The Decoy Love

It wasn’t like I didn’t know about her.

He had mentioned her one night, three months after the second time we split. We were trying to be friends. Trying to be in each other’s lives, something that didn’t really work for us, when all was said and done.

He hesitated when he first brought her up. Reluctant to tell me he was returning home from a date. I was just starting to get to know the Missionary so I felt mildly apathetic. But as it happens when the past creeps into our present, I found myself curious about this woman who was now in his life.

I built a narrative in my head. Crafting moments and personality traits that I have no idea if they actually exist. I imagined all the ways she was better than me. Better at loving him, better at laughing at his jokes, better at giving him space, or maybe he didn’t need space at all with her. She probably understood him better, challenged him better, asked less of him. In all of the ways I lacked, she excelled.

I knew there would be others. As much as he tried to convince me and himself he was better off alone, I knew he craved intimacy and wanted to be known and loved. When we tried again I asked him about the ones he used to fill the void between our first break-up and that December phone call. He didn’t sugar coat it and I wasn’t upset. I understood and I think I always knew.

But this one was different. This was was him very clearly moved on. With someone I’d always worried would be the type of woman he should date instead of me.

Being sick gave me alot of time to think and alot of down time. I started watching a TV show and a moment happened that gave me an image of what I do every time I dwell on the past.

On the show, these people were trying to lure a bad guy into a trap. So they concocted this plan — disguise something made of clay as the real thing this villain wanted. In order to maintain the mirage, another character had to keep doing something to trick this villain. And it worked! The villain entered and totally bought into the mirage assuming it was what she wanted.

All of a sudden the character responsible for keeping the mirage up faltered. And the decoy came crumbling down into a thousand shards of crumbled clay. The plan was foiled. The villain enraged. But the prize still safe somewhere else.

I watched the decoy crumble and felt my heart respond in an uncomfortable way. Rach, that’s you. You’re gathering up all the shards of clay telling Papa that this crumbled decoy, this counterfeit, this mirage, is what you want. When in reality what you really want is tucked away somewhere safe. But love, you HAVE to stop gathering up the pieces trying to put the decoy back together. 

I’m tired of trying to put all the crumbled pieces back together. Tired of tormenting myself over all of the ways all of the shes might be better for all of the hims than I am. The cold hard truth is that with all of the men I’ve cared for, there is someone designed to care for them better than I am. In a unique beautiful way. Just like I believe there is someone far better for me than my hopes or expectations or dreams.

I think I’ve finally realized that I want more than a decoy. I want the real thing. And I don’t want to waste any more time gathering up the decoys. There are no unrealistic expectations of a prince charming or a hero to rescue me. Only the hope of a kind, steady heart that will see the glory of Christ in me.

I don’t know if it’s because it was so long before I had my first date, kiss, or boyfriend that I find myself constantly settling. Constantly making excuses. Constantly defending. Constantly trusting without reservation. While there is something to be said for allowing vulnerability, there is also something to be said about allowing someone to earn my trust. To fight for me. And I’ve never had that before. I’ve never asked them to fight. I’ve never kept myself at a distance to allow them to show Christ in them sees Christ in me.

But all of that is about to change. Because this year… this year of looking ahead… this year I am going to do it differently and better and smarter. No more more excuses, no more defending, no more settling.

 

 

 

 

Her Heart is Broken but She Can’t Go Back

I felt the tapping on my shoulder like a persistent, obnoxious friend.

I kept trying to shake it away, ignore it, pretend it didn’t exist until it finally became something demanding my attention, refusing to be silenced. I have been determined to just leave it be. Lay it down and embrace a new year. But it has surfaced in ways I didn’t expect it to, unacknowledged transition, waiting in the wings.

The past had to be acknowledged before it could be grieved, forgiven, and forgotten.

I have alot of emotion and feelings and thoughts about this culmination of a decade. Things that have yet to be processed and that I don’t quite understand. In some ways I feel less sure of myself than when I was 20. Or maybe more aware of how much I don’t know about life.

My 20’s held almost every type of interaction, event, and feeling I could ever wish for. Except for the ones I wanted more than anything else. That moment of promising my life to another and bringing a new life into this world. Of all the things I thought would happen in my 20’s, those were the two I wanted the most.

I had a little bit of a freak-out a few nights before my 29th birthday. My dear friend Bailey came over and sat with me while a jumbled mix of words and tears and anger and panic came pouring out. She listened. She nodded. She let my stream-of-consciousness be voiced outside of the manic of my mind.

And then she zeroed on my control issues. In the gentlest way and full of love and grace she called me to the carpet in the ways I don’t trust Jesus.

It silenced the frenzy in my mind.

You see, periodically in my life I’ve set benchmarks. Have you ever done that? I do it in simple ways of running to the next curb or just eating that one last vegetable to big ways — ticking off friends in my mind who as long as they stay single, I’m probably okay. Or if I’m not married by this age I will start to worry.

I hold my benchmarks and my dates and my expectations and let their boundaries define and worry me. I worship them. I tell them they have all the power in my life. Another idol I bow my knees to. They became my way to control my fear of being alone, of being single, of being childless.

The last year has completely destroyed my “benchmarks.”

So as I’ve been shifting into a new year and eventually into a new decade, I looked around to grab at something to anchor me. And I found none of the things I’ve been used to holding on to. Which sent me into a tailspin of panic.

But as my health waned and I found something else to focus on, I found a surprising emotion.

I found grief.

Growing up I had plenty of expectations and assumptions of what my 20’s would look like. They would have marriage and babies and maybe a job and all the things. They wouldn’t have job layoffs and death and breakups and cross country moves and trips around the world and people and writing and health issues. Sure, I knew there would be hard, but I expected it in a footnote kind of way.

But this grief has showed up at the surface of my heart.

Grieving a decade of hope deferred.
Grieving a decade of unmet desires.
Grieving a decade of disappointment.

To be honest, I had no thoughts or plans for 30. I had no ideas or hopes or carefully constructed narratives. Literally nothing.

So I find myself in a transition of sorts — grieving deeply for a decade of desires but also realizing that this future life has no plans or expectations, no benchmarks or dates. But also finding the sun breaking on the horizon. Wanting to give my heart what it needs to say goodbye to this decade of life but also feeling a bubble of anticipation. Of hearing the whisper, do you see it? do you see the pink in this sunrise? do you see that Dawn is coming.

I battle and I live in the tension and I do it badly one day and okay the next. I get mad at the men who weren’t it and excited for the realization that I have no one else to consider when I think about what my Kingdom calling might be. I go on dates and then swear off dating only to go on another date. I feel like David in the Psalms when he is the the pit of despair one moment and dancing in the street the next.

I ebb and flow between grief and excitement and terror and joy and hope.

And then when I look back, I let the past be exactly what it is and what it needs to be and I wait to see what pieces Papa will take to bring into my 30’s to tell His story. And really, at the end of the day, I long for nothing more.

And then the beat comes
And then she’s moving on the dance floor
And I wonder what she’s running from
If it’ll catch her

her heart is broken
but she won’t say that

her heart is broken
But she can’t go back

she won’t go back

 

A(nother) Goodbye Love Letter

I’m terrible with goodbyes. Like terrible. I avoid them at all costs. In fact, in every breakup I’ve had, I’ve ended with something like… “well, I’ll see ya when I see ya” because I just can’t.

There’s something so final about saying goodbye. I haven’t been ready for final for a long time. I haven’t been ready to permanently untangle the experiences from my life. But now… now I am.

I’ve been reading Rising Strong by Brene Brown. I cannot recommend this book enough. It has been life-changing. But part of what she talks about is this three part process of dealing. The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. The reckoning is the part emotions are identified. They are acknowledged and validated and alive. The rumble is the part you figure out what story they’re telling you. What the truth is.

And you know what?? I get stuck after the reckoning. I don’t rumble. I don’t get into the messy and the dark and go after what the story is telling me and what the truth is. I take my sh*tty first draft (SFD) and make it my final product.

So I’ve been doing some rumbling lately. Rumbling with the Jock and the Missionary and some of the men I went out with in 2015. ‘Cause can we just talk about the fact that I was either dating someone or on a date with someone every month from February 2014? So yeah… let’s just let that be there for a second. Anyway. I’ve rumbled and re-written my SFD’s and this is what I’ve come up with, my another final goodbye.

The Jock — You… you were the greatest surprise of my life. You were movie moments and dancing in the kitchen. You were adventure and laughter. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder with anyone than with you. You understood the nuances of my humor. You enjoyed the outrageous things I’d say and the middle-school boy humor.

You let me fall apart on your living room floor because I was so afraid of what was happening between us. You took me fishing because you heard me say I wanted to go again. You bought my favorite water even though you thought it was ridiculous. You were certain and strong and reassuring. You wrecked my life before you ever wrecked my heart.

When you left I actually thought life was over. I didn’t want to exist in a world that you were in but not part of. I didn’t know that my heart could feel pain like that. I cried more tears when we were dating and after you left than I ever knew I could cry.

I lost myself in you. I lost the girl I thought I was, the one I vowed to be, and the one I knew. I failed you when I lost myself. But you failed me. You hurt me. You left me. You asked for my heart and then threw it away like it was trash.

When you came back, I thought it would be better. I thought we would be better. But the cracks in us became chasms that we couldn’t cross. You broke my trust once and I was afraid to trust you again. I asked for grace in that process and you weren’t able to give it to me.

That very last night you used every word and phrase you knew to wound me. You took the most precious things I had ever told you, twisted them into weapons, and went after my heart.

But, I forgive you. I truly believe you were doing the best you could do.

I know you are capable of more. I believe you are the man I fell in love with. I believe in your strength and humility and tenderness. I believe in the power of the story you have to tell. I believe in you still. I believe you will be better. With someone else.

You changed my life, in some ways for the better, in some ways for the worse, but you left a very indelible mark on my life. I know that it ended up sending me on the journey I am on today… the one I’m fighting to know Jesus first and most. The one I’m fighting for freedom. The one I’m fighting for love. The one I’m fighting to look ahead. And for that, I will be forever grateful to you.

The Missionary — I didn’t want you. Not at first. You were intentional and real and kind. You were all the things I didn’t think I deserved. It felt like you came alongside of me, took my hand, and asked if you could walk awhile. You let me learn how to be ready for you.

I will never forget that moment when I realized I was all of myself. And that you liked me still. I wasn’t hiding or trying or fighting. I was just being. You allowed me to just be. You took your thumb and traced my cheek and looked into my eyes and helped me believe kindness was a possibility in a relationship. It didn’t have to be gasoline and fire to be interesting.

The more I fought to love Jesus first, the more you seemed to fight your fears and keep choosing me. You listened to my words and you heard me. You listened past the syllables and sounds and heard pain, joy, love, uncertainty.

But you weren’t ready.

You went left when I stayed straight. You couldn’t choose trust over fear. The one thing I asked you not to do, is exactly what you did. Even after the words you spoke comparing the two. My hope was that you felt valued and loved and cared for. That you could rest in the certainty of not wondering every other day if I was going to choose you that day. But you wanted what you could never be sure you had. The fatal flaw in your personality.

You hurt me.

You, above all, invited and coaxed my heart out of the place it had been hiding. You went searching high and low, convincing it that you were trustworthy. You asked my secrets and you asked my fears. You talked about a life together and invited me in to your story. But you pulled the rug out from under me. You had no good reasons and no good answers.

You left me to sort the pieces out without any explanation or processing, the very thing you promised to give me.

But, I forgive you. I truly believe you were doing the best you could.

I believe you wanted to be better. I believe you tried to choose trust. I believe your heart for me was good. I believe you wanted that life as much as I did. I believe you are capable of all the things you have hoped for. I believe you will make a great dad someday. I believe you will find love and continue to choose love, day after day. I believe you will be better and that you are better. With someone else.

You helped me understand the beauty in steadiness. You helped me understand that the whole of me is worth loving and knowing. You took a very bad day with very bad memories and turned it into a story of restoration. Even down to the pink roses that you didn’t even know he gave me. Your gentleness, and kindness, and love was a salve to a deep angry wound. For that I will always be grateful.

You both have moved on. And I have too, in almost every way. But I realized I was living in the SFD of our relationship…. the one that made me the bad guy and the one who was too much and not enough. And regardless of the truth of our time together, I was never the bad guy. Neither were either of you. So I’ve rumbled through that… and I want to leave it in 2015. You both existed in 2015 and that’s where I’d like to leave you.

I’m giving you up
I’ve forgiven it all
you set me free

Goodbye dear hearts.

I Was Not Expecting This

Dear 2015,

I feel like I can sum you up in one line: “I was not expecting this.”

You didn’t have the earth-shattering pain like 2014 but you were a constant stream of hard. You started with the hope of an old love, another chance at our story, and within the first 10 days you devolved into screaming matches at a bar and lack of butterfly confessions.

You started out hard.

And you continued to be hard.

It felt like the relentless crashing of waves against a tiny boat lost at sea.

But then you brought light in the form of another man, one who worked to show me how to be different and love different and care different. I found myself keeping my eyes zeroed in on Jesus. In a way I had never experienced.

And he left too. And I began the process of picking up the pieces and fighting to find my truth. Something I didn’t always do well.

The waves continued to crash against this tiny little boat, stretching the seams to capacity.

And then, my body gave out.

My body and my emotions and my heart decided they couldn’t do it anymore. I had spoken death over my life for so long, my body began to die.

And the boat capsized and I felt like I was floating in a vast ocean with no life raft, no one to hear my desperate cries for help, and a forgotten knowledge of how to swim.

I was drowning.

Light came in the form of a naturopath who sifted through the pieces and the found the root of my death. And Papa showed up to keep revealing over and over the truth of my life.

baby, I confess, I was not expecting this
baby, I admit, I got used to loneliness

So I stumbled across life and hope and the safety of my Papa. He reminded me that I am a painting, with each brushstroke intentional and unique, and that no person walking by gets to critique the value of the painting. I’ve allowed two very specific people to admire the painting, consider it, walk away, and determine the painting is worthless because they failed to know why the Painter created it the way He did. Papa in His infinite kindness and love has given me the reminder to wait for the one who knows the Painter and thus understands the painting.

I have been waiting for someone like you

So I wait. With joyful anticipation of things to come, while I peel away the layers of what was and who I’ve been. I’ve seen my health respond in direct proportion to this processing and truth finding. Good days becoming increasingly more and days of pain and fatigue becoming surprisingly less.

In the middle of it all, 2015, the thing I can say I saw the most is two fold — the consequences of our sin on the people around us and the beauty of community when we let them love us.

This year I have had a front row seat to the damage of how people treat one another. Specifically when it comes to relationships. I have seen how words and actions and reactions have caused immense pain to people I care about. I have seen how selfishness can destroy everyone who it comes in contact with. I have seen vows broken, hearts shattered, and wounds sliced deep.

I’ve experienced it from far away and from very close up. I have seen my own heart become shrapnel in the grenade of sin. And I’ve also been the one to commit these selfish and hurtful acts.

But what I’ve seen beyond that is the extravagant love of community.

I have seen people rally around me through heartbreak and health issues and confusion and pain and joy and love and laughter. My arms have been held up when I’ve been too weak to stand, the prayers of my heart interceded on my behalf when I had no words to say, and the gift of being cared in ways I have never allowed.

Frankly, I saw the Gospel come alive this year.

So, 2015, you were hard. You were unrelenting. You broke me down. You stripped me bare. You took everything — my relationships, my hopes, my finances, my dreams, and my body.

But you gave me the hope of Glory in return. You gave me a depth of love and empathy I didn’t know was possible. You showed me your splendor and beauty. You walked me out of darkness and lies into light and truth. You wrapped me in gentleness and kindness.

I never saw you coming. Any of you.

I love you for all that you were and are and have been, but for now, I’m ready to spend these last 10 days quietly soaking up the love of family. I’m ready to retreat into myself and find the things ahead that the Lord has for me.

There are pieces of 2015 I will carry in to the new year. Sharp edges and beautiful glass. People whose name I did not know, even 6 weeks ago. There will be no expectations of things to come or situations to resolve but only a hope and a longing for the freedom of Christ in every and all moments.

And with that, 2015, I bid you a bittersweet farewell.