choices, choices….

when i was job searching, i had submitted nearly a dozen resumes to companies around Indy, start-ups and non-profits that i had a passion for working alongside.  i hesitantly put my name forward for the company i work for as well, and was shocked that the only call-back i received was from them.  in fact, i cried.

i could only see this move as a step back.  after i had made so much headway into what i would have considered my calling, i was going back to corporate America.  selling my soul to the man.  i went through the interview process, grieving all that i had thought would work, all that i had hoped would be what i wanted.  it was an emotional process of letting go, and embracing a new experience.  i am so thankful, now, that this job presented itself as a possibility.

eventually, i got a couple more interview requests but knew, deep down, this was the choice for me, and i turned them down.

a friend and i were celebrating a recent experience where she was able to say no, firmly, to something that was not good for her and act on it.  we discussed how important it is to acknowledge such an accomplishment, especially when, if you’re like me, you tend to find identity and comfort in the bad choices.  no matter how much they usually hurt in the end.  learning to not choose what is bad is the first step in healing.  in walking forward in beauty and truth and light.

it doesn’t stop there, tho.  the next step in that journey must be learning to choose what is good.  it is this step that seems entirely hard to grasp, and i grow more and more thankful that good things tend to be the only option so that i am often forced to walk toward them.

similar to the job situation, i sit in a very unique place relationship wise.  a good guy, with incredible qualities, who treats me with dignity and respect, sits before me as a possibility.  a very real and excellent possibility.  still, i sit, almost unable to reach out my hands, fearful for some strange reason.  then i think about something that was shared at yoga, that deep down i don’t feel myself worthy of anything good.  i don’t find myself worthy of good attention, or respect, or even love.

i can reject what is bad, but i must really work to choose what is good….and so i grieve all that i ever hoped would work out and hasn’t, all that i’ve tried, the bad decisions and the mistakes that have taught me so much.  i try to remind myself of my beauty, my light.  i try not to be so defensive when a compliment comes my way.  i try to see myself through the eyes of someone who adores me.  i try to remind myself that i deserve good things, that i deserve to be loved.  that i am loved, and worth loving.

it’s funny…i’ll dive head first into a situation with an unknown outcome, but i hesitate so timidly at the edge of a situation that would bring such life.  and so the journey continues…perhaps it will lead me to a place where choosing good things for myself will not seem so foreign or so impossible.

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sweet Sabbath.

since discussions began about the gallery last summer, Mondays have become my self-prescribed Sabbath.  i knew then that if i was spending my weekends with the gallery, i would need a day off.  i was right.  this morning i woke with no other agenda than to do whatever i wanted.  a beautiful plan, and one we need to give ourselves the freedom to do every now and then.

here are some ways i’m coloring in my day:

long, COLD, run this am, complete with a stop in the middle to visit Angela

breakfast then a nap.  yes, a nap at 10:30 am.

chat with my dad about everything and nothing, which is what makes our conversations so special–the fact that one minute i’m sharing the depths of my heart, the next we’re talking about falcons nesting downtown and maple syrup festivals.

currently engaging my taste buds with a hot Americano and a sweet coffee cake.  my body/mind are in all-out rebellion with the sudden drop in temps and presence of snow; i have to do whatever it takes to keep them calm.

looking forward to a birthday dinner for one of the members of our community tonight, and catching up over drinks with a friend from college.

some other Sabbath day observations:

i am blown-away by the generosity of my old boss, who handed me a gift card to say thanks for all my hard work and still wants to give me an employee discount.

i am feeling a tingling-in-the-toes kind of alive lately.  fresh hope seems around every corner as i continue to dream of new adventures.

wearing headphones in a public place is a kind of heaven.  it is like living life in a movie soundtrack, where you don’t have to hear the nitty-gritty details of a scene.  you see it through the lens of the song you’re listening.  makes reality more doable sometimes.

i am currently rockin’ skinny jeans (my first real pair!) and enjoying my overflowing mane of curls.  anyone who knows me, knows i rarely say i love my hair.

this day is just what i needed.

 

crying it out.

i recently started nannying an almost 5-mo-old, who is subsequently teething.

given that she is in pain and i am a stranger, tears come easy.  very easy.

last week, i was able to get her to sleep tho, as she chewed on my finger.  this week, different story.

the mom, bless her heart, works from home and has not yet had a non-family member with her daughter.  it is very hard for her to refrain when she hears cries.  the disruption, however, makes it hard for me to learn the rhythm of the babe.  for her to learn me.  for us to learn that the sun will shine again after the tears.

i am not a sadist, but i do believe there is value in crying it out.  something happens inside when we realize what once soothed us will no longer do; we have to dig deeper, let go, find our horizon expanding to let new people, places, things in.

my dreams have been chaotic lately.  loud and bright and chock full of emotion.   ghosts have come back from the past to speak comfort to me, current love interests have called in tears, unknown faces have shown up and unfamiliar scenarios.  all very vivid.  and i wake feeling moved in some way.  shaken.  stirred.

my brain is emotionally crying it out.

the babe and i will be fine, i think.  so will me and the dreams.  if anything i’m learning right now, it’s that this season will change.  this, too, shall pass.  just the moment i get the motions down, the sands will shift.

if i let it, the crying will give me new perspective.  i’ll be stronger for the struggle.

a lesson in grace.

a friend of mine recommended i write a post about having grace for ourselves.  as he noted in the email, it is something i tend to preach to others, and since he had “never actually heard of grace outside of praying before you eat supper,” i decided to take his request and spend some time writing on the subject.

my journey into embracing a more gracious lifestyle for myself came just over a year ago, on New Year’s Day 2011.  i had one of those life-crisis type NYE where i felt like no one loved me and i was never going to get married, blah blah blah.  i responded by drinking half a bottle of vodka and passing out in the bathroom.

the next day, still half-dazed, i made my way to a hot yoga class.  i spent most of the hour and a half in child’s pose, crying.  i got home, showered and determined to spend the rest of the day in bed.  it was there a phrase came to me that shed great light on my self-destructive behavior and set me on a different path:

“there is no refuge in me.”

i began to realize that when i was going through some unexplicable pain or grief beyond my control, i would try to self-medicate by smoking, drinking, etc.  but these are all actually self-destructive measures, inflicting even greater pain on already exposed wounds.  i learned to hold myself that day.  to actually, physically hold myself, wrapping my arms around myself and giving comfort i desperately needed.

my friend is right in saying that i preach “self grace.”  it is only because i have found such a need for it in myself.  as i told him, if we are not the first to respond to our wounds with tenderness, who will?

tangibly, this can manifest itself in many different ways, which are unique to each person.  i will share my methods, but it is important to pay attention to yourself and what you need.  it may be necessary to first identify what self-destructing methods you’re currently using to “comfort,” then you can begin to replace those with more positive, grace-filled acts.

these are just a few i’ve discovered that allow me to care for myself:

forts
when i was a kid, my aunt would help us build elaborate forts in the living room with blankets and the dining room chairs.  we would also build in the tv and watch movies.  i loved how cozy it felt in there, like a protect world that where i could be myself.  just recently i realized how necessary it can be to create that sacred space when i’m in the midst of chaos.  i did that in the fall when trying to cope with a couple different issues.  i simply put a blanket over the coffee table and crawled in.  once inside, the flood gates opened and i was able to fully grieve.

baths
these have always been a safe place for me.  after a long day, i love to just soak in a hot bath.

yoga
this is a recent discovery but the yoga mat has definitely become a place to quiet my thoughts, take deep breaths, and care about the movements and processes of my body.  i especially appreciate instructors who, at the end of a session, encourage you to thank your body.  i find it allows me to acknowledge this wonderfully complex creation, to focus on its beauty, which in turn encourages me to take better care of it.

there are a myriad of other things i’ve done…lounging on friends’ couches for hours or allowing space to eat cookies without counting the cost.  i have found that allowing myself to be child-like is very important, as most of my grieving stems from there anyway.  the heart of it, always, is to still that critical voice, and begin to learn a new language of respect and love and encouragement.

many people find this approach arrogant or self-indulgent or self-centered, but in truth, we must care for ourselves properly if we are ever to be expected to care for others.

 

Emmanuel: God with Us

as i was talking to my dad about tree-decorating, etc, he mentioned that the spirit of the holiday just wasn’t in their house.  i resonated with this.  each year since my parents’ divorce has been different.  sometimes i feel the wonderful peacefulness of the holiday, and others i feel disappointment and loneliness as Christmas serves as a reminder for all that has been lost.

last year, about this time, i was feeling especially low.  i was in the midst of cleaning up a messy break-up and dealing with the holidays and just felt sad, a lot.  i met with one of the pastor’s at church, and his encouragement was this:  just before Jesus came, the days were grower shorter, darker, and the people of God were losing hope that there was an answer.  and just like that, in the dead of the night, in a dirty barn, a little baby was born.  Jesus.  Emmanuel.  God-with-Us.  a reminder that God sees us, and longs to be with us.  basically, you’re not alone in feeling that all is not as it should be, because it really isn’t.  but there is hope coming.

i think we get all wrapped up in this idea of the “spirit” of the season, of the gushy movies we watch that show the Holiday as something so perfect, and warm, and cheery.  there are bits and pieces of that for sure, but perhaps the more honest thing is to admit that it’s hard.  that life is growing darker, and seems hopeless, and we are in desperate need of a God who desires to be near us.  we are in desperate need of a reminder that He is bigger than all this, for lack of a better word, crap around us.

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” has become one of my favorite songs in recent years, as it presents the deep cry of humanity:  come, God.  come and pay our ransom.  we are being held captive and drowning in despair.  come, oh God-with-us.

so, in this “season,” however it may be looking for you, hear the Father’s words to His children:

broken, battered people.  i see you in the midst of your despair, and am about to do something.  you will find me when you look for me in the dark, deserted places.  i will come humbly to live among you, to restore you and make things right.  do not lose hope, for i love you more than words can ever express.

happy December.

it’s December 1.  snow is falling.  i had a good night of rest.  and i’ve completed my third novel-in-a-month challenge.

today is a good day.

there is something about the morning after finishing something big like that.  something very…alive.  i remember this feeling from the mornings after my 1/2 marathons.  i think it has something to do with pushing through the hard, sticking with something even though it demands sacrifice to the nth degree.  it is rewarding.

but even deeper than that, i feel healthy for the first time in months.  i’m a stress eater/smoker, both of which i’ve been doing without much reserve since September.  at this moment, i haven’t smoked in over a week and i actually woke up considering what would be best, food wise, to put in my body today.

this is encouraging to me because it reveals healing in my heart.  i’ve been walking through such a desert these last months, as habits and patterns and family issues get unearthed.  i had a conversation a couple months back with a good friend, and she articulated what i was feeling:  i’m just having a hard time understanding why i need to be healthy.  of course, in our heads, we had all the answers.  but deep down, our hearts were hurting in such a way that we did not care much for the rest of ourselves.

that is not the case this morning.  if only for a brief moment, i’ve stepped out of the valley.  it is snowing here, and beautiful.  the healing, at least from this vantage point, was worth the pain.

presence

for the first time in my life, words are proving to be inadequate.

i’ve been in a couple situations now, coming across people on the streets or neighbors who’ve been injured and all i can do is sit with them while we wait for the paramedics.  i’m walking with several people through parts of life that i can’t speak into: a friend who’s father was just diagnosed with cancer, another who’s wounds i don’t understand and still others who are not yet ready to share their pain.  i often feel inadequate and helpless as to what to do when they’re crying or, worse, silent.

which begs the question, is presence enough?

i think back to the times i sensed God’s presence in my life, and the answer is an overwhelming yes.  i think of the times He seemed to just hold me when i really wanted to drive into traffic, or the time He walked through a sexually inappropriate relationship and wooed me back to Himself.  the little moments in the car when i sensed He was close, on the streets, in my bed.  He didn’t come and tell me that suicide was a sin and i shouldn’t do it because i’d go to hell.  or that having sex before marriage was wrong and that i was going to hell.  he was just there…and that made all the difference.

Jesus once said he came to heal the sick, not the healthy. i think of what a hospital looks like then, of the bed that’s just there for whoever comes in needing it.  they get to be just exactly as they are found…wounding, bleading, crying, comotose.  no comes to them with words of condemnation for what got them there (or at least the shouldn’t), the ill-chosen decisions or the things that were done to them.  they just get treated and are given a space to heal.

this may be the greatest analogy he could have given us for the role of the church body: be a place where people can come and rest and heal fully.  you were once (and maybe still are) a patient yourself, being cared for and loved on by a gentle Father.  go and do likewise.

may you go out today in the knowledge that you have both the need for healing, and the capacity to bring healing to others.  that your presence is more than enough; sometimes it’s everything.