Why Crying at the Gym is Cool

I’m pumping my legs, trying to ignore that I’m already dripping with sweat. That’s the point right?
My iPad rests on the bike in front of me, and my headphones swing back and forth with the motion. I need a distraction.
This morning, it’s Doctor Who. Those of you who know me are rolling your eyes or laughing right about now. You might have heard me mention it a few times in the last few months. Or maybe a few hundred times. (I’m so sorry.)

I’ve seen this one before because… well, because I’ve seen them all.
Like most episodes, at first I can’t stop smiling and I’m like, “Aww, look how cute they are.”
The Doctor and Clara talking about what time is made of and the Doctor is all, “Well not strawberries… no no no… that would be unnaceptable.”

Then it gets exciting and stuff starts happening, and of course they get into a jam (but not strawberry).
And then out of nowhere, there’s a bit of moisture on my face besides sweat. I’m crying.
(But not totally because I’m at the gym and really? Who cries at the gym? Apparently me.)

So there I am, swallowing a grapefruit sized lump in my throat, all because Clara is telling a story to a little girl who’s afraid.
A story about the day her worst nightmare came true. She got lost.
“What happened?” The girl asks with wide eyes.
She smiles gently, “My world ended. My heart broke… and then my mum found me.”
Her words echo and reverbate off the walls of my heart like a great cavern, and I can feel it.

This is where I am. The lost place. Where it really feels like your world might be ending.
The things that used to be familiar and good and right now loom over you like giants with faces you can’t recognize.
You don’t know where you are, and you don’t know how to get back home. And it breaks your heart.

Clara keeps talking and I can barely keep it together when she shares what her mum told her that day. The day she was found.

“It doesn’t matter where you are. In the jungle, in the desert, or on the moon. However lost you might feel, you’ll never really be lost. Not really. Because I will always be here. And I will always come and find you. Every single time.

I’m not at the gym now, so I can cry all I want. And that’s good, because I can’t help it.
Every time I hear those words, every time I see them staring back at me on the page, something inside me breaks.
Because it’s dark in this place. And I know I can’t find the way out on my own. I know I need someone to find me.
And some days, it feels impossible to remember, to believe… that He’s coming.

But then, when I feel like I can barely pray, when I can barely make it through the days. When I feel like everything around me has gone blurry, and I have no idea how I’ll ever find my way back home. When my heart is too fragile to hear it anywhere else. He sends a story. He puts words in the mouth of Clara Oswald, and her mum.

It doesn’t make everything go away. It doesn’t make it all magically better.
But it helps me hang on. It gives me hope. Even if it’s just for today.

No matter where I am.
No matter how lost I may feel.
No matter how many times I’ve wandered off.
He will always come and find me.
Every. Single. Time.

So you know what I think? I think maybe a good cry at the gym is ok. In fact maybe, as the doctor would say, “crying at the gym is cool.”

There is surprisingly always Hope.

“I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me.” Psalm 119:176.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:7-12

Reaching

We drive slow past the rubble, through remnants of lives twisted, crumbled, scattered. He sits in his truck in front of a pile of sticks he says used to be his house.
I can’t tell.

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A stranger reaches for my shoulder suddenly as it hits her. All that they’ve lost.
And all she’s been spared.
“My grandbabies and I walk down here and get ice-cream,” she points out the window, her fingers gripping my shirt. “We just… walk,” her voice is distant, “We’re just a few blocks away.”

I put my hand over hers as the dam starts to break. “It came so close.”
And isn’t this always the way? Even if your house is left standing…
even if it looks like everything is fine.
The storm still leaves scars.
She covers her mouth and tries to be brave, and I know she would do anything for these people. Her people. That’s why she’s here.

But sometimes, the rescuers need rescuing.
I don’t even know her name, but she’s reaching, and I’m not letting go.

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She’s saying she’s sorry, and I wonder for what?
Sorry for caring? Sorry for waking up to the miracle of walking to get ice-cream with her babies?
Sorry for bending, for breaking when life hits you and the ones you love with the full force of an F5 tornado? Sorry for not being strong enough to “handle” the kind of storm that twists and snaps steel like so much silly putty?
A storm that leaves a mama’s arms empty and her heart-broken.
A town can turn to debris in a matter of minutes, but those heart-strings can snap in a second.

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And I wonder how we can talk about recovery. Because really?
These people will never be the same.
All day I’ve been saying it, staring at those piles in the streets.
“Where do you even start?”

She’s still hanging onto me as I look over my shoulder. She knows.
She knows, sometimes the only way to start is to reach out. To hang on to someone.
Even if it makes you feel weak.

I can tell she’s there, and I speak the words that have been spoken to me, “You’re allowed.”
She shakes her head and chokes out the words, “No I’m not.” Still, she doesn’t let go.
I’m looking at her… and I’m looking at me. And why don’t we believe it?

When did we decide we were the strong ones? That we were somehow immune to the breaking?
That everyone else is allowed to struggle but us?

I squeeze her hand and this time a chorus of voices join me in speaking the truth, “Yes you are.”
I can feel her hanging on, trying to believe, and I know.
I know the feeling that any minute, you’re going to drop.
To feel the weight of the crushing.
To wonder what happens when you’re too weak even to hang on.

Will He let go? We’re fighting for the answer, sifting through the rubble of our aftermath.
We pretend we’re “recovered,” but we’re up to our knees in debris.
I don’t even know her name. But she’s reaching. And I’m not. Letting. Go.

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And there it is.

He knows my name. I’m reaching. And He’s not. Letting. Go.
Do I believe it? I’m still reaching. Still asking for help to believe. Where else would I go? 

Mystery and Miracle

Today I’m craving little arms wrapped tight around my neck, and that little one’s voice, full of hope,  “will you play with me?”

Today, I woke to a world deep green, and frosted with white.
Winter is losing, but refuses to let go without a fight.

Today, my heart aches with the gift of what is, and the longing for all that is “not yet.”

Today, I sip coffee and ask questions.
I listen to hauntingly beautiful, and sometimes sad music, because it fits the mystery.

Today I long for more of the knowing.
Not the words, but the Word wrapped in love. Glory bound up in skin.
Not just his skin. This skin.

Every star at His fingertips, every rock, tree and mountain competing with the angels, shouting His praise.
And where does He settle down?
In this trembling tent, this body of dust.

What’s a God like you doing in a place like this?
I make all things new.

Maybe this is one mystery best left unsolved.
Maybe it’s more miracle than mystery.

And miracles aren’t for solving.
They’re for witnessing. Wondering. Worshiping.
Every day. Getting what we don’t deserve.

Grace. Miracle. God with us. 

The Beauty of the Knowing

When we are little I pretend to be the boss and “allow” him to use the watering can I first stole from him, and he cheerfully accepts and hands it back when I tell him it’s time.

Only 5 years grown up, I borrow his cowboy boots and hold tight the reigns in one hand and his toy gun in the other, while he stands by. Happy to share his pony and watch.

When we get to be grown-ups, he remembers that I said I want to go fishing someday. So he baits the hook for me and teaches me how send it flying. The fish slip by that night, but we catch a turtle. And some magic when the sun goes down and the fireflies burn holes in the night.

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We are family, our mammas sisters.
And we are friends. Always friends.
We know what it is to wrestle.
We know what it is to feel the pain. When the struggle doesn’t go away.
We know what it is to search for the known in the nameless, like fingers feeling a face in the dark.
We know what it is to get lost in the maze.

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We know what it is to need a Savior. And we know what it is to find Him.
We know what it is to be rescued. And we know what it is to wait to be set wholly free.

The day the flowers came, the day I can’t stop smiling at those 12 stems of lavish love, attached to these words from my cousin, my friend, “I understand.”
And something begins to unfold in me.

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I understand.

Words that only bring healing when they come from the true knowing.
And this kind of knowing?
Only comes from the wounding.

And I think how my friend looks like Jesus, generously offering healing to me… through His own wounds.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

What could be more beautiful?

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I walk by them and reach for my camera again and again, aching to capture every angle of lovely.

But it never ends.

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I reach for the words to unfold these glimpses of the glory of this Salvation I’m only beginning to grasp.

Of which there are no end.

Day 31: A Lifetime of Healing

31 down. A lifetime to go.

One thing is very clear to me at the end of this semi-consistent stream of thinking. As long as I’m alive, I will be learning and living this messy thing called healing.

Because we live in a world busted up by sin, there’s no way to walk around in it without getting busted up ourselves.

And the truth? Sometimes I’m the one swinging the hammer.

Between the pain coming from out there, and the return fire from in here, the situation looks pretty grim.

The good news? God’s not afraid of grim.

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope…” 2 Corinthians 1:8-10.

When the healing doesn’t look like we want it to, the hurt hits hard and the words get real. And this doesn’t scare Him either.

How long, Lord? I know part of what you’re delivering me from is my obsession with myself, and my craving for stability apart from You. But right now it hurts. Please, be my hope. When healing is just around the corner, when it’s nowhere in sight, when it’s a distant memory. You are the same. Our hope lives because You live. Perfectly healed, perfectly able to heal.

The end of 31 days, just the beginning.

A lifetime of healing. A lifetime of hope.

Day 30: Music and Words

Tonight is a night for headphones. A night for new music. Movie scores I’ve never heard before.

There is something profoundly beautiful about music written to help you make sense of a story.

Each note, each chord chosen specifically. Intentionally.

When I run out of words, I put on my headphones and remember this story is being written by someone else.

That each moment has been crafted specifically. Intentionally.

And I live by His Words. Not mine.

Listening and trusting tonight that each note, dissonant or harmonious, is exactly as it should be.

And someday we’ll hear the final score, and we will ache for the beauty of it. And we’ll wonder how it ever sounded strange to us.

Until that day Lord, give us grace. Give us a small taste of that melody to carry us over. Give us ears to hear your glory, even here. 

Day 28-29: Engulfing Waters

In the city, the waters rise. We can’t tear our eyes from the images.

We call, we text, we pray.

In our homes, at work, we swim in our own tension, barely keeping our heads above water.

We are overpowered and under-equipped, and we know it.

So we run for shelter.

“The Lord sits enthroned over the engulfing waters,
the Lord sits enthroned as the eternal king.

The Lord gives his people strength;
the Lord grants his people security.” Psalm 29:10-11.

Whatever waters are engulfing you today, the only safe place is with the forever-King.

The King who can promises His stabilizing presence to His people, only because He allowed Himself to be engulfed in the flood of God’s wrath.

And now, we seek shelter from the punishment we deserve in the shelter of those wounds.

If He has granted us shelter from such a storm at great expense to Himself, He can be trusted in this storm. Here. Now.

Lord give us us strength in the midst of whatever storm we find ourselves in. As the waters rise, plant our feet on solid ground. On Christ. Thank you that You are King over the flood. There are no surprises with You. Give us grace to trust You more. We ask it in the strong and secure name of Jesus.

Day 26-27: Make Me Know

Eat breakfast. Make Lunch. Wash dishes. Fix Dinner. Clean up. Repeat.

We stare at each other in a daze and someone asks what day it is.

Meals and pain medication mark the passage of time on the clock. But we are frozen in the moment. Torn between clinging to life, and aching for their pain to be over. Even though we know it means ours has just begun.

I feel almost dizzy as I look at every picture, every nick-knack, every corner in the house as if seeing it for the first time. Because everywhere I turn, I see her.

And not for the first time the question burns inside me. How do you ever recover from the shock of a life full of reminders… yet suddenly empty of the presence of one so dearly loved?

Here is a level of healing I don’t understand at all. A long and messy healing.

I text words to a friend, “I don’t think I’m ready for this stage of life.”

She writes back, “I don’t think we ever will be.”

And in this suspension of time, I come face to face with a prayer that scares me a little.

“LORD, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days;
Let me know how transient I am.

Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths…
Surely every man at his best is a mere breath.

And now, Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in You.” Psalm 39:4-5, 7

Make me know my end… and make me know my hope. Make me know You. Please Lord. The former without the latter can only lead to despair.
And You are the only hope that’s sufficient for this reality. Save us from false hopes. Make us know You.

Day 25: Exceedingly Abundantly

Sitting on the floor, listening to the sound of a friend pouring out her heart to God on your behalf.

Sharing honest conversation over coffee.

Laughing.

Eating dinner in a tree-house.

Making multiple phone calls to share answered prayer.

Healing came in unexpected packages for me this week, reminding me that God is the One overseeing this process, and He knows exactly what we need.

Even when we don’t.

May we walk through our days expectant of the unexpected. Grace. Exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen,” Ephesians 3:20-21. 

 

Day 24: Listening and Learning

The more I write about healing, the less I feel I know about it. So much of it seems clearer when you find yourself on the other side of it.

I still feel very much in the middle, so it remains a mystery to me.

Right now, I’m trying to listen… and to believe others who have been to the hard places and come out on the other side.

I love these words from Presten Gillham: “Worry and fear are simply the belief that I have gotten myself into a place where God is not. And so that brings us to the truth, that God, through his determination to share his heart with me, was willing to go to my ungracious place to be with me.”

The belief that I have gotten myself in a place where God is not.

I can’t help but think of these words from Psalm 139:Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or Where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.”

Thank you Lord that there is no place so ungracious You cannot overpower it with your more than sufficient grace. Meet us now Lord. Please.

Give us grace.