A series of unexpected crosses.

I moved back to Florida in July. But moving to Virginia three years earlier was a plot twist. I still can’t believe I did it. That I took the leap.

I, a lifelong wuss, moved 850 miles from home to be near a guy I dated. Back then, I wanted a marriage proposal. Instead, I got a breakup.

But I also got a breakthrough.

In Virginia, I tried. I fought. I failed. I did things I never imagined I’d do. Good things but scary things. I felt profound joy and profound grief and profound gratitude, often at the same time. I cried openly, in chapels, in church, and at the gym.

Life in Virginia had a series of unexpected crosses. But every single crucifixion was followed faithfully and relentlessly by a resurrection. Every single one. God turned every ending into a beginning. He turned finality into fertility. He turned me a few times into what He needed me to be.

Have you read the story in the Bible about Abraham and Isaac? God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. I learned while I lived in Virginia that I have to be Abraham. I have to be willing to give back to God what God has given to me. Which means I also have to be Isaac.

I learned that it’s actually possible to trust Him with yourself. With your future. We are so afraid deep down sometimes that He isn’t actually good, that He doesn’t actually know what’s best. We are afraid that He won’t catch us.

But He can’t catch us if we don’t leap.

So leap.

Something you need to know.

I sat on the couch in a Virginia Beach therapist’s office and for the first time, admitted the truth.

“I’m not attracted to him.”

But I wanted to be. The men I dated before him couldn’t commit. That meant that how badly I wanted them didn’t actually matter. This time, the dude wasn’t hesitant. I was.

“And I need you to tell me why,” I said to the therapist. “Why am I not attracted to him?”

She laughed. I did, too.

“I can’t tell you that,” she said.

But you need to know the one thing she could tell me.

“God only gives good gifts,” she said.

I nodded.

“And your lack of attraction to him is a good gift,” she added. “You just don’t know it yet.”

“Be strong, Arleen.” Tears welled up anyway.

“Be strong, Arleen.” I whispered it in the gym parking lot, at the end of a 400 meter run, the day after I accepted my Tampa job offer.

Tears welled up anyway.

Because I knew—I was leaving. “Be strong, Arleen,” I said.

Because I didn’t want to feel those feelings, let alone express them. I wanted to leave Virginia Beach without having to feel what a person should feel when she leaves.

Continue reading ““Be strong, Arleen.” Tears welled up anyway.”

Is the pain worth enduring?


I was thinking today about the untimely death of Lazarus.

His body, separated from his soul, was buried. His sisters, bereaved. His memory, cherished.

All the life, all the potential energy, all the productivity in him, extinguished. What was, wasn’t anymore. What could have been, then only could be longed for.

Bandages bound the body and a tomb surrounded it. Then, agony.

But I was also thinking today about what his sisters didn’t know. They didn’t know what Jesus was going to do. Continue reading “Is the pain worth enduring?”