Fear of Fragility

Do you ever think about endings? Maybe it’s the nostalgic in me, but I’ve been thinking about endings lately. It could be that I’ve picked up F. Scott Fitzgerald again, or it could be this mood for poetry I’ve been in. For as long as I’ve been able to understand poetry, the poems I like best are about the transiency of things, the impermanence– the kind of pictures that give you a sad, little squeeze in the middle of your chest. Or maybe I’ve been thinking about endings because it seems, this winter especially, as if a day barely even starts before it’s over again. And now the year is almost over, and I’m still staring at my list of four things to get better in during 2017.

I’ve always like poems or stories that remind me that things don’t last, so you must love them, enjoy them now. It reminds me that, although God created Adam and pronounced him good, we are now fallen, trapped in a world broken by sin, and it’s sin that puts things to death, even the enjoyable things in this life. There may be memories of Eden, but sin is the shadow that blurs them, swallows them up, blots them out, and twists them. It’s a delicate balance between the beauty of things that don’t last and the torture.

For a Christian, we don’t belong to this world. Our hope of true beauty, everlasting beauty and goodness, lies with our Father in eternity. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t meant to make the most of these moments here on earth. Whatever you can say for eternity, as amazing as it will be, this life still matters and the things we do, the opportunities we are given in this life, still matter.

I think about endings, and I worry over them sometimes, even after all the lessons God has brought me through about not worrying over tomorrow. These days it becomes more and more apparent how different my life could become if I only made this decision or that one, and it bothers me. Say “yes” to one thing and twenty other things that you love and hold dear will leave your life. That’s a fragility that overwhelms me sometimes, and when I’m on my knees before God, I feel guilty for letting the frailness frighten me. It’s rather like waking up in the morning afraid to get out of bed just because you know this day, whatever it holds, will be gone soon so “may, as well not even start.” SILLINESS.

In these moments, I forget that God holds each of my moments, each of my days, each of my decisions in His hands. I forget that if He wants my life to follow a certain course, He will prompt me through prayer, through Scripture, through the Holy Spirit’s leading to make the correct decision. And even when I see I’ve made a mistake, He will somehow steady the course; He will somehow straighten out the wrinkle I seem to have made. (I am not so powerful, even over my own life, to overturn what God has laid out.)

As a Christian, I shouldn’t be so frightened over endings, over the natural fact that nothing in this life lasts forever, over the fact that even some of those things which truly bring us joy, once they’ve run their course, will go away, too. People leave us. Jobs leave us. Money and things leave us. Youth leaves us. Strength leaves us. But if we know God, if we have a realtionship with Jesus, He will never leave us. He is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother.

So I come back to this epiphany I whispered to myself in my journal a few weeks ago: “Some blessings are not meant to last more than a season for if blessings on this earth were eternal, there would be no need for heaven. They points us onward and upward. They are not meant to keep us.”

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

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Why do YOU think about me?

“Jehovah, our self-existent One who possesses essential life, who am I that You are mindful of me?” * I read this in our Sunday school book, preparing for our lesson this weekend, and it hits me. In the barrenness of this week, this is the question I’ve been struggling with.

Maybe, like me, you are someone who puts all their hopes into one basket, and the basket gets tipped so easily. Maybe, like me, the initial dejection and disappointment is not always the worst part in the ordeal. Maybe for you, it is the denouement. The let down. That moment you don’t think you have to fight anymore, but to stand still just leaves you feeling–huh– here. And that’s about it.

So I sit in my room– just here– and I stare at the question, and I try a different emphasis: “Who am I that YOU should be mindful of me?” Usually I emphasize the “I”, the “me” as if some great something in the equation hinges on me, but the hinge is all on God and always has been. That YOU, Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and LORD should be mindful of me!

I have to stop and sit for a moment. Let this sink in.

This has been one of those weeks–struggling in the emotional denouement of another disappointment– when I can certainly believe nothing in ME is worth of HIM minding it. I’m smart, but I’m no Einstein. I can write, but I’m not Hemingway. I’m pretty, but not as pretty as the next girl. I’m witty, but I feel too crappy to try. I’m funny, but I’m not Lucille Ball. I have moments of spiritual clarity, but my life is fraught with bad attitudes and hypocritical speech. I’m nice, but sometimes I’m not patient. I listen to people, but sometimes I wish they’d stop talking. I try to be considerate, but sometimes I pout because no one considers me…

AND why should they??? Who am I that THEY should be mindful of me?

Huh.

In these low emotional moments, I think I have a proper perspective of myself. Yup, that’s right God! I am pond-scum. Don’t even look at me. Why would I be worthy of that gift or any gift? And I don’t even want to try to do all the things God’s Word instructs me to do– like love people, show kindness, be compassionate, and thoughtful. I don’t want to try because people won’t want it anyways. It comes from me, and I’m lower than pond scum, remember? They’ll just reject it. Tramp over it. Never say “Thank you.” They will look me in the eyes, like dozens of people have looked me in the eyes, and they will say: “Oh, Katie, she’s nothing special.” They will glance at my outstretched hand and walk away… so why try?

The strange thing about rejection is that as a Christian I project the rejection I’ve felt from human hearts onto God, and that’s just not how it works. See in the True version, He’s the one holding out His hand, and we– the people– are the ones who turn our backs. We’re the ones who hear “For God so loved the world,” and then say: “Oh, God– He’s nothing special. He’s dead. He’s a never was.” Yet He always IS– His name, Jehovah, proclaims it, and craziest of craziest, He is MINDFUL of us. He gives thought to us. The One who created all we see, who is eternal and outside of time, who is above all and over all actually reserves some part of all the He is (of all the our minds cannot fathom) to pay attention to each and every heart He has created.

“The Lord looks down from heaven; He sees all the children of man; from where He sits enthroned He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth; he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.” (Ps. 33:13-15)

God sees us in our messes. He sees our bad attitudes. He sees our bad days, our good days. Our “just here” days. And still Scripture says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes on Him may not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) And why? Because He doesn’t want to leave us in our messes. He doesn’t want to leaves us in the sinful mud that sucks us down and separates us from Him. He wants us to live free, to know righteousness. He wants us to glorify Him.

So who am I that YOU are mindful of me? Well, me–Katie– I am a child of God. His daughter. Crazy, huh? Do you ever think about your kids? Well, God thinks about His and loves them as if they are flawless.

But maybe you’ve never believed. Maybe you’ve never claimed Jesus’ gift. So who are you that GOD should mind you? Well, you are His creation, crafted with a purpose and potential that can only be fully realized if you claim Jesus’ gift. You are a heart God fashioned. His fingerprints mark up all of your insides. He placed a piece inside you only He can fill. You are one whose deeds He observes and sees. You are one He loves and longs for to call His own.

Whoever we are, whether we know Him in a relationship or not, God is always mindful of us. It is not a question of worthiness on our part, but a fact of grace on His.

*Lord, I want to Know You by Kay Arthur pg 59

On Your Face, Things Look Different

John 15:4 says: “Abide in me (Jesus), and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” Jesus is the true vine, those who believe in Jesus are the branches, and the fruit we bear are those good works God has planned for us to do since He chose us before time even began.

What’s being talked about here? The fruitful–purposeful life. How is such a life obtained? By abiding in Jesus. What does it mean to “abide”? For lack of better reference, I like to think of it as taking up residence in Christ. I like to think of it as resting there in His arms. I’m sure there’s some wonderful technical answer, but I have to morph it into my own practical terms.

Jesus speaks of a believer’s connection to Him being so intimate, it is like being two parts of the same plant. Cut the branch away from the vine, and the branch will do nothing but die. Stay attached to Him, draw your life from Him, and you will flourish. I love that picture. I’m not sure if, practically speaking, I have realized everything that Jesus as the true vine implicates. As branches go, I believe He’s still pruning me.

For Sunday school, we study this week God as the Self-Existent One. The one who in Himself is His own cause and His own sustaining power and the One from whom all other causes and all other effects come. As the Self-Existent One, He is the only thing capable of causing and sustaining literally EVERYTHING else. Which blows my mind because this means (and drop your jaws, get ready for some argument!): If there were no God, there would be no us.

Bombshell, right?

Or maybe the most practical thing you’ve heard this week. They can, indeed, be the same.

But anyways, this week I’ve parked on two rather similar aspects of God. One, in the broad sense, focuses on what all of humanity and creation owes to our Jehovah (whether they want to acknowledge it or not). The second focuses on the more intimate connection offered by God through His Son, Jesus Christ, to those who will believe on His name. Recognizing both are essential to the purposeful life.

God as Jehovah, the Self-Existent One, is a little awesome, right? A little scary? A little intense? Maybe even for someone who hasn’t entered into the second relationship, it’s something to shy away from. One can acknowledge God–even His essential part as cause of yourself and all that surrounds you–and still not know Him, know Him, as in the kind of knowledge implicit in “abiding in Him.”

You see, what Jesus offers in John 15 is not just knowledge but relationship. Sometimes I KNOW a lot about God, but the knowledge serves nothing as far as any relationship with Him. “Apart from me,” Jesus says in verse five, “you can do nothing.” When we say “God,” but don’t relate with Him as God, we’re just spinning wheels that haven’t even met the pavement.

So my own conviction this week has been: Am I even abiding? Am I living right there where I need to be? Why are my prayers always so selfish? (Have you ever wondered that frightening thing?) I mean, seriously three months ago I was on my face crying out for a very different thing than I was on my face crying out for last week? What’s the deal? Where’s the tenacity? What changed, me or God? How come MY problems can be an all-day conversation, and other’s requests, maybe some praise, some thanksgiving is like a five minute marathon?

When I think on God as the Self-Existent One, I want to fall on my face for completely different reasons than what’s going to happen to me tomorrow or ten years from now. I want to fall on my face because that’s the proper response to the One who in Himself has the power to sustain all things. When I add on top of that, He longs to be in an intimate relationship with me so that everything I do flows from Him and brings honor to Him…

Well, forget about ten years from now. Let’s rest in those arms right now, and let Him take care of the rest. Perspective is everything. Things look different when you’re on your face before an awesome God.

My Mess vs. God’s Peace

This week I made a mess of things. This week I took something God had given to me for ONE purpose, and I tried selfishly to push it into another box. Even though I know God’s plans don’t fit into our boxes, I tried it anyways! I was not content. I wanted more. I wanted something different. I pushed and I wheedled until I made myself believe that the decision I was making was the decision God wanted me to make.

But I just made a mess.

Some messes you can’t retrieve. Some messes you can’t fix. Some messes you close your eyes to and wonder if there’s any way to make it just a daydream, a wild fantasy that only lives in your head. But no, some messes live and breath the same air you do. Some messes watch you walk down the sidewalk, and they KNOW, and they LAUGH. Some messes you will think about and wonder if it was your evil twin playing some prank on your memory because, Really! “I wouldn’t do that?! Would I?”

I spent a lot of time on my face this week– literally– in my bedroom before God horrified at myself and my really good but really bad ideas. And I prayed: “Forgive me! Oh, please, don’t let me have messed this up. I feel like this was important, and I missed it’s point, and I messed this up. Please. Please. If you can fix this… Oh, if you could fix this!”

The first two days of this week, I was consumed by my bad decision, horrified that I had ruined something God wanted me to do. I drastically spun in my head ways to fix it, ways to make it better, and then finally, ways that it would probably get much, much worse. I was in panic mode. And for all my spinning, there was NOTHING I could do.

Finally, one morning I woke up broken, emotionally strung out, certain I could never be joyful over this again. (I’m a mental drama queen, I know.) But then this verse, in my devotions, that very morning: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests known unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)

You mean, if I pray about this crazy, stupid thing I did, if I lay it all out there before God instead of ineffectively trying to think my way into a solution, God will give me peace? That’s not even possible. This was so stupid, so obviously not a good idea, that peace is just not possible. BUT I decided to take someone’s advice and address the problem. Every time my feelings of mistake, stupidity, disappointment, sadness, and frustration about this thing would rise up, I would quote that verse to the feeling. I would bludgeon those feelings back with the Word of God until they shut up.

And why?

Because I know that God can use even our mistakes for our good and for His good. The problem is I forget that God can do and will do above and beyond anything I think or imagine–even here, even over this. He is for me, not against me–I am His child!– and no mistake I could ever make will upset the path of His plans for me. What feels impossible, hurtful, and fearful now, He is working on. HE IS WORKING ON IT! Meaning, He is working on this situation, and He is working on me about this situation. He always has been working on this since the first day these circumstances entered my life. He knew without a doubt that I would come to this point. He will not let this point be without purpose, and He will be gentle, graceful, and merciful in it’s resolution.

What does it mean “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding”? Doesn’t it imply God will grant us peace in situations where human understanding tells us to freak out? Doesn’t it mean there is something humanly illogical, maybe even impossible, about this peace? It’s a proactive peace because once we ask for it, it guards our hearts and minds!

Honestly, I have no idea what will come of this “mess” I feel I’ve made, but through prayer, I see I need to be patient and wait to find out how God will resolve it. Perhaps this is just another instance of God leading me through self-inflicted wounds. Or perhaps this is yet again where He teaches me the true power of prayer. Or perhaps this is where He changes everything.

But one thing’s for sure! It won’t end in a mess.

Hanging on a Possibility

It’s growing dark outside. The hills are just a black spine against a cobalt dark sky. I watch cars creep along the road across the lake. Pole lights wink at me from the deep shadow in the hill’s silhouette. My room is gold and green, full of light and color and books and music.

Here are a few confessions: I love books. I love beautiful books where I can escape for a little while what I unfairly call “my mundane life.” I love sad music– to a fault sometimes. (Right now, Thomas Rhett’s “Marry Me” plays on Spotify.) I like old, empty things and the way they make me feel. Nostalgia, it’s called. The yearning for things past.

I very rarely write happy endings. I just don’t. They’re not very realistic–at least not to me. I dream up big futures for myself–sometimes even for tomorrow. I create crazy consequences for the tiny mistakes I made today. I try out comebacks for cute guys who might hit on me. I run through the possibilities of all the things that could happen and what might result ages and ages from now if only…

I hang my happiness on a possibility sometimes. It’s a bad habit.

And because my mind races five years faster than my feet, I miss THIS moment. When you’re a crazy kid who yearns for things past most of the time and races five steps ahead every other time, you don’t spend much time in the moment.

Why do we always take the possibility of the moment and turn it into a must for our future happiness?

Here’s the truth about not so happy endings: When you trust a person to make you happy, the person will leave you. When it’s your job that solves all your troubles, you will lose it. When it’s staying home that will make you happy, you will have to keep working. When its a boyfriend–maybe a husband–you want, loneliness is all you’ll get. Just when you’re planning all your plans with that person/thing/place, it’ll be taken away, disappear. Gone. Just when you’re waiting for that person to say the right words, they will walk out the door.

Does God care? If He does, why does He let the things that disappoint and devastate into our lives?

I wish I could even begin to answer that. For those women who ache to stay at home with their babies, I don’t know why God won’t work out the work woes. To those around whom bad thing after bad thing has piled up, I don’t know why God withholds relief. To the girl who’s single and just doesn’t want to be anymore, I don’t know why God hasn’t planted the perfect man in your path. To those struggling with illness, I don’t know why God isn’t healing. To those suffering loss, I don’t know why God saw fit to take.

But I do know this–I read it somewhere this week or thought it or texted it to someone, connected the dots: because God is sovereign and because He has a plan for everything that happens, He needs you where He has you. And you need to be where He has you for your own sake. You’ve needed to go through every thing you’ve ever gone through in your life. He has a special design for it all, and it all adds up to a unique YOU. He has no other tool like you in His toolbox, and He has a special task in mind just for you. No one else can do it but you.

So can He use my love of books, my love for sad things, old things, words, and music that makes me cry? Can he use my extended season of singleness or my crazy love for kids? The answer is: He already is.

Wherever you are–whatever has happened this week–He’s already using you, too. And He’s working it for good.

Yes, cry for the things you’ve lost. The possibilities that didn’t work out. The disappointments that seem bigger than you’re able to bear. The loss. The pain. The silence. But remember that God uses those things, too. It’s not His intention to leave you in that hurting place.

“For we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:10

A Little Fiction for the Fans

In this blog post I decided to do something a little different. For those people who enjoy fiction, this is an excerpt from a collection I’m currently working on. For the moment it has the fancy title “Venetia”.

The context:  Venetia’s twin brother Dixon has quit his job, which has caused a rather explosive confrontation with their verbally abusive father. Dixon has a certain idea about how life should go, which is shaped by his exceptionally opinionated girl friend (and almost everyone else in his life). The following is a meeting between the brother and sister written from Venetia’s perspective. Appropriately it has a twin passage in an excerpt entitled “Dixon.”

Please, forgive me. This is an early draft.


Wednesday morning. Again.

The same routine. Make fresh coffee. Shower. Dry the hair. Shuffle around. She started laundry. Ate toast with peanut butter for breakfast. Stood by the sink and sipped coffee, watched the gray clouds break for the sun.

And the longer Venetia went about her business, the stronger the feeling grew.

About mid-morning the knock echoed woodenly through her house. Venetia straightened from the pile of laundry on her bed. She moved into the living room and opened the door.

Dixon stood there puffing gasps of breath into the cold, damp air. He looked as lost and forlorn and miserable as she had ever seen him. His eyes were strained from lack of sleep and alarmingly blue in his sullen face. Even though he stood tall, hands in his pockets, he seemed to have shrunk a foot.

Venetia hung against the open door. She knew it. “Hi,” she said.

“Hey,” Dixon didn’t look her in the eye, just the way he used to after their father’s craziest verbal beatings.

Venetia moved aside, pulled him into the house without a word or a touch.

Dixon meandered past her into the living room. His gaze touched everything and saw nothing. He didn’t take off his jacket or slip out of his shoes. He just sort of loomed there in the room.

“Do you want some coffee?” Venetia asked, stepping past him. “I just made it.”

Dixon nodded. “Yeah,” and shuffled into the kitchen behind her. This time he saw his surroundings. He studied everything but her.

Venetia took down a few mugs. The wind whipped and spun her neighbor’s clothesline, picked up leaves and sent them skittering across the grass. Venetia poured coffee into their mugs. “Is this because you missed me, or… is this something else?” she said, knowing the answer. Venetia never really had to ask Dixon questions; they had known each other since before science officially labeled them human.

Dixon pulled out a chair and sat down. Folding his hands into a little steeple, he gazed at them, not at his sister.

Waiting, Venetia set a mug in front of him and pulled out a chair for herself, slipped into it. She knew what he had come for, but how could she give it to him when she couldn’t even find it for herself?

Suddenly Dixon spoke: “Do you remember your wedding? How proud Dad looked because you were marring Andre? How Mom just sparkled?”

Venetia’s heart skipped up a beat. She tried not to look confused. “Yeah.” The nerves. Too nervous for food. Running to the hair salon. Phone calls about the reception. Losing the laces for the back of her dress– and Andre at the end of the aisle standing tall, smiling as if he could take the whole world in with that grin.

“Did you watch them dance?”

Mom and Dad? Dance? “No,” Venetia said, a private smile. “I was a little preoccupied.” Andre at her elbow. Her whole being electric, charged by his magnetism as if “Mr.” and “Mrs.” were poles pulling them together forever. Smiling. Laughing. Marveling. For his eyes only.

“Well, I did,” Dixon said. “They flirted like kids. They laughed and giggled, and Dad had his hands on Mom’s butt the whole time.”

Venetia and Dixon laughed together, embarrassed. She tried to picture it, let it push out the other memory, transpose those Andre-feelings she had felt, try them on like play outfits against her parents.

“They acted like– like they’d finally done something right, even after everything they’d done wrong. Do you know, that’s the only time I’ve ever seen Dad kiss Mom?”

Venetia’s mind recoiled at that. No, it couldn’t be. But yes, she never really had seen her parents kiss. For the first time in her married life, she was sad how wrapped up in Andre she had been that day. She had seen no one else.

“The only time,” Dixon said, shaking his head, bewildered. “I’ve seen him almost hit her. I’ve seen him swear at her. I’ve seen him disrespect her to his friends–” each phrase nailed itself to Venetia’s mind with a memory– “but that’s the only time I ever saw him kiss her. On the dance floor. At your wedding. Like a couple of teenagers.”

Venetia sighed. She remembered… Mom laughing like she had never laughed. Carefree the whole day. Not even bothered by the interruptions, the bubbles, the wrinkles in the plan. Venetia took a sip of coffee, waited for it; she waited for what Dixon had come here to say all along. That truth rattling his lid, whining to escape just so that he could hear himself say it.

“Have you ever wanted–even once–to ask them: ‘Why are you never happy?'”

Venetia wrapped her mug in a death grip. But happiness isn’t that easy! she wanted to cry. Even when you follow the formula and all the rules, you only do it to realize there is no formula and no real rules for happiness. Reluctantly, Venetia nodded. “Sometimes,” she said.

“I tried to walk the line!” Dixon cried. There is was. Peeking out just now. The words. The truth that maybe even Dixon didn’t know yet. “I did everything I thought he wanted. I did everything Mom wanted, and nothing worked. And when I met Mackayla I did something that would make me happy. And for a while it made me extra happy because it was like sticking the middle finger at both of them.”

Venetia chuckled, shocked that he spoke her truth, too–put into words things she had only ever felt and could never articulate.

Dixon looked around, eyes strained, bloodshot, and red. “But you know something? When Aunt Claire died, I started thinking about Aric. How he’s missing the one person who believed in him, and the only person he’s got left is his dad–who’s a dick.”

Venetia straightened, automatic reflex, disgusted. “Don’t say that word.”

“But it’s true.” Dixon turned his defiance away toward the table and gulped down some of his coffee. When he finally looked up and met Venetia’s gaze, she saw that he was broken wide open underneath. All those old wounds were oozing, torn open by the claws of reality, mauled over again by life’s vicious cycle. “What would happen to me if you guys were all gone, and the only person I had left was dad?… I thought of that after Aunt Claire. So you know what I did? I didn’t want to hear Dad gripe anymore so I gave in. I took the Shipton job. And I hated it. It didn’t make him happy. It didn’t make Mom happy. It didn’t make me happy. And it certainly didn’t make Mackayla happy.”

Venetia shook her head. That was Dixon, wanting what everyone else wanted. Happy only when everyone else was happy. “Dixon, you’ll never be able to make everyone else happy. That’s unhealthy.” But, in a way, isn’t that what she did with Andre? Shield him from the truth. Bear all the pain and disappointment by herself because it was more important for him to be happy than for their relationship to be true.

“Well, I don’t know what else to do!” Dixon lifted his hands up and cried Venetia’s words just like twins do. “People say they want this. People say they want that. But when I do ‘this,’ when I do ‘that’, it’s like they’ve changed their mind!”

Venetia’s hands trembled, and she tried to hold on to her coffee mug. I know. I know, she wanted to say. But what do I tell you? I don’t want anything from you, Dixon. I just want you to be you. The one who’s been with me always.

“What do you want, Dixon?” she asked.

Dixon deflated in front of her, shrunk down to the little boy sitting at the kitchen table, scared, waiting for the door to burst open. When they were younger–even into their teens–whenever they went out to eat, Dixon always whispered to Venetia; “What are you gonna have?” And when the waitress asked him what he wanted, he always ordered the same as Venetia. Teachers called him indecisive, but Venetia knew that wasn’t true.

It spilled out of him now, flowing fast: “I wanna get married. I wanna have kids. I wanna live in a little mismatched house like this that creaks and groans when I walk on the floors. I want to make my wife happy. I want to wake up in the morning and say: ‘I love you… You’re beautiful.'”

Venetia knew the question that needed to come next, but she was scared to ask. It would break their understanding. “Does Mackayla want that?”

K.B.

Deer Meets Sports Car: Read at Your Own Risk

This is a warning. Read at your own risk! I may make you cry.

I joke, with the people who know, that all the stories I write are sad. Some of it comes from the fact that I write the best– fiction, non-fiction, you choose!– when I hurt. Hurting makes me want to slow the world down. Examine it. Hold it up against the light. Find the rainbow through the prism of tears.

Writing–even writing fiction– helps me discover things that God made beautiful in this world, helps me step back and see the things, the people, the situations to be thankful for.

Sometimes tears come with laughter, too.

My intention for this weekend was to write something happy. Even though this week gave me a mixed bag of material to work with, maybe I’ll find something in between.

How do I measure happiness? That’s been this week’s question. What makes your heart dance with joy? Maybe I have this misconstrued notion that a Christian can’t delight in anything but God, that we should all be hum-drum people unless we’re talking about God– don’t show too much enjoyment over that person or that compliment or that thing or that event coming up. But God delights in us and we’re people, so why can’t we delight in that friendship or that person? God made the world and proclaimed it good. Sure, it’s fallen now, but it’s still not without the presence of God’s goodness, so why not delight in the rainbows and the sea of ground fog in the morning, tree crowns like islands peeking out? It’s all an echo of beauty meant to point this world’s darkened minds toward True Beauty!

If happiness can be stolen, where does happiness turn into joy that lasts? I know the Sunday school answer: at the feet of Jesus. But what does this look like in action?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this question. I haven’t been very joyful over anything lately (I’m ashamed to say). I’ve been throwing three year old tantrums with God, actually– like a petulant child good at faking it until the next dish smashes or someone steals my new toy, my new distraction.

So on Tuesday when I was driving to work, fifteen minutes earlier than usual because I was placed at a different office from where I usually work, I was putting on my mental armor over all the raw places no one should see, and I missed it. I missed it until it was too late. Deer head in the corner of my vision. Impact. White bits flying off my car. One moment and something I enjoy was broken. Broken. Broken. I don’t like broken things. I don’t like when things that should look “just so” don’t look “just so.”

Pride’s a nasty disease.

Pride will make you miss the things that should bring joy in a situation that may not be ideal. Like here: it was not a head on impact, my car was still drive-able, I was not hurt, my airbags didn’t go off, I hadn’t hit another person or another car, and I have insurance. So crying over this is the adult equivalent of crying over spilled milk.

Yet placed in the greater context of my broken, messy, stalled-out life that isn’t “just so,” it was devastating. This wasn’t a beef between me and the doe. This was a beef between me and God.

So I pulled to the side of the road and got out my phone. Instead of calling God, I called my mom: “I hit a deer!” Sob. Sob. “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” It’s a long list of “I can’ts.” And later, after my face is a red, raw, sad mess that’s far from “just so,” I say: “I can’t go to work. They’re gonna think I’m crying like this over my car.” And I’m not, right? We don’t want to give the impression I’m THAT attached to material things, right??

“Katie,” Mom says, “maybe the people at work need to see that you’re human, huh?”

I’m not hurting over a car. I’m hurting over my inability to seek joy the way I’m supposed to seek it. There’s always going to be deer lurking on foggy roadways. There’s always going to be deviations in the schedule. A pause here. A wrong turn there. A school bus driven by Grandpa. A life stalled out. These things will always come, so how do I get joy to swim through the mess with me?

God speaks to me through Scripture–I shouldn’t go a day without it–but He preaches through circumstances sometimes, too.

Later Tuesday morning after I’d dragged my wrecked face to work, my wrecked heart raw there where the tears have made paths and patterns, one of my members visiting from my own office knew me well enough to guess something was wrong, and she said a kind word. One of my co-workers– one of those ladies I’d put armor on to protect myself from– gave me a hug as soon as she saw me. “Cars can be replaced,” she said. “People can’t.” And on lunch as I watched another co-worker pull from our parking lot on his motorcycle, I thought: “Huh. One deer could change his life forever. Maybe permanently. No fixing the white bits that would fly off him.”

There it is, peeking out like the fog’s finally burning off. My heart’s been saying: Well, if I’d only been going to work at my normal time. If this– If that– But IF NOT, I would never know how much my members care or that my co-workers are not people I always need to protect myself from or that it’s possible to say with Job: “Should I accept the good from God and not the bad?” IF NOT, I would never have seen THIS grace.

Maybe it’s as simple as they say: Joy starts when we are thankful.

We may enjoy driving our little white sports cars that turn peoples’ heads and make them look twice, but drive in any car with the windows rolled down, Indian summer golden against the windshield, and the world will still be just as beautiful and just as full for the enjoying. It’s not things that give us pleasure the most but God who made things good. Shouldn’t we thank Him for that?

“Through Christ let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.”

Hebrews 13:15