I prayed a lot this year.
I always thought I had a pretty good relationship with Him, but was not so pleasantly surprised when I realized how far from the truth that actually was. But, when the ground you walk on is taken out from under you, it’s incredible how quickly you look up. And it’s incredible how quickly you feel His arms wrapped tightly around you, making sure you don’t fall.
So, when you’ve got yourself surrounded by someone as awesome as that, why wouldn’t you want to chat throughout the day? Over the coarse of the year, the prayers that once began as “Please, help take this engulfing rage away”, slowly turned to “Please continue to take this anger away, but thank you for taking it out quicker today, that was really nice.” Then, somehow, the pleas for the absence of pain became claims of gratitude. “Thank you for my new home.” “Thank you for this community.” “Thank you for a day without tears.” “Thank you for bringing so-and-so into my life.” Over the coarse of the year, the prayers changed alongside my heart, but there was one that stayed the same. One I could only dream of and hope for. There was one I never left out. Short and sweet, it was to “Please, make something beautiful from this. Please, show me why this had to happen.”
Writing this, the tears begin. I can’t help but cry. Because guys, He listened. He heard my cries, He heard my pleas, He heard the longing in my heart. Not only did He give me one reason as to why, but a long list that I am still trying to wrap my head and heart around. Not only did He make something beautiful, but He’s continuing to do so and add to it every waking day. From a girl who had a future planned with someone she thought she loved, starting down a road she felt was pretty neat, towards a life she figured good enough, He made something entirely more intricate than I ever thought possible. But that’s God. Capable of creating something better than we ourselves can ever fathom. Setting the bar higher than we can ever reach on our own. Making the impossible, possible. From a girl who thought life was just fine, He has taken broken pieces and turned her into someone with an entirely new understanding of what it means to be loved. An entirely new gratitude for the good moments in life, even if they last for but a blink of an eye. He has given me a life filled to the brim of new found hope, and gratitude, and faith. Knowing that He can in fact move mountains.
I thought I knew what love was. And I like to think I would not have said “Yes” had I not. But I truly believe my understanding of it as a whole is more honest, and more real than ever before. I like to think, that I now have a deeper sense of the importance of words, and the weight that they each entail, and how choosing the right ones can make all the difference in the world. I hope, that I will remember, that grace is important, and should be given more than it seems to be. I pray, that everything this year has taught me will stay with me, not slowly dissolving as I continue to heal over time. Because I don’t want to forget these past twelve months. I don’t want to ever feel less grateful for the people and things in my life than I do in this moment. I don’t want to overtime simply go through life. I want to live it, glorifying His name every step of the way.
I set out last year to heal. To choose happiness. To find the good in the bad. I remember at times really wishing there was a guidebook or step-by-step explanation as to how one is to go through what happened. I remember simply wanting someone to tell me “Do this, this, and this, and you’ll be golden!” I remember at times hoping it could all just fix itself. That the gifts would walk their merry way back to the store. That the feeling of being left at the curb would would one day magically disappear. That the two of them could just apologize already, so the idea of forgiving would at least be that much easier. But, no such book exists. I checked. And there is no way to simply do “This and that”. But I realized what I could do is make decisions that I would be okay with years down the road. What I could do, is make choices that I would be proud of, that weren’t out of spite, that simply felt right deep down in my heart. Not every decision was a winning bet. Not every action was perhaps how it should have been done in retrospect. But every step, every moment, every fumble, every mistake, it brought me here, standing at that imaginary finish line I once dreamt of. And I have to believe that it’s a combination of all of the above that had something to do with that. I have to believe that He guided me down the exact road He had waiting for me. I have to believe, that it all went exactly as it was supposed to.
I would be lying if I told you I knew exactly what this next year has in store. But that’s sort of the beauty of it all. Plus, Lord knows me planning things never quite goes overly well so I’ll stick with the idea that the unknown is darn right exciting. But one thing I can tell you, I have another goal. It’s not one focused entirely on healing or forgiving or working through pain. It’s not one that has a glorious finish line to cross. But one that is a mindset. One that I truly believe, is absolutely necessary.
It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned that book Love Does, but I can’t think of any other way I’d like to bring all of this together. I can’t think of any other way in which this journey in its entirety, should come to an end. In one chapter, Bob Goff brings up the idea of “palms up”. He says that whenever a client of his has to sit in court and answer questions, that they are given one direction; to place their hands upon their knees, keeping their palms up. It is then, he has found that any guard you had up slowly begins to crumble. It is then, that honesty is given more freely, and a sense of calmness are more accessible. According to Bob, it goes further than that. He states…
“I lean red this technique from Jesus actually. I used to walk around with my fists clinched, defensive, afraid people were going to take advantage of me. There are also so many evils in the world that caused me to clinch my fists. I wanted to be angry and swing at the horrible things people do to one another, especially the things done to kids. But it was Jesus who taught me there was nothing I could really lose if I had Him. He taught me to be palms up, just like He was. Palms up means you have nothing to hide and nothing to gain or lose. Palms up means you are strong enough to be vulnerable, even with your enemies. Even when you have been tremendously wronged. Jesus was palms up, to the end.”
Guys, this is what I want. Here, starting now, to live “palms up”. I want to experience this beautiful life He has created with open arms, not merely getting through it with my head down, hands clinched, keeping my heart tucked away, safe as can be.
So yes, I will continue to find my “happy” with every waking day, because really, how does one not find one thing a day that is pretty awesome in and of itself? But with that, I will be taking the first step into the rest of my life with an open heart, with an open mind, arms outstretched, and palms up.
Because I am ready. It’s time. To live, palms up.
How does one prepare for a day they have been waiting to experience all year long?
How does one celebrate a day that was once to hold such a different type of meaning?
How does one simply wrap their head around the idea that their one year of intentional healing is in fact, coming to an end?
Well, if you’re me, you start to freak out a little.
I wish I could tell you I felt nothing but pure excitement for what tomorrow holds. But that would be depriving the feelings sprinkled within me that should be acknowledged. Those of nerves, and sadness, and a little bit of fear. Now before we get too sad, I’ll tell you now that there are absolutely more good feelings than bad, but let’s save the best for last, shall we?
This time last year, in the two weeks leading up to April 1st, I felt I had to prepare. Now I didn’t exactly know what I was preparing for, perhaps a healing crusade of sorts, or a race to healing, but I felt I had to do all that I could to make sure I was ready. To do all that I could, to have all that I needed for the year before me. Well, those same feelings have come to visit, and these past weeks have been full of flashbacks and reflection. Going over what this past year has meant and entailed and taught. These past two weeks have been heavy, and hopeful, and full of questions. Asking myself, am I ready?
While my answer is an absolute “Yes”, it is laced with a strand of sadness. Not that I am upset in the least to be where I am, but that to start a new chapter means to end the one you’re on. And sometimes, it’s a really good chapter. And sometimes, you don’t want to end a good thing. And other times, you don’t want to say goodbye to something you have grown comfortable within, because saying hello to something new is down right frightening. Sometimes, it’s easier to stay where you are.
This chapter must come to an end. Why? Because I did what I sought out to do. Because it is full to the brim of everything I hoped it would be. Good guys and bad ones. Victories and losses. Hope and despair. And in the end, and overwhelming sense of gratitude and love. This chapter, well, it’s simply that. A single section in the magnitude of those before me. So, if I loved this one so much, why wouldn’t I want to keep reading? Why wouldn’t I want to see what the next chapter has in store?
Today’s “happy” was in the same place I experienced it last year. Outside, celebrating all that He is.
The theme this year, was the idea of heaven crashing in. In other words, the moment the broken, dirty, and lonely world you are a part of is suddenly transformed into one full of beauty and grace. The moment, you let Him in. The moment, you choose to no longer go at it alone.
While the sermon was great, and the worship moving, it was the backdrop, of all things, that brought me to tears. Now picture this; huge sheets of metal, shards of wood, pieces of chain link fence, all nailed and put together, forming these overly tall, rectangular, wall like structures. They were uncomfortable to look at, and painful at best to be near. And while the meaning of art is entirely upon the viewer, if you ask me, I think it in a way, represents us. Broken, and painful, and really, just kind of a hot mess.
The moment that heaven crashes in, is the moment all of that is gone. The moment the dirt and grime is washed away, the moment the dark and sorrowful walls are replaced with incredibly clean and beautifully white ones. And this is what happened. In the blink of an eye, those once uncomfortable fortresses were turned around, and there before us, were new ones. Yes, they were still made of bits and pieces of found objects, but is that not what we are? A collaboration of moments and stories and experiences and past chapters of our own lives?
So why, exactly did I start crying? Because I realized that this past year, that was heaven crashing in. That was the time my once dark and grungy and nail bidden walls were turned into something new, something clean, something more intricately beautiful than I could have ever dreamed of. That was the time, that everything changed. So, me being me, watching those broken walls transform into something more true and real, I turned to tears, because the simple visual of dark to light, broken to whole, pain to peace brought everything back. This past year, came flooding around me. Images and memories from hard times and good. All of it. There in an instant. And I cried. Knowing that the transformation and turning is hard. Knowing that it’s painful. But also knowing that in the end, worth it all. I cried, feeling grateful for the turning in my heart. For the cleansing of my soul. For the uncomfortable fortress and shards of hurt becoming something else. Something more beautiful. Something more real. Something that feels a lot more like His love.
So, with heaven crashing in, with these old walls transformed, with my fingers itching to turn the next page, April 1st, I’m ready for you.
I think forgiveness is a pretty big deal. Which is why I kind of didn’t want to say those three words, or at least go about “formally” forgiving, if there is such a thing, in the corner of a coffee shop. Even if it is a really cute coffee shop.
Call me theatrical, or sentimental, or anything else you choose, but I wanted to wait until today. The exact one year mark. I wanted to go to spot he proposed. And I wanted to say a few words once I got there. So yes, I kind of wanted to have a sidewalk service of sorts which is exactly what I began to refer to it as. I mean, if you’re going to forgive, why not go all out? And yes, fireworks did cross my mind.
Early to rise my sister and I were. Walking shoes on. And a pretty questionable idea as to how to get to where we wanted to go. A few miles later, we actually made it. But once we climbed the hill to the very top, I stopped, looked around, and asked, “Are you sure this is where he proposed? I mean, it might be…but…I think it is…right?” In that moment, we laughed, knowing that healing has in fact occurred, knowing that it’s a pretty good sign, that you’ll probably be just fine, if you question a place you once thought you’d never forget.
Finally feeling a solid 90% chance that it was the right street, and after a few pictures had been taken, we found a wall, climbed up top, and called it ours. From there, perched perfectly on the corner, a sliver of the city’s landscape could be seen, the spot where he once fell to one knee was safely before us, and after a few minutes of taking in my surroundings, and everything that was about to happen, a sidewalk service began.
In my attempt of creating a go-to list of verses to help in this road to forgiveness, I came across one of the verses either my Mom or his, I can’t remember which, were to read in our wedding. I remember loving it from the start, and now, after everything that has happened, I love it even more. I think that has been an interesting part of this year. Finding new things that I love with all my heart, but somehow, finding that I still have a love for things that I already held dear. But it’s with a new found love, with a new found meaning, and I think that’s pretty neat. With that said, this verse was perfect in every sense of the word to be read in that moment. So, there, perched atop a wall, on the corner of the street, it began…
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all of these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord, giving things to God through him.”
It was here the realization of everything began to feel more real. I questioned if what I was about to promise was something I was actually ready for. I questioned if it was something I would even be able to do or continue to do. It was here, that scenes and moments from this past year and the pain I once felt raced through my mind. And it was here, that I made the choice to do it. I made the choice, to begin forgiving.
My sister started a prayer, and after her words wrapped in love and hope came to an end, mine began. I thanked God for holding on to me, and for never letting go. I thanked Him for allowing me to experience each of these days, for bringing me here, for simply loving me. And then I told Him that I was ready. That I can’t do this alone. That I need Him to help guide me through this next chapter. But that I want to start. With Him.
I looked at my sister and said the words I’ve been scared to death, or refusing, or simply not wanting to hear, “I forgive them.”
No tears, no heart wrenching cries. And sadly, no fireworks. Call me a dreamer, but I was secretly hoping something would come through. We jumped off the wall, crossed the street, and started down the stairs towards breakfast. Because what could possibly got better with forgiveness than some really good pancakes? I’m not sure what I was expecting to feel, but I thought I would feel something, anything really. But there was nothing.
And then it happened. Step by step, my heart opened more, and a silent prayer began. Somewhere between the third and fourth flight of stairs down the world’s curviest roads, thanking Him for what He has done, for where He has brought me to, for the journey before me, I felt hope. Laced with excitement, and a whole lot of faith, it stayed there. In that moment, I knew I was going to be okay. That there were absolutely going to be moments and days where I don’t want to forgive, but I can do it. Because I’m ready. Because I have hope.
I always thought I would feel lighter once the words left my lips, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little sad that I didn’t instantly feel ten pounds less myself jumping down the wall. But as it turns out, walking away from everything, from where it all began is what I needed. As it turns out, moving forward, placing one foot in front of the other, thanking God for it all, that’s when it becomes real. That’s when you feel it. That’s when you realize, that forgiveness, feels an awful lot like hope. That’s when you keep walking, not knowing what is before you, but knowing that is more than okay. Because hope is enough.
I’ve had this crazy idea that somehow going back to the place where he proposed would help me heal. I’ve had this crazy idea that going back to the city that held more memories than one can hold with two hands would be necessary. I’ve had this crazy idea that taking a modern day pilgrimage with the sole purpose of letting go, of forgiving, of facing a place we once held dear would be in a sense, one of the final steps to this year. Well, I’m here. Deep in the heart of San Francisco. Sitting in the coffee shop we would start our days within, the one we went to the day he proposed, the one we sat at with our siblings, filling the space with laughter and our minds with memories. Here I am, flipping through more books than my backpack would probably prefer to hold, reflecting back on words, sentences, paragraphs that my heart found worthy over the past year. Here I am, trying to understand, what exactly has happened. Here I am, processing, hoping, and praying, for an open heart, that I may grasp in the fullest and truest of ways, where He has guided me to, what He has done in my life, and the extent in which my heart has been changed more than I ever thought possible.
Why now? Because it’s time. Tomorrow marks one year to the day my old life ended and this new one began. It marks one year since the day spent together felt “off”, since he broke into tears telling me what he had done, since I kissed him on the cheek, dramatically expressing that he had ruined my life. Tomorrow marks one year since I made a sad attempt of kicking his car, since I stumbled into the Big House, since I felt my world come crashing down in the most bone shattering and soul crushing ways. Tomorrow marks one year since I lay on that kitchen floor screaming from the bottom of my soul up to the moon, both refusing and incapable of moving, knowing when I did, it only meant the beginning of something I did not want anything to be a part of.
The idea of forgiveness is an odd thing. When I first began to think about it, I thought it was something I would wake up one day and feel I would be ready to do. I thought it was something that only time would allow, that would represent the end all to this things like pain and healing. Over the course of this past year, parts of that original thought have changed. I know now that chances are, I won’t be waking up any day soon with this incredible urge to forgive over my morning coffee. Chances are, I won’t cease to feel moments of pain or moments of healing or moments of anger. Chances are, I will feel the aftermath of what happened for years to come. And that’s okay. I think that’s one of the differences, or at least something that’s been somewhat hard to accept or come to terms with the past few months. That forgiving is going to be a process, a daily goal, in the simplest way possible, a promise. I can list handfuls of things right off the bat that I have deemed as “unfair”, and forgiveness at some point made it to the top. Somehow, I began to perceive it as a burden. Somehow, it began to be seen as this really heavy box, covered in thorns, and for some reason, I had to be the one to carry it for blocks on end, and it made me mad, because the two that hurt me didn’t have to even look at it.
Needless to say, I’ve been staring at that heavy, painful box. I’ve been walking around it, jumping over it, and perhaps a few times, even tried kicking it a few inches or two. But sitting here, in this moment, I’m starting to think that maybe I’ve been looking at it all wrong. Maybe those weren’t thorns after all. Maybe, it’s not as heavy as I originally thought. Maybe, I simply wasn’t ready to acknowledge it for all that it was, and truly, what was within in.
I am done perceiving forgiveness as a burden, as the item at the top of a list labeled “Unfair Entities”, as something that will only bring me bloody hands and pain. I am done, simply, done. I have been told that I have every right to still feel angry, to still feel hurt, to still find hardship in the idea of releasing it all, because “It hasn’t been that long!”. And I agree with that, but to a certain extent. For one year, I have gotten to feel angry, and hurt, and hold on tightly to the idea of not having to forgive, “Because they hurt me, and I get to feel this way!” For one year, I have gotten to be reminded of their actions, of what I lost, of what I felt was taken right out from under me. I have gotten to have be mad and stay mad, cursing their names. And maybe it’s just me, but I think one year of that is simply enough.
I spent the first part of my morning in the corner of this coffee shop, atop this wooden bench, rereading scripture, copying verse after verse into my journal, searching for anything in regards to forgiveness. I spent a straight hour, trying to find reasons as to why I should forgive, how it should happen, secretly hoping some sort of step by step process would make its way to me. Three full pages later, one hand beginning to cramp, and a heart feeling more okay than I originally thought it would, it hit me. While helpful, I didn’t need to be writing some script length, go-to list of reasons why or how to forgive. The moment I stopped writing my list and finally began to understand at an entirely new level of what it means to be loved by Him, of what is asked of me to do because of it, I smiled. Because it was then, I found my happy, knowing at the end of the day, I am asked simply, to love.
I am asked to not take an eye for an eye, to love those around me as I would like to be loved, to rid my heart of all bitterness and rage, to show my enemies kindness and grace, to have faith, and hope, and to lift my anxieties up to Him. Some of these are yes, harder than others, but within it all, I am asked to love. Why? Because He loves us. I think it is that mere fact alone that thinking of forgiveness is less threatening. Why? Because He has forgiven me for more. Everyday I have my doubts, my insecurities. I have moments where I don’t treat those around me as I would want to be treated, I have moments where my anger and fear gets the best of me. I question why things happen, and try to take my life into my own hands. I keep bits of bitterness and regret and put myself before those I know should be first. And what happens every day, even after all of this? After I continuously make the same mistakes, question the same events, react the same way? I am forgiven. Every day, I am given the opportunity to try again, to learn, to grow. Why? Because He loves me.
So at the end of it all, how do I not try to forgive two people that yes, hurt me, but more than anything, caused something that has brought me to a place of utter joy and gratitude? Their actions, their choices, allowed for me to experience brokenness, and in turn, an opportunity to rebuild, brick by brick, with someone who seriously knows how to build a house or two. I have gotten to be experience more of His grace, more of His love, more of His utter glory than I have in all my years combined. So I sit here, wondering, how do I not forgive that?
Today, I had a handful of realizations. First, I realized that the box is not as heavy, the thorns not as sharp, and forgiveness not as deathly detailed as I have for so long believed. I realized that I am in fact capable of lifting it, but not only that, taking it wherever it is I feel it needs to go. I realized, that I am ready to forgive. That I am meant to love and show love. I will say it again. I am meant to love. Good Lord, it feels good to say that. To break it down into the simplest form possible. Somehow, when it’s as simple as a few words, it keeps me from adding in my own excuses, my own commentary, my own anger. Somehow, when it’s as simple as a single sentence, any anxiety or fear or doubt of my placement on the healing scale or my ability or lack there of to go about forgiving, it vanishes. Because He loves me. He forgives me. Therefore, I too, should forgive and love.
What else did I realize today? That the city of San Francisco has some crazy tradition the day before St. Patricks day. As it turns out, on this day of all days, hundreds of men and women alike dress as, wait for it, brides. Yep. On this day of intentional attempts at healing, on this day of my making of new memories, I swam in a sea of taffeta and silk, veils and trains, and absolutely, whole heartily, enjoyed every minute of it.
God has a great sense of humor, and I love that this past year has had more than it’s fair share of borderline awkward or “too soon” or simply ironic moments. And every time I simply laugh, sometimes to myself, others out loud for all to hear, and think “Touché.” Sure, being surrounded by brides could have been slightly horrifying, and yeah, maybe I could have broken down realizing that I’m not nearly as healed around people dressed as that than normally dressed, innocent bystanders. But I didn’t. I laughed. And took pictures. And yes, thanks to my sister’s kind words and questions, found myself in the middle of St. Patrick’s Day-San Franciscan brides, all of us, including the man holding his cigar in his hand, another throwing fabric in the air behind, smiled ear to ear. Because we were all there. Happy. And healed. Laughing. Because God can bring you smack dab into some really great moments.
I’ve talked about selling my dress, but the action ended the moment the words did.
I never found myself capable or willing to take the next step. Perhaps I thought it unfair, or simply did not want, to put the energy or effort into something I had just put energy or effort into finding in the first place. The dress, for months, has been stuffed in a closet. Out of sight, out of mind.
Well, I went into that closet. And out it went.
From the big house to this petite space it traveled. I have come to understand that it is just an excessive amount of taffeta, bits of lace, all stuffed into a big purple bag. I don’t have memories of it outside of the bridal salon, and I have to believe that helps. What I was not expecting though, was to find it hard to walk it through my door. I stood there, and instantly, felt two worlds crashing together. One representing a life I whole heartily thought I wanted, one representing a life I whole heartily know I am meant to lead. Without skipping a beat I placed the dress over the ledge before my door, and walked inside. I couldn’t do it.
So there it stayed, as I walked in circles around this space. Thoughts swirled through my head. “Why can’t I just bring it in? It’s a dress. You didn’t even wear it! Wait. Where am I going to put it?! No really, where is it going to go? Crap.” After the placement situation was handled, and my anxiety over the dress actually making it inside had subsided, off the ledge it went and upon a hook near my bed it hung. There, it stared at me. And I, at it. It was kind of like a terrible version of that game where you’re not supposed to be the first to blink. And with that, let’s just say it was touch and go, with no clear winner.
My “happy” today was while my Aunt was graciously taking pictures of the dress. As it turns out, when sold online, people use their wedding pictures as proof or examples of the dress. And as it also turns out, I don’t have any.
It may sound slightly dark or twisted, but I felt I needed to be the one in it. I knew it had the possibility of being difficult, but I thought it would be something good to overcome. Something to good to let go of, something to not let scare me. Also, I simply wanted to wear it again. Because I really did love that dress.
On it went, and outside we were. Middle of the street, lighting slowly becoming more and more perfect, my little cousin taking pictures of her own with a phone. I remember loving how it twirled, how it made me feel, the lace that met with these precious, delicate flowers at the waist. Picture after picture was taken, and I was surprisingly doing more than fine. Then, it came.
My Aunt saw it first, then yelled for my little cousin to grab her wallet. I looked over my shoulder, and there it was. An ice cream truck, headed right our way. Before I knew it there it was, pulled up against the curb. And there I was, asking the man how his day was, glancing over the countless options posted on the side, finally deciding on a chocolate sundae ice-cream something extravaganza.
It was in that moment, I felt with every ounce of my heart, my “happy”. Aunt snapping pictures, me laughing whole heartily, and a man in an ice-cream truck, never acknowledging that I was slightly overdressed for a Wednesday.
I am continuously in awe of what time can do, it’s ability to heal, and where it can take you to. Never did I think I would be healed enough to wear a dress that once represented so much. Never did I think I would have to. But more than anything, never did I think I would get to order an ice-cream out of a truck, in so much taffeta. And I ask you this, how does that not make you “happy”?