Love Does, My Story

When Hope Doesn’t Float and the Tears Must Fall

It’s the sort of thing that wakes you up with tears in your eyes before they are even open.  It has nothing to do with the tiny human’s knees pressed tightly into my back.  She knows to come to daddy’s side, that’s the way of certainty to mommy.  Daddy doesn’t even know he let her in, but she cuddles closely to me.  My pillow must be cozier.

That’s not what woke me.  It’s the words and the story that has been percolating in my heart for weeks like a kettle on a stove, just before the whistle blows.  The words have swirled but I haven’t been able to make sense of them…. Until now.  At 3:45 am tears fall out of my unopened eyes, I realize the gentle pursuit of the Father who builds beautiful things from broken pieces.  The original artist.

As I sat in the waiting room of our therapist’s office a familiar song played, but the words felt so different in this season of life as she beautifully voiced,

This is what it means to be held – How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive…

The verses name the unfairness of life, even as believers, leaving us to question his goodness.

In a season that surrounds me with pain, I shared this song with a few dear ones whom I know are navigating the darkest of nights, questioning where God is in the midst of it all.  In my own small story, I have felt an unearthing of deep places that were heavily fortified with protective strategies that beg you to believe…  I am worth loving, I am worth choosing, I am worth protecting, I am worth keeping… the core of my deepest longing that every action of my life one way or another points back to –  am I worth it?

I work hard to never put you in a position to have to say it directly, give no reason I could doubt my value in your life.  I will come through no matter what… I will love with everything within me… I will give all I have not just because I love you, but because I long to know you love me too….

It’s unsustainable… I am human as are you.  Life is hard and complex and filled with pain…  and one day I found myself in an unending flood of tears that reflect my deepest fear

… I am worth losing…

The old familiar voices: I didn’t love well.   I wasn’t understanding.  I was too honest.  I will never be enough…

And when my brokenness meets your brokenness the rough edges no longer fit – and I am left to believe, I am a loss worth taking.

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The words fell out of my mouth and took every bit of air with them… I had not understood the pain I was avoiding for so long.  It had been poked and prodded but anytime I got close, the fortified walls came up like the work of an engineer.

But something finally cracked this wall and like a dam… I broke…

I gave myself space to sit in the messiness of it all.  I owned the fears, I felt the pain, I repented of my unbelief and like a hurting child I sat in the presence of my kind heavenly father and asked,  what do you want to say to me right now? What do you want me to know is true??

Like a wave of peace, I heard the still small voice, You are worth EVERYTHING to me.  And he gently reminded me of specific times and places where he was echoing this truth through my life.  Through the ones who pursue me when I don’t want to be pursued. The ones who see me when I want to disappear.  The ones who hold me when everything I hoped has failed.  And the ones who sit with me in the pain of disappointment that I can’t make sense of….brokenmug

I long to be that echo of his voice too.  The jar of clay that reveals glory in the brokenness.

As I sat across the makeshift dining table with my salad that was fresh a mere three hours ago, inside I couldn’t help but wonder why I even have a place at this table.  There are obvious reasons that cause me to doubt if I should be here, but I realize one thing that connects us all is the transforming work of God to make beautiful things from dust.  That’s all we really are at this table, five broken people surrendering to a way of humility and trusting God for the part he has given us to play.

I’ve spent the greater part of my life avoiding pain at all costs, but I find myself in a place of facing what feels like the most tender places of my life.  As he shares bits of his story, I realize even my deepest pain cannot begin to compare to the road he has traveled.  Without even realizing it, I shift to deflective humor to ease the weight I feel – knowing I have nothing that compares.

He goes on to share how he is grappling with God… it’s evident to me this is a good thing, despite his reservation to even name it. What does it look like to live in authentic community and walk through hard things?  So much damage has been done by good people, who want to love well but in the face of pain cannot help but see through their lens of hope.

It’s human nature to believe each challenge is to be solved, we will reach the other side.  Our gospel story of rescue and redemption filters our view with a persistent hope – amid of which we have done a great disservice to one another in our places of deepest pain.

His words pierced through me so intensely I could feel my heart beating in my fingertips.  He was a real life, tangible picture of the pain I had caused.  For the first time I could clearly see the burden of my hope.  I began to crumble inside.  It was as if God painted a portrait and placed it right in front of me. My perspective had shifted, and I knew I would never be the same.

Hope is a beautiful thing.  I never want to live my life without it.  It truly is a gift.

However, when you enter into the sacred place of pain that forces you to face loss, grief, violation and broken dreams – there is a time that hope fails.

To be fully human is to own the pain, name the pain, feel the pain… and sometimes just accept that this pains you.

Don’t discount the pain. Don’t deny the pain; and as a friend, spouse, sister, mother – don’t discredit the pain with your quick draw of hope.

Hope that says this will all work out.  Hope that paints a better ending than the pit in which we sit.  Hope that speaks to your need for relief…

… in the dark place of the night, when the tears fall… lean in closely my friend… it’s ok to release the hope and allow yourself to feel the pain.

release

After all, even Jesus had to let things die.

And he wept.

This is what it is to be loved
and to know that the promise was
when everything fell, we’d be held.

It’s hard for me to reconcile pain and I often find myself grappling with how to justify or wrap it all up in a pretty bow.  I am growing to see that this speaks more to my discomfort of pain and less to the truth of redemption.  Sometimes the only bright side is heaven, and that’s ok.  We were made for so much more – our very hearts ache for it…

As my heart unravels and I feel my own brokenness and failures, I am reminded of that night, holding my long-legged baby as her tears streamed down her face and thank God that when everything fell, she could be held.

She said hurtful things – as is a pattern in our journey.  When she is in pain, she needs everyone around her to feel it too.  She goes for blood.  It’s an exhausting ride and a heartbreaking reality in which we live.  In the dark car ride of silence following her pain-filled words, I quietly reached my hand to the backseat to find hers.  I heard a muffle of sobs and just squeezed her hand a bit tighter.  When we reached home, she ran straight upstairs and hid in her cocoon of a swing.  I peaked my head in and saw her sobbing face, I just want to be alone!  I gently responded, If you want me to leave you alone, I will… but if you want me to hold you, I can do that too. 

She untangled herself from the swing, climbed into my arms and I held this seven year old baby girl as she cried alligator tears of pain, regret, disappointment and loss…   she can’t possibly reconcile the emotions that stir in her heart – and I can’t begin to undo it.

But I can sit and hold her forever. It was the most tender of moments as my heart longed to bring relief to what swirls in her.  I never held this child as a baby – she wasn’t mine to hold.  This holy moment was as healing for me as it was for her.  A glimpse of the heart of a father, who gives us people that will sit and hold the pain we carry, not bringing a solution not even promising hope… just being present.

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My dear friend, I do not know what places you have journeyed, what pain envelopes you today.  I repent for the way I may have viewed your pain through my lens of hope… not fully seeing the depth of your pierced heart.  I am so sorry.

I cannot help but ask, is there room in the pit for me?

I will not fix it and I will try not to relieve it… I just long for you to know you are not alone in the middle of it.

If I may be an echo of a still small voice, please hear me say,  You are worth EVERYTHING.

And when you’re ready, maybe we can find hope.

 

*Lyrics from the song “Held” by Natalie Grant
Love Does, My Story

A Letter to My Girlies

In a serendipitous way, two paths crossed and I met a beautiful new friend just over a month ago.  A mutual friend passed our names to one another.  We exchanged a brief phonecall where she cast vision into a project and I excitedly said “we’re all in”.

She is a photographer by day but a storyteller is stirring in her heart.  As we talked she said, I want to tell stories with more than just pictures, I want them to be living stories that inspire.   – you and me both friend.

We sat one Monday afternoon and she storyboarded a project to capture a glimpse of our life.  With tears in both of our eyes I shared the story of God building this family.  We talked about songs that were meaningful – as if I could limit it to just one – and somewhere along the way she asked if I would consider writing a letter to my girls?

I know, I thought the same thing…. am I dying?

There’s no way I can write a letter… where would I even begin and how could it possibly end?  I humbly apologized on the day of our shoot – I really just couldn’t do it.  But here are a few more songs we should consider.

As she began to build out the project, the pieces were coming together perfectly despite how awkward I am on a camera.  Lord save me.

Then a few days later she sent a text… something was missing…  Would you please try to write a letter to your girls?  Just tell them their story…

It turns out, if you aren’t dying and you just sit down… the words are already there deep within.  So here’s what was scratched out one night…

My sweet girls, let me tell you a story.

It’s your story… and mine, a perfectly written, beautifully broken, story of reckless love.

It started with a dream from a brave girl, who told me you would be coming.  I prayed and prayed and asked God how could this be?  I never wanted to be a mommy in a million years, but somehow I knew this dream would come true.

I was so scared, certain he had the wrong girl, but he gently breathed on what little bit of courage I had and said he would hold my hand every step of the way.

Then on that fateful day when the phone rang, with trembling voices, your daddy and I gave our best yes yet.

You had to have seen the fear in my eyes when I first saw your faces.  Your beauty was overwhelming.

Soon your laughter became the soundtrack of our life, your pain the backdrop of our story, and His love the hope of our future.

You uncovered a fight in me I never knew I had, a fierceness only a mother can carry and stirred a dream I never knew I wanted.

Many may think we rescued you, but the truth is, you rescued us.  You pulled us out of a smaller story into a greater purpose –  that reflects the Father’s heart towards his children.

A father who will move heaven and earth, soften the hardest of hearts and leave the 99 to make sure that one knows the depths of his love.

When I look in your big brown eyes, I see his love shining through.  When I catch a glimpse of our family, I know his mercies are new every morning.

I’m not pretending this was always our story.  This isn’t the way it was supposed to be.  But somewhere a faint yes turned into a family and here we are soaking in moments that take my breath away.

I know one day we will unpack the heavy things you have carried, the loss and the pain you don’t even yet comprehend… and when you question where God was, I pray our story always points you back to his unending love.

Sweet girl, you are worth every fear I overcame, every hard day we’ve faced, every pain that has pierced my heart along the way.

You reveal God’s goodness to me.  You make me brave.

I pray as our story unfolds you are drawn to the one who pursued you from the start – who wove a crimson thread of redemption and will never leave you.  I dream for you to become everything he created you to be, a woman who loves well, fights for what is right, stands for her beliefs and walks in courage, beauty and love.  My deepest desire is to love you, come hell or high water… that you may always know… you were worth it.

Love is.

I held my girls closely as I showed them the finished project and they watched the “happy tears” that filled my eyes.  They heard the words my heart carries for them as if they didn’t already know their own story.  It was perfect.

It’s only been a week but I keep going back and watching every detail that was captured almost as if I don’t get to see them every day.

And when we’ve navigated hard days and dark nights, it’s my own words I hear in my head reminding me that every pain is worth it.  I don’t know if it inspires anyone else, but I know it keeps me in the fight.

I’m sure there’s so much more I will want to say one day, but for now, the only thing left stirring is beautifully portrayed in the words of our current replay:

I hear you whisper underneath your breath.
I hear your whisper, you have nothing left…

I will send out an army to find you, even in the darkest night it’s true, I will rescue you.
I will never stop marching to reach you, even in the hardest fight it’s true, I will rescue you.

“Rescue” – by Lauren Daigle

It’s the fierceness birthed in me… even in the darkest night, sweet girl, I will fight for you.

I wish I could share the finished product… but for privacy reasons we have to keep it on the down low.  :: but if you know my mom, I promise she will show you 😉   ::

But I’ll leave you with this gem, let the words sink deep in your soul, consider a father who sends them just for you.   You’re worth it.

Love Does, My Story

Is there such a thing as too much information?

You may be surprised to know that sometimes I struggle with what’s appropriate to share…

I always want to honor the story of our girls, the work God is doing in our lives and the place in your heart that you’ve invited me into.

Over the past four years you’ve carried me through some of the deepest waters, fears and even heartbreaks that you may not have known occurred along the way.  I seek to be transparent in as much as I am able to share, and honest with the depths of my heart as I journey through life.

I’ve gone back and forth with how to share without being totally awkward – because it’s pretty personal.

It’s not that I don’t want you to know, but sometimes I struggle with whether it’s helpful for you to know… but at this point I realize, it’s helpful for me and my girls if you can come along side us and pray this week.

About fifteen years ago I began to really struggle physically with recurring cysts on my ovaries and what we later discovered to be endometriosis.  I had surgery eleven or so years ago and at that time my doctor recommended I decide sooner rather than later if I wanted to have children, because I really needed to consider a hysterectomy.

Now, I know some people have wondered if we have walked a path of infertility which led us to adoption, but I can honestly say that’s not how we ended up here. Whether my uterus worked or not, either way I was convinced I didn’t need to have a baby.  It’s apparent now much of my decision was based in a need for control- but also the simple fact that I wasn’t sure I had what it takes to keep another human alive… especially if they needed to be fed daily.

I’ve always been a bit of a procrastinator, so I delayed making the decision for many years.  But here we are, less than 48 hours away from a major surgery.  Tonight I held each one of my baby girls as they cried at different times, trying not to let their fears be known but they just can’t hold it in any more.

If you read one of my recent stories, you may recall that we don’t have a lot of room in this house for my weakness.  It triggers something I can’t fully understand.  But God does. He sees and knows the depths of their pain, the fears in their hearts and the innocence that has been lost.

On most days I am good, I can be strong and hold it all together.  But if I so much as take a vitamin, I’m questioned about the state of my being.  We had one therapist that suggested the girls “give me medicine” so they could see it’s nothing to be scared of.  As she handed them a bottle of advil and I sat bewildered by her recommendation –  I realized I didn’t want a four year old to be comfortable with pills and decided to fire the therapist.

“It’s not me – it’s you.  Bye Felicia.”

I share this because what I know is a routine procedure also has the potential to be a major emotional event in this house of little women.  It’s already starting to bubble up.

As I’ve sought to prepare my own self for the surgery, recovery and hopefully a new normal, I am faced with my own fears.  If I’m totally honest, it’s not a fear of the surgery itself or even the recovery which I hear is pretty brutal –  at a gut level the question I have stirring is, what if something were to happen to me?

And obviously you can’t see my eyes filled with tears as I write this…  but it paralyzes me. It’s a much deeper pain that I can’t prepare everything for such a situation – and I must not believe God can figure it out either.  Both pain me.  My fears and my underlying doubts.

When I rationally think about this I can bounce back up and know, this is no big deal.  People have surgery every.single.day.  I don’t have cancer. I don’t have major risks.  I just have three kids that have already lost one mother and I feel like I have to do everything in my power to make sure they don’t lose another one.

Clearly I’m not rational anymore.

Don’t worry. I won’t leave you hanging here.

As I walked into church this morning, longing for an encounter with God, my heart found peace as we sang a song I didn’t even know I liked… reminding me who is the King of my Heart and how good he is.  In the bridge the band echoes these words:

You’re never gonna let,
You’re never gonna let me down

With tears falling from my eyes I was reminded of his incredible goodness to my girls – his supernatural provision for things we didn’t even know we needed.  (Have you ever read this story about When God Shows Up ?)  And as I sang these words I could truly believe that not only is he not going to let me down, he will never let my girls down.

Tonight, as I lay next to each one in their bed, I reminded them that it’s ok to be scared – and then I try to point them back to Jesus.  Remember when you were brave before? We can be brave together. Sweet girl, you make me brave.

I’m humbled by God’s goodness to meet me in my own fears so that I’m able to speak truth to the hearts of my little ones.  I’m grateful for the ones who have come along side us with offers to help our family, my mother who will be carrying a heavy load these next two weeks and my sweet husband who has his hands full with a lot of ladies.

I’m at peace going into this.  I trust God with all the things.  I’ve given Daniel a list of all our accounts, passwords and what to do if something happens to me.  I’ve even told him who I’ve picked out to help raise the girls…  but I need to go on record saying – if he shows up with some Brazilian paddle board chick, that is not who I picked out.

And if I didn’t already feel like I have zero control over my life, mother nature decided to throw a stinking hurricane into our week – one day post-op.  If you look at the radar, it clearly says “Abby’s house” on the present course.

Jesus take the wheel.

I’m going to bed.  Sweet friends, please pray for my little people.  Please pray for my doctor and my body.  I kinda need all the things to go right… and the hurricane to turn. No big deal.  I’m totally chill.

and I can’t drink wine.

So here’s a song I leave you with… because I need to be reminded.

Much love, from a broken girl.

PS… we’re kinda hoping once these ovaries are gone I’ll stop crying so much.  fingers crossed!

 

 

 

Love Does

A guide to the pain that slaps you in the face – and what not to do

          “That must be a heavy burden to carry…”

His words touched deeply, as if they uncovered a piece of truth I was trying to keep hidden – but he saw it.

I apologized as another tear made its way down my cheek.  Somewhat embarrassed by my own emotion – somewhat surprised I was even here.

When he first entered my emergency room he was taken aback to find me alone.  He asked a few questions which I simply answered about this unknown pain I was experiencing.  It was minor, yet confusing enough that I needed to make sure there wasn’t something major behind it.

“When did you start feeling the pain?”  –   When I woke up yesterday morning, it was piercing.
“What took you so long to come in?”  – I needed to put my girls to bed first  [the water begins building in my eyes]
“What kept you from coming yesterday?” –   [as a single tear escapes my burning eye, I explain]  I have three little girls, adopted, and I’m not sure why… but they fall apart if anything is wrong with me.

I needed to wait.  I needed our weekend to be a perfect rememberance, a celebration of this family built from a dream.  I needed to make space for the good days that would overcome the ones that are hard.  I just couldn’t be the trigger that makes everything fall apart.

I need to protect them from my pain.

They’ve felt so much.  I can only piece together parts of the story that I read in their case or I’ve heard secondhand.  I don’t know if they even understand what they saw in those early days, or what about it makes them glaze over into a trance-like state that seems void of life.

One time, at our dear chiropractor’s office, I attempted to get an adjustment.  One twin screamed uncontrollably as I lay on the table.  When all was done and I knelt down to calm her, she came close and slapped me across the face – something I had never experienced in my whole life.  Yet it came from a 3 year old and ultimately stung my heart more than my cheek.  She had no idea what she had done.

Another time, when my toe met the black-iron bed built for a queen,  I screamed in pain, certain that I would never walk again… her eyes turned to glass and she began hitting me over and over until she was pulled away.

There’s a place she goes that I cannot see –  there are no words spoken – just a fear that overcomes like a blanket.

And I silently vow… I will never be the cause of her pain.

I realize now the cost of that vow.  I will be strong; there’s no room for weakness. 

I’m setting unrealistic expectations and there’s no way I can deliver.

We can’t be a family that avoids the pain.  Hers or mine.

He spoke gently to me as I tried to pull myself back together.  He laid out our next steps to evaluate and medicate to bring relief from the mystery in my abdomen.  I assured him I was ok with the pain, I can handle it… I just need to know if there’s anything important that could be wrong.

“You are important….  you are important and you are in pain.” 

His words diffuse my deeply ingrained protective strategies and allow me to believe I am worth seeing… even though I can’t seem to make eye contact for fear of more tears.

I can’t take those pain meds that make you sleepy.  There’s a tiny person back home that is bound to wake up because she ate her weight in watermelon… I have to be able to help her sleep walk to the potty – time is of the essence.

They draw all the blood, fill me with fluids, give something mild for pain and deliver a “cocktail” that falls far short of my definition.  All my major organs come back clear, I breathe a sigh of relief and promise if the pain returns I’ll come back for further testing.  He didn’t say it in so many words… but I know the truth… camping is killing me.  [i joke]  The truth is more likely that I’ve given myself an ulcer.

I drive home in the darkness of night turned morning, check on the little people tucked in tight and crawl into my own comfy bed next to the guy that holds my world together.  But I can’t stop hearing the doctor’s words…

…That must be a heavy burden to carry…

They’ve replayed in my head over and over today.  It’s almost as if he saw my dark circled eyes, my clenched jaw, my broken pieces and called out the truth… I’ve taken on a burden that wasn’t mine to carry.

I’m gently reminded of the scripture in Matthew 11

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Our burden is real, there’s no doubt.  But it isn’t mine to carry alone.  It was an invitation, in the most unexpected place, to come weary and trade this burden for rest.  It was a gentle reminder that I don’t have to hold it all together.  I can’t undo the pain of a past or avoid the pain of the present but I can trust that the one who was there continues to carry the weight and will be faithful to heal.

Sweet friend, you’ve made it this far in our story.  I wonder what burden you may be carrying yourself.  You’ll know what it is when you feel the sting of tears in your eyes.  Like me, you may scramble and try to keep from falling apart.  Dear one, let them fall.  These tears are signs of something deep within.  And there’s an invitation that says, come to me, your burden is heavy, but I have rest.  You do not have to walk alone.

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And just in case the guy in the E.R. offers you a cocktail… don’t fall for it.

Much love,
a broken girl.