Tag Archives: healing

All or Not At All

As I am

As I am

All or not at all.

—James Joyce

What breeds hesitation in you? What holds back a hand that wants to knock, a smile that wants to break wide and warm the room, a foot that picks up, wanting to walk straight across the room to the hurt in another?

If I am holding back, I can be certain that fear is forming the shackles. Looking down at a heart half-beating, at lungs half-breathing, I know it is fear of losing that keeps my heart and lungs stilled, unfulfilled. I cannot begin to question how I become little more than living dead when the habit of my life has been to still that which stirs, silence that which needs so much to sing right out loud.

I have spent the last year digging through ashes, fighting through flood, and learning, seeking, searching, just what it means to love.  I have come again and again to a single answer— love is giving your life away.

And what if in the daily fold of laundry, the stirring of little more than cereal in a bowl, what if no grand heroic gesture can be found to make? No bullet to take, no sacrifice other than my comfort, the exposure of my own insecurities…what then?

If my offer is quiet, if my offer is not dramatic diving, but awkward reaching, unsure, always unsure, what then? Is it even worth the offer, to stretch rusted joints to offer little more than an empty hand to hold? Ashamed at what little I have to offer, but desperate to reach, can I get past the pounding heart if it means I have loved?

I have made an unintentional collection this year of quotes, Bible verses, song lyrics, and encouraging words from friends, and they are serving as a rampart in time of doubt. This quote by Joyce beats like a mantra whenever I have begun to question, to be tempted to listen to the lie of “too much,” and “not enough.”

As I am, as I am, all or not at all…

“Too much” was always my biggest fear. I’ve been handed those words before. I feel too much, think too deep, ask too many questions, get too lost in my own imagination. “Too” is possibly our favorite distancer. I take a step forward, and suddenly I am too close.

But if our great example of love is one who sacrificed himself—came and died and no one rolled their eyes and said, “Jesus, it’s just too much, you’re making people feel awkward”— then how can I possibly reach a point where I love too much? It is a lie. It is a fallacy created to silence truth, and that truth is simply this: we were created to love, and to be loved. We love because he first loved us, and his offer is perfect, his offer is what we should be willing to copy.

But we are taught that we must hide our tarnish, and the best way to hide is distance, don’t show or share too much. Isn’t it important that we hide ourselves well, as if nothing more than a shiny shell was the goal? I have for so long attempted to dance along the fractured fault lines of social convention, following rules never written down, created to keep us out of each other’s lives. How foolish of me to be surprised to find myself at the bottom of a pit when an earthquake hits.

Once in a job interview I was asked what my financial goals were. The nice man laughed when I said to give. To give without blinking, to earn much and live on little, and give. But how can I possibly know that someone’s cup is empty if I am not close enough to peek inside? Can I give too much? Can’t this just be my life, to give?

All or not at all.

This is a great balancer, as I am, and all or not all when I am tempted to the weight of defeat, when the desire to give burns deep but still feet are stamped and accusations are thrown that I just do not give or love enough. It is like a secret I have circled around, and have just now managed to unlock, because the fact is, if I choose to love as I am, all or not at all, I must allow an honest look at the love offered. If as I am, and all of my all is just not enough, then what is my recourse? What can keep me from despair when the voices would have me buckle under “not enough?”

Did I give? Yes. The temptation is to prove the love, buy into the game of gesture, grand or small, become my own attorney and argue my case before the court.

Truth is, I’m not much for arguing. Instead I work. Harder, longer, tiring myself to the bone, to prove. I can’t help but think that anyone who asks for proof will never be satisfied in my offer.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh put it best when she wrote to an angry friend these words:

I think probably it is just as well that you are disillusioned about me. It is a terrible burden you put on people, to dream them up into something they never were or could be and then throw them out for not living up to your dream!

All or not at all.

All I have, not all I have, plus what I must tack on to meet another’s expectations.

All I am, not all I am minus what another doesn’t find acceptable.

It is an offer. All or not at all. If I imagine life as a great banquet table, and I am holding all I have to offer on a platter, waiting to serve, what are my choices? If I hold onto it for fear my offer would be found somehow wanting, well, it would rot right in my hands.

So I dish out, serving after serving. Some poke at my offer and smile polite smiles, but never take a bite. Some wrinkle their noses and push the plate away. I try to keep my heart from breaking and I want to snatch it back, run, pretend it never happened. After that I look again with doubt at what I have to offer. This is it. All or not at all.

I try again, because “all” does not equal a scared clutching to my chest of what I have arrived with. I try, until I see that first satisfied smile, where all I have offered has met a need, filled a heart and maybe just a corner of the empty that causes the ache this world lives under. I no longer want to be living or loving to the tune of anyone else’s approval, and I am stripping down from all I have tacked on, and all that’s been added to me.

I offer. As I am, as I am, all or not at all.


Full of Grace


What grace have you been offered lately?

I shared last week a clutch of words on the depression that has been facing me down, trying its best to overcome me.

It was a hard post to write, coming from a raw place that hasn’t healed over, a place too rough to yet be exposed. But I ripped the bandage off and there it was, unable to fester in the broad light of day.

With the exposure came encouragement, sincere and soothing.

And then, grace.

First on Sunday from a friend who said she missed me, wanted to get together soon. I agreed. It’s something we talk about every Sunday, it seems. I take conversations like this to heart. I am not in the habit of saying anything I don’t mean, so every utterance takes its place in my mind and turns into a kind of balloon, tied to my wrist and reminding me, “Soon. I said soon. I need to make it soon.

Every promise and plan and idea gets tied on as well, each call I want to make, each person pressed into my heart in need of a prayer, balloons floating around me.

The balloons can make it hard to see sometimes, see that life takes over and thus moves on. I swat at them as I cook dinner, as I look at the piles of laundry and detritus of weeks spilling over.

I felt it the moment I said soon, the weight of the word, the promise of it, and what I knew would be a sure disappointment as I considered the week to come. Soon.

And as I stood there, feeling my heart squeeze, she offered grace.

“I’m not saying that to make you feel guilty,” she said. “I really do just miss you.”


The thoughts I had of how I too often let people down, too often can’t live up to what I want to say, or do, or be– especially now, especially in my fight, in my recovery– were hushed with grace.

A whisper.

A warmth.

It was such a practical offering. I’ve carried it with me this week, picked it up and turned it over and let it sink in and smooth over the moments I have wanted to crumple up and discard.

What kind of a mystery is grace?

Hungry for healing I turned to a favorite book and found the following.

“For forty long years, God’s people daily eat manna– a substance whose name literally means ‘What is it?’ Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don’t comprehend. They find soul-filling in the inexplicable.

They eat the mystery.

They eat the mystery.

And the mystery, that which made no sense, is like ‘wafers of honey’ on the lips.”*

She is speaking of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Oh, in my wilderness, I am hungry, and in my estimations, I deserve no pardon.

But grace is a mystery that can fill me.

The responses to last week’s post filled me. One by one, on the day I published it, sweet words of agreement, of encouragement, filled my soul and quieted the nerves that insisted I was a fool for being so bold.

Not once scolded, or scoffed.

Kasey, who blogs at singleworkingmomswm.wordpress.com, wrote, “Now, you can move forward, and if you choose, with help, the spaces will indeed be filled with more positive shapes, intended or not.”

Eyes turned my way were not full of pity, but full of that mystery of grace.

And instead of looking down, looking away, looking anywhere but into the eyes that land on mine, I have been looking up slow, hungry for the grace I find offered there.

I look, and I fill.

I look and linger and the cold corners of my heart that had been shuttered are flung open to the warmth.

My face is turned up to the sun, and it heats me through and through.

How have you offered grace this week? How has it been offered to you?

*This is a quote from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. She is found online at aholyexperience.com.

The Kind of September


I have stopped and started two posts in the last week, posts I was writing out of duty, out of an attempt at discipline. Everything I wrote sounded like something I had already written, and I began to think over the past year and I wondered, has anything really changed? I’m still wandering through my days like a teenager in the mall on her own for the first time. I pick things up only to put them back down again, staring straight through the air around me, confined to the boundaries of someone else’s design.

There are two nagging voices in my head. One is a direct consequence of listening to too much NPR, because someone’s voice there has turned itself into an earworm and now every word I write is narrated by this dull voice. I don’t even know who this voice belongs to, only she sounds bored. The other voice is deeper, more sinister, and may actually be Benedict Cumberbatch. This voice repeats itself on a loop: “Do you really think they want to read that?”

My head feels obtrusively empty. My heart, however, is full, heavy, like an overloaded bucket of water. Every now and again I spill over, out of my head and into the day, but I have not an inch of time lately to do much more than mop it up and move on. My heart is heavy carrying the burdens of others, friends and family, whom I hold dear, and who are hurting.

I have often imagined my heart is a peach, and now and then God uses His thumb to press someone deep into my thoughts, bruising me, marking me, keeping that person on the front of my mind, close to each thought as if they held a stake in every decision I made. A few friends are close enough to see, to hug, to physically hold hands with should we kneel together to pray. But most are distant, too far to hold, though my arms ache to, and though I wish to place my shoulder next to theirs to make their burden lighter, I am left wandering, unsure what to do. I pray, consistently, I can’t NOT pray, though words sometimes fail me, and I hold out these precious people in my mind as a child holds out a freshly scraped hand to the father who is expected to heal it.

There is a song I think of each September, called “Try to Remember.” It is easy to see why, as the lyrics go, “Try to remember the kind of September, When life was slow, and oh, so mellow…” It is a beautiful song. It is from the musical The Fantasticks, written by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. The Fantasticks was the first play I read before hearing or knowing anything of it otherwise. I found it at our library one day. I was probably twelve, and it interested me, though I couldn’t explain why. Soon I found a copy of a staged production on VHS, in one of those crazy black boxes they put the tapes in at the library. It felt old. It smelled  old, as often library items did. I remember feeling shy about my new fascination with this strange play. I felt especially connected to the character of the Mute, who gets to portray, among other things, a wall. (Ah, the sweet glimpses into my psyche.)

I have a hard time remembering the lyrics of this song. They are not complicated, but they are poetic. I could no longer stand to have just the first line repeat itself over and over in my mind, so tonight, as I resisted the self-imposed directive to sit and write, I found the song on Spotify, and closed my eyes to listen.

This song mentions two months. Not just September, but also December. I guess by December all the Christmas music has seeped into every crevice of my brain, but I never think of this song during December. Tonight, by the time the song reached that verse, my bucket full of burdens had spilt over. And I found myself once again holding out a prayer.

Sweet Father, December has come to so many of my precious friends, my family. 

The heavy snows of hurt, 

of loss, 

of relentless days and nights, 

of anxiety, 

of sickness, 

of aching 

and insecurity 

are weighing down their souls so that they cannot take in a full breath of your sweet air, and find refreshment. Deep in December, oh, help us remember. 

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. ~Psalm 46:1

My friends, my family, I love you.