A Place for Pain

Watermarks:2016

It has been 51 weeks since my last post. Yes, 51 weeks since I have written anything other than Bible study lessons and seminary papers. So, hello again.

What better way to re-enter the world of Bedrocks and Borderlands than to reflect on 2016 and the last thing I posted. I had chosen a word and a verse for my year and I had no idea how they would take shape.

At the end of 2015, I acknowledged the natural tendency to shake off the past year and storm headfirst into a new one, with a fresh start.

Out of my way, you no good history!                                                                                            I’ve got a new year to dominate!

More than most, 2016, seems a good year to cast out of mind. With so much death, of icons of Hollywood fame and those who would become icons of hashtag fame, who wouldn’t want to forget about this year? With disheartening campaigns, nation-consuming wars, and the civil issues of past centuries revealing themselves to be just as alive as ever, even the cheeriest of optimists must be ready to escape the suffocating grip of 2016. But, as it is with every year, there was hope mixed in with the pain. So, let’s not rush to slam the door shut on the last 365 days. Let’s sit here, with the extra second that earth’s rotation has provided for us, and reflect. Let’s do the dirty and worthwhile work of excavating and unearth the treasures of this last year.

Before the clock strikes midnight, take time to marvel at the days that have passed.

The verse I chose for 2016 was Esther 4:14. “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

My word was “sacred”.

And y’all, I had no idea.

As I mentioned, and perhaps you noticed, this blog went silent for the last year. I wanted to write. But I could not. I thought it was because my writing energy was being funneled toward grad school. That may be the cause in part. However, it was about October when I began to realize that I could not write because I write about my life, the lessons I’m learning, the joys and pains I’m experiencing. This year was full of fodder. But I had asked, through choosing “sacred”that The Lord help me honor those around me. And so, through a most painful year, The Lord took my words. I would not have been able to write about 2016 with kindness, not while it was happening. On January 6th, I wrote:

“I want to simplify, to listen, to honor. I want to create and explore and rest. It is the sacredness of creation that ties all of this together. To listen to others, to not hold their sins against them, is to treat them and the relationship as sacred. To honor who I am created to be, to not compromise myself, to fight for the life that is in me is to honor the sacredness of God’s design. To create sacred space in my home and enjoy the sacred space of God’s creation, these are not the extras of a godly life. They matter. In 2016, I want to learn to see all of life as it is, set in place for the glory of God.”

Reading that paragraph, that prayer, fills me with a somber gratitude. I wouldn’t have chosen to learn of sacredness in the way that I did. I did learn to honor who I am created to be, and it cost me. In the pain of those days, I wanted to write to tell my story, but more than that I wanted to honor the others involved and I feel I have even if imperfectly. Sacred space was created for me as I’ve navigated the last few months and I was given the sweetest gift of enjoying the sacred space of creation in the best way, Autumn in the mountains of Northern California. The Lord took my words so that I could learn to do as Mary did, “treasure all these things” and “ponder them in my heart” (Luke 2:19).

And the verse, well that one is slightly more obvious, isn’t it? The immediate connection is the change that occurred in my employment. I didn’t know my ministry in Kingwood would come to an end when it did. But I still believe that my time there was intentional and purposeful both on my part and The Lord’s. This verse goes beyond my time in Kingwood though. My time in California was purposeful as well, though short-lived. And of course, it was a tumultuous year in our nation and world. I believe that I am here, alive and in the U.S. for such a time as this, to speak truth and hope with conviction and kindness in the midst of polarizing days.

So, yes, I am ready for a different year, a year full of new opportunities and, dear Lord, more joy please. But, I am thankful for a year that taught me of the sacredness of all days, the ones marked by hot tears streaming down my cheek as well as the ones marked by a crisp mountain breeze rushing over my river-soaked toes.

Here’s to you, 2016. May the lessons you taught take root as we stumble, exhausted yet hopeful into 2017.

The Heavy Hope

Last week, I made a comment that may have opened some wounds. I knew it would. I said it anyway, because, though it was not for everyone that has walked that road, it was for some. And at times, words that seem harsh open eyes. And sometimes, those same words are worn by others they weren’t intended for. 

To both the intended and unintended, I want to say that you are loved. So much. The ache you feel is real and valid. Your cries are valid. I wrote a letter awhile ago on my old site. You may need it. 

I too have needed it. I wrote it for you, but this week my heart has been aching, longing for things that seem always just out of reach. I have wept a lot this week. For myself. For the ache. For the pull between wanting to make something work, and wanting to give up the hope altogether. So I needed to read my own words. I needed to preach to myself a bit. 

So today, we’ve already had one letter, but I share this one as well, because I need it and you may as well.


Friend,

I have been carrying an ache in my heart for you these last days.  To see you wrestle with this want, this beautiful, God-woven want…it peels back the covering of put-togetherness we all desperately try to keep tethered to the ground around our feet. But I have seen glimpses of the frayed corners of your covering. A picture. A 140 character sigh. A far-off stare occupied by a deeply rooted thorn in your heart. A one-ton tear breaking through your “I’m fine” eyes and cutting a path of escape down your rose-garden cheek.

You are hurting. And life has not stopped to allow it. Holidays have steamrolled through as a constant reminder of hope deferred.

Hope deferred.

Such heavy words. Such known words.

It is this child. Loved before known. Held in your heart before your arms. Prayed and planned for. And grieved.

I know only a glimpse of this child-longing. I have dreamed of the day I hold my little heart-capturer as well. But, I don’t know it the way you do. I don’t know the creating of space for the expected and having to fill it again with the what once was…not as a mother does. I don’t know the sharp entrance of the arrows of well-meaning questions of “when?”.

It is him. The one with whom you hope to battle all other deferred hopes. He is your delayed desire and as a friend so rightly said, the faces of the others only serve as reminders of him not yet here.

This longing I know. This heaviness of a bare-finger. This canyon of an empty hand. These arrows have left scabs, torn through with every probing “why are you still?”

Friend, I ache for you because I know the ache of Hannah’s heart. I know the sobs and seemingly drunken slurs of words tangled in heartache.  When approached in her mess, Hannah shot life-blood into her ache by breathing out the honest words; and the hearer agreed with her prayer. “May it be.” So I will do for you. “May it be.” May the longing of your heart be met, with all the poorly-timed truths people say when our hearts hurt-yes…with more love for Jesus-yes….with deeper trust-yes…I always want those things for you, for me, but today I will beg for you to find your longing filled, for hope to be deferred no longer, for arms to be filled with the one for whom you have created space, time and again. Let’s, even if for a moment, take down the tents of put-togetherness and trade them in for coverings of grace. Longings are allowed to be spoken there. Aches find a voice. Hope deferred is met with a “May it be.” And lament leads the way to life.

From my Hannah-heart to yours,

Erin

Break the Circle

I cried myself to sleep this weekend. Nothing was wrong, at least not in my little world. In fact, aside from a few inconveniences, a couple of bad habits that I can’t seem to shake, I am loving my life. I wasn’t crying for me.

The fourth Planned Parenthood video was released. I had previously watched the others, and the callousness of the conversations bothered me. But this one, it broke me. Everything in me wanted to look away, to just navigate my way back to buzzfeed or some other mindless time-suck. Instead, I made myself watch. I forced myself to pay attention while a baby lay pulled to pieces in a dish.

I thought about the pain that baby must of felt as it was dying. I thought of the hardness of a heart that can do that job day in and day out and not feel the weight of it. I thought of how broken our world is that little image-bearers get ripped to shreds and then sold piece by piece in the name of “research”.

And then, I thought of the mother. The kidneys that the lab technician was prodding, the tiny, newly formed eyes being rolled about in a dish, belong to a child…a child who has a mother. A mother who was so terrified, or so hardened by pain and anger that she chose this for her child.

I began to wonder, “How are these mothers feeling as they see these videos?” What would it do to a woman to hear her aborted child being sold to the highest bidder piecemeal? I’m sure there are those who are still convinced they made the right choice. But, I would imagine there are many who have already tried to put behind them the guilt of choosing abortion. And I would imagine that these videos, this national conversation, feels like torture.

And here we are, all huddled up, praying that the government would defund Planned Parenthood. It’s not a wrong prayer. But if we are so busy circling up to pray that we are blind and deaf to the ones around us drowning in sorrow, screaming for relief, that is wrong.  Perhaps, just as there is a time to pray, there is also a time to shut our mouths and listen, a time to lift our heads and open our eyes and see the masses shrinking away in shame. See the woman who can’t seem to figure out how to love her three year old because she regrets the choice she made for her baby who would now be eight. Hear the muffled weeping of the teenage girl who wanted to keep her child but chose to listen to the ones who promised this would be better, that she wouldn’t want the burden of a child to steal her life.

Yes, we are busy praying that the government would make better choices. You see, much of the problem is that we want it to all rest on the government. Either we think the government can solve everything or we think the government ruined everything. Neither is true. As Christians, we are known mostly for what we are against and we want the government to side with us. (A non-Christian government regardless of how we would like to claim that this is a Christian nation.) So the fact remains that abortion is legal. Planned Parenthood is funded by our taxes. We have to make choices in that reality. Most of us will choose to fight it in some way. But the question remains what will that way be?

Prayer is important. But, so is compassion. Do you know what compassion means? “To suffer together.” In other words, to not excuse ourselves from someone else’s mess. I wonder what would happen if, instead of screaming at women who choose abortion, we were there when grief strikes them? What if, instead of trying to condemn them for considering that path, we offer to help them walk through the pregnancy and help them find a way to navigate parenthood or find an adoptive family? What if we stop viewing adoption as plan b, stopped spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on forcing our bodies to have babies when they won’t and instead spent that money giving a home to an orphan?

It is hard to step into the mess around us. Much harder than just blaming the government or hoping laws will make it all better. But the government didn’t break mankind and they won’t fix mankind. The fault is on everyone who has ever sinned…so me and you. And the solution, I believe, is Jesus, His death and resurrection…and the power that He gave to the Church to carry out His Kingdom which I imagine looks very different than what I see happening in our culture wars today. It’s time for us to pray with our eyes open, watching for those who might need someone to roll up their sleeves and step into the junk with them. Break the prayer circle. Our hands are needed for holding frightened teenagers, squeezing the hand of a woman in the labor of choosing life, opening metaphorical and literal doors, building metaphorical and literal homes. Pray continually, but not at the expense of compassion.

If you have made choices in your past that have been stirred up the recent videos, know that you are loved. There is forgiveness available. There is hope. There are churches, though sadly not all of them, that will welcome you, bandage your wounded heart, and walk with you through healing. There is a Father who knows your pain, knows your shame, and loves you in all of it.


(All that said, given the horrendous things we know about PP, I would love for that government funding to go toward making adoption more affordable. That seems like a better use of government funds and a more agreeable cause than where it is currently going.)