The Fin15h List

Hi friends! I have made a New Year’s Resolution for the first time in– a really long time. Maybe my whole life. You wanna know what it is?

Finish stuff.

As much as the teacher in me hates that resolution because it’s not measurable, or specific, or that other thing that goals and objectives are supposed to be (I know  think there were 3…I can only remember 2), it’s the only one I had the energy to make. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions as a rule because I never finish them. And that’s a bummer every…February. A big, fat bummer.

I’m a really good starter. I am great at getting ideas, writing out plans, and thinking about how awesome something could be. I’m terrible at finishing things.

When I finish something, I’m going to let myself write about it here to celebrate and to keep track. Then at the end of the year, I’ll be able to see how much stuff I finished.

So fart (I accidentally typed that, and I’m just gonna leave it that way, because legit.) I have actually “finished” two things already! The first is this: I took a serious look at what I had in my closet and I cleaned that baby OUT. I am in the process of developing a capsule wardrobe this year, and it has been so much fun so far. I am loving how much easier it is to get dressed and how much more focused my clothes shopping (read: $20 trip to Goodwill) is.  I would love to write some posts on it, but I also don’t want to be boring, so just let me know if you’re interested!  The second thing is this: I finally finished my final exam to become a certified childbirth educator!  I had to teach two classes before I could take the exam, and the exam was mailed to me on the day Phoebe was born, so…I just finished it.  I’m just waiting on a grade and then this process will be over! I’ll have my full certification! Then I will have a lot of thank you notes to write and little gifts to send out to my wonderful support team. This has taken a little bit longer than expected, but I’m so glad to be so close to finished!

I’m also really excited about a couple of other things on my “Fin15h List,” (see what I did there?) some of which are kind of big and exciting (and might be coming to a blog near you soon!), and others of which are small and silly like hanging up all the things I’ve been collecting for the “gallery wall” that I am supposedly going to have in my living room at some point. So far, the few things I’ve finished have given me momentum to continue following through on goals both big and small that I have set for myself in the past and then abandoned.  It’s a good feeling to look at my closet and think I wanted my wardrobe to be like this, and I did the work to get here. I’m not always so good at actually following through on things, especially when I’m not sure they’ll benefit anyone besides me.  But this year, I’m committing to doing things differently. And I’m excited to look back and see what things I’ll have finished by this time next year.  Am I alone in this? Anyone else have a “Fin15h List?”

On Moving.

How do you prepare your heart for a move? When echoes bounce off bare walls and brown boxes take the place of table and chairs, when the packing tape roll runs thin and the long-settled dust gets caught up in the air like dandelion seeds on a summer afternoon.

How do you secure your heart against the rising doubts while you secure the four corners of each brown box? How do you roll off a length of tape and gently smooth your hand over it, not knowing where or when you will remove it?

What are you supposed to feel when you tuck that box of chamomile, 3 months from expiring, between the grinder and the coffee canister and breathe a prayer that it doesn’t go to waste? Not for the tea’s sake, but for yours.

How do you walk out those glass doors that once opened, now slowly closing on people and a place that you love? How do you remain faithful when your place is so changeable? How do you anticipate when your way is so darkened? How do you hope when disappointment has marked your heart the way you marked each brown box?

What do you do when the to do list seems so long and the laundry has piled, when every day the phone doesn’t ring is another day waiting? What do you believe when you can’t believe that everything will always be alright? How do you hope when you cannot see your way? How do you get excited when you know that you might be on the verge of the hardest thing you have ever done?

When the move is exciting, we can hope in the destination. When the destination is unknown, where do we hope? And how do we hope? When the searing memories from the last time still burn deep? When we know that he is always faithful, but sometimes life is still very painful?

I sit down and lean my head back slow. And the peace washes over me like the slow morning waves would. Be still. And know. And there in the quiet, those familiar words come join the questions swirling in my head. Not loudly but quiet. It is a whisper I hear as I sit.

Lord, you have always marked 
the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe. 
Lord, you have always spoken
when the time was ripe;
and though you be silent now, 
today I believe. 

And I breathe in and I breathe out. I close my eyes on boxes and tape and dust bunnies playing there on the floor. And I hope, not in the destination or in a promise of future happiness. Not in an occupation or in a new place to unload our belongings, paint walls, and hang curtains. I hope in the one who has always marked and has always spoken. And my mouth forms the words that my heart is still learning, “today I believe.”

I Remember.

As we prepare to go somewhere new, looking for the Lord’s will and dreaming of what is to come, as the future looks uncertain and our way is unclear, I find fear in my heart. Fear of a place I know well, fear of a place I don’t miss. I have learned another way. I write this to help me remember.

I remember that place in the darkness, that home I built for myself. With tightly clenched fists and scattered heart-pieces strewn, I sat, frozen in silence.  My hungry heart held out had been bloodied, kicked, beaten one too many times. Not good enough. smart enough. experienced enough. enough. My heart is not enough.

They stood outside the perimeter looking in, nudging each other and whispering, “Is her heart is not strong enough? brave enough? trusting enough?” I drowned out the sound of their whispers with the sound of my own sorrow and built the walls of my home higher, higher, higher to block out their questioning eyes and bewildered faces. I built these walls to make us more comfortable. Because my fists and scattered heart-pieces are too messy for you, and because seeing you this way is too shameful for me.

I remember this place. Huddled against the cold walls I had built, I waited. waited. waited. waited. clenching and broken. alone in my pride-house. Terrified of expiring this way and longing for it. Wondering if the now very thin playing-running-light-filled-laughter in my memory ever existed at all or ever could exist again.  I remember the way my fists clenched harder and more of the memory slipped through the cracks and away like sand. I remember what it was like to watch hope slip, slip, slip away until there was darkness and only darkness. Till my feeble attempts to glimpse the future saw only dark sadness and no light-filled-laughter, bleak-clenching-getting-by and no grace-drenched-open-hearted-living. I remember.

I remember when the light came. Slowly, gently, but boldly. The sun made no apologies for its brightness, was not ashamed to disrupt the quiet, was not timid in its coming. First glimpses burned my eyes, made the raw edges of my scattered heart-pieces ache for wholeness, frightened me there in the darkness.

I remember it was slow. Every day growing by only a sliver, gently warming me and helping my fingers to uncurl. I remember the fear that it would go away. That I would awake to find the light had been put out, extinguished. That the walls had been built too thick and too high. I remember that every day the sliver grew bigger, every day, the heart-pieces came closer to healing, every day, my fists unclenched just a little bit more.

I remember the day the light drew me out of my pride-house. I remember open hands and a heart mended and glazed by the sheen of light and grace. I remember tearing the walls down and letting the light in. I remember begging for it. I remember staring at it. I remember when it became food, life, breath to me.

I remember that the light is still growing.

Every day its presence grows more apparent, the quiet pinks and purples slowly illuminated by a vibrant yellow-orange brilliance, leaving nothing in the dark. Daily, this light shines on everything generously and, so doing, makes it beautiful. The yellow-orange glow accompanied by faint traces of purple and pink glints off the edges of my life, illuminates a mended heart, invites all who see it to begin again. To live in a way which reflects that brilliance.

I remember the way of Grace.

The God who Sees.

“I didn’t get the job.”  I was saying those words for what felt like the 50th time.  Little did I know that I would utter that phrase repeatedly in the months that followed.  “I know God is good, it  just feels like He doesn’t even care.”

I always dread this conversation.  You know, the one where you tell the people who have been praying for you, hoping for you to get the job…for your healing…for that situation–that it didn’t happen.  It feels like failure.  What I dread most about those conversations, though, is the awkward silence that follows.  We fumble for words…no one knows what to say, and I feel guilty.  Perhaps this is unique to me, but I don’t think it is.  It feels like the rug’s been pulled out from under both of us.  Again.  And it’s my fault.  We feel questions rising inside of us that we don’t like, so we push them down.  Eventually, you’ll say, “It wasn’t meant to be.”  or “Just keep trusting the Lord.”  And I’ll say, “I know that this will all work out in the future.  I know it will.  I’m fine.”  Well-meaning friends (of which I have been one), uncertain of what to say, see an opportunity to offer encouragement. “You are finding hope, aren’t you?  Don’t you know that the Lord will provide?”  I do.  And He does.  And we both look away from one another and try to find something new to talk about– so that I don’t ask the questions and you don’t have to think about them.

But she doesn’t say any of those things.  There is no awkward silence.  She looks at me.  And she says four little words that will echo in my head over doubts for months to come.

“The Lord sees you.”

She doesn’t promise me that I’ll get to be a teacher someday.  She doesn’t tell me that everything will get better.  She doesn’t even exhort me to a lofty display of faith.  She just speaks truth.  And it is enough.  It might take months, but she believes that the truth she has spoken is stronger than my doubt, and her belief strengthens me.  Encourages me.

Over the last few months she’s repeated that phrase to me occasionally.  “The Lord sees you.”  Always it has been comforting.  Always it has brought me to tears.  But today, as it echoed in my mind after yet another rejection, it brought insight.  It is her faith that has comforted.  The truth that has wrenched my heart.  Her words are not an anemic attempt to save me.  They are the very marrow of her beliefs.  In those words, I hear her faith, see her assurance.  I know my situation has not shaken her; I don’t have to apologize for my doubt or my honesty.  Her words offer me a place to hurt.  To doubt.  To heal.  A place that is safe, not because it is comfortable, not because it is a temporary situation, not even because there are thousands of other people experiencing it, but because it is within the gaze of The God Who Sees.

As we comfort one another, may it be our faith that bears witness to the Lord rather than our words.  May those we comfort hear our steadfast confidence that God is present, good, and watchful; not our frenzied desire to prop up their faith.  The Lord calls us to bear one another’s burdens.  When we offer advice, encouragement, and exhortation, we offer tools for our brother to bear his own burden.  When we humbly speak truth that testifies to our complete reliance on God, we stand shoulder to shoulder with our brother, offering relief and companionship as we bear his burden together.

My prayer is that the Lord makes me a burden carrier.