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.

 

 

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.

Goldfinches and Grief.

Sometimes I think we miss God. We miss him all around us. He tries to talk to us. For us to see him. In people. In moments. I think we make our world too loud to notice him. We turn the music up louder. We keep checking our phones, we make more coffee dates,  turn on Netflix, work more hours, or drink one more drink and all he wants is us to be. To be there. To feel. To notice. To see.

My therapist says that I need drama. That I was born with it in me. And that this a part of me that rarely gets praised. He says that too often what is really good in us, gets told from an early age, to be quiet. That somehow, who we are, is not okay.

Not God breathed.

He though, is good at that. Calling out what I have been told is wrong, and showing me that God knit me together perfectly. I don’t always think he is good, my therapist. Sometimes he pisses me off, when he calls me out on my crap. But today. Today was good. Because I needed to hear truth and love. And sometimes when you are grieving you can’t hear either. I can’t hear truth because I am so weighted down with sadness that truth can barely peak through. It is choking at the possibility that it will never be heard again.

And then there is love. I cannot bear the thought of love right now. In fact, love I just want to punch in the face. I really could use someone to punch in the face right now. God bless those that are trying to love me right now. Because one moment I am a puddle of tears and the next minute I want to punch them in the throat and scream that they have no idea the hell I am daily living through. Don’t send me scripture or prayers unless you are willing to sit in the darkness and not leave. Bless.

And then God. Because he is God. Just starts to gently whisper. Because he knows right now that is the only way I am going to listen. Because if he yells I will just get out the sledgehammer. He already knows that the world is too loud for me right now. And I don’t need more advice or more “ I would do it this way” . What I need is a dramatic whisper. Because he knows me. He knows what my heart is longing for. It doesn’t need more talking. It doesn’t need more unsolicited advice. It doesn’t need more people doing things for me. I don’t need fixers. I need more whispering. I need more being.

So he whispers.

And because I am weaved and made in all the drama goodness that he made he weaves his way right in front of me.

And it all has to happen that way.

Michigan. With water. And woods. And dirt roads. And quiet.

Walking.

And there in front me were three little goldfinches. Just playing tag with each other. Chirping with each other about how cute they are. Because they really are the cutest birds. And there they were just fluttering in front of me.

Dancing.

I stood there and just started to cry. One, because the weight I am carrying around is so heavy right now and two because I knew it was God whispering.

I had been feeling very abandoned.

If he really believed me when I said I wanted to follow him years ago, then all of this shit would not have happened. None of this was making sense. None of it.

Yes I know bad things happen to good people. I know. But I also wrestle with why does it continue to happen? And if you could think of the worst things to happen to a family, they have all happened. All. And as a mother it is just too much to carry most days.

And here I was on that dirt road confessing to the creator of the universe that he and I were done. I had carried enough and I could not bear one more burden in his name for his glory.

I know.

Lightening was going to strike me. But this was my Jacob moment. Crying to God that this mother could not breathe one more night of agony.

On that dirt road all he needed me to do was to see.

He asked me to turn to the right.

And there to the right was a field. A field of purple thistle. And above the thistle were hundreds of dancing gold finches. Hundreds.

According to birdlife.org the gold finch is most often found in the religious paintings in the hand of the infant Jesus. Symbolizing and relating to the healing of the sick and thus redemption.

Healing.

Of course. Healing.

I didn’t know this pertinent information until weeks later than that late morning in west Michigan.

I was actually in a park with my youngest daughter and a group of finches flew right by my face and I immediately start crying. There are only so many times that you can ignore God trying to whisper his love over you until you break wide open.

So I googled what goldfinches meant and that is what came up. Like Jesus himself wrote it. I think he works for birdlife.org on Thursdays or something like that.

I sat there on the park bench and sobbed.

I hear you. I know you are here. I see you pushing through all of the darkness that continues to daily be layered on us but I see you pushing your way through.

Yesterday. Today. Everyday. I see him pushing through. If I am quiet enough I see the goldfinches.

I see.

John 16:22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.