The Miracle of Staying

I used to think miracles were only instantaneous, a supernatural phenomenon that God performed in a split second.

I believe in those kinds of miracles, but this morning as I drove home, I whispered prayers of gratitude for a different kind. I gave thanks for the miracles that come only with time, process, and things that seem perfectly ordinary.

I cried as the state lines of Virginia kissed North Carolina and the road led into my hometown. My heart aches because home now feels scattered across continents and states. The girl who grew up in a small town, who thought she’d never leave and never know another world, fell in love with a group of a people in a small house in Georgia and saw God do a miracle.

In the ordinary, everyday routine of life, He used a wild group of girls and some guys down the street to unfurl her fists and teach her how to hope and laugh again.

This weekend, my roommate who always packs the snacks, loves a spontaneous trip, taught me how to shout for joy, and is always up for splitting an ice cream cake got married.

As we all parted ways this morning, nothing in me wanted to say goodbye. I wanted to go back. I wanted my house with the swing back, our nights on the kitchen floor, our Sunday mornings in the living room.

I wanted Christmas parties and late night dancing in our pajamas. I wanted breakfast with the guys, locking each other in the pantry for laughs.

But something inside of me also knew that God made this moment for something else.

We can’t go back.

Because the miracle of what God did was strengthen our knees to help us stand in other places.

And God knows that I couldn’t stand anywhere else if not for that house of girls and the guys down the street. Through them, He gave me the miracle of learning how to stay, how to yell prayers on Saturday mornings. How to keep waking up in the same place and make strong coffee with people who also didn’t know why seasons of loneliness sometimes feel so long.

Someday, you might show up to grassy fields and flower covered gardens to celebrate the season’s change. And if so, you will find out that the one that was labeled “single” might have been the one when you met the people who taught you how to stand and how to stay. That it was actually the season that brought you people who would later celebrate you best, shout with you when God would bring you something new.

I think sometimes my favorite miracles are ones that look like God spitting in the dirt, over and over again, making mud to wipe on your eyes and asking “Can you see yet?”  (Mark 8, John 9).

I think some of my favorite miracles are the ones that take years, miles, pain, and ordinary things to usher in the sacred and Holy moment where I finally open my eyes and say “I see it! It took some time, but I finally see!”

These things and people taught me how to stay, how to plant, how to enjoy and savor coffee in the kitchen. It was there I learned that lingering at the breakfast table teaches you to love in a way that few other things can. They taught me how to cry, how to laugh, how to dance (how to laugh at your own bad dancing). They taught me miracles are big and small, they’re instantaneous and also process. They taught me that it’s worth giving up the sleep to show up, to cry on the porch together, to say prayers around the coffee table late again because it’s going to matter. God knows, this weekend we saw how much it mattered.

Here’s to all the coffee table prayers we prayed, and the years I didn’t know were being made into miracles. To the miles driven and flown, the phone calls we still make. To the truth that God loves the process, uses mud, is okay with trying things out a few times. To weddings and dancing, for shouting and coffee. To breakfast and ice cream on the kitchen floor.

Here’s to the miracle of a house on a little street in Georgia and a God who whispered our names and invited us in.

To the reality that miracles don’t have to always look the way we hoped, expected, begged. Sometimes you just have to keep showing up and the miracle is in that. Here’s to seeing that the miracle is in finding people who learn how to choose to stay, and in the miracle of learning the same.

 

 

 

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Fear and All His Friends

“You’re like a potted plant—you take your roots with you.”

Suddenly I felt like a sturdy, hefty, bright and nourished pillar that someone could turn toward and say “look at that, doesn’t she just brighten up this space?”

After years of everything feeling temporary, transient, impermanent, her words made me realize that no matter how much I’ve moved, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been growing roots, or haven’t been healthy and thriving.

Fear is a liar. He knows nothing about gardening, but he memorized a few words in a Botany textbook and tried to spin them to convince me he is an absolute expert.

Call him out. That’s my advice to you about Fear when he shows up and goes on endless rants that try to shut you down and make you feel helpless and hopeless. Bring someone else into the conversation and call him out, find out if he knows what he’s talking about. Because chances are when bring some other people to the table they’re going to see through the facade and they’re going to prove it’s absolute nonsense. Fear is going to be the loser, the one walking away in defeat.

I’ve been carrying this lie around for so long now, and Fear had me convinced it was true. I kept thinking I’m just wanderer—a flaky nomad and people with white picket fences and strollers just see me passing by and think “Oh, that poor drifter, there she goes again rootless and barren…” 

But then I got sick of it. So I grabbed Fear and drug him by the ears to one of those white picket fences. We rallied the neighbors and called his bluff. That’s when they called me a potted plant: growing, healthy, rooted, but still moving. And then Fear ran back home crying; his friend Comparison had to scoot along too.

Sometimes you just need to rally, to grab someone else, to stop listening to the thing that sounds true, but that shuts you down leaves you voiceless, helpless, restless. Pull someone else in to say the thing you cannot see, the thing that Fear and his friends just keep talking circles around.

Because Fear wants you to believe he’s smarter than you, wiser than you, more experienced and better equipped. But really he’s just long-winded and loud-mouthed. He knows most of the headlines, but none of the substance.

Don’t let Fear dominate the conversation, be the center-of-attention, steal the show, stifle the party. Fear and his friends are the house guests I give you permission to always show the door. And if and when they’re rowdy, grab some friends, some experts, (maybe some moms with strollers) and kick them to the curb. If for a second you see him or hear him speaking up, he has overstayed his welcome, go tell him his time is up.

 

 

 

I Didn’t Tell Anyone

I didn’t tell anyone that I felt paralyzed with fear that we would all crash and die. Or that if we made it, I wouldn’t have anything to say that’s actually worth hearing.

I was terrified that entire plane ride.

But I didn’t tell anyone.

When the flight attendant asked if I wanted something to drink, I just accepted a water and smiled. I could have told her I felt afraid. She was a stranger I will probably never see again. She had a compassionate smile, I think I could have told her.

I could have said something to the people next to me, the guy watching the movie or the girl working on spreadsheets. I think they would’ve listened.

I could have told them that I felt really small. That I was pretty sure I was going to epically fail to help the broken people around me, because I felt like all my strength was pointed toward taking my next breath. My entire life felt like it was falling to pieces, I was more broken than I’d ever been and I didn’t tell anyone.

I sat through a six hour plane ride in silence. I got off, grabbed my bags, and pretended that I was just an ordinary passenger on a trip she had been planning.

I didn’t mention how I booked my ticket the night before. I didn’t tell anyone that I had not slept in over twenty-four hours, or that I had barely eaten. I didn’t admit that I was ashamed of how I’d cried in my friend’s arms earlier that morning when he instantly saw that something was wrong.

I feel weak asking for help.

And it seems pretty crazy to write that because I only said it out loud for the first time two days ago. Because in my eyes, the word “help” coming out of my own mouth has always sounded so disgustingly weak.

“It’s an amazing thing to ask for help.” She looked at me, her eyes serious, and full of love.

She was referring to the shirt I was wearing, one that says: I’m capable of amazing things.

“Maybe you are capable of doing a lot of things on your own, of figuring things out for yourself. But it’s an amazing thing to ask people for help. You can be capable of that too.”

I instantly thought about that plane ride, and how I felt so alone, even though I was sandwiched between two beautiful human beings. I remembered how I just sat there beating myself up for wanting to cry.

Then I thought about lunch the other day and how I talked about the hardest thing that’s happened to me in a long time. How I discussed it so casually, as though it doesn’t daily rattle my rib cage and continuously shatter my heart.

I’ve never known how to really say things that might make me appear weak. I can tell you hard things, but I’ve learned how to edit them, make them sound bravely vulnerable when the reality is that it requires nothing of me to share them.

To share something that hasn’t quite healed, or that I cannot figure out an answer for is rarely something I willingly do. If it comes out, it’s usually through a clenched jaw and with tightened fists. It’s usually in anger. Because for a long time, I didn’t think anger was weak.

“It’s a gift, to help another human being and you’ve been withholding that gift from everyone you claim to love.”

Being the lover of gifts that I am, those words snapped the last string holding up a lifetime of pride. Because if my bank account was bigger I’d buy everyone in my orbit a vase of flowers, a box of cereal, and a ticket to somewhere that would make them come alive. Gifts are precious in my world.

I used to cry every time I’d see a kid accidentally let go of a balloon and lose it to the strength of the wind and the height of the sky. I never knew why it was one of the things that could instantly draw tears.

But its because I know the pain that cuts you when a gift is stolen, broken or lost. And the thought that I have done that, am doing it, and could continue to do it makes me want to take a sledgehammer to every wall that says: DO ANYTHING OTHER THAN LOOK WEAK.

So, maybe that hammer gets its first swing here. I guess its a first step in saying, I’m sorry that I keep taking away chances for you to get the joy of stepping in, of giving, of offering me answers that you got with your own blood, sweat and tears. You’ve got some things to show me that I can’t figure out on my own. You’ve got things worthy of being heard, arms that I don’t want to push away when you offer to help carry the things that weaken my knees.

People are a gift in the times of pain, questions, and carrying heavy things. I’m learning that not letting others give you their hearts, hands, lessons learned and words of truth is really pushing away something amazing…something you could never be capable of getting on your own.