Peace in the blurred lines between hope and heartache

Hope. Heartache. Healing.

The lines between these three are often faint and sometimes blurred. In my case, the line was a faint blue. At least on Monday. On Monday of last week, the line was faint and blue. An unexpected line that gave me butterflies of joy and anxiety all at once. A line that projected images of a growing belly for the 3rd time and questions of what kind of car we would need to buy. A line that suggested an addition to the family that would bring stress, yes, but so much joy. A line that thrust the current youngest to the middle child position in a second’s notice. A line that was filled with hope.

The line was faint though. So faint that my head told my heart to not let the love grow yet. So faint that I tried to not let any ripples disturb my dearly sought after, tranquil, inner lake of peace. A line faint enough that the ever-ready rational side of me stepped up to the plate and said – “Wait.” Wait a day or two before you teeter off the ledge and plunge headlong into hope. Because that line is faint and if you plunge into hope too fast, heartache may be the outcome. Just as it was when that faint line came and went the month before we became pregnant with our second child. And that heartache disrupts the calm. Heartache ushers forth not just ripples, but waves, to crack that glassy surface wide open, allowing the deep waters to spill forth in wet droplets that then leak down faces in messy trails. And to me, an Enneagram 9 who prides herself on being calm…collected…stable…unperturbed… at inner “peace” – these messy trails of emotion are to be avoided.

Ah, but the mind. The mind doesn’t always win out in these scenarios, does it? No, as much as I may like to think that my mind is in control of my pesky feelings, it does not always win out in these scenarios. Especially when it comes to thin blue lines that act as a tightrope between hope and what could be, heartache. No, my preverbal feet slipped off the tightrope and landed on the side of hope. All day Monday and all day Tuesday, I found myself planning for a third child. Planning with hope, the move of my two little girls into the same room so the new babe (probably a 3rd girl in my mind) would have a place to sleep. I found myself grinning in secret about the life I had started to believe was growing inside me. I found myself involuntarily thinking of our family as a family of five. I found myself hoping that when I took a second test on Wednesday, that faint line would be a dark blue line, confirming life.

But, that’s not how life always works, ya know? I got up Wednesday morning and that faint blue line that had been there Monday hadn’t gotten darker. It didn’t show up quicker like I expected it to. In fact, it didn’t show up at all. The line was gone. A clear white circle blinked up at me. And just like that, the hope had vanished. Gone were the concerns of fitting three car seats in the car. Gone were the internal bets of whether or not there would have been 3 blondy little girls in the family. Gone was the hope that in nine months, I’d have another baby to cuddle and rock. I hadn’t been planning on this unexpected hope to come on Monday, but it came anyway – and despite my desperate attempts at not letting it take root. It had. And so, when it was gone, my inner lake was disrupted a bit. Like a pebble had been dropped in the middle and tiny waves started to ripple outward, leaving me teetering in my own internal boat rocking back and forth on that lake of feelings.

I don’t know if the faint blue line 2 years ago or last week had been faulty tests (although a 5 day “lateness” both times would suggest otherwise), or chemical pregnancies, or real pregnancies that ended before they truly started – and I won’t know. But seeing those blue lines sparked hope and so the absence both times stung.

Because I’ve learned recently (through some therapy, through some reading of good books, through some intentional introspection, through some late night chats with good friends) that my tendency is to avoid – or stuff – these “negative emotions” to maintain the inner peace I value so much, I have been trying to at least give them a passing glance before sweeping them away with an easy smile, a shrug, and the words “I’m fine.” But it’s hard. It’s not comfortable – and admitting that this fine line caused a disturbance in my “peaceful” countenance is difficult for me. Which is why, when this same thing happened about 2 years ago, I told a few people in an off-hand way, but kept the sadness I felt down. Deep down. For the most part, I maintained my “peace.” Yesterday, I was listening to, “The Road Back to You” and heard some words that resonated deeply. He said, “what looks like peace, is just your desire to be unaffected by life.” Yikes.

My favorite Bible verse has always been, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” but how silly I’ve been in my understanding of Paul’s words to the Philippians. He wasn’t speaking about learning to be content when things are good and hopeful and joyful. He wasn’t talking about ignoring the not-so-pleasant aspects of life, or convincing himself that they did not bother him. He was saying that he’s learned to be content because he had experienced hope and heartache and had found the answer to true peace in God. Not the superficial peace of a calm, cool, collected demeanor, but “peace that passes all understanding” because God is with us. Peace that can be had in the midst of heartache and the midst of hope. Peace that is a tranquil state of a soul WHATEVER the circumstances. As a peace (little “p”) seeker and craver, this true Peace is what my soul needs.

It’s what your soul needs as you allow yourself to hope and inevitably, sometimes end up on the side of heartache.

I know Jesus, but I am far from living in this Peace daily. I cling to my little “p” peace when the inner waters get rocky, (and truly by God’s grace, I haven’t yet experienced the tsunami like waves many of you have in this life) instead of riding the waves while clinging to the One who is Peace himself in the midst of the storm. It’s hard and uncomfortable for me, but I’m trying – I’m practicing – by texting friends the words, “You know, I’m kind of sad about this” that Wednesday, and by writing this post for all the world to read, to let go and let those messy trails of emotions leak out. Because by allowing them to leak out, I am allowing myself to admit that I do not have the peace needed for this life. I do not have the strength on my own in this life, much as I’d like to think I do. I have nothing in this life if I don’t have Jesus.

So, as you walk the fine, faint lines between Hope and Heartache – remember – in the midst of those blurred lines can come Healing from the one who offers us Peace that surpasses all understanding.

In the darkness of the storm, He is the light

Yesterday, I was driving home from a work trip in a little town in South Texas. It was only a two hour drive and I had planned to spend those kid free hours listening to my Harry Potter audiobook for the umpteenth time and letting my brain zone out blissfully, because I’m an Enneagram 9 and that’s what we do best. Especially after an emotionally charged day of Suicide Prevention training.

As I started driving out of the town and I turned onto the farm road that took me through fields of cattle and hay bails, I turned off The Goblet of Fire and just gazed out the window thinking about the sereneness of the scenery before me. I’m a city girl from California who has lived in Texas for about five years, but is still fascinated with the countryside. As I was looking out the window, trying to take pictures without looking at my phone, I noticed the storm clouds on the horizon. I could see lightning flashing in the dark section that started to fill the right half of my windshield and marveled at the contrast between the clear, bright blue sky to the left and the dark, looming sky to the right.

By this time, I had turned my music on instead of my book and was listening to Phil Wickham sing soothingly, “the brightness of your glory has arrived,” as I drove knowingly, head-first into the storm that had now taken over the sky in front of me. The rain poured down during, “a deep deep flood, an ocean flows from you – a deep deep love, yea it’s filling up the room,” and I couldn’t help but smile as I sensed something stirring within me.

The road got hard to see before me. Windshield wipers frantically beating the rain back just enough that I could see a few feet of road. Rain pounded loudly, making it hard to hear the music.

Usually, I get nervous driving in this kind of rain. This kind of rain that forms fast puddles on the road. This kind of rain that brings loud thunder and flashes of lightning somewhere close by. This kind of rain that makes going forward difficult. This kind of rain that obscures the road ahead.

This dark kind of rain.

But not yesterday.

Yesterday, I felt peace.
I felt joy.
I felt love and reassurance.
I felt the lyrics of the song being played for my soul to sing along.
“The fullness of your grace is here with me.”
My soul felt it there in that rain. My mind felt it there in that darkness.

I drove through that storm in peace and awe of His creation.
I drove through that storm knowing that no matter how long it lasted, His presence was all I needed.
I drove through that storm and after about fifteen minutes, the rain began to lessen and stop.

The road before me was suddenly dry again and the sky was clear and blue.
I’d literally driven through the storm from one end to the other.
The contrast in the sky was once again stark.

To my left and behind me, the sky was dark and tumultuous while the way ahead was clear and bright. I kept trying to crane my neck to take in the sight through the rearview mirror, and the occasional look behind, out the back windows because my San Diegan native eyes couldn’t get enough of the weather torn stratosphere.

My music at this point had progressed to another Phil song, a favorite of mine, that just reinforced my feeling that maybe God was trying to tell me something.

Or maybe….show me something.

The song playing now was saying, “I look up to the sky and say, you’re beautiful.” Which is, of course, where my eyes had been drawn this whole drive; before, during, and now, after the storm. I kept telling myself to just pull over for a minute to take a picture of the contrast I couldn’t stop trying to view, and I kept not doing it. Finally, I saw a little ranch driveway and I pulled off onto it. I stuck my head out the window and when I turned back to look at the sky, my insides jumped a little.

I was expecting beauty and vastness.
I was expecting dark clouds bruising the bright crisp face of the heavens.
I was expecting the contrast of the storm and the clear.

But I wasn’t expecting the bright colorful rainbow shining in the middle of that juxtaposition.
I wasn’t expecting such a visible reminder of God’s promise.

And when I saw it, that feeling of peace and of joy and of love and of reassurance I felt during the storm intensified.
I don’t have these moments often. I don’t have the, “I feel God” experiences daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly. I have faith in, and knowledge of, our God and His great love, but the “feeling” that people talk about, not much.

But yesterday.

Yesterday, on that country road, I did. The song sang, “The richness of, your beauty’s all I see” -and it was. As I looked back at that rainbow, and at the sky, so evident of His beauty and might, I felt Him there with me. I took some pictures, grinning to myself on the side of that poorly paved road in the middle of south Texas, and pulled back onto the deserted lane headed home. And since I don’t have these feelings often, when I had a sudden thought pop into my head of, “That rainbow was for me,” I laughed at my ego-centricism. But when I looked back in the rearview mirror, that bright rainbow I saw just a few minutes before was already faded, barely visible.

I’m sure there is some scientific explanation that includes angles and light prisms to explain my brief view, but I think it was what I needed just then. And I think maybe God knew that and used His creation of science paired with his physical, earthly creation of the sky to show me something.

Maybe to remind me that, in the midst of the darkness of this world;
In the midst of all the pain and suffering;
in the midst of the hurt and brokenness – that I see in my friends, that I see in my community, that I see in the world.
In the midst of all that storminess, He is here.

I think that maybe He knew I needed that reminder as I drove home from another suicide prevention workshop held during suicide prevention month, a day after 9-11, during a week full of hurting friends and sadness on the TV.

I think He knew that this logical, sometimes cynical, girl needed to literally drive through a storm, turn around to face the darkness, and see His promise shining brightly back at her in the storm thrashed sky.

I think He knew.

And I’m grateful.

I’m grateful because sometimes the road gets hard to see in front of you.
And the rain beats down so It’s hard to hear the hope singing to you from the speakers in your life.
And the darkness surrounds you.
But I was reminded today that He is there in the darkness.
His promise remains in the darkness, even if we can’t see it.

Not that storms won’t come – because they will.
Not that the road will always be clear – because it won’t be.
Not that the rain will stop, because it may not.
But His promise remains.
His promise that He is still there in the storm.
He is still there in the darkness.
He is still here.

He is here with me.
He is here with you.
He is here with us.

He is here.
He is here.
He is here.

Hallelujah, He is here.