today is day one.

The key stuck a bit in the weather worn door. As usual it squeaked a bit as the hinges extended granting me access to my house. Today had been a long one. Some ass hole at work decided that retail employees serve one purpose and today that purpose just happened to be him. And then there was that lady who shit all over the floor and in doing so took a big ol’ shit on my day. I mean, really, there isn’t anything more humbling than sticking your hand into someone else’s shit in order to unclog a public toilet. But, that aside, I was home now. Rest, or something similar was bound to await me after this hellish day. My room, which is nestled between the two other bedrooms, is always the coolest in the house. I love this. So I drag myself into my bear cave room and sling my over stuffed bag onto my bed, I notice the mail has come. There is a stark white envelope lying ever so neatly on my bed. Just as everyone who has ever received a letter, my eyes immediately darted to the upper left hand corner in hopes that this was something good. 

“Medical Center of _______.”

Fuck. This was it. The involuntary trip to the hospital last month wasn’t just some horrible dream. It wasn’t this imaginary event that I had concocted in my head. This shit was real. It really happened. The promises were made. The threats ensued. The police were called. My words were twisted. The night was sleepless. The morning came all too quickly. More threats. The car ride. The call to my therapist. The 8 hours – the 8 hours in the cold emergency room that stripped me of any dignity I thought remained in my personhood. The most humiliating night and day of my life were tallied up in a series of line items and totaled out into a bill that I would never be able to foot. But then…then I remember their promises. “Don’t worry about the money. Your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health is more important than money. Don’t worry about the money. Let us take you somewhere; we will take care of the money part. Just accept this help.”

Except now, their offers of helping “take care of the money part” are no where to be found. Only silence.

Then the help was forced.
I was manipulated.
And now the price is here, and I still can’t pay.


love drives you home

This post was originally part of a blog series called “When Love Shows Up” by Leanne Penny. I am including it in this series of posts because it is the only way I have been able to tell this part of the story. 


I found myself, maybe not so unexpectedly, stretched out on a hospital bed in the emergency room of the local hospital. The night before was left littered with despair and confusion. As I looked up at the ceiling and felt the paper gown that wrapped my tired body, I wondered how I fell into this hole and how the hell I was going to get out.

There was a babysitter sitting in the corner. He was reading his book. I knew his sole purpose in this room was to watch my every move. The nurses and hospital staff had already taken everything I owned and tucked it safely away so that I would not be able to harm myself.

“Do you know why I am here?” he asked quietly.

In my defiance and anger I told him that I knew he was there because it was his job to babysit me. “I choose to be here, honey. You deserve to be safe. And so I am here. I am with you.” These words, words of love, were the beginning of hope peeking through.

~ ~ ~

Depression threatened to overrun me that night.

My faith was crumbling, my hope fading, and Love seemed to be sitting on his hands.

About three months before, I started questioning everything. I didn’t know why I believed what I said I believed or if it even mattered. Is Jesus who he says that he is? Did he really do what he said he did? And if he is and if he did, what does that mean for me, right now, in this moment?

And to add insult to injury my own body was betraying me. I was depressed. Depression seems to be the demon that continuously haunts me. For the three months leading up to this night I wanted out. It wasn’t necessarily that I wanted to die, I was just so tired of living.

~ ~ ~

The night before, the police showed up and I was put under close watch. Sleep was impossible. The dark hours seemed unending and the morning came reluctantly. With the arrival of dawn, I received an ultimatum: the back of a police car or the nearest emergency room. Seeing no other option, I chose the latter.

With heavy eyes and weary bones I asked the nurse to turn off the light. The curtain was pulled to shield my face from the sterile fluorescent lights in the hallway. The babysitter even decided to give me a few minutes to myself and settled in his chair right outside the doorway. After a few minutes I woke up to voices, a familiar voice, outside the door. A shadow appeared on the curtain and a hand pulled it gently back. The face I saw immediately shattered my defenses and the room, once drained of breath, was pumped full of oxygen.

On my way to the hospital I shot a text to the couple from my church that I live with. I didn’t know which hospital I was headed to but said I would contact them as soon as I was able. I told them not to worry. Lindsay was out of town but that did not stop Scott from searching me out. He searched until he was able to find me, tucked behind a babysitter and crisp hospital curtains.

“Hey, Ali. I am really glad you are safe.”

In that moment, I felt both immense shame and immense relief. It’s almost as if, because he could sense the shame, he spoke out against it. “You have done nothing wrong. You are not in trouble. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Warm blankets were brought in and Scott sat down. He didn’t pry. He didn’t push. He didn’t ask me open-ended questions. He knew I would never be able to answer them anyway. He assured me that Lindsay was thinking about me and praying for me. He assured me that I was not in trouble and there was no need for shame. When he did ask questions, he gave me options and I just had to pick. Picking was easy compared to conjuring up an answer on my own. “I am going to get you something to drink. Do you want coffee, tea, or water? When we leave, I am going to make you some lunch. Do you want this type of sandwich or that type of sandwich?” I didn’t have to come up with any answers. I simply had to choose.

After nine hours and a psychiatric evaluation that seemed to last forever, it was decided that I would be allowed to go home. Because the hospital had to release me into someone’s care, Scott talked with the nurses and made plans for my discharge. Clothes changed, belongings gathered, I began to prepare myself for the “walk of shame” out of the hospital. The shame I imagined was quickly extinguished after I realized I wasn’t walking alone.

~ ~ ~

Sometimes love searches you out.

Sometimes love shows up in your hospital room.

Sometimes love shows up with warm blankets.

Sometimes love shows up to remind you that you are loved,

that you are safe,

that you are wanted.

Sometimes love shows up and sometimes love drives you home.

details wrong.

“It would be easier if someone else told the story of what happened last summer. But then I would probably just hate them for getting it all wrong.” So, dear reader, take her telling of the story in your hands. Sit with me. And let me tell you where it went wrong.



She keeps getting the details wrong. You would think, out of everything else that went wrong, the details would at least be kept intact. I thought that asking her to write this would be easier. Maybe it would help you understand all the things I don’t think I can say. But really, I just hate her for it. You see, I couldn’t find the words to tell you. Hell, I couldn’t find the words to tell myself. So I asked her to write it for me. Maybe that would be easier. But, shit, now you have it and you are reading it and ALL THE DETAILS ARE WRONG!!

It’s so frustrating, she couldn’t even start the story right. It hadn’t rained when I showed up. Of course it hadn’t rained. Everything was still calm; the wind hadn’t even started blowing. It didn’t rain until after we got back to the house. I remember. I remember because I wanted a drink and I wanted to smoke. Not that I wanted to get drunk, I just wanted something to take the edge off all the shit and hurt and confusion.

But, like I said, it definitely hadn’t rained when we all showed up.

No no no…the storm was just about to begin.

Ok, so we’ve established that it wasn’t raining. And then that part about it being some super intense and really interesting bible study? That’s not right either. It was, in reality, a super rushed overview of the Old Testament. You know, the “way too much information in such a short amount of time” type. It was that. And, since you want me to be honest, it was boring as hell. Maybe I shouldn’t compare bible studies to hell, but you get what I’m saying. And…and…she couldn’t get the details about the bible stories right either. I kept filling in the blanks and explaining back-story. It’s easier to do that sort of stuff when you grew up using felt boards and popsicle sticks to act these stories out. Also, having a photographic memory doesn’t hurt either. So there I was, right, pointing out errors in the stories and being so good at knowing all the right answers and who did what when and how much so-and-so loved the Lord and walked with him and what prophet said what to whom. It was magical, really. I am sure my 3rd grade Sunday school teacher would be immensely impressed with how much I have “grown in my knowledge of the Lord.” If only my knowledge was enough to sustain me right now.

See. See right there, that line, that sentence. She did it again. I shouldn’t have let her tell my story. She butchered the details. Why do I even care so much about the details? I really just think that I want something, out of all of this, to be right. To be the way it actually was. But even in the bible study, she wasn’t talking about Micah, or Job, or even Isaiah or Jeremiah. She was talking about the Israelites being in slavery in Egypt. Apparently, I was the only one in the group who had any idea how the Israelites even got to Egypt. Remember, Joseph? The guy who was literally sold into slavery by his brothers? And then was thrown into prison and eventually rose to the second highest position in all of Egypt? Yea…that guy. (Is it just me or when things are hard for you do people tell you to go read that story like it will automatically fix stuff?) So when he interpreted the dreams of pharaoh about the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine and told pharaoh to stock up on the goods, he was right. Anyways, that’s how the Israelites got to Egypt, cause his brothers had to come and ask him for help cause they were starving. And if you are going to try to teach the Old Testament, get it right. So it wasn’t the prophets. She was talking about the Exodus. You could tell she was frustrated that I kept correcting her. But really, is it such a bad thing to actually know what you’re talking about?

None of that matters, though. That wasn’t really what I asked her to write and that is surely not what you were wanting to read…was it? But somehow I feel like it still matters. Isn’t the outcome of all of this because of the details? Details are important. Details matter. Right?

And just for the record, I didn’t hijack the conversation like she is making it seem. I didn’t just throw all of this shit out there. It was after the lesson was over, when everyone is sharing prayer requests. I knew that I needed prayer. Why? Because I didn’t really know what was going on with me. About three months before I started questioning everything and I didn’t know why I believed what I said I believed. You know, just a lot of questions…that’s got to be normal and ok, right? It wasn’t like I was running off and joining a cult or participating in ancient pagan rituals, I just had questions. Is Jesus who he says he is? Did he really do what he said he did? And if he is and if he did, what does that mean for me, right now, in this moment?

But apparently, questions scare people. Doubt “isn’t from the Lord” and so obviously it should have no place in our lives. “Don’t give the devil a foothold.” But there I was with all my questions and on top of all that, my world simultaneously fell apart around me. Relationships failed. My mom walked away. People got sick. Grandma went to jail. MY GRANDMOTHER WENT TO JAIL!! I just want to make sure you caught that. After her stint in the big house, or really it was just one night at the county jail, she called to lecture me on my relationship with my mom. “Don’t make the same mistakes we made. Don’t not talk to her for too long. I am speaking from experience.” But it wasn’t even that part that threw me for a loop. It was the part where she admitted that she “had a feeling” my stepdad was more than just an asshole and actually abusive. And then, to add insult to injury my own body was betraying me. I was depressed. Depression seems to be the demon that continuously haunts me. Depression cares not of your socio-economic status, your job title, your skin color, or personality type. He is a ruthless bastard giving no reasons for his torment. And so there I was. Haunted. For three months (yea kind of a long time) I had wanted out. It wasn’t that I wanted to die. I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. It was like I was standing on the top of a skyscraper, on the very edge, and I couldn’t step backwards off the ledge. I either had to stand there or jump. It’s not that I wanted to jump. I just was so fucking tired of standing on that damn ledge.

What? Yea, I told them all of this. That’s the part you just read. “…she kept saying that she wanted to die. She said something about thinking about killing herself.” I didn’t say that!! I think I even told them something along the lines of “I am not saying that I want to kill myself. And I don’t have a plan, so please don’t freak out. I am just really sad and really tired and really confused. And honestly, I just want Jesus to show up.” Damnit. It’s almost as if they didn’t hear what I was saying. They heard what they wanted to hear. Stuck on themselves. Do you see that? I mean, I’m not saying they don’t care about me, but they heard what they wanted to hear and they wanted to do what they could do to keep me “safe”, even from myself.

Suggestions were made. Lots of suggestions. They really wanted me to go check myself in somewhere for a “rest”. What the hell does that even mean? Seemed like a line straight out of “Girl, Interrupted”. The scene where Brittney Murphy is trying to explain to everyone that she is okay, when it is blatantly obvious that she is not. She tells them she is just there for “a rest”. Wouldn’t that be me if I just went somewhere for a rest? Me thinking I was really okay and everyone knowing I wasn’t and the storyline revolving around how messed up I actually am? Damn, that’s depressing. And, who can even afford to go somewhere for a rest?

That part is true. They did pray for me and asked for hope and healing and rest. So I got up to leave. I needed to get out, to clear my head. I needed to drive and I needed air. This is the part where the wind started picking up a bit. A storm was coming, you could tell. I left. Thinking nothing more of it. Well, except for the fact that I was still sad and confused and tired and in desperate need of answers. I drove through Sonic to get a sweetened iced tea and headed for the lake. Yea, I told you that was my safe place. Seems like I can think out there. The sound of crickets at night and the glow of the moon on the water does something to my soul. The place I park my car usually smells like cedar; a fresh, “this is alive”, sort of smell. You can see the stars out there. If your arms were long enough, you could just reach out and touch them. They are thrown against a dark sky and the man in the moon smiles down in approval. These are the details that I wanted you to know. Not the depressing and mundane ones. But maybe these are mundane too. Maybe that’s what makes me love them. They are so simple and so seemingly insignificant and yet they hold the depth of life and breath for me. Maybe it’s these brief moments of hope and faith that Emerson was talking about; the ones that hold such depth that they cause us to “ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.”

The bugs attracted to the light annoy me. Constantly flying straight into my face, but it is calming and assuring to see that life is happening all around me by no effort of its own. Somehow it is all being sustained. I don’t know how, but this place is safe. A refuge. A foundation that I can come back to knowing that it is sure and that it will always be level ground underneath my often unsteady feet. This place serves as a sort of “calm the hell down, soul, hope in God.” Pretty sure that’s my paraphrase of the verse in Psalms that says something about being downcast; the one where he is talking to his soul. I was in the middle of a pep talk.

Then everything changed.


healing is slower than you imagined
harder than they explained
frustrating as hell

is not difficult
and yet
it is too much

healing is rarely painless
accompanied by pounding fists
shouting in the dark

is not difficult
and yet
it is too much

healing is admitting weakness
asking for previously unnecessary help
realizing limits

is not difficult
and yet
it is too much

and right now, that is okay

take a break
don’t push yourself
knowing your limits is good
and wise

so for now
this is not difficult
but it is too much
and it’s all okay


He Never Runs Out

(photo by Jennifer Upton)

(photo by Jennifer Upton)

It’s a funny thing to be sitting in the silence of your room at the end of the day and noticing how a million little threads weave perfectly together to form a whole. You don’t notice the threads as they are happening, you just look back and see how they all seem to fit together just so. This day, in this silence, is no different.

~ ~ ~

A song was sent through a text, a suggestion made to a friend. “Listen to this one. I have something to say about it” might has well have been the text to accompany the link. It wasn’t this time. But it was unspoken. And she knew that.

“Your love never fails
It never gives up
It never runs out on me”

I want to explain to her what I hear in these words, to convey the feeling and promise and hope I hear each time those words echo around me. To many ears, the words “your love never runs out on me” promise an unending, never failing, never running dry love. While that is true, that is not what my heart latches onto.

~ ~ ~

“They are just going to cool off” she would say. Or he. Depending on who had done the offending this time around. It was usually the same routine each time. The big wooden front door slamming. Almost immediately followed by our old farm house screen door clattering behind it. I remember hearing the car start and the gravel driveway crying underneath the angry wheels of the white Mazda that just carted our family of four to and from Sunday morning services.

It happened this way over and over again. Always leaving me wondering if the leaver would one day just not come back. Historically, the “cooling off” period lasted about an hour. Never more than an afternoon. Until the day when the cooling off took two days…and then a week…and before I even knew what happened, it had been four months.

~ ~ ~

“For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.”

Psalm 28:10

Apparently, we all come from a long line of leavers. We come from a line of broken people who run out slamming front doors searching for a place to “cool off.” We are hardwired for the leaving, for the running. But He is not. His love never fails. His love never gives up. And His love never runs out. Nothing He has ever done in my life up til now has ever given me reason to believe that He needs a moment to “cool off” – He never runs out. He never shakes His head in confusion or frustration with me. He is never wringing His hands trying to figure out where things went wrong or what could have been done differently. He simply stands. Constant and sure.

There are some days where I throw things in His general direction, and He remains. Assuring me that no amount of swears or flying objects will cause Him to waver in His great love for me.

He is faithful.
Even when I am not, He remains.
He never runs out.

Because He cannot deny Himself.

(photo by Jennifer Upton)

(photo by Jennifer Upton)



I’ve never seen the ocean.

Not the real ocean anyway. I went to the Texas gulf coast when I was very young, but don’t remember much of it. And really, it’s the Texas gulf cost, so it’s one of those things you’d rather not remember.

Lately, I have been having dreams of the ocean – of finding a piece of sand and sitting there until I can’t sit and stare at the horizon any longer.

~ ~ ~

This week, one of my dearest friends trekked down to the gulf coast and she has to continually remind me that Galveston does not count as the ocean. I beg her for photo after photo of the salty earth and the never approaching horizon.

“I’ll try to find some that doesn’t look like dirty,” she tells me.

She tried. Sent me a few photos.

“This is not what your dream looked like.”
“It didn’t look like this, either.”

She was right. The water was brown. The ground dirty. Even the columns anchored on the beach bearing up the walkways seemed stained with mucky earth.

Then I saw it. Sure it had been rung through filter after filter. Blues painted along the left. Hues of yellow and green splashed toward the right. And a ferris wheel. Nestled on the pier stretching out over the water. It was beautiful.

“I had to filter the heck out of it just to make the water not dirt.”


My mind jumped. A visceral reaction to the word.

Dirt – Made the blind man see.

Dirt – Witnessed the release of the woman caught in adultery. 

Dirt – Washed from filthy feet by the hands of God himself. 

That is the thing about dirt, I suppose.
Maybe it doesn’t make all things beautiful. Like oceans.
But it can be beautiful.

Maybe it is often ignored that dirt and oceans, though entered into completely different beauty pageants, have something in common after all.

The power to heal. 

The power to set free. 

The power to lift your face and sing the simple refrain over you –
“You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.”

 ~ ~ ~

I will see the ocean this year. I will find a nice square of sand and I will sit. I will sit and stare at the never approaching horizon until the last hint of sunlight has drained from the sky. I will plunge my hands into the sand surrounding me. Running it’s sticky grains through my fingers, I will bring up handful after handful of earth just as a reminder of the power carried in these very tiny rocks.

And I will not be afraid. 

I will not be afraid of the dirt or the texture. I will not let my anxiety or OCD steal the wonder from my eyes. I will not be afraid of the time spent sitting and I will not be afraid of the dirt staining my pants. I will not be afraid of the mess.

Instead, I will marvel. I will sit there, in the middle of the mess, and I will heal. I will be set free. And I will rest under the refrain – “You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.”

For those few moments, all will be okay.

And the dirt will make it beautiful.

"I had to filter the heck out of it just to make the water not be dirt" @ronnerock

“I had to filter the heck out of it just to make the water not be dirt” @ronnerock

six months.

Dear You,

Today is the day. Well, I guess there won’t ever be THE day. But this is definitely one for the books. Today is day one-hundred-eighty-two. Today is twenty-six weeks. Today is six months.

Some people might say that I am celebrating. But the truth of it is that we are celebrating.

Choosing life always sounds so simple. And sometimes it is. But then there are times where the right step is the blurry step and the right choice is the hardest one. I remember talking to you in those days before. “If I don’t walk away from this – it will kill me” I told you, knowing full well that playing with fire sends you home burned. “Take one step. Just one step. I’ll be here for the first one and for each one after it.”

I had been self harming almost consistently since I was 11 years old – more than half my life. The motivation for walking away was not “I want to be obedient to what God has called me to” or “I don’t want to keep running to things that will never satisfy” or “I want to be faithful even though I am so so tired and I don’t think I can do this.”

My motivation was simply this – I don’t want to die right now.

Sometimes, I guess, that is enough.
So, I packaged up the far-too-many razor blades I possessed and painted a picture.

“I will have JOY in the Lord. I will be glad in the God who SAVES me. the Lord is my strength.”

The envelope, filled with cisterns that can hold no water, was taped to the back of that painting.
It was shipped off for safe keeping.
And then I cried.

On day eight I texted saying there was no way I would make it to day nine.

On day twenty-three I pocketed a razor blade swearing that it was the last day I was going to count.

On day forty-nine you called me out for believing lies and I was adamant that I would never talk to you again.

On day one-hundred-twenty-six there was a feast. We celebrated making it that far. We told stories. We raised our glasses. And we made dessert.

On day one-hundred-fifty-four I realized that it was really only day one-hundred-forty-seven. I resigned myself to defeat and convinced myself there was no point to move forward.

Then day one-hundred-fifty-four came back around. And we celebrated it again.

On day one-hundred-sixty-six we had breakfast and dreamed about celebrating six months.

Day one-hundred-seventy-three we both raised our fists against the darkness. We longed for light and were determined to fight for it.

So today, on this day, I want to say thank you. I raise my glass to those who have called me on my crap, to those who won’t let me continually shut down or check out. I want to give a shout out to those who refused to walk away, to those who have stayed up way past their bedtime to remind me of who I am and whose I am. I am grateful for the truth you have spoken over me. I am grateful for the texts and emails and Facebook chats.

If you come across those today who are walking a hard path would you tell them a few things for me? Would you encourage them to be faithful and obedient to what God is asking of them?

I am familiar with the shaking hands and the weak knees and I would still say that choosing life is worth it. You will doubt almost everything and that is okay. Relax into the doubt. You won’t drown, I promise. Chances are you are going to fail at some point. Maybe not outright, but in little ways. That’s okay too, get back up. You aren’t alone. There will be times when you will be so tired you will think your body is actually failing you…don’t give up. Keep walking. The road is dusty and tiresome, but one thing it is not is empty.

Trust that God is a good father. His heart is kind toward you.

So, on day one-hundred-eighty-two, I raise my glass to hope.

Here’s to day one’s.
Here’s to longing for light.
And here’s to a hope that does not put us to shame.

I’m with you and for you.

All my love,


lost at sea

dear god,

it has been 147 days. it has been 147 days since i opened my hand. it has been 147 days since i let it go. it has been 147 days since i did what you asked and i don’t feel one bit different. in fact, god, things seem to be heavier. harder. i know that you didn’t say it would be easy. and i know that you didn’t say my heart would be healed. not right away, anyway. but i expected something. a shift. a movement. a budge. i would almost take anything at this point. because, god, if i am being honest, i want it back.

i hear it whisper in the middle of the day. i hear it whisper when the sun is shining and everything appears right in the world. i hear it whisper when the breeze blows my hair and the leaves rustle under my feet. i hear it whisper when the rain is falling and the cold forces me to tighten my coat. i hear it when the sun rises and when the sun sets. the world goes dark, but it’s voice doesn’t rest. it promises control and freedom. it promises validity and safety. i know, i know, god. it’s a lie. but right now it sounds so convincing and i long to be free of it’s taunts.

right now, in this moment. tonight. i feel like i am drowning without it. a wave. another wave. hitting me. taking me under each time. gasping for breath i resurface. all i accomplish is the taking in of more water. my lungs are filling and i can’t breathe. all i want in this moment is a breath. so you know what happens next? it promises breath. and i want to take the deal.

i don’t, obviously. because it has been 147 days of labored breathing. i hear you say, quietly, “labored breathing is still breathing.” but then i think – “doesn’t labored breathing concern doctors?” i’m sure it does. however, i am no doctor. in fact, i have no solid knowledge of how lungs actually work and i am sure that at one point i learned that the human body is made up of approximately 60% water. could i be dehydrated? is that why my body continues to take on water? is this part of the plan? maybe i could just drink water instead of breathing it into my lungs. maybe if i stop fighting a bit this might get a little easier…

except i don’t know how to rest.

i don’t know how to unclinch the muscles in my body long enough to float. i am not cut out for this sea life. my legs can’t stand the swaying and my lungs can’t handle the salt. would you please, since you can, pull me back over the ledge of the boat and sail us to dry land? if you won’t do that, would you at least walk out over the waves to me and reassure my heart that i am not alone? because, god, i am drowning out here and i cannot see. everything looks the same. the horizon has faded and the waves confuse and frighten me.

i don’t know how many more times i can go under.

i don’t know how much more water i can take on.

and i don’t know how i can live on gasps of air.

god, it has been 147 days. the seas have been still from time to time. but my fingertips are prunes and my legs are weak. my eyes are burning and my heart is tired. i still hear the voice calling to me. promising breath. or maybe it is just trying to convince me to go under. maybe it is pulling me under. so, i am asking you. pull me out of the water. or send an air tank. or do something. because i am drowning out here. and i need you. fast.

lost at sea

and here’s to choosing to stay.

Mine is a story of leaving and being left. 
It is a story of somehow choosing to stay. 
Through it all, hope constantly finds it’s way to the surface. 

~ ~ ~

I wouldn’t fancy myself a dreamer. 

Dreams are big and scary and as a small child I was much more accustomed to nightmares. Each night, as I looked up at the ceiling from my white framed twin bed, I would stare at the carousel wallpaper border that lined my room. I would stare at those beautiful horses and convince myself that if I fell asleep while looking at it, I would only have good dreams. 

It rarely worked. 

It rarely worked simply because there were two white splotches of paint on the window pane that seemed to peek through my blinds like a pair of eyes watching my every move. Lurking in darkness, those imaginary eyes watched me as I slept. The good and beautiful dreams that danced in the air right above me were stolen by these hovering eyes.

I learned at a young age that dreaming wasn’t for me.

I just needed to survive the night.

And yet, there was an underlying hope of the morning.

~ ~ ~

The rug of my carefully constructed plans was ripped out from under my feet. The house of horrors I grew up in became the place I would wrestle with the idea of dreams. It was the place that quickly squelched any remnant of my childhood aspirations. Innocence was snatched away and I stopped counting the times I had been left out in the cold or forgotten somewhere in the pages of decade old photo albums. 

My dad left to find comfort. It was available. 
My mom left to escape. It was easier. 
My sister left to be with my mom. It was temporary. 

And I was left somewhere in the charred remains of the life I once knew. 

~ ~ ~

That day, a broken wrist started a cycle of abuse that would repeat itself more times than I can count. As I laid on the floor, my arm twisted behind my back, I remember looking up at her waiting for her to act. Waiting for her to scream at him…make him let me go…waiting for her to leave him. She did none of those things.

She sat there. Content.

Another night, another argument. 

And I actually believed that Jesus could hear me and wanted to save me. So, I cried out. Unashamedly. I asked him to protect me. To make it all stop. I asked him to help.

He didn’t come. 

God wasn’t going to come. 
He wasn’t the rescuer that I had imagined him to be. 
He wasn’t sitting there waiting to save me from all this madness.

God left because I was too much trouble. 

God left because I couldn’t seem to get it together. 

God left because I wasn’t worth saving.

Or so I thought.

~ ~ ~

Every so often I can hear Jesus whisper. Every once in a while he feels close enough to reach out and touch. There are times when love seems to wrap me in a warm blanket and tuck me in after the sun has surrendered to the night. 

Maybe he didn’t leave. Maybe he chose to stay. 

I should have walked away from Jesus. I should have spit in his face and never looked back. There are hundreds of reasons I should have left him. But you see, the thing is, I can’t. Every time I try, I am drawn back in and a new wave of grace washes over me and I resurface, finally able to breathe again. I can’t help but hope that somehow I am still safe and wrapped up in God’s great love for me. I can’t help but lean in to his chest and listen to him assure me that I am his and that I am deeply loved. I can’t help but see my brokenness laid out against his beauty and yet still hope that this relationship can be restored.

I should have walked away from my family. When I packed my car and moved 200 miles away, I should have ripped the rearview mirror of my windshield. There are hundreds of reasons why I should have deleted their phone numbers and blocked their calls. But you see, the thing is, I can’t. Every time I am tempted to deny their existence, I am overcome with a deep love for them and my heart breaks again. I can’t help but hope that things can be different. I can’t help but see their brokenness and yet still hope that our relationships can be restored. 

~ ~ ~

Maybe I should fancy myself a dreamer. 

Maybe I chose to stay…in spite of it all. 

Against all odds and against impossible circumstances, hope rises to the surface. It is in my bones. Even when I hate it. Even when I wish I could just wash my hands of it all and be done. Even when none of it makes sense – maybe especially when none of it makes sense.

Hope rises. 

I guess you could say I have dreams these days. 

Dreams of hope. 

~ ~ ~

So here’s to the leavers.
Here’s to those who are left.
And here’s to choosing to stay.