Mountaintops and #MCM

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Today, I need to take time to brag on the wonderful man in my life. My loving, providing, caring, and devoted fiancé.

Before I begin, a slight disclaimer– I’m completely okay now, healthy as a horse. But, this is a lovely selfie from the Vanderbilt Hospital ER, where Luke took me around 4 PM on Saturday.

Six hours later, he was still there in full force to chauffeur my exhausted self home, when he was just as tired as I was. He never once left my side, and he never once said a negative word– despite the miserable environment that is the emergency room in a busy hospital.

The world tells us that true love looks like the perfect proposal videos we see on YouTube, the charming wedding photos that litter every Pinterest feed, and the perfectly styled engagement photos that always make us let out a heavy, wishful sigh when we scroll through them on Facebook.

All of that is great, but I’m of the belief that true love looks an awful lot like my life did on Saturday night.

It looks like him sitting beside me while I made pained faces because I was being jabbed with needles. Offering a listening ear while I was questioned and informed by one doctor, then another, and another. Playing with my hair (because he knows it’s my favorite source of comfort) during hour 3 of sitting in an uncomfortable chair while waiting for test results. Giving me a smile and a kiss on the forehead when I probably looked like I might cry from sheer impatience at any given moment.

“In sickness and in health” should be more than just a line that’s parroted back in front of a hundred people at a carefully orchestrated event in a white dress and a tux. So often I think that phrase is thought of as something that will “never happen to us.” And WHEN (not “if”) sickness does happen, lovers are left overwhelmed with the sudden weight of a less-than-healthy partner– whether it be a hiccup physical, spiritual, or emotional health.

But, how very blessed I am to have a man who’s living that out long before we ever say our vows. How lucky I am to live life with someone who shows me his love every single day– in the little things and the big.  On the bad days of lengthy ER visits and utter exhaustion, and on the good days of drive-in movies and picnics. During the sweet times laughter and joy, and during the dark times of anxiety, panic, and sorrow.

In sickness. And in health.

The good days are there. The days where we celebrate life’s milestones together are there. The overwhelmingly beautiful and joyful days are there… the mountaintops. But that’s not all that life is.

And as my favorite, Ben Rector would say, “Life is not the mountaintops. It’s the walking in between, and I like you walking next to me.”

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3

Dear Sprynkle

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Dear Sprynkle,

I may never know your real name, but “Sprynkle” was on your nametag, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that name. We’ve never really met, technically. You were working in the drive thru at one of my favorite lunch spots near my office. It was a sunny, beautiful Friday. I had just finished a physical therapy appointment, and I needed something to eat before I went back to my job.

When I got to the window, I saw from the side that your right eye was bloodshot. Oh, it’s probably just a burst vessel, I thought. I hope Sprynkle feels better soon, I thought.

When you turned to face me, though, I saw that it wasn’t just a silly old burst vessel. In fact, it was an image that I will probably never be able to erase from my mind. Your cheekbone was dark blue and yellow, Sprynkle, and your right eye was red and inflamed right next to the swollen bruise.

Somehow, I don’t think that bruise came from a tumble down the stairs or a clumsy moment around the house.

I didn’t want to think about how that happened, Sprynkle, but I tried to choke out a “Have a good day” as I left your window, as if somehow my words and my smile would reach your heart and let it know it was loved. As soon as I drove away, though, all I wanted to do was go back, walk into that restaurant, and hug you and cry with you.

I don’t know how you would’ve reacted to that, Sprynkle, but as I sit at my desk hours later, you are still the only thing on my mind. Sprynkle, I’ve never been in your shoes, and I can’t relate to the turmoil you must be experiencing. But I felt such a draw to show you love, and now I feel I missed my chance to do that.

So Sprynkle, you may never read this. Maybe you will. Maybe someone else will who’s in your shoes. But you need to know that you are not alone.

When I got back to my office from my lunch break, I saw a butterfly on a bush right next to my car. It was black and blue. Sprynkle, you too carry black and blue, too. For a moment, when I saw that butterfly, I sat in my driver’s seat and cried gut-wrenching tears for you. My heart breaks for your pain, Sprynkle, and I wish with everything that there wasn’t so much hurt in this world so that people like you wouldn’t have to be the victim of someone else’s pain.

But Sprynkle, that butterfly also had some orange on its wings. And I’m betting you’ve got some hints of orange, too. That orange is what, you ask? It’s courage.

You, Sprynkle, deserve to be safe. You deserve to be loved. You deserve to be treated with respect. You don’t have to be trapped under whoever did that to you. You don’t have to live in fear of someone else. You have courage, and I pray with everything in me that you’ll be able to muster that courage someday very soon to walk away from danger and pain, and run toward safety.

Sprynkle, if I see you again, I hope I’ll have courage, too. The courage to offer hope in some way. I hope I’ll have the courage to let you know that there is someone right here in this city who can help you and keep you safe. More importantly, I hope I’ll have the courage to tell you that in that dangerous world, there is one safe place that we can all run to, and that place is really a being.

The safe place is a God who loves you enough to die for you, Sprynkle, and He’s got his arms outstretched, waiting for you. Yes, you.

That same God created you and knit you together with a purpose, Sprynkle. He also made that butterfly, that beautiful black, blue, and orange butterfly.

As for the black, blue, and orange that you carry, Sprynkle, it can be redeemed, and made into something wonderful, just like that butterfly I saw.  Just like a butterfly goes through a change, God can use a dark and scary time to redeem your experiences. Sprynkle, I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again. But just know that I’m praying for God to show you your orange, to show you the courage that only He can give.

You are fearfully made, and your life has a purpose, Sprynkle. You can always be held in God’s hands, hands that will never harm you or bring you pain.

My heart breaks for you, Sprynkle, but I know there is a God in heaven. I know that He loves you. I know that if I ask Him to intervene in your life, He will.

And until then, Sprynkle, you’ve opened my eyes. I cannot “un-see” your pain. And today, I can no longer go through my life taking things for granted. I cannot sit at my desk job that pays me enough to live comfortable and complain. I cannot sit in my cozy apartment that I can adequately afford and wish I had something fancier. I cannot look at the man I love—the man who would never harm me for anything—and take his kind, gentle heart for granted any longer.

Oh how I wish I could thank you for that realization, and again, hug you, cry with you and remind you that you are so very worthy of a kind, gentle man to love you, too.

So Sprynkle, all that I can say is that you are loved. You are wanted. You are beautifully broken, and there is a God in heaven that wants to hold your broken pieces and heal your wounds.

And I pray that just as he rescued me from my selfishness and ungratefulness today, he will rescue you from your pain and capture and heart.

“Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” Deuteronomy 3:22

 

Snow flurries and the grace of God.

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Right after my third-grade self screamed and did a little jumping dance around our living room, I rushed to wake up my brother to tell him it was a snow day. There was no time to waste! Snow was such a rare occurrence in Georgia that it had to be celebrated when it came. I dressed myself in at least seven layers of pink clothing as my aspirations for the day raced through my head.

In between my attempts to make “snow cream” and sliding down our backyard hill on a repurposed cardboard box, I would sit and watch the snow. My bedroom growing up had a 12-foot ceiling, and a window that scaled the entire height of it and almost the whole width of the room. I’d pull up the heavy wood blinds and just sit in the floor and watch.

There’s just something so tranquil about snow falling. I’m talking about the flurries– we never had any crazy blizzard snow in the South, at least not while I was alive. But watching the tiny flakes float through the air at their own leisure and then landing wherever they may please is so oddly captivating.

It was always a silent and slow process, but if I sat there long enough, I would start to see our yard look like someone had enveloped it in a white blanket. The only word my 8-year-old mind could use to describe it was beautiful.

Now, 13 years later, I sit in front of a window in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee, and I’m once again watching the snow flurries fall. The background is much different from my 12-foot window haven in suburbia. A train billows as it passes by a few blocks away,a siren wails along somewhere in the distance. Thousands of cars roll along the highway to my right, and steam rises from several of the buildings in my view. Instead of wandering to the baby carrots I’ll use to make a tiny snowman this afternoon, my thoughts roam to where I’ll live and how I’ll make money in the coming months.

And yet, amidst all that chaos and constant movement, here I sit, still taking in the tranquility of snow flurries.

Our lives are a lot like a city during snowfall sometimes. The sky is gray, and everything around us is moving at a rapid pace. There are a thousand different directions we could go, and we’re never quite sure which one to move toward.

And yet, God’s grace is always there, falling down on us like the snow flurries. It’s steady, but never angry or rushed. It sprinkles over us in the midst of chaos and confusion. It sprinkles over us when we don’t know which direction to turn. And sooner or later we stop and look around, and we’re covered in his grace, and we can finally realize that he’s carried us through a dark time. And now, like that blanket of snow, our hearts are beautifully refined into something pure again.

God uses time. Just like we never know how long it will take for snow to stick to the ground, we never know how much time it will take for the Lord to heal something in us.

But if we sit still and wait for the snow to transform the world we see, sooner or later everything will be white. And God has proven time and time again, that if we will be still in His presence and patiently wait for his timing, he’ll make our battered and weary hearts as white as the beautiful snow.

“God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ So that everyone he has made may know his work, he stops all people from their labor.” Job 37:5-7