Let the Rain Fall Harder

So, about 17 days into 2018 I realized I might need to break up with the internet.

On the heels of a broken relationship, a horrible bronchial infection (which landed me in the hospital soon after), and an overall tough end to 2017, my family launched into a season which I knew would be an interesting one… reality TV. My mom and I appeared on TLC’s My 600lb Life in support of my aunt who has been braving this journey of getting her life back.

And I learned the internet was cruel.

And I’m not going to lie, as much as I didn’t want to let it impact me, it did. The storm swirled around and I started to drown.

The grief of this broken relationship was an undercurrent dragging me back out to the ocean. I was stuck swimming against it, trying to fight my way to shore. I wanted so much not to feel broken-hearted anymore that I swam and swam and swam against the current. Any swimmer knows, the current does what it will and the only way to beat it is to swim with it. But moving with grief and sorrow and longing felt too risky, like being sucked out into the abyss to be lost at sea.

So I swam as hard as I could fighting for my life — my tears mixing with the saltwater, draining my energy day in and day out.

And then I had to face the backlash from the show. I had to face this experience, one we spoke of and joked about and wondered aloud, by myself. Without his strength and his kindness and his acceptance. I had to face it without him. And don’t get me wrong, there were many people who were very very kind. Kindness in spades and affirmation. Yet there were some who were cruel. Some who decided to have opinions and thoughts on who I am, my body, the way I behave, and what I must be after seeing me on screen for a total of less than 10 minutes.

You add that to the health issues re-surfacing and let’s just say, the hurricane grew to epic proportions. The swirling landed me in the ER with blood pressure of 180/100 and a pulse of 133. While the cause of this ER visit can be attributed to an infection in my lungs, I have no doubt the anxiety of life caused a part in the rapid decline of my health.

let the waters rise I will stand as the oceans roar

To be honest, I wasn’t standing. I was sinking.

So I turned the internet off for the last few weeks. Deleting apps from my phone and calming the chaos I can control. Turning the anxiety and the energy instead to Jesus. I realized if I spent half the amount of energy I spend on a variety of things focused on knowing the heart of God, I would be walking in reckless joy and steadiness in His word. So I got rid of it.

A few days ago, some anxiety started to creep in. Now, anxiety is not my go to emotion. I struggle on the spectrum of depression or mood disorders but anxiety is a newer one for me. When it came flooding in, the bands around my chest tightened and I felt like I was going to throw up. I choked back tears until I could find my way to the bathroom, lock myself in a stall, and cover my silent sobs with my hands as grief poured from my soul.

Grief. My familiar unexpected and unwelcome companion. The emotion tainting all experience and life these past two months. Grief.

I had forgotten what it felt like for a bit. More good days than bad, grateful for the ability to put one foot in front of the other. But then I slammed into it like a car crash. Broken glass, air bags, disoriented, ringing in my ears, grief.

Grief scares me at times because grief feels like the emotion that will I never come back from. Grief feels like the land of hopelessness.

But this time grief felt different.

Grief felt like something I could feel without being held captive to. The memories or fears or triggers that would flood me had room to exist but not take root. There was space for them but no place for them to take residence. For the first time, maybe ever, grief felt like a layover and not the final destination.

even the thunder and the wind obey
at the command of my Father, Father
I set my feet upon your mighty name 

So let the rain fall harder, harder 

The storm rages. Grief enters. And because of the firm foundation of who Christ is, we stand at the storm, stare it straight in the eye, and challenge it to fall harder. We challenge it to match the mighty power of Christ. To try to drown us. To attempt to swallow us whole.

But we learn that we are not held captive to the land of grief, nor are we sucked into the storm. We stand. We move. We live. We thrive.

And sometimes, a man breaks your heart and the internet comes for you and your lungs give up. And sometimes you continue to pray for that man, and bless those who have opinions, and give your lungs rest.

Because the storm is just a storm.

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Dead Hearts Come Alive

A chapter closed.

Another year gone by.

Even the best of  and year in review lists are wrapping up.

We lived a shared year around the sun and oh how we experienced the year differently.

I know some who had an amazing 2017. Others who feel it was another blurry year without highs or lows but just steady. And others who are coming out of 2017 knocked down to the ground wondering how they will ever breathe again.

I’ve been wondering and reading and meditating lately on the idea of the “all hope is lost” days in Scripture.

You know what I’m talking about.

The four days Lazarus was in the grave.

The three days Jesus’ body laid in the tomb.

The agonizing time between when Joseph planned to divorce Mary and the angel gave him peace.

The days and nights Sarah longed for a child and watched her hope slip farther and farther away.

Not to mention the four hundred years of silence between the Old Testament and the New.

In my mind, they’re called the dead days. The days where the world appears to have all the power. Illness overcame, sin won, understandable confusion and mistrust, a biological clock ticking away. These natural things — things we encounter in our world every single day — they run their course and they produce their outcome and as far as our eyes can see, the outcome is final.

So when 2017 wrapped up, I was finally able to put language to the cry of my heart. I feel like Lazarus in the tomb, Jesus in the grave, an unwed teenager out of options, a woman who desired a child but her body refused to produce one. I didn’t feel like I was wandering in the desert, I felt like I was out of options. Like death had come and declared its final sentence and the prisoner was my hopes and dreams and desires.

I wonder if Lazarus felt betrayed by Jesus as he felt life slip from his body moment by moment. We know Mary and Martha did…. “Lord if you were just here…” if you had just been here. If you had just shown up. We believe you are the God of miracles but where were you?? In my mind’s eye, they are throwing these words at their friend who failed them. Their grief and sorrow and confusion pouring from their bodies like a long dammed river.

But what about Lazarus? Was he assuring his sisters Jesus would come even until the end? Was he trying to comfort them knowing he was about to take his last breath? Was he certain there would be Life waiting for him regardless of the outcome? Because those four days between life and life must have been excruciating.

Yet Jesus still shows up. To reveal his power not only to prevent death but overcome it. To call the dead to life.

The full glory displayed.

And if I’m honest, I feel like I’m living somewhere between being Lazarus in the grave and Mary weeping at the feet of Jesus crying out, if only you had been here.

I’m not sure where you’re at on the dawn of this new year. Maybe you’re coming from a strong beautiful year full of the best. Maybe you’re awakening to a reality you never wanted to live. And maybe you’re somewhere in between those extremes. Wherever you’re at, my hope and prayer for you is that you find the kindness of Jesus at every step.

So this year, I don’t have any big grand statements of this finally being my year. I don’t have any expectations of the best being yet to come. There’s no new year new me. All I have is a flicker of faith in the God who calls dead things to life. And that feels like enough.

Come alive, dead heart. Come out from the grave. Come alive.

ps. check out this amazing teaching on this topic.

 

 

The Time Life Knocked Me Down.

I crumpled on the floor and felt the deep sobs well up in my chest.

Unable to control them, I surrendered to sorrow and let the grief pour out. The exhaustion of my failure, the feelings of helplessness, the sickening feeling of death, and the loss of hope. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows wrapped into three weeks of life lived had me on my knees weeping uncontrollably.

As I emptied my soul of emotion, my sweet roommate came in, lowered himself to the floor, and sat with me. I recounted what I could recall of the previous confusing heartbreaking conversation and tried to make sense of a senseless circumstance.

Moments passed and unknowingly he gave me the word I have heard lately in various aspects of my life: strong. Just over a month ago, my sweet community group affirmed my strength. A word I would never use to describe myself. They affirmed my resilience and tenacity and ability to fight through. My roommate then spoke these same words, as did my brother, my best friend, and a host of others.

Strong, Rach, Strong. This is the year you will come into your strength, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and relationally. 

I heard Jesus whisper those words to my very tender, very vulnerable heart. Who I am and the way I live my life often feels like a chaotic mess. I love deeply and passionately, often without expectation or requirement. I try to love the way Jesus loves. My body shows scars of the years of rejection and illness and pain. I am physically the weakest I have been in my life, barring my initial onset of Fibromyalgia. The last word I would use to describe myself is strong.

Yet, I keep showing up. I keep standing in the ring and coming out of the corner and getting my ass handed to me by love. And this time, as this man I cared for deeply handed my heart back to me, it felt like the final blow. The scene in the movies where the underdog gets their lights punched out. They see stars and fall down in slow motion as their head swivels and you watch the light leave their eyes. Their face hits the ground with a sickening thud and the crowd goes silent. Get up you beg get up and fight! But there is a tiny bit of relief to be on the ground. Everything aches and the darkness creeps in, begging you to surrender. 3….2…..1…. the desire to tap out, to lay there defeated is overwhelming. You know that if you just take the breath and let them win, this will all be over.

And then you exhale. And you hear the crowd. And when you open your eyes, your coach has locked his gaze to your gaze, telling you this fight is not over. You have more to give. You can catch the opponent off-guard by standing up.

Stand Up. 

So I guess this is where I’m ending 2017. Those moments between surrendering to the loss and digging deep to stand up. Jesus has told me I am strong. This is never the word I would use to describe who I am, but I believe who Jesus says I am. And so, this new year I vow to come into the fullness of my strength. There will be no shortage of experiences to learn from: the TV show our family will be on, to the new master’s program I’m starting, to the man who I still feel strongly for, to the body I must teach to find it’s strength again, and the disciplines I must engage in. There will be plenty of chances to lean into the strength. To stand up and fight. To get back in the ring and offer all of who I am, without reservation and without expectation and without fear.

Because I choose to live the big story.

Will you live it with me?

My Heart of Glass

It was the pink lined tables in the middle of the aisle, drawing my attention to the terrifying looking stuffed animals holding hearts with sappy sayings. I indulged my imagination in an alternative universe where it would be appropriate to walk over to the rows, swipe my arm down them and stomp all over the animals.

How come it makes me so angry to see Valentine’s Day things at the grocery story? I mused internally. Because it’s the GROCERY STORE. My more passionate side yelled back.

I already get overwhelmed at the grocery — the people, the sensory overload, the decisions. So now, my senses are assaulted with the pink and the red and the hearts and the things. I’d liken it to probably what a woman who longs to be a mother but for one reason or another is unable to feels on Mother’s Day. Or maybe when you’ve lost your father and everything “Dad” starts popping up in June. My anxiety levels are at an all time high this time of year. Even when there has been someone special in my life, I’ve hated it.

Because love is the great war of my life.

The battle between my head and my heart. The tension between rational and wild. The never ending go round between what I know and what I feel.

I’m in the war of my life
At the door of my life
Out of time and there’s nowhere to run

One of the things I learned in one of my classes this semester is one developmental theorist would say we are hardwired to create intimate relationships between ages 20 – 40. It literally can cause us physical pain not to meet this developmental milestone. So we create an app for this and a website for that. Desperately searching for the chance of connection in some way. To be known and seen and loved in spite of and because of. Love is the great war of our lives.

Yet to risk for love comes with the risk for rejection. And the risk of rejection might actually reveal we are the frauds we’re all afraid we are that we’re frantically covering with Instagram posts and Snapchat filters and Twitter hashtags. But I’ve been reminding myself when another is chosen it says nothing about my value.

Do I sound like a broken record yet?

Because I can’t seem to grasp this truth.

When someone else is chosen, for love or a job or a friendship or a spot, it says nothing about the inherent value of who I am.

But I, I take the collection of moments. The time he didn’t call for a second date, the girl who could be my twin if I lost 100lbs and was photoshopped just a bit, the candidate who cultivated a specific skill set I never got the hang of, the girls who go on get-aways together, or the woman he married after we dated. The collection of these add up to an answer of my worth. Like taking apples + french fries + puppies + the ocean = purple. Now I’ve never been good at math but even I know there is faulty thinking in that equation.

My head can rationalize. My head will tell me green apples must be added to red apples to get an actual amount of apples. My head will walk through the logic that these circumstances say nothing about who I am. It will say the truth and it will rationalize the story and it will compare and contrast and analyze until there is nothing left to examine. It will keep me from losing my mind and doing something crazy.

My heart will run wild. It will run down the road to when I’m 80 years old. It will say “never” and “always” and “forever.” My heart will stay dramatic and unpredictable and free. My heart will compare and contrast and find all the ways I lack. My heart will plead and beg and try to manipulate my head into the crazy.

I’ve got a hammer
And a heart of glass
I got to know right now
Which walls to smash

The war of my life becomes negotiating the thoughts and the feelings. I must decide every day my worth does not change if someone, anyone, chooses me that day. Because, the choice of someone else over me is rejection. Just like an atom is rejected by a space already being occupied by another atom. But rejection does not equal who we are. Rejection is not the sum of our equation. Rejection is not the last chapter in our novel.

I’m in the war of my life
I’m at the core of my life
Got no choice but to fight ’til it’s done 

And every damn day we must choose the narrative rejection does not tell us who we are.

Choose on, dear friend, choose on tender heart, choose on warrior.

Got no choice but to fight ’til it’s done
So fight on  (I won’t give up)
Fight on