Sunday, October 1, 2017

birthday

Tragedy is tragic because it is generally the loss, the pain that you never saw coming, the one you believed yourself invincible from.  There has certainly been tragedy in the last few months, natural disasters on a far reaching scale that have impacted millions.  I have been anticipating (with a fair amount of dread) the milestone that is Levi's birthday - my own personal tragedy.  There are so many details of that day etched into my mind that can play back in a traumatic feedback loop if I allow it.  Levi deserves to be remembered, in all of the agony that comes with choosing to sit with the greatest hurt of your life.  So, as his birthday approaches - October 6th, he was stillborn at 2:38 AM.  I will remember and grieve that this is the last milestone.  When you lose a baby, you lose all of the future milestones you imagined you would share.  There can never be a first smile, a first food or a first birthday.  All that remains is the time from the last time you held him, the time you said good bye.

As I have thought about this day and wondered how to do it 'right', I have come to the conclusion that the best we can do as grieving people is to show up.  We can gather our people - the ones who have been willing to wait out the long, dark night, the ones who haven't shied away from pain, the ones who will bear witness because they see it is sacred - and together we will remember.  I think the reason so many platitudes follow tragedy is because we need to believe in goodness, we need people to not be in pain and to feel better, we need hope.  This journey over the last year of grief and this journey of accepting that dreams can die and be remade has helped me to see that we don't have to fear pain.  We don't need to feel better, at least not right away.  The experience of pain, of great loss, of tragedy is not one that we could choose, but when it chooses us, we can lean into it rather than fighting it and it will break and shatter and hurt.... and then it will build resilience, trust, and hope that is not easily disappointed.

It is hard for me to even put into words what has unfolded in my heart over the last year (I know - me, speechless?), but I am confident that my hope is stronger than ever.  Not hope in the worldly sense, that I hope I will achieve or receive something, because this journey instructs us that to hope in those things is empty.  But hope that is eternal and rests with the Good Father, who walks near us in our defeat and near us in our triumph.  "I relieved his shoulder of the burden, his hands were freed from the basket.  You called in trouble and I rescued you; I answered you in the hiding place of thunder." Psalm 81:6-7.  Rescue does not mean that we will be spared from pain, it does not mean we will get the ending we are desperately praying for, but it means that even when tragedy strikes, we can trust that God is exactly who He says He is and He will show up with us in our pain.  He will shoulder the burden of sadness with us, He will carry the basket of broken dreams with us, He will sit with us in the storm of anger and confusion - and He will answer.

I am grateful for the life of Levi Robert Priour.  I wish it had been longer, I wish the milestones weren't in remembering  - but his life, however brief, has made me more resilient, compassionate, hopeful, alive, willing to take risks, and certain of the treasure I have in heaven.  I am also more certain that the courage required to live a life of purpose doesn't come from fearlessness or maintaining control; but rather it comes from confronting your fear, leaning into your pain, and knowing that even in the deepest darkness - you will never be alone.  You don't get to know those things in the core of your being until you have to go deep in darkness and when you do emerge from the darkness knowing that there is hope, goodness, and abundance for you - what is there to fear?  You will live courageously.

I can't bring myself to say, "Happy Birthday."  It doesn't feel authentic, at least not yet.  But I can say, I'm so happy you were born.  I'm so happy I got to see you, hold you, and I will love you forever.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Piece by piece

I can't believe it has been 6 months since Levi was born and almost a year since I found out I was pregnant.  It feels like that was another lifetime... and maybe it was.  When I see myself now, I feel hardly recognizable, but not because I see the grief stricken mother wondering how to keep living in a world her children won't get to see (although I do still see images of that mother at times).  But, I see a woman who has been rebuilt after brokenness into something that is strong, but flexible, tender, but fierce, and most of all full of hope with hands open to receive whatever may come - joy and heartache.  It is hard to put into the words the shift that has occurred inside my heart as I have wrestled with the Lord and with myself over why I have to belong inside this story I never wanted.  But I have learned some valuable lessons along the way that I want to memorialize so I won't forget what God has done.

1) There is no healing in pretending, there are no short cuts to grief.  It doesn't unfold like a neat 5 point pathway that you naturally progress down and then you reach the end and it is finished.  It is like a violent and unpredictable ocean that you can fight against or learn to lean into so that you can find the surface again.  God doesn't take the pain away just because we ask him to.  I didn't experience perfect peace just because I wanted it.  It wasn't until I allowed myself to feel each moment authentically and process those feelings and thoughts taking them to the feet of Jesus and just telling Him whatever my truth was in that moment, that I began to feel the weight of grief lessen.  When I experienced those moments with Jesus, I discovered that He had feelings too and was not simply observing my pain from a distance, but actively experiencing it with me.  I so desperately needed to know that my Father hurts too and suffers alongside us.  Pretending the pain away by quoting scripture at it or chasing after the multitude of platitudes that inevitably follow a disaster didn't do anything to heal the deepest brokenness of my soul.  Showing up in your pain matters, being authentic about your struggle matters and it was only when I decided to keep showing up and telling the truth of my heart that I began to experience hope again.

2) We can do hard things, but we don't have to do them alone.  It is easier to hide our pain, to distract ourselves from experiencing it's weight, to smile because we think we're supposed to.  It is uncomfortable to see someone in pain.  Our human instinct is to heal it, to fix it, to make the pain stop.  But, what if the only way to heal is to hurt deeply?  I've learned in this journey that not everyone can walk next to you - and that's okay, you don't need an army.  But you need a few trusted soldiers - who will go to war with you and will sit in the darkness with you for as long as it takes.  By being open about my journey I have had the privilege to show up for others, to walk into their darkness, and to hold the hands of hurting women in need of hope.  I am so grateful for that.  God often brings deep healing in community, and I'm thankful for those who continued to show up, to listen, and to trust God's work in my life.  What hurting people need most is for others to not be afraid of their pain or try to fix it, but to be embraced in the midst of it and to experience the validation of others who will hurt with you. 

3) Fear only feels like the truth.  To have some of my worst fears realized more than once made those fears feel much more real than the Truth of God.  Fear is a normal human instinct, one that has enabled survival and can be adaptive for us to respond to.  Fear is real and its visceral expression only solidifies the feeling that it is the truth.  To deny it or try to stifle it seems a little delusional, because it tends to show up even when we don't acknowledge it - nightmares, anxiety, feeling out of control - all of these physical experiences are rooted in fear.  For me, the only way to overcome the feelings of fear that I experienced when I thought about the future was to chose to trust God's heart.  This was actually the most difficult part of my healing.  I wrestled intensely with what it means to trust a Father who doesn't promise to prevent this and then doesn't rush in to fix it.  I can't even pinpoint exactly what shifted for me, except that I quit trying so hard.  I prayed and wrestled and begged God to repair the broken trust I felt between us, but He didn't - at least not right away.  He gently reminded me that it is His job to repair the brokenness and to quit trying so hard - and I did.  I continued moving forward in this journey, but chose to operate on an underlying belief that God is exactly who He says He is.  I began to experience this hope that was coming alive in my heart that God was building something much more beautiful than the tiny dream I was holding onto for myself.

4) Brokenness is beautiful.  When I finally quit clinging to the life that I felt was robbed from me, the dreams that seemed to shatter the moment I reached for them and started living in my present life - I realized that it was so beautiful.  As I began to lean into this life, appreciating the moments with my children and experiencing joy again with the recognition that it was truly joyful - I realized that this is an abundant life and that I was living this life because of my brokenness.  Without the darkness, the pain, the terrible suffering, you can't experience the power of hope.  Who hopes for what he already has?  Suffering has a way of bringing life into focus and it allowed me to feel joyful, and alive because I could recognize it and because I have a hope that is not rooted in the things the world says will bring happiness.  Opening my hands and trusting God doesn't mean that He is going to grant my wishes or that I will be spared from more pain.  But it means that until I can let go of my fear and hurt I can't be open to receive whatever good things He has for me - even when it doesn't look good.  I am so grateful that God has taken me off the nice, neat, normal path where I don't experience my need for Him and I got everything I ever wanted - I would be an entirely different woman.  This story, the one I never would have written myself, it has led me to my Great Inheritance, the one that cannot be destroyed and where hope is anchored so deeply that it can always be found.

I didn't think this place existed, I had no clue how to get here and I certainly couldn't imagine living in a place that felt full, joyful, and abundant.  God's grace is deep and his promises are true, we can give God the glory and it can still hurt.  But when I look back, I don't see the tragedy that I expected, in fact, it looks pretty damn beautiful.  He has brought so much restoration, piece by piece transforming me into something whole again.  Thanks be to God - I know He's still working.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Saying goodbye before hello

" To the bereavement of my soul.  I humbled my soul with fasting and my prayer kept returning to my bosom.  I went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down mourning as one who sorrows for a mother."  Psalm 35: 12-14.

I held my breath reading this a couple weeks ago.  It reads like a dedication to grief, which admittedly seems a little strange - and yet, when you lose, grief is what you have left.  To consider grief a friend or a brother - I can relate to that.  It feels authentic and true when your heart is broken and you need something that won't betray you - grief will show up with you.  The end of those verses talks about sorrowing for a mother... It seems there is no greater grief than a mother mourning for her child or a child mourning a mother.  God designed it such that mother and child are bonded from conception, intricately linked in a relationship that is beyond understanding.

There is so little left to show of Levi.  So few of us got to see his face, hold his tiny frame, see his small white coffin.  Those memories are treasured and haunting at the same time.  There is nothing else to look forward to, nothing that will grow or change with him.  All that physically remains of his life is contained in a silver box of ashes and a box they give you at the hospital when you don't get to come home with a baby.  I will never forget the feeling of being wheeled from labor and delivery holding a box of pictures and the few items that touched him instead of a baby.  This kind of loss, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, infant loss, infertility - it seems it is inheritently an invisible loss.  It is saying goodbye before you get to say hello - which makes goodbye even harder somehow.

I know so many women have and will experience this invisible loss and while each experience is unique, what I wish others understood is that while I keep moving and living, this person I am missing exists as an invisible extension of myself.  He is never far from my thoughts, his name forever written on my heart - you can speak his name - I long to hear it again.  Knowing and loving Ethan and Levi in the time I was granted to be their mother... it has shattered my heart such that the pieces will never go back together the way it was before them.  Yet, my heart keeps on beating in this new assemblage of parts. I find that rather than only seeing the missing pieces, it has somehow made my heart larger.  It certainly has some jagged edges, but the brokenness didn't destroy my heart, rather, it made it a vessel that can pour out more easily because of all the cracks.

The baby I hoped for and expected is not coming soon.  He has come and left me too soon and although his life is invisible to the watching world - Levi Robert Priour will forever be celebrated in my heart and his memory alive in the way I remain "attached" to Jesus in hope and expectation. It is tempting to believe this is an ending - I can't see him anymore, so it is over.  But, I know that with God as the Author, Levi's death is not the final word.  I am committed to pressing in and holding on and showing up - each day - even when it feels impossible.  I have continually experienced in these 'darks nights of the soul', that when I lift my eyes, dawn is just on the horizon.  I don't need a fairy tale, or even a happy ending - although, sometimes I would really like that.  What I really want is a story that matters.  A story of courage and truth and redemption.  Those are exactly the kinds of stories that Jesus loves to tell - that's how I know this one isn't over yet.  I am learning that somehow, it is not about the outcome - it is not the happy ending that matters - it is about the encounter and the transformation and continuing to tell my truth.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Courage

The imparting of courage is something I have thought carefully about as a parent, as a clinician, as a follower of Jesus.  Encouragement is simply not what I thought it was.  I assumed it was being nice, giving compliments, giving an 'atta boy' or acknowledging another person's effort.  Those things make you feel good momentarily, but they don't do anything to the well of doubt or fear that exists in each of us.  I am learning again that I am in the middle of encouragement.  God is taking my brokenness, pain, anger, and it is giving me courage.

The human condition guarantees that we will encounter disappointment and at some point we will most likely endure some type of disappointment that cuts us so deeply we will feel as one who should never hope in anything again - lest we have to endure this type of pain again.  It is in those places, the places without answers, the places without a clear path, the places without a promise of security that we need real courage; a pat on the back or a 'go get em' is just not going to cut it.  As I have wrestled with God - and this is still an active process - I am finding that He does not rush in and make everything okay, but instead allows struggle and patiently joins me as I cry out to Him.  Somehow, I am finding that the struggle makes me stronger, more whole, more joyful... I can't explain that.  It isn't that I have experienced a supernatural peace or am at a place where I really accept my circumstances - I am not there yet - but, the struggle is making me stronger and I know that is building my faith.

When I look at the heroes of faith in the Bible, they all struggled intensely with personal circumstances that produced some kind of doubt and struggle where they had to choose to hold on to God and trust Him anyway or give up.  They are heroes because they all chose to hold on and in that choice God gave them the courage to follow him, even when they couldn't see the promise, and most of them didn't - they endured years of waiting for a promise they didn't get to see.  I feel like I am in that place where my choice has already been made and now I wait.  Faith is the evidence of things unseen, not the 5 year plan of your life falling perfectly into place.  It requires courage to keep hoping when what you see in front of you feels like broken promises and failure.  I am still figuring out what it means to trust God when that trust is not tied to my circumstances or getting the outcome that I want. But I know that He is still exactly who He has promised to be.

I could not have believed God any more that Levi would live.  I really trusted God with his life.  I know many others who have believed God for miracles that weren't granted the way they believed it would be.  But I am not afraid of facing this pain or asking these questions without answers.  God gives courage and counsel and I know it, because I have been here before.  I have walked in the valley of the shadow of death and He has been there, so I know that when our greatest fears become the reality we are living - we can take courage and not be afraid.  It takes a deeper well to love one another and that is what Levi's life is producing in my heart - a well that is deeper, braver, and hopefully, more able to give life to others.  I am beginning to understand what James was talking about when he said "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James1:2-3.  There is a freedom and fearlessness that comes from pain and trial.  It isn't 'fake it till you make it' and it isn't 'put on a happy face', it is the imparting of courage that comes from the Lord.  I can be absolutely grateful for that, because it certainly didn't come from me.

Maybe you are facing a trial today, or you are in a place of waiting on a promise that you cannot see.  There is enough grace for today, to face whatever it is, to love without fear, to give ourselves away... and the courage is coming.  Whatever courage is needed to approach this challenge and not be overcome - it is coming.  Take heart today, your God has overcome the world.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Something out of me

This song came on the other day and captured where my heart is at this moment.  These are the lyrics:

"Something Out Of Me" by: Nichole Nordeman

Just You and me on a hillside 
And 4,999 
If You could see on the inside 
What I brought, what I need, how I’m caught in between

You lifted bread to the blue sky 
They said they watched it just multiply 
But in the back of a long line 
Oh, I want to believe there’s enough left for me

Cause by now it really shoulda been long gone
And somehow it keeps going on and on 
On and on an on ‘cause

You take all kinds of nothing 
Turn it right in to something 
I see impossible, but You see a basket full of 
A little bit of this sounds crazy 
A little bit of just maybe 
You take every doubt and 
You make something out of me

It’s not the story that moves me 
It’s not that I don’t believe You could 
It’s just my heart is so hungry
Is there enough to fill me up 
Or will You run out of love

You take all kinds of nothing 
Turn it right in to something 
I see impossible, but You see a basket full of 
A little bit of this sounds crazy 
A little bit of just maybe 
You take every doubt and 
You make something out of me
Something out of me

By now Your love could have been long gone 
But somehow it keeps going on and on 
And...

You take all kinds of nothing 
Turn it right in to something 
I see impossible, but You see a basket full of 
A little bit of this sounds crazy 
A little bit of just maybe 
You take every doubt and 
You make something out of me
Something out of me

I have struggled with feeling like there is not enough, or that maybe there is just enough, but not any more than that.  Like God's blessing may have run out in my life and now there will be crumbs or morsels here and there, but the abundance is over.  I love this story in song about when Jesus fed 5,000 on the hillside.   I can imagine what it must have felt like to be there - you are hungry and thirsty and eager to get your share.  Sure, this Jesus guy seems legit - but can he give me what I need right now, will there be enough for me?  I bet there were some on that hillside that felt a similar desperation to what I feel now - the grasping, the striving, the feeling that time is running out and you aren't going to get your share.  Not only did everyone get what they needed, but there were LEFT OVERS!  Jesus didn't just give enough- he could have done that. Produced exactly what would be consumed, but He didn't; He gave more and gave abundantly.  I think our culture especially, perpetuates this lie of scarcity.  That there will not be enough, so you must get there first and get the most.  It isn't that way with Jesus - He doesn't run out and the well never runs dry.  There will be enough, it may not always feel like abundance or provide the feeling of fullness that I expected, but it will be enough.... And then the next day there will be more and it will be enough.  

I am learning to take a deep breath, shake off the lies of the enemy about scarcity and really look at what is in front of me.  When I can really look, and see with eyes that are ready to see - I see the goodness of God all around me and my family.  I would argue that it could be better - but, I am not God and I cannot see what He sees.  All I can do is choose to see goodness in what is in front of me and some days that will be easier than others.  I am also learning that in those moments of truly seeing, I am able to experience some measure of joy.  I have felt joy and happiness again and been grateful for those moments.  Someone wise told me recently - that those moments of joy, those are the most that we get.  We need to be able to see, experience and appreciate that moment of joy because it will end, but there will be another one nearby.  I think we put so much emphasis on happiness and even in Christian circles, this experience of joy that we assume everyone is walking around feeling joyful or happy most of the time.  I know I have felt this pressure to manufacture some of kind of joy because the Bible is always talking about rejoicing and so walking with Jesus must mean that I should feel like that.  But, the truth is, if you really look at the people who followed Jesus in the Bible - they suffered - a lot - and called it suffering.  Maybe that is why they were always talking about joy because when life is hard and circumstances bleak, we need to be intentional not about creating joy, but recognizing the things around us that still produce joy in our hearts.  I have learned that when your heart is full of sorrow, there is still room for joy - and you actually recognize it and feel it in a way that you can't when your heart is not broken.  I don't have any more answers this week than I did last week, but I am believing, like with true belief, that God is making something out of me that wasn't there before the life of Levi.  I want to be a woman who pours out abundance to others because of the abundance I have received.  I want to believe that I don't have to cling so tightly to what is 'mine' because I know that there is more than enough for everyone.



Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Unanswerable Questions

As the shock dissipates and the reality comes rolling in like a giant wave of destruction that one could never outrun - I am overcome.  By pain, by disappointment, by a cacophony of questions that seem to pour out of my heart and are received only as an echo in the darkness.  There is no answer that comes, no response, just their echo that seems to go on forever.

The spiritual struggle that is at war within me right now is more intense than any struggle I have faced with the Lord before.  I think in the past it felt like I was a disappointed child.  I wanted something and my Father said 'no' and I wailed and wrestled against him and it was a real struggle.  But ultimately, I trusted my Father, I trusted His care for me, the goodness of His heart and I submitted.  I finally relaxed into him and quit fighting and I felt better, I was able to accept whatever it was that He would give me, even if it wasn't what I wanted.  Now, this place is deeper and darker.  It feels like the distrust and betrayal of a child who has had her Father promise he will come and then he continues to not show up when he said he would.  The sadness, rejection, betrayl and hurt are real barriers to being able to trust that father again.  I don't mean to imply that this is a crisis of faith for me in the sense that I may choose distrust and walk away from my Father because I did not get what I wanted.  I just mean that this crisis of struggling with, who is the Good Father when things unfold in a way that does not feel like it could possibly be the most good, the most kind or the most loving - it is real.  I will not pretend like I understand this or like the answers don't matter.  I believe that walking through this valley with honesty and earnestness is part of the spiritual journey.

The truth is that in the depths of my despair, I am not experiencing this supernatural protection  or comfort from Jesus that makes it feel better.  In some ways, God feels far off and I don't think that is an accident.  When I look at the scriptures, it seems that there are definite times when God hangs back and does not rush in with the answers to make everything better right away. "Truly you are a God who hides himself." Isaiah 45:15, "As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. " Ecclesiastes 11:5.  The Psalms are full of David crying out to the Lord asking "How long will you forget me?" And "Will you reject me forever?"  Even Jesus uttered similar words as he hung on the cross.  I think the place I am in is not unique - I think it is exactly the place where God builds faith - the place where it looks like a wasteland and hope is nowhere to be seen, not even on the horizon.

I am learning that it is not the suffering, the loss or the pain that threatens to destroy my heart.  People have a remarkable capacity to endure hardship and suffering when it makes sense.  Men and women choose to die for the sake of their country, to protect their children, to be martyred for their faith.  It is the confusion, the circumstances that cannot be explained that threaten to crush the spirit most acutely.  I can understand suffering as a result of my own sin or even the sin of someone else that impacts me... But when you did nothing and you had nothing to do with or no control over what happened; those are the situations that shake our foundations so deeply we cannot simply get back up and move on.  As I have been reading the book of Job, I have been struck by what appears to be the source of Job's most intense frustration.  It is not the suffering that God has allowed to be inflicted upon him, it is his inability to find God in the midst of it.  Job says, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come to His seat!  I would present my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments... When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns on the right, I cannot see Him.  But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 23:3-4, 9-10.  Over and over Job laments that God feels far off and talks of how he longs to be able to communicate with God about this disaster.  I feel this way right now.  I want God to rush in and make this better, help me understand what He is doing, affirm that He sees and cares.  It isn't that I don't believe the things that I know to be true about God.  It is this seemingly incompatible place of my knowledge and beliefs about him and my actual reality.  I have to believe that it is in this place of incompatibility,  this place of impossible questions that real, enduring faith is born.  As Dr. Dobson puts it in his book, When God Doesn't Make Sense, "What is faith?  It is 'the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen' (Hebrews 11:1).  This determination to believe when the proof is not provided and when the questions are not answered is central to our relationship with the Lord."

I know my questions are mostly unanswerable, but that doesn't stop them from pouring out of my broken heart.  And that's okay - it is okay to struggle and not be able to accept a simple - God is good all the time.  It doesn't mean it isn't true, but my heart needs to get there and for me that takes time and learning what it means to trust God when your dreams fall apart.  I would rather have that kind of faith - the kind that can withstand unanswered questions  and dead children- than the kind that says the right words but doesn't believe them.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

If I am honest


I write not just because it helps me process my pain, but because it makes me feel braver and less alone.  I am learning to be honest with myself, to not rush towards the silver lining, to tell the truth - even when it is hard.  I guess that is one side effect of suffering.  You quit caring about all of the crap that doesn't matter, you only have room for what is important.  When you are broken, when you are shattered into a million pieces, when the fire burns the fiercest and threatens to consume everything… this is where love is born.  I don't want to be here, no one chooses the furnace, but when it chooses you - you will either be consumed or you will fight like one who overcomes hell and somehow light will pour out of all those broken pieces and create a radiance that is not your own.  

I am not there yet, not to the place of the broken pieces coming together to form anything from which light can pour forth… but I have hope that the radiance exists, that there is still joy, still hope, still healing.  I'm still in the midst of the disaster, the one that strikes and you know that sometimes good people get screwed for no reason.  Sometimes you get something so awful that you never deserved.  You cannot 'win' your way out of it by working harder or being better - sometimes life is really unfair.  Having suffered similar losses before, I know what it is like to cling to Jesus like the life jacket He is and somehow find dry land again and after careful examination realize that you are 'okay.'  You are not the same, you will never be the same, but you faced your greatest fear and survived.  It was easier for me to see good, to see the ways that those experiences made me richer, deeper, more compassionate and present.  It was easier to look back and see that God had made something good out of my pain.

Now…if I am honest - which I will be… I don't care.  I don't care about all of the fruit that grows out of suffering.  This coming from a person with a well developed theology of suffering.  I'm just over it.  I don't want to grow, it isn't enough to lose another child just to learn a lesson of some kind.  I have to believe there is more, that God's redemptive purposes are greater than that.  I am learning to be gentle with myself, to quit running away and striving so hard, to just accept that this is my heart right now.  To acknowledge that while I know all of the true things about God, it is a million miles from my head to my heart at this moment… and that's okay.  Hope will come, but it is a door that each person must open on their own - no one gets to do it for you.  

I was praying today and just telling my Father about my deep hurt and disappointment.  I had this vision of myself with my heart shattered into a million tiny pieces and I carefully gathered them and put them in this hard, protective shell and I cradled it carefully in my hands.  Jesus put his hands around mine, He didn't say anything but I could feel him beckoning me to look at Him, to open my hands… but I couldn't, even when I tried, I couldn't see His face, I couldn't meet His eyes, I couldn't unwrap my hands.  I was desperately holding onto what is left of my heart and feeling so fiercely protective of my hopes, my pain, my dreams… how can I open my hands and truly let go when I know that even if He holds it all, it doesn't mean that I will receive what I want?  

That is where I am, this is the truth.  I know that God won't leave me in this place, that He won't give stones when I ask for bread, but He can handle it.  He can handle my heartbreak, my unbelief, my pain … whatever I bring Him - He can take it.  I may not be ready to hand it over yet, but I know He's there, hands gently cupped around mine, waiting for me to be ready to let go.