The ache

I live with constant ache.  

It’s always there.

I’ve tried different ways to dull it, to fill the empty space.

My efforts often only make things worse.

Times I thought I found the cure brought the harshest relapses.

Like a filling a cup with no bottom, everything pours right through.

And here’s the thing… I love Jesus and I truly believe that He loves me.

He saves my soul but leaves the hole.

Or so it sometimes seems.

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I am beginning to think that’s how I’m  meant to be.

Maybe I’m not broken as much as I am human.

Maybe they’re the same thing.

I can hate the ache or make the ache my friend.

It’s my companion either way.

I’ve wondered if I’m fake. Though I’ve long given up pretend.

My joy holds hands with sorrow.

Peace lives inside my storm.

Very brave and scared to death.

Genuinely happy and almost always sad.

My cup overflows and it’s bone dry.

I’m not sure how this can be.

I just know it is.

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44

It’s my birthday.

I know they say our lives are the accumulation of the choices we make. Implying I guess, the better our decisions, the better life it’ll add up to.

I’m not good at math, and my experience with God is that he’s not either.

Very honestly, the sum of my life experiences so far is richer, wider, deeper and higher than anything I imagined or ever could have built.

Mine is a life buoyed by grace.

Only God and I know the depths I’ve sunk and that he’s come to rescue me.

Over and over he has come.

Over and over he keeps coming.

He will always come.

What’s the point of running (though sometimes I still do) or why fear wrong turns when Love will always come for me and grace will lead me home.

I used to grit my teeth and follow rules to get it right, til Love sprung me free. I go back there sometimes but never stay for long. It’s the deadest place I know.

I’ve been embarrassingly foolish then frittered too much time in shame. Thank God for Jesus who rescues me from me.

I jump at the chance to go with him because he’s the only one who came for me. And where he goes is always after someone else.

And all the someone else’s are the bests parts of my life.

What a thrill it is to lose your life then find it fully…over and over and over again.

44 years of not adding up.

All because of Jesus.

All because of Love.

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life…” Psalms‬ ‭23:6‬ ‭

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…‭James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭

The hardest and the best

People often ask the hardest thing about our stay in Indonesia. They also ask the best. The answer to both is the same.

We took with us all of the hard things and challenges of being our family. We took our joys and best things too. Every bit magnified and bigger than life, mostly because there was nowhere to hide.

Every weakness and vulnerability exposed. Every strength called on to navigate a world utterly unfamiliar and everything new.

My conversation with God in it all...take us wherever in the world we can do the most good AND wherever our family can thrive. Amen.

Somethings have to die before they thrive.

My insecurities were all accounted for, our martial quirks and parenting dysfunctions made the trip AND so did our loyalty to each other and love of learning and people and adventure.

Every bit of who we are followed us there and then came home with us too.

The longer I live the more I know I don’t know, but am more convinced of the things I do.

Life is less about the where and how and all about the who.

In the middle with God

God and I have the same conversation every morning.

I want to be right in the heart of things with you today, Jesus. Wherever that is. Whatever that means. Whoever that includes. I want to go right in the middle with you there.

Occasionally that takes me around the world, sometimes down the street but always to pay attention right here and now.

New Years rang in with a call.

Voice shaking, she wanted to talk but mostly somebody to listen.

Ever since I’ve known her she’s lived in that cold converted garage with her schizophrenic adult son, two cats and A LOT of emotional pain.

Today she tells me she’s got no clean clothes and is down to her last can of beans.

Then veers a direction I didn’t see coming.

Valerie, can I ask you a question?

Of course.

Have you been to Israel?

I have.

Did you feel God there?

I guess so. But not as much as I do when I am in your house. Can I come for a visit tomorrow?

She laughs then cries and I do too.

Why do we look for God in the big far away when he squeezes himself into cold tiny homes of the poor and is closer than our next breath?

Israel. Indonesia. God is there just like he is here. Always fully present, I only miss him when I’m not.

I miss him when I run from pain. I use to be scared of suffering, mine and others. Thinking, I guess, if I came too close it would swallow me whole.

Now, walking toward what hurts is my shortcut to finding God. Our suffering is why he came and comes and stays.

The other morning I woke up worried and undone. Then ran into a friend my first stop of the day.

He said he noticed I wasn’t myself and promised to pray, but it’s what happened next that changed everything for me.

My friend leaned in, never once looking at his phone or glancing away. He listened. Fully present. And somehow in those few moments joined me in my pain.

And. I. Felt. God.

He is as near to us as the moment we are in. He always shows, it’s me who sometimes doesn’t.

Saying goodbye to my friend, I said thank you one more time.

I heard God in his reply.

Val. You are worth the time.

I say I believe God gave his life but could not fathom being worth his time.

I learned a lot that day.

Maybe people will know their worth to God when they know their worth our time.

Maybe the world around us is a reflection of the world inside.

Maybe going in the middle with God begins meeting him in the center of me.

Christmas rescue

I got a text from a girl darkness stole but Love is bringing to light again.

She’s learning how to bake and giving cookies for Christmas to prove it.

A Christmas greeting never was so sobering. Or so sweet.

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Vulnerable. Lied to and preyed on. Swallowed by a child brothel. Nightmare was her normal.

Until Love came.

Because Love always comes.

Love does not wait till morning, doesn’t wait and see. Love came for her. Love came and comes for me.

Charges into darkness. Straight into the mess of us to bring us peace.

Nothing sweet or sanitized about this rescue story.

Bad guys.

Filthy rooms.

Unreasonable risk.

Unthinkable twisted evil.

Love comes to where we are.

Christmas is the rescue story.  Not just a celebration but invitation from our carols and candlelight into cold and blackest nights, or at least to go out of our way.

Meet you at the manger to remember why Love came before we go.

‘Cause people need to know they matter and there are Christmas cookies to be baked.

Christmas baby

It’s Christmas time and I can’t stop thinking about babies.

The baby girl born to the girl in the Bali brothel kept by traffickers to abuse and sell.

The two tiny ones born onto cemetery grounds this week.

And God.

Babies of poverty, filth and scandal.

Far from the serene story of the sanitized songs and blow up manger scenes.

God Child born into our brothel world to free and bring us home.

Jesus. Tender spot of God exposed. Vulnerability to the max. The rescue plan of God.

Brothel babies. Cemetery children. And me.

God Child making us all God’s children by becoming one of us.

He is LIGHT because it’s dark. LIFE because we’re dead. RESCUE because we lost our way

The dead can’t rise without someone to take their place.

So God has come.

Come for us to go with him for all.

For with him there’s no them.

We only marvel that He comes when we realize how far he came.

We’ll know how far we think that is because we will go the very same.

Familiar and brand new

I jogged across a new bridge in my old town today and noticed places and things I never have before along the way.

And it’s Christmas time and Donald Trump is president and my baby sister is days away from her wedding day and I’m here with no house figuring out how to be at home.

My life is disarray but my soul is anchored in peace.

I’m remembering the key to everything is showing up. I’ve lost some ground and gained some too. The way forward and through is running toward and not away from things that scare me most.

I called a counselor cause I need help with stuff and I’ll keep showing up at my 4:30 Crossfit class ’cause I want to be strong again and there is nothing that bonds better than doing hard things together.

Opportunity isn’t about opened doors but deepened character. Every day it matters less to me where I am as long as I keep becoming who I am.

I’m determined that Indonesia will not be our best days, that today and tomorrow and the day after that can be too.

The whole wide world is beautiful and broken and brimming with loneliness. We make it better by making friends.

I told God I’d come home but had no interest in coming and going backwards.

It is the kindness and mystery of God that here in the familiar life can be brand new.

Illusion of control

Realizing lately how out of my control so much of my life is.

We can plot and plan, prepare and pray but it’s illusion that we control.

Life throws in disruption here and there revealing the fragility of fortress plans.

I’ve noticed lately a shift in my conversations with God. We talk less about what he wants me to do and more about WHO I want to be.

I want to trust God in everything.

I want to be brave.

I WANT TO LOVE LAVISHLY.

I want to be generous with my time, attention and stuff

I want to be a fierce advocate for the vulnerable.

I want to be an encouraging and loyal friend.

I want to be pure joy to my husband.

I want to be an engaged and awesome mom.

Turns out I can grow in all of these regardless of geography or clarity. And maybe not despite the unknowns but even more because of them.

Circumstances change then change some more, sometimes without warning or asking what I think.

But who I am and the posturing of my heart is always my choice to make.

Doing my best today to show up fully in the minute I’ve got. ‘Cause eternity is a real thing but tomorrow may never come.

What a journey.

What an adventure.

What a gift.

Thank you God, for it all.

Adventures with Dad and Dragons

My special adventure to Komodo and Labuan Bajo islands with my dad was uber awesome.

First we went to the hotel. The rooms were small but the breakfast was awesome.

I swam and ate then we saw the town. There we were looking for a tour so we could see the dragons, mantas and turtles. Finally after three full tours we found one called Wicked Diving, but I did not dive.

On the boat it was two hours to Komodo.There we saw dragons

and went to a short mountain.

I felt small when I was near them.

Next we took the boat 45 minutes to Manta Point.There we snorkeled with mantas.

There was one doing tight circles around me they were only a 1½  feet away it was awesome!

Last we snorkeled at Turtle City and our driver ran into 80 years of coral.

I felt sad  because coral grows slowly and we hit a lot of it.

Though it was called Turtle City I saw zero turtles then we got on the boat for home.

I’ll never forget my day with Dad, dragons and diving with manta rays!

No such thing as in-between

It’s wonderful, weird, just right and disorienting being home.

I’m trying to catch my breath, keep my composure, reflect, figure out and look ahead all at once.

The life I want means going where God invites. Sometimes that’s saying yes when no makes sense. Sometimes saying goodbye when just feeling settled in.

I want to be someone God can trust to give to and take from. Good thing were were made for hard things.

Indonesia. Not sure how different it is because we were there, but I’m changed because of it.

Coming home. At first I said we’re in the in-between. Leaving behind one season and waiting for the next.

But how about right now?

Right now is not a holding place, this day not just a stepping stone into the next.

Right now is sacred and significant and purposed.

Right now is all I’ve got so I’ll give it all I am.

Weight it with full attention.

Show it respect by showing up.

These men of mine are God’s grace to me. It’s not where we’ve been but who they’re becoming I marvel at most.

I don’t know so much more than I do. I’m not as brave as I wish I was.

But sometimes stepping into the unknown scared to death can be just the right new beginning over and over again