Dear Fear,

 

Instagram is by far my favorite social media platform, it is clean, and uncluttered. I have found so much inspiration there. (Now if only I could just bring myself to ditch that time waster of FB). I was scrolling through my feed on my lunch break at work the other day and came across the above image re-posted by a friend of mine. It literally took my breath away for a second. So good.

Addressing your fear, acknowledging it, giving it a voice, but not giving it control. (Even of the radio.) Fear is something I have dealt with throughout my journey, at different times and in different ways. It is indeed familiar. So familiar that sometimes it sneaks right in and starts making suggestions without me even noticing. But I have gotten better at recognizing it over the years, and better at shutting down those suggestions before they start taking me on detours. But every time some new situation or choice arises, it is there, that familiar tightness in my chest, that ‘what if,’ worse case scenario playing in my head,

The sooner I recognize it, the easier it is reason myself back to reality, a process that sometimes has to occur multiple times a day. Sometimes that requires listening to fear and walking with it for a while. In one of Beth Moore’s bible studies, she says something to the effect of, to break fear’s hold on you, sometimes you have walk out with it to the end. This seems counter-intuitive, but in order to do this you first have to recognize what it is that you are specifically afraid of. Often times we have a fear response but we can’t really put into words what exactly it is we are afraid of, and we just end up with this vague anxiety that paralyzes us. Secondly, once you realize what exactly you are afraid of, you go there. You go there in your mind, you walk with fear down that horrible path of ‘what if’. When you get to the end you sit and look around and see if it really as bad as you thought. Is it really the end of the world as we know it?

For me, this is what this looks like: Ok, this would hurt, this would be hard, this would be difficult, BUT if I end up here, is God still in control? does he still love me? will he teach me and guide me and give me the strength I need to walk through this?  And once I have sat in that place and looked fear in the eye, the answer is always, yes. Yes, He will be enough even in that place, and suddenly fear loses all control.

It goes back to the question I have asked myself every step of this journey. “If I really believe what I say I believe, then what? If I believe what I say I believe, then I simply can not let fear drive.

A Tale of Two Selfies

Well friends, it’s been a LONG time since I wrote. The radio silence has been equally due to two things. I have been busy and haven’t had anything to say that I wanted to tell the world. Many things have happened and much growth has occurred, some deeply private that I haven’t wanted to share on a platform like this, others have been smaller, creeping changes that haven’t screamed loud enough to get out of my head and on to paper. So what caused me to write again? A selfie. Profound.

A month or so ago, I was in the bathroom washing my hands, looked in the mirror and loved my hair, so I took a selfie. I looked at that picture and I loved what I saw. So I made that picture my profile picture. Now that may seem like a pretty ordinary set of events. But it wasn’t. It was significant.

IMG_1775

Up until about a year ago, my profile picture had always been a picture of my son and I, or of a friend and I. My identity was not my own. In my life, I have been daughter, wife, mother, student, and friend. And I have lost myself in all of those roles. This year I feel like I have finally become my own person. I am a mom, and a nurse, and a daughter, and a friend, I am all of those things, and none of those things…because I am ME. And I am starting to like me.

I moved out of my tiny studio of 8 years, into pretty much my dream house, this year. It is amazing what physical space can do for you. I also moved away from the property, family, neighbors, where I have lived for practically my whole life. It is amazing what emotional space can do for you. I also started my dream job as a postpartum nurse. It is amazing what a career can do for you. My ex-husband remarried this year. It is amazing what FINAL closure can do for you. I started my son on meds this year. It is amazing what finally making progress can do for you.

Now don’t get me wrong, with all those changes, it wasn’t all roses and rainbows. It was hard, ridiculously hard at times. There were many times I laid in bed starting at the ceiling wondering what the heck I doing and how was I going to keep this up, and was this ever going to get easier. And I still wonder that sometimes. But in an advent devotional before Christmas I came across this phrase. Make room. And that has become my motto of sorts.

Make room. Make room for God. Make room for people. Make room for me. Make room to breathe. I don’t have any of those things figured out, but I am working on it. Part of making room, is letting go of expectations. I am making room for God, by dropping my guilt when I don’t meet the self imposed expectation that I should have a quite time every day. That gives me the freedom to breathe Him in and make room in little ways that snowball into bigger ways. I make room for other people, by dropping expectations, by not defining, by letting people be who they are. I make room for me by dropping the expectations I put on myself, by taking time to breathe, to rest, to connect. And the crazy thing is that since I have given myself the permission to binge watch Netflix or take a nap on a day off…my house has never been cleaner. By giving myself some room to rest and take care of myself, I am much more productive at other times.

So back to the selfie, I looked at this picture I took and I saw this cute, smart, funny, confident, content person looking back at me. I had never seen that before. Later that week I got on the scale, and realized that I was almost back up to my heaviest weight again. And I thought about that selfie and I laughed! Because it so perfectly illustrated the old saying that weight is just a number. I went looking for an old picture from when I was at that weight before. And it was a picture of a totally different person. I tried to remember what it was like being that girl. I know I didn’t feel cute, how can you when you are not comfortable in your own skin? I know I didn’t feel smart or funny, how can you when you feel helpless. I know I wasn’t confident, how can you when you are ridiculously insecure. And I know I wasn’t content, I wanted so much more out of life and how no idea how to get there.

IMG_2169

Guess what. I didn’t get there. A year after that picture was taken, my whole world started to crumble and the life that I thought I wanted disappeared. I had to start over from the ground up. I had to decide who I wanted to be. I never expected to be the person I am now, I never set out with this goal in mind. But I have picked up the pieces and slowly put them back together and become a whole person again. A different person. A stronger person. A person with more capacity to love. A person with the capacity to love myself. A person who is better for having been broken.

And that my friends is why you should take selfies now and then. 😉

[Not] An Apology

After my last blog post I almost wrote an apology. Posting something written while crying is probably not the best idea. But I did. And the next morning as people started commenting on Facebook, telling me that everything was going to be alright and things would work out, I felt bad. I didn’t write it because I wanted pity or attention. So I almost apologized. But I didn’t.

My writing process it probably different from most (everyone’s probably is). I don’t do rough drafts, I don’t start something and come back to it. I usually have some idea, some thought, that starts to bother me, and I muse on it for a week or more and then when I can’t stand having it in my head anymore, I sit down and write. And it usually goes in a direction I didn’t anticipate. I revise as I go, and then when it is done I send it out into the world. Because I know if I leave it, I will decide that it isn’t good enough, or doesn’t need to be said, or something along those lines.

The last blog post was no different, the core was something that had been kicking around for a while. The crying my eyes out while writing was the unanticipated direction. That fact that my process was the same is what kept me from knee jerk apologizing, and that gave me time to think it through. And I got a little help in my thought process.

First I heard the song “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissett, and I while I am not recommending the song (you have been warned) the chorus makes a good point. Singing to an ex, she says “I’m here to remind you of the mess you left when you went away. It’s not fair to deny me of the cross I bear that you gave to me.” As I talked about in the last post the fall out has really been bothering me lately. I feel like it has been 7 years, I shouldn’t be dealing with this anymore. So that last line, really hit home, it ISN’T fair to deny the fall out. The course of my life was drastically altered by someone else’s choice. That is fact. And that fact is still affecting my life today. Just to be clear I am not advocating playing the victim. We all have to take responsibility for our own actions. I have worked hard to stand on my own two feet. But that doesn’t make it easy.

The Second thing that helped solidify my thought process was this blog post about being a single mom on the Huffington Post. What we do is not easy. That doesn’t mean that we don’t love it. That doesn’t me we would trade it for the world. It just means that it is hard. And it isn’t fair to expect us to pretend that it is not. The whole reason I started this blog was to write about the hard things, with the hope that just one person will read it and know that they are not alone, know that what they are feeling is normal. So I don’t apologize for my last post. Because someone out there needed to hear it. Someone out there didn’t need it all tied up in a neat bow with all the answers. They needed raw, they needed real, they needed to know they weren’t alone.

Words

“When words are written down they can be the finest expression of the human soul. Once words are marked down on paper, they cannot be taken back, they are in the world for good or for ill. They wither or they endure. Words can be dangerous things. They might find expression when we least expect it. Or they can desert us altogether”” – From Larkrise to Candleford

I wrote this quote down while watching TV because I thought it was so true, and I wanted to share it here. That was months ago. Apparently my words deserted me. I went from twice a month blog posts, to once a month, to now 4 months of silence. I don’t like being silent. But there are times when I don’t want to know what I think.

Words aren’t only an expression of my soul; they are the way I find my soul. In sitting down to write, I figure out what I really think and feel in ways I never do otherwise. Writing is as much self-discovery for me as it is self-expression. And sometimes it is just easier to just not discover.

Where to begin? The last 4 months have been a whirlwind. I graduated from nursing school, my son graduated from kindergarten, we went to the mountains, my grandma fell and broke her hip, I took a board review class, I took and passed RN boards (woohoo!), one of my dear friends got married, I had jury duty, we got two puppies, my ex-husband moved to North Carolina, we moved my grandma home on Hospice, and my son and I went to Legoland. And those are just the highlights from glancing over my calendar.

 

Within the next month, my son starts soccer, first grade (at a new school), and AWANA. Throughout all this I am caring for my grandma, looking for a job, organizing and boxing things in my home and in storage in preparation for moving. Tired yet? I am. The kind of tired where it is easier to pop on an episode of Downton Abby in the evening, than to face thinking about anything.

The uncertainty of my life right now is overwhelming. While nothing has changed, everything has changed…and everything is about to. I have been looking forward to this change, but so far it is not looking like anything I had planned. But isn’t that what they say? Life is what happens when we are busy making plans? So I am just trying to go with the flow. And breathe. In. And out. And not panic. And not hold on too tight. And not drowned in the overwhelming loneliness of it all.

See, there is that darn self-discovery sneaking in. I had not thought about loneliness, and certainly didn’t intend to write about it. But there it is. Marked down on paper, so it cannot be taken back.

When one reads the list of things I have been up to, loneliness would not be the first thing that would come to mind. But loneliness does not come from being alone, and it does not leave in the presence of busyness. It comes from not having someone to share your thoughts with at the end of a long day. It comes from having no one to help you figure out the logistics of getting your kid to practices and games and school events, and how in the world you are going to do all that once you get a job. It comes from boxing up baby clothes and not knowing if you will ever have the chance to use them again. It comes from lying in bed at night and wishing there was someone next to you, just for the comfort of it.

And this, my friends is why I have been silent. Because I just can’t face it.

Through Smoke

This song has been on repeat in my head for the last few days.

“When the answers and the truth take different sides, Will you still find me, Will you still see me, Through smoke…When everything you know seems so untrue. When I am lost in a place I thought I knew….” – NEEDTOBREATHE

‘Lost in a place I thought I knew.’ I read my last post here and realize that it describes me completely. I know exactly where I am and what to do to get out, but I am still wandering around in circles. A dear friend posted a simple quote on Facebook a week ago  “Disappointment kills hope”. And I suddenly had three simple words to describe where I am. I have always been an optimistic, hopeful person. But disappointment has been choking out that person. I don’t even know what to hope FOR anymore.

‘Everything you know seems so untrue.’ What do you do when everything you know, the words you say, and phrases you repeat don’t seem to be true? A song we sang in church today  says, “I sing out and remind my soul” And that is what I need, I need to remind my soul, every.single.day. The service continued on to a sermon tailor made for me. I won’t try to recap in, but it was pretty amazing. (you can listen here WWJT (Pt.2) 4/21/13 ) It was stuff ‘I thought I knew’ but I certainly needed reminding of.

I hope I make it out of this ‘smoke’. Soon. I am tired of being choked up by it.

 

Holes

“Time heals all wounds”…but time doesn’t fill the holes.

Driving down the road, suddenly I feel a tangible emptiness on my left ring finger. Where once there was something, emptiness, a hole. I have been acutely aware of holes lately.

Until lately I have been able to ignore the fact that something is missing in my life and my son’s life. Life has been good, and he has never known anything different. (of which I am grateful)  But as he gets older things have gotten harder. His behavior is out of control. I am at my wits end. And that is when I notice it. The gaping hole. The hole where a father should be. I have tried to tell myself all along, that we will be fine, that he will turn out just fine, that I can do this. And while all those things may be true, I am left to wonder how things would be if the hole was filled. I can say with certainty that things would be different. How? I don’t know. That is the thing about holes, you never know what could have been. You just know that it would have been different.

I have prayed for this hole to be filled from the day it was created. And yet it is still empty. And I have to stare down the disappointment. It is hard to keep praying for something through disappointment. It is hard to keep praying for other things, and people, when the disappointment of unanswered prayer is staring you in the face every. single. day.

Contentment. Something that I thought I had figured out. But then the disappointment swells up. Today in church we talked discontentment. How it is really a way of saying that God’s way is not good enough. We want God’s will, our way. But it doesn’t work that way. If we want God’s will, it has to be His way.

I want God’s will, more than anything. Because outside of it, life is just a purposeless mess. Not to say my life hasn’t seen its fair share of messes, but I can see his handwriting all over it, and I can see purpose growing from the pain. But it is hard to be patient when more seems to be falling into the holes. I know that he will fill them; He has given me assurances of that. But I feel like a ticking time bomb, that if they are not filled soon, it will all cave it. I have to want His will HIS way, not my way, because He understands why, and I don’t.

How do I go about keeping the disappointment at bay? I need to focus on the daily expressions of his love. The little things that happen all the time that show me his Love for me. I cannot and will not let those things be swallowed up in the holes.

And even if we never talk again

“And even if we never talk again, please remember that I am forever changed by who you are and what you meant to me”

This quote hits home and has inspired me to write about something very personal.

This time last year I was in a relationship, my first (and only) one since the divorce. I had told God that if he wanted me to be in a relationship with someone he was going to have to make it very, very clear, because I was too afraid to trust myself to make a decision like that. Of course being God he came through, and not only did he make it very clear, but just so I couldn’t talk myself into thinking it was coming from me, he made it someone I would not have chosen on my own. And in the process, taught me a very important lesson that He “does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at outward appearance (and circumstances), but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16: 7)

So knowing 100% that this was a relationship that God wanted me in I entered into it with my heart open, not holding back.  I have never known anyone who probed so deep into my heart and required so much honesty from me. As a result deep places of fear, scars, and confusion that I didn’t even know were there, were opened to the light of day. God taught me so, so much and I had a period of very concentrated spiritual growth.

Then it ended. I was confused, hurt, and angry, not with him, but with God. Why had he put me in this relationship, just to take it away? Had a misread the signs? What was the purpose? It took me a while to wade through the emotions. But I came out the other side with a better understanding of God and of myself.

A bit of back-story: I was raised with I Kissed Dating Goodbye and was taught not to give my heart away. I married my high school sweetheart. It was what I always dreamed of, I didn’t want to give pieces of my heart away; I didn’t want to have a broken heart. After less than a year of “dating” I told him I didn’t want to be in a relationship, if it was just going to be a short-term thing, he agreed and we decided that our intention in dating was to develop a relationship that would lead toward marriage. Heavy stuff for a 16-year-old. Fast forward. After 5 years of marriage, we separate and eventually divorce. And here I am, single for the first time since I was 15. Never having “dated” and left to sift through my previous thoughts and convictions on relationships and dating. Talk about baggage.

Based on my previous “dating is bad” and “don’t give your heart away” ideas, I never would have opened my heart up the way I did, if God hadn’t been very clear from the beginning that I was supposed to be in this relationship. My problem was, based on these ideas, I assumed that because God led me into this relationship that it was going to be a permanent thing. I assumed I knew what God’s purpose was and it was only my assumptions, me trying to be God, which caused me hurt.

As I sorted through things, God was very clear with me, the relationship was exactly what it was supposed to be. He used it to bring things to light that needed healing that I didn’t even know were there. He used to test me, and grow me. He used it to make me a better person. He used it to change my assumptions. And most of all He used it to show me how much he loved me. Based on my old view, by loving this man, being emotionally open and vulnerable, I would have somehow lost something. But I didn’t lose a thing; I gained so much!

He also used it to change my views on relationships. There is no “right or wrong” way to go about “dating,” as long as I follow His lead I will be doing the right thing. If God brings someone into my life, he has a plan for that person, for that relationship, and for my heart. I have learned to have an open heart, that there is nothing to fear. I don’t need to fear loving, and I don’t need to fear losing.

Again it comes down to “do I really believe what I say I believe”. If I believe that God loves me and has a good plan for me, how can I not trust him with my heart? If I open it, it might get hurt, but if I keep it closed I will miss the opportunity to learn and grow.