Re-Opening: an internal reflection during an outward time of change

It’s a unique time. Some call August the beginning of the end of summer (only true if you have kids…), and while we look towards September and all the questions of the fall, we are still in the weeks of summer sunshine and freedom

Which, naturally, means that it is time for me to take some time and lean into this in-between time called August and think.

I don’t know if this is a me thing or everyone does this, but every so often I find myself longing to re-evaluate my life. I have an overwhelming need to look at where I’m at, what I’ve done, and where I’m going. Maybe it’s the list maker in me or the side of me obsessed with controlling my own future, or maybe it’s the part of me that is absolutely terrified to wake up one day and feel like I’ve wasted my life…whatever it is, these last 2 weeks have been the perfect catalyst for me to sit and think about the next few years.

Truthfully, I also probably find myself revisiting my lists and goals more often than I intend to because God has a sneaky way of nudging me (maybe shoving when I’m being particularly stubborn) towards the next right step forward. So I took some time and looked at my 30-by-30 list. If you’ve been around this blog for a few years, you might remember me talking about my 25-by-25 list on my 25th birthday. Making these time sensitive lists help me break down things I can try to do to move in the direction I want to go. They also force me to a. think bigger than I normally would, b. break out larger goals into smaller steps, and c. remind myself to do fun things, too.

Looking at the next 1.5 years before I turn 30, my main goal is that I want to be moving towards being a person who loves deeply, gives generously, and moves in wisdom, strength, integrity, and honesty to further the kingdom of God.

Getting there is … a little daunting. But I hope that I will move towards it with lots of grace, holding some of these things with open hands – if I’ve learned anything in the last 3.5 years it’s that anything can happen.

If you’d like to look at my updated 30-by-30 list you can find it here. One of my goals is to live a more open/transparent life which is why you’re getting this fairly short little post about it! 

Wishing you all the best as we run through the fields of August into everything the fall is holding for us.

Thoughts on Depression (hello, I am back)

Talking about what it’s like to come out of depression feels…harder in a way than talking about depression does. Let me explain. When you are depressed, you can just say that you’re not ok. We’ve sort of come to a place as a society to accept those sorts of statements, and we know what to say to someone. We are constantly getting better at accepting the role of therapy in our lives and we know that “it does get better” (and truly, it does, I promise).

The thing I’ve learned, though, is that healing is not linear (and oh, how I wish it was). Coming out of depression is starting to feel better and then realizing all the messes that you have around you because you weren’t taking care of them when you were taking care of you. Your house is probably a disaster. Your personal hygiene routines might need to be reset. Your physical body may not resemble what you thought it used to.

Oh, and the world? It kept going. Many of your friends are no longer as close as they used to be. Unreturned calls and texts, cancelled plans, and not talking divide those relationships you used to hold dear. You still hold dear. But to reach out and try to fix it still feels overwhelming.

Because it’s not linear. You don’t just get better. You start getting better. You are constantly learning new things about yourself and dealing with things that set you off. You are learning that some weekends will just destroy you – and your coping mechanisms won’t work perfectly 100% of the time.  Sadness is still a hue part of who you are and you wonder if people want to walk along side that as you keep trying to get better, even if you do slide backwards sometimes.

Meanwhile you are still sorting out everything you’ve worked through. New revelations about why you do things certain ways and trying to fix them (and being very aware when you still haven’t). Dealing with things that trigger overwhelming feelings – triggers you didn’t know you had. And you still have a pile of things to sift through. Thoughts, feelings, ideas … how has this impacted your faith? Your perception and understanding of yourself? How you express yourself?

And it is lonely.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”

– Genesis 28:16 (ESV)

In this passage from Genesis, Jacob has had a dream about how his descendants will cover the earth. He awakes and knows that even though he couldn’t see it when he went to sleep, the LORD was present. He then builds an Ebenezer – a pillar of stones as a marker of where the LORD had spoken to him.

God hasn’t given me a special dream to show me why I have had to work through all of these things – why I am still feeling like I will never fully be whole. And yet I know that He is in this place. He is between the lines of my journals as I write out my thoughts. He is in the space between my ragged sobs on the darker nights. He is in the gentle words and hugs of dear friends holding me up.

I have been writing this post for weeks. I just couldn’t get it to come together. I think it’s because I wanted to be fully healed and done before I wrote it. I thought my pile of rocks (i.e. special blog post on the internet) couldn’t be built until I was done. But Jacob’s story wasn’t done after he built the alter at Bethel. And I want to remember this time – and I want to be able to look back and see the things I’m learning. That’s truly what this blog is for me – a record of where I’ve been. I’ve been so afraid to write anything for the last 2 or so years…but I’m back (I hope). It’s nice to see you again.

Forgiveness

Generally speaking, I have a really hard time holding a grudge. I mean this in that I can’t seem to harbour negative feelings towards someone for very long. I’ve definitely tried, but I always find myself back in a neutral emotional space after a little it. Sometimes it isn’t even much more than a minute.

Sounds like a great trait, I know. Who doesn’t like someone who can’t be mad?

The downside is that in larger issues that out to require seeking reconciliation as well as forgiving, I can find it hard to find the motivation because I just … don’t feel the anger/upset/unresolved feelings anymore. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of my bursts of emotion, you know that within 5 minutes my caps lock rage is gone and I’m overly agreeable and possibly regret the all caps message I sent 2 minutes ago (Yea, I usually can’t even verbalize it).

But this post isn’t about my 2 second rages and my inability to hold a grudge. It’s about how recently, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that forgiveness, sometimes, when the hurt is deep enough, takes a long time to give. Particularly when the one you need to forgive is yourself.

This fall I started learning about the difference between guilt and shame. Essentially that guilt is feeling bad about an action you’ve done, but shame is feeling as though you are a bad person because of what you’ve done. I don’t think I had ever separated those feelings/concepts in my entire life! I’m definitely a bit of a perfectionist (ok fine a big one), and not doing well at something or not meeting someone’s expectations/feeling like I’ve fallen short really, really cuts me deeply. I hadn’t realized it but I felt this way every time someone asked me questions (sometimes even jokingly) like “Why do you still live with your parents? Can’t you just move out?” or “Why are you doing it that way?” or “Isn’t crossfit bad for you and expensive? Why don’t you do something else?” or “Why are you eating that way? It’s so complicated – are you sure it’s healthy to eat that much protein AND that many carbs?” or “Ew, you listen to country music?”…missing deadlines that I would set arbitrarily for myself, feeling like I was never going to reach the goals I had for myself, and feeling like I was failing at being “healthy” and “fit” (that’s a whole other rant). Which is ridiculous because half those things aren’t even worthy of guilt! And then in situations of conflict or miscommunication, I would take the entirety of the blame internally, and instead of feeling bad about the action, I just assumed it was something wrong with the way I was.

Every stumble felt like a faceplant, every slight detour felt like falling off the side of the road in that Mario Kart race where it’s just a rainbow in the sky and you die every time.

Forgiving myself started with realizing I had a problem – and that problem was that I was allowing myself to carry the weight of every issue, conflict, and misstep. They all had to be my fault, at least in some part, but I let myself take the weight of 100% of all of them. I’d been carrying this deep hurt and grudge against no one but myself.

Forgiveness is learning to separate who I am from the things I do, and letting the feelings shame and guilt separate…and learning to not feel ashamed, but instead to let the proper feelings of guilt lead to the necessary actions. It’s also approaching the people who I’ve wronged and the ones who have wronged me and seeking forgiveness/forgiving them as I ought to (which is really, really hard for me).

Forgiveness is also accepting the forgiveness of God that I tell other people about all the time but somehow forget to apply to myself! (How messed up is that???) And it is surrounding myself with people who can build me up, encourage me intentionally, and point me back to that initial forgiveness (thank you).

I’m still learning, still forgiving, still becoming un-ashamed, and still crying about some of it…but I’m getting there. Ever so slowly I am learning to forgive myself just as I make myself forgive others, and as I have already been forgiven.

The Newness

If you’re familiar with retail, you will likely have heard about the golden quarter. If you haven’t heard of it, it is the 4th fiscal-quarter of the year (October – December) and it is “golden” because you’ve got some pretty major holidays in there which means big dollars for pretty much anyone who sells anything you can give as a gift, eat, wear, or decorate with. Which is basically everyone in the goods industry and a large majority of the service industry.

I like getting new things. New haircuts, new pens, new shirts, new glasses, new shoes, even new socks or underwear – and I’m sure you do too. Even new-old things (used car, thrift store finds, not-brand-new houses, etc.) seem to brighten and lift our moods. They can signify changes, or sometimes are ways we cope with a changes or circumstances we can’t control.

Newness and pushing forward have almost been synonymous for me lately with forgetting what is behind me and not having to worry about that anymore – I would rather forget and not slow down, if you would. Chasing this newness is easy – its tangible, usually transaction based, and has near instant gratification. Often it works to get out of a bit of a rut – I have a friend who, when things get difficult, shaves his beard and that helps him move forward and leave things behind him – and that works for him most of the time. (How, I don’t know, but, apparently, it’s magical?) But sometimes there aren’t enough haircuts, beard trims, and new things that can cover up the hurt that we feel. The newness of things and appearances and outer changes are not enough to make us new.

We can go for months and years ignoring the base issue of what is actually making us feel bad or in a rut or depressed, covering it up with new things, but at some point those new things are not new anymore, we run out of the newness, and we begin feeling the normalcy, the boring, the old, …

Jeremiah writes:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
– Lamentations 3:22-23

God is this weird fusion of oldness and newness. God is the I AM (Exodus 3:14), the unchanging one (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17), and faithful and constant (Deuteronomy 7:9, 1 Corinthians 10:13), ever present (Psalm 46:1), beginning and end (Isaiah 44:6, Revelations 22:13), etc. Yet this ancient, omnipotent one, makes us new (1 Corinthians 5:17), has new mercies every morning (see above), does new things (Isaiah 43:18-19) and is constantly revealing new things to us and to others. Even though he is old, he never gets old.

John writes:

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
– Revelations 21:5

“I am making” is ποιῶ in Greek. To break it down a bit, this phrase is a fancy (and shorter) way of saying the singular subject (God) is currently in the process of (as opposed to finished or not started), of doing something to the indirect subject (all things = us!).

Paul writes:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:4)

The Greek word ἐναρξάμενος (enarxamenos) is a middle participle of the verb “ἐνάρχομαι” which means to begin. In Greek you can add a participle (he, she, it) to a participle (-ing verbs) to make it mean “the one who is ____ing”, which is why your translation reads “he who began”. However, I also said this was a “middle” participle. In Greek, they can say things are being done by the subject of the sentence, being done too the object of the sentence, or that it is being done both by and too/is not yet completely finished – a passive voice would indicate that God did it to you, active would be you doing it to God, but middle? The middle means that in Paul’s perspective, both of us are involved in the making-new process.

So. God is old, he is making things new now, and he is working with us to create new things in us. A lot of songs use the idea or phrase of being made new/God making things new as a comforting refrain, but sometimes it isn’t that comforting. Being made new isn’t always the easiest process – it can require painful removal, refining, or “pruning” as we like to say in Christian culture-isms (unless I’m way behind the times and we’ve got a new saying?)

That newness isn’t something that shows up immediately – like a haircut or a pair of shoes. It isn’t something that is over and done with. It is a constant renewing of self (sort of like those PC updates they download for weeks before actually updating) much more like how we are called as new creations to cast off our old selves and put on our new ones. The white robes & clean clothes, the self-examination, the pruning and tempering and refinement of precious metals. That kind of knew takes time and shows up in little ways – and it takes work. It takes reminding ourselves daily of the truths about how we are loved and are being made new – we are not done! It isn’t a haircut that we have to go back and have redone or shoes that wear out and need to be replaced. It is all of us being renewed and refreshed every morning, every hour of the day.

Being called to become a new thing different from our old selves, and to trust that as we are made new, in joy and in pain, we become more of who he wants us to be.

Rejoice – he is making us new!

30 by 30

When I was 23 and a half-ish, I made a list of 25 things I wanted to do/accomplish by the time I turned 25. It was the end of the summer of 2013, I was still pretty fresh out of university, and I was super motivated by the fact that I had recently discovered bullet journaling and that pens were on sale because back to school sales are the actual best sales (think about it — not only is stationary and pens and computers/tech etc. on sale, but so are, like, half the things you need around your house because #collegedorms).

Here’s a little pic of my list…spoiler: I didn’t finish all 25!

IMG_9495.jpg

BUT, I did check off quite a number of them – which was great! I knew when I wrote the list that I would not be able to do all 25 things – I purposefully had things on there that I knew I probably wouldn’t do, but threw on for kicks. However, interestingly enough i didn’t do some of the things I totally thought I would (scrapbooking through 2005, learning Greek), , but I did accomplish things that I didn’t think I would actually do (memorizing Philippians and getting 50 views on a blog post).

I bring this up because I find that when I tell people I did this, they are amazed that someone would put that much thought into themselves and being 25. And as I share that I’m looking towards 30 they are still surprised that someone “so young” would be thinking about that.

Here are 5 things I learned when I was reflecting on my 25 by 25 list and making my 30 by 30:

1. I am not a big dreamer!

So here’s a confession…half the things on my list were things I already knew I was going to do. For example, I already had a trip to Europe in the works, and I had already bought tickets to see Relient K in concert — I knew those things were going to happen. And run 5km? Honestly, I knew I could probably do it if I got back into running? Then I started Crossfit and while it was a great fitness goal at the time, I realized that I am capable of so so much more than simply cardio, even if the cardio thing is safer. This is true in my life as well – I’m not a huge risk taker, and I don’t often think of big lofty dreams to attain – they’re usually teeny tiny ones that like, maybe involve me sticking my little toe outside of my comfort zone. Which is ok because they’re more achievable in the short-term, but they’re safe. I need other dreamers and pushers in my life to encourage me to try harder and new things, and to push me to do more and better instead of staying in my little box.

2. Tangible goals are easier to know you’ve accomplished them, but sometimes abstract goals are more realistic

I wanted to lose weight when I was 23-and-a-half-ish. So it was on my list. I didn’t lose the amount on my list…But I did start eating better and working out. I couldn’t really check it off, despite my best intentions. In fact it was one of the most discouraging things to not be able to check off. A more abstract goal like “make healthy lifestyle choices into habits”, while super ambiguous, would have been a more achievable and realistic goal, particularly when it was involving something that required me to drastically change a lot of my regular habits (eating, sleeping, water intake, exercise, etc.). One of my changes for my 30 by 30 list is to leave a few open-ended goals to give myself space to blow it out of the water/just make some progress on it. And it allows me room to grow and develop the goals over the next 4.5 years because things can change! (I still have some very quantifiable things, don’t worry).

3. Setting goals makes you actually get stuff done

I wrote “do a mohawk on my left foot” (I meant a 3 turn in my head, though…skating fan fail), and to be honest if I hadn’t I would not have skated at all any winter. But it was and I did. Quite often! Having something to work towards gave me the extra boost I needed to do certain things. You can’t do a mohawk OR 3 turn unless you’re comfortable on your skates, and you won’t be able to do that unless you skate! Same thing with running – I had to start doing other things so that I could someday be able to run 5k (like, um, running period?). Setting long-term goals can be a step towards setting short-term ones, and maybe it’s the work breakdown structure lover inside of me, but I think it helps us be better stewards of our time and push us towards greater success to have small things we are able to accomplish!

4. Goals and you can change, and that’s ok!

Part of why I never finished my full list is because I, quite honestly, stopped caring about some of the things on my list. I was super into scrapbooking for a long time … but I haven’t been for a long time now, too! That isn’t to say I won’t get back into it, but I’m not going to beat myself up over not doing a certain creative thing when I did other creative things instead, like getting way more into journal making and hand lettering. I even dabbled in painting again. And as I’ve mentioned, I did Crossfit, and now doing a bunch of push ups in a row or being able to do a pull up is way more motivating of a goal than running a long distance. But that could change in 3 years. And that’s ok. I am not less of a list-making-and-achieving-enneagram-6 if I change my mind and accomplish something of equal value to me.

5. Time caps make you realize things

In Crossfit there are time caps on a lot of workouts which are awesome because then you have a. a goal, and b. a salvation point when you get to stop working. In life we don’t really have time caps unless they are self-imposed. We all have them – even if you’re reading this saying “lol Christy I just live my life I don’t have time caps for achievements” I say “uh, yes you probably do, if you think about it.” Anyway … after a crossfit workout time-cap I usually lay there sweating for a while, and then when my brain turns on again I think about how it went, how I feel about it, and what, if anything, I would do differently next time. These are the types of pause-time caps I think we should be taking moments to have. Without them we may not realize that we actually don’t care if we scrapbook our entire lives but we REALLY DO care about learning Greek.

And they teach us that our moments are precious. I found that having this list encouraged me to “take life by the horns” as it were, and try to do things – which is against my lazy tendencies and more in line with living a fulfilling and abundant life. It’s not about getting caught up in the grind, but more about walking through each day with grace and expectancy that there are good things and there is hope in that day.

As I think towards my 30th birthday – which is 4 and a half years away right now – I am still tweaking my list (I had it made shortly after I turned 25 but I, as a not-big-dreamer, have really struggled with thinking of 5-year worthy goals). And so, I have decided to post my 30 by 30 list on an alternate page here. Some of them are blank – yes. But I have no idea what I want 30 to look like, save that when I get there I hope I can say that I lived the last 5 years, and be proud of the successes and mistakes that got me there.

The Unravelling

The other day, while catching up, my friend asked me what my highlights were over the last 3 months. I had to clarify if he meant good things or just what stuck out because honestly looking back the first thing that comes to my mind is the large number of times I cried/sobbed in my car over the last three months (also, coincidentally, the number of times I thanked the Lord for waterproof makeup & a decent complexion so I don’t have to worry about the real struggle of tear tracks). The reason for all the tears? Well I mean you can read my last post too, but in reflecting it was quite honestly because there was so much change that happened in my personal life, inter personal relationships, and external circumstances that I either had 1. no control over, 2. had no say in, or 3. had turned out not the way I intended, resulting in me being completely overwhelmed and exhausted.

Beyond that, the degree of change in which I have experienced in myself over the last year is huge. The only work I can use to describe myself at this time last year is restless. I as coming out of one of the higher moments of my spiritual walk, I thought I had a lot of shit figured out (and PS why couldn’t everyone else figure theirs out???), I was having very fruitful quiet times, I had a great lent/Easter season, etc. etc. etc. And yet I was restless. I was desperate for change – in fact I wrote blog post after blog post and journal entry after journal entry  about waiting, hoping, expecting, and trying to learn how to rest. I felt like I was sitting in this weird limbo place and just waiting for my life to get started already. It was frustrating – like I was almost trapped in my own life. And then…..it all, very slowly, step by step, began to unravel.

Depending on how often you see me, you may not have noticed. I kept it under wraps for quite a while. If I did happen to share a glimpse into how I was doing under the surface, it was only that – a snapshot in time. I thought I was handling it fine, but the longer time went on the more I realized I didn’t.

Have you ever unraveled a knit piece? There’s almost a satisfying pop with every stitch you pull out, and as you keep pulling, it starts to unravel faster and faster …. just one string will do it, each stitch is connected. Ask anyone who knits and they’ll tell you how one good yank can reverse rows of work – great if you messed up and want to start over, not great if you liked it and a snag ruined hours of good, solid work.

The string that started the unravelling for me was an unobtrusive, small choice to decide to read Genesis after finishing up Hebrews in my quiet times. But something happened when I went back to the beginning — instead of getting a refreshing walk through old stories and God’s faithfulness, I instead found myself filling my journal with questions. I particularly struggled with the character of Abram and the seemingly nonsensical way God kept blessing this terrible (as I read him to be) man.  At the time I jokingly said that existential Christy came to play, but really – she didn’t leave. Questions in my readings bled into questions at other church events which bled into questions about my more fundamental beliefs and values and eventually bled into all areas of my life causing me to question my view points on almost everything, little by little, and then a lot by a lot.

Small things felt like big things, big things felt like bigger things. And they all just kept happening one after another. A week or two might go by and then a new slew of things would pour out and suddenly not knowing how to open the gas tank on a rental car or getting a tiny splash of oil on a shirt would cause uncontrollable tears.

The questioning, as painful as it was, was a key part of my unravelling. I scared myself with some of the things I was asking myself, and I felt adrift. But like a knitter pulls out their stitches to get back to where that missed stitch/count was, God needed to unravel me slowly as I begin to unlearn and let go of the things I held so dear. My questions about EVERYTHING were important because they began to strip away the person I had constructed myself to be. The Christy I thought I needed to be – the right Christy who did everything she thought she was supposed to do/told to do because only silly, irresponsible people make mistakes or do things that way because this way, obviously, is the only right way.

But I am not that Christy that I thought everyone wanted me to be. I am this Christy. I am this crossfit doing, bit of a mess, has a tattoo, really likes tofu and vegetables, has a thing with lipstick and heels, still doesn’t know what she wants to be doing in 5 years, Enneagram 6, binge eats ice cream when stressed, still don’t know everything about myself and what I like or want Christy.

I am in many many ways still a pile of unravelled yarn in a pile on the floor, but as I look at the mess and knots I’m working through, I am constantly reminded of Abram – this dude a year ago who rocked my world – and how I am Abram. I am the same mess of a person who, for no reason I can possibly justify myself with, I still blessed by a God who loves, pursues, and chases her into the dark corners.

With every “thing” that is piled upon me and every stitch that is unravelled, I am more and more convinced that this will work out for good. That the changed person I will finally end up becoming as I am re-knit together will be more the woman God wanted me to be than the girl I was a year ago. Diamonds and other precious gems stones are forged under intense heat and pressure (and very particular circumstances), gold and precious metals are useless without refining in extreme heat and purifying processes. As I tell my piano students — relearning a song after learning it the wrong way is painful, but worth it at the end. How much more worth will this unravelling be once I can turn around and see the knit-together piece at the end?

Where you stay I’ll stay

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a mover and a shaker. I am definitely not the person in a group who gets everyone else jazzed about what we’re going to do, I’m not the person who has the great ideas, and I don’t always see where we want to go. I like repetition and comfort, and I am totally ok with a long haul of living in a space God has called me to.

I just didn’t think that place would be here.

I grew up hearing that joke on mission Sundays that “God would call me to where I least wanted to go.” (you know, if you’re terrified of snakes he calls you to the Amazon, etc). So, naturally, my young, overachiever self decided that the best way to ensure I would be ok wherever God called me was to say I would go anywhere. Even if it had snakes (maybe he would see my willingness and let me go somewhere without them…?). I wanted to be able to go wherever he wanted and move however he was moving. When he said “jump” I would say “how high?” – it was all planned out.

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.
– Ruth 1:16-17

I read a lot as a kid, and we ran out of kids books in my house to read at one point so I read a lot of my parent’s Biblical fiction for a while … and I loved the tellings of Ruth. She was this amazing woman who just left everything she knew and loved to follow Naomi back to Israel (ok so the fictionalized versions might have made her a little cooler than the Biblical version says but I mean, the woman’s husband died and she followed her also widowed mother in law through the desert when she could have just gone home and remarried another nice guy in town so….). I thought following God would be like that – involving physically leaving a place to serve him elsewhere.

We used to sing this Chris Tomlin song pretty often at my old church that uses the words of what Ruth said for the chorus. I always sang the song thinking I would give up where I was. I never, ever thought he would say “stay”…until I sang it yesterday and that line hit me like a brick wall. It’s like I was standing at the starting line for a marathon and my coach walked over and said “Yea, I know you thought we were training for this race but I don’t know, you must have missed my emails because this isn’t your race…or really even your event. You’re actually competing in standing long jump………” #awkward

I’m not even that even picky at this point. I don’t need to hear Sao Paulo, Cape Town, or Dublin. I don’t need to hear Miami or even Chicago (not that I would say no either….?). Pretty much anything – even just “Hamilton” would be enough for me right now.

Where you go, I’ll go
Where you stay, I’ll stay
When you move, I’ll move
I will follow you
Who you love, I’ll love
How you serve I’ll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow you
I will follow you.
– I will Follow, Chris Tomlin 

I know for a lot of people staying would be the best scenario – the easiest. But it’s one of the hardest things God has made me do (and it’s not like this is new, either. I had to stay for school, stay for a job, etc. I’ve been wanting to go run that race for 6 years now and I’m still being told to stay.) Beyond that, I don’t always feel like I have a ton of roots built up where I am (perfect for moving, right God?) I’m not close friends with anyone I’ve known my whole life (moving halfway across a country at the age of 8 does that to a person), but even beyond that, I’ve been in multiple churches since then, switched school zones, worked at a camp in the US … and instead of “deep roots” in one spot, I feel as though have lots of tiny, shallow ones spread over a huge area (and if you have lots of friends spread all over the place, you know how over time the depth of those collective friendships tends to weaken through no fault of your own, just distance).

All that to say it doesn’t feel like there’s much holding me back…and my desire to go makes me hesitant to begin to put down the roots that will make me want to stay. But I keep hearing stay.

Stay? Stay. Just stay. The one place you don’t want to go – I want you to stay.

He probably thinks he’s funny…and I’ll probably agree in 10 years (or, like, 20). But right now I don’t find it funny. I find it hard. Maybe you have a similar struggle – is he asking you to move? Near or far, moves can be hard when you have things you love that make you want to stay. Maybe you’re like me and all you want is a “GO” and you’ll go. The shoes are on, bags are packed…but the call just doesn’t seem to be coming.

I am trying so hard to be ok with staying. To embrace where I am. To let him work changes in my heart to be ok with being here. To find places to invest in and find fulfillment and a lot of the time I’m fine … and some days (and weeks) I’m not. And in those moments all I ask is that he holds onto me. That he would strengthen my faith and give me hope to rise and trust that this, right here, is the best place I can be. To stop looking at the grass on the other side, and realize that the grass here under my feet is pretty green and luscious too…

 

On Hope

If you know me, you probably know that I work shifts. If you know me well, you know that while I like the freedom this gives me to serve in certain ways and see different people. If you talk with me about it for longer than 5 minutes, though, you also probably know that I often struggle with sleep and depression when I hit the middle of a 3-11 week. And lately? Lately it’s been enough that I begin to feel dread sinking into the pit of my stomach by the time Saturday evening rolls around.

I’ve always looked towards the weekend before as a time to fill myself up. See friends, do things with people, talk to as many people at church as possible…but sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes the weekend before is the loneliest and sparse…so waking up Monday morning can be difficult. This week it was bleak – even though I actually had plans for the week – Monday was hard.

I felt (read: feel) so very empty.

How many times do I put my hope where it shouldn’t be? I hope for things yet to come but I hope for the wrong things. I hope for goodness and I hope for peace. I hope for stability and I hope to move out. I build up my own kingdom of hopes and dreams…but when the things I hope for don’t happen when I want them to, when the walls of hope I’ve built to protect me come crashing down, I realize I’ve foolishly built them on my own strength.

And I’ve given up hope on the days I have left,
But I cling to the hope of my life in the next
– Deathbed, Relient K

I’ve not given up hope that the days I have left won’t be God-glorifying or worthwhile, but I have given up the hope that they will ever be everything I need. In my most despairing moments this week I had the above song lyric ring through my mind. I was tired, discouraged, and defeated … but even though hope felt lost it wasn’t. Hope was still available for me. I can cling by a desperate thread to the hope that I’m promised beyond tomorrow – my hope is for more than what I will have next week or next year. My hope is in the lover of my soul. My hope is that someday the suffering that I experience will pass away and I will be home. Home where I belong.

I don’t like feeling this way … but the more I live with crutches in my life – when my vices of fear and loneliness come to play – the more deeply I understand Paul when he said he was ok with his weaknesses.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I used to take comfort in this verse thinking my weaknesses were things to be overcome – that they wouldn’t really be weaknesses anymore. But I don’t think that’s what it’s saying. My weaknesses will still be weaknesses. They don’t “go away”. Hardship isn’t any less hard just because Christ is with me. I don’t get to be glorified and look strong when I “accept” my weaknesses. It’s not like job interviews where your weaknesses are actually strengths…it’s still going to suck. Every day. But it’s in those weaknesses that he is there. In my fear he is my courage, in my loneliness my companion, in my doubt my truth.

When I contritely say the words “more of you less of me” I am saying that I want to have Christ shine out from me. He does that in my strengths but he does that in my weaknesses too. He carries me through the fire and the flood – but I still have to go through them.

As I begin to lose myself in him it matters less what my weaknesses or strengths look like to other people and it matters more how close I am to him today. And if I think about it? It is in my weakest moments that I have felt him closest and reflecting on those moments when I have learned the most.

I find hope when I’m let down
Not in me … in You
It’s in you
I hope to lose myself for good
I hope to find it in the end
Not in me … in You
– You, Switchfoot

I keep saying to myself that I want to live in such a way that if I died tomorrow I would be happy. Relieved. Satisfied. Overjoyed. Content that I would get to see my saviour face to face and tell him I tried – and to have him look at me and say that I had done well. The mere existence of love and joy here on earth can give me hope that someday I will be somewhere those are the only things – the things I experience here are merely a glimmer of what is to come!

I belong to a country without borders & politicians, I am a citizen of a kingdom where justice prevails and the weak are made strong. And one day we will be in the presence of love, know it fully in our beings, and be with him forever. But we get to start now. We get to begin to bring the kingdom to those around us on earth.

And today? Today all I can do is cling – cling with desperate hands and feet. I can hang on, clutching at the hope I have. I can breathe in and out, knowing that strength can be getting out of bed before 10:30 tomorrow. The words he speaks are hope – and that hope will get me through tomorrow.

Every word you speak is the air I breathe.
Air I Breathe, Matt Kearney

 

 

Living Redeemed pt II

As 2016 drew to a close I thought I would write a post on how the “Live Redeemed” idea I wrote about in January of 2016 worked out. It was going to be upbeat, encouraging, and all about the greatness that was 2016.

It’s funny the difference a week can have.

2016 ended on a high, 2017 started on a not as big of one. I was fresh off the Christmastime high with seeing far away family, eating delicious food, and enjoying wonderful company of friends. I felt like I had grown in my job, over the year – confidence wise and in knowledge. I was blessed with numerous serving opportunities at church doing what I love and am passionate about. To cap it all off, I paid off my car in less than 2 years (which if you know me you know that that was a huge goal I had set for myself to achieve-and if you don’t you do now!).

Then 2017 started and I realized a couple things I thought were going to be fine and were proceeding correctly were not what I thought. After being depressed for a full 24 hours, it hit me that while I had been working through living my life for Christ, I had found comfort in other things instead of finding it in Him. I was comforted when things were working out and going “my way” because (obviously) that must mean that things are going the way He wants them to go. But when a tiny glitch formed in my plans, I was completely thrown off.

In my afore mentioned post, I talked about not quite knowing how “living redeemed” would work, but I thought it would have to do with A. getting up and actually doing stuff aka living (which, to be fair, I did do this year!) and B. allowing my life (and all the parts of it) to be redeemed from darkness into light (by allowing God to speak into them and considering him in things/decisions).

What I found out is that once you start doing a lot of A it’s kind of hard to remember to keep B in the forefront of your mind. I also found out in (mostly) one crushing blow that while I had been trying to do this, I had slipped into my typical-Christy-ness of over planning and trying to control everything again.

Was I really listening to what God was calling me to do, or was I filling in the awkward moments of my life trying to pretend I knew what was going on?

I think for a while there it was the latter. I was saying the first, but living the second. And it’s got me thinking (shocker, I know) about how I can better listen, be attuned to His callings, and live a God-honouring life. Here’s what I got:

  1. Actually spend time with him. How many times do I prioritize other things? How many times have I hit the snooze button instead of just getting up 10 minutes earlier? (I’m not answering that)
  2. Build in rhythms to my life that allow me to focus on making God-honouring decisions – like planning my week/month and making time to stop and reflect. Setting intentional time aside to LISTEN and plan
  3. Constantly remind myself that I’m following HIS lead, not mine
  4. Say yes to when he calls, but remember that doesn’t mean saying yes to everything that happens to come up in life (i.e. God doesn’t call me to burn out, so I shouldn’t do that…and sometimes opportunities aren’t meant to be taken)
  5. Keep living! Keep doing things and embracing where he has me. That’s how I started this journey and I don’t want to stop moving forward on it.

What are ways you remain open to God’s promptings in your life? How do you make sure he’s at the centre of all you do? I would love to hear about it!

On His Love for Me (1 Year sans Purity Ring)

Fourteen year old me went through a pure freedom class (like oh so many others) and at the end did what everyone else did and chose to get a purity ring and make the commitment to go along with it. Sixteen year old me recommitted to the promise and bought a new prettier ring.

Eight years of wearing a ring later, 22 year old me decided to take it off.

I don’t hate my purity ring. In fact, I really don’t hold much resentment towards anything I was taught about it all when I was younger – I don’t feel as though I’ve been hurt because of the popular teachings of the day (though I recognize many were). I’m also not going back on the commitment I made, nor am I necessarily saying other people should stop wearing theirs. The literal only reason I took it off is because I was tired of waiting. Tired of the physical reminder of my single-ness, tired of weighing life decisions by “what if I meet someone?”, and tired of feeling like I was watching my life go by as I sat around.

So I’m still waiting but I’m not waiting. Which has got me to thinking – if I go through my whole life single (which we know can’t be a BAD thing because Paul says so in 1 Corinthians 7), am I missing out? Is God depriving me of something that would make me more complete?

No, I can’t believe that. First, because God is good and has set good plans for me to walk in that will bring him glory (Ephesian 2) – if me being married will bring him more glory, then that’s what will happen. Second, because marriage doesn’t make us more complete as humans – we are still the same messy incomplete humans who are unfulfilled and incomplete without God. So if that is true, then I can I not experience all the fullness and love I need to from God? God IS love after all, so don’t all forms of it come from him?

And so I come to this fall, ruminating on a year without a purity ring, and I find myself pondering the love God has for me. All my married friends tell me about how God uses their marriages to draw them closer to him and experience his love in new ways, So I’ve found myself listening to love songs (because lets be honest, like 95% of all songs ever are about this, and somehow they all ended up on my fall playlist…), and instead of lamenting my life (don’t lie, you know what I’m talking about), I’m trying to see if and how they relate to God and my relationship with him.

It’s been wildly different than doing this with worship songs because I find the secular songs sing about slightly more tangible aspects while worship ones stay really abstract. It’s odd – you would think it makes it easier to put God in a box with the tangible, but singing so abstract-ly sometimes makes him seem so much farther off, rather than close.

It sounds a little unorthodox until you realize that generally what people are singing about and looking for is a missing part of them, a person who understands them, a person who loves all of them, someone who encourages them to be a better person…and last I checked God fills all of those boxes. In fact, he does more. He loves with a passionate love, an endless love, a perfect love, he casts out fear, he is a rock when storms come. His love is fierce and it is tender.

I read a book by Greg Paul called Close Enough to Hear God Breath when I was university (he also wrote God in the Alley, both of which I would recommend). In it, he explores the aspects of “divine intimacy”, and one of the pictures I still remember him describing is God holding us close to him as a father holds his child to his chest and we can hear the softness of his breathing and his whispers to us over the noise of the world. (I would quote him here but my friend has had the book for over 3 years and “doesn’t know where it is”).

One of my standout songs from the last month has been Everywhere by Michelle Branch. It challenges me to think about how God is everywhere around me and in everything I see, but it’s the bridge brings it together for me:

And when I touch your hand
It’s then I understand the beauty that’s within
It’s now that we begin
You always light my way
I hope there never comes a day
No matter where I go
I always feel you so

Is there anything more beautiful than the love God has for us? I am thankful to see the reflection of it in relationships here on earth, but everything is only that – a reflection. A still from picture that lacks the vibrancy, nuances, and life that the real thing has. Seeing the glimpses reminds me that there is more to come. That his love is deeper still. It reminds me that the most important thing to do is to live for him and with him beside me everywhere I go.