When You Feel The Most Alone

Loneliness screams. It is not a silent, sneaky thing that gradually envelops you over time. You can think that you are happy, that you are doing well, and then loneliness begins its shrill keening.

Loneliness suffocates. You celebrate your freedom, you breathe it in like fresh air, and then loneliness crushes the air from your lungs.

Loneliness stifles. You love who you are, you feel secure and passionate about your future. You are unafraid of the path that lies before you. But loneliness takes hold and convinces you that you are not enough alone. That part of you is missing and if you don’t find that missing piece, you will never be fulfilled.

Loneliness is a monster in the dark, a shroud to cover your still living form. It stalks through your life and tells you that there’s nothing for you here.

The lies Loneliness tells….

The lies Loneliness tells sound true. Truer than anything you have ever heard or known.

But there is One who sticks closer than a brother. One who was willing to lay down His life on your behalf. One who sings a sweet song of deliverance over you, who waits to comfort you in the dark. One who says that you are enough. Right now. As you are. One who sees you, flaws and all, and loves you still.

How do I know? Because I have been there. I still have moments when I find myself there again. I feel the agonizing pain of loneliness; I’ve struggled with wondering if I really can ever be enough on my own. I have woken alone from terrors in the night and longed for arms that could hold me close, and a voice that could tell me that things would be okay.

I won’t say that God’s grace removes all my pain. I won’t say that the sacrifice Jesus made makes me feel so incredibly complete that I don’t ever fear being alone. I won’t pretend that I never have doubts.

But it’s not because God’s grace is not enough. It’s not that the sacrifice Jesus made did not finish its work. It’s that God created me human. It’s that it’s not good for man to be alone. We were designed for companionship, and designed to long for that companionship.

So when Loneliness rears its ugly head, I lift mine. I am a child of the King, and I am who He says I am. I am enough. I am beautiful, and fun, and compassionate. And most of all, I am not alone. I may not hear His voice or feel His touch, but I know that He is there. And I know His shoulders are strong enough to carry my burdens.

He can do the same for you. He can show you that your worth is far more valuable than rubies or the finest gold. But it’s up to you. God won’t force His love on you. But I guarantee you that He is there, waiting with arms flung wide; waiting for you to run to Him.

Will you take a chance on Him?

What do you have to lose?

Sow Light

When my oldest daughter was six, she referred to Good Friday as “Black Friday”. And even though I know why we call it Good, her name for it often seems far more accurate.

Think about it from the perspective of the disciples. Jesus had told them that He would rise again, but so many things He had taught while on earth were in the form of parables – which had deeper meaning than what they seemed to at face value. It would be easy to believe that perhaps Jesus had meant something else other than literal resurrection – especially as one day stretched to two, and two to three.

Even had they known for certain that Jesus was being literal when He spoke of his return to life, it’s easy to wonder if we are remembering correctly when things don’t come to pass as quickly as we expect.

I was just sharing with a friend that there were things prophesied over me before I was even expecting my oldest daughter – who will be fourteen in August – that have yet to come to pass. Over the years, and especially over the last three, I have often wondered if it was simply emotion ruling both the people prophesying over me as well as myself. Other dreams that God placed directly in my heart seemed absolutely impossible from day one. But as things have changed over the last seven months, I am now seeing ways that God is opening up for these dreams and prophecies. God can open any door, even if it appears locked and barred to me.

For many people, Good Friday is easy to celebrate. Jesus died and rose again over two thousand years ago. We know the end of that part of the story. We don’t have to experience the agony of waiting and wondering what will happen next.

For others, it’s still a challenge. Yes, we know that Jesus died and rose again, but many are still waiting for their three days to be over. And those three days could be three months or fifteen years. I don’t know about you, but I am not good at waiting. Add in stress, pain, and the unknown, and the waiting becomes even more difficult.

But the truth is that although Jesus died and the three days that followed were excruciating for most – if not all – of his followers (including his own mother), but the story didn’t end there. Jesus did rise again. He kept His word. Which means we can trust that He will keep His word in our personal situations as well.

As I was doing my devotions today, I came across a verse that I’ve read a dozen times before. It isn’t one of the more well-known verses, but it impacted me today. Here it is:

“Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to His holy name.” Psalm 97:11-12

How dark and terrifying Jesus’ death must have been! How dark and terrifying our lives can be now. But God’s Word promises us light and joy when we live for Him. We will not always feel light and joy, but it’s there waiting for us if we choose it. You will often hear me talk about choices, because I am a firm believer that our choices directly affect us, as well as the people around us.

When my day does not go as planned, I can still choose light. If I wake up in a lot of pain, I can still choose joy. When my finances are tight and I don’t know how I will pay for bills, food, or rent, I can still choose light. If someone chooses to try to destroy me with their words, I can still choose joy. And as you may have heard before, happiness and joy are not the same thing. Happiness is temporary and dependent on things outside of us. Joy comes from within – from knowing that our present troubles are far outweighed by what God will bring in and through us on down the road. From knowing that we have a place in heaven once this life is over. From knowing that God doesn’t waste pain.

Many will ask why God causes us to go through hard times, why “bad things happen to good people”. The truth is that He doesn’t cause us to go through bad things anymore than He causes us to burn our hands when we touch something that is really hot. He allows it – because that is how we learn not to touch things that will burn us – but He does not cause it. As we are healing (and after we are healed) from the burn, He enables us to use our experience of pain to help someone else. We can warn them away, or if we find them after they have been burned, we can empathize and help them to heal.

As you go through today – whether you see it as Black or Good – know that light and joy are not far away. Once you find them for yourself, I hope you will then sow them into the lives of others, so they may find them too.

The Pain of Pruning

I currently have two bonsais growing – one that I started from seed and one that I started from a cutting that was sent to me. The growth in the picture above are from the cutting.

Both bonsais are very important to me.

My desert rose, which I grew from seed, is a little particular sometimes. To be honest, I am very fortunate that I even have her, because most of the desert rose seeds I have purchased ended up not actually being desert rose seeds! Thankfully they were ridiculously cheap, so the only real loss was the disappointment at growing grass instead of the bonsai I thought I had planted.

My willow, grown from a cutting, will one day be a beautiful miniature tree. I was nervous when I received it. It looked like someone had cut a thumb-thick branch off of a tree, wrapped a damp paper towel around the base, and sent it to me. However, I read and followed the instructions (to place the base in two inches of water), and within a day or two, roots began to grow. A few days later, leaves appeared. I was so excited. My little branch was really going to turn into a tree!

The instructions has also said that the leaves/branches should be left alone for several months unless I was pruning the ones too close to the base. Those instructions seemed like no big deal and I filed them away in my brain. But when leaves and branches began to grow too low on the cutting, I realized it was time to remove them. Again, no big deal right?

Right. With one problem. My plants are like my little green babies, and although I’m fairly certain they feel no pain, it pains me to remove bits of them that are so healthy!

I knew the cutting would grow better if I pruned these bottom leaves, but I hated (gently) pulling them off. Somehow it seemed wrong to remove these vibrant, green leaves.

As I held the excess leaves in the palm of my hand, I felt that knowing that I have experienced many times before. It’s nothing mystical. It’s more like a light bulb coming on in my head. A spark fanned into flame by the Hand that placed it there. The still, small Voice that reminds me that He really does know best.

Many times in my life, I have had things I really wanted to keep stripped away from me. They weren’t always bad or unhealthy things either. Sometimes, they were really great things – such as living close to my parents and being able to spend time with them on a regular basis. And other times, they were things that really were detrimental, but I couldn’t see that they were. Like staying in a marriage that I legitimately should have left years before.

And even though my plants aren’t likely to feel any pain when I prune their excess leaves, I felt significant pain in losing what I so desperately wanted to keep.

At the time it was excruciating, and I couldn’t understand why God had allowed certain things to be ripped away from me over the years. I trusted Him and I obeyed Him, but He tore away the leaves I had held on to so tightly. Sometimes this made me angry, and sometimes distrustful. I couldn’t see why He would take and take and take!

But the reality is that even though He knew it would cause me pain, He also knew that the pain would be so much worse if He left those things in place. He saw the bigger picture, and He knew exactly what He was doing.

Don’t get me wrong – God does not harm us in the hopes that we might grow as a result. The saying “everything happens for a reason” is bogus. God allows painful things to happen in our lives for a couple of reasons – one, because He gave us free will, and to remove all of the pain would be to remove our free will; two, because as I mentioned a moment ago, He can see the big picture. He knows that in order for us to reach our full potential, something has to go.

I can look back now and see that the removal that I so hated at the time was exactly what I needed. I can see that had those things not been removed, my life would be miserable – and that is if I were still amongst the living.

It’s been probably a week or two since I removed those bottom leaves and stems. It’s amazing the healthy growth I have seen in my willow since her pruning. See for yourself:

In time, more leaves will have to be removed. Several months from now, I will have to start training the branches. But in the long run, I can see that she will be a beautiful bonsai, and it will all have been worth it.

Perhaps something is happening in your life and you have prayed – begged, even – for God to act in a certain way. Perhaps His decision not to answer the way you have requested has you wondering if He really does love you after all. I can tell you from my own experience – He knows exactly what He is doing (or not doing). You may feel dissatisfied and hurt right now, but someday you will look back and realize that He did things the way they needed to be done in order for you to become the person you needed to be.

Keep trusting. Even when it all feels wrong, trust.

Beheaded

I don’t like to over-spiritualize things, but when I took this picture, I felt as if it was another small reminder from God. Let me explain.

This plant is a spider plant. It used to have long, healthy leaves, but it was root-bound, and so unable to grow. I tried to transplant it into a larger planter without damaging it at all, but it was *so* root-bound that I accidentally beheaded it. When I finally got it out, it was just a bunch of roots.

Spider plants are self-propagating, so I decided to plant the roots in the larger planter anyway. I wasn’t sure anything would grow because of how badly I had damaged it, but I wanted to at least try. A couple days ago, a tiny little green thing popped out of the soil/river rocks. Today I checked again, and there are three little green things now – and the first one is even starting to put out leaves!

Sometimes our lives get root-bound. Sometimes we can’t grow any further because we’re stuck. Sometimes it takes giving up everything and starting all over to become the person you are meant to be. I never expected my life to take this path, but I am so grateful that I have never been alone. I am grateful that I am growing again and finding new confidence.

Maybe it doesn’t take something drastic. Maybe all you need is to move a little outside your comfort zone. Maybe there are only a few little things that need to be pruned away. Make those changes now, before you find yourself root-bound.

What looked like the end was only a new beginning. Don’t give up. ❤️

*Originally written February 12, 2019

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The Journey Begins

Had the last twenty years of my life been made into a movie, one might be tempted to view it as a tragedy. Pain, my constant companion, nearly destroyed me. Were it not for grace, I would no longer be counted among the living – even had I physically survived.

For a long time, shame closed my mouth. Fear helped keep it sealed. I didn’t want to be judged, to be found as lacking as I thought myself to be. My pain was already enough, and I didn’t need anyone adding to it. It wasn’t until my offspring began showing signs of struggling with pain similar to mine that I found the courage to start speaking out.

Even then, much of what I thought caused my pain was incorrect. I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me. It has not been until the last few months that my eyes have been opened to the truth. Pried open, in some respects, due to having preferred my blindness.

Now that the healing has begun, I have chosen to cease my silence. No longer will I hide the ugliness when transparency could potentially set others free.

Thus my invitation – grow with me.

We know we cannot plant seeds with closed fists. To sow, we must open our hands. – Adolfo Perez Esquivel

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