Amidst my sadness, the deep of my heart has been searching for my God; in the search He has met me and time again He has made Himself known to me.
In the blackness of night my spine laid pressed against the highway, cooled then from the day passed where sun burnt it’s tar and the wheels of cars crossed hastily across it’s stretch. My palms gripped firmly against the small stones and my body positioned itself parallel to the framing bridge. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to feel either: I only wanted to breathe. In the silence, I listened and counted. The flow of the Kalgan beneath me, 1..2..3. The birds bitter cries, 4..5..6. The rustling tree tops, 7..8..9. Breathe girl, breathe. As I laid in the middle of the highway I studied the glittering stars above me, sprayed like confetti across the heavens and the moon at its whole. In that moment, the deep of my heart cried out to my God in search of Him.
I’ve found comfort in the darkness over the past two weeks. As much as a certain loved one may frown upon that statement, it can not take away from how tangibly present God has been in the deepest of darknesses. To sit here and say that I’ve felt sad would feel more superficial than anything else because it’s something I’ve said and felt for a while; it comes as no surprise. It seems almost stereotypical to say as well that I’ve felt a deeper sadness, for isn’t that to be expected because does depression not fluctuate from time to time? My relationship with God doesn’t make me immune to sadness, it doesn’t immediately remove all past or current sadness- this we’ve established in my week alone with Him. I am also quite aware that my exceedingly low iron and other topsy turvy body functions, don’t make the matters at hand any easier to manage. E and I have also been unboxing uncomfortable boxes, I’ve been encountering past traumas both physically and internally- I suppose it is unhelpful knowing that my family often speak to me so casually about rape they’ve read on the news, or they without warning watch movies in the lounge containing violent rape scenes. Nevertheless, I could try justify my feelings in a thousand different ways, but the fact remains that the deep of my heart is simply riddled with sadness as it searches for my Jesus. Like vines the sadness grows, their thorns piercing the most fragile areas of my heart, their grip tightening and pressing deeply, crying out for the internal pain to be made physical, and with each tear those vines grow. How am I to fight against such sadness? It’s a sadness that calls me to lie down in the centre of the highway. It’s a sadness that lures me to go for long walks in the dark, blinded by the piercing rain and hail. It’s a sadness that stops me in the middle of the street where the rain pours over me in the blackness of night. It’s a sadness that watches me absentmindedly drive without knowing where I am going, without realising I am behind the wheel until I am at a stop. It’s a sadness that beckons me out into the water, wading until my body is submerged, never to surface again. It’s a sadness that questions my every being and tempts me to meet my end. It’s a sadness that pushes me toward my safely trapped, back to places I have been but never want to return to. Oh where would I be without my God? Without Him I would no doubt find myself on that familiar bathroom floor, bloodstained tiles and no hope for life. Without Him I would again be walking out in front of traffic or recklessly swerving on the roads. Without Him I would without hesitation be breaking skin and wading out into the unknown to meet my end. In the deepest of my sadness, My God meets me there but still I search for Him.
I pondered one evening as I walked home in the rain, why do we instinctually want to run away from grief when Jesus so tangibly moves into places of great grief? I recently watched an interview of a 30 year old woman who goes by the name ‘Nightbirde’. She has walked a life that calls out in great grief, great brokenness. With a body riddled with cancer and a timeline unknown, she holds strongly to her faith in God and searches for Him. Ann Voskamp featured Nightbirde on a recent blog post, her words so raw (https://annvoskamp.com/2021/06/how-to-meet-god-at-your-lowest-point/). There was one paragraph that she wrote, as if she took the words from my own heart and wrote them for the world to read: “I am God’s downstairs neighbour, banging on the ceiling with a broomstick. I show up at His door every day. Sometimes with songs, sometimes with curses. Sometimes apologies, gifts, questions, demands. Sometimes I use my key under the mat to let myself in. Other times, I sulk outside until He opens the door to me Himself. I have called Him a cheat and a liar, and I meant it. I have told Him I wanted to die, and I meant it. Tears have become the only prayer I know. Prayers roll over my nostrils and drip down my forearms. They fall to the ground as I reach for Him. These are the prayers I repeat night and day; sunrise, sunset. For I have seen Him in rare form. I have felt His exhale, laid in His shadow, squinted to read the message He wrote for me in the grout: “I’m sad too.” If an explanation would help, He would write me one—I know it. But maybe an explanation would only start an argument between us—and I don’t want to argue with God. I have heard it said that some people can’t see God because they won’t look low enough, and it’s true. Look lower. God is on the bathroom floor.” And He is. She’s right, God is on the bathroom floor; this I know because He has met me there too. God is lying on the highway next to me, He is wading in the water beside me and He is walking through the storm behind me. The deep of my God’s heart cries out to my own, He grieves with me and wraps me in His embrace. In Him I am safely held. Nightbirde quoted that “Life is beautiful and hard at the same time, that’s when we’re fully alive: when we can hold both.” Living isn’t either good or bad, rainbows or clouds, beauty or brokenness. The beauty in life is found amidst the hardships, the suffering. I’ve spoken a lot about suffering and what it means to suffer well, and that’s the very meaning of life itself. God gave us life knowing full well that it wouldn’t be easy, but knowing that we would be able to draw nearer to Him through the pain and that is what brings forth the beauty. Who are we to run from the very thing [grief] that draws us nearer to our Maker [my God]?
The Sunday before last, I spent my morning alone in search of my Jesus. Grabbing a duvet from the lounge and snuggling on the couch with a view of the river; I pondered a lot that morning. I made my way to the kitchen and as I reached for the chai latte sachets, I thought of TC whom had bought them especially for the two of us. I thought of our special chats together and our friendship. I bumped into her parents recently and remember telling her later that whenever I was with them or with her, it felt like home and like family. She told me they are my home, they are my family and they all loved me dearly. Oh how we’ve bloomed over the years. As I stirred the powder through the boiling water I studied the spoon, T had gifted it to TC last year and it’s unique in every way. I remember when TC first showed me the spoon months ago, as she passed it to me I was oddly surprised by the lightness of its weight. Things aren’t always as they appear to be. As I sat in that red leather couch, that same one I’ve sat in for years, I looked at the bricks of this home. Those bricks have seen it all, Christmases spent as family, moments of both laughter and tears. They’ve stood strong through the seasons and they’ve kept safe the treasures inside. The stories they hold. My gaze moved past the bricks and landed upon a little bird sitting on the edge of the gate by the lemon tree. I smiled as I thought of T and how we compared our views over the phone just the Thursday prior, perhaps one day we will sit in her home with a cup of tea and I will see the view she described to me. What a little life we live. Like my friendship with TC, many beautiful things bloom with age. There are many years ahead of me yet.. I’m allowed to say that now because I no longer see myself six feet under in 10 years time: I have a hope for my future in Jesus. In my last post I stipulated a sense of grief that came with T’s birthday, a fear of losing time with her and not being able to live as much time together fully as friends; family. I giggle to myself here because just this last week someone from church asked me if I lived with T and her family- I’m grateful for the family God gives me outside of my own. My Little J looked up at me last week and told me I was part of his family, my heart melted then and there- I’m again so grateful for the family God gives me outside of my own. With age my relationship with my God blooms too, it grows through every season and strengthens as I press into Him. The spoon T gifted to TC, it wasn’t how it appeared to be, but then again.. aren’t most things as such? I’ve always been told not to judge a book by its cover, but isn’t that what we do to each other? How often do we subconsciously form an opinion based on a first glance; whether of ourselves or others. If I pause to even consider the life my younger self imagined, it wasn’t a life anything similar to the one I’ve lived thus far. I look at my body and it doesn’t depict who I am, it’s cover doesn’t show the depths of my inner self and I’m not always as I appear to be. There are very few people who can ‘read me like an open book’, and very few who see me for my insides as opposed to my outsides; for that I am grateful. The bricks of TC’s home reminded me of the bricks I’d once built around my own heart; a strong wall of protection. Though unlike my bricks, her homes bricks has windows and doors that let the light in; my walls shut out God’s light. The only bricks around my little heart are bricks my God has placed there in the form of His armour, His promises to guard my heart and keep it safely held. The windows in my bricks, are the cracks of my brokenness and they allow God’s light to flow freely both in and out of my heart; inward to myself and outward to those around me. My little life would be so insignificant if it weren’t for my significant God whom abides within me, and I within Him.
That same Sunday evening, I roamed the area by the riverside for what felt like hours. Aimlessly I wondered alone, taking in the creation around me and waiting for my God to meet me. My feet found their way to the rivers edge; I stood on a rock that held the potential for a painful fall. Would anyone notice if I were gone? I allowed my mind to follow that thought but my Jesus caught it before it fell. Lowering myself down, I sat and watched the rivers steady flow. A fish darted beneath the surface, leaving a streak behind that turned into a wave of ripples. As the sun set, the waters colour deepened. The rivers surface began to turn from a still mirror, to a rippled canvas. As the skies darkened, the blackness of night rolled in with a storm. I heard the rain off in the distance and knew it was only a matter of time before it would meet me. Would my God meet me too? Still I sat.. watching.. waiting. Droplets turned to a light drizzle, which turned to rain and then to a storm. Still I sat.. watching.. waiting. The wind blew the rain into me and the linen shirt I wore stuck to my wet body like glue. With my arms exposed I found myself completely underdressed for the occasion. Goosebumps arose over each inch of skin, my eyes shut from the rain piercing them and my once straight hair now fell in wet ringlets over my face. I looked down to study my hands, my skin had turned red as the cold ran through my veins- I didn’t know it at the time but the painful stiffness would last another hour before my hands remembered how to function. Each drop of rain that hit my skin felt like a gunshot. Not one piece of my body was dry and still I sat.. watching.. waiting. The silence of my heart cried out to my God, screams of pain and desperation called out to Him. In my search I lost sight of the river as it disappeared into the blackness, I heard the roars of heaven as if my God Himself were crying with me.
Much like my sadness, the storm came slowly and then all at once. I sat and heard the rain in the distance, I knew it would meet me eventually. In the same way I knew that as I continued down this journey, the sadness would come. But in both instances what I didn’t realise was that the dam would break when I least expected it, I would find myself drowning without the time I thought I’d have to prepare myself. It took everything within me to pull my body off of the ground. As my feet carried me back toward TC’s home, the shoes holding them flooded further with water and the force of the storm pushed against me. The walk home was long but the black of night and the raging storm made it all the more longer. Unable to see what laid before me, I wondered if I would become one with the storm? Would I be lifted and carried into the unknown? Could that be my breakthrough? Might God remove me from my suffering? The rush of a truck and the splash back from its tyres, quickly brought me back to reality and as I continued walking down the highway I realised I was very much stuck in this world. My tears collided with the rain that rolled down my cheeks, down my nose and neck. I listened to the thunder as it moved through the heavens above, the trees swayed and my feet struggled to navigate their way home. Little did I know that the storm was only brewing and it would continue to grow through the night, leaving traces of impact throughout this little town. I fell asleep that night, listening to the sounds of the storm as it rattled the windows of this old home. I wondered if the bricks were bothered by the forceful gale and whether the poppies in the garden would see the light of morning. The storm that raged within me felt to be challenging the one outdoors.. which would be larger.. which would be more damaging.. more brutal? I reached out to T for prayer before switching off for the night. Shivering in bed, I found myself watching the dancing darkness.. waiting. As I searched for my God, I spoke to Him. My broken heart cried out to His own, He met me there and He held me close, through the night. I woke after shortly after 2am that Monday morning, the storm outside still raging; as was the storm in me.
I laid awake in bed until 5am and then stumbled to the kitchen to make myself a chai latte, before sitting in the lounge to spend time with God. As the sky began to lighten with time, it revealed the damage created by the storm that began whilst I sat riverside with Jesus. We lost a lot of trees to the storm and before leaving for work I did damage control where I could at TC’s home. Driving along the roads all I saw were signs of the nights rage, pieces of debris left behind and damage on every road. Some areas were hit harder than others and the only thing circling my mind was.. ‘what a brutal storm’. As I was praying I approached the winery and saw that a large tree had fallen between the vineyard. Not far from that was a car abandoned in a ditch and more debris was everywhere. I began to see beauty amidst the brutal brokenness of the storm. God’s power was made so evidently known and I couldn’t help but draw similarities to my own life. What if I could view my brutal brokenness the way I viewed the storms’? What if I could view it as a beautiful depiction of my God’s power? Could I stand in awe of the brutal brokenness in my life and my heart? As I drove along the highway my heart questioned: What if our brokenness beckons us to be safely held by the One who calls us His Beloved?
I lost my first poppy to the brutal storm that night. Out of the four that had grown I allowed only my very first to keep its bud, in hope of its bloom. My mind wondered what would have become of that single poppy, had the storm not destroyed it.. Would it have bloomed? What colour would it have been? Would I have been able to preserve and frame it beside the poppies T gave me? The deep of my heart yearned for the loss of that poppy and the life it had ahead- not so much for the poppy itself but for its resemblance of me. I was that poppy not that long ago; I was little, still growing, with a life ahead of me. Had the traumas not begun, I wonder what colours my life would have been? Would I have bloomed? The smallest seed of resentment and anger began to grow in the deep of my heart as I pondered these thoughts. How could God allow the traumas? How could He let them stunt my growth at such a young age? What about my colours and my preservation? It wasn’t fair! I searched harder for my God. The seed of resentment and anger quickly became washed over and flooded by feelings of sadness and longing.. Longing for answers and for the life I could have had. My Jesus met me in that place of longing. He held my sadness, my breaking heart, and He drew me in to Himself. God opened the eyes of my heart and revealed to me the truth- You see I did bloom, despite the trauma: It comes back to that concept of the brutal hail melting to water that brings forth my poppies’ growth. My colours are also beginning to grow as my blooming takes place in the safeness of my Jesus: God preserved the deep of my heart and since I the day I came home to Him, He has been bringing forth my colours and growth. As T so beautifully said: I am continuing to fall in love with God. The storms of my life may not have been foreseen or fair, as the storm that took my poppy; But it didn’t end my life and just as the poppy will soon grow back, so I am growing back- safely held by my God. Storms will still come, I may still loose poppies to its brutality but there will ultimately still be growth. In that very same way, storms in my own life will still come and knock me down but they will continue to grow me in my faith and who I am in Jesus.
A week and three days of continued sadness and suffering has since passed and I’d like to think that I have suffered as well as I could, if anything I know I have pressed into Jesus as deeply as I could; despite the battles I faced. Between work, home and everything between, my soul is growing weary and the deep sadness I spoke of earlier only deepens. My sadness sometimes teeters on the edge of creating space between my God and I, and I don’t know how to stop it.
This breaking heart of mine yearns to be safely held.
There’s something about the way my Jesus holds me in my brokenness. I close my eyes, if I keep them shut for long enough I can almost feel my scars aligning with His own as He holds my heart in His hands, I can almost feel the pressure of His love embracing me all around.
In the sun one afternoon I slept at my families home, as the anaesthetic wore off and as I cried myself to sleep, I laid with my head resting on my eldest cat. I fell asleep listening to the rhythm of his purr; as I have done for the last 13 years. Each year of my life since birth, I have had a cat but none like my current eldest. There have been countless of nights over the years where I have sobbed and he has quite literally come to lick the tears off my cheeks and lay with me. There was a day in grade 7 where he walked into school during lunch, he came right up to me and purred in my arms before I sent him home. I have photographs of him sleeping with me, his paw over my right hand. When I am not at home, especially over the year spent in and out of hospital, I have videos sent to me where he would spend hours darting from my room, to my couch in the lounge as he cried out for me. I have truely never held an attachment to a living creature, as strongly as my attachment with my eldest cat. To this day he remains in love with me and is there whenever I need him, through each trauma and each season. I draw many similarities when it comes to my relationship with God. My God wipes my tears, He lays with me as I fall asleep, He holds my right hand always and He is forever there for me. He too has seen me through my traumas and has loved me all the same. My God is made known to me in the constant purring of my eldest, with my head rested, He holds me and He meets me there.
My Little J recently asked me to play drs with him at work, so I laid on the floor pretending to be sick and out of his medical bag, he pulled a block. Passing me the block he said to me, “Chocolate to make it all better.” I smiled as I thought of T, if only things were that simple. Aside from Little J, there is only one other child who is the reason I go to work each day. God has challenged me to leave traces of Himself wherever I go, He has given me a heart for His children. This girl, Little L, breaks me heart each time I see her. Her life up to her current age of 4, has held unspeakable traumas and she abides in a home where she is overlooked and unloved. She cries each day, quite literally until she sees me. Wherever I am she finds me, she holds onto any piece of me she can reach and snuggles into me with the purest of loves. We had a lunch picnic alone together this past week, she followed me when I went for my lunch break and after refusing food from anyone all day, she sat and ate with me. For the first time she looked up to me with tear filled eyes, put her right hand on my arm and told me “I love you and I’m happy now”. The strings of my heart screeched like an old violin, and my own eyes filled with tears. I’ve watched this girl have meltdowns that’s turned her into something inhuman and detached from true herself, a trauma response, instinct subconscious self preservation. This girls smile has the ability to take away any sadness you may have previously felt and her love for Jesus is surreal at her age, let alone given the life she’s grown up in. She laid on my lap and as I stroked her cheek, she ever so gently traced the burned scar on my hand. God has used this little girl to make Himself known to me in more ways than one, He has done the same with Little J. In the most unexpected moments at work, when all seems unbearable, my little loves will find me and hold me. Little J often cups my face with both his hands, looks deeply into my eyes and tells me “he loves me, that I’m beautiful and ‘his’ sweetie girl”. These two children have the purest love for God and He uses them to remind me of His love for me.. God’s little kisses, as T named it long ago. He is always present, He is always in love with me and He traces my scars gently. Nothing can keep His love from me. The three of us sat down to read a book not too long ago and the final page read “But the nicest feeling of all is when a kind person gives me a hug and says “Everything is going to be okay”. I can in all honesty say that in the last 21 years, there are only two people who have hugged me whilst saying those exact words; T and R. I said it in my previous post but I’ll say it again, I think it is beautiful, all the ways in which God inserts Himself into pieces of our days, the way He meets us, the way He subtly makes Himself known to us and becomes more tangibly present when we need Him most.
“I could really do with a hug”. That sounds quite blunt but it’s also quite raw and true. The hug I’m referring to isn’t just any old hug, but it’s the type of hug that makes everything feel a little more okay. I typed those words into a text message that I never sent, my heart cracked a little deeper with each letter I backspaced and as the words disappeared I sobbed. Believe it or not I never used to be one for physical touch or hugs. Growing up hugs weren’t something known to me and traumas made me all the more afraid of them. It’s not since the week before I began seeing T that hugs found their meaning to me. You see, I was quite close to J at that stage and one night I found myself at her doorstep in the blackness. Broken and ready to end my life, I was welcomed by her and her husband, S, with open arms. S hugged me first and to this day I can still feel that hug, it was the first real hug I’d received from a safe man in as long as I could remember. It was also the first hug since I was raped that October, only a matter of weeks prior. J embraced me next and the two of us cried on her couch until late that night. The two of us established a safe code, it sounded silly but it was something we both felt was needed at the time. “I need a hug”. I smile as I write this because as broken as my heart feels in this moment, I only now realised the similarities between my safe code with J, and the unsent message I wrote just the other day. I have come to learn that a hug, may or sometimes may not, always appear to be of much significance. However, the beauty is in being able to come back to a hug at any given moment when it’s needed most. R, our little loves and I often find ourselves in a ‘sandwich’ hug; where the four of us become one and it’s those hugs that my heart goes back to time and time again. Over this past year one hug I have come back to more so than the rest, is the one T gave me as she held me on the floor after my overdose last June. My heart goes back there often because it’s a hug that made God so tangibly known to me even though at that time I’d walked away from Him. As my relationship with my God has deepened over these last few months, He has shown me more clearly how He has carried me through my brokenness. Above each example He has shown me, that hug from T is one I am so often lead back to. I can close my eyes and still feel her arms around me, I can hear her heart beating as my head pressed against her chest and I know undoubtedly that God held me there too. That moment so beautifully depicts how God held me and how He continues to hold me each day, He wraps me in His love and there I know I am safe and secure in Him. On my saddest days, where the suffering drowns me, as much as I know God holds me, I could really still do with a hug.
I walked out to the riverside one afternoon and as I walked down Bon Accord, before me was a rainbow in the sky and around me was a tangible sense of God’s presence. The deep of my heart ever so gently aches each time I see a rainbow because I know that in that moment my God is still fulfilling His promises to me. As I wandered down that long road I chased after that rainbow like a child, foolishly hoping to reach it’s end as if beneath it were God Himself; my Forever Home. I reached the end of the road and still I hadn’t caught the rainbows end, as my heart yearned more desperately for my Promise Keeper; He reminded me that much like the rainbow, the end of His love for me can never be reached because it never ends, He promises that He will be my Forever Home. The rainbow disappeared behind the clouds and in my search for my God, I lost sight of Him. I think life is a bit like that sometimes. In the midst of our storms we struggle to find God, we struggle to see how He is keeping His promises to us. But when the storm passes and the rainbow appears, we find out God and we realise that He was fulfilling His promises to us all along. I am learning how to find God amidst the storm, I am learning to know that my Promise Keeper is there regardless of whether or not I can see Him. The deep of my heart was safely held by my God that afternoon and as I returned to TC’s home, I laid on the grass, wrapped myself in a blanket and with the *almost* hot sun shining down on me, I fell asleep talking to my Jesus.
The worship in church over the weekend was so beautiful. I’ve lately found myself struggling with the volume and ‘hype’ of the songs we’ve sung, but on Sunday I just felt God speaking to me throughout the worship. As I stood next to one of my dearest loved one, my heart smiled because I no longer searched for my Jesus. My sadness was still there, but it was safely held by the One who held me. We again sang a song that pleads for God to lead us in His love to those around us; this plead I prayed at a conference in Perth nearly 4 years ago. On Sunday as I stood there, at Home in my God, beside someone He blessed me with, my heart knew that prayer was at last answered. Another song spoke about how there was nothing that our God can’t do, with one word He calms the storm, He heals the broken inside of us, with just one touch He makes the presence of heaven known to us, He opens our eyes to see that there is nothing He can not do. I read a blog this past week about sitting with the tension between “He can” and “Even if He doesn’t”. The post spoke about how we are able to hold onto the truth that God is good, even when He doesn’t answer our pleas the way we know He can. I have plead for many things, foremost I have plead for the trauma to be taken away but God hasn’t given me that ‘snap fix’- the same goes for my battles with Gollum. Even though God can, it doesn’t mean He always will. And if He doesn’t, it doesn’t mean He loves me any less or that He isn’t keeping His promises. I have grown to learn that sometimes God answers our desperate pleas in ways we weren’t anticipating, and at times where we least expected them. In my deep sadness last week I looked up at E with tearful eyes as she told me that we couldn’t just fast forward or skip through the hard stuff. She reminded me of the bear hunt children’s book and said that the only thing we could do, was wade through one step at a time. There are so many moments throughout the days and weeks where I plead with God to take away the things that hurt so deeply, but He doesn’t take them away. Do you remember quite a while ago, I wrote that God doesn’t always ‘snap-fix’ the heavy chapters of life, but what He does promise is that He will give us what we need to get through the suffering and He will carry us through? I hold onto those truths because I know that without my Promise Keeper carrying me, and sitting with me, and safely holding me: I would be so terribly lost. There is nothing my God can’t do, and when He doesn’t remove my suffering; He makes Himself known to me and opens my eyes to see how He is keeping His promises to me.
I drove to work in silence this morning and the sun rose my God painted the skies with colours of His love. I knew then that He is still keeping His promises to me. I know that in this deep sadness, in the darkness and in the suffering; my Jesus meets me here. I take comfort in knowing that when I find it hard to love myself, when the size of my body hurts me, when the handprints I see and feel stings my skin, when a hug is out of reach- I am still deemed as worthy of an unconditional love, I am still fearfully and wonderfully made, I still beautifully depict the image of my God and He still safely holds me in my brokenness.