When brokenness becomes a calling

What lies deep below the enormity of the ocean waters is often unknown and unseen by so many of our human eyes.
And although many of us have played in the shallow of its waters and even dipped our toes in its delight there’s fewer of us who’ve trained to go into the depth of its discoveries. 

And much like what lies deep below the surface of the ocean walls so it is within the walls of a human soul.
We may know a selected people’s likes and dislikes and even a few interesting facts about their lives but the things that get stashed deep within one’s soul are often hidden  there in fear and shame. 

This past week as I’ve been reading with a heavy heart a Pastor who recently took his life….a loss far bigger than many of us can fully imagine.

But what I am finding in this story is something so beautiful.
For in the midst of the overwhelmingly hard thing this community is living through they’re encircling this when so much still remains unraveled, unknown and hidden in the dark and they’re choosing to speak a courageous message…telling all they know in hope to save lives.
Oh may we meet them here in this sacred space…

I am reminded of friends and even relatives who’ve ended their lives far too early…Dads…Moms…Husbands…Wives…Brothers…Sisters…Cousins….Nephews….Nieces….Uncles….Aunts…Sons…Daughters…Pastors…Spiritual leaders…Co-workers…Neighbors…and even as Friends…

You see, in every ending of life there is a rippling loss for so many…

We really have no idea how many people we’re really connected to when we feel like we’re all alone…when we feel trapped in the darkness of our brokenness. 

But friends we brush shoulders every day with hidden pain that’s lining the walls of others souls; never realizing the brokenness being carried around. 
We often see only glimpses of this pain seeping out.
We ignore unspoken indicators brushing them off as exaggerations of brokenness. 

But if we’re real and would reach a little deeper into our soul we would find places of unhealed brokenness too….because being human comes with volatile casualties.
And I truly believe every human experiences a variety of these traumas.   

I know because I’ve lived them…

And although I’ve found so much healing, I’ve dipped back and forth this past year. 

The loneliness…the weight of too many losses at once…the pain that comes from living in a broken world…and in the aching of it all there were moments I thought of disappearing and not letting my story out.
I thought it was too much to share. 

A piece of me wanted you to know…even though it can be scary and so hard to put ourselves out there and to be this version of real as I read this man’s story this week I found a similar strand woven through every human life…
a remnant…a desire to be wanted…needed and noted as valuable..a yearning within a broken soul to find wholeness….

The words that I’ve kept locked away have pleaded for years to be written. 
Yet I know what its like when a person spills their stuff out on paper…it’s all too easy to assume they’re a little too ’emotional’  ‘needy’ or ‘broken’…

I know what its like because I’ve been there.
Because there’s times we rise from these difficulties with resilience and others when they become woven into our identity and self worth.
Where rather than healing and leaving a scar they remain an open wound bleeding into our existence. 

You see…
I know how it is to feel pain running through your veins and wonder if it will ever stop throbbing.

I know how it is to have continual criticism intended to wound, plans devised to taint your integrity and what its like to be the target of someone’s misdirected anger. 

I know how it is to feel like there’s no one who understands the pain you’re suffering through.

I know how it is to be told to just ‘get over’ it and move on.

I know how it is to be told you are over-reacting from the trauma you’ve endured. 

I know what it is like to go through multiple losses that somehow connect with devastating losses of long ago. 

I know how it is to wonder if anyone will know that you’re missing…

I know how it is to not want your story so we bury it far away from the life we are striving for.

But I’ve also been on the other side….

Attending funerals with far too many families…comforting children whose parents gave into the darkness that was haunting them too much of the time.
I’ve walked through the ugly days that followed to know if I don’t speak out and give others the courage to split their hearts wide open,
they’ll remain hidden in their pain…

And friends being hidden is where our lives are at greatest risk…we’re vulnerable for attack.
I understand I fought it for years…trying to remain <UNKNOWN>.

Isolation is where the enemy does his best work. 

I’ve not wanted to tell these things…
Because if we’re being honest they give us the appearance of weakness, instability and being far too raw. 

I’ve not wanted to tell of how I’ve had feelings like I didn’t measure up as a mom…a wife…a daughter…a friend and forget how much less I can feel as a minister’s wife…

I’ve not wanted to tell of how watching my boys grow up has caused me to wrestle through all of my stuff…

I’ve not wanted to tell how many times its landed me on my knees begging God for healing and relief…

I’ve not wanted to tell what it was like to live through years afraid of men, holding them hostage because of a handful who stole something sacred from me…

I’ve not wanted to tell of how for so many years I felt like an object rather than the incredible design of my Creator.

I’ve not wanted to tell the depth of any of these things and definitely not out in the vastness of this open space.

Because just the mention of them all makes me feel uncomfortable and a bit twisted up inside…and even the mere releasing of these words raises up a whole lot of fears. 

Because it really feels far too risky to form them into words.

But God has been calling me to write them down…
He’s been revealing how these events either can be counted as losses>>>
or be collected as a gift…

And what if the very wounds I’ve been trying all these years to heal are the very battle wounds he wants me to write?
What if they were given as a gift,
rather than a burden?

For he knew these days full of pain would come…
and maybe these messages that get written on our souls are a piece of his art…
calling for our broken world…
calling to create a space to speak about such hard & holy things…
calling to one another to be vulnerable…to peer inside the dark spaces that we all possess…
A bold calling for us to be the generation that changes this thing from endings to beginnings.
A calling for us to get in front of this thing to bring healing rather than picking up the pieces of shattered brokenness.

Because friends there’s too many people wandering through their own kind of hard needing us to take a step inside it with them…

This gift of community we’ve been entrusted with is so that no ONE walks through this life alone…
And friends we can create the space for this to happen.

Because although we don’t get to choose exactly how life plays out we do get to choose how to live this one life we’ve been given.

trading stories and broken hearts

I love trading stories with people because in the process of doing this we open up stories of our hearts and invite others in…this is where we become real and our lives become relatable.

Connections form and healing happens within the sharing of our stories.

…There was a time in the history, {I say ‘history’ because it truly feels like ages ago even though it’s really only years ago} during the crazy & mostly beautiful time of raising our four boys.
One of our sons proclaimed something both hilarious and heartbreaking.

We were riding in the car where frankly a lot of our conversations took place…honestly I vaguely remember why I’d just told him ‘no’ to something but his witty reply still makes me laugh…
He forcefully clapped his hands together like two cymbals clashing and said…
‘Mom, you’re a dream-crusher’.

At first you might think he was being disrespectful but this wasn’t his tone at all…He was distinctly letting me know the impact my ‘no’s’ were having on his life lately…

To which I of course had NO reply.

You see, he was right…
As a mom I’ve always been more protective than the one who encourages them off the cliffs they’re hovering over.

From his perspective I was keeping him from living a wild and adventurous life he was dreaming about.
His risky dreams were limitless and he felt as if I was standing in the way of them coming true.

Today this phrase still brings up a lot of laughter in our family.
But for me, there’s something a bit daunting about it as well.
Because buried deep inside his response was some real pain.

And this is why I believe that some of our dreams get crushed…so God can put them back together along with us.

You see, he wasn’t just wildly chasing dreams, he was running toward another road. Because the one he was on was full of stone throwers and dream crushers…

Sometimes that’s how it is….
Life hurts so badly that we think running away will somehow help us forget.
So we shrug off our pain with a simple joke-
when what we’re really aching for,
is to be heard and believed….
Because far too many times we’ve tried to uncover our pain to only become wounded again.

We humans have a really hard time empathizing with one another…to sit in the presence of brokenness.
I truly believe we somehow fear becoming broken in the process.

It’s as if we struggle to let someone unfold their hurt before we begin bandaging their wounds.

I know because I do it too…
I sometimes find myself walking around it and dreading it…until it crashes into someone’s life I love and then I can’t seem to get it off my heart and mind.

And it’s here I realize…some things in life just need a chance to bleed before they’ll clot and be able to heal….

And this is when we need to remember
-we’re all battling our own version of brokenness…
broken relationships…
broken dreams…
broken hearts…
until pretty soon we end up feeling all too broken to find healing.
…and honestly the best relief for our throbbing soul is
for someone to come inside our brokenness and tell us
they know what its like to survive the breaking of a heart.

Friend, this is the beauty of sharing our story;
because stories have a peculiar way of permeating into others’ souls and finding their way into ours all at the same time.

We first hear stories when we’re very young and quickly discover that we come most alive inside of other’s stories.

So we trade our story, inviting others into our lives.

Here’s my story and there’s your story and in some strange way we become woven into a beautiful story of our own.
And in the stitching of our hearts there’s a mending of souls taking place….some deep soul healing that happens.

The truth is I’m never sure how much the penning of my experiences helps you find your healing or where I’ll end up in mine.

But what I am certain of;
although life sometimes feels like it’s falling apart at the seams
there’s something very beautiful that happens in the mending…
whether it’s a heart we’re stitching back together or just one of our favorite sweaters….both find value rather than being tossed aside!

How broken pieces find purpose in the church

A funny truth to tell is…
there was a time I thought I could escape pain…

Sure I knew life encompassed losses and was full of all kinds of random mishaps which involved various levels of pain but I was convinced I could avoid certain pieces of it.

So I kept myself from relationships that would open me up to any kind of hurt and I spent hours building my muscles for when I might have to rely upon my physical toughness to combat pain.

It’s funny the great lengths we’ll go to avoid hurt.

I was under the impression that if I was skillful enough I might even be able to navigate through life escaping its’ more painful occurrences.

I naively thought pain came to those who were less aware of its’ threats.

You see, I had experienced enough pain in my life to know I wanted to escape it.

I spent years running from it, numbing it and detesting its presence.
Because when it did somehow leak itself into my life I desperately fought to feel its effects.

Years later when I found God I thought it meant a lessening of any painful incidents. I assumed with God being good he must want good for me which equated less pain too.

Of course this isn’t accurate or even true but it was a lie I told myself.

I learned the ‘hard’ way that my thinking was an even greater symptom of a faulty faith.

And throughout the years as my faith has gone through a lot of remolding God has graciously carried me through.

You see…
Faith isn’t just something we one day get, it’s a  process we grow through.

And it’s not as if God ever left me alone in my incorrect thinking…in fact that’s one of the most beautiful things about him that he patiently walks with us during these times.

And the odd thing is I know I’m still learning….I’m continually growing and readjusting my faith.
Because friends life happens and things that used to easily be accepted get challenged and strengthened.

A beautiful friend and I were just talking about this yesterday…how our faith is a process that’s going to take a lifetime for us to understand.

What’s even more amazing is I’ve wrestled through this faith journey while serving in the church…because even those completely committed to the furthering of the Kingdom are being tried in their faith…
Because this is where passion and fervor become birthed and plainly & simple, this is where God wants us to be!

Moments I’ve asked myself as Jesus asked…
‘Can you drink this cup?’
Jesus asked his disciples this as he spoke of the pain and suffering they’d bear as his followers.

And as one of his followers the question continually rings in my ears too…

It plays this melody when my heart aches to be close to my loved ones but because of our commitments to the furthering of the gospel we are scattered about.
It rings in my ears when my brokenness battles feelings of shame over my shattered soul and I feel the impact it’s bringing to those who have to feel its sharp edges, it’s heard when ministry gets hard and even ugly because of the brokenness of our world…

and I ask myself….

Can I drink this cup if it means what I drink will become emptied to a hurting world?

Can I drink in all its’ goodness even with all the pain and sorrow that will come too?

Will I live this life fully regardless of what happens?

And this is where my heart is often pierced and I have to come face to face with what I believe…

I remember when this question weighed especially heavily on my chest.
We were young and fully saturated in ministry when I found myself dissecting this question…

We were experiencing so many hard things all at once and I felt so alone.
Such a difficult time that I couldn’t see the holiness that was lingering inside of our circumstances.
For some reason my attention kept being drawn to my pain more than anything else.

The wounds were oozing from so many places…multiple health concerns continuously landing us into hospitals only finding ourselves coming home with handfuls of medicines to ease our symptoms. Yet others of it coming from people who struggled to look at the hurt in our lives- for even brokenness has a hard time seeing itself.
And then there was a lifetime of wounds I’d collected that were all wound up so tightly I couldn’t make a distinction of what they all meant or where they came from.

We don’t always know what is at the core of our soul and our hurt…but we experience its presence when something hard whisks into our lives and triggers something underneath.
It can feel like something is stuck deep within the walls of our chests and we find ourselves holding our breath.

It’s here we wonder if we’ll ever feel whole again…when the brokenness won’t be broken anymore…

During this very painful time,
I remember feeling hurt more than I felt care.
Which I honestly don’t blame anyone for…

The truth is…
I am guilty of this too…

I often want to find a cure rather than care for what is broken.

I’ll say a quick prayer in hopes of removing pain.
I’d rather be a pain-reliever than walking the road of suffering with them.
I’m tempted to offer antidotes than hold their hand and steady their heart.
I even find myself wrapping bandages covering the ugliness of wounds rather than pursuing true healing.

It’s a temptation that is all too familiar.
Because honestly speaking walking with people through messes is just plain hard…and time consuming and sometimes we can feel like we have enough of a mess waiting for us at home to deal with someone else’s.

I tell you that I get it…now…

But at the time I didn’t fully understand it.
I don’t know if I was in too much pain to see it clearly or if I honestly just had to walk through it myself to understand…

Whatever it was it felt real and it felt overwhelming.
Because when I was there, I just wanted someone to understand…to listen to my hurt and care for me.
I didn’t know how I just knew I needed them to walk with me through it and yet its funny to ponder back through those days and see what God was doing all the while I felt abandoned and alone.

You see…
My faith didn’t need a Savior…I already had one.
It didn’t need a healer…I had the great Physician.
I didn’t need someone to always be present…I had the One who promised to never leave or forsake me.

But I believed what the world told me -that people were supposed to soothe the hurts I held within.

Yet it was in this brittle season I found that which would become my constant inside every wintry storm I’d endeavor…
I found….

Yes, I know he was always there but I was to busy looking for others to know him like this.

It took me cracking my soul wide open and inviting him into my brokenness to find his healing.

And in this beautiful community of the church I found something else too…

I found that there’s nothing easy about it.
You see we all bring our sorrows our joys and we gather together in our broken state.
We bravely uncover our wounds expressing our hope in the One who meets our needs and heals our hurts.
We gather together with our individual wounds and we share them with one another knowing if we carry them alone they’re insufferable yet together, they become a beautiful source of healing within this community of love and care.

The Church-
the very thing my heart was growing disdain for,
a tempting of my soul to run away from sweetly became
the place my soul found its’ soul-full rest and I found I belonged…

I also realized something else….that God wasn’t changing them, because he was changing ME!

You see this community is a lot like a stained glass window…
We come inside it with our jagged and broken edges.
Alone they have the potential of cutting and hurting others and we’re tempted to compare, judge and even attach them to our value and worth.

Yet something simply breathtaking occurs when these little pieces brought together form the heart of Christ…

It’s here that people find healing for their broken souls, where the homeless find shelter for their wandering hearts and where together we contribute to the rebuilding of God’s Kingdom.

It’s where each of us is essential and necessary.
For together we make community.
And when even one of these tiny pieces are missing, we are incomplete.

This my friend is the beauty of community!

It is where our small contributions affix themselves to one another and we reflect God to our world…
Where our broken pieces find a beautiful place of belonging and purpose…our spirit  calms, our faith builds and our soul finds its deepest mending in the gathering of this community…

and yet when we sometimes wake up and find ourselves wondering why the community we’re currently is so desperately in need of something else.

When it feels like people’s hearts are so damaged and their insides are hanging all over…this my friend is when we must be reminded who Jesus came for-
not the healthy and the whole but for the broken and the sick…for those who like us, need him and need us. 

….this my friend is where the church becomes beautiful and where God promises to make ‘all’ new.  
And the process of becoming new is a lifelong process we’re all traveling…so be compassionate dear soul to yourself but also to those we’re called to love…
we’re all on this journey to become whole…
….so, love more extravagantly and heal more wholly and love again and again until Jesus returns…

this my friend is drinking the cup Jesus asked his disciples to sip from and the one he asks us to drink and pour from as well….this dear one is the church we’re called to…it’s not a journey we’re meant to travel alone but one we go together!

Making room to grow

I was given this plant by a beautiful friend when she left the country.
Not because she wanted to but because she had to.
And she left the remains of this wonder to bless me.

And although I love plants because they’re living organisms that remind me of the beauty of life. 
Sometimes they die and I hate it when they fail because it reminds me of my inability to keep everything I love alive. 

You see, 
plants like humans…thrive under the ‘right’ conditions.
And this plant at times has called for me to take extra care of it…to give it a little extra water, to place it closer to the sun rays and even to trim it. 

Well, lately it’s been doing fine but I’ve been noticing even in its state of survival it’s roots are beginning to grow outside of its original pot and it is asking for room. 

It’s time for it to be replanted.
For me to give it a bigger home for it to spread its roots.
And I’ve been resisting it.

I suppose its because its truly mimicking my life right now.
I could come up with a thousand reasons why not to do it, but one of the most common phrases I’ve repeated is
-‘It’s doing fine where it is’.

And it’s true,  it is surviving but what I’ve been given some thought to lately is
-it’s not thriving. 

That the possibility of its health improving if I’d make room for its deep roots has me thinking lately.  

Isn’t this true in life?
If only we wouldn’t resist the changes our lives need for what is to come…

These past few years I’ve been really considering how life is a series of trusting…a chain of events that have been testing my willingness to wholeheartedly trust God.

As our kids have been growing up and traveling along the paths God is directing them I’m learning more and more about this.

We see this in parenting so vividly.
Every stage of raising kids calls us to a greater level of trust and challenges where we place our trust. 

When our children are infants and toddlers there’s a natural dependence on us that occurs.
And it’s a good feeling to be wanted and to be able to meet a child’s needs of love, nurturing and even to be able to provide physically, spiritually and emotionally what they need.

Yet the reality of all of this is truly overwhelming, as it feels way more than we physically have within to give.
It’s here in this season we learn to lean greater into God and those He’s surrounded us with to help us in this endeavor…and here we grow into a greater trust in God. 

And yet it’s also here that many of us grasp for other things to help us control the ever-changing circumstances swirling around us hoping to keep our heads above water.
We quickly learn this tactic of surviving is misleading…
because although initailly we might be duped into believing we’ve got it all under control, we really have nothing within our control we just merely think we do!

It’s here that an event often occurs where we are faced to really trust God.

One where we are faced with if we trust God- despite the outcome?

Will we remain faithful if it turns out the way we want it or even when life turns itself into an even greater tragedy?

You see these events come into the lives of all humanity….the most faithful of humans and even those of us who are just trying our best. 
There’s no differing considered in heartache and suffering.

And as these little humans grow up and become adults we as parents continue growing in our journey of trusting.

Trusting for their good, their safety, their success, their faithfulness….this list is exhaustive of our desires for our sons and daughters. 

And yet there’s so much more than this at stake in these moments of time…

You see I truly believe God has greater concern for our children than just their comfort and safety.
Yet these are two of the most common pleadings we as parents spend a lot of time repeating to God. 
Think about how much of our striving is for this for our kids!

And yet this is probably some of the least of God’s concerns…really…

Sure it’s okay to pray for their safety even now we have two of our kids trekking this very minute across the country preparing to do the hard work of church planting and a son who will be spending the next couple of months in the desert training for our country’s safety and you can bet we’ve prayed for safety for them.
But it’s been within these prayers God has been challenging me to go deeper…to scrape at things even deeper. 

Because God has greater plans for our kids than just their safety or ease…
He has an adventure for them that He’s leading them into.
Out into their own journey of faith and trust. 
Our kids need their own crossing of the Jordan River to know God!

And this means a whole new way of us learning to trust God too. 

This past year not only have I been learning to walk this earth without the comfort of my parent’s support and guidance but my husband and I have released our last son, our final arrow. 
And although there’s a whole lot of grief and loss one experiences with these changes I’ve been discovering something even greater and deeper here…

You see God cares greatly for our broken hearts but He has something else hidden in this season too for us to uncover.

I found it in the pages of Job’s story…I had to look for it a bit deeper than ever before…
as sometimes one can get stuck in all that Job lost…his family, livelihood and all the common things we ‘fill’ our lives with and yet it’s beyond his pain and loss we find a treasure…a mystery of sorts.

It’s as if God was calling our short attention span to wait and to read to the ending of his story. Calling us to not give up where his life seems so sad and hopeless but to continue on. He beckons us to not get tempted into believing Job’s life was over when he lost all he had because there was something greater to come…something even bigger God was doing…

It’s in these few words hope rises…

‘The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.’ Job 42.12

Did you see it?
The ‘latter’ part of his life was blessed more than the first. 

In the beginning of his story we hear of how full his life was.
How he was a righteous man, blameless before God…how he had 7 sons and 3 daughters…his possessions and servants are listed with enormity and his life appeared more full than one could imagine and yet this is the season of life this faithful follower of God was stripped of all that was near and dear to him.

And throughout the story of Job we read of his faithfulness even in his dire grief. His steadfastness to God even when those closest to him persuaded him to give into self pity and doubt but Job remained faithful and this is where we find this verse above tucked away.

And then following this reminder for us to uncover we see how Job’s life began to be full again, he even was given the exact number of children he’d lost.
I don’t write this foolishly to say everything we lose we will be given more or even given back the exact same things.

But what I do see in the pages of Job’s story something of greater value.
This discovery began whispering a new desire deep within….
not for what I would be given but what God was doing in the secret places of my brokenness.

My heart’s desire these days is not to go searching for something to ‘fill’ this emptiness but to ‘grow’ something He’s planting deep within me.

For here in Job’s story I am reminded that God doesn’t just want us to surrender our fears or even our losses He wants to restore us with a greater hope and trust in Him. 

God has MORE for us beyond the loss.
MORE hope…
MORE for us and MORE for our kids too. 

So rather than clutching onto the control that gives us a false sense of security
-may we stretch our arms out to our loving God who is MORE than able to carry us and our children. 

This is where our lives find the ‘fullness’ God has for them when we allow Him to grow what’s within…
‘Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!’ Ps. 126.5

When we freely receive all the changes life is bringing into our homes and receive them our lives become full and they heal…because transition is hard.
Making room for change and trusting God is hard because sometimes things get harder rather than easier. 

And sometimes it means resting in the hard until we heal but just as my plant needs more room to spread its roots and grow.
my heart needs more room for this too.

And because of the lesson this plant is teaching me these days I’m learning its time for both of us to no longer survive but to thrive within these days!

Life changes

Goodbyes are so hard.|
Sure even when we give them a tagline like
‘see you later…somehow even though outwardly we feel like we’re changing the game truth is there’s still loss.

I can remember the trip back home was always harder than the trip there.
Because saying good bye always involved leaving someone I loved behind.

Thirty some odd years later Of traveling back home and this was the first Christmas my parents weren’t there to fix up our room and get their home ready for the holidays.

It’s such a strange feeling…being here without them.
Something you really have no words for until you find yourself living inside it.

I used to mindlessly hover over this season of life not giving it much thought thinking i’d somehow be ready when the time came.

And then before I could catch my breath I was there…funny, but you’re never really ready for times like this.

The hope of heaven is real and it helps the ache but it doesn’t remove the loss…

And change is a big part of it.
I don’t like change.
I tend to be a person who likes my rhythms to remain the same…
because change is unpleasant worrisome and even painful.

Even when something good is about to change, it can be unsettling to navigate through its way.

So I try to avoid it even when it has my best in mind.

No matter how I feel about change though it’s chased me down the past few years and I’m still trying to catch my breath.

I’ve walked through some hard & holy moments that I couldn’t have ever seen coming…I’ve courageously stepped through the changes that were handed to me…and through it all I’ve chosen to peel back a little bit more of my soul because even though I’d rather avoid it
<<<change has a way of writing itself into our story.

You see,
even though I might strive to avoid it…change is imminent.
Everything in life changes…
seasons change…people change and even our relationships change.

So, what should we do?

This is where life shifts…we have to choose if we’re going to let fear keep us from moving ahead or whether we’ll choose to become a whole lot more brave and stare down the self-doubt that’s keeping us up at night.

And to be completely truthful-
some days I’m up for the battle but then there’s the days when I let fear talk me out of it.

I often wonder if I was brought into this world with deep emotions planted in the crevices of my heart…for as long as I can remember I’ve felt deeply…loved with everything I’ve had and ached inside every nerve I could feel.
And its been really hard because I’ve not always known if what I felt was real or it was merely the remnant of some shattered memories taking over.

But its in the midst of these days that I do some deep soul talk and remind myself that change is coming whether I like it or not.
Life may look different these days and I may even be a bit different too.

Because life has a way of changing us and we need to choose whether we will be about the change or let the change be about us.

When something’s missing

At one time it was one of my son’s desires to grow up and become a puzzle maker…he first dreamed of this profession when he was younger and spent hours working puzzles beside an older gentleman who lived in the nursing home where his great- grandmother also lived.

Throughout the years they grew a bond, he and the puzzle maker.
They never really spoke much but the puzzles always did.

This man had a way of working puzzles and my youngest son did too.

The puzzle maker had a fascinating way of separating the puzzle pieces by colors and was very methodical in his process.
I later learned that he served years in the military.
This came at no surprise as his puzzle skills reflected his precision.

I remember the day my father in law told my son that the puzzle maker had died.
They both had tears in their eyes for a friend they’d lost and for my son, the camaraderie he’d miss.

Although he had lost his puzzle mentor he continued spending hours putting them together.
We had a puzzle out on our table most of the time, they even lined the inside of his closet ….collecting them along the way.
Each puzzle told a story of a different season.

The harder the puzzle the more intriguing it was.

And yet no one gets quite used to the struggle of putting them together to discover-a missing piece.

My son was given this Star Wars puzzle only two days ago for Christmas and I could tell he wanted to do it alone.

It’s funny how times change.

We just finished one together when this one arrived. 

During the holidays our family likes to gather around a table with pieces spread and spend hours putting them together… there’s something therapeutic about fitting pieces  and filling empty spaces.

But things change…

Our kids do too, they transition from learning from you, to sitting beside you to finally working independently and I am discovering the beauty that lays in all of these stages of life.

As he was determined to finish this puzzle within the first 24 hours of receiving it, we were surprised when he realized there was a missing piece.

It’s awful to finish a project to only discover you can’t complete it and so I expected his usual reaction as this has happened a few times before. 

Yet his response is what surprised me even more…years ago he’d hunt and hunt for a missing piece growing with frustration until he could find it, but not this time.

As he realized it wasn’t to be found with his first sweep of the house he calmly responded that he’d look in the morning.

And that was that…

It’s funny how my heart seemed more at unrest with the missing piece than his. 

I longed to have it finished…it was speaking a story of its own.

There was something about that missing piece that reflected my current life that has been feeling a little unfinished lately.

The missing piece seemed much like the plethora of vacancies in my life this year…kids who’d married and moved away, our youngest leaving for college and the hole that was missing from the death of my sweet Dad.
….all which had a way of occupying an emptiness within.

So the sight of this barren space with him calmly resting in its vacancy made me wonder why I was feeling compelled to fill it up rather than resting in it’s healing…

It’s why I like full cups rather than dry ones.
And why I prefer a full home with messy beds to one that has fresh sheets lining all its spaces.

Not only did the hollow space cause me to reflect on my own discomfort with the missing piece. It also led me to repeatedly pull out cushions, lift up chairs and couches hunting for it.
His response demonstrated just how much he’d grown while he’s been away at his first semester of college.

The past five years or so I’ve been asked many times why restoration takes so long… and have even been questioned if it should.

It’s funny how we struggle to let things age, allow processes to take place, but we do.

And just like anything worth waiting for 

—Healing takes time too…

Perhaps it’s why people give up before the healing is complete…we want to get away from the aching within and the hard processes just seem to never come to an end.

I know that’s the way I often feel…

I long for a break from the process.

I even look for a manageable escape.

And wonder if all of it is really worth it.

But as we stared at the puzzle this morning with my heart longing to find what was making things feel incomplete and him in his contentment to instead discover the beauty of the picture

-I was awakened to look past the missing piece and see the bigger picture.

We may find the piece, for I’m not done looking for it…I know it has to be somewhere in the walls of our home and leaving something undone, just isn’t settling right now for me.

But that’s how life is…

There’s times everything doesn’t work out, not all of it fits perfectly together, because sometimes life leaves us without the answers we’re looking for and leaves us with missing pieces….and we need to learn a new way of adjusting to life in the midst of some brokenness.

Because sometimes missing pieces never get found or if they do they look a little rougher around the edges than we hope for.

And there’s often times when heading into a new year brings a similar hope of finding some of our missing pieces but the truth is
-sometimes it’s just the perfect space our brokenness is needing to heal…

There’s often times when heading into a new year brings the hope of finding some of those missing pieces but truth is sometimes it’s just another season of healing our brokenness is needing….

The art of soul keeping this Christmas

We often find ourselves battling the exterior and neglecting what’s inside.
I did this for years.

I thought if only I could somehow clean the outside of my soul I would find the inner peace I was so desperatley longing for.

For so long my struggles seemed to mimic so many others I was brushing up against…all who were also lost on a journey, who were yearning like me to find wholeness, only looking in all the wrong places.

I remember the day it began…

As the hollowness eroded within the secret places of my soul, I was told a story of a friend’s sister who was struggling with her body and what she was doing to battle it.

In that moment I felt like it must have been the answer to stop the bleeding within.
That it might just relieve the heart beat inside my wound, so I gave it a try.

We know when something within is not right, yet we believe the lies that echo louder than the truth we long to be told.

I’m not sure why it is…I suppose the messages we’re told when we’re young really are powerful….

For I lived from the ugly lies…

I was never enough.

Every inch I strived to perfect, I came up less than perfect.

I was miserably failing.
Yet there was a whisper within that was trying to be heard, because…
I knew it wasn’t all there could be.

But I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to.

I was ashamed, embarrassed and humiliated and all too desperate.

Several distinct and impactful events slowly came into my life that began a journey that has led me find healing and wholeness.

Strangely none of which could have occurred if I had not been in that place in my life…you see as hard as it is to type these words its inside our struggles we search for healing and for God.

These storms in our lives lead us to collect the pieces of our pasts and try to fit them together within our souls.

And this is where we find that truth is what is missing all along.

Truth becomes our saving grace we hold close when the storms seem to rise within our chests and threaten our peace.

And this is really the most meaningful ‘peace’ of truth I can pass onto you when you’re inside your own kind of hard & holy moment.

Because friend,
our tender hearts are all too broken and vulnerable sometimes they just long to be heard…

They want to be tended to.

They yearn to be healed.

They desperately want to know they matter.

we tell ourselves lies that are easier to believe…

And we live inside these places of insecurity and fear.

Because truth is,
we don’t really know ourselves…
or who it is we want to become so we feed our souls on what everyone else is satisfying themselves on and tell ourselves that’s all there really is…

I exchanged how God designed me for a seemingly better version of someone else…
I replicated their life in hope I’d find my own…

I told myself lies.
I did this to convince myself my soul would eventually find peace, but it didn’t.

Instead I became a hallowed out skeleton of myself with my soul left somewhere far behind me…

This is when I found myself in the presence of that one thing left for me to do that I told you about earlier…

It was this fraction of time where the trajectory of my story shifted.

Where my story of living again began… 

This is where I began to find my voice instead of the lies I told myself.

Perhaps you my friend are in a similar spot…
and if you are,
know that it’s going to be okay.

That what you’ve been believing may have been all wrong but it is what led you to where you are and now you know something of greater value than before.

For now you really know how much your soul is worth.

For you know the power your voice of truth has over your soul.

For you know how strong you really are because that fight you’ve been warring within, you’re now winning in it.

Our soul is satisfied best in the possession of God the giver of our soul.

May we consider what these next few days hold for our lives rather than what they are missing.

May we be reminded that Jesus’ coming was not in vain but it was for the sake of our souls. 

This Christmas don’t miss that He chose to give us the most intimate gift He could give us…He generously gave us the presence of His son, Jesus.

The very ONE who not only lives for us, but who lives WITH us!

And that your soul is the one spot He chose out of everywhere He could live to embody and live within.

And this we know…
even though our souls may become broken and bruised…

He is the only ONE who can put it back together better than it was before…

Merry Christmas my dear readers and friends!