Coming Up for Air

The NSCO and I have been talking a lot lately about how to find Jesus in the middle of everything going on right now. I admit, it’s tough. It’s tough when you feel lost, abandoned, and betrayed. It’s tough when there are no answers and the questions pile on. It’s tough when the months pass and nothing seems to get any better.

So I say that Jesus and I have been fighting it out, but really it’s more about me weeping and yelling and wondering when the kids and me are going to be rescued. Where is our safety? Where is our solace? Will we ever have that again, or will it always hurt as much as it hurts now? I don’t know, and I don’t know that I’m going to get any answers.

NSCO and I talked about how I’ve walked with Jesus through deep darkness before, and that’s true. But then it was different. It was stuff from my childhood, and my strong anchor was the knowing that, no matter what,  I had survived. These days I have no such security. I don’t know that this isn’t going to kill me. I don’t know for sure that I’m going to make it through this bodily even, much less with my sanity intact. It is testing every bit of who I think I am and what I believe about life and God Himself. I’m failing every single day with letting my emotions take over, with my poor, precious children who deserve so much better, with trying to “live in the unforced rhythms of grace.”

Yesterday on the way to my midwife appointment (did I mention I’m 39 weeks pregnant?!), I was asking Jesus how to know I’ll live through this, or if there is even a way to know. And I heard, “It is finished.” In the heavenlies, this script is fully written and played out. I don’t have to write a word, make any plot line fit, or edit with my fat red pen. I’ve been asking where my rescue is, why I’ve waited so long for the redemption that I thought would come, but Jesus nudged, “To know that, you must first go back to Who I Am.” Indeed. I’ve hurt and wept and become mired in the pain and tragedy that is my life right now. And really, things are as bad as all that. I wish I were just being dramatic.

I spent the rest of my drive thinking about Who He is. He is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17), He is alive (2 Corinthians 6:16), He is waiting for me to come to Him, truly come to Him (Revelation 3:20). Did I think that He wasn’t still waiting for me even after I invited Him in seven years ago? Did I think He wasn’t still beckoning?

I don’t know where that leaves me at the end of the day. I do know that I need to travel back, far back, swim through the questions that I’d rather not peer too deeply into. Questions like, “How are You going to make beauty from this, here on Earth? And how will You show me that the Cross was enough, even for this?” At this point I don’t know the answers, but I’m finding the courage to ask the questions.

And that’s where we are. Soon, I’ll have another little princess to love on and imagine that I’ll have more solid direction for my life by the end of the calendar year. Until then, I just have to keep holding on.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the foe.

Ps 61:2-3


It seems that heartbreak isn’t what I thought it would be. I assumed that I’d one day buckle under the weight of something far too heavy for my fragile heart to handle, and I’d know, I’d simply know, that it was broken. Instead, it seems that heartbreak, at least of this variety, is piecemeal. One slow, agonizing realization after another comes, each wave breaking hard over me.

Failed marriage

Kids growing up in a broken home

My dreams set aside yet again to do what must be done

Loss of the life I’d planned for myself, my family

Moving out of my home

Doing work I hate to provide, because they’re worth providing for

Being so loathed and damaged by the one who promised to love and protect


And this is the work of grief.

Being separated for almost a month now has been insightful. I see there are things that I fight for that just aren’t worth it. Some things are just preferences and don’t need to be enforced because they’re the way I’ve always done them. But there are other things. Things like marital faithfulness. Things like not being blamed for every one of the other person’s failures. Things like paying bills before utilities are turned off. These are hills I’m willing to die on. The separation is distilling the problems, making them more focused, more clear.

Another aspect of being apart is the support I’ve received from people who love me and my kids. I won’t say this has been easy, especially given that I’m five months pregnant, but I’m surviving. Emotions shoved away for decades are surfacing, often at really inappropriate times. I’m trying to be gentle with myself, keep to myself for the most part, and process when I’m able.

It’s been a challenge to have some people know what’s going on and not feel like they pity me, or are gossiping about me and my family. There are people whose hearts are for us, and there are people who just want to know what’s going on, and it’s not always easy to know who’s who. I guess that’s another part of this learning process.

Lots of learning. Lots of praying. Lots of leaning. Lots of grieving.


The Breaking

I’ve maintained this blog for the better part of four years now, and I’ve taken breaks during those years. It seems to happen in seasons, seasons where I need to batten down the hatches of my soul and take time for just those who exist within my walls. Other times it’s because I’m so deeply involved in my community that I have little time to process and even less time to bang out the results of that processing through my fingertips.

These days, perhaps it’s a bit of both. There are lovely things happening. There are challenging things happening. I am busy and exhausted, and overwhelmed and grateful.

I leave for Russia in seven weeks. SEVEN weeks. There has been much preparation as I push myself to master more of the language before I go, and much preparation as the Not-So-Casual Observer and I have hashed out my role in counseling and prayer ministry on the trip. I am excited and terrified and humbled and expectant as we prepare to leave.

My focus right now (foci, if you will) are my Russian language skills, finishing my fundraising for the trip (I’m quite close to my goal), and letting the Lord prepare me for counseling. I’m also kicking around the idea of going back to school in May, so there’s that. I’m not sure what will come of any of it, but this is a season that feels like sowing. Planting in Russia. Preparing my heart for Easter. Considering school. Raising babies. Busyness.

So if you wonder why I haven’t been writing, well, that time and mental space has been largely crowded out by other adventures. And that’s ok.


I’ve been thinking a great deal about honesty as this Year of Truth comes to a close, and I think something is finally real and apparent to me. There are people in my life who say, “I’m just honest” or “I have to call it like I see it,” in one iteration or another, and then take that preface as license to say really hurtful things.

(Sidebar: I’ve actually called a couple of them on it the last few weeks, let them know that the things they’ve said aren’t OK, that they’ve hurt my feelings, etc. One of them actually tried to talk me out of my own feelings. I mean seriously. After working this hard to be honest and authentic about how things make me feel, you’re going to try to tell me that I’m wrong? Don’t think so, buddy.)

But I think what I realized today is this: people who say such hurtful things couched as truth are cowards. They inflict hurt without caring about its implications because it forces people away from them. Once the other person has labeled them emotionally unsafe, no one comes close enough to get to the heart of the mean one. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” and all.

When I think about the people in my life whose opinions matter, really matter, I realize that they all have one common thread. They know themselves. They’ve faced their own demons, and they’re honest about their fallibility. None of them will say something unkind to me that isn’t based on absolute love of Jesus as the Truth and love for me. Likewise, the least kind people in my circles are those who work hard to keep people at great distance, but deem themselves the “honest” ones. Wow.

I suppose the challenge for me, then, is to be able to trust what Jesus says about me when an “honest” “friend” says something unkind. Also I need to pray that Jesus will come after them with every ounce of His love, because nothing else on earth will tame a tongue with the power of death in it.

I think that’s a pretty cool revelation for the last day of the year. I can’t wait until the Year of Vision starts tomorrow!

For Reina

This post is for you, my friend! I hadn’t forgotten that I have a blog, just don’t feel like I have much to say these days. But since you asked, here’s a post!

You, wow. You are precious to me. And while I can’t imagine what it will be like to not have you in my everyday experience of life, I know that you are my friend for as long as this life lasts, and longer. That is a testament to your faithfulness! I love you, and I can’t wait to see what adventure awaits you in 2012!

From Birth

It’s thick, this heartbreak
Black and smooth
a vacuum rather than a raging, jagged mountain
Where nothing enters and nothing exits,
where love rarely penetrates,
it stands unhealed.

This cavity of a broken heart, dysfunctional before its debut,
It is solid, it is visible
But it’s hidden
You have to come by the back door to see this wound, not meant for the eye of the casual observer
It swings open with cavalier comment,
flip brush off
casual carelessness

“You were not meant to be whole,” it says.
“No one ever wanted you,” it says.
“You are the problem,” it says.

How is it that a void shouts such violence?
Hidden and small, ferocious and unrelenting, this.

I was born with a broken heart.


It’s been two weeks, but there’s not really much to update. I’m still in this hybrid grieving/depression thing. The Not-So-Casual Observer and I spent the majority of my session last night just working out strategies for getting through the next five weeks when there should be some relief, at least in the schedule aspect.

We explored both hopelessness and helplessness and spent some time imagining my ideal life. While it seemed silly at first to imagine all of these things I “can’t” do, it was actually pretty helpful in determining what I’m really passionate about.

The bottom line is that there are two areas of my life that need some serious attention: education and marriage. The Music Man and I spent some time discussing those two things, and we’re hoping to get me back in school by next fall. So, while I’m still depressed/grieving and struggling, at least that feels like a start.

So there it is. Still alive, still struggling. Oh, and tomorrow’s my birthday. So happy birthday to me and all. 🙂

Sometimes Honesty’s Hard

Today is one of those days when it’s a challenge to be honest. When you feel like, “If I say this out loud, people are going to think that I’m wallowing in self-pity, or I’m a danger to myself or others, or they’ll think I’m just flat crazy.” But it is what it is, and I can’t control what anyone else thinks.

I’m tired in that bone-weary way. In a way that doesn’t feel like this nightmare schedule is ever going to end. In a way that makes me wish I could go hibernate and just never have to wake up.

Now, I know that sounds scary, like I’m deeply depressed, and maybe I am depressed. Heaven knows I haven’t felt like this in a long time. I truly don’t see anything lovely waiting at the end of this road. All I think is, “I just want something in my life to change.”

Never in my life have I felt so rock-bottom exhausted. I don’t have an ounce left to give to anyone, even my family. I’ve spent the last week hiding from my kids for the better part of the day, immersed in the cleaning, the laundry, the work (sigh, I’m so tired of thinking about work).

If this is what grieving is supposed to be like (and I don’t know if it is, actually. Will mention to the NSCO next time I see her), then I can’t see that it’s worth it. I can’t imagine any joy on the other side that would be worth this.

So that’s where I’ve been for the last week or two. Trying to hang on and keep all the necessary plates of child rearing and homeschooling spinning. Trying to be with Jesus enough to make each day bearable. Trying not to get sucked into a dark vacuum.

But I’m not hopeless, not reckless, and definitely not suicidal. I’ve also got a pretty sweet support system in place. And music, I’ve got music. And lots of Jesus, so we’ll count it doable.

Ghost Story

This poem about child sexual abuse split me in two today, and I thought it was worth a read.

Ghost Story
by Matthew Dickman
for matthew z and matthew r

I remember telling the joke
about child molestation and seeing
the face of the young man
I didn’t know well enough
turn from something with light
inside of it into something like
an animal that’s had its brain
bashed in, something like that, some
sky inside him breaking
all over the table and the beers.
It’s amazing, finding out
my thoughtlessness has no bounds,
is no match for any barbarian,
that it runs wild and hard
like the Mississippi. No, the Rio Grande.
No, the Columbia. A great river
of thorns and when this stranger
stood up and muttered
something about a cigarette,
the Hazmat team
in my chest begins to cordon
off my heart, glowing
a toxic yellow,
and all I could think about
was the punch line “sexy kids,”
that was it, “sexy kids,” and all the children
I’ve cared for, wiping
their noses, rocking them to sleep,
all the nieces and nephews I love,
and how no one ever
opened me up like can of soup
in the second grade, the man
now standing on the sidewalk, smoke smothering
his body, a ghost unable
to hold his wrists down
or make a sound like a large knee in between
two small knees, but terrifying and horrible all the same.


I am still surprised by every silence
How each twist of anxiety makes my breath catch
How every swelling tear forces my hard swallow
How every heartache makes me tilt my head in wonder

This is feeling

This is what I begged to have
Oh, double-edged sword that you are
When you were elusive, I sensed only the dull ache
of a barren heart

As you return and threaten to spill over the narrow banks
that contain your shallow bottom,
I am overcome

But buried on the silty floor just below the squish
is a joy
A joy that says but one thing of all the pain:
Worth it.