Choose.

Remember my grand Lenten plans? Remember how I was going to strip myself of everything I thought I needed and thus position myself to be filled only by God? Remember that? Remember also how I didn’t really do any of it? Because that happened too.

I think I managed to be faithful to my word for a week or so. And one day I stopped. And that day I decided I had taken on too much and I should re-evaluate and start again. I never re-evaluated, though, and I never started again.

God doesn’t think less of me because of it, he’s not disappointed because he can never be disappointed in me. He’s not shaking his head and sighing. I know this. I know it with my head and my voice.

Though, ever since I stopped and didn’t start again, I have not known it. Every time someone likes or reads that post that spelled out my desires for Lent, it acts a reminder that I didn’t do what I said I was going to. I didn’t do any of it. Questions rise and plague: Is this okay? Am I doing something wrong? Am I missing things in my relationship with God? Am I missing places where I am being apathetic? Am I just doing the minimum because I know I can get away with it? Is there a minimum?

They overwhelm. So, I stop thinking altogether. I avoid coffee and sugar and spending money, because they bring the same questions, and I stop thinking. I shut down my brain as best I can and the questions translate to a feeling on angst in my gut. My stomach has been in knots for weeks – and I couldn’t get it to stop.

I’ve been here before – I remember it. I remember asking those same questions and not knowing any answers and seeking refuge in God as much as I knew how.

And I remember what he said – you won’t miss anything. my love for you won’t allow me to stay silent when you’re hurting yourself or others – when you’re not choosing life. 

That was my fear, though – is God speaking and I’m ignoring it? Is that why I’m anxious – because I’m resisting God’s call?

Be still. Just for a second, be still, and listen to me.

I did. I fidgeted a bit, but I listened. And God said, “it’s okay.” He is working in me. He is undoing and recreating, and it rarely looks the same as last time.

Stop worrying about what you didn’t do and move now. Choose now.

This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it’s not out of your reach. It’s not on a high mountain – you don’t have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it’s not across the ocean – you don’t have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now – as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it! Look at what I’ve done for you today: I’ve placed in front of you Life and Good, Death and Evil. And I command you today: Love God, your God. Walk in his ways. Keep his commandments, regulations, and rules so that you will live, really live, live exuberantly, blessed by God, your God, in the land you are about to enter and possess… and love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Oh yes, he is life itself” — Deuteronomy 30:11-16& 20 (the message)

Firmly embracing him, who is life itself.

And This is Where I am, though it’s not where I’ll stay

There isn’t really anywhere to go in this temporary home. There isn’t any secret room where your emotions and frustrations and misunderstandings are the only ones present. Instead, the entire house is a stew of every fear, question, longing, and anger that all five of us hold. And they all collide and become offensive and make the small space seem smaller and the stench that would be tolerable outside is unbearable. And that air stench seems to ferment with time and gain new, deeper layers – more to take in, harder to avoid.

I have every ability to leave. I have a car with half a tank of gas and there is nothing stopping me from taking it far away – except for the injustice. Who am I to run away in my car from the small house and all of its hulking emotions, when my mother is left with there to try and live through her own complexities in the midst of that foul odor? Of course, she doesn’t really want to leave. But it would be unfair, all the same, to run away to open spaces and breathable air and leave her there.

My sister would leave in a heartbeat. She’s the kind that smells the tainted air and is bothered by it and cannot escape it and so gives into it – becomes part of it. Give her blue skies and she’s fine. I’m similar – a windy day and a cup of coffee can remedy most ailments. But, that small house full of our unsure air, makes me shrink and hide. And if I’m in it long enough, I snap and become a roaring monster, blaming every malady on the people around me – then I close again. I retreat into myself as I cannot retreat in my car. And I could. But I won’t. How cruel would that be to Audrey who only needs to breathe clean air to be herself again. To leave without her would be depriving her of being herself, and that is an injustice to all of humanity from what I know of being oneself – ones true self.

Yet, I don’t want to take her with me. I fear my own aura of confused and unknown and unsure needs room all to itself. And my brother always wants to do, to do, to do – sitting still drives him mad, unless he’s watching tv or looking up skateboards and airsoft guns or videos about skateboards and airsoft guns. So, even though he would want to come with me because it is something to do, he’d be bored and annoyed the entire time.

But I did go. And I took my sister. And I bribed my brother with a Peace Tea. And we got hopelessly lost for nearly 2 hours, and we split the flakiest apple turnover I’ve ever seen, and we each had a cup of the self-proclaimed “best” coffee in Denver, and it rained, and it was good. Very good. Then, we came home, our spirits light, our minds somewhat clear, our memories free of the small, very full, house. We opened the door, we walked inside, and my sister’s spirits remained high, her mind remained clear, her view of the house was cozy, not small. I was sucked into the big, full air in that small space and my spirit was doused with sludge and my mind clouded and I wanted to turn and leave again – and not come back.

I am full of unanswers. And when I want to run away, it is from them. And it is from the people in the house also full of unanswers – because that’s not something one can commiserate about, more people just adds to the weight.

And I want to be the hopeful, joyful one. But, really, I don’t. I can’t find the will or energy to be so when I’m in that small space.

And when I woke up this morning, I felt like I was a reprobate for going to bed so late when I knew it would keep others up – like I wasn’t allowed to talk to God after that without being pious and regretful and I was neither.

And there were points in the small house that I didn’t feel so terrible – when I could make it seem cozy because it’s dreary outside and we could all watch movies and eat popcorn and be close.

But mostly, it felt like we were all covered in prickles and slime and being close was repulsive and painful. And mostly the rainless, grey skies just became part of me, or I part of them.

Aidan tried to cheer me. He’s trying now. And I feel myself smiling, and I let myself smile, but the weight on my chest covers my eyes and ears and turns his joy and optimism to a nuisance. I feel like crying now, where before I felt only like screaming and running. That’s movement. So, it’s probably good.

I’m making hot tea now. Mom and I are alone in the house and there’s a stillness that’s settling. And we understand one another well, mom and I, so though we’re still full of unanswers and uncertainties, I’m coming to rest. And my hand crafted mug has the words “life is a journey” etched onto the bottom. And I’m reminded that rainy days happen, but we must go on. And there are two phrases from Andrew Peterson songs nursing me to life and bringing me to tears because they are deep, simple truth:

“So listen little girl, somewhere there’s a king who will love you forever.”

And I remember I can be held by him – he doesn’t care one wit about my prickles and slime or the foul, unanswered air surrounding me. And I let him. And I cry out the other phrase,

And I don’t want to go back. I just want to go on and on and on.

On and on and on.

 

Out of the Shire

I sat. Waiting for revelation. My journal laid open to the first page – crisp and eager. New journals are hopeful things. They are the promise of the life to come. They are the anticipation of what  stories will fill their pages; what twists will occur in the plot. They are the confidence of learning more, discovering more, fulfilling more.

My old journal has enough blank pages left to last at least a few more days, but they will remain blank. I gave my Momma a new journal for Mother’s Day. I had bought it because it had Audrey Hepburn on the front and quotes from Breakfast at Tiffany’s plastered all over the inside – very iconically Momma. It turns out her old one was nearly empty, which worked out nicely and made me appear to be more thoughtful and attentive than I actually was. I came into the kitchen the next morning to find her doing a Bible study and writing in the new journal. I asked her if she’d filled the old one already.

“No,” she looked at me, “sometimes you just know it’s time to start a new journal.”

I opened my old journal this morning – used it even, I wrote two half-hearted sentences of hungry reflection on Psalm 52 – then I closed it, still hungry, and went through my morning. The hunger gnawed, and I ignored it as I muddled through my algebra.I ignored it as I made meticulous plans for the rest of the week. I ignored it as I gave up on looking presentable. I ignored it until my parents called. We had a good conversation – a loving conversation – a godly conversation – a guiding conversation – but a conversation that left me to make decisions.

I finished highschoool (mostly) a few weeks ago. My diploma acted as a forced ticket to being adult. I suddenly have to budget time and money and other resources. I suddenly have to make daily decisions that have implications beyond myself. I still live at home and my parents still feed me and whatnot. It’s not like I’ve been thrown into the world with nothing, but the clothes on my back. This really isn’t such a dramatic change. But, it is. Life is not what it was. It’s not worse. It’s just different. So very different.

And my phone conversation with my parents finalized in my being what I had known in some distant part of me for weeks – this is not the same and will never again be the same.

That is life though – “not the same.” Today and yesterday are completely different situations, different relationships, different processing, different knowledge. That’s a good thing. “Not the same” is a concept worthy of praise. It is a manifestation of being continually formed – continually brought closer to who I was created to be, continually becoming more free. This is merely a new season – a good thing.

The hungry me, however, was fearful. New things require me to trust in God, who knows. New things mean I can no longer depend on my own strength because it is insufficient. New things mean I can no longer depend on my old maps because this land is uncharted. I hung up the phone, wiped a single tear from my eye, and said out loud, “I do not want to trust you.”

My conversation with Momma and Daddy was that step- the farthest I’ve ever been. And yet, each step is just that – the farthest I’ve ever been. It scraped the bottom of my empty self and echoed through all of me and I had to trust and I was afraid. And in my fear, I ran.

I took a nap. I wasted as much time as I could. And when I couldn’t stand that still resounding echo any longer, I searched to be filled. I tried coffee and chocolate first because they don’t require trust. And when they didn’t fix the echo, and, in fact, magnified its cry, I simply slumped down and plugged my ears. And when plugging my ears merely muffled the sound, I accepted the sound and became Eeyore, joining the echo with a refrain of “woe is me.”

I got on Facebook, because Facebook is splendid for wasting time and splendid fodder for self-pity. And God laughed that I thought I could escape from his love by becoming Eeyore and drowning myself in Facebook. My friend Brittany had posted a note about being still and knowing God is God. About listening and reveling in the bittersweet that flows out of you as the silence sets in. Author, Ann Voskamp posted a link to her blog post for the day, which said this

“Standing out there in the garden,
all the spinach leaves offered up like bunches of bouquets
there at her feet, she listened for the quiet.
The corn grew in straight rows.
The apple blossoms made promises.
The irises unfolded bold hope.
Roots would wait for rain.
Seeds would be faithful to soil.
The weary would wait on God.
The waiting would be unwaveringly faithful to the Word.”

And the words of that post found their way inside of me and woke up the life-filled person that I am. And I became excited. The new became apple-blossom promises. I saw the need for trust as deepening relationship. I saw the need for trust as God’s love calling out for me to join him. I scoffed at my depressed self and scrambled out of the pit I had dug for myself. I ran as fast as I could into the arms of my Father and smiled at him and said, “I trust you. I trust your unfailing love.” And he smiled back. And the clanging echo turned to melody and the ravenous hunger turned to passionate longing and I was captivated and I was captivating and I was myself again.

I picked up my old journal and opened it – then closed it.
“No,” I thought, “sometimes you just know it’s time to start a new journal.” And new journals are hopeful things.

I’m incredibly tired. I have been since about 2 o’clock this afternoon. And yet, I’m awake. Typing. I watched a train run through LaGrange this afternoon; I watched it crawl, I watched each burdensome car lumber by, I watched the wheels move only because they were forced to, clunk-clunk, clunk-clunking as they went. I watched as, miracle of miracles, the crawl and lurch lessened – the heavy, the burdensome, began to move with something like grace, something like flying, to a force that would not be slowed down, would not be stopped. I thought about how all of this was accomplished by one engine pulling, straining, tirelessly until momentum is gained. I wondered aimlessly what would happen if there were an engine in the back too – pushing; if the cars would just crumple up into a heap in the middle. That’s my mind now – the train moving something like gracefully at a force that won’t ever be stopped. That’s why I’m awake. Typing. I’m trying to slow it down.

I had thought that maybe, since my mind is going, I would write the next chapter of my book. It’s due on Monday and I generally reserve writing it for Sunday night, but I’d rather not. So, I opened a Word document and began to write. What came out was not, however, the next chapter of my book. What came out was a potential rant and moan of pathetic measure. It began “I’m tired” and could have gone on for a very long time if I’d let it about how I sometimes feel lonely and misunderstood and how I’m tired all of the time and how I’m broken and how I don’t understand things and how other people are broken and how they don’t understand things and how I’m learning volumes-full about God and who he is and who I am and how it’s changing the way I live and breathe, and I”m spending time in his word every day, and I’m digging deep into it and into him, but somehow I feel like my relationship with him is at a standstill, and how the heck does that even happen because so much has changed at the very core of me, and how I’m not supposed to doubt myself, but I don’t even realize that I’m doing it half the time, so how am I supposed to stop doing it, and what if I’m just wrong, and how could I have this much to rant about when the weather was so glorious and when there is poetry, and when the Psalms speak to my very soul, and wait a second… life is good. Yet, low and behold I’ve somehow talked myself into this page full of… what it’s full of. I’m not denying the above – I’m not letting it swallow me. That’s flat-out dumb. Choose life. So I’m choosing life… and instead of going on about all of the above in depth, like I wanted to, I wrote this:

I’m tired. Weary.
And I shouldn’t be.
I won’t believe Satan’s lies –
I feel them on the wind.
I hear his breath beside me –
he’s waiting so patiently.
So very patiently.
And I feel his breath,
hear the wind,
feel his smile.
I will not hear.
will not believe
I know the truth.
know. The truth,
know the. Truth
know of love,
Know I’m loved,
know. Love.
So shut up.
Move on.
Or
Face
Me
If you dare.