Thursday, December 16, 2010

The ultimate massage

I can feel the anxiety churning in my stomach, ticking like an alarm clock, a reminder: you have a counseling appointment today. Ooh. Counseling for me is not entirely different from visiting a massage therapist for a chronic injury. I know it's going to be a little uncomfortable, at times a little painful, as those muscles are being worked on and the toxins released. But it's one of those weird "enjoy the pain" sort of deals, too. In the counseling office, I learn to embrace the pain because I know the knots being worked on need to be loosened, long to be restored. I don't want to live with toxic knots of tension.

I'll be honest, though, it feels like a lot of work. Like digging. Digging my way out of feeling stuck. Digging my way out of years of accumulated unhealthy mindsets, habits, beliefs and coping behaviors. Sometimes my brain and my emotions feel tired. Yet, it's a good kind of tired. A tired that reminds me of all those evenings in high school I'd come home after track or cross country practice and collapse on the couch feeling like I'd worked myself into a satisfactory exhaustion that day. I'd pushed myself to go farther, and I knew it, though I couldn't measure my progress yet. The real test would come on race day. Yeah, perhaps the experience of working in the counseling office (and outside of it) is a bit like that.

The main difference between counseling work and a hard track practice is that I wake up the next morning, not with sore muscles, but with something much less tangible, something with immeasurable value. I wake up with peace. And that peace seeps through to all those knots of emotional tension in my body, gently covering them like a salve. It's not a salve manufactured by my counselor or my own hard work, but by the hands of the most gifted Healer of all. With this salve, may I possess the courage to continue digging.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Five little words

Funny how God will confirm things, multiple times and in ordinary little ways, in areas that He’s recently working on in our lives. At least, He does this with me and I have a hunch I’m not alone. Take these sentences, for instance, that I read this morning from a book by Beth Moore, echoing things I’ve heard lately in the counseling office and through mesages at church:

I used to think that the essence of trusting God was trusting that He wouldn’t allow my fears to become realities. Without realizing it, I mostly trusted God to do what I told Him.

I’m growing convinced that the root of my struggle to turn the page in this season of life lies in the need to address and redefine what trusting God really looks like. I’ll be honest, the thought of trusting the God who’s allowed what I hoped He wouldn’t allow is more than a tad unnerving. It shines a glowering light on my inability to deeply, completely, truthfully, faithfully trust Him. It exposes my misperception and my fear. It invites me to lay down a flimsy masquerade of trust for genuine faith, a false sense of security for the real deal; to believe that whatever risk may come attached with that trust is, in the end, no real risk at all if I truly believe God is trustworthy.

There’s a couple verses in a certain psalm in the Bible that I really want to own. They could be pivotal for me, really, if I take them to heart daily, until they are a part of me. How they would challenge and transform any sense of dread or fear about the past or future, or even today.

[She] will have no fear of bad news; [her] heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. [Her] heart is secure, [she] will have no fear; in the end [she] will look in triumph on [her] foes. ~ Psalm 112:7-8

Is my definition of trust big enough where I can say, “I trust You, God. Period.” ? I’m not there, not even close. But it’s where I’m headed, and I won’t give up. Period.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I feel I’ve been on the road for a long time, trying to find my way home. Some time ago, what I called home appeared to pick up and move to a different neighborhood or city or country - whatever the case, its address changed. Or maybe it got a different paint job, went through some cosmetic remodels, and I’m unable to recognize it anymore, except when flipping through pictures from the past, a walk down nostalgia lane. Ohhhhh, that’s my home. I remember now...

Or maybe, home is right where it’s always been, but my eyes have changed and I can’t see it the way I used to. It’s blurry to me, feeling so close I could reach out and touch it, but not quite at the tips of my fingers. What exactly is home? Is it a person, a place, a community, a building, a state of being? Maybe it's some of these things but also something more, something greater, something, well, mysterious?

At church today, I was overcome by many sensations as I observed and participated in the worship. First, I’ve never been part of a “liturgical” church, and coming from a more charismatic background, I never expected one such church to feel so alive (just being honest). I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m a writer, so of course I’ll try. When I’m surrounded by this particular community of people, immersed in the worship and listening to the teaching, it’s like my heartbeat, so long slightly out-of-sync, finally blends in to add its unique rhythm to the beautiful beats around me. It just.... fits. Like my heart and mind and soul breathe a collective sigh of relief as I sink further into the pew, I’m home. Almost.

When I went forward to take communion, having only been to this congregation three times, I felt a pang in my heart as I tore a piece of bread from the loaf held out to me by one of the pastors, whom I’d just met that morning. Looking me gently in the eyes, he said quietly, “Christ’s body broken for you, Amber.” I moved to take the cup of wine, and the man holding the tray, whom I’d also just met that morning, said to me, “Christ’s blood shed for you, Amber.” Tears filled my eyes as I walked back to my seat, scanning the crowded room of people from all over the city, all walks of life, most of them I have never met. And I didn’t feel like just a face in the crowd. I was known. Not just because some pastors knew my name, but it felt to me like a sweet reminder that I was part of a family dearly loved by God, my Father, and even in the largeness of this family, He knows my name. He knows I long for home, for community, for belonging and purpose.

We sang a song in closing. Normally this song wouldn’t move my emotions the way it did, but today, I couldn’t make it through without crying. Holding the bulletin up to my face, I let the tears fall behind the paper, soaking in the words of hope and joy that I couldn’t actually get out of my mouth but were belting out from my heart as I listened to the voices around me.

On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand, and cast a wishful eye

To Canaan’s fair and happy land, where my possessions lie

O’er all those wide extended plains, shines one eternal day

There God the Son forever reigns, and scatters night away

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the promised land

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the promised land

No chilling winds nor poisonous breath, can reach that healthful shore

Sickness and sorrow, pain and death, are felt and feared no more

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the promised land

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the promised land

When I shall reach that happy place, I’ll be forever blest

For I shall see my Father’s face, and in His bosom rest

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the promised land

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the promised land

For I shall see my Father's face, and in His bosom rest... sigh. What could be a better home than that, than resting against my Father's chest (not literally, of course, but figuratively it's a beautiful image)? The hope of a home that will never move or crumble. It’s almost within reach, but not quite yet. A reminder that, close as I may come at times to finding "home" here in this life, it's meant to be illusive, unattainable. I won't fully unpack my bags until I reach the promised land and run into my Father's arms.