On the Other Side

Most of the time, I don’t even think about it.

Then it jumps out at me as I walk along the school hallway.

Indistinct.

Unknown.

But real.

It’s there. And I’ve come to accept that. Whatever it is.

It’s something that’s there… and that’s not there at the same time.

My friend calls it a black hole. I’ve called it a grey blanket.

Where you look… and as hard as you look, you can’t see it.

But you know it’s there.

It’s the kind of thing that can cripple you.

Or you can embrace it.

I can’t see the other side… just the foggy, clarity of it’s existence.

I used to fight it.

I’ve sobbed about it.

I’ve looked it — in all of it’s indistinctness — in the face.

I’ve accepted it.

And I move on.

Again.

Sometimes not knowing what fills in the missing pixels can torture you. You stare at the picture. You see what is there. You see what might be there. But you can’t see it.

Sometimes… it’s peace just to know it’s okay.

Okay that it’s there in it’s blurry mess.

Okay that I can’t remember the rest of it.

Okay… that it’s not okay.

Sometimes… its incredible comforting to think that God is on the other side of that black hole. That He sees the whole picture… clearly.

That He’s got the broken fragments of my memory in His hands.

And that whatever He holds… it’s gonna be okay.

Because He can make beauty out of brokenness.

Light out of darkness.

Life out of death.

I look again at the fuzzy picture in my mind…

I look away.

That’s God’s memory.

He’s taken it away…

To give back or to withhold…

In His perfect sovereignty and plan.

Thank you Jesus.

Known by His Scars…

“I shall know Him… by the prints of the nails in His hands.”

The thirteen-year-old plays and sings st the piano. It happens to be one of my favorite songs.

I let the words wash over me.

Words of praise, rapture, and hope.

Words of a world where there are no tears.

Words of the Saviour…

And it strikes me.

What is it saying??

That I will know Him by the prints of the nails. By the SCARS!

In that perfect land of paradise, there will still be scars.

My scars. His scars.

Together, something beautiful.

His scars making the beauty of mine.

I can’t express it… but it throbs with life-blood deep in my soul.

It’s not about reaching a place where my scars will be no more…

It’s about reaching the place where my scars are lost in the sight of His scars. Where I loose sight of mine, by seeing the gift of His. Where I see the gift of my scars, as a small way that I can mirror His.

Known by scars… am I willing to be that way? Am I willing to reflect the scars of the Sinless One — however dimly — by the mess of my sin-stained scars?

I have a feeling that it would be worth it…

A Thousand Thoughts — Or at Least Five

I should be heading for the shower.

Instead, I sit at my computer, texting with a friend about “black holes” and finishing up my worksheet for tomorrows history lesson.

I’ve finished the history lesson now, I think I’m done texting, and I should really just head bedward.

I flip open my science book. Yup. I studied to the correct page.

It’s been a long day. A good day. A first day.

Now, I’m tired.

Ready to unwind.

Ready to let go.

Maybe that makes no sense… but deep down a thousand thoughts are swirling. (I pause as I remember the thousands, hundreds, tens and ones places of place value. Teacher brain I guess.)

Thoughts of dreams come true. Of dreams shattered. Of successes and failures. Of hopes and fears. Of memories that rise unbidden… and memories that won’t come back, no matter how hard I try…

It’s been a good day.

And now it’s time to let go. To trust. To let God take care of the rest.

Goodnight. May He bless you, whatever your day may have been.

Hundredfold

“But you’re part of the family.” The eleven-year-old gives me a look as if I make no sense.

In his mind, things are so painfully simple. I belong to them, and where they go, I go.

It’s the same look he gave me when his parents helped me out with buying my car. “Of course they would”. I think he even said that it made perfect sense.

A few days ago, my thirteen-year-old “little sister” wondered how she should refer to me to her school friends.

“I’d just call you my big sister, but they already know!” She almost wails.

“Why doesn’t she live on her own family?” The six-year-old lifts puzzled brown eyes to her mother. We try not to laugh at the choice of words.

“Its because she helps people. Right Bri?” The eight-year-old bounces over to my side, tucking my nickname into the sentence as she has been demostratively ever since I said they could call me that.

I smile at the reason that was first given when I came to help them with school in the spring.

Then the mamma starts explaining. She says that I came to help with school, and liked them so much that I keep coming back.

The six-year-old looks unconvinced, and I assure her that I do like her a lot.

Somehow the conversation melts away… the eleven-year-old gives me a look again, and whispers “it’s more then that.”

I smile in acknowledgment.

But really… they are like family.

I can make it so complicated.

Social norms and curious bystanders can make it so complicated.

But the eleven-year-old has it so simple. And maybe he’s right.

“He setteth the solitary in families.”

The words ring in my ears. Words that somehow used to both puzzle and appeal to me.

This spring, I sat on my friend’s couch in a different province, and cried about the family that I lost. The family that I still have, but don’t have. The ache of losing while still possessing.

She told me that my support group was my family now.

I didn’t believe her.

Since then, I have watched something beautiful happen. More then that — I have lived it.

“… and in the world to come, life everlasting.”

Sometimes, in the truth of that statement what precedes it is lost.

A hundred-fold of the family we left behind — given to us — right here on earth.

And I’ve seen that lived out…

In the baby snuggled in my arms making animal sounds…

In the little girl who made me sit down so she could sit in my lap, and then told me that I was “like a big sister”…

In the teasing, and the waterfights…

The laughter, and the fun…

In the middle girl’s hugs, and the big girl’s hovering at my shoulder while I work.

In the prayers, and the counsel… the driving lessons… the children’s games… the baby’s babbling… the phone calls they’ve made for me, and they way they’ve supported me…

Most of all, the way they’ve accepted me, and given me the chance to accept them — just how they are — just how they’ve taken me.

Maybe the eleven-year-old is on to something after all…

What is Life?

My head buried in my arms on the window ledge, I asked for the desire to live.

It’s not that I didn’t love life.

I DO love life.

I love the soft wind on my face, and the intense pale blue of the September sky, and the ditches filled with blossoming yellow, and the chickaree deep in it’s periwinkle loveliness scattered by the roadside. I love the people who fill my life. The baby’s soft comfortable self snuggled in my arms, the child who spontaneously hugs me for no apparent reason, the students that I haven’t even met yet, the friend who can almost read my thoughts from miles away, and so many more. I love the words, written, spoken, and read that make life beautiful.

I love life.

But sometimes… I hate life.

The mornings when I don’t feel like crawling out of bed.

The evenings when I don’t feel like crawling back into it.

The afternoons when I cry over the piano keys and ask the question that sometimes burns like an angry fire — “why”?!

I don’t know that I will ever find the answer to that question.

I don’t know that I will ever be able to say why the things that have happened, have happened.

I don’t know that I will be able to answer why the pain oozed into my life. Or why sometimes it oozes out in a surge of emotions that sweep unexpectedly over my soul.

Sometimes, I ask myself why God has let me live. Why He created such a broken, struggling wreck in the first place. Why He has taken people Home to Him who to my eyes would be such a greater help and blessing to the world, then I ever will or can be.

A friend of mine just lost her baby.

A perfect, precious life.

He took his first breath in Heaven.

My heart screams why.

Why he was snatched from her arms. Why he never got to snuggle against her bosom. Why his life was so short.

And yet… today, he is more alive then I am.

His life has been perfected.

Jesus came to give us abundant life.

Sometimes, I wonder where I have missed it.

Other days, I catch glowing foretastes of that abundance.

I believe that that abundance is to be tasted in this world. Not just reserved for Heaven.

I believe I can live it now. Have it now. Possess that foretaste of Heaven that Jesus brought to earth.

But my hands remain empty.

I know that Jesus holds LIFE for me.

That life in Him, is more then rolling out of bed with the thought that you’d just rather stay in it. It’s more then wondering why you’re even here. It’s more, even, then drinking in the blessings of flower, and sky, and friends and family.

It’s more then wondering when that life will be perfected in Heaven.

Because He brought that LIFE to earth.

And somehow… He will make a way for me to live that life HERE. Right here, amid the “whys”.

Random Ramblings from a Teacher’s Brain

I sit behind my desk looking out across my new classroom, and eating chicken pot pie from a plastic lunch container.

From each of my students desks a name card stares back at me, reminding me that in less then a week each of those desks will return the gaze of two bright intelligent eyes all fresh with back-to-school anticipation.

A thrill, partly of joy and partly of terror passes through me at the thought that it will be my responsibility to teach and nurture those little lives during the coming school year.

What power for good or for evil a teacher has!

I almost shudder at the thought. But the soothing influence of chocolate within my mouth somehow destracts the random mood of my brain.

That is how I feel today–random.

And that I should always keep chocolate in my desk for after school emergencies.

My little classroom is coming together.

Slowly, but surely it looks more like September 7th could happen within its walls.

With the exception of my desk that is… around the space cleared for my lunch, chaos reigns rampant and undisputed on my desk.

I hope to dispute it’s right to sovereignty before I leave school today… but somehow, I doubt that will happen.

The cocolate-caramel-oatmeal square from my lunch has disappeared, and my blackboard is calling to me to finish my to-do list.

In a random, lazy way, I’m excited to get back to work on it. And excited for the first day of school.

You see… even though I’m terrified at the thought of how much I could mess up… of how little anyone knows of what a broken, struggling girl they’ve hired to teach this year… of how great the opportunity is to fail…

Two things hold me anchored.

That God placed me here, in a job I didn’t ask for, and in that place He will be sufficient.

That where there is a high stake at risk for failure, there is equal opportunity for the working of outstanding good.

There were people who took that risk on me. And now it is my turn to do that for my students.

I glance back at my to-do list, turn off the random ramblings of my brain, and return to the world of my classroom.

God’s Delayed Answer

In 20 days, it will be two years since one of the most memorable days of my life.

You see, a year before that, my life started to really fall apart.

My health had been bad before that… but in August of 2018 I found my self in ER… visiting specialists… taking test after test…

Things never really got better.

There were seasons when things would improve, but it always got worse again.

In in August of 2019, after talking things over with one of my best friends, I asked my church ministers whether they would be willing to anoint me with oil like it talks about in the book of James. They said yes.

September 19th 2019 is one of the days I can remember so painfully clearly.

I spent the day in bed. Listening over and over to “Precious Lord Take my Hand”, and other songs that helped me to hold on. I felt like I had the faith to be healed. I felt that God wouldn’t have led me to ask for one of the things I least wanted, without His planning to heal me. And I said that if He did heal me, that I would tell everyone about it.

That evening will always hold a precious place in my heart. From the prayers… when God was specifically mentioned as my Father (something close to my heart)… to the smell of the oil… and the feel of it trickling down my face…

I remember feeling like something happened. But I didn’t know what.

That night I sat in my dark room, looking out at the stars and humming Lyle Stutzman’s new tune for “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” over to myself. God felt so real. And I felt that whatever life held it would be okay as long as I walked with Him.

The next few months were rough.

My health got worse.

I remember my friend telling me that sometimes God chooses to heal our spirit instead of our body… and that both were important. That He knew best.

Over the next year and a half He brought so much emotional healing to me. I felt like He had said no to physical healing, and was granting me greater healing instead. I knew that if I could have picked one of the two, I would have chosen the healing He WAS working in my heart.

Then my world shattered. My health fell to shreds. The stresses I’d felt I was healing from got so much worse. And I couldn’t hang on any longer.

I don’t want to write about this part of my life. But it is a necessary bridge to get to the part of the story that I want to tell…

I called one of my best friends. Told her I was at the breaking point, and asked what to do. I already knew the answer I would hear, and knew it was the answer that I needed.

Within four days my friends pulled me out of my home. I will be forever in debt for their acting for me, when I couldn’t act for myself.

This was one of the hardest times of my life. But it was also when I started to see the miracle that God had been working.

Within two months my health had totally healed.

God had a plan for both physical and spiritual healing.

A plan that He wanted to work out over time.

An answer that He started two years ago on that night I will never forget.

An answer that He is still at work at in my heart.

You see… He has sent the miracle that I asked for. And He sent so much more healing as well! So much more!!

And the time finally feels right to respond by fulfilling my promise… that if He healed me, I would tell everyone about the fact that He still heals people today.

‘Til the Storm Passes Over

Thunder rumbles overhead, and distant echoes reach my ears of the song “come bring your burdens to God.”

Reliving the weekend.

The rain let’s loose overhead in a deluge.

A few hours ago, my church was camping.

And God held off the rain!!

The song “When the Storm Passes Over” flutters through my head. Just as God held back the storm, He will make a way through it.

My mind wanders from the storms outside to the storms drowning my life and my world.

The storms WILL pass over. A day WILL come when the thunder sounds more more!

We have a God who cares!

Empty

I don’t understand the ache.

Maybe I’m just tired.

It has been a crazy few weeks…

With teacher training, and covid, and quarantine.

It’s been full of good things though… that’s why I don’t understand it.

But I’m just worn out.

And I’m ready to give up. Even though I don’t know what that means. And even though I know that I don’t mean it.

Tonight, I have nothing to offer.

Tonight, I’m just empty.

But somehow, God can make that okay too.

Even if I can’t figure out exactly how.

I know even emptiness can be a blessing if I let it drive me closer to God.

And as I draw closer to God… He will fill those empty spots with Himself.

Broken Song

Growing up, at almost every visit to my grandparents we would be asked to play the piano for them.

Somehow that piano has inseparably joined itself in my memory with my grandmother’s cheese biscuits, and the orange plaid outfit I had the summer I was 5.

As a little child I admired that piano immensely.

As I grew older, other memories joined to it.

Memories of the Christmas village set up every year on the back of it.

Memories of the times when it was out of tune.

Memories of the legend that claimed it has a cracked soundboard.

Tonight, I played on that piano again.

It’s been years since it was at my grandparents house.

Both it, and I have seen a lot of life since those days.

I don’t know whether it ever really did have a cracked soundboard… but I know that I did.

I know that years ago, my song was broken. I know that I almost stopped playing at more then one time in my life.

I still loved music. But I believed that I was terrible at it. And I feared the rejection that came with it.

I stopped learning real pieces, and only played from my heart… because then there was no brokenness… no room for change… because if it was just something I made up there was no room to find out I was doing it wrong.

And yet I felt incredibly inferior because of it.

Tonight, I was ready to play.

I was far from prepared for what I would hear when I was done. It was not what I expected. And it gave me the courage to maybe try music again… more then just putting my soul out on the keys when no one is around to hear me.

You see… music is a part of me. A part that no amount of brokenness and death could fully kill.

Yes, memories have swarmed back on me tonight.

Memories of tears… of failures… of places, and moments, and struggles that I had almost forgotten.

Memories of how it felt when a part of me died.

Memories of the lies that I believed about myself.

Memories of how bad it all hurt.

And it still hurts.

But even though I’ve remembered so many moments that hurt… playing tonight was worth it.

Because that broken soundboard, and that broken part of me… I found out that after all these years, both can still sing.