02 January 2014

Let it Scare You Just a Little Bit

I was a prolific blogger.  Past life. A life that doesn't exist anymore. I wrote heart and soul to fill pages and pages of blankness with my thoughts, my feelings, myself. I made friends. Followed other blogs. Shared comments generously. I was one of them.  My blogs were personal. My heart a window thrown open to the world offering a peek deeply into my life, my soul.  I shared it all, bared my soul with those of you who would consider it a gift to be invited in. 

The truth, I always held back.  It may not have seemed that way to a reeling audience watching as my mind and my first marriage unraveled. I did it publicly and then it died, my blog, not me. I thrived. The safety of pulling my life back into a semblance of privacy was like pulling weeds away from a garden plant. I got sun and water and air and in that space and nourishment I could grow into a better person, a person healed. 

Now the writing, it calls me to risk again.  Peeling back the layers of myself for public consumption is aversion therapy for the people-pleaser that resides within.  My one goal, to be courageous and try to write in a way that scares me a little.

01 January 2014

La vie est belle - Life is Beautiful

My perfume for Christmas from Kaitlyn
The changing of time, the passage of an old year into a new is a cause for reflection. We look back on the landmark events of a good year, those dates we write down on the calendar with asterisks or use our red pen to draw little hearts around with fond recollection. Some years are marked with sadness when we must say goodbye to loved ones, try to make our homes in new places, battle things like illness, unemployment or difficult relationships. We readily bid those years adieu. But most years are a mixture of both where good and bad are interspersed with ordinary, non-descript days that are hardly remembered at all.
Life can be messy and complicated. It can be mysterious, exciting and mind-numbingly boring. There are days that test your patience and courage and determination and there are days that will cause you unimaginable delight.  This past year, seeing my granddaughter's face on an ultrasound caused a mixture of happiness and sadness I find difficult to articulate. With her arrival my daughter becomes a mother and I know that will stretch her and test her and reward her like nothing else in life can in all of it's beautiful messiness.
The coming year offers so much potential.  But I find that it is a lot of pressure to live up to. I woke this morning with a lot of messages about eating well and exercising, goal setting, resolution making. I like the idea of the first page of a book with 365 blank pages, but I also find it a little overwhelming. This year will play out as it will, already written in a book of the pages of the days of each of our lives and I will embrace mine as it comes, one day at a time.  Because above all else, I am convinced that life is beautiful.

09 May 2013

Writing About Writing is NOT Real Writing

Writing prompts, writing prompts, writing prompts.  I can look at a million of them but if I don't put them to work for me, no writing will ever actually get done.  I think sometimes the reason I don't write is that I'm too much of a perfectionist.  Maybe this will come as a surprise to some who know me who see my tendency towards the haphazard in many areas - but I assure you that writing is not one of them.  When it comes to writing, I have started a million journals and ripped out the first page, which is hysterical considering these are *for my eyes only*.  I start a letter only to write a paragraph or two and ball the whole thing up and shoot it like a basketball into the wastebasket.  If my words feel awkward, unless there is an assignment to turn in or a grade at stake or something that *must* be written, I will easily give up on anything short of perfection. 

In one of my favorite writing books Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott urges aspiring writers with these two pieces of advice:
  • allow yourself to write sh*tty first drafts
  • write only what you can see in a 1" picture frame
I love these two pieces of advice. Do I do either of them? No. I don't allow the first drafts to be really, really, really bad.  I write, and backspace and re-write and edit even in the midst of what I'm writing.   I stay obsessively focused on the big picture.  I fret and worry about where I am going with whatever I am writing, the end result, the bottom line, the motivation behind what I feel the need so desperately to say to the world.

Lurching back into the blogging world has given me an opportunity to do this again, to just put something down!  I don't intend for it to be anything of any ultimate significance to anyone else, but a forum to get myself writing again.  Once upon a time I was a prolific blogger and stopped in my own best interest when my blog became a place to fall apart in a very public way when my life imploded.  I am in a totally different place in life now, and I think I'm ready to throw myself back into something I loved so much - and in even this small way, discipline myself as a writer.

So here goes..... and thanks for those of you who have always encouraged me along the way. 

07 May 2013

Never Actually Writing

One of the most difficult things about writing to me is the concept of taking roughly a million thoughts floating around in my brain, like balloons lifting high into the sky - trying to capture them and put them into some sort of order that makes sense.  Much of the time my thoughts are equally as vulnerable, prone to popping and deflating. Often before they are even solidly anchored in my head, they disappear. I make attempts at scribbling partial, cryptic thoughts onto notecards and into various Moleskin notebooks only to look back and have no sense of what it is I thought was so brilliant about my idea.  I sit before a blank Word document with a flashing cursor and have nothing to give it.  I want to pour out all of myself at once - a myriad of thoughts and stories and depth of conviction, but no matter how I try, they all tangle up tightly like a shoelace that has twisted so all the threads become as one.

This is the frustration with writing or thinking myself a writer - the never actually writing.

16 January 2013

Clothed in What?

The ladies in our Sunday school class at church are embarking on a Beth Moore Bible study called So Long, Insecurity.  This study is based on a book by the same name that I read a couple years ago.  It had a major influence on me as I began to see how much my own insecurity has impacted my life.  But to be honest, I read a great book like that with so.much.truth - one that shows me my own reflection like looking in a mirror, but it stuck in my brain like a magnet to drywall - it didn't.  Insecurity's crippling grasp has had an effect on every relationship in my life, every decision large and small. It is my giant and I'm ready to face it! So I began pestering the ladies to do this study with our Sunday school class, hoping that repetition and discussion and doing the *work* (not necessarily in my workbook but in my honest examination of myself before the Lord) would cement the information in my heart and mind. Like the squeaky wheel..... I got the oil! 

This morning I was reading this verse:
She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. ~Prov 31:25

She is clothed with strength. In the original Hebrew this word means power, might, stronghold, strong-willed, stubborn, stouthearted.  Since it is not a word that is commonly used - I had to look up *stouthearted*.  It means courageous or determined.  More times than I can count, I have felt fearful, weak, small.  I have given up when I should have pressed on.  This courageous determination has not earmarked my life.  I want some of that. 

She is clothed with dignity.  Synonyms for this word include majesty, splendor, glory, honor.  The antonyms for this word include shame and disgrace.  Shame tells us we are not good enough and disgrace echoes that we never will be.  Whether it is the result of our own wrongdoing or foolish behavior or the product of wrongs done to us, it is destroying us. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to have some dignity restored.

This verse comes to mind:
As scripture says "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Romans 10:11 

It repeats what is written in Isaiah 28:16 -
So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: "See I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed...."

 Jesus Christ is the cornerstone.  He is the firm foundation.  Fear and weakness, shame and disgrace are the products building my life on shifting sands.  I am getting free of this if it kills me - and I'm taking as many ladies as I can with me!  

08 April 2012

So Much More Than Heaven

Easter morning. Flowers blooming, birds chirping, the grass is green and even the air smells of new life. The red buds on the mountain tell us that what the winter tamped down is rising again. All of creation speaks of spring and the bursting forth of new life that cannot be conquered, regardless of the cold, dark death of winter.  It's as if the earth is telling The Story. He is painting a picture with life - with all that surrounds us.

This morning I am captured by the wonder of Cadbury mini-eggs with my coffee.  The crunch of the delicate shell, then sweet and creamy chocolate melting over your tongue and washed away with the hot delicious bitterness of dark roast with cream.  A simple pleasure that rouses the senses. Even this sensual indulgence can bring me to a point of worship. He gave me the ability to enjoy this treat and provided all of the makings. It is His, all of it is His and he shares it with me.

The talk of Easter is death and resurrection to new life. We no longer have to fear the end of this life because we know a price has been paid, the wrongs have been made right. We have the hope of heaven because of Jesus.  So much of what we focus on as believers is the end of our lives and where we will go when we die.  But it is about so.much.more.  Jesus also defeated the things that would cripple us and defeat us as we live these lives. Every day can be accomplished victoriously because of the cross.  Jesus died to defeat my anxious soul. This beautiful Easter morning, I will hold on to that for all that I am worth.

Thank you Jesus for Cadbury mini-eggs and the power to overcome my anxiety. 

07 April 2012

A Mile in the Moccasins of Not Trusting God Enough

One of the worst parts of having an anxiety disorder is being anxious about being anxious.

When I share openly how I'm feeling, I get the impression that my anxiety is looked at as a weakness.  I read a quote recently that said "Anxiety is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of having tried to remain strong for too long."  Yep. Try 40ish years.

Here is the hard-core truth: I do not want to be anxious. Telling me to take a  few deep breaths, take a walk, calm down, try yoga, give it to God, not to worry, yadda yadda yadda only increases the anxiousness that I am feeling - because now on top of the internal pressure, I am anxious about not performing to a standard that suits you.

Recently a friend asked me if I trusted God at all. The most honest answer to that question is, not really. I trust that He loves me, I trust that He cares about me. I trust that whatever happens, He will be there to help me pick up the pieces and ultimately use it all for my good. The trouble with all of this for me is that there is still a lot of hard shit and deep, muddy water sometimes to trudge through in the process.  God has allowed it in the past and He very well might allow it again.  That is where the fear lies - what will I have to go through to get where God wants to take me?  What else am I going to have to survive?

I love the way the Message puts this in Matthew 6:27

"Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch?"

I am under no impression that my worry or anxiety is making any impact on reality, whatsoever. This past week there was a tornado nest forming itself around my oldest daughter where she lives thousands of miles away from me in Texas.  When I read that one was touching down in her town and she posted on Facebook that tornado sirens were going off and I couldn't get in touch with her by phone or text, the fears and thoughts were swirling as fast as those torrential winds.  Here's a little peek into the thought stream of a full-blown panic attack:
"Does she know to get out of the third floor? Is there anywhere to go? Why isn't Gary answering his phone? Did she even think to ask that when she moved in there? She's on foot because she doesn't have a car yet, so there's no way to get anywhere else. Why won't she answer her phone?  I hope she doesn't try to walk from her apartment building to the complex office once the tornado is there. Bathtub! They have a huge bathtub - she can get in that. Oh, she'll need to pull her mattress on top of her. I wonder if she has listened when I told her these things. Oh Jesus! Why isn't she answering her phone? GOD please keep her safe. (this was about all the prayer I could mutter) Where is Jacob? Oh Lord I hope he's not on a roof somewhere."
It just went on and on and on like this for a couple of hours. Even once I reached her by phone, the weather hadn't cleared yet.  I did not think at any point that I could stop the tornadoes, but I did worry my girl would be safe in a way that was crippling and paralyzing.  In contrast, my boss' son who is a college student in that neck of the woods of Texas received a text message from his parents asking if he was alright.

Sometimes well meaning people advise me to "trust God", not realizing it just makes me feel like more of a failure, like.I'm.failing.God.  He knows that I am dust. He knows my frailties and my weaknesses. He knows the capacity I have for trust, and if I am trusting enough.

There are a lot of things that have happened to bring me here. The truth of the matter is that nobody wants it to go away more than I do. I hate it that it has frustrated people that love me and that my friends don't know what to say or do. Sometimes the best medicine is a hug and hearing "it's going to be okay". Please know that I am trying. Short of taking a handy-dandy handful of pills that the doctor is more than willing to prescribe which will offer me a number of other side effects and drug reactions to put in place of the anxiety and numb me of every other feeling, pain or pleasure - I am doing absolutely everything I can to work on this day by day. I've re-instituted my yoga routine, I'm doing a Beth Moore study on Esther that illustrates God using the most adverse circumstances for someone's ultimate good (pay attention Julie!), I'm starting a self-help class that helps re-wire your brain so you learn to process stresses differently, I attended a recovery Bible study faithfully for 6 months even though I was the.only.regular attendee with my loving Sasquatch by my side and I have also been doing several other things that I won't mention for fear of how weird they might sound.  My body even betrays me, when I'm feeling calm mentally, suddenly my pulse will be soaring with a heart rate of 100+.

This is a process. Healing is a process.  The healing is emotional, mental and physical.  The damage didn't happen overnight and it isn't going to heal overnight. Be patient with me and and in so doing, help me learn to be patient with myself. I'm a work in progress.

10 February 2012

God's Will and Small Steps in Dense Fog

One of the most interesting aspects of the Christian language is the assertion of what is and what is not "God's will", the quest to discern the will of God and the superstitious ways in which we apply this to our lives.  I do not believe that God's will is laid out before us neat and tidy like a map or a GPS directing us which way to turn. Personally, though I have no theological ground on which to base this outside of my own life experiences, "God's will" seems hidden in the day to day steps we take in faith that are followed by either peace or a total lack thereof.
I have heard Christians say, in regards to a matter for which they are seeking God's will, that a thing is "done" because they prayed about it.  The sting of such an arrogant statement lasts long after the issue does not conclude in our favor. Then who has failed, the person praying or God? Seldom have I heard anyone, following such a bold statement take credit for their error in projecting their own interests on God or misinterpreting His will, allowing the blame to fall squarely on the shoulders of a faultless God.
I had someone well meaning tell me when I was separated once from my ex-husband that since we weren't Christians when we got married, that we did so apart from "God's will" - asserting that divorce would then place me back in a right standing with God by realigning myself with "His will" for my life.  The truth is that when the end of that marriage came, it was much like stepping off of a cliff and hoping that I wouldn't splat at the bottom.  God's will was not clear. I felt a nudge in one direction and took one step, but the rest of the path was dense with heavy fog. I could not have said at the beginning of that journey that I knew where it would lead. My heart was open, but it was literally the journey of a thousand miles taken one step at a time.
So often as humans we do what we want to do, and God meets us along the way that He already knew we would take and works all things out according to the good of those who love Him. This is the immeasurable beauty of free will - that He does not abandon us when we lose our footing on the path He would have us on. It is a bitter pill to swallow when someone you love is doing something you hate and accrediting it to God and His dang-blasted will.  All things being equal, my misgivings about this could also be a sign to them that this isn't "God's will".  In my experience, those looking for the signs to point in the direction they are already making plans to go will not see what they don't want to see.
Sometimes my faith is so small that I struggle to hold tightly to the truth of the good intentions for me of a Love that I cannot comprehend.  For today, right now, in this moment I can say whatever His will may be, everything is going to be alright.

09 January 2012

Awkward Much?

One of the things I dislike the most about going to church is this contradiction it seems to make in telling folks to be independent thinkers in a culture that opposes God - and yet tells you what to say, who to say it to, when to say it and how loud to say it.  We've all suffered through uncomfortable moments with total strangers when your heart drops and the pastor says "Turn to your neighbor....." or the sweat saturated palms you have to clasp with someone whose name you may not even know.  Yesterday I had to tell a lady behind me during communion, which I believe should be sacred and introspective "Jesus died for you that you might live for Him".  Awkward much?
Don't get me wrong. I know lots of pastors, teachers, preachers and speakers that I respect highly who do the whole "repeat after me" thing in an attempt to get their congregation engaged. Some of my favorite speakers do it - Beth Moore, T.D. Jakes, and the list goes on. Then there is the reaction if the response isn't vehement enough - committed enough - bold enough. I've been admonished in church repeatedly with "Come on people, you can do BETTER than that!" Maybe I can't.  Maybe I'm not there yet. Maybe it takes my learning style just a bit longer to process what was just presented. Maybe I was taking notes - writing down what was said in an attempt to engage myself. I am wondering why we are so afraid to let people learn and grow in their faith at their own pace or worship in a way that is individual to them? Can I not sing equally as passionately if I am sitting as opposed to standing?  I spent years wondering if this was a pride thing for me - an attitude of "don't tell me what to do". I've come to the conclusion that it is more of an aversion to cult-like behavior. Don't confuse what I am saying. I have no intention of criticizing godly men and women who are doing their best to motivate people to live their lives sold out to Jesus. I just have an aversion to this specific element of corporate worship.
I love being with other people that love Jesus. I love listening to intelligent speakers that inspire and motivate me. I don't love feeling like I must obey the ritual or say the words I'm told to say or speak to a stranger without a proper opportunity to introduce myself.  I hate the cult-like mantras of  repetitive music and speech that go on and on. Nowhere else in society do people who don't know one another clasp hands. The whole thing is a false sense of familiarity and relationship that does not exist.
I would like to know how to participate in Christian community and avoid these things. Any suggestions?

29 August 2011

Take That Worthlessness!

This was my Facebook status this morning - and it has made such an impact on me that I wanted to preserve it here: You are valuable. Yes YOU. Not because of your net worth or your earning potential - but because once upon a time, a decision was made by a Creator who holds the breath of life to infuse life into cells. The exact perfect circumstances had to exist to bring this about and He allowed every single variable to line up. None of us are a mistake. Nobody is an accident. Our entrance into this world did not take Him by surprise - and we each were very much wanted because He decided this world would not be the same without us. From those conceived in royalty to babies born into the arms of teenage parents - and everything in between - to Him there is no distinction. As someone who struggles with intense worthlessness, I woke up this morning to this affirmation that I can only imagine was from Him - that I was wanted and loved and HIS.  How much different life would be if we all lived as if this were true - not only of ourselves but of every single other person that we encounter in our days. We are so loved.  Take that worthlessness!