Wednesday, January 28, 2015

open wounds

Some wounds can only be healed when everything is all out in the open without a bandage keeping the scratch sterile and protected.

Because sometimes the wound needs to be exposed. Bumped a few times. It hurts like a mother, but it will be worth it because eventually the wound will dry out and close up. But that time of exposure, that time of bumping, causes a fair amount of screaming and pain. But it’s all so we can stop working around the pain and start using that appendage again. So we can move on.

This happened to me recently with a wound on the tip of my index finger, right by my cuticle. It made the last week of packing and moving miserable. It doesn’t really seem like it would be that big of a deal, but that cuticle area hurt more than having my wisdom teeth out, which I didn’t even take my pain meds for. Apparently my tolerance for physical pain is off the charts. (I guess I make up for that in how I handle emotional pain.) But a little bump on that cuticle had me screaming for mercy. Every time.

I’ve had a lot of distractions in the last few of weeks. Maybe even in the last couple of months. So right now, when it’s time to rest – which happens in random pockets of my day lately – my heart slows down and the stuff I’ve been burying inside in all the little dusty corners come to the surface.

And it hurts. Because the wound reopens of all things left undone and unsaid.

Grieving comes slow for me. It comes in waves, and ebbs and flows. I think I’m over it, and then I’m driving around a neighborhood looking at houses and suddenly realize someone I’m grieving and missing so much it hurts lives just around the corner. And my breath gets quick and it’s necessary for me to close my eyes and take a moment to slow the rush of emotions that I have so clearly not been able to close off like I previously was so sure I had.

I am at the mercy of the majority of the open wounds I have. Because I cannot and will not force myself into the life of people who no longer have me or want me in their life. But I also struggle to reconcile these disappearances with the reality of true emotions and foxhole kind of moments we had. Tears and counsel and really authentic moments that are born from challenging circumstances and painful life seasons. This isn’t just about them being there for me or me being there for them, but about the bond that happens when you are with someone in their lowest moment. That dark night of the soul.

When someone loses someone they love or when someone is faced with true evil in this world or when someone had more questions than answers, but they want answers and they don’t like the ones you give them…

This is wrestling. This is Jacob. With God. Fear, loneliness, powerlessness, exhaustion, pain. This is the real stuff of life that I’ve had the privilege of experiencing with people. And when they walk away from that without a backwards glance…

Open wounds.

I have recited to myself, hoping for it to be a healing balm, over and over, “I cannot control what others do. I can only control what I do.”

But this isn’t the kind of balm I want. I don’t want to remind myself that some friendships are only for a season, because I DON’T WANT THAT SEASON TO BE OVER.

I want to be reassured that I did nothing wrong. I want to know that there may still be some love there, and that it’s not my fault things fell apart or that I'm not the reason they no longer come around. I want to know that I am worth it to them, worth more than the time they spend on facebook, worth more the time they spend with people that are easier to love than me, that don’t challenge them the way I do. I want to know that I am worth a few minutes of their week enough to return my phone call or text message.

But I guess I challenge too much. Not enough to be worth that phone call, anyway.

But honestly? More than all that selfish and needy stuff to make me feel better about who I am, I just want them back in my life. I miss them. They don’t deserve me. But I still miss them so bad that my heart aches. My wound opens. And all I want to do is scream on impact.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

hard, but worth it

I’ve been thinking a little bit lately about why I have the people in my life that I do. Of course, it involves my own choice to an extent… because love is about a series of decisions you make. Yet once love is there, it’s difficult to turn away from that. So, those people are also, on some level, not a choice. They are there because they are… there, we are bound by an invisible and often un-understandable tether. Somehow, in some ways, our stories have linked and it’s no longer a choice. But a bond.

But there are points you can turn away, too. Sometimes you must. This should not be taken lightly.

That said, when I think about those I choose to have in my life: those who walk alongside me in the big and small things, the ones who call me for a last minute lunch at Culver’s after church, ones who stop by my house or my office without warning, sometimes with coffee to bribe me (or just to make me feel better), the ones who call me at 2:30pm during the week, knowing I’m at work but I wouldn’t dream of not taking the call.

Those people…My tribe, as some call it… there are my people. They are those that no matter what is happening in my life, I drop it all to do whatever they need me to do.

Some of these people challenge me. Some of these people inspire me. Some of these people make my life easier. Some make it harder, but it’s always worth it. I’m not usually one who shies away from hard things.

[Recent experience with having a puppy excluded.]

Lately I’m wondering if I’m in the minority with this. This thing about having friends that make my life harder.

I know it sounds weird, because I 100% believe that the people you chose to have in your life are there to ease your burden. Are there to hold you up when you fall. Are there to sit with you when there is nothing left but tears. Are there to love when you are at your most unlovable.

But I also don’t have much use for people who don’t push me. People who don’t inspire me to be better. People who don’t take me outside my comfort zone. Maybe this makes me heartless, but I guess I believe that I have a limited amount of emotional energy, and I don’t see value in friendships with people who just simply make me laugh. Not that we can’t be friends, but I am probably not going to invest much in them. I’m not going to trust them with the deepest darkest parts of my soul that I am anything but proud of. I want and need people to make me think, make me better. To help me get rid of those deepest darkest parts of my soul.  And I guess I’m realizing I want the people in my life to be the same way.

I know how ridiculous I sound. Maybe even how unfair I sound. I know a few people who’ve stepped away from me for this very reason. I’m too hard. Too challenging. Not worth it. I might ask for grace and even apologize, but rarely will it alter who I actually am. I just place boundaries on that friendship, try to stop making it so hard, and we eventually drift away from each other.

I guess the thing is, is that I still miss those people when we drift. I wish they would miss me, too, and see the “hard” as worth it. Let’s be honest, this is a form of rejection and no one likes that.

I’ve come to believe there is both an element of trying and not trying in relationships. And ultimately, we have to decide if the trying is worth it and if the not trying is good and healthy and wonderful.

I am grateful for those who choose to do both with me – to try and not try. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better version of myself. And thank you for putting up with me. I love you more than you know.

Monday, January 19, 2015

pieces of beauty

When I was a kid, my dad owned a ranch up in the north part of Nebraska. We had a house up there to use when we wanted, so we often spent weekends there. Or in the summer when I wasn’t in school, we’d be up there for longer periods of time.

There was a lot of land on the ranch. Rolling hills, sprawling was idyllic and beautiful. My dad and I used to ride horses in these fields a lot. I don’t know what his agenda was – if he was checking on the cattle or just wanted to spend time with me. Who knows? But I remember one day we found an ornate looking piece of metal. This intrigued my dad to no end. He loved this kind of stuff. So we starting search around the area and collected these metal pieces that looked as though they belonged together. It became like a treasure for my dad, whereas I just rolled my eyes every time he spotted a piece and asked me to get off the horse and grab it.

I don’t remember how long this went on. But I’m pretty sure it was a few years. My dad, at some point, has figured out that these were piece to an old pot bellied stove. Once he figured that out, he knew what pieces to look for – the pieces still missing.

I think I was in college when he finally had everything but the door. Somehow, through all of his connection, he found one that would sort of fit. He rebuilt that stove and painted it black. The door that wasn't from the original won’t shut. But no one cares. It’s lovely.

This is a picture of redemption – of what God does to our broken selves. He uses all kinds of things to put us back together. He uses his love, the people he brings into our lives, his Word which tells us about Him, -  who he is and how much he loves us. 

Sometimes he even uses the pieces of a pot bellied stove to give us a picture of his love for us.

He uses challenging experiences, challenging relationships, dark times, to grow us. To rescue us. To redeem us. It's not putting us back together perfectly (we all have our doors that won't shut, right?) barbecue that's won't happen this side of Heaven. But's it's still pretty beautiful. The act of finding all the pieces and putting them together with such care and love is in itself a simple picture of his love and care for us.

God loves using broken things. This is the story of my life. This is the beauty in the mess. This is the light in the darkness. And the darkness has not overcome it.

What to hear more? This is part of a keynote I will be giving At First Presbyterian Church in Casa Grande, AZ on February 7th. Click here for more information.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

the hustle

“Calling-out?” “Convicting?” “Keeping accountable?”

“Restore him gently” (to use a softer, biblical phrase from Galatians 6)

So, basically, being someone’s Holy Spirit.

I was having a conversation with my friend/cousin Meredith the other day and she mentioned “the hustle” – a term Brené Brown has attached to people who make you work for worthiness. The friend that makes you do just one more thing…

I know some of Brown’s work, of course. I’ve written about it here a lot. But “the hustle” was a new term I’d never heard attached to her name, so I did some research. I discovered this:

If we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and have to hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. -Brené Brown – Hustle for Worthiness

I guess Brown did a study once upon a time, in a DVD that has been discontinued, called “The Hustle for Worthiness”. We avoid talking about what gets in the way of joy, she says, and instead we are hustling for our worthiness. We are all spending our time and energy chasing down worthiness, and that gets in the way of true joy.

I was on the phone with my oldest friend last week and we talked about the disaster of wanting and desiring to “be enough” for the world. This bleeds over into wanting to be enough for our family, our friends, in our jobs. He and I talked about the extra dynamic of this in being single (which we are currently thinking about writing a book about. Yikes.) In the midst of that conversation, I realized something. He is someone that has never expected the hustle out of me. He is one of the lucky few that can go with the ebb and flow of life and take me for who I am.

Has he lovingly called me out? Kept me accountable? Been my Holy Spirit? Only when I’ve asked him to be. And I love him more than life for that. His wisdom is beyond compare because he’s known me forever. And sometimes he knows me better than I know myself. I am so thankful I never had to hustle for that.

In my further research about the hustle, here are a couple of side effects that stood out to me:

  • Hiding parts of your story for fear of rejection and judgment. 
  • Avoiding dealing with deep soul pain (or even surface wounds) for fear it will leave you alone or cause you more pain.

Notice how these two are all about undoing 2014 for me.

I have not been avoiding my deep soul pain this last year. And it has left me alone. Some people just couldn’t take it. They wanted the old me or a different me. But I didn’t. 

Because I am tired of hustling for everyone. I’m nobody’s Holy Spirit. I am not enough. I never will be. And that’s ok.

Also – this talk of hers is worth a listen:

Friday, January 16, 2015

i was wrong, i'm sorry and i love you

So I’ve been waiting. For a few days now. I found out I hurt someone and I apologized. I’m not getting a response. Just silence.

The things that go through your mind when a relationship is broken, and you’re trying to fix it, can be all-consuming. You wonder if they even got your message at all. Wondering if you should try again, push the issue. Then you spend some of the time wondering why you did what you did and berating yourself for it. Then get angry at them for not responding, muttering things like, “Well, that’s not very Christ-like of them. What about Matthew 6:15?” and “They are being so immature right now. What else could I do? I can’t undo it, I can only make restitution.” (Restitution? Yeah, you can tell I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Old Testament lately.)

Yep. So far, right on course for the Kübler-Ross model.

Then you start to wonder if the apology was even necessary. That maybe you really didn’t hurt them all that much and you are making a way bigger deal out of it than needs to be. Maybe that’s why they haven’t responded.

Yep… right on to stage 4.

Then you start to feel a little hollow inside because they aren’t responding to you, forgiving you, having the hard conversation with you. You shake your head as you walk across a parking lot, a rare moment alone with no work to do, the moments in which your mind wanders to what matters most.

What are we to do when you ask someone, “Will you forgive me?” and there is no response? How do we live in the reality of that, without closure, unsure of what the other person is thinking and feeling?

Are they done with me? Have they cut me out of their life? Have they decided I’m too much work? Are they dealing with their own sin issues, too, and are afraid to confront them?  

Do you keep trying… hounding… not accepting the silence? Or do you just let it be?

Maybe the better question, rather than “what do we do when there is not response?” is this: “What I am supposed to feel when there is no response?”

Is it ok to want to quote Ephesians 4:32 (in a scream) off into the void, directed at them? Is it ok to cry? Is it ok to just forget about it? Is it ok to be angry or sad or hurt? Is it ok that all your feelings are directed towards them because they aren’t responding and aren’t forgiving, rather than looking at your own sin in the situation?

A good friend once told me that asking “Will you forgive me?” is a lot harder than simply saying, “I’m sorry.” Remorse and admitting sin are two different things, she said.

That’s why I very intentionally, in my apology to my friend, said both “I’m sorry.” and “Will you forgive me?” I am sorry I hurt them. I also sorry for my sin. It’s much easier to be remorseful for hurting someone or remorseful for the result… or even being remorseful for the sin. But admitting the sin and the need for forgiveness because you sinned? That’s weightier. Heavier. It puts the full powerful of culpability on you.

I hope they forgive me, but it’s perfectly within their right to refuse to do so. To even cut me out of their life. It may not be right, but it is their right.

It’s only been a few days (Five days, not that I’m counting.). We’ve had no contact since my apology, and we usually text every day. Part of me is waiting for the other shoe to drop, because I have the expectation of not being forgiven, of being cut out of their life, and that will cause me grief. Not because I screwed up and hurt someone who means something to me, though that is certainly something to grieve over. But the grief will also be in the loss of our friendship, something that has come to mean a great deal to me over the years.

It can be far too easy to let a friend drift out of your life when they don’t live near you and you very rarely see them.  But when it’s intentional -  because of a hurt -  that is far more painful. If you are the cause of the hurt, you live with the regret.

This friend has said me before, in reference to two mutual friends who also had a broken friendship,  “If they can’t have the hard conversations, was the friendship ever that strong to begin with?”

Yes, this is the final glass that shattered for me today. To him, we were never that strong to begin with, or he would have forgiven me. Right?


My index finger stopped just above that blue button. I was pausing. I was unsure. Was I not only ready to send this but ready to deal with the response?

This is the world we live in today. An impersonal yet somehow personal way of connecting with each other… instantly.

I remembering reading several years ago that gmail was instituting a change in their email policies. If it was a certain time of day (late hours of the night) a notice would pop up after you hit “send” and asked, “Are you sure you want to send this?” I think it was called the “drunk email” something – with their goal to prevent stupid things from being sent if you weren't in control your capacities.

What is so bad about that, anyway? Not the drunk part, of course, but the idea that we wouldn't have time to write a perfectly constructed response to a real person? A live person with feelings and a heart and eyes that you can’t ignore. The idea that we could say what was on our heart and that the person sitting across from us would, too. And I would know it wasn't entirely edited. And they had to respond right away… instead of waiting for minutes, hours, even days for a response.

When I hit send, most of the time my heart is wishing that I was sending this while sitting right in front of you. In your presence, feeling what you feel, seeing the look behind your eyes… the tilt of your head, the position of your shoulders, whether or not you were avoiding my eyes. I want to send these words in your presence, while looking at you, so you know what I mean, and there is no misunderstanding.  You can tell by my tone and from the look in my eyes just how much love there is there.

You can be sure

This. This I love.

I’m so done with “send”.

This post is part of Five Minute Friday, a link up of awesome bloggers.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


I was in a hotel room after the first day in Milwaukee, journaling. It had been a very long time since I’d sat down with paper and pen to journal about my “feelings.”  I’ll journal here, typing furiously or sometimes painfully slow, depending on my emotions in that moment. And I journal through books of the Bible sometimes as my devotional. I write down notes on paper in meetings, at conferences. But I’ve stopped the “Dear Diary” kind of moments.

Looking back at that entry today, I understand why.

You don’t censor yourself when having that journaling moment. And I mostly don’t censor here, I guess, but there are details left out “to protect the innocent.” So the words in that red spiral notebook hit me hard today. It was December 4th, the Thursday night of one of the worst weeks of my life, professionally and personally. I needed to process my day but the feelings I’d left back in Arizona kept returning. So they were weaving very carefully into what I wrote that night about my day in Milwaukee. Then soon they took over almost completely.

The entry is about regret, being scared, disappointment and hurt.

And I admitted something to myself that I’m still not sure has validity, but it’s truth because it was how I felt in that moment. And reading it now also helps me know it is still true (in the emotions) and that is causing me pause.

How much of our prayers, our desires for something beautiful on this earth, are simply a result of wanting something redeeming and good and lovely to be born out of our pain? How much of our anxiety and the chaos around us cause so many overwrought feelings, that while on some level are truth, have been magnified because of the brokenness that surrounds us? I just wanted something beautiful to happen in the midst of a horrible situation… but would I pray for that same thing if the situation weren’t so painful?

This is the ache of living in the already and the not yet. This is our consequence for taking that forbidden bite. We know how things ought to be. But we will never have them on this earth. Yet we long for them anyway. How much of the sorrow in my prayers is just about relieving the pain rather what is actually true?

This is one of those “search the heart” and ‘search the mind” moments. I getting pretty tired of them.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

falling in love

While I have taken the time to identify who and what I must fall out of love with this year, I also must take a moment, with my words and my heart, to remind myself of those I plan to stay in love with.

With my heart open, trying so much to let others love me and know me and be there for me (and hopefully I've been able to be there for them in the way they deserve, too) I have found those who have been good to me. Those who have been careful with my heart, who've taught me what grace really looks like, what the inconvenience of friendship looks like, and if I’m being completely honest, what true love looks like.

It looks like calling me every morning while I’m putting on my makeup to remind me they are there for me.

It looks like bringing me coffee or flowers. Just because they know it will mean the world to me.

It looks like those who've grieved with me, lamented with me, prayed with me when neither of us felt like it, but Jesus made it so.

It looks likes text message not just asking, “How are you?” but asking “How can I help you?”

It looks like laughter and forgiveness and grace and understanding and confusion and talking. Oh, the talking.

It looks like a nearly dead phone battery by 4pm.

These are my people.

The ones I fell in love with and the ones I intended to stay in love with. My people. The ones who get me. The ones who've been there even though I don’t deserve it. And have been there because I do. The ones who are willing to lean into the hard it all is and give me a small and significant place to be hurt, to feel, to be who God made me.

With grace. Oh, so much grace.

Thank you. You know who you are. I am a better person because of you. I owe you my heart.

I will hand these people a needle and thread. And slowly, painfully watch as they move in and out of my soul, wading around in the muck and mire. Jesus will help them put me back together again because that’s what he does. He gives us people to break and to bind us.

It’s not safe, but it’s good.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

falling out of love

My word for 2014, though I’m only realizing it now that it’s over, was courage.

As I think about what I want and hope from 2015, there is a phrase that keeps running through my head.

“falling out of love with what isn’t good for me”

The phrase, “falling out of love” might be controversial, especially for those of you close to me and didn't know that I actually fell in love. I only recently realized it myself. (A couple of weeks ago, to be more precise.) Perhaps I didn't fall in love in the traditional sense. But I did, indeed, fall in love. And I fell in love with some things that weren't good for me.

There was a lot of heart work done in 2014, where I resolved to be more honest with those I love. And honest with myself. I wanted to be less closed off to the hard experiences and feelings that life brings. And less closed off to let others know me and love me, so I could more fully understand the love of Christ.

And it was pretty awful.

I am gladly leaving 2014 behind.

See, no one told me that it would be painful understanding love more. No one told me that if I let others know me that it would hurt so much. I guess I was hoping that the love of Jesus would make all that hurt go away. It doesn't. It’s just sits there, painfully aware of the rejection and the dashed hopes and the “I’m not good enough” words whispering in my ears.

Uncovering an idol does this to you. It did it to me.

In the process of letting others know me, I "fell in love" with some people who chose not to treat my heart well. I fell in love with the idea that people make me whole. I fell in love with the idea that Jesus was not enough... and dove, happily, head first, into love with others that turned out to be really good at hurting me.


If 2014 was the year of open heart surgery on my soul, then 2015 must be about stitching it back up.

I must fall out of love.

And when I get some kind of clue as to what the heck that means, I’ll let you know.