To Choose to Love

Nearly 10 years ago, I had forgotten how to be loved well. I have heard it said that we accept the love we think we deserve. It may, to an extent, be true. But I hadn’t always believed that I deserved to be where I was. It was a slow degradation; the result of many bad choices and unkind people, some of whom I allowed into my life and some who forced their way in. However, those led me to enter a span of time where I came to believe that everyone leaves: they leave marks, brokenness… and me.

But then came Moose, this shelter puppy who seemed as broken as I was.  And he chose to love me a LOT. He would panic when he couldn’t see me. Break cages to get to me. Try to dig through doors and bust through fences to be where I was. I’m not saying he was 100% stable; his need was sometimes exhausting. But it also revealed to me that to this little (now giant) guy, I was beloved. I was valuable. I was preferred. I’d never felt loved like that before.

Tonight I realized that Moose represents the first time I really believed any creature in Creation could choose to love me. Every day, in every moment, for his whole life. Even when he was destroying things, killing creatures, digging through doors, breaking cages. Even when I lost my patience or got frustrated at our inability to understand one another. Usually, his purpose in those moments was solely to find a way to get to me and get my attention, my comfort or my care.

This reckless love forced my hand… I made a choice to love this neurotic and somewhat uncontrollable dog right back. I decided to love him as relentlessly as he loves me, without restraint and against the sound advice of my veterinarian and friends who said this young pup was just too much. Somehow, his love slowly moved me and mine him. Moose taught me how to love again, and just as important, how to receive love. He taught me to give and receive affection and comfort. He revealed to me that love didn’t always have to hurt. At least, that’s what I thought.

But as Moose has entered the geriatric phase of his life, I find myself bargaining with God. Because I know sometime, Moose is going to leave. Not because he wants to but because such is the nature of this world. And I find myself in a tug-of-war within my heart to love him well and harder. I fight to resist the instinct built over decades of practice that tells me to distance myself, to harden my heart.

I really don’t know how I can bear the loss of him, and that moment seems to be drawing closer. I recently experienced the loss of my dear Grandma, and that loss has triggered some things I’ve managed to ignore for a really long time. I prayerfully ask God to bless Moose and I with a little more time together; that one devastating blow would not follow right behind the other. It’s freaking hard to just be right now. To allow myself to grieve and mourn in a world that thinks pain and sadness are things to avoid and medicate. It’s even harder to love fully when Death hovers right at the edge with the promise of heartbreak. I wish we knew how to deal with “hard” as a community…

So in this raw and vulnerable state, I’m going to call my heartbreak good because it meant there was tremendous love there. I’m going to continue to love Moose well, even if it is tearfully. I will give thanks to God that I can love so deeply and completely as I do, and that I have received that same love in return. I praise God for giving me the strength to bear the weight of loss. The fatal misstep I see so many make in this time is to believe Loss when she tries to convince us that Love makes us weak, vulnerable and guarantees suffering. Some of the best lies are the ones that are mostly true. Love is all those things; but in these very things I am reminded of Christ, and my desire to grow in Christ-likeness. He LOVES us. He loves us in a way that our ability to love only hints at. He reminds me that those who love do not flee from suffering, but bear it in the most intimate and vulnerable of ways. He reminds me that His greatest victory and manifestation of the strength and might of God was only revealed through His humility and weakness, to the very point of death. But most critically of all, and the one we often fail to see when the veil of Death hangs over those we love, is that Death is not the end. Nor is Death the victor. We are all more than conquerors through Him who loved us… (Romans 8:36-39)

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Lost at Home (a Short Story)

She paused on the Pont des Invalides and he moved to rest his hand upon her lower back only to pause right before he touched her, momentarily frozen. The moonlight danced softly on the gold of his wedding band. Glancing at her silhouette, he slowly withdrew his hand as he said, “It’s not… nothing.” She kept her back to him, looking down into the dark water beneath them, observing its movements. The air vibrated between them and they moved cautiously, careful not to touch the other or make eye contact. An ache arose in his chest that nudged him forward. He repeated it again with a greater firmness in his voice, communicating confidence where he felt desperation. “It’s not nothing.”

She took a step backwards, angling her body partially towards him as she raised her hand, almost as if in defense. “I don’t know what you’re taking about,” she sighed. He felt his eyes fill with tears that would never fall and his hands formed into fists as he pushed his emotions deep into the pit of his stomach so that when he spoke his voice was cold, monotone. “That’s a lie. Otherwise it wouldn’t matter. None of this would matter. It matters because it’s something.”

“No… a bunch of little nothings still add up to nothing,” she stated hollowly, resignation dripping from her voice as her eyes finally met his. Tears pooled against her mascara laden eyelashes but they weren’t going to fall either. Her voice felt like a cold steel that cut through his heart. The air went out of his lungs and a shadow fell over his countenance.

And with those words he knew. Their walls were too high and their hearts too guarded for them to ever get close enough to share anything real again. What could have been something was nothing because that’s how they both had treated it. He closed his eyes and just for a second, he imagined what it would have been like if the walls were gone. Instead of her moving further from him, his arms would pull her close and he would feel her warmth as she leaned into him and laid her head against his chest. He could almost feel her hair brush against his cheek as he laid his head on hers and they shared the events of their days with each other… With a small sigh, he opened his eyes and she was gone, faded into the night fog as if she had been an apparition.

He felt alone, but no more alone then when she was standing there in front of him. He walked over to the edge of the bridge where she had stood moments before and stared down at the same spot she had gazed upon, but these were different waters, different shadows. He breathed in the night air and he closed his eyes. The cacophony of Parisian sounds had the same quality as the water that stirred below; although familiar, each moment that passed by swept away the molecules, the voices, the horns and bells, making each moment equal parts familiar and unfamiliar. He opened his eyes again. Perhaps, he thought, that is why one can feel completely lost upon returning home.

Sometimes, I Forget

From December 6th, 2016

 

Sometimes I forget, God.

I forget that You come close when we find ourselves sinking.

I forget You loved me when I was darkest.

I forget that You love us so much, you sent your Son and the Advocate to help us.

I forget You are the God who humbled Egypt for your people.

I forget You are a God who gives children to the barren.

I forget You spilt your blood for us.

I forget You gave us rulers because WE insisted.

I forget all the ways You have been faithful to a faithless people.

I would rather be anywhere with You than in paradise without you. You are my paradise.

Two Questions

“Who is this guy?”

”Do I trust him?”

These two questions sat at the heart of our service today. They were talking about God and Scripture. Discovering who “this guy” is through the Word and asking us where we have stepped out in faith. Where we have trusted Him. To illustrate this, the woman speaking shared a story from her own life when she found herself trusting in a group of strangers.

And as she spoke I felt conviction about this lie that I’ve treated as truth for so long, I didn’t notice how it had entangled me. This lie that said I can’t be trusted.

It is rather unfortunate that I’ve been through some pretty dark seasons. Seasons that most often involved me looking at a boy or man and believing I knew him and I could trust him. And then being proven very wrong. Although I have forgiven them and found healing around those things, today I realized I hadn’t forgiven myself. After discovering over and over how wrong I was about so many people, I started to believe I could not be trusted with my own well-being. That if someone wanted a relationship with me (dating, friendship, etc) it was because they were deeply broken. And if I was attracted to someone, it was a sure sign to run. Literally. All sirens went off internally and I would flee.

Ultimately though, this story isn’t a story about me, but about God and God’s desire to redeem, restore and reconcile. A God of Truth certainly cannot abide this lie I have been somewhat unknowingly agreeing with.

When I began to seek God, one of the first things I discovered (and one of my favorite attributes) about God is how available God is to me. God gives me complete and total freedom to explore who God is, to know God’s past and future. To seek God not because God isn’t already here, but because the breadth and depth of God is so vast that I am able to become totally “lost” with God.

God and I have been through some good times and bad, but the characteristics of god I read in the Bible are present in our relationship today. I am confident I can trust God.

But I couldn’t trust me. I couldn’t trust the people around me. I couldn’t take that risk because I thought my judgment was impaired. It wasn’t. The problem was that I had tried to discern through my own humanness, my brokenness, my wounds rather than through the Spirit that God gives me and the wisdom God blesses me with both through our relationship and the Word.

So I repent. I repent of believing that God could not equip or protect me, of not trusting that God would continue to shepherd me. And I bless this space, that I would move forward confident in that I am covered in the armor of the Lord, who is my stronghold and my rock in difficult times. I pray that the rest of my story would be a testimony to the kind of Love God extends to each of us. I pray that I would be able to step with the confidence of one who is led by the King of Kings. Amen.

A Dream of Woman Camp

My sister and I are walking with all the other women up to the big, white tent at the top of the hill. As we draw closer, we can hear the rhythm of the instruments and the sound of voices singing.

Then my vision changes.

The sky is so lovely; the bright white of the tent pops against a sky that’s so blue I feel like I could dive into its depths. And the voices, the songs, sound so beautiful! I feel them soak into my very core. They fill me with joy and love. My sister and I look at each other and laugh; the joy bubbles and spills out of us like children breaking out of the school doors to summer break.

Then I notice there are other voices singing. It seems to be coming from the beings of light that are around us now, but not quite. Almost as if their voice is the wind, as if they make the very molecules of the air rejoice. As I pass by one of the light beings, my heart responds to it as if it knows it, like this saturating and abiding peace that envelopes me is as recognizable as a face, a laugh, a fingerprint. This one somehow I know.

I smile widely in the beings direction and begin to sing as I reach for my sister’s hand. I answer it’s peace with love, with gratitude. With thanksgiving. I am sure this is a friend who has been with me all my life. My Comforter and Protector. Tears fill my eyes as my sister and I begin to dance; jumping, twisting, laughing.

Suddenly I see us from outside myself, like the being of light was revealing to me for just a moment what it was seeing. And my sister was 4 and I was 8 and we were lost in our joy, and surrounded by other girls laughing, dancing, hugging, singing. We glowed, Light spilled from us, and we were surrounded on all sides by innumerable Light beings who moved, a dance wholly unlike any dance I’d ever seen. And in the field and space where colors were more than colors and light more than light, the universe suddenly expanded into this fixed moment and I glimpsed the infinite.

And then I was back, and the world was small, and I was just one of the many grown women out in this totally unremarkable field. And yet the beauty of what was happening here was not lost. Here in this moment we had let go of all the things the world had laid on us and we danced as we did when we were children, reckless in our Love.

Emmanuel,God with Us

What kind of God are you

that would be the Creator of all that is, ever was, will ever be,

with power unknown and depths unsearchable,

yet you would walk amongst us?

You, who would call us ‘very good’

and give us authority over your creation?

What kind of King dies for the least deserving and most wretched?

Who suffers for the sake of those that inflict the suffering?

 

Your mercy and grace are unfathomable.

Darkness yields to your Light.

Deceit and Lies are dust in the Wind of your Truth.

Hatred crumbles when pressed by your Love.

All the universe will kneel at your name.

And I am betrothed to You.

I am Your beloved and you pursue me with relentless patience.

You are my God, my Sustainer and Helper, my Stronghold and Salvation.

My Hope and my Redeemer.

I give thanks that You would know me and love me with an everlasting love.

 

Dream of My Wedding

I dreamt it was dusk and I’m looking in the mirror. I’m in a very simple, pretty wedding dress and outside I can see the twinkle of hundreds of white lights against the sky set on fire as the sun disappears. I’m alone. I smile at myself and head down the steps.

The building is silent but when I open the door I walk into a crowd of people, people I know congratulating me and giving me gifts. I grab a drink and manage to mutter “thank you” as I try to reorient myself. Several people say, “I’m so happy for you and ______!” But they keep saying the wrong name, the name of a man I’m not meant to marry, and so I gently remind them I’m marrying ________.”

I’m standing at the edge of this square and a guy I don’t recognize (but I know him in the dream because he’s the best man) runs up to me. “Kara, how long are you going to keep him waiting? He’s standing up there, waiting for you.”

“Oh no! I had no idea. I didn’t know where I was supposed to be! Let’s go.” And he grabs my hand and guides me through the crowd. It’s dark now and the twinkling stars are echoed in the tiny white lights crisscrossing above me. Inside I panic a little. It’s time. It’s here. I’m about to get married.

I freeze and close my eyes as our friend pulls on my hand. I open my eyes and he’s looking at me. “It’s okay, Kara. It’s going to be great. Trust me.” I take a deep breathe and step forward. The crowd suddenly opens up and there’s a path from me to my future husband. This tiny town square is full of people we love, and they all quiet down. String music begins to play somewhere and I smile at our friend as I let go of his hand and walk towards the one I’m meant to marry.