Sunday, November 2, 2014

November 2nd

October 29

Early in the morning, remembered to love Him in the quiet. Grabbed the coffee pot, which was simply the next thing I was doing, and poured my love for Him into that gesture. Felt His arms come around me and hold me close. I tipped my head up and looked into His sparkling, light filled eyes.

“I love You,” I said shyly and rested a moment in His love, then thought about my doctor’s appointment for the chest pain I've been feeling that sometimes makes it difficult to breathe or to move, and the fatigue, shortness of breath, and dizziness- basically all the symptoms of a heart attack in a woman. I thought it was inflammation of the lining of the rib cage and breast bone, or costochondritis, but now I wonder. I've been taking eighty one milligrams of aspirin daily while waiting for the appointment.

“I’m scared,” I admit to Jesus.

I’ll be with you.

When it was light enough to see, I see with growing horror that the dog has pooped all around the coffee table. Didn’t know what to do; was about to put the baby down and eat my breakfast and my doctor’s appointment in less than two hours and now what?

Put Merissa in her bouncy chair to contain her, where of course she cried, pour girl. I leaned into Jesus and took a deep breath. “Okay, one thing at a time,” I whispered to Him. “Just do the first thing.” So I cleaned one piece up at a time, scrubbing the rug, while the baby cried and my breakfast got cold and my knees got sore. Cleaned it all up, washed my hands, freed the baby from her bouncer seat, put her in her walker where she was happy, sat down to eat breakfast.

Got up and saw that there was still some poop on the floor. There had been all along and I hadn’t seen it and it had been right under the walker.

So now there was poop smeared and/or scattered by her tiny, innocent baby feet all over the floor, which will now have to be vacuumed, mopped and the rugs steamed cleaned. Oh. The. Horror.

Deep breath. Lean into Him. Do the first thing. Cleaned her little feet. Took her upstairs to nap. It's twenty minutes until we had to leave the house, she hasn't slept at all, so now she's going to be cranky during the doctor's appointment, which was already going to be stressful. I push that off until later; that worry will reach me in its own time.

Right now there's just enough time to take a shower if I don't wash my hair. There's no time to mop the floors. I took a deep breath, leaned into Jesus again, exhausted, and realized, all over again, that He was with me even in this succession of dirty, exasperating daily moments.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, Jesus said to me, smiling at me with love and good humor.

Stood stock still at the wonder of His grace and humility. How can God be like this? How? And yet, He is. He is this tender, this loving, this involved. Took a deep breath, and went to do the next thing.

Finally got to the doctor’s office. My doctor is a woman with caramel skin, strong, cool hands and eyes so full of light that I immediately surrender all my secrets and sit like a child for her verdict. She scoots close to me, our knees touching and she tells me that I have anxiety.

Every one of my symptoms can be explained by it. I am not having heart attacks. The shooting chest pain that radiates down my arm and up my neck, the fatigue, dizziness, racing heart, all of it is anxiety.

It is not a heart condition or costochondritus, which I was diagnosed with as a teenager in an emergency room, when the chest pains were so bad I couldn't move or eat and each breath caused me stabbing pain. We went despite having no health insurance, because health insurance was insulting to an Almighty and Holy Jehovah. If He didn't heal me, then it was my own fault, either through sin or lack of faith, and in that case, my suffering was my just portion.

It was anxiety when, even as a girl of seven or eight, I would limp up and down the halls of the trailer in the middle of the night, trying to breath as shallowly and slowly as possible, resigned that I might be dying, and so reaching out for Jesus, and settling in myself that soon, I would see Him. I hoped that He would be kind.

At first, I’m not sure if I’m going to be ashamed or relieved by this diagnosis. I feel both; I don't want to think about it. I must. This is my life. In the waiting room, leaned into Jesus- “What shall I do with this? How shall I understand this?"

Jesus reminded me of the whole course of the morning, the course of the last year, of my life and I saw that each time of weakness or pain was also an invitation to be carried by Him, over and over again. My understanding of this was lucid enough that without trying, thanksgiving rose up in me for every opportunity to turn to Him.

My eyes are constantly on Jesus. I can’t look away, because I don’t have the energy. I can’t fool myself into thinking that I can do it on my own, because I can’t. I really do need Him every hour, as I sometimes fondly tell Him in love. In this way, weakness comes with that gift. It wasn’t His plan in the beginning, this suffering, but the suffering becomes an open door to His constant grace and love- that is one way in which He redeems it.

On the way home, deeper questions rise up. I'm so afraid of the questions that I can't put them into words, but I worry that Jesus is ashamed of me now, that I have let Him down, after everything He does for me. I think surely I must be such a disgrace to Him- how can I be suffering from anxiety? I must be an embarrassment to Him. I'm able to open my heart just enough to breathe these questions, wordless, to Jesus.

Love, delicate and wordless surrounds me, such that my whole self, my whole story is suspended in this love. Jesus has written Himself into my entire life, and most deeply and most beautifully in the caverns cut out by the pain. I notice again the road unfurling in front of me, the smooth forward motion of the car, and I know that He is carrying me, I can rest in Him.

And Jesus lights up the song that is just then playing on the radio- “I’ll be the greatest fan of your life,” Jesus says to my heart, taking that line and making it His, in that loving and humorous way of His. He does not care that it sounds silly or that all the other lyrics aren’t on point. He does not think it is beneath Him. The first time Jesus did this- took over the lyrics on the radio- it was with a Bryan Adams song, of all things, and I was appalled at Him. I thought, this is crazy. I am officially going crazy right now. How could Jesus be to using this cheesy pop song to express His love?

I call Keith and then my mom. She also has been experiencing anxiety, and we’ve been doing the same things, as it turns out- being present in the moment, being grateful for what is in just that particular moment- the comfort of the bed, the warmth of a husband, the steadiness of the floor under our feet, the knowledge that we are safe and loved and grounded in Jesus and yet still.

"The body remembers," she says, offering me this gentle wisdom, and I repeat it in relief. How true it is.

“But I’m doing the work!” I say, laughing, remembering that line from the movie, What about Bob? I'm laughing, but I'm frustrated too. I feel like a girl who has been doing all her homework but still got a D- grade.

I tell her about how I have been trying to learn the humility of the body- the graceful and compassionate acceptance of one’s physical self, how we get old and tired and a little blunt around the edges and to accept that with love, compassion and dignity. Apparently, this is a lesson I’ve been learning just in time.

I’m thirty seven years old this November. My body has been through a lot, suffered the violence of repeated sexual assault for many years as child, beginning before I could speak, suffering also panic, terror, helplessness, and most recently, infertility. It has done the best it could; it is a marvel and a gift, both in its strength and weaknesses, and I’m going to practice being patient and kind to my self.

“Now to the floors,” I say to Jesus, after Merissa is down for a nap, squaring my shoulders and focusing my waning energy on the task ahead.

Yes, He says gently. But first sit and write this down.

Writing slowly refreshes and re-centers me. Then I vacuum, mop, steam clean. At four thirty, I collapse on the bed and rest while Merissa plays in her nursery. I am bone weary, too weary to read. I remember as surely as I am resting on the bed, I am resting in Jesus and I reach for Him and He is there.

At the sight of His face, close, familiar and loving, stress rolls off me in a great weight and I curl up in His arms with the utter abandonment of a child. I bury my face in His robe and breathe. I remember that Jesus is the living water that wells up in me, and all I can do is receive, and that He is the wall that shelters me and all I must do is abide within. Everything that I have comes from Him and I am His workmanship. His love washes through me, refreshing the dry places, soothing the pain.

Later, I wish that just once, I could be something other than His broken child- if just once I could be glorious for Jesus, bright and shining, such a gift to Him, such a shining light. He would be so proud of me. Instead I am this ragamuffin person wracked with inner and outer pain. No wonder He is going to keep me hidden, it's because He is ashamed of me...

I type those awful words to record that feeling, and as I do, there is this whole rush of His voice, His presence, protesting in my spirit- No, you are My treasure- hidden and cherished, Jesus insists, both the words and the concept washing over me like a refreshing wave.

His voice has pushed back the shame and created a open space, but I can't fully grasp what He's saying. I don't know how to believe something so lovely. Still, I hold on to His words like a piece of sea glass, turning them over and over in my hands, running my fingers over the smooth edges and I write them down, as though putting them in my pocket. I know the way Jesus teaches- He gives the same lesson again and again in different ways until it sinks down deep and is worked into who I am, not just how I think.

In the evening, Keith and I sit on the floor and Merissa runs from his arms to mine, leaning from side to side, laughing. In the small space between my husband's hands and mine, she is walking on her own for a few steps at a time, and then she runs all the way to me and falls into my arms. Her eyes meet mine; they are lit with delight and surprise. She is on the verge of taking flight.

In the night, the shame returns and I wish I had a heart condition after all. That would be a noble form of suffering. Suffering from anxiety sounds like nothing more than emotional weakness.

I cry out to Jesus in frustration as I consider the width of my life. I don't see Him inwardly, but I know He is there and I direct my inner voice to Him with all the force of desperation, like an arrow shot from a bow. I trust Jesus with exactly what I am feeling, because I know by now that this trust is precious to Him and that Jesus is large enough to take whatever I throw at Him. “Why is my life always like this? Why must I always be the broken one, the weak one? Every part of my life! And now this! Why can't I ever be beautiful, whole, strong? And don’t tell me that I know You in the suffering, because people who don’t suffer like this also know You!"

I was broken too.

His quiet, certain voice spreads out into my spirit. I am in awe, caught motionless. It comes over me all over again that I am talking to Jesus. It is Jesus who is guiding me, comforting me, loving me, teaching me. And it was Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, innocent, sinless, the outlying radiance of God and His beloved Son, who was nailed, broken and bleeding, to the cross.

He was broken too.

For a long time, I ponder those words in the dark, letting them sink deep within.

When Keith comes to bed, he tells me that I can pick a day, any day this weekend and it will be "Kitten Day" and I need do nothing but rest and he will do all cooking and baby care. When we pray, he clasps my hands within his own, our heads close together on his pillow. "Heavenly Father, Jesus, we love You," he begins with loving sincerity. "Thank You for everything You've done and given us. Thank You for my family, my beautiful wife and blessing us with our precious daughter..."

Later, awake still in the quiet, I turn inward to the sacred chamber of the heart where Jesus lives with me and I with Him. I see Jesus waiting for me there and I go running to Him with sudden joy and throw myself into His arms and hold on tight.

“I cling to You by faith,” I whisper, looking up at Him shyly, claiming this, claiming Him.

I love you, He whispers.

I hold tight to Jesus, held safe in the secret place of His heart, hidden in the cleft of the rock, and there my heart opens, and I believe Him.

In the morning, I see the light, horizontal, is skimming over the fence and falling through the bare places left by the thinning leaves. Through the bare places where the underbrush is dying away in brittle calligraphy, the light strikes through to forest floor. Everything in its path is turning to molten gold.


"Three times I called upon the Lord and besought [Him] about this and begged that it might depart from me;

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!

So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength)."

II Corinthians 12:8-10, AMP


Jesus said, “Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.

“This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.”

John 6:36-40, MSG