Strangers on a Train.

You may not remember me, but I will always remember you.

All my life it’s been walking, buses, trains, what have you. Most of the time two hours a day or more to get to and from school for about a decade and a half. But having a passenger like you seated alongside me definitely was the most memorable for all the most humbling and heart provoking reasons.

It was the usual quick shuffle up and on to the train I’d taken the past four years to get to university. Finally on my way home after one of my final weeks of class I thought I’d retire to my usual aisle seat and flick on some tunes. Maybe watch the beautiful forests and farmer fields zoom by my window. Maybe take a long assessment of the back of my eyelids until the announcement that “we’ve arrived” comes through the intercom to wake me up, collect my things, and do the shuffle back off.

I had just found my seat and was juggling stuff into the overhead compartment when you tentatively cleared your throat and apologetically informed me that you may have to get past me to the aisle part way through our journey. I assured you that’d be no problem, sir, don’t worry about it. You nodded quickly and apologized for the inconvenience and returned to the window. I noticed in my peripheral, now more obviously because you’d introduced yourself, that ever since entering my line of vision you seemed to never sit quite still.

A shoulder tap again. Saying a quick prayer for an awareness of His heart for you, I settled into my seat, looked out the window at the beautiful forests and fields like always, and waited.

“I’m so sorry to bug you. I don’t really remember if I told you or not because I’m feeling out of sorts right now but did I mention that I might need to get by you?”

I assured you that you had, and that again, it would be no problem.

You apologized again, and turned to look out the window, shuffling your feet around.

Again I waited.

“I’m sorry, maybe you don’t like to talk. I don’t want to bug you, just are you going to school where you got on? You don’t have to answer.”

Stepping around the apology, I confirmed that yes, I did. Psychology. And then inevitably followed some ambigious mention of how I never really felt cut out for the program or university in general. And how it had been a very long haul with very little if anything to show for it or to feel proud of.

You mentioned how you had sometimes needed what the studies and psychologists in your life had to offer. To make you better and to understand some hard things. To help you through things. How it was a helpful field. And how on the really bad days, you would remind yourself how lucky you were for having a family who supported you and your professional arts career. You stopped halfway and apologized for taking up my time with your banter. How we had never met and here you were discussing all this stuff that I might not want to. How I could listen to music or read instead of talk to you. I waited, and then asked you more about your career and the journey to it. You said how lucky you were after depicting the journey for me. You said it again and again. How lucky you were. Most times it sounded in a way like you were saying it to yourself rather than to me, trying to convince yourself. You said it was the thing that made you feel the most alive, and kept you that way.

We talked a little more about your passion for your career. Honestly, I was impressed to say the very least. I talked about how I regretted not really being able to pursue art. How I wished I had fought more for it, and how I felt especially burdened now that I had wasted four years in something I barely felt proud of. But I said how it made me really appreciate art now when I was able to partake. How I appreciated it so much more than I ever had because it was such an uphill battle to follow and pursue and cultivate passions.

We talked music. We talked poetry. That’s when you pulled your well loved and definitely worn copy of Robert Service from the seat pocket in front of you. You were about to show me a poem when again, your energy and agitation overwhelmed you to another apology of being the silly stranger who wouldn’t shut up. You apologized and said how I didn’t have to pretend to be interested. That you had had seat partners in the past that plain just told you to shut up, some who had kind of nodded half hearted affirmation to be polite and not be abruptly dismissive. Some who had just thrown music on and shut you out completely. And, I waited. And listened.

I asked you what your favourite poem was. You snapped back out of your agitated state and excitedly flipped through the pages. It was so refreshing to see someone so excited about poetry and so personally attached as well. So inspired by art of people past. I asked you if you’d been to plays. You said you hadn’t really been able with your schedule. I said if you ever got a chance, there was a beautiful place in the city where you could sit in a forested amphitheater, picnic, and then enjoy a night of Shakespeare. You excitedly mentioned some of his pieces that most inspired you. How the rhythms of poetry were so soothing to you in times of agitation. How fascinating — and then you relapsed. You couldn’t find the word and it bothered you. Your already intermittent twitching turned into tapping your forehead, emphatic gesturing with your hands, trying with all your might to physically summon the word that evaded your memory. You stuttered but couldn’t find the word, becoming increasingly more flustered by the moment. You started to berate yourself for how could you be so stupid for not remembering.

Seeing your distress, I offered, “iambic pentameter?”

“YES! That’s it! Thank you, I can’t believe I couldn’t remember that.” I smiled and asked if I could read your copy of Robert Service. You excitedly obliged and handed it to me.

It’s about that time you pulled out a copy of King Lear, and we read quietly side by side, the white noise of the train on the tracks our background soundtrack. Sometimes you’d pipe up and mention another poem. And then apologize because you didn’t want to interrupt my reading. I chuckled, asked which one it was. Told you I had the rest of the train ride, and that I’d read it next.

And we read. And for the first time all trip, you seemed peaceful beside me. Quietly, and a little bashfully, you commented how you’d never had a seat partner as attentive or kind as me.

I know you couldn’t know. I know you couldn’t know that for always as a young girl and even still I struggled so hard to convey myself to peers. I know you couldn’t know that all my life I have loved peers intensely but struggled so hard to show them and convey it for fear of them not reciprocating, for fear of coming off intense, or for fear of flat out rejection. I know you couldn’t know how I had felt like such an inconvenience to people around me. How when I was bullied I would be told to shut up, be “politely” dismissed,  have people shut me out. I know you couldn’t know that from the moment I met you to the time I was sitting here now trying to hide choking on my thank you to your compliment, that I was seeing a whole lot of hurting and broken me in you. I was trying to not show tears because I realized that Jesus had enabled me somehow without me fully being aware to be the person to you that I had needed for quite some time. Good LORD Almighty.

I could basically hear the lies and belittling internal dialogue that you’d been subjected to for decades. I knew it way too well myself. We were very much kindred spirits in our woes. Though the specifics were vastly different, the struggle was the same.

And you couldn’t have known, but I knew that He loved you. I knew that the LORD marvelled at you, loved you all the way through your existence and before when He was making you. And then I realized that the way I was awestruck, fascinated, inspired, and in marvel of you despite your hardships, that that’s how He viewed me through my years of muck and mire.

good heavens.

That just about did me in. Seeing in real time how the LORD sees us despite our junk, shortcomings, broken parts, shameful parts, troubling parts. Despite our years of habit. Despite years of entrenched lies. Despite years of illness and struggle.

If you knew. God, if only you knew that it was ME who was so grateful for YOU being placed in my life.

That it was me in awe of you despite all obstacles you faced that you felt prevented you from being okay. Despite the things you’ve lost or felt like you compromised.

I just. Damn.

Seeing how the LORD loves people and that He loves me just as much has wrecked my life.

I can’t help but live a totally different life from the one I used to after knowing personally that kind of love. The way I see things including myself, other people, my struggles, my triumphs, my relationships.. you name it.

All different because of how He’s loved me. All so much more hopeful and beautiful because of how He’s loved me. DESPITE myself. Because I haven’t loved myself despite my best efforts. Some days, it’s really freaking hard to. But He’s right in there with me helping me through that. And I know that I’m loved at my worst even when I’m tapping out. Isn’t that what any of us ever wanted and needed? Someone to love us beyond whatever we could imagine, regardless or circumstance or trial?

Well that’s Jesus. That’s Him. That’s my whole hearted Father, Saviour, Friend.

Never have I stepped off a train feeling like I just came out of a divine appointment. But man, if ever, that was definitely it.

You may have thought I was a God-sent, but God sure sent Himself for you and me in His ongoing love and pursuit of us both and just, whoa. How He loves.

 

 

 

an odyssey: year 5, day 364.

One of my favourite past times while sitting up in my cot was playing with the early morning light on my hands that snuck through the slats of my blind. I played and cast shadows as my mind wandered. My roommate gave a cough. She was another friend on the mend who’d recently arrived and been mended after a nasty relationship left gaping claw marks in her chest. She resettled and I went back to playing with the light, my mind wandering to thoughts of You and how far my journey had unfolded since I’d arrived.

After years now, I’d had the chance to observe You in various harrowing scenarios. I’d had the chance also to build my own history with You.

Oh in those days how I didn’t know what to make of You. I was always keen on having people figured out, but You I just couldn’t unpuzzle. I scoff at my skepticism of Your intentions now. Not for a moment in all these years – never once – has Your character faltered.

No matter the amount of times I tried to catch You

trip You up

screamed at and became combative with You when I was in a state of pain and despair and delusion..

No matter the amount of times I watched You warily as You approached my bed side with a treatment

No matter how many times You found me wandering down the middle of city streets at 4 in the morning..

You stayed gentle, spoke the truth of my conditions softly with me. When I hurt You, You were quick to forgive me when I apologized. You spoke kindly to me, and didn’t hold my relapses against me.

Another cough from my roommate, this time wet and crackly. I snapped out of my memories and swung my feet out of bed and into my slippers on the floor by the side of my cot. I made haste to her bedside where now she had started to choke in her sleep. I ripped back the covers and could see a deep crimson stain spreading across the front of her night gown in the faint morning light. I bolted across the room to the blind and flung it wide to let the sun in.

“LORD, Come quick!!”

You were already by her side by the time I turned back around from the window. After some minutes of Your working over her, she quietly resettled and resumed her sleep as if never perturbed. You pulled her blankets back over her after reassessing Your work, tucking them in around her. Looking up and catching my gaze, You offered Your hand to me and I took it. We stepped out into the hall and You linked my arm through Yours as You pulled the door closed behind us with a soft click. We proceeded silently down the sun lit corridor to the examination rooms.

There was not a soul that sought Your sanctuary that You would turn away. You would take every wounded that managed to clamber or get carried to Your front door. Sometimes, You would go out and come back in carrying someone.

Regardless of who that someone was, all the people here would respond to You differently at first. Each had been badly wounded by different life circumstances, and it was fascinating and sometimes quite sad to see how the patients would treat each other. But still, You’d mend them and watch over them. I think about a year into recovery I realized the way You watched over them wasn’t just to mind they’re progress, but You genuinely loved each one. It was mind boggling. Especially since always at some point in the relationship that patient had to choose to fully trust that You were who You said You were. That part was always difficult to observe as a bystander. I wanted to shake the people who didn’t know You like I did when they would turn Your care that they desperately needed away. But You would never force them to stay. A sanctuary was a place of peace and protection for those who desired to stay, but I realized over time that if people were not here by their own accord it would be more like a prison. So strange that a place of such beauty like this could be considered a prison. But then I remembered how terrified I was when I was in fits of pain and delusion.

I’d learned over the years that there’s some mysterious aspects to Your nature, but it’s people who throw me into confusion about who You are. I’ve had to learn to be careful.

I used to know about You from others, but what my heart really longed for was to know You. Personally. Intimately. You are the best authority on Your own character after all.

[patient log status; completed.]

[archived.]

[impending log – 03/25/2017]

 

 

I’m There, LORD.

It doesn’t take much to wear me out and have me seeking Your face, but I’m there, LORD.

I have good days and not so good days, and I’m there, LORD.

I have days that I’m on top of the mountains and days where I’m under them, and I’m there, LORD.

I have days where I can’t think, move, talk, create fast enough, and days where I can’t do any of those things. And I’m there, LORD.

I have days where my mind is abuzz with the opportunities that are endless, and days where my head is aching with negative possibilities that seem endless. And I’m there, LORD.

I have days where I marvel and wonder with the hope and joy of a child, and there are days that I marvel and wonder at the joy and hope of a child. And I’m there, LORD.

I have days where I can’t praise Your name enough for making Your character known to me, and days where I’m crying out and wrestling to know it more. And I’m there, LORD.

There are days where Your presence couldn’t be more tangible, and there are days when it hurts despite knowing You’re just as tangible but this is necessary to go through.

Thanks for being there, LORD.

There are days when I can’t talk enough about Your grace, mercy, love, and hope, and there are days when I can’t get enough for myself, always wanting more.

Thanks for always showing up, LORD.

Despite the days I could live without or the days that aren’t long enough, thank You for making Yourself – Your very character and name – a promise that You’ll always be there, LORD.

Oh haste the day when Your children don’t just know Your character, but despite what comes their way, they can’t deny that You’ll always be true to Your name.

I want to be there, LORD.

Sister, I Will Abide with You.

It’s been really impressed on my heart lately the necessity of abiding with one another as women. I don’t know about you, but I sincerely cherish the women who I am blessed to be surrounded by. All of us are in a different stages of growth, and every one of us -though still in the process of sanctification- has a beauty that points towards our Redeemer and King. Masterpieces take time and hard work, deep thought and planning.

But I can’t help but feel a heaviness, because everywhere I look I see girls and women holding themselves to impossible standards. I see them critiquing each other and themselves. Things that can only lead to self destruction or the destruction of others. I’ve been guilty of measuring myself to people I don’t even know and to those that I do. I have desires on my heart that I feel like aren’t getting fulfilled fast enough or that never will be fulfilled. I doubt at times if my prayer is doing anything at all. I forfeit dreaming for the fear that if I do, I will be dreaming to no end about things that will never come to be. I stare at myself in the mirror and find myself lacking in more ways than one. I wonder why I am not accepted by some, and long to be acknowledged by others. I am simultaneously a courageous fighter and a shameful coward. I am my own relentless critic.

We were given the gift of speaking life through our words. God created by speaking things into existence, and by being made in His image, we have the gift of speaking words that can create atmospheres of peace, safety, rest, and comfort, or words that can rip down and destroy.

I bring this up because it’s come to the point of being imperative that I do. The looks shot at each other to see how the girl sitting across from you on the transit to see how she measures up has to stop. The glare across the foyer because she’s wearing something that isn’t your style needs to be questioned. The shaming of each other’s appearances is deplorable; I’m sorry, but who put you in the judgement seat of what beauty is? Have you forgotten that beauty is not outward but internal and that you condemn yourself but making yourself judge and authority?

Or what if another woman is further along than you? What if she gets engaged sooner, has a stable job, is more accomplished in an area where you are lacking? I mean, we’re talking about desires here. Things you are constantly longing for to come to be, some of which obviously may not have been mentioned in that short sentence. And not only that, but desires that you have been waiting for, praying for, patient for, worked for, hoped for and seem to be so easily handed to someone else?

This year for me has been rough. I thrive off the people I’m surrounded by and I’ve been surrounded by people that.. make me feel like a ghost. I love God, but I want to love Him more. I’m so grateful that He’s as faithful as He is because quite unfortunately I’m not as faithful as I’d like to be. As much as I’ve had people encouraging me to stay in the Word, come to small group and the like, I’ve really been craving just someone to abide with me. I’ve just been longing for someone to just.. be with me. I don’t care if there’s talking, I don’t care what we’re doing. I just want to be around someone who is choosing to hang out just because, because I’m finally realizing the beauty of how much it means to have someone actively choose to be with you rather than leave you to fend for yourself.

And I can’t honestly say I’m alone in this feeling of loneliness. Time and time again I hear from girls that they too are lonely, and only the specifics differ. So what am I doing just sitting here?

I’m feeling the weight of utmost importance that I open up and also maintain my friendships. Now that sounds kind of obvious to the point of being silly and embarrassing. But what I mean is that I’m feeling an energy build that is driving me to actively seek out and pour into the lives of the girls and women around me. Though I’ve struggled hard, I’ve been wildly blessed in some ways, so why not share the blessing? I’m not someone who even kind of has it all together (though maybe you’ve been misled so let this be me doing away with the guise), and so I can openly acknowledge that I will fail at this sometimes. But please promise me you won’t let where you are and where you want to be prevent you from reaching out to a sister who’s somewhere you want to be… because she’s struggling too in a different way and may really need someone to reach out to her and that person very well may be you. The mindset of comparison is the mindset that destroys. I’ve watched it try and happen in my friendships. I thank God I was able to notice it was happening before if did any real damage and that He gave me the courage to step out and address it. I’ve had to swallow my pride and be humbled. I’ve had to beat down feelings of entitlement, step back, and as a beautiful friend of mine said just last night “realize that people are on a different path than the one I’m on.”

But it’s so worth it. Because when evil comes a-huntin’ it’s looking for the lost, lonesome, and broken to pick off which translates to any and all of us if we don’t come together and fight for our friendships.

So how do we fight for our friendships? I became actively involved in celebrating and abiding with my friends. And honestly it was hard, because they did indeed have things working out for them in ways that I wish they were working out for me. We have desires for a reason, but we need to actively wait for them to be fulfilled and be pouring into each other while we wait. We need to abide with each other in trials. Please listen. We need to abide with each other in trials. We need to have each other’s backs. And I’m not talking some superficial click, “we’re all sisters forever can’t you tell by our selfies” sort of stuff. I’m talking about the being on the phone till late hours because a sister needs to be heard out. I’m talking about not even “joking” about a woman being anything less than beautiful. I’m talking being there when we’ve been disappointed. I’m talking holding us accountable so we can be our best selves. I’m talking about being honestly loving and lovingly honest. I’m talking opening up our homes for her to find refuge from a world that’s hunting her down because these days women are getting poached like our bones are going to be the new ivory tusk accessory or inlay. I’m talking sharing the gospel with her because she’s never had someone truly love her in her whole life. I’m talking not shaming her because she’s longing to be cherished by someone, anyone. I’m talking about being an emotional shelter for each other, pulling up two chairs, pulling out the tea and talking it out, praying together, or not saying anything at all and resting in the quiet.

And you may say gee, that sounds like a whole lot of commitment. You know what? For as many women as there are out there.. yeah. That’s a huge ton of commitment because every woman is broken in her own way. But that’s why we all need to get up and get in the fight for one another. This is not a spectator sport; consider this you being called to the frontline.

So to the lonely, the hurting, the lost, the unloved or those who feel unlovely, I have not much, but I will share it with you. I am one person and an imperfect one at that. I cannot fix you, I cannot promise you what no human can – that I’ll always be able to be here for you, but please talk to me, let’s go for tea. Or a chat. Or something.

I was filled to be emptied. So let’s go.

Sister, I will abide with you.

Fear.

It’s pretty late at night, or early in the morning however you decide to look at it, and I’m pretty exhausted after a very emotionally, mentally, and spiritually trying day yesterday.

I don’t know if any of you can relate, but I’m feeling beyond compelled to write what I’m about to.

This is for those of you who have ever been scared. And I mean, nightmares when you’re awake, that sense of dread you can’t shake, feeling like something is out to get you kind of scared.

I just want to pray that this post really take hold of you and set you free from that.

So I went through some pretty sketchy stuff yesterday. I won’t get into details, the details aren’t necessary. I met some people in a very broken part of town, and they had a lot of behind the scenes issues and a lot of really dark things had taken root in their lives. God protected my friend and I through the whole encounter (thank You Jesus for always remaining faithful), but it was brought to our attention afterwards that we had just both walked through a pretty bloody war zone.

After talking it out, having some prayer and community, we were pretty zapped of energy the rest of the day.

When it got to bed time I knew I wasn’t going to sleep. I felt like I was still rattled by the days events and there was something about the things that happened that just really stuck with me. I was afraid to turn out the lights.

I turned to some scripture, and a verse stuck in my head, and I repeated it until I fell asleep after praying on the phone with two people. It was this one.

“This God – His way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.” (Psalm 18:30)

I did get some shut eye around 12-2 a.m.

But then I woke up, and still felt like I was battling down the dread that I was about to get attacked by something. After about forty-five minutes more of saying this verse to myself and really meditating on it, I really felt compelled to understand it more. This verse was not a stand alone, it was one that summed up the truths of others. Praying that God would show me what I needed to know to shake this fear I was feeling, and verse after verse, I was set free and my understanding made more complete.

Listen really close and know this. Bind it to your heart.

Fear will always submit to Love.

The two cannot coincide in the same place. And the kind of Love I’m talking about is Jesus going to a cross and laying down His life so we may be set free if we accept Him as Lord and Saviour. The Gospel. It’s good news because it INVADES DARK PLACES. It claims and is relentless and will not stop growing until it has your whole heart. I’ll let these next verses I found speak for themselves. And if you are one who struggles with fear and dread, let these be your sword verses.

“This God – His way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him. (Psalm 18:30) For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. (1 Peter 4:6). For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7). There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19).”

There’s a lot of important details I could probably pull out of this and show you, but I think perhaps it’s best if you just marinate in it yourself and let the words wash over you. If you are interested to know what stood out to me, shoot me a comment and I’d be happy to oblige you.

But as for right now, if you’re awake and haven’t slept and are feeling exhausted because it’s almost 5 in the morning, my prayer is that you rest in this Love that bought you at the highest price so that you might be set free from the things that keep you awake at night.

Thank You Jesus.