Seen. Heard. Known.

I’ve been lying low for 27 days (I’d say I’ve been in isolation that long except that 20 days ago I did get to hug a rebel friend…so I technically haven’t been totally isolated for the full 27…but mostly) and I have all the thoughts, so I’m back on my blog to process and share.

During these lonely days, I’m thinking a lot about relational losses and the ways we long for human connection and relationships. I miss my people. Part of me just misses people in general, but mostly I miss my people…the ones that when I’m with them, I feel most like me…the people who just get me.

As a military brat, this longing has felt permanent. I lived places only long enough to have people to miss. In adulthood, I’ve maintained the pattern (a classic TCK move) and struggled to connect in ways that truly allow me to feel understood.

At the root of these longings are the three things I think people most crave in relationships: to be seen, to be heard, and to be known.

I’m reading Exodus, and those same words keep showing up across the pages as I learn more of who God is. God is not a distant ruler zapping us with lightning for going too long without reading our Bible or for swearing out loud. God is near and intimate and closer than our closest friends. In Exodus 3 Moses encounters God in the burning bush (great story, go read it) and then as God is talking to Moses, he says: I have seen my people suffering, I have heard them cry out, I know their sufferings, and I have come to deliver them (the Christina paraphrase).

7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

Throughout Exodus (and the Bible at large), God tells His people He sees them, He hears them, and He knows their situation/story/life. Exodus 4:31 recounts the Israelites’ response when they learned that God had seen them and paid attention.

31 The people believed, and when they heard that the Lord had paid attention to them and that he had seen their misery, they knelt low and worshiped.

When they felt most like themselves, when they felt like God got them, when they knew they were fully understood, they worshiped. I get it, I absolutely adore the people who I feel like actually get me.

My joyful friend in Grad school saw her purpose in serving college students to be someone who can allow others to feel seen, known, and loved. She sets out to meet these fundamental longings in others while helping them meet the One who fully sees, fully knows, and fully loves all of us. She is so loved by so many because she genuinely loves others so well by seeing and hearing and knowing them. This is what it looks like to follow God’s example.

God sees. God hears. God knows. And God comes to deliver. I’m praying this Holy week that you would deeply know the truth of our God who sees and hears and knows and comes to deliver. God sees you and hears you and knows you today and chose, years ago, to come down in the form of a person through Jesus Christ to live perfectly on this earth, die a brutal death on the cross and rise again so that you and I never have to experience the true isolation and suffering of death.

Today I still miss my people and I’m grateful for the relationships to miss and the ways we can stay connected across distance. But more than that, I’m grateful that God is present with me now, and not just ethereally, but really, truly present. He is here and he sees me (sitting alone in my apartment), and he hears me (talking to myself, crying when I’m sad, or laughing hysterically because I’ve reached a point where everything’s funny), and he knows me (and my motivations, thoughts, and judgments). My God who sees, hears, and knows me also loves me dearly and will come to deliver me (from my fears, my isolation, scary illnesses, and more) in this life or the next.

A few weeks back I ran across this song on the way to church and was struck by the truth and the beauty of sweet, little Lucy singing along. Be encouraged. God sees you. God hears you. God knows you.

 

To my students – April 2020

To those of you who moved home to a family full of fun and love, I see you and I’m so happy for you.

To those of you who moved back to places with heartbreak, job loss, tension, or conflict, I see you and I’m sorry.

To those of you who lost jobs or internships, I see you and I’m sorry.

To those of you thriving in long days of introversion joy, I see you and I’m glad you’re feeling refreshed.

To those of you who are now the only Christian in your home, I see you and I acknowledge the longing for Christian community and I’m cheering you on and praying God will use you to shine His truth into dark places.

To those of you questioning God’s goodness in this season, I see you and God sees you and He can take your frustrations, doubts, and fears.

To those of you drowning in schoolwork, I see you.

To those of you with too much free time on your hands, I see you.

To those of you grieving your unfinished year, I see you and I join you.

To those of you with at risk health, living with people who are more vulnerable to disease, or living in areas with high volumes of illnesses, I see you. These are scary days and I’m so sorry.

To those of you who think the world is overreacting to a disease, I see you.

To those of you trying to make plans in the midst of uncertainty, I see you, this is beyond challenging.

To those of you just trying to make it through each next assignment, each next day, each next step, I see you.

 

There is space and while we’re not all in the same place (physically or emotionally), we can all extend to each other the same grace. Extend yourself and others grace to not think, react, or respond to things identically. Give grace when your academic progress doesn’t meet your expectations or your group members seem to not pull their weight. Give grace when you or others feel sad, angry, or happy. Give grace when you don’t accomplish great achievements during this shelter-in-place season or when others seem unproductive.

There is space to do “all the things” and there is space to just sit in the reality that this is “a whole thing”.

Home?

Home.

Am I homeless?
Where is my home?
What makes a home?

I’m reminded of the P.D. Eastman (Dr. Seuss) classic, Are You My Mother? With each turn of the page, baby bird asks “Are you my mother?” Page after page, no affirmative response is found.

I ask myself, almost as often as others ask me, “where is home?”

Could Las Vegas be home? I was born there. Could the Oklahoma house be home? Our ranch style home with a big backyard, trees for climbing, a basketball hoop in the front, and a swing set out back was the house where I spent the longest continuous stretch of time. Could Okinawa be home? I spent six of my most formative years in this island paradise, albeit divided by a six year stent in America. Is Colorado home? I have spent over a decade in this beautiful state and currently reside here. Can I call a whole state home or would I need to pick one of the seven spaces I’ve inhabited during the last ten years? Is Virginia home? As a seventh grade student being told she was moving across the globe in a matter of weeks, nowhere on the planet felt more like home. Could Alabama be home? I almost laugh recounting the mere ten months I spent in a town where it can’t be determined whether the good-ol-boy-racism or the combined heat and humidity were more stifling. The one factor that lets Alabama keep its’ place on the list is that it is the one place where we lived that I can picture my dad in the home.

Perhaps all of these places are home. Or maybe none at all.

What is a home?

Online dictionaries defined the word with several similar descriptions varying only by small nuances.

Below are definitions that struck within me a twinge of longing.

-the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered
-the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household
-an institution for people needing professional care or supervision

Home – the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered. My domestic affections do not center on any house, nor do they land on any town, base, or city.

Home – the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. The only place I’ve ever planted myself permanently is earth. I’m just not akin to permanence. My family was a hodgepodge of my immediate family, the awacs community, and the body of Christ, all of which were in a constant state of flux.

Home – an institution for people needing professional care or supervision. I cannot imagine a place feeling less like home than a facility. Circumstances may necessitates such a living situation, but the term home should never have to be shared with such a place devoid of all comforts and familiarity.

I may not have a place to call home, but my heart did; it felt at home with him. In his arms. By his side. My domestic affections were centered on him. With him, I planned to live permanently, especially as members in our little family. Amidst the protective bounds of the institution of marriage we could live cared for and supervised. Housed within an unswerving loyalty, I felt free to rest in the comfort and familiarity of life together – home.

This home burned to the ground, like every other ‘home’ of my childhood.

I begin to gather the things – the mementos, symbols, and reminders of a life that was, that is no longer. I save things as a way to preserve the memories of the lives I’ve left behind. I keep shells, journals, photos, rocks. I hold each tangible piece of my life in the palms of my hands and I do my absolute best to freeze time. I grasp at each grain of sand as it falls through through my fingers and through the hourglass, begging for just two more minutes (mittens). No one hears my pleas. Time moves on and I must find a new home. I slowly press on. I look back. I always look back. With me I drag bags and boxes filled to the brim with the representations of home.

I carry home with me, exhausting as it may be.

For Better or For Worse

I’m a big fan of great television shows. I was just thinking about all of the shows that I have religiously followed. Looking back, I am someplace in between proud and embarrassed to admit the shows that I have faithfully followed. I have seen every episode of every show listed below (the number of seasons is noted to the right of each show) at least once. 

Grey’s Anatomy – 13
19 Kids and Counting – 10
The Office – 9
How I met Your Mother – 9
Parks and Rec – 7
Gilmore Girls – 7
Pretty Little Liars – 7
Good Luck Charlie – 4
Arrested Development – 4
Lie to Me – 3

I have ‘endured’ some of these shows for better or for worse. I watched as producers killed off my favorite characters, corrupted the stories with values I disagreed with, and  dragged plot lines out far longer than necessary. I patiently waited months through the off-season wondering how the cliff-hanger ending would be resolved. I re-watched episodes to savor the emotion and to analyze the details. I watched these shows when I laid in bed sick, when I wanted to celebrate finished school projects, or when I wanted a distraction from the hard of reality. Sometimes I stuck with these shows because they gripped me until the very last time the credits rolled and sometimes I held a firm grasp on the shows because I’m a compulsive finisher. As long as episodes were running, I was committed. It’s jarring to see how the number of years my marriage lasted utterly pales in comparison. How could our dedication to television shows so far outlast our devotion to our vows. What happened to the promise to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to submit as to the Lord, to love as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for it, to love and to cherish as we adventure together?

My marriage – 2.5

The story is not over. 9 years elapsed between the end of Gilmore Girls and the revival of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the life, 14 years passed between the end of Boy Meets World and the start of Girl Meets world, and 21 years separate the end of Full House and the beginning of Fuller House.

The story is not over yet.

When Hurting Helps

Wounds cut deep pathways through me. Blood ran, not mine, but His. His blood ran over and through each painful piece. He grieved with me. He suffered for me. Each cut begged for more blood to spill. And freely it flowed.

His mercies have been healing waters that gently flowed over deep wounds, stinging at first, then soothing. Restoration came. On the surface, the cuts healed. The gaps were sealed. The voids were filled. Scabs replaced open, oozing wounds. Restoration was perceived. I wanted to believe that the healing was complete, however, each time I moved into those places of pain, each time I bent the site of a laceration, the crevice would open again. Blood would drizzle, puss would leak, but each time the lesion was opened, the discharge and accompanying distress was lessened. Stopping all movement tempted me, but moving through the pain was the only way to prevent muscle atrophy. The process of cleansing cuts and sores became routine in a way that steadied me. Some days the process yielded relief, while other days it produced tears.

He was the blood, the byproduct of the wounding. He was the cleansing water, the soothing ointment, and the poignant antiseptic, the treatment of the injury. He was the hand to hold through the aching, the shoulder to cry on amidst the pain, and the great rescuer to scoop me up and hold me close until the affliction subsided. He tenderly attended to my tenderness at the site of each gash.

Total restoration may never happen in this broken world, but the process has begun. Pain will not be a roadblock on this journey. Though pain can bring attention to an injury, it must never be given the power to inhibit healing. This recovery road is rocky, but there are caring communities and restful streams scattered along the way. There is also a great companion, a healing buddy, to journey alongside me. He runs ahead to clear the way, he offers protection by watching my back, and he holds me hand when I feel like I can’t take another step. I am never alone.

Each hard has been graced with love, more love than I would ever have known if I never experienced such scathing. I have always believed a special bond emerges through shared suffering. What joy to have forged such a bond with my sweet Jesus.

“Suffering isn’t a mistake, and it isn’t the absence of God’s goodness, because He is present in pain.” – Kara Tippetts