The waiting sickness

She asks me how bad the homesickness is and I tell her it’s nonexistent.

Until the next Friday night, when I rack my brain for someone in the same time zone to call.

How long will it take to make Friday-night-kind-of friends?

It was only three months before when he brought the car to a stop and told me I didn’t look well. “It’s just the stress of the move,” I tell him. “It’ll be better in a month.”

I let the time pass.

But I find that waiting is not a cure. It’s simply the current that brings you into another pool of time–and there will be deeper waters and darker shadows there too.

She calls me that Friday night and asks how you get to the point in grief where you can get off the couch. And I don’t know the right answer. I only know that there have been times where I’ve used time like it’s the only antidote at my disposal.

“I wish I could just know,” I remember her telling me. And I agree. If only there was a way to just know whether he’s the right person to marry, then you could skip the dull ache of anxiety in the years of not knowing if all this is going to end in pain.

But you’d also the skip the buildup of wisdom.

It’s after our second date that I sit on the couch with palms open and wonder if there will ever be a day when I will move gracefully into waiting.

Maybe the best way to grow is to not grow tired of waiting.

But to use it to push away the long, dying branches of self-reliance.

Maybe the best way not to drown in the deep waters of waiting is not found in avoiding the shoreline, but in learning to swim.

“I wouldn’t have prayed about this decision if I wasn’t forced into the paralyzing position of not knowing what was going to happen,” I tell her in the middle of it all.

Because waiting is the best way to remember that we cannot and will not and do not know what the future holds.

And that’s okay. It’s okay to not know.

It’s okay to be forced to live without answers for a long time.

Because the past has shown the proof of Faithful Answers.

And how the darkest days are also the shortest days. And how the days of not knowing lead to a greater knowledge of the One who knows everything. And how days in the shadow of grief highlight the hope for better things. And hope leads back to Him.

And He is the Beginning and the End. And every question is as good as answered because time is all the same to Him.

Devaluing moments

I hop in the car and my instinct is to turn on a podcast.

Until I get home and turn on Netflix.

Until I go jogging and blast my recent playlist.

Until I’m afraid to turn off the noise, afraid of what I might hear in the silence.

“I don’t mind being alone,” I tell them. “In fact, I often prefer it.”

Except that I’m rarely ever alone.

I’m connected to stand up comedy videos, philosophical discussions–even sermons.

I have the company of content that could fill a lifetime.

And perhaps it won’t be a disappearing ozone layer or a nuclear war that will destroy millennials. Perhaps, it will simply be the company we keep that is really no one at all. Or the things we do that are really nothing at all.

Perhaps the toxicity of other people in our lives devaluing us is not our biggest enemy. Because we make choices every day to extract the value out of the limited moments we’ve been given.

It takes two weeks of sharing an apartment with five other adults – of sharing the workload, swapping stories, instigating debates – to realize that I may have just been passing time lately.

And that filling time does not lead to a fulfilled life.

And that today it’s easier than ever to feel busy doing nothing.

And it’s hard to make memories of doing nothing.

“I can’t remember anything,” I tell people frequently.

Except that evening at Red Lobster. It was just another week day when we slid into a booth across from each other. It was our weekly routine–nothing special.

But sometimes it takes months of committing to nothing-special conversations to dig down to the words that are harder to find, harder to push out on a whim.

And I leave, with the sweet taste of his words giving me hope for many ordinary months to come.

It takes two weeks of sharing an apartment with five people to see the contrast of my life-threatening pastime of passing time.

The pastime that’s sucking my purpose dry.

I get home to a quiet apartment, throw my keys on the counter. And just stop to consider, before turning on any noise, the Giver of Moments.

Just stop.

And maybe ten minutes of building space for these thoughts will mean hundreds of hours of God-driven thoughts ten years from now.

Maybe it will mean having memories.

Maybe it will mean memories worth having.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

The secret to growing up

I sit on my parent’s front porch, sticking out my toes to try to catch warmth from the early morning sun. It’s my second last day before moving to a new province.

I finally went through all my childhood belongings in the attic. Now, they sit in boxes to be donated. I threw away my craft glitter and that rock my best friend and I rubbed our blood on when we were in a Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn phase. We swore we’d be friends forever.

It’s my second last day and I can’t help but wonder whether I will ever really belong anywhere again.

I’ve memorized the skyline from the front porch.

I sit with my Grandma the week before. All she talks about is her childhood now. She’s lived with those memories the longest.

Like her, I want to live in the innocent days of summer, catching minnows in the creek.

But I choose to move to a new city, where the skyline is blocked by high rises.

I consider buying my first real plant.

It’s when I talk to her on the phone that I realize what I really want. “This season is for learning to live my faith in the way God is asking me to, not the way anyone else expects me to.”

It’s about becoming a child again.

A child who accepts truth with wide-eyed awe.

A child who rests easy in the room beside her parents who pray.

A child who comforts the outcast because all people are just that–people.

It’s about believing with a whole heart.

Not because I don’t know any better.

But because I actually do.

But I’m afraid to live like it.

To love the Ancient Words because I know they’re true.

To rest in the Everlasting Arms because I know they’re safe.

And to comfort the people on the fringe because I know they’re loved, made–just like me.

Isn’t that the best way to grow up?

“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:4

Better than black ice

“Kate never lets you help her because she wants things done her way,” they say, laughing.

I laugh too. But I’m not sure they’re joking.

It’s what I’ve done all summer, since the last big life challenge came and I decided to handle it myself.

Because I’m a good driver.

And it turns out God doesn’t force me out of the driver’s seat.

But it’s July when I hit black ice.

“It must be devastating for you,’ says the spa specialist. “You’re a beautiful girl, but now all people will see is your damaged skin.”

My neck gets warm as I think of all the terrible things I want to say back to her.

My skin is exposing me, telling me that my life is out of control.

It’s telling me that I can’t ensure he won’t face heartbreak again.

That I can’t skip the silence of waiting for his email to show up in my inbox.

That I can’t fast forward the goodbyes.

Still, I am determined to steer my own vehicle toward what I have determined will make me happy.

It feels like hell. Literally. My chest feels it a lot lately. My shoulder muscles, too.

It feels like complete control over my life, without any interference from God.

It feels like God giving me what I want.

“All I want is for you to be happy,” she says.

But in mid-March, I am convinced that happiness means holding the wheel, steering away from vulnerability and selflessness.

Until it’s April and I’m tired of driving.

It’s May when I think happiness is adventurous weekends in the Adirondacks.

Until I go home tired and sick.

I’m learning that you can’t drive toward happiness if you don’t know how to find it on a map.

And you can’t ask for more if this is all there is.

I’m ten years old when I sit in the back seat of our grey minivan. I hardly look up when my mom spins out on black ice, because she’s never steered us wrong before.

And it’s time to take a back seat again. To think more like a child and less like a stubborn know-it-all.

“I can’t do this without you,” I pray on my bed in the dark.

And morning comes.

And He shows me a better way.

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

 

Grief is a gateway

The day comes and goes. Like the year comes and goes.

I try not to think about how I sat on that isolated beach along the cliffs of Lion’s Head a year ago and choked out a goodbye over the phone.

And how there was no response on the other end.

I try not to think about the following week, gasping for air in the driver’s seat, doubting everything about our relationship. What right do I have to be this devastated? She was my grandmother, not my mother.

He dives into work, acts like nothing has changed. I want to lash out at him. How can you grieve this way?

I’m angry that grief is personal. I’m angry that it’s universal.

A month after the funeral, I call her after the sun goes out, and tell her what I wasn’t brave enough to tell anyone else. “I almost didn’t go see her–when she called. I almost didn’t go see her that last time.” I probably had laundry to do.

It takes me longer to tell her that I can’t drive home to see my parents. The more distance I create between us, the less it will hurt when they’re gone.

“How is it going with that now, Kate? Grieving, I mean.” It’s eight months later.

“Much better!” I say, because I’m anxious to be done with it.

Yet. Grief exposes me.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3

I try to hold it in, but it splits me down the middle.

Until it’s a door for the kingdom.

Until I’m so broken, I don’t care about the awkward silences we share over dinner. And he doesn’t seem to care about holding back the words ‘I love you’ anymore. We both miss her and it’s enough in common.

Until I’m not awkward and afraid when she calls to talk about her grief. Because loss is a language we share.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Until my words are simpler when I pray because my bravado is gone.

But His touch is more obvious because my vulnerability has grown.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

And the constant ache of grief is a constant reminder that it won’t last forever.

Because Jesus felt it too, hanging from the cross, forsaken by His Father.

Because it’s hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

But grief is a gateway.

I read it weeks after she’s gone and the words blur.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying of pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

When you feel like a fraud

I scrub my dinner plate, soap suds reaching up to the crease in my elbow. They’ll be singing worship songs now, but I don’t belong in a worship service on a Thursday night.

Because there’s nothing like a room full of Christians to remind you how little you’ve thought of Christ lately.

Sunday mornings can be the same.

When I was a little girl, the twins would save me a seat at the front of the church. I still remember the way they sang, belting hymns from the second row. I could never match their volume.

“Religion–my a**.” She spat on the soccer field in front of me when I was fifteen.

That’s when the weekly glimpse of the cross-centered red brick building started to cause my stomach to churn. Breathe. Breathe.

I couldn’t hold my own on the soccer field. How could I go to church and sing beside the twins?

And on a Thursday night, I can’t bring myself to worship with the other twenty-somethings because I’ve spent the past five days thinking more about basketball than Jesus.

I’m a fraud if I stand in the second row of a Christian service and cheer for anyone other than the MVP of the Raptors.

Because sometimes church can make me feel like I’m an actor in a terrible dramatic production.

But it’s not as obvious if I just stay home.

Then there’s the tiny group of people who meet in an old public school and it’s a bit like a family reunion whenever I visit. Dave’s always in his Sunday best, Steve in bare feet behind the pulpit.

“It feels like family,” she tells me after we finish eating ham sandwiches in the gymnasium.

An odd assortment of misfits.

Because Sunday morning isn’t a trial on who is good enough to belong in a pew. It’s a reminder that our seats have been saved by the only One who deserves to sit in them.

Not even Dave in his Sunday best deserves a seat with the saints.

The reason we fill them is because of the cross on the wall at the front.

Because He fills them.

With misfits like Peter the denier. And Paul the persecutor.

And me.

And that’s why I set my alarm on a Sunday morning and walk through the doors and try to choose a seat that’s not in the darkest corner.

To remember why I don’t deserve to be there.

But also why I am.

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone…” Ephesians 2:19-20

The invitation

Years later, I wonder why he never wanted me.

Because I need to be wanted.

And you’d think I’d grow out of it at 25, but I just have to ask him before he can hang up the phone: “Dad, do you miss me?”

Because I need to be needed.

I always feel it when I’m standing in places far away from telephone lines, when the bars of service on my phone shrink down to blanks.

How human affirmation only reaches as far as my service provider.

And how we’re different.

It’s what He told Moses when Moses was trembling at the thought of leading a nation out of slavery.

I Am Who I Am.

But I am the mess that Monday left in its wake.

I am the aftermath of a three-hour long meeting that didn’t go my way.

I Am Who I Am.

He doesn’t need us to call Him the Creator to confirm that He made the unnamed galaxies.

He doesn’t need us to show up to church and sing Hallelujah to know that His place is a heavenly throne.

But He invites us to worship.

To want Him, need Him, lean on His all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful self.

Because He loves us.

Because when I’m coming out of a three-hour meeting or when I’m sitting in my basement apartment after the funeral or in the window seat of plane flying towards the unknown, I can exalt something other than the fearfulness of my situation.

Because worship is not a burden or an obligatory rite of passage. It’s a gift. It’s an undeserved opportunity to delight in Someone who is always better than everything else.