Day 17 of telling my truth: Hope grew from unanswered prayer

UnknownToday my truth is:

Breathe out. How in the world was I to process the fact that I had my first relationship, in my adult life and that, that relationship was layered with impossibility, faith and was mixed with issues highly uncomfortable, even controversial for most in my world. What would my parents say if they were to know that I had a boyfriend who identified gay? What about my mentors? Friends?

I laid in bed the night he told me his story and asked me to be his girlfriend and asked the Lord to reveal himself. What do you have to say Jesus? Why would you give me this story? Self-pity, angst, hopelessness, frustration, questions and very few answers whirled in my mind like the tornado that first brought Dorothy to Oz.

I had a boyfriend. Joy.

My boyfriend was gay. Confusion. Sadness. Frustration. Questions. Dependence.

To what would I hold?

I asked Jesus how I was to pray and where I was to find my hope. I felt Him say, “Cari you are not to place your hope in this relationship or in the dream of Matthew wanting you in the way you want a man to want you. You are to place your hope in me alone.” I remember sitting there and saying aloud, “God I trust you. You are the One in whom I place all of my hope. May I be obedient in this relationship.” Tears streamed down my face. The reality of my situation felt like too much and God felt incredibly close.

As the weeks and months unfolded I came to live into the reality of those words. Matthew and I wrestled with questions. He told his story of begging the Lord to rescue him. He told of the groups he had joined to “cure” him. He spoke to the isolation, loneliness, rejection and hatred he had experienced. He spoke of his wrestling with God because how could a God who loved him, not answer this prayer. I asked how could God not bring the healing I felt was that for which he most longed. (These questions were close and intimate for him. His wrestling and mine were and are different. I bring up these questions because these became my questions. We engaged these questions quite differently. Where and how these questions were answered, again led us to different places. I am only telling my side of the story, for his story is not mine to tell.)

I learned as I was invited deeper and deeper into the reality of his struggle with sexual identity and Jesus. I too wrestled with Jesus. How come you don’t just take it away? How come you simply don’t come down and deliver him and give him what he wanted? These questions became mine. I begged the Lord for a particular outcome and felt heart ache and confusion over the fact that God wouldn’t answer how I thought most beneficial. I eventually had to ask the Lord to show me how to pray for I did not know what was right or good. I felt short sighted and lost as to what was best. Where was God in this?

God would remind me, “Cari, your hope is to be in me and my character, not in the fulfillment of a wish.” I thought through the stories of others who have begged Jesus for various things and not had their prayers answered. I thought of Jesus, who he himself begged the Father, if there be another way please let this cup pass from me and then said, “but not my will but yours.” I wrestled with matters of belief. I questioned how I should pray. I begged, cried, wrestled and quite honestly yelled at Jesus.

Jesus became so real to me in those days. In my questioning, in the felt silence, in the moaning and weeping Jesus grew in me a great hope. He grew in me an understanding that hope and the fulfillment of wishes were actually quite different things. He used these months with Matthew to separate circumstance from hope. Hope became the lens through which I was to view each day. I clung to Jesus with great hope like the survivor of a boating accident clinging to her life preserver in the middle of the open seas.

March 20th came. We had had a series of very difficult conversations. There was a heaviness and though we had made it five months, to the day, the reality of our situation ended up weighing heavy upon Matthew (and me, though I didn’t want to recognize it). He decided it was time to end our relationship. In the midst of the conversation he said something to the effect of, “Cari, the one thing that is most difficult for me is that I have destroyed your hope.” He finished the thought with some other words, but I didn’t hear them. Matthew had ended a relationship, but my hope was in no way threatened. In fact, my hope was strong.

I remember that I smiled, maybe even laughed, I know I did internally, but don’t quite know if I did aloud or not. (You know how memories get cloudy around emotional situations.) I looked at him and said with confidence, “You have done nothing to my hope, for my hope was never in you. My hope has always remained in the Lord. In fact, the Lord told me I was to never put my hope in you, but place it only in Jesus and his character. I did just that and I continue to know great hope.”

As I look back on my relationship with Matthew, this realization is one of the gifts I was given. I was given the gift of hope. I was given the reality of what happens when I place my hope not in the fulfillment of a wish, but in the character of the One who holds my wishes. I was and still am thankful. This is the kind of hope that breathes life in the the most impossible of circumstances. This kind of hope is what comes from belief in the midst of impossible. This kind of hope comes from persevering through darkness and felt suffering and growing in character. This kind of hope is the hope that is found in fairy tales, where ultimate good is known as one believes that his or her ultimate good is held by someone or something who only desires their good.

Today, I have hope. It is a hope that is strong and it is a hope that grew out of stepping into the color of the impossible and watching as God, who is good, developed in me a deep and intimate understanding of His desire for my good.

Day 12 of truth telling: I don’t want to post this one

DSC01327Today my truth is:

I gave up pretending for Lent. Since that day I have entered into more honest places with a handful of significant people in my life. I also made a commitment to speak my truth here as well. This has turned out to be an interesting platform to speak the truth of my human experience. To this point, writing here has felt safe. I’ve kept the vulnerability level at a fairly palpable level. Today though, I’m feeling a nudge to tell a story that is one that I’ve not allowed myself to write about up to this point.

I at times take selfies. Not always by choice, but often because I am the only one with whom I’m traveling.

I have dated very little in my life. This is not a fact that I bemoan, it is simply the truth. I did not make time for dating, honestly because for much of my life I did not feel I was the kind of girl guys would date. Though I wanted to be married, I would pretend a lot in my singleness. I would be strong. I would be busy. I would have a full social calendar. I would talk on the phone and be the life of the party and though that was my true self, it was also my false self. Of course no one would see me drive home alone, party after party, wedding after wedding and at times cry as the pain of leaving company into isolation filled my car. No one would see me cry as I’d leave the church after a youth trip. I’d see families pick up their children, spouses pick up their loved one and even those with whom I worked most closely would leave and I’d stay and clean or organize or put everything away. In part because I wanted it done, but the secret was that if I stayed I wouldn’t feel the pain of going home to an empty apartment, with no one to greet me and nothing awaiting me. Leavings were difficult, because it was in leaving that I stepped into the reality of my single life.

My singleness is not a subject about which I’ve written vulnerably. I have had a lot of pride around it. Over the years I’ve seen so many woman loose themselves to their desire to be married. I have watched women, wait and cry. I’ve seen them date so often that any sense of self was impossible, for men gave them their value and identity. I’ve seen women eat the pain of their singleness away. I watched women workout or work so much that these activities became their only constant companion. I wanted nothing of it! I, in no way, wanted anyone to ever think I was uncomfortable or sad about not having a husband. There was such shame around the desire itself and the shame led me to hold a prideful pretense that I was okay alone and didn’t really have the desire for a husband to begin with. This was a lie.

In truth, I don’t want to post this particular truth, because it will evoke feelings of discomfort in those who read my secrets. In turn, I assume people will write  responses or think responses trying to cheer me up as if I’m sad as I write. Or, perhaps the discomfort of the topic will drive someone to assume the emotion is more than it is and is a problem to be fixed.  Words blurt out: Cari, you can serve so much more being single. Cari, your day will come. Cari, it’s when you stop looking that it will come. Cari, I’m so sorry this so hard, if guys only knew what they were missing. Cari I just don’t understand why no one has snatched you up. God doesn’t put a desire in you for something that He doesn’t intend to give you.  Such words or encouragement, do not comfort this particular single woman.

The assumed response of others to the conversations around my unmet desire to be married, is what often keeps me from sharing. Pride? Possibly. But mostly, I want others to enter the desire with me, pray with me, cry with me, long with me and hope with me. I want people to know that I can have an unmet desire and be content at the same time. I want the truth, that I can hold two conflicting realities, simultaneously. I love my life the way it is. I long for a spouse with whom I can share life so much so that I feel the absence regularly. Two very real truths.

My singleness is the place where my secrets are kept. It is the place where shame hides in the shadows and where hope and strength rise up, creating intimacy with Jesus so rich that I cannot imagine another source of intimacy.

Each of us has a life full of secrets and it is in telling them, that we share a story, not only belonging to me or to you, but we share a story that is in its truest form, human. The secret places, where cobwebs gather around hidden shame, memories, unmet desires, or longings are the places where humanity is seen and Jesus is found.

This week, as I write, I am going to write about the places where I’ve found Jesus in the secrets I’ve kept.

As you read, take some time to tell the truth to your self, or maybe even to a friend. It’s important to tell your secrets. For it is in telling the truth to others, that you are able to live freely. I hope you’ll participate and find the freedom found in speaking truth.

I love Valentine’s Day: A confession from a 39 year old single woman

Pink-HeartI woke up today to a text from a friend wishing me a Happy Valentine’s Day! I am single, 39, have dated very little, have only had a significant relationship on Valentine’s day once, not of course including the many Valentine’s of my early childhood… (you know who you are). I have a desire to be married, at times I struggle with feelings of loneliness and have waves of feeling invisible. I would love to have someone give me flowers, write me poems (okay maybe not write me poems… but maybe), dress up like adult babies and shoot me with arrows in the shape of hearts; but these are not currently a part of my story. At times I grieve their absence, but I do not grieve them today. For this day, Valentine’s Day, is not a day of receiving, it is a day of giving.

Love is a tricky topic. It is our deepest longing. And, I’d be lying if I told you I feel strong in my singleness every day. Many days I am content with life as is, some days are filled with such extreme loneliness that I can hardly see the good, some days I celebrate the fact that I’m single and then there are days I want to post on some social media outlet, “Hey you all, want to set me up?!” And then, thankfully, I choose to back myself down off that train. 

Valentine’s Day for many, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving or even the Fourth of July can harken such feelings of unmet desire it can be very difficult to get through the day without at least one emotional breakdown. Many shut down on these days all together because of their own pain, longings and struggles. The day being celebrated may be a day to remember someone who played a roll in your life, to celebrate an event, to remember the people around you, to look out… these are all good things. Holidays and celebrations are outward facing events, which often surface inward lack, struggle or desire. But when we, when I, focus only on the inward pain, I miss the point all together. 

Like so many things we make important days about us. I catch myself doing it often. I’ll be at an event where I’m to celebrate someone and their life step and all I can see is my own lack or how I’ve not met the mark or not made it quite as far as I would have liked and I pity myself. When I do so, I forget a key element of relationship found in Romans 8. Paul when writing about love and relationship, begins with a command: rejoice with those who rejoice. He then moves on to mourn with those who mourn. Both commands are externally focused commands. They are commands of empathy, choosing to enter into someone’s story, pain, joy, struggle and excitement with them, feeling it with them, not because it’s your pain too or even your happiness, but because you love that person. 

When I pity myself on Valentine’s day, Christmas, Mother’s day, or when I’m at a wedding, baby shower or perhaps at an event where someone is being celebrated publicly for something for which I want to be recognized, I am missing the point and I am not loving. Self pity is a form of victimhood and I am unwilling to be a participant. This may sound harsh and in no way am I discounting the fact that there is pain involved in deep longings that are unmet, but when I focus on self alone I am not loving. 

I love Valentine’s Day, not because I have a Valentine. I do not love Valentine’s Day because I have a lot of loving people in my life, though I do. I do not love Valentine’s Day because of what I get out of it. I love Valentine’s Day because it is a love free for all. I get to speak words of good and kindness to others and be as cheesy as I’d like. I love Valentine’s Day because I love watching other’s rejoicing. I love Valentine’s Day because I love watching men and women scurry for a last minute something or other to pick up to give a token of love, kindness or remembrance. I love Valentine’s Day because it’s premise is love, yes it’s twisted, slightly over dramatic and materialistic, but in its purist form, this day is about looking out and giving of yourself for the good of others. 

Would I one day like to have a Valentine for which I can buy ugly red socks,  make a homemade card or send a singing telegram? Most certainly, but on this day, I choose to lay aside my want, my lack, my unmet desire to rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn and love with lavish unhindered words and actions every person I think of and run into. Will you join me? Will you step back, take a look at your expectations for this day and then choose to love outwardly? There is no guaranty, but, if you choose to love well every person you come in contact with today, you might be surprised by days end just how loved you feel. 

 

 

Life Over Rainbows

Rainbows-rainbows-16556428-500-375I look out my window. The earth resides under a blanket of gray. The color of the day seems to be muted with white and smokey tones. The evergreen trees are bleak as if they too have taken on the mood of the sky. It is quiet on the surface, but I can almost sense the battle between the dark and the light as the sun fights to shine through the clouds.

There is a war. It is a war for light. It is a war for color. It is a war that has been raging since the beginning of time. It is a war that is invisible to the human eye, but known by every human heart. It is a war that rages against us, every second of every day. It is a war between hate and love. A war between truth and fiction. A war between darkness and light. A war between good and evil. A war where the enemy is seeking to kill, steal and destroy and the hero fights for life, that is abundant and good.

The gray sky today echoes of a world asleep while the battle rages.

I look out my window at school buses driving by, neighboring homes sitting as both a refuge or a place to hide the mess that lies within. Cars drive by, I hear the sound of workmen and the occasional plane flying overhead and my mind if filled with images of people with hearts and minds being lulled by the gray and wonder if they taste life. Do they know that there is an assault on their heart and mind? Do people realize that there is more to the story?

As I reflect, I recall scenes from The Wizard of Oz. The artistic directors beautifully told the story of those who were asleep. The entire first segment of the film, shot in black and white, portrays a sleeping world.  It appears most have agreed that this reality is all there is and have forgotten how to dream of more. A young girl, full of life enters the scene. Her ache for more is felt as young Dorothy sings about life over rainbows. I’m curious, if she knew the battle that awaited her beyond the rainbow would  she have wanted to enter that story?

Can you feel the tension?

Gray. It is a place of tension. It is a place of ignorance. It is a place of longing, loneliness and complacency. It is a place where dreams are dismissed, miracles don’t happen and talk of such is discouraged.

Gray is the land on which most have made their home .

Gray feels safe and secure, its muted tones don’t seem to bother anyone and in fact, most have been deceived into thinking gray is all there will ever be.

For one living in gray the idea of more can almost feel too much.

I catch my breath as I type. More is too much. More is so much. More is what life looks like. More is not safe, nor is it comfortable. More involves dying to live. More involves fighting, rather than sitting. More involves deep belief and roots that are entrenched in the life giver’s soil. More involves choosing to admit that there is a battle and choosing to pick up a sword and fight for what is good. More involves eyes that are open, hearts that are vulnerable and a willingness to experience great pain to also experience great joy. More is the place where love lives. More is where heart ache is allowed. More is risk’s home and where impossible things are no longer seemed as foolish.  More is the place where light enters the darkness. Where being a victim isn’t an option, because the color has shown you your truest identity and you will fight to overcome. More is a place  of royalty. More is a place of tragedy, comedy and fairytale. More… well, it’s just that. It is more. It is what life looks like over rainbows.

Jesus declares that He is the author of more. He invites us to belief in Him and to live lives in response to this belief. He asks us to travel with Him over rainbows, into life that is abundant. Is his way safe? Oh no it is not safe. More is rarely safe. But His way, it is good.

I will choose to wear color today, to be light, to speak truth, to share of fair tales and to believe in the more Jesus has promised. What color blankets your life’s story? Do you hear an invitation into more?  Are you complacent, believing more can’t be for you and so you’ve resigned to gray? What holds you back from traveling over rainbows?

What truths do Jesus or his followers share about a life of more? Share some of those thoughts, verses or concepts and lets encourage one another all the more! as we see the day approaching.

Be blessed. Step into color and taste the more of Jesus.

 

 

Cliff Jumping and obedience

IMG_7906In the past few days I have thought often about the story of Mary as she was met by the angel and told she would give birth to a son. I have closed my eyes, imagined Mary and the angel and wondered what the scene was like as it unfolded. I play out the events of that moment as though I were vision casting a scene for a movie. The scene unfolds like this:

Mary, played by an innocent, and yet curiously strong woman, is hanging laundry. She is feeling a sense of gratitude for the life she’s been given and is day dreaming about her upcoming wedding to Joseph. As she hangs a dress on the line, suddenly she is overwhelmed by a light that is incredibly white. The light surrounds her and she sees the outline of a figure in the light. She trembles. What is this? What is happening? The figure speaks her name, “Mary” The mention of her name causes chills to run down her spine and she steps back. The figure didn’t stop at her name, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary hits her knees and shields her face.

The figure speaks, ” Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus He will be great and will be called the Son of the MOst High. The God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

These words were just as confusing as frightening. Mary stands up and steps towards the figure in the light. “How can this be? For I am a virgin?”

The figure explains all that is to happen and Mary is filled with peace, belief, and strength. She knows her Lord. She believes He is God and He is good. There is no waiting or debating, there is only a response, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” With that the figure leaves and the light that surrounded her washes over her enveloping her with peace, grace, fortitude and awe.

What is this great mystery? I imagine Mary whispers to her self as she jumps in obedience.

The mystery of obedience does not make sense to the world. The mystery of the Kingdom story is beautiful and powerful, but it goes against human logic an understanding.

I know the reality of beautifully mysterious invitations and it is not mine to question the invitation or the task, but to simply respond with, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word be fulfilled.”

I must be honest, the words I am the Lord’s servant do not come without fear. Obedience is not a task for the weak. Obedience involves, leaning into the character of God and leaping in faith, knowing not with my eyes, but with my belief that I will be caught.

This summer I went to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. As my friend and I stood at the edge of the over 400ft cliff, I was filled with fear and awe. Over and over and over in my mind I would imagine me running and jumping off of the cliff. I’d shutter with fear. Finally I asked Jesus, why do I keep playing this over and over in my mind. Why will this not go away? As I asked, I felt a nudge in my spirit to pay attention to what happens after I jump. I played the scene through. I once again imagined me running and jumping off the cliff. Immediately, after the jump was made a hand caught me and carried me to the shore below. I cried at the beauty of the picture. I was not jumping into death, I was jumping in obedience and God would meet me and carry me where he wanted me to go.

When God invites us, it often feels like jumping off a cliff or perchance even like a virgin being told she would give birth to a child. Invitations to obedience are not for the faint of heart. But, obedience… I must tell you, is the place where fairytales become reality. It is the place where the Kingdom comes. It is the place where the divine is seen and the glory of God is given to sight.

As I write, I am invited into this type of obedience. The initial invitation was given and I was overrun by fear. The voice of the Lord met me, “Cari, do not be afraid. I am the God of Abraham. I am the God of Jacob. I am for your good. I do not invite you so that you will be overcome, but so that you will overcome. I do not hand you into the hands of your enemies, I hand your enemies into your hands. I do not invite you to taste death only to live in its sting, no I invite you to die so that you may live. I do not invite you to jump so that you are destroyed, I invite you to jump so that I can move you. Trust not in your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge me and I will make your path straight. Be still, and know that I am God.”

As I am reminded of the character of the One inviting me to jump, I am thankful. My fear turns into expectation and my hope remains not in the fulfillment of a wish, but in the character of the One who holds all things.

Today, where ever you are. In the face of whatever invitation is before you…. cling not to the outcome, but the one who holds it. Do not be afraid, for God, who is good, will lead you and you will not be destroyed.

Resilience

IMG_5611I walked upstairs and to my horror the bulbs that had grown into beautiful blooms had toppled over. Their beauty had seemingly given way to brokenness which, for that moment felt irredeemable. I texted my friend who had given them to me and he asked if they could be salvaged. I tended to them. I cut off stems, I leaned them against something stronger to hold them up right, I watered them and placed them near a window so they might receive light. Later in the day I revisited my blooms and noticed they could once again stand on their own.

I wrote my friend telling him that they were salvaged. *whew

I later wrote telling him I wanted to find the metaphor in it all. Our conversation went a little like this:

Me: My crazy metaphor seeking mind has been like, “what does this mean??” Then I tell my brain to be quiet.

My friend: Ha ha yes I knew you would seek the metaphor in it!

Me: Perchance the blooms became prideful thinking they were all that… With their tall stems and beautiful flowers and their heads grew too big for theirs britches and they had to fall ???

I’ll keep working on it….

My Friend: Rohr (Richard Rohr) would say life is a constant cycle of destruction and renewal…the growing and vibrant object has reached its peak and is now entering its cycle of deterioration. Leaves falling

Me: Crap…. This plant and I have been identifying with each other…. This prophetic plant is revealing  that I’m going to experience death…  Today that makes me angry

(Some sassy banter)

Me: Good thing they sprang up again…

My Friend: Ah ha! Resilience is your metaphor!
Me: Resurrection, restoration, redemption, resilience!!!!

Thanks for giving me a better metaphor.

Before this conversation I was overwhelmed. (No, I was not overwhelmed because of my plant. I was overwhelmed by fear and sadness about various situations in life. Daily I experience various invitations to trust and on this day, those invitations were less than welcome.) I found myself questioning God. I found myself in a spiral of doubt. I was grabbing hold of lies being thrown at me and quickly became burdened by their weight.

I needed truth. I needed to be reminded of my identity as a Daughter of the Most High. I was looking for truth in this plant that has offered me so much insight as it’s grown. Working out the metaphor with my friend, led to a quick dose of truth.

When he spoke the words, “Ah ha! Resilience is your metaphor,”  it was as though an agreement was made deep with in me. I understood truth in the word.  I took hold of it and it drew me up out of the pit and aligned me with my identity as a child of God, an overcomer, one who can stand up against darkness, for the light of the world lives with in me.

The words with which I make agreement matter and they guide my beliefs about God, self and others.

I’m thankful that God gives us, that He gives me, what I need as I seek to live out my identity as a daughter of a good King.

Bulbs that teach, people who speak, strength on which to hold, truth to which I cling, light and water to grow and His constant presence as the author and perfecter of faith. What I place my faith in matters. Who I place my faith in is crucial. What words I use to guide me and the ideas and beliefs to which I cling lead to death or life, darkness or light.

I have continued to have peace as I’ve held to the metaphor of resilience and place my trust in the one who has already overcome the world.

Where do you need hope? Where is your invitation to trust? In what and whom are you placing your hope, trust and heart?

The Savior our Hope

IMG_8350The Savior has come.

Words spoken every year around this time.

The Savior has come.

Words that often pass through me without effect.

The Savior has come.

Words that hold truth that changed the world.

The Savior has come.

Words that continue to change the world.

The Savior has come.

And we… I, so often miss it.

The Savior, my Savior, the hope of the world has come.

He came out of love for the world and for people; for you and for me.

The Savior has come.

He entered into the darkness and he brought salvation’s light.

The Savior has come.

He rescues us from the lies and ties and agreements we’ve made with that which kills, steals and destroys.

He rescues us from the pit.

He lifts us out of the darkest night.

He holds us in the surrounding destruction and whispers His truth over us.

The Savior has come.

The Savior has come

and

it

is

good.

The story told at Christmas time is a salvation story. It is not an easy story. It is not a comfortable story. It is not a story filled with consumption. Nor is it a story of selfish ambition.

The story told at Christmas is a salvation story.

The story is a selfless story.

The story is an uncomfortable story.

The story is an awe inspiring story.

The Savior.

The Messiah.

The hope of the world, came.

He came!

He entered into the darkness – in the most delicate of forms – breathed human breath, depended on a human for sustenance, and though he was the very definition of life, needed a human’s care to live. His life, brought life. His life, was the light of all people.His life is the very way and truth and He is salvation. He is life. This tiny little baby, the center point of the story, Jesus, was the promise fulfilled… the hope of the world.

The unexpected but long expected Savior had come.

Jesus, the Savior continues to come.

The Savior meets us in our darkness.

The Savior meets us in our hopeless state.

The Savior meets the oppressed.

The Savior meets the hurting.

The Savior meets us with rescue.

The Savior, the hope of the world, Jesus, has come, He is here.

Do you see Him?

Do you believe?

Do you long for him?

Your hope has come. Your salvation is here.

Breathe in His truth. Soak in His hope and taste His salvation.