My mom often talked freely about her relationship with God, frequently speaking about conversations she had with him. Hearing God’s voice was never a foreign concept or an absurd thing … Continue reading Connecting without words
I’m no expert on Lent, meaning I can’t give you the history of when and why, but I did grow up observing the practice of giving something up for the 40 days leading up to Easter. Lent allows us to remember the sacrifice Jesus gave for us by sacrificing something in our own lives. When I was young I picked chewing gum because it wasn’t that difficult to give up. I did this for 6 years in a row.
For the last few years I have not participated in Lent simply because I had nothing I felt like I needed to give up. After a failed attempt at cutting out ice cream, only to gorge myself on other sweet treats, I felt abstaining was a better option. My faith is based on relationship, not hollow rules and traditions. Why would Lent be an exception? I felt good in this decision year after year, especially when one year a roommate bragged about how easy it was for her to give up sugar while she poured a glob of honey onto a strawberry.
Which leads me to now, the year I gave up something for real. This year I chose to participate in Lent because my soul and my habits needed a recalibration. Somewhere between endless free time and desperation I fell into the pit of hours of binge watching to the point of losing almost all of my energy. The red flag for me was when it took me just over a week to get to season 5 on 2 separate shows. Not a proud moment, but the moment I said, “I have a problem.”
What do I mean by recalibrate? I just felt off. I’ve been in a relationship with Jesus for 12 years; We’re at the point when I can just sense something before he says something – we’re that close. After 6 hours of one show I just felt… gross. I would look up and notice the sun had set and I felt like I wasted my day (that had started at 11 am). And I would do that for 3 and 4 days in a row. I would sit for 20 minutes to kind of listen to God, maybe read my Bible (*gasp* I know), and maybe pray a quick sentence for someone. Then I would rush to catch up on Liz Lemon’s life, only to sit there through 8 episodes before moving again.
Basically, I’m using Lent as my intervention to focus back on Jesus. My initial reaction was to give up Netflix completely, but I realized if I was doing something for Jesus I wanted to get his input. So I prayed and asked him what he wanted me to give up. “Netflix is not the issue – binge watching is. I want you to focus on the root,” he responded. So that’s what I’ve given up – binge watching.
What does this look like? It looks like limiting myself to 1 episode of 1 show per day. So if I watch the latest episode of Survivor today, I have to wait until tomorrow to watch Leslie Knope get married. At first, this was SUPER difficult. It felt like torture because I had so many hours to fill in a day. But this wasn’t meant to be easy like pausing my gum addiction. It was meant to prioritize my time back on Jesus – be it reading, writing, praying, meditating, coloring, or exploring. A week went by and I rediscovered books. I learned my new library system is awesome and I can listen to a book a lot faster than I can read one. It’s also more fun when the author reads it, because it’s like they’re talking directly to you.
After two weeks I felt like more like myself, as if I had been a deflated version of myself prior and the Holy Spirit breathed life back into my being. It helps I finally have a job to go to (not every day), but I’ve also changed my priorities that I can go several days without watching any episodes. Plus, in the last month I have read/listened to 8 books. Clearly I still have a lot of time on my hands, but now I use it for good instead of wasting it.
Have you ever listened to a song on repeat, until the lyrics are forever burned into all corners of your brain? I can listen to a song on repeat for days and weeks on end. When the world moved on from Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” I made it my ringtone, to ensure no one around me would forget the gold that this song is. I choose songs based on their lyrics, their beat, or how they make me feel. Sometimes I will listen to a song until the emotion (such as sadness or anger) has subsided, as if with each repeat a little more emotion has escaped me.
In times of deep sorrow and big questions I am somehow always brought back to Gungor’s “Beautiful Things.” It starts with the lyrics
all this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change
In that place, I deeply connect with these lyrics. It’s as if someone else has joined me in the pit of confusion, giving words to my feelings. But the lyrics don’t allow me to stay there – they remind me to look up and remember hope.
hope is springing from this old ground
out of chaos life is being found
you make beautiful things
you make beautiful things out of the dust
you make beautiful things
you make beautiful things out of us
The first time I listened to this song on repeat I was sitting in an airport, trying to drown out the noise around me and focus my thoughts from the previous 48 hours. 6 years ago I felt defeated and unsure what to do next. I had flown from Reno, NV to Kansas City, MO to meet a missions team moving to France and decide if I was a good fit. It was a 5 year commitment, but I was desperate to be outside of the U.S. I thought desperation could eventually overpower my general dislike for most French people and the French language. Maybe I could change once I was there? Confronted with a team of 5 people genuinely in love with all things France it was clear I wasn’t a good fit.
I remember sitting at a large table in a small room, talking with the board and new CEO of the organization, all of us aware I wasn’t going to France but uneasy how to start that conversation. It was suggested I begin discipleship under someone trusted in my church, and maybe travel for longer than two weeks before committing to five years.
So there I am, at the airport, sad to be stuck in the States without a clear plan and the intimidating assignment of asking someone to disciple me. It felt like I was sent back to square-one. I put on my headphones and selected a premade mix of songs to try to make myself feel better. Slowly, the lyrics from Gungor’s “Beautiful Things” started to play.
I listened to that one song, on repeat, for my entire 6 hour flight. I didn’t gain answers, but I felt ok to be sad and reminded not to give up. It took me 2 weeks to muster the courage to ask Kelly to disciple me. She is a powerhouse of a woman – confident in the Lord and how the Lord made her, not afraid to take charge or call you out on your crap. I spent 2 years working with her – studying and memorizing scripture, reading so many books on all things Christianity and missions, and being challenged in my thinking of myself and the world. She was the one who told me to just leave and go on a missions trip already. Fast forward to my 11 month trip with the World Race, ultimately working for that organization for 2.5 years.
When things fell through after moving to WA, I again stumbled across this song. I was reminded of how things worked out for the best, despite being vastly different from the story I had written for myself. I felt sad, but I felt hope for the unknown. I may have taken 2 steps back instead of 2 steps forward. I may be rerouting my life currently, but I’m also redefining happiness and finding newfound freedom. What do you do when life pushes you down like a bully in the sandbox?
you make beautiful things out of the dust
you make beautiful things
you make beautiful things out of us
I know you’re reading this because mom told me you check this site every morning. I have always found writing to be easier than speaking, and there are a lot of things I’ve wanted to say to you. I wrote this, not expecting things to change between us, but so that I can finally let go of my resentments.
I have carried a lot of hurt and anger because of you – towards myself and you – and I have always felt like I’m a terrible daughter for doing so. You cared for my physical needs in abudance but left my emotional needs with a huge defecit. I craved to be told I was beautiful and talented by you, to have a heart connection with you, and to find security and stability in you. Instead, I was told I was fat and given endless examples of how I wasn’t good enough, we argued over big and small issues with little resolution, and I never knew when you were going to switch from calm to angry.
Looking back, I really believe I was made to be a daddy’s girl. I naturally clung to you, deeply valued your opinion and thoughts, and honestly wanted to know you as a person. I think that’s why it hurt so deeply when you pushed me away, criticized my dreams, pointed out my faults, and put a wall up between us. I wanted us to share stories of our lives together, not just the books I checked out from the library. I wanted us to hold plans for the future together, not just hands as I crossed the street. I wanted you to protect me from the scary things in life, not become one of the monsters I feared the most.
I wasted a lot of time trying to predict your mood swings, thinking if I could figure out the formula I could make our home peaceful instead of the minefield it felt like. At the age of seven I took it upon myself to protect my mom and sister from your verbal attacks, thinking I could save them from the sting of your words. We were, and are, all high feelers – meaning we are affected by more than just words. We can pick up the tensions and moods of a room, a movie, or a song. We can feel a depth to words that includes both intent and meaning, and filling the rooms in our hearts, rather than bouncing off of us.
I didn’t know how to articulate myself then, to express my deepest needs and desires. I didn’t know how to say, “I want less ‘you’ and more ‘us.'” I wanted more memories of smashing sleeves of saltines for your late night snacks, going to the library for new books every Saturday, walking through the zoo and making sure we saw elephants and hippos, and swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. I wanted fewer fights, fewer threats, and fewer tears.
I don’t know if I told you, but my first semester at college I tried saltines and milk; I thought it was gross. I also got counseling when I was in college. I had spent so many years stuffing my feelings down, trying to be tough like you, all in hopes you would want to spend more time with me. I honestly thought I had let you down by being born a girl instead of a boy, too. I tried so hard to make you proud of me, and I fought so much for you to respect me. I blamed myself for failing so much of the time.
I’ve spent a lot of time receiving counseling and inner healing, unraveling my pain from the facts of my past. I’ve forgiven you for a lot, but not for everything. I’m working on it. I’ll get there.
I wrestled with whether to post this or not, afraid of what you might say or think and afraid to hurt mom all over again. This isn’t about pointing fingers or pushing blame; It’s about being honestly transparent. I’m over pretending I’m ok, hiding how I really feel, and lying to myself that it wasn’t that bad. I want others to feel safe to share the broken and messy parts of their lives with me, but I know that level of honesty starts with me. And my biggest, deepest wounds come from the brokenness in our relationship.
When I was younger I was terrified of thunderstorms. Light rains turned into heavy rains with high winds, followed by a low rumble of thunder off in the distance. As it neared, lightning began to dance across the sky and reminded my small town of its power to destroy us. The winds continued to pick up speed and join in this violent orchestration, and I waited anxiously for the tornado sirens to sound. Under the covers, my heart beat wildly in anticipation for the tornado warning, as if my panic was excused if the sirens wailed. All I knew in those moments was he sooner the alarm sounded, the sooner the storm would pass, and the sooner this high alert energy would dissipate.
Thunderstorms threatened that a bigger monster was just around the corner. The culmination of sights and sounds seemed to snarl, “You think this is big and scary? Just wait until my cousin Tornado shows up!” That threat prowled around my thoughts each and every storm until I was choked by my own anxiety. When the storm finally moved on, the taunting ceased and the grip of anxiety was released.
As an adult, this fear of thunderstorms remains. I continue to choose to quietly hide under the covers, close my eyes, and wish the storm away. In a sense, I do the same thing when the storms of life approach as well. Sometimes there are the light rains of trouble and pain, and you wonder, “Is more coming?” While other times the downpour appears with no warning and you’re trapped outside in the storm.
I wish that, like a storm, the hard stuff in life would pass overnight instead of dragging on for weeks and months at a time. But I’ve noticed in these weeks and months in the rain that I’ve become more open about sharing my feelings of pain, confusion, lostness, and heartache. I’ve stopped trying to lessen them, or cover them up, and pretend that I’m ok.
What is it that makes sharing these thoughts and feelings so difficult? Why are the things that sting our hearts and make us cry, that make us question life and direction and purpose, also cause us to look at the floor when we finally decide to share them? Why do we walk around so clenched with secrets, trying to be perfect all the time?
For me, I don’t like appearing weak. Growing up, weakness was teased, mocked, and a reason why I was silenced or dismissed. As an adult, I’m relearning the truth about my weaknesses and the reasons to stop hiding them from people. When I share my shortcomings, fears, and hurts with someone I create a bridge of connection with them.
Pretending I never have needs, concerns, or cravings isolates me from those around me. I create walls with no point of entry, whereas acknowledging these things extends a hand out for someone else to take hold of. Me saying, “You know… I’ve been feeling a lot lonelier than I expected since moving here,” creates a space for us to connect. It opens a new opportunity for you to feel comfortable talking about your fear of losing your job or sharing the pain of your most recent breakup. We were never meant to carry these burdens alone, or hide in the shadows with our shortcomings. Let us be the ones who share openly and honestly about our storms when they happen, so that others feel welcome to share as well. Let us stop hiding under the covers and wishing it all away.
It’s easier to have confidence in the future when you have a plan.
A month ago I had paid the deposit and the first month’s rent for a room I had only seen over FB chat, a job that was only an offer letter away, a bed I had purchased with a bonus check I was still waiting on, a friend who committed to driving across the country for a week with me with the only request we visit the Grand Canyon, another friend who volunteered to pack for me, and several versions of how I dreamed my new life was going to play out. Fast forward to now: embarrassingly 5 seasons into 30 Rock, 2 seasons into Parks & Rec, a claimed spot in front of the large window in my new living room, and thankful for the donation to my bank account my parents made before I left while I wait to hear back about my start date for training as a barista at Starbucks.
Life took an unexpected sharp turn, but only after I became comfortable with the promises and fantasies I surrounded myself with. I had settled into a dream life – a full-time job I could brag about, a great story of how I took a risk and moved across the country, and the claim I hadn’t worked that hard for all of it to magically fall into place. So when I lost the job promised to me… I cried. I held back the tears while on the phone, and tried my best to sound like I wasn’t crying. Somewhere between the offer and the offer letter I had lost my job. I felt betrayed, rejected, and confused.
I reached out to my mentor and a few close friends, trying to understand what just happened. Then I gave myself a few days to cry, mope, be angry, and any other emotion I needed to get out. My plan was to then pick myself up and move forward, determined to show them all. Instead, I took a week feeling sorry for myself, then applied and interviewed with Starbucks. After 3 weeks of Target runs, daily Netflix binges, and watching the rain fall from my new favorite place, I needed a reason to get out of the house and hopefully make at least one friend.
While I felt relieved to have a job, I immediately felt terrible. I had spent years secretly judging friends and strangers alike for working there. You couldn’t find a real job so you’re working THERE? I worked at Victoria’s Secret for over two years while I looked for a “real job,” and now when my “real job” changed their mind about me, I have returned to that I-honestly-don’t-know-what-my-schedule-is-for-next-week-so-maybe-I-can-hang-out-with-you-and-maybe-you-should-have-a-plan-b lifestyle. I recognize this judgment comes from my own bias, but I wanted to be transparent with you. By taking this job I have also judged myself harshly and now I am struggling with feeling like a failure.
A friend of mine shared this gem with me: You can’t deal with the emotion until you’ve dealt with the shame you’ve attached to it. Shame is a very powerful force; It binds our hands, covers our mouths, and sometimes strangles the life out of us. It distracts us from what we’re feeling and why we’re feeling that way. The worst part is shame only has as much power we give it. Until I deal with the shame of working a part-time hourly job at 29 years old, I can’t address the underlying emotions that are accusing me of being a failure.
I’m in the midst of this process, clearly. It requires telling myself, “It’s ok to not be ok right now,” until I believe it. It means every morning, while I drink coffee and talk to Jesus, I allow my brain and heart to fight over truth. I seek guidance from God and people I trust, and I stop beating myself up with negative thoughts. I cry or scream when I need to, instead of bottling those things up and telling myself it’s not appropriate. I ask myself, “How would I talk to/treat my friend going through this?” and then tell/treat myself those things. I remind myself life isn’t over and I don’t need to everything today. I take things one day at a time, and right now I’m reminding myself free coffee is in my future.
On Sunday, January 22, 2017 I will begin the drive to Seattle, WA from Gainesville, GA. I don’t know if all of my things will fit in my car, but I hope so. I have a plan of cities to stay the night and people to see one more time, and the expectation to cry at least once. I have a friend joining me for the drive and the voice “boy band” downloaded to my GPS. I feel ready, despite having no plan once I arrive in WA. I know finding the nearest Target and Trader Joe’s are definitely high on the priority list.
Looking back on the last 2 ½ years, I would sum up my time in Georgia as a typical Hallmark movie; Young city girl moves to small town Georgia, hates it at first but discovers there are things to enjoy and people to love, self-discovery ensues, and she returns to the city confident in herself in new ways.
The turning point happened in September, on my birthday. After a dinner that didn’t go as I had planned (aka many people not showing up), I spent over 2 hours in the parking lot talking to a new friend. And by talking I mean word vomiting – where you say everything you’re thinking and feeling without a filter, and oftentimes surprise yourself with what you say. I was struggling heart, mind, and soul and unable to help myself anymore. Underneath all my words was a whisper, a cry for help.
The Lord heard that cry, because after that meeting things happened one after another, like stacked dominoes falling down. A guest speaker explained the reason my soul continually felt exhausted: I was trying to be someone I’m not. I scheduled a 1-on-1 with this woman to learn more about me and how I’m supposed to operate. What was scheduled as a 1 hour session took 2 hours, and I think I cried for 1.5 hours of it. I was suggested a book to read and given many next steps.
I went to the bookstore to buy said book, discovered the price was more than $10 and put the book back. Then I stood there for maybe 10 minutes, finally convincing myself to buy the book because I would not have thought twice about the price had it been for anyone else. This is how I begin to love me the way I love others. This exercise turned into speaking more positive things over myself and speaking up for my wants and desires to those around me. I started forming an inner confidence I hadn’t seen or felt before. This confidence allowed me to email my boss with a list of requests for my goodbye party with no shame.
At the same time, my discussions with God evolved from toddler to adolescent. Over many, many weeks I learned that I viewed God as if I was a toddler leashed to her parent at the zoo. I gave Him full authority to lead, knowing I could wander within a small radius, and the cord would be tugged when it was time to move. But God wanted more from me, more for us.
God wanted to be partners. He wanted to hear I preferred to live in cities, I wanted to learn how to be a good boss through promotion to manager, and cappuccinos were in the top 3 reasons why I loved traveling to Europe for my job. He wanted me to know that if I had not struggled so greatly I would not have learned so much, I have a gift of writing – be it blogs or spoken word, and I really can trust my gut – and should when reading dating profiles and deciding to go on a date.
So it is with a new confidence I embark on a new adventure. I have confidence in God’s plan for me, the weight my voice and opinion carries, and I’m ready for whatever is next.