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.

*
*
*

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.

dsc_3189b&w

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

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!

 

 

 

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.

12_06_17_AbbyMandella_Family_GraytonBeach-24

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.