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.

My Story

To See is to Love

I wrestled with whether or not we should go… we had been gone all weekend, we would certainly be late.  The greater risk of staying out past bedtime threatened my already fragile sanity.  I wasn’t dressed to impress, the girls were mini-hot-messes themselves and I had every reason in the book why it would be easier to just stay home.

But I’m married to this extrovert and we are raising little social butterflies who would sell their sister out if it meant going to party with friends – especially on a school night. oh my.

“We can go for thirty minutes” I said – knowing it would be at least an hour.  Everyone promised to be on their best behavior, there would be no fights when it was time to leave or crawl in to bed. Promise!

Of course, it was everything they hoped for, kids running, music playing, a fruit table with whipped cream, endless juice boxes, adults relaxed and enjoying each other’s company –  why had I even thought to resist this?  I’ve prayed for community for years and God has literally dropped it right outside my door.

Why do I fight what my heart has longed for?  I know you’ve read it before, and it is a daily battle with this underlying fear I carry… we are too much.    If you really knew…

I quickly relaxed, sank in to a comfy seat and was catching up with real live adults, knowing the fenced in yard could at least contain the little people that were not within eye-range.  Plus, there were lots of parents and an unspoken code that we’ll all work together to keep these tiny people alive.  Just breathe.

But then it went off and quite frankly scared the crap out of me.  Children screamed and we saw the shining burst of fireworks that were not quite expected but sure to be fun.

Except… we carry a different story…

…and fireworks sound a lot like gunshots.

There’s no doubt you could see the fear in my eyes. I even felt the burning sting of tears. Then Daniel came around the corner and said… “the girls are good. it’s ok. they are screaming but they just want to know what that was.”

And as I fought to to bring myself back down, the friend next to me looked me in my tear-filled eyes and said, “I knowI know your story, I know what’s going through your mind right now.”  and all of a sudden, what I so often fear is too much, was gently held, tenderly covered and in ways even celebrated – because look how far we have come.

We didn’t fall apart.  And it would have been ok even if we did.  But the shrills of excitement from my girls who have not been secure enough to see fireworks allowed me to see the redemptive thread that is being woven through our lives.  We have fought for healing, we have held closely, loved deeply and when we were thrown a surprise test … we passed!

I learned a lot that night.  Our girls are resilient and they are healing.  I may get discouraged in the little things, but we’ve come a long way.  There’s a growing realization that what I try to hold together, guard and protect others from seeing in our lives is the very thing that God uses to see and speak into my life.  Words that say, you are seen, you are loved and you are not too much.

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Friends, we all need places that are safe to bring our stories.  We need people that know how to hold our hearts, our pains and deepest fears, our hope, our joys and our deepest desires… we need to be echoes of truth reminding one another, you are not too much.  Not only that, but you are worth it.  You are worth knowing, you are worth loving and you are not alone.

Sometimes we don’t have those places.  Maybe the people aren’t near.  Maybe the story is too painful to be spoken.  Maybe your heart can’t bear to risk…

I find in those moments, Jesus himself draws near… and his tender words say, “I know.  I know your story.  I have seen your pain.  I know the fear you carry that feels like weights holding you down. I gave everything that you would know… you are worth it.  You are deeply loved and you are not alone.”  

I absolutely love to be an echo of God’s voice to someone else.  Just like the friend who spoke to me, I know your story, was just as if Jesus said to me I see you.. you don’t have to hide.  Your yoga pants and messy hair are just fine.

Just this morning as another shared her struggle with fear, the unknown and quite honestly a bit of unbelief… I turned to the story of the father in scripture who longed for his child’s healing and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” {Mark 9:24}  And God gently reminds us, He sees.  He can handle our doubts, lean in, he is the perfecter of faith.  Your tears are ok.  Your doubts are understood.  He is gentle.  He is kind. And he longs for you to see his goodness.

Friends, you love me well.  You have been a safe place to bring my story, my fears, my pain and my joy.   You speak life into doubts.  You share love when I feel so undeserving.  You are my village – and I’m thankful the Lord continues to grow it.  I pray that these words today bring you hope, give you a glimpse of a Father that loves you deeply.  So much so, he will set off fireworks just that you may know.

 

Love Does, Uncategorized

Your Heart was Worth the Pain

“Just point me back to Jesus…”

These simple words I spoke in response to a friend’s question, how could he support me in the moment?  Knowing there was nothing that could be done to change my circumstances, I cannot deny that having people who remind me of the goodness of God changes how I engage.

There are times we will face struggles that seem beyond hope and we simply need to shift our focus.  Not because it changes the struggle, but it changes what we see.

When I see a field, You see a harvest
When I see the winter, You see the spring
When I see the orphan, You see Your child
My God how great You are…

When I’m in a battle, You see a victory
When I see the storm, You see a promise
I see the stars, but You know their names
My God how great You are…

I stand amazed that You stand unchanged
I give my life for the glory of Your name…

 lyrics from “My God How Great”
written by Nate Kelly, Destiny Worship Music
hear the full song on iTunes
used with permission –   sort-of 😉

These words pierced my heart Sunday morning, reminding me that circumstances don’t shape my hope – His promises frame my journey.  I can rest knowing there’s no mountain too high, no rival too great, no ocean too deep that he can’t reach me… or you.

I stand amazed… he stands unchanged.  The stories long ago of a sea split in two, a son that squandered everything yet was met by grace, a people who entered the land promised generations before, a tomb found empty – fulfilling every promise of hope to come … this is the same God today as the one in the book.  He has not changed.

My sin was great, Your love was greater

I have reflected on this holy week and the journey from the donkey to the cross.  It is more than my Sunday school, child-like perspective can take in.  I have to be intentional to not just read through the story, but allow myself to wonder what was that like?  One day He is hailed as king and people literally fall to their knees.  The next thing you know he is sweating drops of blood… knowing what tomorrow brings.

What was worth it?

His friends failed him. His father turned his back on him. People mocked him.  The thorns pierced him.  The cross nearly broke him.

What could he see beyond the grave?

He sees you…      12_06_17_AbbyMandella_Family_GraytonBeach-4

He sees me too.
As tears fall from my eyes I have to remind myself, I am what he sees on the other side of the darkness.  I see my falleness, he sees my redemption.  I see my fears, he sees courage.  I see my frailties but he sees beauty.  Where I see my weakness, the struggles, the disappointment –  he sees strength, love and the glory he created in me.

In Max Lucado’s book, And the Angels Were Silent: The Final Week of Jesus he writes:

You can tell a lot about a person by the way he dies. And the way Jesus marched to his death leaves no doubt: he had come to earth for this moment.

From the fall to the manger, from the tabernacle to the trial he always knew his purpose.

Grace to Grace

In a previous life, I was a worship leader.  I know what goes into a Sunday morning set or a weekday service – building a team and shepherding hearts.  I’ve always said, I can’t lead where I’m not willing to go myself.  Even though I didn’t have all the skills or talent, you can bet I had heart.  My heart was first to honor him, but second to point others to Jesus. His wonder.  His glory.  His goodness and his love.

It has been at least 5 years since I’ve touched those keys, close to 15 since I’ve led a service.  Life looks drastically different these days.  I now have the privilege of leading 3 tiny hearts to the feet of Jesus.  {More often than not, they send me straight there too}

My heart still leads but it’s not from a stage.  I set the atmosphere in my home even as we sing of his reckless love while tucking into bed, or how great our God is as we eat cereal or by shepherding little hearts to share kindness, love and laughter.  I have built a new set list.

This week I’ve been soaking in the weight of the cross, the pain in the journey and the promise of redemption.  I realize, often we do not know what the other side looks like.  We see the darkness that feels like death and are left to wonder what is worth it?  what could possibly be on the other side?  I honestly don’t know. I can’t help but believe that walking into the pain – no matter how deep –  embracing suffering and even facing death – that there is glory on the other side.   He certainly saw something worth it.

“When I see that cross, I see freedom
When I see that grave, I’ll see Jesus
And from death to life, I will sing Your praise…”

So I leave you with this song dear ones.  Take a moment to consider the cross this week and ask him, what made it worth it?  As my heart fumbles to find courage to enter the pain, and as you face your own journey, I pray these words indeed point us back to Jesus.

PS…I highly recommend checking out our dear friend Nate’s song “My God How Great” (quoted above) on iTunes by Destiny Worship Music.  We are total fangirls…