for hard rain & looking up.

as i walked into the sanctuary of the church i’ve long since seen, i looked up at the large stained-glass windows, where light should’ve been pouring in, but there was only a slight trace, enough to form vague shafts that looked like small beams breaking in through the weathered glass.

the days are shorter now in this part of the world, and by five o’clock p.m. i’m ready for bed. frankly, i’m ready to hibernate and not come out for a while, like…4 months, or the equivalent of a lengthy winter. but it’s a refreshing, crisp contrast to the long days in Asia, where we’d sweat profusely and beg for some kind of mercy or respite from the heat.

i know my days are fleeting, and so i choose to take it in, regardless of circumstance.
also, i get to wear scarves and boots. thank you, Jesus.

i proceeded to make my way to my “usual spot”, on the back right side of the large, vacant room, in the comfy, theatre-style seating, hoping that my once “spot” was not now someone else’s new “spot”. i marked my seat by setting my belongings and coat in it, then turned around to be greeted by warm smiles and hugs and so many questions from old friends.

it’s strange to be back and not have answers for people, at least not like i’d hoped. part of me feels i owe them some sort of elaborate story or explanation, and part of me feels no obligation what-so-ever. my soul gave thanks when a dear friend gave me permission to just be where i’m at. she looked me deep in the eyes and said, “feel whatever you want to feel. anger. excitement. or neither. just know you can be honest about it.”

that was liberating.

i suppose it wouldn’t hurt so bad if i was coming home to peace, and something whole and picture perfect, but the truth is, i’m not. i’ve come home to a mess–not just in a physical sense, or even emotional, but a profoundly deep mess in our world and in our hearts. needless to say, i feel displaced.

that moment when three different people are seeking your attention in a single moment, and you don’t know which way to turn, or who to greet first, or which conversations to pick back-up, or who to introduce to whom. for some reason, i feel like a school-aged girl, completely timid and afraid that i’m letting people down in those moments, like being the team captain and having to choose my players in a kick-ball game. there’s always the last person picked. there’s always the odd-man-out.

or that moment when you forget which highway to take, so you have to pull over and think about the different routes for a good five minutes before proceeding, feeling ridiculous and lost and like you’d rather not be trusted to operate a large piece of machinery that propels itself 70 mph across the world.

also the time when you wad your used toilet paper up and toss it in the trash can, then roll-up a handful of new toilet paper, and shove it into your purse, in the {un}likely event that you stumble across a toilet without any later on.

and when you make your your through your old, familiar city to see all of the familiar homeless people standing or sitting or sleeping in the same place they were as this time last year, still without a home, still shivering, still with that familiar defeated and forgotten demeanor.

or the moment you land back in a nation that’s abruptly torn and broken apart because of atrocious acts of violence against innocent, beautiful, grand-hearted children and teachers who had nothing to do with the inner conflict of the shooter.

and for what? that’s all i can even muster.

yes, even as i sit here and write this, i cannot reconcile what’s going on inside of me, or begin to articulate my heart’s cries the way i long to.

& so i’ve learned to look to the Cross, where the ground is level, and the victory’s been won.

as i opened my journal to jot down notes in tonight’s gathering, my first church service attended since i’ve been home, these truth’s stuck out to me:

1. all conflict is born out of deep & fundamental problems with God.
2. before we can be reconciled to people, we must be reconciled to God.
3. Jesus came to mend our God problems.
4. living in the midst of brokenness and being reconciled to God as His people is the underlying theme and the main point of Advent.
5. the Chief Shepherd is coming!

i can’t quite pen-point where the shift is going to take place, but it’s happening slowly, right before our very eyes. terror may strike, wars may rage, and i may always feel uncomfortable and awkward in my own skin, fidgeting with the buttons on my shirt as i try to fit in somewhere, but the truth is, none of us were made for this world.

we’ve been set apart. and coming Home will soon feel less messy and painful.

as one of my favorite authors and speakers, Anne Lamott, puts it:

“you can keep bees in jars without lids, because they’ll walk around on the glass floor, imprisoned by the glass surrounding them, when all they’d have to do is look up and they could fly away…

…and then, the rains begin again.

i usually welcome the rain, when i’m tired and stressed. rain suggests that you should go inside, rest, try to stay dry…

hard rain makes a mess, but it also fills in space we usually walk through without even noticing. it makes the stuff we can’t usually see–air and wind–visible, and a lot of what we can see catches light. we get wet and cold, and then we get to dry off and be warm again.

…it didn’t stop raining, and the wind didn’t stop blowing, as if there were too many flies and they were beginning to bother the skin of the universe. the universe was flinching and flailing. and you couldn’t fix anything.

…but then i noticed through the windows that it was barely raining and the wind had died down. some shafts of sun trickled through.”

that is where i sit. while it pours down rain outside, and i feel trapped with walls closing in, with no umbrella or rain-boots, my Father reminds me to look up toward the light, toward the place that will always make perfect sense.

and as i look up, i can say through tears that it is well with my soul, and every season has its purpose.

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