the words that dwell among us

good gifts for the new year

This Christmas I was given the gift of words.

Between a New York Times subscription, Kindle Unlimited and a handful of paperbacks I have enough to keep me going happily for all of 2020.

Even the mass readings were a gift: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Very explicit, courtesy of John, followed up with, “What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1, 4-5).”

That last bit I had carried in my heart through this year; light was the word of the season as the darker parts of my heart were illuminated and the dusty corners of my soul cleaned out. A year of open windows, fresh air, therapy, journals, night skies, starlight and the first pinks of dawn. A year of refusing to be overcome, and then, beyond simply defying defeat, a year of resilience that overflowed into life.

What word, of all the words, will speak to the season ahead?


I was out last week with my cousins and we walked by a bar, all cheerfully buzzed on G&Ts and the cold December air. A bouncer stopped us, begged us to come into the hazy-blue bar with it’s empty dance floor. I’m sure we were an impressive bunch; a gaggle of tall, red-lipped, long-haired twenty-somethings. We walked past, intent on our destination (pizza), and continued to ignore the calls of the boy behind us. I trailed behind and heard him plead, one last time, “Come on, come in! You’re pretty too!”

I rolled my eyes, shook my head, and marched on to more important things (pizza). A couple slices and an uber ride later we were safely in our beds, bouncers all but forgotten.

The next morning, though, I found traces of annoyance lingering.

Was this boy used to having girls do his bidding just by calling them pretty?

Why had I even turned around at all?

And, by the way, aren’t I more than just pretty?

Such a small word, but enough to throw intelligent women off their axis at the mercy of smaller boys.


Which is the word I want? If I got to pick something better than pretty, what would be enough to catch my attention and hold it?

Which is the one that I am?

Which is the one God says I am?

Another Christmas Scripture nudges my heart and settles in like the last puzzle piece: “No more shall people call you ‘forsaken,’ or your land ‘desolate’ but you shall be called ‘my delight’ and your land ‘espoused’ (Isaiah 62:4).”

I wouldn’t mind being a delight. I’d definitely like to move away from those old characters Forsaken and Desolate.

I think back to a few weeks ago when I felt Jesus whisper “let me take you to France.” A small, almost silly, thing, but a thing that meant something to me. I went home that day and booked a trip to visit the land of my dearest Saint friends. That day felt like the beginning of this- a journey where I am no longer espoused to the little earthly man who hated travel, but rather to the man who died for me.

Another whisper takes shape: This year is the year I am beloved.


Beloved:

adjective

be•loved /bəˈləvəd/

dearly loved


Thank God the open windows of last year let in the holy breezes of this one.

I am seen. I am known. I will learn to live out of a place where I am anchored, deeply set in who I am and who I belong to. Beyond pretty, but beautiful.

A lot of words packed into one little word.

I’ll take it.

recovering safety & sight

the slow walk towards trust

Last year, the day I moved home, my mom came to me with a handful of miniature nativities. All small enough to fit in her palm, one was meant for me as a gift from her recent trip to Italy. She was surprised by my choice, the little wooden family, carved as one piece and painted with muted colors. The most rustic, least detailed, least dazzling of the group. 

Where my mother was surprised, I felt it was obvious, almost logical, to choose this little walnut-sized family. Look at baby Jesus! He was sleeping, tucked into the arms of His mother, enveloped by Joseph, their mantles melted into one. How could I not tuck myself into that little nativity? That smallest Jesus was the safest Jesus.

Months later, I began therapy. My journey towards healing began by addressing those underlying currents that had propelled me out of my marriage and, instinctually, towards whatever appeared the safest. 

I found I felt unsafe emotionally, having known a love that withdrew and told me I was a mistake. Unable to trust that a heart promised to protect me would continue to be willing. I had learned I lived in a world where I could give my all, over and over again, and I would not be good enough. I could be rejected, forgotten and unwanted. 

I learned I felt unsafe spiritually, unable to express the truths of my faith without conflict. Unsafe to pray openly at home. Unsafe to talk about what shaped my heart and soul and what I believed at my core. Unsafe to put God first, because that meant my husband would only love me less. 

I realized that, at times, I even felt unsafe physically, having lived with a man who’s rage frightened and shocked. Unsafe in intimacy, unable to trust my body to a partner who pushed boundaries. Leaving me with one eye over my shoulder at all times, in all situations.

Hour after hour was poured into therapy, claiming a new space where I could breathe. It was safe to exist, to take up room, and to trust my environment again. 

Okay. Great.

So I’m safe within myself. Within my heart. My mind. My home.

Where does that leave me and God?

It leaves me angry.

It leaves me feeling like God is dangerous. Because I prayed novena after novena after novena, made sacrifice after sacrifice, and endless, endless, loops on my rosary. Because I journaled and prayed and reflected and talked and asked for prayers and guidance and felt like I was in a good place, I was doing the right things, I wasn’t even having sex! I was even using NFP! 

All that, and, guess what, I got hurt anyway. My heart got broken. He didn’t see me or hear me or want me or convert or grow or treat me better. Nothing. I didn’t get kids or stability or healing or holiness. I asked for help and thought God was reassuring me, thought I was having peace, but really it was just moments of relief. No signs, no reassurance, just interludes in the cycle of abuse. 

And now I look into the face of the God I trusted, the God who led me to believe there were great things in store for me.

What great things? 

This?

Why?

I can’t open my hands, I can’t let You in, I’m angry and I’m hurt and I don’t understand. I think I find You untrustworthy. Because I used to trust, and the one meant to love me for forever, the one meant to make Your love tangible, abandoned me. Abused me. Ignored me. Withdrew from me. It feels like You did that.


I pause in my anger, and I see Mary Magdalene in my heart. I’ve always had a soft spot for her, the woman who struggled with sexual sin. I took on some of her shame in my own relationships, sometimes carrying a burden heavier than I was meant to, not realizing that ‘no means no’ still applies when he says he loves you. Not realizing that not everything was my fault. Not realizing that seeing Mary Magdalene as an adulterer was an unfair projection onto a woman who should’ve been known for more.

I think I finally see her now.

God didn’t love her ‘in spite of’ her sin. He loved her before the sin. He loved her for more than the evils we blame on her, before the labels and the embarrassments and the character she took on in the narrative we created. 

When she was called adulterer and stripped in the street and stoned by her neighbors, God did not see what we all saw- a sinner, a prostitute. He saw a woman abused. He saw a woman desperate and abandoned by her people, trying to survive in a culture structured to leave women dependent on men. A community where women were left with very few options or resources of their own. He saw a woman who had been taken advantage of, her weaknesses exploited, her body marked, her soul abused, her heart broken. 

He saw a woman out of options. 

He presented her with a new one.

He saw her on the ground, kissing His feet, and, no He did not begin by asking her for everything. Even less- he asked for nothing. In return, He presented her with love.

I imagine she was overwhelmed and tired. I imagine she had a multitude of reservations, and a heart in need of healing. I imagine she was afraid. 

I imagine she didn’t have a heart ready to abandon to a Savior. I imagine she was guarded. I imagine that was okay. 

All she did, all she needed to do, was look up, and look into the eyes of the One Who loved her. A small movement, but a movement of courage. Not everything, but a place to start.

Jesus, I don’t have much for You right now. I’m guarded. I’m hurt. 

Even still, even here, I’ll try to let you see me. I’ll try to meet Your gaze.

It’s not everything, but it’s a place we can start.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us. 

i’m glad you were born

a letter to myself

I’ve spent time building this little home for my words to tell a few stories, get through a few thoughts, and form small bridges of connection. This cozy corner of mine is titled Letters to You– I’ve always found letters to be both profoundly personal and still, somehow, a bit mysterious. They can be thoughtful and wandering, casual or serious; a hidden place to put down words, and a proclamation worthy of sharing.

I’ve tried to write straight from my heart to your yours: to friends, family, colleagues, people I’ve yet to meet, those I love and those I loved.

Today, I’m taking this space for myself.


To You,

Hello.

I see you.

I see you last year, on the bottom of your shower, crying so hard the room is spinning. I see you with your world ripped out from under you. I see you confused and scared and lost in a heartbreak you never could have imagined.

You’re tired. Exhausted. I see you packing up a house you once loved. I see you putting away dreams. I see you saying goodbye. I see you walking away. I see you still loving him, fiercely, beyond comprehension, and still choosing a new life. I’m sorry that was so hard. Thank you for being brave.

I see you alone in your kitchen, drowning your heartbreak in wine. I see you hiding. Burying yourself in chocolate, in pretzels, in pasta, in secrets. I see you trying to make everything else hurt worse than your heart. You try, but it doesn’t make you ugly. You aren’t forgettable. You are good.

I’m sorry you feel bad when you need to buy new jeans. He wouldn’t have loved you more if you fit in the smaller ones anyway. It’s okay to let them go. 

I see you in the panic attacks. I see you in the insomnia. I see you in your moodiness, your tears, your anxiety, your loneliness. I see you in your quietness and snippiness and busyness. I see you needing nap after nap after nap. Your body has been through a lot, for a very long time. Be gentle.

I see you in your anger. I’m sorry for what he left behind. I’m sorry for the reminder of the times he hurt your heart and took advantage of you. It’s okay to be mad.

I’m sorry you aren’t who you thought you’d be. I’m sorry you’re no longer a wife and the promise of motherhood is no longer nearby. I’m sorry you are bitter and hurt and jealous of families and babies and couples in love. I hope your heart softens again. 

I’m sorry you trusted a man to see you and know you and respect you and love you and raise you up. I’m sorry you thought he would lead you but he hurt you. I’m sorry you planned for a life and hoped for a dream that didn’t come true. 

I’m sorry you invested so much of yourself in the wrong person. You had a lot to give. You still do.

I’m sorry you felt alone. I’m sorry for the nights without a friend, without the words to ask for help. I’m sorry for the times you didn’t even know you needed it. 

You will see that even here, even now, God is faithful. He is trustworthy. He has made a promise to you, and you will be blessed.

In this next year, and the years to come, know that you deserve respect. You deserve love. You deserve to take up space.

And guess what? There’ll be days you stop wondering if you’re too fat to be loved. 

There’ll be days where you dance so hard you can’t walk, and you weren’t held or kissed or noticed by a man all night long. That will be perfectly, wonderfully, beautifully okay. 

You will learn that you are enough.

You will know that your voice is worthy of being heard. Your face is worthy of being seen.

You have permission to dream new dreams.

You are a complex, beautiful, broken, healing, open, emotional, fun, intelligent, kind, hard-working, dog-loving, size 16-jean wearing mess. You are human. 

I love you. I respect you. I hear you. I see you.

You are good. Better than good. 

The best is yet to come.

Happy Birthday.

Love, 

Me