waiting.

This year, Advent has been a painful reminder of all that is not right.

Advent. Those days leading up to Christmas, a time to dwell on what is coming.

As a child, it was mostly about waiting. Making a paper chain and counting down the days till Christmas morning, waiting for family and cookies and presents.

It is a time of waiting, a time of preparation. Looking once again at our hearts and minds and turning once again to the cross, and to the manger. It is a time to celebrate the birth, the coming of Christ.

This year, I’ve been looking more to the coming of Christ again. The coming of a new heaven and a new earth.

It’s hard not to, when this earth is so obviously, painfully broken.

We spend Advent in waiting, waiting for the birth of a baby who has already come, come to set the world right, come to heal the brokenhearted and bind up the wounded, come to make all things new, and yet the brokenhearted still cry and the wounds are still fresh and nothing seems new and the world is so, so far from right.

This world just keeps breaking. Just keeps falling apart.

I’m waiting, waiting for the infant in the manger who would set all things right, who came to bring life.

And I’m caught between the struggle of the now and the not-yet, between the coming of a baby who was born to die to save us all and the coming of a King who will truly make all things new.

But here we are, stuck in the in-between, and it is so beautiful and yet so painful.

So here I am, loving this world out of a broken heart, and praying through tears for mercy, for grace, for that baby in a manger to set all things right.

tattoo the truth on my skin, lest I forget.

I am afraid that if I were to start getting tattoos, I would never stop.

I admit that I have a Pinterest board full of tattoos, and apparently my tastes lean towards the cliche: birds, anchors, trees. But really, what I love the most are more simple. Words. Black ink on skin, words permanently etched onto a body, becoming part of a person.

Because, you see, I forget. I forget lots of things, all the time.

This is why I have a notebook-sized day planner that lives with me. It’s color-coded and highlighted and sticky-noted within an inch of its life, and in it I write everything. Tests and homework, lunch dates and dance concerts. Library book due dates and respond-to-this-email reminders. Notes telling myself to wash dishes or call Mom or put index cards in my backpack. Everything.

Because if I don’t write it down – I will forget it. I will forget the important things as well as the insignificant. If I forget to wash the dishes that night, it’s not a big deal. If I forget to study for an exam – that is a bigger deal.

And if I forget that Jesus loves me.

Then it’s a problem.

But it happens, far too often. I forget those truths, truths that I grew up hearing, that have become so familiar they are almost background noise now. Jesus loves me. Jesus died for my sins.

Simple. Three-year-olds can recite these truths in Sunday School. Simple – and yet so impossible, incredibly complex.

And I forget. I forget that He loves me, that He forgave and forgives and will always forgive me. That He promises healing, joy, life abundant. That He is there, that He is always there.

So I write things down. I fill page after journal page with scribbled prayers, sadness and joy and tears pouring out onto the page, my handwriting becoming increasingly hard to decipher. I spill words onto the computer screen, typing when my fingers can’t move a pen across the page fast enough. And when it’s really important and I am in danger of forgetting – I write it on my skin.

I Sharpie Bible verses and song lyrics and single words onto my arm. I write truth on myself, hoping that somehow, if it’s on my skin – if it’s right there – if I can see it – I won’t forget it.

I’m tempted to make it permanent. Write those words on my skin with ink that won’t come off in the shower. Tattoo reminders of all that is good and important and needed. Ink the truth onto my skin and then hope it sinks below my skin, sinks into my heart in a way that is just as permanent.

But there are so many things to remember, and I am so forgetful, and I have only so much skin.

when Doubt comes knocking.

Can I let you in on a secret?

I have no clue what I’m doing.

Tomorrow. In Malta next semester. In Africa after that. With my senior year. After I graduate. With the rest of my life.

And yes, the Lord knows the plans He has for me, plans for good and not for harm – but I don’t know those plans.

And I doubt. A lot.

I always have, and I probably always will. I try to hide it. I go to Bible study and take notes, I sing the songs even when my heart isn’t in it. God feels far away and I just feel so alone, but I smile and say oh, I was just up late last night when someone asks if I’m okay.

But I am so tired. So tired of feeling lost and alone. So tired of acting okay when I’m not. So tired of hiding it.

I have doubts, and questions. I doubt God’s goodness, and I doubt that He could really, truly love me that much, and I doubt that His plan is a good one. I question His existence and His nature and His words. And I’m done keeping that a secret.

Because some nights Doubt comes knocking, and I can’t keep leaving her out in the cold.

So I’m going to open the door and invite her in. Pull up a chair, offer her a blanket, and make a cup of tea. I’ll sit down next to her and let her talk. Let her give voice to all the thoughts that I won’t let her speak. I’ll listen and wonder and think, and I’ll cry out with her. I’ll speak of the ache in my heart and the lingering questions in my head. I’ll admit to her that no, I don’t know really, but I wish I did.

I wish I did. I wish I knew,  one-hundred-and-ten-percent, one hundred percent of the time. I wish I trusted in God with a blind trust, with a faith steady and unwavering, always and always. But honestly?

I don’t.

I have doubts and I have questions, and I know that so many of those questions will never be answered while I am on this earth.

I am not so good with not knowing.

But I’m learning to accept it. I’m learning to ask and think, to read and study and ponder and learn all that I can, to ask the hard questions. To run into those things that confuse me instead of turning away. And learning to let it go, to reach the point where I can think about it no more and to let. it. go. To trust – simply trust – that God is good. To believe despite the doubts, to believe because of the doubts and because I have nothing else to cling to.

I’ll let Doubt in, and I’ll listen to her questions. I hope that I will never push her away, never deny her space in my heart. Because it’s only by doubting that I can begin to trust, and only by questioning that I will find answers.