Stability in the Midst of Heartache

While reading the last chapter of a novel recently, satisfaction filled every fiber of my being as the author’s final words crescendoed to a harmonious end. Tenderly I turned the last page and sat still for a few moments. I like good endings. They make me feel complete. They bring a sense of calm and closure in a world that is unreliable and crazy.

Honestly, I don’t know why I enjoy good endings so much. Maybe it’s because so much of my life has been untraditional, that within a “satisfying” ending my heart is able to find a sense of the resolve it has always longed for. Maybe it’s because I am NOT the author of my life and I don’t know the curve balls that will be thrown at me within the other chapters that have yet to be revealed. Or maybe it’s because I enjoy the experience of closures since most of my life and story doesn’t have a closing. 

This lack of closure can be seen in painful goodbyes that forebodingly whisper forever. The faint outline of what was and now isn’t. The unknown that looms into the future creating a hemorrhage of fear that overtakes one’s being. The grief I expect versus the joy that I could embrace. The chronic pain that continues and never lessens. 

In the midst of a world where I can’t create my own endings or even fathom the experiences that might come in the next five minutes, year, or lifetime, I have been having to learn to trust the goodness of the One who lovingly created me. I am having to learn that it’s my job to simply be faithful. I am having to learn that it’s only my job to murmur “yes” and take baby steps towards His voice. 

Then to add another layer, as I understand more about myself, I am realizing that my desire for closure is intimately related to my longings to be in control over my life.

But… I am not in control and will never be in control.

For instance, I could not stop the split second it took for the large pickup truck to barrel into my car and the agonizing years that have followed, dealing with injuries that this one mistake has caused. Even now, I remain vulnerable at the mercy of doctors making decisions in an effort to try to help me. I feel out of control. I feel angry. I feel so much unrest deep in my spirit. I am still struggling. I don’t know the ending of this part of my story.  

I don’t know how we will have a family. Each month comes and goes. Tears have flooded more negative pregnancy tests than I can count and I have given up the possibility that we will get pregnant. I don’t want to be shattered again. I dream of the day that we can grow our family. But today, the hope that this miracle will take form in my body is non-existent.

Tears flow freely. I don’t know how God will redeem the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25-27), because even though I am not in control of my life, desperately I try to preside over everything that I possibly can. 

Yet, God has been whispering to my heart that a picture of trust is the ability to loosen my grip on things I try to control and release to Him ALL areas of my life. 

Here a sense of calm envelopes around me. Trusting Him fully means that I have to not only trust him with the pain, lack of closure, and my desire to be in control, it means that even though I might not get the endings I so deeply long for He is still good. The goodness of God is not defined by the lack of pain and suffering, rather it is the stability of God’s character in the midst of the hardships we face. 

“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, my great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:
I am the Lord your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.”
Joel 2:25-27

Uncomfortable Brokenness

Sitting down at the kitchen table, I glanced at the hundreds of puzzle pieces that seemed to be in a scattered disarray all around me. Although I typically like the relaxing challenge of jigsaw puzzles and the ways that they not only engage my brain but take me into a place of pure joy—today the blue pieces of a night sky and dots of snowflakes seemed to swim in front of my eyes, producing the opposite of peace. Here I found that ALL I wanted to do was fix the brokenness by putting each of the pieces in place quickly. Creating order out of the disorder. 

Contemplating the reasons why I craved to see this holiday puzzle completed, I realized that in the midst of the pain I carry, I too am in a state of wishing that the broken pieces of my life could be put together again. Clean. Easy. And FAST.

Many people on the outside see me as a graduate student, the leader of a non-profit, and someone who smiles a lot. Yet, they also fail to see or even know that internally I might be devastated, struggling, and might not be sure how to take the next step, let alone continue to grieve or even express what is taking place internally within my heart. It’s not that God doesn’t heal, because I believe with every part of my being that God does heal and that His healing is permanent. Rather, just because I am free from my traffickers doesn’t mean that life is easy, perfect, or pain free. Instead, in many ways, as I continue to process the trauma I have survived (which I am still doing), I am realizing that I have even more trauma to work through and grieve. Then there is the journey of working through the lasting effects of the trauma on my body, mind, and soul that I still flashes me back to things I wish didn’t exist. And then there are the hard things that normal people experience as well, including medical struggles, multiple surgeries, infertility, burnout, and recovering from the major accident I survived last year.

It’s all a lot to carry at times and to be honest, I feel so broken right now. Pieces of my life, scattered around in a messy manner of discouragement and disappointment. Why do I still have days of depression, tears, and just sadness? Why do I as a leader feel like I need to hide my pain from others? And why is it easier for me to be patient with a silly 1000-piece puzzle or another person, than it is for me to give myself patience and permission to just be in the stillness of my tears?

I think it’s because society, as a whole, does not like brokenness.

People are uncomfortable with pain—their own and others, because there is no magical formula to make things better and just sitting in grief is not easy or quick. Then as one’s pain continue; cultural stigmas whisper that something is wrong—why aren’t they getting better?

Yet, as I was working my puzzle today, I realized that God’s okay with my brokenness. Although I carry the responsibility to learn what it means to be healthy, it’s not for me to put the broken pieces back together again. Which means that healing is NOT a destination, rather it is a process of experiencing more and more of who God is and has created me to be. Yes, I need to be present in the moment and find the means to delight in the things around me, but it’s okay that I still have hard days—this doesn’t make me less of a person, say that something is wrong with me, or make God less of who He is as my God.

Defined by Hope

As I sit at my kitchen counter, my eyes keep going back and forth between the updates I am receiving on the fire that is happening in southern Colorado and the things in front of me that I need to do, including dishes that need to go in the dishwasher, dirty counters that need to be wiped, emails I need to write, and an organization to lead.

But I am struggling to focus.

The neighborhood where our land, the only piece of property that my husband and I own, is being burned to the ground as I write. I feel my breath disappear. Although I know fire fighters are working hard, the burn area grows bigger and bigger as the smell of thick smoke permeates my mind and cities across our state. 

Throughout the past twenty-four hours’ tears have freely fallen from my eyes. Life is not perfect. Yet, somewhere inside of me, I tell myself that I am supposed to know what to do and say in this moment, because I’m in school to be a mental health professional and I’m writing a book on different ways to embrace hope in the midst of life’s disappointments. But as flames larger than trees arise, I can honestly say that I am struggling to embrace the future. I am struggling to say, God even in the midst of this you are good. Instead, I have pounded my fists on the counter, I have yelled out in hurt and anger. I have responded with deep grief.

Earlier today, my husband, John and I held each other and just wept.

Dreams of us camping this summer and building a house amongst the tall pines are gone not just for this year, but the next year, the year after, and the year after that. Who knows how long it will take to rebuild the community or even if the community will be rebuilt. No longer is the area paradise on earth, rather after the flames die, embers will be all that is left behind with the charred pieces of decay and the deep dark burn scar that has become so common in Colorado.

I don’t know how to grasp the news surrounding what I am seeing—the devastation, despair, and heartache. I don’t want it to be true, but the haze in the air says otherwise. My heart hurts for us and for those we know who have lost everything, including their homes and livelihood. 

In the midst of the destruction taking place, even as the flames burn, we received an email from a man who owns several pieces of property close to ours. Writing to us and others called friends, he states: 

“This beautiful, wonderful, magical area will be changed. In some ways, it may be blessing. All the fallen trees will have gone. New trees can sprout. New growth will rise from the ashes. Trees will grow back. Animals will return. This is a special place and I believe it will continue to be, but no doubt it will be different.”

Through this email, I feel a new perspective rise inside of me. Hope in the midst of disappointment. The fire is still burning; the scars left behind both externally on the land and internally in each person’s heart are deep. People on Instagram are writing that they have lost the cabins where they grew up and asking others to pray. Random strangers on Facebook are sharing the memories they hold dear and externally expressing their grief, while the news shows individuals crying in complete shock. Yet, somewhere, somehow, and in someway there is hope. 

I just took a break from watching the news and watered the green plants and pretty flowers sitting in my living room. As I did, I found myself praying and turning my eyes to Christ. Although I prayed that not only rain will fall and that God would protect the firefighters battling this fire, I also prayed that hope will arise in my heart and in the hearts of other people who have been devastated by this fire, including the person who just wrote on Facebook that he lost everything in the Black Forest fire we had in Colorado in 2013 and now has lost his property in this fire. Why does it feel like some people never get a break? 

It was here, as I finished watering my plants with water droplets hoovering over the lush leaves, I silently find myself choosing hope. I have gotten through many hard things in the past and I can get through the pain of this one. Because it is true that in the midst of the fires, new trees can sprout, animals will return, and new growth can take place. The same thing is with each of us. In the midst of our personal fires, hurts, disappointments, pain, and scars, healing and redemption is possible. Ashes do not need to define us, we can take steps towards hope.