I wonder if maybe, just maybe, His Presence and Peace are just as present in the midst of anxiety as they are in its absence.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Just a Little More Grace

The other day I got a text from a friend:

"So, any new year's resolutions?" 

I thought about it for a moment. The freshness of a new year brings new hope, new encouragement, the blessing that your actions will be fruitful if you just put your mind to it. The past year, the slate listed with failures is wiped clean, and the new year promises steps forward and no stepping back. It's the perfect opportunity to dream. To resolve.

But for me, I've learned not to mark the beginning of a new year with ways to change because I want my life to be one where I'm always changing, always challenging myself, and always growing.

So instead I choose my word. I choose a word that sums up what I want to learn this year and how I want to grow. Last year my word was wait, and without a doubt 2012 was a year of waiting. Sometimes painful waiting. But I learned patience, and I learned trusting in the waiting {but even then it will probably be a lesson I learn again and again through this life}.

This year my word is grace. Because it's in His grace that I am made new, and it's through His grace that I experience His love. It's in the grace that has been offered to me by His Church that I found the freedom to offer grace to myself. And I've been wondering what my life would be like if it was marked by the kind of grace that He offers me. 

What if I turned the other cheek more often than nought?

What if I offered forgiveness when it was least deserved, when it hurt so much to offer that grace that it made me cry?

What if I, in grace, held my mouth closed and only offered words of conviction when the Spirit led?

Grace. I'm learning that grace reflects Him, because we live in a world where grace isn't offered very much. We choose to give what's deserved. We chase after the one that's wronged us. And I just wonder what this life might be like if we all gave - and received - a little more grace.

So that's my word. Here's to a beautiful 2013, filled with challenges and laughter and tears and grace.

{Linked up to the OneWord community here.}