The Song

Yesterday, she sat on the couch and sang, “He is the song for the suffewing…”

Tonight, I had to face my hurt in an unexpected way. It was supposed to be an evening of redemption, but instead, my past hugged me. Literally.

What are we supposed to do?

What if a place you love no longer feels safe? Where do you go?

Oh, little girl, that I could sit on the couch full of happiness like you are. You haven’t learned yet that there are people you can’t trust. You are loved. You’re not having to sift truth and lies, thank God.

Yet what you sang yesterday is still true, even if you really have no concept of what the words mean. He IS the song for the suffering. May I remember it.

Somewhere, there is a song. A beautiful song. Can I find it this Christmas?

Funeral Thoughts

The rocky dirt filling up the hole in the ground into which the coffin has been lowered… a father with his arm around his daughter as she grieves… a little girl that keeps getting out of the blanket in which her mother has wrapped her, so young that she probably won’t even remember the day that her family bid Granny goodbye… the cold wind… the shovel in my hands… privileged to be allowed to mourn with these people… knowing that I was special to the one now gone (regardless of the fact that I only saw her three times)… being grateful that I reconnected with her several months ago, but sad that there will be no future reunions this side of heaven… feeling like I found a family though, who loves me and accepts me… like perhaps this really is only the beginning… the concept we heard today about eternity already starting here… so much to process and where to go from here… how to stay more connected to these people who really are blood that flows true… what part does all this play in the story… maybe there’s redemption in the loss… and what is God really doing? 

Sunday Afternoon Ramblings

Literally, when it rains, it pours, and this year has held so much pouring that there may possibly be an emotional flood. When does it end? It’s like I’m in some bad movie, where one tragedy after another unfolds. Please tell me that there is redemption, because I know I’ve seen some movies where there is none, and it’s not a good kind of feeling at the end. Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, Pompeii, and Fiddler on the Roof- no redemption. None. I had so much hope at the beginning of the year. Was it all in vain? Possibly. 

I sit here with the lights on my Christmas tree, with the beautiful ornaments that were so much fun to make; a candle is burning on the coffee table, and I even have coffee, but wow, I am lonely. And sad. This is Thanksgiving week. I promise I do have things I’m thankful for, but sometimes, those things can be eclipsed by all that is wrong in our lives. And all that is so not right.

What do you do when you long for solitude and human companionship at the same time? When you think you could possibly contact your extended family to see if you could hang out with them, but you’re also afraid of overextending yourself and making yourself too tired for work the next day? And you know you should take a shower and make some food, but it would be tempting to see if you could run over to your pastor’s house for a while? When you literally don’t know what to do anymore or where to go? 

You could watch a movie, or you could actually read your Bible for a change. There’s that scrapbooking project that needs to be finished for a Christmas gift, or you could make a Hot Cocoa sign to hang over your coffee bar. You could pray? Or write. Or just sit and be lonely and hurting and cry. What is the best option? You’ve slept enough- only it wasn’t good sleep. What is the answer in times like these? You could go on a walk, only it’s freezing out there, and you have no desire to freeze. What is it you need? 

You didn’t take your medication last night, and you slept on the couch instead of your bed. The refrigerator looks awful, as in, what do the people in this house even eat? Well, I ate an entire box of mac ‘n cheese for lunch, but let’s not talk about that. That’s embarrassing. 

Somehow, I feel a little better, just getting it all out like that. Yes, life is pretty bad at the moment. But you’re gonna make it. Seriously, you are. You are loved, wanted, and so strong, Susan. You don’t have to swallow this whole week at once. Just one decision at a time. One baby step at a time. And just in case you didn’t know it, YOU ARE LOVED. Really. Truly. Seriously. Unconditionally. 

New Traditions, Part One

It was November, rainy and cold, with naked trees shivering. The year had been the worst of Stephanie’s life. Six thirty. She burrowed deep into the covers. If she didn’t get up soon, she’d be late for work. She groaned.

“Meow,” said Shakespeare the cat. She felt his little body jump onto the bed. She poked her head out from beneath the tangled covers. 

“What?” She snapped. “Okay, okay. I’m getting up.” 

The bathroom mirror revealed a young woman who looked shockingly much like something out of a horror movie at present. Her dark curls had frizzed and were sticking out in every direction. She’d been too tired to shower and change the night before, and her clothes were wrinkled and anything but fresh. Well, it was too late to try to shower now. She tried to brush her hair, but the frizzing just got worse. Defeated, she pulled it all into a messy bun, emphasis on the word messy. Shakespeare sat on the bathroom sink and watched. His eyes seemed disapproving this morning.

“I’m sorry, okay?” She said to the cat. “I’m exhausted. I’ll shower tonight when I get home.” Shakespeare meowed and began washing his face. “Hey. Don’t pretend like you have it all together. That’s not helpful at the moment.”

She wasn’t going to have time to make herself breakfast. So instead, she fed the cat and kissed the top of his furry head. “I’ll try to be home at a reasonable time tonight, buddy.” Then, she wrapped her scarf around her neck and grabbed her gloves. She’d stop for coffee on the way to work. 

It was a five minute walk from her apartment to the clothing boutique where she currently worked. The neighborhood cafe was one block away from her apartment. Convenient location. Or not. She mumbled to herself, something about not even wanting to know how much money she spent on coffee. 

Cafe mocha in hand, she unlocked the back door at work. She breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe she’d actually gotten there before her boss this morning. That would be different for a change. But no, Heather was already in her office. 

Stephanie hung up her coat in the break room and headed to the front to take care of the morning tasks before the boutique opened. Heather stepped outside her office to say good morning. 

“Steph,” she exclaimed, “no offense, but you look like something the cat dragged in!”

“Thanks,” said Stephanie.

“Everything okay?” Asked Heather. She sounded concerned. 

Stephanie could feel the tears coming. She tried to stop them, but it was too late for that. Heather gave her a hug.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I know you’ve had a rough time, and with the holidays coming up, I’m sure it has to be difficult. Do you need the day off?”

Steph sniffled and wiped her eyes with her sleeve. “It doesn’t do any good for me to be home alone,” she said. “Then I think, and it makes everything worse.” 

“But you look exhausted,” Heather said. “Are you sure it wouldn’t be better for you to go home and take a nap? You can come back this afternoon if you feel up to it. Go. I’ve got things under control. It’s a Tuesday, and it’ll be slow. My office work can wait.” 

Stephanie decided it was pointless to argue. She really didn’t look great, and the thought of facing customers all day was overwhelming. And she really did need a nap. She couldn’t remember the last time she had actually slept well. Not since March. Of course, her world hadn’t fallen apart all at once. It had been happening slowly for years. March was simply the climax. The beginning of the obvious dysfunction.

Her parents announced their intention to divorce, after being married for nearly thirty years. Steph heard both sides of the story, but after continued conversations, with each parent tearing down the other one, Steph bowed out of their lives. She couldn’t side with one or the other. They were both acting childish. Although she hadn’t lived with them for nearly five years, this breaking up of their small family unit cut her to the core. In May, a month after the finalization of the divorce, Steph heard from extended family members that both her parents were seeing other people, and her strong sense of right and wrong was deeply injured. She tried confronting her parents about their choices, but they refused to listen, all the while trying to justify themselves. It was useless, and Steph let them know she loved them, but she could not and would not approve of their lifestyles. So, in two short months, the breaking of their family was complete. Stephanie was shattered.

In July, the guy she had been dating broke up with her for no apparent reason, until she found out weeks after the breakup, that he was dating another girl. Her trust evaporated. And her mental health spiraled into a deep depression. Three of her core relationships had ended, all in four short months. She cried out to God, but there was only silence. 

In September, Stephanie decided it was time for a change, and she moved to the city, leaving the small town where she had lived all her life. It felt like a fresh start, but it was overwhelming in her current state, finding a new job, a new church, a new apartment, and forming new relationships. Thank God for Shakespeare. At least he was something familiar in a place totally unfamiliar. 

Back at the apartment, Stephanie let water run into the tub. A shower was too much work, but perhaps a bath would help her relax. Shakespeare was a little confused when the opening of the apartment door disturbed him from his morning nap, but he was happy to see her nonetheless. If only people were more like cats, she thought as she sank into the warm water. Cats were so easy to get along with, so chill. 

The bath and the nap did wonders, as did some actual food. Heather texted her to tell her that business was really slow, and to go ahead and take the whole day off. Unsure what to do with herself all day, she decided to take a walk, and ended up at the church she had been attending since her move to the city. 

It was most likely locked, she told herself, but she tried the door anyway. The wind was brisk, and it would feel good to sit down for a little. Maybe she’d even talk to God. It was worth a try. Christmas was coming, and didn’t people say that Christmas was the season for miracles? She doubted that there were more miracles at Christmas than the rest of the year; Christmas probably just made people more aware of them. At any rate, she could use a miracle. Or two or three, for that matter. 

The door opened. Stephanie wandered into the sanctuary and sat in the silence. Silence. Why was God so silent? Silent through her childhood, silent through the recent upheaval of her life, just silent. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe in God. She did. But when she spoke to him, why did He choose not to answer? During her parents’ divorce, she had prayed fervently, and God seemingly did nothing. 

She bowed her head to pray, but no words came to her mind. Where did one even start? She saw a church bulletin from the previous Sunday lying on the bench beside her. The verse on the front was Psalm 37:4. “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (NKJV) It was a verse that failed to resonate. If God actually had her best interests at heart, why was her life such a complete mess? 

She heard footsteps enter the sanctuary and looked up. It was Kyle, the youth pastor. He saw her and walked in her direction.

“Can I help you?” He asked. “It’s Stephanie, right?”

She rose to shake his hand. “Yes, it’s Stephanie. I was just out for a walk and ended up here.”

He smiled. “The house of the Lord is always a good place to end up. I came to work on the Advent activities for the youth group. But it can wait. I’ve been wanting to speak with you, to see if you need anything or how the church can be a blessing for you. You’re new to the area, aren’t you?”

She nodded. “I’ve been here for two months.”

“Not to pry,” he said, “but I’ve noticed you seem troubled when you come to church. And sad. Are you okay?”

She hesitated. Nobody knew her story in the city yet except Heather. And that was only because Steph worked for her. Kyle noticed the hesitation.

“If you’d rather not talk about it, I understand,” he said. “But I know from personal experience that sometimes processing things out loud can be helpful. And my job description is to listen.”

Stephanie relented, and they sat down on the bench. If she didn’t get it all out soon, it was going to eat her up inside. She began to talk. It all came out- the  divorce, the breakup, the betrayals, the depression and hopelessness, the silence of God through it all. And Kyle listened. And handed her a tissue box.

When she had finished, she sat silent, tearing her tissue into miniscule pieces. “I’m sorry,” Kyle said. “I’m really sorry you’ve had to walk this road. It absolutely sucks.”

“What do I do?” She asked.

He reached out and touched her hand. “Let God love you.”

“What?”

He handed her another tissue. “You let God love you. Your trust in people has been shattered into a million pieces, and it sounds like your trust in God’s goodness has also been shaken. Let Him love you and show you that He can be trusted.”

“How?”

“Stop trying so hard. Just be who you are, and let God tell you who you are to Him. You’re allowed to rest. You’re allowed to grieve. You’re even allowed to cry. This conversation was a beginning, and I’m proud of you for opening up.”

“Thank you for listening,” she said as she rose to go. “I should probably head home before it gets dark.”

He smiled. “Too late. It is dark.”

“What? How long have I been here?”

“Only about three hours. Don’t worry; I’ll drive you home. But if you don’t have supper plans, I’ll take you over to my parents’ house first. They’re used to me bringing people over, and Mom always makes extra food. She’s a sweetheart, my mom is, and I’d love for you to meet her.”

Stephanie gave in. She was starved for some real family time, and it wasn’t every day that she ate a good supper. In fact, the amount of fast food she had consumed in the past few months was shocking even to herself. 

Kyle’s parents were wonderful, as was his sister, who seemed about Stephanie’s age. The chicken pot pie was beyond decadent, and the house had a cozy feel. The tree was already up and decorated, even though it was only the week before Thanksgiving. After dinner, when they were seated in the living room, Mrs. Wilson brought out pieces of pumpkin cake and Ashley jumped up to make some coffee. 

“This is so cozy,” Steph said in an aside to Kyle, who had seated himself on the sofa next to her.

He smiled. “It is.”

Ashley overheard the snippet of conversation as she carried two coffee cups over to the sofa. “Do you decorate for Christmas?”

“Usually,” Steph answered. “Although I haven’t done anything yet this year. I thought maybe I’d skip it, but this atmosphere makes me want to decorate after all.”

“I’d love to come help you,” Ashley said, then she laughed. “You must excuse me. I have a habit of inviting myself to other people’s houses. I’m sorry.”

“I’d actually like some help,” Steph said gratefully. “I’m alone for Christmas this year and I need to find some new traditions. The old ones won’t work anymore.”

“Well, I am the mastermind of Christmas traditions,” Ashley said. “Name a day and Kyle and I will be there. Ooops. I mean Kyle will come along if you’re okay with that.”

“Of course,” Steph answered. “I’m afraid we’ll have to start from scratch though. I gave my old Christmas decorations to my roommate back home, rather than dragging them along when I moved.” 

Ashley giggled with delight. “That’s all the better! I never get to start from scratch around here, because Mom has kept every Christmas decoration since Kyle and I were babies.”

“Does Saturday work?” Asked Steph. Kyle and Ashley nodded.

“We’ll be there,” Kyle said. “I’ll bring the truck, cause knowing Ashley, we’re going to need it.”

***

Saturday morning, Stephanie was up bright and early. Shakespeare was confused. “I’m getting ready for Christmas today, buddy,” she explained. “And I’m not even going to do it by myself. No offense to you, but you are just a cat, and sometimes I need humans as well.”

Shakespeare purred and rubbed up against her leg. “Pretty sure you would hold off on the purring if you actually knew what I said,” she told him, reaching down to pet his fuzzy head. He purred louder. “Yeah. Well, you just go ahead and interpret that however you like. Now, what shall I wear?”

For the first time in months, Stephanie actually felt like making an effort on her appearance. She worked at a clothing boutique, so she usually had no option to appear frumpy, but her heart hadn’t been in it. Now, she suddenly cared. Was it Kyle? She pushed the thought down into her toes and turned to Shakespeare. “He’s just being nice,” she told the cat. “It was Ashley who volunteered him to come along today.”

Shakespeare sneezed.

“You are most unhelpful,” she said. “Go eat your breakfast while I get changed.” 

The doorbell rang at precisely eight o’clock. Stephanie welcomed the brother and sister team inside. Shakespeare jumped on top of the fridge. 

“It’s okay, buddy,” she told the cat. “You can come say hello.” Shakespeare didn’t move. 

Kyle laughed. “I take it he’s not used to visitors?” 

“Nope. You two are the first people I’ve had here since I moved. He’s not a social cat, but he might warm up later on.” 

Ashley was gazing around the apartment in delight. “This is so cute,” She said. “With a little help, we can have this place looking as magical as it deserves to. Now, first things first. We’re going to find a tree!”

“Not so fast,” Kyle replied. “Coffee first. There’s a little cafe that I’m pretty sure Stephanie hasn’t discovered yet. We’ll stop there first.”

The three piled into the truck, and for the first time since the move, Steph felt a little rush of excitement and adventure. When was the last time she had done something fun? Kyle and Ashley chatted about insignificant nothings as they drove, and it put Stephanie at ease. They weren’t excluding her from the conversation, but neither were they forcing her to talk. When they pulled up in front of the cafe, Steph literally let out a little squeal of delight.

It was a tiny building sandwiched between two large office buildings, and it looked very out of place. Nanette’s, it was called, according to the sign that hung over the door, and it looked precisely like a gingerbread house. Lights were dangling from the roof and framing the windows and the door.

Kyle smiled at her reaction. “Wait til you see the inside,” he said, helping her out of the truck. He took her arm to walk inside, and Stephanie blushed. It was such an old-fashioned gesture, and it warmed her heart. Ashley ran in front of them to open the door. She bowed.

“Announcing the Duke and Duchess,” she giggled as they walked through the door. 

“She’s incorrigible,” Kyle whispered to Steph.

“Thank you, brother dear,” Ashley replied. “I heard that.” Stephanie laughed. They were so incredibly refreshing. 

The inside of the shop did not disappoint. The tables were made of tree stumps and the wooden chairs were painted a bright green. It reminded Steph of a storybook. Christmas trees literally lined every wall, with only space between for the windows. Gingerbread men, popcorn strings, and real orange slices adorned the branches. She had never seen anything like it. 

The variety of coffees was overwhelming, although Steph was so busy admiring the place, she had only just glanced at the menu. “Do you have a preference?” Kyle asked. “Because if you don’t, I have the perfect recommendation.”

Kyle ordered peppermint mochas for them all, along with a plate of gingerbread men. They sat down at one of the stump tables, and Ashley pulled out a camera. “Here’s to the first of Steph’s new Christmas traditions,” she said, snapping a picture of Kyle and Stephanie. 

When their drinks were brought out, Steph squealed again. Each mug had a mountain of whipped topping and a real peppermint stick in it. But the crowning touch was the gingerbread man that was drawn on the whipped topping with chocolate syrup. It was perfect, and surrounded by twinkling Christmas trees, holding a warm drink, in the best of company, Stephanie felt God’s whisper, “I love you, Steph.” 

The next stop was the mall. Ashley had wanted to get a real tree, but Kyle and Stephanie convinced her that it was too early in the season for that, and the tree would likely be dead by Christmas. So a fake tree it was. They debated long and hard over that tree. Steph thought something small, but Kyle insisted that he was going to buy it for her, therefore, it needed to be something substantial. Ashley thought it should be a fat, short one, but Kyle thought it should be as tall as possible. Eventually, they settled on a six foot tree, but very full, with fake snow on the branches. Stephanie told them they were being too extravagant, but they would have none of her frugal arguments.

“How do you want to decorate it?” was Ashley’s question. 

“Exactly like the ones at Nanette’s,” replied Stephanie. So to the grocery store they went, picking up ingredients for gingerbread cookies, boxes of microwave popcorn, and a box of oranges. It was early afternoon by the time they got back to Stephanie’s apartment, and then the tree needed to be set up. Ashley put in a Christmas movie while Kyle microwaved the popcorn and Stephanie dug out some string. Just about the time Stephanie was considering whether she should order a pizza, Mrs. Wilson showed up at the apartment with a crock pot full of chili. 

Over bowls of chili, the three decided that the rest of the decorating was going to have to wait for another day. It was getting late, and Kyle had prep work he needed to do for the service in the morning. Ashley was washing up the dishes while Steph and Kyle cleaned up the living room, when Kyle handed Stephanie a small box. 

“Here’s the first ornament for your tree,” he said. It was a coffee cup, complete with gingerbread man and peppermint stick, and it said “Nanette’s” across the bottom. Happy tears filled Stephanie’s eyes as she thanked him.

“I’m beginning to think there can be redemption for this year after all,” she told him. Shakespeare sneezed from the top of the fridge. 

***

The Silent Love of Jesus

“How does… Jesus show his love for us and others?” This was a question we were supposed to think about for Sunday School. What if you happen to be in a season, like me, when it seems like Jesus is silent and I don’t feel like praying? How does Jesus show He loves me?

I showed up at my friend’s house for a sleepover, in my pajamas with tear stains on my face. Then I proceeded to sit on her couch and cry. When your world has been turned upside down and inside out, and you know you need to forgive and let go, but you are still so very, very hurt and angry, what else can you do?

When you sit in a Sunday School class and cry… When your roommate gets home to find you an emotional mess… When you pray in your car and there is no answer… How does Jesus love?

He is silent. Yes. I feel that. But I have felt His love through His people nevertheless.

Late October

Late October, autumn yet
Temperature- cold and wet.
Inside again, sleepy struggles
Coffee then- and Pumpkin snuggles.
She sucks her thumb, I rub her feet
I’ll hold onto some moments sweet.

Late October, bake little cakes
Peace-filled cure- for all our sakes.
Pause and write, revamp my days
Rekindle light in little ways.
All grace embrace and fight the haste
A slower pace- a sweeter taste.

Overwhelmia

With Coffee Cup 
I sit alone;
I should go clean,
But Tired’s grown.
Child’s awake
Resisting Nap,
Where’s Energy
Upon the Map?
And then tonight
I’ll snuggle in
With Overwhelm
Under my chin;
Peace slips away
And Balance strays-
They leave my heart
A Basket Case.
To be Alive
Find me a Way.
For after All;
All is Okay.

Note: *This poetry borrows an idea from the writings of A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh. I love the way he capitalizes words which are not normally given that honor. It makes the reading very different and more profound, perhaps more fantastical as well.

*Also, I know overwhelmia is not a word. But I am going to say it is.

Overwhelmia- n.: the state of being overwhelmed; symptoms include restless nights and tired days, a lack of motivation, and a vague feeling that all is not well

A Welcome to Autumn (Good Riddance to Summer)

Summer’s road was rough and hard
Leaving me a little scarred.
Unexpected devastation,
Basket case of frustration.
But like all things, summer’s passed
Into history at last.
I welcome fall in all its glory
Ready for a different story.
Bring on lots of pumpkin spice
Don’t lose hope that something nice
May happen still despite the mess
So let it go, that weary stress.
To the wind, the burdens throw
May my heart more peaceful grow.
Rejoice in yellow, red, and brown
Watch the leaves fall in the town.
Pull out the bin of autumn clothes
Let candle scents delight my nose;
Keep that coffee mug nearby
Cut myself a piece of pie.
Consider pumpkins local grown
Buy them for my very own.
Fall in love with little things
Welcome change this season brings.

cookies for Kids’ Minute at church
Sourdough Bread

Job Hopping

Today marks another ending for me. My life seems to be filled with those, whether or not I want them. Today’s ending is not nearly as dramatic as some others have been, thankfully. Nevertheless, it is still an ending, and that still means adjustments. It’s a change in my workplace.

I brought home my tips from the creamery tonight for the last time. Am I sentimental? Okay, yes, I am.

Prospective employers in the future might hesitate if I were to tell them the amount of jobs I have had. Let’s face it; I’m a job hopper. My first jobs were cleaning jobs. I tolerated those, probably because they were my first jobs and because I wanted the money. Do I ever want to go back to cleaning residential homes? No, thank you. But it was work, and I was still living with my parents at the time, so it was an okay fit.

Next, I attempted eldercare. I learned several important things during this experience. Number One: Please get some proper training before you attempt personal care. I did not, and it was not a pleasant wake-up call. Number Two: Just because your mother is naturally skilled at a job does not mean it will resonate with you in the same way.

I moved from eldercare to live-in eldercare. The couple I lived with was thankfully very tolerant of me and my shaky mental health at the time, but the combination of already struggling mentally and living at work was extremely difficult. I learned another very important life lesson here: never live at work. Work and home should be two separate things; otherwise, you can never truly get away from your job. I lived there for a year and a half.

Two photos from the eldercare season of my life… coloring with Mr. G and the Andrew McCutchen shirt I bought for him. I dislike sports generally, but I did get into baseball a little bit because of the elderly gentleman.

I moved on to a basement apartment, where it was only me. And later, my cat and me. I miss that cat- dear Molly. During the next year and a half, I worked in bulk food one day a week, helped to clean a business once a week, and worked at a bakery. I also spent a little time in a greenhouse during the spring season.

Cleaning at the business… I really disliked this job.
Greenhouse life. It served a purpose for my heart during that season.

I took a nanny job, and moved again. I attempted tutoring on the side for a short while. But the nanny job was only during the school year, so last summer, I started a part-time job at a creamery. I went back to nannying in the fall, but kept the creamery as a side job.

What’s my favorite job been? This little one right here, no question. For those of you wondering if I want another nanny job when she goes to school, the answer is, I can’t keep breaking my heart… getting attached and letting go.

This summer, I picked up some extra hours doing housekeeping at the local motel, and have decided to drop the creamery altogether. However, the motel business is part of a restaurant and bakery business as well, and the motel will start sharing me with the bakery next week. It will be a full time job for the remainder of the summer and hopefully something to fall back on after my nanny job ends next spring.

Am I crazy? Maybe. Or maybe I just haven’t found my niche in life yet. Are there benefits to job hopping? Yes, surprisingly, there are. You learn a wide range of skills, for starters. Can I bake sugar cookies? Yes. Cook in a commercial kitchen? Yes. Help an elderly person shower? Yes. Push a stroller, change diapers, and read stories? Not all at the same time, but yes. Have I used a pricing gun? Yes. Can I choose flowers for a planter? Yes. Clean a flat top? Yes. Make a bed? Yes. Bake flaky, layered biscuits? Yes. Be a cashier? Yes. Make an omelet? Finally, yes.

Love the views I’ve seen while pushing this stroller!

Of course, there are disadvantages as well. Like not having a real career. Like having to start over so often. Like running the risk of being seen as a fickle person in the future. But for better or for worse, I’m moving on.

Broken

How do you recover from broken trust? Especially when you are a deep feeler? How do you recover from hurt that goes all the way in to your soul? What do you do when you doubt others and you doubt yourself? Broken trust is a kick in the stomach when it was supposed to be a hug. It’s knowing that things are never going to be like they used to be, and it’s grieving that loss. The grief doesn’t end in a night, or a week, or a year. It pops up at inconvenient moments, and makes you realize that you’re not nearly as healed as you thought you were. It’s seeing minor irritations as large life problems. Who is right, and who is wrong, and does it even really matter?

Answer: I don’t know. And even if I did know, my feelings probably wouldn’t cooperate with the logic. What is forgiveness, really? And how does it play out in real life? Sometimes, the answers are there, but the application is terribly difficult. And the answers aren’t the same for every situation, either.

A person who used to be your everything turns out to be someone that you don’t really know anymore. A relationship that was getting better suddenly gets worse. Someone pretends to be someone who doesn’t even exist. Dreams don’t work out. You dread being around certain people. And with Pilate, you wonder, “What is truth?”

So you distance yourself. You allow yourself to become busy with other pursuits. You surround yourself with other people. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t take much to reveal the bruises on your heart. And you cry-again.

And then things get even worse. And you cry even more. You don’t know where to begin to heal.

Step One. Drink coffee, so much coffee. We won’t talk about how often I’ve been to a coffee shop lately.

Step Two. Eat ice cream, great tubs of it. But maybe exercise moderation, or you will begin to look like a tub of ice cream, and then you’ll just add to your mental problems.

But really, those are simply coping mechanisms. They don’t ultimately heal.

Step Three. Cry. Seriously, this one helps. Tears heal. Accept the fact that there will be times when you look less than presentable. Lots of times. Even in public.

Step Four. Surround yourself with good people. Don’t spend excessive amounts of time alone. You need community. You need hugs- many, many hugs. Find people who make you laugh. Go to church, and feel the love of Jesus through His people. Let the body of Christ pray for you. You’re not required to be strong right now. Let others be strong for you.

Step Five. Listen to Ellie Holcomb. I think she may be my new favorite artist. Her songs are honest, and speak to pain.

Step Six. Pray. This one is hard. I don’t pray nearly enough, and most of the time I don’t feel like it. But God wants to hear my heart, even though He already knows it.

Step Seven. Buy a gift for someone. It seems counter-intuitive, but when you’re struggling, it helps to reach out to someone else. Show your appreciation for those who stand beside you. Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way speaks of this kind of healing.

Step Eight. Intentionally process your pain. Face it. Talk about it with a mentor. I need to seriously revisit the book Forgiving What You Can’t Forget, by Lysa TerKeurst. When there is hurt involved in your situation, forgiveness is necessary, but oh, so hard. I strongly recommend this book; Lysa understands firsthand what it’s like to forgive the really, really hard things.

Step Nine. Find a new normal. Normal is no longer an option, but a new normal is. There is hope. “There is always hope.” This scene from Lord of the Rings is so incredibly powerful. Things may appear to be completely hopeless; things may feel completely hopeless, but hope remains. I haven’t felt very hopeful lately, but just because I’m not feeling it, doesn’t make it any less important or true.

Of course you will not be healed in ten steps. But maybe, just maybe, some of these ideas might help you to get through the day. And perhaps bring you a little joy. So, a final suggestion: Step Ten. Paint your toenails. Or light a candle. Or read a book… Or- fill in the blank. You know.