Because You’re a Survivor

I sensed her whimper before I heard it. My eyes sought her out the moment the words were spoken aloud. I watched them register. Watched her flinch away, closing her eyes against the memory. And all I wanted to do in that moment was wrap her up in my arms, clamp my hands over her ears and whisper, “You didn’t hear that, baby.”

But she did hear it, and nothing I could do would remove those words that had already dug their sharp claws into her fragile heart.

If time could be rewound, I would have spared her that reminder that stabbed like knives into an already bleeding heart. But then, if time could be rewound, she’d go back a month and make it so that there was nothing to be remembered. No tragedy would befall a girl who held all of time in her hands. But the only place time rewinds is in her eyes where she relives the moment for the hundredth time.

And I realize that she will always be this way. She will always cringe as certain words—certain sights and smells and sounds—send her back to that moment of helplessness and despair. And even if I could have sheltered her in that moment, I can’t shelter her forever. And the hardest thing is realizing that she doesn’t even know what it means to be sheltered anymore.

And as she drowns in the depths of her pain, these are the lyrics that beat in my heart:

Baby, baby, you deserve so much more than a lifetime of being trapped in that moment where the victim song became a familiar melody to you. You deserve to be sheltered a little bit longer—just a little bit longer.

You weren’t meant to be an empty shell, broken and haunted by events that were always beyond your control—even when you were in the thick of them, they were beyond your control. You were meant to sing. Loudly. And you were born to dance. Freely. And you were always made for shining your light even when you’re shining all on your own.

And I know it isn’t fair that you’re the one who has to relight the candles when the whole world has gone dark, but, baby, can’t you see that you’re the only one brave enough to rekindle the flame? And I would wrap you up in my arms and carry you the rest of the way, but I think your legs are actually stronger than mine if you’ll only remember how to use them. And I know the world has been rocking crazy here of late, but you’re more sure-footed than you realize. And you—you know the way. Even in the dark, you’ll find your way.

I’ll be here to hold your hand if you need me. I would never expect you to try to navigate this life all on your own. But, girl, if you’re looking for someone who will simply cry with you, you’ve turned to the wrong arms. Because that’s not what you need. It may be what you think you want, but it’s not what you need.

And mine will always be the voice that whispers, “Girl, you’ve got this. I know you’ve got this.”

Because you’re a survivor; not a victim.

There are no victims here.

And maybe I can hold you while the world rocks crazy, but, baby, you can take it from here.

you can take it from here

You Can’t Touch Her

I watched a handful of preschoolers chase one of their little friends around a playground when, suddenly, the little girl who was being chased made a beeline for my arms. I held her to my chest and shooed the other kids away with my free arm while explaining, “I’m base. You can’t touch her as long as I’ve got her.”

So the kids backed up and waited until Charleigh gained the courage to run again. She jumped up, knowing she didn’t have to outrun the others for long—just long enough. Once around the playground, back into my arms, and repeat.

Except one time, Charleigh didn’t make it back into my arms. One time, she didn’t quite run fast enough. One time, I watched her get tackled by one of her little friends. She was taking a beating, and even though they were all laughing and enjoying themselves, I knew it was only a matter of time before things got out of control and someone got injured.

It was time to change the rules.

I stood to my feet, cleared a few preschoolers out of my path, and pulled Charleigh into my arms. “Ah, ah,” I warned when the other kids rushed at us. “You can’t touch her; I’m base, remember?”

I’ve been replaying that scene in my mind for weeks because, sometimes, I feel a lot like Charleigh. When life swells up all around me and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed, I just know that I’ve got to make it back to God’s arms and it will all be okay. He holds me close as I catch my breath and my heart rate returns to normal. He soothes me and comforts me, stroking my hair, sheltering me from all those things that threaten to consume me.

Because He’s base, remember? And nothing can touch me as long as I’m in His arms.

Then I’m off again to repeat the same pattern. Only sometimes, like Charleigh, I don’t quite make it back in time. Sometimes I find that life overwhelms me and I’m lying facedown in the dirt. And just when I think I’ll never get back up, the rules change. The base moves.

And God is there, picking me up, brushing me off, and saying to my struggles, “Ah, ah. You can’t touch her; I’m base, remember?”

Sometimes God lets us run to Him. He stands there with open arms, waiting to be the shelter we so desperately need because He wants for us to seek Him. He wants for us to declare our need for Him. And we’re the ones who have to come crawling back to fall at His feet and say, “God, I need You right now. I need You so bad.”

But sometimes… Sometimes we’re in too deep. Sometimes it hurts too much to crawl. Sometimes we can’t quite make it back on our own.

And that’s when the rules change.

That’s when God stands to His feet and pushes our struggles out of the way until there’s nothing left but Him and us. That’s when we’re safe again.

So if life is beating you down, just turn around and see that He’s standing there, arms outstretched, waiting for you to fall into the warmth of His embrace. Waiting for you to let Him set things right.

Because He’s base, remember? And nothing can touch you as long as you’re in His arms.

Coming Home to You

You’d think that after three years, I would have finally beaten these feelings of homesickness. But I haven’t. Not entirely. Lately, I’ve been missing my family. A lot. More than the normal, “Hey, that thing I just saw reminds me of Josiah.” No, this is more like, if you showed me a hundred different ink blots right now, I’d probably find a way to associate every single one of them with home.

Home. I don’t know that there has ever been a word so warm and inviting.

As a noun it means: the place where one lives permanently. As a verb, it is: (of an animal) return by instinct to its territory after leaving it.

Many people have made speculations beyond those definitions, as well. Penelope Stokes wrote: “Home wasn’t where they had to take you in; home was where they wanted to take you in. Home was where you always knew you were welcome, where their eyes lit up at the sight of you.”

For most of my life, I saw home as that place I lived for most of my life—that place I return to several times a year. I envisioned it as the place where my family is waiting with open arms and brilliant smiles.

Then I got a reply from a friend whom I had written in this serious case of homesickness, and his concluding statement knocked the breath out of me.

But I think that there will always be some people (maybe only a few) who you have known for a long time—who you shared experiences with—that, even after extended periods apart, it still feels like you never left home.

I read those words. I reread those words. I edited them for grammatical clarity. And then I began to wonder, perhaps for the first time… Maybe home is not so much a place where you come and go, but a place you carry with you. Maybe, in a way, I’ve been home all along.

And this may sound ridiculously, frighteningly weird, but I want to be home for someone—a place of permanent refuge. The kind of place where you return by instinct simply because you somehow know it’s safe there. I want my words to shelter another in the storm. I want my life to harbor other lives—fragile, broken lives that just need a place to rest and heal and discover that there is beauty on the other side of the abyss.

So this is me coming home to you—creating home for you—and praying you’ll find that home only a heartbeat away from where you are.