I saw God in 4th grade- and other lies I told.

 

When I was in 4th grade I saw God. Well, at least that is what I told my friends. Brenda G had invited all of the important girls over for a sleepover. And by important, I mean, all the girls in class. Sleepovers were a big deal. You see, we only saw each other during school, wearing our plaid little skirts and white knee high socks. So to see each other outside of the Catholic confines was a big deal. Who knew what we even looked like not wearing a sweater vest? The possibilities were endless. Also sleepovers for me meant processed food, unless it was Janna’s house, that is a whole other story. Janna was paleo before it was cool. So here we were, eating all the processed food and calling into the radio stations to request the latest WHAM song, laying in our Care Bear sleeping bags not a care in the world.

 

And then I saw God.

 

Somehow we were talking about the virgin Mary, because all good little Catholic girls do. We also talked about boys and rollerskating, but the virgin Mary always got a good shout out. One of the girls was saying she saw Mary herself. We must have been studying the feast of our Lady Guadalupe or had way too much sugar in us. Either way,we all wanted to see celestial images on the walls of that small house in western Michigan that Friday night.

 

And right there, that night, after many cans of pringles were opened and many Hail Marys were said, kneeling in our nightgowns, I told my friends I could see God above the mantel.

 

I know.

 

I should have been struck down with lightning or at least choked on a cheese puff. I blatantly lied about seeing God.

 

But if I am honest. Since that night, I have always been aching to see him.

 

I wanted to see his face.

 

I needed to see him.

 

Don’t we all?

 

This past summer I wrote about “goldfinches”.

 

About seeing these tiny yellow birds all the time after tragedy hit our family. I still see them. People send them to me. (not real ones, although that would be cool too, just don’t seal the box).

 

And yet seeing goldfinches for me, isn’t about the bird. It is about God. The goldfinches were just a way that he visibly showed me how present he was and how limited I make him.

 

I stood on the dirt road that summer morning and saw three little birds dance before me.

 

God gently turned my head to the field next to me. He needed me to see the field singing with hundreds of tiny goldfinches. Saying over and over. “ You think I love you like the three…..let me show you the way I LAVISHLY love you. Let me show you just how present I am. How present I will be.”

 

I still have countless days I can’t see God. When the darkness of our reality covers me like a weighted blanket, making it hard to even breathe.

 

So because God is God, and I am not, he sends others to me.

 

My mother in law sees when it is hard for me to breathe. She is the quietest person I know. But the way that she loved me this winter speaks volumes into the depth of her heart and the goodness of God.

She was visiting from southern Ohio and quietly decided to show me God again.

 

She had been collecting small goldfinch figurines. One afternoon, while I was away, she placed them in different eye level places around my house. Little tiny delicate gold birds reminding me on the darkest days. On the days I was so angry with the injustice of the world. Those days when resentment had creeped its way into my heart. The nights when anxiety has kept my mind spinning and I am scared to get out of bed. The moments I am so angry I can hardly exhale and the moments I am so sad that even inhaling is exhausting.

 

For those moments and every moment in between she brought me tiny little bird reminders.

 

That even when I stop seeing God. He doesn’t ever stop seeing me.

 

But I make my world too loud to see anything but myself.

 

When all he is asking me to do is lift my eyes and see him.

I can hardly catch my breathe when I think of that moment. The moment I  will actually SEE HIS FACE.

This is his promise. His PROMISE. I cling to this. This hope. This coming home.

“And I in righteousness, I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” Psalm 17:15

Even now, just typing it, tears fill my eyes. Some days I beg for that moment. I tell God I am ready. Anytime he is ready, I am too. And then other days, most days, I am content living here on the earth not even searching for him. Not even thinking about him. I am comfortable being consumed by the world.  

Living a numb life.

Yet if I am honest, it is when I am fully living in the “in between” that I am alive. The place between pain and healing. Actively aching to see him.  When I am fully aware of the suffering and fully aware who can heal it all. It is in those moments that I feel fully present. That pull between heaven and earth that makes me feel hopeful. Hope-filled like the little girl kneeling in her nightgown aching to just see his face.

 

 

To live a life barefoot.

When I was a little girl my mom would cover our feet with bread bags before we put them into our  moon boots. It was not unusual to see little legs with bread bags on them during the cold Michigan winter months. Being the oldest of five and living on one salary we were not privy to new boots every season. We got the hand me downs, now they are called “vintage” and our mom did whatever she could to make sure our little toes stayed dry and warm. To not feel the frigid winters on our feet.

We have 100 year old hardwood floors in the house I live in now. When people come in they automatically want to take off their shoes. We are very quick to tell them to keep them on. The floors are cold and with five children you never know what you may step on.

A few weeks ago at my second home, I mean my therapist’s office, he sat back and sighed deeply into his chair. He said,” I am not sure how much more you can carry. I don’t know many in my life that have endured so much suffering. And yet…. Still.”

And then last week as I was on my way to the woods to breathe the deep whisper of fall coming, and to have a couple days to soak in the goodness of other writers.

I read this passage.

“….when we are stuck or hurting and our gut instinct is to run out of there as fast as we can, we are probably close to holy ground. It is in the very midst of our pain, the places we hate and the seasons of life we dread, that God’s voice is most clear.” – Christina Gibson, Soul Barre

I feel like some of us, including my family, have been barefoot for a long time.

We want to grab those bread bags mom would keep in the bottom drawer of the kitchen and wrap our feet. Wrap the feet of our children and put our moon boots back on.

And yet.

And still.

We ache for our savior every day.

We want him.

Are we willing then to live a barefoot life?

To see the pain and suffering as an invitation to enter holy ground.

The last thing from my mind this year has been the idea that what we are going through is holy.
I have had many other words for it. Holy has never been one of them.

And yet.

And still.

I have seen God clearly pushing through the darkness. I have seen him in the kindred’s that sit late into the night on the porch until the fear goes away. I have seen him in the meals that have been placed on our door. I have seen him in the letters that speak nothing of knowing and everything of being. I have seen him in the song sent from states away that sings of justice. I have seen him in the goldfinches that continue to dance if I am quiet enough to watch. I have seen him in the prayers that have kept oxygen in our lungs. I have seen him in the plane tickets bought to teach us to walk again. I have seen him in countless and hundreds of ways.

And yet.

And still.

I want to put the shoes back on.

I want to run.

And yet.

And still.

He beckons me closer.

Into the pain.

To hear him say…..”take off your shoes, this, my beloved, is holy ground.”

 

The work of healing. What happens when you want to give up……

Earlier this week I was in full melt down mode. Like if my mom were here she would have put me in time out or sat me on the stairs for a “come to Jesus” moment. As a child I am sure that I through monumental tantrums. I was what some may call a spirited child, so it is no surprise that as an adult I continue to feel emotions big.

I texted my husband that morning by 9am and said I was done. I was winning the award for the worst homeschool mom ever. If there was an award for failure, I was the Michael Phelps of that Olympics. I said that I could no longer do this. Everyone was in tears and I was a person I never wanted to be. I was anxious and overwhelmed. No one was learning anything except that mommy may have fallen off the crazy wagon again and they all had front row seats to the show.

And because my husband is who he is, and because we are sitting our butts on a therapists couch every week, he texts back, “where is your list?”

You see he didn’t give me advice or agree with me. Or better yet bring a medal home.

He just heard me.

As women, as humans, we need to hear each other more. To ask before we give our opinion. To lead towards the answer, not give it.

My list. The list.

This summer I made a long list of what healing looks like.

What my heart ached and prayed for over my family. What would come alongside Jesus and help the healing process of our family that evil has torn apart. Because we know that Jesus can heal. He will heal. But we also know that we actually have to do the work. The work of healing. The work of believing. The work of inhaling and exhaling. The work of showing up and feeling.

So I put the phone down and went to look for the list.

I went to my room, sat on my bed and let the tears come as I read aloud…..

Water

Woods

Sunshine

Yoga

Reading

Writing

Exercise

Safe people

Music

Breathing

Crying

Therapy

Whole foods

Sleep

Exhaling

Quiet

Listening

Laughter

Space

Medication

Jesus…..

And most of all Jesus.

Nowhere on the list did it say Math. Or lesson plans. Or science experiments. Or Common Core. Nowhere did it say that my children needed to sit in a classroom and have seven hours of education to be healed. Or at the dining room table being drilled about the industrial revolution.

So why was I trying to push in that which was aching to be freed?

Please hear me. I believe in education. The husband is a public school teacher. I adore teachers. I love our elementary school we came from. I miss it every day.

But this year. Our now. Our reality is that healing and connection are far more important than anything they will gain being away from each other in school.

The condition of their heart and souls is of more importance to me than any grade they could ever bring home. More than any championship they could win. Or worth they gain from win on the court.

Present and healed are more important than schedules and rules.

I want my children to move forth from this year knowing that they were heard and understood.

That to heal you need to do the work.

And the work of healing cannot be found in a classroom right now.

And yet somehow by the first week in October I had already forgotten.

I forget all the time.

Just yesterday I was on my way to my therapist and I could feel the tears already making their way down my cheeks as I drove. I was miles away and already I was crying.

My body knew.

Knew where I was going and was preparing me to release it all.

My therapist tells me that this in itself is growth. That when we acknowledge the truth of what is going on, that this is a sign of courage.

So I go back to the list. One time this morning. Four times this afternoon. I go back and I read and pray through the list.

Remembering what my heart already knows.

Inhaling the truth of brokenness is painful.

Yet exhaling is the healing.