One way to know I thrive on dialogue and feedback? I hate Twitter. I keep flirting with it because I’m told it’s an excellent way to engage and connect with people, but I do not get this thing. I do not feel engaged or connected with at all. I feel like I’m talking to no one in particular, but everyone in the world at the same time. That kind of anonymity makes me anxious. I felt that walking down the streets of NYC one time: like I was part of something huge, but completely insignificant of myself. It’s that “If I wasn’t at the party, would anyone notice?” feeling. As a closeted introvert I suspect I should relish the sense of invisibility, but not on Twitter. I want comments, dammit. I am, after all, also a stage actor and professional communicator. I thrive on the give and take. For me, Twitter is all take and no give. Help me out, Twitterverse. I’m a pretty confident and assertive gal, but I do require a certain amount of tat for all the tit I’m dishing out. Ahem.
Also, I struggle with the 140 character limit. Last time Twitter cut my tweet short, I took it personally. I’m a storyteller, Twitter. Let me tell.
One major win for Twitter? Comedians. Following @prodigalsam and @rainnwilson has been the true silver lining of this foray back into Twitterland. Hours of fun.
This may be another short-lived hookup with the little blue bird. My mother encouraged me to look at it as a creative challenge. Meh. Maybe. I think a book might be more my style.
A friend of mine last week observed that I haven’t done much dating lately (that’s correct, thanks) and asked what I was waiting around for. We’ll skip the “don’t ask single people what they’re waiting around for” conversation because it’s worn out, and I can handle the curiosity. I’ve actually given this quite a bit of thought because, nearly a year after my last relationship ended, I do feel ready to venture back out there. I never did the rebound thing because, frankly, ain’t nobody got time for that. I worked casual dating pretty well out of my system in college when I dated, or at the very least made out with, everything that breathed. I’ve done a little bit of that in the past few months (the dating thing, not the making out with everything that breathes thing) and, each time, it got old. Fast. Now, I’m not the single twenty-something girl looking for her husband. I don’t need my next relationship to end in a walk down the aisle but I am looking for something pretty specific and, for the first time, it has little to do with him.
Remember the husband lists? I remember going to youth camps and girls’ groups in high school and making these lists of all the wonderful things I wanted to find in the man I would be with someday. We were instructed to go over these checklists of things that we wouldn’t compromise on, and highlight the ones that were most important to us. Most of the time, we were encouraged to add our own creative qualifiers to the already exhaustive lists. There the “important” things like is a strong Christian, comes from a solid family, and is waiting for marriage, and then there were things like is taller than me, has a car, and can play the guitar like Taylor Hanson. Because this was church camp and we were good Christian girls, we didn’t always add what we were thinking. Things like is a great kisser, has hot friends, and comes from a rich family and has jetskis and a lakehouse.
Ahem. Excuse me, but why didn’t anyone pull the bullshit alarm and stop us from setting every guy we would date for the next ten years up for failure? I don’t know if teenage guys did this in their camp cabins, too, but it was a common thing for girls and I have vivid memories of the very specific demands I sent out to God for my man. I’ve been thinking about these lists lately because even though we’re older now and ought to know better, I find that my single girlfriends and I still sometimes operate from this “custom order boyfriend” mindset. Can you imagine the outrage of a gaggle of single ladies who found out that a guy that one of them was dating had a damn checklist of things for her to measure up to before he would go any further? Lord, have mercy. The carnage would astound.
After my last breakup (from a truly remarkable man for whom I have tremendous care and respect, by the way), I got to thinking about how I go about doing relationships. I was with the guy who, if the checklist was the true measure, was the one. He was perfect and, on paper, we were perfect together. Except that I wasn’t perfect, and neither was he. The formula didn’t work, and I think this caught us both off guard. We had big plans, a beautiful ring picked out, and families who loved both of us and each other. We managed to break it, anyways.
So what now? Well, after a year of healing, lots of therapy and even more yoga, I’ve decided that the very best and most beneficial thing I can do for myself and any future relationship is to forget the formula. You know what I really want? I want to be fully seen. So, I’m working on me. I’m working on being the kind of person who listens more than speaks, who discerns when to push and when to step back, and who isn’t afraid of vulnerable or messy. I’m working on being the kind of person who allows herself to be fully seen. Would I love to be with a beautiful, bearded musician with a yoga practice and some well-placed tattoos? I think that, yes, I would enjoy that. Am I walking the streets looking for this guy, checklist in hand? Not even a little bit. If I happen to run into a beautiful, bearded musician with a yoga practice and some well-placed tattoos and I’m feeling particularly brave, maybe I’ll ask him out. If that happens, though, it won’t be because it (or he) was on my to-do list. It will be because I’ve done some damn hard work on me, and I know I’m ready.
I friend of mine recently disclosed to me a part of her life that she had kept hidden for quite some time. Actually, this has happened more than once in the past year, with multiple people in my life divulging some of their closest held confidences to me. I don’t take that lightly, and it’s a tremendous honor to be trusted in that way. While each time I felt humbled and thankful to be able to show support and, in some instances, say “Me too,” in at least two of these instances I had the same thought: What the hell took so long? In both of these instances, people unloaded something they’d held tightly to and intentionally kept secret. In both instances, shame and fear of judgment had locked their hearts closed and led them to believe that they were better off keeping quiet about the things they were carrying. We’re talking years of silence. I immediately took it personally that they hadn’t trusted me sooner, wondering, What have I done to make this person believe I can’t be trusted until now? I’m no therapist, but I consider myself a pretty open minded, accepting gal, especially of the people I love. After some firm “it’s not all about you” self-talk, I realized that the secrecy of these friends had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the shame tapes.
We all have them. The shame tapes tell us that because of this perceived failure, or that imperfection, that we are no longer worthy of love. For some of us they play all the time, paralyzing us in our relationships, jobs, families, and friendships. Shame devastates. For both of the people in this story, shame was born when they were told as children that people who make that choice, or feel that way are bad. Both of these people heard this message from their churches, teachers, and parents. Judgment based teaching and preaching filled these two otherwise courageous people with such shame and fear that they truly believed that even their closest friends might take back their love and support if they opened up about what they had come to believe. That, my friends, pisses me off.
After realizing how deeply entrenched these two were in the message of their shame tapes, I grew to appreciate their honesty and vulnerability even more. I believe dialogue can heal, and that talking about it- whatever it is- is always better than shutting it down. It’s no wonder I work in environments in which I am tasked with feeling, listening to, and acknowledging vulnerability and courage. The stories I have heard, and the resilience that their tellers have shown me, severely weakened my patience for those who would pass judgment on the lives and decisions of others. Seeing fear in the lives of the people I care about, because they have been told that to be or to act a certain way would make them “less than,” makes me want to lock all the critics up in the closet they’ve forced my friends into and let them rage there for a while.
If you’re reading this and find yourself paying too much attention to your shame tapes, hear this: If you have filed for bankruptcy, gotten addicted to antidepressants, eaten yourself numb, starved yourself skinny, wasted hours at a time watching pornography, achieved some really incredible things just so your father would finally notice you and turned to whiskey when he still didn’t, fallen in love with the wrong person, gotten a bad grade, slept with too many people, slept with too few people, gotten fired, or lost the race, you are not alone. You are not bad. You are not unworthy of love. You are still here. You are stronger than you think. You don’t have to keep it to yourself, because someone else needs to hear your story. Someone else needs to know that they’re not alone, either.
At the beginning of each yoga practice, students set an intention for that days practice. Your intention can be whatever you need in your life that day. It can be a word, a virtue, a dedication, anything. On days when I feel less than 100% motivated, I’ll dedicate my practice to someone that I love or to someone I’m struggling to love, and I find that intention carries me through my practice. If I’m experiencing a shortage of compassion or grace in my life, I practice those things on my mat and find they’re more accessible when I step out of the studio and need to show those things to myself or someone else.
My intention during yesterday’s practice was presence and patience. Over the past few weeks I have noticed myself become increasingly anxious over little inconveniences and frustrations, so I went to my mat yesterday to work through those reactions. Because my mat is a microcosm of my life, I know that I can change my reactions in life by breathing through those same reactions in my practice. Holding that first downward facing dog? Breathe. Find stillness. Muscles quivering and shaking in that fourth or fifth king chair? Breathe. Be patient. Arms and shoulders screaming for you to drop them out of Warrior 2? Breathe. Remain present. I know that if I can quiet my mind when it’s fighting a pose, I can do the same when my flight gets delayed on my last leg after a long week on the road. If I can breathe through 3 or 4 long minutes in high plank, I can do the same when the electric bill comes and it’s twice as high as I expected. If I can remain fully present with my breath when I’m upside down and feeling claustrophobic because my body is in a tiny ball in deaf man’s pose, I can do the same when I feel panicky over a too long to-do list and looming deadlines.
What I learn on my mat is that discomfort and pain are temporary, and empowerment waits on the other side. Going through an emotionally devastating breakup? Feel every bit of it. Breathe through it without reacting to it. It will pass, and you’ll be left with a stronger version of yourself when it does. Struggling to make ends meet? Don’t panic. You may miss opportunities to create an income stream for yourself, or cut unnecessary costs, or live with less than you’re used to if you’re consumed with your reaction to the discomfort. Breathe and be patient, so you have eyes to see solutions when they present themselves. Doubting yourself? Slow down. Breathe. Get to a place of quiet and stillness where you can hear your intuition, then trust what it tells you. This is what I practice on my mat, and it shows up when I need it most.
When I stepped up to the podium at United Airlines gate A8 today and handed my boarding pass to the agent, he told me I didn’t have a seat and needed to see another agent across the hall. Breathe. I walked over to the counter, and the woman I was supposed to speak with was visibly frustrated with about 3 other things she was trying to do. She wouldn’t acknowledge the 3 or 4 of us who were waiting for her help so we could get our seats and board the plane. Breathe. When she did look up, it was with an air of resentment. She insisted I should have seen her sooner to get my seat assignment, as she pounded the keyboard with angry fingertips. Breathe. After a few moments of tense silence, she handed me 2 new boarding passes and sent me back to my gate. I walked up to the door, and the agent quickly stepped inside and pulled the jetway door shut and locked it behind her. Breathe. Several minutes later, she opened the door and led me down to the plane. I walked to my exit row aisle seat, and found it was taken. Could I take the (cramped) window seat a few rows up? Breathe. “Sure, no problem.” Smile. The plane hadn’t been serviced before we boarded, so there was quite a bit of trash from the last passenger in and around my new seat. Breathe. Smile. No problem.
Before my class yesterday, before I set in my mind to practice patience and presence, before I worked through my reactions to discomfort on my mat yesterday, I probably would have felt anxious over this series of events. I don’t know that I would have felt the need to externalize that reaction (ie: smack a fool), but I would have bottled some serious irritation. Today, though, I quieted that reaction before it even crept up. My breath carried me through what could otherwise have been a pretty annoying morning.
How do you deal with the frustrations and annoyances that creep up throughout the day? No matter how purposeful or proactive you are in your life, troubles will creep in and those things are completely out of your control. How do you deal with them? If you react, like I have lately, with a scoff and a sense of entitlement, I challenge you to cultivate patience. Smile. Choose not to react, but to show compassion to yourself and those around you. Above all else, breathe. You’ll create a happier, calmer, kinder self to share with the rest of us.
We need to talk. I know we have only hooked up a few times, but I’m already starting to feel suffocated. I don’t know if you realize how clingy you can be. When we first get together, it’s great. You’re comfortable and easy to be around, but by about an hour or so into the day I always start to feel like you’re coming on way too strong. There is a fine line between getting close and being attached to my hips, and you cross it every time. Every time! This relationship is never going to work if you can’t find a way to loosen up a bit. And I know, I know that you have had great luck with women in the past and there are plenty of women now who would love to spend time getting close to you. I am not one of those women. I need some room to breathe here, or this is going to end in one of us getting burned. Literally. I will burn you.
You’re good looking. I don’t want to be the bad guy here, but you’ve really backed me into a corner. And please, stop comparing yourself to Yoga Pants. That is a completely different kind of clingy, and you know it. I WISH you could take a lesson from YP and loosen up before this thing ends badly for both of us.
For you, actually. It’s only going to end badly for you.
I guess that’s it. I hope you’ve heard me because I can’t take much more of this.
Eucharisteo… like wine on my lips, it lingers. The first taste dances with tip toes on the heart, trailing grace. Drink it in. It grows bolder as it flows free, lighting corners of the soul long darkened. Eyes water from the richness of it. I feel what the Psalmist wrote: taste and see that the Lord is good. This is more than knowing, eucharisteo commands the senses. Tannins of mercy, full and bold. Finish round with joy.
My mother gave me a book for Christmas. (She does know her audience.) Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts is one of the few books that, unfinished, I already cannot wait to read again. I don’t often read books more than once or twice but this one will live, love worn, for years on my bedside table. I won’t reduce this soul opener to a sound byte for the sake of brevity, I’ll just tell you to read it.
In this book, Voskamp unwraps the word eucharisteo like it’s a delicate morsel of the darkest chocolate. I have fallen in love with this word. I mean, really in love. I love it so much I had it tattooed on my arm. I say it over and over again, rolling it around in my mouth to send its flavor into every crevice. This word has messed me up in the best way. Eucharisteo is Greek, and means “to give thanks.” It contains the root charis, which is like our word for “grace, and also “chara”, which means “joy”. What we all seek, what we ache to feel, what we spend lifetimes striving to grasp… joy. It is contained within thanksgiving. It lives with grace. Gratitude must come first, and then the joy is born. Holy joy does not exist in word or application outside of thanksgiving. Eucharisteo is used over and over in Scripture before the miracles come. Indeed, it is the word Christ used before He broke bread at the Last Supper, hence the sacrament of The Holy Eucharist. This holy, poetic trinity… grace, thanksgiving, joy… is rocking my world.
“Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.”
“I, too, had read it often, the oft-quoted verse: And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 5:20). And I, too, would nod and say straight-faced, ‘I’m thankful for everything.’ But… I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life… Life changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time. Little nails and a steady hammer can rebuild a life- eucharisteo precedes the miracle.”
So, I’m practicing eucharisteo and eucharisteo gives birth to days fat with joy. Today was a eucharisteo joy-filled day. Eucharisteo means not only to be thankful for everything, but to be thankful for every thing. I’m keeping a list. Some of today’s little nuggets of thanksgiving: Lunch on a quiet, sunny patio// Surprise! Favorite song plays overhead// Windows rolled down, tires on gravel sound// Ronnie Meek on podcast to bring home to the road// Crisp greens and fluffy quiche// Old man, bent halfway, walks regal with cane// Psalm 34:8// Desert driving, wind whipping, sun beaming// fat baby smiling//
Every. Single. Thing.
Driving nails of thanksgiving into my laziness, my busy-ness, my fast moving pride. Eucharisteo fills my heart and it grows, a little. Eucharisteo thoughts are precise and burst wide open with grace. You know what I’m not thinking about when I’m driving the eucharisteo nails? I’m not thinking about: Muffin tops, bad hair day, not enough money, too much to do and not enough time, Facebook comment quota, too much dairy and not enough green today, me, me, me… Eucharisteo precision, over and over and over, drives gratitude right through my pride and I grow huge with joy.
I love this word. I love this way of doing life.
I’ll leave you with more from Ann: “Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks.”
Let it rain.
Something has happened. It was slow and creeping, and it’s not finished yet, but it’s becoming very real to me.
I’m moving on.
For me, that sentence is more loaded than it seems. This year has been one of intentionally stepping out of the familiar, the known, into the decidedly new and different. I have felt, at times, woefully unqualified to make some of the life altering calls I’ve had to make. At the very least, I’m assured of my skills as a decent actor. Other times I’ve felt like an alien in my own world, not able to recognize the patterns and movements of my life. That’s bizarre. To be home and feel uprooted is uncomfortable, at best. It’s like walking around with a pebble in your shoe, only to take it off and realize that there’s nothing there. You can feel the offending bugger, but can’t do a thing to make it go away. It’s kind of like that. Then, one day, you put that shoe on and the pebble is gone. It’s just, gone. I feel like I just put my foot back in the shoe, expecting the pebble, and it’s not there anymore.
So, what was the pebble? For me, it was largely a way of thinking. It was the mindset that said, “How do I maintain the status quo?” This year, I grew sick of the status quo. At some point, the discomfort of leaving that place became less than the nauseating, maddening effort it took to stay. I had to dislodge my life, my mind, my heart from that place where the anthem was, “Just ignore how wrong this is, because you’ve gotten pretty good at working with it.” Working with it just didn’t have the same appeal anymore. I got tired of hearing that story over and over, and decided to start writing a new one.
Something has to bring you to the place where you decide that you don’t want your life to happen to you anymore. You have to need to take ownership of it. You must decide that being a bystander in your own life is no longer acceptable. For me, those moments began to happen during yoga teacher training. That was a time of intensive self study, and honest examination of what was and was not working in my life. I can’t say that things were terrible before this process began, but they were tepid. I felt dull and predictable.
I wasn’t working.
I wasn’t working in my relationship, I wasn’t working a steady job, I no longer felt effective at steering my own life. I realized that in order regain some sense of ownership, I was going to have to make some seriously uncomfortable decisions. The status quo wasn’t going to cut it anymore. If it wasn’t working, it had to go, and I was going to have to end it. A lot of things ended.
But, now, a lot of new things have begun. Just typing those words cued my happy tears. The cutting away, the ending, the uprooting- that hurt. That excrutiating pain followed by months of ever-present heartache has given way to new growth. *Insert gardening metaphor here.* Seriously, though, I dug up my garden last week. I had to get on my hands and knees and dig my fingers deep into the soil, follow extensive root growth around and through my little plot of land to loosen the grip of the roots on the earth, cut away dead stalks, and slowly but firmly tug on the plants until they gave way. What I found underneath the overgrowth was rich, black, moist soil, ready to take on the next round of life.
So in my heart, my body, my mind, my spirit, I am ready. I am ready for the next round. Sometimes, I think about the old way and I miss the comfort of the familiar. That pebble mindset calls out to me every now and then, but it’s getting softer. I never miss it enough to go back. My way of thinking has changed, and I’m not going to live on accident anymore. I have found moments of vitality, and I’m walking intentional, measured, strong steps forward.
I’ve got to say, forward feels damn good.
I haven’t written much in the past few months. I apologize for that. The middle chunk of 2012 gave me a swift kick in the ass, and it’s taken a good amount of reading, therapy, travel, and time for me to get my head back in the game. Here I sit, tea in my hand, The Civil Wars in my ears, a couple of solo days in NYC behind me, Thanksgiving in front of me, and I feel just almost exactly like myself again. *Exhale*
I’ve taken several yoga classes in the past few weeks and I cannot tell you how much that has done to help me find my center, again. Work has kept me busy and kept me moving, for which I am so grateful. My families at work and at home have held me together and kept me laughing. I just spent two unexpected days exploring NYC and I got paid for it. Seriously, folks, the universe has smiled on me lately. I am so thankul and so acutely aware of the fact that I am entitled to absolutely zero of it. After months of brutal uncertainty (financial, emotional, and otherwise), heartache, and immobility (of body, heart, and mind… yikes), I am enjoying time to marinate in the calm. On top of all that goodness, I find myself in exactly the position I have dreamed of for years. That is I have a full-time job doing what I love that allows me to live just about anywhere I want, as long as there is an airport nearby. All I can say is, “Seriously?!” And also, “Thank you.”
They say that if you find yourself drowning in the ocean, the best way to survive is to let yourself go with the current. They say you shouldn’t fight against the waves, but float along with them until…? Until you reach shore, or someone snatches you up, or you eventually, what, drown? The end of the story is up for grabs, I suppose. But I can tell you that in my own life these past few months the only thing keeping me from going completely under was that I didn’t try to fight against it. No money for bills this month? Lost the man you loved? Not sure if you’ll have money for bills next month? Feeling untethered? Constantly on the verge of a breakdown? Ride it out. This too shall pass. That’s not to say, “Don’t do anything.” Do SOMETHING. Always do something, but don’t fight against what is out of your control. Fight for what you believe is possible, and for what and whom you love, but don’t fight against. Does that make sense? Fighting against the current that wants to pull you under will only make you sink faster. Fighting for peace in the chaos is something different. For me, fighting for peace and for stability meant feeling every single scary, painful, agonizing moment of the storm. It meant that when I collapsed in the floor of my closet broken, terrified, and weeping into a washcloth, I had to acknowledge and ride out every emotion of that attack, all the while knowing this too shall pass.
It did pass. I feel such a sense of peace, now. The chaos moved on, I’ve regrouped and found myself stronger and better equipped to handle the next round, whenever it comes. Because I know it will come. But, for now, I can see the horizon and it’s steady. I missed steady. I am so ready for steady.
So, let’s go steady, baby.
A sure way to maintain readership: Write fairly consistently for 6 months, then disappear for three. Oops. Sorry, guys. I blame summer, and what a summer it was.
I’m writing to update those faithful readers who have encouraged me to get back in the game, offer my heartfelt thanks to those of you who walked with me through this long and bizarre summer, and, well, get back in the game.
Summer began with the end of a relationship that I thought would be my last relationship. There’s something about a breakup, and the disentagling of lives that follows, that makes me want to swear off dating forever, crawl into bed with a magnum of cheap wine, and sleep for a week. I know there’s a fair chance that many of you reading this will be hearing this news for the first time, as neither B nor I felt an urgency in volunteering information about the split. It’s not something either of us are proud of, and it took a great deal of support from my family and close friends to get through those first few weeks and months. Frankly, it sucked. All of it. When you’re certain you’ve fallen in love with the man and the family that will become your family, the most excutiating part of the whole thing is unweaving those lives that have lovingly grown up around each other. I hate that what had become an integral part of my life is missing. I hate it for both of us. I do, however, take great comfort in the deep and abiding honor and respect we have for one another. Our definitions may have changed, but that has not. It took an immense amount of love to recognize that it was time for a change, and that knowledge did help dull the pain during the hardest days. Before I start to sound any more like my therapist, let’s move on. Enough of that.
Shortly after, my sweet grandfather passed away. I’ve already written some about this, so I’ll move on quickly. After a trip to Texas for the funeral, and an incredible time reconnecting with my cousins, I came home for hip surgery. Not as awful as I anticipated. I was up and scooting myself around my parents’ house in an office chair within a couple of days. The recovery went remarkably smoothly. So smoothly, in fact, that the hardest part was not pushing myself back into normal life at the speed at which I felt I ought to. By the end of 6 weeks, I retired my crutches and felt like a million bucks. It’s been nearly 3 months, and I’m dealing with my first set back this week. Doc wants me back on crutches and steriods to deal with some gnarly inflammation around my hip socket, but it should be manageable. I’m the road full time, so I’ll be on crutches and taking it easy when I’m not speaking in schools. Surgery on the left hip will happen over Thanksgiving break, and I’ll be out of commission until mid-January, just in time to hit the road for RC again for the spring. The hardest part of the hip situation is not being able to be on my mat. I miss yoga more than I can say. I want to be teaching, practicing, and growing but I simply can’t right now. Those of you who know me at all know how central my practice has been to my life and my writing, and being without it these past three months has been a real battle. At worst, I feel completely unhinged. At best, adrift. I’m finding new places to anchor myself, but the summer of the break up, forced immobility, and an inability to work severly limited my options. Movement, fitness, and activity have always helped me remain grounded, and the past few months have been filled with an oppressing stillness that sucked me completely dry. I haven’t felt much like writing.
I began traveling for work again in early August, and I feel more like myself now than I have in months. Because of the seaonal nature of my work and my surgery, I spent 6 months of this year without steady income. Guess what? I survived! I ate my way through my savings, worked an incredibly humbling restaurant job, accepted as many nannying gigs as I could, hosted 4 different roommates over the course of those 6 months, and accepted the gracious help of my family. I must admit, those months were some of the most difficult of my life. I would stare at the diploma on my wall, recall years of doing work that I loved, know that I was strong and capable, but feel completely inadequate. I can’t help but remember a prayer from earlier this year- my prayer to be stripped of any sense of entitlement that I carried. Careful what you wish for.
I weep now thinking of how He carried me. Sweet, sweet Jesus allowed me to live what it is like to be completely broken. Stripped down, empty, unable to meet my own needs. There I was, the girl who wouldn’t ask for help for fear of seeming weak, unable to climb into the shower without help. Unable to use the bathroom without help. Unable to pay my bills without help. Broken, but not abandoned.
To my family, my God, I owe a debt that I can never repay. This summer, I learned to trust. I learned, as Paul writes, “… to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Phillipians 4:11-13 has a depth of meaning for me that only experience can teach. It’s really not until I sat down to write this entry that all of this became clear to me. What I have looked at as the most trying, excrutiating, and humiliating weeks in recent memory actually were an answer to my desperate prayer to be made more like Christ. My Jesus, who had no place to lay His head. Even in my panic and pain, He was there. The only explanation for this summer is God. God math payed my bills. God’s love kept me from falling completely to shambles that night in my closet that I lay curled up in the floor, covering my face with a towel, weeping and broken and tired. He never left.
Now, He’s brought me to the other side. In the moment, I couldn’t see any life or truth. But now, it’s all coming together. He has said to me, “O you afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with fair colors, and lay your foundations with sapphires.”- Isaiah 54:11. His love is real, and it’s all I want.
If you find yourself broken, take comfort. Soon your stones will be laid with fair colors, once again. Keep your eyes, your ears, and your heart open to what He wants to show you. I promise that His sweet and powerful love will carry you, too.
It’s sometime between very large coffee #2 and Nashville. The odometer reads every tenth of the 1751 miles I’ve driven in the past 4 days. The first 1400 miles were full of prayer, worship, reconnecting with myself, and falling in love again with the open road. Really good stuff. Miles 1401 and following, however, were a total blur of boredom, NPR, and the creation of the time warp I found myself in by mile 1751. At mile 1751, I’m alternately spouting streams of profanity and pleading with God to help me “keep it together,” tears streaming down my face, my eyes darting back and forth between the pink citation in the passenger’s seat, the flashing blue lights fading in the distance, and the now blurry road in front of me.
This all began last week. My grandfather, James, has finally come to the point to require the care of hospice in Paris, TX. Because I’ve started a part-time job and will have surgery in a few weeks, last weekend was the only chance that I would have to see him for several weeks or months, and I don’t think we have that kind of time. I made the decision Thursday to drive to Texas on Friday to spend time with James, and come back to Nashville on Sunday. Rather, God made it clear to me that this would be my last chance to spend quality time with James, and I had better get my butt to Texas. So, I went. Although it was hard for both of us to spend time together in that way, I’m so incredibly thankful for every minute. He and Betty gave their lives to their family, and I am honored to hold such a legacy of faith and love. Betty died suddenly after a fall in 2006, and I think James has spent every hour of the past 5 1/2 years missing his girl. They were married for over 6 decades, and he is ready to see his sweetheart again. I love that he has pictures of her all around his room, and drinks from her coffee cup with “Betty” in cursive on the side. He had one with his name, too, but I haven’t seen it in years. It’s sad for the rest of us to know he’s getting ready to go Home, but I’m so happy he’ll soon be with his Betty, again. I’m sure she’s gathered all the hummingbirds in Heaven to greet him.
After spending Friday night and Saturday morning with James I spoke with my dad, who, incidentally, was with my aunt in Salado, TX. Peggy and her friend, Larry, have partnered to build and run a country western dance club (why not?), and my dad has been installing the sound/video/lighting equipment for the past several months. He and Peggy suggested I come to Salado for dinner. Salado is 4 1/2 hours past Paris, which was a 10 hour drive from Nashville. So… sure, I’ll come to Salado for dinner.
Now, this is about when I realized just how divinely orchestrated this weekend truly was. Last week, I read a book called 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess , that wrecked me. God is leading me down a brand new path, which I couldn’t possibly begin to flesh out in this entry because I’m still processing and defining and searching (stay tuned), and He used this book to really shake things up. The author, Jen Hatmaker, lives with her husband in Austin. (That’s right, my favorite city. The city I know I’ll live in someday. The city I get back to as often as I can because simply driving through it makes my heart flutter like a girl with a crush.) About halfway through this book about fasting from every kind of excess, I began searching for flights to Austin so I could visit this church and see how these people live this incredibly counter-intuitive life that makes so much sense to me that my heart aches for it. Flights were not cheap. But, Austin is 45 miles south of Salado where I was headed for dinner that night. And God said, “I told you it was a good idea to drive to Texas.”
And, just because He loves me, He orchestrated all of this on the weekend that Bob Schneider was playing in Round Rock, right smack in the middle of Salado and Austin. If you know me at all, I need not say another word. This was bliss.
I got to visit Austin New Church the next morning. It was not what I expected. Reading this book through my filters (Charismatic church background, complete with dancers, at least 45 minutes of interactive worship experience each week, and “Amens” and “That’ll preach!” directed to the pastor during his/her teaching time), I expected that a person who lived this passionately and this authentically must do church like I do. Wrong. How surprised was I to discover that this church is most closely associated with Methodists and Baptists? I come from a church that is so charismatic, artsy, and eclectic that we left the Assembly of God in large part because they didn’t really know what to do with us. I thought people who are really passionate about Jesus would look like my home church looks. It turns out, charismatics don’t have the last word on experiencing Christ. Apparently, He even hangs out with Methodists. And Baptists. Who knew?
I stuck around for the informational meeting after service and learned a little bit more about the community and what they do. I could go into all of it, but probably some of you are interested and the rest of you are close to getting bored with me and going back to Facebook. Please, check out their website to learn more about these Christians who are feeding the poor, adopting orphans, taking care of widows and single moms, and generally doing a really good job of actually obeying Jesus.
I spent the afternoon with dad, Peggy, and some peach cobbler before heading to Dallas. Tara prepared a feast for her family and our still tight knit group of friends from high school, and I joined them for a night of stories, loads of laughter, and several bottles of $10 wine. Seated on the patio, under the stars, completely at peace with myself and the dear ones around me, God said, “I told you it was a good idea to drive to Texas.”
Fast forward to Mile 1751. I sat in that car, pitching a ringtail fit, trying desperately to hold onto the joy that had been bubbling out of my spirit all weekend, wondering What the hell just happened?! Well, that was exactly what just happened. Hell took notice of just how juicy and thick I had become with the peace of God, and decided to pull me back into anxiety, short-temperedness, and resentment. So when that officer pulled me over (How dare he?!) for going 86 in a 70, even though I had been cruising the entire previous 1750 miles at 79, and accidentally sped up for less than 20 seconds as I turned up the music in an attempt to keep myself from falling asleep at the wheel, I was suddenly locked and loaded. The enemy knows my buttons (That’s not FAIR!!! YOU ARE WRONG. I AM RIGHT. HERE IS WHY!), and he didn’t so much push them as he launched flaming cannons right into the center of them, and then laughed in my face for good measure.
I must admit that my knee jerk reaction, once I was clear of the flashing blue lights, was to curse and cry and wish ill upon that poor officer who was just doing his job and didn’t deserve to be called all the things I called him when he couldn’t hear me anymore. I didn’t recover quickly. First, I called my mother and explained to her (through tears, mind you) why this ticket was going to ruin me financially, disrupt my summer plans, and ultimately prevent me from one day adopting children, if I so choose. (What?!) She lovingly called my attention to the downward spiral I was descending, then quickly told me to snap out of it. At that point, I had a decision to make. I could let this ticket ruin my blissful, surprising, restorative weekend adventure, or I could fight like hell to hang onto it.
So, I started cussing out the devil. It wasn’t my finest moment, but it was what I had to work with so I worked it. I’ll spare you the details, mostly because my grandmother reads this, and skip right to the part where God said, “Now, you pray for that officer that you just called a whole host of nasty names.” He said, clear as day, “I told you to love your neighbor. He is your neighbor.” I prayed protection, love, strength, courage, and blessing over that officer. I prayed for his children and his brothers and his sisters and his parents. I prayed for provision and peace over his entire family. And, suddenly I wasn’t angry with him anymore. I repented of my anger and resentment, begging God to please, please, please not leave the car. I need to actually feel you here, because I am starting to lose it. I don’t want to forget all you’ve done for me this weekend. I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t want to be anxious. Please, please, please don’t leave this car. I called out His name over and over and over until I was sure every demon in hell could hear me. They must have, because they left me well enough alone the rest of the way home.
Now is the part where I tell you what I’ve learned. Oh, brother. I’ve distilled this enormous weekend into three points for you, dear readers.
First, when God says “Go,” you go. Even, and especially, if it seems completely irrational. I’ve found that God often uses what we think of as irrational to teach the greatest lessons. The first shall be last, anyone? My hours on the road with Him were life giving.
Second, when He fills you up, you had better expect a brutal attack from the enemy. There is little more threatening to hell than Christians who genuinely want to do what Christ commands. You know, crazy stuff like love your neighbor, feed the poor, and take care of the widows and orphans. The enemy is already dying, and he thrashes around in hell trying to bring as many as he can down with him. Fight him off, fight him off, fight him off.
Last, make room for your joy! Distracted? Start stripping away until you’re not anymore. Stressed? Eliminate. Purge. Get simple. Confused? Say “yes” to your gut instinct, and “no” to everything else. Trust your gut, as I’ve found it is often the Holy Spirit in disguise. Move forward. Life is messy, so get okay with feeling uncomfortable. Get vulnerable. It will be SO worth it.
It really was a good idea to drive to Texas.