Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wishing I Was More Than What My Story Has Told

Photo Credit: Bing Wright

The past few weeks I have been angry.
Really angry. Hurt. Upset. And angry.

I know in a lot of ways I don't feel like I deserve the things I do not have. So I get that.
But I know I don't deserve to have been treated the way I was. And that makes me angry.

The fact that I cared so much about someone and they behaved in a way that shows the least concern possible, that makes me angry. 

I've turned my back on God. Not to shoo him away but I just haven't made an effort.
I know He's still there. When I do apply myself to His word, He has faithfully opened my heart to understanding beyond what I have ever been able to fully comprehend. I usually end up being blown away. But I don't want to hear about how God came through for the Israelites thousands of years ago. I want to know how He's going to come through for me now.

I've missed more church in the past few weeks than I have in a year. I don't even miss it. Which is so awful to say, but I promised honesty here.

My prayer life has almost stopped. It's certainly not as deep and meaningful as it used to be. I still pray for others but I'm not really praying for myself. I know I'm at a loss of what to pray for anymore... Yet, I also think it's more than that. I'm sick of praying about it. I'm sick of asking to see God move. I don't want to pray about it just like I don't want to think about it. In a way it almost feels like I'm fighting with God. Like He's the one who acted out of character. How true I know that isn't, but right now I don't even know what to say to Him.

You know the old adage? Your brain cannot process two different pains at the same time?

I have been in a lot of pain since last week. At times excruciating and debilitating. I finally went to the doctor on Wednesday when I literally could not get out of bed. He diagnosed me with a muscle spasm in my neck and shoulder.He told me it acts exactly like a charlie horse. Where the muscle tightens and cannot relax. Despite being out of work and despite the fact that the ibuprofen 800 and the muscle relaxers didn't touch my pain, I never prayed for healing.

I don't know. I think in some ways I didn't care. That I welcomed the physical pain to cover up the pain I've been feeling in my heart. But I have since learned you can't cover up a broken heart. Our hearts, or at least mine, does not operate in unison with my brain. Gee thanks, heart.

I think know, I fully trusted God. As I sit here in the broken pieces it feels like I was let down by the One we are told we can trust. I believed in Him coming through for me in every ounce of the situation. Yet, He let me down. 

While I know He is good - I know He can be trusted, it's like my heart doesn't care anymore.
I put my hope in the Lord and then I was disappointed. While He is not the one that disappointed me, He could have prevented it. He allowed this to happen. Truth be told, I'm sick of waiting for whatever His plan is.

I think about this and I just get angry all over again.

Because it feels like there are two sides.

There's his side and there's mine. and God doesn't seem to be on my side.

Right now it feels like it's just emptiness. The person I want to talk to, I can't.

Every single morning I wake up and quiz myself:

Like Peeta to Katniss, "You love me - Real or Not Real?"
Not Real.

Only backwards, "You left me - Real or Not Real?"

It's the reality that hurts. That causes it to sink in the very dark, lonely corners of my heart.

And I'm just so tired of feeling this way.
I want to pick up all my baggage and get on the bus.

Then I want to get off the bus in some far away place with no direction as to how to get back home and I want to leave my baggage on the bus and just go. Let my baggage be shipped off with no return to sender.

I want to start over. I want a pill that erases the bitter memories that won't stop replaying in my mind.

It's all so easier said than done. Yet, no one really understands that. Don't you think that I want to put this in the past? I find no joy in being held hostage by memories and hopes and dreams that are crushed. As much as everyone wants to suggest I move on, I want that too. 

I've asked God to send me someone else so I can affirm that He has a plan.
But partially, I'm just trying to cover my hurt. God knows it too.

I know the answer is simple. Move on. Get over it and move on. He had no problem doing it, so neither should you. I would sell everything I had to buy the one thing that would make this possible. If only such a thing existed. 

I'm sick of facing my pain because it's all I see and it's debilitating.

I sit in my quiet life, with hardly any text messages and even fewer phone calls and I just wonder how the heck did it come to this. I can literally feel the bitterness and hurt boiling beneath the surface in my blood. Everywhere I look, reminders are staring me in the face. It feels like one of those "Fun Houses" at the carnival that you can't wait to get out of. With mirrors and doom everywhere you look and you can't make heads or tails out of where you are going. It feels like crazy, over the top, chaos. Reminders are everywhere. It would take a whole other blog post to cover the insanity of all the ways it comes up throughout the day. Satan must be having a field day with me. Truthfully, it feels like I'm living in Satan's "Fun House" but somehow keep missing the exit, only to be spun around the punching bags and deceiving mirrors all over again. 

Yesterday I went to an arts festival. I had to hold my heart in place as I looked upon all the beautiful antiques that could have come directly out of my grandmothers house. All those cherished pieces thrown in a dumpster by my uncle who didn't consider calling first an option. 

Yet, I felt joy too. Because while I was there I realized the one thing that was missing. And I want so badly to fill that void of what was missing for next years art festival. It's scary and it's exciting and I'm so out of my league. Then I wanted to share the hope and dream with the one person who always encouraged me. Then I remember. I can't. He's not here anymore. He stopped believing in me. Stopped caring. Suddenly, it doesn't even matter to me anymore either.

So today, I just cry. I can't help it and I can't stop. I'm avoiding friends and I'm avoiding talking. Because no one gets it. Everyone wants to provide an answer or fluffy "It'll get better. Trust God. God has a plan. He wouldn't take away something good if He didn't have something better planned." This all may be true. Well, I say to that, I will believe it when I see it. 

I hate to fit myself into the category of Doubting Thomas - but I feel like I've been waiting my whole life for the pieces to fall into place. I've tried so hard to do things "the right way" and yet it seems like it makes no difference really. I'm tired of waiting. 

So why am I posting about it? Because I don't feel like writing today. It takes too long and I'm not in the mood. Because I know that only a few eyes will even see this post. 

Because God's not reading my journal so I doubt He's reading my blog.
He knows it all anyways, so no big deal there.

Never in my worst nightmare could I have dreamed up the brokenness I've been living.
Never would I have believed you if you told me this person would hurt me this way - just not a chance.
I'm still in so much disbelief - I need to keep reminding myself though, that it's real.
It's all so very raw and realer than real.

I have to keep reminding myself that someone else is in my place.
Loving the family I loved.
Loving the guy I loved.
Living the life I prayed would be mine.

And I'm just an outsider.

I think back to when my parents died. I don't think I grieved this hard. I think I just accepted the fact that it was over and there's no erasing death so I just moved on. I didn't ask questions, I didn't yell at God, I just carried on. I still hung out with friends, I still worked (doubles every day for 14 days straight), even though I cried, it didn't affect me like this.

I want to go back to being 21 again. I want to go back to being young and carefree. When life still seemed possible. When I felt like I had a future ahead of me. When I was ridiculous enough to believe that one day somebody was going to love me enough to stay. 

I'm coming through this desert of stone
These faces on the statues that I used to know
Wishing I was more than what my story has told
Or hoping that I'm dreaming in the day and this isn't happening
Gotta keep it altogether
Longing for a hand to hold
Keep clear of the shadows
Is there anybody, anybody?
Hello, is anybody listening?
Let go, as everyone lets go of me..
Oh oh, won't somebody show me that I'm not alone, not alone
Holding on to the memories of when I didn't know
        "Ignorance isn't wise but it beats being alone."
                                         - Kelly Clarkson, "Hello"

Friday, October 3, 2014

If I Hadn't

While I am someone who is always optimistic for others it is hard for me to do the same when it comes to my own circumstances. Lately, I have been challenged by a few friends to take my thoughts captive and speak truth over them. In a way that is conducive to how God operates, this same concept keeps popping up in other places.

How it works is simple, instead of feeling like I'm not enough I can choose to say, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." [Psalm 139:14] Instead of saying I'm not worth anything I can choose to say, "I am a chosen person...God's special possession." [1 Peter 2:9] Speaking scripture over ones own feelings in order to change what you believe can get you into positive-right thinking.

Don't get me wrong, the idea is simple but it can be hard to do. Growing up the way I did and the feelings that have been instilled from certain friendships and relationships all have reinforced the negative perception I tend to have of myself. It doesn't make it any easier that I don't like to give myself credit, even where credit is due, so sometimes speaking God's truths over my insecurity is a lot harder than it should be.

With this in mind, God has been working in my heart.

Today, I drove to Lincoln Woods State Park in RI. I've never been here before but I was armed with a camera and a purpose. My sister was kind enough to let me borrow her camera to get the feel for it to see if this is something I want to pursue, even if just recreationally. There's only so much I can capture on my little iPhone and sometimes it just leaves me frustrated. I want the intentionality of the camera. The resistance that makes each shot more purposeful, more thought out, more focused. I want to be able to capture the beauty of the world around me and I want photos worthy of framing. It's very hard to grab this kind of goodness through the iPhone camera. But maybe that's just me.

As I was driving I passed the sign on the highway for the exit I wanted to take. With no thanks to Siri (or whatever lady runs my maps app), she had me routed to take the following exit. Already I was a little annoyed with her. After all, she keeps getting me spun around in the city and as of late she can't seem to make up her mind. But as I drove the round about way, I saw some pretty great scenery. Farms and roads I wouldn't have seen had I taken the way everyone else does. It was so pretty in some spots I said I would stop on my way back to snap a few photos.

I drove through the park and felt a little overwhelmed. Since I've never been here before I didn't know the layout and there were a lot of roads that jutted out and went to small parking spots. I knew I wanted to get close to the pond so I drove until I could see a portion of it and then I parked. I wandered to the waters edge and snapped a few photos just trying to get my feel for the camera. Once I had my fill of that I walked down the road past the main entrance, the one I should have entered through. I wasn't too far past the entrance yet it was completely still with no one else really around. A car would pass by every few minutes. I was playing with the camera when my eye caught something. Then I realized what it was.

A small deer was crossing the main path. I was able to snap a few photos of the deer in a moment that felt longer than it probably truly was. I'm pretty sure on your first rookie day out in the field you're not supposed to capture something so beautiful. The fact that the deer lingered long enough for me to focus a few shots was amazing. Here I am in the woods and a deer just literally crossed my path.

Like, seriously? Only God.

This was only the beginning of me walking around and snapping photos. I couldn't help but thinking the whole time though, if I hadn't come through the back entrance, I would have never captured that.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this. I am such a "I shouldn't have" or "I should have" girl. Especially as of late, losing a relationship that meant the most to me, I can't help but call myself out on all the things I did wrong or didn't do right.

Yet, I realize in this moment "If I hadn't" should be what I choose to speak over those negative thoughts. If I hadn't gone the long way, I wouldn't have parked in the area I did and I would have drove past the spot that stilled me and took my breath away. If I hadn't taken today off of work to find rest for my soul in the great outdoors.. If I hadn't laced up my sneakers and left the house.. If I hadn't ... I could go back days and weeks to how this all lined up perfectly.

This is what I want to remember. God is lining my footsteps for amazing things even when I'm not expecting much. The "If I hadn'ts" of my life are going to be so much more important than the should haves and shouldn't haves....

"Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old...I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." -Isaiah 43:18, 19

If I hadn't is so much easier to see in retrospect; once the pieces are put into place. But I want to believe it without seeing the pieces yet in place. I want this thought to be what helps me to live faithfully trusting in the Lord. Walking by faith and not by sight. If I can instill this thought to be the one I think, then when things seem uncertain I can be confident in the truth that I am right where God wants me. I no longer will have to worry about the past and can instead look ahead to the future. I can wonder how each step, whether right or wrong, has set me on the path that God is paving for me.

"She laughs without fear of the future." - Proverbs 31:25

I always admired this trait of the Proverbs 31 woman. Now I have the wisdom to be able to do the same. I love how God teaches us each individually. If I hadn't wrote this post I may not have made that additional connection! Wonderful.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Where I'm Going

"Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
-Mark 6:31

So, I've dropped hints over the past few days that something big and exciting is going to happen.

I been quiet on sharing everything at once for two reasons. One, I'm afraid if I share then it will lose it's 'Wow, I can't believe I'm doing this' factor (and right now I just want to soak that all in). Two, because I wanted to make sure that this was right for me.

Sunday morning, after an exhausting night of sleep, I woke up more tired and run down than I had been in days. I think in some ways I had a false sense of "okay" that caught up with me. Because I'm not really okay, not right now, but I want so badly to be okay that I'm trying to fake it until I make it. That stuff doesn't fly with God, you know. He can spot a faker from light years away. So just as He knew I would do, I broke down and came crying back to the alter of His love begging, pleading, for a break.

In so many ways I still have this disbelief. It feels exactly like losing my parents again.. I have moments where I literally have to put my phone down and remind myself that I can't send that funny text, ask that random question, or share that Godly inspiration. It hurts. Down to the core of my being. Heartbreak is like the flu. It aches in places you didn't expect it to. It comes on quick and catches you at the worst time. It takes you out... Mind, body, soul... pure exhaustion.

So I'm here, trying to just be better. Trying to hold all the pieces together of what's left and desperately praying for mercy. No more, God. Please. Spinning and toiling away, putting on a happy face, posting the positive statuses, sharing my heart with all that I've got... and I love being and doing these things, but it's so very draining.

I can't tell you how pressed I was on Sunday afternoon. I had it in my mind that I was going to book a random hotel in NH and I was going to go this weekend, find a place to enjoy a hike and God's nature, and then to soak in His word all day. It's what I crave. I want this solace so bad. I spent an hour googling this trail and that, wondering how in the world I was going to scale rocky paths on my own. But I wasn't even that particularly concerned. I just wanted to go. Remove myself for a few days. I even tweeted about it:
"So tempted to get in my car and just drive. I just need a break from life for a while. This is just all too much for me."
"I need a place I can be still. No commitments, no one to have to talk to, no plans to fulfill. Just be alone. And quiet. Forget this world."
"I was so close to booking a hotel somewhere far away and just leaving. But then I remember how much of that money can go to #SSGives14."
"So with this in mind I'll quietly just keep on fighting this battle in my heart and praying one day a cease fire is called. #LordPlease"

The day carried on with it's usual frustrations that come once you wake up on the wrong side of life. This includes walking face first into the side of the door that I thought was open, banging up my nose and forehead and being 20 minutes late to a baby shower where I knew only the mama. (If you knew my anxiety in these situations... Oh, man!)

There were many tears.

But there were also many heartfelt conversations with God. I don't know what I said, really... but I know I needed to talk and He was all I had.

Fast forward to Monday as I am messaging my friend Kelly to find out how the Influence Conference was. She attended this year and it's such a big part of my hearts desire, to attend a Christian Women's Conference in 2015. I knew sales just opened up for next year so I wanted to get her take on it.

We chatted back and forth and she shared a few other conferences that sounded good as well. Then she told me I should check out the Return to Rest Retreat. She shared a few things about it that she thought would resonate with me. I immediately looked it up and fell in love. First of all, it's in driving distance so that's a huge bonus. I love road trips and good music. It also mentioned being made for us creative folk. But, really, anything that promises all the hot chocolate my heart desires is right up my alley.

So I looked into registration information. I realized several things that immediately put a damper on my excitement. It was in exactly 4 months. It's $600. Oh, yeah... and there's only one spot left.

Cue the sad song playing in the background of my heart. I shared my deflated feelings with Kelly and she encouraged me to trust God for this. She doesn't know this, but that is one thing I've wanted to develop with God. Trusting without reason. I've been asking Him to show me who He is, His power and His love for me. Her words struck a chord in me and I could just hear our friend, Annie Downs*, sitting there saying the same. I recently have been reading "Let's All Be Brave" and Annie tells these stories of God coming through that just make you want to be put in a position to see His power. I guess this was my chance, so I chose to be brave about it.

I called 'my mom' and asked her something that I never ever do. If I could borrow money. I gave her escape plans and wanted her to know that in no way did I expect her to say yes. Nor did I want her to feel pressured.

Meanwhile I prayed to God that if this spot wasn't for me, that He take it away. If it wasn't His will for me that the answer would be No. I know in my heart that tithing and bills are first and foremost. But I also have something special planned for the holidays and I didn't want this to jeopardize what I've already invested towards this either. (More on that another time). I spoke all this to God and begged Him to take it away if this was just a ridiculous spur of the moment pressing on my heart.

Photo Credit: Return to Rest

Long story short? She said she would do it. So I went online and checked and the registration spot was still there... I half expected that by the time I finished and clicked submit that it would pop up an apology that the last spot had sold while I fumbled away on Paypal. Once I had my confirmation I even went back to the website to see if it would let me buy another ticket, nope! Sold out!

Photo Credit: Return to Rest

So now I have this great adventure booked... and I'm so excited... Maybe I'm premature in sharing this because I still can't put it into words all the reasons why I am so hopeful for this opportunity. But here's a few reasons why...

It is a retreat for the weary. For those who are exhausted from life. Who want nothing more than to press into God and find rest in Him. There's worship, fellowship, and of course resting. Because they describe it so much better than I can, here's a partial description from the website:
"Return to Rest is a retreat for faith driven, creative entrepreneurs. Our goal is to create an intimate environment where we can create community, cultivate rest, and develop a deepening strength and understanding in our identity in Christ."
I kind of laughed at how it all came together. How this is exactly what I wanted. What I stopped myself from booking just the day before. Nervousness and doubt creeped in when I realized that they only have 8 attendees! Yup, eight! Big gulp!! So I frantically emailed them to make sure it was okay I was coming even though I don't own my own business. The response was so welcoming and I just knew in that moment, this is exactly what God wants me to do.

I also can't help but think of the urgency of this commitment. That God, knowing my heart, positioned me at the point where there was only one spot left. No time for thinking, no time for excuses why it's not for me. No worrying about breaking down on the highway 3 hours from home. No thoughts of how bizarre it is to go spend a weekend, with ladies I have never spoken to, to talk about God. No second guessing when I realized that it leans slightly with a focus on independent business women. No time for budgets and rationing all the reasons why this isn't the right time. God knows me so well!

I realize now, this is the right time, the perfect time even. I believe it.

I'm so excited to see how this helps shape my life in the future. I have no doubt that God will show me things I never expected. I have this expectant hope that He's going to come through for me. I'm always so interested to hear other people share their stories of 'how they do it' so I'm looking forward to gleaning lots of insight from the other ladies. I've also had some big dreams placed in my heart and I know if this is God's will for me then He will open doors and windows to get me to where I'm going. Did I mention how excited I am?!

I've always craved a winter getaway to the quiet snowy places of the world. With a hot drink and a good book nestled in my lap. Just a time to be quiet and still for a while. I never imagined that this dream would come true one day, especially in this way. Leave it to God to surprise me with this and have it be all for His glory.

So truly humbled.


*Disclaimer: Annie and I are fictional friends. However, if she held sign ups for new friends, I would be the first in line. :)