surviving or thriving?

Vulnerability: the state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

I find that our culture has taught us to be everything but vulnerable. We are encouraged to put forth this image of having it all together. Social media teaches us to value that perfect picturesque life. But does that really help us connect with one other or does it remind us of our sheer brokenness when compared to other’s perfectly presented lives?

I want to be vulnerable without being vulnerable at the same time. I’m not even entirely sure what vulnerability looks like? But I think that the Lord uses our vulnerable brokenness to bring us closer to each other and to Him.

So here is my attempt at vulnerability. Here’s where I’m at. Life is challenging and painful. I struggle a lot with figuring out how to live in the face of unspoken pain (as Ann Voskamp puts it). What’s worse is that sometimes I don’t struggle not to struggle, I give into the lie that this is where I belong. In pain, physical or emotional. It’s easy to feel invisible when hurting and to believe that no one sees it.

It sucks. I think we’ve done a shitty job, as a culture, of accepting each other’s pain. Instead there’s this idea that everything has to be good. Everything has to be fine. If life is not fine, you’re not doing it right. You’re not a good Christian. You don’t trust the Lord enough (which is true at times).

But the truth is, I haven’t been fine.

“Are you surviving or thriving?” is a question I like because it can be pretty telling. Surviving as in just barely making it. Trying to keep your head above water. Living day to day. Thriving to me is like growth and joy and peace. Its what comes after the surviving. You toil and fight and struggle, and then you see the growth. The truth is I’ve been surviving for awhile. Trying to figure out who I am and where I belong. Trying to figure out how to do life and what I truly believe and value. Trying to make it look like I’m great to the rest of the world because Heaven forbid we actually worry (and thus pray?) for one another. Sometimes I pray that the Lord would open my eyes to other’s pain. Maybe it’s just where I’m at right now and what I am learning and going through, but it seems like we’re not good at seeing each other’s pain and being there for each other. Out of sight out of mind, right? If we aren’t aware of it then we don’t have to worry about it. We don’t have to recognize it. We don’t have to talk about it. Here’s what I’m learning though, He is sovereign and faithful.

He is sovereign over my pain.

He is sovereign over my anger.

He is sovereign over my brokenness.

What a reassuring thought. There is so much hope in that. He sees me. He sees it all. I want him to be glorified in my pain, struggle, whatever it is. Yes we will struggle. I will have pain and sorrow and heart break, but there is a wonderful Savior and in that fact I rest. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Sometimes I just sit and dwell on that thought and am filled with peace. The Lord is so faithful in times of need. Sometimes we need to see our own brokenness to realize how much the Lord is redeeming our life to look more like His.

“In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

He sees the pain of running that last mile of a race and he’s there at every turn. Not taking the challenge away, but silently whispering encouragement. He is present amidst our struggle. He’s teaching me to thrive while surviving. To find rest and contentment in Him amidst the chaos of life. He is sovereign.

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A Year Ago Today

When you hear the words “a year ago today,” you know something really great or something terrible happened. Something worth remembering. Maybe a graduation,  a first date, a wedding, first day of a new job… But sometimes when you hear the words “a year ago today..” It means something more. It means something that broke you and changed you. Something you will never get over. And never forget.

For me this is what that is. Just a little over a month ago, I had a “year ago today” moment. August 14th, 2014. Forever ingrained in my memory. I got the call while I was working at camp, the call that changed me, broke me. It was the day I experienced death truly for the first time. But it wasn’t just any death. It was a life that was stolen from this earth. He felt he had no reason to live, so for him that meant he had a reason to die. A reason to not live. A reason to leave this lonely world in hope of something better. The pain he carried in his life, is now carried by those who loved him. Those whose lives were impacted by him. There were a lot. A lot more than you would expect for someone who felt he didn’t matter.

I read an article recently called “the day after I killed myself.” It’s written from the view of someone who did just that. But what she writes is interesting. She wrote that the day after she killed herself, she fell in love. She fell in love with the way her mom looked at every little picture of her and cherished her old stuffed animals. How her mom went into her closet and held her clothes just to smell her scent as if she was still there. It’s hard to accept reality sometimes. She fell in love with how her dad took all the gifts she had given him and cradled them. How he kept calling her number just to listen to her voicemail. Just to hear her voice. One. More. Time. She fell in love with the way her brother broke over her. The love he expressed for her. The way he could talk to no one. Because they were best friends.

How can you explain that to someone? How do you explain the way death effects you? You can’t. She fell in love with the fact that she was needed. She was wanted. She fell in love when she saw her dog walking happily along the trail they used to walk together. The beauty of the outdoors. The shining sun she had never quite noticed before. The warm gentle breeze that wraps itself around you. The day after she killed herself she went back to her corpse and tried to convince herself not to do it. But it was too late.

Everyone has an impact they don’t realize.

Always remember that.