Category Archives: God

Do what it takes to make me your gold.

descanso

He’s been talking lately.

Like a boy who goes radio silent for weeks before his name starts showing up on your screen again, God has been talking in that way.

I guess I should state the facts: he’s probably been talking all along. He probably has been whispering and trying his darndest to yell above the noise of my life and I just haven’t heard him. That’s usually the case– I am running, and doing, and pulling, and prying, and trying my hardest (my absolute hardest) to make life move without him. And that’s just the second fact: I like to be in control. I like to know the elements around me. I like to know what follows after Step 1. And so the idea of a God of the universe has always, sort-of rubbed up against me like sandpaper because I don’t want to let anything in that might make me unclench my fists and give up control. 

 

Give up control.

That would be the anthem of my life these days. Give up control & let me work.

That’s the first thing I heard when my car pulled onto the campus of the retreat center I was staying at for four days last week. I only had to speak one of the days. The other three days were like God’s perfect, compact entryway to tear into my life and show me all the parts of me that he could stand to change. It’s like he had a list. A List of Things to Change. 

I think that’s the part of God I’ve always resisted. I think maybe that’s why a lot of people resist God and try their hardest to disprove him, or hitchhike away from him, or make him a sliver of their life but not their whole entire life.

I used to think the people who made God the center of their orbit– the sun within their solar system– were crazy. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand it. I thought, “Don’t you want control? Don’t you want to hold all the cards?”

That was God to me. God and I, we’d talk every once in a while. I didn’t look for him in the trees. I prayed when I needed stuff. God was like Santa Claus– I came to him with lists and I wanted him to leave presents for me while I was sleeping. I remember being really clear when I told God, “Listen, you get parts of me. You get very tiny parts of me but you don’t get all of me. Sorry. Not working that way.” Like I said, control is my thing.

 

The world has constructed a lot of gods out of God.

We live in this culture that does a really good job of taking one characteristic of the God of the universe and blowing it out to proportions where it smothers all the other characteristics.

I mean, it’s easy to believe in a God of Wrath. It’s easy to believe in that Leviticus kind of God. He’s the dude that ruins the party. He thinks less of us already. He holds his measuring stick high to our chins and whispers, “Just try, if you want. You’ve already fallen from grace in my eyes.” He points fingers and names names. And we throw up hands and curl in corners because this God never fit us. And this God failed the already failed ones.

When that is your own perception of God then it makes it so much easier to walk away from him. It’s easy to be free from the dictator God. It’s a perfect opportunity to bash him in circles and find common ground among the people who also have been hurt by a God of Wrath.

And similarly, it’s easy to believe in a God who is lukewarm. A passive little God who fits smug in your back pocket and you get the chance to pull him out whenever you need him to fight your battles. He’s like a Pokemon. I mean, it’s convenient to believe in a God who will always be smaller than you. It’s convenient to worship a God you get to play god over.

And then there is the God who showers you with praise. And the God who winks and nudges you at when you notice the bible verse on the bottom of the Forever 21 bag. It’s the God who doesn’t ask you to change and just exists to stroke your ego and tell you everything– every little thing– will be more than okay. He’s the God we plaster the quotes of on coffee mugs and journals. He’s sunshine and roses, always. Always.

But it gets uncomfortable when you meet the God who could stand to change you. The God who says, “Yes, I made you but I never had the plan of keeping you this way.”

This is the God who wants to morph you and mold you into something better. That’s supremely uncomfortable to believe in because the molding hurts. And the morphing hurts. And it would be easier– so much easier– to just stand in one place with the God of Wrath, or the Passive God, or the God who never needs you to dig deeper beneath the surface.

 

I met the God who could stand to change me.

I met him the moment I drove onto that campus and wheeled my little, red carry-on into my bedroom, the one with the rooster lamp and the strange farm scenes playing out all over my blue bedspread.

You see, I’ve been to this retreat center before. I’ve stood in this bedroom before. I know that if I walk to the closet and open the door, I will be met with all sorts of Sharpie marker scribblings all over the walls. The scribbles are from people who came to this retreat center with marriages crumbling and holding on by threads. Hoping God would move. Hoping God would pulse. I knew when I stepped into that room that, if I opened my closet door, I would find redemption stories dancing all over the walls in red and blue.

I left the suitcase at the door and I walked into the bathroom. I remembered the bathroom from the year before because the tub was massive, it was the type of tub I really hope I have one day. The type of tub that makes me think you’re a real adult if you have a tub so big.

I stared at the tub for a minute or so before stepping inside– clothes on and shoes on– and sitting down square in the middle of that tub. I am serious, I laid in the tub with my Nike pumps kicked up against the porcelain and I just closed my eyes. And I opened them. And I closed them. And the silence was deafening and I hated it so. I hate that kind of silence you can’t escape from, the kind that encloses all around you, because you know God is going to speak eventually. And you are afraid of what He will say. You are so afraid of what he will want of you.

I just stayed. Right there. I didn’t reach for my phone. I didn’t look for a way to push into some new distraction that would take me away from him so I easily. I stayed. And I started to pick at the polish of my nails. Flecks of red fell off and all around me into the tub. And as I chipped, he spoke. As I chipped, he spoke. And I was torn between interrupting. Interrupting to say, “I’ve missed you. Where have you been?” But I know his answer already.

I know he would have said right back, “I never left you. I never leave you. You’re just busy. You’re busy and you’re hustling and you are doing all these things that allow you to stay distracted enough that you never need to come to me. 

But haven’t you felt empty, child? Haven’t you missed the feeling of being full? Child, child, put your armor down. I never left you, you’ve just been trying to get away.” 

 

He’s right, I’ve been trying to get away.

Because I am human. And that’s what humans do. I pack and I flee away from the light. I look for the answers in the world all around me. I think I steer better and own my dreams better. But more than that, I have not stopped convincing myself yet that I am a better keeper of my own emptiness. I think I am really so good at guarding my own emptiness and letting no one near enough to touch and tell me, “You could clear this all away if you really wanted to.”

“Fine,” I whisper in the depths of that tub. “Just do it. Just do your work.”

Chip. Chip. Chip. The paint continues to fall away.

“Just make me into gold. All those bible verses, they tell me that I could be your gold. Do what it takes to make me your gold.”

Chip, chip, chip…

I feel him doing his work. Whispering into the old parts of me, “Done with this. Over with that. Gone goes that ugly part of you.”

Chip, chip, chip…

“Never again will you find your worth in this. Darling, aren’t you tired of holding this? Don’t you want to just let it go?”

Chip, chip, chip…

And then the quiet. I stay still. I close my eyes. Open them. Close them. And the voice comes back, the one that sounds like silver and victory. It rushes in to stop my sobs for good, “You, I love you. Gosh, it hurts so to express how I love you because I know you don’t see it. Somehow you don’t see what I think of you– you only see yourself through the lens of a world that wants you to get so small that you disappear altogether. 

I want so much of you. I am so jealous for you. I love you bigger. Bigger than your little mind can ever know. And that is why I can never leave you this way.  Sitting in the tubs of your own emptiness. That is why I can’t keep you here, clutching old garments of your past.

I have so much new for you, little bee. I have so much new for you. 

Baby, baby, all will be well. But you have to let me take it from here. You have to let it go and let me take it from here.”

15 Comments

Filed under God

Little thing.

With permission, I have posted the email below.

Hannah,

I’ve had a pretty rough semester, and it’s finally coming to a close in just a few weeks. I’m getting ready to graduate and move back to the West Coast, and I don’t have a job. I don’t even have all of the money that I need to get back yet. I’ve been going through physical health issues this semester, not to mention a pretty serious depression. All I want is to trust someone. And I feel like God has been asking me to let Him love me, and to trust him with what comes next, but I’m  struggling with that. I’ve struggled with that for years – I find it so hard to trust in general, and especially when I can’t see Him standing in front of me; can’t have a conversation with him at a coffee shop. I guess I just wanted to ask: how do you do it? How do you trust in God and let him love you? What am I missing?

Thanks for your help,

M

7a650015530ba0c36853f44992b9a7b8

M—

Sometimes I like to imagine the kind of conversation that would go down if God and I were actually able to meet up in that coffee shop you wrote about. I wonder about the things we’d say just after I wonder about what kind of foamy beverage God would order from the barista at the counter. It’s rainy over here in Atlanta today so maybe he’d go for something cozy— like an au lait.

I imagine that maybe we’d be the sort of two who never find a breath of silence between the both of us, like two people who meet up and suddenly become one another in an instant. And I can picture him twirling his cup around the table and being all like, “Girl, I feel so awkward every time I have to watch you go out on a date or open a present someone got for you. What is the deal?”

And then I’d be forced to awkwardly fumble through all the things he already knows about me: that I am not the best at receiving. Anything. At all. It’s a real struggle. Whether it’s a compliment or a gift, I’m the girl who often doubles back and is like… sorry that you think I am beautiful or sorry that you bought me something for my birthday… you didn’t have to say that. You didn’t have to get me anything. 

So I guess that’s where it all starts— There is an evident difference between saying thank you for a gift and feeling like you don’t deserve the time someone took to think of you. There is an evident difference between someone loving you and letting yourself actually accept that love in a way where you stop asking so many questions.

There are a lot of questions. I know because I have asked most of them. And I’ve been the one to quickly bottle my relationship up with God into something transactional. He gives, I take. I give, he likes me better and calls me a good worker. For a long time, people telling me that God loved me— that he actually gushed over me— was unfathomable and weird to me. For a long time, I honestly just wanted to say, “Can you just focus on hurricanes and wars and stuff? Can you really not pay any attention to me?”

 

At the start of 2013 I decided I would go on this grand quest to figure out how God loved me. Not “why” he loved me, but “how.” I think that is the root in a lot of our struggles— we just don’t understand how someone could love us. Or how they could leave. Or how they could stay. It’s not even a matter of “how much,” it is just a matter of “how.”

So I looked to figure out how. And I wish I could tell you it was some meaningful sort of Eat, Pray, Love journey but it wasn’t. Mainly I just remember sitting in my bed with my journal one morning writing this one line over and over again: How do you love a little thing like me? How to do you love a little thing like me? 

Not “how do you love a little one like me?”

Not “how do you love someone like me?”

Just “how do you love a little thing like me?”

 

A few hours later, I was sitting in the dark of a movie theater with a box of tissues tucked between my best friend and I as we saw Les Miserables for the 3rd time. And I think you can only see that movie in theaters maybe three times before you inflict some internal earlobe damage from hearing Russell Crowe sing that much.

Anyway, there is this one scene where Jean Valjean, the protagonist, rescues Cosette, Fantine’s daugher, and takes her home with him in his carriage. And he sings this really weepy song. In the moment, you’re positive you are more in love with Hugh Jackman more than you’ve ever been before and there’s this swift instance where you hope he’ll just come through the screen and sing you lullabies for the rest of your life.

I’d seen the scene a couple times before. But this time was different. It was like I could feel God’s fingertips pressing into that moment. There’s no better way to describe it than that. It was like I could audibly hear God saying, “That is how I love you,” motioning towards Jean Valjean stroking the little head of Cosette in his lap. “That is how I love you.” As if he we were whispering that he loved me enough to protect me, and keep me safe, and want no harm for me. That he actually wanted to be around me. And, if you are anything like me, then you already struggle enough to think you’re worthy of that.

 

The weirder part was when I left the movie theatre. Getting back to my desk, I did a “Google” search on Cosette. And then I searched for the symbolism behind that name. It’s of french origin. The root of the word is “cose” meaning “thing.” The name Cosette means “little thing.” 

Not “little one.”

Not “ little someone.”

But “little thing.”

Just as I had asked Him to show me hours earlier, “How do you love a little thing like me?” 

 

I should have prefaced all that by saying that it isn’t often that I hear God audibly. There are a lot of times where I don’t feel God anywhere and I am tempted to just say, “He’s not here. He left. He slipped out the screen door.” But then there are moments— outside of churches and prayers— where I feel God pulsing all around me. Like he constructed the atmosphere. And I have to remind myself not to run away from Him.

Sometimes that is the best prayer you can offer up to the ceilings: Show me. Show up and show me how you love me.

 

Loving someone is a process. Whether that’s God, or that’s another sticky human, it’s a process. The movies will say it’s something different but— no matter how instant that first draw to someone is— love is a building process. It’s doors unlocking. It’s windows breaking. It’s the discovery of new rooms inside of yourself. It’s the dark. And it’s the light. And it’s dark and light all scrambled into one. At the root of it, it’s a slow, trusting, building process that starts with letting someone in.

And that’s what it was, M— It was a matter of letting him in. And isn’t that the biggest obstacle that hides behind most relationships? One person wants to be let in. The other person struggles to just unlock the door. But there is a sprawling beauty that exists inside the relationships that resist the path of transactional. There is something you can’t see or touch that happens when you find the courage to mouth, “I’m all in.”

I think God is one of those relationships— especially if you feel like you’ve been trying to hitchhike away from him because you’re afraid of the things you don’t understand. Here’s the thing: We all are. We all are afraid of things we don’t understand— love. Letting go. Fighting harder. Forgiving. And maybe you’ll get hurt, but you should love anyway. Let go anyway. Fight harder anyway. Forgive anyway. For years, they’ve written countless books that have all said the same thing: these things are the only things that are worth it.

It all comes down to truth. And— if you’ve ever loved someone in a way where it seems as though the oxygen is falling out of the room when they walk in— then you know certain truths. Certain unchangeable truths about love: you want to give them everything in your world. And you want to give them everything outside of your orbit. And if they need the morning to come, you want to be that morning for them. And if they need the stars, you want be those fragments of light too. And you just want to sit by them. And you just want to know they’re doing well. And you just want to witness their greatness, the moment they’re finally shining out. You want to be right there next to them for that. And you want that honor to be in their life.

It’s crazy because you feel this way about other people who’ve left you or broken you down but you think it’s just too wild to believe in a God who might feel that same way, that very same way, about a little thing like you.

22 Comments

Filed under God

A dirty, little gospel.

large-2

The palm of my hand stopped sweating somewhere around the 13-minute mark.

Finally. I was feeling comfortable and my shoulders were loosening up. He’d taken my hand at the start of the story saying, “Here,” as he stretched it out to me. I’d only known him for two hours but his hand reaching out to me, like a crutch to lean upon as I spoke, was a sense of home in those Northern Georgia hills that night.

I bobbed and weaved and the led the dinner table through a story I’d told to people dozens and dozens of times before about my losing and finding of faith. I know every crook and dark corner of that story, every time a person will let their jaw drop or bury their face in their hands. That story is a clearly marked and weathered roadmap to me, speckled with all the landmarks of other people’s reactions to hearing it for the first time.

When the story ended, our conversation fanned out into people.

People who fall beneath this umbrella word “Christian” and how offensively that one word rings out to the world we live in today. Saying, “I am a Christian” is taking a risk. It’s giving you an open door to not like me because of what other people have told you about me. You’ve read of me in the papers. You’ve seen me on the news. It’s relying on what you’ve heard about me to make a judgement that I am girl who thinks the world is full of this “dirty/clean” dichotomy and that I can’t roam with sinners because I am much too holy for that. That’s what the world will tell you about me and I don’t even blame you when you make the judgement because I, myself, am still trying how to not be offended by some Christians.

But the word “Christian” still stops me. Every time I hear the word “Christian,” my mind can’t shake the image of a massive warehouse filled to the ceiling with tiny glass slippers. I picture them everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Delicate. Beautiful. Chipped. Scarred. And throngs of people coming in and out of that warehouse, trying to wedge glass slippers onto their feet, being so careful to find the one that doesn’t blister them or break when they put it on. And it’s this fragile, scared process of wanting to find the “perfect” fit and the “good” fit and the “beautiful” fit so that they can just be clean & right & dancing with this God who looks more to them like a judge than a father. And all I want to say to that image of perfectly constructed Christianity that breaks open in a world that is messy, messy, messy, is that my gospel is a barefoot one. I don’t wear shoes when it comes to my gospel. And I have no interest, no interest at all, in being perfect or right or blameless. Most days, I just want to feel like I’ve done something right.

I grew up hating the hymns that sat in the pews of my childhood church.

That’s where the hurt started to roar because the lines of those songs always made me feel worthless. Dirty, dirty, dirty. Needing to be clean. Needing to be fit. Needing to be reprimanded. And after years of rejecting those words, I get to tell you with my own lips that I am dirty. I am dirty and it has nothing to do with my worthlessness. I am dirty because I believe in a God who tells me dirt beneath my fingernails, and trudging through the muds of this messy life, is the most beautiful thing I will ever get to do. I believe in a God who tells me getting dirty is my job description. And there is always more work to be done that has nothing to do with condemning and judging and making other people feel worthless for what they walked into this day holding. My God calls me to dirt beneath my fingernails and conversations that crawl into the 3am hour and loving people hard, even when my own heart feels mangled. My God calls me to finger-painting with the messiness of grace and trash-picking in toulle-filled dresses and resting in the assurance that I am a child of God. I am a child of God. I find that title to be earth-shattering as I stand in the thick of a culture that never gives me enough value to hold me past dinnertime.

And despite what you believe, I am not afraid to sit in my corner of the internet and tell you that I think you are a child of God. And please don’t get offended by me because there is nothing offensive about the idea of someone making us perfectly. And there is nothing offensive about believing, if only for a half second, that we were made for victory and better things before we learned to give our little lives away to weaknesses and lies.

I believe in that.

I believe in love. I believe in a religion that never sat pretty in the church the way it raged beautifully when it was out on the sidewalks. In the hands of people who knew how to love on others right. I believe in people who use every shred of their composure to go out of their way to tell someone else how very striking they are. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, someone should have told you that before. And if you’ve never heard that… well. let. me. be. the. first.

I don’t care that I don’t know you. I don’t care that I cannot list off all your bruises and battles like the backs of my own hands. Because if it took me knowing all of that about you then we would never get to the point where I apologize to you…And tell you that I am sorry that others have judged you. Or misread you. Or hurt you. Or screwed you over.

I am sorry for all of that and I beg you accept my apology for all the harm of humanity if it means you’ll think about moving forward today… because you have bigger work to do than feel the bitterness. You have much bigger work to do. That work is so big, so wide, so far, that it laughs at all those weaknesses and offenses that try to hold you back.

To me, it’s not about damnation.

It’s not about the “dirty sinner.” It’s this heartbreaking, simple, and yet stunningly complex story about a girl in a manger who probably looked up to the sky and asked, “Really? This is your plan for a king?” And she birthed a baby beside cow dung for the weary world to call him royalty. And that little boy grows into a man who illustrates to a broken world how to love people and treat grace like manna falling from the sky and have pretty decent friends and never waste your emotions on jealousy and gossip. And then he dies this horrendous death at a young, young age and he comes out of the tomb three days later and basically says to all the people who killed him, “I died for you. Yes, you. I don’t care what you did. I can’t love you any less. You didn’t know how to come to me. You didn’t have a map. You didn’t know the way. And so I solved all the issues– all your faulty GPS excuses–and just came to you.”

I mean, that’s pretty radical, even if you can’t believe in it. I think that even if I didn’t believe in anything, I’d have a really hard time finding anything more beautiful than thinking that the same guy who created beauty out of dirt is the one who gets all choked up crying over all his children and all the empty things we do, thinking as we watches, “I just love you so much that I will endure anything. Anything to prove it. And I’m going to let you make mistake after mistake after mistake and I’m still going to take you back. Even when you leave me, I will wait.” Because that is love eternal– waiting and staying when the rest of the world walks away. Half of the time, I don’t know what I want to believe in. But that? I want to believe in something as beautiful as that always.

36 Comments

Filed under God

We cannot stay here any longer.

empty-city-street-painted-double-yellow-line-perspective-asphault-buildings-tree-at-end-of-road-photo

I hold a dream job that I’ve never told a soul about.

It’s a completely, separate full-time job that (in a pretty & perfect world) would involve just me, a bucket, and Maya Angelou.

I harbor an adoration that is heavy and thick for this woman. She is, quite simply, a soul sister who hasn’t met me yet. But I love her. And I value her. And I would take every turn and twist possible if it meant I could follow her around with an upside down umbrella and a bucket to catch all her words of wisdom in one swift, scoop and keep them for myself.

It could work, really it could. I’d follow her to interviews and press conferences and poetry readings and she’d say to the people at the door, “Oh, her? She’s the one who recycles all my wisdom. Don’t mind her… or her bucket… or her umbrella…”

If this were my job, my most perfect job, then I would have been sitting beside her as her fingers got wrapped in the cords of the telephone as she talked with a reporter at the Daily Beast . I would have been with her instead of sitting here, in the middle of a Starbucks, tracing her wisdom off the screen.

Interviewer: What is something you always carry with you?
Maya: I’m a child of God. I carry that with me.

I stop. I pause. I put the bucket down. I search my pockets. I wonder, when did I stop carrying that? When did I forget that I was a child of God? And when did I forget to remember to tell you that, too? That you, yes, you are a child of God. And that makes you more special than any amount of syllables I could think to place beside your name.

I’m sitting here in the middle of a Starbucks and I am crying. I am vividly crying and I won’t apologize to anyone who wants me to clean up my tears with a napkin and a latte. I don’t really care if I ugly cry all over their Starbucks experience. Welcome to the real world, babycakes!  Youz about to get some titanical tears with your grande machiblahblahblah.

Yes, I’m crying. Right now. Writing to you weeping. Because maybe I’ve wronged you… I’ve wronged you when I didn’t tell you the truth. When I didn’t use every ounce of my energy and my syllables to tell you that you’ve never needed to match someone’s standards. I’ve wronged you when I thought you didn’t need that message more than anything else in the world… more than business advice or organizational skills. You’ve just needed to know what a worthy, worthy thing you are, no matter how ugly this world gets.

And regardless of if you believe it or not, I. Think. You’re. Freaking. Perfect.

Quite simply: I think you put the dang stars to shame. And you give the oceans a ripple & a wave for their money. And you need not change a stitch of you because I have always, always, always loved you this way.

And you think a stranger can’t love you? Baby, I can cry for you. And I can decide not sleep at night because of you. Because all I’ve ever needed to say, over & over & over again, is that I wish you knew how very lovely you are. It’ll break my heart the longer I go without telling you that. I wish you knew how very lovely you are.

And despite what you believe, I am not afraid to sit in my corner of the internet and tell you that I think you are a child of God. And please don’t get offended by me because there is nothing offensive about the idea of someone making us perfectly. And there is nothing offensive about the idea of someone stitching up the skyline for us. And there is nothing offensive about believing, if only for a half second, that we were made for victory and better things before we learned to give our little lives away to weaknesses and lies.

I believe in that.

I believe in love. I believe in a religion that never sat pretty in the church the way it raged beautifully when it was out on the sidewalks. In the hands of people who knew how to love on others right. I believe in people who use every shred of their composure to go out of their way to tell someone else how very wonderful they are. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, someone should have told you that before. And if you’ve never heard that… well. let. me. be. the. first.

I don’t care that I don’t know you. I don’t care that I cannot list off all your bruises and battles like the backs of my own hands. Because if it took me knowing all of that about you then we would never get to the point where I apologize to you…

And say that I am sorry that others have judged you.

Or misread you. Or hurt you. Or screwed you over.

I am sorry for all of that and I beg you accept my apology for all the harm of humanity if it means you’ll think about moving forward today… because you have bigger work to do than feel the bitterness. You have much bigger work to do. That work is so big, so wide, so far, that it laughs at all those weaknesses that tried to hold you back.

We cannot stay here any longer.

Do you hear me? Do you hear me? We cannot sit here and wait for the hurt to pass, we must get stronger. It’s our only hope. We cannot sit here and wait to love ourselves a little more, or find worthiness in the mirror tonight. There is work to be done, there is work to be done.

We will know all those other things in time. But our lives are short & our time is fleeting & our limbs were made for a love that howls at the moon. So are you ready to go? Are you ready to go?

Take my hand. Don’t even turn your head to look back. We’re gonna try forward and I promise, I promise, you’ll weep for joy when you find it fits you like an old lover’s sweatshirt in the night winds of April. You were made for more than this. You were made to carry bigger things than your victim stories. Say it as we go, say it as we go.

You, my love, are a child of God. & you’ve always been perfect to me.

54 Comments

Filed under God

This ain’t no pretty Christian story.

I grew up finding delicacy in feeding troughs.

In stories where wise men lined up perfectly in a row and they didn’t emerge until “We Three Kings” began with the drums. Where bed sheets upon the heads of hungry children itching for candy canes. And Jesus, he was plastic. Pearly, perfect plastic.

My Christmas story was rigid. Scripted. Leaving no air for error. My Christmas story was Act 1 meets Act 2, communion, go home, open presents, and forget there ever was a crying soul in a manger that night.

Growing up and into a classical Christmas story that has been tied with the twine of “Christianity,” the tender cracks and imperfections exposed themselves as I got up closer. As I dug in deeper. As I questioned God and His realness. As I wondered, why would you ever come to save us in this way?

Mary, she was a judged woman. And Joseph was a proud man, ready to abandon his fiancee for her crime of infidelity. The feeding trough was filthy, a lowly space for animals to drop their waste and heavy bodies. The baby, he was screaming. The night was cold. And the two must have wondered, as they shivered and prayed and waited on their savior, where is the miracle in all of this?

 

A messy, little story with no edits made along the way.

Not the kind of thing fit to be tied pretty and bound into story books for the eyes of sleepless children.  But isn’t that much of life? Isn’t much of this whole me-standing-beside-you thing  just a bunch of clutter and chaos and the coming of great light? Hope. A finally silent night after endless hours of hot tears pouring through.

And then a miracle–in a broken, tired, heaving world–a miracle. A baby and the birth of God’s most beautiful characteristic yet: His ache to save us. To take heavy loads off from our shoulders. To deliver us. To give us a kingdom in a poverty-stricken existence. To say unto us, with His birth into flesh, “Hey, you messed up yesterday. And you, yea, you’ll mess it up tomorrow. But I kind of, sort of, absolutely love you with every ounce of my being.  And nothing you ever do, bad or good, could change that. And I needed a way to prove this to you. So I sent something to you, a gift of sorts, to take away your blame. And your guilt. And your shame. And your anxiety. And your suffering.

So would you take it? Would you take the gift from me?”

I feel sort of silly (I can admit that best) telling people that I think my God came into the world through a 14-year-old virgin, and kings bowed down to him, and He learned the skins of poverty, and he preached but never lavished in the riches of kings, and he died in the most embarrassing of ways. At the age of 33. With folks spitting upon Him. And he, crying. Crying all the while.

What kind of God is that? A lowly, pathetic attempt of a God? Or is it a God that knew, before the whole story even found beginning in a manger, that the only way to bring deliverance to a hungry, hungry people was to deliver himself out into a world in the fleshiest, messiest, most imperfect of manners. No royalty, just poverty. And the whole thing upside down. And that it would take pain, and atrocity, and little to no resolve while treading on this broken earth, to bring a love to us so great that it never learned no limits. Never needed training wheels. Came real & raw & bulging just to envelope a broken thing like me. Maybe that is the act of a God who never sought to prove his ranking, his status, or his capability. Just his love. Just His Love.

 

This ain’t no pretty Christian story.

Not prim. Not pixy. Not perfect.

Not the manger. Nor the virgin. Not the myrrh.

Not made for the ears of Christians alone. Not merely for the ones used to bending their knees and bowing their heads.

This is a story for anyone, and any heart, who has ever needed a savior. Someone to swoop in and convince you with a confidence that you are not alone and that just. you. wait, because even through the unfavorable odds– a virgin, a bitter fiance, no shelter, no crib–the miracle arrives. And the music sweeps in. And the fog of the night clears. And a star shines so bright that it hypnotizes men to leave their fields & flock to follow.

No, this ain’t story for weak hearts and Christian knees.

This is a story, a Christmas story, for any soul that ever needed to know that God can make really beautiful things out of messes. And that He remembered us enough to come down and prove it so.

11 Comments

Filed under God

And he’s been waiting on my return to load the shingles with icing and guard the doors with candy canes.

It takes a thick stew of Guts & Grace to describe the way my footsteps took to falling as I walked away from God.

As I slammed the door. As I crumbled & crawled & kept my head down so that He would not see me go. Mumbled words of hesitation beneath my breath, “Please don’t follow. Just let me go.”

It’s a dance we’ve done for ages and He knows my footwork well. Knows that I bruise so easy. Knows that I frustrate when I cannot see His plans & all the things He has for me.

And if you ask me one question about this God & I, I will tell you true: God has always had to pour out big ol’ carafes of assurance out upon me. Assurance that I am His. That I am loved. That I am needed. Of all things, I have doubted these the most–that He would create me with purpose. That He could love me vastly, openly, always. Always. Always.

 

We construct God out of the things we know to be true of humans.

So He becomes a conditional lover. He becomes a gossip among angels. He strikes tallies against us on chalkboard in the sky. He rips the winged petals of daisies off, “I love you, I LOVE YOU NOT…”

We dumb Him down. We dress Him in doubt. We cloak Godly shoulders with an accent of judgment and we depict an Angry Being perched in the clouds, throwing down thunderbolts and clomping all over the bar scene yelling, “SINNNNERRRRSSSSSSS.”

He’s the dude that ruins the party. He thinks less of us already. He holds his measuring stick high to our chins and whispers, “Just try, if you want. You’ve already fallen from grace in my eyes.”

He is the wrath of Leviticus. And some angry Triton of a merman that commands floods to the nations. And He points fingers & names names. And we throw up hands & curl in corners & fold head in hands because this God never fit us. & this God failed the already failed ones.

 

Hitchhiking. That’s what we do.

We pack up and flee away from truth. Away from light. And we say ourselves to be “searching.” To be figuring things out. To be in a quiet state of limbo where we ask Big Questions as we seek a more peaceful, more easygoing God. One who fits in our back pockets. And is always singing. And has no real power because surely we feel the need to govern all of that. We’ve given up that control before and we don’t plan to do it again. For we steer better. We own our dreams better. We are better keepers of the emptiness. We have known this emptiness within us all the days of our lives and we’d rather be the keepers. The keepers & the key keepers.

And as I guard the emptiness, a verse unravels the edges of me. Like fray sunk deep in the blue of my jeans. “Be still. Be still. Be still. And know that I am God.”

A verse so overdone. A verse gone word vomit to the Christian soul. A verse that has brought millions of dollars into the coffee cup & bookmark industry. A verse that never stilled me to be still until now. & and I lift up my hands and shoot back, “You got anything better God? Anything better than that?”

My God, he speaks like licorice. Like gumdrops. Like adornments to a house He built me on yesterday. & He has been waiting on my return to Him to load the shingles with icing & guard the doors with candy canes:

“Be still. Don’t move. Stay quiet. Lay like the dead ones.  Let go, let go, let go. Of your worry. Your hesitation. Your little thoughts of me. Your desperation. The tears you clung to yesterday. Your loathing in the little mirror. Put them down. Walk away. Calm your spirit.

And know that I am God. And that you’ve gotten me all wrong. And you’ve listened to too many. And you’ve judged me & labeled me & sized up too small. And all of it is fine because I love you tenfold to the love I gave you yesterday.

But know me… Not what your brother said of me. Not what your mama quoted. But of what you learn and find of me when you travel back to the place we used to stand. I’ll meet you there. I never left. With your hands in your pockets and your feet fidgeting, I’ll tell you what I’ve told you since the moment I claimed you as my own. I love you. I love you. And it has always been my plan, for all the days of your intricate little life, to get you to believe me. Believe me, and nothing else.”

27 Comments

Filed under God

HolderOfYourHand@gmail.com

To: Holderofyourhand@gmail.com

From: Hannah.Brencher@gmail.com

Subject:

Message:

“I will make it through this… even it kills me.  Just hold me close. Please.”

Receipt: Message Sent.  January 25, 2011. 11:10am.

 

This single sentence, this single email, is all the proof I’ve ever needed to know that Depression has gnashing teeth.

That it sits on the lungs. That it sucks out the life. That it pales the face. That it creates prisoners.

The email was sent at 11:10am. Square in the hollow of January. A time when the tree branches cry for clothing on their skinny limbs and the snow on the New York City sidewalks browns five minutes after the falling.

I wonder where I was sitting. What shoes were on my feet. The moments that mounted before I tapped this email. If a peace flooded me after.  Either way, I shoved the message into an email and sent it off. And then I waited for the response.

God giggled over my last blog post.

I don’t exact know what a “God giggle” sounds like but I definitely wasted the last 15 minutes trying to figure it out. We now have three options: One, two or three. Kindly review and post your votes in the comment section below.  (I left the third one because I didn’t want to X out the fact that God might have a French accent.)

Anyway, like a voracious school child with an appetite for fruit snacks, he giggled over this truth: His fingerprints were all over that blog post. All. Over. It. Like a bad 48 Hours mystery case where one hour in you can say, without blinking, “DUDE. IS. A. MURDERER.”

Here’s the secret you never knew:  When I started blogging in this space three years ago, I made it clear that I wouldn’t be talking about God. If people wanted to find God in my words then good for them. If they wanted to assume that I believed in something bigger than my body then good for them. But my words would never leak of a Father. My tales would never tromp around in Godly Rain Boots. We just were not going to tread through that mess.

“Well, do you ever talk about God on your blog?” I remember my mother asking me one day.

Cue Rage Cage Daughter Reaction. (Simply because my mother has printed out every single blog post since day one so she clearly knew already that I was not writing about God.)

A) Why would I? B) People are so, so, so, so (so) sick of having religious views shoved down their throats. C) I want people to read me, not snooze over mer. D) HTML bible verses hitched at the footer are just plain tacky and I ain’t no tacky blogger. E) God only moves and shakes in my life some of the time. E +1/2) I only let Him in to some of my life. F)  I only feel his presence some of the time.

There it is. Right there. Letter F. Of course I couldn’t blog about God. It wasn’t that my whole body cringed in the thought of telling people about being washed in the blood (no, parts of me definitely still cringe over that image), it was that I had no actual, tangible, real story to tell anyone about how God was working in my life. I was not letting him work. I was micro-managing the Creator of the Universe. I was taking him out of my back pocket when I needed help. I was reaching for His hand and never His face. I was showing him off like a diamond-studded iPhone case whenever I entered the church setting: “PRAISE THE LORD, I AM FEELING SO HOLY THIS MORNING. Jesus actually washed my hair this morning, it was a truly blessed experience. There are fleck of gold still left in my locks if you want proof.” Epic fail? Seriously though. That was my “God Life.”

So God is probably high-fiving me from his throne right now saying, “Thanks for keeping that awful perception of me off this blog, girl. You Is So Cray.”

God & I were good. As good as that relationship in 6th grade with the boy you met in the online chat room. No strings attached. No baggage. Just banter about Pokemon and meaningless stuff like that. (Was I the only one?)

And then life fell apart.

And I could hold little to nothing together.

And no one– no one, no one, no one– could see how I was crumbling.

It was happening on the inside.

Like chunks falling off pillars in my heart.

On the outside I was a girl with all the stuff it took to make dreams come true in her limbs. I was beautiful. I was new to New York City. I was trotting into the United Nations every morning. I was making friends.

And I was about to play Godzilla to my own life.

 

I think we treat God like he is a freeloader of the All or Nothing mentality.

That we either feel him like a tidal wave. Whooooooshhhhh. Or he doesn’t show up at all. And, if that is the case, I chose the part where he never showed up.

That doesn’t sit pretty in my spirit anymore. It doesn’t sit pretty when I think about the countless people who have walked & ran & slid away from God because they feel like he didn’t show up. That he didn’t hear them.

And so, I solved the issue raging in my soul with a single email.

11:10am. January 25th. 2011. The very day when God struck down Yahoo with his mighty fist and picked a Gmail account instead.

When God feels distant, God gets an email address. Right? Maybe?

Well, it was the only thing I could think to do. I didn’t feel God. His presence wasn’t cloaking me. And I felt like my prayers had grown stale and crusty. That I was saying them into the air with all the Empty already sitting in my voice. And I needed to reach God. I was hungry to reach God. And I was tired, so tired, of everyone saying I was not trying hard enough. How does one not try hard enough? How does one recklessly abandon themselves to the Love of God when they just feel like the man who invented rain dances: he gathered the town, did the jig and went away sulking when the rain never came.

I was done with how the world told me I SHOULD respond to God. I was done with perfect little prayers. I was over, SO OVER, feeling like I could only reach him some of the time. Mainly in the mornings. When I was extra holy. And not sinning.

The email address was available: HolderOfYourHand@gmail.com. The email address that I think God would have chosen all this time. I set the email up and after just 15 minutes I was unloading junk & worry & sadness & fear & desire & hope.

And it was releasing. It was pouring out from me. It was skittering away from my own hands.

Send. Send. Send. Send. Send.

No filter. No fear. No “Am I doing this wrong God?! Am I not getting this whole prayer thing right?!”

I could picture God, slugging a pumpkin spice latte in the rasp of January, checking his new email address. Watching it flood with the petitions of his Little Ones. Taking minimal breaks to watch viral kitties on YouTube. Coming right back to his hub to respond in His own Godly Ways.

And the first time I felt him responding. In the trees around me. In my spirit. In the parts of me that needed miracles like Shaq needed someone to make him bigger shoes all those years.

This whole, long story to say just this:

I want to believe that God meets us wherever we are at. Whatever we are feeling. Whatever pain is edging us out around midnight. I want to believe that he tears up over us, his little kids, trying to shoulder every sorrow the world has ever given us. I want to believe that he loves us so much that syllables won’t stack and sentences won’t string when he goes to verbalize it. I want to believe that I can reach him, at any time, in any situation.

I know that the email address isn’t the crux of God but for a girl so battered by the depression and what the world had told her was “prayer,” it was the starting point.

The hopeful thought that in a world where we can email anyone, find anyone, tag anyone, poke anyone, tweet anyone, reach anyone– we could reach God too.

And he would read us. Digest us. Click us open on his iPhone wherever he was standing.

And that– even before we thought to click send– he was responding. With a love so mammoth. A love so raging that it blows Arial & Georgia & Times New Roman straight out of the font family tree.

Dear Friends-

The email address HolderOfYourHand@gmail.com does, in fact, truly exist. I email God quite frequently through it.

It is open to anyone and everyone who wants to use it. I don’t open emails. I don’t even login into the account anymore. I won’t respond back with God Wisdom (yikes). But it feels pretty radical to feel like you are actually sending prayers somewhere. That they have a destination. So please consider using it. It’s the reason why it still exists.

11 Comments

Filed under God

You were made for mighty things.

You were made for mighty things.

You.

Yes, you with your fingers curled around the computer mouse. Your sleepy eyes hooked to the glow of the screen.

You, with the tired limbs & the half-faking-it kind of smile that’s stayed on your face since lunchtime. You, who might scroll through your newsfeed one last time tonight before giving it up and going to bed. Trying again for something better in the morning.

You were made for mighty things.

& I cannot go a single step more without you knowing that true. Not a step. Not a hop. Not a shuffle or a sashay more without you knowing that  your bones & every ounce of you exist for a reason much greater than this. Much greater than the fog. Than the pricks. Than the pains. Much greater than this moment that you already feel has closed up & in & all around you.

Darkness, darkness, you’ve felt it creeping in. You’ve wrapped yourself in blankets. Curled up in doubts. Listened to the hollow of the night and wondered what you’re really here for. You’ve started prayers but you don’t know to whom. The Whole of it feels awkward. The God feels distant. You swear He cannot hear you. & even if He can, you’ve been unforgiveable for quite the while.

You’ve wondered if you matter. If this hurt will ever go away. If ever, oh, ever the people would remember you if it came time to wear black tomorrow & bury your body deep in the ground.

Darling, darling, hear me good: The dark has stars that poke through the sky and the light, the light that pours on through, is thicker than you know.

Thick like the wool socks you fold over snow boots. Thick like the trunk of the tree in the yard in the back where the tire swing used to swoop & swoop– your hands gripping the rope; your laughter floating up to the leaves.

You were made for mighty things.

Though you swear  you don’t know the starting point just yet. You feel swallowed in just the thought of beginning.

Of trying. Of wandering out beyond the lines of the Things You’ve Known. The Things You’ve Known that you know have become the Things You Know Don’t Fit You Anymore & Don’t Fill You Any Longer & Don’t Quite Play Music Like the Days of the Jewelry Box No More, No More.  

You feel swallowed, so swallowed, just by finding the shred or the starting line or the first little note in the symphony entitled, “How to tell anyone, just anyone at all, that you want to have meant something at the end of all this.” That you’ve wanted to be infinite for pockets of time. That you’ve wondered if there might still be time for you to step out and be something mighty in this world– you’ve done your wrong. You’ve hurt the others. You’ve thought out loud the lie you thought was always true: “I won’t be used for anything good, anything mighty, in the big ol’ world. Maybe her and maybe him but not me. Not me.”

There’s a whisper in the folds tonight,”You were made for mighty things.”

& so it is time to start. Not time to argue.  Not time to groan or doubt or fear. Not time to make excuses. Not time to shrink away. You say you’ve got tomorrow but don’t you know how fierce and fiesty a thing that Time be?

Time. She spits. She sputters. She flips out her hair and don’t guarantee no one a single thing. Not a measuring cup full. Not a week on the calendar. Nothing, nothing.  She only warns you– with her pointed finger in the air– to take the Today & the Tomorrow if she grants it. Take the Tomorrow if Time gonna bless your knees with it in the morning.

No time to reason. No time to know why. Only Time & the small of her back & the truth that ticks like the clock on the wall: As long as you are standing here, two feet on the ground, you’ve got the graces of a New Beginning in your palms. You can close the doors. You can clean out the closets. You can say goodbye. You can let it go.

You can uncover newness. You can climb a new rope. You can stare up at the sky. You can find that God. You can look in the mirror & you can partner with the one looking back. You can decide that you aren’t a thing with just fingers & toes– flawed & fleshy & unfit for unfolding plans.  But that you are a lighthouse. A lantern. A luminari. A flicker of hope. You are the bright spot in the day of someone else.

You are more powerful than you’ve called yourself to be. You are more worthy than you’ve ever claimed to be. But ain’t no one gonna grant you that if your hands aren’t open and your slate isn’t cleared and you can’t find a way to say– to the moon & the stars & the fireflies in the trees tonight– that you’ve grown tired of your Yesterdays & the smallness of it all &  you’ve decided to shift & shake your Tomorrows for as long as you have them. Shift & shake & give them away to the Someones scattered in the world that were made to see light pouring straight of you. You, yes, you.  

You were made for mighty things.

you make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out the dust. 
you make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of us.

 

 

11 Comments

Filed under God, Live with intention, Love Letters

Trust me, trust me, I am the road map much grander than you.

On days when I am planting honesty within my stories, my relationship with God bears resemblance to the late Grocery Store Barbie who tragically lost a limb in the Polly Pocket Battle of ’96.

A real David and Goliath kind of story.

Grocery Store Barbie. A gem all encased in plastic.

The process of freeing her and her shopping cart from the confines of cardboard started out proper and delicate. With Scissors. And a great deal of Patience.

Fast forward five minutes, all visions of lining plastic cans of corn up in neat little rows have catapulted from the window as I am ripping Barbie from the plastic twist tie shackles of her cardboard grocery scene.

FREEE BARBIEEEE, FREEEE HERRRRRR, I’d yell in my perfectly pitched Little Girl Barbarian Voice.

Y’all should know it true– Limbless Barbie was Barbie all the same, especially if I got to play with her quicker.

And though God might not even have legs (though I am certain they would glow ten octaves brighter than Barbie’s) and I highly doubt his feet are welded onto tiptoes, I tend to tote the same kind of reckless, impatient behavior when it comes to the plans He has for me.

Grumbling. Whining. Not fully understanding. Understanding so fully but impatient with the reality that the Man operates on His own watch and we just be blown steady with the wind whenever He chooses. Talking my brains out and curling up into my own resolutions that offer sanity, clarity & a right-now-we’ll-fix-this kind of answer.

God might tell you I have not mastered the whole “Simon Says” thing yet. I know how to play but I often  like its better pretending that Simon never said, “Do this.”

I’d rather He’d beam down a book with golden glinted pages and a road map already intact from his Heavenly Playground. Straight down into the hands of a young woman who believes the world might shake and shatter over something as simple as Hazelnut or Vanilla (or, jeepers, Pumpkin Spice.)

But He knows me better, better enough to know that I’d stop leaning…

Stop choosing to be patient with the slow unravel of His Plan’s if I knew I could just take Him off the shelf from time to time, shake Him like a snow globe to see what beautiful, crumpled magic He can stir up for me, and then put Him back to collect seven more months of dust until my little world falls apart again.

He knows I’ll surely bypass the Little Things to get straight to the Big Things. Steer clear of the hard lessons to propel straight towards the goodness. And then never learn how much it means, or how badly I can want something. So bad that I taste it in my tears when I fall asleep in pillow case puddles one night.

I’d scoff at the baby steps. Scoff at the thought of being helpless at His feet. That’s not of my culture. That’s not something I’ve learned while growing up– to be helpless to someone else while the rest of the world totes championship & victory by the individual’s own strength. My “religion” holds rest in its corners and surrender in its pockets, people don’t take too kindly to that sort of order.

“Little One,” I hear him beckoning on colder days when dew slabs the windowpanes like Nutella on crepe. “Life will lose its worth if you are only ripping to find the answers.

“I know, I know, that waiting for things might make your bones ache and leaving might only leave you wanting to dip your shoes in concrete, but my Much Bigger Plans won’t ever evolve without your patience. Keep stepping, keep stepping forward, even when you cannot see the bigger watercolor. Trust me, trust me, I am the road map much grander than you.”

And it always happens this way. Like I’m serving a God who’s planned it all along. Just when I think I am getting savvy with creating my own lyrics to this song called “Life,” He shifts, shakes, and then throws me off.

Leaving me with no choice.

Leaving me to surrender whatever I thought I wanted and needed for myself.

Leaving me to pick my scissors back up and begin anew– with patience this time.

Leaving me in awe, over and over again, by the fact that the lyrics to this song and the plans for my life are never to my own credit, rather words I find I know by heart after a Someone sang them into me a long, long time ago.

24 Comments

Filed under God