What dying feels like.

I know what it looks like. Skin goes gray, blue sometimes, and people sleep a lot. They stop eating and talking. Family paces and medicates and dotes and laughs nervously in the corner. Sometimes there’s singing, and there’s almost always crying. I find myself answering the same questions over and over. No, they won’t starve to death. Our bodies know to stop taking food in once we can’t do anything with it. Yes, they can hear you. Right up until the very end, they can hear your voice. It cuts through the fog. No, I don’t know how long they have. I’ve gotten pretty good, where I can usually estimate a matter of days or weeks. But only God has our days numbered.

But I don’t know what dying feels like. And this week, the day after my thirtieth birthday, I got the rare chance to sit with a woman who was still alert and oriented enough to tell me. Most of the time, during the final phase, folks are really sleepy and incoherent. It’s like a very peaceful, not-scary coma. But this lady, man, she’s tough. She’s a retired nurse and a no-nonsense wife and mother and I can’t help but see glimpses of myself in her, down the road.

When I saw her last week, she was laughing and talking and walking around her house – slowly, gingerly, but moving nonetheless. I found a different woman in bed on Monday. She was gray in color and her speech was slurred. But she recognized me immediately and waved me over. “Get your butt in here,” she whispered. “I want to tell you about the colors.” I looked at her husband and he just smiled. I sat down and grabbed her hand, resting my chin on her hospital bed side rail as she began to take me on a journey to a thin place between heaven and earth. Quite honestly, she herself was a thin place, with one foot there and one foot here.

She saw people who died twenty years ago, and they looked happy. She reported that they all had full heads of thick, luscious hair. She saw the people who were actually in the room, too, like me and her family, and she could switch back and forth easily. The colors and sounds were vibrant, she said, peaceful even. She heard a rumbling sound and saw flashes of lightning sporadically. She wasn’t scared. This was the beginning of the end, she said. “I’m dying, right?” I nodded. I asked her if it scared her. She smiled and closed her eyes and shook her head. “I’m good. This is good.”

And then I rubbed her feet with essential oils and she asked me to pray for her, two things I’ve never done with a patient. Tears rolled down our cheeks as she thanked God for me and I for her. Because in that moment, I touched heaven and it touched me back.

I just lay there and wept.

I finally got back in the gym this week, after a few months of scheduling issues and what felt like a whole lot of excuses. It was my first public yoga class after starting instructor training too, so I was particularly interested to see how I felt about it. I didn’t even make it onto my mat before the tears came, so I just gave in. I just lay there and wept.

I wept for the Lord’s goodness and favor. I wept for my death arrested. I wept for the women in my city forced selling their bodies that night, even on Human Trafficking Awareness Day. I wept for my kids, that they might one day experience the Love washing over me in that moment. I wept for my country, for my President preparing to address us for his last State of the Union. I wept for the mamas in boats on the Mediterranean Sea, clinging to babies and praying to get to freedom. I wept for the mamas of color right here in my state, clinging to babies and praying to get to freedom. I wept for the revival I’d seen in my marriage over the last year, revival that spurred me to be in that yoga class that night. I wept for the women of the Influence Network, that they might fully realize the power of the gospel in their lives. I wept for His faithfulness.

And if that’s what I have to look forward to every time I take off my shoes and step onto my yoga mat, Jesus and I are going to have quite the adventure.

Reaching for comfort in 2016.

I plan on it this year. Reaching for comfort is actually a New Year’s resolution, of sorts. Notice I’m not saying chasing after comfort. I’m not talking about indulging. I’m talking about acknowledging what’s already here, soaking up the goodness from the Father that exists around me. I’m talking about an extra five minutes in bed with my husband, laughing and preparing for the day. I’m talking about locating and bringing my raincoat with me to work when I hear that it might be storming.

I’ve talked a lot about self-care in the past, and Shauna Niequist did a fantastic job with this post (a year ago exactly, in fact). Like she says, it’s important for us to know and believe our worth. It’s important to take care of ourselves so that we can care well for others. If we’re Jesus followers, it’s important to physically and emotionally and spiritually care for the temple his spirit calls home.

But I’m not really talking about self-care, at least not in the ways I used to. I’m talking about good old-fashioned gratitude. Thanks, God, for this pocket of time to take a bath. I’m gonna use all of the oils and bubbles. Thanks, God, for a job that allows such flexibility. I’m gonna pull over and clean out my car and wash the windows. Thanks, God, for lining up Holy Yoga instructor training this year. I’m gonna put a fancy warm blanket on my hard desk chair, and light a candle for every class. Thanks, God, for a husband who loves adventure in our home. I’m gonna keep buying bottles of wine until we learn to like one.

Here’s to every single candle of mine getting burned to the bottom by summer. Here’s to a couple of extra throw blankets purchased and left meaningfully around the house. Here’s to an empty bottle of the fancy shampoo. Here’s to a commitment to wearing winter gloves. Here’s to running out to my car late, coffee sloshing, because I braided my girls’ hair for school. Here’s to reaching for the goodness and favor of the Father, manifested in small moments of comforts sprinkled around my life.