A few years back, when I felt the urge to write stronger than I felt the urge to hide, I started a blog. I wrote several entries and then held them tightly to my chest for days before I slid them quietly to a trusted few. “Are these alright?” “Am I saying anything?” “Would anyone want to hear my words?” “Is it too much?” “Should I feel this naked?” Maybe I shouldn’t do this. To which my people said….DO THIS. One thing I knew. I had to tell the truth. I didn’t understand the why, except that words made me feel like I was alive in this world; like I had a right to be there. I haven’t felt like that much. Words became friends that made me brave.

I haven’t known true poverty. I’ve never done drugs or felt the weight of addiction. I’m not homeless. Or hopeless. Joy has somehow resided in me for all the “no matter whats” . I still get excited at snow. I love to read children’s books because I can feel how a child thinks. I cried when I saw the mountains in Montana, Old Faithful when it roared to life and when I landed on Korean soil for the first time. I look forward to everyday things like kids look forward to Christmas. I feel it all and I feel it big. Words make me brave. Joy gives me reason.

Here lately, though? Well, here lately, joy got shot in the foot and the limp has left me reeling. Like when you get hit in the head and the world goes all wacky sideways and you can’t get your focus? You grab instinctively for the nearest anchor to hold you up while things stop spinning. Only this time, the spinning isn’t slowing. I find myself feeling breathless and dizzy in the middle of a conversation. I realize then, the spinning is from within me.

The fastest way to make me stop breathing is to scare me. The fastest way to scare me is to make me feel abandoned. It’s different than busy or distracted, not the same as out of town or in a meeting. Abandoned feels like all the sound left the world and it’s really loud; like God closed up shop and you are locked out. Abandoned only shows up from those close enough to leave.

I stop at the coffee shop to get some dinner. Someone sees the sadness in my eyes and asks if I’m alright because I’m always smiling. The question feels painful because I long to be asked but when I am, the tears come. I walk down the street towards home, not even trying to stop crying. I don’t care who sees me. I just need to grieve.

That’s when my friends matter. A message from Colorado, Texas, Illinois, a video of my new grandson, a phone call from across town, a text from my son, a picture from Korea. It feels like hands joining together to wrap around me. I sat across the table from a friend the other day. I told her I felt unnecessary lately. And then she asked the question. “Are you safe?” It startled me, really. I’ve never had someone ask me that before. I thought for a minute. From my actions? Yes. From my thoughts? No. They felt brutal, mean, out to get me and keep me.

Days have been filled with intention. Talking helps. Questions make me engage. Hands reaching out to me make me find my balance, my perspective, even when I can’t focus the lens when the sadness rolls down my face. And, my joy will return because I’m made of it. Just right now my joy is fitting like old underwear, elastic loose and wind flapping through it.

My friends, my sons, though, have held my underwear up the past few days, figuratively speaking. I eagerly watch the horizon for the next adventure, the next message, the next invitation to do life real and messy even with snot running out my nose. I can’t do it any other way. The late Nightbirde, singer Jane Marczewski, had a philosophy. “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore to be happy.” Man, that rings true in my bones.

As I got up from lunch the other day, my friend, Rachel , looked at me. “One more thing. My favorite chapter is Psalm 139. Maybe you could read it.” I’m fresh out of even wanting to read my Bible right now but…for you, Rachel, because of you….I read it.

“If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute–You’re already there waiting.” I love knowing someone is waiting on me, someone is looking to be there with me. Thanks, God, for waiting for me.

Life is beautiful and the hardest thing in the world all at the same time. It will be ok. And I will look forward to getting new underwear with strong elastic for the days ahead.